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. Back last year I made a post where the good ole Bookie made a post summing up all of the good books that were coming out that year. Now, I’m here to bring it again, and now you won’t have to wait for most of the novels–they will most likely already be out, and I want to introduce my comrades to some new books. So for now, enjoy this delicious smoothie of chopped, crunched, and blended book-world news of what’s cooking this year.
I’m a huge fan of fast-paced sci-fi thriller novels like Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard so I think I’d dig this one. This one came out back in February, so it’s gotten lots of time to sink into the mainstream quicksand. You could call this the novelization of Inception if you wanted to, but the latest novel from young adult author Kiersten White really messes with your mind. Mind Games (or Sister Assassin for non-Americans) is a fast-paced psychological thriller starring Fia, whose first impulse to go with her gut is always correct. Annie, Fia’s sister, is sightless to her surrounding world–she only opens her eyes when her mind whizzes with odd visions of the future. The two sisters are taken into a school that uses superhuman females as weapons of corporate espionage, where they must decide repeatedly to use their strange abilities in horrific ways or to risk their lives and fight the system–no matter what the cost.
Young-adult authors might remember Kiersten White as the author of Paranormalcy, an urban fantasy trilogy that introduced her to the world of books and turned her into a NY Times bestselling author. The final novel, Endlessly (how ironic), concluded the saga last year and White is currently making plans for a Paranormalcy film. MTV Music Video Award-winning director Ray Kay is set to direct the movie.
The book received mixed reviews. High praise was given for its spy-fi elements and well-suited ending, but high criticism was given for pretty much everything else, most notably the plain characterization.
Speaking of sci-fi thriller, that brings us to our next novel which came out back in March. In the writing debut of Debra Driza, Mila 2.0, the titular character lives with her mom in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her harrowing past of being created in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do the humanly impossible. But when Mila discovers her shocking secret, she must flee. Flee from the dangerous operatives who want her dead because she knows too much. Flee from the mysterious group that wants to capture her and unlock her tech. But Mila’s hidden powers will surprise you (and her), and they might just save her life. Her artificially intelligent life.
Mila 2.0 is just the start. Driza plans on making two more books starring Mila to form a Mila 2.0 trilogy. Goodreads described the book as “the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human.” They recommended the novel for fans of I Am Number Four, and said that the book’s gripping ending would pave the way for Mila’s second adventure and have readers hungry for more. I guess there really was more to Mila than met my eyes.
The book received generally positive reviews. Its fast-paced action and heart-racing adrenaline rushes were lauded, but its romance overemphasis and lack of emotional connections were noted as something that could’ve been finessed.
Take Timmy Failure, the clueless and confident CEO of the best detective agency in the
nation town. Throw in his partner, an imaginary friend in the form of a polar bear named Total. Throw in Timmy’s mom’s Segway the Failuremobile, and what you have is Total Failure Incorporated, a global enterprise designed to make Timmy wealthy enough to prevent his mom from stressing over bills. But of course, his plan does not include the 4′-tall lady who we shall call She Who Must Not Be Named. Nor does it include Rollo Tookus, who cannot carry out a super-easy spy mission due to his obsession with getting into “Stanfurd”. Stephan Pastis makes a stunning and charming departure from Pearls Before Swine with Timmy Failure: Mistakes Are Made, “the kids’ comedy of the year”. Here are a couple notable blurbs that would look great on the back of the book:
“Timmy Failure is a winner!” – Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid
“Seldom has failure been so likable–or funny.” – Wall Street Journal
“…a great story starring an unforgettable protagonist whose unorthodox approach to detective work (and world domination) will have readers in stitches.” – Lincoln Peirce, author of Big Nate
“Readers should be simultaneously amused and touched by this quirky antihero.” – Booklist
“Pastis has assembled an eccentric and funny cast (running gags revolve around Total’s voracious appetite and a librarian who looks like one of the Hell’s Angels), yet there are also touching interactions to be found…” – Publishers Weekly
Timmy Failure received generally positive reviews. Its well-written humor and charm factors were positively recognized by critics, but some flat characterization and peculiar usage of archaic references were also dissected.
You may recognize Marissa Meyer as the unique author of the sci-fi romance novel Cinder (the start of the Lunar Chronicles), which was one of Indie-Bound’s Kids Next List picks for last winter. But the story of our favorite cyborg heroine is not yet over, as her story continues into Scarlet, the thrilling sequel which came out in February. Now after discovering a shocking secret, Cindy’s trying to break out of the clutches of prison in New Beijing (this was after World War IV), but she’ll be the most-wanted fugitive of the Commonwealth even if she succeeds. Halfway around the Earth, Scarlet Benoit has a missing grandma. It turns out there’s a lot Scarlet doesn’t know about Grandma B, nor of the grim danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet meets a street fighter named Wolf who may or may not have the whereabouts of Scarlet’s grandma, she is reluctant to believe Wolf. However, the two are drawn together in some sort of relationship. After Scarlet and Wolf solve one mystery, they run into another when they come across Cindy herself. Now this misfit trio must stay one step ahead Queen Levana, female ruler of the moon colony Luna. That introduces the book’s side plot, where she is attempting to make Kai (the prince of New Beijing) give into his pressures of marrying Levana or evoking a World War V.
In spite of its slow start, the novel received critical acclaim for its deep and complex story, a shrewd and surprising backstory, and impeccable fairy-tale weaving that made it impossible for most people to put Scarlet down. People are still coming up with ideas of how the brand new characters could play vital roles in the final half of the four-part Lunar Chronicles.
