Super Friends

So that thing called the Super Bowl happened over the weekend, right?  It seemed like there were more hungover, cranky people than usual straggling through the day on Monday, which reminded me that there was a big sporting event the day before.

If you can’t tell, I’m not a big football fan.  I’m a big fan of the commercials usually… though I’ve gotten my fill of those long before the game ever airs.  AND, I can be a big fan of football fans, especially if their love of the game makes the world a better place. “When, by chance, does that ever happen, Wendy?” you may be asking.

Well, despite my lack of knowledge, or frankly, any care whatsoever, in the teams playing in the Super Bowl, I had been paying keen attention to one of the highly publicized bets that took place between two celebrities.  Of course it has to be Marvel related, right? Of course it does. The Marvel Universe even invades the Super Bowl.

Chris Pratt (also known as Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy) and Chris Evans (Captain America from every other damn Marvel movie out there) placed a friendly wager on the Super Bowl that made me realize they’re probably just as good in real life as the heroes they portray on film. Here are links to catch up in case you haven’t seen the myriad of articles scattered throughout the internet already:

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/chris-pratt-chris-evans-super-bowl-bet-charity-article-1.2087068

http://www.people.com/article/chris-evans-pratt-super-bowl-bet-update

The bet? If Seattle won, Evans has to visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital dressed as Captain America. If New England came out on top, Pratt would have to suit up as Star-Lord and traipse through the halls of Boston-based charity Christopher’s Haven.

The Twitter war between the two of them was so fun to watch (Chris Evans calling the Seahawks seachickens just tickled me to no end), mainly because in the end, the stakes aren’t for money or bragging rights or making the other person do something embarrassing and stupid. The end game is all about making sick kids happy and having kids who need strong role models to get through some extremely difficult things that life has thrown at them have a chance to meet their heroes. It’s equal parts being philanthropic, being fun, being gentlemanly, and being just a decent damn person.

And yes, it gets even better. With New England winning that means Star-Lord, aka Pratt, has to follow through and go to the Boston charity (which he is absolutely thrilled to do) – BUT – Evans isn’t about to sit on his laurels knowing that he brought sunshine to one group of kids and not another.  So even though Evans won the bet, Captain America is still going to visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital. It’s a win-win.

This is who I want my heroes to be. If I’m paying $16 to root and rally for them on the big screen I’m much more invested in giving the theaters and studios my money if I can root and rally for this person in real life. I don’t want my favorite heroes to be busted by the cops for getting into bar brawls, screaming anti-Semitic remarks, or hitting their significant others. When that happens it’s so much more apparent that the cape and cowl are just for a paycheck.

But when actors do something akin to what Pratt and Evans have done (and which these two do frequently by the way), that makes me feel that it’s not just a stupid movie part for them. Maybe it means something, maybe it’s a chance to communicate goodness…like they exhibit in real life. That, ultimately, is what makes them legit superheroes.

pratt_evans

Show Stoppers

Joy to the world! No, this is not a Christmas post. I’m happy because a cult classic show is being resurrected after twenty some-odd years. It was recently announced that David Lynch’s “masterpiece” Twin Peaks will be coming back for another season in 2015. While I haven’t seen a single episode I am happy for those fans who were devoted to the ill-fated gem that was cancelled right at a critical apex in the story arc. No spoiler here, I just know that what turned out to be the last episode of the series was certainly not designed to be that way. Lynch and his crew definitely had future plans that resulted in one of the most frustrating cliffhangers known in TV history.

And that’s what got me thinking. I HATE when shows get cancelled on a cliffhanger.  I can’t relate to Twin Peaks per se, but there was a show I absolutely adored on BBC called Coppers. It was set in post-Civil War era New York and showcased the lives of Irish immigrants. I probably didn’t really sell it in that description, but trust me, it was a great show. By all accounts, it should’ve stayed on the air. It had great ratings and a huge fan base, but BBC pulled the plug on it unexpectedly. Why? Money. It always comes down to money. The show got too expensive to maintain so they cancelled it and decided to run with Orphan Black instead. I guess I sort of understand. TV is a business like any other and networks need to pull in profits. But still, Coppers ended on this truly amazing cliffhanger and now I’m left with this sinking feeling in my stomach because I know that I’ll never, ever find out what happened. It will forever be an unresolved issue and that’s pretty awful.

