How I Met Your … Friends?

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So I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother for the first time ever. I’m halfway through season 4, and I love the show. Where has it been all my life? Oh, just right there on my TV but I never bothered to give it a try until Netflix decided to be awesome.

I grew up on Friends, and other than The Fresh Prince, that was my go-to show. (I actually secretly call it The Ross and Chandler Show since I seriously cannot get enough of those two. I mean, Ross getting a spray-on tan – classic.)

maxresdefaultIn many ways the shows are identical. You’ve got the group of friends nearly divided equally between guys and girls. Two side characters get hitched. One of the guys is a playboy who can land any girl he wants (and does). And then you’ve got the main guy on each show (face it, everything revolves around Ross as much as it does Ted), who wants nothing more than to settle down, but just can’t seem to find the time or woman to do it with (which is ironic, because there’s really not many guys like that, so you’d think the girls would flock all over them). There’s Central Perk vs. MacLaren’s; New York/New York (see what I did there?); the guys can’t fight; it’s all about sex; always guaranteed a good time (see what I did there, too?).

The biggest difference I see in the two shows is that the storytelling strengths are there in How I Met Your Mother as the endless laugh-out-loud moments overflow from Friends.

So unless Mother tanks next season (which most shows do around season 5, except for Friends, which held a fairly level streak through all ten seasons), I’m going to be forced to decide which show is better.

That’s like having to choose vanilla or chocolate. Or an eggnog frappuccino or a gingerbread frappuccino (I don’t like hot drinks).

It’ll be like having to choose a favorite child.

So! I want to hear from you all. Am I in for a good time for the duration of Mother, or should I brace for a crash-landing like so many beloved sitcoms tend to succumb to?

It seems to me the writers must have had the ending in mind when they wrote the pilot. Something to do with a yellow umbrella? So do me a favor and let me know what I’m in for, whether that be in the form of hyping or warning.

Let’s Be Honest About “Cars”

I don’t need to open my mouth even a little for you to know that I’m a ginormous Pixar fanatic. Everyone is a Pixar fan, but I’m a fa-na-tic. If my wife would let me, I’d decorate the house in full-sized Pixar posters. With frames. Backlit.

Most people knew that Pixar was making a third installment of the so-so Cars franchise.

And most people groaned inwardly.

Personally, I loved Cars, but I don’t blame anyone who can live without it. I stepped over the threshold onto the haters’ side, thought, when Cars 2 literally put me to sleep more than once in the theaters. We bought it only to own the full collection. I haven’t watched it, I don’t think.

But then today happened.

Less than a week before the release of the highly-anticipated Moana, Pixar released the teaser trailer for what we assume is going to be titled Cars 3. 

To be honest, I’ve been inwardly excited about this movie for a while. My take on the news was that Pixar was going to take the dreaded franchise in a different direction, sort of a redo, or like a “Wait, hold on, watch this one instead. We were just playing around with Cars 2, you know, being silly.”

To say that this is possibly the darkest teaser trailer ever may be an understatement. It’s intense, it’s unexpected, it’s …so far from being anything remotely related to Cars 2 (and Mater for that matter …madder, mater,Madder), that just one look at social media, it’s clear that people are actually excited about this movie now.

What a turn of events!

I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope the rest of the movie carries this same tone throughout, as John Lasseter eluded to about a year ago:”It’s very emotional and his relationship with Doc Hudson, and his memory of Doc Hudson.”

Could Cars 3 join the ranks of greats like Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out? 

I think it will. But what do you think? Leave your comments below! Will you be seeing this? (And based on the trailer, I can tweak this question: With or without your kids?)

What My Three Favorite Movies Have in Common

Pixar and Disney movies aside, I have three ultimate favorite movies that I can’t ever get enough of and they all have one thing in common.

Aside from the fact that they’re all based on true stories and were nominated for best picture (one won), there’s an underlying theme that drives stubborn dreamers like me back to them time and time again.

