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June 29, 2010

Manos, The Hands of Fate (MST3K)

CoverMystery Science Theater 3000 (often abbreviated to MST3K by its rabid fanbase) is a cult classic, created in 1988, and produced by Best Brains Inc. You probably know the basics of this show by now if you're a science fiction fan, but if not, let me lay it down for you.

Creator Joel Hodgson is trapped on a space station along with his robot sidekicks, and forced to watch terrible sci-fi B movies. Joel and his companions, Tom Servo and Crow, provide sarcastic and witty "peanut gallery" commentary on these masterpieces of cinematic trash, as well as equally corny skits in between the showing of these movies, where Joel interacts with his robot puppet friends, trading cheesy entendres and references to obscure sci-fidelica.

Perhaps their most famous feature-length endeavor finds these characters discussing "Manos, The Hands Of Fate" which has been oft rated as "The Worst Movie Of All Time." The horror anti-classic features one of the most colossally stupid and irrelevant plots ever to grace the silver screen. A classic American family of man, wife, daughter and dog encounter a small, remote shack, and its caretaker, a bearded man with deformed knees. Any small bit of logic or sense is quickly jettisoned, leaving the viewer in a mire of confusion and mild disgust. Joel and his robot friends, however, make this a much more entertaining viewing experience, with rapid-fire witticisms, critiques, and obscure to semi-obscure references directed at the cast and crew.

The genius in MST3K lies in our fascination with things that are classically camp. It seems almost an American tradition to love things that are terrible, yet to be winkingly tongue-in-cheek about it. We know it’s awful, yet we play along with a smile. MST3K allows us elitist nerds to retain our sense of superiority while indulging in something blatantly stupid. That’s why it’s such a cult classic.

The show’s weakness lies in its skits between the showing of the said films. The skits are just as cheesy and juvenile as the movies being shown, but there is almost something terrifically meta about it: a cheesy movie about cheesy B-movies. How can one go wrong?

June 28, 2010

Andrew Warhol

Andrew Warhol (no relation to the artist) is a song-and-dance man who lives in Bloomfield. He first wrote stories in elementary school, many of them based on the fantasy PC game series Warcraft. (That's Warcraft I and II, not to be confused with "World of Warcraft"). He now is an avid writer of short stories and poetry not based on early 90's strategy games. Andrew also writes about pop music on his blog, A Floor Lamp (

June 22, 2010

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

CoverAnother great one from Hopkins, but redundant characters

Since the announcement from Hopkins that she would be writing Tricks I have been extremely excited; the book lived up to all of my excitement. While Identical still remains my favorite, I loved Tricks. Much like Hopkin's other book, Impulse, I feel she has progressed a long way with the multiple points of view poetry novel. Once again, she didn't use much verity of the poetry style (such as making pictures with words), but the use of poetry was very strong and hard to notice. Where as in Impulse, the redundant lack of style was much more noticeable, the storyline and intensity of Tricks makes the reader barely notice.

The characters in this story had such variety, it was almost mind boggling. When starting to read, I was a bit intimidated by the the fact that there were five point of view characters. I also found myself questioning how she would make the story flow using five different stories. Ultimately, it came together very well. As a side note, most of the characters reminded me of characters from past Hopkins books. This book follows the viewpoints of Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger and Cody.

Eden (which I love her name!) is a girl from a very religious evangelical family. Eden is much comparable to Sue from Hopkin's book Burned. Being an atheist, her story was very frustrating, yet amusing. Seth is a farm boy who is secretly gay. His story was in the middle for me. I liked the beginning, but as it went on, I became impartial to it. I loved the glam feeling to his story, but just the idea behind his latter relationship creeps me out a bit. I found him somewhat comparable with Tony from Impulse. Whitney was one of the easiest to relate to (until deeper into the story). She is a virgin saving herself for the right moment. Though a virgin, she is very far from innocent. I found myself comparing her to Raeanne from Identical. As her story continued though, of all give stories, it is the story of Whitney that scared me the most.

Ginger was my favorite. She is unlike any of Hopkin's other characters I came to know and love previously. Ginger comes a family of five siblings and mother who turns tricks. It's almost surprising how her story goes given her situation, but I also found myself falling in love her with gothy friend and loved how Hopkins finally put in a girl who wasn't straight. It was refreshing to have a character who came from a bad place and with a different sexuality.

Finally there was Cody, my least favorite. He is an atypical boy working at game stop who has an addiction to gambling. I have a hard time relating to boys in books who are not gay, so that was the first set off to Cody. He wasn't that interesting of a character either, and I found his addiction to gambling frustrating. The interesting thing about his story is simple how he ended up. While interesting, it felt a little impulsive and concluded so quickly, it felt as if Hopkins just forced him to a path very quickly to make him fit into the book. The change was so random and quick, it felt unnatural.

Mia Kovka

Mia Kovka is a young writer from Pennsylvania. Writing has been a passion for her since the age of ten, when she would write poetry day and night. Then a teacher convinced her to try her hand at writing short stories and reviews. Fantasy has always been her favorite genre, with princesses, dragons, vampires, and most importantly faeries. Currently, she write reviews in her free time and is working to finish writing a book. Follow her on Twitter.

June 16, 2010


CoverWhile this tv show isn't precisely science fiction or fantasy, it occurred to me while watching the end of Season 2 last night that a major part of the appeal of this show is the action, the adventure and the "magic" of its conceptual underpinnings.

The premise of Leverage seems hokey at first glance, but don't let it dissuade you. This show follows a team of thieves and con-artists who have banded together to work for the proverbial "little guy," using their underhanded talents to right the wrongs inflicted by life's bullies. They use all manner of high- and low-tech tricks to pull off their contra-cons, adding appeal and cleverness to the concept. Sometimes the tech seems a little far-fetched, but the show writers in the DVD commentary claim that they check and confirm that each tech twist is indeed possible in this day and age. The premise is un-apologetically a clean-cut, action-packed revenge fantasy, and in that respect, you will not be disappointed. It is at the top of its game in the con-artist genre, but if you look for more than a concept in your fiction, don't worry, there is much more to this show.

CoverLeverage is not what I'd call an expressly character-driven show; ultimately each episode is about the plot, and you could watch the episodes out of order without missing anything significant. There are, however, underlying character threads running throughout the show that make the cast of Leverage much more likable than in your average plot-centered show. Consistent fans of Leverage will enjoy watching the character arcs over the course of seasons while the casual viewer won't feel left out of the background details. 

You'll never hear me say that Leverage is an intricate or challenging drama - it's not in the same league as a show like Dexter, to borrow a fellow example of the revenge genre. But for a fun, episodic, plot-driven show, it's definitely a crowd pleaser and one of the best of its ilk in recent years. 

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