Saturday, February 26, 2011

Geeky Winter Essentials

My cousin and fellow blogger, Annette, posted a list of her winter essentials on her blog, A Simple Breath.  It got me thinking about the things that get me through the winter blahs.

1.  Knit zombie earflap beanie and black cotton gloves - It gets pretty cold here, so hats and gloves are essential.  The hat is adorable (in addition to keeping my head warm) and these little one-size-fits-all cotton gloves are warm and still allow me to read on my commute.

2.  Soap & Glory's Great Shakes Hand Cream - It's a British brand, but Target carried it for a while (They gave me time to fall in love with the stuff . . . and snatched it away.  The website reports that the brand should be back in the States in September 2011, though!).  It softens your hands without making them greasy and lotion is definitely a winter essential in an already dry climate.

3.  Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker - I'm a Dr. Pepper fiend and the Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker has been my go-to chap stick for about twenty years.  I wear it all year long, but I have an extra one just for my coat pocket to keep my lips from getting chapped by the chilly winter winds.

4.  Queen of Hearts hoodie - I don't like to crank the heat, so I put on this lightweight hoodie to keep warm when hanging out at the house.  It's also the perfect replacement for a jacket on warmer winter days.  And it's awesome.

5.  Netflix - Movies magically delivered to your house (and gaming console!)?  Yes, please.

6.  TV show box sets - There's nothing better than spending a snowy day watching your favorite shows.  My picks right now:  hilarious British comedy "Spaced", "MST3K" (always!), and the late great "Pushing Daisies"

7.  A big bowl of buttery microwave popcorn - It just completes a movie marathon in a way nothing else can.

8.  Movie notebook - The perfect way to keep track of movies you want to see; a must as major release dates are approaching!

9.  Wintry books - Something about reading these books in the season they are set helps enhance the mood beautifully.  I like to read Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist and Ghost Story by Peter Straub around this time of year.

10.  (Not pictured) Clam chowder and a basket of piping hot fish and chips (with plenty of vinegar!) - Nothing cures the winter blues like seeing that basket lined with newspaper and knowing it's for you! Mmmmmm . . .

What helps you get through until spring?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alice, What Have You Done?

Not to damage my geek "cred", but I'm not really a gamer.  I usually play PC games, and a quick look at my Top Five games would tell you I'd be classified as a "casual gamer" - at best.  (Top Five PC Games: Encarta's Mindmaze, Battle Chess, Myst, Plants vs. Zombies, and American McGee's Alice)  Since I've been a life-long Alice in Wonderland  fan and enjoy puzzle/quest games, American McGee's Alice  is naturally my favorite and I've been eagerly awaiting the sequel . . . for almost eleven years.  McGee's studio Spicy Horse has finally announced Alice: Madness Returns  with an expected fourth quarter release date and it will be available for PC, XBox 360, and PS3.  Alice fans, rejoice with these amazing trailers . . .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Heart: The Regression Edition


  • Eating cafeteria style at GB Fish & Chips
  • For just one night, falling asleep alone in a big bed with a book on the next pillow and no rambunctious kitties to wake me up.
  • Watching "Night Gallery" with my dad
  • This adorable Momiji doll
  • Pretzels, popcorn and cotton candy
  • Buying cute polymer earrings from Claire's
  • Sock monkeys
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • Getting the giggles
  • "Phineas and Ferb" (Especially this musical number that references several Broadway musicals!)
  • Waking up at noon and spending the day in pajamas
  • Eating chocolate chip cookie dough
  • Missed Connections, a blog of artwork based on the "Missed Connections" section of Craigslist New York.
  • "Bar Karma" - Current TV's new television show, entirely created by the online community.  It's like "Quantum Leap" meets "Twin Peaks" and stars the amazing William Sanderson.
What's knocking your  socks off this week?

*Inspired by Gala Darling who features TILT (Things I Love Thursdays) on her blog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Geek of the Week: Stephen Torrence

Stephen Torrence is a self-described geek who posts ASL (American Sign Language) videos for popular (and not so popular) songs on YouTube under the user name CaptainValor.  Torrence is hearing and was introduced to ASL through a high school friend who enjoyed signing with her mother.  He graduated from Texas Tech and minored in ASL.  He got his start making videos for his sign classes and they were so well-received, he decided to post them on the internet.  PopEater posted one of his videos and he ended up with over 18,000 subscribers. Torrence proves his geek cred by being a big Jonathan Coulton and Portal fan.

