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Friday, October 31, 2008

Hail to the Hollywood Chief

Presidential speeches and quotes are supposed to be memorable. Some are inspiring, “Ask not what your country can do for you…” , impassioned, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”, and in times like today, reassuring, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But there are those that end up being silly and laughable. Instead of being regarded as historical in nature, they are more less pop culture footnotes, “Read my lips. No new taxes.”, “I am not a crook!”, or “I did not have sex with that woman.” With the current administration there aren't enough posts in the world to cover all of the goofy stuff W has said. Thank The Flying Spaghetti Monster that we have Fictional Hollywood Presidents to provide us with moving and uplifting speeches. So, I give you the best Presidential quotes from Hollywood.

First we'll start off with the comedic. A Commander in Chief should have a sense of humor.
President Tug Benson (Lloyd Bridges) Hot Shots: Part Deux (1991)

It seems like only yesterday I was strafing so many of your homes. Here I am today, begging you not to make such good cars.

Some Presidents assume the title of Commander in Chief with the desire to fix the economy or strengthen foreign relations. Others find themselves with the bigger task of rebuilding civilization after a rogue comet hits the Earth. Don’t you wish a candidate had a plan for this kind of disaster in their campaign.

President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman) Deep Impact (1998)

We watched as the bombs shattered the second comet into a million pieces of ice and rocks that burned harmlessly in our atmosphere, and lit up the sky for an hour. Still, we were left with the devastation of the first. The waters reached as far inland as the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. It washed away farms and towns, forests and skyscrapers, but the water receded. The wave hit Europe and Africa, too. Millions were lost, countless more left homeless, but the waters receded. Cities fall, but they are rebuilt. And heroes die, but they are remembered. We honor them with every brick we lay, with every field we sow, with every child we comfort and then teach to rejoice in what we have been regiven. Our planet, our home. So now, let us begin.

Sometimes a President must own up to a mistake or at least take the blame for something because in the end, the buck stops there.

President Bill Mitchell aka Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) Dave (1993)

I forgot that I was hired to do a job for you and that it was just a temp job at that. I forgot that I had two hundred and fifty million people who were paying me to make their lives a little better and I didn't live up to my part of the bargain. See, there are certain things you should expect from a President. I ought to care more about you than I do about me... I ought to care more about what's right than I do about what's popular... I ought to be willing to give this whole thing up for something I believe in... Because if I'm not... Then I don't belong here in the first place...

President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) The American President (1995)

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

For the record: Yes, I am a card-carrying member of the A.C.L.U. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? This is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the questions. Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for president, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, then, folks, you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a couple of minutes ago.

Everybody knows American isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free, then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest." Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

I've known Bob Rumson for years. I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it. Nobody has ever won an election by talking about what I was just talking about. This is a country made up of people with hard jobs that they're terrified of losing. The roots of freedom are of little or no interest to them at the moment. We are a nation afraid to go out at night. We're a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated.

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and personal character. Then you have an old photo of the President's girlfriend. You scream about patriotism and you tell them she's to blame for their lot in life, you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through law school, prosecute criminals for five years, represent the interests of public school teachers for two years, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources.

You want a character debate? Fine, but you better stick with me, 'cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league. I've loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other 'cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well that ends right now. Tomorrow morning the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It's White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming.

The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today it no longer exists. I'm throwing it out. I'm throwing it out and writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns. We've got serious problems, and we need serious men, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you'd better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up. This is a time for serious men, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name's Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President.

Inspiring people to believe in your cause is essential to winning a Presidential election. But you can’t only talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Perhaps Aaron Sorkin, or at least the writers of The West Wing were psychics because they created a President that was modeled after a young charismatic senator that is only 271 electoral votes from being the first minority ever elected President. He made a speech at the Democratic Convention that inspired them to model Matt Santos on him and look how history turned out.

Presidential Nominee Matt Santos (Jimmy Smitts) The West Wing "2162 Votes" (2005)

You know I’d been hoping to stand here tonight under very different circumstances, and I have been asked by people that I respect to take this opportunity to support one of the other fine candidates who have made this race with me, to help decide who our nominee will be. But I can’t do that. I can’t do that because it’s not my place to decide who our nominee should be. That decision is yours and yours alone. Now there has been a great deal made about Governor Baker’s decision not to disclose his wife’s minor medical condition. Many people believe that he should have. But I don’t believe Governor Baker failed to disclose it because he was ashamed or embarrassed. I think he didn’t disclose it because we’re the hypocrites, not the Bakers; because we’re all broken, every single one of us, and yet we pretend that we’re not. We all live lives of imperfection and yet we cling to this fantasy that there’s this perfect life and that our leaders should embody it. But if we expect our leaders to live on some higher moral plain than the rest of us, well we’re just asking to be deceived. Now it’s been suggested to me this week that I should try to buy your support with jobs, and the promise of access. It’s been suggested to me that party unity is more important than your democratic rights as delegates. That’s right it’s not. And you have a decision to make. Don’t vote for us because you think we’re perfect. Don’t vote for us because of what we might be able to do for you only. Vote for the person who shares your ideals, your hopes, your dreams. Vote for the person who most embodies what you believe we need to keep our nation strong and free. And when you have done that, you can go back to Seattle, and Boston, to Miami, to Omaha, to Tulsa and Chicago, and Atlanta with your head held high, and say, “I am a member of the Democratic Party.”

Presidents must console the nation and perhaps the world during a tragedy.

President Josiah “Jed” Bartlett (Martin Sheen) The West Wing "20 Hours in America"II(2002)

...restoring abundance amid an economic shortfall, securing peace in a time of global conflict, sustaining hope in this winter of anxiety and fear. More than any time in recent history America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek, nor did we provoke, an assault on our freedoms and our way of life. We did not expect, nor did we invite, a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive.

Forty-four people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University. Three swimmers from the men’s team were killed and two others are in critical condition, when, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire.

