Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Top Recurring Characters on Friends


#10 Ben
Played by 4 different actors (including Jughead himself!), Ben Geller was Ross and Carol’s son, raised by Carol and Susan. Ross never really got to see Ben much, and only watched him occasionally (read: when the plot dictated).

Most memorable moment: When Ross taught Ben about Hanukkah (The One With The Holiday Armadillo)

#9 Alice
Alice Knight Buffay (Debra Jo Rupp) was Frank Jr.’s wife, and his former home ec teacher. She always put on a happy face no matter what, even when she talked about her infertility. She and Frank had insatiable lust for each other, making out uncomfortably whenever (and wherever) they could!

Most memorable moment: When Alice got to hold the triplets that Phoebe carried for her (The One Hundredth)

#8 Carol
Carol was Ross’s ex-wife, and a 6th grade teacher (which everybody knows is the best grade to teach!). When she realized she was a lesbian, she divorced Ross. She and Ross began the series with a rocky start (and frankly, Carol and Susan were a kind of lesbian punchline at first), but Carol eventually became tolerable and downright kind as time went on.

Most memorable moment: When Carol got married to Susan, and Ross walked her down the aisle (The One With The Lesbian Wedding)

#7 and #6 Jack & Judy
Who better to play Ross’s dad than Elliott Gould?! Jack was ever loving and kind, though often made faux pas. (“I’m just saying!”) And Christina Pickles is a punchline genius! Passive-aggressive, sometimes mean, and always loving, Judy was the coolest uncool mom on TV.

Most memorable moment: The way they interacted with and reacted to their children in the prom video (The One With the Prom Video)

#5 Estelle
Let’s face it, Estelle was a cartoon character. But a darn funny one! She was never bothered by anything, smoked like a chimney, and had an obnoxious voice that rivaled Janice’s. But it’s probably a good thing she was brash and incompetent: she was probably the only female that Joey would never say “How you doin’?” to!

Most memorable moment: Her pitch-perfect introduction: "Just a moment, let me see if she's in...Hello." (The One With Russ)

#4 Mike
What other character could be introduced 9 seasons in (9 seasons!) and still be one of the best recurring characters? Mike was the first person Phoebe fully committed herself to, and that’s in large part because of Paul Rudd’s effortless charm. Mike was at the center of some of the most heartwarming and hilarious moments on Friends.

Most memorable moment: “First name: Crap. Last name: Bag.” (The One With Princess Consuela)

#3 Frank Jr.
Yes, Giovanni Ribisi appeared as two different characters in Friends. (He dropped a condom in Phoebe’s guitar case in TOW the Baby on the Bus.) But Frank Jr. was a really special character. The yin to Phoebe’s … yin (or are they both yang?), Frank was a perfect complement to the sweet, quirky, oddball Phoebe. Frank was his own special brand of bizarre. And he was the reason for the best Friends storyline of all time: Phoebe having Frank’s babies! That storyline was as equally sweet, quirky, and totally oddball as the Buffays were.

Most memorable moment: “My sister’s going to have my baby!” (The One With Phoebe's Uterus)

#2 Gunther
Gunther appeared in 160 episodes. Holy cow! (The next most recurring was Jack, with only 21 episodes.) But Gunther doesn’t get the penultimate spot because of how many episodes he was in, but because he was awesome and underrated. He had the best eye roll, he had great comebacks, and ultimately he was always there -- as much a part of the scenery as Central Perk itself.

Most memorable moment: When Phoebe kissed him … so she could get sick (The One With Joey’s New Girlfriend)

#1 Janice
Oh. My. GAWD! With a wicked laugh that sounded like an air raid siren riding shotgun on a lawnmower, Janice is by far the most memorable non-Friend. Like that one can of green beans in your pantry, Janice just does not go away! But huge props to Maggie Wheeler for taking what was originally just a middling character (annoying girlfriend), and making her into something lovable, memorable, and SUPER annoying! Let’s all move to Yemen. 

And as a special treat, we will leave you this compilation of all of Janice’s laughs.

