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KSR’s take on recent non sports related happenings

Photobombing: Mississippi State University

Photobombing: Mississippi State University

 

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Welcome to Mississippi State University! We are happier than pigs in slop that you have chosen to continue your edgy-cation with us at MSU and can’t wait for you to learn all the great things about the University. You will have already received your mandatory cowbell and Duck Dynasty™ Season 6 DVD and you’re ready to embark on a mission of learning!

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With a beautiful, picturesque Southern campus and down-home hospitality, the friends you make at MSU will be among the best you’ll ever meet, whether gathering together to study, chat or just relax and enjoy each other’s company. If you need to use the bathroom at any time, Keith, just use a bottle. It’s okay.

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Whether you’re commuting or living on campus, Mississippi State will inevitably become “home” in no time, which means that — just like the home you grew up in — you can murder any trespasser who steps foot on your land. They will be buried in an unmarked graveyard back behind the Poultry Science Building. Sssshhh! Remember: you are within your rights!

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Lunch is available from 10:30 am to 1:45 pm weekdays, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Meal choices in Mississippi State’s dining halls include barbecue, lemonade tea and barbecue. And lemonade tea.

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Here we see the MSU Budgetary Committee putting the finishing touches on the 2015 residence halls budget in one of  MSU’s state-of-the-art meeting boardrooms. You won’t find any “bull” in MSU’s hardworking administration (though you may find an actual bull, which you should be sensitive not to provoke).

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Mississippi State Student Government loves to work hard…and play hard! Everyone mugs for the camera except the blonde in the top right, who was under the impression that joining Student Government would be a great way to impact the campus and not just watch a bunch of hilarious cut-ups quote lines from Glee. Sorry, Katie!

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The Department of Public Safety at Mississippi State is always on alert and protecting you and the campus from harm. Except during break time, which is time for the officers to — Hey, we told you not to come in here! It’s not what it looks like, okay? It’s…it’s…listen you better not say anything about this you hear me? This is what makes us feel alive and no one understands.

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At Mississippi State we love Bully, our bulldog mascot. Here we see Bully alongside his costumed counterpart and — uh oh! Hands where we can see them, you two!

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Students from Mississippi State’s Fashion Design & Merchandising Department gather together to celebrate another year of great collaboration. As you can see, there are varying degrees of skill level at work in the Mississippi State Fashion Design & Merchandising Deparment. But we’re a family, and that’s what counts. Seriously, many of us are literally family, which makes the Fashion Design & Merchandising Department Christmas Dance a target for the media each year.

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Get in on the “act” when you study musical theater at Mississippi State University in our illustrious Drama Department! Deliver your lines and “steal the show” when you take the stage among your peers. Please be on the lookout for Phillip, though; he is not affiliated with Mississippi State University or its Drama Department — he simply loves musical theater. If you see him please alert your professors as Phillip is currently under a legal restraining order.

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College is a great time for “partying,” but please be responsible. That rabbit is not real, Clem, and perhaps you shouldn’t be driving. No one else can see it but you. You probably need to lie down.

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Whatever interests you pursue at Mississippi State, you can do it while ridiculously ringing a cowbell at all times. Trust us, everybody really loves it a lot, so by all means please keep doing it all the time.

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I SAID HANDS WHERE WE COULD SEE THEM, YOU TWO. Somebody get me a hose.


Is Scarlett Johansson the Right Lead for Ghost in the Shell?

Is Scarlett Johansson the Right Lead for Ghost in the Shell?

A good friend of mine recently posted 17 words on Facebook questioning the choice of Scarlett Johansson as the main character in a live-action version of 1995’s anime classic Ghost in the Shell. Those three sentences turned into a heated 21-comment thread that had to be defused with purposely humorous video embeds to calm everyone down, as happens with many such Facebook exchanges.

Why did my buddy and his buddies and a lot of other people’s buddies get riled up about Johansson taking the central role in a not too well-known sci-fi action flick? As Black Widow and Lucy, she’s proven herself to be a box-office draw as an action movie star, and she’s an exGhostcellent actress regardless. Well, if you’re not familiar, Ghost in the Shell occupies a place in the anime pantheon as one of the genres best-written, best-animated, and well-received anime movies ever. Oh, and the white, (usually) blonde, American Johansson would be portraying a raven-haired Japanese cyborg named Major Motoko Kusanagi. Let the flames begin.

This Facebook thread created some deep and interesting discussions regarding race, racism in Hollywood, Western adaptations—and many would say adulterations—of Japanese cinema, film casting in general, and a several other issues not really germane to the topic. Chief among them was, should Johansson be playing an Asian character?

The matter of race in cinema is not a small one. Given that many actors who are members of an ethnic minority, even those who have found critical acclaim, assert that making it in Hollywood as a non-white actor is still difficult, the topic deserves more than cursory treatment, and certainly more than I can give it here. On the surface, it would seem that casting Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi in the most anticipated live adaptation of an anime film (Akira just ain’t happening anytime soon) would be an obvious insult to Asian or Asian-American actors who could ably play the role. I’m not so sure it is, though, for the following reasons:

  1. Though GITS is Japanese in origin and most of the characters have Japanese names, being Japanese or Asian is not an irreplaceable part of the character of Kusanagi. The story could have been—and could still be—the same were she named something American or Russian or Sudanese. It’s not like she’s being cast as Minny Jackson in The Help. If the live-action GITS is set anywhere but near-future Japan (see #2 below), I suspect that the main character will not be named Motoko Kusanagi. That said, I would have a huge problem with Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese character named Motoko Kusanagi (wait for the last portion; link slightly NSFW). That would indicate that the director thought being Asian is integral to the character, but that such an important role couldn’t be played by an Asian actress. That would be a pretty big Eff-You.
  2. The story deals with themes of human- and transhumanism, the relationship between humans and machines, identity, individualism, etc., which are ideas that transcend most cultural and ethnic boundaries. In fact, if I had to guess, since Londoner Rupert Sanders will direct, the movie could be set anywhere from London to New York to Tokyo to Shanghai, really anywhere that can resemble a metropolis in the not-too-distant future. This shouldn’t materially change the movie. After all, The Grudge and The Ring (to name just a few) were successful adaptations of Japanese horror movies, largely because their most important elements weren’t dependent upon setting.
  3. Johansson is a gifted actress, and can probably pull off the mental/emotional complexity and demanding physicality of the role. Not saying other actresses couldn’t, but Johansson is a known commodity both talent and profit perspectives. This decision is about money, whether we like it or not, and Scarlett is a safe bet.Black Widow

All that being said, while I think Johansson is a superb actress, I would prefer she not be cast in the role of Kusanagi:

  1. The more GITS becomes about Johansson as Kusanagi, the less it becomes about the original movie itself. It is then infinitely more likely that the film becomes a huge-budget blockbuster worried only about making its money back and not too much about making a good movie. Yes, I understand that movies don’t get made for free, but I’m tired of really bad movies that could have been really good with a little more attention paid to screenplay, dialogue, etc., and at minimal expense. We’ve suffered through enough of that crap (Star Wars Episodes I-III, Terminator Salvation, etc.). I don’t want that to happen to my favorite anime, especially when there really haven’t been any good live anime adaptations (Fist of the North Star? Bleargh!), and especially-especially because GITS could be perfect for live adaptation in the right hands. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to see live-action Akira, but it would be really tough to make the effects look good.
  1. So many good actors of non-white ethnicities—especially women—get so few good non-stereotyped roles. If nothing else but for better representation in film, I would love to see an Asian actress play this originally Asian role. There must be dozens of women who could fit this part well, maybe as well as Johansson. For studio purposes, a lesser-known but talented Asian actress could take the role for less than a tenth of the $10 million reportedly offered to Johansson. If the movie is crap, Johansson’s draw is only going to be so much after the first weekend, and probably winds up not being worth the price. If GITS ends up being a good film, though, it will be because of the screenplay adaptation and other non-Johansson elements. In this case, it probably brings in a ton of money worldwide with or without her, so why not save some money?
  2. Maybe the movie loses something in the translation, starting with its American lead actress? This is a stretch, but there may be cultural elements of GITS that simply don’t make it from animation to live action. I honestly have no idea what those might be, and we’d only recognize them when seeing the movie. By then it’s too late. GITS doesn’t get another shot at adaptation for another 10-20 years, if ever; and gets unfairly tagged as a cautionary tale for future anime adaptations.

I realize that my status as a white, American male in his 30s influences my views in ways that I don’t even realize. There are probably dozens of things that I dwelled on that others don’t think are a big deal, and several that I completely overlooked that might be very important to someone else. In either case, Scarlett Johansson can and likely will do a great job with Major Kusanagi, or whatever her name ends up being. And really thinking about the characters and themes in Ghost in the Shell, the live-action version probably doesn’t have to stay an “Asian” film to have the same impact as the original, if the movie is done correctly and stays close enough to its source material. But the further it gets away from 1995’s masterpiece, the less hope it has of matching the quality of its progenitor. To boil it down, I really just want to Ghost in the Shell done right.

Please let me know in the comments section what you think about all this.

Follow me on Twitter: @MattShorr


Hannibal Buress Made Headlines & I’m Exploiting it

Hannibal Buress Made Headlines & I’m Exploiting it

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Just to talk about Hannibal Buress.

If you don’t know what headlines I’m referring to, you need to step up your Internetting. Fine, or just Google “Hannibal Buress” and maybe throw in a “Bill Cosby” for good measure.

Bill Cosby being an accused rapist (again and again) aside, it is apparently a bit that Hannibal has been doing for about 6 months now that randomly got traction/blew up the Internet because the technological age is …. slow sometimes?

But I’m using this brief window in which Hannibal Buress is a headline story to my advantage to praise a guy who may be the next in line for the title of the best in comedy, potentially taking the helm from a personal fan, Louis CK.

Much of the Funkhouser writing crew is already in love with Hannibal Buress, and here’s just a few reasons why:

30 Rock

Hannibal Buress was a writer for the fifth season of 30 Rock for a short six months, but his real impact on the Emmy-winner and my favorite comedy of the 2000’s, was felt as the “recurring homeless guy.”

Whether it was vomiting on (stupid) Lutz for proclaiming “it’s just hard to concentrate, it’s so nice working outside” or telling Liz Lemon to kiss a sexy baby, Hannibal really brought it to the obscure cameo role, summing up why it’s not really that crazy to hate New York.

Gibberish Rap

The original song was recorded in a “friend of a friend’s”, and was released with Clams Casino on THA BEAT and production help from his friend, Tony Trimm. It came out in the glory days of rap music, late 2012.

Naturally it blew up because look at these $%&*%^ lyrics (brought to you by the good people of Rap Genius):

Rappin, rap rap rappin’
I’m rappin, rap rap rappin’ (rap)
In my socks rapping (socks)
Got on my jeans (jeans)
Jeans, degrees put on deodorant
Soda sh*t, Whodepsit
KSBFKLAJSBVLJHEB;OAWEINVWEAIORBNVEWI;RV;KASNDVK;;adl;knadkjvndkjans;kvjv ksJDNVSKJDNVSD;JNSDKJ
Gibberish rap!
*raps more gibberish rap followed by the line killing the b**ch*
Gibberish rap. *begins laughing*
Yooooo, That was off the top of the head!!!!
Y’all want more? Oh sh**!!!!

Some other lyrics have been added or subtracted since the original recording dropped, namely some referring to chicken body parts, but I digress.

The song became the #1 rap single in Norway, supposedly, and was then remixed by Skrillex himself live, with some help from Ryan Phillipe.

His music career has taken off, and Hannibal released a classic two-sided mixtape with Tony Trimm which featured Flying Lotus, A$AP Rocky, and more. Dope.

My favorite part? “I was drinkin’ in the club, I went to the club, had a drink in that club then I left that club, went to another club, beat a seal with a club.”

Listen to Charcuteries and Champagne here.

Because of his unparalleled musical genius in scat and autotune, Hannibal Buress was chosen to direct and star a music video for up and coming rap star, Chance the Rapper (who recently visited UK’s campus).

Watch “NaNa” here.

Juice

Hannibal Buress is likely best-known not as failed SNL writer or a musician, but a standup comedian. He’s been featured on a 2012 Comedy Central special, Animal Furnace, every late night show that remains on your television, and has performed with John Oliver and Aziz Ansari, and probably others, I DUNNO.

But through listening to far too much Hannibal standup on YouTube, I have come to the conclusion his best jokes are about juice.

Hannibal enjoys pickles, and rather than throwing away the jar once the pickles are gone, he uses the pickle juice for seasoning, flicking it upon his sandwiches. Very economical and eco-friendly. Neil Young would be proud.

Hannibal’s other juice bit revolves around apple juice; if you’re buying a lot of apple juice on sale at a grocery store, the old man glaring at you and your white girlfriend must not be racist–he’s jealous of your apple juice. That’s what the euphoria of apple juice does to a person, makes them forget racism exists.

The Eric André Show

It’s a late night, parody talk show on Adult Swim. It stars Eric André and Hannibal Buress. They talk about such useful things as Elmo and sampling pretzels. It’s known for making some nervous.

Lincoln

Lastly, in my “stuff about Hannibal Buress and why he’s awesome” list, we have Broad City.

After scoring his own development deal with Comedy Central, Hannibal is co-starring in the series Broad City, has a commitment for a pilot for his own show, and a one-hour standup special after his ongoing standup tour.

Here’s what Buress had to say on all that Comedy Central $$:

This is really exciting I can finally quit my day job at Quiznos. People talk down about the illuminati a lot, but this is proof that membership has its benefits.

My favorite comedy currently on television, Broad City is the expansion of a web-series started by Abbi Jacobson and Illana Glazer. The show is essentially a buddy comedy about two loser 20-somethings making their way, poorly, in New York City. No, it is NOT HBO’s Girls, in that it is actually funny as opposed to just depressing and anxiety-inducing.

Hannibal stars as dentist and hookup partner of Illana, and he is the responsible voice of reason alongside Illana (she eats bagels from trash cans and sleeps on toilets).

The show has absolutely allowed Hannibal’s brand of dry humor to thrive, and if you’re going to watch anything on this list… don’t watch the Eric André Show. Make it this.

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Heroes.


Burgoo Game Review (and Giveaway!)

Burgoo Game Review (and Giveaway!)