The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students, and our teachers, and our parents, and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we’ve measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.
This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) Independence Day (1996)

Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. Mankind. That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) Mars Attacks! (1996)

I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain't bad.

And sometimes, the best ideas can be summed up in less than six words just before dispatching an evil doer.

The President (Donald Pleasance) Escape From New York (1981)

You're the Duke! A Number One!

President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) Air Force One (1997)

Get off my plane!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election Night of the Living Dead

Since we are so close to the election and Halloween happens right before it, I thought I would blow your mind with a weird abstract thought. It’s the kind of thought that could cause all the noise in your head to disappear and one voice will say to the other, “It’s dark in here, and we may die.”

Unless you’ve been buried in a graveyard somewhere, you understand the fundamental differences between the Obama campaign and the McCain campaign. If you don’t I’m not going to even try to explain it to you. You’re better off just voting for Mickey Mouse. With that said, let me get into my psychosis here so you can get on with your lives.Seeing as how it is the Season of the Witch my wife and I always like to catch a few scary flicks on cable. While I have to watch The Great Pumpkin regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, my wife will put the remote down and enter into the optically glazed over zone whenever a (Insert Time of Day) of the Living Dead movie comes on television. Life truly does imitate art, huh? However, if feels like our DVR has acted as the transporter from The Fly and combined the DNA of both the election and Night of the Living Dead.

Look at the given circumstances. It helps if you have a working memory of the movie.

Movie > Zombie Apocalypse
Real Life > Global Financial Crisis/War/Recession

> Just showed up on the scene wants to get truck running to make an escape vs. Been in the house for awhile and have seen what damage can be done to a vehicle. Escape is not an option. Hold out.
Real Life > New Senator on the block, wants to get us out of Iraq vs. Seasoned Veteran Senator/Solider confident that we hold the course in Iraq and use that experience to fix Afghanistan

Opposing Viewpoints
Movie > Harry Cooper vs. Ben
Real Life > John McCain vs. Barack Obama

> Barricade ourselves in the basement with one entrance or exit. Don’t help anyone regardless of what’s going on. Stay isolated and put a hard stop to discussion on anything else. vs. Stay upstairs, shore up the infrastructure of the environment, have options available to fight or run
Real Life > Cut spending, trickledown economics, Take a hatchet to the problem vs. Shore up the foundation, leave yourself open possibilities, use a scalpel to surgically remove what’s wrong.

Existing Problem
> Dependency on foreign produced fuel to help with escape plan.
Real Life > Dependency on foreign produced fuel to help with everyday plan.

Okay, granted I’ve generalized the issues and it looks one sided. The biggest conflict in the movie seems to be that Cooper and Ben have opposing views on how to handle the Zombie Crisis. Ben shows up on the scene and is convinced that he can fix the structural deficiencies of the house while formulating a plan to escape by truck which needs gas from a pump in the middle of the zombie horde. Cooper has seen what can happen in a vehicular escape and has decided that the best way to address the issue is to hold up in the basement with no exits save the entrance and wait it out. The house can be overrun by zombies but he can defend the one opening. Meanwhile, he doesn’t realize that his own daughter will turn into a zombie and attack from within the basement. Take a look at the dialogue from the movie. I’ve substituted the names of the characters with the names of the candidates.

Obama: I'm telling you they can't get IN here!
McCain: And I'm telling you they turned over our car! We were damn lucky to get away at all! Now you're telling me these things can't get through a lousy pile of wood?

McCain: Did you hear me when I told you they turned over our car?
Obama: Oh, hell! Any good five men could do that!
McCain: That's my point! There's not going to be five, or even ten! There's going to be twenty, thirty, maybe a hundred of those things, and as soon as they find out we're here, this place will be crawling with them!
Obama: Well, if there's that much, they'll probably get us wherever we are.

McCain: Look! You two can do whatever you like! I'm going back down to the cellar, and you'd better decide! 'Cause I'm gonna board up that door, and I'm not going to unlock it again no matter what happens! I'm not going to wait! I've made my decision, now you make yours!

Obama: How long have guys you been down there? I could have used some help up here!
McCain: That's the cellar. It's the safest place.
Obama: You mean you didn't hear the racket I was making up here?
McCain: How were we supposed to know what was going on? Could have been those things for all we knew!
Obama: That girl was screaming. Surely you know what a girl screaming sounds like. Those things don't make any noise. Anybody would know somebody needed help!
McCain: We thought we could hear screams, but for all we knew, that have meant those things were in the house after her.
Obama: And you wouldn't come up here and help?
McCain: That racket sounded like the place was being ripped apart. How were we supposed to know what was going on?
Obama: Now wait a minute. You just got finished saying you couldn't hear anything down there. Now you say it sounded like the place was being ripped apart. It would be nice if you get your story straight, man.
McCain: All right, now you tell me! I'm not gonna take that kind of a chance when we've got a safe place! We lock into a safe place, and you're telling us we gotta risk our lives just because somebody might need help, huh?
Obama: Yeah, something like that.

Maybe George Romero was ahead of his time. Now, the conclusion to be drawn from the movie is that no matter where you go, whether it be the basement or staying upstairs, you're screwed. While the Coopers met their demise at the hands of a gun and a garden trowel, the basement wasn't safe. But, Ben manages to lose control of the situation upstairs and has to retreat to the basement where he ends up remaining safe throughout the night. However, in the end, he gets shot for appearing to be a zombie...

