The Back Row


l+j 1.27.14My pal Rosie likes to scold me (in the nicest way possible, of course) about all the current movies I have yet to see.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? Nope.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Nope.

Saving Mr. Banks? Her? Anchorman 2? THE NUT JOB?

No no nope nadda nope.

See, I used to go to the movies all the time when I was growing up, and when I was in college, I had access not only to a cheap cineplex but also several indie theatres like the Michigan and the State.  Oh, to live in a granola-munching liberal hotbed again!

Then I moved to Philadelphia, which has no “regular” movie theatre (i.e., one that would show Catching Fire) in its Center City district where we live. ¬†We’re the fifth largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and there are no big movie theatres in “downtown” Philadelphia! ¬†The indie theatres in Center City do offer the regular “award season” movies, but most of the time I don’t see those either, as described below.

So basically, I never go to the movies, and I don’t watch TV regularly because we don’t have an HD hookup and our remote stopped working on our cable box and I’ve had no strong inclination to fix it. ¬†We’re all sorts of out of the loop, pop culture-wise.

There’s a whole slew of reasons we don’t go to the movies regularly, from logical to crazy:

  • At most theatres in and around Philly, ticket prices can often bump up against or tip over $10. Between the two of us, that’s enough just to buy the movie outright when it comes out on Blu-ray, so we have to really want to see the movie right away if we’re going to justify that expense.
  • The only way to see a “blockbuster” movie cheaply is to go to an AMC Theatre before noon, when tickets are about $6.75 a person. But actually getting out into the suburbs to see a morning movie on the weekends is more difficult than it sounds…and then you gotta factor in the cost of gas and then it just becomes a big mathematical process. I’m tired already just thinking about it. Plus, the AMCs around us will randomly not have big movies like Thor: The Dark World or THE NUT JOB.
  • The theatre-watching experience on the East Coast is much muchmuchmuch different than back home in the Midwest. People here talk throughout the movie. All. The. Time. It’s a regional different that just drives me crazy.
  • Lance and I also have very different tastes in movies, meaning that I won’t see Her or 12 Years A Slave until they’re available on Redbox. ¬†The general rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t have an alien or a cape in it, we’re probably not watching it together.
  • Lance and I have also butted heads several times (and continue to do so) about Lance’s preferred place to sit in a movie theatre. ¬†Lance is, as I think he’d admit, sort of spatially obsessive-compulsive. ¬†While these rules don’t apply to stage performances, at a movie theatre, Lance MUST sit in the back row in the corner. ¬†When I first learned this, it was soul-crushing to a guy who always preferred to sit essentially in the center of the theatre to get the most balanced, immersive experience…and we’ve had some really stupid, ridiculous fights about this. ¬†“You can sit by yourself,” Lance would say as I stubbornly plopped down in a middle row. ¬†So instead, we have to sit next to the tween couples making out and the perverts in large trenchcoats. ¬†Theatre chains usually don’t light the theatre enough before the show to even see the back row, so I often find myself fumbling around in the dark for a cup holder, only to brush up against something…unpleasant.

Essentially, the point of this post is that I only ever get my pop culture news from Twitter and Tumblr, and I don’t ever really know what I’m talking about.

25X: Christmass Media


I don’t know about you, but movies and TV comprise a significant amount of my Christmas experience; I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without horrible Lifetime movies or A Charlie Brown Christmas. ¬†An annual re-watch of some of the best is just as much of a tradition as belatedly sending out cards or baking cookies as much for yourself as somebody else.

Now, I break down my film-based Christmas traditions into four categories, as follows:

