The Best Fantasy Films Ever Made

Screw you, American Film Institute, I’m making my own list of the best Fantasy films of all time right here. By golly, I am. Why the hell not, right? It’s my right to state my opinion and have a say in the genre I love and cherish. I’ve published novels in the Fantasy genre, albeit dark ones, and I have studied and appreciate the films throughout the decades for as long as they have been around.

I think part of the failure of AFI’s list is the lack of quality ones since very recently.

Now we have The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to hang our wizard hats on but it was not always the rose colored garden of awesomeness it is today. Oh no, it was slim pickings back in the day.

And there was a lot of crap back then, too. A lot of crap.

There was crap like Labyrinth and Willow and other schlock like that; yes, these films have fans but they were pretty lame, sorry. We also had The Beastmaster and many other attempts at making sword and sorcery inspired films that were supposed to be like Conan the Barbarian. And speaking of which, even though it is nothing like the literary character, I’ll include Conan on this list for the sheer fact people know and respect the film.
Conan is solid entertainment and worth watching, for sure. But it’s not really Conan for real. It’s a shallow interpretation of Robert E. Howard’s muscled Cimmerian built for the masses. The real Conan would chop Arnold up and eat his liver. Then piss on his bones.

Going back to our current batch of Fantasy films, we now enjoy a plethora of great stuff.

I’ll throw The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter as two separate entries because all 11 films should be on this list of greatest Fantasy films. Go ahead and include them all, right? That’s our list. Even though some of the Potter’s are subpar compared to the rest, none of them are less than good, with slight variations within the Rings’ series from awesome to spectacular.

Outside of this and Conan there were some pretty Fantasy films back in the day, with most of them occurring in the 80s.

Although the technology at the time limited the amount of CGI work they could do, there were ways around this limitation and the filmmakers that succeeded at this genre were focused more on storytelling. God forbid, right?

One I think belongs at the top is Dragonslayer starring Peter MacNicol and Ralph Richardson.

It’s a simple story about pupil and mentor out to kill a dragon that is terrorizing the countryside. The king has created a simple lottery system that picks a random serf girl to sacrifice to the dragon to keep it from killing more and some in the town set out to hire a wizard to take the creature down. What follows is a fantastic exercise in compelling dark fantasy and some really amazing effects. Seriously, this film is way ahead of its time and still looks great.
Another one of my favorite is Ladyhawke and although the music is some of the worst I have ever heard it does a nice job of combining Fantasy with history, action and romance. Starring Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick, it’s also directed by Richard Donner, one of the most versatile filmmakers of all time. The guy could do it all.
A Fantasy film I consider a better incarnation of the spirit of the original Conan the Barbarian stories by Howard is The Sword and the Sorcerer. It’s low budget and cheesy at times but it was a huge hit in its day and a very fun time. It’s got a badass three pronged sword that shoots out blades and Richard Moll as a demon that pulls out hearts.

What more do you want?


Will Girl Meets World Tackle the Real Issues?

Girl Meets World is the most hotly anticipated Disney Channel shows to be released in years. The show has been developed as a sequel series to the hit 90s show, Boy Meets World, which starred Ben Savage as the young Cory Matthews finding his way through the world. Girl Meets World will see the return of several original Boy Meets World cast members as main cast members in the new show, including Ben Savage as Cory Matthews and Danielle Fishel as Topanga; in addition to this, several former cast members have been confirmed to have guest appearances or smaller roles on the show.

One of the primary concerns of the original shows fans has been the tone of the new series.

Boy Meets World was developed for ABC Family, where more mature topics and less idealized characters and lives were the norm. The Disney Channel, however, especially in recent years, has become the poster child for shows with bright, fun and somewhat fake characters and storylines that seem more bent on making the next “big star” than producing quality, meaningful television for younger audiences. For many fans, the tone of the old series was set by its ability to tackle some pretty serious life issues—including alcoholism, racism, cults, classism, and even the implications of sexual assault.

Will Girl Meets World, being developed exclusively for the Disney Channel, be able to match those same issues?

