Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

ANCC: Keanu/John Wick

The Gorehound and Nick take the time this week to talk about two movies that are as much the same as they are different!  And they both feature Bill and Ted’s very own Keanu Reeves!  What is this week’s topic?  Well, it is a double feature of 2016’s Keanu and 2014’s John Wick!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image!

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You can read Zack’s review of John Wick here.

ANCC: Favorite Superheroes

After a week off due to technical difficulties, Nick and the Gorehound are back!  Since we are in the midst of a superhero summer at the movies, they decided to talk about some of their favorite superheroes!  Join the fun and have a listen on who they like!  It might just surprise you!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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The Experimental Treatment Continues with 1995’s The Cure

Joseph Mazzello and Brad Renfro were two very important child actors in the early 1990s. Mazzello starred as young Tim Murphy in 1993’s blockbuster Jurassic Park and Renfro burst onto the screen in 1994’s big hit The Client. In 1995, the two were paired on-screen in the AIDs drama The Cure, a melodramatic but eminently watchable film that made little impact on the box office but has a place in my memory for sure. Though it wasn’t a hit by any measurable standards, the film successfully blended comedy and drama in a way that few films can, and it stands as a watershed moment for me in understanding what AIDs was in a time when there were still quite a few myths about the disease.

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Growing up, AIDs was always explained to me as something that only homosexuals get. Although I had heard stories about children contracting HIV from blood transfusions, I didn’t really know what that meant. Watching The Cure helped give me a better understanding of the disease, and Mazzello’s performance as Dexter, the lovable pre-teen moppet who unfortunately got HIV (and then later, full blown AIDs) from a life-saving blood transfusion, is humanizing and full of depth. Likewise, Renfro’s portrayal of the teenaged Erik, a young man with a lot of questions and a lot of (incorrect) assumptions about AIDs, is believable and relatable.

The film opens with Erik’s peers verbally attacking him with vulgarity simply because his neighbor, the aforementioned Dexter, is suffering from AIDs. Erik and his mother believe that perhaps even Dexter’s breath could cause someone to get AIDs, though Erik quickly moves beyond his fears after befriending Dexter when the two realize they have common interests. They soon become best friends, with Erik’s mother being away at work most days and Dexter’s mother happy to see her sickly son has a new friend. Dexter teachers Erik not to be afraid of people with diseases, and Erik teaches Dexter how to better enjoy life, taking him rafting, to the grocery store, and to various other boy-friendly activities.

It isn’t long before Erik decides he’s going to help his dying friend find a cure for AIDs, and the two begin to experiment by making herbal teas out of random plants and flowers, which Erik catalogues in a notebook. When this doesn’t work out (shocking!), the two come up with an idea to travel down the Mississippi river to New Orleans in order to find a doctor they believe can help with Dexter’s illness. Thus, the two run away together on an adventure on the Mississippi, where they meet up with some no-goodnicks who threaten our young heroes. Though this is the most unbelievable part of the film (though to be fair, I guess it was pre-Amber Alert days), it does allow Erik and Dexter a chance to become even closer friends.

Dexter, in the final stages of his illness at this point, becomes even sicker and clearly needs both his mother and medical attention. Erik takes him back to his mother via bus, where Dexter is immediately taken to the hospital. His last few days on earth allow him to grow even closer to his best friend and protector Erik. When Dexter does finally pass away, Erik has clearly grown and changed for the better as a person. His journey from tough new kid on the block to wise and mature young man now well on its way. The Cure is a very sad film in the end, but the journey is enjoyable. I liked this film quite a bit even now in 2016. Though we know quite a bit more about the AIDs virus, it is still a touching film that successfully attempts to remove the stigma of this horrible disease. I think there’s still value in watching The Cure, and I would recommend it. I enjoyed it back in 1995, and I still like it quite a bit two decades later.

-Z-

ANCC: What the F’ is Culture?