  • The Christmas movie: a film which was actually released in real life, popcorn-poppin’ theatres, like¬†Home Alone,¬†National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation,¬†Elf,¬†or¬†A Christmas Story
  • The Christmas special: Usually a half-hour or hour long, these were usually produced for television and are self-contained. Examples include¬†A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dr. Seuss’s¬†How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version, not the creepy, mopey, depression-riddled Jim Carrey version),¬†Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and¬†Mickey’s Christmas Carol¬†(*an exception here, since¬†Mickey’s was originally created as a theatrical short, but is 26 minutes long [lengthy for a short film] and was arguably produced with a television afterlife in mind.)
  • The terrible Hallmark Channel movie: While obviously not isolated to the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark tends to have the doofiest in concept and execution TV movies out there. ¬†Matchmaker Santa? It’s Christmas, Carol!¬†starring Carrie Fisher and Carson Kressley? ¬†The Christmas Heart, which is about…a boy needing a heart transplant…for Christmas. ¬†My new favorites, though, are the Dean Cain holiday movies. ¬†Knowing that he’ll never have much of a career and still needing to pay the bills, Mssr. Cain has started in all of the following Christmas TV movies:¬†Christmas Rush, A Christmas Wedding, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, The Three Gifts, A Nanny for Christmas, The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation (!!!!),¬†The Case for Christmas, The Dog Who Saved the Holidays (not just Christmas this time! He’s inclusive!),¬†A Dog for Christmas (Dean Cain and these dogs! These are about as bad and numerous as the Air Buddies movies).
  • Very special episodes of…: Who doesn’t look forward to the Christmas episodes of their favorite TV shows? (Doctor Who fans, I’m looking at you.)¬†While I don’t always get behind one-and-done specials like Prep & Landing¬†(which, besides being a small, annual series of specials, walks the REALLY fine line between clever and “trying too hard”),¬†I’m truly a sucker for Christmas episodes of regular TV shows. ¬†30 Rock¬†and¬†Community¬†have produced a fair number of great Christmas episodes, from “Ludachristmas” to “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” these really work because they take characters you’re already familiar with and put them into holiday situations, so you’re not spending all this time on exposition explaining who all these new characters are; the best shows can pull off a great holiday episode without it seeming too forced, like¬†The West Wing‘s breathtaking “Noel.”

Obviously, there’s a lot to try and catch every year, all in the name of Christmas ritual. ¬†However, you also have to be in the right mood to sit down and enjoy these. ¬†While you can have¬†A Dog Carried My Transplant Heart from the North Pole¬†on in the background while you’re making Christmas cookies, you really have to give your full attention to, and have the right mindset for, the sweet melancholy of¬†A Charlie Brown Christmas, or the beautiful Chuck Jones animation of¬†How the Grinch Stole Christmas. ¬†Every year, I end up playing catch-up at the end, trying to cram in every¬†Love Actually and The Muppets Christmas Carol, and I usually come up short.

My other challenge is that Lance can’t stand the Peanuts. ¬†Or claymation/stop-motion animation. ¬†The first time I proposed watching¬†Rudolph with him, he said very matter-of-factly, “I will scoop my eyes out with a spoon.” ¬†The next year, his response was a similar, “That movie literally makes me want to peel my skin off.” (His distaste of the Peanuts has still yet to be understood.)

Given that he has such an apparent negative physical reaction to these, I have to watch them in secret, usually on weekend mornings while he’s still asleep. It’s kind of pitiful, putting¬†National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation¬†into the DVD player before the sun’s even come up.

[GIVEAWAY!] John Carter of…Meh?

If you were wondering why Disney, home to some of the most successful design and marketing efforts EVER, okay’ed this atrocious Blu-ray cover…you’re not alone.

Just putting it out there: I just plain ol’ didn’t like John Carter. ¬†I wanted to like it, really! ¬†It’s got a little bit o’ history (Reconstruction!), a pinch o’ space apes, and a tiny¬†little loin cloth for Tim Riggins. ¬†Toss in some Jimmy McNulty-as-bad-guy and some pseudo-physics science babble, and seriously, what could be better?

…Well, a lot, apparently.

Lance and I both fell asleep the first time we attempted to watch this film, and only tried again because I was tasked with writing a review of the Blu-ray release for The Disney Blog. ¬†Once the credits started rolling, Lance, wide-eyed in disbelief, uttered, “That is the worst movie I have ever seen.”

I agreed that it was pretty terrible, though I tried to be fair in my review on The Disney Blog; I admit, I pulled my punches. ¬†I also admit that it’s definitely not the greatest piece of critical thought ever written, as I banged it out as I was up against deadline and had only finished watching the movie a half-hour before. ¬†Let’s just put it this way, I’m aware it’s not my best work, but I still think it captures what I thought about the film.

