Monday, August 3, 2020

Before They Were Heroes (and Heroes Reborn)


I'm finishing up with my re-watch of LOST and it's making me nostalgic for shows I watched back in the day. One of those shows is Heroes and I swear I still see those actors showing up every once in a while (like Mohinder showing up in The Flash this year). But for now I want to flashback to before Heroes (and its sequel, Heroes Reborn) aired and to what some of our heroes were up to before they were heroes.


Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli) - Gilmore Girls
Long before he was Jack on This Is Us, he was Peter on Heroes. Before he was Peter, he was Jess on Gilmore Girls. When my wife had me watch Gilmore Girls, I absolutely hated Jess. That being said, his character development is one of the most intriguing. He's actually one of my favorite characters from A Year in the Life because his development seemed so natural and flawless. Just goes to show how great of an actor Milo is.


Jack Coleman (Noah Bennet) - Cow Belles
Before he was the senator on The Office or the mysterious company man on Heroes, he was on a Disney Channel movie: Cowbelles. My wife stumbled across this appearance when we were binging Disney Channel movies. He's definitely got the loving dad character down.


Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennet) - Remember the Titans
"Save the cheerleader, save the world." It's the catch phrase that got us hooked on Heroes, right? But before Claire was a cheerleader, she was an avid football fan. You may or may not have recognized her though, because of how young she was, but she was Coach Yoast's little girl Sheryl. We love this movie in our house, so it makes it even better than she was in it.


Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura) - Scrubs
Besides being a master of time and space, Hiro (in another life) was a lab tech at Sacred Heart Hospital. On Scrubs Masi played the snarky (often manipulated) lab tech that plays a recurring role throughout the adventures of JD and his colleagues. It was kind of a small role, but it was very different from Hiro, which made me happy for some reason.


Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman) - LOST
So as I was starting to watch Heroes, I'd barely started watching LOST. So two shows in a row I had Greg Grunberg showing up as a pretty important character. He was the pilot Captain Norris on LOST (plane wouldn't have crashed without him) and the he was the mind-reading cop Matt Parkman when he started appearing on Heroes. Loved his character!


Cristine Rose (Angela Petrelli) - Friends
She does such a great job playing angry, pretentious rich ladies. She was on How I Met Your Mother, Gilmore Girls, Heroes, and Friends. Every time she was stuck up and I loved it. I chose to single out her appearances on Friends because she played Paul Rudd's mom and I absolutely love Mike Hannigan on Friends. Also she was great being drugged up at Mike and Phoebe's the wedding.


Zachary Levi (Luke Collins) - Tangled
He didn't appear in the original series, but in the reboot/miniseries he appeared as a new hero. Though at first he was a bounty hunter for powered individuals. That's what a change from where we've seen him before. Previously he'd played one of Thor's comrades in The Dark World and Ragnarok. However, my favorite he's been in: Tangled. Who doesn't love Flynn Rider? Disney prince and superhero (twice over if you count Shazam). If you ever get a chance to see his panel at a Comic Con, do it. You won't regret it.


Robbie Kay (Tommy Clark) - Once Upon a Time
Another newcomer for Heroes Reborn. Although he played one of the twin heroes here, he was one of my favorite villains on Once Upon a Time. He played Peter Pan and wow he's menacing. I had my critiques of the Neverland arc of Once Upon a Time, but Robbie's portrayal of Peter Pan was the best part of that storyline.

Who were your favorite actors on Heroes? Writing this post has definitely made me want to pull out my Heroes DVDs and start binging it again. If you like Heroes, don't forget to check out the post Ryan did about the series.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Power Rangers Binge: Zeo-Space

Earlier this year I did a binge list for the most important episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I'm still not sure if I want to go through all 30+ seasons right now, but I figured it only made sense to finish off the Zordon era at least. So here are the high points to hit when watching through Power Rangers Zeo, Power Rangers Turbo, and Power Rangers in Space.



Power Rangers Zeo
1. A Zeo Beginning (2 episodes - about 40 min)
Taking off right on the heels of MMPR, the former Rangers become the new Zeo Rangers. And not a moment too soon. Rita and Zedd get driven off their prime moon real estate, as the Machine Empire moves in. So make sure you watch it for the new powers, new zords, and new enemies.

