Monday, February 27, 2012

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was our greatest founding father. He wasn't a hypocrite who talked about freedom on the one hand, but then owned slaves on the other. He donated all the profits he received from writing Common Sense to the efforts of the American Revolutionary War. He could have been a rich man, but he decided that liberty was a higher calling. John Adams said that "Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain."  He still could have just rested on his laurels after the war, but Paine took it upon himself to go to France and help out in the revolution there against the corrupt king and catholic church. Paine wrote the Rights of Man during this time, to defend the right for the French people to rebel and demand liberty.

Despite his hatred of monarchies, Paine did not want to execute king Louis, because he did not believe in revenge killings. This put him at odds with Robespierre, who imprisoned him and ordered him executed. He survived by mere chance, the guard who marked the prison doors to signal who was to executed accidentally marked on the wrong side of Paine's cell door, thus sparing his life. Thomas Paine literally almost died defending universal liberty.

In his time in captivity, Paine stayed busy. He wrote his opinion on religion and God, entitled The Age of Reason. Paine was a Deist, and he believed that all religions were "human inventions" and "set up to terrify and enslave mankind." In the Age of Reason, Paine attacked Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but defended God as revealed by nature, God without religion. Paine's stated goal was to throw off the shackles of religion, just like he had thrown off the shackles of kings. Sadly, his work was not received well in America, as people had become more conservative since the revolution. Once Paine managed to return to America, he was targeted as an evil antichrist type figure, and even his friends abandoned him. Paine was left penniless and without anyone to turn to, as he faded into obscurity. Paine would still work, even becoming one of the first advocates of abolitionism. He also wrote a pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, that proposed creating an estate tax to fund a universal welfare program for the sick and elderly. Still, few wanted anything to do with him, and hatred was usually the only thing he got in return from so-called gentle Christians.

Thomas Paine was not a "sunshine soldier" this was a man who fought the good fight, who defended liberty for everyone, no matter the cost. He was a man who wrote in the common language, so every man, woman, and child could hear his arguments. Thomas Paine cannot be sugarcoated. His words are still available for anyone who wants to read them, and they still have the power to change minds in the service of liberty.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why I'm voting for Obama in 2012

“Don’t blame Wal-Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich blame yourself.” These are the disgusting words of republican Herman Cain. Words like these are not limited to just one man in the republican party however. Mitt Romney calls the poor “envious” and further states he’s “not concerned about the very poor.” Newt Gingrich says that he’ll teach the NAACP that blacks shouldn’t be satisfied with food stamps and should stop being so lazy by saying "And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention to talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps." Gingrich also added that perhaps it would be a good idea for poor children to work as school janitors and clean up the shit of rich kids for ten cents an hour. Rick Santorum, not to be outdone, said completely without any prior context of black people, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money."  These words, some racist but all disgusting, are sadly completely tied to the nature of the republican party. Herman’s words in particular, deserve a closer look. They deserve a closer look because he was the only black republican running for president, and of all people, you would think he would understand the need for a hand up in an unfair society.

Later in his hateful little rant, Herman mentioned that he was “blessed to have had parents that didn’t teach me to be jealous of anybody.” Well, guess what? Some children didn't have parents around to raise them. Some had one parent, and some children had none. What about them Herman? Is it the kids' fault too? Should they blame themselves? Not to mention all the other societal and psychological factors that goes into not getting rich. There's depression, there's gang violence, there's sickness, there’s lack of fair pay in minimum wage jobs, and there's lack of good public schools. Herman doesn't care about any of this. Herman also comically defended the big banks and their involvement in the 2008 recession by simply saying "we're in 2011, okay?"

The bottom line is that the corporations have swallowed up everything in this country, and many can't get a living wage. The disparity between the rich and the poor has never been greater. The top one percent of people in America control 33.8% of the nation's wealth, while the bottom fifty percent of people in America survive on only 2.5% of the money. Many people have had bad luck in life and can't go up on the ladder to success. They need a helping hand, not a piece of trash like Herman to spit on them. I'll go a step further. It's a common fact that blacks are suffering in poverty in rates far worse than whites due to the specter of racist Ronald Reagan policies, so for Herman to follow republican policies like trying to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, and generally trying to destroy programs and groups that help poor blacks, Herman is in effect a traitor to his race, an uncle tom.

The reason I focused so much on Herman is because he shows the true colors of the republican party. Herman’s beliefs are the beliefs of the republican party. These are people who have the audacity to support the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but at the same time, try to destroy the social safety net of Medicare and Medicaid with Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Why they are so evil, I cannot say. I can only guess. It might have something to do with Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” of Objectivism that taught selfish, over-privileged rich kids that “greed is good” and altruism is bad.

Whatever the reason for their disgusting behavior and beliefs, the Democrats stand in stark opposition to them. The Democratic Party is one that is built on respect for other people and giving someone who needs help a hand. There’s only one party for the working man, the single mother, and the sick child, and that party is Democrat. This is the party that Barack Obama belongs to.

While it’s true that Obama is not my ideal candidate, he has fought the good fight. He passed the Affordable Care Act, which prohibited insurance companies from barring children from health coverage because they have a “pre-existing condition” like cancer. He ended the Iraq War and killed Bin Laden. He tried, but sadly failed, to end the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. He saved the auto industry. He’s fought for reproductive rights for women. He’s fought for gay rights such as repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He’s fought for Medicare and Medicaid in the face of republican attacks. He’s even added 2.6 million jobs to the private sector despite a terrible recession he inherited from Bush. There’s plenty of things that I wanted Obama to do more on, like adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act. Still, Obama has tried his absolute best, and the only reason that things aren’t even better is because republicans have whined and blocked him the entire way.

The Democrats and Obama in particular, have the fundamental belief in human dignity, republicans do not. There’s a reason why you have never heard a Democrat say “Don’t blame Wal-Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich blame yourself.” Obama wouldn’t say this because he’s not an asshole, don’t vote for an asshole, vote for a guy that actually cares about people. Vote for Obama in 2012.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What I believe

As an Atheist, I’m often asked what I believe. I’m usually asked this once I disagree with someone’s religious viewpoint. It’s a tough question. As a religious person, you’re given quite a lot of slack for it. All you have to say if you’re a Christian is “I believe Jesus is Lord” or if you’re a Muslim, “I believe Allah told Muhammad to write the Quran.” At no point are the religious asked to detail their philosophy on life, they’re just asked to repeat lines of dogma. Atheists, however, are expected to have everything figured out, or else they’re seen as morally questionable. This is sadly to due to bigotry against those who think differently and just don’t believe in a god. Ah well, it’s an unfair world.
First and foremost, I’m a liberal. The root of liberal is liberty, so, if you believe in liberty, you’re a liberal. Pretty simple, huh? Unfortunately, many people view the word as a pejorative, but it’s really a badge of honor. I believe that no man can rule another. We are all born human, therefore no human should have the right to enslave another human, as we are all the same. To believe in liberty, one must realize that there is no Divine Right of Kings, because there is no god to inspire such a king. A king is merely a man, he has no special powers.

