Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Check Out "Steak Night Presents"!

I feel a little weird using one free blog site (blogspot) to advertise another free blog site (wordpress), but Travis and I have just started "Steak Night Presents"...our bi-monthly review of interesting movies.

We watch movies so you don't have to.

Check it out here:


Monday, May 30, 2011

11 Roles of Alfred Molina

Alfred Molina may not be a name that springs immediately to mind when you think of great actors, but he probably should be. The man has had a long and varied career, playing wildly different roles in bizarrely different productions of movies, and he always brings it.


So, without further ado, here's some of the work of one of the best character actors working in Hollywood today.

11. Mellersh Wilkins (Enchanted April)

You may not have seen this movie (I have, but only in passing) but suffice to say it's a Howard's End/The Pianist/Remains of Day kind of movie, where British people do British things and love is always unrequited and there's lots of talking, and usually nothing happens.

The movie's own description calls it "A slow-paced gem", which is like saying, "Look, we know it's boring, but it's not that bad." Molina plays a man who's wife is dragging him along on some ladies retreat to Italy, and to be honest, he's about the only thing in the movie that I paid attention to (it was on in the background while I was reading a comic book or something, and I looked up every time I heard his voice). He was quite good, I thought, and had charisma that far outpaced anyone else on screen.

Plus he looks a bit like a confused Gomez Addams.
Imagine my surprise when I realized this was the same guy who played...

10. Rahad Jackson (Boogie Nights)

Boogie Nights is as far a cry from Enchanted April as you can get. It's about porn. It has Marky Mark, Heather Graham, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, and Don Cheadle in it. It's a movie about all those people running a Porn Studio. It is the opposite of a movie about unrequited love. Love is being requited everywhere, and usually by naked people who are totally not British.

And who does Alfred play? Certainly not some nitpicked husband who's being dragged along to Italy for a Ladies retreat. Oh, no. He plays a Drug Dealer.

This is not a deleted scene from Howard's End.
A drug dealer with a silver robe, no shirt, a chain necklace and a pistol. The lead (Marky Mark) and some of his friends try to rob Rahad of 5,000 dollars at one point by selling him a kilo of baking soda, but they screw it up and end up in a shootout. If these were the only two roles Alfred Molina ever played it would still be a pretty impressive bit of "Really? That's the same guy?"

But it gets better. He's also...

9. Angel (Maverick)

Maverick, as you may know, was once a television show starring Jim Rockford (AKA, James Garner). Maverick was a conman, card player who traveled around the Old West, righting wrongs, getting in saloon fights, and gambling. He probably dated a bunch of hookers, also known as "Saloon Gals" back in those days.

At some point they made a movie (ok, it was 1994) and they hired Mel Gibson (pre-lunacy) to play Maverick and even let Rockford show up to play a sheriff chasing Maverick. But they also needed a bad guy, a foil for Maverick in this high-comedy western caper, and who did they call?

You rang?
Yep. Alfred Molina. He looks vaguely Hispanic as Angel (He is half Spanish), and was a gambler and gunfighter who caused all kinds of trouble for the title character. He was goofy, dangerous and funny, and add another notch to Molina's belt, because he has played a lot of really fun bad guys.

Not the least of which was...

8. Maxim Horvath (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice movie, starring Nic Cage, is one of those things that probably just shouldn't be. It should have died on some producer's desk at some point with him going, "Really? We don't have any other ideas?"

But it didn't. As Hollywood is wont to do, they filmed it, in color and everything, and all things considered, it wasn't terrible. Cage did some hamming it up, but in a good way, and they needed somebody to play the bad guy, who could carry his own scenes, seethe with rage, and still make us kind of like him, so they called upon the greatest "Oh, that guy" that Hollywood has to offer and lo and behold, Alfred Molina to the rescue.

In a perfect world, he would have been paid more than Nic Cage.
And as goofy as the movie was, Molina was a suave villain, with a few great one liners, and a couple of very cool scenes. Too bad the movie forgot about him, right near the end. (Seriously, if you watch it, after he gets knocked out of the park, something that happens to everyone in the movie at least five times, tell me where he goes. Cause the writer forgot.)

But Molina doesn't always have to be the big bad guy. Sometimes he's a misunderstood bad guy, who later becomes a friend, like when he's...

7. Sheik Amar (The Prince of Persia)

Prince of Persia was a Disney movie that wanted to capitalize on the good fortunes of the video game, and clearly on the Jake Gyllenhal is almost naked connection to young ladies. It was a fairly forgettable movie, overall, but if you look up, right there in the middle of it, playing a shady ostrich race organizer (no, really) there's Alfred Molina, as Sheik Amar!

Sheik Amar captures our heroes, then loses them, then captures them again, then sides with them, then I think he gets killed (I have to admit, I only half paid attention to the movie for the most part).

You'd trust this guy to organize your ostrich races, right?
He hammed it up like you almost never get to see him do, but he was still one of the best actors in the movie. He totally owns the crazy ostrich racing sleaze bag character. Plus, he just looks absolutely ludicrous, but still manages to be the coolest person in the whole movie. That takes effort. Speaking of effort, Alfred didn't always have it so easy with the big budget movies. There was a time when he was a struggling actor, like when he played...

6. Moody (Not Without My Daughter)

This is one of those Lifetime movies that make you wonder who comes up with these things, then you find out it's based on a true story, then you almost feel bad, then you realize that the movie is so overblown and not like the actual story that you still wonder who sits around reading newspapers looking for stories about abused women that Lifetime can put on the fast track to development, and...

Actually, this movie started out as an actual movie, but became a Lifetime movie (I think) at least, I know Lifetime showed it. Anyway, in the movie Alfred Molina is Iranian, and a doctor. He's married to Sally Field. They have a daughter.  They move to Iran, and then for no apparent reason, Molina's character becomes a wife abusing religious zealot (almost like he went to America to get his medical license and a wife to bring back and abuse) and Sally has to get her daughter and escape the country.

It's terrible, let's be honest about that. But Alfred pulls off both nice foreign doctor husband, and creepy, crazy abusive zealot in the same movie and he does it with panache.

There's a story in this paper about how I should be hitting you.
 Look at those creepy eyes in that picture. Yeah, I totally believe that guy would beat up Sally Field. Hey, I just realized he worked with both Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. That's weird. Not as weird as, say, Alfred Molina showing up on television in the mid-eighties...

5. Esther's Lawyer (Miami Vice)

Oh, wait, he totally did. Now, to be fair, I don't remember this episode, but I do remember Miami Vice (not Colin Farrel/Jamie Foxx Miami Vice, the other one). I remember Crockett and Tubbs. I remember Adama, er, I mean Edward James Olmos being the captain of the precinct. I remember, white suits and neon signs, and boats and guns and, hey, look at that!