2. The Power of Gold (1 episode - about 20 min)
Twenty-five episodes where nothing much happens. That's the beginning of Zeo. Finally on episode 27 we get introduced to the mysterious Gold Ranger. We don't know who he is, but he shows up and "join" the team.

3. Revelations of Gold (1 episode - about 20 min)
After several episodes of teasing who the Gold Ranger is, we find out that his true identity. Plot twist: It's no one we'd seen before. Also, the Alien Rangers reappear for a spell.



4. A Golden Homecoming (1 episode - about 20 min)
So with Trey the Gold Ranger needing a reprieve, the Rangers need to find a new Gold Ranger to take on the powers. Billy cannot, because of the explosion at the Command Center. So they end up getting an old friend to return from the Peace Conference.

5. Rangers of Two Worlds (2 episodes - about 40 min)
I love a good team up and this is the first that Power Rangers did. So when Rita and the Machine Empire each send out a monster, the Alien Rangers team up with the Zeo Rangers to take on both creatures.

6. Good as Gold (1 episode - about 20 min)
The sorta-finale. It didn't resolve all the plot points of Zeo, but it did alright. Trey comes back to get the Gold Ranger powers and of course there's a big battle against the Machine Empire. It didn't wrap up as nicely as seasons of Power Rangers do nowadays, but it was good. It left some plot holes for Turbo, but we can look past that.


Power Rangers Turbo
7. Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1 movie - 1 hr 40 min)
A year after Zeo, the Turbo movie brings the Zeo Rangers back as Turbo Rangers (with Justin and Rocky swapped). New team, the return of Kimberly and Jason, new zords, and the new villain Divatox.

8. Shift Into Turbo (3 episodes - about 1 hour)
Turbo was a time of transition in Power Rangers in many ways. The first of which was the departure of Zordon and Alpha 5. So the arrival of Dimitria and Alpha 6 starts that transition into something new.

9. The Millennium Message (1 episode - about 20 min)
Power Rangers Turbo never exactly got a proper sixth Ranger, but this episode introduced the Blue Senturion. He kind of acted as a sixth Ranger in this season, teaming up with the Rangers on an ongoing basis, after allying himself with the Rangers in this episode.


10. Passing the Torch (2 episodes - about 40 min)
Along with Zordon's departure, this two-part episode  was part of the transition to a new era of Power Rangers. We saw the departure of four Rangers (who, other than Tanya, had been around since Mighty Morphin). So we get a few new Rangers who'll stay with us until the end of the Zordon era.

11. The Phantom Phenomenon (1 episode - about 20 min)
Like the Blue Senturion, the Phantom Ranger acted as a kind of sixth Ranger. So with this episode, he's introduced. There are rumors that his identity was supposed to be revealed later on, but that never ended up happening. There were rumors of him being Billy or Doug (Justin's dad), but I guess we'll never know.

12. Clash of the Megazords (1 episode - about 20 min)
Unlike most sixth Rangers, the Phantom Ranger didn't stick around indefinitely. After a handful of episodes, he left Earth in the Rangers hands. He did appear in the finale of the Zordon era, but that's about it.

13. Chase into Space (2 episodes - about 40 min)
The first Power Rangers series with a proper finale. Dimitria and the Blue Senturion take off to Eltar, Divatox gets called away by a greater evil, and the Turbo powers are destroyed. All of this leads the four older Turbo Rangers into space, leaving Justin behind with his dad.


Power Rangers in Space
14. From Out of Nowhere (2 episodes - about 40 min)
Picking up right where Turbo left off, the four former Rangers head into space. But of course danger soon hits. So they end up teaming up with a man from a distant space colony. With his help they become the Space Rangers. 

15. Shell Shocked (1 episode - about 20 min)
Power Rangers in Space had a couple fun crossovers with former Rangers, but before any of that we got a crossover with the Ninja Turtles! These Ninja Turtles came from The Next Mutation continuity. I've never seen that TMNT series but the crossover is fun.

