Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Problem with Star Wars

Last week I posted my top ten favorite movies list and I pointed out that, despite sleeping next to a 2 ½ foot Lego Death Star, I didn’t have a single Star Wars film on my list. The reason being:
I’m sick of Star Wars.
That’s right folks. You heard it first.
Let me take a step back and explain: When I was a kid the original Star Wars films were re-released with all of George Lucas’s touch ups and add-ons and my dad thought it would be great for my brother and I to see these films in the theater like he did. I was mesmerized by the galaxy far far away and instantly fell in love with the sweeping space drama. I was still a kid when The Phantom Menace came out and fell in love with that film too, and even now I still defend that it’s not THAT bad of a film, just not what everyone was hoping for (And for the record, yes, Jar Jar was annoying but you only really had to deal with him for one movie. I thought Luke was WAY more irritating and he’s in three. Just saying.).
So at one point I was a huge Star Wars fan. I read books about Star Wars, played games about Star Wars, and had as many toys as I could get my hands on, but that’s when I started noticing the problem. It started when in the toy aisle I noticed an action figure for one of the dancers in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. It wasn't the green gal with the legs on her head, it was the chick who looked like Ursula’s mother. My young mind thought “Who on Earth would want this thing?” and that’s when I started seeing the problem.
Remember that scene in New Hope when they walk into the Canteena and it’s full of Muppets? It’s supposed to show that the universe Luke and Obi Wan live in is full of aliens and strange creatures, and makes the bar more threatening because of how different everyone is. Did you know that every single one of those Muppets has a backstory, characterization, and that it’s all written down in a dozen books somewhere? Most of these things even have action figures!
And that’s my problem: Star Wars is too big! The Canteena example is just a small piece of the picture, as there are literally hundreds of books that take place all over the Star Wars universe. One series, Shadows of the Empire, became so popular that they actually briefly got their own toy line! I’d be forgiving if they were all part of one continuous story, but half of them contradict each other and go over the same periods of time with different outcomes. If that’s not enough you can check out the Knights of the Old Republic storylines (Admittedly the Knights of the Old Republic video game is one of my favorite games of all time but my point still stands) which takes place about 1000 years BEFORE New Hope! 1000 years? What is this the Bible? Who is going to need history about something from 1000 years before?
We also have all these mid-story stories like that Clone Wars TV series, which I just can’t get into. First of all I hate the CG and second I just don’t see how a show like that can have any significant character arch if we already know the outcome-why we’ve known the outcome for over 30 years! He’s Darth Vader! He’s Luke’s father! Get over it!
Disney has announced that starting next year they will be releasing a new Star Wars film every year starting with Episode 7 and that every other year will be a film about someone’s backstory, IE Han and Boba Fett and my thought is: WHY? Han Solo was a well written character, a scoundrel yet moral, a person who seems lost but who found a cause to fight for, who cares how he grew up? It’s like that new Monsters U film, I don’t care how Han and Chewbacca or Mike and Sully met, you already established that they were friends and have been together for a while, why do we need to go back and show how they met? It’s just adding more clutter to an already cluttered mess of a continuity.
Now I know what you’re going to tell me: Other properties do this too. Comic books have flashbacks and continuity adjustments all the time and Star Trek has tons of media written about it too, but here’s my thing: At DC comics there is literally an entire department devoted to making sure whatever continuity they’re currently running stays consistent, so that if someone writes a story about Catwoman meeting Bane some guy can say “Actually they met at a villain/hero mixer in Florida and they exchanged email addresses…”, and all of Star Trek’s books and films are all kept within one established continuity, despite being written by different authors at different periods of time. So when I pick up a Star Trek book I know I’ll probably be reading about a certain period of time and won’t get lost.
Here’s my last word: Star Wars as a whole is a mess. Yes, there are good things, even great things, floating around, but the massive atrocity that is the continuity has lately been turning me off. I miss Star Wars, I miss a fascinating space drama, but I’m not willing to dig through mountains of trash to find it.

-JOE



Monday, May 27, 2013

T.J.'s Top 10 90s Sitcoms

I'd thought about doing a Top 10 Movies post, like Joe did last week. But I decided to be random and go with a Top 90s Sitcoms. If I were to do Top 90s TV shows all together, there'd be some Star Trek on here. Where? Meh, you'll have to wait. Give it a few years and I'll probably write about them.