Most memorable moment: Rachel gives birth and has to share a room … with Janice! (The One Where Rachel Has a Baby)

Honorable Mention: Chick and Duck
Chandler and Joey were never married, but they sure acted like a married couple! And to complete the picture, they had two (fowl) children! But they almost had to give up Chick and Duck, if it weren’t for the contest where Rachel missed the infamous “Ms. Chanandler Bong”!

Most memorable moment: “Hey, wouldn't it be cool if our duck and our chick had a little baby? We could call it Chuck. … Or Dick.” (The One With Ross’s Thing)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Disneyland 2020 or How I Learned to Love The Star Wars

For years when people asked me something about Star Wars I would have to sigh and patiently explain that I'm not a Star Wars fan, which led to everything from mild shock to being chased with torches and pitchforks. To make a long story short my beef with Star Wars was that I found it to be an overwritten exploitative marketing exercise with a toxic fan base to rival Rick and Morty, so for the most part I just stayed away whenever I could.


And Then Came The Baby...

With the lead up to Disney+ coming out a lot of talk was floating around The Mandalorian, the new Star Wars series exclusive to the streaming service, for which I cared about as much as I care about hip new trends in nail files. Either way I was getting the service for access to the Disney vault and Gargoyles. And then memes of the Child, AKA Baby Yoda started cropping up, and his cute eyes and those big green ears melted through my cynicism enough to sit down with my wife and watch the first episode of The Mandalorian

Then we binged the series and were in love. 


The Galaxy's Edge
Last week I found myself in Disneyland, the happiest place on earth and my home away from home. I was of course aware of the new Galaxy's Edge, the so called new "Star Wars Land", and before had no interest in it for the reasons listed above, but this time I was with five children and was on a personal hunt for Baby Yoda swag so off we went to Galaxy's Edge.


First thing I noticed about Disneyland was that it seemed that everyone was decked out for Star Wars. Gone were most of the princess and Mickey Mouse tee shirts to be replaced with Boba Fett, Chewie, and Han Solo outfits. I even saw several adorable Reys wandering around complete with triple bun hairdos. The fans I'd thought toxic for so long had invaded my precious happy place en masse, covering my beautiful fairy tale world with their sci-fi rubbish. (Yes, I know Star Tours has been a fixture at Disneyland for years, but I'm making a point). 



I honestly wasn't sure I was expecting when we first passed through Frontier Land into Galaxy's Edge, certainly not what I found. here was a life-size representation of the Star Wars universe. It was like Hogsmeade at Universal Studios or Radiator Springs in California Adventure, a fully immersive world filled with wall to wall fans enjoying themselves. It didn't just feel like Star Wars, it felt like Disneyland.



That's when it happened. All those years of resentment and anger faded and that little boy who dreamed of becoming Darth Maul, the one who saved his allowance to buy the Lego speeder with Luke and Obi Wan, the one who spent countless hours running around with HK-47 and Mission Vao in Knights of the Old Republic trying to get all the dark side points emerged. I was a fan again. 


Don't get me wrong, I didn't spring for a lightsaber. Or a droid. Or a $22,000 R2-D2, Mainly because a majority of my money had already gone to pins and stuffed baby Groot, but also because for $22,000 the thing had better repair my car. I did love the experience though. We were even lucky enough to win a spot in the new Rise of the Resistance ride, which further cemented my reemerging fandom with animatronics I honestly mistook for actors at first. I watched Stormtroopers take a woman from the crowd and accuse her of being a rebel spy and then do a fun comedy routine for the crowd. 



This trip is my tenth time to Disneyland in seven years, and while each time has had its own memories (losing a hat covered in pins, crying when I first met Mickey Mouse, being wished happy birthday by Elsa from her float to name a few), this one will go down in my personal history as the time I fell back in love with Star Wars

Clone Wars is still crap. 

-JOE

Monday, January 27, 2020

Harry Potter Workout


Welcome to the end of January. Who’s still going strong on their New Years resolutions? I’ve mentioned before that I have my issues with the concept of New Years resolutions. That being said, I’ve been regularly working on my personal fitness for the past seven years and (despite how much space New Years resolution people take up in January) I like to see people succeed at their fitness goals. So to make it easy to keep things up, even just a little bit, turn on your favorite Harry Potter movie and let’s do a workout together here.



