Archive for lists

Best Random Movie Dances

Posted in dance, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on June 19, 2008 by Paxton

Gene KellyI love movies. If you read this blog, you know this. I also love dancing. If you’ve seen me dance, I’m sorry. The wife and I were watching Little Miss Sunshine the other night and we started talking about how much we love little Olive’s dance routine at the beauty pageant. This led to discussion about other dances in other movies we loved so that, naturally, led to this blog article. It’s surprising how often a scenario like this will lead to an article. Maybe I should wear this shirt 24-7. My wife would then counter me by wearing this shirt.

Before I begin the list, I’m going to lay down a couple ground rules. The movie can’t be a musical. Those invite more professional dance routines and don’t have the same feel as a comedic dance routine in a movie that has no singing. Also, the movie can’t be about dancing. That one is for obvious reasons. I’m mainly thinking about random, comedic dance routines in the middle of a movie that serve no other purpose than to make you laugh. Now, I know I’m going to miss one, so if I forgot your favorite, sound out on the message boards.

So, without further ado, here is my list of Best Random Dances in a movie.

Little Miss SunshineOlive Hoover’s talent routine in Little Miss Sunshine – I had to start with this one as it’s the movie that started the whole discussion. I’ve seen this movie twice since I started writing this article. It is hilarious. Funny situations and family members, great script, interesting locations. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it. The main attraction, and the reason it gets on this list, however, is Olive Hoover’s dance routine at the beauty pageant. It’s talked about throughout the whole movie, you never know going into the pageant scenes what is going to happen. When it does, it’s like a bullet train to Awesome City. I dare you not to laugh at it.

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Pop Cuture’s Coolest Time Machines

Posted in movies, pop culture, time machine, time travel, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on May 14, 2008 by Paxton

Time Travel

I love time travel. I’ve been fascinated with it as long as I can remember. I’ve read countless books on the subject, including Stephen Hawking’s dense A Brief History of Time (it may be brief, but it isn’t light, I’ll tell you that) because he added chapters on wormholes and time travel in the 10th Anniversary Edition. Just the idea of being able to travel in time is cool to me. It’s what compelled me to see Back to the Future 10 times in the theater in 1985 (I’m not kidding…10 times). It’s what got me to beg my mother to let me stay up late on a school night and watch the final hour of Quantum Leap’s 2 hour debut in March 1989. It’s also what compelled me to go see the revamp of HG Wells’ Time Machine with Guy Pearce in the theater in 2002 (it sucked, btw).

Since I’ve read and watched so much stuff, I thought I’d list some of my favorite time machines in movies and/or tv shows. None of these are perfect, I even discuss their problems and idiosyncrasies, but they are cool nonetheless. So sit back and let’s take a look at some of the coolest time vehicles ever created.

Tardis from Dr WhoThe Tardis from Doctor Who – I’ve never really watched Dr Who…EVER, but I’ve always liked the look of his flying time machine/phone booth. This police box is more than just a time machine, it also serves as a base of operations and a space ship. It has the cool feature of being much larger on the inside than you would expect on the outside. They can also change shape to blend in with their surroundings. Apparently, though, Dr Who’s vessel is an outdated model that has a faulty chameleon circuit that is stuck in the police box form. It also is unreliable in it’s time travel because it’s an older model and prone to breakdowns. Sounds like something Han Solo and Chewie would piece together with spit, duct tape and a prayer.

Bill and TedThe phone booth from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – This was a cool idea, and I like the gimmick of it, but in practice it leaves a lot to be desired. There’s not much room on the inside, and other than travelling to the 20th and 21st centuries, the vehicle itself might seem out of place and draw attention. I don’t imagine our forefathers would take kindly to a phone booth popping up in the middle of the White House lawn. However having a “time book” to tell you how to go wherever you want to go would be nice. But, again, Bill & Ted proved it’s pretty easy to be stuck in time when their antenna was damaged. But, again-again, they fixed it pretty easy with some discarded metal canisters. Time travel must not be too hard if Bill and Ted can service a broken time booth. Also, I never liked this movie’s rule that the clock in San Dimas is always ticking. Meaning when Bill and Ted left on their time trip, if they spent 24 hours searching for historical persons, when they return it had to be 24 hours later. That makes no sense. You are in a time machine, you should be able to go back to 1 minute after you left. That’s somewhat the point of time travel, no?

Quantum AcceleratorThe quantum accelerator from Quantum Leap – This is a cool way to travel as you become someone else and interact with the people around you as that other person. The downside, you have no control over where you are going or if you will ever be able to return home. And you can’t take back souvenirs because your body jumps away into the next situation. So, actually, this time machine sucks. Nevermind.

