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The Funkhouser Situation E46: Holiday Movie Recap

It’s been a crazy holiday season for movies, and The Funkhouser Situation is here to dissect all the madness! Your hosts Chris Tomlin and Lee Cruise dive into movies such as The Mule, Bumblebee, Mary Poppins, The Predator, and much, much more.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect from the show:

  • Lee’s sultry voice is a great addition to today’s episode
  • Lee is not a fan of The Favourite
  • Lee gives his take on Clint Eastwood’s The Mule. Lee originally told Chris he didn’t like it. What changed?
  • Did Chris like Bumblebee?
  • Lee gives an interesting backstory on the absence of Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins Returns
  • Chris isn’t sure about the Meryl Streep scene in Mary Poppins Returns
  • How did seeing Mary Poppins Returns lead Lee to go home and watch Paddington?
  • What is up with Holmes & Watson?
  • Chris was expecting more from The Predator but still worth a watch
  • Lee is a big fan of Jeffrey Dean Morgan
  • Chris recommends The American Meme to Lee
  • Chris and Lee debate latest controversy surrounding Louis C.K.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situationpodcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Jake’s Cigar Bar. 

The Top 10 Movies of 2018

The Top 10 Movies of 2018

(Image from “A Star Is Born”)

Let’s get this out of the way first: you will more than likely disagree with this list. In fact, I encourage disagreement when it comes to movies. This is a medium that is meant to be subjective. Everyone’s favorite movies should be different because we are all individuals who like different things.

This list is solely what I believe to be the very best movies that I watched this year and trust me when I say that I saw a lot (27 to be exact). Of course, I did not get around to every single supposedly good film just yet (Bohemian Rhapsody, Aquaman, Eighth Grade, The Favorite, etc.), but thanks to my Movie Pass I was able to see a very well-rounded group of films.

What stood out the most to me this year was just how many non-terrible movies I watched. Out of the all movies I watched I saw only a few that were sincerely terrible (I’m looking at you Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom, Venom, and Bird Box).

Without further ado, here are the very best films of 2018.

Honorable Mention: Green Book, Creed II, Ant Man and the Wasp, and Deadpool 2

10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I know starting this list off with a documentary isn’t exactly the sexiest pick but trust me on this one. I can’t urge you enough to take time out of your day to watch this beautiful film.

This documentary about the life and philosophy of Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is the perfect film for 2018. The current social and political discourse of this year has been fueled so much by hate and negativity, and it is so incredibly refreshing to see a picture that displays perfectly to us all why it is so important to simply be kind to your fellow man.

There are so many moments in this documentary that will have you reaching for the tissues but allow me to give you what is without a doubt the most moving sequence of the film and possibly the entire year.

If that wrecked you then just be ready for the full-length documentary. Possibly more than any other movie on this list, I urge you to show this to your family and to your children. We will all be better for it. Here’s to you Mr. Rogers. We miss you dearly.

9. A Quiet Place

Ohhhhhh man this might have been my personal favorite movie of the year. I positively loved this movie as its everything I look for in a suspense thriller. The idea behind this movie is ingenious: A family must survive in the woods without making any noise or terrifying monsters will come and kill them.

The result is a mostly silent movie. There is maybe a paragraph or so of overall spoken dialogue as the family often communicates to each other using sign language. This provided me with one of the most unique film experiences I’ve ever had. The audience around me was completely silent (until the scary stuff happened). I could feel the entire room tensing up through the silent parts as if the monsters would come get them as well if they made any noise.

However, A Quiet Place isn’t a truly a great film because the premise is so great, or that the performances and direction are perfect, or that it’s great incredibly entertaining. It’s one of the best movies of the year because the film deals with the toughest kind of family issues such as overcoming tragedy, acceptance, and forgiveness. Every parent should go see A Quiet Place just for the moral given in the film’s poignant climax alone. It never once felt preachy, but this movie has something very important to say.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect flick. There are a few fake-out jump scares spread throughout the runtime which was frustrating and unnecessary. Also, the very last shot of the film was incredibly cheesy.

Only time will tell if this film will be deemed as a horror classic, but I won’t be forgetting A Quiet Place anytime soon. When I walked out of the theater I found myself thinking about the relationships in my own life while I was admittedly still not trying to make any noise out of fear. It turns out that the old saying is very true – nothing is louder, or more effective, than the sound of silence.

8. Hereditary

Hereditary deeply scared me on a mental level. To be clear, jump scares when used effectively can scare me. But what truly scares me is the type of terror that lingers within yourself. The only other time I ever left the theater feeling that type of dread after a movie was when I watched The Conjuring.