Nick and the Gorehound take a look at the concept of “culture”.  What is it?  Why is it important?  How do we fit into it and why do we want to fit into it?  These are important things to consider and who better to do it than the All-New Culture Cast!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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ANCC: Favorite Video Games

In this week’s episode, Nick and the Gorehound talk about some of their favorite video games!  And those games range from fighting and puzzle games to adventure and shooter games.  There is a lot to cover in this longer-than-usual episode, so sit back and relax to some video game talk!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image!

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ANCC: Things We Like (That Everybody Else Hates)

Haters gonna hate.  Nick and the Gorehound talk about a bunch of things that seemingly everyone absolutely loathes, but they like.  This is a sequel of sorts to a previous episode.  They’ll go over why they like these things and will refuse to turn in their internet cool card.  Download the episode and seethe in anger at the stuff you hate.

Stay tuned until the end for an installment of “The Adventures of the Gorehound”.

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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Enemies & Allies – A Superman/Batman Team-Up For Everyone

Looking for an alternate Batman/Superman team-up to Dawn of Justice?  Then look no further than the 2009 novel Enemies & Allies by Kevin J. Anderson.  The story centers itself with Superman meeting Batman for the first time.  But, it is with a twist: it takes place in the late 1950s amidst the Red Scare, the rise in interest of the UFO phenomena, and nuclear tension.  And because of that, the book is an incredibly fun read.

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I originally read Enemies & Allies when it first came out, but the recent release of Dawn of Justice (which I haven’t actually seen yet – nor do I have a dire desire to) made me want to revisit it.  In it, we find our heroes towards the beginning of their careers, trying to find their places in their costumed identities.  Batman is still considered a criminal by the Gotham Police Department, and people are openly skeptical if Superman really is an alien from another planet.

Meanwhile, evil businessman Lex Luthor is conspiring with rogue elements of Soviet Russia to push the world into an even heightened state of fear and paranoia where he will come out on top.  Not surprisingly, his plan indirectly involves Superman and Batman’s alter ego of Bruce Wayne – ultimately bringing the two heroes together for the first time.

What I liked about Enemies & Allies is that it really takes its time to develop the relationship between Batman and Superman.  The two are not the quickest of friends considering their different methods and the uncertainty they have about each other.  This is a common trope of the many retellings of the first Batman/Superman meeting, but it works well here.  Much of the book keeps these two characters apart from one another.  They weave in and out of each other’s story but are mostly doing their own thing (until the last third where all the plot threads start to converge).

The reason why this works is that it gives time for both Batman and Superman to consider the other and gradually develop an understanding and respect for one another.  It doesn’t go the easy knee-jerk route a writer might having of them teaming for the entire book without any development of them becoming a team.

What separates this story from the other Batman/Superman first-meetings is that it places it squarely during the height of the Cold War.  It gives it a certain flavor and style that makes it stand apart.  Placing it in and fully utilizing the 1950s setting is a brilliant move.  Using real world history in a Batman/Superman story kind of gives it a more naturalistic feel to it than one might get from a story set in the present day.  It is this novel’s retro setting is the “hook” and it works incredibly well.

Author Kevin J. Anderson has a very light, breezy feel to his writing.  It moves quickly and one can probably move through the book at a fast pace.  I don’t want to oversell the book.  Enemies & Allies is not a piece of “high art”, but it isn’t meant to be.  It is a real fun read – good for summertime.  I totally recommend it.

The LEGO Ghostbuster Firehouse is as Awesome as it Sounds

As alluded to in this week’s podcast, I bought the Ghostbuster Firehouse LEGO set.  When I first saw the pictures of the set late last year, I thought it was one of the coolest and complex sets that LEGO has ever made.  It was also pretty pricey and it took some convincing from my fiancée for us to get it.  While I am still stunned that I plunked down $350 on a toy (coming from our tax returns), I have to say that I don’t regret it.  This LEGO set was incredibly fun to put together, and I am glad that we have this as a collectible.IMG_0280.JPG

The Ghostbuster Firehouse is huge.  The box reports that it has 4634 pieces making it the third largest set LEGO has release thus far.  In addition to the firehouse, the set comes with 12 mini-figures including all 4 Ghostbusters, Dana, Louis, Janine, and 5 ghosts (including Slimer).  Despite the amount of pieces, the set ultimately isn’t that big when completed.  It is about approximately 14x14x9 inches.  While it might be bigger than many of the modular sets from the LEGO Creator line, it is still pretty compact to where it can be displayed on a shelf without taking up a lot of room.