TimeCopTime vehicle from Time Cop – This is another cool time transport device. Controlled by rooms of supercomputers, you can pinpoint exactly where you are traveling in time. However, you can’t travel to the future, only to the past and back to your original point in time. Take a look at the picture; the time machine is an angular, wedge shaped vehicle that travels forward on a set of tracks at an extreme velocity towards a brick wall surrounded by some weird, stone circle structure. When it reaches a certain point on the track it pierces the fabric of the time barrier and disappears. Interestingly, the movie alludes to the fact that the vehicle sometimes doesn’t work properly and crashes into the aforementioned brick wall at the far end killing the passengers. My question? Why did they build a wall at the end of the track in the first place? Why didn’t they leave the room open at one end with no wall/giant circle structure to crash into, then when the ship doesn’t pierce the time barrier, it just glides to a stop. Nobody has to die. At the very least they could put some pillows or a giant net at the end to catch the ship. I mean, COME ON, I have three or four better ideas than a deadly brick wall to kill my passengers and I’m not even a futuristic scientist building a time machine. After the ship breaks the time barrier and disappears, the time passengers are dropped into the past…sans vehicle. Where does the giant car-sized machine go as it is not seen in the past at all and magically appears back on the tracks later in the movie?

Delorean from Back to the Future – This is the quinessential time machine. Cool car, acurate time circuits. And at the end of the movie when it gets fitted with Mr Fusion and no longer needs Plutonium to power the time circuits (and it gets the hover conversion), it becomes the easiest and funnest to use. Who wouldn’t want to drive a flying Delorean into the past and/or future? I know I would. Back to the Future made the Delorean cool again.

Time Egg from Green Futures of Tycho – I read this book when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Great story. It’s considered Children’s Literature but the story is pretty dark. Young Tycho finds a silver egg in his backyard. After playing around with it he discovers that it’s actually a time device. He can set some dials on the bottom and press a button on the top and be taken to any destination in time that he so desires. He decides to alter some unpleasant incidents in the past but he soon finds out they have major repercussions on his present…and his future. The time egg is great because it’s small, portable enough to fit in your pocket, and can go both forward and backward in time. It’s instantaneous too, so if you get in trouble, reach in your pocket, flip the dials and press the button for a quick escape. No running back to the time machine or having to start the motor. Very convenient.

How about a few of the worst time machines ever?

Time ChasersCessna plane from Time Chasers – One of the worst movies ever, but one of the greatest episodes of Mystery Science Theater ever. Science geek Nick Miller builds a time machine out of a Cessna airplane and an Apple II computer. Very cost efficient using a small AIRPLANE to power your time machine…WTF?! Did the scientist think it would just be easier to travel in time with a plane? That’s crazy. Besides, how did this guy afford to pay for a damn PLANE?!  He sure as hell wasn’t borrowing it cause I don’t know anyone that would loan some dorky researcher guy a plane just because he asked.  Dude must have taken out like 200 payday loans to pay for the plane.  How’d he have any money left to buy the computer equipment?  You know the plane bankrupted the guy because later in the movie, he takes a reporter lady in the time machine on a date to the future and they eat at an Orange Julius. But you know it’s an Orange Julius in the future because everyone is wearing one piece shiny silver suits and weird head gear. If you watch this, be prepared…or just watch the MST3K version.

Uncle Rico’s time machine – Obviously not a real time machine, but I think it’s the funniest. I laugh just thinking about it. “If only coach would have put me in the game back in ’85. We would have won State.”

Have a good weekend everybody!

Related articles:
7 Time Machines that would suck if they existed in the real world

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2007: Some of my favorite scary books

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2007 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Let the Halloween season begin! I was going through some of my books at home deciding what I should keep, what needs to be thrown out, what needs to be taken to the local used book store or what needs to be put up on my Book Shelf at PaperbackSwap.com (great site, check it out). I’m a pack rat. Also, my wife and I love to read, so the paperback graveyard at our house is out of control. So, I was going through some of these books for the above reasons and found many “scary” books that I loved, both recently and when I was a kid. Several of these books seriously freaked me out. The type of book that has you staying up at night staring at the drapes wondering if a guy with a knife is just watching…and waiting. Since it’s Halloween, I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few of these. Maybe you’ve read a few of them.

Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkScary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz; illustrations by Stephen Gammell. This was the first book in a series of three. The two sequels were More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. I read these in elementary school (the first book was released in 1981) and they seriously messed up my sleeping patterns. It wasn’t just the stories that were included in these books, Gammell’s illustrations lean intensely towards the macabre. The combination of the chilling stories and the illustrations helps to build the effect in your mind and it winds up decidedly stopping your ability to sleep for the next few days. Click on the book image to see a bigger picture. Look what they chose to put on the cover of the first book. How insanely creepy is THAT?! That’s the kind of mind job that awaits. Each of these stories is collected from American Folklore and have been passed down, in one form or another for generations. Because of this, you’ll get familiar stories like The Hook and The Babysitter, but there are other stories I’ve never heard of. The one that has always stuck in my mind is called Room for One More. BONE CHILLING. At least, it was to me as a kid. If you haven’t read these books, check them out at your library or you can get the collected set of all three books here.

