If you’ve been following me and my good friend the Jolly Good Bookie on Google+, you would already know of some grim news I must tell you. The Bookie found out that he wasn’t a real person and was just something I created for my own benefits, so he quit. That’s right, the JGB is no longer associated with Sammwak. Looks like I’m going to have to grab the reins and introduce something new. I know I haven’t made a review in a while–heck, I haven’t made a post in a while ever since school clogged my schedule. First off, I’m sorry. Secondly, I want to try something new. Once a month, I’ll release several reviews crammed into one post, alongside some news and upcoming titles in the bookverse. Welcome to BookBuzz.
Fast food has received lots of osmosis in the pop culture of America. With thousands of restaurants around the country that serve millions (if not billions) of people and then plague televisions with their commercials, it’s very hard to avoid the growing phenomenon of unhealthy deliciousness. Some people love its taste, others hate its effect. But have you ever stopped to wonder how all of this came to be? In the novel Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, you find out just that. The matter is broken down simplistically to give you a history lesson and a behind-the-scenes look at big fast food brands and what dark secrets they’re hiding from the public. In this book, you will learn about…
- How the hamburger was invented
- How McDonald’s was born
- How McDonald’s inspired the birth of tons of restaurants in its wake
- How chickens are slaughtered
- How fries are made
- Why meat grinding is a more dangerous job than you think
- What E.coli is and how lethal it can be
- And much much more!
Chew is one of the few novels that actually gives me information and not trivia. As the tagline says, this book taught me “everything you don’t want to know about fast food”. And after reading it, I frankly did not want to know this about fast food. The writing provides an honest and fascinating undertone as the book changes subjects, and it doesn’t feel droned. They didn’t just copy and paste their research, do a little paraphrasing, and publish it. Never once was it not interesting, and it was sapid enough to the point where I’d actually want to keep reading. Few nonfiction books can pull that sensation out of me. Definitely a book you should read if you’re addicted to fast food or if you’re in an on-off relationship with it, like me.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★
“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” Thus begins the most heartwarming story of the year. Now, before I even tell you what the book is about, look at the author of it. Katherine Applegate. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Now, take away the “therine”. Now you have KA Applegate. Yes, that KA Applegate. The lady who spent the 90s writing Animorphs went on to win the Newbery Medal. Wow.
Anyway, The One and Only Ivan is about the titular Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has grown to living a life of people watching him all the time, and never once does he ever think about his old life in the jungle. His thoughts are about shows he’s seen and his friends Stella (an elderly elephant) and Bob (a stray dog). Above all, Ivan has a penchant for art and is always thinking about how he can capture the taste of fruit with crayons and an open imagination. Then as a baby elephant named Rudy is added to the Exit 8 crew, the tides begin to change, and Ivan must make sure the tides go in the right directions as he becomes a papa wolf for little Rudy.
As you can tell, Ivan is a very heartfelt novel that comes from a unique perspective. Never did you think a simian Shakespeare could swing in with such an amazing story. His streams of narration can hook a reader from page one and keep them there as the story unfolds in the next hundreds of pages to follow. Definitely a book that I did not see coming from the lady who wrote Animorphs, and definitely one that deserves the Newbery. Not only is it beautiful, but it also has its moments of humor. Ivan chucking “me-balls” of poop at people he hates will never not be amusing.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★
James Patterson has a knack for just the right type of comedy — with the just right amount of heartwarming goodness. Whether it comes in a huge twist or a very subtle reveal, James does it right. And it’s epitomized in the first two volumes of the misadventures of Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian (pronounced “catch a door, Ian”). I mean, they were masterpieces! I’d love to go into detail, but I’ve already done that in some other reviews. Now, a big change is coming to Patterson’s third middle school story–Georgia’s taking the wheel. Yep, lil’ G has her own story to share in Middle School: My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar. And what a story it is.
G is starting middle school at Hills Village, the same place where Rafe left one heck of a mark. She plans to excel in all the fields her brother failed to clear the name of the Khatchadorians for good! G got so cocky, she even bet Rafe that she’d become popular. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as everyone’s now adapted to make school a living hell for anyone with the last name of Khatchadorian. Plus, there’s the Princess Patrol, a trio of snooty mean girls who rule the school and look devilishly good doing it. They’ve got their crosshairs on G and are willing to bully her every time the chance comes.
In the wake of her troubles, G is also crushing on an adorkable boy named Sam (no, not me) and befriending a loud-talking girl named Rhonda. Out of school — get this — G plays electric guitar for a band called The Awesomes. (Rafe doesn’t think they live up to their name. Why? Because he’s Rafe.) But Rafe’s not quite done yet. He wants to make his burden of the bet a lot lighter and plans to humiliate G in the worst ways. But could G actually be able to fight her odds and emerge on top?
When I finished My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, I was disappointed if anything. Why?
- I finished the book the same day I started it. (I took a few days separately to read through Rafe’s books.)
- I don’t think the book’s name is very appropriate. The Worst Years of My Life makes sense because Rafe explains why middle school was the worst years of his life. Get Me Out of Here makes sense because Rafe wants to get out of here and explains why. G does nothing to explain why her brother is a big, fat liar beyond one page; she’s too busy telling her story.
- It has the most predictable setup of all time to the most generic ending of all time. I mean, you know the ending before it’s even close to arriving, it’s so foreseeable.
- Rhonda is so annoying.
On the bright side, the book still have traditional Patterson gags and charm, and the climax is absolutely jaw-dropping. In Patterson’s trademark fashion, I did not see that one coming. Even though the story’s flaws are mortal in the end, it’s still a decent read to hold us by for Rafe’s next adventure.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★
The Scholastic Graphix graphic novel lineup is full of great authors. Jeff Smith (Bone), Raina Telgemeier (Smile/Drama), Doug TenNapel (Bad Island/Cardboard), among others. But a name like Kazu Kibuishi caught my eye as early as the fifth grade. I was a huge Bone fanboy at this time so I pushed the book aside. But after reading and reviewing all nine books in the series, I decided to give the first installment, The Stonekeeper, a try. Kibuishi is now on my “graphic novel authors to watch” list, because that book was grandiose.
Our story ironically begins with a bang as the main characters–Emily and her little brother Navin–are involved in a tragic car accident that kills their father. Two years later, Emily’s mom is struggling to raise her kids by herself, so she moves them into a spacious old house inherited from Emily’s great-grandpa Silas. As Emily explores her new home, she finds a stone amulet that warns her that her family’s in danger. Before she even knows what the amulet’s capable of, Emily and Navin are thrown into a mission to rescue their mother in a subterranean world full of friends and foes.
This book’s storytelling is absolutely pristine even in the limits of 192 pages; and the story’s emotions whiplash from exciting action to tearjerking drama within pages. Emily and Navin are ordinary children that you can feel for as they embark on a journey of such proportions. Also, the illustrations are crisp and beautiful and impeccably follow along the storyline. That being said, the story arc is very simplistic with not enough rising and falling actions to fill in the holes before and after the climax. It’s a book that I blazed through while at the same time understanding what was going on, and that sort of let me down. But The Stonekeeper‘s “and the adventure continues” ending paves the way to a lot of sequels I need to plow through.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★
Remember back in May 2012 when I made a review for the last Bone book, saying that JGB Bone was coming to an end? Well, I forgot about one spinoff book (and the handbook and the prequel and the Quest for the Spark series): Bone Tall Tales featuring Tom Sniegoski. In this book, campfire myths from our old smoking pal Smiley are used to answer questions like how Boneville was made, and how the Bones got lost in the valleys.
The book was only 128 pages, so it didn’t take me that long to finish. I was very disappointed. The book is nothing but mildly entertaining stories that give me some exposition and context about the Bones, but I wanted more. More story, more action, more laughs, more pages, more Bone that I expected out of this! And to think I was so excited to read this book. Hopefully Quest for the Spark will be a saving grace, because Jeff Smith is dangling off the edge off of my “graphic novel authors to watch” list.
FINAL SCORE: ★★
The nostalgic gremlin inside me is at it again, so I’ve decide to sate him with this week’s post: a glimpse at what my childhood was like. I never quite open up to my readers quite like this, and over 100,000 of you have bothered to show up at my site to read my posts, and sixteen of you have made it a weekly basis! So consider this a big thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me. Now, don’t expect this to be a tell-all about myself–I still shall keep personal information at bay.
But in 2008, my horizon changed completely thanks to three shows: Total Drama Island, Chowder, and Flapjack. Yes, if it wasn’t for these shows, I probably never would’ve become the Cartoon Network fan I am today. And you can assure yourself that I just ate the next two Total Drama seasons up, because I did. Then there’s Disney Channel. I fondly remember watching Kim Possible, The Emperor’s New School, The Replacements, Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Jonas, the list goes on.
Another favored horror series of mine back in the day is the Chillers saga by Johnathan Rand. Now, Rand is working on two Chillers series: Michigan Chillers and American Chillers. As the titles imply, events within a Michigan Chillers book take place in the good ole Great Lakes State. But American Chillers books can happen anywhere in the fifty states. These books, to be honest, were awfully similar to Goosebumps, but they have covered more subjects that are common in horror literature: werewolves, aliens, zombies, ghosts, vampires, the list goes on. But then the new Chillers came and vacuums are coming to life and crickets are gaining a craving for human meat. But who am I to complain and criticize, old Chillers was the shiz back in the day. Heck, it gave me the inspiration to become a horror author–I’m not saying I am a horror author, I’m still working on it.
Never would I find a series quite like Captain Underpants, where a vile school principal could turn into a superhero who wore nothing but underwear and a cape. But the book I remember the fondest would probably be the third one–that’s where the game changed completely! But as a blogger, I shan’t spoil it for you. This series may have also given me the inspiration to become a comic writer, which is how many people remembered me by. I have to devote a lot of my childhood to Pilkey on this one.
- Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel – A 2-time Newbery Honor-winning children’s book series starring a frog and a toad whose friendship take them on many adventures. Easy-to-read vocabulary, imaginative illustrations, and a great moral made this series an instant classic for me.
- Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark – A classic children’s book series starring a group of anthropomorphic animals, but the spotlight is on a young turtle boy named Franklin. See as he learns the virtues of friendship and love as he goes through countless scenarios: a bad day, a thunderstorm, the first day of schol, etc.
- Ready, Freddy! by Abby Klein and John McKinley – First grade is nothing short of a jungle for Freddy Thresher, first grader and amateur shark enthusiast. Read along as he deals with Max the bully, the talent show, show-and-tell competition, homework problems, bedroom horrors, and more. The series has almost 30 installments, so if you like the first book (Tooth Trouble) you can mow down the rest.
- Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus – 90s kids may remember this one, but I remember it from my elementary school days. It stars a kindergartner named Junie B Jones as she embarks on school misadventures from facing the “stupid smelly bus” to facing the monster living under her bed. Eventually she 1-ups to first grade, where she remains to this day.
- Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca – Jack and Annie are siblings that live in the fictional Frog Creek, PA. They have a tree house that can magically whisk them into any time or place, from the prehistoric era to San-Fran in the middle of that gnarly quake. They are also assisted on their missions by Morgan le Fay. Like Junie B Jones, the series 1-ups and goes from “Morgan Missions” to “Merlin Missions”, where they remain to this day.
Another great game I had was SSX Tricky, the first and greatest sports game I’ve ever played. My version of the game concept was simple: once you have some big air, Über Trick out to score as many points as you can before landing. When you’re not tricking out, you might be racing against competitive AI or helping upgrade your characters, unlocking boards, costumes, etc. I know the game like the back of my hand, and so do my siblings, who are equally good at it. (I think this game was the one thing we could bond over besides TV shows.) The game also had the best soundtrack:
I might as well recall another game that, while not as legendary as these other two games, was definitely a decent time-killer: Tony Hawk’s Project 8. I can just recall the game’s lenient physics that could allow you to perform a perfect half-pipe transfer or do a clean ollie over a fence. When I wasn’t skating, I sure as heck was bailing or unsuccessfully trying to perform rad tricks. The soundtrack for the game wasn’t half bad, but there’s only two songs I remember fondly: “Gone Daddy Gone” (Gnarls Barkley) and “Smack” (Ugly Duckling).
Oh, and one last thing. I also remember playing lots of music games back in the day: I had the Guitar Hero/Guitar Hero II dual pack, so I had two times the rock-star goodness in one 2-disc case. We also had the first two Rock Band games–no, not in a dual pack. Luckily, our Guitar Hero guitars worked with the game, and the only thing that was new were the drums and mic. Oh yeah, then there was that time where I may have broken the drum pad, but luckily lots of people face the same problem.
Oh, TMI? Sorry about that, I just had a lot to say. Oh yeah, and Lilly from Hannah Montana was in it OKAY I’M DONE! Then Spy Kids 3 came out, and that was an awesome movie too with the video game universe, but then Spy Kids 4 came out. Yeah, we don’t talk about that movie, it’s hard to even call it a Spy Kids movie. That’s why I look at the series as a trilogy with an extremely bad movie. Oh, and there was also Sharkboy and Lavagirl with the gosh-awful VFX, but the chance of it winning kids over is 9:1.
I think that’s all I have to say about my childhood! Hungry for more nostalgia? Check out The 90s Are All That on TeenNick every night from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am ET! (I was not paid to say that.) Besides that, tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Video of the Week: “(Parody) Everything Wrong With Equestria Girls in 7 Minutes or Less” by LittleshyFiM. It’s a hilarious parody of CinemaSins, so I recommend you check them out too. Am I the only one who didn’t know this movie existed until now?!
Hey guys it’s Sam. You probably agree with me when I say that Disney is practically the gas giant of children’s merchandising. The children’s media Hitler, if you will. You know, without the Nazis. Ever since Walt Disney established his business back in the 1920s or so, he became one of the most influential people of the 20th century. If it wasn’t for him, cinema and media these days would be dramatically altered. Also, Disney World wouldn’t exist. Those guys have designed swimwear, plushes, nursery and bedding collections, flatware, everything but the kitchen sink. And they’re all decorated with the faces of Mickey Mouse, Perry the Platypus, Winnie the Pooh, and so on. When Walt Disney got into movie making, he was rolling out pieces of Disney history–Snow White, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Fantasia, the list goes on. But for a while everything just stopped. Those good movies strangely disappeared, and Walt’s passing in 1966 was a major blow. Then, in 1989, everything changed.
“The Little Mermaid ushered in a new golden era for Disney animation with warm and charming hand-drawn characters and catchy musical sequences.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Little Mermaid focuses on the most juvenile daughter of King Triton, a sixteen-year old mermaid named Ariel. She is unhappy with undersea life and destines to live among the human race above the surface, but frequently quarrels with her father over the “barbaric fish eaters”. She strikes a deal with Ursula the Sea Witch to make her dream come true, but little does she know Ursula has plans to make it a nightmare.