But here are my Top 10 Sitcoms from the era of the 90s.



10. Home Improvement: If you don't know, my first name is actually Timothy. Most people met me pre-2001 know me as Tim. And as such, many people (especially in middle school) would say to me "I don't think so, Tim." (Unlike Tim Taylor, I was usually right.) This sitcom, today, kinda bores me. But I remember when it was the most popular show that kids at school talked about. Oh, how I miss the time of the 90s when there was such a thing as a "family comedy."

9. Full House: Yeah, I admit, I used to watch this show religiously. It was my weekly favorite. And then I started watching it on TBS or something and decided "what was I thinking?" However, I still have good memories of watching this feel good family-comedy.


8. Family Matters: Speaking of family comedy, this one started out that way. But it turned into "The Urkel Show." I love how a one-time guest star gets so much praise that they have to write said character into the show permanently. Not only that, but the character became the MAIN star of the show. A lot of people don't realize that Family Matters was actually a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, and it did better than its predecessor. (You know what though, Urkel is so annoying today.)


7. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: To be honest, I rarely watched Fresh Prince. To this day I've maybe seen about 10 or 11 episodes. But I gotta say, if given the option of any of the previous shows on this list, or this one, I would choose Fresh Prince. First of all, it's theme song is the best. And as if that's not enough, Will Smith is pretty awesome and hilarious.


6. Dinosaurs: I'm the baby, gotta love me. Dinosaurs was such an odd show, yet really well loved. How could you not love Baby Dinosaur and everything he did (or rather, said). Not the mama! Not the mama! Not the mama! Being a mama's boy and the youngest, yeah I could kinda relate. The thing I liked about this family-oriented show was that it pointed out then-modern themes that could be applied to life.


5. Saved by the Bell: It's all right, cause I'm saved by the bell. Zack. Kelly. Jessie. Slater. Screech. Lisa. Ah, the whole gang. Yeah, I'm placing this in the upper half of the list. Despite being "lame" and any other negative term you can throw its direction, I will always have a place in my heart for this show. Both Leah Remini and Tori Spelling spent time on this show. If you don't know who they are...meh, doesn't bother me. Anyway, this show was a great lesson teacher to teens. Although, I don't remember that one time when the school started spouting oil and it somehow became all the students' property.


4. Wings: If you pay attention, you can see how a few things from this show inspired Friends. Big example? Joe's OCD cleanliness + Helen's former overweight self = Monica. Shoot, I swear that Phoebe was a younger version of Fay. Interesting that Antonio went on to play Monk and probably currently has the best career of any of the alum. Yeah, a lot of them have gone on to have decent acting careers. In the later seasons, you find Maid Marian from Robin Hood: Men in Tights starring in the show. It is a pretty funny shows. And the characters mesh well with one-another. It reminds me of Friends a lot in the way the characters interact.


3. Muppets Tonight: I love the Muppets. The Muppets are one thing from when I was a little kid to today that has remained a consistent like. This short-run follow-up for The Muppet Show, was awesome. It had the same concept of the original, modernized for the 90s with its guest stars. Added Clifford, the random Rastafarian, and one of my favorites: Bobo the bear. But it keep your classics, like Kermit, Piggie, and Fozzie.

2. Newsradio: This show would have lasted longer if not for Phil Hartman's murder. You've got the classic will-they-won't-they story of Dave and Lisa. Bill's awesome jerk humor. Matthew's spazzing out. Catherine's attitude. Beth's ditziness. And not to mention Jimmy James being the oddest man to ever own a radio station. Newsradio was a classic from the get go. Best moment, in my mind, was when Matthew grew a mustache and it was presented to the three women. Beth screams in fright. Lisa laughs in horror. And Catherine slaps him. Honestly, my wife and I found it so funny we had to rewind it and watch it again.



1. Friends: I can watch Friends over and over again. And believe me, I have. From Ross saying he just wants to be married again to Rachel saying she got off the plane, this show is just a great way to watch adults grow up. One thing I think this show proves to us is that we can be who we are and still grow up without losing our authentic natures. Phoebe goes from being this hippie with very few things to tie her down to a careered massage therapist, with a husband. But she's still ditzy, floopy Phoebe. Chandler goes from being a man-child to being a committed husband and father. But he's still dorky, goofy Chandler. Rachel goes from spoiled rich girl to hard-working career mom. But she's still shopaholic,  This is a show about growing up, even when you think you're already there.