The difference is, however, that I would love to watch the Conjuring again. It’s a great and entertaining scary movie. Hereditary on the other hand deals with real horror in the realms of mental illness, family issues, and eventually even the supernatural.

Which is where my one nitpick comes in to play. The ending will be too “out there” for general audiences which is really a shame. This movie takes a really strong supernatural turn in the final act, and boy do they realllllly go for it. I understood what was happening, but if you didn’t pay much attention during the film, then you will leave completely lost.

However, there are two scenes in that I would argue are all-time great horror movie sequences. The first being the legendary surprise that happens around the 30-minute mark, and the second being Toni Collette’s devastating wall crawl in the film’s finale.

This movie made me feel absolutely terrible after watching it, and I genuinely don’t want to watch it again (which is a good thing). The bad news is that does not even matter, because the scenes and images I witnessed are still at the forefront of my brain and are still upsetting me. And that is what true horror in its purest form should accomplish.

7. Avengers Infinity War

This is the movie that absolutely should not have worked on any level. Dealing with so many characters and plotlines while still making an entertaining and emotional movie should be impossible. But this is Marvel and the Russo Brothers we are talking about here. The impossible is possible for them.

By mainly focusing on the villain Thanos (played masterful by Josh Brolin) we get one of the MCU’s best overall villains. How Marvel actually made me sympathize with someone who wants to kill trillions of people, is both disturbing and amazing. His story is just so compelling. It’s the best aspect of this movie.

Infinity War also manages to be at times hysterical (WHY IS GAMORA???) and of course always so entertaining. This movie also contains one of the very best scenes in superhero movie history: Thor’s entrance into Wakanda.

Overall, this is a very hard movie to review. The problem is that it does not stand on its own well at all. That may sound obvious but imagine not watching several other MCU movies before this. You would be completely lost and more importantly you would not care as much about any of the characters.

That may not sound fair, but that’s why it is not higher on my list. If it stood on its own better (which I think Avengers Endgame will do) than it would have been higher.

6. Roma

Look, I know I’m not winning any fans by putting a black-and-white foreign language Netflix movie higher than Infinity War, but some men just want to watch the world burn.

In all seriousness, Roma is a literal piece of art. This is the most beautiful-looking picture of the year as the camera work by director Alfonso Cuaron might just be the best of this decade. This may win best picture at the Oscars, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if it did.

From a technical perspective, this film is close to perfect. The editing, directing, and acting is all at the highest level possible. The negative aspect of the film is that its overall story is just lacking when compared to my top-five. I’m not saying that it isn’t incredibly emotional or important, because Roma is those things.

Also, the first 20 minutes of this movies are incredibly hard to sit through because it really is that boring before the story really gets moving. If you don’t mind having to read subtitles, then I fully recommend Roma. As an art film it’s basically perfect. As a movie with an emotional story it might just move you to tears in its climax.

5. Black Panther

Look, I know I’m not winning any fans by putting what might just be the most divisive MCU movie ever over that universe’s hugely important Infinity War, BUT SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN.

You can get mad all you want, but I genuinely think that Black Panther is one of the five best movies I saw this year. If you are mad now, just wait until this movie gets an Oscar nomination for best picture because that will happen folks.

This movie fixes all of Marvel’s biggest flaws. Unmemorable soundtracks? Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Kendrick Lamar fixes that here. Bad Villains? Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is the best villain in this entire universe. Lack of strong female characters? This movie has the strongest female characters in the MCU.

Black Panther engages with intense themes such as isolationism, colonialism, the legacy of slavery, immigration, and OH MY GOD HOW DID MARVEL SUCCESSFULLY MAKE THIS MOVIE ENTERTAINING??

The best movies give something back to its audiences while also being incredibly entertaining. Black Panther does that easily while transcending its own genre. You will think about your place in the world after watching this movie. This isn’t just the pinnacle of MCU movies, it might just be the peak of all superhero movies.

4. BlacKkKlansman

For some context here, I’m honestly not a very big Spike Lee fan at all. I think “Do the Right Thing” is really his only masterpiece and all his other films are anywhere from decent to just bad.

That changed completely for me when I watched BlacKkKlansman. I think this is sincerely Lee’s best movie, and he will easily earn his first Oscar nomination for directing with this picture. This was one of the most emotional movies of the year as scene after scene completely leveled me.