Scary isn’t it. It’s even more scary if you substitute Sarah Palin for Karen Cooper, the daughter…

I hurt

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Best Halloween Television Marathon Ever

It’s that magical time a year where can dress up and go out to get something good to eat. Wait, that’s my anniversary. Ok, we can dress up in something scary and get something bad for us. No, that was my wedding. Well, anyway, Halloween is probably in my top two of favorite holidays. Now, I know I’ve had some issues with holidays in the past. Quite frankly, I haven’t even bothered to decorate this year because my house is still a wreck. Still, there is nothing I love more than holiday themed television. I’d like to share what I think is probably some of the best Halloween shows out there. Whether you have the DVDs or TIVO or whatever, consider staying up late this Halloween and watch some of these shows back to back. Now, I can’t see you fitting every single title into a 24 hour period and quite frankly, if this is what you plan to do for Halloween instead of having a little fun outside the house, then I fear for you. However, since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, I say take every opportunity to enjoy each of these over the entire weekend. You can probably find a lot of these on YouTube. For some of the more gruesome I suggest not watching the broadcast version as they cut out all the good parts.

First, I will list all the actual Halloween related titles, followed by suggestions on horror related titles that I feel are great to see on Halloween. The only exceptions are a handful of movies that are staples at Halloween time and I think you can agree that they are the rule and not the exception.

Halloween (1978) Of course, we start off with the best and titular movie out there. Being only three years old when the low budget blockbuster was released, in the theater, I caught it probably 10 years later on cable and HBO. By then, the fourth movie had been in the theaters but the original still stands out as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. If there was a Mount Rushmore of horror icons, Michael Myers would be on it alongside Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface. Of course some today would want to add Jig Saw to that mount but I think it’s just fine the way it is. Halloween is one of those quintessential movies that begs you turn off the lights, curl up on the couch, and wonder if you locked the door.

Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
I suggest popping the first sequel in right after viewing the original, and a mandatory pee break. The other two should be watched back to back but it’s not mandatory for immediate viewing. Part II picks up right at the end of the first movie. The terror continues as everyone goes on the hunt for Myers while he terrorizes Laurie Strode at the hospital. Instead of the usual picking off of her friends en route to the climax, Myers picks off hospital employees, obviously enraged by trying to get his meds reimbursed from his HMO. Myers does manage to follow at least one rule of horror movies by killing a couple, for engaging in a sexual act. The film received a mixed reception from critics but it offers two important events, the connection between Myers and Laurie and the introduction of Jimmy Lloyd who serves as a love interest for Laurie. While any true horrorphile will tell you to stay away from less than excellent sequels, (cough) Season of the Witch (cough), especially when the original director and screenwriter are absent, I will give into the fact that Parts 4 and 5 are pretty good. Danielle Harris was brought into the mix as Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie and Jimmy. She appeared in both Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. One would originally think that her “sister” Rachel would have been the final girl, because following format, she was the “virginal” teen while Jamie was the young child being watched. However, it is clear to see that Jamie is the true protagonist and Danielle gives an amazing performance in both films. I was blown away by her commitment to the character at such an early age. The end of the fifth film totally shifted gears into delving into Michael’s reason for his killing spree. Quite frankly, I felt this was a great disservice to such an iconic and everlasting character. While Freddy and Jason are inherently supernatural predators, the fact that Michael Myers is a flesh and blood personification of the boogieman makes him such a real threat. No one expects to ever encounter Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees in real life, but Myers is a definite possibility, not discounting his apparent immortality. Sadly, the next film in the series goes into weird druidic rituals and other hooey to explain Myers’ anger and they kill off Jamie Lloyd in the beginning only after replacing her with another actress. Kudos to Danielle Harris for sticking to her guns, including requesting a pay cut to counter the fate of Jamie Lloyd. Now, before I go on too long about this series, I will say that there was a brief reprieve in Halloween H20. Laurie Strode returns for the seventh film and the series gets updated to take advantage of the Kevin Williamson style of writing that came about in the Scream series. While it misses in some scenes, the climax where Laurie Strode returns for the final fight wielding an axe and screaming, "Michael" gave me shivers.

Night of the Living Dead (1968). It’s not a Halloween themed movie, but I’ve already seen it on television three times this season. It’s a classic in anyone’s book. The original cult zombie movie offers all the isolation and dread that one could want on a dark and stormy night. You’ll take a second glance at the windows, making sure no recently deceased are hanging around outside looking to sell you damnation. You’ll be hooked in for the long haul from the first moment you hear Johnny spout, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” While, I do recommend viewing the sequels, it does tend to drag on and you’ve got a lot to get through. Besides, they lends themselves more to dread than the first one which is just pure popcorn cult horror.

It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
Truly, a classic. No Halloween is complete for me until I see this show. I can remember as a small child going out trick or treating, in the dark mind you, then coming home and plopping myself down in front of the television to watch this while I ate some of my stash. I suggest you either kick off your marathon or end it with this gem. I own the DVD so I can watch it in July, if I choose to. The annual treat is one of those nostalgic childhood moments that continues to mark my life as I gear up for the full holiday push (Halloween-New Years) by watching it. Linus’ dedication to welcoming the great pumpkin only to have his hopes dashed by a Beagle in WWI flying ace attire simply sparks sympathy in anyone who has ever missed trick or treating for whatever reason. The first year I considered myself too old to go out was a true Sally moment as I missed the event, not because I was stuck out in a pumpkin patch with some blockhead zealot, but because I was afraid of looking more like a child predator in my costume which started to ride up at the knees. If that wasn’t bad enough, my town started holding its trick or treating in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, for safety reasons. I’m sorry, but it’s not the same if it isn’t dark and spooky out there.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is again not a Halloween themed movie but being part of the Mount Rushmore of horror, Freddy Krueger is one bad mofo. Well, at least he was for the first and third movies. Don’t know why we had to stick that wussy Jesse (the character not the actor) into the second film as he just mucked it all up. Anywho, Freddy is at his best before he got all punny in the sequels, stalking each kid with violent glee. The first is the best as it is in so many horror movies. Krueger isn’t as visible on screen and his voice is modulated to sound more terrifying than funny as it does in later movies. You’ll be popping the No-Doz by the time Johnny Depp gets sucked into his bed, an eerie foreshadowing to his fate at the hands of the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest.