Jessica Brody began writing and “publishing” novels at the age of seven, using materials like cardboard and electrical tape to turn her into an amateur bookbinder. She is no stranger to the world of young adult books–she’s written three already–but this story is her most stellar and unorthodox departure yet. In Unremembered, the beginning of Brody’s new sci-fi saga, a flight courtesy of Freedom Airlines ends horribly and unexpectedly with a crash over the Pacific. No one ever suspected to find survivors among the wreck, and that’s why the sole survivor of the crash has made global headlines. That survivor was 16-year old Seraphina. However, her body shows no signs of the crash, but here’s the kicker–she doesn’t remember boarding the plane. In fact, she doesn’t remember anything before the crash, let alone at all. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest, nor can anyone locate her DNA or fingerprints in a single database on Earth. As this astray amnesiac attempts to piece together her empty past, befuddled by a world she doesn’t know and an ominous threat she can’t remember, she discovers an odd boy who claims to have known her before the crash. A boy who claims they were in a relationship. Sera must decide whether or not this boy can be trusted, and if he can protect her from those who have been making her forget.
It turns out you really can’t judge a book by the cover, as Unremembered turned out with very mixed reception. People praised it for having the elements of a sci-fi gem, but criticized it for being an orthodox story that brought nothing unique to the action-thriller genre, and how its intellectual properties (planning and thoughts) were in over their heads. Oh, and it came out in March.
If you’re like me, you’re very familiar with the fantasy subgenre of “fractured fairy tale”. These kinds of books put twists on classic fairy tales and mend interesting and unexpected worlds around them, taking the original stories to whole ‘nother levels. Examples include Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, and Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm/In A Glass Grimmly. Coincidentally, this story was made for fans of those books. Now rising fantasy star Liesl Shurtliff has given a twist on a classic Grimm story: Rump. This came out just a couple of weeks ago, so it’s probably ankle-deep in the mainstream quicksand. Now, Rump isn’t just short for Rumpelstiltskin–in a magic kingdom where names are destinies, he literally is the rump of everyone’s jokes. But his luck changes when he finds an archaic spinning wheel–he discovers he can spin straw into gold. His best friend whom we’ll call Red (hint hint) warns him of the magic’s darkest dangers, and she’s right. With each spun thread, Rump obliviously weaves himself deeper and deeper into a curse. To break the curse, he must go on a dangerous quest and fight off pixies, trolls, poisonous apples, and a maliciously foolish queen.
Rump got positive reception for having the fun side that most stories fail to have, full of delightful adventures and hidden messages such as greed and friendship.
From the look of this cover, you may already tell this has something to do with sci-fi. Well, if you guessed that, you’re right. This is indeed a sci-fi story called Pulse from the author of Skeleton Creek, which came out in February. 38 years from now, the world is still recognizable. No world wars, no apocalypse, no Republics or Capitols–I’m assuming. Well, the country has been split into two “super States” (what.), and protagonist Faith Daniels attends what is little more than a teenage daycare. In the future, select teens have “pulses” which grant them with the power to move things with their minds. In other words, they’re telekinetic. Faith discovers that she has a pulse with the help of a mysterious classmate named Dylan. Faith uses her powers against telekinetic masters so powerful they could pancake their enemies using uprooted street lights and shifted boulders. But even with a pulse, the mind can be hard to control. So can the heart. If Faith and Dylan want to combine forces and save the world of the future, she must harness both and discover that real power comes from within.
Reception for Pulse was mixed to negative. Its unexplained future was heavily panned alongside its conspicuous lack of action-packed adventure, plus its underwhelming characters and relationships and a greatly deceiving synopsis. In fact, here’s how one Goodreads user put it: “…almost non-existent adventure (unless you consider moving cups with your mind adventure), poor and mostly unlikable and under-developed characters and extremely unhealthy relationships.” Wow, is a story about telekinesis and saving the world that bad?
Also, the finale for Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning Seeds of America trilogy (started by Chains and continued by Forge) is forthcoming. It’s going to be called Ashes, and the plot is as of now unknown. The book may be releasing this year as opposed to 2014, but I guess we need to stay tuned for those news.
Ah, finally. We’ve saved the best for last. People who mowed through the Hunger Games trilogy and were starving for more turned Veronica Roth’s Divergent into an award-winning NY Times bestseller. When the book’s sequel Insurgent came out, people turned that into yet another award-winning bestseller. The two books became so successful that Roth is currently planning for a Divergent movie! (Check her Twotter feed to stay tuned. Yeah, I did that on purpose.) But now, after months of theories and guesses, Roth’s epic finale to her trilogy is coming this October–Allegiant. Yeah, Roth sarcastically gave the book the name of Detergent, but some people thought it was called Convergent, and that’s how this came up:
Anyway, check out Amazon’s and Goodreads’ summary to the explosive end to Roth’s smashing saga. (Oh, like my amazing alliteration?)
What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.