I’ve included YouTube videos to help with correct form. Let me know how your workouts go and if you have any questions about the workout.


PS: Check out some Harry Potter workout swag from Amazon. I definitely have the Hufflepuff blender bottle.


Friday, January 24, 2020

Allegories in Lord of the Rings



JRR Tolkien was once asked if The Lord of the Rings was an allegory of atomic power. He said that his master creation was “not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for Domination) ... I do not think that even Power or Domination is the real centre of my story…. The real theme for me is about something much more permanent and difficult: Death and Immortality.” Indeed, the themes and lessons expressed in The Lord of the Rings can teach us many valuable things about life and our purpose in it.

At the Council of Elrond, Frodo watches as the different factions of elves, men, and dwarves argue about what to do with The One Ring. Finally, almost instinctively, Frodo says, “I will take it. I will take the ring to Mordor.” He isn’t quite sure what perils lay ahead of him, how dangerous the journey would be, or what it would do to his very soul. But he jumped at the chance because he knew it was right. What an inspiring story for us to follow as we embark on our own individual journeys in life. Like Frodo, we can go and do the things we have to do. If we are meant to do them, the way will open up for us to do what we need to do.

What’s most incredible about Frodo’s choice is that Frodo himself was a small, insignificant being. Frodo was a Hobbit, a race of beings who were generally peaceful and liked the simple life, who preferred good food and a good story to danger and actual adventure. Hobbits lived in their comfort zone. But Frodo again encourages us to take heart. We may feel weak and small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But Galadriel notes that Hobbits “will shape the fortunes of all,” and later says, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Experience has shown that not only do we have the power to make great changes in this world, but even moreso, some of the biggest changes in history happen by people that started out seemingly small and insignificant. It is the “weak things of the world” that “confound the things which are mighty.” Hobbits seem to be the most harmless creatures in Middle Earth, but it’s their choices and actions and journeys that affect the world more powerfully and dramatically than anybody else.

Our lives have great purpose. We cannot always see the purposes, and sometimes the purposes aren’t clear until after we have gone through our journeys. At one point at the beginning of his journey, Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf wisely replies, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” Thank goodness for Tolkien's wonderful allegory of life, as told through the eyes of a small yet powerful Hobbit.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Post-Crisis Arrowverse: Where Do We Go Frome Here?


SPOILERS FOR CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS

The Arrowverse’s epic 5-episode crossover had its finale last week. Over the course of the crossover, we saw the multiverse die and be reborn. Most of the deaths of the crossover were undone by the universe being saved, but there were a couple deaths (Oliver and Barry-90 to be specific) that were a bit more permanent. With all that happened over the Arrowverse in the course of five episodes, there are a lot of implications for where the CW will go from here.

Earth-Prime
Based on the little I knew of the Crisis comics, I wasn’t surprised that this happened. It made sense for them to consolidate our CW shows into one universe, instead of three. This could lead to more crossovers (I’ll cover that later), but it could also lead to some continuity concerns. For example, before Crisis, Lena was antagonistic towards Kara. Now apparently she and Lex are one of Supergirl’s biggest supporters? Does that mean that the course of Supergirl’s season will be abruptly changed? Is it part of Lex’s schemes? Or will it just be disregarded? It also effectively changes the backstory of many of our heroes. Like how did Barry and Kara meet, if he didn’t accidentally break into her universe? I’m guessing questions like these will be mostly ignored, but it’s just one thing that comes to mind.


Smallville, Birds of Prey, and Superman Returns
These series have been off the air for 10+ years, but as of this crossover all three of them are now officially part of the Arrowverse. It’s unlikely that we’ll have crossovers between these series and the current Arrowverse (especially since Smallville’s Clark Kent has given up his powers--though I’d love to see Tom Welling return again), but you never know. I watched Birds of Prey in preparation for the crossover and I would love to see more of them (assuming they exist in the new multiverse). On the other hand, Superman from Earth-96 could easily come back (especially for an episode of Legends); that’d be fun.