What? Something's missing? No, honestly, there isn't. Can't stand Seinfeld. Never liked Frasier. I'd honestly rather torture myself with Sister, Sister and The Nanny than either of those.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Joe's Top Ten Favorite Movies


So last week I was supposed to write about my top ten favorite video game characters. Unfortunately my own impossibly high standards as to what makes a character good (Incidentally, I do NOT think Mega Man, Mario, Sonic or Link are AT ALL good characters, but that’s a discussion for another time) it’s probably not going to be done anytime soon. So instead, being a film critic by trade, I often get asked what my favorite movie is. So here we go, my top ten favorite movies, once again in no particular order.
Side note A: I will admit that while I am pretentious, that doesn’t mean that I can’t accept that a movie can be both good and make a whole ton of money, so thus the presence of some big Hollywood blockbusters unlike some other film critics whose lists are full of artsy films.
Side note B: I am well aware that two of the films on my list are rated R. I would like to remind the audience that the official statement by the First Presidency of the church is to “Use one’s own discretion”. I’ll explain more later.
Side note C: You’ll notice the lack of animated films on this list. There are too many to count (Disney could easily have its own list) so this is all live action films.

10: Harvey
To me this is one of Jimmy Stewart’s best films, even though his most popular today is It’s a Wonderful Life. This is one of the movies that made me fall in love with movies in the first place. The story is about a soft-spoken and kind man who makes friends easily but is the constant embarrassment and shame to his family because he’s best friends with a 6’ tall white rabbit named Harvey that only he can see. Stewart is so loveable in this as this kind man, almost completely oblivious to the havoc he causes around him for talking to his rabbit friend. If you ever get the chance, check this out because this is fun for the whole family.

9: The Dark Knight
On the other side of the film spectrum from Harvey sits The Dark Knight. Like a lot of people the reason I really love this movie is for its villain, the Joker, played by the legendary Heath Ledger. I love how this film captures the real spirit of the Joker by making him be the only one to push the stalwart Batman straight to the edge. The film itself has the feel between Law and Order and Saw, with just enough not shown to keep its PG-13 rating. I love it and I can quote the lines from it by heart.

8: Rebel Without A Cause
This film has been talked about so much there isn’t much I can say about it to add to the conversation. I will say that something I love about this film is the relationship between Jim and Plato, which for those who haven’t seen it plays out in this weird twisted version of hero worship. How it develops through the film shows the strengths and weaknesses of both characters, as well as the weaknesses of the society in which they live. It’s a hard-hitting film for its time that I think needs to be show to every teenager with their dad sitting right next to them.

7: Star Trek: First Contact
Yes, I like the Abrams stuff, and if you haven’t seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet then go see it immediately, but this is still my favorite Star Trek film, partially because it dealt with my favorite cast and partially because it had one of my favorite villains from Star Trek: The Borg. The film is about an attack by the Borg on the Federation, choosing to go back in time on Earth to assimilate it in the past and stop the test of the human’s first warp ship. Following them is the crew of the Next Generation’s Enterprise both to save history and stop the Borg once and for all. I love how tormented Picard is in this film as he struggles with the trauma of having his individuality torn away from him, as well as Data’s desire to be human twisted and perverted by the Borg in an effort to gain more control. I also love that Star Trek took time to explore its own history, rather than going back in time to our time as they like to do. Plus, is it just me, or is there something kind of hot about the Borg Queen?

6: V for Vendetta
This is one of the rated R films on this list and for good reason. While the film does feature some gratuitous fight scenes, the political messages alone I feel are enough to give it a rating. In a distopian future, a neo-fascist regime has seized power in England, ruling the populace through media manipulation and fear. A lone hero, V, has vowed to bring the regime down in the course of a year and set the people free. Now while the film does have several political stands on religious freedom, gay rights, and government and media, I feel the film’s main message is that freedom at its basic level is a cause in and of itself to be fought for, and that nobody deserves to be persecuted or live in fear. The hero is great, Natilie Portman is great, and this film helps us all remember why we should be grateful for the freedom we have.