ORIGINS: Disney began working on Little Mermaid as early as the post-Snow White 1930s, but was put on hold due to numerous reasons. Ron Clements, co-director of The Great Mouse Detective, found a collection of Andersen fairy tales at a bookstore and came up with a two-page draft of a Little Mermaid-based movie. The idea was put on hold, as it would have been too similar to another mermaid movie called Splash (starring Tom Hanks). However, the movie got the green light alongside Oliver & Company, and its 2-page idea turned into a 20-page draft. After being postponed once more while Oliver & Company got its time in the limelight alongside Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the music structure was tweaked a bit and the movie finally released in fall 1989.
REACTION: Little Mermaid received critical acclaim upon release, scoring a 90% on the Rotten Tomatoes T-Meter. It was lauded for its creativity, character, and music. “Under the Sea”, one of the movie’s songs, won the 1989 Oscar for Best Original Song and is remembered as an iconic Disney song. The entire album won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and is respected as one of the best Disney soundtracks ever made. Little Mermaid is deemed responsible for bringing “Broadway into cartoons” and breathing life into Disney after a throng of 1970s commercial disappointments, and started what is now known as the Disney Renaissance.
The movie was picked as a Walt Disney Classic among a line of films that were released on VHS and Laserdisc, which sparked a controversy concerning a structure in the castle of the Walt Disney logo that looked strangely like a penis. It was also on The Masterpiece Collection of more VHS, and was released in a “bare bones limited edition” in 1999. Ariel was also honored with the title of the fourth Disney Princess.
BOX OFFICE: The movie did greatly well at the box office and grossed over $200 million on a $40 million budget.
“Though its story is second-rate, The Rescuers Down Under redeems itself with some remarkable production values — particularly its flight scenes.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: A sequel to The Rescuers (1977), this movie stars Cody of the Australian outback, who receives a distress call from a trapped giant golden eagle named Marahute. He gains a close friendship with the bird after he frees her, but a villainous poacher named Percival McLeach abducts Cody. It turns out Marahute’s species is endangered–and very profitable. A mouse Cody rescued from one of Percy’s traps sends an SOS to the NYC Rescue Aid Society, who recruits a white mouse named Ms. Bianca and a grey mouse named Bernard to get on the case. When accompanied by a quirky albatross and a kangaroo rat, Cody and his animal allies race against time to save Marahute and apprehend Percy.
ORIGINS: RDU is famous for being the first traditionally animated Disney movie to use CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), a computerized system used for digital ink-and-paint and compositing, which deemed hand-painted cel animation officially out of date. This was one of Disney’s first team-ups with Pixar, who would eventually make cinema history with Disney. This is also the second Disney movie that isn’t a musical, the first being The Black Cauldron, and required over 400 artists and technicians. 5 of them even went to the real Australian outback to get a good illustration!
REACTION: The film received mostly positive reviews, slipping by with a 68% on the T-Meter. Its flight scenes and action sequences were praised, but critics noted questionable plotting, the fact that the movie could’ve been anywhere (without the accents, kangaroos, and koalas), and its notable absence of any real rescuing until well into the movie.
BOX OFFICE: Rescuers Down Under had a mediocre run at the box office, grossing only $47 million–which was $10 million higher than its budget.
“Enchanting, sweepingly romantic, and featuring plenty of wonderful musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s most elegant animated offerings.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: Before I even begin to explain the story, I have to say this is where Disney really regained lots of its fire that Rescuers Down Under failed to bring. Anyway, the movie starts focused on a selfish French prince who rejects an offer to give a beggar woman shelter for the night in exchange for a rose. The beggar turns out to be an enchantress, and he turns the prince into an ugly beast, and she says he must love and be loved before the rose’s petals fall unless he wants to be like this forever. Years later, we meet an inventor named Maurice. When Maurice gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon the Beast’s castle, he is imprisoned for trespassing. Maurice’s daughter Belle is like a more human Ariel–she is unhappy with her life and dreams out life outside her village. She offers to spare his father’s place, and although the two don’t like each other in the beginning, they taste the bitter sweetness of their relationship.
ORIGINS: The movie was based off of La Belle et la Bête, a fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, an 18th century French novelist. After Snow White became a success, Walt Disney considered Beauty and the Beast to adapt next. Attempts to create the movie were done in the 30s and 50s, but Disney became supposedly discouraged when French director Jean Cocteau beat him to it in 1946. Decades later, the idea was resurrected after Roger Rabbit‘s success, the script was ordered to be rewritten and hired first-time feature directors as well as songwriters. These songwriters were Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who had previously composed the Little Mermaid score. When it was discovered that Ashman was dying from AIDS-related complications, production was moved from London to New York, where he lived. Like Rescuers Down Under, Beauty & the Beast used CAPS for animation which smoothed out the movie’s CGI.
REACTION: The film was released to nothing less than universal acclaim, getting a 92% on the T-Meter. Its memorable characters, music, and other factors turned into a Disney breakthrough that was lauded by critics. But it didn’t stop there–the movie inspired five games: one for the NES, one for the Super Nintendo, two for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, and one for the Game Boy Color. But it didn’t stop there–it won two Oscars in 1991, coincidentally the exact same Little Mermaid won: Best Original Score, and Best Original Song for the title track. It was nominated for four more, including Best Picture–becoming the first ever animated movie to do so. But it didn’t stop there–the movie also won three Golden Globes, two of them in the same category as the won Oscars. The new award was for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), making it the first animated movie to do so. Oh, and the soundtrack won four Grammys too. And it was nominated for Album of the Year. Let me repeat that–it was nominated for Album of the Year! Oh, and Belle became the fifth Disney Princess.
Three years after its release, Beauty and the Beast received a Broadway musical and became–you guessed it–the first ever animated Disney movie to do so. The movie inspired two direct-to-DVD “midquels”: The Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World, as well as a TV show (1995-1999). An IMAX special edition hit theaters in 2002, and became the second of Disney’s 3D re-releases in January 2012.
BOX OFFICE: The movie did great at the box office, grossing a record-breaking $425 million on a $25 million budget.
“A highly entertaining entry in Disney’s “second golden age,” Aladdin is beautifully drawn, with near-classic songs and a cast of scene-stealing characters.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: Based on a classic Middle Eastern folktale from Arabian Nights, this film stars a street urchin named Aladdin who lives in a bustling urban town with his loyal monkey Abu. When Princess Jasmine tires of living in her palace, she sneaks out to the marketplace and accidentally meets Aladdin. (Man, what is it with these girls unhappy with their lives?!) Under the commands of Jafar, the sultan’s advisor, Aladdin is arrested and gets involved in Jafar’s schemes to rule the land using a mystifying lamp. Apparently as with all old lamps, Aladdin rubs it and a genie comes out. The genie grants him three wishes that can be granted unless they deal with murder, romance, revival of the dead, or wish multiplication. His first wish is used on turning into prince to get Jasmine’s affection, but unfortunately Jafar steals the lamp and gets three wishes of his own. Aladdin must outwit Jafar to save the kingdom and the people he loves.
ORIGINS: An idea for an Aladdin movie sprouted as early as 1988, but real action didn’t get into full swing until 1991. It was chosen among three offered projects to become a movie by directors John Musker and Ron Clements, but Robin Williams (the voice of the Genie) had a notorious conflict with Disney, refusing to allow them to feature his name or image in any marketing and that the Genie must take up only 25% of advertising artwork. The Aladdin tie-in behind-the-scenes story published by Disney Hyperion (publishers of Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan) was forced to refer to Williams as “the actor signed to play the Genie”. Well, that was awkward. Anyway, composer Alan Menken and songwriters Tim Rice and Howard Ashman (remember him?) were on soundtrack duty, but Rice took over after Ashman died.
REACTION: The film received universal acclaim, getting 92% on the T-Meter, with William’s performance as the Genie receiving considerable praise. The movie was also lauded for having the magical adventure that would be great for both children and parents, and that it had grand characters and “technical virtuosity” according to Variety‘s Brian Lowry. However, some parts of the movie were heavily panned–for example, Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine gave Aladdin a mercilessly negative review, calling it a racist and ridiculous “narcissistic circus act”. Roger Ebert took a less harsh approach, praising the movie in general although he did call Aladdin and Jasmine “pale and routine”. As my classmates would say, ROASTED! Oh, but it doesn’t stop there–much like Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid, it won two Oscars for its soundtrack and one of its songs (“A Whole New World”). It also won two Golden Globes, with Robin Williams receiving a Special Achievement Award. Aladdin also got an Annie Award, a MTV Movie Award (again, for Williams), three Saturn Awards, and the honor of Best Animated Feature from the LA Film Critics Assocation. Not only that, but it also won four Grammys too! Add that up and Aladdin won fifteen awards!
Also, the movie spawned two direct-to-DVD sequels: Aladdin and the King of Thieves and The Return of Jafar. It also spawned a show that only ran for a year before being cancelled. A musical based on the movie is hitting Broadway next year, and Jasmine became the sixth Disney Princess.
BOX OFFICE: The movie did so well at the BO it broke Beauty & the Beast‘s record by over $100 million. It grossed half a billion bucks on a $28 million budget!
“Emotionally stirring, richly drawn, and beautifully animated, The Lion King stands tall within Disney’s pantheon of classic family films.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: I pity you if you don’t know it already, but here’s the story. When a lion cub named Simba is born in Africa, heir to the throne of Mufasa the lion king, the Pride Land animals pay tribute and Simba is told by his dad that he will become the king of the Pride Lands when Mufasa dies. Simba’s Uncle Scar would’ve been the new lion king instead of Simba if Mufasa hadn’t had a child, which fuels him with murderous rage against Mufasa. After Scar kills Mufasa in one of the most heartbreaking deaths in Disney history, Scar convinces Simba into thinking it was his fault and that the Pride Land animals will blame him. When Simba flees from home (never to return), he is found by Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog, who become Simba’s companions. When he stumbles upon his old friend Nala, he discovers that Scar has taken the throne and ruined everything, and his people in the Pride Lands will starve if he does not return.
ORIGINS: Much like Aladdin, the idea for the movie began in 1988 when Africa came up in a conversation between chairman Jeff Katzenberg, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy, and president Peter Schneider. The film started as a treatment called King of the Kalahari, which became a draft called King of the Beasts and then King of the Jungle. This was actually among the three projects that Aladdin was chosen from. The movie was very different from its final version: Rafiki was a cheetah, Timon and Pumbaa being Simba’s lifelong friends, and vice versa. After a visit to Kenya, the movie was scrapped due to arguments over whether or not the movie would be a musical or a more nature documentary-like movie. This was also Disney’s first movie of completely original material, as they had been feeding off of fairy tales and old stories for five years. The film’s story was apparently inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet as well as Joseph and Moses from the Bible.
REACTION: Do I even have to explain this one? The film got 90% on the T-Meter, and its Shakespearean tones, epic scopes, catchy music, and rollicking thrills were several factors heavily lauded from critics. It did have its fair share of bad reviews stating that it had a lack of heart and didn’t rise up to the level of past Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast. Lion King went on to win two Golden Globes and two Oscars. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” won Best Original Song against “Hakuna Matata” and “Circle of Life”, and it also won a Grammy and a BMI Film Music Award. The movie also won three Annies and a 1995 KCA, resulting in it winning ten awards! It also received a 3D re-release in fall 2011, beginning Disney’s series of 3D re-releases. Two sequels were released–The Lion King 2 and The Lion King 1 1/2. Timon and Pumbaa also got their own show between 1995 and 1999 on CBS. It also inspired a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that hit the stage in summer 1997 and became the highest-grossing Broadway musical ever.
BOX OFFICE: Lion King grossed more than Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast combined, making $954 million on a $45 million budget, becoming (by a landslide) the biggest box office success of the Renaissance.
“Pocahontas means well, and has moments of startling beauty, but it’s largely a bland, uninspired effort, with uneven plotting and an unfortunate lack of fun.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: For the first time, Disney bases a movie off of a real historical figure–Pocahontas, a Native American environmentalist who uses music and not words to fuel her nature activism campaign. In other words, she believes the pen is mightier than the sword. Meanwhile, Captain John Smith is the leader of a band of English sailors and soldiers who are voyaging to the New World to plunder riches. In this New World, Pocahontas’ dad Chief Powhatan wants his daughter to be married to the greatest village warrior. However, Pocahontas has different ideas when she has a great epiphany that change is coming. The change does indeed arrive in the form of an English ship, and Pocahontas and Smith begin to grow a relationship. They must save their love and prevent war between Governor Ratcliffe who thinks their gold is being hidden by savages, and Powhatan who believes the English will destroy their land.
ORIGINS: The film crew went to Jamestown to study the landscapes and trees. Howard Ashman, poor Howard Ashman, was hired as songwriter as soon as he finished Aladdin, but when he didn’t make it to the end of production, Pocahontas became the first Disney movie without any Ashman music whatsoever. Originally the animals were anthropomorphic and Pocahontas was supposed to have a third sidekick, a turkey named Redfeather voiced by John Candy. However, when Candy died in 1994, Redfeather was scrapped and so was the concept of animal anthropomorphism. Richard White, the voice of BATB‘s Gaston, was originally chosen to play Ratcliffe, but he was replaced with David Ogden Stiers since he might have sounded too Gaston-y. (Stiers also plays Major Winchester III from MASH.) Other rejected offers were Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, and Pat Stewart. Y’know, Picard from Star Trek: Next Generation?
REACTION: The critical feedback for Pocahontas was awfully mediocre; it ranked at only 56% on the T-Meter and was negatively received for being historically inaccurate and having an uneven and unfortunate lack of trademark Disney energy. Also, Pocahontas herself got some pointed fingers for having nothing more important in life than her male relationships. That’s cold, but also true. However, the movie’s awards say otherwise: the film won two Oscars for its score alongside “Colors of the Wind”, and it also won three Annie Awards. It also won an Artios Award, two ASCAP Awards, a BMI Film Music Award, an Environmental Media Award, a Golden Globe, a Golden Reel Award, and a Grammy. Altogether Pocahontas won thirteen awards! But it doesn’t stop there–it spawned a direct-to-DVD sequel called Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World, and was re-released on the Walt Disney VHS Masterpiece Collection as well as the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection. It also received a video game for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Game Boy, and PlayStation. A Super Nintendo version was originally in the making, but was cancelled due to development being too far to coincide with the Genesis version. Pocahontas was given the honor of the seventh Disney Princess.
