Monday, October 14, 2013

Doctor Who

Doctor Who is something I've gotten into only in the last couple of years, and it's already become one of my core favorite franchises.

For those uninitiated:
Doctor Who follows the adventures of a mysterious alien man—known only as "the Doctor"—as he travels through all of time and space in his ship, the TARDIS.

Doctor Who is a staple of British culture, but it's gaining more and more popularity worldwide, especially in the United States. It's also the longest-running science fiction TV series of all time, spanning 33 seasons (soon to be 34). However, although Doctor Who technically has 33 seasons, the show was relaunched in 2005 after a hiatus, and no viewing of the previous 26 seasons is required. Just hop on Netflix, look up "Doctor Who" (not "Classic Doctor Who") and start watching. The first season is a bit rough, but stick with it—it quickly gets amazing.

One of the reasons that DW has lasted so long is that the show is able to reinvent itself as it goes along. The character of the Doctor, being a Time Lord, is able to "regenerate" when near death, taking on a new physical body and personality. Because of this, new actors are able to assume the role of the Doctor, constantly keeping the show fresh and new. The current Doctor, played by Matt Smith, is the eleventh Doctor, with a twelfth to be introduced later this year.

The reason I love Doctor Who most is that, at its core, it's a story of endless fun and adventure. It's an oft-random, cartoonish-yet-dramatic story that can go from mind-bogglingly silly to darkly serious at a moments' notice—yet never so serious that it can't turn out happy by the end. The science fiction genre is dominated by shows and movies that are grim, dramatic, and "realistic." In a world where the ultra-serious Battlestar Galactica reigns supreme, Doctor Who stands out as a bright spot of joy. It's not shallow or childish, but it's mature enough to realize that stories can be emotional and fun at the same time. Even more than that, Doctor Who is an optimistic tale: one where altruism wins out, and the hero always does his best to save lives rather than take them.

Modern Doctor Who is well-written, well-acted, and endlessly imaginative. It'll likely be one of my favorite shows forever.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Flickchart: My Favorite Movies

There's a website called Flickchart that lets you compile a list of all the movies you've seen and helps you rank them through a tournament-style process. It's pretty amazing.
Here's my top twenty movies:

20. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Basically the epitome of adventure action. To say that it's a classic is an understatement.

19. Return of the Jedi
It's my least-favorite of the original Star Wars trilogy, but that's not to say that it's bad. It's an epic adventure on an epic scale. At the very least, this is probably the most fun film of the Original Trilogy.

18. Tarzan
I love this movie: the score, the "deep canvas" animation style, the Phil Collins songs, all of it. It's not on the epic level of some of the other Disney Renaissance films, but it's still one of my favorites.

17. X2: X-Men United
Essentially a masterpiece of comic book storytelling, filled with hundreds of character moments, beautiful directing, and a healthy reverence to the source material. The best X-Men film to date, and one of the best superhero movies of all time.

16. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
My favorite Indiana Jones movie. It's a bit sillier than Raiders and Temple of Doom, but in a way that's genuinely funny. The action and drama are also probably at their strongest in this film.

15. The Princess Bride
One of the greatest movies ever filmed. Manages to both capture the essence of fairy tales while also poking healthy fun at them. Whether as a comedy, action film, or romance, it's hard not to love this movie.

14. That Thing You Do
A feel-good comedy drama about a one-hit wonder band in the 1960s. It's nearly impossible to watch TTYD and not feel incredibly happy by the end.

13. The Lion King
Some call it the best animated film of all time, but those people are still stuck in 1994. Even so, it is indeed a classic, and one of the best animated films of all time. Equal parts fun and powerful.

12. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings is easily the best modern fantasy film series, and The Fellowship of the Ring is easily the most fun of all three films—but not lacking in depth whatsoever. On one hand, there's endless amounts of depth in the culture and music of Middle-Earth. On the other hand, it's hard not to feel a sense of glee while watching the heroes slice their way through hordes of goblins.

11. Star Trek: First Contact
First Contact is the single most dramatically powerful Trek movie. In just about every way possible, FC gets it right.

10. Jurassic Park

9. Tangled
When I walked into the theater to watch Tangled, I only knew that it was a Disney CG animated film that had been very well-liked by critics and moviegoers alike. I had no idea that it was a straight-up Disney Princess film, complete with all the same tropes from my favorite childhood movies. Tangled is unabashedly sweet, and I absolutely love it for that.

8. Toy Story 2
IMO, still the best Pixar movie. An awesome masterpiece.

7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This is where Lord of the Rings slows down and becomes more serious and character-focused. The extended cut of The Two Towers is a long-form drama with so many character moments and so much genuine depth that it's astounding. It also feels the most "real" of the series, with more emphasis on humanity rather than the fantastical. It's not as fun as Fellowship or as epic as Return of the King, but Two Towers is still a monument of fantasy storytelling at its best.

6. The Matrix
Eastern philosophy cyberpunk hard sci-fi action drama. The Matrix is oft-underrated these days, mostly because of its less-impressive sequels. Regardless, it's a wonderfully deep movie that delves into the cyberpunk/hacker counter-culture, mixing it with Eastern philosophy in a surprisingly apt manner. It's also got the best kung fu gunfight action in any movie ever.

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Return of the King is one of the rare films I've seen as many as five times in the theater, to say nothing of the many extended edition DVD marathons. Trying to encapsulate its greatness in a small paragraph is ridiculous. Suffice it to say that ROTK doesn't disappoint as the finale to The Lord of the Rings, which is a monumental achievement in itself.

4. The Little Mermaid
Yeah, this one... I can't entirely justify it, per se, I just like it for reasons I can't entirely explain. It probably has to do with the fact that I watched it a ton as a toddler and it imprinted on my psyche.

3. Star Wars
Pretty much the pinnacle of action and adventure in film. It's ranked at #3, but it's honestly tied with Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars is the "heart" of the original trilogy: it's Star Wars at its most fun, its most uplifting, and its most simple (in the best way). If you've seen this film, you've seen exactly what Star Wars has to offer: epic, mythic storytelling, told in a relatable and enthralling way.

2. The Empire Strikes Back
If the first film is Star Wars' heart, Empire is its soul. Empire takes the characters of Star Wars and turns them into real people who we really care about—all while still continuing with the mythic story and expanding it in ways no one ever expected.

1. Beauty and the Beast
Disney animated films are known for their incredible production value, but are sometimes accused of being shallow. After all, many Disney romances are simple tales of true-love-at-first-sight. Beauty and the Beast flips that concept on its head, forcing its protagonists to come together out of a genuine and mature care for one another. I can't quite explain precisely why this is my favorite movie at this particular moment; it just resonates with me like nothing else at this point in my life.