Poltergeist (1982) “They’re here!” No, it’s not trick or treaters, it’s the people under the pool. Poltergeist taps into the fears we all have has home owners and not just the housing crisis, although that is pretty scary in itself. It’s a great haunted house movie that kept me from ever going to sleep without looking under my bed for years. That whole clown scene probably what scared me more than the tree or the pool party with the corpses. Definitely watch this with someone you trust.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). If you’re in a party mood or simply looking to dress up in a costume to watch a movie, may I suggest this musical mayhem. This might be the scariest movie of them all, if you are too conservative in thinking. My sophomore year I went to a cast party after our Spring musical and we had this playing on the television in the background. The family was a little older and well to do and when all the revelry began in full force, they asked their daughter to “shut that piece of trash off.”

The Brady Bunch episode “Fright Night” (1972)
Pure cheese but still a memorable show. The Brady Boys set out to scare the Brady Girls by using special effects that would make Uwe Boll sit up and applaud, before stealing the idea. A ghostly image outside the window is merely a projected slide found by the girls snooping in the boys room. Luckily, they didn’t find Greg’s stash of photos that he took with a concealed camera of Marcia bathing. Ok, I made that up. Anyway, it’s who has the bigger stones as the girls challenge the boys to sleep in the attic all night while they lay down some scary sound effects. Losing the bet and being chided by Alice for taking it, the kids team up to scare the B out of Ann B Davis. The only bust shown in this sugar pop party is the one of Mr. Brady sculpted by Mrs. Brady. It’s also the only body count we get, unless you count Tiger who disappeared in the previous season. Actually, the dog who played Tiger was killed by a car in season one and the replacement was only used when essential to the plot due to difficulty with the animal.

The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (1990-2008)
The annual fright fest and punathon that is The Simpsons Halloween episode has got to be the longest running Halloween themed episode series on television. 18 years people! Pop Culture is neither safe nor spared from the sharpened claws of Springfield’s favorite family. Hopefully, after the show goes off the air, there will be a standalone DVD offering of every single episode from throughout the series. As it is by standard DVDs, the collection would be up to five discs not counting extras which is a mandatory inclusion in my opinion. Highlights from throughout the series include Bad Dream House, The Raven, The Monkey’s Paw, Clown Without Pity, Dial Z for Zombies, The Devil and Homer Simpson… Doh! Why bother, they all fantastic. At already 9 hours in running time, sprinkle these throughout your marathon like Looney Tunes shorts at the movies.

CHiPs episode “Trick or Trick” (1979) The hobgoblin radio broadcasts, the ghost of Karen Carpenter as a robber running down the street with a funky disco beat, the scavenger hunt gals that Jon and Ponch offer to look the other way for in exchange for a party invite. These are the reasons why I had to include this on the list. With as much cheese as The Brady Bunch, CHiPs is one of those craptastic shows I loved as a kid and this Halloween hour was no slouch fest on the part of the creators.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949) The cartoon version of the Washington Irving classic was more scary to me than the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film from 1999. Perhaps it was the dark New England style tone or the fact that the Headless Horseman chases Ichabod through the town to the bridge which serves as the boundary of the Horseman’s reach. The false sense of security is shattered as the Horseman hurls a Jack-o-lantern at Ichabod. The screen goes dark and Crane’s fate is left open to interpretation. This isn’t a happy ending folks. Although, it’s speculated that Crane slinks off to marry another woman and raises children who look like him, I still say he bought it at the bridge.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Halloween” (1997) , "Hush" (1999) and "Fear, Itself" (2000)
BTVS is one of those shows that was always praised yet rarely rewarded. Over the course of seven seasons the show consistently cranked out great material, even through much of the 4th, 5th, and 6th seasons which to me were a shift from Full Tilt Buffy. Starting off with Halloween we find Buffy and the Scoobies relegated to chaperoning children during Trick or Treat. After choosing costumes from Ethan Rayne’s shop they find that they have taken on the persona of their costume (Buffy as a Southern Belle, Xander as an Army Commando, and Willow as a ghost) which is in direct contrast to their naturally personalities. Well, all except Willow. Originally she was to appear in a slutty outfit but covered up with a ghost costume at the last minute. It should be noted that slutty Willow would eventually show up as a vampire from an alternate timeline in Season 3 and Xander’s Army Intelligence is constantly referred to throughout the series as a residual side effect from that night. Hush is probably one of the best BTVS episodes. It plays on the idea that there are a group of creatures called “The Gentleman” that resemble Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II. They move from town to town and steal the voices of the citizens leaving them to float around stealing seven hearts with surgical precision. The episode is great because it resembles a Tim Burton universe with a color palette stretching into the blue scale and a soundtrack reminiscent of Danny Elfman.
The show itself is very well done with top notch staging but Hush provides some genuine scares and an overall case of the Hee Bee Gee Bees. Fear, Itself brings Season 4 into Halloween mode as a frat house party turns into a real house of horrors. Partygoers find their worst fears have come to life thanks to a demonic sign drawn just for aesthetics and an accidental blood sacrifice. The official start of the running gag between Anya and bunnies starts here and runs for three more seasons. Great stuff.

