Can we discuss Wonka?
Those that know me know that there are a handful of movies that are ‘my thing’ – movies that, back in the day of VHS tapes and stegosaurii, my copies wore through. The original Wonka, Gene Wilder, 70’s perm and all, is probably the first film I can even think of that I wouldn’t stop watching as a kid. Since then, I’ve learned I wasn’t the only one and Wonka fits similarly into many people my age because of our exposure to it at the dawn of cable and the tape.
We are now getting not one, but two Wonka related movies and I am filled with the fury of a middle aged white man on the internet. So lets take a look at the rumors as to what we’re getting in the Wonderful World of Wonka and gauge how angry I’m going to be… to be clear, Depp Wonka gets me a 9 out of 10 on the Hate’Ometer, saved from a 10 solely by the CGI squirrels.
The first is a ‘young Wonka’ story, as portrayed by acting Wunderkind Timothee Chamalet (to be clear, I have no idea if he’s a wunderkind (or how to spell that)) I just know that he’s in a lot of places, and I don’t know anything about him. That said, this is rumored to be the first in a ‘Wonka Cinematic Universe’ which is a phrase that makes me wince so hard I felt my neck pop. The only saving grace to this entire concept is that the writer connected to it is Simon Farnaby who has done some notable work (including Rogue One, The Mighty Boosh) — but as the Depp Wonka taught us, sometimes, telling us too much ruins everything.
The second one is an animated series being created by Netflix and helmed by Taika Waititi of What We Do In Shadows and Ragnarok fame. This, mind you, I have less of a problem with as I have always wondered why there wasn’t a traditional Saturday Morning Cartoon about Wonka. There were cartoons for Back to the Future, Pac-Man, Robocop.. all that came well after the property had seen its golden days, so why not Wonka? A cartoon also feels quite less important in the scheme of the universe and a lot more ability to be playful without living in a green screen.
In the defense of both of these concepts, I do appreciate that they are being done by not-Americans. Waititi from New Zealand and Farnaby from England, Dahl’s humor and sensibility was most certainly not an American one and we’ve already proven we don’t deserve the rights to write a Wonka film… in the end, a cartoon gets only mild grunt from me, but a Cinematic Universe? Please don’t. Oh dot, please oh please do not. No good can come of it and what other books are you going to tie that into?! Maybe a discussion for another blog.
Unless, mind you, these Wonka properties help bring back Wonka candy bars… the ones that had the graham crackers in the blend… then you’ll get a pass as I sit on my couch with a mouth smeared in chocolate that a Gloop would be proud of.
Hey all, PCR here!
So, I just watched the finale of LEGO Masters Season 2 last night and…I have thoughts.
First, let’s go over the teams…
Caleb and Jacob – Even though they had been in the bottom two more than any other team in the finale, they made their move towards the end, winning Episodes 9 (Land and Sea with their “Chameleobster”) and 11 (Cliffhanger) which gave them some great momentum going in to the final.
Mark & Steven – They held The Golden Brick the longest, and had the most wins going in to the final episode, and though they were only at risk of elimination twice, once was the episode right before the finale, which put them on shaky ground.
Zack and Wayne – They were only ever at risk of elimination once in Episode 10 (Flip My Block) and had more 2nd place finishes than any other team the entire season.
So, we’re in the finale, and the teams are tasked with doing a “Day/Night” build. Caleb and Jacob opt for an hourglass design with a ‘Day City’ on the bottom and a ‘Night Realm’ in the top of the hourglass. It was bold in design and impressive in construction considering the two halves were built separately and then the top literally flipped upside down to join with the base. Considering the middle didn’t actually connect and it was only the 4 outer pillars supporting the weight, it was amazing to me that the thing stayed together.
Mark and Steven opted for a “Warden of the Woods” character. The “Day/Night” shift was accomplished with a number of lights throughout the model, and while the water base they created was very impressive at “night”, the figure overall honestly wasn’t that impressive to me due to the complete brown build with little variations of color except the leaves for the hair and the glowing eyes.