BOX OFFICE: The film did well at the box office, grossing $346 million on an estimated $55 million budget.
“Disney’s take on the Victor Hugo classic is dramatically uneven, but its strong visuals, dark themes, and message of tolerance make for a more-sophisticated-than-average children’s film.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: Based off of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Hunchback of Notre Dame takes place in the 15th century when Clopin the puppeteer tells the story of Quasimodo, Notre Dame’s deformed bellringer who suffers from kyphosis–sorry, “hunchback disease”. As a baby Quasi was nearly murdered by Claude Frollo, minister of justice, who was forced by the Notre Dame Archdeacon to raise Quasi as a child. Young Quasi was hidden from the world by Frollo in the cathedral belltower, but decides to take part in the Festival of Fools when encouraged by his gargoyle friends. (It’s funny, cuz two of them are named Victor and Hugo.) There he meets a female gypsy named Esmeralda, as well as a handsome soldier named Phoebus. The trio find themselves up against Frollo’s evil cruelty and his attempts to destroy the Court of Miracles, home of the gypsies. Quasi must discover his inner hero to save Esmeralda and Notre Dame.
ORIGINS: The idea for Hunchback first sparked after development executive David Stain was inspired after reading a Classics Illustrated version of Hugo’s novel. Stain took the idea to Disney, and was enlightened to find that two people immediately jumped onto the project–Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, the directors of Beauty and the Beast. The two were eager to work on it but had to make some dramatic changes to make it a more family-friendly G-rated movie, such as keeping Quasi and Esmeralda alive at the end. For a few weeks the movie’s animators actually visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, making and taking a copious amount of sketches and pictures to capture every last bit of architecture and detail.
Despite the movie getting by with a G rating, it showed messages centric to lust, sin, infanticide (baby killing), swearing, religious hypocrisy, prejudice, social injustice, even the concept of hell. The movie’s music contained rather mature lyrics as well, mentioning hell several times and introducing sexual indulgence using fancy words like “strumpet” and “licentious”. (Google it.) I’m surprised the movie’s soundtrack didn’t get a parental advisory sticker.
REACTION: The movie received generally positive reviews, albeit not as acclaiming as Lion King or as critical as Pocahontas. It received a 73% on the T-Meter, and was praised for being a rollicking, uplifting story that rivaled Beauty and the Beast. People praised it as a “cartoon masterpiece”, “one of the great movie musicals”, and “a pervading atmosphere of racial tension, religious bigotry and mob hysteria”. Some people were unhappy with the major changes Disney made to Hugo’s story, and many people consider it Disney’s darkest movie since The Black Cauldron–and to think that qualified for a PG rating! Hunchback did win some awards–a BMI Film Music Award, a Satellite Award, an Annie Award, and an Artios Award, resulting with just four awards. It is the first Disney movie of the Renaissance to lose a nomination to an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and it was also nominated for the dreaded Razzie. But, this blow to the movie’s self esteem wasn’t that lasting; it managed to qualify for the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection, it inspired a direct-to-DVD sequel called Hunchback of Notre Dame II, and a 1996 tie-in game hit the Game Boy and PC. In more recent years, a world based on the movie called “the City of Bells” was included in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Everyone but Clopin and the Archdeacon was featured in the game.
BOX OFFICE: The movie was a moderate box office success, grossing $325.3 million on a $100 million budget, which was actually one of the two biggest box office “disappointments” of the Renaissance.
“Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it’s still plenty of fun.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: Hercules, son of the Greek sky god Zeus, is turned into a half-god half-mortal by the Greek underworld god Hades, who plans to overthrow Zeus. Hercules is raised on Earth and regains his godly strength, but when he finds out about his immortal heritage his dad tells him that he must be a real hero to return to Mount Olympus. With the help of his friend Pegasus and his personal trainer Phil (who’s also a satyr), Hercules becomes a great hero that battles monsters, Hades, and the Titans. However, he discovers that the self sacrifice he makes to rescue his love Meg that makes him a real hero.
ORIGINS: Hercules was in development from 1994-1997, with character design based on Greek statues and Gerald Scarfe’s work as an artist on Pink Floyd: The Wall, the 1982 movie based on the album of the same name. Each important character from the movie had its own supervising animator, and Hercules’ animator Andreas Deja said that the crew he worked with to animate his character was “the largest [he] ever worked with”. He had done work with past Disney villains such as Gaston, Jafar, and Scar. With those he had teams of four on his crew, but with Hercules he had 12 or 13. Deja was actually offered to animate Hades to keep his villain-animating streak going, but decided on the hero since “[he] knew if would be more difficult and more challenging, but [he] just needed that experience to have that in [his] repertoire.”
REACTION: The film received moderate critical praise, hitting an 83% on the T-Meter and even earning the respect of Roger Ebert. He praised the film’s story and animation, as well as James Woods’ performance for Hades, comparing his work to Robin Williams’ performance as Aladdin‘s genie. One of the film’s songs, “Go the Distance”, was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but both awards went to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (Titanic). It also was nominated for a Saturn Award, two Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, and a Young Artist Award, and lost every single one of them. But it did win four Annie Awards, so I guess it’s not a complete failure for Hercules. The movie received a video game for the PC and PlayStation, and even made it to the PSN later on. A direct-to-DVD prequel called Hercules: Zero to Hero was made in 1998, which in turn took place during the events of the animated Hercules TV show, which chronicled Zeus’ son at the Prometheus Academy.
BOX OFFICE: Despite the film being a box office success, it was the biggest box office “disappointment” of the Renaissance, grossing a meager $252.7 million on an $85 million budget.
“Exploring themes of family duty and honor, Mulan breaks new ground as a Disney film, while still bringing vibrant animation and sprightly characters to the screen.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: This folktale retelling circles around Mulan, a young Chinese maiden who learns that her feeble and crippled dad is called up to join the army to fight the Huns during their invasion. Knowing that he’d never make it out of the war alive in his conditions, Mulan masquerades herself and join the army in his place. However, her ancestors know of this and to stop it they send a tiny dragon named Mushu to force her to abandon her plan; he ends up becoming Mulan’s companion when he sees she cannot be discouraged. Weeks later, Mulan and her fellow troopers have survived the training camp and are on the way to war, but when she is caught and chased by her enemies, she creates a plan that forces her to risk it all for her country.
ORIGINS: Mulan began as a short direct-to-DVD movie called China Doll, directed around a miserable Chinese girl who is taken away by Prince Charming to a happy life out west. However, Robert San Souci (Disney consultant) suggested a film adapatation of the poem The Song of Fa Mulan and the two projects were smashed into one. Mulan began production in 1994 after the team sent a group of artistic supervisors to China for three weeks of photo-taking and drawing to soak up Chinese culture. The movie’s animation was more traditional to China, using watercolor and a more simplistic design as opposed to Lion King or Hunchback. The film also used a boatload of software. To create thousands of Huns during the attack sequence, the team created a crowd sim software called Attila that allowed thousands of characters to move independently. A different version of Attila called Dynasty was used in the final battle to create thousands of people in the Forbidden City, as well as Pixar’s RISpec API. Another software, Faux Plane, was used to add depth to flat 2D painting. Although the said software was introduced late into development, the software was used to add zest to five shots in the movie. During the part where the Chinese bow to Mulan, that was actually a panoramic of real bowing people edited into the scene’s foreground.
REACTION: The movie’s feedback was mostly positive, getting an 86% on the T-Meter. Praise was given to its visuals and animation as well as its story, although Slant Mag‘s Ed Gonzalez criticized it for being “soulless” in its portrayal of the Asian society. The movie’s songs also were panned for being unmemorable and bringing down the pace of the movie. Feminist critics also commented on the movie’s female heroism and repressive Chinese gender roles, claiming that the movie was a bravado for the girl power movement. The movie unfortunately lost its Oscar nomination, but it did win an ASCAP Award, a staggering ten Annie Awards, a BMI Film Award, a Bogey Award, and a Golden Screen Award, resulting in 14 won awards! The movie also inspired a direct-to-DVD sequel called Mulan II as well as a PlayStation game called Disney’s Story Studio: Mulan that came out around Christmas 1999. Apparently a live-action Mulan movie underwent filming in China back in fall 2010, but other news about it are under wraps. The movie qualified for the Masterpiece Collection and the Gold Classic Collection, and Mulan herself (as well as Mushu) has appeared in the Kingdom Hearts series. In the first two games of the series, Mushu is a summonable character. By the time Kingdom Hearts II premiered, the movie turned into a playable world called “the Land of Dragons” where Mulan was able to join the player’s party as a sword-figher. Speaking of Mulan, she herself became the eighth Disney Princess.
BOX OFFICE: The movie was a box office success, grossing $304.3 million on a $90 million budget.
“Disney’s Tarzan takes the well-known story to a new level with spirited animation, a brisk pace, and some thrilling action set-pieces.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
PLOT: Based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan of the Apes, Tarzan is a small orphan who was raised by an ape by the name of Kala since his youth, believing that this was his family. However, when he rescues a lass by the name of Jane Porter, he then finds out that he is a human and must decide which family to live the rest of his life with…
ORIGINS: To create Tarzan‘s 3D backgrounds, the film’s production team made a 3D painting/rendering technique called Deep Canvas that allowed artists to make CGI paintings that resembled traditional paintings, and the technology was so advanced that the AMPAS gave the creators of it a 2003 Technical Achievement Award. The technique was reused for Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Disney’s first sci-fi movie) for its big panoramic island shots and a couple of action sequences. Deep Canvas was intended to create approximately three quarters of the environments in Treasure Planet, Disney’s next animated action movie, although the results weren’t as stunning and loose. The movie also got a couple of action figures and plushes and whatever.
REACTION: The film received positive reviews, holding an 88% on the T-Meter, with Entertainment Weekly comparing the movie’s VFX advancement to that of The Matrix and the film goes past previous live-action attempts on sometimes emotional levels. The movie inspired not one but two sequels–Tarzan and Jane and Tarzan II, released in 2002 and 2005 on DVD respectively. The standard VHS/DVD release came in winter 2000, and a 2-disc collector’s edition of the film was released in spring 2000. Both of these editions were soon put in the Disney Vault–er, not made available in stores for a while. One of its songs, “You’ll Be In My Heart”, won an Oscar and a Golden Globe, while the entire score won a Grammy. It also won 1 out of its 11 Annie Award nominations.
It inspired a Broadway musical that debuted in May 2006 but was closed down in July 2007 after poor sales. A spinoff TV show called Legend of Tarzan ran from 2001-2003 on UPN, and a video game for the movie called Disney’s Tarzan (1999) was made for the PlayStation, SNES, N64, and Game Boy Color. Disney’s Tarzan Untamed came out in 2001 for the PS2 and GameCube. Tarzan’s home became a playable world in Kingdom Hearts called “the Deep Jungle”. Tarzan and other characters appear as their younger forms in Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure which hit the PS2, GameCube, Xbox, and GBA in 2003.
BOX OFFICE: With a gross of $448.1 million on a $130 million, Tarzan became the final box office success of the Disney Renaissance when Fantasia 2000 only made $90 million.
People say said movie and Dinosaur (Disney’s first computer animated movie) are the final two films in the Disney Renaissance, but when you combine their grosses they only have $439 million. Altogether the movies of the Renaissance made $3.9 billion. Yeah, top that.
Well, that was a doozy! I apologize if you have a headache from reading all this–or an eyeache, for that matter. I bet next Friday will be much kinder, so stay tuned for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Stay classy America,
Channel of the Week: Ah, this is a better alternative than Video of the Week–I’m not saying I got rid of it, I just wanted to have some good alternative. Anyway, this week’s honor of best channel goes to Paint–doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, it’s owned by this Texas Longhorn named Jon Cozart who makes great videos that often feature him singing, most rarely playing the ukelele. One time he made this video of him tearing paper three years back and the sync levels were out of this–uh, I’m getting off track. Check out some of his best videos:
Hey guys it’s Sam from the future, and I just want to apologize once again for the whole malware alert fiasco on Google Chrome. I made edits on most of the gaming sections of the post and it is now 100% officially available for all to see. I know this may have come up a bit late, and I can’t wish you a merry Christmas now, but definitely have a happy new year! See you in a few, America!
~S~ 😎 (Sent from the future on 12/29/12)
Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to our third annual Sammwak Christmas/New Year special! But let’s start out with the Christmas half. There’s that one month of the year where the snow falls and temperature drops, but cheer rises. Yep, it’s the month of December, which means the month of Christmas. Most people believe the 24th and 25th are the two days where you hope Santa Claus will come and make your entire year worthwhile, but that’s not even the true meaning of it. It’s actually just a big birthday party for Jesus Christ, as the holiday is actually the “season finale” for Advent, as well as the beginning of the 12 days of Christmastide. (Yeah, I spelled it right, it’s not “Christmastime”.) But anyway, let’s get our party pumping with a nice spin on our trademark Christmas carol…”(Sammwak Wants You To) Deck the Halls 2012″!
Deck the halls with seas of presents,
‘Tis the season to be goody,
Santa’s coming, so please be good, or he’ll give you a big lump of coal!
One day a year is this jolly
Oh, I also planned to have some SpongeBob in there, so here ya go.
Oh, and here’s a cool song my English Plus class listened to the other day. Here’s the lyrics if you want to partake in a Minecraft Christmas Sing-Along! And since it’ll take too long to go through every word in the entire song, let’s do just the 12th day and work our way down the list of items.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Steve gave to me,
twelve iron shovels,
eleven tasty cookies,
ten dancing zombies,
nine little saplings,
eight shiny diamonds,
seven golden apples,
six Ender chests,
FIVE GOLDEN PANTS!
four tasty cakes,
two diamond picks,
and a Creeper hissing at me!
Now for some tips to throw a great Christmas party!
- Book a date. As December moves, people get busier by the second, so it’s good to have a date ready.
- Send out invitations in late November or early December. This way you can drain out how many people to expect, and remember that this is RSVP only.
- Plan your eateries in advance. Are you gonna host a relaxed buffet, or a more sit-down meal? Scrawl down your ideas on the shopping list and stick to them. Prepare as much as possible the day before the party, and make things easy and simple—-the last thing you’d want to do is be slaving your own self in the kitchen while guests are having a good time. Some good recommendations to fulfill hungers are cookies, cookies, and more cookies.
- Welcome guests upon arrival. Be sure to make your guests feel good, and greet them at the door. Take their coats and escort them to the party area. Make introductions if guests aren’t acquainted with one another and strike the conversation. Arrange drinks to hand out to your guests, and the real icebreaker comes for shy guests.
- Play music. The perfect formula to setting moods fast. Be sure to cook up a few CDs beforehand, but play it at a sustainable volume, since people will want to chat.