Titans, Doom Patrol, and Stargirl
In addition to the series that have ended, DC has its own streaming service with original shows, like Titan, Doom Patrol, and (coming soon) Stargirl. All of these were officially added to the Arrowverse during the prologue to the Crisis and the epilogue of the finale. I’ve never watched these shows (as the DC Universe streaming service requires a subscription that I can’t afford right now). It’s unlikely that Titan or Doom Patrol will cross over with the others later on, but it’s possible that Stargirl could cross over, as it’ll appear on both DC Universe and CW. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


Justice League and Crossovers 
As the crossover drew to a close, Barry brought the main heroes from each show to the STAR Labs warehouse from the Invasion crossover and he unveiled a Justice League-like round-table. With everyone on the same Earth now and with a central base, besides the DEO or Star Labs, it seemed like they were prepping for more crossovers. We can definitely expect more crossovers to happen on an annual basis, as is tradition. However, the way Barry talked I wondered if we might get more mini-crossovers, like when Ray and Felicity visited STAR Labs in The Flash Season 1. Having Jefferson or his girls leave Freeland for an episode to help with an electricity-powered meta in National City could be a very easy thing to do now. Plus, I miss those kinds of crossovers. It made the universe feel more cohesive, instead of only getting together for world-ending scenarios.


DCEU
Ever since Man of Steel, DC has been trying to create a cinematic universe akin to Marvel. They haven’t been as successful (and honestly I haven’t seen their movies), but with Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen showing up for his Crisis cameo, it’s now possible for movies and TV characters to cross over. Will they cross over? Probably not. DC likes to compartmentalize. But they could! And honestly THIS is the thing that could get me to watch all those DCEU movies. They have seven movies so far and with eight more on the way, tying it into the established, successful Arrowverse could be beneficial for them.


What were your takeaways from Crisis on Infinite Earths? I’m looking forward to seeing how the aftermath will play out on each show. I guess we'll find out the start of it with this week’s Batwoman and Supergirl.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Pixar's SparkShort "Loop" is uncomfortable, unique, and amazing!




Oh the tears!

Pixar has become a master at telling heartfelt, touching stories that still remain compelling, authentic, and sometimes even funny. And somehow their stories have reached the widest of audiences, generally appealing to all. Their latest SparkShort, Loop, is no exception. Released January 10, this short seems to be the most experimental, the most different, the most important of all the Pixar shorts.

In just a few minutes, Loop tells the story of Renee (a non-verbal girl with autism) and her canoe trip with Marcus (a teenager who is less than excited to ride in a canoe with somebody who makes odd noises and sits funny). On the short loop around the lake, both teens learn something about each other -- and more importantly, about themselves. And so it is with the audience -- we learn about others and ourselves.

Pixar's last SparkShort, Float (see our review here), dealt with the similar topic of autism and the unique challenges that arise from that condition. Only Float was subtle, allegorical, and more along the lines of fantasy than reality. Loop is different, much like autism itself. Loop gets to the point right away, tells the story directly and in your face, and never shies away from some of the harsh realities -- and beautiful truths -- about a person living with autism.

As a father of a son with autism, and as a middle school teacher in a public school where I have students with autism in almost every class, Float hit me hard. Like, I think about it a lot and I literally have flashes of Float when I interact with those who have autism. But Loop hits home on a deeper level. It feels different, and that’s a good thing. At times Loop is uncomfortable to watch. At time it melted me to a puddle of love and understanding. I felt for the individually different struggles Marcus and Renee are going through, and I yearned for them to each make a connection. And the genius of Loop is that in making me feel all the feels, I yearn to make connections in the real world and to bring a little more light and understanding to my community.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Unpopular Opinions: Disney

Disney Plus has been out for two months, giving us all plenty of time to binge Disney classics, Disney Channel series, and some classic Marvel cartoons. Disney might have become the overlord of almost all popular media, now owning Fox, Marvel, and Star Wars (among other franchises), but at least they’re a benevolent overlord. That being said, I have some grievances about Disney (or at least about Disney fans). So here are a few of my thoughts.