Here are my favorites of his videos:

Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains"

"Still Alive" (also written by Jonathan Coulton) from Portal

And here's an interview with Torrence by How Stuff Works

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Five . . . Actors Who Make Awesome Villains

Actors hate being typecast, but they are often tapped for the same type of role repeatedly because of how they can become that character.  (Examples:  Jesse Eisenberg and socially awkward nerds, Samuel L. Jackson and badasses, Hugh Grant and flustered male leads in romantic comedies)  Actors who make good villains are notoriously typecast, something they probably don't enjoy, but that works to the audience's benefit (as we get amazing performances).  Submitted for your approval are my Top Five picks for actors who make awesome villains:

5.  Gary Oldman

Oldman is probably the least pigeonholed actor on my list, as he has had a long and varied career.  Some of his best known performances include Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series, and Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan's recent Batman reboots.  It is his intensity and commitment to his characters that makes him an excellent actor . . . and an excellent villain.  Catch his bad guy turns in flicks like The Fifth Element, True Romance, and Bram Stoker's Dracula

My pick for best villain role:
Corrupt DEA agent Norman Stansfield in Leon (aka The Professional)

4.  Malcom McDowell

It is easy to see why McDowell tends to be typecast in villainous roles.  He has a very intense-looking face and a sinister-sounding voice, both of which enhance his excellent performances.  In addition to his many on-camera roles, McDowell has done a lot of voice-over work for documentaries and video games.  Some of his most famous villains can be found in Caligula, Star Trek Generations, Tank Girl, and the first season of acclaimed series "Heroes".

My pick for best villain role:
Cliche, but true - Psychopath and classical music lover Alexander DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange

3.  Christopher Walken

Even when Walken plays a seemingly innocuous role, he creeps the bejeebers out of me, so he had to have a place on this list.  Although in more recent years he is more known for his comedic turns (especially his repeated SNL appearances) and his surprisingly good dance moves in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" music video, he's played plenty of villains throughout his career.  The unusual cadence in his speaking voice and his deep-set eyes make for a unnerving villain, especially in films like King of New York, Last Man Standing, and The Prophecy.

My pick for best villain role:
Walken fans would probably select renegade archangel Gabriel in The Prophecy (and rightly so)*, but I have to go with the Headless Horseman from Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow.  Never have a set of teeth so haunted my dreams.

2.  Clancy Brown

Brown is a dark horse contender in a list of heavy hitters, but he's also an amazing character actor.  This makes him my go-to guy for the number two spot.  The combination of his acting skill, his imposing frame, and his mega deep baritone voice make him tailor-made for villain roles.  His incredible voice has scored him a large amount of voice-over work, especially in animated comic book features.  He can be seen on-screen in The Shawshank Redemption, Pet Semetary II, and Highlander.

My pick for best villain role:
Nefarious preacher Brother Justin Crowe in the short-lived, but amazing HBO series "Carnivale"

1.  Christopher Lee

In my book, Lee is the end all and be all of actors in villainous roles.  Knighted in 2009, Lee holds the Guinness World Record for most film acting roles.  Throughout his illustrious career, he has played everything from Count Dracula several times over (in the iconic Hammer horror films) to the Jabberwocky in Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland.

My pick for best villain role:
It's a tie:  King Haggard in The Last Unicorn (purely for nostalgic reasons) and the evil wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

*Seriously, if you haven't seen this film, you definitely should - if only for the excellent cast.  In addition to Walken it includes Eric Stolz, Elias Koteas, and arguably Viggo Mortensen's best (and most underrated) performance.

So, let's hear it.  Who are some of your favorite villains?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy V-Day!

I've had a love/hate relationship with Valentine's Day.  When I was a kid, I loved picking out paper Valentines to give to my friends, but by the time I hit high school, I loathed V-Day.  I think it had something to do with watching other girls get flowers and not having a boyfriend (but I'm not bitter!).  Now that I'm married, it's yet another excuse to get away with sending Kris to work with a note in his lunch and to get him a goofy gift.  I still think the best part about V-Day is sending cards to friends, though, so here are some Valentines for you, my awesome readers . . .

For my anti-Valentine's Day friends:

Be my Anti-Valentine
And for my geeky friends:

Be my Robot Valentine

And for my zombie loving friends:

Be my Zombie Valentine

And for my horror fan friends:

Be my Bloody Valentine

And finally for my lovely traditional friends (and family!):

Be my Corny Valentine

Whatever your stance on V-Day, I hope you have a great one!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Geek of the Week: Simon Pegg

Simon Pegg
British funnyman Simon Pegg started as a stand-up comic, and after a few small television roles, landed his own series on BBC 4, "Spaced".  Along with co-star Jessica Stevenson, he wrote the series, placing himself in the role of Tim, a slacker graphic artist with dreams of creating his own comic book.  After working with Edgar Wright on "Spaced", the two decided to write a romantic zombie comedy (or "rom-com-zom"), which became the acclaimed Shaun of the Dead.  This film launched Pegg into the international mainstream, making him a geek icon and allowing him to live out some childhood dreams, including snaring a cameo in George Romero's Land of the Dead and appearing on a "Doctor Who" episode ("The Long Game" in 2005).

Pegg went on to do several films, including playing Scotty in the 2009 Star Trek reboot and voicing Reepicheep in the latest installment of the Chronicles of Narnia series, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Pegg's likeness was used to create the character Wee Hughie for underground comic The Boys, and he quickly became a fan despite the fact that the comic's creators had used his image without his permission.  He even wrote the introduction for the first compiled volume.

Pegg's latest film, Paul, also stars his frequent collaborator and best friend, Nick Frost (Mike in "Spaced", Ed in Shaun of the Dead, and PC Danny Butterman in Hot Fuzz), and centers on two comic book fanboys who have their own close encounter with a wise-cracking alien.