Zack and Wayne went back to the well once more (which they did often this season) and incorporated dragons into their tower build. It was tall, and each floor of the tower was personalized to their story, but the “Night” shift felt like it was just lights inside each floor that made them brighter.
Overall, I was expecting something different when the Brickmasters said they wanted a build that had a different feel and look in each Day and Night segment. To my dismay, Caleb and Jacob came in third, leaving Zack and Wayne and Mark and Steven to fight for the top two and… to be fair… both builds left me nonplussed. Mark and Steven as a team just felt too… cocky? Too… entitled? I don’t know… just something about their demeanor and how they came off most of the season made me not a fan, and while Zack and Wayne had many of those same qualities, it was their constant use of things we had seen them do before that left me unimpressed with a lot of their builds.
For me, the REAL winners this season were Natalie and Michelle, and Dave and Richard. Both teams had that creativity factor in a lot of their builds that felt others were lacking. They thought outside the box (and the brick) to do builds that were always on theme, but always original.
I won’t spoil who the winner was.
Did the best team win? Probably. Did the most creative team win? Certainly not in my opinion.
Season 2, while I was happy to see it come back, didn’t live up to Season 1 (the highest rated episode of S2 was barely over half of the lowest rated episode of S1), and it will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes to fruition for a Season 3.
Somethings! It’s Hatton!
Since PCR went and ranked his American Horror Story seasons, I thought – especially since our tastes differ pretty severely on a couple ones – that I’d hit it up too. If I really was going to dive in deep here, I’d break them down by half seasons, because it always feels like AHS gives you two stories and notoriously I like one side of it better than the other.
That said, let’s get into it…
9 – 1984
I thought 1984 was a disappointment. It leaned on the ‘Ghost’ rules of AHS heavily, and the latter half felt completely unbalanced to the first half. I really had wanted this to be a brilliant take on horror slashers and 80s teen horror, and it just fell into its own AHS branded melodrama.
8 – Asylum
PCR and I agree about the weakness of Asylum… with the exception of Lily Rabe as Sister Eunice, it felt like this season just didn’t have a cohesive story to tell, but a handful of separate stories that just didn’t land for me. The twists of aliens and the like just didn’t match the tone of the rest of the show.
7 – Apocalypse
I will admit, this one sits in the middle for me because it is the one season I’ve promised I’ll go back and rewatch sometime in the not far future. I would watch AHS while I was doing other things and I missed a lot of this one. I like bunkers. I like apocalypses. I remember there being one thing about this season I really disliked, but I couldn’t tell you now what it was.
6 – Coven
I know not worshipping Coven as a season is sacrilegious for some fans of AHS. I enjoy it, and it does feature one of my favorite subplots in all of AHS in the Axe Man. Coven, to me, feels like a season where AHS discovered what it could be and how it can tell different stories. Not a bad season, and important to AHS lore, but similar to my next entry – it felt like a well they kept coming back to.
5 – Murder House
I love a good sexy latex gimp. Who doesn’t, right? Murder House was an intensely new way to see a serial story and you didn’t know if you were watching a one season journey or if this was chapter one to a much bigger tale. The insert of the Black Dahlia felt very disconnected, but it set the rules we got to know so many times.. even though I think that at times it has been a crutch for AHS to lean on.
4 – Cult
PCR made a point that Cult was uncomfortable. I agree wholly, and it was that uncomfortability that had me glued to what was going on. I’ve seen so many documentaries about cults and group conspiracies and Jim Jones, NXIVM, etc that this was as much a curiosity as to how far they would take it as much as finding the real stories they pulled from to get there. Plus, Billy Lourd was a VIP in brilliance in her AHS debut.
3 – Freak Show
This was the first season I loved. Immensely loved. The addition of Neal Patrick Harris as huckster Chester Creb, Jessica Lange’s black and white over-produced musical numbers, and Dandy. I would have watched a Dandy season – he was brilliant in all of the most horrible of ways.
2 – Roanoke
OK OK OK … Hear me out. I can hear the pitchforks already. I have learned there are people that like what they did with Roanoke… and people that don’t. A documentary style show where the reenactors then go and get sucked into the plot of the story itself. it is AHS at its most meta and I was all about it.