Stay tuned and stay hungry for Allegiant when it hits stores October 22. But for now, here’s a link to Roth’s Twotter:
That was fun! If you plan on reading any of my recommended books, post it in the comments below. Make sure to subscribe if you’re new, and don’t forget–press the like button. Now just stay tuned until next time to get more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Stay classy America,
Video of the Week: If you’ve stuck with me long enough, you probably know who Nick Bertke is. He’s the greatest mixer of all time, that’s who he is. He goes under the stage name Pogo (his channel’s called “Fagottron”), and although he has less than 250,000 subs, his videos have gotten millions of hits and millions of fans for his unique remixes of movies and TV shows. His best works include remixes of Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs. Today’s video of the week is a Pogo remix from two years ago with nearly 750,000 hits. It’s a remix of HR Pufnstuf. If you don’t know what that is, sit back and enjoy this lesson.
Back in the 60s, there were these people named Sid & Marty Krofft. They made a show called HR Pufnstuf, which ran in 1969 on NBC. Yes, I said NBC. However, the show was so successful it stayed on the Saturday morning schedule until 1972. The show’s about a boy named Jimmy who takes his magic flute named Freddy and rides a boat to Living Island, where everything from clocks to houses are anthropomorphic. The island’s mayor is a dragon whom is the title character of the show, who takes Jimmy in to protect him from the show’s antagonist Witchiepoo. In a nutshell, it’s basically a psychedelic Sesame Street.
Because I love you guys so much, here’s the Bonus Video of the Week. It’s another Pogo remix, but you should be able to tell what got remixed from the name of the video.
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 XD 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…
Just in case you’re thinking to yourself, “When was the first INSANE?”, it was actually the first ever Super Awesome News Update I put up. I’ve been thinking about it, and Incredibly Noble Super Awesome News Expedition actually sounds alright. It rolls off the tongue kinda like “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious”, and it’s a pretty clever acronym at that. 🙂 So, let’s start off our second INSANE (or is it actually the first? ) right with some juicy news that have the right to ooze! (Ooze also means “to give a powerful impression of”. :D)
Let’s start off, just like last time, with the books I’ve been digging recently and some upcoming Jolly Good Bookie reviews that could be happening…
This first book is classified as a mix between comic adventure, science fiction, and fantasy. In fact, according to the library I found this I’m actually the first one to consider reading it! It’s obviously something truly new and unique in my reading styles, and it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read where I really didn’t know what to read. It’s called Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! by Paul Feig, and just in case you’re wondering consider “frequenaut” as a portmanteau between “frequency” and “astronaut”. 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. :cry:) 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.
So far, Ignatius is one of the best 300+-paged novels I’ve ever read; it has humor, charm, eye-popping illustrations, adventure, and a surprising quantity of drama. However, I can’t review the book right here and now since I haven’t even finished it yet. 80 Oh, go ahead and gasp, but I’m almost halfway through the book FYI. Anyway, let’s see the next book I’ve been digging…
Sorta like how I brought up Hunger Games in the last issue, you likely know what this is. Let alone very well. If you don’t, think of it as the latest descendant of school story series like Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. It’s Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. Yeah, James Patterson being the guy that wrote Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard and all those other books. And to believe this time around he’s writing a book that’s somewhat and somehow normal. This book concerns the life of Rafe Khatchadorian as he enters his first year of middle school, and he already has enough problems outside of school without throwing what happens inside school in the mix. Luckily, like Nikki Maxwell, he’s got an ace plan to make it the best year ever–if he can pull it off correctly. With his best bro Leo the Silent wordlessly cashing in points to Rafe (and in this game, points are not a good thing) he decides to go out on a limb and break every rule in the school’s austere Code of Conduct with arm & hammer. Chewing gum in class gets you 5,000 points, running in hallways gets you 10,000, and pulling the fire alarm gets you 50,000. However, when Rafe’s dirty deeds done dirt cheap catch up to him, he’ll have to make a finicky decision whether to believe that winning really is everything, or he’s ready to face the rules, bullies, and–worst of all–the truth that he’s been sidestepping.
So far, this book sounds really good, as I’ve been a bit overzealous in my wants of this book. Luckily I’ve got my hands on it and–like the first ever Nintendo Power issue I’ve ever read–I’ve been reading rather slowly to salvage every moment of the book, and that’s a challenge with so many descriptive illustrations in the book. It sounds seemingly like a new Big Nate-esque series, but let’s just not hope that it’s going to crash and burn like the actual series did. If you want to check out more of James Patterson’s books, suggest trying this list out:
- Middle School: Get Me Out Of Here! – In this riveting sequel to Rafe’s first middle school adventure, Rafe has been accepted to an art school and believes he’s finally stepped into a math-and-history-free fun zone. Nope. It’s more competition than Rafe can handle, and to turn his humdrum life into an afflatus for an ultimate work of art, he decides to execute his biggest plan yet…Operation: Get A Life!
- I Funny – In this spiritual successor to Rafe’s series comes the story about Jamie Grimm, a middle schooler on a mission to become Earth’s greatest and funniest standup comic. But unfortunately, his brutal life with his aunt and uncle and their evil son Stevie doesn’t give him much laughing matter. He practices his comic act day in and day out on his siblings, friends, and the patrons at his uncle’s diner. But when his uncle mentions the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic contest, Jamie knows he has to enter but has to choose between sharing his dark past or hiding behind his comic act…
- Witch & Wizard – The world has changed permanently with the government having control over the entire society and with kids frequently disappearing. For Wisty and Whit, sister and brother, their lives are changed forever when they get separated from their parents and thrown into a secret prison for no comprehensive reason. In this “juvie”, Wisty and Whit discover otherworldly powers they never knew they had, and now they must master their skills and save their parents–maybe even the rest of the world–as witch & wizard.