Pegg turns 41 on February 14th (tomorrow!) - wish him "Many Happy Returns" on Twitter @simonpegg.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Heart Packages

With V-Day quickly approaching, I decided last week to order our presents.  We'll be exchanging small gifts on the day, but the bigger gifts were ordered online.  Kris got a Linux+ study book (his idea, not mine) and I got this amazing life-changing item:

Meet George!
That's right . . . it's a zombie head cookie jar!  (Get one of your own here.)

And a small gift for both of us . . .

Slogans galore!
If you're a "MST3K" fan, I highly recommend buying merch from their website.  I'm not a huge fan of the new computer generated bots, but they have some awesome "legacy" stuff.  I ordered these Saturday and they arrived Tuesday - incredibly fast delivery and they threw in free MST3K logo Post-Its!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mini Review: Creepshow

Editor's Note:  One of my readers asked about Creepshow and my response was a little longer than I had planned, so here is a mini review of the flick:

Creepshow (1982)
Rated R (for violence)

Directed by George Romero

Adrienne Barbeau
Leslie Neilsen
Ted Danson
E. G. Marshall

Creepshow  was King's and Romero's love letter to the horror comics of the 1950s, including Tales From the Crypt, and it's really a precursor to the "Tales From the Crypt" television show and other horror anthology shows like "Tales from the Darkside" (also a King/Romero collaboration). It borrows elements from the comics and the scares and gross-outs are mostly played for laughs. Because King wrote the screenplay, his influence is more obvious than Romero's and the flick is a little dated, but no more so than other films of that era. The movie is supposed to be campy, so the special effects (done by SFX veteran and Romero favorite Tom Savini) are exaggerated and B movie-esque.

The most effective vignettes are "Something to Tide You Over" and "They're Creeping Up On You", but I enjoyed "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" just for the novelty of seeing Stephen King act in something besides a two minute cameo. I would definitely recommend the movie for those that enjoy horror comedy and/or anthology tales, but if you're a horror purist, you may want skip it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Geek of the Week: George Romero

Image from Famous Monsters of Filmland
  George Romero, the father of modern zombie flicks, just celebrated his 71st birthday on Friday, February 4th.  Romero made several commercial short films (including one for "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood") before forming Image Ten Productions with several friends.  Their low-budget cult classic Night of the Living Dead set a precedent for zombie movies of the future.  While his "Dead" series is his best known work, Romero has also made several other cult favorites including Martin and Creepshow (his anthology collaboration with horror writer Stephen King).

Romero's films are known for their social commentary and he has influenced other horror directors, as well as cultivating the entire zombie genre.  His name is synonymous with "zombie" and his films have been referenced in everything from Shaun of the Dead to Stephen King's novel The Cell.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Top Five . . . Horror Flick Documentaries

Netflix Instant Play has given me access to some pretty amazing documentaries, including several that focus on the horror genre.  Here are my Top 5 horror film documentaries available on Netflix:

5.  Bloodsucking Cinema

This documentary is a Starz feature centered on vampire films (no Twilight - only the real thing).  Everything from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire is featured (unfortunately even a few duds like Bloodrayne and Van Helsing) and there is some discussion about the different ways vampires are presented (ie. scary versus alluring).

4.  Zombiemania

Another hour long Starz documentary, this one is about zombie flicks and how they've influenced and changed our culture.  The documentary includes interviews with several big names in the genre, including Tom Savini (SFX veteran), Maitland McDonagh (film critic and horror fan), and the father of zombie films as we know them today: George Romero.  The doc is concise and explains a lot of the nuances of zombie films.  An added bonus: zombification of the experts by zombie portrait artist Rob Sacchetto.

3.  100 Years of Horror

Hosted by the amazing Christopher Lee, this doc goes to the very beginning of the genre and works its way through the late 90s when the film was made.  This is a perfect documentary for those that prefer the golden age of horror (including the iconic Universal movie monsters).  There are some amazing rarities, including home movies, outtakes, and previously unseen screen tests from some of horror's heavy hitters.

2.  Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film

This doc premiered on Starz, but is based on the book of the same name by Adam Rockoff.  It's an in-depth look at the slasher sub-genre, complete with gory clips and interviews with major people involved in the flicks.  Because it's a two hour special, Going to Pieces can focus on more minutiae than some of the other docs on my list.  Those being interviewed talk about the high and low points of the genre, acknowledging the strengths and definite weaknesses that slasher flicks present, thereby giving a fairly objective look at one of the more controversial genres of film.

1.  Fantastic Flesh

This is my favorite of the Starz docs, and other than a brief discussion of the makeup for Chronicles of Narnia, it focuses on some of the amazing practical effects shown in horror films.  Legendary SFX veterans are featured, including Dick Smith (The Exorcist), Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London), Tom Savini (the Romero films and Friday the 13th), and the incomprable Greg Nicotero.  For anyone interested in horror films and how they are made, Fantastic Flesh is facinating.