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It is (read: should be) well known that Burgoo is THE food of Kentucky, whether people who live here readily know that or not.  Owensboro claims itself as the “Center of the Burgoo Universe.” It was ranked #12 by Deadspin in “Foods of the States Ranked” where they said:

Kentucky’s signature food, a whatever-you-got stew that never tastes the same twice, gets a million imaginary bonus points for its wonderful communal nature: People just bring whatever ingredients they can, and everybody puts what they’ve got into the stew, and out comes burgoo, and that is just f****** beautiful, even though in reality probably 78 percent of its ingredients were scraped off I-64 with a snow shovel.

Outside of that last half sentence, Burgoo is awesome because it is a communal food. People bring what ingredients they have and combine them with the ingredients of others to make one unique stew.  That communal aspect is also at the heart of Tasty Minstrel Games’ microgame: Burgoo.

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Burgoo is a microgame for 2-5 “chefs” and says it plays in 15-20 minutes, but the more you play it, that play time might be shorter once you get used to it.  The game was made by Dan Manfredini, with art by Rob Lundy.  Burgoo is a reskinning of a game that Manfredini had previously made called “Chains of Fenir” with a theme from Norse mythology, but in its current state, Burgoo fits the microgame theme much better.

Here’s how Burgoo is played:

Each player takes two each of the following ingredients: meat, carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, and spices, and randomly places them on the table in front of them in a long column, making their “batch”.  Each player will then take one of each ingredient and place those tiles hidden in their hand.  The remaining ingredient tiles go back into the middle to form the “pot” of Burgoo.

In a two player game, each player would make two "batches" apeice

In a two player game, each player would make two “batches” apiece, this is just an example of batches and the pot…

On a player’s turn, they will do one of three actions: 1) Add an Ingredient, 2) Sample the Burgoo, 3) Split a Batch.  That’s it, turns are pretty simple.  If you add an ingredient, you choose one ingredient from your hand say what type it is and then either top or bottom. You would then take that ingredient from your hand and throw it in the pot.  If you choose top, you and every player that has that ingredient at the top of their batch column will also remove it from that spot in their batch and place it in the pot.  If you call bottom, the same happens, except from the bottom of the column.

If you start running out of ingredient tiles in your hand, you might want to Sample the Burgoo.  To do this, you simply say what ingredient you’re taking from the pot (so everyone knows), and put it in your hand.

If you Split a Batch, you take an ingredient from your hand and add it to the pot.  You can then split your batch above or below that ingredient in the line.  This allows you to have two columns to work with, and might be able to put multiple ingredients into the pot at once. You can split your batch as many times as you want, but only once per turn.  The batches can also be any length.

If you call an ingredient, and it happens to be the last ingredient in one of your neighbor’s batches, you capture that ingredient and put it in your hand instead of it going into the pot. Why is this important? Because the winner of the game is the first person to put their entire batch into the pot, and if there’s a tie, the winner is the person with the most ingredients remaining in their hand when they go out.  If there’s a tie there, the player who made the final play wins the game.

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I’ll be honest, about halfway through my first play of Burgoo I thought, “How is this a game?”  Players were quiet, just picking an ingredient and placing it in the pot from their batch, seemingly kind of bored with the game.  BUT – there was a moment as we were playing, when people started splitting batches and running out of ingredients, where it got tense and exciting.  The strategy of the game kicked in, paying attention to the batches of the other players around you, trying to figure how to split your batch in a way that doesn’t benefit your opponents.  My initial reaction had quickly changed, as now I wanted to play it again, seeing exactly how this was a game.  Drawing tiles from the pot, trying to figure out if I played certain ones, if it would allow one of my opponents to win.  Eventually it did, but I was excited to see it all play out.  I would recommend, if you’re bringing this game to a group for the first time, express that you need to play it twice, as the second play through is much more tense as people start to figure out the game.

I have kept going back to Burgoo in my mind since the first time we got to play it.  I keep trying to figure out some amazing strategy to the game where I can win every time, but it’s not possible.  Because the tiles are randomized at the beginning of the game, you’re looking at an all new puzzle every time you play.  I think the next time our group plays it, there is going to be about a minute or so of everyone looking at the table to everyone else’s batches before someone makes the first move.

Burgoo was initially put out through Kickstarter, in Tasty Minstrel’s “pay what you want” model for the game. People could pay $3 for one copy, $6 for two, and so on and so forth. The game did well, selling making over $20,000 on its original $5,000 goal.  Coming in an envelope (as shown in the first picture above), the game consists of 96 ingredient tiles and a rulebook.  The tiles thick enough that you’re not going to accidentally bend them over the course of play or if you keep them just in the baggie they come in.  I really like the artwork for the ingredient tiles, it’s easy to tell what everything is. For some reason though, and it might be that I play games on a fairly brown table, when I’m pulling ingredients from the pot, I have the hardest time finding the brown potato tiles. They just seem to blend in, while the brighter colors of all the other tiles seem to pop a little more.

The two player game works well, and in fact, it’s a whole new puzzle all in its own.  Each player gets two batches instead of one, and the game becomes a struggle (albeit enjoyable) to try and outplay your opponent.  You pretty much know what each other has at all times, and if you can split your batches just right, you can take advantage of plays that they MUST make unless they sample the pot.  I almost liked the two player experience more that the four player.

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This is not going to be a game that you center your game night around, but it’s a good game to play if you’re waiting on someone to get there.  Or, it would serve as a good opener game for a small group of people.  The setup time is minimal, (“If only I could just find the potato”) and it plays in 8-12 minutes.  I would certainly recommend this to people, if you can find a copy.  You’ll only be able to get a copy through Tasty Minstrel Games’ website, once it’s updated (via Gen Con).  Edit: You can get a copy at the Board Game Geek Store for $5.  Oh, I almost forgot. There’s also a Burgoo recipe in the game manual so you can make Burgoo during your game night. Although, every Burgoo enthusiast knows that you should always keep your personal recipe held tight to your chest, despite it being a communal food.  Now I’m hungry…

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Can’t find a copy?  Well you’re in luck!  Thanks to Tasty Minstrel Games, as they have given us THREE copies to give away here on Funkhouser.  All you have to do is leave us a comment in the section below. When you leave a comment, let me know “What is your favorite game to play on game night?”  I will pick three people at random who will each win one (1) copy of Burgoo.  You have until 10/28/14 to leave a comment to enter for a chance to win.


The Walking Dead: ‘Strangers,’ Dangers

The Walking Dead: ‘Strangers,’ Dangers

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What threatened to become tired on last night’s episode of The Walking Dead instead turned into to something much more interesting (and much more disgusting!).  What can I say, I’m a little jaded–looking at you Seasons 2, 3, and 4–and every time the action stops, I’m nervous that the group is going to hunker down and spend the next season and a half hunkered down in a K-mart fighting off Walkers at the Slurpee station.  Happily, though there was more talking this episode than the last one, events still seem to be moving at a rather heady pace;  huzzah!

So grab yourself a turkey leg, a leg of mutton, a chicken leg; snacks that will in no way whatsoever foreshadow anything having to do with anything else in this episode, and enjoy the recap of ‘Strangers’!

(more…)


Which Would You Rather?

Which Would You Rather?