One of the top creative producers on the show recently indicated in an interview that they would like to approach “similar issues” to those which were covered on Boy Meets World, But, he added, they would have to be “very clever about it.” Although he did not indicate if this was because of Disney Channel standards or a shift in programs for younger audiences needing to be less serious than was acceptable in the 90s is unclear.
Critics of the criticism against the show—which has yet to air—point out that while Boy Meets World did cover some serious issues, these serious episodes were in the later seasons when the cast was in their teens at least. The first two or three seasons rarely covered anything other than what would be appropriate for young audiences, with most of the episodes dealing with typical childhood issues, like friendship, school and family. Girl Meets World, if it is successful, will likely follow the same course.

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Great Episodes from South Park’s Earliest Seasons

Many of South Park’s most popular episodes come from the show’s later seasons—such as episodes like Scott Tenorman Must Die, Casa Bonita, and Raisins. But South Park is a long running show and its earlier seasons, though often different in tone from the later episodes of the show, have some great gems that fans of the show new and old alike shouldn’t miss. Let’s look at some of the best episodes from South Park’s first three seasons!

Season 1: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo

This is the very first episode where Mr. Hankey–yes, the talking piece of poop–made his appearance. In this episode, Kyle is feeling blue because he is from the only Jewish family in town and, as such, is the only kid who is not celebrating Christmas. But his spirits are lifted by Mr. Hankey, even if no one else believes in him. This episode is silly and crude, but has a certain comedic poignancy that many children who feel excluded from holidays can identify with. Even if they can’t identify with believing in something as ridiculous (and gross) as Mr. Hankey.

Season 2: Spookyfish

In this episode, creatures and people from an alternate universe where everything is opposite begin appearing in South Park. A nice version of Cartman–complete with a silly beard–appears, as does an evil, murderous goldfish that begins murdering people in the town. The best moments of the episode occur during the reveal of the evil goldfish, which appears closer and closer each time Stan opens his eyes, eventually fogging up his own bowl and writing ‘KILL’ on the side. The episode contains some hilarious and well written references to the classic film The Bad Seed as well.

Season 3: The Red Badge of Gayness

Cartman hasn’t always quite been as intense as he is in later episodes of South Park, but he has always been one thing: stubborn and willing to go to great lengths to get what he wants. In this episode, Cartman makes a bet with Stan and Kyle that the Confederate side will win the Civil War in this year’s reenactment. To achieve this, he persuades the Confederate re-enactors to not only win the town’s reenactment battle but to continue reenacting across the south, capturing cities and winning battles that the Confederacy lost during the real Civil war.

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What We Hope From Resurrection Season 2

ABC’s Resurrection is one of the most unique dramas on network television. Resurrection revolves around the mysterious reappearances of people who were believed to be dead—ranging from a young boy who drowned in a creek to a young pregnant woman who committed suicide. The show’s primary focus in season 1 was the emotional reactions experienced by the loved ones of those who had returned—including joy at seeing their loved one, grief at old wounds being reopened, fear that the person isn’t really their dead loved one, just to name a few things.

In season 1’s last episodes, however, more of the mystery was revealed. A visiting scientist discovered that the blood of the returned actively killed the cancer in his cells; meanwhile, more and more returned appeared in the town, going from three isolated cases to dozens and potentially hundreds of people returned from the dead. The season ended with an intense cliffhanger: Agent Belamy and Jacob surrounded by government vehicles, only for the final shot to reveal that Agent Belamy had the same birthmark on his neck as an infant that a returned family was looking for.

The show’s first season was no doubt intense, and was fairly well received critically—there was hardly any doubt that ABC would renew the show. But what can we expect, or more importantly, what do we hope to see from the show’s second season?

More Rachel.

Rachel is easily one of the most intriguing characters on the show, namely because her presence invites so many questions. Rachel’s pregnancy alone invites countless questions—will her baby technically be one of the returned? Will it possess any unusual traits, such as the extreme hunger reported by those who have come back from the dead? The other mystery, of course, is Rachel’s second reappearance. Her second death resulted in a second resurrection—does this second resurrection change anything about her personality or even her biology?

A look into Agent Belamy’s past.

The biggest reveal of the season was that Belamy has his own connection to the “resurrected.” Did the infant Belamy survive the accident? Or did he die and resurrect decades before his family did? If Belamy did resurrect, he may very well be one of the first—if not the first—resurrected person from Arcadia. His ties to the town, then, would be deeper than ever before.