- Maximum Ride – After mutants known as Erasers abduct the youngest of their group, the “bird kids” (results of genetic experimentation) take off in hot pursuit of the Erasers but find emotional brick walls in the way concerning the mysteries of their beginnings and intellectual purposes.
“Not since Lord of the Flies has there been such a powerful story of children forced to survive in a world without adults.” That’s pretty much the slogan for The Girl Who Owned A City, a post-apocalyptic story by OT Nelson. The story concerns a killer virus known merely as the Plague sweeping through the Earth and taking the lives of all over 12 years old with it. In a Chicago suburb, ten-year-old Lisa Nelson and her brother Todd are among the youthful survivors of the Plague, but only make a living by looting off of abandoned homes and shops, like every survivor in the story does. Lisa pioneers the idea of driving cars despite being underage, as well as raiding a farm and to look at the diminishing supplies of stores. By now desperation has caused kids to form and join “gangs”, and to fight this Lisa becomes some sort of vigilante and forms a neighborhood militia. Inducting all of the trustworthy kids she knows, Lisa plans the militia’s defense methods from booby traps to throwing things off the rooftop. She also makes an arsenal for the militia in case of an emergency, mainly composed of guns and Molotov cocktails. Lisa and her militia eventually becomes enemies with one the many gangs, specifically the Chidester Gang from Chidester Avenue. And if you know how post-apocalyptic stories go, chaos eventually ensues…
I actually read this book as a class book (Girl Who Owned A City is a commonly used story in schools), and I’ve just recently finished the book. In fact, it’s not bad, but I still felt awkward reading the book considering it was the only one I’ve read to be in Times New Roman. There was also a lot of stuff going on within two mere pages–as the text was very tightly compacted together–so although it was a bit overwhelming at times I still managed to pick up my pace. In fact, the book is one of the best “oldies” that I’ve read recently, incorporating action, drama, alongside positive messages like leadership and survival. I definitely recommend this book to someone who’s just got fresh off of a post-apocalyptic story like City of Ember and is hungry for more.
Speaking of recommendations, I’ve also got something big to tell you about–my Christmas wishlist. And when I say big, I don’t mean I have 10 things on it, I actually have 39 things on it. And they’re all books, because you know how much of a czar I am when it comes to reading. Although it would take too much time to list all of them, let me tell you about some of the books I underlined as “I want this especially badly” books…
Sisters Grimm 4-9 by Michael Buckley – The first time I ever read Sisters Grimm was in the fifth grade, as I’d heard about the series and was also very fond of the Brothers Grimm at the time–and the books seemed to show off some very promising characters. Needless to say, this is the best fantasy book series I’ve ever read–no, this is the best fantasy book series ever solely created. And that’s a very prestigious honor in my honor. Alas, as I progressed through the series the next installment became harder and harder to get, and by the time I was ready for the fourth book it never showed up, and I’ve never read a live book since. 😦 I say “a live book” since I was actually so desperate to read the fourth book that I even found the Google Play and Books samples for the book!
If you want to know what the series is about, it’s basically just about two girls named Sabrina and Daphne Grimm whom have been tossed between foster families like a yo-yo, only portraying niches like punching bags and servants. They reunite with Relda Grimm, the grandma they never knew, and are taken in by her. At her house Sabrina and Daphne realize the secret their family has kept for years–they are actually the latest generation of descendants from the notorious Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and must take in the profession of “fairy-tale detective” as some sort of family tradition.
If you want to know just how promising this sounds to me, let me show you the premises of all six of the books I want:
- Once Upon A Crime – Also known as The Grimms Take Manhattan. 😀 When the two main protagonists of the story, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, finally go back home to the Big Apple to help their faerie friend Puck, Sabrina is ecstatic to be home. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of another fantastical adventure, as we realize that the fairy kingdom is within NYC. Puck’s father, King Oberon, has been slain and the Grimms are putting up every fairy-tale folk/Everafter in town on the suspect list. The culprit will almost always be the one you least expect…
- Magic And Other Misdemeanors – When the past and future start playing unwanted games with the present, Sab and Daph get their first solo case with a little assistance from Puck, and the girls suspect that a rash of magical thievery might have surfaced at the root of the problem, but with Mayor Heart’s bizarre taxing and Mr. Canis still continuing to transform into the Big Bad Wolf, the Grimms have a lot of worries and little time to sort them out. Can they solve the crime and change the course of the future for humanity’s own good?
- The Everafter War – Picking up where book six left off, the seventh installment of the story starts with Sab and Daph’s prayers finally being answered when their parents awake from their sleeping spell. But this little family reunion is cut off unexpectedly when they are caught in the middle of a war between Prince Charming’s army of Everafters and the villainous Everafter organization the Scarlet Hand. As the Grimms work to help Charming’s rabble rebels, Sab comes face-to-face with the darkest enemy her family has ever seen which uncovers a secret so shocking it’ll rock the family to the core…
- The Inside Story – In the series’ penultimate eighth installment, again picking up where the last book left off, the book starts with Sab, Daph, and Puck stuck within the Book of Everafter. Inside the book, all the fairy tales are stored and their enchanted characters can convert their destiny at their own wills. The trio must pursue the mysterious Master from the last book throughout some of the most classic tales in the book (literally :D), willing to change anything to save their baby brother. Soon, they are caught by the book’s Editor/guardian who forces the three to stick to the stories, even threatening them with its army of Revisers. As they must now stay under the Revisers’ radars, they meet tons of classic fairy tale characters, but will they find their baby brother?