Lee takes a story about a black police officer who infiltrates the KKK and perfectly translates it to our current political state. This leads me to my warning for you: BlacKkKlansman is unapologetically political.

The film has some very, very serious things to say and Lee pulls no punches at all. The movie is better for it. There is no tiptoeing or missed opportunities to showcase powerful opinions. It delves head first into these and creates a powerful dialogue about race in our country that I believe everyone should at least hear.

Aside from the serious aspects of this movie, Lee’s film is surprisingly hilarious at times on purpose. Actors Adam Driver and John David Washington (Denzel’s son) work off each other amazingly well as their comedic timing is perfect. This is easily Lee’s most entertaining movie which is another reason why it’s so high on my list.

The biggest reason this movie is so high on my list is because of the ending. It’s so impactful because of its brutal honesty and timeliness. Just be ready for it. No matter what your political stance is, it will create some type of emotional reaction out of you and that’s what the very best films accomplish.

3. Mission Impossible: Fallout

I’ve only seen the first three movies in this series and I just thought they were solid action films. I haven’t even seen the fourth and fifth installments because in all honesty I just wasn’t that interested in doing so.

But WOW was “Fallout” not only the year’s best action movie, but it is hands down the best action flick of this decade. To be clear, this movie follows the same basic formula that most high stakes action films do. However, what makes it the best is the amazing real stunts that are pulled off and how they are filmed.

Every single action-packed scene is filmed in beautiful wide shots, so the viewer can clearly see what’s happening. There is little to no CGI used at all which makes every moment feel real. There is one scene towards the end of the movie which features an awe-inspiring helicopter chase which has some of the best real stunts ever put to screen.

However, the real moneymaker here is a bathroom fight featuring Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill that will go down in cinematic history as perfection.

Cruise is over 50 years old and the fact that he does all his own stunts in an insanely good action movie is just unbelievable. This is his film and he is having the time of his life. Henry Cavill also eats up every bit of the scenery as the best villain in the entire franchise.

Coming into 2018 I had zero intention of putting “Fallout” as one of the year’s best movies. However, it completely blew me away with wall-to-wall action and amazing cinematography. It really is that good.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Yes, I’m completely serious, and I couldn’t be happier to put this movie as my second favorite film of the year. Allow me to start off my argument with the following scene:

Spider-Verse is an absolute experience as the animation might be the most creative I’ve ever seen in a theater. Within the first few minutes you will be fully immersed in the world of this movie without even realizing it.

I firmly and honestly believe this animated superhero movie has earned all the following accolades: the biggest surprise of the year, the best superhero movie of the year, the best Spider-Man film ever made, and the second-best superhero movie of all time.

Of course, it isn’t all those things just because of the outstanding animation and action. It’s a truly great film because of the story that Sony has created. It’s so moving and inspiring in the way that a Spider-Man movie should be. Spider-Verse is never afraid to be completely unique in its hysterical comedy and heart-rendering moments.

I cannot urge you enough to go watch this movie with your entire family because it truly is a movie for everyone. Spider-Verse’s beautiful main point is to show that anyone can step-up and be a hero. Anyone can be Spider-Man. However, I now prefer my Spider-Man to be wearing Nikes as he flies across the New York skyline to save the day.

1. A Star Is Born

This is hands-down the movie of the year. In today’s time you really don’t find a film that is universally loved by everyone, but that’s exactly what director Bradley Cooper has given us with A Star Is Born.

Let’s start with Lady Gaga. I can say confidently that I’m not a fan of hers, but wow did she give the performance of a lifetime here. It will be an utter disgrace if she does not walk away with the Oscar. The same can also be said for Cooper and Sam Elliott who give their career-best performances as well.

I’m expecting close to a clean-sweep at the Academy Awards. This should easily win best picture. The acting and directing is so amazing in this movie that it truly feels as if you watching real-life moments taking place.

However, this is the best movie of 2018 because of how it managed to affect me personally. Cooper created a story which deals with investigating relationships particularly between a man and a woman in love and what happens when the man is crippled by something is his past that won’t let him go.

This hit me at my very core by coincidence as I was going through something like that in my own life when I watched the film. Movies hit us in different ways at different moments in our lives. I just found myself completely taken back by Cooper’s character Jackson.

Luckily for me, A Star Is Born managed to touch me on a personal level in ways that I was not prepared for, but I needed. The very best movies successfully entertain us, move us, and shatter our emotions all at once. That’s exactly this film did, and I’ll always be thankful I watched it.

This was sincerely a great year at the movies, and I hope it was for you as well!