This series of books has been one of the top ten most challenged books by the American Library Association for inclusion on school library shelves. The ALA feels it is too violent, insensitive and inappropriate for its target age group.

13 Alabama Ghosts13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham. I was born in Birmingham, AL. I went to elementary, junior and high school in Birmingham. Kathryn Tucker Windham’s Southern ghost story series staring the titular spook, Jeffery, was extremely popular. Jeffrey supposedly haunted Windham’s Selma home and living with him inspired her to write her ghostly series. There were like 12 books in the series and it included other states like Mississippi and Tennessee. Each book told of a “famous” Southern ghost story in a different town of the state. Windham really tried to incorporate Southern lifestyles into the stories. She focused a lot on the characters and the times in which they lived, almost as much as the ghost the story was about. The stories were cool because they happened in places I’d heard of, but they were also pretty creepy. They all seemed to take place in old abandoned mansions or hotels. The most famous story in the book is about the Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton, AL. This courthouse is famous for the ghostly image that is seemingly burned into one of its attic windows. Very cool book that is very respectful of Southern life and culture but adds the eerie element of long-ago ghost stories.

Monkeys PawThe Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs. Published in England in 1902, this short horror story is a literary classic. It has been retold numerous times in other books, comics, tv shows, movies, etc. The Simpsons even did a parody of it in one of their Treehouse of Horror episodes. In the story, the monkey’s paw is a magical talisman that grants wishes, but the wishes come at an enormous price. Very, very cool story, yet it’s extremely horrifying. If you want to read the short story you can read it in full on this website.

Monkeys PawThe Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Published by the New Yorker in 1948, it’s a short story that has come to be considered an American classic. I read this in high school and was fascinated by it. For the first two-thirds of the story I was baffled and a little bored about seemingly normal events. It’s the final third of the story that grabs and horrifies you. I liked it so much that for an eleventh grade Honors English project I chose to write a short sequel that I called The Last Lottery. It received very high marks from my teacher and she had me read the story to the class. I, unfortunately, do not have a copy of that story, otherwise I would put it up here. If you want to read The Lottery, you can read the text in full here. I’ll see if I can scrounge up the one copy of The Last Lottery that is in existence.

Whoever Fights MonstersWhoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler. True crime account by one of the first and leading criminal profilers. Ressler spoke at Auburn when I was in college and I was fascinated by the killers he has profiled. John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and many others. He even describes some of the cases surrounding these killers. A truly chilling account of real life crime and how the serial killer thinks.

The Last VictimThe Last Victim by Jason Moss. Another true crime novel. This is even scarier. Teenager Jason Moss starts writing letters to famous serial killers. He tries to become their ideal victim from within his letters to see what makes them tick. He gets too close and actually visits John Wayne Gacy in prison. Absolutely terrifying. A look at how these real life killers think, but from the victim’s point of view.

Monkeys PawSkeleton Crew, Night Shift, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Everything’s Eventual and Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. Stephen King has a lot of scary stories, but his best stuff are his short stories. Not all of them are horror. Some are funny and some are random and weird, but some are chilling. And since the story is shorter, the eeriness seems to be even higher because the text is so concentrated. There are several stories in each of these 5 short story collections that were damaging to my calm. A few of my favorites:

“The Monkey” about a toy monkey that kills every time it beats its cymbals.

“Children of the Corn” about a small town inhabited only by children under 19.

“The Moving Finger” about a regular guy haunted by the appearance of a finger trying to claw its way out of his bathroom sink drain (sounds weird, but it’s almost maddening to think about when you read the story).

Autopsy Room 4 about a man waking up in a medical lab realizing that a doctor is about to perform an autopsy on his body, and he can’t move or speak to stop it.

There are others in the 5 King books that are haunting and chilling and wonderful. I love these collections more than King’s full novels. If you haven’t, and you love Stephen King, read them, please.

Well, those are some of my favorite scary books. What are some of yours?

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Geek Elite: Hollywood’s best computer hackers

Posted in 24, computers, hackers, humor, movies, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , on September 26, 2007 by Paxton

Computer Hacking Skills

Yes, I am a computer geek. It’s what I do for a living, it’s what I do for a hobby. So it’s nice to see a movie that has an entertaining, and skilled, computer hacker amongst it’s characters. It’s also entertaining to see computer hackers that conform to the stereotype we all have; socially inept boobs who live in our parent’s basement and do nothing but play video games and hack into companies’ databases.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of who I think are the best computer hackers ever portrayed in a movie or tv show. My only criteria for choosing was that the geek in question actually exhibit some computer skills by hacking into something while onscreen and be somewhat entertaining. If his exploits are just alluded to or talked about, then no dice. So here is my list of Hollywood’s best computer hackers as seen by me. I’m sure there are a couple you think I’ve missed or neglected, so you can put your vote for your favorite in the comments.