- Host games (optional decision). The most classic party games in the book, like charades, are perfect for Christmas parties. More sophisticated get-togethers can host adult games, but just in case, have plenty of writing utensils, papers, and balloons.
- Have fun! Don’t feel uncomfortable at the party. Your guests will be looking at you to set the mood, you being the host/hostess. If you lead the way of a fun time, all will follow.
- Give the kids something to enjoy! Especially if you have children at your party, let them have friends invited. Give the kids something to do that will keep them entertained for a sustainable duration, so keep them busy.
If you prefer some “picks for popcorn” to satisfy your yuletide needs, check out some of my most favored holiday flick picks!
Golden Tomato Award winner for Best-Reviewed Animated Film of 2011
“…a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength” – Rotten Tomatoes
“Fabulous, funny holiday movie about the Christmas spirit” – Common Sense Media
In her film directing debut, Sarah Smith gives us arguably one of the best–if not the best–Christmas film released to theaters in years. The story revolves around Santa Claus’s titular yet maladroit son Arthur Christmas as he gets caught in the middle of yet another gift-giving spree on Christmas Eve. However, not even Santa’s high-tech ship has delivered every present that needed to be delivered, as Arthur realizes that one girl’s present has been left behind. In one of the wildest, riskiest, and craziest journeys yet, Arthur and his comrades must race against the clock to deliver the lone present and save Christmas. The film ended up grossing almost $150 million–$50 million more than the film’s actual budget. But hey, don’t be nervous because it didn’t win commercially. Grab your family and friends and check out how it can really bring the “tide” back into “yuletide”…
2010 Kids Choice Award winner for Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie (Jim Carrey)
2010 Kids Choice Award nominee for Favorite Animated Movie
36th Saturn Award nominee for Best Animated Feature
Common Sense Media Editor’s Pick
“…dazzling special effects…an array of fine performances from Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman” – Rotten Tomatoes
“an exhilarating visual experience” – The Chicago Sun-Times
“a marvelous and touching yuletide toy of a movie” – Entertainment Weekly
From the director from some of history’s most groundbreaking films–Forrest Gump,the Back to the Future trilogy, and The Polar Express–comes one of the most unique animated holiday films of all time. Presented completely in motion-capture animation, Robert Zemeckis’ take on A Christmas Carolstars, as always, the cold and gluttonous Ebenezer Scrooge. In 1843, Scrooge shows true hatred for everything related to Christmas or even happiness itself, refusing to attend his nephew’s Christmas party and forcing his employee Bob Cratchit to beg to take the day off. That night, Scrooge gets an unexpected visit by the spirit of his former partner-in-business Jacob Marley whom had passed a week prior on Xmas Eve, now having to carry heavy chains forged from his greed throughout his afterlife. Marley gives off a premonition that Scrooge will be haunted by three spirits that will guide him to finally repent and prevent an even worse fate than himself. Indeed, Scrooge is haunted by the three ghosts Marley had foretold–the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. Through the spirits Scrooge witnesses visions of how he became the man he is now, the ways he will corrupt others, and–if he really doesn’t cooperate–even his own fate…
1995 Kids Choice Award nominee for Favorite Movie Actor (Tim Allen)
“…firmly rooted in the sort of good old-fashioned holiday spirit missing from too many modern yuletide films” – Rotten Tomatoes
“Heartwarming family tale for both kids and adults” – Common Sense Media
Imagine this: one night you cause Santa Claus to fall from your rooftop to his demise and you and your son must finish St. Nick’s gift deliveries, then you travel to the North Pole where you realize–much to your surprise–that you must actually become the real Santa Claus himself and, under the power of the Santa Clause, convince his loved ones that he truly is Father Christmas himself. But you’re not impersonating Santa, you’re slowly becoming him–you’re growing white hairs, you’re adding weight, etc. Well, that’s basically the entire concept of The Santa Clause. In director John Pasquin’s first collab with Allen since his days on TV with Home Improvement, this fictitious fantasia hosts Allen’s first real primetime trip to the big screen after working a minor role in 1989’s Tropical Snow and is sure to be a family hit for both the hilarity and the heart-warming it has to offer. And if you don’t think so, then ho ho ho boy, you’ve got some work to do! (Bonus: If you want to, consider the movie’s two sequels Santa Clause 2 and Santa Clause 3.)
Title-holder of history’s highest-grossing comedy film as of 2009
1990 Oscar nominee for Best Original Score (composed by John Williams) and Best Original Song (“Somewhere In My Memory”)
1991 Kids Choice Award winner for Favorite Movie
“a good-natured, albeit unrealistic, family film that both kids and adults will enjoy” – Common Sense Media
This is easily the most classic yuletide comedy in the book, the one movie that skyrocketed star Macaulay Culkin’s film career, and one that will always live in my heart. In this hilarious hijink, the McCallister family is preparing to spend their Christmas in Paris, but forget one tiny detail: Kevin, whom is one of the two sons. Now home alone, Kevin finds himself to experience true freedom by pigging out and watching mature films, but after an unexpected visit by the Chicago Police Department Kevin gets an even worse scenario where his house is under the besiege of two dangerous thieves…dangerously dull, that is. Once Kevin realizes he has to defend his home if he wants to emerge as the victor of the fight, he begins organizing an increasingly clever series of booby traps that the burglars mindlessly continue to fall victim to. That’s pretty much the entire film, but that premise alone–and how the film’s director, also responsible for Gremlins and Mrs. Doubtfire, pulled it off–grossed the movie an overall revenue of almost $500 million! No wonder it’s the highest-grossing comedy of all time!
2004 ASCAP Award winner for Top Box Office Films
2004 Golden Trailer winner for Best Comedy
2004 Blimp Award nominee for Favorite Movie
2004 MTV Movie Award nominee for Best Comedic Performance (Will Ferrell)
2004 PFCS Award nominee for Best Live Action Family Film and Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music
2004 Teen Choice Award nominee for Choice Movie Actor (Will Ferrell) and Choice Movie – Comedy
2005 Golden Satellite Award nominee for Best Youth DVD
Common Sense Media Editor’s Pick
“A movie full of Yuletide cheer…a spirited, good-natured family comedy…benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers” – Rotten Tomatoes
“Peppy holiday favorite for both kids and parents” – Common Sense Media
In Will Ferrell’s first primetime starring role for a family film, he portrays Buddy, a man raised among Santa’s elves whom discovers that in actuality he is the son of a father named Walter who likes in NYC and is on Santa’s naughty list. Ditching the North Pole to find his dad, Buddy only incorporates what he’s learned among the elves and elflike, which makes Buddy a snowflake decoration master and gives him expectations to the best from everyone. Which, in case you’re wondering, aren’t really crucial skills in the Big Apple. Buddy’s dad, who’s in the publishing industry, is slipping on thin ice because he needs to find a successful children’s book by Christmas Eve. Despite being skeptical that Buddy is his son, after a DNA test Walter finally accepts Buddy and brings him home to meet Walter’s wife and second son. However at Gimbel’s, Buddy stumbles across a pretty lass named Jovie. On his way to saving the holidays and creating happy endings for all from the North Pole to NYC, Buddy gets lots of opportunities to do idiotically fun activities as he experiences what the Big Apple has to offer, as well as getting more in touch with Jovie and her family.
That’s enough movies for one special! Now, in reference to this year’s Halloween special, let’s tune in some of your favorite TV show’s efforts in making their viewers’ Christmases a very merry and holly jolly one! But before I tell you that, I need to tell you about the campaigning some of my fave channels have been doing. Cartoon Network has definitely got in the habit, changing their trademark jingle to fit the yuletide mood and even hosting the Naughty Or Nice Christmas event:
And Disney 😄 has also gotten in a yuletide mood, introducing their new “Shiver-Vision” campaign to support them kinda like how Disney Channel’s “Monstober” campaign kicks in for Halloween.
Now, let’s get to that TV!
“Oh, Christmas Nuts!” from Kickin’ It – Yep, even the Wasabi Warriors celebrate Christmas. But Jack, Milton, and Jerry are more interested in getting presents from Santa than unlocking the true yuletide spirit, so Rudy makes the trio volunteer at “Santa’s village” for activities like gift-wrapping and the snowball toss. However, their intentions backfire when they are framed for stealing a bag of gifts from the village and become “the kids who stole Christmas”, becoming banned from the mall and the dojo. The three desperately attempt to show their innocence, targeting an elf named Tinsel, when they discover a shocking secret about the village’s wrapping paper that might just prove they’re not guilty. In the meantime, Eddie and Kim participate in the ultimate “fight before Christmas” by showing off their window displays in a contest full of envy and competition.
“The Christmas Special” by Regular Show – For this simplistically titled half-hour holiday special, you might be wondering, “What’s the park doing to celebrate Christmastime?” Well, of course throwing a huge Christmas party! Unfortunately, at the same time Santa himself is getting himself in a lot of trouble. One of his own elves, Quillgin, has betrayed him and now they are fighting to what seems to be the death over a gift box. The clash ends suddenly when Quillgin fires three bullets into Santa and causes him to fall out of his sleigh, taking the box with him. He ends up making a crash landing in Skips’ garage, where Mordo and Rigs discover him while going out to get more drinks for the party. After being skeptical Santa proves to them he is not a scam by reciting the two’s Christmas wishes about invisibility cloaks, and he informs them about his purpose and why the gift box is so important. When opened, the box grants its bearers with what they want most–and it accepts anything, even the worst of occurrences. Worse yet, the gift can only be destroyed when thrown into a pit of lava, which means nothing like a chainsaw or a hammer can even dent it. The pair, now having gotten the rest of their comrades into believing their story, travel with Santa to East Pines to drop off the box in an abandoned mineshaft. However, when Rigby commits an act of vandalism by playing with the park’s snowman, they are held as captors by none other than their worst enemy–Gene. Initially Gene does not believe them, stating that they’re trying to pull a yuletide prank because Benson was mad about the quality of his sweater, but after discovering the box’s true powers he gives in. Gene manages to give the gang a ride to the mineshaft on snowmobiles, and warns the gang about a series of booby traps before heading away. It turns out that before they can get to the pit, they must go through three trials that are not as treacherous as the last…
“Christmas” from The Amazing World of Gumball – As the series’ first episode to have a name without “the” in it, Elmore’s Christmas special is obviously a very special one. In what seems to be a reference to The Santa Clause, the Wattersons accidentally hit a filthy bum whom apparently looked strikingly like Santa. When they rush the stranger to the hospital, Richard worries that he will be on the naughty list and decides to do a few impromptu deeds that only manage to wreck the hospital. After Richard’s hospital havoc, the doctor finally gives the family the diagnosis of the situation: the stranger has no ID, no memory, clearly no chances of being Santa, but he does have one thing–he must be cared for by those who caused pain to him in the first place. The family definitely goes overboard with their planning, as Richard surrenders everything he owns to “Santa”, Nicole goes out of her way to ensure that everything “Santa”‘s filthy fingers touch will be put in their place, and the family even takes “Santa” to the mall and replaces him with the mall Santa…
“It’s A SpongeBob Christmas!” from SpongeBob – Remember back in 2000, during SpongeBob‘s second season, when “Christmas Who?” came out and literally redefined Nick’s ways to make a Christmas special? Well twelve years have passed since that, and seemingly to celebrate the success of the original SpongeBob Christmas special, Nick came back with something even bigger. And by big, we mean they took Bikini Bottom, turned it into stop motion inspired by the timeless Rankin/Bass specials, and added several songs to the mix. Yep, that’s a true SpongeBob Christmas. And this Christmastime definitely differs from the rest, as Plankton has his biggest scheme yet to both ruin the happiest day of the year for Bikini Bottom and all its Bikini Bottomites, as well as make himself look good for Santa to put on his nice list and deliver to him what he desires most–the secret Krabby Patty formula. And how does such an evil mastermind do that? Well, after thirteen years of failure Plankton has definitely taken notes, as his new plan is creating…fruitcakes? But these aren’t just any fruitcakes, these are fruitcakes laced with jerktonium, an element “fresh from the periodic table” as “Jt” that can make any consumer become the meanest and nastiest jerk of all. Pretty soon, Plankton spreads his baked horrors across the city and slowly turns everyone Bikini Bottomite around into a jerk. Every single one except SpongeBob. Apparently, his yuletide love is so strong not even jerktonium can reach his heart, so thanks to this Plankton has created a Plan B that will take SpongeBob’s Christmas cheer and crush it–a metallic Sponge-Bot that will impersonate the real being. With SpongeBob curious as to how the city’s gone mad–literally–he visits a cranky Sandy where he finally discovers the secret to the fruitcake’s power…
Note: This episode contains one major error–when in Sandy’s treedome SpongeBob does not wear his water helmet and is perfectly fine in air for some reason–the stop motion likely made it tough to create a helmet for his head, let alone having it stay on.
“A Fairly Odd Christmas” from The Fairly OddParents – Now, this isn’t exactly what you’d call a TV episode, but rather a TV movie. But I still consider this a Christmas special, and it still technically is in the show’s canon. In this riveting holiday Odd Movie sequel to Grow Up, Timmy Turner, Timmy is traveling round the world with his girlfriend Tootie and his fairies. While on this magical trek the foursome are granting wishes for the people they meet, but Santa discovers that with these granted wishes Timmy’s customers automatically get removed from Santa’s nice list. After confrontation with a pair of elves, Santa directly explains to Timmy the true meaning behind “with great power comes great responsibility”. But at that very moment an elf informs Santa that the gift wrapping machine has broken, and when Timmy unwittingly decides to grant Santa’s wish, his fairy magic malfunctions and turns into a blast that sends Santa sailing into the machine. Worse yet, he suffered a blow to the head on the way in, and he has suffered brain damage. Luckily, Timmy’s beefcake companion Jorgen arrives and tells him–once again foreshadowing The Santa Clause–that he must become Santa since all godchildren must take the place of a holiday icon they have been damaged to the point where they can’t do their job. Unfortunately, Timmy can’t become Santa due to being on his naughty list, and Timmy’s fairy friends can’t do squat about it since the planet’s magnetic polarity at the North Pole invalidates this type of magic…
Note: This is Drake Bell’s second starring role to a Nick show’s Christmas special in the form of a TV movie. The first was Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh.
