Friday, March 28, 2014

Growing Up Nerdy

Wibbly Wobbly Nerdy Werdy!

My friends and I love watching really cheesy, fun, and sometimes bad movies. Any suggestions?

-Matt in St. Louis

Adam: This can be a very polarizing subject. Every single movie fan is in constant search of the next fix, the next high. When I was a kid, the first movie I ever saw in the theater was Return of the Jedi. I was only 4 at the time, but I remember being entranced and loving every moment of it. Every time I see a movie, I always have this hope in the back of my mind: “Could this be it?” -- an underlying hope that what I’m about to see is going to be the next thing I can’t stop thinking about. 

However, you can occasionally have a blast watching a movie for completely different reasons. One of my best movie going experiences was opening night of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Let’s just get this out of the way: the movie is awful. Being opening night it was packed, and I’d say somewhere around the 40 minute mark every single person -- absolutely everyone -- realized it was shit at once.  People just started yelling at the movie, making their own little jokes loud enough for everyone to hear. Pretty soon, the entire theater was laughing hysterically.
This brings me to the first key component of watching any bad movie: the people around you. I could suggest 200 of the worst, cheesiest movies ever created, but if you aren’t surrounded by fun people that can enjoy the epic mess in front of you, you’ll just end up feeling like you’ve wasted two hours of your life. 

The second key ingredient is the filmmakers themselves. There has to be a belief from the filmmaker that he or she is making the greatest thing ever. Watching a “so bad it’s good” movie needs to have people who care or have belief in what they are doing, but do it poorly.  This “setting out to make a bad movie” bullshit has got to stop. You can’t plan a bad movie. That just needs to happen.

My favorite “so bad they’re good” experiences (minus M.K.):

Miami Connection: I will be forever in debt to Patrick for introducing me to this movie. Never have so many wonderful elements come together. In the short documentary about the movie, they confess to reading screenwriting books while shooting the movie. There are some cool fight scenes, but overall the movie is a mess. It’s on Netflix, so get a group together and hit up some ninja action.

Kickboxing Academy: Holy shit this is terrible but I had so much fun watching it. The movie has one of my favorite villains, Tarbeck (played by Tony Pacheco), who teaches his students a “secret” kickboxing move called a "Suckapunch." Not only is the movie a mess, but has some messed up shit in it! It stars Chyler Leigh (best known for Grey's Anatomy) as Cindy and Christopher Khayman Lee (Power Rangers) as Danny. Chyler Leigh and Chris Lee clearly changed the spelling of their names, because they are brother and sister in real life. However, in the movie, Cindy (Chyler) and Danny (Chris) play each other’s love interest, complete with make-out scenes! In other words, this amazingly bad movie ALSO has a brother and sister pair in real life playing each other’s love interests on the screen, but in real life is a brother and sister kissing!
And you thought Luke kissing Leia in Empire was bad!

When Adam and I (along with out Star Trek-loving friend Nick) were in high school, renting bad movies and watching them ironically was our pastime. We were hipsters before there were hipsters. We never picked a movie because of the director or actors. Instead we let the VHS box art speak to us, or maybe the title alone was our clue that this may be a gem. For a while we stuck to the kids section of Blockbuster. Some of the funniest movies we’ve ever seen were live action flicks for children. The most memorable of these was the classic Kid Cop. Kid Cop is about exactly what you think it’s about: a kid that thinks he’s a cop. Truthfully I don’t remember much from KC, but what will always stick out to me is that for the Kid Cop himself they cast a boy that didn’t know how to stop his bicycle! Every time he rolled up to a crime scene on his bike, it was a fucking adventure just to park the goddamn thing. It’s gold.
We also discovered along the way that actor/director Richard Gabai had his hand in a lot of these movies. He directed Kickboxing Academy and also starred in shitty movies we rented like Dinosaur Island and Bikini Drive-In. Like I said before, we never paid any attention to who starred in or directed one of the bad movies we rented, but after a while we noticed his name appearing again and again. It reached a point where when we’d see his name in the opening credits, we’d scream like that kid opening up his Nintendo 64 on Christmas. Adam, Nick and I flirted with the idea of starting the Richard Gabai fan club, but that seemed like too much work, so we went to and spent our valuable time there instead.

I sometimes (okay all the time) have a hard time talking to girls. Recently there is a girl in my 2nd period math class that I have a really big crush on. Are there any movies I should watch to help me talk to her?

-Jackson in Mississippi

Adam:  Ugggghhhh! I’ll tell you what movies to watch: anything with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme or Seagal, because you need to man the fuck up!
Mike: You forgot Michael Dudikoff! WHY DO YOU ALWAYS FORGET DUDIKOFF?!?!

Adam: Oh, Dudikoff, the Ninja with a heart of gold.
Maybe I was a bit too hard on you, Jackson. The first thing you need to do is establish what type of girl this “math class girl” is and what type of guy she likes. Find a movie character that fits this girl and do your best impression. The problem there is that she will eventually see through your ruse, so the best suggestion I can give you is to pick up a copy of Say Anything. Lloyd Dobler is my favorite movie character ever. He gets the girl by just being himself. So just be yourself. If she rejects you, find a girl that looks just like her, nail her, and dump her.

Mike: I can’t come up with anything better than Say Anything. Come back to us when she dumps you, because I’ll have plenty of post-breakup movies for you to watch.

I want to start watching Doctor Who. Where should I start?


Mike: This is difficult. Let me start by getting this out of the way: I came to Doctor Who with the “reboot” in 2005. Therefore, Christopher Eccelston was my introduction to the character of The Doctor. I know old school Whovians will likely have a different answer than mine, but truth be told I didn’t come to appreciate Classic Who (1963-1996) until the new Doctor Who got me hooked. So with that said, I’m going to tell you to start with the new run of DW episodes, and if you fall in love with the series like I did, then go back and watch the old episodes.