South Park episode “Pinkeye” (1997) “Spookyfish” (1998) "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery" (1999) "Hell on Earth 2006" (2006) This collection of episodes from one of the raunchiest yet smartest cartoons is sure to break up the scarefest nicely. From the first season, Pinkeye probably gives us the fastest time of death for Kenny (around 25 seconds) for any episode. The Mir space station is the culprit and Kenny is taken to the morgue for embalming. A bottle of Worcestershire sauce gets into the mix and turns Kenny into a zombie. Kenny then goes on a rampage infecting most of South park. The best bits are Cartman’s costume changes from Hitler to a member of the KKK and Chef leading the zombies in a Thriller dance break. Spookyfish is a classic if only for the Barbara Streisand heads in the corners of the screen promoting “Spooky Vision.” The episode plays on the Evil Parallel Dimension motif found in Star Trek where everyone has an opposite personality and a goatee. Evil Cartman, who is actually good, is the preferred twin and while trying to discover who’s brutally killing the residents of South Park, the rest of the boys attempt to banish the real Cartman and keep his hairy chinned twin. Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery reeks of Scooby Doo goodness as the band Korn comes to South Park to play a show. Driving a van and being spooked by “Pirate Ghosts” leads to them joining up with the boys to figure out where Kyle’s dead grandmother ended up. Wendy wins first prize again in her Chewbacca costume and Kenny, of course, dies. Hell on Earth 2006 brings back a familiar face in Satan. Previously, Satan threw a boxing match with Jesus, dated, broke up with, and got back together with Saddam Hussein. Now he has decided that Halloween should be all about him and has decided to throw himself a Super Sweet 16 party and acts accordingly like a little brat in full Britney Spears, circa 1998, attire. Meanwhile, the boys attempt to summon Biggie Smalls ala Bloody Mary and succeed only to have him upset for being late to Satan’s party. While not the best South Park episode it does have the series trademark crassness with Steve Irwin appearing at the party with a stingray protruding from his chest. Satan chastises his guest for dressing as Irwin as it was “too soon to go there” but we find out that it really was Steve Irwin. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how good a person you are, everyone goes to Hell. Except Kenny who goes to Heaven to thwart Saddam’s attempt to overthrow Heaven in Best Friends Forever.

Broom-Stick Bunny (1956), A Witch’s Tangled Hare (1959) and Transylvania 6-5000 (1963)
If Bugs Bunny cartoons weren't fantastic to begin with then including a few Halloween themed shorts ought to be freaking sweet. Broom-Stick Bunny introduces us to Witch Hazel who wants to be the ugliest of them all. A trick or treating Bugs in a witch costume takes the ugly prize as Hazel’s mirror declares Bugs uglier. When she realizes Bugs is a rabbit she finds he is one of the ingredients in a potion she was brewing. Wackiness ensues.
Witch’s Tangled Hare has Hazel pursuing Bugs through MacBeth's castle trying to cook him up for dinner. With a cackle and scattering of bobby pins, she chases Bugs on broomstick while a writer attempts to create a story around the name on the mailbox. Pure Looney fun.
Transylvania 6-5000 offers up one of the most hilarious premises. Bugs ends up in Pittsburghe, Transylvania by accident and mistakes the castle of Count Blood Count as a motel. After reading a book on magic, Bugs defends himself by reciting magic words, turning the Count back and forth from human to bat form at the most inopportune times. Then he just gets silly mixing and matching words and eventually turning the Count into Witch Hazel by saying “Newport News”

The Real Ghostbusters episode "When Halloween Was Forever" (1986) and "Halloween II 1/2" (1987)
One of the few cartoon adaptations to actually measure up to its inspiration, TRG was way ahead of its time in terms of mythology and plot arcs. Rooted in actual mythos, the Ghostbusters dealt with specters and demons of all sorts, but only a few got reoccurring shots on the show. Samhain was perfect subject matter in regards to Halloween. He attempts to make Halloween night last forever and corrals all the ghosts in New York, including a reluctant Slimer. Eventually, he is captured and stored in the containment unit but you know he is going to return as Egon observes him waiting for a chance to return. That return would come a season later as two goblins release him from the containment unit.

Scariest Places On Earth (2000-2006) A no chance to fail idea. Get Linda Blair to narrate a show about the scariest places on Earth and have Zelda Rubenstein narrate it. How can you go wrong? Well, for starters, you over load the show with goofy antics from a radio DJ, Alan Robson, pretending to be a serious host. You promise to deliver the goods and never do so. Then, you blatantly misportray a group of New Jersey Devil Hunters and you pretty much kill your fan base. All foolishness aside, some of the episodes did offer up some scary treats but trying to add more and more episodes in a quick fashion didn't help. Some of the stand out locations that kind of freaked me out were of course, West Virginia State Pennitentiary and Bunny Man Bridge.

MTV’s Fear (2000) While a worthwhile premise brought reality television to the MTV crowd, ultimately, Fear suffered the same fate as every other show about supernatual hauntings, it failed to deliver the goods. Whether ghosts and spirits do not exist or refuse to sell out for Hollywood execs, you never see a one and a lot of the show was built upon the idea that the fear is real. Each contestant's imagination is sent full tilt with a backstory about the location. Mood lighting and sound effects add to the fear factor as they are dared to sit in a room for sometimes hours. The pressure to keep people interested more than likely led to the crew to stage some scenes such as the one with the La Guerre Plantation. At one point, a contestant is dared to sit under the covers of a bed in a supposedly haunted bedroom. A security camera records the room and suddenly the door slams. But this ghost has a visible human frame as it runs past the door when it opens back up. A crew member was obviously put up to slamming the door while the contestant was hidden under the covers. Still, the first episode was the best showing West Virginia State Pennitentiary which is a yearly Halloween attraction.

The War of the Worlds radio broadcast (October 31, 1938)
You can't get more Halloween than the biggest trick of all, convincing over people that Martians have invaded New Jersey. Orson Welles punk'd nearly two million people. It even caused Hitler to pretty much call us stupid for believing it. Adapted from H.G. Wells' novel, the radio broadcast plays out like any normal night, weather, music, then all of a sudden breaking news about a meteorite that crashed at a farm. From then, it goes full tilt destruction until the it ends with the aliens' demise due to the common cold. Nearly 60 years later, Jeff Goldblum would steal Welles' idea and use it in Independence Day
Friday the 13th (1980) We all do it. That sound which is actually "Ki, Ki, Ki, Ma, Ma, Ma" as in "Kill" and "Mommy". Jason Vorhees rounds out the old school slasher villians yet in the first mommy he was the the red herring. It was really Mommy doing all the murdering. While it is impossible for this movie to fall on Halloween, there was some talks about a Jason vs. Freddy sequel involving Michael Myers, but that makes you think that there was a true winner in the J vs. F fight. The loser however was the audience that actually sat through Jason X, Jason in space....and the future. Don't mess with the original I say, but then again, just like Halloween, Friday the 13th is getting a reboot. That's the real horror.