The beard's doing most of the actin in this scene.
There's Alfred Molina, playing a lawyer so important to the plot he doesn't even have a name. But check out Crockett sporting some kind of purple Ocean Pacific t-shirt with a gun holster and hair long enough to rappel down a tower with.

That's some fine police work, Alfred. The only thing more awesome than this would have been if Alfred had also been on Law and Order, so he could have been on two of the most iconic television cop/lawyer shows of all time. Oh, wait...

4. Deputy D.A. Ricardo Morales a(Law and Order: Los Angeles)

I lost my beard, so I have no idea what you're saying...
Yeah, that's Alfred up there on Law and Order: Los Angeles, playing Ricardo Morales, who apparently started the show as a detective, then got promoted to Deputy District Attorney (cause, that's how it works, right?)

Holy crap, Alfred managed to land on Miami Vice and L&O! There can't be a lot of actors who can make that claim, and fewer still who also had a heavy film career. This guy's looking pretty impressive, I'll bet. But we have three more to go, and the next one freaked me out a little bit, because it's a movie I love, and I didn't realize he was in it...

3. Cezar (Ladyhawke)

Yes, that testament to cheesy fantasy movies of the eighties, Ladyhawke, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfiefer also contains a young, dirty, almost animalistic looking Alfred Molina.

They pulled him straight out of bed for this scene.
Alfred plays Cezar here, a wolf trapper, and this is important to the story, because if you've forgotten, in Ladyhawke, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ruther Hauer are in love, but they're cursed and during the day he's a person and she's a hawk (thus the Ladyhawke of the title) and at night she's a person and he's a wolf. So the church is going to catch him using Cezar, the master wolf catcher.

That seems like an odd job, but perhaps it's just because I don't live in a fantasy world. Alfred would get a better job later, as a scientist, which, as you know he parlayed into another villainy role when he became...

2. Dr. Otto Octavius (Spider-Man 2)

Yes, the great Doctor Octopus is also Alfred Molina. Wow, this guy gets around. And I'm also just realizing that he's pretty much a great bad guy. I wonder why it is that some actors just seem to have that genetic thing that makes them play great crazy bad guys.

Why doesn't he keep the suitcase in one of the robot hands?

I think Spider-Man 2 is my favorite of the Spidey movies, and I think 90% of that has to do with Doctor Octopus just being a great villain. He was so much more fun that Green Goblin, and infinitely better than what they did with Sandman and Venom in part 3.

But I'm going to finish this post with the first role I ever remember seeing Alfred in, and one of his first roles ever in general, and one that still surprises me when I remember that's him in that classic role...

1. Satipo (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

That's right, the guy with all the spiders on his back (hey, a spider connection for Spider-Man, neat) the guy who tried to screw over Dr. Jones in the Temple in the beginning of the movie, only to forget about the sunlight trap and get speared to death. The guy to utter the immortal line, "Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip!" That guy, was Alfred Molina.

Nothing bad can happen to me now...
Great character, great actor. Great character actor.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Top 11 Insane/Awesome Bond Villain Plots

11. Casino Royale
There's no one more deadly than a man walking home from a black tie party the morning after.

Bond: Daniel Craig
The Villain: Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelson)

Insane Plan:
Le Chiffre is the money guy for an evil group of, well evil people. In the books this organization was called SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), but there was some legal finagling over who owns the rights to SPECTRE, so in the new movies they're called QUANTUM (which, as far as I know, doesn't have a cool acronym). Why do they have a money guy? I guess he's like the CFO and they just run their evil organization as a business. This leads to all kinds of jokes like "Do they have a health plan?" "Do they offer dental?" "What are the hours like?" It's just kind of ridiculous both on the surface and the more you think about it.

Anyway, Le Chiffre has lost a ton of the organization's money because, well Bond did Bond things and now Le Chiffre is in trouble. So here's his plan: Hold a poker tournament with billions at stake and just win all the money. Presumably he's arrogant enough to think that he'll win, but since he's part of an evil organization if he doesn't win he'll just kill whoever does win and steal the money. Here's my problem with this, if you're part of an evil organization and you have people working for you, presumably they work for the evil organization as well. Wouldn't one of them call YOUR boss and be like, "Hey, did you guys know that Le Chiffre lost all the money? Yeah, we're having a poker tournament to get it back...no, I'm not kidding. Look, I just don't wanna get fired. Or killed."

Of course Bond shows up to the poker tourney to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing, and Le Chiffre has to do evil things to keep the money, and of course there's backstabbing and evil plots going on all over the place, but seriously, this was the guy's idea. I'll just win the money back at poker. This is the response of the truly stupid. Who let this guy have the money? And didn't QUANTUM do a background check to make sure their CFO didn't have, Oh, I don't know, a gambling problem?

10. Live and Let Die 

Nothing says spy-thriller-action movie like a good Paul McCartney song.

Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Dr. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto)

Insane Plan:
Dr. Kananga is the leader of some Caribbean country or something, where he grows tons and tons of Opium that he turns into heroin so that he can make money. Why? I'm not really sure. He has his own country already, in the Caribbean, no less, and he flies back and forth to the U.S. on a private jet, where he hangs out at the U.N. and he owns a string of soul food restaurants. Yeah, I didn't make that last part up, he really does own a string of soul food restaurants.

Not only that, Kananga is giving away 2 tons of heroin with a dual purpose: 1.) to put his competitors out of business and 2.) to create more addicts. And where is he giving  away all this free heroin? Why, through his soul food restaurants, of course! But, as insane as this plan is, what I never got about Kananga was, why does he need more money? He seems to have plenty. I guess this is just one of those, the rich get greedy kind of things, but his motivation always seemed to be a little off.

Oh, and did I mention that Kananga's alter ego, the drug dealing lunatic he pretends to be, is named Mr. Big? Oh, yeah. That happened.

9. On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Bond: George Lazenby
The Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas)

Insane Plan
Stay with me, because this one is tricky. Bond is done with his last assignment, so he heads back to work for MI6, but his bosses tell him he can't keep going after Blofeld (like he wanted to do at the end of the movie before this) so he threatens to quit, but ends up going on vacation instead so he can pursue Blofeld on his own.

Here's where the crazy starts, though. Somewhere in the Swiss Alps, Blofeld is brainwashing 10 women to distribute biological weapons throughout the world. He has ten women, that he calls his "Angels of Death", basically trapped at this Mountain Resort, where he's convincing them he's helping them therapeutically, but in reality he's playing audio tapes to them while they sleep to convince them to spread biological weapons throughout the world when he releases them.

Why? Because Blofeld wants to be recognized as a count. No, really, that's his end goal. He wants to be recognized as the current Count de Bleauchamp. Again, this man is the leader of the largest criminal organization in the world, but all he really wants to do is be a count. His plan is to hold the world ransom with his 10 brainwashed women who would destroy the world's agriculture unless he's given amnesty for all past crimes and his title of Count.

There's something seriously wrong with this guy.