Enjoy!

Lazlo HollyfeldLazlo Hollyfeld (movie, Real Genius) – How do you know you are pretty smart? An entire school of geniuses call you a genius, that’s how. That’s the position of one Lazlo Hollyfeld. After graduating Pacific Tech in the ’70s he retreats to an impressive secret laboratory we have to assume he built in the bowels of the school to…..well, they never actually say what he does down there. He helps some students reprogram the trajectory of a military laser to fire on the house of a professor. How cool is that? He’s become an urban legend around that school and that’s cool enough to put him on this list.

WyattWyatt Donnelly (movie, Weird Science) – He built a chick with his computer and a Barbie doll. I say it again, HE BUILT A CHICK WITH HIS COMPUTER AND A BARBIE DOLL. Move to the front of the line, Wyatt.

Mr UniverseMr. Universe (movie, Serenity) – The ultimate in paranoid genius. This guy holes up in his hidden headquarters spying on everyone else. He has hookups to every government net and news feed in the universe (hence his moniker). He also built a robot as a girlfriend and then married it. I guess genius is a double edged sword.

LutherLuther Stickell (movie, Mission: Impossible) – The Net Ranger. Phineas Phreak. This is the only man alive that has hacked NATO Ghostcom. That’s impressive and I don’t even know what NATO Ghostcom is. Although, as Luther will point out, there was no evidence he had anything to do with that. He’s the Shaft of computer programmers. He’ll hack your computer, steal your identity and bank accounts, then beat you down for looking at him funny. He’s one bad mutha….SHUT YO MOUTH!

MarshallMarshall Flinkman (tv show, Alias) – Mr. Flinkman is a total computer geek. He loves gadgets and he is really good as the head tech at spy shop SD-6. However, he’s not always the most socially adept person in the room. When explaining the gadgets for the current mission he tends to get a little excited and might either a) branch WAY off topic or b) get WAY too technical. He did put his life on the line in several missions so he’s got some spy cred.

ChloeChloe O’Brian (tv show, 24) – Chloe is the only person (let alone a chick) who can backtalk Jack Bauer and not come away with a hole in her leg, kneecap or chest. For that reason alone, she belongs on this list. Oh that and she’s sick with a computer. Need to break an unbreakable encryption in less than 5min? Call Chloe. Need to maneuver government satellites to a new position immediately? Call Chloe. Need to pull data off some electronic device that has been fried, shot up or destroyed? Call Chloe. She can do it all and treat you with complete and utter disdain at the same time. That’s so hot.

StanleyStanley Jobson (movie, Swordfish) – Stanley might be the best looking and most in-shape computer programmer since, well…..me. His interview with Gabriel (John Travolta) in the club is proof that Stanley has got SKILLZ. Why doesn’t this ever happen to me?

LyleLyle (movie, Italian Job) – Lyle roomed with Napster creator Shawn Fanning in college where he claims Fanning stole the idea for Napster from him. Because of this, he will only answer to “The Real Napster”. As the tech brains of the crew, Lyle hacked into LA’s Dept of Transportation in order to change the lighting of the traffic signals to lead their target armored car exactly where they wanted it to go. In the end, all the boy wanted was enough money to buy a set of speakers so loud they blow women’s clothes off. A noble goal, my friend. A noble goal indeed.

David LightmanDavid Lightman (movie, War Games) – One of the original gangsters of computer programming. You see the computer he used and what he did with it? He hacked his school, a computer gaming company and the US government, all with a computer that, today, would be akin to using an abacus to do your taxes. And he hooked up with Ally Sheedy when she was cute.

Kevin FlynnKevin Flynn (movie, Tron) – Mr. Flynn was Neo before there was a Matrix. Flynn was so good his company, ENCOM, stole his video game designs, made millions off them, and then fired him. He has been trying to hack into their system ever since. He got sucked into the world of computers and was treated as a God. That’s gotta do a number on your ego.

Well, those are what, I believe to be, the best hackers ever put to screen. Some people will harp on me not including Neo from the Matrix on this list. My argument is that his hacking skills were really only talked about in the movie. You never really see him hack into anything. He does some vaguely hackerish stuff right before he meets Trinity, but that’s it. I’m more impressed with the gentleman above. Also, all the characters from the 1995 movie Hackers are complete jack-holes, so I refuse to include them here.

That about covers it. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Holley….OUT.

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