Review: Bumblebee

Review: Bumblebee

Reviewing the standalone prequel Bumblebee, which takes place in 1987 and exists as both part of Michael Bay’s loud, noisy Transformers universe and yet someone cozily outside of it, is the equivalent of the misogynistic 1980s teen-movie trope of taking overalls and glasses off a teen girl and finding she’s a beauty the whole time. Here, all this time, this long-beloved universe of toys had inside it a fantastic film potential; it simply needed to be spotlit and given some attention — and a dreamy 1980s soundtrack doesn’t hurt.

The fact that Bumblebee’s 1980s kindhearted-alien-who-befriends-a-young-earthling conceit works so well has to, I would imagine, be attributed to executive producer Steven Spielberg, himself the master of that very convention in the actual 1980s. But the real reason Bumblebee seems so breezy and digestible is that whereas Bay filled his five films with ear-splitting explosions, breakdancing robots and overstuffed storylines (They’re on the moon! There’s a robot dinosaur! There’s…King Arthur?), Travis Knight’s prequel is content to drill down and focus essentially the titular robot and the two bounty hunter-type robots who’ve come to track him down. Meanwhile, a government team led by John Cena is similarly trying to find the yellow Autobot. Oh, and there’s a young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who’s just turned eighteen and coming of age.

Those three simple, familiar storylines stay pretty rote, and that’s not a terrible thing for Bumblebee — in fact it’s refreshing — as it gives the title character room to breathe, charm and show off a personality often lost in Bay’s special effects showcases. It’s all very Spielbergian, and for light, family-friendly holiday fare it pretty much works. Sure, there are still big, dumb, robots-punching-robots scenes; the difference is that we care a little bit more because there feels like an investment is involved.

It’s not perfect, and it certainly doesn’t reinvent the Transformers wheel. It does, after all, still exist in the same universe as Bay’s films, so hands are tied a bit there — but there’s a heart here which didn’t previously exist, along with some effective humor (a quick moment where Cena actively questions whether the US military should be working with beings who actively introduced themselves as “Decepticons” is particularly wry), and a bit of emotional heft.

Thought at the end of the day Bumblebee may eventually be lost to the Transformers canon along with all the other boisterousness and bluster, there’s hope that it can live on its own as an oft-visited family film that finds some legs long after its season is over. I hope it will and think it will, if nothing else than because it’s the both type of film you can casually drift in and out of and one the family can enjoy together. That remains to be seen but certainly, this Christmas, Bumblebee  doesn’t deserved to be seated at the same table as it’s loud, goofy cousins.

Review: Mary Poppins Returns

Review: Mary Poppins Returns

Walt Disney Pictures

Editor’s note: The following piece was contributed by Beth Dunston: Librarian, book critic and begrudging sister to Camerman Daniel. She might not know sports but she knows Mary Poppins. Enjoy!

Mary Poppins Returns is a movie that was probably written by a committee in a Disney office tower, but boy did that committee have a blast.  The film will tap into your nostalgia with scenes directly inspired by iconic moments from the 1964 classic, but it will also entertain younger generations with a more action-packed plot, a sinister villain, and a CGI upgrade.

In Returns, Michael, the little boy from the original movie is a recent widower facing financial trouble while raising three kids of his own with some help from his sister Jane. Into this doom and gloom swoops Mary Poppins, here to help teach the kids (and their now-adult counterparts) to have fun and use their imaginations to process their very real anxieties. This in itself is a great lesson – life is hard, and sometimes people, especially kids, need a little bit of magic just to get through the day.  Mary Poppins accomplishes this, of course, through magical shenanigans, colorful feasts for your eyeballs, and catchy musical numbers.  The songs themselves are all delightful earworms and the cast performs them with infectious delight. An early scene (shown in the trailer) involving a trip through an enchanted bathtub is particularly wonderful.

Disney clearly adores the original film’s ground-breaking set pieces, but it also doesn’t trust them to hold a modern audience’s attention.  This means there are a few awkwardly-inserted action scenes, one of which might be a little scary for younger children.  But truth be told, no one, child or adult, in my theater ever cheered or laughed out loud at scenes that were clearly supposed to generate those reactions, and, while it’s fun, I’m not sure the movie will succeed in being a modern classic, or even memorable.  Furthermore, these action-packed scenes and a more adult-centered conflict sometimes work against the film’s charming musical numbers, making the story feel a little unfocused, overlong, and cluttered, to the point that it will test both you and your kids’ patience (and bladders).  A scene involving Meryl Streep becomes particularly tiresome very quickly.