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Happy Friday, everyone! Well, we didn’t succeed in freeing Big Blue Madness. So those of you not attending the official kickoff to UK’s basketball season in person at Rupp will be huddled around your laptop watching the proceedings on the internet, which is super fun because it’s not like you don’t already spend an unhealthy amount of time staring at your computer all week! Tonight, as you’re hunched over, squinting at the tiny screen — much like an elderly grandmother does when she’s forwarding the latest email titled “READ THIS: EBOLA SPREADS THROUGH KITTIES’ SANDPAPER-TONGUE KISSES!!1!” — keep in mind that this must be how self-righteous, cable-cancelling cord-cutters watch sports all the time, all in the name of saving $40. SUCKERS!

Anyway, as you look for ways to kill the next few hours of work leading up to the festivities, I thought we could play a quick round of my favorite game: Which Would You Rather?

If you’ve never played Which Would You Rather? before, here’s how it works: I present two scenarios, from which you must decide which you would rather experience. For example, which would you rather do: Dress up as the Wildcat and do one arm pushups when the football Cats beat UT Martin 59-14, or spend four hours as an ESPN phone service representative fielding angry calls and trying to explain the intricacies of copyright laws relating to live broadcasts to members of the Big Blue Nation?

See how much fun that is?!

OK, here’s a tough one for you. Which would you rather watch:

Wolves, starring the dude who played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and some kid who had a minor role in the latest X-Men movie, which just takes a bunch of stuff from other recent werewolf movies and shows (A “teen wolf” playing sports! A dreamy wolf-kid whose favorite time of day appears to be “twilight!” A grizzled hunter and a “wolf man” face off!) and throws them all into a trailer that looks like it could be a spoof created by Saturday Night Live.

OR…

A two-hour movie about this monkey giving itself a bath in a sink?

 

I know which one I’d choose (give me the monkey movie, but extended it to three and a half hours because it’s a monkey! Giving itself a bath! In a sink!), but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

 

@TheSEShepherd

 

 

 


10 Things You Didn’t Know About LSU (Number 6 Might Surprise You!)

10 Things You Didn’t Know About LSU (Number 6 Might Surprise You!)

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How well do you know our opponent this weekend? The following TRUE facts might surprise you!

1. The fans once caused an earthquake.

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The crowd reaction to a play at a 1988 home game was strong and loud enough to register as an earthquake by a seismograph in an LSU classroom building.

2. Mike the Tiger can forecast the future.

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Rumor has it that LSU mascot Mike the Tiger can predict the number of touchdowns his team will score by the number of times he roars just before game time.

3. Head Coach Les Miles tastes the grass at each stadium he visits.

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The quirk originates from reporters spying Miles eating grass from Tiger Stadium after a win against Alabama. Additionally, on Friday mornings before home games Miles arrives at the stadium to chew the entire field down to a very tidy 1.2 inches.

4. Eating the food at an LSU tailgate will kill you.

LSUCajunBoil

The average life expectancy of a Louisianan in 2014 is 34 years old, owing largely to high triglycerides, moonshine still explosions, airboat accidents and inadvertent bear trap activation.

5. Mike the Tiger dutifully receives two digital rectal exams per year.

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It’s very important, even for tigers, to stay ahead of colorectal polyps and other illnesses of the prostate and lower intestine.

6. LSU loses an average of 23 fans to water moccasin bites each year.

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Campus officials have tried to curb the snake population inside the stadium but, although numbers appear to be on the decline, have yet to eradicate the snakes within the upper sections.

7. This is a photograph of the current President of Louisiana State University.

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His name is René Moses Babineaux, he loves a good crawfish boil and most decidedly voted AGAINST Newton Crain Blanchard in the last election.

8. Tailgating outside of Tiger Stadium on game day is a family event.

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LSU fans indoctrinate young football-lovers into the fold early, involving them in many of the traditional activities of LSU tailgating at a young age.

9. While visiting Baton Rouge, you run a roughly 67% chance of a Voodoo Man putting a horrific spell on you.

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Upon your safe arrival home it is advised that you check your body for tails, extra eyeballs or the very popular “fire-brain.”

10. By vote in 2011, the Constitution of the State of Louisiana was officially replaced by a widescreen DVD copy of Smokey and the Bandit II.

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It is already more successful than its historic predecessor, which only featured Dom DeLuise a little bit.

 

 

 


Forget Pumpkin Spice, It’s Guillermo del Toro’s Season

Forget Pumpkin Spice, It’s Guillermo del Toro’s Season

We’re midway through October guyz! Halloween is a mere *counts on fingers, 15 days away!

The best part of October isn’t the dreary rain, the pumpkin spice Pringles and Oreos, or the MLB playoffs (ROFL), but the excuse to shamelessly binge and bask in the comforting embrace of Freddy Krueger–or the more family-friendly Sanderson witch sisters.

Indulging in the more twisted, darker elements of fiction night after night throughout the month October is like joining a Fight Club, but for tamer sorts. You can’t have bruised knuckles at that business meeting on the importance of business.

This month, I’ve enjoyed my favorite guilty pleasure genre to the utmost, watching some new horror flicks of the indie fare such as Coherence and Willow Creek and …. less so. Yes, I saw the spinoff movie about the doll from The Conjuring. Eyes were closed the entire movie because DOLLS.

I’ve relived older favorites: Dawn of the Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly, Halloween, Ringu, Seven, Silent Hill, Cape Fear, and [rec], to name a few.

No, I don’t exercise. Thanks for being concerned for my health though.

Within that list are some of the most well-known horror and thriller minds of the past 40 years–George Romero, David Carpenter, and David Cronenberg, but today is for celebrating one active director, screenwriter, and producer, Guillermo del Toro.

To celebrate the release of his production, the visually-breathtaking animated film, The Book of Life, here’s why you should be watching Guillermo del Toro classics this fall.

Ladies, The Book of Life has Channing Tatum’s voice, gentlemen, Ron Perlman’s. Zoe Saldana, meh?

Treehouse of Horror

While I’ve rarely gone out of my way to watch The Simpsons post-2006, The Treehouse of Horror episodes are a yearly ritual, a portal one must cross before being permitted to speak of Oscar season. Last year’s episode wasn’t particularly riveting, but its Couch gag, filled with references to the major del Toro films, Hitchcock, King, and every movie monster imaginable is worth multiple re-viewings. It’s evidence of what an absolute nerd, just like you and me!, that del Toro truly is.

Need more proof that Guillermo could dominate at cos-play?

Bleak House

Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House or Man Cave, in Los Angeles isn’t as much a home as a source of inspiration for del Toro and those with which he works.

Every item in the house is

here to try and provoke a sort of shock to the system and get circulating the lifeblood of imagination which I think is curiosity. When we lose curiosity, I think we lose entirely inventiveness, and we become old.

A creative wacko with malformed fetuses and pictures of the Cheshire cat decorating his home; but he’s clearly not just into creepy, as one can cite in his involvement in Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda. I find Antonio Banderas creepy but otherwise, Puss in Boots is ever so cheerful.

War

Did any American public school kid ever learn about the Spanish Civil War? Of course we didn’t; we naturally had to be taught by a Mexican filmmaker. He really should have starred in Revenge of the Nerds.