1 – Hotel
I find Hotel to be -the- perfect story for Horror Story. It brings back something that hadn’t been around since the first and second season, which is this intangible sexiness. The location was this gorgeous gaudy affair that was a character unto itself. Every person feels like a fully lived in character. It doesn’t hurt that Evan Peters’ character was this amazing mix of an out of touch HH Holmes and Howard Hughes. Gaga was just amazing icing on an already packed cake.
Which ones were your favorite? Tell us where you tell us stuff!
Hey Somethings, PCR here!
So, in our Free For All episode (which you can listen to here…) we touched on ‘American Horror Stories’ and, tangentially, AHS in general. Long time listeners of the show know both Hatton and I have varied opinions of the AHS seasons… but here, for the first time, I’m giving you my rankings of them…
9 – Roanoke – I know they tried something a bit different this season with the ‘real vs re-enactment’ and the second half feeling like a different story until it wasn’t… but the whole thing fell super flat for me. When I first saw the title, I wanted a season ABOUT Roanoke not.. this convoluted mess that we got.
8 – Asylum – I know I’m stepping on toes here, there are a BUNCH of people who like Asylum. There were PARTS I liked, not not nearly enough to override the fact that I feel like I got scammed in a story that was teased and never shown.
7 – Cult – Cult was… uncomfortable. I know AHS stories aren’t supposed to be all ‘light and fuzzy’, but “Cult” for me felt ‘too soon’ with what was going on in the world at the time.
4 – 1984 – I liked the schlock of it. The season captured the ’80s vibe great, and it was exciting for me to see them bring Ramierez back.
1 – Apocalypse – I’ll be honest, this almost came in at the second spot as the first few episodes I was a bit “meh” on, but once The Witches showed up and everyone revealed their true colors, this season really took off. Cody Fern as Michael Langdon REALLY gave me some “Lucifer/Ahura Mazda” vibes from Cry for Dawn and there was little, if anything, I would change about the season as a whole.
How often are you skimming through your streaming options and all of a sudden you see a documentary and go, ‘I do want to know more about that?’ – For me, there are a lot of docu’s I just don’t get into. I’m not one to sit and dive into a 10 part World War I retrospective with all new footage or, with exceptions coming, anything political, and lastly.. anything brutal about animals. There have been a lot of award winning documentaries that fit in those three spots, but the first two put me to sleep and the last one makes me never want to sleep again. More than one person has said to me I should watch ‘Don’t F**k With Cats’ – and I am certain I would love everything about it except, you know, someone fucking with a cat.
All that said – here’s a few of the documentaries I’ve watched in the last year or so that may have slid by your radar – or are just so damned good they deserve to be praised over and over again.
The Defiant Ones – Featured on HBO, Emmy nominations abound, the story of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre was so shockingly good, I was late to work the next morning because I couldn’t stop binging it. Two men who come from very different backgrounds who climbed up the music world away from each other, but ultimately became music mavens in the same eras and ultimately met up in the middle to create beautiful harmonious business together. By far one of the most slickly produced and well thought out documentaries I’ve ever seen. Part 3 (out of 4) features a comparison between the rock & metal love affair with edgy Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson’s problems with the violent problems of the East Coast/West Coast rap battle that makes you realize that the culture of music is the same, no matter the genre.
Q: Into The Storm – Ok, so I said I don’t get political, but the story of the rise and fall of the conspiratorially minded political landscape of the last 5+ years and how it has a direct lineage to the old internet is an astounding journey. Centering on the ‘Who is…’ question that has never fully been answered, it paints a very full picture about, not the politics themselves, but the people that built the theaters those politics have lived in.
My Octopus Teacher – Ugly cried… I ugly cried at this damn film. It is a tale about a man looking to reboot his life and finding an octopus that he becomes remarkably attached to – and the octopus to him. It is poignant, and sad, and wonderful, and you will inevitably find yourself invested in their lives that when it comes to its end you can’t help but feel things.
