For the most part, pro wrestling exists in its own bubble. It's content to entertain its fans, saving up all its mainstream energy for WrestleMania season (this year's version is happening on Sunday), the one time of year when non-fans come out of the woodwork, pretend they've paid even a sliver of attention since last year's 'Mania, and openly root for the guy from GI Joe to beat the tar out of Fred's father. Then the show will end, and the mainstream will move on to baseball, having had their annual fill of oily guys in tights pretending to cripple one another.
Usually, this arrangement works. But sometimes, wrestling gets a bug up its butt, and decides to take the real world by storm. But it's gotta be on their terms because, even when courting the masses, pro wrestling makes no fucking sense.
Usually, their attempts to court the mainstream fail miserably. Other times, they fail miserably AND hilariously. Such as ...
6. Fake Wrestling Storylines + Real Football People (Who Gave Zero Shits) = The XFL
You've probably heard about the XFL, Vince McMahon's monstrously failed attempt at creating a smash mouth football league. But what perhaps you didn't know is WHY the league failed. You know, other than silly rule changes, the very thought that they could compete with the NFL, and the vast majority of the players turning out to be really crappy at the whole football thing.
Every once in a while, some of the most popular comic book publications will spice things up by crossing one of their characters over into another comic universe. For instance, it was recently announced that Angela from Image Comics would be making her way into the Marvel universe. Neil Gaiman won the battle against Todd McFarlane when it came to this character, which was his in the first place since he in some ways did actually create her. It turned into a really bad lawsuit as both writers claimed that they were sole owners to the half-naked angel, since she was first printed in an issue of Spawn. We hate it when that happens.
Now, while some fans were scratching their heads, wondering where a random religious character like Angela would fit in Marvel, it got others thinking about who could be next. What characters could we see teaming up with, or fighting against, our favorite Marvel heroes? For some it may be a stray thought, but we're going to turn that into a huge list. So in honor of the big move, we're listing off a few amazing Image Comics characters that could toddle over to Marvel at some point.
12. Morning Glories
We're very aware that Morning Glories may be one of the most random comics to pull out of Image and into Marvel, but let us explain. The first is that we're dealing with a nonlinear storyline that incorporates young and older versions of a main character or two. Who's to say that the group of rebellious youngsters couldn't eventually make their way out of Morning Glory Academy, stumbling onto the porch of an Ultimates universe? If the first major story arc had wrapped up by now, it would be easier to make a specific selection on where in the Marvel universe they would fit. Then again, Morning Glories is so good that I don't want it to ever end.
As a longtime gamer and film nerd, I'm more than familiar with the endless comparisons made between the two mediums. When Bioshock was released in 2007 some hailed it as the Citizen Kane of videogames. Set in the underwater city of Rapture circa 1959, the game featured a primary antagonist, Andrew Ryan, who had a passing resemblance to Orson Welles. Bioshock was a comment on the grand notion of freewill and more specifically, what it means to chase the American Dream like Kane. Still, Bioshock was a satire of the work of author Ayn Rand more than newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, but never mind; it's indisputably one of the best games of all time.
Me, I take issue with all those constant film allusions. While I recognize that videogames have evolved through aping a lot of techniques from cinema, the arrival of a new title in a beloved franchise is more akin to a new album by a favorite band. In Halo, Mario Bros., heck, even Grand Theft Auto, you pretty much know that a lot of what you want/expect is essentially more of the same. At the same time, you hope that the developer finds a way to refine and explore the same themes they have in their previous work. Filmmakers do this too. Marty Scorsese's movies usually explore redemption via Christian guilt, but for me a new game feels more like a new offering by Radiohead than simply a blockbuster sequel.
Ken Levine, the brain trust behind the original Bioshock, has, with the third title, Infinite (he skipped out on Bioshock 2; you can too) done exactly what I would want from a new White Stripes LP (come on, Jack and Meg, make a new album!) by exploring similar ideas while working within the gameplay aesthetics of a first person shooter. (Did anyone expect Infinite to suddenly be an RTS?)