Walt Disney Pictures

The film’s minor flaws are balanced out by Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who shine throughout the movie.  Blunt in particular is electric, channeling Julie Andrews in a performance that feels just as larger-than-life as the character she’s playing. Miranda is having a blast as Jack, a stand-in for Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert.  The pair’s chemistry crackles across the screen, making their duets a delight.

For better or worse, Returns has it all – action, romance, comedy, social commentary – even subtle sex jokes (Don’t worry, they’ll all go over your kids’ heads.)!  Ultimately, this attempt to make every fan happy collapses under its own weight.  You (and your kids) will likely still have a great time singing along to the songs, and there’s certainly a lot to enjoy.  It’s just like a holiday candy bar: a fun and sweet treat that will leave you feeling vaguely unsatisfied. It’s not necessarily a must-see, but you ought to go if you’re a huge fan of the character or of the family musical genre.  I rate this film 7 out of 10, and I rate Dick Van Dyke’s dance moves 10/10.  That man’s still got it.

The Funkhouser Situation E45: Christmas (feat. The Kominsky Method)

It’s The Funkhouser Situation’s Holiday Extravaganza!  Lee Cruse and Chris Tomlin dissect and debate a list of the supposed 40 Best Christmas Movies of All-Time.  Light your Yule log and enjoy Funkhouser’s holiday cheer that also features…

—  A show recommendation for the listening audience.

— The Top 10 Toys this Christmas season.

— Billboard’s Top Grossing Holiday Songs by download.

— Somebody is having issues with their chair.

— Chris is a big man child.

— How do they feel about Christmas Vacation?

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Review

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Review

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Alright people. Let’s start at the beginning. (Little joke you’ll understand when you watch the movie).

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the latest Spider-Man film to come out from Sony Pictures. This time, however, it’s an animated film focusing on Miles Morales instead of the usual Peter Parker. Don’t worry though – Peter is here too, along with a few other variations of  Spider-Man from across the multiverse. But the question on everybody’s mind is, is it any good? Short answer: It’s absolutely amazing. For the long answer, let’s dive in to this.

First things first: This movie is beautiful. The art direction takes the comic book origins of the character and runs with it. Sound effects are visually represented on screen with impact wording (Thwip! Pow!), characters’ thoughts are shown in thought bubbles or text boxes, and the entire film’s texture makes it look exactly like a comic book. On top of that, the animators make sure the art styles for the various Spider-heroes are unique to their original realities. Spider-Ham, for instance, looks like a classic Looney Tunes-era cartoon character while Peni Parker looks like she was taken straight out of an anime. Spider-Man Noir, besides always being monochromatic, seems to have harsh lighting regardless of the situation, because the deep shadows of a Film Noir are infused into his very character. All of this is layered on top of a brilliantly-designed world filled with colorful neon signs and stylized graffiti.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Now, let’s talk about some of the characters. Miles Morales is a fantastic hero to base the movie around.  After some defining events for him early in the movie (trying to keep this spoiler-free) he goes on a journey to figure out who he is. Along the way, he finds others to help guide him in the form of the myriad Spider-Heroes in the film. His character carries a lot of the emotional weight in the film and Shameik Moore does an amazing job bringing that emotion to the screen with his vocal performance. Also, I’m not sure if they did facial captures for the actors or not, but the animation of the expressions is spot-on for the entire film.

All of the casting is brilliant. John Mulaney as Spider-Ham is particularly inspired. His comedic style works wonders with a character who is basically Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume. I am not going to lie, I was worried when Nicolas Cage was cast as Spider-Man Noir. I love this character and was worried that we might get one of the weirder Cage turns, but instead we got a charming, while still a little dark, performance that characterized the 1930s era crime-fighter perfectly. Kimiko Glenn brings a high-energy charm to Peni Parker which makes her anime-inspired Spider-Mech suit feel like a perfect fit for her. Each character’s visual style is accompanied by a matching soundtrack that is unique to them. It’s a cool thing for a movie with an already incredible soundtrack.

Mahershala Ali brings his gravitas to Aaron Davis, Miles’ uncle whose emotional conflict leads to one of the defining moments of Into The Spider-Verse. Hailee Steinfeld brings a bit of punk rock and a lot of heart to her Gwen Stacy performance. As one of the lead Spider-Heroes, she carries as much weight as Peter Parker in Spider-Verse, and does so with style and grace.

