Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ten Great Movies in 2012

2012 was an amazing year for movies. It was a dream-come-true for super hero fans, James Bond aficionados and Hobbit-Heads, among others. The Avengers assembled, Batman rose and Abraham Lincoln had two films made about his life. (Only one, however, documented his vampire slaying exploits.) Joseph Gordon Levitt became a household name thanks to rising with the Dark Knight and looping with Bruce Willis. We saw everything from the Hunger Games craze to the successful reboot of the Spiderman franchise. Plus, we got to take a shower with Alfred Hitchcock!

I have not yet seen every movie that I want to see from 2012, but here are ten movies that made 2012 for me.

The Avengers:
My favorite movie of the year and the triumphant culmination of the Marvel superhero films. It features great action, amazing effects, lots of laughs and the best portrayal of the Hulk ever. Plus, the two most crowd-pleasing moments in superhero movie history, both featuring the big, green guy. The most fun I’ve had at the movies all year.

The funniest movie of the year. Mark Wahlberg is the unsung hero of this flick. His acting against an animated bear is convincing and hilarious. Ted is worth the price of admission in Flash Gordon references alone.

Django Unchained:
Quentin Tarantino nails the Western with his usual flair.  Fox, Waltz, Jackson & DiCaprio are magnificent. Typical Tarantino: great dialog, music, wit, violence and maybe just a few minutes too long. You will leave with a smile on your face.

Silver Linings Playbook:
This one took me by surprise. The story of a man with mental illness, coming home to his family, and the equally conflicted woman who comes into his life. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and the rest of the cast create a funny and thoughtful movie, with a slight edge, that will make you laugh and think. Come for the Philadelphia Eagles references, stay for the dancing. 

The Dark Knight Rises:
The rousing conclusion to Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun. Anne Hathaway stole the movie for me as Catwoman and the last hour is some of the best Batman action ever filmed…. Capped with the best movie ending of the year.

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey:
Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth. It’s more fun and lighter in tone than The Lord of the Rings movies, just like the novel, but just as grand. Lot’s of action and laughs. The movie suffers a bit from Jacksons penchant for going long and the fact that they are making three films from one book. However, you will love Bilbo Baggins and the scene with Gollum is not to be missed.

I have not cared much for James Bond since Roger Moore stepped down. I thought Daniel Craig was a great choice as the new 007, but his first two films, like Chinese food, left me hungry again after about 20 minutes. Skyfall is the most straightforward Bond movie in years and a great springboard for future films. Javier Bardem plays a captivating villain who is quite a departure from his role in No Country for Old Men.

The superhero genre finally meets the found-footage craze. The results are surprisingly good. At a party, three high school friends gain superpowers after making a discovery in an underground cavern. Things start off great and get dark real quick. Sure, there are a few forced moments where characters implausibly keep filming. You just have to roll with it. This one is worth a look.

The Cabin in the Woods:
A love letter to horror fans and Joss Whedon fans alike. It looks like a typical horror flick, with all of the clich├ęs intact, until it all gets turned upside down. Nothing is what it seems. This movie is a blast; funny and original. Just don’t miss the last 30 minutes. That’s where the magic happens.

The Expendables 2:
The biggest guilty pleasure of the year. It’s pure, escapist fun. The Expendables 2 is much more entertaining and satisfying than part one. Great moments from Arnold, Willis and Chuck Norris are the icing on this explosive cake. Bring on The Expendables 3!

There were many others I enjoyed that I did not mention here. Like I said, it was a great year for movies. What were some of your favorites?

Now if you'll excuse me, I still have a lot of 2012 movies on my to-do list, including; 
Argo, Savages, Zero Dark Thirty, Le Mis, Sinister, Moonrise Kingdom, Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Ralph, Para-Norman, Rock of Ages, Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, The Dictator and The Campaign.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Monster Men Ep. 34: Finding Bigfoot in All the Wrong Places

Bigfoot is bigger than ever. Shows like "Finding Bigfoot" have brought this hairy legend out of the woods and into the spotlight. But did you know there are many more versions of Bigfoot besides the Sasquatch and Yeti? Ever hear of the Skunk Ape that roams the swamps of the Florida Everglades? How about the Honey Island Swamp Monster or the Fouke Monster of Boggy Creek?

In this episode of the Monster Men, we discuss the other names and forms that our large-footed friend takes.

We'll also talk about Hunter Shea's new book, SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE, that features the horrifying, bog-dwelling Skunk Ape. It's a must read for Bigfoot fans and horror fans alike. Click here to order it on Amazon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Monster Men 33: Top 10 Christmas Bad Guys

Let the slay bells ring! The Monster Men finally recorded a Christmas episode, and it's based on the blog post I wrote here. The subject? Christmas Villains, of course.

December means it's time for the Christmas Specials. Sometimes the best characters in these shows are the bad guys. To honor these fiends, I’ve put together my list of the ten greatest villains in the history of Christmas Specials.