Booker DeWitt is a private investigator hired to extract a young gal named Elizabeth from the flying city of Columbia. The year is 1912. The city is run by a religious zealot called The Prophet by its citizens. He's seceded Columbia from the United States. Racial purity is preferred over the rantings of that devil of a president Lincoln; here, John Wilkes Booth is immortalized with a statue. So even though Booker's armed with plenty of guns and vigor enhancements (like possession or bucking bronco), he'll have his work cut out for him if he's to get the girl and unravel the mystery of the balloon-floating city in the clouds.
So here were are again, this time as Booker DeWitt instead of Bioshock's Jack. This time there's no Big Daddies, but a really big Songbird: a flying iron-clad terminator monstrosity. This time there are no Little Sisters to protect or exploit, but there is the similarly-dressed Elizabeth. Out with the underwater city of 1959 Rapture, in is 1912's floating city of Columbia run by The Prophet. Andrew Ryan need not apply.
For me, this is the best way to approach a new title in a franchise. Not as a 10-hour film but as a new piece of entertainment from a band I adore. Like a great album, you'll want to take it in, and listen (er, play) over and over.
With that said, then, how does Infinite stack up?
Series 7 of Doctor Who resumed Saturday on BBC America with "The Bells of Saint John," and a lot of it was fun and intriguing. The Doctor (Matt Smith) got a cool new outfit. He drove his anti-grav Triumph motorcycle up the side of London's landmark skyscraper the Shard. And we had a lot of little clues about what might be in store for the rest of the series and new companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman).
Still, a lot of things about it bugged me to no end -- something I've come to expect from showrunner Steven Moffat, who can be incredibly brilliant yet incredibly annoying. I adored him back when he was writing for showrunner Russell T. Davies, who revived the venerable British sci-fi show in 2005. Moffat made such wonderful, creative episodes and had a knack for turning Who conventions on their ear. But once he took over, the things I found charming became irritating. He shrank the Doctor's world to a series of closed loops containing approximately 3.5 people, turning so many stories around companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and River Song (Alex Kingston) that they felt like the only inhabitants of his universe. He made it seem like the Doctor was responsible for everything that ever happened in all of time and space. He was a terrible tease, constantly posing questions he didn't answer. Grrrr!
But it's too depressing to be mad at Doctor Who all the time, and there's still a lot to love. So I've just accepted that the Moff's vision of the Doctor isn't always going to be my cuppa tea. Nevertheless, what I saw Saturday, and what I've read about the rest of Series 7, has me a bit riled. Here are five of the most annoying things, and how Moffat will probably convince me it's all OK in the end. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!)
5. Too Much Information
The first time the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) met the mysterious River Song, she knew everything about him, though he had no idea who she was. But she convinced him to trust her by whispering something in his ear that no one could've known, unless he told them: his actual name. We've been teased about that ever since, especially in the last two series, via the riddle of the First Question, the "oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight." The question that, according to creepy villains the Silence, must never be answered. The question that the head of avuncular blue black-marketeer Dorium Maldovar claims is, "Doctor who?" And the question that, we learned last Saturday, the Doctor never realized how much he enjoys hearing spoken out loud.
Last week, U.K. magazine Radio Times published Moffat's guide to the new episodes. (Online, you can only read his comments for "The Bells of Saint John.") Moffat says this about the finale, in which River will appear: "You're about to learn something about the Doctor that you never knew before. And I think you're in for a shock."
With all this hinting around that the Doctor's name will be revealed, at this point I'm not sure it would be much of a shock (unless it turns out to be "Sherlock Holmes"). But that doesn't mean I'm ruling it out. My bigger beef is, why do we have to know stuff about the Doctor? I don't want to know his name, who his prom date was, where he got all those women's clothes he keeps in the TARDIS (wait, maybe I do wanna know that) or whatever. The cool thing about the Doctor is that he's self-invented -- an inspiration to freaks everywhere. So what's wrong with leaving him a mystery? And why do we have to be "shocked" by whatever it is we'll learn?