(1983) What? Everything on this list didn't have to be movie or a television show. At 13:43, it's nearly the length of a standard half hour show or at least an episode of Robot Chicken. While, you probably won't find this in the rotation anywhere on MTV or VH1, you can just as easily find it on YouTube. Wow. Thinking back to grade school, I remember watching this and actually being somewhat scared. Of course, after getting to see the "Making Of" special on the video all that fear went away and was replaced by awe. This was Michael Jackson before he went off the deep end. There was great talent, and he surrounded himself on this project with some of the best. You got Rick Baker doing makeup, John Landis directing, and Vincent Price doing the rap in the middle. Could you imagine being smack dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse only to have them dance it out? In any case, the video was extremely popular and highly imitated. As of 2006, it was listed as the most successful music video.

Now, by all means this is not a complete list. I didn't even get into shows like Home Improvement or The Cosby Show. But, I did include a few more movies and shows that I feel would make a great addition to Halloween marathon

E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)
Flatliners (1990)
28 Days Later (2002)
The Thing (1982)
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Pet Semetary (1989)
Monster Squad (1987)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Fright Night (1985)
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Creepshow (1982)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The Omen (1976)
The Prince of Darkness (1987)
Event Horizon (1997)
Catacombs (2007)
Slither (2006)
The Blob (1988)
The Fog (1980)
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
The Exorcist (1973)
Scream (1996)
Psycho (1960)
Cujo (1983)
C.H.U.D. (1984)
Well, there it is. I hope you have a great Halloween, have some candy and a scare and we’ll see you for the holiday.

Michael Jackson's Thriller

Saturday, October 25, 2008

B is For Idiot

It's not a crime to be passionate about your beliefs. It's not a crime to want to have fame. But when you go beyond that passion and try to gain fame you can cross over into a whole new realm of crazy. This election has had its share of celebrity. First, Barack Obama was labelled a celebrity, holding flashy rallies on the scale of rock concerts. Then there was Joe the Plumber, who told Obama that he planned to buy his own business and was afraid that under Obama's tax plan he would have to "share the wealth" if he made over $250,000 a year. The latest 15 minute man, er woman was Ashley Todd, the volunteer campaign worker for McCain, who received national attention when she claimed that she was attacked at an ATM machine and robbed. If that wasn't horrifying enough, her attacker noticed the McCain campaign sticker on her car and carved the letter "B" in her cheek in support of Obama.

But now, she's admitted to making up the story and carving the letter into her own face. Her inconsistencies in her story led to a polygraph and the lie began to unravel. Luckily, the 24 hour news cycle had a sense of logic and realized that there were too many reasons that the story smelled fishy. After all, the letter was carved in her face backwards which doesn't sound symbolic in any way. It just sounds like a dumb ass who decided to carve a letter into her face and forgot that the image in the mirror is reversed. Also, being attacked at an ATM affords authorities the ability to look at footage taken by surveillance cameras. Those tapes did not show any transaction being made by Todd or any alleged attack.

Whatever her reasons for doing this whether it be politically motivated Ashley may have just caused herself more trouble than if this were some random act of stupidity. Both the McCain and Obama campaigns called Todd and even made public statements about the attack. Filing a false report is crime enough but the fact that it occurred during an election cycle could spell disaster for her candidate because the rumors may start to fly that this was planned by higher ups in the McCain campaign. Hopefully, this is the product of a lone dumb ass and not some higher plot to grasp at straws in the last days before the election.

In either case, this intrepid blogger has already given her more fame than she deserves and by now Facebook and myspace have a ton of FAIL posters and flair passing around making fun of her. There's a least one I know of.....I did it. I also took the time to put together a little movie poster parody, because stupid is as stupid does.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

LunchBox 360

Currently, in my house, there are at least five gaming systems either in use or collecting dust. I have an old Atari 2600, NES, Playstation One, PS2, and my pride and joy, PS3. I also have a computer but haven’t played games on it for a few years. Now, that covers about 26 years of gaming technology, one from different generation of gaming platforms. Most kids under the age of 18 probably more than one from the same generation in their house right now. As a kid growing up in the Reagan years I had two gaming systems. I had the Atari and then I also had a video game system that no one else had. No, it wasn’t a ColecoVision or Intellivision. It didn’t render games in splashy 4-bit graphics with “bleeps” and “bloops” for a soundtrack. It didn’t even use a television. I could take it with me wherever I went. I even took it to school and most teachers didn’t even know I had it.

In today’s world teachers a fighting the fight against cell phones in the classroom. Back then, I was walking around with perhaps the best item of contraband, a portable gaming system. This was at least 3 years before the original Nintendo Gameboy with the monochromatic screen. My game system was the coolest. I even had multiple systems that came in different colors. Truly, I would have been the envy of all my classmates if they had known about this super secret game system. Still at a loss? Ok, I’ll explain. You see, every day at school we would file into the Cafeteria/gym/auditorium for lunch. We’d sit there and make idle chit chat about the cool Smurfs episode from the Saturday before and then for the last half of the lunch we would be made to put our heads down and just sit there. Looking back, it was rather degrading and quite disgusting. After we had sat there and ate our lunch on those tables, a cafeteria worker would come by and wipe down the surfaces with a damp Clorox rag that had been used on every table. She stretched it as far as she could without having to reload. So, while most kids sat there and inhaled fumes and probably bleached the cuffs of their shirts, I would start playing video games…on my lunchbox.