5: Young Frankenstein
Of course a Mel Brooks film had to end up on this list. I actually couldn’t decide between this, Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles, but I decided that of the three this was the most intelligent. Young Frankenstein is about Frankenstein’s grandson, an accomplished doctor, inheriting his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania. He ends up finding his grandfather’s laboratory and builds a creature of his own, all while teaming up with a hunchback and a busty lab assistant. The jokes come from the hysterical accent (Blucka!) as well as references to the old Universal monster movies which will always be near to my heart (Yet another top ten list).

4: Les Miserable
This film caught me completely by surprise when I saw it. The complicated tale of love, redemption, and revolution all with songs melts my heart every time. Yes, Russell Crow is also my least favorite thing in this film, and I’m honestly not too fond of Hugh Jackman’s singing (Except when he sings the song with Anne Hathaway at the end and dies, that tears me right up), what I do love about this film is how despite some weird casting choices it captures the spirit of the play so wonderfully, bringing audiences around the world to tears as Hathaway dreams her dream and Epany (I have no clue how to spell these names) dies on the barricade singing about how rain will make the flowers grow. What can I say, I’m a romantic at heart.

3: Avengers
Another film that caught me off guard, I honestly had no idea what to expect when I went into the theater. I knew that one of my favorite people ever, Joss Whedon was in charge of it so I had some hope, but what I got was one of the best freaking super hero stories I’ve ever seen. It was exciting, funny, moving in parts, heartbreaking in parts (I lose it when Iron Man is flying into the black hole and tries to call Pepper). I know a few weeks ago I said how the Marvel film franchise is walking a tight line, but if they keep making this I won’t have any complaints.

2: Harry Potter 7 parts 1 and 2

I could make a snarky comment that this is my favorite Harry Potter movie (And yes, it is one big ol’ movie on two DVDs if you ask me) and book for that matter because the thing finally ended, but honestly that’s kind of why I love it. So many franchises just keep going, with movies, TV shows, books, video games, comic books, that following the thing becomes almost a life goal (You notice you don’t see any Star Wars movies anywhere on this list). Harry Potter on the other hand doesn’t just end, but it ends with a giant battle that’s been building up since the beginning, and every single piece of the series gets tied up in its own little package. Do I want to hear what happened to Harry and the gang between the battle of Hogwarts and them sending off their kid on the train? Honestly no, I don’t need to because I know that whatever he faced compared to Voldemort would be easy. It ended a satisfying part of my growing up experience.

1: His Girl Friday
This film is so old all the copies I’ve ever seen of it are grainy, including the DVD copies. It stars Cary Grant and Rosiland Russell as a divorced couple (Shocking for Hollywood in 1940) who are also fellow reporters. Russell is trying to start her new life away from Grant and the cutthroat newspaper business while Grant is trying to get Russell Back in the only way a Cary Grant character knows how: Through deception border lining on sociopathic. Seriously through the course of the film Grant gets a guy arrested like three times, one for “mashing” which is basically the 1940s way of saying sexual assault, all of course a rouse set up by him to win back Russell. But as messed up as some of these concepts are they are certainly entertaining to watch. The dialogue is fast and punchy like New Yorkers were supposed to talk back then, with lots of quick insults and jokes that you have to pay attention to get. I love this film because it shows us just what it means to live life in a New York minute.
-Joe
Special considerations:
Pulp Fiction
The Seven Year Itch
The Wizard of Oz
Hunger Games
Entrapment
Die Another Day
Silence of the Lambs

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Preshuss

As you more than likely don't know, unless you're my Facebook friend, I recently found my lost wedding ring. It'd been missing for almost three months. These past three months, ironically enough, have been some of the most trying. Even having issues within my marriage. Not because my ring was missing, but somewhere, in the back of my mind, I hoped that if I'd find it, that all I was going through would be done and I could be happy again. Gotta be honest, finding my ring was one of the happiest moments I've had.

And to be honest, I kept thinking to myself, I should pray to find it. Well, of course I should have done that. But instead, I told myself two lies: 1) It's already gone, there's no hope in finding it. And 2) Heavenly Father just doesn't care. Good thing I was wrong. I finally decided to pray this Monday and ask for it to be found; I just wanted it back. While cleaning up something, I went to retrieve some items which had fallen between my nightstand and the wall. This wall has a nice hole in it (with a cover that never seems to want to stay put). Well, when I removed the fallen items, I saw in the hole, and lying there was my ring. I was so excited, but my arm was too fat to reach. So I called my wife into the room, told her to look into the hole and she was happy to see what I'd seen.