Now, who knew that¬†John Carter had its die-hard fans? (Not the box office, evidently–ZING!) And apparently all of them came out of the Internet’s series of tubes in order to lambast me for not understanding the film, for being a terrible writer, etc. etc. ¬†Not one to shy away from engaging with Internet troll-ery, I concede to my weak writing, but aside from that, my real concern is…are they right about the film? ¬†Is it secretly great, does #33 turn in an understated, Brando-like performance, and I just didn’t “get” it the first time?

Was I just plain ol’ wrong?

What there no flow in the editing of the action scenes for a reason? Was the episodic structure of the film intentionally set up for me to not develop any empathy for the characters? Were the costume designs of the Good Guy Martians and the Bad Guy Martians so purposefully dull and nearly indistinguishable from one another to serve some deep, artistic message?

The last thing I want to do is to dismiss a film, especially one that has as much contextual baggage as¬†John Carter. ¬†I love a lot of underrated movies and that’s why I’m willing to give¬†John Carter another chance, even if it it only turns out to be an opportunity to better clarify what I dislike about the film.

“A Warrior on Earth Becomes a Hero on Mars.” You would’ve saved a lot of money on stickers, Disney, if you just kept the original “John Carter of Mars” title. Sheesh! (photo courtesy of Tom Bricker,

SO…that brings me to the John Carter of…Meh? Giveaway Contest. ¬†I have in my hot lil’ hands (you know what they say about a guy with hot hands!) a brand new, factory-sealed copy of the John Carter 2-Disc Blu-ray+DVD pack. (Long and boring story as to how I acquired it for free like two months after its release…but believe me, it was legit!) To celebrate my re-watch, and since Lance will not allow a copy of this film to linger in our house, I’m giving away this copy. Here’s how you’re gonna help me do that:

Between now and next Saturday, August 18th, 2012 at 11:59PM EST, you can enter to win this Blu-ray in one of three ways:

  1. leave a comment to this post, sharing what you do and don’t like about the 2012 film¬†John Carter
  2. OR, like our page on Facebook and leave a comment on what you do and don’t like about the 2012 film¬†John Carter
  3. OR, join me on Twitter (@jcbftw or @LEGJCB) during my Live Tweet Coverage of my John Carter re-watch on Saturday, August 18 at 8:00PM EST, using hashtag #JohnCarterOfMeh

[Why the long delay until my re-watch? I am not allowed to re-play this movie in my house under normal circumstances, but Lance is leaving for Las Vegas on the morning of the 18th for a long weekend of Things Which Shall Not Be Discussed, so I’ll have the TV, my Redbox disc, and my Blu-ray player all to myself.]

I will then select a winner on Sunday, August 19th and alert the winner via e-mail or direct message on Twitter, so make sure you leave a way for me to contact you!

One more technicality: this contest is only open to residents of the United States. ¬†I’m not made of money (for shipping costs), people!

Okay, let’s do this thing!

Flick-fil-A: The Dark Knight Rises

Yeah, yeah, so movie reviews should probably be posted close to the film’s release date for maximum impact and, you know, relevance. ¬†Well, when has that ever stopped us here at LEG+JCB?

Now, just off the bat (har har), I really enjoyed¬†The Dark Knight Rises. It really does a good job at providing an emotionally-satisfying end to the trilogy (kinda like the finale to “Lost,” whatever that means to you).¬†

But, of course, since I’m a huge nerd, I have a bunch of nitpicking to do:

**Warnin’: spoilers!**

This is what a two-minute window to draw a doodle will get ya.


Honey, You Mean HUNK-ules

Hey y’all! ¬†Just a quick, belated plug for my guest post for This Happy Place Blog’s “EndEARing & Underrated” Disney film series. ¬†My contribution is about 1997’s criminally under-appreciated “Hercules”–I hope you’ll all give it a go.

I also want to give a shout out (a phrase I really dislike, by the way. ¬†Can we come up with something else, like “I’d like to take a moment in order to acknowledge this person’s value”…rolls right of the tongue, no?) to the Disney bloggers I’ve had the good fortune of interacting with recently, who’ve been so supportive and gosh darn enthusiastic about everything. ¬†You don’t get that in many corners of the internet, so it’s a nice change of pace. ¬†If you love all things Disney and want a refreshing, non-troll-y take on things, make sure to check out This Happy Place Blog, Mouse on the Mind, and the Disney Hipster Blog.