I believe in liberty because I understand human nature. According to archaeological finds, long before we could write or speak, we shared with one another in small roaming bands. We practiced altruism, we genuinely helped one another in spite of danger. You can see such practices in the animal kingdom. How apes will give food to their friends for no reason, and how elephants will mourn their dead and refuse to leave even if they haven’t eaten in a very long time. Humans, of course, show incredible practices of self-sacrifice, such as pulling their wounded away to safety in the midst of a fierce battle. Such practices show that mankind is not inherently evil. We might be a mixed bag, but we're not inherently evil. If we’re not inherently evil, then we have no original sin. If we have no original sin, then we can govern ourselves in peace, without the need of a dictatorship, be it heavenly or earthly.

I believe in the Golden Rule, and giving a hand to those who have fallen on hard times. I believe this not because I hope for a reward in the afterlife, but because it just feels good to help someone. As long as humans can love one another, and take satisfaction in their relationships, they do not need a savior from the clouds.

Friday, February 10, 2012

1. Schindler's List (1993)

Oskar Schindler is one of my personal heroes. Here is a man who was vain, greedy, but still did the right thing when it counted. Schindler’s List shows the best and worst of humanity in a single film. Every human needs to see this movie as it will teach them the meaning of a simple act of kindness towards another. The film is about the Holocaust, but it’s really about the nature of man. Oskar Schindler is no Jew, he has nothing to gain from helping them, but when they come to work at his enamelware factory, he feels obligated to help them survive and escape the concentration camps. The ending of this film made me cry, and I am not ashamed of that fact. When Schindler is thanked by his Jewish workers for saving all 1000 of them, and given a crude ring by his secretary with the Talmudic words “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire” Schindler breaks down and weeps, knowing he could have saved even more if he sold some of his luxuries. He keeps saying “I could’ve got more” and each time he says it, you feel your heart break for such a flawed but noble man. This film could change a hate-filled heart to one of love, and for that, Schindler’s List is not only the most powerful movie ever made, it’s the greatest movie ever made.

2. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Luke has become a Jedi. He effortlessly infiltrates Jabba the Hutt’s palace and sail barge and saves Han from his carbonite prison. Still, the galaxy is a long way off from being at peace, and Luke and his friends must launch one last assault on the Empire to end the war once and for all. I will make a concession, despite me believing that this is the best out of the Star Wars trilogy, I don’t like the Ewoks… in fact, I detest them. The strength of this movie is how epic it is in spite of those furry little puppets. The final battle in space against dozens of star destroyers and the second Death Star is just absurdly awesome. The rebels, despite being outmanned and outgunned, give the Empire a hell of a fight. One of my favorite scenes in all movie history is in this film. When Luke refuses to become Palpatine’s dark apprentice and Palpatine mercilessly shoots him with bolts of lightning, Darth Vader silently looks at his suffering son, then at the Emperor, then at his son again, until he makes up his mind. He becomes Anakin Skywalker once more, as he, with just one arm, picks up Palpatine, all the while being shocked with electricity, and throws him into a pit. As Anakin lays dying from his wounds, Luke says “Father, I’ve got to save you” but Anakin, knows his fate and thanks his son by saying “You already have." Return of the Jedi could get to the number two spot just for this one scene of redemption from past mistakes.

3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

After the Rebel Alliance blow up the Death Star, things seem bright, but it’s very fleeting. The Empire is cracking down, and soon they even find the secret rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. The good guys are on the run, and they can’t find any relief. In a single moment of luck, Luke goes to planet Dagobah and finds the Jedi master Yoda, who trains him in the force. Before Luke can get any respite however, he senses danger to Leia and Han, and he, against the wishes of Yoda, goes to Cloud City to save them. The Empire Strikes back is notable for being the first in the series to have a true lightsaber fight (Obi-Wan and Vader’s fight was pretty weak) and for having such a dark tone in comparison to the original. Most consider this the best Star Wars film of all time, but I respectfully disagree. The trip to Dagobah was quite frankly boring, the film ends on a cliffhanger, and quite frankly, I prefer my films to be uplifting, not dark and somber. Still, The Empire Strikes Back is one of the best films ever made, and it’s on the number three spot for a reason.

4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Star Wars is the most iconic movie series of all time. From the goofy droid C-3PO, to the brash and arrogant smuggler Han Solo, to the wise Obi-Wan Kenobi, to the stuck up Princess Leia, to the huge but lovable wookiee Chewbacca, to the lead farm boy himself, Luke Skywalker, Star Wars has the most memorable original cast you’ll ever meet. A New Hope introduces these characters, and how they must fight the evil Galactic Empire, led by Emperor Palpatine and his apprentice, who is also Luke’s father, Darth Vader. It’s a high-spirited adventure, and our heroes must learn to deal with one another and somehow stop the Empire’s new weapon, the planet destroying Death Star. The sequence of where Luke shoots his proton torpedoes into the Death Star’s exhaust port is just classic, hell, this whole movie is classic.

5. Ghostbusters II (1989)

I know most people must think I’m nuts for putting Ghostbusters so high, and having the sequel beat the original. Well, I don’t care. I love Ghostbusters, and especially Ghostbusters 2. How Ghostbusters 2 gets lumped in with bad sequels still boggles my mind. Everything is just better. As crazy as Stay Puft and Gozer were, the new villain, Vigo the Carpathian, is much more imposing. Ghostbusters 2 is more than a comedy, it’s about a group of normal guys who rise up in incredible circumstances to become heroes. As David Bowie once said “turn and face the strange.” Basically, a river of slime flows under New York City, and Vigo, an evil entity trapped in a painting, is responsible for it. The city is falling apart, and soon enough, the mayor comes to the Ghostbusters to save the city, as they’re the only ones who can do it. Ghostbusters 2 is just epic, and when the crew gets the Statue of Liberty to break into Vigo’s lair, I still flip out. Don’t listen to the critics, Ghostbusters 2 is a winner.

6. Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters is about a team of paranormal investigators who capture troublesome spooks with their “proton packs.” The movie is funny, but more than that, it’s heartfelt. You really care about these characters, and you want them to succeed.  Ghostbusters was a blockbuster, and it inspired cartoons, video games, action figures, and a sequel that, in my opinion, is superior. Despite that though, Ghostbusters was the original, and it paved the way for the better Ghostbusters 2. Again, don't get me wrong, the first Ghostbusters is one of my favorite films, and I'll never forget how the boys in gray had to cross streams to defeat the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Anyway, it's got to be said, so I'll just say it... Who Ya Gonna Call?

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Randle McMurphy is a free spirit in a world of rules and confinements. It comes to bite him in the ass though, as he ends up going to prison for it. McMurphy is a cunning devil however, and he fakes mental illness to avoid hard labor, so he can go to the psychiatric hospital for a cushier environment. What he doesn’t know though, is life is actually going to get a lot worse, and he’ll wish he stayed in prison. Once McMurphy enters the hospital, he meets the steely eyed, heartless Nurse Ratched, who’s out to make everyone in her ward’s life a living hell. She subtly embarrasses the other patients, and maintains ridiculous rules designed to keep everyone in their place. McMurphy challenges Ratched’s authority, and becomes the de facto leader of the other mental patients. He tries to teach them to grab life by the balls, and not to let Ratched push them around. Eventually, things come to head, and things will never be the same. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a story about liberty and the pursuit of happiness, a true American film, and its ending scene of the Indian running off into the break of dawn to find his own way is poetry on film.

8. Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner is the original cyberpunk movie. It’s also one of the most inspired science fiction films to ever make it out of Hollywood. Of course, it’s hard to talk about any single version of Blade Runner, as its director, Ridley Scott, is a perfectionist and has released numerous different editions from the theatrical cut, to the laserdisc cut, to the so called Final Cut. Whatever version you see though, you can’t really go wrong. The plot follows Rick Deckard, a “blade runner” whose job consists of tracking down and “retiring” (killing) bioengineered beings called Replicants. Blade Runner is a neo-noir film, and is basically a futuristic detective tale. It’s also a tale about what can be considered human, in an era where high technology reigns. Blade Runner’s visuals are just phenomenal, and the lighting in particular sparkles in this new world. Blade Runner will make you wonder what’s real and when life begins. It also has the greatest soliloquy in movie history, Tears in Rain, spoken by Roy, the Replicant leader.

9. Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko is the same type of philosophical movie as 2001: A Space Odyssey… only it’s entertaining. Seriously, even if you don’t get the film, and I don’t think anyone does including myself, you’re still going to enjoy watching it. There’s even humor in it as well (the conversation about the Smurfs had me almost laughing to death). Donnie Darko is an eclectic blend of different film styles, all served up to a modern audience who usually don’t care about the hard questions in life. The plot focuses on a troubled teenager who wakes up one night to a... um, well, to a guy in a giant bunny rabbit suit who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days. The story just gets weirder from there, but like I said, you’re entertained the whole way through. The film focuses on themes of depression and loneliness, which is perfect for its intended audience, young adults. I’m still not 100 percent certain on all the details of the plot, like why did Donnie have to burn down the pedophile’s house if the action would be reversed anyway and wouldn’t matter? These questions don’t detract from the film, they actually provide good philosophical discussions with fellow movie-lovers. Remember, destruction is a form of creation.

10. The Dark Knight (2008)

It might be a little early to call this one, and to put it so high… but I have a feeling that history is going to look kindly on The Dark Knight. This is simply the pinnacle of superhero movies, and it reaches beyond the mere typical summer popcorn muncher, to the heights of a soaring phoenix. The Dark Knight is about Batman, the man of the night, the defender of Gotham City. This is not a comic book though, so don’t expect easy fights and easy moral choices. No, this is a mature Batman for a mature audience. Basically, the Joker is in town, and he aims to not only destroy the city, but to show everyone in it that the basic of idea of goodness is a lie. He’s a maniacal villain, and only Batman can stop him. The scene where the two groups of passengers on separate ships must decide whether they’re going to kill the other group to survive Joker’s sinister game is one of the most taut and suspenseful scenes I’ve ever watched. The film also brings Gotham City to life with gorgeous architecture that, while modern, still gives off a gothic vibe. The Dark Knight is Batman come to life.

11. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The NeverEnding Story is the only explicit children’s film on my list. This says two things. Firstly, I usually don’t consider children’s films genuine works of art. Secondly, The NeverEnding Story is one of the few exceptions to that rule. This film is so magical and delightful that it will warm the heart of even the most jaded adult. The story’s main premise is that if you don’t read, the history of written worlds will be forgotten, consumed by “The Nothing.” There are two heroes in the movie, Bastian, the boy reading the book, The NeverEnding Story, and Atreyu, the boy inside its pages. They both encounter incredible characters from a racing snail, to the imposing but gentle Rockbiter who’s literally made out of rocks, to the most majestic dweller of Fantasia, the “luckdragon” known as Falkor. The whole experience is a children’s story worth hearing, and if you don’t imagine riding on the back of Falkor as he’s soaring above the clouds then you have no soul.     

12. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey is mostly boring. That’s the truth. However, notice I used the word “mostly.” That’s because when 2001 isn’t full of drawn out scenes of a space station turning in orbit, it has scenes that tickle your brain and do what only art can do, make you think.  The film is about an ancient and mysterious artifact, The Monolith. Before The Monolith came, our ape-like ancestors could not use tools, after it came, they could. The main character of the movie, an astronaut named David Bowman, meets The Monolith again out in space at the end of the movie, and the scene that plays out is just stunning. You see Bowman meeting progressively older versions of himself, culminating in him seeing the Earth as a giant infant, suggesting The Monolith has guided humans through evolution and that mankind has only just begun to fulfill its potential. 2001 will bore you mostly, but the moments where it doesn’t will inspire you and make you wonder about our origins.

13. Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver is a meditation on Nihilism. Nothing Travis does seems to matter. He desperately tries to make a difference, but, like the ancient myth of Sisyphus, who had to push a boulder all the way up a hill only to watch it roll back down everyday, Travis isn’t making any progress in life. He’s a mere taxi driver, and he needs something to do. Finally, he works out, shaves his head and purchases a gun to kill a presidential candidate. He’s not even political, he just wants to kill someone important so that he’ll be important. Luckily, fate intervenes, and a 12 year old girl who’s being used as a prostitute needs his help. For once, Travis can be important, without any artificiality. Taxi Driver is a poetic but disturbed vision.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

14. Apocalypse Now (1979)

War sucks, and no film has ever done as good a job showing that as Apocalypse Now. In Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurtz has lost his mind in the middle of the Vietnam War. He’s commanding troops with the will of a dictator, ordering them to do crazy things, all the while being completely separated from his chain of command. It has to stop, and Captain Willard is the assassin for the job. Willard, in the course of the war, has become somewhat insane as well, and the only thing he can think to do with his time is fight. He knows nothing else, and the war is always with him. The insanity of war is exemplified in the exchange Willard has with a random soldier in the midst of a nighttime assault by the Vietcong. Willard asks the soldier who’s in charge, and the man's only response is “Ain’t you?” Vietnam was a senseless war, and Apocalypse Now shows this in its entirety, what happens when a man loses himself in blood. Also, stay away from Apocalypse Now Redux… it’s genuinely awful. All I can remember is that Willard was in some random colonial house talking with a bunch of French people about politics for an hour. It was painful, stick with the original.

15. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Space: the final frontier… yeah, you know the rest. The original cast stayed in their respective roles from 1966 to 1991. That’s 25 years of Star Trek. In all that time, they weren’t able to top this theatrical triumph. Director Nicholas Meyer wisely chose to bring back Star Trek’s best villain, Khan. In the tv show, Khan was a genetically engineered tyrant who was defeated by Kirk and marooned on the planet Ceti Alpha V. Now, Khan has escaped, and plots his revenge on Kirk and the Enterprise. The film succeeds due to exhilarating scenes of space combat and moments where Kirk truly looks beaten. Star Trek II will also make a trekkie cry. “I have been and always shall be your friend.”       

16. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

With the return of Gandalf, or rather, Gandalf the White, and the addition of powerful new allies like the Ents, the King of Rohan and his forces, and even a freaking ghost army, things are looking up in Return of the King. Until, the final battle actually begins and the men of Middle-Earth and their allies realize they cannot win against Sauron’s army. It finally comes down on the small shoulders of the hobbits Frodo and Sam to climb Mount Doom and throw the godforsaken ring into its fires. The scene of where Sam is carrying Frodo up Mount Doom is just the epitome of an unconditional friendship. The Return of the King is expertly crafted and I still don’t know how Peter Jackson managed to film those outrageously astonishing battle scenes… maybe he had a little help with Gandalf and one of his spells?

17. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

As Gandalf falls down a pit fighting the incredible power of the Balrog, the Fellowship manages to escape the mines of Moria. No one knows what became of Gandalf, and the fellowship becomes divided as the hobbits Frodo and Sam leave to go to Mordor alone as they fear the power of the ring may corrupt the other members. The Two Towers is when the story really heats up, as the Battle of Helms Deep and the battle Isengard both occur in this film. It goes without saying that the fight scenes are just stupendous and is the definition of movie magic. You really feel the clang of swords and the whooshing by of incoming arrows. There has to be tens of thousands of actors in each of the battles and how Peter Jackson managed all of it still baffles me. Either way, while this is the middle of the story, and is bound to leave you on a cliffhanger, it doesn’t even matter because you’re enjoying the ride the whole way through. I mean, how can you not love a giant tree army destroying a bunch of orcs?

18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings is basically the Star Wars of fantasy films. It’s the magnum opus of Peter Jackson and it’s easy to see the love and care he put into the film projects. The story takes place in the fictional realm of Middle-Earth, and it’s a swords and shields fantasy setting with plenty of mythical creatures strewn about. The plot centers around an evil entity named Sauron, and the quest to defeat him by destroying the One Ring. Destroying a little ring sounds easy, but trust me, it’s not. To do it, the Fellowship, a noble but rag-tag motley crew of warriors, must throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom in the depths of the sinister and orc infested Mordor. This is a tall task, and it’s evidenced by the fact that this is only the first out of three movies telling the deed. The movie starts out a little too slow, honestly, as it centers around some hobbit festivities for too long. However, once it picks up pace you’ll see Frodo (the ring bearer and main hero) running from all sorts of danger while his stronger companions save his hide with the help of their trusty swords, bows, and axes. The Fellowship is a great start to the film trilogy, but I thought it took a little too long to get things going. Still, with Gandalf’s epic confrontation with the fiery Balrog, it was more than worth it.

19. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones is the best adventure you’ll ever have sitting down watching a movie. From the incredible first sequence of Indy going into a booby-trapped ruined temple and running away from a giant boulder, Raiders of the Lost Ark put moviegoers on the edge of their seat. The story centers around Indy trying to find the legendary Lost Ark, the chest built for the Ten Commandments. The Ark is said to have incredible power, and could lead a nation to victory in war. This, of course, is what brings the Nazis in search of it, and they make a good detestable villain. Raiders is a great time, just don’t look directly at the screen, or your face might get burned off… actually, it’s worth it, so watch it anyway.

20. Children of Men (2006)

What would you do if the sound of children’s laughter faded away forever? You’d probably lose hope. This is the story of Children of Men, a film about just such a tragic idea. In this movie’s world, women are infertile, they cannot bear children. This means that the populace is aging, and they have no children to pass on their dreams to. In this dark world comes salvation. There’s one woman who, miraculously, is pregnant! The story focuses on one man, Theo, and his role in safeguarding this woman and her baby. Theo is a man who just doesn’t give a shit anymore, his son died in infancy, his wife left him, and he, like everyone else, is growing older and even more jaded. Yet despite such circumstances, Theo begins to believe in a better future again. This is a movie about hope, and if you have a soul, you will treasure it.

21. Rocky (1976)

Rocky puts other sports movies to shame. The story focuses on a young man, Rocky Balboa who tries to make it in Philadelphia as a boxer. Although Rocky is a tough guy, he has a heart of gold and adores his girlfriend Adrian. Eventually, Rocky makes it big and fights the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed. In this fight, they go all out, and Apollo, nearly exhausted, says to Rocky, “we’re not doing this again.” In the end though, Rocky loses, albeit barely… but it doesn’t matter to him. He proved himself in the ring with Apollo Creed, and the crowd erupts in raucous applause for Rocky. In the aftermath, Rocky calls out to Adrian, and they embrace for all their love is worth. Rocky is triumphant in the face of defeat.

22. Akira (1988)

Akira is a mindfuck. I could end the review on that, really, but it would be doing a disservice to how great a film it is. As a dark animated tale that’s set in a post-apocalyptic future, Akira blew people away when it came to American theaters in the late 80’s. Americans were used to Loony Tunes and maybe a couple of Ninja Turtles, certainly not an animated setting where people die, and die violently. Akira is a landmark in Japanese filmmaking. The first animated work to have lip synched dialogue, and with a whopping 160,000 animation cels, Akira was a blockbuster. The plot focuses on an ordinary bike gang in the post-apocalyptic Neo Tokyo. Best friends Kaneda and Tetsuo soon experience the strangeness of psychic powers and secret military experiments and learn just what happened to make their home into a hellhole. Akira is one of a kind; don’t discriminate against it just because it’s animated.  

23. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

He said he would be back, and he meant it. Like Aliens, Terminator 2 is better than the original in every conceivable way. The explosions are bigger and the story this time around is actually heartfelt. After failing to go back in the past and destroy the human resistance leader's mother, Sarah Connor, the machines try to return one more time, this time targeting the rebel general himself, John Connor, only as he’s a boy. The machines send their best Terminator, the T-1000 to do the job. This machine is composed of liquid metal, and can reform itself even after being heavily damaged. All seems lost, until the humans from the future send their own captured Terminator back to help John. This is where the story gets really good, because the Terminator they send, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger as in the first Terminator film, actually develops feelings for John. The ending is so good because Arnold’s Terminator actually commits a noble sacrifice that shows that all beings can love, if given the chance. It may sound a bit mushy for an action film, but it works.

24. Aliens (1986)

Thought one alien was scary? Yeah, how about a thousand of them? Luckily for you, Ellen Ripley is back, and she’s still the most hardcore chick in space. After the attack of the first alien on the star ship Nostromo, Ellen Ripley is the only survivor. After killing the beast, she sits in stasis waiting to be picked up for 57 years. When she’s finally revived, the Weyland Corporation, her employer, doesn’t believe her story. It’s not until a mysterious attack occurs on a colony where the Nostromo’s crew found the first alien egg that Ripley is called back into duty. This time, Ripley is accompanied by a rough and tumble assortment of space marines, and they mean to kick some alien ass. Unfortunately for them, the aliens are more than they can handle, and decimate the platoon. Those left, led by Ripley and Corporal Hicks must find a way to survive and get off the planet. Sounds pretty intense huh? Yup, it is. Aliens is a movie that outdoes its predecessor in every way, there’s just more going on in every scene. That, and the movie’s finale is just sick, and you’ll be wetting your seat when you see the big mama, the alien queen.

25. Army of Darkness (1992)

“This is my boomstick!” Army of Darkness is a delectable witches’ brew of stop motion horror and quotable slapstick mayhem. Make no mistake, Army of Darkness is lowbrow entertainment of the lowest order, and that’s what makes it great. The little story that exists in the movie basically shows Ash, the hero of the last two films, being sucked back into the past (1300 AD to be precise). There, Ash becomes the savior of the townsfolk, launching on a mission to destroy the evil Deadites. As fitting for a black comedy, he screws up. Ash is just hilarious, and his awesome one-liners could fill The Necronomicon. Also, if you love old traditional effects like Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans, you’ll fall head over heels for Army of Darkness’ creatures. Just remember, “Shop smart, shop S-Mart.”

Top 25 Movies of All Time

Well, I'm bored. So, I think I'm going to do one last list. I'm a bit of a film-buff, so I figured why not make it on movies? I considered making this a top 50, like I did with the video games list... but honestly, I just don't have the energy for that. Anyway, 25 is still a lot, right? Also, I haven't finished this list before-hand this time, so it's going to take me a little while to write.

Monday, February 6, 2012

1. Dragon Ball Z

I honestly don’t even know where to begin talking about Dragon Ball Z. It’s a cultural phenomenon, but more than that, it was my childhood. I used to run home after school just to catch Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network’s anime block, Toonami. I remember the pumping electronic rock soundtrack by Bruce Falconer. I remember the crazy fights with Kamehamehas being fired by heroes that could destroy planets with their power. There’s just so much to say about DBZ, and so little space. The characters are just iconic, with Goku, the peaceful alien Saiyan who grew up on Earth and will protect life in all of its forms, to the goofy bald headed Krillin, to the wise and battle hardened green Namekian, Piccolo, to Goku’s own young son, Gohan, who has an enormous power hidden deep within him. Out of all the characters though, Goku is the most well-known, and for good reason. I’ll be honest, Goku, although fictional, is a person that inspires me. I actually think that Goku is a role model right up there with Oskar Schindler, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but when I was a child, I was literally changed by Goku’s attitude and way of life. He detests violence but will never back down when evil threatens the weak. One of my favorite quotes from him, as he turns into a “Super Saiyan” and fights the evil space tyrant Frieza who has just killed his friend, is this “I am the hope of the universe! I am the answer to all living things that cry out for peace! I am protector of the innocent! I am the light in the darkness! I am truth! Ally to good! Nightmare to you!” This is the stuff of legends. If you want a child to be raised with good morals, let him watch Dragon Ball Z. I’m serious. Goku always does the right thing and even his enemies like the ruthless Saiyan prince Vegeta are changed by his heart and eventually convert to being one of the good guys. The show itself is full of ripped guys shooting energy blasts at each other and doing martial arts so fast that your eyes can barely keep up. The only bad thing about Dragon Ball Z is that the show is full of filler and stupid side-stories. Get past the junk though, and a treasure chest filled with gold awaits. Dragon Ball Z is not only the definitive action anime, it is the greatest animated show that has been made or ever will be made.

2. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is cool. It’s a show about four (initially two) bounty hunters set in the backdrop of the far future in outer space on the ship, The Bebop. The show is hip and is backed up with a mellow jazz soundtrack done by the eclectic group, The Seatbelts. Cowboy Bebop is, like its lesser spiritual successor, Samurai Champloo, episodic. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s a throw-away plot though. Cowboy Bebop shines as a tale of camaraderie through hardship. The Bebop’s crew consists of Spike, the laid back but kickass main character of the story, to Jet, the former police detective with a robotic arm, to Faye, a beautiful young woman with a mysterious past, to Ed, a little girl who’s a whiz at computer hacking. While they never would admit it, they are a family. They catch bounties to scratch on by, but sooner or later, bigger events shape up and confront the Bebop crew, and each must face their destiny. The show consists of epic gun shoot-outs to a wonderful film-noir feel that recalls movie classics like Chinatown… only in space. The final showdown with the series’ main bad guy, Vicious, is basically Rambo in anime form. It’s badass. Cowboy Bebop is art and it is flawless, but it’s still not my favorite animated series.

3. Trigun

Trigun initially won’t leave a great impression on you. That’s the honest truth. Give it a chance to get going though, and you won’t regret it. Trigun’s story centers around a gunslinger known as Vash the Stampede, or otherwise known as the Humanoid Typhoon. He has these monikers because Vash has the uncanny ability for everything around him to be mysteriously destroyed. Once you actually meet the guy though, you realize that he’s as sweet as a kitten and absolutely detests violence and death. He detests it so much that despite the 60 billion double dollars on his head, he won’t kill any of the bounty hunters after him or even kill any villains who try to harm his friends. Vash will reluctantly injure them, but that’s it. Just who is this man and where did he come from? These answers, and others, are revealed in a meticulously brilliant manner. Trigun is about life, and how precious it is, and Vash is the perfect dude to explain it to you. Also, Trigun has the coolest support character, the cross toting priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood.

4. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

A remake done right? Can it be so? Can it be true? Yes. The first Fullmetal Alchemist anime was great… until they made up shit whole cloth. Yeah, in the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime they had a problem after a certain point in the story, the manga wasn’t done yet. This factor led the show to becoming ridiculous and completely without the guidance of the creator. Thankfully, just a few years later studio execs realized their screw up, and greenlighted the true story, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Brotherhood follows the manga to a tee, and is completely without any filler or goofy side stories. The story thus far in Brotherhood is that the Elric brothers, Ed and Al, have lost part of their selves due to trying to perform human transmutation, the one taboo among alchemists. Ed lost a leg and an arm, and Al lost his entire body and only retains his soul in a suit of armor. Eventually, even with their handicaps they become state alchemists (or rather, Ed does, but Al is essentially one too) and become dogs of the military for the chance to get their bodies back. Little do they know that the military is hiding a dark secret, and not all is what it seems in the country of Amestris. There is a sinister plot to destroy the world as we know it, and only the good-natured and pure among the military and civilian populace can rise up and save it. The story in Brotherhood is just phenomenal and it's backed up with terrific fight sequences that stand apart from other shonen energy shootouts. Also, the final battle is epic as all hell, as all the good guys stand together against a titanic and terrible villain. It’s right up there with the Cell fight in Dragon Ball Z.

5. Yu Yu Hakusho

There are a lot of inevitable comparisons of Dragon Ball Z to make with Yu Yu Hakusho. Both have buff guys shooting energy or ki blasts at each other, and both feature rapid martial arts fighting. However, Yu Yu Hakusho is its own animal. Yu Yu Hakusho’s plot and characters are incredibly unique and no one will accuse it of swiping material from something else. The plot of Yu Yu Hakusho is an interesting one. In the very first episode our protagonist dies from saving a kid from a car. Yep. He’s dead. Luckily, Spirit World intervenes and restores Yusuke to his body for good deeds that he continues to do in the afterlife. Once back to the living world the action really cooks up. Yusuke, at the urging of Koenma, the toddler overseer of the Spirit World, becomes a “spirit detective” and must hunt down evil apparitions. This leads Yusuke on all sorts of adventures and he teams up with Kuwabara, his goofy rival, to Kurama the wise tactician, to Hiei a hot-headed demon. Yu Yu Hakusho is great because none of the good guys become irrelevant (except one, but that’s not until really far into the show) and they all competently help out fighting the villains. Like I said before, Yu Yu Hakusho features Dragon Ball Z style action, but in some cases it’s better because there is no filler in the show, only hard-knuckle action. Watch the show and you’ll learn how to shoot a spirit gun… that may or may not be true but you’ll still be entertained.

6. Attack on Titan

Wow, I’m only 25 episodes in (that’s all that’s out at the moment) and I can already tell this is one of the all time anime greats. I suppose if I had to label Attack on Titan it would be horror mixed with lots of bloody action. Besides Akira and Berserk, this is as dark as I’ve seen an anime get. In the world of Attack on Titan there are beings in existence fittingly enough called Titans. Titans are giant Neanderthal-like monsters of an unknown origin that eat humans for no perceivable purpose. Humanity, on the brink, fortify themselves behind massive walls where they have lived in relative peace for the last 100 years. That is, until the Titans break in. The story is just gripping, with it centering on the resistance fighters’ struggle against the Titans. There’s a lot of great twists and turns, and I’ve been watching each new episode like it’s crack cocaine. The animation is also fantastic. In fact, it’s probably the most gorgeous anime I have ever seen as everything just looks like a painting in motion. What little CGI there is also looks natural and fluid. Attack on Titan has reinvigorated my love of animation. It even accomplishes the impressive feat of making a rock being put in a hole look epic.

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

COWABUNGA! Ah, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The name alone conjures up images of colorful characters in entertaining settings. Ninja Turtles has become a cartoon icon, not just for the 80’s, but for all time. The story is that four ordinary turtles were transformed into mutants by chemical ooze. Once changed, they were raised by Splinter, a sentient rat who was once the martial artist Hamato Yoshi. Under Splinter’s training, the four turtles quickly become ninjas, and protect the city above them from crime. Soon, these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles face a looming threat, the leader of the Foot Clan, The Shredder. The ongoing story is how the Ninja Turtles try to thwart the evil plans of Shredder. The show is just classic, and no one can forget the actual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themselves. From the prankster and party fiend, Michelangelo, to the hotheaded loner Raphael, to the awkward but brilliant Donatello, to the calm and collected leader of the bunch, Leonardo, these characters stayed imprinted on the minds of children everywhere. Ninja Turtles features martial arts action, with each of the turtles using particular weapons such as bos, nunchucks, sais, and katanas. While the show was mainly popular for its focus on the good guys beating up on the bad guys, there’s plenty of humor to be had as well. It’s a lighthearted show, and every kid can get into it. Also, its intro is probably the most awesome theme song for any show ever, animated or not.

8. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the very definition of the phrase “flawed masterpiece.” Evangelion suffered from production troubles stemming from a budget that actually ran out of money towards the end. Despite this, it grew into one of the most well known names in anime. Evangelion to me is the best representation of philosophy in the animated medium. Basically, in Evangelion there exist these entities called Angels. No one really knows where they come from, only that they intend to destroy humanity. The only thing that can stop these Angels are the Evas. The Evas are giant mechs that only children can pilot for an unknown reason. The story centers around the Eva pilots Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. The story starts out slow, with them just destroying the Angels and calling it a day. But be patient and you will see a true psychological drama unfold as each of the psyches of the pilots are brought into focus. You will also be confronted with philosophical and moral dilemmas on loneliness such as “Is it better to be lonely and safe or is it better to be with people but in danger of being emotionally hurt?” Evangelion is truly one of a kind, but the main problem I have with it is how obscure it is. You will basically have to read online FAQ guides because the show will all too often leave you in the dark with a major plot point. Still, Evangelion deserves to be watched and talked about.

9. Berserk

This one’s definitely not for the kiddies. Berserk is a tragic tale reminiscent of the Greek tragedies of old. The story centers on a gun for hire named Guts. Guts, who was born under a gallows tree, has no friends or family, and lives only to fight. That is, until he meets the mercenary group, the Band of the Hawk, led by Griffith. There, Guts finds people who love and accept him, and he finally experiences true happiness. Then everything goes horribly wrong. Berserk shows the highs and the lows of being human, the loneliness but also the joy. The show also has a lot of awesome battle scenes, and Guts is a ridiculously skilled swordsman. My only problem with Berserk is that it ends on an emotionally powerful cliffhanger.   