So, there's the "Mormon" part of the post. Now to geek it up some.

I was trying to think of some places where rings are prevalent to a plot in all of Geekdom. But then I somehow started thinking of an episode of a television show where a necklace had something special about it. So I'm going to go from a ring to a necklace.




One of my favorite TV shows is Eureka. From its humorous look at sci-fi to its point that knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing, Eureka was a very well-rounded show. About halfway through its run, one of its main characters (Nathan Stark) was killed off saving the town, something that redeemed his obnoxious character.




But the day he died was the day he was supposed to get married to Allison Blake.


Shortly after his death, Sheriff Carter gave Allie a present Nathan wanted to give her on their wedding day.

This necklace, though seemingly just a symbol of their love blah blah blah, it was also empowered with a special diamond. When Allie touched the necklace Nathan would appear and speak to her. For her, this was a way to say goodbye (as she was not around when he died).

This necklace was special as it gave Allie a piece of Nathan and a reminder of the love they shared. Yeah, kind of a mushy tale, but you know what, finding my ring again put me in that kind of a mood.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Iron Man 3 is the Best in the Series and Joe is Wrong

You're probably reading this title with some amusement. The reason why I love writing for Mormon Geeks is that all of the authors here are some of my closest friends (one I consider my best friend) and we all have differing opinions on things.  Joe shared his thoughts on the future of the Marvel franchise and briefly talked about his opinion of Iron Man 3.  They were very nice opinions and now I would like to share my thoughts.

Let's talk about Tony Stark

Tony Stark is a normal man.  He's very flawed, arrogant, selfish, and unrestrained.  In Iron Man 1 we see his bubble of living the high life pop when he survives a bomb blast and create the first Iron Man suit.  He decides to cut all costs in manufacturing weapons and chooses to use his knowledge to become a super hero.

In Iron Man 2, Tony is once again living the limelight and no stranger to drawing attention to his super hero identity.  Still flawed, he makes the mistake of thinking that no technology can compete with his and suddenly the government is on his back.  If that isn't enough, he finds himself fighting against poisoning from the shrapnel and electromagnet heart.  He eventually creates a new heart and conquers the villain and once again Iron Man saves the day.  He continues to be steady from this point through the end of the Avengers.

Now it's after the alien attack on New York.  Tony is once again in the spotlight for being a hero and the face of the Avengers.  He went through a wormhole and came back to earth and hasn't been the same since.  He hasn't gotten good sleep and his mind has trouble accepting that there's other life out there.  Before New York, he was the man that knew everything and now he has anxiety attacks knowing that there is still so much he doesn't know.

In Iron Man 3, Tony is probably in his most humbling circumstances.  Though he had challenges before this time his confidence falters when it was something that always kept him going.  The previous movies were always about Tony Stark becoming and being Iron Man.  In Iron Man 3, this is a story about Tony Stark being a hero as much as and even more as his Iron Man alter ego.

This is why I like Iron Man 3 the most out of the series.  Although I love the nerd culture and geek storytelling there is a wrong idea picked up from super hero stories.  You get these geeks who drop out of high school and give up on life.  They work full time at a fast food restaurant and play video games on their free time.  They may go to Friday Night Magic and step into the role of a Plainswalker. (Their alter ego, if you will.)  They conquer enemies and feel powerful for once.  They do it again when they play a tabletop RPG, an online MMORPG, or a video game.  Why?  They misguidedly follow the examples they see on screen or on the page of the comic.  They don figurative masks and capes to fight inner demons but never actually become the heroes they idolize or pretend to be.

Is Tony Stark a Hero?

Iron Man 3 gives off a different message.  In some way this movie answers the question Steve Rogers (Captain America) asks Tony in the Avengers, "Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?"
Though Tony responds with a cheeky comeback, the real question Steve asks is, "You're a hero on the outside but what are you inside?"  Is Tony Stark a hero without his armor?  Does he amount to anything without Iron Man?