“Mr. Claus” and “Mr. Elf” from Mr. Young – If you couldn’t already infer, this is indeed another reference to The Santa Clause. After Derby’s planned prank goes wrong, Santa ends up falling from his sleigh on Christmas Eve and his hard landing knocks out his memory! So now Adam, Derby, Ivy, Echo, and Slab must deliver the rest of Santa’s gifts to the entire world in just one sleigh! Unfortunately, upon coming back they discover something shocking about Santa that changes the entire Christmas for them. As for “Mr. Elf”, Santa is also a centric character in this episode as Adam takes a reindeer to the North and convinces Santa to automate the work, but now must care for all the unemployed elves. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but then again this episode has only aired in Canada…
“Silent Punch, Deadly Punch” from Randy Cunningham – Norrisville’s favorite ninja is back to kick some yuletide butt, and he is looking for the Skunk Pine so his smoke bombs can be restocked. When Randy does find the Pine, it is stolen by Hannibal McFist to use as a Christmas tree for a party at McFist Industries. After discovering that Howard is also at Hannibal’s party when his company was bought by his industries, Randy disguises as a ninja Santa to infiltrate the party and restock his bombs. Even if it means fighting robo-elves and a robo-snowman…
“Generic Holiday Special” and “Orange Carol” from Annoying Orange – Yep, Nerville and his flock of fruits have definitely got their hands full of yuletide spirit. But they have so much of it, they couldn’t cram it all into one episode–they had to knife chop it into two! Their first episode was the show’s first “generic holiday special”, highlighting things like how the Easter Bunny makes his eggs (ewww), Passion Fruit’s plan to outdo Orange’s “new friend”, as well as some celebrity appearances. And not celebrity appearances as big as the Rock Candy Monster (although he does nonetheless appear), these are actual celebrities–people like “Weird Al” Yankovic, Bret Michaels, and Alice Cooper, to be exact! Oh, there’s also famous vegetable guitarist Squash in there. But as for “Orange Carol”, it sounds pretty much 100% as it seems–Orange’s levels of annoyance have slowly begun to upset his fruity friends as they go Christmas caroling, and even Nerville has been infuriated to the point where he bans Orange from the group of carolers. But as he naps, he is visited by three spirits who will one way or another show him the errors of his ways. The first spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Past (aka Midget Apple), who shows him how annoying he’s been for the past few Christmases. The second spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Present (aka Pear), who shows him how his friends are doing without him around. And the third and final spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Future (aka Marshmallow), who shows him how corrupted his future will be if he continues to be so annoying…
But of course, I’d be a cold-blooded and cold-hearted blogger if I didn’t talk about the tragedy that occurred exactly a week ago. All was well on the 14th of December for Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Almost 500 kids had enrolled in the school between kindergarten and fourth grade, and it seemed to be a pretty basic day…or so everyone thought. At exactly 9:35 in the morning, 20-year old Adam P. Lanza had just committed matricide and was driving his mom’s car to Sandy Hook, where he broke through a glass door at the front of the school. Sporting apparel fresh out of Battlefield, Lanza spent the 14 minutes he was inside the school shooting every child and teacher in sight. Lanza ended up robbing the lives of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook before committing suicide with a headshot as soon as police authorities arrived. Add all that up with Lanza’s mother, and a total of 28 people lost their lives0 in the shooting. Despite the number the Sandy Hook shooting ranks as the second-deadliest shooting in America (behind the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007) as well as the second-deadliest mass murder at an elementary school in the US (behind the 1927 Bath School bombings). Enough gruesome details, let’s just dive into “moment of silence mode” to honor and remember those who were put to rest last Friday. Yes, from bystanders to heroes.
- Charlotte Bacon (6)
- Daniel Barden (7)
- Olivia Engel (6)
- Josephine Gay (7)
- Dylan Hockley (6)
- Madeleine Hsu (6)
- Catherine Hubbard (6)
- Chase Kowalski (7)
- Jesse Lewis (6)
- Ana Marquez-Greene (6)
- James Mattioli (6)
- Grace McDonnell (6)
- Emilie Parker (6)
- Jack Pinto (6)
- Noah Pozner (6)
- Caroline Previdi (6)
- Jessica Rekos (6)
- Avielle Richman (6)
- Benjamin Wheeler (6)
- Allison Wyatt (6)
- Rachel D’Avino (29, teacher’s aid)
- Dawn Hochsprung (47, principal)
- Anne Marie Murphy (52, teacher’s aid)
- Lauren Rousseau (30, teacher)
- Mary Sherlach (56, school psychologist)
- Victoria Leigh Soto (27, teacher)
- Nancy Lanza (52, Lanza’s mother/killed at home)
“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
– Barack Obama in one of his many speeches addressing the Sandy Hook shooting
As you can see in my little blockquote, the shooting has triggered swarms of shock, surprise, and most of all grief across the country and even most of the world. It has gotten tons of reactions from people who took the gratitude to remember those who were put to the big nap in this tragedy. Smosh didn’t even release their usual Friday video one week because of the shooting! Luckily, I think all this was satisfied when practically all the artists and coaches on The Voice banded together to sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with an array of lit candles organized to set the mood. Each artist and coach held a card which bore the name of a young victim in the shooting and their age. Here, it makes a lot more sense if you see it for yourself. (By the way this has over 4.4 million hits, so consider it viral.)
And since you know how much of a Jolly Good Bookie I am–that’s right, I am the Bookie–let’s count down this year’s best and worst books of the year!
As I said before, and will say again, I’d be daft if I didn’t mention the first three Sisters Grimm books as some of my books of the year. I don’t know how Michael Buckley pulls it off, whether or not he has some sort of “magic touch” when it comes to writing. He has the humor, adventure, action, surprises, excitement, charm, awesomeness, character, fantasy incorporation, and about a million other things that made the original Sisters Grimm trilogy nothing less than a flawless hit. (Wow, I think someone would ought to say this about Ocarina of Time.) When I first read Fairy-Tale Detectives, all I recognized Buckley for was his NERDS series, which I had eventually gotten quite fond of. But as I read the book, it slowly changed my perspective of the fantasy genre itself, and when I put the book down I was almost itching to get the sequel. A few weeks or months later (remember people, this is an entire school grade ago, so I can’t recall much detail) I eventually got the second installment via “on-hold” and read that through like I’d read the first one. In a rather dimwitted act, I got so antsy for that book that I checked out both the third and fourth installments to try and hold me off. Unfortunately, I didn’t read a chapter of either books since I knew it wouldn’t make any sense, and simply refused to treat a series like this. Luckily when I read the third book, it blew its previous installments out of the water. And to this day, although I’m still waiting for my time with the fourth installment to come–I keep having dreams about it–let’s just honor the original trilogy in the meantime. Especially with our Fantasy Books of the Year honor.
Now, I bet you’re wondering, “Oh, of course Sam would put City of Ember as one of the top books.” Well, actually, I’ve got a pattern going on. I list a good book, and then I list a bad book. And as I already listed Sisters Grimm as a good book, then City of Ember inevitably has to be the bad book. Now I bet you’re shocked, flabbergasted, thinking I’m all hypocritical. But actually, City of Ember only messes up on the small problems that predictably grow bigger throughout the story. Speaking of story, the book’s storyline isn’t half bad: in a post-apocalyptic world, the city of Ember has reached its 240th year of existence and seems to be in more eroding condition each year. The lightbulbs that serve as the city’s only light source are beginning to die out, resulting in blackouts that terrify the entire city, but two kids will get to the bottom of it. Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet, to be exact. On Assignment Day–it’s sort of like a holiday where each young Emberite (I know it’s not a word, but it sounds right) receives a job requiring work around the city–Lina is given the dreaded job of Pipeworks laborer. Doon, however, gets the best job of all–the messenger–and shockingly turns it down. Eventually Doon convinces Lina to swap jobs with him, as Doon is interested in the Pipeworks due to them bearing Ember’s generator. Seems cool, huh? Not when awkward storyline and clunky perspective and dialogue get in the way. These are basically what makes City of Ember that much farther away from its true goal, and this is kind of sad to say. Ember had a great storyline and plenty of potential, but its problems in general prose is what corrupted the book. And it got turned into one of the most mediocre movies of 2008, as well as one of the year’s biggest box office failures. That’s corruption itself. Let’s give this book a Sci-Fi Miss of the Year honor just to accentuate the book’s imperfections.
You’ve probably never heard of this book. And that’s what makes it that much better. Paul Feig’s groundbreaking children’s literature debut, Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut!, practically takes modern science fiction and gives it his own unique twist. And as he was the true main man behind the notorious Nickelodeon show Freaks and Geeks, it wasn’t a surprise Feig didn’t back down in humor. In fact, all of Feig’s charm, adventure, action, and prose skills were conglomerated in this one novel, and it had an equally impressive storyline to go with it. You see–well, let’s just use the description I had in our last INSANE.
” As the titular star of the book, Ignatius “Iggy” MacFarland, achieves both. The premise of the story revolves around Iggy being the center of lots of teases and laughs from the meaner kids at his school (an example being “Piggy MacFartland”), and when he reaches the last straw he decides to do something that even Neil Armstrong considers bizarre. (Or should I say, considered, due to Neil’s passing earlier this year in August. Long live the man who showed us that it was possible to literally moonwalk. ) Iggy actually builds a rocket ship that he plans to launch to send him (and his friends Gary and Ivan) into outer space to another planet. Iggy has the metaphor that hopefully the extraterrestrials will be more nice to him, but when something horrible happens with his ship–with him inside–he is somehow blasted to…well, not outer space, but a parallel reality or “frequency” known as Lesterville. (And here’s where the science fiction comes in…)
At this twisted dystopian version of the real world, Iggy discovers a strange race of humans and their even stranger language (made up of the mere “puh” and “pah”), and discovers that the entire frequency is ruled by a man known as Chester Arthur–Iggy’s English teacher! He has now become the frequency’s dictator/president, and literally every brand in sight has been affected with Arthur’s name. Arthur Potter by J.K. Arthling, Artbucks, Art Wars: The Artpire Strikes Back, Art of the Rings, The Artfather Parts I and II, even Spider-Art, for Art’s sake! (Oh great, now they got me doing it.) In this frequency, Iggy meets Karen (another Earthling) who becomes his companion in solving the mystery of Lesterville and defeating this version of Mr. Arthur–and hopefully they can return home with their skins. Oh, there’s also a flying fairy-like girl in the story named Foo, which you could consider his second companion.”
I finished it a while ago, and it turned out to be one of the greatest sci-fi novels I’ve read since War of the Worlds. So with all this smashed together, it’s not a big mystery why I should give this my Sci-Fi Book of the Year honor.
Now, Dan Gutman’s always had a special place in the book section of my heart. From his Million Dollar, Weird School, and Homework Machine sagas to some of his standalones like Getting Air and Get Rich Quick Club, he’s always nourished his abilities with humor to fuel his prose. But this–I think he was still experimenting his writing skills with this one. I’m not saying that to insult the book, this is actually his second sci-fi book (after They Came from Centerfield, which is actually Gutman’s fiction debut) and arguably his most creative and unique one yet. It basically revolves around a boy named Lucas “Yip” Turner, named after George Lucas and nicknamed after Yip Harburg (responsible for the music from Wizard of Oz). Yip’s family is engulfed in film special effects–his father is a modern VFX expert while his grandpa is a more old-school junkie in horror film effects. One day, Mr. Turner introduces brand-new software that can create virtual actors to take the places of stunt doubles (known as “vactors”), so Yip and his sister create a vactor of their own. This vactor goes by the name of “Victor” (get it?), and he is pretty much intellectually, physically, mentally, and emotionally perfect. To sum all this up, Victor fulfills the book’s title of being “virtually perfect”. However, Yip makes a deal with Vic–if Yip could let Vic break the barriers of cyberspace and enter the real world, Vic could let Yip break the barriers of the real world and enter cyberspace. However, Yip realizes that the software–and Vic–have bugs, and soon Vic turns against his owner. Which is actually one of the most humdrum plots I’ve seen this year.
This is basically the exact same plot as the DCOM Pixel Perfect (see the similarities already?), except it’s put in a book. “Unfortunately, there were lots of bumps in the book, from prose to premises. And not even its endless consumerism mentioning can stop VIRTUALLY PERFECT from several death-defying imperfections.” That was my Google Books review, by the way. And I think you can tell that this is our Sci-Fi Flop of the Year already.
Historical Fiction Book of the Year. Nuff said.
Take the Boxcar Children‘s humor and character and smash it together with X-Men‘s heroism and action, and and what do you get? Booklist‘s formula for the kickoff to James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment. If you paid attention during my Middle School, Worst Years of My Life review a few Fridays ago, you would know that James Patterson writes much more fantastical series. Witch & Wizard focuses mostly on fantasy, while Maximum Ride is Patterson’s taste of science fiction. Anyway, the book revolves around the flock. Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel to be exact. Anyway, these six kids all share an amazing yet at the same time dark secret–as babies they were the test subjects of genetic experimentation, and because of that they became 98% human and 2% bird/avian! And with that 2% avian came their own pair of wings which actually allow them to fly! Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t spend the entire 400 pages with these kids frolicking and partaking in aerial mischief–they’re actually the prey of a fierce manhunt formed by the Erasers, a wolflike species which loves eating up winged kids like the flock for dinner. In fact, the Erasers had abducted the former youngest flock member, Ari, and turned him against his own relatives! The actual plot of the book mainly consists of the Eraser-flock battle, from the Erasers kidnapping Angel to a final subway fight with Ari to serve as the finale of the novel. And in case you didn’t know, that’s what makes the novel so exciting to read and picture [using Dav Pilkey’s imagination theory]. Here’s what I had to say about the book in my Google Books review:
“James Patterson proves that his history of action and mystery writing from the 1990s is still intact with this engrossing read. THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT impeccably mixes Patterson’s trademark charm, humor, and action to make for one of the best sci-fi adventures in the past decade. Definitely a recommendation for people who love unique science fiction or don’t like science fiction at all, and for those who are skeptical about the series they can start off with the manga books.”
You don’t even have to read the book for the first hundred pages to see why it’s my Book of the Year.
We’ve been through movies, we’ve been through TV, we’ve even been through the Sandy Hook sho–oh, what’s that? You want me to talk about video games now? If you say so! Here’s a highlight retrospective of what’s been happening through the fourth and final quarter of the gaming season!