8. Die Another Day
I don't know how guns work. The whole thing gets that hot?

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
The Villain: Colonel Moon (played by Toby Stephens/Will Yun Lee)

Insane Plan
Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (love that name) meets Bond early on, ends up chasing him across a minefield, gets an explosion in the face and drives a hovercraft over a waterfall (presumably to his death). There's some hand waving magic where Bond is captured by North Koreans, tortured, then released, then loses his "00" status, and has to go figure out what's going on because he believes someone betrayed him.

Turns out Colonel Moon not only didn't die, but has used gene therapy and DNA restructuring to make himself into a British guy named Gustav Graves, who has built a giant orbital satellite that can be used to harness solar energy.

Only, not really because his giant orbital satellite is actually a big freaking laser which he plans to use to destroy the minefield between North and South Korea so his troops can march in and retake South Korea
and reunite them into one big happy communist family.

I have several problems with this, but the one that makes me giggle is the thought of the North Korean army just waiting by the DMZ for the laser to clear the area so they can charge in and attack. That image just kills me for some reason.

But here are some bigger problems. Using an orbital laser to destroy the minefield/DMZ just seems like way too much overkill, doesn't it? Like getting rid of the ants in your backyard by dumping napalm on them? Couldn't he have just bought like a million remote control racecars and just driven them through the DMZ until they hit all the mines? And if you have the money to build an oribtal laser, why not just, I don't know, by some helicopters man! You're making this waaaay too complicated.

7. You Only Live Twice

He's going to be too tired to go on with the second one.

Bond: Sean Connery
The Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Donald Pleasance)

Insane Plan
So, Blofeld, lunatic leader of SPECTRE, has a plan. He builds a giant spaceship, sends it into space and has it hijack an American Spacecraft. Why? So he can blame it on the Russians. And, also, the Japanese. See, he made his SPECTRE spaceship totally look like a Russian spaceship so the Americans would think the Russians did it.

Then he had both spaceships crash into the sea near Japan (it's unclear whether or not that part is intentional). So now everybody suspects the Russians and/or the Japanese.

Oh, and what was the point of all this? Blofeld wants to start World War III for...some reason that's again, never explained. Look, I get the whole idea of "let's spread chaos!" or even just good old fashioned "we hate the establishment!" but seriously, there's no other motive behind this? Just "We'll start WW3"? That's it? That's your whole plan?

And again, this is a privately funded criminal organization that managed to not only put a ship in space (something not easily accomplished) but also to hijack an American space craft while they were up there! How much better off would the world be if SPECTRE would just use their money and talents for something other than Blofeld's insane whims.

6. The Spy Who Loved Me
This came up in a Google Image search for the Spy Who Loved Me. And then I cried a little.

Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Karl Stromberg (played by Curd Jurgens)

Stop me if you've heard this before, but Karl Stromberg wants to start World War 3...

Now, there are a couple of areas where his plan differs from Blofeld's in You Only Live Twice. First of all, instead of space ships, he just stole a couple of submarines. One from Russia, and one from America. He plans to use the American sub to blow up Moscow, and the Russian sub to blow up New York. So far, his plan seems infinitely more plausible than Blofeld's, if only because he didn't start with freaking space ships.

Subs I could see a criminal organization of this size stealing. Stealing and, you know, being able to pilot them without having to be frigging astronauts. Because, really, I mean, come on.

But Stromberg also has an end game. See, it's not enough for him to just start WW3. He has plans for what's going to happen after. Namely, he intends to repopulate the world in his own image, and just to stick with the submarine theme, he plans for that new world to be created UNDERWATER. He's even built an underwater city called Atlantis. (You were so close, dude. I was with you right up until the underwater city. And then you gave it the most cliched name...)

So, yeah. This kind of thing apparently happens a lot.

5. Tomorrow Never Dies
Jonathan Price is so pissed that Bond brought two dates to the party that he can hardly stand it.

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
The Villain: Elliot Carver (played by Jonathan Price)

We're sticking to a them here, because guess what Elliot Carver wants to do...

If you said, "Start World War 3" then congratulations! You now possess all the intelligence you would ever need to become a Bond villain. You could drool on a napkin, tie a cheeseburger to your head, and try to kick start a motorcycle with the power of rainbows, but as long as you know that your next objective is "Start World War 3" then henchmen will be flocking to your underground, volcano-covered palace ready to do battle with British Secret Service's seventh best agent.

Of course, Elliot has to throw his own monkey wrenches into the plan. He doesn't want the US and the USSR to fight. Oh, no. That's been done to death. Tried it and failed. We've seen the flaw in the plan! No, what he wants is for the United Kingdom to fight China! There you go. That ought to get her done.

Did I mention the villain in question is a media mogul who owns his own CNN type tv station? I didn't? That's too bad, because he doesn't want to do it just for kicks (like Blofeld) or to start his own society (like Stromberg). No, he wants to do it so his news team will have something big to cover on their first day on cable! No, really.

Though as a side benefit, he also expects to kill off the Chinese leaders who refused to give him full and exclusive rights to news broadcasts in China.

A little petty, now that I think about it.

4. Moonraker
Wait...can James Bond breathe in space?
Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Hugo Drax (played by Michael Lonsdale)

Did you think we were done with this theme? Good, because we're not. No, no, no. We have one more "I will destroy the world and remake it in my image" player left. Following Stromberg's idea of having a plan for after the destruction, and borrowing Blofeld's idea of using outerspace, Hugo Drax has decided to destroy the world and rebuild it in his own perfect image. And by destroy the world I, of course, mean by dropping poisonous plants into the Earth's atmosphere while he and his hand picked human replicators chill out on a spacestation orbiting the earth.

It's like he just mushed together Blofeld and Stromberg's plans and then added his own little extra brand of crazy with the poisonous plants.

How does Bond find these people?

3. GoldenEye
Indeed it is...

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
The Villain: Alec Trevelyan (played by Sean Bean)

GoldenEye is all about revenge. Stay with me, because this is complicated. Apparently Alec Trevelyan was a Cossack, or an Eastern European, probably from the Ukraine or Russia, they were allied with the Nazis during WW2, and his parents were killed by the British army or something, so he hates Britain. So he did what any reasonable British hating person would do: joined up with the British Secret Service. Presumably he was pretty good at his job because at some point he became a double 0 agent, and in fact the movie begins with both he and Bond infiltrating a Russian weapons facility where Trevelyan fakes his death.

He then spends 9 years building up a criminal syndicate called Janus (get it? Cause Janus is two faced...) and now intends to use a giant space satellite to destroy the Bank of England and ruin Britains economy. First of all, that's pretty much  the same plot as Fight Club, and second of all, that's a really bizarre plan, isn't it? "I hate this country that killed my parents! I will ruin your economy!"

Doesn't quite have the ring of "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" does it?

Also, he plans to steal some money first, just, cause, yeah. Money. Money's awesome.