Tony struggles with this question too.  What kind of hero is he when his flaws and imperfections come to bite him in the butt and create villains for him to face?  He's changed so much from when he survived that bomb blast but is now struggling with anxiety attacks, insomnia, his best friend being hospitalized, and difficulty emotionally connecting with his might-as-well-be-his-wife-but-is-his-girlfriend-instead Pepper Potts.  Eventually his new Iron Man suit loses power and his house is destroyed.  Tony is suddenly in a place where he's without his tools and armor.

This is where the movie shines for me.  We see Tony Stark fighting bad guys with homemade devices until his suit has powered back up completely.  Even in the finale of the movie he is in and out of his suit(s) like a model in and out of different outfits.  The message the movie delivers isn't just that Tony Stark is Iron Man but Iron Man is Tony Stark.  As much as they are alter egos of one another they are more like two different sides of the same coin.  Tony isn't a hero because of the armor he wears and his cool gadgets.  He's a hero because of who he is and what he chooses to be.

This is a Shane Black Movie

Iron Man 3 takes place at Christmas and is like a detective story.
Shane Black is known for violent, noir-esque, slightly dark, cleverly written movies that take place during Christmas.  I'm not even joking.  Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang all take place during the holidays.  As bizarre as it sounds it actually kind of works.  There's something honest in a bunch of terrible things happening and a challenge that get's resolved by Christmas morning.  I really like Shane Black's style.  What I wish he did differently was make his movies a little bit cleaner.  The great thing about Iron Man 3 is that it's a Shane Black movie that happens to be PG-13.  It even takes place during Christmas.  I could add this movie to my list of unconventional Christmas movies that feel like a Christmas movie even though they don't have much to do with Christmas. (Future blog post... or podcast episode.  ;))

I like Black's style because it is refreshingly different.  It fits with the rest of the series while standing apart and could even be a conclusion to the Iron Man series. It still makes sense for Tony to be part of the Avengers, it just ends in a way that really rounds out Tony as a character.  I don't know if there's a style that fits Iron Man so perfectly.

The Marvel Franchise

Joe said that Robert Downey Jr. essentially is playing himself when he's Iron Man.  Yep.  I would definitely agree with that.  It also works for the movie beautifully.  Robert Downey Jr. once said he takes the role of Tony Stark as serious as Shakespeare.  We may not be impressed because he's essentially playing himself but, hey, if he does a good job what is there to worry about?  With the shift in Marvel Franchise of bringing these different worlds together I would say that the producers and directors involved have done a great job in making it believable.

Yeah, he's still dumb but a different kind of dumb.
Let's take a look at the other actors involved in the Marvel universe.  Chris Evans used to play the handsome dumb hunk in crappy teen movies and didn't get much better when he was cast as the human torch in The Fantastic Four.  A lot of fans were worried when he was cast to play Captain America.  Before that point, he played Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim versus the World and showed us he can handle playing a character very different from the dumb hunk.  (Lucas Lee is still a dumb hunk but still very different from what Evans normally plays.)  Chris Evans as Steve Rogers works great.  As far as I know, he isn't really playing himself but he does a great job with the role.  Steve is supposed to be a clean cut 1940s idealized American man.  Evans pulls it off quite well.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor is pretty much fantastic.  We haven't seen him much in anything else and we really don't need to.  Despite his talent, he tragically could not save Snow White and the Huntsman.  In Star Trek, his chracter stands apart without taking anything from the movie and despite being short lived.

The highlight for me is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner.  (I'm sure he's great in a motion cap suit as the Hulk but it's even better to see him as the quiet reserved scientist.)  What I love about Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Banner is how he basically just plays an introverted and mostly normal scientist.  He's a hero but a very different kind of hero than the other Avengers.  He doesn't draw attention to himself or to his actions.  In many ways, he's the opposite of Tony Stark.  Perhaps this is why it's great to see their budding friendship in the movie because they're complimentary and kindred spirits to one another.

Joe rocks as cynic and as a friend.
Based off all this alone, I would say the future of the Marvel franchise is pretty bright.  It's definitely risky but they already pulled off an excellent Avengers movie and we would have never thought that could happen.  All of this success would be better if Marvel Studios owned the movie rights to their other franchises (such as X-Men, Spiderman, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Blade, etc.) but seeing what they're doing with what they got is great.  I understand Joe's cynicism and fears but I have to disagree in that I'm looking forward to the future of Marvel's movies.