The fact that war, the broadest reaching real life horror, isn’t the subject of more genre films outside of traditional dramas is rather shameful, but del Toro does it masterfully. Though best known for Pan’s Labyrinth, the story of an Army officer’s daughter escaping into a fable during the Spanish Civil War, his other suspenseful, though less fantastical story, The Devil’s Backbone, is my personal favorite.

The film explores the dichotomy of extreme depravity and greed alongside the decency of humanity, portraying an isolated boys’ orphanage run by Republican sympathizers outside in 1939 Spain, just before the ultimate victory of Franco’s forces.

As bleak as this sounds, I must reassure you that there is a ghost. Ghosts make everything better.

Both The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth are must watch films during the month of October that go beyond the scope of a typical horror, war drama, or fantasy, and both frighten an audience, and get it talking.

The effects of war on children is key in both films:

I hate Hollywood movies with children as happy, brainless creatures that spout one-liners. What I tried to put in The Devil’s Backbone is how unsafe it is to be a child. Many times in my life I saw children almost kill each other.

Orphans!

In real life, the thought of an orphan makes an ordinary human quite sad. But introduce an orphan element in a horror film and AH S***.

Del Toro’s fascination with the darkness of childhood can be seen in his best Spanish-language films (his best films are ALL Spanish language films), such as The Devil’s Backbone, Cronos, and The Orphanage. Clearly, they each involve orphans as well.

Cronos is a 1993 film written and directed by del Toro about an Mexican antique dealer and his orphan granddaughter who live a rather peaceful and idyllic life until an ancient and powerful device makes its way into his shop. The golden insect can grant its user eternal life, but at a “naturally unnatural” cost to his humanity. Additionally an evil Ron Perlman and his employer will stop at nothing to attain the device. Combining a powerful and innocent young orphan girl, Ron Perlman, insect references, perverted human behavior, clocks, death, and Catholicism–this film has all the trademarks of del Toro. It is sad and creepy and worth watching this Halloween.

One of the best scary flicks of the 21st century has to be The Orphanage. Produced by del Toro and directed by a protégé , Juan Antonio Bayona, this is one of the most visually striking, yet simple suspense-driven horrors ever made. The tension is absolutely palpable. Set in the protagonist’s childhood home, a former orphanage for handicapped children, it tells the story of a mother and her adopted son’s tragic disappearance. Its supernatural and traditional elements leave you both terrified and devastated.

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Although I’m not a fan of The Hobbit films (del Toro is the screenwriter), one can’t help but respect the man’s range. If you’re not watching or re-watching the Spanish language horror classics discussed above this month, Mama and Splice are both decent horror films with a touch of the del Toro worth one’s time. And there’s Hellboy, though his love of cats is anything but scary.


Revenge of the Nerds is Thirty Years Old This Year: Where are the Tri-Lambs Today?

Revenge of the Nerds is Thirty Years Old This Year: Where are the Tri-Lambs Today?

Hey. You, young whippersnapper, with the horn-rimmed glasses and the Minecraft t-shirt. There was a time, you know — and not too long ago —  when being a nerd wasn’t the badge of acceptable honor it is today. In fact, there was an entire film made about the persecution of this ilk and that very film, Revenge of the Nerds, turned thirty years old in 2014. Don’t worry, you haven’t seen it. But an entire generation before you did and, despite the horrible, horrible trailer you see above, loved it. Today that generation feels very, very old. It’s for that generation that we look at the ROTN cast today and find out what happened to them after leaving the hallowed campus of Adams College, shall we? We certainly shall.

Robert Carradine (Lewis Skolnik)

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As head nerd Lewis Skolnik, Robert Carradine led the underdog fraternity of Lambda Lambda Lambda in the titular revenge against the bullying frat boys of Alpha Beta.
What happened next? After ROTN, the next three movies Carradine would go on to appear in successfully were, in fact, the three following Revenge of the Nerds sequels. Kicking around Hollywood in the nineties as a guest roler in dramas like ER, The Practice, Nash Bridges, NYPD Blue and a dozen or so television shows you’ve never heard of (Vengeance Unlimited, anyone?), Carradine wouldn’t hit his stride again until the 2000s, where he’d land the role of the title character’s father in the wildly successful kid-com Lizzie McGuire for 65 episodes and a feature film. More recently, he’s joined fellow former-castmate Curtis Armstrong for a TBS reality series called King of the Nerds. Didn’t see that? Yeah, didn’t think so.
What you did see him in recently was: Django Unchained, as “Tracker.”

Anthony Edwards (Gilbert Lowe)

UnknownimagesAs young chess guru Gilbert Lowe, Anthony Edwards backed up Carradine’s Lewis Skolnik and delivers the moving anti-bullying speech in the film’s finale.
What happened next? Shame on you for asking this question. You know Anthony Edwards broke America’s heart when he smashed into that jet canopy and broke his neck as Goose in Top Gun. He was also on several episodes of Northern Exposure and starred in the formative 180 eps of medical drama ER and alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in David Fincher’s Zodiac.
You probably don’t remember him from: His failed ABC conspiracy drama Zero Hour in 2013.
Why, God, why: DID YOU TAKE GOOSE INSTEAD OF ICEMAN? ICEMAN WAS SUCH A DOUCHEBAG!

Timothy Busfield (Arnold Poindexter)

Unknown-1Unknown-3Bespectacled violin virtuoso Arnold Poindexter was arguably the “nerdiest” of the Lambdas, but his chemical prowess proved fruitful during the Greek Games.
What happened next? Busfield went on to a very steady and solid entertainment career as detective J.T. McIntyre on Trapper John, M.D.; he also netted an Emmy as a star of the hit drama thirtysomething and landed roles from Aaron Sorkin in both West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Movie-wise, Busfield was seen in the Bruce Willis actioner Striking Distance and baseball movies Little Big League and Field of Dreams.
What he’s doing now: Guest-starring as Benjamin Franklin in FOX’s Sleepy Hollow, which is a fair success.
He probably: Doesn’t want you to call him Poindexter anymore. He has an Emmy.

Curtis Armstrong (Dudley “Booger” Dawson)

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The resident bad boy of the Tri-Lambs, Booger bested reigning burp contest champion Ogre in a contest and supplied the first Lambda party with particularly potent marijuana.
What happened next? Armstrong didn’t have the storied TV career Busfield went on to have, but his is perhaps more Zelig-esque. After following ROTN with the Cusack classics Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer, Armstrong would show up on Moonlighting, Murphy Brown, Ed, The Closer, Boston Legal, American Dad and Supernatural. So yeah, he’s kept busy.
What you saw him in recently: He’s the principal of Jess’s school on Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl.
Doing well for himself? You know? Yeah, he really is.

Larry B. Scott (Lamar Latrelle)

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images-1It’s the L-A-M. The A and the R. The man on the mic that they call Lamar. The effeminate lamar won the Greek Games javelin contest after his brothers designed a javelin for his “limp-wristed” throwing style. Because that’s not offensive.
What happened next? If you can’t recall seeing Larry B. Scott in anything other than Revenge of the Nerds, you weren’t paying attention in the mid-eighties — because the actor went on to feature in The Karate Kid, SpaceCamp and Iron Eagle. He also had bit parts in St. Elsewhere, Seinfeld and The Jeffersons and gets big points for his starring role as Tasty-Taste in the underseen faux-rap-doc Fear of a Black Hat — which is just like Chris Rock’s CB4, only funnier.
What’s he doing now? According to IMDB, Scott is currently slated to be a part of a movie called Spring Break ’83 with Lee Majors, Morgan Fairchild and Joe Piscopo. I can’t tell if that’s interesting or cool or very sad, so I’m going to lean toward the former.