- The Council of Mirrors – In the ninth and final book of the series, the Grimms and their friends must face off against the Master to ultimately decide the fate of Ferryport Landing, and the rest of the world. When the magic Mirror (by now an antagonist in the story) fails to make it through the magical barrier in Relda’s body, he decides to convert to his backup plan–going on a killing spree until all the Grimms are dead, allowing the barrier to collapse. As the Mirror creates his murderous plan to the last detail, Sab has recruited all the other less-evil magic mirrors to discover how to deal with their enemy. The mirrors suggest joining forces with the Scarlet Hand, in exchange for offering Ferryport’s citizens their liberty. Wow, it sounds a lot like a fairy tale-infused Deathly Hallows, don’t cha think?
Powerless by Matthew Cody – Imagine a world where the greatest superheroes are actually kids. No, it’s not Chronicle I’m talking about. You’re likely imagining Matthew Cody’s groundbreaking novel Powerless. In the book, 12-year old Daniel, the new one in town, learns a rather ugly truth about his closest friends–one can fly, another can turn invisible, and another controls electricity. These super kids use their powers secretly for good in the town, but their powers do not stay forever–when they turn thirteen, their powers will disappear along with any memory that they ever these powers. Could their minds be getting drained by a memory-stealing villain? The answers lie in an ancient meteor strike, a WWII comic book, the fabled and green-flamed Witch Fire, a hidden Shroud cave, and possibly even “powerless” Daniel himself…
Young Samurai 1-3 by Chris Bradford – I’ve never actually read a Japanese-based novel before, but Chris Bradford defied the rule that most Japanese-rooted books are just manga. In the trilogy you see before you, we go back in time to 17th century Japan, where Englishman Jack Fletcher strives to be the first ever gaijin samurai. In case you’re curious, gaijin translates basically to “outsider”, so I guess Jack wants to be the first English samurai I guess. It wasn’t just the very intricately detailed illustrations that roped me in, it was the premise of each story itself:
- The Way of the Warrior – Jack Fletcher is sailing with his father and crew in search of the fabled Japanese islands. After a nasty shipwreck off the coast of 1611 Japan in a village known as Toba, and subsequently the crew gets attacked by a ninja mistaken for a Japanese pirate or wokou. Rather traditionally for a book, only Jack [or the real main protagonist] survives the attack, which makes me wonder–how could almost an entire boat crew die at the hands of one ninja? Anyway, Jack’s dad leaves his son with his most prized posession, a rutter (a precursor to the navigation chart), and Jack is rescued by Masamoto Takeshi, a legendary samurai swordsman. Takeshi decides to take Jack under his wing and raise him until he is of age (16) to go on by himself, making Takeshi’s actual son Yamato jealous. After a heated spar with Yamoto and another ninja attack, Jack is enrolled in a samurai school in Kyoto to be raised as a true nin–sorry, samurai…
- The Way of the Sword – After his first year at samurai school, Jack’s troubles only expand when the prejudice of his school classmates forms dangerous enemies, and Dragon Eye–the ninja who attacked the crew–is still after Jack. Jack’s only hope of victory lies in surviving the Circle of Three, a ritual that will test Jack’s intellectual, mental, and physical skills to their breaking points. For most, becoming one of the Circle is very prestigious, but for Jack it’s a life-or-death situation…
- The Way of the Dragon – It is by now summer 1613, and Japan has been threatened with warfare and Jack is faced with his greatest fight yet, as samurai are siding against one another and Jack’s warrior training is tested as the blood begins to flow. His and his friends’ survival depends on him mastering the Two Heavens, the secret sword technique of Takeshi. But first Jack must recover his father’s rutter from Dragon Eye, which leads to these dramatic questions–will Jack defeat his enemy? Or will Dragon Eye finally fulfill his mission in slaying the young samurai?…
Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman – 10-year old Gabe has just been accepted to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment, or the SCGE. This is a six-week sleepaway camp where he’ll get to write poems and perfect logic proofs. SCGE has been home to some fabled middle-school smarties (and forthcoming Jeopardy! contestants), but it has a real image of being the Nerd Camp. Another acronym for SCGE could be the Smart Camp for Geeks and Eggheads. But Gabe’s not really a nerd–at least, he doesn’t think so. But that was before he met Zack, his hip soon-to-be stepbrother. Now Gabe is in panic that Zack thinks of his formula as 100% nerdity (that isn’t a word? it is now :D), and with a wild summer to spend with a midnight canoeing ride to “Dead Man’s Island” makes Gabe realize something. Zack may not be the brother he’s always dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean they can’t even be friends…
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass – This kind of book could easily honor Roald Dahl even after his death, and it sounds like one of the sweetest and juiciest novels on my list. No, seriously. 😀 Anyway, this book is about four kids whom enter a national competition to discover the tastiest confection of the country. Who can create a sweet more sapid and savory than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew?:
- Could it be Logan, the Candymaker’s actual son, who can detect the color of chocolate just from the touch?
- Perhaps it might be Miles, the boy with merry-go-rounds and the color pink on his list of allergies?
- Or maybe it’s Daisy, the jolly girl who can carry a 50-pound heap of taffy off the ground like a feather?
- Chances are it could be Philip, the boy in suit-and-tie who’s always jotting information down in a secret notebook?