Before you start to wonder if the fumes were making me a little crazy, understand this. I loved video games. I’ve spoken about them numerous times in my blog. While my friends gathered around and played on their cooler and more sophisticated game systems like the ColecoVision or Intellivision, I was left to the now old school looking Atari 2600. I didn’t have a nearby arcade with Galaga and Joust available, so I took them with me in my mind and wasted that stupid last half of our lunch time with my lunchbox stood up on the table in front of my head and pretended to be blasting away at video game villains. I did say that it came in three different styles. That was correct. I had a Pete’s Dragon, Hong Kong Phooey, and the top of the line Return of the Jedi lunchbox. Left to my own devices I made the time go quickly and I rarely lost a life while playing those imaginary games. I never shot the food or got stuck in the corner with ghosts bearing down on me. I always had the high score and got the replay. When the time of reflection and meditation ended for us and we headed back to the classroom, reeking of bleach, I had my fill of gaming for the day and could focus on more important matters like division or spelling. You might think I led a lonely childhood but I don’t think so. In fact a couple of times I caught myself being watched by other students only to find them taking my lead and soon we had head to head matches like we were playing battleship.

So, just remember kids. You don’t have to have a PSP or a GameBoy to play your video games on the go. All you need is a lunchbox, preferably with a thermos for a joystick, and an imagination. Game on!

The Original Model

Next Generation Model

Top of the Line Video Gaming!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Pick For President in 08

Uh oh, here he goes again. There’s that Mongo spouting his political views for the masses. Be careful, he’s a proponent of the evil media. The blogosphere that doesn’t stand behind facts and just uses loosely based threads of lies to tout his message. Well, I’ll try to keep my beliefs to a minimum and then we can back to more fun filled top ten lists of things nobody ever thinks about in the world.

However, I would like to take the time to ask you all to get out and vote. It’s an important process we have as Americans and I’d like to share my choice for President in this coming historical election. My candidate is unlike any other. He doesn’t recognize whether you are a blue state or a red one. He has no care whether or not you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent voter. I believe he is the best choice. Let me expound on some of his qualities.

  • He’s safe for the environment
  • He's a supporter of alternative fuels and is not reliant on oil, foreign or domestic.
  • He’s conscious of the environment.
  • He’s a friend to animals. No moose hunting here.
  • He can make a budget go a long way.
  • He has a direct line of sight on global warming.
  • He's known as a giver all over the world.
  • He has great foreign policy skills as he has travelled all over the world on a regular basis.
  • We need a cool head at the helm and he’s very well tempered as he deals with constant whining all day long.
  • There’s no confusion on whether someone is an ally or an evil doer.
  • He sees the entire picture, day or night.
  • He has solid family values.
  • He’s created tons of jobs.
  • He has a positive effect on the economy.
  • He's a folk hero with numerous songs written about him and the work he does.
  • He's not afraid to go door to door.
  • He’s diligent in his investigation of the facts.
  • He's been around for a long time and has no sign of getting any older.
  • Most importantly, he could get the job done on day one, or more specifically in one night.

Yes, my choice for President is someone who we can all get behind.

Santa Claus

Vote for the Original Elf in '08.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The 50 Greatest High Schoolers on Film: Honor Roll

We gathered the information. We populated the list. Mistakes were made. People were forgot. It’s a process.

Actually, as I was making the list I had the unfortunate task of having to cut some people. They either didn’t fall squarely into a category or they just didn’t make a compelling argument until later. So, I would like to offer you a second look at some of those who didn’t make the cut but still have an impact on pop culture.

Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) from Vision Quest
Vision Quest was one of those 80's movies that I was never allowed to see as a kid. I never understood why. Yeah, it was Rated R but the it only because of some of the sexual situations and some language. However, Louden was one of those characters that took high school to the next level. After turning 18, he all of a sudden decides to do something meaningful with his life. He decides to drop two weight classes in order to wrestle an undefeated rival. In the midst of his quest he jeopardizes his team dynamic, his relationships with his peers and mentors, and over all, his health. But this wouldn't be a coming-of-age 80's drama if it all didn't work out in the end. It has one of the better 80's soundtracks and an appearance by Michael Schoeffling as Kuch, sporting a pre Major League, Rick Vaughn, Veg-O-Matic hair cut. You'll know Schoeffling from Sixteen Candles as Jake and also on our list as Stud Number 2.

Molly (Jessica Alba) from Idle Hands
The writing was on the wall even if it was done with a possessed severed hand. Jessica Alba was on her way to utter babedom. Technically, Alba was most likely 17 when the film was made but we’ll tack on life begins at conception to make us not feel so dirty thinking about her character prancing around in her underwear. Where was I? Oh yeah, the Devil would love to get Molly’s soul and the fact that she can apparently play bass guitar, remnant of a deleted scene which made its way into the background of another scene.

Link (Brendan Fraser) from Encino Man
This is more of an apology than anything. I cannot believe I forgot about Link, the caveman who awakes to find himself thrust into the Southern California lifestyle. He looks good, for not only being illogical placed on Earth during the first ice age, but he doesn’t show signs of freezer burn which means his freshness was sealed in, Buuuudddyy. This post 80’s high school-underdog-topples-in crowd-to-win-the-heart-of-a-popular-girl-while-learning-something-about-staying-true-to-your-underdog-friends-film not only boasts the longest hyphenated film theme, but one of the two instances where Pauly Shore was actually good in a movie. The other, of course, is Son in Law. Let’s look at the tape to review all the 80s movies tropes. Link gets thawed out and immediately adapts to his surroundings. We have a music montage makeover that turns Link from dud to stud. We have high school women swooning and bullies steaming. And to top it all off, Link teaches Dave something about being real. What more can you ask for? How about inclusion in the top 50. I wish I could go back.