Andrew Cassese (Harold Wormser)

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Child prodigy and youngest Tri-Lamb Harold Wormser was an aerodynamics wiz with a special talent for making fake IDs and aforementioned javelins.
What happened next? Cassese did a handful of television spots before turning his talents to Broadway, where he was part of the casts of the musical Smile and the Tony award-winning Nine. He also dabbles in improv comedy and music.
Remember that scene where he’s really short and looking at those girls’ boobs? Yeah. That’s a funny scene because he’s short.

Brian Tochi (Takashi Toshiro)

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It’s really kind of unfair that Takashi is considered a “nerd,” considering he doesn’t speak English and doesn’t even know what a “nerd” is. Yet here we are.
What happened next? Well, a lot of things. For starters, if you’re wondering why Takashi didn’t appear in the sequel Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise it’s because he was taking his offensive japanese stereotyping skills to Police Academies 3 and 4 as Cadet Nogata. After that, however, he’s had busy career. He voices video game and cartoon characters, starred as “Male Trooper” in Starship Troopers and a “Fight Bully” in Fight Club and voiced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle leader Leonardo in all three of the original early nineties TMNT films. Actually, you know what? That all does sound nerdy. I take back what I said.
Should I judge Japanese people on the representation of this character? OH HELL NO.

 


The Walking Dead: I Can’t Get ‘No Sanctuary’

The Walking Dead: I Can’t Get ‘No Sanctuary’

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Well, here we are again!  Turns out my threats to quit watching this show and reviewing it for you, the good people, were most palpably idle.  When your fan calls you out like this, what can one say:

And watching that trailer for last night’s episode, ‘No Sanctuary’, I have to admit it was pretty impossible to not get excited.  Maybe, just maybe, after four seasons  of languid moseying around the wooded hellscape of Northern Georgia, after four seasons of going back and forth about what it means to be a “survivor”, maybe we would have the action-esque, nihilistic, blow-it-all-to-hell action season chock full of all of the things that the Walking Dead does best.

On first viewing I’m happy to report that this could actually be the case.  To the ‘Cap!

(more…)


Jan Hooks R.I.P.

Jan Hooks R.I.P.

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Jan Hooks died yesterday of an undisclosed illness, at the not that old age of 57.  Maybe she didn’t have the same extensive career as some of her most lauded SNL cast-mates, your Mike Meyers and Dana Carveys of the world, but I would argue that she was one of the best “glue” players that SNL had from ’85-’91.  These were the cast members that you saw in almost every sketch because they could play the archetypical everyman (everywoman!).  Through her career at SNL she also had several stand out impressions, foremost in my mind being Sinead O’Connor and Tammy Faye Baker. Here are some of my favorites of her SNL bits:

Sweeney Sisters Christmas! (Sorry about the video quality)

Church Chat with Jim and Tammy Faye Baker (Click the picture to watch!)

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Chewers (Click the picture to watch!)

Chewers

The Sinatra Group (Click the picture to watch!)

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In all honesty though, as a self-admitted Texan (we have ID cards for this kind of thing), the first thing I always think of when I think of Jan Hooks is her short cameo as the tour guide, Tina, at the Alamo in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Check this out:

“Yes, there are thousands and thousands of uses for corn which I will tell you about right now!”

So good.  Take some time to go back and watch some of these sketches and let’s pay tribute today to one seriously awesome, and awesomely funny, lady.  Cheers to you Jan.


Casting the All-Female Ghostbusters Reboot

Casting the All-Female Ghostbusters Reboot

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Earlier this week, director Paul Feig confirmed via Twitter that he has officially signed on to helm the long-rumored Ghostbusters sequel/reboot. Feig has been involved with a number of great comedies over the last 15 years, having written for or directed episodes of shows such as Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec. But he is probably best known for two recent box office hits — Bridesmaids and The Heat — both of which were anchored by amazing comedic performances from some of the funniest women in Hollywood, including Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Sandra Bullock.

Feig confirmed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that he is indeed looking to shape the new movie around a strong female cast who will take the Ghostbusting reigns from the comedy legends who starred in the original films — Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Feig said he isn’t necessarily looking to recast the original character “types,” meaning there won’t necessarily be a wise-cracking Peter Venkman, a fast-talking Ray Stantz, and a nerd-with-swagger Egon Spengler, but you have to think he won’t stray too far from the dynamic that made Ghostbusters the kind of movie that people still worship three decades after it hit theaters. With that in mind, here are some actresses that are more than capable of strapping on the proton packs and battling the things that go bump in the night.

 

The Venkman

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A role made famous by the great Bill Murray, Dr. Peter Venkman was the smarmy center of the original cast. Even if Feig decides to head in a different direction, it seems likely that he’ll need a solid lead at the heart of his cast. Sandra Bullock has the chops to do the heavy-lifting required as the head of the ‘Busters, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Feig recruit her to top-line the cast. But I would love to see Rose Byrne in this role. She was part of Feig’s all-star Bridesmaids cast, and her recent work in Neighbors proved that she has all the comedic tools needed to carry a big-budget film. A Venkman-ish role in what is sure to be one of the most high-profile films of the next few years would catapult her into superstardom.

 

The Stantz

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It’s hard not to see Melissa McCarthy in this role. Feig is obviously a huge fan of hers, and she seems perfect for the role of the ‘Buster who is fascinated by the supernatural but also kind of terrified by it. McCarthy has shown she is a master of physical comedy, and a role similar to Aykroyd’s Stantz would give her the opportunity to showcase her intellectual side.

 

The Spengler

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I can’t imagine Feig won’t want to include Kristen Wiig in this cast, and she could probably nail any of these roles. I think she’d be especially intriguing in the Egon role, as her faux-sheepishness lends itself well to the role of the nerdy ‘Buster. That said, Feig has said there are a lot of directions he could go with this cast, and if he decides to venture outside of the pool of actresses with whom he’s worked on previous projects, I think Ilana Glazer would be an inspired choice to don the Spengler-specs. Glazer is best known as one-half of Broad City, the web series turned Comedy Central hit that is probably the funniest show on TV right now. She’s displayed many of the skills that Feig seems to enjoy, most notably the ability to bro-down and be as raunchy and hilarious as any dude, while still completely embracing her powerful feminine side. Glazer is a long-shot to land a role like this, but I’ll be damned if she wouldn’t be an A+ addition to this cast.

