Monday, March 2, 2015

The 20 Best Adventure Time Episodes (So Far)

Adventure Time is getting a movie! The recent news that the beloved Cartoon Network animated series is getting the big screen treatment is cause for celebration for everyone who loves The Land of Ooo and its many insane inhabitants. For six seasons, Finn the Human (Jeremy Shada) and Jake the Dog (John DiMaggio) have gone on mend-bending adventures that span time and space. Along the way, memorable characters like Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, BMO, The Earl of Lemongrab, and many more have come to be loved by fans around the world.

The imagination of creator Pendleton Ward and the many inspired artists and writers behind Adventure Time have led to tales that constantly subvert expectations and delight fans. There’s something incredibly unique about the series while still being appealing to fans of fantasy and science fiction.

From completely bonkers one-off episodes to mythological entries that expand history of The Land of Ooo and its many inhabitants, no two episodes of Adventure Time are completely alike. The delight comes from the unexpected and energetic nature infused into each. Before you know it, you're completely immersed in the world and have come to greatly love its many weirdos.

The following 20 episodes are some of the very best from across the series, representing a wide variety of the qualities that make the series one of the most imaginative and unique on television. There seems to be no slowing down for Adventure Time and the strength of the series and its creators only grows from season to season. There will surely be many more amazing episodes to come. Have you own favorites? Let me know in the comments section!

20. It Came from The Nightosphere (Season 2, Episode 1)

When Finns summons Marceline’s father from The Nightosphere, it turns out that he’s Hunson Abadeer, the Lord of Evil. And he immediately goes on a soul-sucking spree across Ooo. “It Came from The Nightosphere” is part adventure and part family tale, as Finn and Marceline are put through the ringer emotionally and physically. From Marceline singing “The Fry Song” (it’s about Hunson eating her fries, which is what severed their relationship) to the terror of Hunson’s monster form, this is one of the first truly classic Adventure Time episodes.

Best Moment: Finn plays Marceline’s song to Hunson, giving him pause in his rampage and leading him to apologize. Then Finn stabs him and banishes him to the Nightosphere.

19. Sons of Mars (Season 4, Episode 15)

To escape punishment from his kin on the planet Mars, Magic Man switches bodies with Jake. But when the magic dog is taken to the planet to for judgment, Finn is determined to save his best friend. Magic Man always causes trouble when he comes around, but in “Sons of Mars” he puts Jake’s life at stake. But we also get more of a backstory for the character, giving him more depth than just a simple trickster. Plus, there’s more about what’s happening on Mars, including immortal King of Mars Abraham Lincoln, who was first seen in the pilot episode. And that tiny manticore. So weird.

Best Moment: After realizing he’s killed an innocent, Abraham Lincoln travels into the afterlife and exchanges his life for Jake’s. For something so weird, it’s strangely touching.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

15 Greatest Episodes of “Parks and Recreation”

After seven wonderful seasons, Parks and Recreation has come to an end, sending Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and the many wonderful citizens of Pawnee, Indiana, off in fantastic style. Mixing off-the-wall humor with tremendous heart, it’s a TV show that made you laugh just as hard as it made you care about the characters.

That is what made Parks and Rec so special season after season.

After a difficult first season, the crew behind the show really hit their stride from the very beginning of season two and  it’s been a wonderful ride ever since. Best of all, each character is fantastic. Tenacious Leslie Knope, man’s man Ron Swanson, loveable dope Andy Dwyer, dark April Ludgate, cocky Tom Haverford, and many more are each amazing in their own right. Add in the many memorable side characters and the town of Pawnee is unforgettable. It’s a place you never want to leave.

It’s tough picking just 15 episodes from all of Parks and Recreation, as there are not only so many fantastic episodes, there are countless amazing moments and quotes spread across the seven seasons. There’s really no wrong choice when it comes to choosing your favorite episodes. The Parks Department and the residents of Pawnee, Indiana, have had so many amazing moments.

Have your own favorite episodes? Leave your picks in the comment section below!