Eugene Felnic (Eddie Deezen) from Grease
If ever there was someone typecast as a nerd or a geek it would be Eddie. In his first film, Eddie played Eugene Felnic, the resident nerd at Rydell High. I guess there was only one of them attending Rydell and it was Eugene. In fact, he had to come back for the sequel since they needed a nerd around and bookish Michael Carrington was too good looking to fill the role. Considering the fact that he was the main character and supposed to be able to snag Stephanie Zinone, I can see why they went back to Eugene to fill the quota. Unfortunately, for him, Deezen’s guidance counselor must have sold him on the idea of being a nerd professionally and Eddie has pretty much cornered the market on the archetype in college (Midnight Madness) and in the real world (War Games), although, he was considered too geeky for Revenge of the Nerds, go figure.

Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk) from The Craft
At first, we nervously applaud Nancy for standing up to her abusive step-father. She causes him to have a heart attack with witchcraft. Yet, that starts her down the path of evil as she moves on to invoking the Spirit and brings about Manon. Then, she causes Chris to fall out of a second floor window, killing him. She  tries to get Sarah to commit suicide.  She continues to torment Sarah afterwards and pulls her underlings into the mix as a show of solidarity. But of course, with Bitches or Bullies, if you take them down, the underlings fall apart. Regardless of her sanitarium sentence, Nancy is one bitch I wouldn't want as a witch.

Bad Ass
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from Halloween and Halloween II
Sometimes traumatic or prolific events can bring about the greatest change in people. The villain becomes the hero, the nerd becomes the stud, or the bookworm becomes the bad ass. Laurie Strode is one such bad ass. Her simple life of books and babysitting comes to a screeching halt on Halloween night when her psychotic masked brother comes home to Haddonfield to carve himself a sister. At first, Laurie is the victim, chased by the relentless evil Michael Myers.  Then she becomes the quintessential final girl, outlasting of all her friends. And even though she is often saved by others, including Dr. Loomis, there is that moment near the end of Halloween that leads to her transformation into a bad ass. While hiding in the closet, she attacks Michael Myers with a coat hanger and stabs him in the eye. At that moment, she switches from victim to vigilante and it carries on into the later movies. One of the best goose bump shots from Halloween H20 is the sight of Laurie Strode standing at the gates of the school, with an axe, yelling the name “Michael!”

Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello) from Spider-Man
Ok. Some will say I copped out here. Not because I picked an unworthy character like Flash Thompson, but because I was in a bind, and picked Joe because I kind of know the guy. I needed a bully and I couldn't come up with one. I should have included him in the regular list but, alas, I wanted to not show any bias. I will admit that, being an arm chair pop culture blogger instead of a working actor is a little disconcerting, but I've made my peace with it. You see Joe started out his collegiate career at the same place I did and we even did a play together before he left for CMU and then Hollywood. I ran into him at the grand opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh after the Spider-Man phenomena settled down  and we exchanged pleasantries. But, I'm digressing. Even though Flash was conceptually your typical Jock/Bully, often portrayed as a lunkhead in the comics and cartoons, Joe crafted the character into a hard edged, chain wearing brute who torments Peter Parker while in school, but doesn't appear to be the football star his comic counterpart is. Since the first film took the characters through high graduation early on, there wasn't much more for Flash to do in terms of bullying. Now, three movies in, I don't know if we'll get to see much more of Flash in the armed forces or facing alcoholism, but it would have been nice to have Joe come back for more than a cameo at Harry Osborn's funeral, as he did in Spider-Man 3.

Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) from Teen Wolf
I tried my best to limit repeat appearances by actors but Michael J. Fox was an 80's powerhouse. I almost went with Devon Sawa from Idle Hands but I also drew from that film for another Honor Roll Student. Back to the Wolf. Scott Howard is one of the characters that also deserved to be on the main list but I knew that I wanted to include Marty McFly and so I had to scuttle the lesser successful of the two films for greater impact. I also included Mick as a bully so it spelled disaster for the Teen Wolf. But appearing on the Honor Roll doesn't make Scott Howard average, something the character strove to overcome until he found out his lycan lineage. I mean who wouldn't want to have Scott on the basketball court or in the beer distributor. He also pre-dates the Ghost Riding craze by doing a hand stand on his dad's hardware store van. Well, not quite. He did have a driver.

Bobby Fantana (Lewis Smith) from The Heavenly Kid
Don’t try to do the math on this one. Lewis Smith was 27 when the movie was made and supposedly the film’s beginning is set in the “Early 1960’s” If we deduce that this meant pre 1965 then Lenny Barnes must have flunked a few grades because he would be 20 and still in high school. In any event, it’s an 80’s movie and logic doesn’t have to apply. You just accept it. Moving on.  Bobby is still considered a high school student because he died before graduation. Sitting in purgatory for 20 years he discovers that he has to earn his wings as an angel by helping a nerdy kid, which turns out to be his son, make the right choices. Using only what he knows from his days on Earth, Bobby tries to make Lenny into a cool kid by giving him an 80’s movie montage makeover, complete with a bitchin’ classic car. What he doesn’t realize is that he must have been a bit of a prick as Lenny starts to turn on his friends and family once he becomes cool.  This is in true 80’s movie makeover fashion. Still, he manages to keep the kid alive long enough to see the error of his ways and earns his ticket uptown on the longest escalator ride ever known. How they managed to pull off that effect, I’ll never know.
Billy Tepper (Sean Astin) from Toy Soldiers
Slackers are truly one of my favorite archetypes in pop cinema. They either steal the show from the more straight laced leads or they complete a character arc that allows them to grow. Granted, it’s neither plausible or true to the slacker's nature, but it makes for good popcorn. Here at The Regis School, the wealthy and somewhat delinquent student body take pride in torturing their administration as well as South American terrorists. When Billy is not selling liquor disguised as mouthwash or rearranging his head master’s furniture in the quad he’s taking on Andrew Divoff, best known as Mikhail “Patchy” Bakunin on Lost, after the school is taken hostage.

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