 

The Zeddmore

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The fourth Ghostbuster is essentially “the other guy.” Ernie Hudson played Winston Zeddmore in the original films, enjoying an expanded role in Ghostbusters II. As Feig looks to round out his cast, this could be a great role for a lesser known actress or up-and-coming comedian. If he really wants to think outside of the box, I’d suggest he look in the direction of Milana Vayntrub. Vayntrub is probably best known for currently popping up 100 times a day as Lily, the AT&T store employee in the company’s current wave of TV commercials. She’s had small roles in some well-known shows, including Silicon Valley, Californication, The League, and House of Lies, but she’s honed her comedic skills on the internet, appearing in several CollegeHumor shorts and starring in several popular web series. My favorite is “Live Prude Girls”, one of the best examples of “cringe humor” you’ll ever see (there’s some NSFW language in this clip, so earphones up!):

 

 

The Love Interest

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Look, there’s gonna be a love interest. Maybe even more than one. The ‘Busters will definitely be tasked with saving New York and/or the entire world, but this is going to be a big Hollywood movie so the stakes MUST be raised by putting a love interest in peril! Justin Theroux is currently sulking and yelling his way through HBO’s The Leftovers, but he’s proven he’s a capable comedic actor with roles in Wanderlust and a multi-episode arc on Parks and Rec. And if you ask me, Ken Marino of The State fame is one of the funniest dudes on the planet and has a fantastic head of hair. He’d be the perfect choice to play an overtly cocky stud who completely withers when a bunch of ghouls traps him in a New York high rise. Take your pick. You really can’t go wrong with either.

 

Look at that cast and tell me you wouldn’t see that movie! That’s a billion dollar cast right there, Paul Feig!

What say you, loyal readers? Who would YOU like to see cast in a new Ghostbusters movie? Leave your dream cast in the comments below or get at me on Twitter.

 

@TheSEShepherd

 

 

 


“American Horror Story: Freak Show” Premiere — 5 Takeaways

“American Horror Story: Freak Show” Premiere — 5 Takeaways

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Mild spoilers for episode 1

It wouldn’t be October without a little horror and it wouldn’t be Florida without…. well, some freaks. 1950s Florida is naturally the setting for the newest season of the anthology series, American Horror Story. Gaggles of Tumblr girls and my less Tumblry friends tuned in for the 90 minute premiere of the Freak Show.

1. Jessica Lange rules this world, like all others

Damn, I sound just like those Tumblr girls. Nevertheless, Jessica Lange, the most critically-acclaimed member of an enormous, diverse and star-studded cable television cast, rules each and every world of American Horror Story from haunted house to asylum to witch coven.

This isn’t surprising and the theme continues as Lange plays Elsa Mars; she’s a German expatriate (we’ve already done the Nazi thing so none of that) who runs one of the country’s last, dying freak shows in Jupiter, Florida.

She’s being her usual boss b**** self, going to extremes to get what she wants (be a star), wearing crazy animal furs in a tropical climate, singing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” in 1952, not paying tabs at diners–the usual.

And although she seems to be the only “normal” person residing in the freakshow, there’s a surprise at the end for you that rounds out the show’s tagline neatly–“we are all freaks.”

2. Sarah Paulson will be the real MVP

Playing conjoined twins, Bette and Dot, simultaneously, Paulson will be giving Tatiana Maslanay of Orphan Black a run for her money for most difficult role in television this year. Using one actress to play a two-headed character is far from simple, with an two person-scene taking 12-20 hours to film rather than the average five if Paulson’s involved, but the challenge should be well worth it.

The episode used various tactics to show the two/one character, hearing their separate thoughts and communications, using a Brian DePalma split screen, and separating the two early on with Dot playing the reserved pessimist and Bette the fame-hungry optimist blah blah, but each character’s development looks to be far more complicated so wait n see.

3. This season is going to be SEX-UAL

From the opening titles to the… everything, the TV-MA show got a bit more MA than usual, and not just because 5 people are brutally murdered per episode. We don’t care about TV violence, it’s fine.

Show creator/Gleek/madman Ryan Murphy explained the hypersexuality of the premiere and entire season to EW:

Yes. It was a conscious choice only because we’re really following the research. I mean the people who were in these carnivals loved to party to be quite blunt. They were very free with their sexuality. Within the protective world of their family, they felt very uninhibited. They actually liked and appreciated their differences. There’s a reason for where that phrase comes from, “Get your freak on.” I love juxtaposing the freethinking, non-judgmental carnie folks with the Mamie Eisenhower housewives.

Episode one explores a “townie” candystriper taking place in a carnie orgy, the complexity of conjoined twin sexuality and self-pleasuring, and most importantly–lobster hands playing “Masters of Sex” for some dissatisfied housewives in Jupiter.

Evan Peters’ lobsterhands scene was absolutely bizarre and somehow erotic and I considered posting gifs but decided I may get blog fired for that.

Each season past has explored sexuality as aggression (the r word) but preferably this season will stick to the “liberation in a conservative 1950’s” mode.

Fun fact: the candystriper is played by Meryl Streep’s daughter

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4. Yes, there’s a murderous clown

As in every season of AHS, there can’t be just the creepy main storyline, there’s always a sideshow, which in the past has consisted of Nazis and aliens and axe-murdering ghosts to name  a few. This year, it’s the clown.

His name is Twisty, and he’s come to Jupiter to stab lots of randoms and kidnap some randoms to entertain, isn’t that fun?!

In a show that attempts to combine a thousand themes while maintaining camp value while scaring+disturbing+offending its audience, this clown will basically just scare it.

Was I actually scared? OK, naw, but I hate looking at the thing and would prefer he not come to my town.

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5. Will you be/remain entertained?

The hour and a half of episode and advertisements left me tired and counting down until the moment of truth, “stay tuned for scenes from next week’s American Horror Story.” And this was after several murders and seeing Kathy Bates with a beard.

Since a pretty fantastic first season, AHS has brought the dark and suspenseful, but cluttered, “Asylum”, and a rather dull, female-reality show season in “Coven”, but what will keep viewers coming back this year? It will likely be the promise of new characters; the showrunners plan to disperse the backstory’s throughout the season so whether you’re interested in Emma Roberts, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, Matt Bomer, Patti LaBelle, or (potentially) NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, their reveals will be a major draw.

Overall, I see this season as a bit of a slow burn. It’s basically “Mad Men.”

And much like this post, this show can get very messy, but I’m in it for the long haul to explore the dichotomy, or lack thereof, between freaks and townies and how it translates to how we perceive normalcy in real life. All that.

“AHS: Freak Show” season trailer

Scenes from next week’s AHS

Sideshow: There was a naturally a scene with the “man bites off the head of a live chicken” circus gag. I once saw a group of people rip apart and eat the organs of a live chicken so TAKE THAT.


Blood Glacier Definitely Not a Perfect Imitation of The Thing

Blood Glacier Definitely Not a Perfect Imitation of The Thing

Blood GlacierA few months ago, some friends told me about a movie on Netflix called Blood Glacier. They said, “so there’s this Arctic research station…” and I cut them off. “Shut up, just shut up,” I said, my voice wavering. “You had me at ‘Arctic research station.’” Then they said the magic words: “It’s supposed to be like The Thing.”

That got my attention. I love The Thing. It’s in my top 3 favoritest movies ever, horror or not. “Don’t bullshit me,” I said. “Don’t get my hopes up.” I must have said this more aggressively than I intended, because they back-tracked, saying, “well I don’t know, that’s just what I heard.” That’s like saying, “man, Calipari’s squad this year is supposed to be better than 2012.” The casual fan won’t notice, but the serious fan doesn’t want that crap batted around like a half-dead balloon. After I calmed down, I attempted to watch it with no expectations. I fire up the ‘flix and let ‘er rip.