My three favorite movies of all time are The King’s Speech, Frost/Nixon, and Moneyball. 

One is about the ascent to royalty, one is about the descent from power, and the other is about a guy who just wants to make a good living doing what he believes he’s good at. On the surface they can’t be any different from one another.

But a closer look will reveal that they are each about men facing the impossible. They are about men stubborn (and stupid?) enough to go after what they believe is best for themselves, their family, and their people, even though their treks defy all logic and even saneness.

Let’s look at The King’s Speech. King George VI had two things going against him: His name (reminiscent of Washington’s own Mad King George), and his tongue. He stuttered like a madman. He couldn’t get through a speech to save his life. He didn’t want the throne. He didn’t want the responsibility because he didn’t think he could handle it with his impediment. But when his lovesick brother abdicated, King George was left with no option but to learn to overcome his lifelong problem and take the crown.the-kings-speech

In Frost/Nixon, we find ourselves in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. But a British entertainer and talk show host, David Frost, is the only man crazy enough to elicit a confession from the crook’s mouth. He lays not only his reputation, but his money and career on the line to bring the darkness to light.

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And finally, Moneyball. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this brilliant movie about baseball, numbers, and ultimate risk. Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland A’s, is determined to bring his team up the ranks from their rock-bottom status, just not the way his co-managers would prefer. His method is nontraditional, unproven, and unfounded. He lays everything on the line to test out his theory of selecting the best hitters, despite how they play in the outfield.

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Something about ultimate risk just makes sense to me, it calls to me. The way I see it is, if you have it all on the line, failing is literally not an option. I’d recommend you check these three movies out. They’re perfectly acted, they’re funny, and above all inspiring in a non-Hallmark way. Nothing about these stories is sappy or cute. They’re about real men storming the ups and downs of their lives and careers, not satisfied with the status quo. Willing to pioneer innovation in their fields.

Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to be like these guys. Because of their tenacity, bravado, and just plain awesomeness, we saw the business of baseball do a complete 360, we got a confession out of a crooked ex-president, and quite possibly the new world was saved by the steadfastness of a king with a twisted tongue.

What would your impression on the world be if you dropped all pretense and caution? What are your favorite movies and are they because they inspire you to be a better person?

Villains We Love to Hate

Happy Halloween! We celebrated last night. Our son dressed as Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, and our daughter was a beautiful ballerina. Other than fighting over candy at 5:00 A.M. (our house this morning, apparently), Halloween is a time to reflect on our favorite bad guys from books, movies, and shows. Luckily, the fictional world is full of these dastardly bastards who propel our favorite plots forward into darker realms.

Be sure to leave your favorite villains in the comment section below!

 

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Pennywise the Clown (It): I’ve been reading Stephen King’s It. I’ve got to say, after about 4 or 5 of his books, I’ve finally found one that’s actually scary, and easily the scariest book I’ve ever read. I love it. I guess anything involving kids being kidnapped or bullying each other with knives is freakishly scary to me.

(Funny story. We all remember when the miniseries aired on HBO in the late 80’s or early 90’s. My sister and I were being babysat by some high schoolers. We were supposed to be in bed, but we decided to sneak out and see what they were watching on TV. It was It. And it had just started. So we stood behind their couch, unbeknownst to them, and watched in glee as the little boy spoke to the funny clown hiding in the sewer with the floating balloons – they float! Well, you know how that memorable scene ends, and needless to say, those high school boys got the scare of their lives when we screamed bloody murder behind them just as the clown bared his sharp teeth and pulled the boy’s arm off. Surround sound at its best.)

 

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Shane Walsh (The Walking Dead)One of the earlier bad guys from The Walking Dead. His blow-up moment brought about one of the most heart-wrenching and exciting moments in the series so far (I’m only on episode 4, so now spoilers, please). But remember that? He let all the walkers out of the Greene barn and forced everyone to shoot them in front of their family? Total, absolute freak.