One of the most anticipated games of the year, Assassin’s Creed III, became Ubisoft’s biggest launching success yet. Its pre-order numbers alone drove both Brotherhood and Revelations‘ ratings into the ground, becoming the company’s most pre-ordered game ever. In its opening week the game topped the UK charts as the bestselling game of the week, boasting the best sales the series has ever seen to date. In fact, AC3 was actually the UK’s second biggest launch of the year only behind FIFA 13, doubling the launching week sales of AC2 and beating Revelations by over 100,000 copies! 3.5 million copies of the game were sold in the game’s first week of release! At the night of this year’s Spike VGAs, it received six award nominations: Game of the Year, Best Xbox 360 Game, Best PS3 Game, Best Action-Adventure Game, Best Graphics, and Character of the Year for Connor Kenway. It also was the centerpiece of plenty of critical acclaim from some of the biggest reviewers out there:
“A resonant story, compelling exploration, and tense oceanic battles make Assassin’s Creed III a rousing success” – GameSpot
“…delivers everything the series has promised, and throws in a little more for good measure” – Game Informer magazine
“…newly refined gameplay and incredibly rich setting are captivating stuff…” – Official Xbox Magazine
“…an impressive adventure that succeeds in most of what it attempts.” – IGN
Of course, one of the year’s biggest anticipations finally unraveled itself last month, as Nintendo’s entry into the eighth generation of gaming and the first 8th-gen console to date. It already has the pride of its big brothers, the Wii, SNES, and NES, and I believe that it builds much more upon that. It indeed was the Wii U, formerly codenamed as “Project Café”, that I’m talking about. Just a few weeks ago this console finally hit the primetime, boasting jaw-dropping prices of over $300. Surprisingly, the console has already sold over 400,000 units as of December 1! I don’t know whether it’s the console’s backward compatibility with the Wii, or its new services like the Nintendo Network, or even the console-controller design that makes the Wii U so popular. In fact, maybe it’s merely just the games it has to offer! In fact, the Wii U showed both its upsides and downsides with select games that it had on its launch list, and I’m just about to tell you what those games were…
- New Super Mario Bros. U, the first Mario game for the Wii U or in HD, was arguably the console’s biggest hit. It was the center of lots of critical acclaim, getting compliments like it being “a great excuse for families to gather round the TV”, “an enticing glimpse of Mario’s HD future”, and that it was “an impressive step in the right direction.” To add to that, it even got luck at this year’s Spike VGAs when it was awarded with the Best Wii/Wii U Game award! And who else to accept the award like the big boss of Nintendo himself, Shigeru Miyamoto? Currently, the game has sold more than 200,000 units with an attachment rate of approximately 60%.
- On the other hand, the console’s pioneering survival horror ZombiU didn’t do as good. And I could easily tell why–its London zombie apocalypse premise seemed pretty generic and cheesy to me. And to believe this game was supposed to bring back honor and homage to Zombi, Ubisoft’s first-ever game for consoles like the Commodore 64. The game only proceeded to get a mixed share of reviews overall. Reviewers like Eurogamer praised the game for displaying “the success or otherwise of ZombiU could be defining for the Wii U”. Reviewers like Game Informer and IGN strongly criticized the game for having “a clunky control scheme and annoying melee combat” as well as being “sloppy and poorly executed”. Now, if I were to be the tiebreaker of this skirmish, I’d say that the game isn’t an Operation Raccoon City kind of game, nor is it a Left 4 Dead or Walking Dead kind of game.
- The Wii U’s pack-in game, Nintendo Land, managed to be a hit with most of the game critics out there. Nintendo Land, intended to create a carnival or theme park atmosphere, consisted of twelve minigames/”attractions” that each had roots of an old Nintendo game. Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion, and Pikmin were just some of the games that were rooted into the attractions. The game was created mainly to display the quality and functionality of the Wii U and its GamePad, just like how Wii Sports displayed the abilities of the Wii. And look where that game is now–it’s the most bestselling game in history! Now, since Nintendo Land likely couldn’t achieve a prestigious honor like that, it got its run to glory started with plenty of positive reviews. GameSpot gave the game an 8/10 score and said the game had “plenty of family-friendly fun and [made] great use of the Wii U’s capabilities.” IGN was even more positive about the game, giving it an 8.7/10 score–making the game an Editor’s Choice pick–calling the title “the cream of the mini-game crop” and praising its variety and content. GamesMaster gave the game 86% and said it was “an essential purchase for party lovers that whets the Nintendo appetite.” To me, it looks like Wii Sports has met its match. No, seriously, that’s straight from IGN.
- The Wii U’s first primetime enhanced game, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, made the game look even better than it already is. It’s already won many prestigious titles, awards, honors, and accolades–in fact, so many that it had to release a Game of the Year edition! So how else to praise a good game by enhancing it exclusively on one console to make it even better? And that’s what Armored Edition‘s sole purpose was to do. One of GameSpot’s editors, Carolyn Petit, praised the game from its atmospheric open world to its amazing senses of combat, but only had two problems with the game–BAT mode, as well as the Wii U-specific settings and properties that put “a few chinks in the Caped Crusader’s costume”. IGN, once again, praised the game for the same fields that GameSpot did, and also criticized the game in the same fields that GameSpot did, but this time the game got off the hook with a 9.5/10 score! In fact, Armored Edition is one of the most praised Wii U games out there right now, so it’s definitely worth a glance or two.
This month, Spike hosted its 10th-anniversary Video Game Awards. They got so in the mood that they actually renamed the award show VGA 10 for any purpose involving the anniversary. For his fourth time yet Samuel L. Jackson returned as the show’s host, the show had a first for presenting awards via Xbox Live, and also users could “play” the show while it aired. Audience members and users with Xbox Smartglass got an incomparable 2nd-screen experience that had real-time updates along with the show. And to add to that, Entertainment Weekly and the Spike VGAs banded together to make the show’s first “Entertainment Weekly and Spike VGA Best Game of the Decade” award. That is, in case you’re curious, a very prestigious honor. Many games that won’t be hitting retail until 2013 were debuted at the show in their exclusive world premieres, including South Park: The Stick of Truth, BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington (the game’s first DLC pack). Wolfgang Gartner, Tenacious D, Linkin Park, and the Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla. For those who want the results of the show and couldn’t see them live, here they are now:
Game of the Year Nominees:
- Assassin’s Creed III
- Mass Effect 3
- The Walking Dead
Game of the Year Winner: The Walking Dead
Studio of the Year Nominees:
- 343 Industries for Halo 4
- Arkane Studios for Dishonored
- Gearbox Software for Borderlands 2
- Telltale Games for The Walking Dead
Studio of the Year Winner: Telltale Games
Character of the Year Nominees:
- Connor Kenway for Assassin’s Creed III
- Commander Shepard for Mass Effect 3
- Master Chief for Halo 4
- Raul Menendez for Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- Claptrap for Borderlands 2
Character of the Year Winner: Claptrap
Entertainment Weekly and Spike VGA Best Game of the Decade Nominees:
- Batman: Arkham City
- Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Mass Effect 2
- Red Dead Redemption
- Shadow of the Colossus
- Half-Life 2
- Wii Sports
- World of Warcraft
Best Game of the Decade Winner: Half-Life 2
Best Xbox 360 Game Nominees:
- Assassin’s Creed III
- Borderlands 2
- Halo 4
Best Xbox 360 Game Winner: Halo 4
Best PS3 Game Nominees:
- Assassin’s Creed III
- Borderlands 2
Best PS3 Game Winner; Journey
Best Wii/Wii U Game Nominees:
- The Last Story (Wii)
- Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
- New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
- ZombiU (Wii U)
Best PC Game Nominees:
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Diablo III
- Guild Wars 2
- Torchlight II
Best PC Game Winner: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Best Shooter Nominees:
- Borderlands 2
- Max Payne 3
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- Halo 4
Best Shooter Winner: Borderlands 2
Best Action-Adventure Game Nominees:
- Sleeping Dogs
- Darksiders II
- Assassin’s Creed III
Best Action-Adventure Game Winner: Dishonored
Best RPG Nominees:
- Diablo III
- Torchlight II
- Mass Effect 3
- Xenoblade Chronicles
Best RPG Winner: Mass Effect 3
Best Multiplayer Game Nominees:
- Borderlands 2
- Guild Wars 2
- Halo 4
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Best Multiplayer Game Winner: Borderlands 2
Best Individual Sports Game Nominees:
- Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
- WWE ’13
Best Individual Sports Game Winner: SSX
Best Team Sports Game Nominees:
- Madden NFL 13
- NHL 13
- NBA 2K13
- FIFA 13
Best Team Sports Game Winner: NBA 2K13
Best Driving Game Nominees:
- DiRT: Showdown
- F1 2012
- Forza Horizon
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Best Driving Game Winner: Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Best Song in a Game Nominees:
- “Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park for Medal of Honor: Warfighter
- “I Didn’t Ask for This” by Austin Wintory for Journey
- “Tears” by Health for Max Payne 3
- “Cities” by Beck for Sound Shapes
Best Song in a Game Winner: “Cities” by Beck
Best Original Score Nominees:
- Journey by Austin Wintory
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II by Jack Wall
- Halo 4 by Neil Davidge
- Max Payne 3 by Health
Best Original Score Winner: Journey by Austin Wintory
Best Graphics Nominees:
- Halo 4
- Assassin’s Creed III
Best Graphics Winner: Halo 4
Best Indie Game Nominees:
- Mark of the Ninja
- Dust: An Elysian Trail
Best Indie Game Winner: Journey
Best Fighting Game Nominees:
- Dead or Alive 5
- Persona 4 Arena
- Street Fighter X Tekken
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Best Fighting Game Winner: Persona 4 Arena
Best Handheld/Mobile Game Nominees:
- Gravity Rush (handheld)
- Sound Shapes (handheld)
- LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (handheld)
- New Super Mario Bros. 2 (handheld)
Best Handheld/Mobile Game Winner: Sound Shapes
Best Performance by a Human Female Nominees:
- Jen Taylor as Cortana in Halo 4
- Emma Stone as Amanda Cartwright for Sleeping Dogs
- Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard (female) for Mass Effect 3
- Melissa Hutchison as Clementine for The Walking Dead
Best Performance by a Human Female Winner: Melissa Hutchison as Clementine
Best Performance by a Human Male Nominees:
- Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack for Borderlands 2
- Dave Fennoy as Lee for The Walking Dead
- James McCaffrey as Max Payne for Max Payne 3
- Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker for Spec Ops: The Line
Best Performance by a Human Male Winner: Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack
Best Adapted Video Game Nominees:
- The Walking Dead
- Disney Epic Mickey 2
- Lego Batman 2
- Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Best Adapted Video Game Winner: The Walking Dead
Best DLC Nominees:
- Mass Effect 3: Leviathan
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
- Portal 2 – Perpetual Testing Initiative
- Borderlands 2: Mechromancer Pack
Best DLC Winner: Skyrim – Dawnguard
Best Downloadable Game Nominees:
- The Walking Dead
- Sound Shapes
Best Downloadable Game Winner: The Walking Dead
Best Social Game Nominees:
- Draw Something
- You Don’t Know Jack
- SimCity Social
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance
Best Social Game Winner: You Don’t Know Jack
Most Anticipated Game Nominees:
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Tomb Raider
- BioShock Infinite
- The Last of Us
- South Park: The Stick of Truth
Most Anticipated Game Winner: Grand Theft Auto V
Pretty cool, huh? Unfortunately, this time of year isn’t all for fun and yuletide cheer. I think I’ve made it quite clear on both my blogs that I was a fan of two magazines. One was Game Informer. The other introduced me to reading game magazines themselves (the first actual mag I read was Nick Mag) and did it in such a unique and creative way. Sure, it was centric around just one company, but still. And, of course, that magazine was Nintendo Power. Since summer 1988 it’s been the one, only, and official Nintendo magazine for all Nintendo diehards’ gaming needs. Unfortunately, this August Nintendo revealed heartbreaking news–since they couldn’t renew their licensing agreement with Future Publishing, the magazine would not be making it to 2013.
Oh, come on Peach, don’t be sad. There are plenty of other Nintendo magazines out there!…I think. But then again, this is pretty much the only Nintendo magazine worth caring about. I can’t believe that this mag has to celebrate its 25th anniversary releasing its final issue! Most game series’ 25th anniversaries are times of celebration, but–sorry, I got a bit emotional there. Let’s not waste time trying to force me to give the saddest yuletide speech and let’s take a look at NP‘s final issue’s cover, and how it so gracefully reflects that of the first:
Let’s all “get the power, Nintendo Power” one last time as this great big ship sails into the sunset…or at least, that’s how the magazine described it. 😥
Now, in the same fashion as last year, let’s get more into the “new year” spirit by introducing something that I’ve never really done before–our Channels of the Year. Not just videos of the week, but in my opinion are the channels that have brought the biggest and best stuff to their home pages for the entire year of 2012. And in addition to that, this might get you anticipated for those of 2013! Now, without further ado, here are the best channels of 2012!
You probably should’ve seen this coming, but indeed Tobuscus ranks among the best channels I’ve seen this year. As the fifteenth highest-subscribed YouTube channel of all time, Tobuscus just keeps getting better and better every year, even if it’s his vlogs we’re talking about! Toby already made a smash at VidCon 2012 (the audience actually sang “Dramatic Song” with him! :D) and got a smash for real in his infamous iPhone 5 breaking. His Minecraft song “I Can Swing My Sword!”, after two thirds of the year, became Toby’s second most-viewed video in history with over 20 million hits! (His literal Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood trailer still leads by five million hits.) Not even that, but I also got in touch with Toby more personally at his official Google+! I know for a fact that under all those pictures he takes of him and his fans, he will always be a humble YouTuber. After all, he does have over 500 million video views. So let’s give him the Veteran of the Year Award.
This is definitely one of the newer channels that I’ve been attracted to: Jacksfilms. Much like Toby, his highest video is at over 20 million hits, but he definitely doesn’t have as much subscribers. In fact, he’s only the 378th highest-subscribed channel. That makes me believes that Jacksfilms definitely wins the Underdog of the Year Award in my book. Jack Douglass, the man behind Jacksfilms, does lots of things from his notorious Your Grammar Sucks series to lots of multi million viewed sketch compilations and parodies. He is one third of the “Sideburns Crew” alongside Toby and fellow YouTuber Sean Klitzner, who collaborate in a number of videos. The most-viewed video involving one of these collabs was “TOBJACKSCUS” which got just over 1 million hits since its launch in May 2011. Some of Jack’s parodies also consist of him merely voicing over other commercials like the ShamWow and Snuggie commercials–ironically and coincidentally, these parodies are his top 2 most viewed videos of all time. Sure, Jack doesn’t impress me with every video he releases, but with the videos he does release with impression comes lots of interest. And it’s pretty cool if you’re friends with almost 20,000 people on YouTube.
- The fan art Pewdie.
- The real Pewdie.