Now, let’s talk about Peter Parker. Jake Johnson plays the beloved wall-crawler in a surprising turn that places him in a different light. This isn’t the same happy-go-lucky webhead we’ve known across 8 movies and 58 years of comics. He is older, if not wiser, and has struggled to be heroic in the face of new challenges. His own self-doubt mirrors Miles’ and the character arcs they both go through lead them to be better people, and ultimately better heroes. Peter might not be the lead in this movie, but this still might be the best version of Peter Parker to ever hit the screen.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

At it’s heart, that’s what this movie focuses on: The relationships between its characters. There might not be a better example of this than The Kingpin. As the villain in a Marvel superhero movie, Kingpin wasn’t guaranteed to be memorable, or have a motivation that makes sense. It would have been easy to give him a standard “take over the world” goal, letting the spectacle carry the viewer away. But the filmmakers didn’t go that route. Kingpin’s goals are, despite the process it takes to achieve them, relatively simple. They are personal and emotional and based on failings shared by the movie’s heroes. It adds emotional heft to the final showdown, which, despite taking place in one of the coolest and most inventive action set pieces I have seen in a movie to date, has narrow, simple, and very personal stakes for both Miles and the Kingpin. Those stakes help balance the climactic battle far better than most other superhero films. Yes, the world and multiverse is at stake, but the viewer stays focused on Miles’ family and what the outcome will mean for them. It grounds the movie with a sense of emotional realism.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Stan Lee cameo in the movie is really gold. There is also a nice tribute to him in the credits, but the scene itself is absolutely perfect. It’s funny but poignant aside about what it means to be a hero, and especially to be Spider-Man. Stan Lee always had a soft spot for Spider-Man and it shows here.

If I had to say one thing bad about the movie, and that’s a tough thing to do, I would say they kind of rush through the origin stories for three of the Spider-Heroes, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter. By that point in the movie, you know the Spider-Man origin story and can recite it with them. These aren’t immensely different characters than what we have seen, but that is kind of the point. As a hero, Spider-Man is an inspiration because he is the best parts of who we are. It doesn’t matter who is under the mask, because it could be anybody. It could be us if we are brave enough to take that “leap of faith,” and this might be the first Spider-Man movie to ever truly capture that. As someone who enjoys watching fun, visually unique films, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is breathtaking in its design, with a strong narrative and emotional backbone to support the stylized visuals. As someone who grew up reading Spider-Man comics, this is the best version of one of the greatest comic characters of all time. If you are even a little bit interested in this movie, go see it. I promise you it’s worth it.

10/10 Perfectly Spider-Man

If you liked Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse or didn’t or just wanted to talk about all those easter eggs in it, hit me up on twitter @DanielDunston

The Funkhouser Situation E44: Wreck-It Creed

If something didn’t feel right over the last month, it’s probably because you haven’t had a new episode of The Funkhouser Situation.  Don’t you worry.  Lee Cruse and Chris Tomlin are back and better than ever before.  The pop culture pariahs have done some traveling and they have plenty of stories to share, like…

—  How the Northeast trip turned Chris into a caviar guy.

— Who had more fun at Disney World?

— Lee Cruse’s Favorite Movie of 2018

— What are Dapper Days at Disney World?

— Strong words for the Wreck-It Ralph sequel.

— The Kevin Hart, Academy Awards incident.

— Lee loves salt and Chris is face down in a pizza.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Jake’s Cigar Bar. 

The Funkhouser Situation E42: Smells like Allegiant Airlines

The Funkhouser Situation with Chris Tomlin and Lee Cruse returns with another episode that will fill you in on everything in the world of pop culture.

Here are some of the highlights from this edition:

-Chris gets the other Chris Tomlin’s fan mail

-The mindset to have going to Disney World

-Why would John Cougar Mellencamp drop the Cougar in his name?

-Chris gives us some big engagement news

-The movies Lee saw on way to Disney World

-First world problems: Lee and Chris discuss issues with picking seats on airplanes.

-Ranker’s Top 90s artists: do they agree?

-Lee loves the Stone Temple Pilots

-Did Lee guess the final two picks correctly?

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Read-Alikes For The Hate You Give

Read-Alikes For The Hate You Give

Editor’s note: The following piece was contributed by Beth Dunston: Librarian, book critic and begrudging sister to Camerman Daniel. She might not know sports but she knows literature. Enjoy!

Courtesy: Balzer + Bray

Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give dominates the landscape of teen fiction in the same way Anthony Davis dominated a college basketball court, even before Thomas’ work made its big-screen debut. The novel’s award stickers threaten to block out the cover. The book just finished its 85th week hovering at the top of the New York Times’ best-seller list. Clearly, Thomas’ coming-of-age tale about finding your voice and standing up to injustice struck a chord with teens (and adults) who found hope and truth in main character Starr Carter’s story.