Ghostopolis and Power Up by Doug TenNapel – Believe it or not, Doug’s the guy that actually created Earthworm Jim, one of the most iconic, memorable, and charming video game heroes of the 1990s. To this day, he’s done music, animations, books, Eisner Award-winning art, as well as essays. (Not the kind you do in school, more literary essays.) And since I haven’t looked at Bone ever since I read and reviewed its ninth and final main book Crown of Horns, Doug seems to be an intriguing replacement.
Let’s start off with the premise of Ghostopolis first. This graphic novel revolves around two protagonists: teenager Garth Hale, and middle-aged SITF agent Frank Gallows. SITF stands for Supernatural Immigration Task Force, a governmental organization with a heart set on tracking down ghosts and other apparitions that have gone amiss in the real, physical world and sending them back to their homes in the afterlife–aka Ghostopolis. Garth has a currently unidentified “incurable disease”, and it is also foreshadowed and mentioned that the relationship between Garth’s mom and late grandpa was a dysfunctional one. Agent Gallows uses devices called “plasmacuffs” to catch and apprehend ghosts, and on a call to apprehend a skeletal horse known as a Nightmare, Gallows accidentally transports Garth along with the Nightmare…(By the way, gallows are erect structures used for the purpose of hanging.)
Now, Power Up–just as it sounds–is a video game-themed book. The book’s protagonist, Hugh Randolph, is a family man who’s down on luck. He works as a drone at a local printer until he discovers a mystifying game console that gives him the power to produce riches to infinity, manipulate his work day, even cheat death. But of course, and as we all know, you can’t sidestep and hide forever…
Alvin Ho 1-4 by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham – Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to be scared of pretty much everything. In fact, it’s called “panphobia”. And there’s a little boy who could be summarized using that exact word. That boy is Alvin Ho, an Asian-American second grader. This poor little panphobic has fears from elevators to tunnels and girls and most of all school. He’s so fearful of school that he never emits a word through all the seven hours he’s there. Ironically, at home he’s a clamorous superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother, and a gentleman-in-training to follow in his father’s footsteps. In the four books I want–in chronological order–he goes to school, goes camping, attends a girl’s birthday party, and bravely attends his GungGung’s BFF’s funeral. And he’s just in second grade! Please take a break while you view these crying emoticons to applaud Alvin and all he’s done.
Dork Diaries 4-5 by Rachel Renee Russell – I’ve already reviewed the second and third books of the series, so it’s not a big shock that I’d want to put up the next two. By now IMO, Nikki has gone from the super cliched girl-next-door to a more caring, loving, and heartfelt friend who still wants to blend in, but at times likes to shine her diverse colors. In the next two books of the saga–marking a first in the series to release two books in the same year–Nikki’s positive traits are put to the ultimate tests.
In Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess, Nikki discovers that Brandon is doing volunteer work at a local animal shelter, which is to her not surprising considering how dreamy he–no, I am not going down that road! Then Brandon says that the shelter is in danger of closing, and Nikki knows in the name of dorkiness that can’t happen. Especially when a secret about Brandon is disclosed that makes saving the shelter that more important to Nikki. So Nikki recruits her friends Chloe & Zoey to enter an ice skating competition to assist in raising the money needed to save the shelter, but obviously Mackenzie has to butt her nose into a situation that could make or break the lives of tons of adorable animals…
In Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All (also making a first for the biggest amount of hyphens in a title ), Nikki becomes very zealous into becoming a student journalist for her school’s newspaper, predictably as she’d already made the headlining story once…
…and it might
or might not have something to do with Mackenzie becoming the newspaper’s “gossip girl” in her new scandalous column of tittle-tattle. And there could even be some succulent info about the Nikki-Brandon relationship that Nikki doesn’t enjoy Mackenzie telling to the school. So Nikki becomes a recruit on the paper’s staff and ends up as a columnist like Mackenzie, but she’s giving out counsel and advice! It’s initially a fun activity, answering letters and all, but when Nikki’s inbox becomes flooded with these requests and pleas for guidance, she may need her own help. But luckily with Chlo and Zo at her side and on her keyboard, it seems like Nikki can maintain the mess. Or will she end up as humiliated as she did on the newspaper headline?…
NERDS 1-2 by Michael Buckley – If you had to name a series that did Buckley that commercially and critically prospered as much as Sisters Grimm, it had to be NERDS. NERDS being an acronym for National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. Sounds like a pretty boss acronym for a word that means “a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious”. The members of the NERDS organization are all normal grade-schooler kids that have conditions or diversities that have evoked the “upgrades” that make them NERDS nerds in the first place:
- Jackson “Braceface” Jones – Formerly a cocky and arrogant football star that was so famous his teacher actually taught a subject solely themed on him, Jackson may seem externally tough, but internally he suffers from notable insecurity and a craving to be accepted. His football stardom and fame was stripped from him when he was given permanent braces, but these braces can actually transform into any mechanical device he wishes. Unfortunately, Jackson’s guzzle galluses must stay on his mouth at all times, even after transformation.
- Matilda “Wheezer” Choi – A spunky Korean-American girl affected with bronchial asthma that makes her winded after not even walking her entire block, Matilda’s upgrades consist of two nano-enhanced inhalers that gift her with flight and the ability to blast baddies. Ironically, she’s rather tomboyish and actually despises anything “girly”. Also, she’s a great pro wrestling enthusiast and can equip anything and everything as a weapon.