15. Greg Pikitis (Season 2, Episode 7)

Leslie is committed to stopping the yearly Halloween vandalization of the statue of Mayor Percy, which she believes is done by high schooler Greg Pikitis. So she inlists the help of cop boyfriend Dave, as well as Andy. Meanwhile, Ann throws a Halloween party, but it only makes everyone there feel awkward due to the semi lame nature of the get-together.

It’s great seeing Leslie really get frustrated over not only a kid who constantly annoys her, but a case she can’t seem to crack. Her tenacity and will to win is always admirable, but it’s always funny to see it backfire.

Best Moment: Andy interrogates Pikitis at the Parks Department in his first time as Burt Macklin, but the kid’s taunting ends up making Andy cry. “I’m not crying! I’m allergic to jerks!”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Gender and Ethnic Diversity in Comic Books

Issues relating to gender roles and ethnicity have become more prevalent in the comic book industry than ever before. The year 2014 gave rise to more discussion on characters of varying ethnicities, genders, and sexual preferences than possibly any prior year.

Some of that was due to major changes happening in both Marvel and DC Comics and some was the natural result of comic books becoming more mainstream. The explosion of mainstream popularity through comic book movie blockbusters means that the comic book medium is held up to more intense scrutiny. The bigger your audience, the greater chance it has of being diverse.

This is not to say that the comics industry has been without diversity or a focus on culturally significant stories. Intimate biographies like Maus by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and many more have shined a light on unique cultural experiences around the world and devastating events that have impacted people of many different ethnicities, countries, and backgrounds. These are vital stories that transcend the medium in many different ways and are significant in their artistry and message.

Even the world of superheroes has long featured notable heroes of different genders and races. Wonder Woman is the quintessential female hero, who is both unmistakably female and strong in both character and story when handled by the right author. Black Panther, Luke Cage, The Falcon, Storm, and John Stewart – Green Lantern, and have represented African Americans for decades. Several years ago, Miles Morales took over as Spider-Man in the alternate Ultimate Universe when their version of Peter Parker died. This half African American, half Latino hero is now loved by fans after a period of controversy. Northstar, The Question, Batwoman, Wiccan, Hulking, and more are all well-known homosexual heroes. In particular, Apollo and Midnighter are one of the major homosexual couples in comics, with these two amazing heroes being a longstanding couple who eventually marry and adopt children. Best of all, these are all amazing characters.

However, minority characters in superhero comics, especially the big two publishers, are still largely underrepresented when it comes to the characters who receive major focus from publishers. But things are changing – some naturally and some through force. It’s an insanely complex issue with many sides to discuss. Importantly, it’s a topic that should never fade from view again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Best Picture Winners vs Real Best Movies of the Year

The Academy Awards are almost upon us and, as always, the category for Best Motion Picture of the Year is extremely contentious, both among critics and the general population. If time has taught us anything about the films that are chosen as the best of their year, one thing is for sure, many people will not be happy with the winning film.

While there have been many Best Picture winners that have stood the test of time and gone on to be recognized  as some of the greatest ever made, there are many more that went without recognition, only to be later seen as masterpieces. On the other hand, many Best Pictures winners have been held in lower regard since their big wins or have even been completely forgotten by the general public and critics alike. For most, time is the greatest test for a piece of art’s quality and influence, as many movies considered to be the greatest have gained stature through reevaluation and come to be viewed as masterpieces in film over long periods of time.

There are many reasons why a film is chosen as Best Picture by the Academy Awards, some of which are explored here. But the criteria for a film to be recognized as one of the best ever is far more natural and organic. Its selection is the result of true quality and artistic value, rather than any political choice by audience members. Whatever may win Best Picture this or any year, the real best movie of the year will not be truly known until years or even decades from now.

While this is by no means a complete list, the following films are often seen as the best of their years and many are in the pantheon of greatest films of all time. For the sake of film criticism, the following movies are the ones often held in the highest esteem for their respective years, so personal favorites and cult classics like Blade Runner or The Big Lebowski are not in contention in this entry, although these movies are easily some of the best of their respective genres.