It's OK because: Though Moffat is arrogant enough to give the Doctor a name, I think he'll punt. But any revelation about the Doctor threatens to be a drag on some level. So maybe this one won't be OK.
Not every book that deserves a cult gets one. Some tomes get bad reviews (or, far worse, no reviews at all), sometimes publishing houses on their last legs leave whole printings to languish in warehouses, and some books, whatever their merits, are simply hopelessly out of sync with the fashion of the times. They go unchosen even if they make it to the stores, and the membership of their authors' cults number in the dozens. It all leads to a philosophical question: if a book rolls off the press and no one reads it, does it make a sound? In any case, if you have any of these curios on your bookshelf, you have truly impressive Nerd Cred:
1. Desdemona's Star by Kevin Newman (1972)
Despite its potential for sci-fi/drama club geek crossover, this paperback original failed to catch on as a sort of Glee in space. It concerns a company of actors whose spaceship has broken down while they were performing Othello for mine workers on a distant desert planet. They manage a lift to their next gig with charter captain Mack Ward, who soon notices a ship following them - the theater ship, seemingly empty and pilotless. It turns out that their performance was witnessed not only by the miners but by an incorporeal alien capable of manipulating the desert sands in lieu of a body. This being fell in love with Bianca Healey, the actress playing Desdemona, thought her murder was real (La Healey having disappeared into seclusion with a migraine after the show), damaged the spaceship to prevent Iago's escape, and then animated it to pursue and exact revenge on the poor guy playing Iago, and upon the Captain seemingly abetting his flight. Said Captain has, meanwhile, fallen in love with La Healey. Action, suspense and improvisation ensue.More >>
The 1980s could be classified as the decade of the "inevitable crescendo". We dutifully watched every Hulk Hogan match, cringing with every bump he took, just knowing at some point he was going to have enough, "Hulk up", and make an amazing comeback to win the match.
We also knew if we watched an episode of Knight Rider we'd get a dazzling display of K.I.T.T.'s abilities at precisely the right time to foil the bad guys. When it came to Voltron, they only formed the big guy when all other options were exhausted, creating an (albeit predictable) climactic moment every episode.
The same went for the Masters of the Universe. Whatever trouble came Prince Adam's way, we knew every episode he'd pull out that Power Sword, utter those awkward-in-retrospect words, and turn into He-Man.
For the most part, the transformations were warranted. Whether Skeletor's minions had him in a bad spot, one of his friends was in trouble, or the well-being of all of Eternia hung in the balance, when Adam pulled the sword it seemed to make sense. For the most part.
I have to admit, if "fabulous secret powers" were revealed to me, and I had access to the Power Sword, I'd get pretty bored of my "normal" life too. I'm not judging Adam; I know I'd find every opportunity in the world to make that transformation and have some fun being the most powerful man in the universe. That said, come on, Adam - act like you've been there before.
Here are ten times Prince Adam decided to turn into He-Man where it might not have been completely necessary.
10. Clean-Up Duty
In "The Rarest Gift of All", Adam transforms into He-Man to help Man-At-Arms put out a small workshop fire, because obviously the palace got rid of all their fire extinguishers the day fabulous secret powers were revealed to Prince Adam.
After blowing out the fire, he ends up in the kitchen helping Teela clean up a cake batter mess, which is somewhat comparable to having Brainiac balance your checking account.More >>
For years, WonderCon (which runs Fri.-Sun. in Anaheim, CA) was like the unwanted stepchild of Comic-Con to anybody not living in San Francisco. Put on by the same people, yet never much of a must-see because everyone was busy saving for their San Diego trip. Besides, it wasn't like much news ever broke out of there. The perception changed a bit when the first really good look at Green Lantern was premiered there, and Christopher Nolan's obvious preference for San Francisco over San Diego has led to some Bat-stuff over the years. But now it's in Anaheim, which is closer to the big movie studios, and they're paying a bit more attention.