So, if you get the opportunity I would highly recommend Iron Man 3 and Joe... I love you, cynic and all!
-Stephen

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Marvel Cinematic Universe-Where are we now?


With Iron Man 3 breaking box office records, I think it’s safe to say that reviewing it would probably be a waste of time. Suffice it to say that the film was full of good ideas, at times to the point where it had a hard time allowing anything really breathe or develop, but the graphics were good, the characters were great, and the big twist was the biggest and twistiest yet. I think now though is a good time to take a second and look at where Marvel is now and where they’re going and how excited we need to be.
Iron Man 3 starts what Marvel is calling their “Phase 2”, the second step in creating their cinematic masterpiece… thing…The thing is nobody has ever tried this before so it’s hard to find a word to call it. Series seems to be the closest fit, but even that doesn't fit exactly. “Phase 1” included (arguably) two Hulk movies, two Iron Man movies, Thor, Captain America and Avengers, most of these becoming box office hits. Avengers alone became the third highest opening weekend hit of all time, making over a billion dollars in its opening weekend. Needless to say, any doubts we had, which were many, have been washed away at this point.
So what makes these films so good? Well the fact is that these films for the most part are just that, they’re good. They’re not really breaking cinematic expectations as far as storytelling, characters or acting, but at the same time they’re not doing anything stupid either. The films are just solid entertaining fil
ms, with likable characters having big expansive adventures in an interesting world. In that sense the films are a lot like the comic books they’re based off of. This is great for comic book fans, since they get the adventures they fell in love with in the first place, and non-fans get an easy introduction into the world.
What about the acting? A lot of people have praised Robert Downy Jr. for being the perfect Tony Stark, but is this good acting or just good casting? If someone was trying to cast an overweight comic book geek with too much time on his hands, I could easily play the role, even though I’m not that great an actor. Don’t get me wrong, Downy Jr. is a really good actor, if you want to really see something great check out the film Chaplin, but it still begs the question: Is he good as Stark because he’s a good actor or because he’s a good Stark? As for the others, the only thing most people know Chris Hemsworth, AKA Thor, from before Thor is briefly being Kirk’s dad in Abram’s Star Trek, and Captain America is formerly known as the Human Torch from the mediocre Fantastic Four movies, so how are they? Well again they both seem to be perfect more because of who they are and not how they act. Thor is essentially Boromir after he joined WWE, and Captain America is pretty much just a BYU student with boxing lessons so there’s not much to do here. On top of that Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner have both worked as Black Widow and Hawkeye, but before the Avengers film they didn't have that many lines. The Whedon touch to the Avengers film is an exception to all of this, however, since Whedon could remake Twilight and make the characters interesting, but again nearly everything these characters do in this franchise is pose in cool super hero poses for the camera, and for that they do a good job.
Here’s my overall point: while the Avengers films are entertaining and fun they don’t have anything else going for them which does put them in a precarious spot. If we've learned nothing from the Schumacher disasters Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, we learn that it only takes a few bad choices to bring an entire franchise to its knees. We can even tentatively compare the Marvel cinematic universe in its current state to Batman Forever, since despite its flaws that film was still fun with a few things for the adults and longtime fans to enjoy, even if Chris O'Donnell was WAY too old to be adopted by a billionaire. Fans had issue with how awful Batman looked (Though I argue that Robin actually looked pretty cool) and how corny the villains were, the one people really hate is Batman and Robin, where they went all out for the wacky super hero adventure and completely ended the series. Marvel’s second wave includes films that seem to put the heroes into darker situations, so they may sidestep the Schumacher thing by going dark instead of light but that may have the same results. Ask around sometime and see how many people you can find that are actually excited to the new Man of Steel film, and how many will take their kids to it over Thor. Dark isn't
My Lego Avengers :)
 always the way to go either.
In the end, I’m not trying to be an internet troll or cause trouble. I like the Marvel cinematic universe. I loved the Avengers and overall like the rest of the films, my problem though is probably that I’m just cynical. I've had my hopes up before and had them dashed by bad decision making, and I ‘d hate for something that’s doing so well to end up being a geek joke in ten years. So by all means get excited, get ready for a fun time with the new stuff, but keep in mind that not even in the Marvel Universe not every story ends in a happy ending.
-JOE

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ten TV shows that need to come back


I was watching one of my favorite internet people yesterday (Click here to check out the video)
and he was talking about ten franchises he’d like to see rebooted. This idea was intriguing to me, considering most of my favorite TV shows are now off the air as well as anything like them. Now I’m not saying these things should be dragged out like the Simpson’s was, I’m just saying that seeing a newer, modern version would probably be better than most of the nonsense flooding the airwaves right now. So I’m going to offer my list (In no particular order) of the top 10 TV shows I’d like to see come back.