Circus of Books – A journey through queer culture of the 80’s and 90’s as told from the remarkably unexpected perspective of an older couple who ran one of the most famous gay pornography stores in Hollywood. The story is this amazing set piece to not just hear about the journey of gay culture, but also tell the story of this young woman who grew up with this as her home and her two unassuming simple parents, as the protectors of it all.
SpeedCubers – Have you ever wanted to feel deeply invested into the tale of Rubix Cube speedrunners? Yeah, I didn’t expect it either.. but Speedcubers is exactly that. It explains the people in the community of speed-completing Rubix Cubes – their rises and falls – and the friendships for a whole world of people that may have a harder time finding community elsewhere.
So these are just a few of the real stories that I’ve fallen into recently – what are some documentaries that you have seen or we have missed? Let us know in all the usual places!
Hey all, PCR here. Reading Hatton’s blog last week as he took a walk down memory lane with some video game accessories got me waxing nostalgic as well, and this week I wanted to speak on some of my favorite Table Top RPGs from back in the day. So, without further ado, grab your sheet and your dice, and let’s roll….
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition – Still my favorite version of D&D as it’s what I spent the majority of my D&D time playing. I don’t begrudge folks their 5th ed and their D20 systems, but for me, this was something special. More streamlined than 1st ed, some great new spells and categories.. to me it just had a great, smooth feel to it. Had I the books, I would love to get into a 2nd Ed group to this day.
Mutants & Masterminds – My first foray into the d20 system came from M&M, and I have to say, I loved this system from Green Ronin. The rules were polished enough that combat was easy to jump into without feeling overly bogged down, and the creation was flexible enough that everything pretty much made sense. I’ve played RIFTS and GURPS and such, and while you can come up with anything your heart imagines in those systems, sometimes it just feels “Huh… sure.. ok…”, but in M&M it all felt like it made more sense. The closest a Super Hero RPG has been for me since the original “Marvel Super Heroes”. Speaking of…
Marvel Super Heroes – I still love this system, even with all its flaws. Loved the FASERIP chart, loved the d100 system.. my friends and I would spend countless hours just doing Battle Royal games…setting a timer for 5 minutes per person, having so many points to spend and just the Ultimate Powers Book to make a character, grab a random map, and off we go.
In the last couple weeks, Steam just announced their new Steamdeck – which for those who aren’t video game obsessed, is a small portable gaming system that is running, quite literally, a computer. The key is that it is made very specifically to play your Steam games. So, that brings us to me, someone who plays altogether way too many video games. So many video games it gets in the way of important things like getting podcast blog posts up on time and doing my job effectively and providing love and support to my family. Why do any of that when I’ve almost gotten the final Valkyrie in God of War?! PRIORITIES, PEOPLE!
That leads us to this list – a list of video game technology I have owned that sadly, for one reason or another, completely failed…
The Power Glove – Yeah.. it’s so bad.. When I was a kid, the commercials for the Power Glove were everywhere. As a science fiction nerd, it looked like the type of thing you could wear in your Blade Runner future. It was loaded with a hundred buttons, it had tentacle pipes coming out of the fingers, it was made to look like you were about ready to journey through the slipstream of data and right into the non-existent information super-highway at unthinkable speeds like 14.4 baud.
God it sucked.
I wanted it to play one game well.. only one. And that game was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. I’d heard you could drive the car in Outrun with your hand on the invisible wheel… didn’t care. You could, ummm… make Zelda move by waving your hand vaguely up and down? I don’t know – and it didn’t matter – you should have been able to throw a punch at your screen and have it ‘get it’. Sadly, it didn’t. It was bad at everything. I would take it out to show people.. or put it on because it made me feel like I wa sin the future! Then it would go back in the box.
The U-Force – Everyone remembers the Power Glove, but do you remember the U-Force? I put a picture for you to maybe possibly remember the endless commercials that played during your late 80s rock block of Saturday morning cartoons. It was a laptop of a thing that you were supposed to run your hand over and make gestures to have it control the character. The idea was a freedom of movement that hadn’t been seen since The Power Glove!