 

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Jack Welker (Breaking Bad): The a-hole who shot Hank point-blank in the face. Some would argue that Gus was a worse bad guy, but I kind of liked Gus. He was just trying to do his job and stay out of the limelight. But Jack made it a hobby to kill, kill, kill.

 

Gaston-Screencaps-gaston-23409475-1920-1080Gaston, (Beauty and the Beast, 1991): Sure, his songs are funny, and his oversized ego appeals to the vainest of the bunch, and really in the end, all he wants is the girl. But the key trait here in this guy that makes him so villainous is his determination. I mean, he’s willing to pull a Hatfield & McCoy over the town sweetheart, imagine if he got her in the end. What would he chase after next? Money? Power? Fame? I shudder to think of the lengths this guy would go to to achieve such ends. Best line: “I’d like to thank you all for coming to my wedding. But first I’d better go in there and propose to the girl.”

 

Howard-Payne-speed-27932321-500-375Howard Payne (Speed, 1994): Dennis Hopper may not have been the best choice to play this bomb-happy psychopath, but it’s sure fun to watch him hijack everything from elevators to buses to subways, even if his driving motive (pun intended) was just a briefcase full of money. Best line: “Pop quiz, hot shot.”

 

Mr. FallonMr. Fallon (Reign Over Me, 2007): I think B.J. Navak (of Office fame) may have a thing for playing the jerk on screen, no matter how small the role. In his three to four minutes of screen time in Adam Sandler’s most worthy movie, Mr. Fallon, the prosecuting attorney makes a show of shoving a family portrait in front of a grieving widower’s face. I don’t care who you are, that’s just low, and worthy of a few punches and a straight jacket. Best line: (After the judge repeatedly tells him to shut up and asks, “Do you hear me?”) “Yes… shut up.”

 

Jimmy ShakerJimmy Shaker (Ransom, 1996): This guy just never gives up! In possibly Ron Howard’s darkest movie, Gary Sinise plays Detective Jimmy Shaker, the mastermind who kidnaps a billionaire’s son and holds him for ransom. Even when he’s painted up against a wall, this bad guy continues to find ways to weasel out and keep robbing the rich. If every bad guy from here till the end of movies were played by Gary Sinise, I would have no problem with that. Best line: “Anything goes wrong, you’re gonna turn around and I’ll be gone, okay? And if that happens, from this day on, anytime your kid leaves this house to go to school, go play, to see a friend, to buy a … comic book, you’re gonna have to ask yourself: Is today … Jimmy Shaker day?”

 

herchadesHades (Hercules, 1997): Scar was the runner-up for this slot. Both villains succeeded in killing the movie’s key protagonists (Scar/Mufasa; Hades/Hercules), and yes Mufasa stayed dead while Hercules came back because of a minor technicality, but Hades does have one thing over on Scar: he may not have a cool theme song, but he sure is funnier. Best line: “We dance, we kiss, we schmooze, we carry on, we go home happy. What do you say?”

 

President SnowPresident Snow (The Hunger Games, 2012): The guy sends kids into an arena every year to force them to kill each other for entertainment. That’s just sick. Plus, his breath smells of blood. Best line: “Welcome. And happy Hunger Games.”

 

CommodusCommodus (Gladiator, 2000): Technically, he’s based off of a real person, so he’s the least fictional of this bunch. But Commodus has to be President Snow’s distant ancestor or something. The only reason I think he’s a tad bit worse than President Snow is because he makes it so personal. That, and he’s totally got the hots for his own sister. That’s just nasty. Best line: “It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed.”

 

JokerJoker (The Dark Knight, 2008): Of course no villain list would be complete without Heath Ledger’s infamous Joker. Nothing can be more terrifying than a villain who has no motive but to  spread chaos and destruction. That means there’s nothing anyone can do to deter him. Money is no object, arresting him only stalls him for a day or two… the guy’s a genius and a sicko. Any villain would be hard-pressed to out-bad Joker, unless you’re… Best line: “How ’bout a magic trick?”