Flick-fil-A: The Amazing Spider-Man

My first conscious memory of Spider-Man was a commercial for the ’90s animated series on Fox Kids (remember that rad theme song? RAD. “SPIDER-MAN. SPIDER-MAN. SPIDER BLOOD SPIDER BLOOD RADIOACTIVE SPIDER-BLOOOD!“) I was around 7 or 8 and had mostly stayed away from superhero comics up until that point; I’m not really sure why–it might’ve had something to do with the fact that anybody who read superhero comics in the early ’90s was a HUGE NERD who should be avoided.




Re-Disney: Final Report

And so it ends, just hours before our flight to Orlando:

Disney Animated Classics:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  2. Pinocchio
  3. Fantasia
  4. Dumbo
  5. Bambi
  6. Saludos Amigos
  7. The Three Caballeros
  8. Make Mine Music
  9. Fun and Fancy Free
  10. Melody Time
  11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
  12. Cinderella
  13. Alice in Wonderland
  14. Peter Pan
  15. Lady and the Tramp
  16. Sleeping Beauty
  17. One Hundred and One Dalmatians
  18. The Sword in the Stone
  19. The Jungle Book
  20. The Aristocats
  21. Robin Hood
  22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  23. The Rescuers
  24. The Fox and the Hound
  25. The Black Cauldron
  26. The Great Mouse Detective
  27. Oliver & Company
  28. The Little Mermaid
  29. The Rescuers Down Under
  30. Beauty and the Beast
  31. Aladdin
  32. The Lion King
  33. Pocahontas
  34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  35. Hercules
  36. Mulan
  37. Tarzan
  38. Fantasia 2000
  39. Dinosaur
  40. The Emperor’s New Groove
  41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  42. Lilo & Stitch
  43. Treasure Planet
  44. Brother Bear
  45. Home on the Range
  46. Chicken Little
  47. Meet the Robinsons
  48. Bolt
  49. The Princess and the Frog
  50. Tangled
  51. Winnie the Pooh
  1. Toy Story
  2. A Bug’s Life
  3. Toy Story 2
  4. Monsters, Inc.
  5. Finding Nemo
  6. The Incredibles
  7. Cars
  8. Ratatouille
  9. Wall-E
  10. Up
  11. Toy Story 3
  12. Cars 2
  13. Brave (for my review of Brave, check out this post)

Totals: 64 Completed, 0 Remaining

I saved my favorite four, the four that really have had a significant impact of life, for last. The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and, of course, The Little Mermaid.

There’s a whole bunch I can say about these films, like how¬†The Little Mermaid is a great example of script economy–nothing here is wasted, save, perhaps, the “Les Poissons” number, which gets a pass since it’s such a crowd pleaser. ¬†Or how Aladdin may be the most well-crafted of all Disney films. ¬†Or how I find Moira Kelly just as annoying as the voice of adult Nala as I do her character from Season 1 of “The West Wing.”

BUT…I did want to take a second to give props to what makes these four films truly great, in a class all their own among the Disney animated canon: ¬†they have the best villains! Think about it: Scar, Gaston, Jafar, and my personal favorite (who, like me, is modeled after Divine, world-famous drag queen), Ursula the Sea-Witch.

In all of these films, the viewer spends a not insignificant amount of time with the villains. ¬†Their personalities are multifaceted. ¬†You can kinda understand why Scar is a jealous weasel, and you get a kick out of Gaston being as much full of nauseating, humorous bravado as he is mean-spirited, “jerkface jock from gym class.” ¬†You actually end up caring about them, in a twisted-beard sort of way. ¬†How many other iconic Disney villains can you say that about? ¬†Malificent is a wonder aesthetically, but her range is from “mean” to “really mean.” Cruella De Vil may be the only other Disney villain I can think of who is actually an interesting character.

I love these movies; they mean a lot to me, and I’m glad I took the time (4 whole days of my life–some 96 hours!) to revisit them. ¬†I hope everybody at Blizzard Beach is ready for the fat behind I gained from my movie marathon immobility coming down Summet Plummet.

We’ll be Disney-bound in a few short hours! ¬†For up-to-the-minute trip updates, follow us on Twitter! ¬†We’ll have a trip report on the blog next week.