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So, where did all those pieces go?  Here is the coolest thing about the set: the inside opens up and each of the three floors are incredibly detailed – almost to the point of excess.  We get to see the garage with Janine’s desk and Peter’s office, Egon’s lab, the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen (with food in the fridge), and the photo lab (from Ghostbusters II).  It is absolutely great, and I have to give LEGO credit for all the detail that highlights memorable moments and elements from the two Ghostbusters movies.  Not to mention that there is an actual working fire pole that you can put the mini-figures on that have them slide down.  This set was clearly a labor of love for those creating it to put as much as they did into the fine details that other sets likely wouldn’t have bothered with.

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The set opened.

To see all the details, you can take out each floor individually.  Or, even more fun, the right side of the building opens up (about a third of the set) like two giant hinged doors (see picture below).  This gives you access to see all whole inside and lets you play Ghostbusters – which, let’s face it, you are going to do; don’t deny it).  When you want to close it up, there is a little lock-like design that keeps the wall shut in place (although, you can still see the “seam” where the wall parts).

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The locking feature on top of the set.

This set is just so fucking cool.  However, there are some minor downsides.  I’m not the first to make this complaint, but the firehouse set is not truly able to house the LEGO Ecto-1 that was released in 2014.  While it fits through the door, it cannot fully “park” itself in there unless you remove the receptionist desk.  And even then, you won’t be able to close/open the doors.  This is a bummer, but I get why it can’t.  For LEGO to house the car, the set would have to have been bigger, use more pieces, and go up in price. It was clearly a compromise that LEGO had to make, and I cannot fault them on that.

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The other thing that I noticed about the set that is more of an irritation is that where the wall opens up, because it does slide against the smooth textured floor tiles, they will get scratched up every time you open and close the set.  It isn’t super-evident at first glance, but if you are one that will get bothered by it, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase some replacement tiles down the road (either from the LEGO Store or from online sellers such as Brick Owl).

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Slimer!

This set is just amazingly awesome and was so much fun to put together.  Every Ghostbusters fan will want one of these.  The directions are very easy to follow in the 420 page instruction guide (this thing is massive).  I worked on the set for about an hour or two each day for over a week.  I didn’t keep track, but if I had to guess, it probably took me around 25 hours to complete.  From what I remember, there was only one or two pieces missing from my set.  However, I was able to make due by getting creative with some of the extra pieces.

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With the LEGO Ecto-1.

The LEGO Ghostbuster Firehouse is great.  I completed it about a week ago, and I am still admiring it.  I would have loved this thing if it was just the exterior, but the interior just brings it to a whole new level.  Now, I just have to find a place to display it!

~N

 

ANCC: Interconnected Cinema

Nick and the Gorehound take a look at what we call “Interconnected Cinema” (aka composite films and hyperlink cinema) in which a movie will have multiple, parallel plot lines that all intersect with one another.  This includes such films as Love Actually, Pulp Fiction, Valentine’s Day, and Traffic.  Come join them as they dissect this filmmaking style including discussions on examples, pros, cons, and what makes these films popular.

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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ANCC: Things We Don’t Like

Nick and the Gorehound take a step back and discuss some trends, genres, styles, etc that they are not particularly fond of and/or simply loath for various reasons.  They are not begrudging anyone who likes such things, but they wanted to take some time and air their dislikes out. Some of which may surprise you!

They are prepared for your hate mail, so give them a listen!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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