 

Lots-O-Huggin-Bear-lotso-toy-story-3-30667746-900-682Lotso (Toy Story 3, 2010): That’s right. This pink strawberry-smelling teddy bear is the second worst bad guy in all the movies I’ve ever seen, more evil than even Joker. Joker was never shown grace, nor had his life saved, that we know of. But Lotso had a chance at redemption. And really, he’s just a bit sicker than Joker because he knew the toys whom he sent to their doom personally, and he really had no reason to not stop the stupid conveyer belt. Plus, any enemy of Woody is an enemy of mine. Best Line: “Where’s your kid now, Sherif?” 

 

Col. Will. Tav.Col. William Tavington (The Patriot, 2000): Yes. The man I’ve loved to hate for the last thirteen years. I mean, he shoots a young kid in cold blood, he commands injured soldiers to be shot, he convinces General Cornwallis to overstep the rules of war, he burns down a church filled with innocent people… the only thing I regret is that he wasn’t hacked to death the way that one soldier was earlier on in the film. Best line: “You know, it’s an ugly business doing one’s duty … but just occassionally it’s a real pleasure.”

Why I Think “The Walking Dead” Is So Popular

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According to the ratings, The Walking Dead is the most popular TV show of all time. Which is kind of crazy because the horror movie genre has struggled to gain mass appeal for so long.

So what makes The Walking Dead different? What excuses it as a generic horror show that anti-horror movie people make time to tune in to each week?

AMC is expecting one of the largest viewerships of all time for a series show on October 23.

What’s the appeal?

I’m in the middle of season four myself, thanks to Netflix. And I’m no different from anyone else. I’m completely obsessed with The Walking Dead. And I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have an idea as to why.

First, a little background. I don’t care for blood and guts. I never have. If I ever watched anything scary it was scary for suspense. Little violence. I’m not morally against Hollywood violence (to a point), I just prefer to be pshychologically scared. But as the popularity for The Walking Dead grew, I became more and more intrigued.

Sure enough, the show hooked me from the very first scene, when Rick shot the little girl because she was infected by the disease. (Where does that scene fit into the timeline, by the way??)

I think The Walking Dead represents most of our lives. I’ve heard it argued that zombies represent us, mindlessly going about our lives, punching a time clock, day-in, day-out. I disagree with that. I think the survivors represent us. And not because they’re survivors but because they’re trapped.

If you’re like me you feel like you’re in a world where you have no control or say over anything. Because of work and bills and bureaucratic cement walls, we have to live inside our fences, risking our careers or future anytime we step out of bounds.

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The best we can do is simply hunker down and wait out all the madness. Especially with these particular elections coming up, we feel more than ever that the world is spiraling out of control. For those of us in America, we don’t feel like we have a say anymore.

Meanwhile, we watch our friends and family suffer along with us. Like the characters in the show, there is nothing we can do to save them. And that’s another way we feel helpless.

And we grow hardened and calloused because of what little we can do to affect our surroundings or the world. We’re like fish in a bowl. Stuck and completely dependent on what the world decides to feed us, if it does.

I won’t be watching the premier of season seven this month since I’m so far behind, but I’m excited to catch up. And I do wish Rick and his company Godspeed as they battle the elements with us.

Comment below as to why you like The Walking Dead. Why do you think it’s so popular?

What Makes “The Walking Dead” So Great?

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I know I’m late in the game by about six years, but thanks to Netflix I just got hooked on The Walking Dead. I don’t know why I’ve put it off for so many years, to tell  the truth. I like zombies, I adore suspense… maybe because I have yet to watch a major drama series that’s held my attention for more than a few seasons… I still haven’t finished Lost.

But, crap, I’m a couple of episodes into season 2 of TWD, and I am severely impressed, and officially hooked. The tension is thick enough for me to have to swim if I need to get up for a potty break. The character development is spot on, the pacing is never too slow or too fast.