Last year, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender came to promote Prometheus, Peter Berg showed the only good parts of Battleship, Rian Johnson debuted the full Looper trailer, and Chris Hardwick launched the Nerdist Channel. This year? Well, there are at least ten good reasons I can see for making the trek down to Orange County this weekend. Here they be, in no particular order of merit:
10. You can actually get into panels.
This is a biggie. Everybody knows that at San Diego Comic-Con, you need to get in the room a good 2-3 panels earlier than the one you actually want to go to, which is especially annoying if you have to sit through Twilight to get a peek at Avatar. Last year at WonderCon, all the panels I mentioned above were ones I was able to walk right into, even going in and out if I wanted (which is useful, because as in Comic-Cons of old, the big ballroom has no bathroom). Yes, I had to line up for some, but the line always got all the way in. This will change as more and more people become aware of that fact, but it sure beats the hourlong wait I did last summer to see the SDCC Max Brooks panel and still not get in.
Well, last Saturday brought us Nickelodeon's 26th Annual Kids' Choice Awards, and while I'm pretty it's a general rule of thumb that 90% of all awards with the word "Choice" in the title should be rightfully treated as useless bullcrap, this year's offerings presented a bit of a unique offering, namely in the Favorite Video Game category. The nominees? Just Dance 4, Skylanders Giants, Mario Kart 7, and...Wii Sports.
Not even the at least slightly more recent Wii Sports Resort; nope, just the friggin' six-and-a-half year-old pack-in Wii game.
Now, it's at this point that a sane person would've laughed at this sort of stupidity, maybe cursed a little, and then shrugged it off, promptly burying this in the garbage-bin corner of their brains. But I couldn't help it; this all kept clinging to me and annoying the hell out of me, like a leech who gained the ability to hum Taylor Swift songs. I mean, is this really what it's come to in the relationship between video games and kids? The gaming industry being so devoid of giving any attention or thought into creating and marketing kid-friendly games that we're still relying on a six year-old game (which mercifully didn't win) with a formula that's been taken to atomized horse levels over the years?
Now before any of you start shouting out examples, I know there are still kid-friendly video games out there. I mean, in case you haven't noticed, that's kind of the damn point of this list, duh. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that kid-friendly video games just don't feel as prominent as they used to, at least compared to all of the hyper-realistic "mature" games out there (many of which I still love, of course, but still). Maybe it's just because I grew up in the Age of Platformers, a time where video game magazines could be the size of a small phone book, games for kids, teens, and adults all got equal promotion, and a can of soda only cost three bits and a nickel, dagnabbit. But it feels as though today's industry just wants to cater towards older, more long-time gamers without putting much effort into getting a new generation of gamers going as well.
And so in an effort to try and give some much-needed attention to some more awesome yet age-appropriate games for our li'l nerds-in-training (and their parents looking for more wholesome fodder, naturally), I've compiled this list of some great kid-friendly downloadable games from recent times, a.k.a. 2010 forward. Why downloadable games? Well, 1. That's where a lot of hidden gems tend to lurk, 2. They tend to be a bit more easier on the wallet, and 3. There is still a notable number of kid-friendly retail games that I still haven't gotten around to yet and would thus lead to notable biases and omissions, which in turn lead to pitchforks and torches, so...yeah.
And now, having looked back on all this rambling so far (sorry if it sounds like I'm editorializing, but it turns out these anvils I ordered will apparently explode if I don't throw them out), it occurs to me that I should probably put this in more saner terms, so just consider this a sort of companion piece to 14 Great But Lesser-Known Fantasy Novels for Lil' Nerds. Incidentally, the Harry Potter series was nominated for Favorite Book at the Kid's Choice Awards this year as well, despite finishing up over five years ago, so you may want to revisit that list later as well...
You wouldn't think that the ancient tribal concept of a camera being able to swallow one's soul with a picture would make for a vibrant and cute little platformer, but hey, here we are. Playing as a picture-taking robot exploring an alien planet, you have to literally capture your surroundings and use them in a variety of creative ways to navigate the environment. To say that the game has an abundance of charm would be an understatement, as evidenced by its 16-bit-inspired graphics, chipper soundtrack, and holy-crap-I-want-to-hug-him-so-hard main character. But underneath the cheery platform sheen lies a meaty little puzzler as well, one that will make sure to give your tykes a tasty little much-needed cerebral challenge as well.