Sadly, whatever its intention was – failed. the Infrared tech that ran it just wasn’t good enough to register consistently and, honestly, it was never quite clear why it existed in the first place. I mean, look at this thing…
The Vita – Sony’s self-made albatross. The Vita is an amazing, pretty, compact, great sounding, fantastic feeling, handheld console that you can play your Playstation 4 on if you are on the same network. (It only works 25% of the time when on a different network). It could have legitimately been the thing that made the Playstation 4 a /must have/ instead of a ‘I’ll see how it goes’ with good enough support.
Sadly, in America, it bombed pretty drastically – it got no press whatsoever after its initial outting, it is missing a pair of shoulder buttons to make it replicate the Playstation controller, and its worst offending trait: it uses a memory card that is made by Sony instead of using the same MicroSD cards that you can get at any tech store.
I still pick it up and play games on it, although as time goes on, I find myself leaning more and more on my tablet for such things – and there are a few diehard Vita loving folks out there… sadly, Sony is not on that list, and I expect if the Steamdeck does half of what it says it does, the dust is going to start to pile up on it.
So what are some of your favorite video game accessories, loved or not?
Hey Somethings, PCR here.
There are a lot of directors that have a certain “style”, but I feel many of them lean on that style so much that they become a parody of themselves and their movies no longer feel like “A movie directed by…” as much as they feel like “A movie done in the style of…”. Here is a list of my biggest offenders.
You knew he was going to be on this list. He’s shown he can indeed use more than 4 colors (Big Fish, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Mars Attacks!…) but he’s most well known for his ‘gothic fantasy’ color palette as seen in “Batman”, “Sweeny Todd”, “Sleepy Hollow” and many MANY many others. Even “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” felt like instead of making a regular movie Tim Burton said “WHAT IF… I use a LOT of colors???”.
M. Night Shyamalan
The man who brought you “Bad Boys II”, “Transformers”, “The Rock” and “Armageddon” has also brought you metric fucktons of explosions, and throws around Dutch Angles like JJ Abrams uses lense flare. Now, I’ll freely admit, I really enjoy Bad Boys II, and seeing that felt he’d be a great director for Transformers (and I still don’t think I was wrong when the first movie is discussed), but it’s like he started becoming a superfan of his own work and “Baysplosions” were really a thing. Still, as bad and campy as they may be, most of them are still amazingly fun, and when Epic Rap Battles of History riffs on you, you’ve certainly put a mark on pop culture.
In my opinion, the worst of the bunch when it comes to ‘Style as Gimmick” because it’s the most egregious. Tarantino has an eye for cinematography for sure, but it’s his scripting and language that, to me, have become problematic. While “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” made him a name when it comes to great conversational scenes and dialogue, “Jackie Brown”, “Django Unchained” and more recently “Hateful 8” felt like he was going out of his way to be controversial when it comes to the use (and sometimes HEAVY use) of certain words (which won’t even be alluded to here… you know which one I’m talking about). I’m not a ‘feet’ guy, but I’d have rather sat through 20 different shots of Quention licking toes than the nearly 50 times “that word” is used in “Hateful 8” (which is still less than half the number of times it was used in “Django”). Now, there are people who defend his use of that language in his films (most notably, Samuel L. Jackson), but in my opinion, if you’re specifically using a word or language for no other reason than to make your viewing audience uncomfortable watching it, then it’s a crutch and only being done gratuitously.
I recently saw a movie on Shudder that I’d like to talk about. We usually don’t use this space for individual reviews, but this was so unique, and so bothersome for me, that I thought I’d change up the formula.
If you don’t have Shudder, it’s the Netflix for horror films. From classics to a lot of new, to some original.. it really is a great mix of the genre. That said, horror is one of the easiest genres to do poorly, so there is quite a bit of bad amongst the brilliant.
Amongst them was a movie called ‘WNUF Halloween Special’ that came out in 2013. The reason that it is notable is that it is framed like a syndicated news report. I’m sure if you live near a larger city, you have your ‘WNYC NEW YORK’ affiliate with its ‘GOOD MORNING, DAYTON’ morning show and its weekend ‘PORTLAND LIFE WITH CHIP MOCKLY’ or whatever. They talked about the big stories, too, but they always felt a little more personal and it wasn’t unheard of to even know or run into the anchors.