In a perfect world television station bigwigs should go to a show’s producers/creators/brainchild and say, “Hey, we’re going to give you the ax, but you get [insert number] more episodes to wrap everything up before you’re off the air.” Wouldn’t that be great if shows always had the chance to tie up the loose ends as they take their final bow? Again, that’s a perfect world and unfortunately we don’t live in one.

Canning a show out of the blue is sort of like firing someone in an office. They have 30 minutes to put their stuff in a box and get escorted out by security. Quick, precise, and sleek so no one else around is too heavily affected. It’s not like they have the rest of the day to go around cubicle to cubicle shaking hands and wishing everyone well, so I know I shouldn’t expect TV shows to be given so much slack.

Still…it would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Heroes for Humanity

I love my superheroes. Batman, Superman, X-Men (past, current, and future classes), Deadpool (okay, well maybe he’s more of an anti-hero), and pretty much the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. I geek out over these characters on a regular basis and take my appreciation of them pretty seriously. Which is why when I stumbled across the article “Superheroes Don’t Exist to Solve Problems, They Exist to Punch Bad Guys” (link here…although I am slightly against sending more internet traffic to this guy’s site) I felt like it was a personal attack on what I look at in my life as positive allegories on ways in which we should all strive to make the world better (did I mention I was a geek?).

The superheroes of popular film have little in common with the heroes of the real world.” This, shockingly enough, is the very first line of the article. Already I get a sense that the author has trouble understanding the definition of fiction as well as entertainment; how both of those mediums can be combined to mirror our reality without being bound by the same rules.

He continues by writing, “The archetypal superhero is a hands-on vigilante clad in form-fitting Lycra. Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and The Flash all assert their heroism by busting small-time street criminals and delivering violent sermons on the importance of law and order.”

I really am at a loss for where to begin because I am getting a sense that this person doesn’t actually read any comics or even do as little work as to sit through any of the various two-hour movies out there before writing his article.

One viewing of the last Captain America movie The Winter Soldier would dispel his assertion. Yes, Captain America runs around with a shield and has a star on his chest, but his goal is not to put thugs in the hospital. He’s been disillusioned by his own government (one that up until now he has held in high regard) and is seeking a way to ensure that the privacy of the public is protected lest the country slip into a culture of distrust from illegal phone taps and email tampering. Sound familiar at all? On his quest to make sure millions of lives are saved from an international security agency cloaking their ascension to monarchy by weeding out the weaker links, Captain A runs into some resistance and has to take them out. Heaven forbid he has to get into a few fights. It’s more than clear he’s not some brute looking to get his jollies off by punching some noses. If there’s one thing Captain America stands for, it’s the “people” of the world.  He’s out to make a difference and to see that good wins over evil whether evil happens to be a man with a red skull for a face or his own national government.

Then there’s this: “Batman’s stated goal is to rid Gotham City of crime, but he rarely undertakes the actions that can tackle the causes rather than the effects of criminality. Bruce Wayne could use his lofty social standing to lobby for more education funding, tighter gun control, and a social safety net that would prevent young people from resorting to a life of crime. His wealth could be used to support drug clinics and foster prisoner rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism. Instead, he puts on a black mask and a husky voice and goes to pound hapless street thugs in the night.”

First off, Bruce Wayne does use his lofty social standing to lobby for positive community initiatives (it’s a big thing in the comics actually). Sorry the comics don’t focus solely on that, but we’re looking for flights of fantasy and 22 pages about a new rec center breaking ground isn’t as thrilling as a car chase with The Penguin. It’s not that Bruce Wayne doesn’t do anything for the community; it’s just not the main focus because it’d make for quite a boring comic.

Stark Industries consistently works towards harnessing clean and renewable energy sources among other things. Superman/Clark Kent works at a damn newspaper so the public won’t be left in the dark on what their leaders are doing. Pretty much every superhero out there has a back story that is rich in these types of offerings, whether it’s a protective type of job (such as military), or a teacher helping young people, or a scientist who strives to help mankind or a philanthropist who strives to help everyone.