Frozen Wasn’t Groundbreaking
Back in 2013 when Frozen was released, it became this big phenomenon seemingly overnight. I’m not going to bash on Frozen, because it was a genuinely good movie. However, it didn’t deserve the over-hype that it got… never mind how it’s basically become its own franchise in the 6 years since. I can think of countless Disney movies that are equal to Frozen or even better. Big Hero 6, Princess and the Frog, and Tangled are among the animated features that deserve more credit than they were given. To be fair, I could also just be really tired of “Let It Go”.



Tarzan is NOT Elsa's brother
After Frozen came out back in 2013, the internet began overthinking the movie and tying other Disney movies together with it. Part of it probably came from a shot of Rapunzel and Flynn on their way to Elsa’s coronation. So people started theorizing her relation to Anna and Elsa, that their parents shipwrecked on the way to Rapunzel’s wedding, and Ariel’s capsized boat is really the King and Queen’s ship. The icing on the cake was the theory that the king and queen survived and had a baby, Tarzan. Despite it being “confirmed” by a Disney writer, it doesn’t make any sense. Tarzan is from a completely different time period and his parents don’t look like Anna and Elsa’s parents. So I can’t accept it, no matter how popular the theory was.



Disney Princesses Aren’t Passive
A huge critique of Disney Princess movies is how passive they are. This is especially the case with older Disney Princesses, like Snow White and Cinderella. Yeah, they weren’t out there fighting sea demons (like Moana), shooting ice out of their hands (like Elsa), or swinging a sword or frying pan (like Mulan or Rapunzel), but they were tough. Snow White and Cinderella endured abuse from their step-mothers and even did it with optimism. Especially with the awareness brought to abuse nowadays, this is a big deal.



Too Much Live-Action Too Fast
To be clear, I have zero problem with Disney’s live-action remakes. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin (just to name a few). The problem is that instead of getting one remake every year or every other year, we’ve been getting them released faster than I can keep track. Just this year we had Aladdin, The Lion King, and Dumbo (not to mention Lady and the Tramp, if we include Disney Plus originals). They’re just losing their impact on me. Maybe if we could just slow it down a little?



Disney Didn’t Ruin Star Wars
I don’t understand the hate that the new Star Wars movies get. Maybe I’m not cinema savvy, but I’ve enjoyed the Star Wars movies I’ve seen thus far (I’ve yet to see Solo or The Rise of Skywalker). In my possibly uneducated opinion, I’m just glad there’s more Star Wars to be seen. If it weren’t for Disney “ruining” Star Wars, the last we’d have seen of Star Wars on the big screen would have been Revenge of the Sith. Instead, because of Disney, the legacy of Star Wars gets to continue for generations to come.


Check out some more unpopular opinions for Harry Potter

Friday, January 10, 2020

Sorting Arrow into Hogwarts Houses


After eight years, Arrow is drawing to a close. I’ll admit that it wasn’t my favorite of the Arrowverse shows (I’ve been more partial to The Flash or Legends), but it deserves its credit; if it weren’t for Arrow, we wouldn’t have the expanded Arrowverse with The Flash, Supergirl, Legends, and Batwoman (not to mention so many others that were recently retroactively incorporated with Crisis on Infinite Earths). So with Crisis concluding this week (and the last two episodes of Arrow coming shortly after), I wanted to a little Hogwarts sorting for a few of our Team Arrow favorites.

Oliver Queen/Green Arrow - Slytherin
It was a bit of a toss-up for me between Gryffindor and Slytherin, but since his ambition and determination often outweighs his daring and chivalry, I figured I’d put Oliver in Slytherin. Especially in early seasons of Arrow, he didn’t might bending the rules and cutting corners to make sure justice was served. That’s a very Slytherin thing to me.


John Diggle/Spartan - Gryffindor
While Oliver was a Slytherin, his best friend was a daring and chivalrous Gryffindor. His determination to do what’s right always drove Diggle. In many ways his courage and his stalwart nature is what kept Oliver in check over the eight years they worked together. He was the first addition to Team Arrow and he always helped to keep Oliver on the straight and narrow (to use a cliche).