As for those of you questioning if these types of games may sound too tough for the wee ones, I would like to remind you that one, kids are more intelligent than you give them credit for, and two, we also grew up on several similar old-school puzzlers, adventure games and ones where we even had to deduce that keeling with a red crystal would somehow summon a tornado, and we turned out just fine. Mostly.More >>
The first G.I. Joe live-action movie, The Rise of Cobra, made money and had its fans, but few of them came from a place of die-hard Joe loyalty, simply because there were so many changes from the core elements we knew and loved. From big miscalculations like focusing on minor characters like Ripcord, to secondary issues like giving the Baroness slick shades instead of her fetishistic librarian glasses, it was an interpretation that didn't appear to come from any place of truly felt fandom.
That, and it didn't even give us the Cobra Commander and Destro we wanted until the very end. And if you're going to hire Channing Tatum and you want male audiences to like him, you have to let him be funny, rather than have him play straight man to the annoying Gungan-American that Marlon Wayans most often appears to be impersonating.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation comes straight from the Attack of the Clones playbook when it comes to marketing: yeah, we know you didn't care for the first one, but this has more of the stuff you know! Look, familiar characters and vehicles! Check it out - no more Jar Jar! And we got the Rock!
The good news is that they're not kidding - Retaliation, unlike ROC, is recognizably a G.I. Joe movie. It may not have the sophistication of some of the comics, but it definitely has the spirit of the cartoons in places, without needing to resort to kung-fu grip jokes or references to "knowing is half the battle." Sure, we can nitpick things like Joe Colton not having a beard, or Roadblock not talking in rhyme, but the spirit of the property many of us loved in one form or another is there.
Rather than write a more structured review, it seemed like a list might be the best way to address the concerns many fans have. To be clear: the good far outweighs the bad, but there are still things that could use a little clean-up, and I'm not even talking about the unnecessary 3D conversion. Here, then, are the five things it really gets right, followed by the five lesser areas in which the sequel falters a bit.
1. The Joes (and Cobra) Are American
Probably the biggest point of contention fans and pundits had with the first movie is that it dropped the "Real American Hero" tagline, except as a sarcastic comment from the Baroness. The thinking was that international audiences weren't warm to the idea of America saving the world, and as such, Breaker and Heavy Duty were very specifically depicted as non-Americans. Their headquarters was underground in Egypt, and G.I. Joe was now an acronym meaning Global Initiative Joint Operation something-or-other.
The new movie doesn't make a big deal about it, but it quietly walks back most of that nonsense. Rather than a global team commanded by General Hawk, the Joes we see here are American soldiers who take their orders from the president. Oh, and the team is now called G.I. Joe because it's named after General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis). Meanwhile, Cobra is a division of the U.S. military created by President Zartan after he double-crosses the good guys.
You'd think people might get suspicious that this supposed new U.S. military division doesn't have any U.S. flags or logos on their equipment, but rather a giant red snake head instead. We can only assume mass hypnosis is involved.More >>
We've all told a lie here and there just to get out of sticky situations, haven't we? Sure, that's a simpler way to get what you want, but lying isn't the answer. Sadly, though, a nice chunk of comic book characters, both good and bad, are habitual liars. They trick and lie to many for a variety of reasons, and while it may be morally wrong, they continue to succeed in the art of deception. Love them or hate them, these characters leave an impression on all readers.
Now, let's run down who's the dirtiest of liars to ever pop up in comics. Warning: there are some major story spoilers in here.
10. Professor Xavier (X-Men)
Kitty Pryde was 100% right to have once shouted out "Professor Xavier is a jerk!" Why? Because he's one of the largest a-holes to ever use his psionic abilities for his own gain. The worst misuse of his talents came to be when he wiped Scott Summers/Cyclops' mind clean from any memory of his now-dead brother Vulcan. All right, so Vulcan was kind of a big bad guy, but Xavier had no right to erase that from Scott's head. Sure, his intentions are good; but don't be abusing your powers like that, Professor.