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Star Wars: Episode VII- The Cast

They have officially announced the cast for the upcoming seventh film in the biggest sci-fi franchise of them all, Star Wars. Whoo-who! Allow me to geek out a bit as I contemplate the idea that we are getting a sequel to Star Wars, another full trilogy in fact. Holy smokes. A new freaking Star Wars trilogy, it still blows my mind to think about it. Life doesn’t seem long enough for things like this to happen and when they do, it almost doesn’t seem real.
My head is still spinning at the recent announcement of the main cast for Star Wars: Episode VII, subtitle to be named later. That announcement, what this specific entry will be entitled, is a whole separate topic. Man, that will be crazy once it hits! I’m not kidding. Wait and see the internet explode when they announce Star Wars: Episode VII: The New Jedi Order or whatever it will be named. People will speculate what it means and how everything fits together in whatever fan fantasy they have wrapped up in their minds about what they think Star Wars should be.

They are doing the same with this new cast announcement.

I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far. They are people I know and those I don’t. Those I don’t know well are something to be happy about as well. I like that there are some lesser known actors, good actors that will fit roles that will enable us as viewers to see them as characters and not the actors they are. With the original cast coming back, this might be difficult but it all comes down to the script.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

This is a new Star Wars film, people! Holy crap. Okay, sorry, I got excited again. About the new cast. We have some familiar faces here in regards to the original trilogy. But in addition to these that I will get to, we also have Andy Serkis, who could play anything, perhaps some weird alien, and we have Max von Sydow, who can play whatever he wants and I would be happy. Merrin! Fear the priest, fear the- okay, I’m a fan of The Exorcist, got it? These are intriguing choices and I’m happy with them.

I’m also extremely excited that Luke, Han and Leia are coming back. Why the hell not, right? The actors are still alive so I say the central theme of these upcoming films should be these core characters. To me, they are Star Wars. Continuing their story is very important to me so I want to see how they are in their older age and what stage of their lives they are in. I recently watched the entire original trilogy and hey, there’s some more story out there to be told. They are all so young at the end and the Empire can’t be totally gone.

I think von Sydow will play some Empire lord or surviving general, they can’t all have been killed aboard the Death Star. No. Someone survived but what about the Sith Dark Vader and the Emperor’s ilk? Will we see another Sith Lord and how is this possible, given the idea that only two of them can be alive at the same time?

Yes, that’s right, according to Lucas’ rules about the Sith, this “Rule of Two” means only a master Sith and their apprentice are allowed to be in play at any one time. Seems kind of cool to me because it makes them more rare and powerful since there are only two at a time. Not sure how it works in the expanded universe of Star Wars but in the films it has been fine.

The rest of the cast is a collection of working actors with some solid skill at their jobs. I’m looking forward to what they bring to the franchise.


Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Gears up for the Finale

With May sweeps hitting the airwaves this month, there are a slew of TV series gearing up for their respective final episode runs. With Agents of SHIELD, the show has recently taken a turn for the better and amped up its quality, excitement and momentum. Of course, the ratings don’t reflect this improvement much, as they are floating around at the same level they had while they were in free fall, but the show has improved dramatically the last few episodes and looks to finish strong with a whirlwind of action, deception, and perhaps some more betrayal.

SPOILERS to follow.

If you haven’t seen the show lately or seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you may want to skip this post. A whole lot of craziness has gone done in the world of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and that has carried over nicely into their TV world. The show did not start off this way. It was slow moving, tentative and kinda boring and bland. I did not like it and actually stopped watching after five or so episodes.

But then they did a wonderful thing that maybe seemed like a marketing ploy on the surface; Marvel decided to crush it hardcore with the Captain America sequel in both a creative way and at the box office. A huge hit with critics and fans alike, The Winter Soldier was smart, exciting and more in touch with the modern day political/terrorist quagmire that grips much of the Middle East and has ramifications for all of us.

The Winter Soldier couldn’t not have been a better Cold War Spy Thriller if it tried.

They blended the action and political tenseness with the character driven aspect of both Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury and Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, in a fantastic way. The fallout from the film, the fact that the evil organization HYDRA that good old Red Skull led in the first Captain America film has infiltrated SHIELD, has now carried over to the TV show.