Well, WNUF frames their handcam-horror show based on a report that came out in the late 80s, early 90s as a reporter and camera person go into a supposedly haunted house to perform a seance on Halloween. The anchors are smarmy, the host is a jaded old news rat, the locals that have gathered are awkward and have no idea how to talk into a mic. It feels as real as it possibly could. The first five minutes, I was floored that this concept had never been concieved of doing before.
Then the commercials. If the news spots were good, the commercials are amazing. Each one handcrafted to taste like some local business. State fairs, late movie creature features, car salesman in stupid outfits.. its all there with this grainyness and audio tinnyness that feels like it comes straight from its era and was ripped off VHS. Again – if you have nostalgia for this period of time – you will be blown away how hard it hits the nail on the head.
So we should watch it, you ask…
No – no you shouldn’t. Because what it succeeds in framing and graphical expertise in making everything feel and sound beautifully period, it fails in a story. It goes to commercials all too often, which is period accurate, but narratively frustrating as hell. In the same ways I was astounded that they made me feel like I was watching WPIX NY, I got angrier and angrier as a steady dose of nothing continued to happen.
I watch a lot of bad cinema, and I walk away going ‘well, they did what they set out to do’, but rarely does a piece of work make me feel anger at how much potential it gave up. If this is what my parents meant when they said ‘I’m not mad, just disappointed’ – then I finally get it.
If you have Shudder, do yourself a favor and watch the first 15 minutes of this… then turn it off, and imagine a really great movie they could have made. It will be better than the one you skipped.
You can find more reviews like this, over at my LETTERBOXD account where I catalog everything I watch when I remember to.
Hey Somethings, PCR here!
James and I had a great time recording our “Movie Quotes” episode…so much so that we both wanted to continue on the quote hype train. While James waded back in to Movies and Television, I’m going to drift more in to music… and.. more specifically, quotes from one of my favorite YouTube channels… Epic Rap Battles of History.
Without further ado… my “Top 8 favorite ERB lines”!
8 – “It’s Wendy, the hip-hoppin’ Pippy Longstocking… no flows as Frosty as the salad bars that I’m droppin’” – Burger King vs Ronald McDonald (feat. Wendy). The cameo we weren’t expecting, but absolutely elevated an already awesome battle.
7 – “Meanwhile I’ve mastered the atom more than any man alive, now I’m here to split you like 2 and 3 from 5” – J Robert Oppenheimer vs Thanos. This was a DEEP dive line that showed these guys seriously do their homework.
6 – “Let’s skip the kick flips and McTwists, you’ll be speechless after three periods like an ellipsis…” – Wayne Gretzky vs Tony Hawk. Another example of these guys diving deep to not only make lyrics rhyme, but show amazing creativity while doing it.
5 – “You swamp-school dropout you’re too whiny to rhyme, at least when I Slytherin a sister.. she isn’t mine” – Harry Potter vs Luke Skywalker. Two heavyweight franchises fighting it out gave us this fantastic dig.
4 – “Get beat by Count Dracula? You’re smoking crackula I dunk on your whackula raps like I’m Shaqula” – Count Dracula vs Vlad the Impaler. I’m a sucker for running rhymes and this one stole this battle.
3 – “Maybe Q can craft some new plotlines… you made Thunderball two bloody times” – James Bond vs Austin Powers. As a Bond fan, this line almost broke me and once again shows the levels of research the team does for their lyrics.
2 – “O, happy dagger pierce me true, persuade my breath to stop. Sheath yourself inside my heart, and like the beat…I drop” – Romeo and Juliette vs Bonnie and Clyde. There was a LOT to like about this battle, but to have come up with this line was near perfection.
1 – “Face it Ernesto, you’re Castro but less so. He’s Cuba Commander you’re more of the Destro”. – Che Guevara vs Guy Fawkes. A brutal diss, great rhyme AND pop culture relevant? Winner winner chicken dinner.