Bad news right off the bat. Over still shots with a blood-red filter, the on-screen exposition explains that global warming is forcing nature to adapt, and as it does, so will we. No matter where you stand on a particular issue, there’s little I like less in a movie than a message delivered to me with a heavy hand (Crash, Elysium). Even a message with which I agree, and especially when it has pretty much nothing to do with the movie.

Ok, so it takes place at a research station in the Austrian Alps, not the Arctic. Everyone speaks German instead of English and Norwegian, which is understandable in Austria. We are quickly introduced to Janek, the drunk and sour handyman who nurses an eternal hangover and hates everyone but his dog. (If you’ve seen The Thing, you know not to get attached to the dog.) This is obviously Blood Glacier’s R.J. MacReady, The Thing’s drunk and sour pilot. Both are no-nonsense, take-charge dudes who aren’t afraid to assert their authority in sticky situations by being on the right side of a gun. Damn, maybe Janek is American.

Also Thing-like, a chance encounter with a thawed organism that likes to use other animals as hosts gets the action rolling. Our researchers encounter cross-species hybrids, like a fox-beetle that rummages through trash, and a roly-poly beetle-fox -woodlouse that eats faces. In an almost unbelievable feat of deduction, the resident biologist figures out from a few peeks through the microscope that the microbes in the weird red glacial runoff are combining the genomes of fauna found in the affected animals’ guts, then gestating a bunch of ugly, aggressive Wuzzles in those animals. (These miscreants are supposed to be cautionary examples of the adaptive chimeras that result from changing environments, but it’s not really obvious what evolutionary advantages come along with being a fox you can step on.)

A cascade of stupid decisions and rotten luck later, we have researchers carelessly handling unknown specimens, which of course later comes back to bite them in the ass and/or face; destruction of said beasts with fire; a scientist burnt to a crisp just outside the research station; a dwindling group of trapped, stressed acquaintances that begins to turn on each other; and a host of other The Thing similarities. Not saying that Blood Glacier consciously tried to imitate The Thing—I mean, there’s only so many things can happen at a remote cold-weather research station—but fans of the latter will see a whole lot of it in the former.

Blood Glacier doesn’t completely lack originality. As far as I know, it’s the only horror movie featuring a glacier. Most of the creatures are kind of disturbing, with the jacked-up ibex stealing the show in my opinion. It simply tries too hard in places—character development and exposition, too much for a low-budget horror—and not hard enough in others. You don’t need the damn romantic subplot between Janek and his ex-girlfriend. You do, however, need to see a lot more of the cobbled-together creatures snacking their way through a hapless crew of humans. And not that a horror movie can’t have a little humor, but it shouldn’t shift from uniformly dreary to slapsticky Dead Snow-type bloodletting, with a government minister almost gleefully drilling through a monster’s head while getting showered with gore.

If you’ve heard that Blood Glacier is a worthy successor to John Carpenter’s The Thing, don’t believe it. I really wanted to like this flick, but it simply doesn’t have enough to merit getting excited about. Halfway through, I found myself wishing that the movie was actually about a murderous glacier, cuz how fun would that be? A town that wakes up every morning to find citizens ground into a bloody paste, with nothing but a trail of water leading back up until the Alps…but alas, Blood Glacier was far less interesting. Watch it in October if you can’t find anything else on.


MULANEY – Pilot Review

MULANEY – Pilot Review

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With DVRs and On Demand viewing on apps, I have a hard time believing in appointment television anymore. It’s so easy nowadays to just catch up on something when you have the time, and use time previously allocated to TV for other things.  BUT – I have had Mulaney circled on the calendar since it was announced back in May that Fox had picked up six episodes of the comedian’s sitcom.  In May, I even wrote a piece for the site called “Fox Can’t Mess This Up, Right?”  Fortunately, Fox didn’t mess up the promotion of Mulaney, even giving it a pretty prime timeslot of 9:30 PM, right after Family Guy.  Unfortunately, however, the pilot episode of Mulaney just didn’t deliver.

I will admit, John Mulaney is one of my favorite comedians.  His album “New In Town” is hilarious from the first to last track, with not a single moment without a laugh.  I was prepared to watch his sitcom and blindly follow it, no matter what happened.  But yeeeeesh….

The biggest problem with the Mulaney premier is what makes John Mulaney so likable, his standup bits.  Over the course of the episode, bits from his stand-up are interspersed within the episode as almost throwaway jokes.  The episode opens up with Mulaney performing standup, on-set, in front of the live studio audience (we know it’s a live studio audience because Ice-T tells us so).  That standup is fine, as both Seinfeld and Christopher Titus had success with that format in their shows.  It was the first scene of the show where things went downhill.  Mulaney is in the doctor’s office, trying to get Xanax from a doctor by lying about an illness.  On his album, New in Town, this is a nine minute bit with interesting characters including “Nurse Batman”.  In the pilot episode on Sunday, the entire nine minute bit was a dismissed story performed in two minutes, while trying to introduce characters Motif and Jane.  If Mulaney wants to go with his standup in the show, why not do it like “Louie” where some episodes are two different stories split at about 12 minutes each in the half hour?  Either that, or just drop the bits all together from his routine.

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The other problem with Mulaney intertwining stand-up bits within the story is his delivery.  For every moment that John Mulaney is on screen and he’s doing something that is scripted and not from his act, it seems somewhat natural.  But when he has lines that come straight from his act, it’s as though he’s reciting the lines right on stage.  For example, his wheelchair knocked over bit:

It’s so unnatural for that bit to be in there in the first place, and it has a VERY stiff delivery.

The supporting cast did a fine job.  The person who seemed most at home in the sitcom world was Motif, Mulaney’s fellow comedian roommate.  He seemed the most relaxed actor of the crew in the multicam sitcom format.  His B-Story of trying to find the punchline to a joke he made up actually made me laugh, one of the few times I did in this episode.  Martin Short also was enjoyable, just in the idea that it’s Martin Short playing Martin Short with a different name.  When you add Short to your cast, you know what you’re going to get, and that’s what we got.  Nasim Pedrad’s character, Jane, is also an interesting sitcom character.  Pedrad either just doesn’t seem right for the role, or the scripted nature of her lines make it seem off.  Pedrad is a great improv actor, so it was tough seeing her give her all to the script, and it didn’t land.  Rich kid drug dealer Andre was ever as annoying as his character was meant to be, so that’s fine.  Elliott Gould plays Mulaney’s gay neighbor Oscar, who is as ever delightful as that sounds.  He seems to be the voice of reason for Mulaney, which was a little heavy handed in the first episode, but it could get better?

I will continue to watch Mulaney, hoping that it gets better over time.  There are some programs that have a very rough pilot episodes, and start to find their footing after that.  Variety reported that Mulaney had the weakest score for any fall series premier, losing over half of the lead-in audience from Family Guy.  To be fair, it did have to go up against SNF, MLB, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and The Good Wife.  That’s a tough group to try and draw viewers from.  But, just seeing that statistic by itself is not something that the brass at Fox is going to enjoy.It will be very apparent that the second episode of Mulaney needs to deliver, or it is going to be in a very tight spot.

Did you watch Mulaney?  What did you think of the Pilot?