I could keep railing on and on trying to disprove every point the author made in his poorly researched attempt at trolling the “superhero fad” but this blog would end up being a book with how many examples exist out there.

The point is there’s more to every superhero than their power. It’s their conscience that drives them, not their ability to crush their enemy. In the end they do exactly what we do…they try to make a difference in the world around them using all of the tools at their disposal. Labeling them simply “pugilists” is a vast, vast underestimation. And it certainly does the writers of the stories a grave injustice.

How to Survive a Haunted House — Revisited

So in time for Halloween, I thought I would re-run an entry from January 26, 2014 that hopefully will save everyone a lot of heartache should they ever find themselves living with a less than friendly spirit.  You’re welcome. 

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Everybody already knows, and I am not ashamed to admit, that I love horror movies. Always have and always will.  The only other film genre that has a chance at being my #1 is this new (and much appreciated) wave of comic book inspired extravaganzas that have been inundating the screens for the past decade or so.  While I have a deep passion for horror movies it’s been quite a while since I’ve been truly creeped out by one. Outside of the original The Exorcist I honestly can’t recall a film that has sent that delicious chill up my spine, made my heart race, or gotten the hairs on my arms to stand on end.

Instead of true thrills and chills, it seems like the horror movies nowadays depend solely on what I call the “surprise factor” to scare their audiences.  As in, something suddenly jumps into or out of the scene or a door slams or a piece of furniture falls over with a loud bang. To me that’s a cheap scare. I much prefer the slow creepy build-up and truly “scary” maneuvers of the masters of horror.

I’m not complaining because I still do find the latest movies entertaining in their own right, just never truly hitting the mark as far as making me have to sleep with the lights on.  What does tend to happen though is that instead of getting goose bumps I end up shaking my head at the rampant stupidity that many of the main characters always seem to exhibit. Paranormal Activity is a perfect example of moronicness (yes, I’m aware that is not a real word) gone awry.

(Side note: I do understand that the creators of these movies have to put the characters in certain situations to make the action move forward and sometimes not acting like an idiot would be boring, but please allow me to remain on my soapbox a little bit longer.)

So, Paranormal Activity. Decent movie, a little dated I know, but I liked it – I just don’t get the logic behind it. If you think ghosts are hunkered down in your spot, why the hell would you go around the house trying to piss them off? It makes no sense. I can barely get a mouse to leave my kitchen. What chance does someone have of driving away a spirit from another dimension? Most people are terrified at the idea of living in a haunted house (a big reason why these movies are so successful, it’s a universal feeling), but think about it; as long as you just did your normal stuff, make breakfast, tidy up, mow the lawn, you’d probably be alright. Think of the ghost as a roommate. You might not like him or her, but suck it up.

I fully understand the natural instinct to guard your space. If I moved into a new place and found out it was haunted, I probably wouldn’t just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that these things just sort of happen sometimes.  I’d freak out some.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d have a ball.  But in a freaked out sort of way.  It’s totally justifiable to have a meltdown upon learning the news you’ve been duped into a haunted abode…at least for a little while.  Sure, you could take the righteous indignation attitude, as you would with any intruder, and stomp around with a baseball bat, yelling insults at Mr. or Mrs. Ghost to get them to show themselves.  Although seriously….WHY would you want them to show themselves!? I mean think about it!  That never ends well.  So just know that if and when this happens, chances are the ghost is going to be slightly upset at such disrespect and retaliation is to be expected.  In fact, what other reaction would you really expect to achieve?

I don’t have much face-to-face experience with an angry ghost but I can only assume whatever it has in mind to do, it’s going to be something I’m clearly and gloriously unprepared to handle. Which is what I want the characters in these movies to consider when they’re throwing their “show yourself” tantrums. It might be better just to let the ghost win right off the bat.  Let them have the house.  But if you do decide to stick around and share the place with Casper or say….a demon from Hell, just don’t take any tips from the Paranormal Activity’s resident genius Micah. The rule is simple: Don’t piss off the ghost. If you do, well, have fun in in the afterlife.