2. View To A Kill
Is the sniper aiming for Bond, or for Grace Jones' foot?

Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Max Zorin (played by Christopher Walken)

Again, the complications pile up early, and again we have some loose affiliation to Nazis (always in the top 5 movie villains of all time, along with Commies, zombies, aliens, and creepy children). See, Max Zorin was some kind of genetic Nazi experiment created by a guy who escaped after WW2 and ended up hiding out in Russian (look at that! Nazis and Commies! There's no stopping them!)

Zorin runs a microchip factory in Silicon Valley, and he plans to take over the microchip market by detonating some explosives in a mine he purchased and flooding Silicon Valley with water, thus destroying all his competition. It's like the only way these guys can figure out how to be the best is by destroying their competition in the dumbest way possible. Really? A flood?

This movie is plagued with bizarre complications, though, including Zorin owning horses that always seem to win races, but can never be found with drugs in their systems (because everyone assumes he's doping them). It turns out later that he implants microchips in the horses that release drugs into them. Now, here's why this makes no sense: they test for drugs after the race, but they don't find any. But then we find out he's releasing drugs into them during the race, so how come there's no traces of the drugs? It's like the screenwriter realized that halfway through the movie you'd already be so confused by the plot that this just wouldn't occur to you.

Also, at one point Zorin has Bond and some kind of political official trapped in a building and instead of just shooting both of them he shoots the politician, leaves the gun behind, and sets the building on fire, either hoping that Bond will die in the fire, or will be caught with the gun and accused of killing the politician. At this point he realizes Bond is a spy, so why would you hope for that outcome? Wouldn't Bond just be like, "Look, I'm a British government agent, that guy set me up." And he'd be done for. I mean, seriously.

1. Goldfinger
Nothing says "High finance criminal" like a nice gold pair of pajamas.

Bond: Sean Connery
The Villain: Auric Goldfinger (played by Gert Fröbe)

My favorite Bond movie, and one of the best plans any villain ever had (in my humble opinion). Goldfinger is trying to break into Fort Knox. Now, normally this would just be any idiot's plan to get rich, "We'll break into Fort Knox and steal the gold!"

But that's not Auric's plan, oh no. See Auric already has a bunch of gold. His plan is to actually break into Fort Knox and set off an atomic bomb, irradiating the area (and all the gold) so that it would be untouchable for hundreds of years.

This would have the brilliant side effect of making the gold Auric already has exponentially increase in value. When Bond figures out what the plan is even he's impressed, and he's already James Bond.

Of course the only flaw in his plan is that he has a hot chick working for him (named Pussy Galore, of course) and she falls in love with Bond (of course) and ruins the whole thing.

Chicks, am I right?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sometimes it's hard to get started...

The Top 11 Lists that I've started writing in my head and then completely abandoned before I even start typing, is what this list really is.

11. Top 11 Days of the Week

After adding Smunday, Schmensday and Pancake Day, I realized I still only had 10 and couldn't possibly think of an 11th that wouldn't totally just be making up another day. We only have seven. Makes it hard to do a top 11 list. Though I looked it up and found out that other cultures used more than just 7 days in the past. Several cultures had 10 day weeks, and some older cultures had only 3 day weeks. Why did we pick 7? Because it's lucky? Seven's a good number but it doesn't divide well into, well, anything really. I guess if we had 350 days a year we could have 50 good weeks, but as it stands we have 52 weeks and some change left over.

That was just poorly thought out, if you ask me. And Pancake Day should so be a real day.

Smushed right between Smunday and Schmensday.

10. Top 11 Months of the Year

Ok, now I have the opposite problem from number 11, which is in order to make this list I'd have to exclude a month. Do you know how hard it is to pick one to exclude? If you had to pick 11 months to survive and kill one off which one would you pick?

December has Christmas, November has Thanksgiving, January has my birthday...I can't pick one. August? Are there any good holidays in August? Surely I know somebody who has a birthday there, they'd probably be pretty upset if I ditched it. One month's as good as another right? How would you even rank them?

See, this is how I got started in my head and then just decided not to type.

Look at them mocking me with their colorfulness...

9. Top 11 Mistakes made by Scooby Doo characters

This one was a wash as they always make the same mistakes: The Scooby gang always splits up, and the villains always overlook the fact that a bunch of kids might figure out that the monster might just be a guy in a mask.

There's another mistake the Scooby Gang make, actually: How many episodes would it take before any real person started just going, "Oh, there's a monster in town? Probably a guy in a mask. It's happened like 11,000 times already." How is that never their first thought?

They can't even drive without being terrified.

8. Top 11 Presidents of the United States

There's no way to write this list without it becoming a political debate. And I'd feel cheezy for including Washington and Lincoln because they're just the most famous. I should do a Top 11 Presidents that people don't know anything about and use Millard Filmore and Chester A. Arthur and all those guys that were President during random times of the country's existence when nothing particularly exciting was happening.

Quick, what's James Buchanan most famous for? Yeah, I don't know either.

Even I'm not sure which President I am. Oh, it says Van Buren, right there.

7. Top 11 States in the United States

After Texas and West Virginia I ran out of ideas. New York's nice. California has good weather. I guess there's some other nice ones. Illinois? Yeah, it's pretty good, I guess. It has Chicago at least. North Carolina's ok. But really, beyond those, they're all just "States that aren't Texas".

And that's just sad.

This map is 100% accurate.

6. Top 11 Fictional Bars

I came up with Cheers and the Mos Eisley Cantina, and then I ran out of ideas. There have to be more famous fictional bars, right? There's McLaren's Pub from How I Met Your Mother. There's Moes, from the Simpsons, and I guess the Drunken Clam from Family Guy. I couldn't think of anymore without just making things up. I'm bound to have missed a good one somewhere.

Oh, right. I forgot the Regal Beagle.

5. Top 11 Fake Names Generated From Spam Emails

The problem with this is that I have so many. So, so many. Spam Email Generators try to make names that look like real names, but are clearly fake. Things like "Sixta Jo", "Ghastly Q. Looseness", and "Possibly K. Enjoining". There's too many good ones for me to even try to cut that list down to 11. Possibly K. Enjoining is still killing me. I may just write a book where every character is named from a Spam Email I got. I'm almost positive someone's tried this already.

You can't fool me. That's Chuck E. Cheese after some kind of Borg Assimilation.

4. Top 11 Pizza Toppings

A difficult list for me because I run out after pretty much 5. Pepperoni, Sausage, Canadian Bacon (ham), Ground Beef and Mushrooms. I guess I could throw Garlic and Extra Cheese in there to hit 7, but everything else is non-meat related and I'm just not down with that. Mushrooms are as close as I get to putting a vegetable on a pizza. Why would you ruin a good pizza with onions and green peppers? (Sorry, Mom).