Quick DW lesson: The Doctor is a time traveling alien, a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey. He travels through time and space in an old blue police box called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) and usually has a human companion accompanying him on his adventures. When the Doctor "dies," he regenerates into a different Doctor (new body, mind, etc.). This was a clever way to continue the series when one Doctor leaves the show – just replace him with a new one. The mythology is much more complex than that, but I can’t be here all day.

Now, where to start? I began with Episode One of Series One. I like Eccelston enough as the Doctor, and the mythology intrigued me, but to be honest I found the first series a little difficult to get through at first. There’s a…cheap quality to those early episodes that can be distracting at times. And the bad guys, many of whom are staples of the series like Daleks and Cybermen, feel really dated.

Remember, I had no knowledge of or allegiance to them having come into series one cold, so I saw them for the outdated villains that they were. This led me to really take my time getting through the episodes. And if it weren’t for two things, I may have bailed early on. The first thing that kept my interest was Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper.
Rose was the Doctor’s companion and, to me, the heart of that first series. Piper really elevated what could have been a mere sidekick, designed to ooo and ahh every time the Doctor took her somewhere new. Instead, she often stole the show (not to mention my heart), and became reason number one to stick with it.

The other reason I hung around was to see how the series would handle regeneration. The first four series had already aired by the time I got on board, so I knew that Eccelston lasted only one season. I wanted to stick around long enough to at least give the next Doctor, David Tennant, a shot.

Now, whoever is at the controls of the Tardis when you fall in love with the show, that’s who you refer to as YOUR Doctor. If someone tells you that Tom Baker is their Doctor, that means he’s their favorite or the Doctor that got them hooked. David Tennant is my Doctor. Thank God I stuck around for Series Two, because Tennant’s take on the Time Lord was a brilliant mix of comedian, adventurer, lover and all-around badass. He was so great and it was through his performance, along with his amazing chemistry with Billie Piper, that I finally “got” Doctor Who. Over the next three full series, followed by a handful of specials, David Tennant, along with showrunner Russell T. Davies, would sculpt a great run of episodes with a little bit of everything any sci-fi nerd could want, capped off by a finale that gets crap from some fans, but fuck if it doesn’t choke me up every time I watch it. When Tennant’s run came to end, I feared my love of DW might as well. Enter Matt Smith and Steven Moffat.

After reading me ramble on and on about David Tennant and the first four and a half series of DW, you must think I would obviously recommend that you start from the beginning, but here’s where I’m stuck. Because honestly, as much as I love what Russell T Davies did as showrunner and what Tennant does as the Doctor, the show was probably never better than when Matt Smith took over the TARDIS and Steven Moffat, who wrote some of the best episodes of Russel T Davies’ run (including the classic episode "Blink"), took over as showrunner. Not only was the series so well written under Moffat, and equally brilliant in the hands of Matt Smith, the look of the show improved ten-fold. The BBC finally stepped up to the plate and offered effects and craftsmanship that we hadn’t seen at this level yet. Unlike Eccelston’s run, these episodes were now great to look at, along with every other aspect clicking on all cylinders.

This is also a great place to jump on because it’s a completely new arc for the character. While it’s the same universe that Tennant’s Doctor traveled, and Matt Smith was the regenerated version of Tennant, this really is a new story, with a new Doctor and new companions. There’s some crossover with the older episodes like using the same bad guys or having characters like River Song in Tennant and Smith episodes, but otherwise it’s its own thing. And for that reason you could easily start there.

With all of that said, I’ll direct you this way: if you’re a fan of sci-fi, and if you won’t get scared off by what can feel like dated, sometimes corny stories and effects, start with Series One. I promise you’ll love Billie Piper and it’ll only get better from there.
If you’re a little unsure whether or not you’ll have the patience for things to kick up a notch, jump right into Series Five and Matt Smith. It’s great, and if it hooks you, I’d hope you’d go back and give the other Doctors a shot.

Adam: Wow, that answer was longer than the life of a Time Lord. OHHHH! Zing! Where are all my Daleks in the house? Raise your manipulator arms in the air and swing em’ like you just don’t care!  When I say "Exterminate" you say "EXTERMINATE!"

Seriously though, that is the best answer you will ever get so I really don’t have anything to add. If you need me, I’ll be in the basement cuddling with my Amy Pond Real Doll.


  1. Re: Doctor Who. I tried to start with the Eccleston episodes, but I couldn't make it through the first episode. I tried...three times. On the advice of a friend, I then jumped to Series 5 (the first Matt Smith series), and right from the in media res start (to be fair, pretty much every series starts like this) I was hooked. I then went back to the Tennant episodes and started watching them as well. In a somewhat perfect storm of events, I managed to get caught up on Matt Smith just in time for the 50th Anniversary, so I'm currently in a holding pattern waiting for Capaldi's run while slowly finishing off Series 4.

    Honestly, I don't think it's fair to try and compare Smith and Tennant because everything about the show is completely different. The fact that Smith's era is almost a completely self-contained block helps people get into the show, I think (although in watching the Tennant stuff, I think it's almost too self-contained to the point of ignoring previous material, but that's a rant that could go on for pages...).

    1. I honestly had a hard time with this. The way you went about it, starting with Smith and then going back to Tennant, is probably the best formula. Having been hooked on Tennant first, my instinct is to encourage people to go the same path I did, but realistically starting with Matt Smith may be the best answer. Thanks for the comment, Carl!