This is probably one of the most famous YouTube channels out there, let alone within the top-10 most subscribed range, and one of those rare channels that manage to bring something great to the table every single dinner. That was a metaphorical statement, but you know what I mean. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known by his YouTube alias PewDiePie or Pewdie, is a 23-year old YouTuber from Sweden who partakes in playing various video games and uploading his reactions to the web for all to see. Some of these games include Cry of Fear, Happy Wheels, PaRappa the Rapper, Shadow of the Colossus, Just Dance, and–easily his most famous one–Amnesia: The Dark Descent. He is the tenth-most subscribed YouTuber of all time, with over 3 million subscribers for his channel, making his channel one of the few fastest-growing ones on YouTube itself. Because of this, Felix definitely deserves a Man of the House Award. He also calls his subscribers “bros” or “the bro army”, which is accentuated by his tendency to perform a viewer-interactive “brofist” at the end of each video. I mainly take pleasure in watching most of the gaming montages he makes, as well as his Happy Wheels and Amnesia videos as standalones. I love PewDiePie so much because he portrays a very humorous but down-to-earth character that is fueled by curiosity and exaggerated human emotions like fear or sorrow. His real-life persona compared to the kind of persona that he portrays in fan art is very intriguing to witness. Speaking of character, sometimes in the games he plays he gives names and life to certain inanimate objects, and here are some of them:
- Stephano – Arguably Felix’s primary companion while playing Amnesia. Stephano is a golden statue that Felix has speak in a French accent, and he also carries lots of leadership in his attitude and occasionally yells at Felix for being scared or not noticing a blindsighted clue. Stephano was apparently “born” and his birthday is on August 17, 2011, but I can likely infer that day was the first day he starred in a PewDiePie video. Felix usually sets Stephano down every now and then, but then promptly comes back to get him again. Some of Stephano’s trademark phrases are “Allos Pewdie!”, “You found meh!”, “This way, Pewdes”, or “Follow me, Pewd.” He can also hoarsely whisper whenever he is dropped by surprise or when Felix gets startled.
- Gonzalez – The evil twin of Stephano, except he is bronze instead of gold which makes him easy to differentiate from Stephano. He often tries to trick Felix into believing he is Stephano, gives him good counsel, and is possibly related to Gonzales from the game Facade (another PewDiePie-played title).
- Piggeh – Likely Felix’s secondary companion in Amnesia, Piggeh is a dead pig that has a birthday two days after Stephano’s, which somehow makes him older than Piggeh. Piggeh’s usual catchphrase is “I’m pumped!” and his humor is very creepy and satirical with a very wide topic range. He has very fluid movement whenever he is carried by Felix, and often says “You thought I’m a pig? No, I’m a snake.” because of this.
- Jennifer – A rock that Felix sometimes comes across in Amnesia, and is often criticized for her weight due to being large when discovered. Jennifer actually loves Felix but is almost always rejected by him when he says “You’re too fat, Jennifer” or “I know, you’ve told me 1,000 times already”. Jennifer is one of PewDiePie fangirls’ most sympathized characters as her striving to finally win Felix’s heart seems to be very realistic–for a rock. Currently she does not appear in many videos except when Felix gets a rock thrown at him or is being chased by a rock.
- Barrels – In Amnesia, barrels are Felix’s mortal enemy. When encountering a barrel or a number of barrels, he usually shouts “Barrels!!!” and proceeds to throw them around. Sometimes he yells at barrels in Swedish (most notably in Cry of Fear) and often comments about its look or what it says on it. One of Felix’s lesser-used companions, Mayo, actually works for the said barrels and Gonzalez often foreshadows that he is in league with the barrels.
- Vespa – Also known as the Segway in Happy Wheels. When playing as the “Segway Guy” character in the game, he will usually refer to the Segway or any used vehicle as “Vespa”. Through Felix, Segway Guy seems to have emotional attachments or attractions to Vespa sometimes wanting to kiss it or cuddle with it. When he plays as the “Moped Couple” characters the moped is also considered “Vespa”.
- Farsa/Farsha – What reads of all train destinations in Cry of Fear, and is mainly the moniker he gives to the in-game train(s). Farsa barely shows up but unfortunately committed suicide near the game’s end by driving off a cliff.
Sure, they’re only the 135th most subscribed channel of all time, but they’ve been among the prime YouTube channels to successfully make the Internet-to-TV transition that so many channels have failed to make properly. They are the comedy, filmmaking, music, and advertising duo of Rhett J. McLaughlin and Charles L. “Link” Neal, better known by their combined YouTube alias RhettAndLink. Ever since 2006, a year after YouTube was first born, these two have been working their butts off to make videos for our amusement and pleasure. But they’ve actually been pals since the first grade. On the first day of school in the said grade, the pair were forced to stay inside during recess as a punishment from writing bad words on the desks. When they were assigned to silently color pictures of unicorns, their companionship really sparked. They wrote their first screenplay, Gutless Wonders, at age 14. Coincidentally, they were Wolfpack roomies at the NCSU, where they studied engineering. Some filmmaking lessons and low-budget DIY productions later, they became Rhett and Link itself. But in the first year Rhett and Link became YouTubers (or, as they call themselves, “Internetainers”) they never got a single multi-million hit video. The highest they ever got was 100,000 with their song about velcro. The next year, however, their drive-thru rap video became their first video to exceed a million hits with 3.2 million views. Through 2007 lots of ups and downs went through the channel, with their BBQ song becoming their next multi-million hit and then their “worst commercial ever” becoming the next. You can clearly see that Rhett and Link have not always had it as easy as other more famous YouTubers like Nigahiga or Smosh. But today, they’ve gotten much more innovation, effort, and creativity woven into their videos, their success had led to a clothing line that accompanies their videos, and they have been sponsored by and working with a lot more YouTubers like Orabrush, Tobuscus, MysteryGuitarMan, etc. Because of all this, they definitely deserve an Innovation Constipation of the Year Award and a Diamond Award for being so unique. Some of their most famous videos include:
- “2 Guys 600 Pillows” or “My Favorite Pillow” – Write a heartwarming song about one’s long-lived affection and feelings for one another. Take six hundred pillows, do crazy things with them, put in lots of backwards video editing and lots of backwards speaking, and even throw in a sponsor from SleepBetter.org, and you have Rhett and Link’s 2011 Webby Award-winning hit of 2010. To add to that, Rhett and Link were nice enough to throw in a bonus video highlighting most of the original video’s secrets as well as throwing in some extra goodies as well.
- “Epic Rap Battle” – The same year “2 Guys 600 Pillows” came out, the pair had also made a rap song made trying to get a restaurant waitress’ attention and affection. Like most of the channel’s songs, the rap contained lots of bizarre things about Rhett and Link that wouldn’t really occur in real life. Here are some examples right here. On the way to work, Rhett carpools a group of third graders and teaches them multiplication tables. Link can apparently speak sentences like “The square root of raspberry should be legalized” in Morse code. Rhett has his own yoga meditation DVD called Mind Reps. Link successfully performed the Heimlich on a horse choking on beef jerky, and it eventually went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Well, you see what I’m trying to say here? And coincidentally, back in September the two released what seems to be a sequel to the video, now centric to their masculinity and manliness, which was entitled “Epic Rap Battle of Manliness“. (And for those of you who are curious and/or skeptical, Rhett and Link were indeed in an Epic Rap Battle of History in case you mistook this one for it. They played the Wright brothers going up against the Mario brothers.)
- “5-Word Songs” – Occasionally, the two might run out of song ideas and ask their fans what they think they should make a song out of. But here’s the rule–it can not be any more or any less than five words long. Currently there are two ideas that have been found and successfully made into songs: “rub some bacon on it”, and “Nilla Wafer top hat time”. Combined the two have over 3.1 million hits.
- “Good Mythical Morning” – Well, I have two things to say about this that differentiate it from the rest of their videos. 1. This is actually on Rhett and Link’s second channel, RhettAndLink2. And 2. This is not one video, it’s actually an entire show. As the title suggests, Good Mythical Morning (often abbreviated as GMM) is a show that runs every morning on every weekday, from Monday to Friday. Some of the topics discussed on the show include the greatest movie quotes of all time, the strangest name a human can receive, stuff you didn’t know about The Avengers, tips on bear attack and quicksand survival, what makes fire ants special, and if Furbies can really learn anything. It is one of Rhett and Link’s most famous series and their only regularly-airing show to date.
- “Dope Zebra” – What do you do if you take a zebra costume, put two people inside that know how to dance, and make that zebra do the most dope moves around? That’s pretty much the story behind Dope Zebra. Since its release a while ago it has 5.1 million hits, making for one of the channel’s biggest hits. But in a full background story on the video and its conception on an episode of Good Mythical Morning, it was told that the Dope Zebra had arguably become the two’s most famous video character yet. Not only did it get both Dope Zebra and Rhett & Link in the music video for LMFAO’s “Sorry for Party Rocking”, they also appeared on America’s Got Talent! Needless to say, the threesome were buzzed with the dreaded triple X before the Dope Zebra could even lift his hind legs off the ground, but luckily Rhett and Link did not expect to pass to the Vegas round, nor did they actually want to. How modest of them.
Now let’s accentuate our new year celebration by nutshelling all the games you might want to check out!
- After the first leg of Rayman’s rebirth plan (Rayman Origins) became a success, our limbless lad can continue his new console experimentation with the upcoming Wii U-exclusive Rayman Legends…
- After Lara Croft, one of gaming’s most famous heroines, disappeared from the limelight following 2010’s Guardian of Light, the Crystal Dynamics-Square Enix team reunites once more to bring us Lara’s first series reboot, Tomb Raider…
- After stellar success with the Sims 3 saga, Maxis has finally decided to revive the true genesis of the Sim world in the PC & Mac exclusive SimCity…
- One of the most popular FPS series in history, BioShock, gets a complete makeover from characters to setting in the 20th century-era BioShock Infinite…
- Isaac Clarke’s necromorph-filled bad day continues into a new installment, but now Sgt. John Carver gets to share the pain with him to stop the scourge permanently in Dead Space 3…
- In the city of Los Santos within San Andreas, three equally troubled men’s stories will intertwine in the pursuit of the “almighty dollar” in Grand Theft Auto V…
- Kratos still hasn’t made ends meet for Ares, the god of war, and now he’s on an ancient-Greek quest to defeat the Fury threesome to sever all ties in God of War: Ascension…
- Picking up where the first installment left off, the Palanai island in the Banoi archipelago has become the source of a zombie outbreak, and now after an unsuccessful escape our four survivors must relive their undead nightmare in Dead Island: Riptide…
- 20 years after millions within the human population have ceased from a cordyceps-type fungus, a black-marketeer named Joel and a young girl named Ellie make a dangerous and Infected-filled trek across post-apocalyptic America in The Last of Us…
- Epic Games reveals their newest in the Unreal Engine series, Unreal Engine 4, in an open world survival-of-the-fittest monster adventure known as Fortnite…
- Nintendo’s famous rural village full of personified animals has taken the big jump to the 3DS, and while Japan has already gotten their share us Americans and Europeans will have to wait a bit longer for Animal Crossing: New Leaf…
- Marvel’s ever-so-famous “merc with a mouth” is smashing through the 4th wall from Marvel vs. Capcom and into his own game known merely as Deadpool…
- After Skyrim and its DLC Dawnguard changed the perspective of the RPG genre forever, Bethesda plans to make the breakthrough accessible for PCs and Macs everywhere in Elder Scrolls Online…
- Luigi made a smash hit on the GameCube as the fourth Ghostbuster, and now he’s been sent on another spine-tingling mission from Professor Gadd to punish all the spirit scamps out there in the newly-named Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon…
- After Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe collided in the greatly disappointing Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, NetherRealm and Warner Bros have teamed up once more in the 100% superhero-centric Injustice: Gods Among Us…
- One of TV’s most raunchy and beloved shows takes LARPing to an all-time extreme for not just consoles, not just computers, but clouds as well in the hopeful and hilarious RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth…
(Now let’s talk about movies…well, it won’t be much of a time saver to explain every single movie, let’s just nutshell a few that’ll be coming in 2013.)
- The director of the original Spider-Man trilogy brings us a story about the Land of Oz older than the groundbreaking 1939 film or even the 1900 book, portraying James Franco as the new Wizard of Oz in Oz: The Great and Powerful…
- The director of Space Chimps teams up with the co-director of How To Train Your Dragon to create a story about a family of cavemen and cavewomen as a disaster leads to them journeying to find new shelter in The Croods…
- After the weight of An Unexpected Journey was finally lifted off Peter Jackson’s shoulders, he only had to enhance the LOTR world in preparation for the second installment in the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug…
- One of Disney-Pixar’s most notorious films, Monsters, Inc, gets its well-deserved backdrop explaining everything from their first meet in college (even monsters have to go to school) to putting their bitter rivalry behind them in the prequel Monsters University…
- Gru, the three orphans, and his ever-so-lovable minions will be returning through a storyline that will seemingly be incorporating aliens into the plot lines in Despicable Me 2…
- The second “true blue” film of the trilogy chronicles Gargamel as he creates evil Smurf-like creatures called Naughties, and furthermore kidnaps Smurfette and takes her to Paris where he will use the Eiffel tower as an energy-generating antenna powered by Smurf essence, so the remaining gang must travel back to the human world and regain help from Pat and Grace in The Smurfs 2…
- Having shaken off the food storm that almost ate the world, Flint and friends are forced to flee from town where Flint accepts an offer from his idol Chester V to join the Live Corp Company in cleaning up the island, but he realizes that his FLDSMDFR is still alive and is now creating mutated food beasts in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2(formerly subtitled Revenge of the Leftovers)…
- After starring in one of Martin Scorsese’s most successful movies, Hugo, Asa Butterfield has decided to reload and star in another film from the director of X-Men Origins: Wolverine which takes on yet another classic book but of way bigger proportions, Ender’s Game…
- When Anna is cursed by her sister, the Snow Queen Elsa, she must reverse the curse by surviving a trek across an icy landscape, but luckily she is joined by outdoorsman Kristoff as well as his one-antlered reindeer and a snowman, which may give her hope to finally melt Elsa’s heart in Frozen…
- After Katniss and Peeta manage to survive the 74th annual Hunger Games, they try to forget their time in the battlefield but are only reminded by it when rebellion is simmering across the districts, and while she and Peeta embark on the Victors Tour of all twelve districts President Snow is only crafting a 75th Hunger Games will be a much bigger and bolder affair in Catching Fire…
Surprisingly, Austin & Ally and Jessie even had their own plans set out for the new year! Actually, they did their first collab over it! And that created the one-hour crossover special “Austin & Jessie & Ally All-Star New Year’s Eve“/”Big Dreams and Big Apples“! I can’t believe they actually went through all the trouble to make this special, so say kudos to them as I explain the crossover’s plot:
To wrap up 2012 with a bang, Austin has got himself a gig in Times Square to play on New Year’s Eve in front of billions of people! Unfortunately, Sheri, Trish’s phone AI–think of “her” as a less-intelligent Siri–has mixed up Times Square with Tim’s Square Pizza! (But hey, it’s the best square pizza in Miami.) Luckily, the dilemma is erased when Sheri manages to book Austin, Ally, Trish, and Dez for the next flight to Times Square! Unfortunately, Sheri mixes the 1:00 pm flight with the 1:00 am flight, and now they’re really stuck. On the other side of the east coast, Emma is ecstatic to find out that Austin will be playing in Times Square, as she is an eccentric fangirl, and begs Jessie to take her. Despite initial rejection, she eventually gets convinced when she realizes that Ryan Seacrest would be there. (Ugh, media these days.) Austin, Ally, Trish, and Dez manage to get a taxi there, but cannot afford the ride and must hoof it to the Square. When they get there, they realize that full capacity has been reached and no other person can be let in, but Jessie uses her riches to hitch a helicopter to ride them. Unfortunately, Bertram has allowed Luke and Ravi to attend the concert as well, and worse yet they’ve abandoned Zuri! And I think you may already know by now that Zuri loves shiny things, and–well–the Times Square ball is pretty shiny…(and that’s only part one…)
I think that’s a pretty good way to wrap up the year, so I’m Sammwak saying “ho ho ho” right before you go. 😀
See you in 2013, America,
And here’s for our super-special honor-filled and totally clean Videos of the Year! (Luckily, I managed to narrow down my choices so I didn’t have a list that went on for infinity. Enjoy! :D)
(Believe it or not, “TNT” is actually the fourth most-viewed gaming video of all time according to the YouTube charts. As the top three above it are all Angry Birds-related/themed, consider this the most bestselling gaming video of all time that isn’t Angry Birds-related. Shockingly, “TNT” actually beat out the official Minecraft trailer itself!)