I once accidentally bit into a pizza with anchovies on it and I nearly threw up in my mouth. I can still taste that horrible, horrible pain just thinking about it. Gah! Anchovies. Bad, just bad. Don't put bait on pizza.

I don't even need to say anything. Good call, cat.

3. Top 11 Numbers between 1 and 10

Do I include decimals? Pi? Just whole numbers? I thought about doing this list and just doing 1-10 and having pi be one of the numbers, cause I thought that would be funny, but it's a long way to go for a joke. And there's not much to say about some of the numbers. I mean, 7 is lucky, 3 is the magic number, 1 is the loneliest number, but 6? I guess it's 1 third of the number of the beast. What about 4? 8? 10? Wait, I'm thinking of things. I may write this list yet.

And I already ruined the joke. Great. Way to go, Todd.

Wouldn't it be easier to color the numbers first? Just sayin.

2. Top 11 Books by Charlotte and Emily Bronte

Neither of them has ever written a good book, so this just went right out the window as soon as it flashed through my head.

Not pictured: Entertainment.

1. Top 11 Passwords I Use on the Internet

How silly would it be for me to tell you this?

Here's the trick, I just use all *'s for my passwords.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My 11 Favorite Dungeons and Dragons Modules

For those that don't know, I'm a giant D&D nerd. I'm sure most of you are aware, but in case someone stumbled onto my page looking for great deals on medical supplies or pictures of girls in their underwear, well, that's not what we do here.

A Dungeons and Dragons module is basically a short story that you play through as a group with one person running the story and everyone else playing major characters. Modules were all the rage when I played in the 80's and early 90's, usually written by guys who worked for TSR (including Gygax, himself) and some of them were well crafted stories, and others were just series of monsters and bad storytelling mushed together and sold for $5.95 (yes, I'm old enough to remember when modules cost about six bucks).

Here then is my list of the favorite modules I ever ran or played in.


I will be ruining the end of some of these, so if you never played them or you don't want to know the twist ending for some reason, just check the names and the pictures and don't read my descriptions.

11. The Isle of Dread

The Isle of Dread was the module you got if you bought the box-set of  Expert Dungeons and Dragons, which contained a rule book for characters levels 6-10 and this module. Ostensibly the idea was to introduce players to adventures that were outside rather than a dungeon crawl, and the island was basically covered with monsters, dinosaurs and randomly large animals (mostly snakes). The players were sent to the island based on a scrap of a note that they found showing the island's approximate location in the sea and the teaser text that told them that the island was actually covered with fabulous treasure!

The story itself wasn't very cohesive, and really you just went from one monster encounter to the next until you'd covered the entire island, but it was different and new and didn't take place underground so it had all kinds of cool things like weather and swimming and mountain climbing and what have you. Basically things kids playing D&D would never do in real life.

My favorite story about the Isle of Dread though was that in another campaign that some friends of mine played, one of the characters, a high level Fighter named Draygon, had actually chartered a boat to the island, killed everything on it, and claimed it as his own. Thus it became the Isle of Draygon in most of our campaigns after that, and I always thought that was cool.

Quick! Send the natives to slow it down!

10. Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw

I didn't get to play as much Oriental Adventures as I'd have liked. OA was an add-on book for Advanced Dugeons and Dragons (1st Edition) that let you play Ninjas, Samurais, and everyone's favorite class: The Bushi. Why was it everyone's favorite? They just liked saying "Bushi". Bushi were just fighters, they didn't have any special magic abilities or anything, but it's fun to say. Bushi. Bushi. Bushi. Ok, I'll stop now.


The story of Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw was a great read though. Basically Dragon Claw, who is one of the immortal powers of the Oriental game setting, has challenged all the other Immortal powers by telling them that his fighting style is the best. He's also made a bet that if his followers, using his fighting style, can beat everyone else, then the Immortal Powers have to let him rule over the world (or part of the world at least) however he wants to.

Dragon Claw, however, is being a jerk, and he hasn't told the other Immortals that one of the reasons his guys are the best is that he's supplied them all with magic weapons. One of the other immortals, Mad Monkey, has figured it out, and has approached the adventurers with the information and is supplying them with powers and magic items of their own to go out and destroy Dragon Claw's disciples. It's like a Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu movie as a playable game, and how could you not love that?
Aaaah! The ground is gone!

9. Vault of the Drow

A classic module that almost all old school D&D nerds are familiar with, Vault of the Drow was the player's first opportunity to fight Lolth, the Goddess-Queen of the Drow.

The Drow, if you were wondering, were this wonderfully horrible evil race of dark elves who were totally awesome in a "if they show up, you run" kind of way. They were sort of like the Agents in the first Matrix movie, and just mentioning Drow, or finding Drow weapons laying around could terrify a group of level 10 adventurers back in the day.

Of course then someone (*cough* R.A. Salvatore *cough*) wrote some terrible books about the Drow, basically told us all about them, including how their society worked, which pretty much destroyed any fear they ever instilled in anyone in a "Wait, Darth Vader's a whiny little kid?" kind of way.

But still, it was a fun module.

If there's anything more horrifying than giant spiders, it's giant FABULOUS spiders.

8. The Rod of Seven Parts

This is kind of cheating because Rod of Seven Parts is less a module than it is an entire campaign, but I liked it because it had a great back story about the war between the Dukes of the Wind and the Queen of Chaos, it had lots of adventure hooks while your group tried to find all seven parts, and it just felt epic.

You had to go to other planes of existence to find certain parts. You had to battle the ghosts of the Generals of the war that was fought over the Rod long ago, and if you managed to find all seven parts it became a very powerful artifact called the Rod of Law.

It was also the only magic item in D&D history that got it's own novel, written by Douglas Niles, who wrote several Dragonlance novels, and the next Module on the list.

Not pictured: The Rod.

7. Horror on the Hill

Horror on the Hill is just a straight forward little story, but it exemplified, for me at least, exactly what a D&D module should contain: A snippet of story, a setting, some bad guys, a cool ending. Horror on the Hill started with the players gathering at an old abandoned fort, and heading into the hill to fight whatever horrors were there (even the name works to explain everything you're doing).

There are rumors that a witch lives in the hill, but it's mostly filled with goblins and hobgoblins, and then, right at the bottom SUPRISE! A red dragon. A neat little addition that let you introduce your low level characters to fighting dragons, and pretty well capped off an interesting little adventure. Nothing too special, just a well done romp through dungeon land.

No, the Horror is on that Hill! Over there!

6. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

This one is a classic. The players start the game being told by the Duke that a bunch of monsters keep coming out of this cave and attacking his lands, and the players are sent to deal with the problem. They head to the mountains, enter the cave, and discover that it's even more bizarre than they imagined.

The players have to deal with strange armored men, bizarre lights, hallways made of materials they've never seen before, doors that slide open and closed. It's all very intriguing in a "What the heck is going on" kind of way.