Felicity Smoak/Overwatch - Ravenclaw
If Felicity isn’t a Ravenclaw, I don’t know who is. She’s daring and brave as well, so I briefly considered Gryffindor. But over the seven years that she worked with Oliver, it was her wit, creativity, and ingenuity that got them out of jams. In the end, her brilliant intellect is what puts her into Ravenclaw


Malcolm Merlyn/Dark Archer - Slytherin
Just as much as Felicity is a Ravenclaw, it’s obvious to me that Merlyn is a Slytherin. From the moment he started the Undertaking, until he (presumably) died on Lian Yu, everything was a long con with him. His cunning and ambition make him an obvious choice for the snakes down in Slytherin.


Laurel Lance/Black Siren - Slytherin
I debated which Laurel to include. Earth-1, Earth-2, or both. I went with Earth-2, because I honestly enjoyed her more. She is a Slytherin through and through. Even when she became a good guy, she was a Slytherin. Whatever she set her mind to, she went for it. It started with fooling Team Arrow and then scheming with Diaz. And then when she joined the good guys, it was about getting Oliver out of prison and avenging Quentin. Nothing was more important than her ambitions (to the point that she had to be talked down multiple times).


Thea Queen/Speedy - Hufflepuff
She started out as a mild-mannered (relatively speaking) teenager, but as her life began to fall apart she turned into one of the most skilled fighters in the early stages of Team Arrow. Despite her ambition to protect herself and learning from Merlyn after her mother’s death, it’s her loyal and honest nature that puts her in Hufflepuff. She was willing to risk everything for Oliver, Roy, or whoever was in trouble. It even went to the point when she left Star City to destroy the Lazarus Pits, all because of her integrity.


There are many other members of Team Arrow that I could have sorted: Dinah, Rene, Curtis, Roy, etc. Where do you think they’d go? And bringing things back to the crossover, what predictions do you have for the last two episodes? Who will live? Who will die?


Check out our other Hogwarts sortings: Friends, Power Rangers (2017), Once Upon a Time, Avengers

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Genius of Jon Favreau

Most fans know him as Happy Hogan. Some might know him as Monica’s millionaire boyfriend on Friends. Maybe even as the guy from Swingers. But Jon Favreau is so much more than an actor. The genius of Jon Favreau lies in his writing and directing of some of the most memorable, successful, and transformational films of all time.

Favreau really made a name for himself when he directed Elf in 2003, which became an instant classic. Favreau took on a big comedic personality (Will Ferrell), and somehow managed to make a movie that was at once funny and charming, heartwarming and quotable, lovable and just a dang good story. Favreau knew when to let Will Ferrell be himself, and when to reign him in. And then along came Iron Man.

In 2008, Favreau took on another big personality (Robert Downey, Jr.) and once again knew when to let Downey be himself and let his personality shine, and when to hold back and let the story and geekiness and the worldbuilding take over. Not enough can be said about the importance of Favreau’s Iron Man. It set the stage for one of the biggest, most successful, ambitious, culturally relevant, critically acclaimed, and fun franchises in history. Favreau’s direction created a tone that would be echoed in every Marvel movie that followed. In addition to those successes, Favreau also directed Zathura (a fun sequel to the original Jumanji), Cowboys & Aliens (inventive and well-directed, even if it wasn’t a huge success), and several live-action (with tons of CG assistance) adaptations of classic Disney films.

2016’s Jungle Book was so much better than it was expected to be. The story was familiar, but just different enough to warrant a remake. Favreau will direct a sequel, due out later this year. 2019’s  Lion King adaptation won praise for its beauty and hyper-realistic style. Indeed, it felt like watching a National Geographic documentary where the animals were performing Hamlet.

And then came Star Wars. Favreau hasn’t written much, but he was given a chance to write and produce the first live-action television production in the Star Wars universe. What was created was a hugely successful, pop culture phenomenon that is being hailed as the new direction for Star Wars. (See our review here.) Frankly, it’s not easy to please Star Wars fans. But somehow Favreau managed to not only satisfy (but not pander to) fans, he also impressed critics, and made a huge dent in meme-dom with Baby Yoda!

So the big question is, since everything he touches turns to gold, what should Jon Favreau work on next?

Check out our review of one of his projects, "The Mandalorian".

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