If you want a more general video, here’s one that takes the most viral videos and stars 2012’s YouTube season had to offer and conglomerates them all into one amazing “Gangnam Style”-themed medley song/video. Can you name all the YouTubers in this video? If you think you can, comment me in the section below and get a secret prize…
Movies, like anything, come in all shapes and sizes. Action-packed movies that are literally their own explosives, drama titles that pull at your heartstrings, horror bloodbaths that’ll leave you jolting your boxes of popcorn instead of enjoying them, comedies that’ll have you laughing until you can’t breathe, etc. But there’s one type of movie that’s barely gotten true honor: the video game genre. Yes, that exists. Probably the only existent “inner gamer” movie has to be The Wizard, a Christmas ’89 title that introduced what would become one of the biggest games in history: Super Mario Bros. 3. And speaking of arcade games, that’s where that story ends, and this new story begins.
(How many video game characters can you spot? :D)
I have never been so excited for a movie. Um, ever. Directed by the former animation director for both The Simpsons and Futarama, Wreck-It Ralph, the 52nd Disney Animated Feature and the first of 2012 (the 51st being last year’s Winnie the Pooh), starts at a typically nostalgic down-the-block arcade. One of the titles in that arcade is Fix-It Felix, Jr., where you play Felix himself and must constantly repair the damages of a building facade while the game’s villain smashes away atop the building. That villain is the 9′-tall, 643-pound Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), and for three decades he’s been the guy that everyone loved to hate. And Ralph’s tired of that. And to make everyone notice he can be the hero, he literally disappears from the game via power cord and joins the light-gun FPS Hero’s Duty, battling “Cy-Bugs” alongside the game’s own hero, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). But he doesn’t spend the whole movie in this game, as he later goes onto a candy-themed kart racer called Sugar Rush, and here he meets one of the game’s main characters, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). Vanellope has learned that her game is faced with a threat that could affect the entire arcade. The worst part? Ralph may have started the whole thing.
I was originally gonna come out with a “Top 5 Most Self-Anticipated Movies of the Year” post, but I’ll tell you right here and now, this movie was #1 before the list was even finished. I first came intact with this movie at this year’s Comic-Con, and I’ve been loving it ever since. ❤ This movie promises appearances from some of your favorite game characters: Ryu, Ken, M. Bison, Zangief, Chun-Li, Cammy (all Street Fighters), Clyde (one of the Pac Man ghosts), Bowser, Eggman, Kano, Smoke, Q*bert, and it doesn’t even stop there. (This fact about the movie took a page from Roger Rabbit’s 1988 adventure, also from Disney.) There’s a result of over 200 individual models based off these inclusions. Running on a budget of $150 million to possibly make movie history by rejuvenating the game movie genre, this movie luckily had a date shift to November 2 this year, which was originally next March. (Thank goodness!) And to add to that, it also got a major appearance in the latest Game Informer, and Fix-It Felix’s adventure is now available in full-Flash at Ralph’s official site. And–you likely should’ve seen this coming–Wreck-It Ralph will be receiving his own video game on the Wii, DS, and 3DS! This Disney Inter.-Activision project is stated to be a “story extension” to the movie. And to add to that, Ralph will even be featured among the racers in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed! How can you say “game over” to that? Well, Wreck-It Ralphwill premiere November 2 in 3D, but the story’s not quite done yet…and besides, you haven’t seen these Wreck-It Ralph TV spots yet!
This is Disney’s new black-and-white short flick, Paperman. Blending traditional and computer animation, you’ll be able to see this movie directly after Wreck-It Ralph, like La Luna was shown right after Brave. The synopsis states that the movie follows a lonely young man in mid-century NYC, whose destiny takes a turn after meeting a ravishing woman during a morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams has slipped through his fingers, he gets a second chance at love when he spots the woman in the window of a skyscraper across the avenue of his office. Armed with love, imagination, and a stack of papers, his efforts show not even close to paralleling his awaiting fates. Hearts will break and papers will fly this fall. Ooh, sounds romantic. Anyway, whether you’re in it or not, you can catch Wreck-It Ralph and Paperman in their premieres this fall, and it’s going to be like watching all those scenes at the end of The Avengers. 😉
p.s. Random Video o’ the Week: In the 90s, Goosebumps was hot, Pogs were a fad, Nickelodeon was on fire, and all girls talked about were bands like Hanson, or the Backstreet Boys, or N*SYNC. Now, Goosebumps HorrorLand is the only existent series, Pogs have vanished from the mainstream, and girls are obsessing over people like Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush. Oh, and Nickelodeon still holds a small flame. But you should’ve seen them back in the day. All That, Kenan & Kel, Legends, Figure It Out, Family Double Dare, Clarissa, the list goes on. 90’s kids had it all, and after more than a decade of being in the shadows (excluding SpongeBob, which is still alive, and Figure It Out, which has been revived) it just had to get re-honored in all its nostalgic glory. So TeenNick made The 90’s Are All That last summer. While it’s on every night from 12-2am, with a 2-4am encore right after, at least you can get a taste of how it feels now. (Ever since last August it’s received almost 30k hits.)
The first thing you might think at this time is, “Dude, what the heck? We’ve been on stand by for over a month!” I’m devastatingly sorry for the “hiatus”, and I’ll explain everything at the end of the post. But for now, let’s kick off our movie review, shall we? Basketball is one of the most famed sports on the face of the earth, and I can name a round of players right off the bat: LeBron James, Shaq O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan. And few people may know it, but Shaq was actually in a 1996 fantasy comedy called Kazaam. Needless to say, he was the titular genie. Needless to say, it received horrendous reception and is actually deemed one of the worst movies in history. Later that fall, Michael Jordan decided to try his luck at a crazy movie like Shaq’s. And honestly, throwing Looney Tunes into the mix is crazy enough. Add basketball, baseball, golf, and the physics of the cartoon world, shake vigorously, and you’ve got yourself today’s movie: Space Jam.
Released in November 1996, Space Jam is a live-action/animated family comedy from the director of over 80 Super Bowl commercials, plus music videos for the likes of the Beatles and Michael Jackson. This movie actually marked the debut of Lola Bunny, Bugs’ “female merchandising counterpart”. In simpler language, she’s his girlfriend. The plot of the movie is that space aliens known as Nerdlucks are sent by their nasty boss to capture the celebrated Looney Tunes cohorts for space amusement park attractions. Michael has also thrown in the towel and given up his spot on the Chicago Bulls to pursue a career in–*shiver*–baseball! In this period he meets publicist Stan Podolak, who tries his best to ensure nobody bothers Jordan. It was just one fateful day on the golf course when everything changed. Michael was just posing for a picture, reaching down into the hole to retrieve the ball. That’s when he got sucked into the hole and was transported to the cartoon world. Turns out that Jordan was recruited to whip up the Tunes into sporty shape after they are challenged by the Nerdlucks to an all-or-nothing basketball game. Jordan is reluctant at first, but he seems to be in it to win it after being squeezed into a ball and dribbled up and down the court. And by seeing the Nerdlucks, you’d think that this would be a piece of cake:
Not for long, though. When the Nerdlucks intrude a basketball game disguised as a spectator, they use their powers to harness the bodies of players on the court and make them look bad on purpose. They also steal the ball, too. We later realize that when they touch the ball, it gives them some sort of power that turns them into grotesque beefcakes known as the “Monstars”. Now the tables have turned, haven’t they? But Jordan and the “Toon Squad” have some secret weapons up their sleeve, and the end of the match is nothing but a surprise…80
Don’t get me wrong, Space Jam is a good Looney Tunes movie. Actually, it’s a great Looney Tunes highlight. But it’s actually not a very good real movie. Sloppy crossover animations, a weak script, an uninspired plot, some questionable soundtrack (especially in the showdown), and a lack of faith towards both Jordan and the Tunes makes this probably one of the most…what’s the word? Oh, yeah– disappointing, obscure, and just plain weird movies I’ve ever seen. But that doesn’t stop this movie from becoming a true cult classic in my eyes. It’s no Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it works well enough for me. In a nutshell, Space Jam is good in the light of Looney Tunes alone, but bad in any other light. Yep, from its messy opening credits all the way to its exceptionally special “That’s all Folks!” call-off. Roll the chart, please. But before we do that, how about we see a clip or two? 😀
1 3/4 out of 5 – Positive messages – The Tunes and Jordan work together in the b-ball showdown to put off their best effort against the Monstars. (Or Nerdlucks, technically. :lol:) Jordan shows perseverance and tries to cheer up his team whenever they are down. And in this case, they are down a lot.
2 out of 5 – Positive role models – The Tunes and Jordan work together in the b-ball showdown to put off their best effort against the Monstars. (Or Nerdlucks, technically. :lol:) Jordan shows perseverance and tries to cheer up his team whenever they are down. And in this case, they are down a lot. (What, I got a little roped up!! :x) Bugs pushes Lola out of the way and takes a devastating hit for her, which proves that he has the hots for her and will do anything to protect her.
4 out of 5 – Violence – Lots of pratfall from both live-action and animated characters, but it soon gets out of hand. Stan is on the level above Jordan after his turn at a baseball game, but he falls off. Michael gets sucked into the hole and through to the Tune world kinda gruesomely. Speaking of gruesome, the Nerdlucks transform into Monstars in very grotesque ways. Oh, I also said that Michael gets squeezed into a ball, right? Also, the Monstars seem to easily crush the Tunes during the game…literally. At the bench, the Tunes are in obviously horrendous shape. Elmer’s actually in a straitjacket! The tables turn and the Monstars face various problems: the hoop is covered with explosives that trigger when a Monstar attempts to dunk, creating an explosion that covers the whole screen. Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd use guns to shoot the teeth out of a Monstar. The same Monstar tugs Daffy off his face, stretching his skin at uncomfortable lengths. When the skin retracts, his face is in a mangled mess. As I said, Lola is almost crushed by a Monstar, but Bugs takes the hit for her. But all of this is typical Looney Tunes slapstick cartoon violence, meant more for laughs.
1 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – A Monstar gets his shorts snagged, revealing his butt to the audience. Bugs and Lola share a few steamy kisses. Bugs also kisses Jordan (clean on the lips), to ensure that he is in the Tune world.
3 out of 5 – Product Placement – Big Mac, Gatorade, Nike, Looney Tunes (obviously), etc. Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” can be heard during a select scene in the movie, and you may recognize a few other tunes as well, including “I Believe I Can Fly”.
Smarts: C- (2 pts)
Fun: A- (4 pts)
Humor: A (4 pts)
Entertainment: A+ (5 pts)
Style: A+ (5 pts)
FINAL SCORE: 20 out of 30 (even I’m surprised.), 3 stars out of 5, 59% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: Space Jam may serve well in Looney Tunes terms, but it’s actually an underrated movie with an uninspired plot, a cheesy script, obscure animations, and drab jokes. This sports comedy mishmash could serve kids well, but could leave older audiences less than entertained.
PRICE: On Amazon new copies cost $27, while used ones cost $5. On Amazon Instant Video, you can rent the movie for 2 days for $3. Like what you see? Buy it for $10. Don’t forget the two-disc special edition, though; it costs $18 on average, new ones cost $11, used ones cost $8, and collectibles cost $23. There’s also another 1-disc 2000 version which buys for $6, while new and used copies cost $4 on average. The movie’s OST costs $10; new ones cost $4, used ones go for a penny.
I told you I’d explain this huge break in the schedule. Two words: house rules. Apparently I’m on the web a tad bit too much, so I’ve been adjusted and that’s why we haven’t seen something new for weeks–I haven’t been on the computer half the summer! It’s a new record! I am really, really sorry and will try to make this up to you as best and as soon as possible. 😦 😦 😦 Anyway, here’s Sammwak, calling off from Skokie, Illinois! Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and/or good night, folks.
p.s. Would You Rather o’ the Week: Would you rather be a small guy with large skill, or a large guy with small skill?
p.p.s. Random Video o’ the Week: Over the summer, I’ve become an official Disney 😄 fan due to shows like Lab Rats, Kickin’ It, Pair of Kings, and Ultimate Spider-Man. This summer’s format? A “Nonstop Summer”. Adam Hicks, a Disney 😄 veteran (formerly the Luther of Zeke and Luther, now on Pair of Kings), even created/deejayed a song about this Nonstop Summer with the help of fellow deejay Cole Plante. You’ll instantly recognize stars from Lab Rats, Pair of Kings, and Kickin’ It. This upload of the video, as there are many of them, had the most views overall at almost 30,000, with 140 likes and only 4 dislikes. It was released in June this year by somedia, and don’t underestimate the fact that it’s only a minute long; trust me, it’s awesome. (Also check out a “Nonstop Summer” video collection of “we’ll be right backs”, “coming up nexts”, and “you’re watchings”! :D)