Turns out, the players are actually on a spaceship that crashed onto this fantasy planet. The DM was instructed to keep that secret until the last possible moment, describing the "shiny metal armored men" who turned out to be robots, and describing the fluorescent lighting as "magic like you've never encountered before". It was a nice twist to find out that you were on a spaceship the whole time.

Two things of note about Barrier Peaks: Stephen Colbert listed it as one of his favorite modules, and it introduced an idea that was later used profusely in video games, namely that to get to certain parts of the ship you had to find different colored keycards to open the doors. I'm sure the game described them as magic door opening scrolls, but in games like Doom and Quake and other First Person Shooters this became the standard way to progress through the game. So good for them on both counts.
Surprised that it's not Japanese? Me too.

5. Baltron's Beacon

This one is probably one of my favorites less for the module itself than it was for the enjoyable time I had playing it. In the middle of a swamp is a giant green light that fires up from this keep, and the players are sent in to find out what it is and destroy it, since it's calling all the monsters in the area to head to the keep, and nobody likes it when all the monsters get together. It just never ends well.

I remember the keep as kind of fun to explore, but mostly what I remember is that at the beginning this creepy Druid guy who lives in the swamp gives you these black seeds that you have to put into the green glow at it's base level in order to destroy it, and that's how you finish the game, you have to get to where the green glow starts and toss the black seeds in.

Now I was playing a thief in this game, so I was sneaking off by myself all the time and getting in trouble, and at one point I got captured by the BIG BAD GUY, who tied my character to a metal chair, drenched me in water and started casting shocking hands spells on me to torture me in an effort to find out why our party was here.

I did the typical action star thing at first and refused to talk, thinking I'd be awesome, but then a little actual role playing kicked in. See, I realized that my character wasn't the tough guy, he was thief! And I didn't know the rest of the party that well (I mean, in real life, sure, but my character had just met their characters) so I said, forget it, I'm not getting killed for these people I barely know. So I spilled the whole thing to the evil wizard, the black seeds, the green glow, tossing them in, the whole bit.

I'll never forget that moment, one of my all time favorite role playing game moments as the DM looked at me, and then in character for the evil wizard said, "You expect me to believe that you traveled all the way across a dangerous swamp and fought through dozens of monsters to get into my keep so you could MAKE POPCORN!"

It was a great moment, and I remember looking back and realizing that was the point in time that I realized how much fun you could have with an RPG, and that being the super awesome action star was never as much fun as playing a flawed character (like a thief willing to sell out his "friends" to save his own life). I've never looked back. The first thing I try to do when I make a character now is figure out how he's flawed. Cause that's the fun part.

What is SHE looking at?

4. The Keep on the Borderlands

Here's an example of where a module becomes popular just through sheer volume. When you bought the Basic Dungeons and Dragons box set, chances were you got this module. I heard rumors from other people that they got B1 Search for the Unknown, but I never actually saw that happen, and I bought dozens of these over the years, all of them containing Keep on the Borderlands. I always thought it was weird that the module they gave you to start with was labeled B2, and made you feel like you had already missed something.

The module itself isn't that great, as I recall. It reminds me a lot of Horror on the Hill: the characters show up at the eponymous keep and then just keep exploring the caverns nearby that are full of monsters. I remember there were some kobolds, and some lizardmen, and there was an evil priest in the keep itself who had allied himself with some of the bad guy monsters.

But what I really remember about it is that for years and years, and even to this day if you find someone that played the first Basic D&D, they all had or remember this module. That's pretty impressive if you ask me, so out of sheer nostalgia I'm ranking it 4th on my list.

Smallest.War. Ever.

3. Temple of Elemental Evil

First of all, kudos to these guys for having a cool name. Temple of Elemental Evil just sounds cool. Second, this module was huge. Much bigger and more full of stuff than any of the other modules I ever remember buying. I think it might be bigger than the Rod of Seven Parts, which was a full on campaign setting. I guess technically Temple of Elemental Evil qualifies as a campaign setting as well, since you could run, I believe from level 1 to 8 without actually leaving it.

Basically it was this giant temple built by an evil horde, and even though humans and elves and dwarves and gnomes had eradicated most of the evil horde of monsters, the Temple was still there and became sort of a base for bad guys to do bad things. So the players have to show up and beat them down again, but it turns out that underneath the evil temple, there's layer after layer of dungeon that goes down miles into the ground.

So players can just keep going back to town, then heading back to the temple to dig further and further down, defeating evil as they go. Kind of a cool way to run a campaign if you just decided you didn't want to bother with politics or overland maps or introducing any sort of NPC mystery to solve. You have dungeons, you explore them, you kill monsters you take their stuff. Rinse, repeat. Great stuff.

Never buy the creepiest house in the neighborhood.

 2. Ravenloft

It may just be that I liked Dracula so much, but Ravenloft was always one of my favorites. Strahd, the evil vampire, has a castle and a nearby village full of ravishing young women to satiate his bloodlust, and the players have to show up and put a stop to it.

It's cool, because you get a lot of the Dracula feel, there's gypsies and wolves and people with names like Tatiana and Ilsa, and a creepy vampire castle full of undead things to fight, but it also has a full story, and you may actually start to feel some sympathy for Strahd when you find out all the horrible things that happened to him. It's really well done, and also contains the Sunsword, where my friend Anthony got his alter ego name from.

Plus, really good artwork and giant maps of the castle, always a bonus. Plus, again, Ravenloft is just a cool name. I like things with cool names.

Standing on his balcony, Strahd surveyed his lands and decided, "I live in a Hell hole."

1. Castle Amber (Chateau D'Amberville)

So any of the old school gamers I ever played with know this is my favorite module. I used to run it all the time, every time we started a new group, and really, I can't even explain why. I'll give it a shot though. The game starts with the players on their way somewhere, they stop to camp, they wake up in the morning in a foggy mist, and suddenly they're at Castle Amber.

If they try to leave they get killed in the mist (the module helpfully points this out to them by having a mule run off into the mist with a rope tied around it, and you hear it scream and if you pull the mule back by the rope you find a mule corpse). Basically you have to go inside the castle or die in the fog, so right there you're already off and running.

But to me, the great thing about it, is that the Castle is just full of the Amber family, who are all bat guano insane in various different ways. One of them has been buried alive by the others and she's become a ghoul out to kill anyone who comes across her. One has set up a boxing match where players can fight his flesh golem boxer. One is dead, and the only way to get out of the castle is to find his tomb and leave through there.

It 's also filled with great little puzzles that I love, like the dinner party where the players can pick and choose what dishes they want to eat that all have random magical effects on them. Eating the green beans with slivered almonds might give you a +1 strength boost until you leave the castle. Eating the cheese soup might turn you into a rabbit. It had a great little setup where these ghosts bring out every course and you asked all the players "Are you eating the braised lamb?" And only after everyone decided and the plates were taken away would you tell the players what the effect was. So it was basically just this random Russian Roulette of "Do I want to eat that?"

