Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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

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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EMPIRE – Live Tweet!

The hit FOX show Empire returns tonight!  To celebrate the return, I’m going to do a live Tweet!  Never done this before, so hopefully it won’t be completely screwed up!

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Come follow us on Twitter at @CultureCastZN!

~N

ANCC: Turbo Kid

Nick and The Gorehound are back talkin’ ’bout movies! This week, the 2015 under-the-radar, cult film, Turbo Kid (with a cast of nobodies and Michael Ironside)!  Nick has been very excited about this film for some time!  Did it live up to the hype for him?  And what did the Gorehound think of this ’80s throwback post-apocalyptic action comedy?  Listen to the episode to find out!

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

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I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

**Warning: Perhaps mild spoilers, but not really**

After three years (that felt more like thirty years to be honest), Warner Bros. latest DC disasterpiece, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is finally in theaters. Well, at least it will be in a few days. I managed to get invited to a special sneak preview, and after seeing it I’m just kind of perplexed. I’m really not sure what I just watched. It was half awful, half amazing. It was full of some of the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie. It is simultaneously over and under-written. One thing is for sure, however: Batman v Superman really doubles down on the doom and gloom – and I highly doubt this film is going to change anyone’s minds about the direction of the DC “cinematic universe.”

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I’m not one of these people who hates on DC for trying to accomplish what Marvel does with their films. I actually dislike most of the Marvel because they’re such generic pieces of shit. There’s barely an ounce of creativity in those sterile movies (save for Guardians of the Galaxy, which was such a weird concept I’m wagering Marvel didn’t attempt to reign it in because they assumed it would flop). I like living in a world where DC movies are significantly different from Marvel films. I just wish DC’s movies were better, particularly this one. It’s true that I liked Man of Steel (I actually think I like it significantly more than BvS at this point though that could change), but it is largely disliked and even hated by a significant portion of the Internet.

As much as that shouldn’t matter, it does. Internet fanboys make up a significant portion of the noise online, unfortunately. Again, it pains me but this must be taken into consideration. BvS isn’t going to appeal to these people because BvS is essentially everything they hated about MoS amplified tenfold. There’s wanton destruction (this time with shoe-horned in lines about people getting to safety!), loud noises, explosions, half-developed plot ideas, crazy unrelated-able science stuff, and awful writing permeating through BvS. The film also manages to make Batman, the dourest of dour characters, somehow even more cynical, dour, and humorless. I’m not sure Batman has a single fun moment in this entire picture.

On the other hand, there’s Superman, and he’s handled significantly better in this movie than he was in MoS. Superman, now seen as a godlike figure to some and as a tyrant to others following the Metropolis disaster, is surprisingly the most interesting character in the film. The little moments where Superman saves people from floods and burning buildings are striking, beautiful, and moving. Hans Zimmer’s score swells in the background, Zack Snyder’s direction works well, and Henry Cavill nails Superman in these moments. He also looks fantastic as Superman. Unfortunately, he’s awful at being Clark Kent. He’s awkward in all the wrong ways. He looks like he’s never spoken to another human being in his entire life. His romance with Lois Lane is completely unbelievable.

Speaking of Lois, Adams is fine in the role once again. Other supporting characters, like Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and newcomer to the film series Gal Godot are all fine in their roles. I expected Godot to shine a bit more as Diana Prince, but her role is really much more of an extended cameo. The weirdest bit of casting was in Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor. I expected Eisenberg to essentially ramp up his Mark Zuckerberg shtick, but he doesn’t do this. What he does is actually ramp the crazy up to 11, almost to the point of being completely and utterly ridiculous. I was a huge fan of casting Eisenberg as Luthor and I championed it time and time again. But I don’t think it works. He looks like he’s in a completely different movie.

Batman v Superman is an almost humorless film. The script is awful, especially for the first half of the film. BvS doesn’t know what it wants to be entirely. It jumps back and forth between scenes of Superman or Batman doing random stuff with little rhyme or reason. It’s almost 45 minutes before any semblance of a plot starts to kick in. The film finds it necessary to go back to climax of Man of Steel in order to give Batman motivation, but it’s almost completely unnecessary. The film would have functioned without it. There’s also an unusual amount of random, unnecessary violence permeating the film, as well as totally incomprehensible flashbacks and dream sequences. Like I said, the script is kind of a mess.

Snyder is going to get blamed for the film’s faults, which isn’t really fair. He’s a fine action director. I know it’s as cool to bash on him as it is Michael Bay, but Snyder is a talented storyteller and I honestly think he does the best he can with such as garbage script. If anything, I appreciate just how much Snyder seems to love this universe, and his attention to detail is pretty good. There are little things, like Diana Prince investigating other “meta humans” that works. The film, however, is hyper-violent and filled with unnecessary death. I’m not certain that so many people needed to be either shot to death or killed in fiery explosions.

Even as a MoS apologist, I am sitting her finding it difficult to recommend Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I like about half of the film, particularly the moments with Superman. But Batman is totally botched here. I don’t necessarily think it’s Affleck’s fault either. I can’t see Christian Bale, one of my favorite actors, turning this into Oscar winning material either. The main fault of the film is that it lacks identity. Does it want to be a team-up movie like The Avengers, a gritty crime drama like Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of films, or a hyper-violent, Snyder-esque action film a la 300 or Watchmen? It tries to be all three, and thus doesn’t quite stick the landing. I can’t possibly see this film winning over the naysayers and I have no idea what’s going to happen to Warner Bros.’ long-term plans for a DC “film universe.”

-Z-

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