16. True Blue to the Rescue (1 episode - about 20 min)
The second of the crossovers we get in this series is the return of Justin, the blue Ranger from Turbo. He gets pulled back into the fray to help his old friends. It was only a one-off episode, but Justin did say he'd come back if they ever needed him. Still waiting......

17. Survival of the Silver (1 episode - about 20 min)
Another mysterious Ranger #6. This time he's from Andros's past. Ever since KO-35, he's been in stasis, but now he's coming back. So welcome to the mix, Silver Ranger.


18. Always a Chance (1 episode - about 20 min)
Last of this season's team ups. After Carlos's confidence is shot, we get a return from a veteran Black Ranger. Adam uses his faulty power coin to return to MMPR status, despite the personal risks. This would be the last time that Adam would appear until Power Rangers Operation Overdrive.

19. Rangers Gone Psycho (1 episode - about 20 min)
Evil Rangers and copy-cat Rangers aren't a new idea, but Astronema took it to a new level above what Rita did with Tommy. In creating the Psycho Rangers, she created the strongest foes that the Space Rangers had faced up until that point. The Psycho Ranger arc actually lasted six episodes, but I'm only going to include this one.

20. Mission to Secret City (1 episode - about 20 min)
Battlizer armor became a staple to the Red Ranger armory in almost every season, but it started here. In facing one of Astronema's monsters, Andros releases the power of his battlizer, becoming even stronger.

21. Countdown to Destruction (2 episodes - about 40 min)
These episodes marked the end of the Zordon era of Power Rangers. Originally it was meant to the be series finale, but obviously it got picked up afterwards. It included many cameos of villains and heroes from the Zordon era, leading up to the Rangers' eventual victory. Cameos included the Alien Rangers, Trey the Gold Zeo Ranger, the Phantom Ranger and Blue Senturion from Turbo, Rita and Zedd's forces, the Machine Empire, and Divatox.

Have you seen these seasons of the Zordon era? Who was your favorite Ranger from Zeo, Turbo, and/or Space? If you want me to keep doing these Power Rangers lists, make sure you comment and let me know.


Friday, July 24, 2020

The Problem with Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal


A few years back I wanted to get back into Yu-Gi-Oh. I got some new cards and I started watching the anime again. I started up with the original series and just recently I finished Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, the fourth anime series in the franchise. There were definitely high points of it, but it’s also my least favorite of the franchise so far.

Before I get into what made it subpar, I want to discuss what I liked. First off, it was a breath of fresh air to see a protagonist who wasn’t a naturally gifted duelist from day one. Yuma loved dueling, but he kind of sucked at it. As opposed to Yugi, Jaden, or Yusei who were dueling prodigies from episode one, we got to see Yuma grow and learn from Astral as the series progressed. By the end of the series, he was a formidable duelist on his own, but it took work, just like real life.


Now for the downside… First off, the series felt disjointed. We started out with a simple premise with Astral needing to gather the number cards to regain his memories. And even in the first half of the series, even when filler hit, it brought us closer and closer to the confrontation with Dr. Faker, who was also hunting number cards. However, by the second half of the series things weren’t so straightforward. At first it was about fighting the Barians. Then it was about the Barians’ memories. Then it was about Don Thousand. Also Shark was a Barian all along? It felt like the second half of the series didn’t know what it wanted to do. I felt like I was getting whiplash sometimes.

I also didn’t like how Zexal seemed disconnected from the rest of the franchise. Yu-Gi-Oh and Yu-Gi-Oh GX both felt like they were taking place in the present day, so it was relatable. Almost as if I could picture myself dueling in Battle City or studying at Duel Academy. Even with Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds, it was established that New Domino City was in the same universe as the previous series, just set in the future. It gave a sense of continuity. So what’s the deal with Zexal then? There were references to legendary cards like Blue-Eyes, Dark Magician, and Flame Wingman, so it kind of acknowledged the previous series… but it was still unclear what was up. Was it in the future past 5Ds or was it in an alternate timeline? Digimon did similar things when they would start a new continuity each season.... but at least those alternate Digimon timelines were set in the present day still.


Now for my final gripe: What even was the Power of Zexal? Was it just about getting the power of that “shining draw” or something? Yugi and Joey were able to do that by calling it the heart of the cards. Yuma and Astral got a weird Power Rangers suit, but what did the Zexal Morph even do? The series was named after the power, but the power felt essentially useless. I just don’t get it.