Another puzzle had a room with letters on the floor, and you had to cross the room in 7 steps, so you would always spell out a word (a nonsense word, usually) so whatever the first 7 letters you stepped on were would light up, and when you got across the room each of the words you could spell out would have some magical effect on you. You might get a forcefield that protected you from damage, or you might get frostbite. You just never knew.

So, for the great story, the interesting characters and the totally awesome puzzles, Castle Amber has always been my favorite Dungeons and Dragons module.

When giants are swinging trees at you and crushing your towers in their bare hands it's time to move.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

11 Actors who played Batman

So I picked out a new background, plus, Blogspot added this thing where it's real easy to put pictures in your posts (I mean, I guess I always could have, but the interface is much simpler now) so I went a little nuts and found a bunch of pictures and...

What was I talking about? Right. Batman.

Anyway, here's a bunch of people who have played Batman through the years. I had to include voice actors as well, since there are really only like 5 guys who ever played live action versions of Batman (not counting fan videos on youtube). So here they are:

11. Actor: Lewis Wilson
Played Batman in: 1940's Batman Serials

I'm not sure I've ever seen a 1940's Batman Serial, at least not an entire one, I'm sure I've seen clips of the show, but I gotta give this guy credit for being the first actor to portray him on film (as far as I know). I kinda like the pointy mask, and the ears that look more like devil's horns than bat ears. That cape is probably made out of some thick material that's more like carpet than cloth.

I don't think he ever fought any of Batman's signature villains, though. I'm guessing it was a lot of bad guys in suits, mobsters, probably Nazi's since it was the 40's, and no end of hilariously stereotyped Chinese and Japanese bad guys, who were probably white actors with their eyes scotch taped into a ridiculous squint, and a jet black fu-manchu.

Lewis Wilson is also the only person to ever play both Batman and Iron Man (Ok, he played a character named Jerome 'Iron Man' Collins in a movie called Sailor's Holiday, which since it was the 40's probably wasn't gay porn) and his son, Michael G. Wilson, was a producer on every James Bond Movie since Moonraker (including the new Bond movies). Lewis was married, briefly, to Dana Broccoli, who later married Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, who was the producer on ALL the Bond films, which is probably how his son got involved.

You had no idea James Bond and Batman were so intricately linked, did you?

Cell phones in the 40's were HUGE...

10. Actor: Val Kilmer
Played Batman in: Batman Forever (1995)

Poor Val. I like him in so many things: Real Genius, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Salton Sea, Willow...

He was unfortunately saddled with taking over the Dark Knight just as Joel "It should be neon and have nipples" Schumacher was taking over the Batman Franchise. Can't really blame him for that, or for a terrible script that included Robin (the movies are much better off without Robin) or the line "Holy rusted metal, Batman! I mean, really, this thing is metal and rusted and it has holes..."

Way to play off the jokes there writer guy.

Kilmer himself, however, wasn't bad. He did a great Bruce Wayne (I still think that's the key to a Batman actor, almost anybody can handle the suit and the stunt guys do all the fighting, you just gotta pull off insane rich guy). Too bad he couldn't have been in a better Batman movie.

Val Kilmer, as far as I know, has no ties to the James Bond franchise, though he was once in a great spoof of the spy genre called Top Secret. Man, Val Kilmer's been in a bunch of good movies.
And for Batman's next amazing trick...

9. Actor: Rino Romano
Played Batman in: THE Batman (Voice), (2004)

I had to capitalize all the letters in "THE" up there, because that was how this show was marketed and differentiated from other Batman shows, was it was called THE Batman. It followed a young Bruce Wayne/Batman, who I think was still in high school, and lots of people (Travis) hated it because they changed all the bad guys and he gets his butt kicked every week by guys like the Riddler and the Penguin, who are generally less physically violent criminals and more cerebral criminals.

I...didn't hate it as much as Travis did. It's got a catchy theme song, and I thought the voice actor was really good (that's the aforementioned Rino Romano, up there). But the central theme of the show was less Batman and more teen angstyness. Like someone was reading a lot of old Spiderman comics and said, "Yeah, Batman should go through more crap like this. Does he have a girlfriend who can break up with him and a bunch of friends and teachers who can be villains?"

He doesn't. But it didn't stop them from trying. They gave him a pseudo-love interest in this Gotham City cop who always seemed like she was just about to figure out he was Batman, or something. I can't remember, it's been a while since I watched it.
Not pictured: Angst.

8. Actor: Adam West
Played Batman in: Batman TV Series (1966)

Probably a lot of boos from the crowd for having this guy so low on the list. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love Adam West. In fact, I want a tv show where Adam West and William Shatner play Odd Couple type roommates. Maybe one of them is a retired cop, and the other's a con man who just got out of prison, and they're brothers, or something? I mean, who wouldn't watch that show? I'd TIVO that every week. Instead Shatner's doing some terrible TV show called *#&$ my Dad Says, which is based on a webpage and is apparently the worst thing on television, ever. It will probably never get cancelled.

Anyway, the reason I put him so low on the list is that he did some lasting damage to the Batman franchise (enough that it took Frank Miller and a bunch of other comic book writers most of the 80's to make Batman cool again and not campy). But still, I loved this show, watched it all the time when I was a kid. It just wasn't "cool" Batman.

I like Batman when he's the toughest, smartest guy in the room, when he appears from the shadows to knock bad guys out, when he's three steps ahead of the Joker, and when he disappears just as the Gotham PD shows up and leaves Commissioner Gordon scratching his head, wondering how he does that.

This Batman hangs out in Commissioner Gordon's office, has a bright red phone for the Commish to call him on, and lives with his aunt who makes sandwiches and has no idea Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin. (Here's a question: Does she think they're a couple? Does the Aunt from the 60's show worry about that? I think she does).
Look at my belt buckle. LOOK AT IT!

7. Actor: George Clooney
Played Batman in: Batman and Robin (1997)

God, was it really that long ago? 13 years? It doesn't seem like that long. Again, I can't blame Clooney for Joel Schumacher running this franchise into the ground, kicking sand on it, spitting on it as he walked away. He had an even more ridiculous script than Kilmer had to deal with. And he had the most horribly miscast villain in Batman history (Schwarzenegger as Dr. Freeze). I won't even go into why that's such a bad idea, I'll just say that Dr. Freeze was a skinny, bald, aging doctor who used his genius in science to become a villain, and they cast the biggest, most muscle-bound actor known for quipping one liners in Hollywood. Then they let him quip one liners like "ICE to see you..."

Hang on, I have to throw up a little.

Ok, I'm back. Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I think Clooney would have made a great Batman in a GOOD batman movie. He definitely has the rich playboy thing down. He's versatile enough to go from charming Bruce to serious and insane Bruce, he's charismatic enough to carry a weak script, but the script they gave him wasn't weak, so much as it was dead, buried, and rotting.
I got paid a LOT of money...and I'm sorry.