- Heathcliff “Choppers” Hodges – Actually, he has four nicknames, but I decided to choose one that actually made the most sense so I wouldn’t get the stress of having to write out every single one. Cliff is an intelligent kid that suffers from being the target of most bullies, and his upgrade seems to be the most awesome and rather scientifically classified. He has a psycho-hallucinogenic whitening treatment which gets further enhanced by a special kind of toothpaste that, when worn by his buckteeth, has powers of hypnosis and mind control.
- Duncan “Gluestick” Dewey – Duncan is a chubby Afro-American boy that is a tech enthusiast and also a paste eater. This habit has actually backed up his upgrade–he can stick to any and all surfaces. He is one of the three NERDS nerds that have told his family about his astonishing secret. Without his abilities, Duncan is basically and generally feckless.
- Julio “Flinch” Escala – Julio is a hyperactive Mexican-American boy that is described as a walking ball of energy, mainly spiked due to all the sugary treats he consumes due to his sugar addiction. Every single day, I should add. His upgrade is a harness that burns his energy into superhuman speed and strength, and without it he is noticeably shaking and unable to stop himself. Due to his disliking of romance and everything lovey-dovey, he could be considered the asexual NERDS nerd. Julio also shares a strong friendship with Duncan.
- Ruby “Pufferfish” Peet – This stubbornly smart Jewish girl suffers from the worst allergies in history. Seriously, documented history states it. Her upgrades enhance her allergies to where she can use them psychically to detect feelings like danger and dishonesty. She is also the head nerd of NERDS itself.
- Mindy “The Hyena” Beauchamp – Formerly a junior beauty pageant queen, this freelance worker also doubles as a skilled martial artist aspiring to become a pro assassin. Don’t be scared, she doesn’t actually have what you’d call an upgrade, but she has a very contagious and obnoxious laugh. She is also Jackson’s love interest, hates it when people find out her real name, and currently works as a NERDS nerd on a classified project…
Should I even have to tell you what the two books are about?
So now that you know every single darn detail about what I’ve been doing–oh, let me set you free from the hassle of reading this long post with all the videos I want you to watch. Consider this the Ultimate Video of the Week Compilation…well, besides our Halloween special compilation, but that’s another story.
Stay classy America,
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 XD 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 XD 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)
Hey guys it’s Sam, and needless to say, no braggadocio intended, I’m a darn good dancer. I’ve mastered Dance Central and beat Dance Central 2, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I can’t do full cartwheels or handsprings or flips (on trampolines, yes), but at least I can somersault without breaking my neck. I’ve seen a lot of dancing shows and said to myself, “I’m not nearly as good as them.” And there are lots of kids out there that can kick my fanny anytime, anywhere in dancing. There was even an entire successful show that chronicled the lives of young aspiring dancers and the dysfunctional relationships of their mothers intertwining with that of the choreographer. There are some kinds of moms out there: Soccer moms, basketball moms, football moms. And then there are Dance Moms.
This show just hit the radar last summer and is probably my most/only-watched Lifetime show to date. Dance Moms is about the Philly-based dance studio Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC), started by its eponymous founder Abby Lee Miller at the age of fourteen. Now an adult, she is choreographing the dance routines for six (formerly eight) young female dancers: Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler, Chloe Lukasiak, Brooke and Paige Hyland, and Nia Frazier. (Not counting Payton Ackerman. She was Brooke’s replacement when she left for cheerleading tryouts, and she was kicked off the show upon Brooke’s sudden return in what is now the greatest plot twist in TV history.) Two former dancers were Kendall Vertes and Vivi-Anne Stein before they both transferred to ALDC’s bitter rivaled dance studio, Candy Apples. (Vivi-Anne is actually the daughter of the studio’s founder, the now hated “Crazy Cathy” Stein. The scariest part is that she was a former dance mom herself!) In every episode, Abby, the dancers, and their moms go to dance competitions around the country, from ones in their own backyard to others in even Michigan. Usually, the following things occur:
- A) Something goes horribly wrong.
- B) The dance moms get into arguments, as they usually should.
- C) Everyone shuts their pieholes and the day goes by swimmingly.
At the start of the episode, there is a “Pyramid” that tracks, in Abby’s eyes, how good her dancers are doing. The Pyramid has actually evoked a viewer controversy due to its negative aspects, but Abby herself has admitted that the show’s producers are the makers of the Pyramid and not herself. The bottom 3 on the Pyramid are the worst of the bunch :cry:, the middle 2 are mediocre :???:, and the top 1 is the best :mrgreen:. Nia, Mackenzie, and Paige were the first at the bottom of the Pyramid, Chloe and Brooke were the first midpoint dancers, and Maddie was the first to top the charts. (Not surprising, considering she is Abby’s most favored dancer. :roll:) You may notice that the most recent episode of Dance Moms was last month (“Abbygeddon”, the season 2 finale), but as a lot of people ensure themselves online, the show has suddenly broken its thin ice with the cancellation bear 😈 and disappeared. 😦 Well, those people are wrong, because the third season has only begun. Next Tuesday, Dance Moms is coming back, and the anticipation has been just as heated as the dance moms’ ever-continuing squabbling. Now, you’re probably wondering, “Why should I care?” Well, Dance Moms has been one of the most successful Lifetime shows on the market, mister! 😡 Anyway, you can check out Dance Moms when it returns on June 5 @ 9:00 on Lifetime! (Now make a decision, this or E3? :lol:) Can’t stand the wait? Check out the Dance Moms spinoff @ the Sunshine State, Dance Moms Miami, every Tuesday at 10:00 on Lifetime! 😀
Anyway, you might be disappointed by this topic :oops:, but stay tuned next Monday and you’ll probably get something even better! Leave a comment below about what you’d want me to talk about next, and make sure you subscribe, rate, like, reblog, share, and stay tuned! Because do you know what Benjamin Franklin once said? “A penny saved is a penny earned.” 8)
p.s. Would You Rather o’ the Week: Would you rather…be the best dancer while ugly, or the worst dancer while beautiful?