Overall I’m glad I watched it, but mostly because it gave me a base understanding of Xyz monsters. Although those were kind of odd too.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Why We Still Need Superhero Movies

Okay if you haven’t seen it yet watch this:
You remember those guys?
You remember that feeling when you saw the Avengers talk to kids in the hospital or give stuff away or show up to places in costume?
Once upon a time the superhero craze was riding high, and while some may critique it as another fad in cinema or something silly and unrealistic, the power of the craze can’t be argued with. Suddenly millions of people were talking about Iron Man and Thor at work, in church, and everywhere else you could think of. For an adult who grew up loving superheroes but having them immediately dismissed as something for kids, this was liberating. Suddenly I wasn’t a geek, I was a fan just like everyone else. Suddenly the heroes I admired and read about and loved were there for everyone to love and care about.
That all changed when COVID-19 attacked.
I know we haven’t spoken much about the pandemic, mainly because we want Latter-Day Saint Geeks to be a fun place for us to share our fandoms, but I want to digress for a moment and talk about something we lost: our superheroes.
See, aside from their movies with the big budgets and flashy lights, the casts of our favorite superhero movies, whether Marvel, DC or wherever Deadpool lands, were always out living up to their onscreen personas. They were actively talking about causes they were passionate about. They talked to fans online and in person. They stole costumes from the sets so they could go to charity events not as Chris Pratt or Henry Cavill, but as Star Lord and Superman. They gave us a world with real superheroes.

Now, sadly, the cameras are off. Production has ground to a halt and releases have been pushed back. Our heroes in the interest of public safety have quarantined themselves from the public like the rest of us, performing the most heroic act they could at this time: helping to keep everyone safe. There are no more random public appearances. No more comic con. No more opening night buzz about who the new villain is going to be, and at a time when we need it most we don’t have our heroes.
Until this little spot of light.

A kid who has literally grown up in the age of heroes performed a truly heroic act and saved his sister, and our heroes, ever wanting to praise those like them, have made an appearance to make this young Avenger smile. It reminds us that the superheroes are still there. The Avengers, the Justice League, the X-Men, they’re not lost forever, they’re just in hibernation. One day the winter that has been most of this year will end and they’ll be able to come out again. Someday Wonder Woman will take on Cheetah and Maxwell Lord and Black Widow will defeat Taskmaster and the world will be as it should. Till then it’s nice to see little glimpses of what we once had and what we will have again.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Garfield Minus Garfield

Garfield is  the mac and cheese of the comic strip page. Reliable, easy, not too filling. It can be bland, or it can be tasty, but it's hit or miss. But OMGosh, have you seen Garfield Minus Garfield? This site (garfieldminusgarfield.net) takes something decent and turns it into a delectable treat! It's the difference between Kraft and my mom's gourmet gruyere mac and cheese. Definitely better than lasagna.

So the concept is simple: take a Garfield strip, and subtract Garfield. The result a wide range of emotions expressed through art. We see a portrait of Jon Arbuckle that is at times sad and lonely, at times bleak, at times dark and twisted, at times surreal and goofy — but always interesting. Created in 2008 by John Walsh, Garfield Minus Garfield inadvertently goes deep into the mind of an isolated and outcast man, left to mentally unravel and slowly break down into a mess of psychological perturbations. Plus, it's just oddball stuff and fun to watch!

Here, we present some of the best moments of Garfield Minus Garfield.


Let's start with a silly one. A man yelling at a toaster. Totally normal.








This one I relate to. Hard.

Bwa ha ha ha!


I mean, who HASN'T done this?

Without Garfield, this strip alters the meaning and gives us a slice of life of a mentally challenged man.
Actually, no. Nothing really changed much from the original.

Oof. I don't know which is harsher: Jon or Jon?

As a newly made bachelor, I think Jon has just given me my next life goal.

I feel for the doctor, honestly.