6. Actor: Diedrich Bader
Plays Batman in: The Brave and the Bold (Voice), (2008)

The Brave and the Bold is just a great, great show. It's incredibly fun, it's got lots of cameos from DC heroes and villains, and it's like you gave some guys who really like Batman and the whole DC universe a chance to just shine. And when I figured out who Diedrich Bader was (the guy from Drew Carey) I was like, "Yeah, I recognize the voice now."

But what's weird is, it's almost pitch perfect. Bader's voice is right on par with the show. It's not a dark Batman, and it's not a campy Batman, it's stuffed itself comfortably in the Fun without being too campy category, and Bader's voice just goes perfectly along those lines.

He'd be higher on this list, probably, but like I said, as much as I enjoy fun Batman, I like dark, brooding Batman better.
Drew Carey's friends fight crime.

5. Actor: Jeremy Sisto
Plays Batman in: Justice League: The New Frontier (Voice), (2008)

Jeremy Sisto was in Clueless, a movie I unabashedly love. He was in Law & Order, a TV show that I unabashedly love. And he voiced Batman, a character that I unabashedly love. I have some unabashed love for Jeremy Sisto, somehow. Weird, right?

But the thing is, I really liked this movie. It's a sort of retelling of the formation of the Justice League, it's set in like the 50's or 60's (sort of blurs the line), it has Neil Patrick Harris as Flash, Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman, and David Boreanaz as Green Lantern. It's a great story, a lot of fun.

To begin fighting crime, simply remove baby from straps.

4. Actor: Michael Keaton
Plays Batman in: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992)

There was a lot of hate for Michael Keaton when he was announced as the Batman in Tim Burton's movie, and I remember hearing a lot of "Mr. Mom!? C'mon, seriously?!" But I always thought he was a great choice. He can definitely straddle the line between being funny and being seriously dark, and I thought that would be a great choice for a Bruce Wayne, you get your charming Playboy and you get your disturbed vigilante, and really the suit makes pretty much anybody in decent shape into Batman.

I hated the car, it looked too much like a rocket ship, loved Nicholson as the Joker (not surpassed until Ledger pulled a rabbit out of his hat and knocked it out of the park in Dark Knight), hated Danny DeVito as the Penguin (he would have been a great Penguin if they had done the more comic oriented "upper class criminal in a tux" but they opted instead for "disgusting mutant who bites the heads off of fish"), was ambivalent about Michell Pfeiffer as Catwoman (She's hot, but I didn't like the bizarre zombie Catwoman direction they took that character in), loved the Prince soundtrack for the first one, hated almost everything about the second one (culminating in the ridiculous "Penguins with rockets strapped to their backs") and thought Keaton acquitted himself well throughout both movies.

It's weird, but there's this thing they do in the comics and animated series where villains don't die, they just get locked up in Arkham Asylum and then they come back later, but *SPOILER ALERT* Joker dies at the end of the first one and Penguin dies at the end of the second one, so there's really no hope that either of those characters comes back (good for Penguin, bad for Joker). Not sure why they keep doing that in the movies.

What makes you think I can't move my neck?

3. Actor: Bruce Greenwood
Plays Batman in: Under the Red Hood (2010), Young Justice (Voice), (2010)

Most people probably know him best as Commander Pike from the new Star Trek reboot who convinces Kirk to join Starfleet, but he voiced Batman in a great animated movie called "Under the Red Hood" and came back for the "Young Justice" series (which really focuses on the younger characters of Robin, Aqualad, Superboy, and Kid Flash) and he's just fantastic.

His voice is kind of commanding and gravelly and when Batman shows up to tell anyone anything you kind of pay attention because he has a very serious voice that sounds confident and like he's seen a lot of things and knows what he's talking about, which is really where Batman shines. Batman is Batman because he's experienced, he's good at what he does, he follows his own rules, and he rarely gets outsmarted and I think Bruce Greenwood has a great voice for that.

Up to this point Bruce has done a lot of secondary character stuff, and I don't know that that will change any time soon, but he's definitely got a lot of great nerdy street cred with the Star Trek and Batman stuff going on. So good for him.

That's right, baby. I'm the Bat.

2. Actor: Christian Bale
Plays Batman in: Batman Begins (2005), Dark Knight (2008)

Of all the live action Batman actors, Christian Bale has been handed, by far, the best scripts. Batman Begins and Dark Knight are great, great movies. Christopher Nolan and David Goyer really put together good stories, and I'm still burned that Dark Knight didn't get a best picture nod in 2008. It's ridiculous how good that movie was.

Arguably the worst thing about the movies is Bale, whose gravelly voice as Batman (in an effort to hide his true identity) is, admittedly, a bit over the top. But the scenes where he shines are as Bruce Wayne: Falling asleep in a board room meeting, driving his Lamborghini around like a lunatic, showing up with two women to dinner who immediately start swimming in the fountain and undressing) I definitely get the whole "Rich playboy about town" vibe from him, but at the same time you can see underneath that a separate layer of seriousness and understanding about what's really going on around him, even while he looks clueless.

His interaction with Alfred is great, he has the charming smile and the some really great dialog that he delivers with precision. Overall, while he's had the best material to work with, I also think he pulls it off well, which not everyone would have been able to do.

Batman. Serious business.

1. Actor: Kevin Conroy
Plays Batman in: Batman The Animated Series (Voice), (1992)

Yes, the gold standard for Batman actors is a voice actor, and one that doesn't actually look like he could play Batman in a movie, but that voice, man, it's absolutely perfect. Spot on, 100%, dead on the money perfect.

There's a documentary on the Animated Series DVD's where they talk about the casting calls for all the characters and how they thought they had someone for Batman but then Kevin Conroy came in and they were just blown away.

I remember hearing that voice the first time I watched the cartoon and sort of half-jokingly thinking to myself "That's weird, they actually got Batman to do his own voice..." He's really that good.

Additionally, Mask of the Phantasm, the full length animated movie they made based on the Animated Series, which got theatrical release in 1993, was, up until Batman Begins, the best Batman movie released in theaters, so he's got the movie and TV angles down. And really, like Bale, he had a lot of good material to work with. Warner Brothers went all out for the Animated Series, and it shows, great voice talent, great scripts, great art direction. It's not the greatest art in the world, but it fits the Gotham universe that they were trying to create. I always thought it was interesting that one of the things they did was instead of using white paper to draw on and coloring it in for the night shots they just started with black paper and put color on it, which made everything look darker and really brought out the sort of "Batman" feel that other Batman properties were lacking.

**NOTE: I was reminded that Kevin also did the voice for Batman in the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, one of the best games ever. So he gets bonus points for that. Thanks Mr. Tact!

Batman as voiced by the eldest Weasley child.

So, that's my list. I'm sure no one will argue any of my choices and you'll all just go peacefully on your way.