p.p.s. Random Video o’ the Week: If you’ve been up to date with the Fine Brothers’ monitoring lately, you’ll hear about a new upcoming React series called Seniors React. There have been React shows starring kids, and teens, and now the sweet elderly. With the name changed to Elders React, watch as they cope and are questioned about the very viral hit that got a Kids React episode over 10 million views: the Nyan Cat. Some are vexed with the video’s repetition while others are indulged by it, but either way the first-ever Elders React episode has come sooner than expected, with 1.4 million views since last Thursday, as well as very positive reception with only 1% of disliking. So this seems like a good video to dedicate the week to.
p.p.s.s. If you’re bad enough to preview the show before it even releases, then go to http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/dance-moms to get to the show’s official site and check out an official sneak peek of a brand-new season three episode! Among this, you can check out other things like the show’s app, the dance moms’ blogs, tours of the dance moms’ homes, never-before-seen photos, the show’s “dance dictionary”, the weekly “Top Mom” competition, and even biographies behind the dance moms and Abby Lee herself! This is something you don’t want to miss, comrade. 😉
Recognize this face? Yup, it’s the one and only Shel Silverstein, the one who gave us the thumbsucking epidemic song I took a look at earlier last month. Shel may be one of the weirdest guys I’ve met since my classmates on Backwards Day. Anyway, Shel’s got a lucky thumb to A) not to be sucked, and B) to get another spot on T4T, this time for his timeless song “A Boy Named Sue”.
“…my name is Sue! How do you do? Now you’re gonna die!”
Surprisingly enough, “A Boy Named Sue” (also incorrectly referred to as “Boy Named Sue“) is not entirely of Shel’s work. He was just the writer of the song, the real user of this song (besides Shel) being Johnny Cash on his 1969 live album, At San Quentin. It has to be one the weirdest, funniest, and most violent songs I’ve ever listened since Avenged Sevenfold’s “Beast and the Harlot” went to the Guitar Hero 2 track list. The album A Boy Named Sue and his Country Songs coincidentally released the same year of Cash’s live album, both scoring Grammy Awards for their versions of the song in the process.
The storyline revolves around…well, title says all, a boy named Sue. Named as a joke by his father, he becomes the laughingstock of the area, but he’s the one that gets to the last laugh when he grows up to be a hard-hitting master of mass destruction, even beating up his own father as a revenge plan. The song is very groovy especially for one of Shel’s works, and especially deserves to be recited by a bored farmer in a rocking chair.
4 out of 5 – Violence – Have you been listening to all that I’ve been talking about so far? “A Boy Named Sue” gives violence a new name, and I still can’t believe they got that crazy back in the sixties!
- Sue narrates that if a guy laughed at his name, he’d bust his head.
- Upon seeing and recognizing his long-lost dad, he simply beats him up, throwing a chair across his teeth, giving him a haymaker between the eyes, and almost threatening to kill him if his profound love didn’t change him. His father also extremely violently rebounds, knifing off some of his ear.
- At the very end of the song, Sue lashes out against his name, and his reactions to it if he ever heard or saw it, or his father, again.
1 1/2 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content (saying the S word would be vulgar) – Besides violence, the only thing that’s not really appropriate, or nice, is the gender shaming and male stereotypical themes this song has.
2 out of 5 – Language – The worst word encountered isn’t even dirty, but it’s “heck.” Shel did a good job of replacing Cash’s dirty lyrics with new, clean ones. The two points of language points to Cash’s version of the song this time, ranging from “son-of-a-B word” to the H word.
Entertainment: A (5 points)
Laughs: B+ (4 points)
Style: B (3 points)
Smarts: A- (4 points)
Fun: A (4 points)
Final score: 2o out of 30 (Over halfway there)
Rating: E 10+ (Shel’s version), T (Cash’s version) (do I have to talk it over again?)
Click on the video to listen to Shel’s version of “A Boy Named Sue”.
Click on this video to watch almost six minutes of a segment of the foul-mouthed Johnny Cash’s show, shown in 1970, released online in 2008 to over 200,000 views. This video does feature a quick duet with the two creators of the song, also featuring a touching Shel solo to “Daddy, What If”.
“A Boy Named Sue” is a blast listening to, and your inside self is going to be laughing its head off while getting seriously grossed out at the same time, but overall, it’s one of Shel’s best songs. End of story.
Like what you saw? Subscribe for more, and if you blog here at WordPress, there’s that little button with a star on it that says ‘Like’. Click that. Did you do it? You should. I also may not be up to date with blogging after this, because the entire Moorsbridge 5th grade is headed to Sherman Lake camp! So, check out my other posts to do you time here on Sammwak!
p.s. And to bid you a good farewell, I will give you a Shel-style goodbye poem:
Goodbye, goodbye, I hope you come back
To Sammwak here, and that’s a fact
Over 40,000 hits to date
To all of those I can’t relate
So always remember to come back
And enjoy the glory of what is Sammwak!