Yeah, man! You break the rules! #idowhatiwant

And we end with a bit of existentialism mixed with physical comedy, the best unintentional combination,
made possible by photo manipulation. Thank you for listening to my TED talk.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday Creature Feature - Nifflers


It feels like it should be about time for another Fantastic Beasts movie by now. Alas, we still have some time to go. But since I've got Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts on my mind, I figured now would be as good a time as any to highlight the show-stealing furball we fell in love with immediately: the niffler.

The first time JK Rowling introduced us to a niffler has probably been forgotten by many fans (especially since it wasn't in the movie). In Goblet of Fire, Hagrid did a Care of Magical Creatures lesson on nifflers. Maybe you'll remember Hagrid hiding leprechaun gold in his yard for the students to find with the nifflers.


When the nifflers were shown in this chapter, I pictured them much differently for some reason (I couldn't tell you why). However, Fantastic Beasts gave us a nice clear picture of how they look. They look a lot like a platypus (minus the beaver tail). They don't seem to get their full black coat until they're full-grown, but as babies we saw them in a variety of colors in Crimes of Grindewald. They have a gentle disposition and they're drawn to shiny objects, which can often lead to some mischief.

Back in the 1920s, when Newt Scamander came to New York City, one niffler got loose and ended up causing some havoc at the bank and the jewelry store. They like to store their shinies in their pouches (does this make it a marsupial?) and they seem to have limitless space inside to hide coins and jewels and everything. Talk about bigger-on-the-inside technology.


Despite their gentle disposition, they can become dangerous. In Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge said that a niffler tried to take a chunk out of her leg when Lee Jordan levitated it into her office. But then again, who doesn't hate Umbridge?

One big question to finish off today: Would you keep a niffler as a pet? Hagrid said it was inadvisable, but would you take the risk to have this cuddle-buddy at home?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

5 Board Games To Play While Still Stuck Inside

Welp, it looks like we're going to be inside a lot longer than we thought. If by this time the novelty of Pandemic has worn out and if one more game of Splendor or Azul will have you pull your hair out, here are five games available right now that can freshen your game collection and help with those long days.

5: Mysterium

Clue is fun but what if you could play Clue with the help of the murdered? Mysterium is a game where everyone works together to solve the sinister murder with one twist- one player is a ghost sending dreams to a team of psychics and is trying to lead them to the truth. This game can lead to a lot of speculation, table talk and bonding as the players try to interpret the esoteric clues given from beyond.

4: Villainous

Disneyland is closed for the indefinite future, but you can get that Disney fix from Villainous, a game where the players play as the bad guys in a race to pull off their dastardly plan first. The players use heroes against one another to foil their evil plots, giving the players control over both the heroes and the villains of the Disney cannon. Expansions have made a variety of bad guys available, including Yzma, Pete, Cruella and Dr. Facilier.

3: Smallworld

This one is not affiliated with Disney. Smallworld is a strategy game where players try to grow different fantasy races in a land that just can't fit them all. Races appear, reach a pinnacle of their society, then go extinct all within a couple turns. Conquests, betrayals and epic battles are imminent, creating an epic setting for players, but interwoven is a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that will give fantasy fans a good chuckle. Pick it up and see how long you can survive.

2: Stuffed Fables

An adventure game for all ages, Stuffed Fables follows the adventures of a group of stuffed animals as they protect their owner from nightmares. The cutesie premise can lead to some surreal and slightly messed up concepts but doesn't stray any lower than a G rating (Keep in mind that Secret of NIMN is rated G). Fun for all ages, this game has a fun story for the kiddos, relatively easy gameplay to keep them involved, but enough strategy to keep the grown ups thinking.

1: Mystic Veil

Full disclosure: Even to this day this game blows my mind. It's a deck building game in the same vein of Dominion and Legendary, but instead of adding new cards to the deck you add new advancements to your cards in the form of transparent sliders insterted into sleeves. Think of Magic: The Gathering but you build your own cards and by extension your own combos. It's a bonkers good time and something that everyone needs to try once, and while I regret to mention this because I think that especially now brick-and-mortarMystic Veil on the Switch that is quite good and has local and online multiplayer game stores need support and that nothing replaces the physical medium, there's a version of Mystic Veil available on the Switch and it's fantastic. The game is both local and online multiplayer meaning you can play a board game and social distance at the same time.

-JOE

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