We had a blast recording this one and I am sure you'll be surprised at a few of our picks. You might even disagree with some. That's cool too. Watch the video, read my post for my complete take on the matter and then let us know what you think. 

Don't forget to share this video with your friends and follow us on Facebook

Top Ten Christmas Villains

Between every hero and a Merry Christmas, there always stands a villain who wants to ruin the holiday. These are some of the most memorable, and sometimes most beloved, characters of the season. To honor this rogues gallery, I’ve put together my list of the greatest villains in the history of Christmas Specials. I bet a few of my selections will surprise you.

Check out my picks and let me know what you think. Then let me know who's on your list. And don't forget to check out the Monster Men show about this topic too. (Click here.)

10. Silas Barnaby: March of the Wooden Soldiers:
I know, you probably don’t think of Barnaby as a Christmas character, so let me explain. March of the Wooden Soldiers is a Thanksgiving tradition, and since that day signals the beginning of the Christmas season, I think Mr. Barnaby qualifies for the list. Plus, Santa makes an appearance in the film, so I rest my case.

Barnaby holds the mortgage on the shoe that Mother Peep lives in. Mother Peep can’t pay and Barnaby threatens to throw her out on the street unless resident hottie, Bo Peep, agrees to marry him. Eventually the situation escalates into an all out war and Barnaby leads hoards of ravenous Bogeymen in an all out assault on Toyland. Only Stannie Dum, Ollie Dee, a box of darts, a weird mouse/monkey and 100 six-foot wooden soldiers stand between Barnaby and the extermination of Toyland. With his top hat, hunched posture and maniacal laugh, he is truly the epitome of evil.

9. Scut Farkus and Grover Dill: A Christmas Story: 
Poor Ralphie. If not getting a BB gun or getting gypped by Little Orphan Annie weren’t enough, he also has to worry about the constant bullying of local terror, Scut Farkus and his sidekick, Grover. Scut is a lanky, hideous creature that seems to be a part bully and part troll. 

Is there any better moment than when Ralphie finally loses it and Hulks out on this sadistic monster? Watch out Scut, he’ll punch your eye out.

8. The Winter Warlock: Santa Claus is Coming to Town:
I originally had Winter, as he likes to be called, ranked higher, because he is pretty horrifying when he first appears in Santa Claus is Coming to Town. However, he has a change of heart pretty early in the movie and becomes a key player in Kris Kringle’s cause. He’s even responsible for many of Santa’s greatest assets, like flying reindeer. Many villains on this list eventually find redemption at the end of the story, but Winter finds his early enough to be considered a hero too.

All it took to save a soul was a choo-choo train and the courage to put one foot in front of the other.

7. Burgermeister Meisterburger: Santa Claus is Coming to Town:
This is the real villain of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. This guy may not be the most charismatic of Christmas antagonists, but boy is he bad. This guy rules a town called Sombertown. That should be your first clue as to the character of this guy.

The Burgermeister is so vile that he not only outlaws toys, but he imprisons Kris Kringle! One of the great things about the fall of Burgermeister Meisterburger is that he is not defeated in the traditional sense of a final battle, but really just sort of fades away and becomes irrelevant. A sad end to a sad man. 
6. Professor Hinkle: Frosty the Snowman:
Professor Hinkle is the inept magician that lusts for the life-giving power of Frosty the Snowman’s magic hat. He’s also a homicidal maniac.

Now to his credit, the hat originally belonged to Hinkle, who tossed it towards a trashcan after yet another failed magic trick. His one time assistant, the rabbit Hocus Pocus, essentially intercepts the hat and takes it to the school children that have just built Frosty. When Hinkle sees the miracle that the hat has performed, he naturally wants his hat back. After all, the frustrated fellow is trying to make a living by doing magic and failing miserably. It would only be natural to want your hat back. The question is, did he technically surrender ownership of the hat or did the children steal it? They say possession is 9/10 of the law, but it is defienetly a gray area.

What makes Hinkle so bad, aside from his slightly green hue, is his greed. He wants his hat back so bad that he has no regard for the life he would be ending. Then later he essentially murders Frosty by locking him in a greenhouse and melting him.  

If not for the intervention of Santa, Frosty would not have been resurrected and Hinkle would have won. When threatened with the possibility of never getting another Christmas present, Hinkle finally agrees to an act of penance to redeem him. He must write a promise to never hurt the snowman again… a hundred zillion times!  As Hinkle might say, he’ll be “Busy, busy, busy!”

Notice his motivation for his repentance is motivated by the prospect of getting gifts, not to show respect for life. He’s a narcissist, sociopath and practitioner of the dark arts. This guy is bad news. 

5. Commercialism: A Charlie Brown Christmas:
Some would say the Peanuts Christmas special features the TRUE villain of Christmas the real world, commercialism. Poor Charlie Brown, he’s surrounded by greed and materialism at every turn, most evident from the aluminum trees that everyone prefers to his simple sapling.