I’ve written about this before but now the ante is up, up, up and the show has kicked into over drive. The core team, Agent Coulson, Skye, May, Fitz and Simmons must now deal with a HYDRA traitor in their midst. It’s Agent Ward, the hardcore badass special ops guy you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. HYDRA continues to dig deep into the lowest levels of SHIELD and the systematic destruction of the agency, which Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame) describes as the end of SHIELD.

In the latest episodes she tells Coulson SHIELD is finished, that there is no turning back.

It’s hard to disagree with her and that is part of what makes the show exciting now. The stakes are as high as they could be. Actions mean something and mistakes of the past come back to haunt them. It’s a great time to be watching this show but the question remains; what will the future bring?

Marvel has a bunch of films coming out and another TV series based on Daredevil, which will coincide with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s pretty cool. They could have a nice cross over with him like they have with other characters from the films, like Lady Sif from Thor and of course Cobie Smulders’ character and Nick Fury. It’s a tough balance, though, between connecting with the film world and letting the show do its own thing. There is no doubt whatsoever the events of The Winter Soldier invigorated Agents of SHIELD. I think the show would be dead in the water without it. But what happens next?

How do they keep the excitement and stakes high?

The show has yet to be picked up for a second season officially and though it is a safe bet it will, there is no guarantee.

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24 Returns!

Are you ready for some football? Are you ready for- wait, that’s not right. I mean, damn it! are you ready for the return of the best action/spy series in television history? Yes, that’s it. 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland is coming back to kick some ass and take some names as Jack Bauer, the most bass mother effing government agent to grace the small screen. So buckle up, strap the seat belts tight and get ready for some ass kicking of the highest caliber.

24: Live Another Day is fast approaching, is a limited TV event series rather than a mini-series or considered as a 9th season to the show, now dormant for four years. They tried to big ol’ Jack to the big screen but couldn’t get a good enough script together I guess because they kept dropping it like a hot potato. I think the biggest problem was the concept of the show, having each episode represent an hour of actual time, couldn’t be done the right way as a two hour movie. It just ain’t gonna fly that way.

Jack Bauer exits in a world where time matters.

And the TV series 24 changed the way we view an hour long drama. The split screens, the beeping phones, the hardcore pulse pounding action and various troops of this show have invaded our public consciousness. When South Park did a parody of the show, entitled “The Snuke”, everyone got the joke. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” as they say.

Everyone has heard of this show and understand many of its familiar attributes. This is serious saturation for a TV to cross over into the consciousness of a culture.

But the show was cancelled after eight glorious seasons. Sure, season 6 was weak but after the amazing run up to the point, culminating in one of the greatest seasons in television history (season 5), you can’t blame them for dropping down in quality a bit. Every show has a dip here and there and for 24, they got a breathing they never counted on, the Writer’s Strike of 2008.

So they skipped a year, came back with a two hour special, 24: Redemption, and set up season 7.

Season 7, set mostly in Washington, DC, felt like a breath of fresh air and this reinvigorated the series in a big way. Then we got the excellent season 8 and they rode off into the sunset.

Of course, we fans thought we would get a set of films with Jack Bauer out there kicking some terrorist butt around the world. Instead, we get a limited series called 24: Live Another Day 12 episodes of the show (still spread out over 24 hours, with the action jumping around and filling in the gaps later) set in London, where Jack is all ready to stop the bad guys from threatening the world.

Jack is on the run once again, hiding from authorities, but I’m wondering just when the hell they are gonna get a clue and let him be. The guy has given so much of his life for the good people of the world he should have a break at this point.

But whatever, that’s part of the fun of this show, seeing Jack get out of trouble and doing the impossible.

He will be joined by the one and only Chloe O’Brian and I’m thankful he has the best tech girl in the world back on his side. Chloe was really annoying at first but she grows on you throughout the series’ run and I can’t imagine any incarnation of 24 without her. She saves Jack’s butt as much as he saves the world.

Jack’s former flame, Audrey Raines, formerly catatonic and messed up from her adventures with Bauer, returns as well. Her father, James Heller, comes back as well and now he’s president.

Jack is back!

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