10: Star Trek
Yeah yeah I know JJ Abrams is doing a fantastic job with Star Trek in film, but where’s the TV series? Star Trek is more than high-budget graphics and seeing Chris Pine take off his pants, it’s about adventures in space, meeting interesting societies, and boldly going where no one has gone before. Abrams did us a favor in giving us an alternate timeline to work with, so why isn’t anyone working with it?

9: Gargoyles
Does anyone remember this show? It had half the cast of Star Trek: TNG doing voices for it and was Disney’s answer to Batman (We’ll get
to him in a sec.). This cartoon did something most cartoons these days are afraid to do: It gave kids the credit that they could take complex storylines and characters without them needing to be watered down. Gargoyles was a fun, unique show with a great premise with some of my favorite characters growing up. This thing would look so great today!



8: Firefly
Duh.

7: Justice League universe
It started with Batman: The Animated Series, then went into Superman, then Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, with offshoots Static Shock and Batman Beyond to round it off. I know Universe got a bit wonky near the end, especially when it served only to show off obscure DC characte
rs people stopped caring about around the time the Berlin wall fell, but for a minute we had a massive cartoon universe with all the DC characters running around being awesome. What have we got now? DC is releasing YET ANOTHER Batman cartoon. DC, face facts: You’re not going to make anything better than Batman TAS, stop trying to remake him and focus on the rest of your universe.

6: Daria
I have a special place in my heart for Daria. She was kind of the voice of my generation: A disenfranchised youth who just wanted to escape the nonsense of high school and get on with real life.
Daria is one of my first inspirations to become a writer, and her witty sarcasm got me through a lot of hard times in school. I’d love to see her view of the world now, with social media, blogging, and super advanced cell phones… Though I may feel guilty if I end up disappointing my hero.

5: The Andy Griffith Show
Here’s an oldie: A small town cop helping the citizens get out of wacky adventures. If they can’t bring back Andy Griffith, I’d like to see at least SOMETHING come up that’s wholesome for the family to watch. We had Touched By An Angel for a while, but even that got painfully cheesy at times. Right now we have Once Upon A Time, but that thing can make Days of Our Lives look like a simple storyline. What happened to TV you can just watch with your family without a flowchart on hand to understand what’s going on?
4: Ghostbusters
The Ghostbusters cartoon used the movie as a jumping off point to launch into what I feel is the only logical step for the franchise: Having the Ghostbusters go through wacky adventures with ghosts. The show was well written and the dialogue captured the heart of the original four, plus I can’t argue with a show that would shamelessly have someone riding a roller coaster in order to fight Cthuhlu. This cartoon was just beyond awesome and is something else I’d love to see rendered with a touch of the modern.

3: A GOOD Anime
Is there any good anime on right now? When I do flip through the channels I seem to keep finding the latest version of Yu-Gi-Oh! and some knock-off of the same. Where’s Cowboy Bebop? Where’s Fullmetal Alchemist? Whatever happened to that gal who was always with the guy with cat ears? Sure it’s premise was dumb but at least the animation was above par.

2: MST3K
I know Mystery Science Theater 3000 has found new life online supplying audio commentaries to the
masses, but why don’t these people still have a show? MST3K to me was one of the funniest things on TV, and I know that if they brought it back and put it on a channel you don’t have to pay more than your house for, it would get more laughs than How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory or Two and A Half Men combined. In one night. Compared to each of their entire runs.

1: Muppets
The Muppets got their start on TV, first on Sesame Street then on The Muppet Show for several years, and both were delightful. Youtube some of the old skits from the Muppet Show if you don’t know what I mean and I guarantee you’ll fall in love. The Muppets last movie, The Muppets, is about the Muppets returning to their roots, and I think a return to TV would be the next logical step, and I guarantee a massive fan turnout if the trailers featured “Pigs in Space”.