Winner: Shakespeare in Love
Best Movie: Saving Private Ryan

Where does one even start with this one? Even back in 1998 it was clear to most people that Shakespeare in Love should not have won Best Picture. Anything else should have won. Not that this little romantic comedy is a bad movie, but there were clearly countless movies that were better that year. Most importantly, Saving Private Ryan was and still is the best film from 1998. Director Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures of filmmaking. His works range from fun romps for kids to big ideas on historical events. It doesn’t get much bigger in Spielberg’s catalogue than Saving Private Ryan¸ which is much darker than a lot of his work while still containing the hope and sentiment that he is known for in his career. It’s the kind of movie that can and should be seen by anyone with an appreciation for war films.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Best Comic Books for New Readers

Comic books have been around since the early 1930’s, with Marvel, DC, and more publishers creating 1,000's of stories revolving around colorful characters in all manner of adventures. From iconic superheroes to gripping crime stories to intimate autobiographies, comic book authors and artists have crafted every type of story you can imagine. However, many find comic books to be an impenetrable and strange art form to break into as a potential reader.

The truth is, there is nothing exclusive about the medium of comic books. Like film, television, radio, and novels, comic books are a medium that have a unique storytelling structure and flow. The only difference is that not everyone has grown up on them like other forms of art. As such, many potential fans have simply never had the chance to familiarize themselves with the medium and understand its storytelling language. Jumping into any old comic may be a hazardous pursuit, as decades of continuing storylines, varying styles of authorship, and a wide variety of tones and content may bounce out a reader who has not found the right introductory story. As such, countless great experiences may be missed out on due to a bad first encounter.

Whether it is because of the countless blockbuster superhero films flooding the box office these days or simple curiosity in a new art form, you may be interested in starting your comic book readership. Are you interested in big action packed narratives? Have you loved a specific character on film or television and want to see them in their home narrative? Is there a genre you love in its many forms? Browse through the following categories and see what comic book can help you dip your toes in the water successfully. Then see what to read next!

Crime and Detective Stories – Blacksad

Love stories about crime and hardboiled detectives that break the rules to crack the case? Blacksad by author Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido may be just right for you. Originally published in French, the Blacksad stories follow Detective John Blacksad as he solves mysteries and encounters all manner of underworld types in several standalone narratives. But this world is made up of anthropomorphic animals, with the animals chosen reflecting some aspect of the characters’ natures. It’s a stunningly gorgeous comic that blends Disney-like animation with adult themes, language, and violence. It’s breathtaking and simple enough to suck in any first time reader with its familiar ideas but still thrilling twists and turns.

Next Steps: Gotham Central, Moon Knight, Sin City

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

15 Great Movie Romances

What makes a great film romance? Is it the emotional heights that a story reaches? Is it the strength of the leads characters? Is it a unique take on a type of story that has been told on screen again and again? Film romances have been done so many times that is it impossible to count the iterations.

While it can be easy to write off romance movies or love subplots in larger films due to their ubiquity and often shallow nature, there is a reason why filmmakers continue to tell stories about people falling in love or growing in their love for one another. It is a core experience in the human story. Love is beautiful, inspirational, painful, redemptive, and so much more. There are enough ways to tell a tale about love that even after a century of films, great storytellers are still coming up with enjoyable and compelling takes on the idea.

The following 15 film romance stories have something very special about them. Either they pioneered a new take on love in movies, perfected the way a film romance can be done, or said something genuine and touching about love. In many cases, they did all of these and more. While this is not a complete list, the following love stories are timeless classics from across the decades, with each saying something special about love and how relationships can affect people’s lives for the better or worse.

For a look at how bad film romances can be, read 10 Terrible Movie Romances.

Harry and Sally – When Harry Met Sally

Can men and women ever just be friends? That’s the central question of When Harry Met Sally, but the meaning of a fulfilling relationship is just as much at the core of the narrative. Harry and Sally meet several times over the course of more than a decade, going from strangers who can’t stand each other to friends to more, which is when things get really complicated for them. What makes their romance so great is that they find love, support, and meaning in their friendship before any romance really begins. But their mistakes and realizations move them into a happy and enduring relationship by the end.

Most Romantic Moment: After nearly ending their friendship forever, Harry runs through New York to profess his love to Sally on New Year’s Eve. It feels real and truly happy to seem them realize how much they need one another.