10. FLCL

Oh boy, I have to try to describe FLCL… well, let’s give it a whirl. FLCL is insane, absolutely bugfuck bonkers. The show has innumerable segments where you just can’t tell what’s going on. I believe the show is partially a message on absurdism, and the struggle to find meaning in spite of an insane world. I also believe the show is a coming of age story where a child must become an adult. Of course, I could be completely wrong… it might all just be wacked. Either way, you’re introduced to the alien (who looks exactly like a 20 year old human woman) Haruko. Haruko interrupts the 12 year old Naota’s boring life by hitting him in the face with a guitar. This less than stellar greeting brings about crazy changes in Naota’s life. In the spot that Haruko hit him, Naota has robots coming out of his head. I’m not really sure how everything ties together, but the show’s really good! Trust me! That, and the soundtrack is done by the best Japanese band I have ever heard, The Pillows.

Top Ten Animated Shows

Well, I haven't had any comments yet... but I'm determined to shoulder onwards with this blog. I believe that if I provide good content, that I will gain a viewership, even if it's very modest. In that vein, I shall share my Top Ten Animated Shows, something that I have also finished before I even started this blog. I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope you share your thoughts!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 3 is gaming perfection. Mario 3 took what worked in the original Mario, and kicked it up so many notches that it was well into outer space. The control is precise, you could even land on a pin if you so desired. The graphics are great and push the humble NES to its limit; the game looks so much  better than the original Mario. The music is catchy and a joy to listen to. And the levels, oh boy, the levels… The levels in Mario 3 are the most wondrous you’ll ever see. From the lush Grass Land, to the arid Desert Land, to the freezing Ice Land, to the overgrown Giant Land, to the cloudy Sky Land, to the fiery and inhospitable Dark Land where Bowser resides with the kidnapped Princess Toadstool. You also have many different suits you can wear, all with different powers such as the Raccoon Suit, which grants Mario the ability to fly in short bursts. Mario 3 is just primal fun. It never gets old running through the whimsical levels and jumping on goombas. Nintendo waved its magic wand for this one. I could play this game until my eyes bled and I wouldn’t care. I grew up on this game, and I distinctly remember how I would dream I was Mario. I would dream I could fly and have amazing adventures. I realize now that I can’t do that in real life, but I can still live out my childhood fantasies in a video game, the greatest video game of all time: Super Mario Bros. 3.

2. Super Mario World (SNES)

When the Super Nintendo first launched, Nintendo was mired deep in a console war with Sega’s console, the Sega Genesis. Worryingly, Sega was quickly gaining ground as Nintendo was late to the 16 bit era. Sega even had a new game called Sonic the Hedgehog and kids were eager to play it. Luckily for Nintendo, they still had Mario, and they still had Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Mario). So, in 1991 with the launch of the Super Nintendo, Nintendo released Super Mario World, the first 16 bit Mario game. Super Mario World delivered the goods. The graphics were crisp and bright, and the gameplay expanded on the classic Mario moveset and gave Mario a new item, the feather. Most notably, however, was the addition of Mario’s dinosaur friend Yoshi, who Mario could ride on. The levels were massive too, with 96 levels and goal posts crammed in the cartridge. Super Mario World is a must own for the Super Nintendo, and is the best game on the system. Still, as flawlessly executed as this game is, it’s not my favorite Mario title.

3. Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Ah, the first Super Mario Bros. game. This game single-handedly saved the video game industry. Before Mario Bros. came out in 1985, no store would even sell video games. This is because of the Video Game Crash of 1983. You see, due to the glut of all too similar titles on the Atari 2600, people had just stopped caring about video games. To most folks, it was a worn out fad. This is understandable given the mostly awful games they were saddled with. From E.T. to the worst version of Pac-Man to ever see the light of day, people were just sick of Atari putting out crappy games. Come Nintendo. Once people saw Mario Bros. in action, all the bad blood faded away, kids and adults just wanted to play Mario and his brother Luigi in their wild adventures. Never before in a game did you actually discover secrets in a magical fantasy world, or have the screen scroll to reveal more of the level, or hear catchy music, or see colorful 8 bit graphics. Mario Bros. was a game of firsts, and it rekindled many a person’s love for video games.

4. Super Mario 64 (N64)

In 1996 gamers were entering a new world, the 3d era. No longer were you restricted by two dimensions. You could finally move in 360 degrees of complete freedom… or at least that was the idea. See, before Super Mario 64 came out, this was only a theory, never actually done in practice. Games like Bug! For the Sega Saturn and Crash Bandicoot for the PS1 proved that 3d platformers had a long way to go. Then, Mario 64 came out. As soon as you started up the game you could roam around Princess Peach’s garden outside her castle. Just In this little area, gamers were blown away. You could run, jump, slide, crawl, and swim anywhere your heart desired. This was true freedom of movement. Nintendo did it. They mastered 3d and they wanted the world to know about it. Even the camera, for its time, was highly fluid, as opposed to the terrible fixed cameras of games like Bug! and Crash Bandicoot. Once you get inside Peach’s castle however, it’s apparent that Bowser is up to his old tricks again, and has kidnapped the poor princess along with the castle’s life source, the power stars. To get them back and save the one you love, you have to be a bit crazy… you have to jump into the castle’s paintings. Yes, in each painting is a whole world waiting to be explored and saved from Bowser’s minions. This was an innovative idea from Nintendo. Of course, once you're in the paintings, the standard Mario rules still apply, hop and bop on enemies’ heads and make precision jumps to get to your goal. Mario 64 is best 3d platformer ever made, and it’s the greatest game on the N64.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

Ocarina of Time is the perfect adventure game. It’s something you play when you want to feel heroic. It’s something you play when you want to hear good music. It’s something you play when you want to see a world filled with wonder. It’s also something you play when you just want to have fun. Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 to stunned gamers everywhere. There had never been a game this immersive before. Never before did you really feel like you were on a quest. Now, with the power of 3d based consoles like the N64, this came to fruition. Ocarina of Time, despite being in three dimensions, plays like the 2d Zeldas before it. This is a very good thing. Why fix what isn’t broken? Ocarina of Time is unique though as it features the ability to go back and forward in time. Your inventory is also diverse, as you’ll use items like the hookshot that will latch you onto different objects, to the bow that will shoot a variety of magical arrows, to bombs that you can throw at enemies, to the Ocarina of Time that has various enchanted songs you can play. The story plays out when Link’s still a child, but later he gets sent seven years into the future as a young adult. The whole goal is to stop the machinations of the evil desert king, Ganondorf. Ganondorf possesses part of the Triforce, the Triforce of Power. He needs the other two pieces however to gain any horrible wish he desires. Luckily, Link and Princess Zelda will go down fighting to stop him. Your task is to beat the guardian in every dungeon Ganondorf has corrupted, and to gain the abilities of the sages so you’ll have the power to banish Ganondorf to the Sacred Realm when the time comes to face him. Ocarina of Time is the definition of epic, play it, and be a hero.

6. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

I don’t want to sound full of my own opinions… but, how to say this… Final Fantasy VI is the greatest rpg ever made or ever will be made. Was that straightforward and in your face enough? I hope so, because FF6 deserves such a spirited defense. Everything in this game ties together in a package so elegant, that it’s a marvel to believe that such a piece of art, yes, art, could be accomplished on a little 16 bit machine like the Super Nintendo. From graphics that push the limits of the 2d form to a soundtrack crafted by the brilliant Nobuo Uematsu, FF6 has it all. What it has most, however, is story, an epic story. The plot of FF6 is that an evil empire has risen up and is using the “dread destructive force known as magic” to enslave the world. Luckily, a group of rebels have banded together to fight back. Yeah, so it’s just an evil empire again, right? Wrong. FF6 starts there but doesn’t end there. Eventually the emperor’s magician known as Kefka kills the emperor, and takes on the godly power of the three statues of the Warring Triad and becomes more dangerous than the entire empire. With this power, Kefka scatters the heroes of the game (which consists of a massive 14 playable characters) to the far corners of the globe, and proceeds to destroy the entire world… yeah, the world gets destroyed, and that’s only the halfway point in the story. Once your characters awaken in this “world of ruin” you must gather your strength and launch one last desperate attack against the evil magician in his tower. The final confrontation with Kefka is the stuff of legends. The game’s cast all speak to Kefka and tell him why he is wrong about humanity not having any hope, and why life is worth living. Predictably, Kefka being the evil bastard that he is, doesn’t listen, and the epic final battle ensues. Play this game and experience a story as grand in scope as the original Star Wars trilogy.

7. Super Metroid (SNES)

Sadly, there haven’t been many 2d Metroids made, but sometimes less is more. Super Metroid exemplifies this saying by packing in a heaping ton of action in a tiny little cartridge. The premise of Super Metroid is the same as the first one on the NES, defeat the Space Pirates and their leader, Mother Brain. To do this, you’ll need to explore every crevice of the game to find a new path forward, as many entrances are blocked until you acquire a new ability. What makes Super Metroid so great is the feeling that you’re entirely alone on planet Zebes, and a new enemy lurks behind every corner. It’s a massive game, and you’ll never beat this in a few sittings, so forget about blazing your way through. Super Metroid also features a surprising final fight, where a baby metroid that you previously saved comes to your rescue. It’s a very emotional moment, especially for a game that has a minimalist plot. Also, Super Metroid features the coolest self-destruct sequence in video game history, as the whole planet Zebes is crumbling and about to blow, you have to run like a bat out of hell to get to your spaceship in time.

8. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)

After saving the land from the king of evil, what’s a young pointy eared Hylian to do? The answer? Side story time! Yes, Link’s outing in Majora’s Mask is not really a true sequel, but a side story. It sounds disappointing, doesn’t it? O Ye of little faith. Majora’s Mask is about how the lonely Skull Kid gets tricked into helping an evil mask called Majora, and how it eventually attacks Link and transforms him into a Deku Scrub… sucks huh? Well, after getting transformed, Link follows the corrupted Skull Kid and finds himself in a strange new world. This new world has a giant moon that is going to collapse on it in a mere three days. Luckily, Link’s trusty ocarina can revert back to the past before this happens. After finding a way back to his original form, Link must save this bizarre land by finding different masks with unique powers and finally try to confront the manipulative and malevolent Majora’s Mask. The gameplay here is just fantastic, with new abilities being unlocked every time you get a new mask, which makes traveling through the game’s dungeons a treat, as you constantly experiment with your newfound powers. Majora’s Mask might be a side story, but it’s one hell of a good story.

9. Super Mario RPG (SNES)

A Japanese rpg that’s fun? Get out. Nope, it’s true. While the battle system is turn based, you’re still quite involved in your attacks as you can press a button mid strike to amplify the damage you inflict. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it makes the level grinding much more tolerable and even, like I said, fun. That’s not all though, there are numerous mini-games that take you out of the turn based world and into the feel of a Mario game, even the overworld is structured like a platformer and you’ll still need to make precise jumps to get to places. Now, the main hold-up for many is probably preconceived thoughts as to how goofy the story must be. Thankfully, those notions are dead wrong. The story is not only witty, but heartfelt and even serious. Basically, an otherworldly entity named Smithy has come to the Mushroom Kingdom and he’s even taken over Bowser’s castle. Smithy’s goal is simple: destroy all who oppose him and rule the world. This sets in motion the most diverse characters for any Mario game, with original folks like the doll Geno and the self-described “tadpole” who looks nothing like a tadpole, Mallow. Of course, the coolest part to this game is that even Bowser joins your party. I know it may sound a bit strange to have Mario in an rpg, but I urge you to give this unorthodox game a try.

10. Fallout 3 (360)

So, the nuclear armageddon has come and passed, but you’re living in style underground in Vault 101… that is, until something goes wrong and you’re forced to come to the surface. Once your eyes adjust to the sunlight, you realize that the world is in bad shape, really bad shape. The surface has been blasted to hell and buildings are crumbling apart on streets with bombed out craters. Worst of all, unlike the vault which had its own little purifier, the water in the world is irradiated. Your only lead to a better life is to find your father, who is a scientist researching how to clean up the world’s polluted water supply. So, with a cold wind at your back, you brave the unknown world of Fallout 3, praying that there’s a bit of hope left. So, that’s the story anyway. If you think that’s good, just wait until you actually start playing the game. Fallout 3 is everything Oblivion was, which makes sense because both games were made by Bethesda, but grittier and better. Like Oblivion, you can go anywhere you want to and complete quests in any order. Unlike Oblivion though are the gray moral choices you’ll have to make, there’s not always a perfect moral option to pick in a destroyed world like this. Also, unique to Fallout 3 is the V.A.T.S. system, in this mode you can freeze time and selectively target an enemy. To me, Fallout 3 is superior to Oblivion because of the moral dilemmas and, quite simply, I just like post-apocalyptic settings.