If you’re not familiar with The Hate U Give, a quick summary: Starr divides her time between her poor neighborhood and her elite private school, and she likes to keep these worlds as separate as possible. When Starr’s friend Khalil is shot by a police officer on their way home from a party, her two worlds begin to converge in difficult and complicated ways. By the time I finished T.H.U.G., Starr had changed the way I understood the world. What do you read after that, short of waiting for Thomas’ next book, On the Come Up (out February 2019)? Here are five excellent books to read if you loved The Hate U Give:

Courtesy: Algonquin Young Readers

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan: Bijan is the comic-book-loving son of an Iranian-American mom, and much like Starr, he attends an elite private school, where he plays on the basketball team. Unlike Starr, he imagines NBA commentators Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan narrating his life in a hilarious play-by-play (You should hear what they say about Bijan’s painful flirting game). After Bijan saves his team from defeat with skills that would make LeBron proud, he’s an overnight celebrity. And then someone photoshops his face onto a picture of a terrorist and e-mails it to the entire school. Bijan just wants to ignore the cyberbullying, but when it starts to affect his game and his relationships, he turns to his friends and his well-meaning teachers to identify the attacker and bring them to justice.


Courtesy: Bloomsbury YA

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: This award-winning debut novel follows Jade, an ambitious artist trying to get out of her poor neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Her teachers keep trying to “rescue” her with special programs for “at-risk” students, but Jade just wants the same opportunities as everyone else – like studying abroad for her dream job. Jade is assigned a mentor who’s too wrapped up in her own drama to do her job, and her friendship with a white classmate is falling apart in a series of arguments and misunderstandings. While there’s no central “event” in this book, Jade’s story is a must-read for any teen (or adult) looking for the courage to advocate for themselves. The last chapter is guaranteed to make you cheer. And want to create mixed-media collages that will never be as cool as Jade’s.


Courtesy: Ember

Dear Martin by Nic Stone: This stunning novel shares a lot in common with the previous books: a young person of color attends a mostly white private school. Justyce is a kid with big dreams, so he turns to the man with a Dream for inspiration, challenging himself to live for a year following the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Imitating Dr. King is harder than Justyce thought it would be – especially when a string of violent tragedies ends in the slaying of Justyce’s best friend. Is it worth following the path of peace when death is the only reward? I’ll admit it – this is a tough one, but trust in both Justyce and Stone to snatch hope from the depths of despair as Justyce discovers allies and friends in the most unexpected places.


Courtesy: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: Real talk – Jason Reynolds is one of the greatest writers for youth alive today. In his most recent novel for teens, Will lives by the three rules of his neighborhood: Don’t cry, don’t snitch, and always get revenge. On one early morning, Will steps into an elevator with a gun tucked into his jeans, ready to execute the man who murdered his beloved brother Shawn. Remember Rule #3? Yet this is no ordinary elevator ride: On every floor, spirits affected by gun violence in Will’s community appear to the boy, each offering their own story in powerful poetic verse. This is a quick read, full of tension and tragedy, as spirits battle to save a young man’s soul.



Courtesy: Scholastic

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older: Speaking of battling spirits, I thought I’d end this list with something a little lighter. The Hate U Give features a community pulling together to overcome violence and tragedy, and this book has exactly that, plus magical graffiti and a dash of zombies. Sierra Santiago is spending her summer break in Brooklyn painting a gigantic mural of a dragon onto an abandoned building, but her plans are upended by the appearance of a secretive Haitian boy and the disappearance of some of her grandfather’s old friends. Plot twist: Sierra’s family is part of a long line of shadowshapers – sorcerers who can enchant artwork with the spirits of the dead, bringing their drawings to life. It’s up to Sierra to reclaim her birthright from a greedy interloper and take back her community’s legacy. If you prefer your heroines to be accompanied by chalk ninjas punching each other, this book is definitely your jam.

What did you think of this list? Do you have any other recommendations? I’ve been a Teen Librarian in Central Kentucky for seven years and I’m always game to add to my TBR list. Send me your favorite read-alikes and recommendations on Twitter @DunsLibrarian.

Spooky Reads For Halloween

Spooky Reads For Halloween

Editor’s note: The following piece was contributed by Beth Dunston: Librarian, book critic and begrudging sister to Camerman Daniel. She might not know sports but she knows literature. Enjoy!