But what makes the show great isn’t the gore or the horrific monsters wandering the earth. In fact, that’s probably why I’ve put the show off for so long, because I’m easily turned off by gore and blood and guts. And this show has tons of it, mind you. But I realized that it’s never there just for show. It’s there to serve a purpose for the greater story, and it serves it well. The way a war movie has plenty of guts and intestines in order to highlight the gravity of the war’s hell.

But what makes TWD captivating and a well-baited fish hook, is the show’s vast dynamics of characters. Each person from a different walk of life, contributing to a different demographic, representing different beliefs about God and the world as they know it.

No one is completely good or completely bad.

They’re all human. And they’re all just trying to survive this plague.

Sarabeth and I were just discussing the other night, what’s more important in a story? The plot or the characters?

I believe it’s the plot that reels us in. It’s the characters that keep us there. So they are both equally important.

As with The Walking Dead, I want to see how these characters will cope with the travesties heaped on them and how their relationships with one another will either strengthen or break them apart.

Are there any other Walking fans? Am I in for a continual good time to the end? And as you watch or read your favorite stories, ask yourself, “What is keeping me hooked?” Is it the story or is the characters?

Read the first installment of the exciting new serial blog: The Underneath

A Love Letter to Disney

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A while back I wrote a love letter to Pixar Animation Studios. I’ll never forget watching my viewership skyrocket that week. What was that all about? A couple of weeks later I received an email from Pixar Headquarters thanking me for my post and saying that it’s been making the rounds in the studio. Imagine that! I forget how long I cried. (The picture to the left is during the hysterics.) But the thing that made me happiest was knowing that the hard workers at the studio caught a tiny glimpse of joy they bring to our lives on a regular basis.

Yesterday Disney released the international trailer for their highly anticipated and surefire record-breaker, Moana. Take a second and watch it. I’ve watched it about nine times now and I still get chills.

It’s safe to say that Disney is on par with Pixar. After Wreck-it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and most likely Moana, we just need to stop denying it.

They bring a class and beauty to the world that we’ve all but forgotten. In our hurried and messy lives, Disney movies have a way of, I don’t know, restoring order. Even if it’s just the illusion of restoration – or better yet, the hope of restoration.

Their movies are not devoid of evil and chaos and bitterness and jealousies. And their resolutions aren’t as cookie-cutter as they used to be. Disney’s movies sell you on cute, sure, but they deliver on substance and depth.

I mean, how gut-wrenchingly hard is it to watch Hiro release Baymax into the Unknown? If that doesn’t tear you apart, I question your mortality. Not only is their attention to detail and vivid color out of this world, but almost every note strikes a cord with something deep inside us.

Why?

Because they take beauty to the extreme. They push the bounds of reality and expose us to a world of bliss and hope.

Like Pixar, they no longer make movies for kids. Their movies address us adults just as profoundly. Zootopia reminds me that even if I achieve my dreams, my story doesn’t stop and the struggles will keep coming.

Wreck-it Ralph delivers the hard message that I’ve been dealt my cards and I need to figure out how to make the best of it.

Frozen sings about letting go. Big Hero 6 shows us how to do it.

Thank you Disney, for the work and painstaking efforts you infuse in your movies. You have the challenge of not just catering to one specific audience, but to literally every single demographic. And you pull it off with class and style and unimaginable beauty.

I believe Disney movies do make the world a better place, even if it’s just a little. They bring families together. A reason for parents to take the kids out. They provide contexts for us to talk about serious things with our kids. They give us parents footing to address things such as good byes, racism, bullying, sibling rivalry, and my favorite: You don’t have to be a jerk just because you’re popular (Fix it Felix, Jr.).

I know there’s people out there who don’t watch Disney or Pixar movies just because they’re cartoons. I pity those people. They’re missing out on some of the greatest filmmaking in the history of film.

Thank you Disney, for all that you do. Keep at it, and we’ll see you in November!

For more on Disney check out

Baseball and Disney

and One of the Greatest Companies in the World.