He gets it from the kids in the Christmas pageant, his sister and even from his dog, who is pimping out his doghouse for a decoration contest. Good grief!

Think about it… so many of the other Christmas specials put an emphasis on saving Christmas for the sake of gifts and presents. Sure, they may allude to the “Christmas Spirit”, but the seldom actually make a reference to the birth of Christ. Not Charlie Brown though, thanks to his buddy Linus. Just as things start to really get out of control and old Chuck is about to hit his breaking point, the young, blanket wielding sage steps up and makes a passionate speech from the Gospel of Luke on what Christmas is really all about.

Before you know it, the rest of the gang embraces the real reason for the season and they decorate Charlie Brown’s tiny, little tree with the bling from Snoopy’s award winning doghouse. Let the caroling begin. 

4. The Miser Brothers, Heat Miser and Snow Miser: The Year Without a Santa Claus:
Everyone knows that Heat Miser is my favorite. He goes hand-in-hand with his brother Snowy when it comes to great Christmas villains, but Heat Miser is really the scarier of the two. He’s much more satanic looking and he’s got a very hot temper.

The Miser Brothers not only sing the best songs to ever appear in a Christmas special, but they also save The Year Without a Santa Claus, which kind of drags when they are not on screen. It's true... they are too much.

3. The Bumble: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
The Abominable Snow Monster of the North, also known as The Bumble, is a large, yeti-like creature that terrorizes the North Pole and hates everything about Christmas. He pursues Rudolph and Hermey at every step of their journey and eventually captures Rudolph’s family with the intent to eat them. Is that bad enough for you? To a little kid, he is one of the truly scary monsters of the Christmas genre.

Fortunately, Yukon Cornelius and Hermey the Elf come to the rescue. They knock the Bumble out and extract all his teeth. Then Yukon, in an incredible act of bravery tumbles off a cliff with the beast, sacrificing himself for the group. Luckily, at the end of the show, he reappears with a reformed Bumble, who puts the star on top of the Christmas tree. You see, it turns out that Bumbles bounce. 

2. The Grinch: How The Grinch Stole Christmas:
The mean one himself. The Christmas hating green monster with a heart is two sizes too small. The Grinch doesn’t just want to ruin Christmas, he wants to steal the whole thing!  You have to give him props for his ambition. This guy has the audacity to sneak into Whoville, dressed as Santa, and rip-off all of the Whos' Christmas gifts and decorations. He lies to a child and is very cruel to his dog too.

The Grinch cartoon is voiced by Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff) and the live-action film is narrated by Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).  It doesn’t get any more badass than that.
The three best words that best describe him are as follows, and I quote,

The Grinch could easily hold the number one spot on this list, but the big green lug was evil to begin with and eventually sees the error of his ways. There is one more person on this list, and this one should have known better. 

1. Santa Claus: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:
Yes, you read that right. Santa Claus is the number one Christmas Special villain. But let’s be clear, it’s Santa from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Let’s face it; Santa is a big, fat jerk in this show. Actually, he’s a big, thin jerk until the end. If you remember, Mrs. Claus had to keep on urging him to eat.

The other villains on this list consist of a variety of scum and lowlifes whose deeds have become the stuff of legends. However, if you think about it, Santa is a big part of the reason Rudolph leaves home in the first place. He’s just as guilty as the rest of the North Pole folk who ostracize the poor, young, crimson-nosed buck. (That includes Fireball, Coach Comet, the Elf Boss and even his parents, Donner and Mrs. Donner.)

When all of the other reindeer are laughing and calling Rudolph names, instead of sticking up for him, Santa chastises Donner and walks away in disappointment. Then, after everyone has disappeared, he’s not even out looking for them. This is a guy who knows when you are sleeping or when you are awake. You’d think he would be pretty good at locating people.

It’s not until he needs Rudolph that he’s actually nice to him… and that might be because he’s too cheap to buy headlights for his sleigh.

Watch the show again and keep an eye on Santa this time, I’m telling you, he’s kind of a jerk. I mean, c’mon, this is Santa Claus, so the bar is set higher. We expect more from him. Take a look at your naughty list Santa, under the name Kringle. You might be surprised at what you see.

Giving Scrooge His Due:
I know, I know. You don’t see Scrooge on this list. Relax. I am giving him props here. After all, he is the poster child for hating Christmas and he did coin the term “Bah humbug”, the catch phrase for the anti-Christmas movement. But he’s too obvious and I am a bit tired of the endless incarnations of A Christmas Carol. However, I’ll give Mr. Magoo honorable mention, along with Bill Murray in Scrooged, as those are my favorite versions of the story. 

Another Honorable Mention
Skeletor in He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special:
This is the boney bad man’s his most conflicted moment… and one of his funniest. 
Click here: Skeletor Christmas