Full disclosure: I am a horror weenie. My first real nightmare following the appearance of a monster on television happened because of Ghost Writer, a PBS show that tried to make teens think reading was cool. I freak out at the mention of ghosts in cheesy Halloween podcast episodes. I’ve not yet made it all the way through any actual horror flick, not even Scary Movie. Yet, I steel myself every year to brave YA horror books for the kids who want more of the undead on their bookshelves. Here are five spine-tingling novels to fill the slasher-shaped hole in your life.

Courtesy: HarperCollins

Asylum by Madeleine Roux: Everyone at my college knew which dorm was haunted, and even knew the exact room number in which you’d be most likely to find a Civil War soldier in your closet. Every college has a haunted dorm, but the one in Asylum takes the soul cake. When Dan finds himself in the super-creepy Brookline Dorm in New Hampshire, he discovers that the residence hall used to be a psychiatric hospital, and some of the patients haven’t yet checked out. As Dan and his friends explore the sinister secrets of Brookline, they find themselves in a fight for their lives. (A note to my college: Don’t put students in that dorm. You know the one.)



Courtesy: Speak

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Johnson usually writes the kind of romance novels that remind you of sunshine and summer jobs, but her Shades of London trilogy shows that she has no problem diving into the world of foggy, blood-soaked streets. Louisiana teen Rory Deveaux can see ghosts and moved to a boarding school in London to get away from them in perhaps the most ill-advised decision a haunted teen could possibly make. It turns out British ghosts are nothing if not punctual, and Jack-the-Ripper-style killings begin plaguing the city as soon as Rory arrives. Rory is the only one who can see the ghoulish murderer – or so she believes. If you like reading about students being stalked through dark alleys by a vengeful ghost, or you just like an excuse to sleep with the lights on, this one’s for you.


Courtesy: Simon & Schuster

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey: Will Henry’s diaries tell the story of his boyhood as an apprentice to Dr. Warthrop, a monster-hunter who barely qualifies as human himself. Will and Dr. Warthrop newest prey is a colony of anthropophagi, a man-shaped beast with giant, toothy jaws and a seemingly bloodthirsty appetite. The creature is difficult to kill, as its only true weak spot is its brain, located in its crotch (I’m not making this up.). If the stomach-churning gore and jump scares aren’t enough for you, prepare to plunge into Will’s horrible childhood, as the once-innocent boy discovers the true depths of human evil. Yancey used to work for the IRS as a tax collector, and if that doesn’t convince you the book is terrifying, I’m not sure what will.



Courtesy: HMH Books for Young Readers

Took by Mary Downing Hahn: Moving from Connecticut to West Virginia was hard enough without the locals telling Daniel creepy stories about the with who lives up the hill. Daniel dismisses the stories as attempts to freak the new kid out, but when his sister Erica becomes obsessed with her (disturbingly lifelike) doll and then wanders off into the woods, Daniel becomes convinced Old Auntie has taken her. Being a responsible brother, Daniel decides to rescue his sister from fifty years of terror. Mary Downing Hahn is one of the OGs of YA horror, and a perfect fit for Goosebumps graduates looking for a good scare.




Courtesy: Sourcebooks Fire

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova: Alex is a bruja, a witch with terrifying powers she’s tried to suppress for years. Alex despises her abilities, since they have resulted in, in order, the death of her cat, the disappearance of her father, and the summoning of a snake from her classmate’s mouth. Visions of her dead aunt don’t help either. When Alex attempts to banish her gifts, she accidentally sends her entire family to the underworld (like you do). Now she must journey to the wonderful and frightening world of the dead in an action-packed adventure. This is the Latinx Alice in Wonderland you’ve always wanted, and highly recommended by surly middle schoolers who claimed they hated to read.



Who’s your favorite YA horror writer? Darren Shan? Ransom Riggs? R.L. Stine? Stephenie Meyer? Send me your spooky reading recommendations @DunsLibrarian!

The Funkhouser Situation E41: This List Stinks

The Funkhouser Situation with Chris Tomlin and Lee Cruse returns with another episode that will fill you in on everything in the world of pop culture.  A few lists are taken to task, they talk about all the latest Hot Goss, and…

— Did First Man live up to expectations?

— Forbes’ Highest-Paid Celebrities.

— Lee’s royalty checks.

— Does Chris lust Lee?

— Who are the best nominees for this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class?

— Black Mirror is confusing.

— Vulture’s list of Best SNL Recurring Characters is…something.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Jake’s Cigar Bar.