I didn't do a Top Ten list for 2010 because I was lazy, but this year I am back! Here are my Top Ten lists of movies, music, and video games that came out in 2011. These are ranked in the order of how I enjoyed them.
1. Captain America
3. X-Men: First Class
5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
6. Conan the Barbarian
7. The Debt
8. Super 8
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
10. Cowboys and Aliens
Most disappointing movies I saw this year were Your Highness (which wasn't nearly as funny as it should have been considering the talent), Sucker Punch (which wasn't pretty enough to make up for the crappy story), and Priest (which should have embraced how bad it was, and then it could have been wonderfully hilarious). This really wasn't a terribly exciting year for movies. I only saw a few more than ten movies in the theater in 2011, which is kind of a low number for me. I still haven't even seen Green Lantern yet. I heard it's really bad though. The majority of my list is made of bombastic popcorn flicks, but I guess that's primarily what I saw in the theater last year. (more...)
Ever since seeing the documentary Hell House; I've been fascinated by the idea of religious-themed haunted mazes, and I've always wanted to go to one to learn the various ways I'm supposed to be suffering in Hell after I die. Unfortunately not many of my friends wanted to go because they didn't want to give their money to a church, but I eventually did manage to find two others who thought it would be as much of a laugh as I did. So off we went to the Journey Trails Haunt, in New Kent, Virginia, which is about thirty miles past bumfuck.
The description of the place made it sound like it had some serious potential for amusement--three attractions, a Heaven path, a Hell path, a museum of Biblical history and relics, and there was even a bonus called "The Last Ride", a coffin that was supposed to simulate the experience of being buried alive, but that was an additional $5.00. They even had THIS wonderful little gem in the FAQ on their website: "Oh! If you are prone to wetting or soiling yourself when you get scared (as many of our victims do), you may want to bring a change of undergarments too!" I just HAD to see what their idea of "so scary you'll shit your pants" was.
So my friends and I get there and we're immediately greeted by an eager man in a suit who is hanging around the coffin ride. We walk up to examine it, and discover that it's a coffin on hydraulics, and pretty much all it does is lift up and down and bump around a bit, and there's a voice that tells some kind of story to the person on the inside. A video monitor is set up outside so that people can watch the person inside on a night-vision cam and see their reactions. Since the ride wasn't very exciting, the reactions weren't particularly interesting to watch. So we decided to pass on this "experience" and move on to the main event. (Unfortunately they didn't allow cameras on the trails and all I had was my cell phone camera, so I was only able to snap a couple grainy pics).
There were three lines leading to each of the main attractions, and the line to Hell was by far the longest, so we opted to go to Heaven, then hit the museum, and save Hell for last. As we're waiting in line to get to Heaven, some teenage clowns who weren't nearly as creepy as they thought they were came out of the Heaven door and tried to frighten the waiting line. Yawn. Though I was a bit curious as to what these bizarre child-molester clowns (that seemed to me the angle they were going for) were doing in Heaven. We finally get inside, and discover that the pathway to Heaven is a tight maze through the woods, bordered by black plastic tarping and very, very dark. There were girls that popped out of nowhere and screamed at us at the top of their lungs, angry rednecks yelling us to get off their property, "creepy" clowns trying to freak us out, angry voices yelling at us and making loud noises from the darkness, and toward the end, people with chainsaws running at us. Basically a lot of the kind of thing that you'd see in a normal haunted maze, only not as good, and light on monsters. And this was supposed to be the Heaven trail?
We finally get a little over the halfway point and there's a quote from the Bible on a banner suspended between two trees, but it's so dark that it's hard to make out what it says. A short time later we come into what I called the "D&D Treasure Room", a small room with a treasure chest full of gold coins, a gold chalice, and other spoils from the dragon's horde. There's also a pleasant, smiling woman standing in the room facing some folding chairs, and she asks us to have a seat. She gives us the brief lecture about life and death, making choices, and gives us all a certificate that we survived the road to Heaven and we made it. And then we're booted back out into the main courtyard. Okay. Not exactly what I was expecting. Here's a pic of my treasure for completing the quest:
We then went into the museum, which was a very small room containing such Biblical artifacts as Samson's jawbone, the Pharaoh's staff, Gandalf's cloak, and more. At the end of the room there was a woman who had a baby constrictor snake that you could hold for a few moments if you wanted to. And that was really the only interesting part. So out the door and off we were to Hell! The line for Hell had all but vanished at this point, and we started to wonder if in fact those people were actually sent to Hell and they were never coming back.
But a moment later it didn't matter, as we were stepping into the giant serpent's mouth and on our way to Hell! Which was, as it turns out, pretty much exactly the same as the path to Heaven. Dark tight corridors bordered by black plastic tarping, teenagers with chainsaws, and so on. Not really thematically different at all, but this one was supposedly "MUCH" more terrifying. Halfway through we walk into a room and there's a man in a suit with dark hair slicked back, and he's got a table with a book on it. There are two doorways leading out of the room, one that leads into light, and one into darkness. He tells us that he can guarantee our safety if we sign the book and take the light path, and we will be out of the maze. If we choose the dark path it's going to make what we've been through so far look like "a kid's picnic". There were two other people in our tour group and they immediately said "Well, we're taking the Dark Path! See ya!" and off they went. I wanted to ask this guy if the light path really did lead out of the maze, because for the money I spent I wanted to get the whole experience, light and dark, but he wouldn't say. A moment later a voice called out over the wall "You guys coming or what?" and with that we turned and headed down...THE DARK PATH!
Which was pretty much more of the same. Again. Though there was an overly breathy werewolf who followed us at one point. And a large medieval man with a torture rack, so that was something at least. But for the most part Hell was pretty bland and disappointing. We get to the end and there's another room, with a vaguely (unintentionally) creepy man who asks us to form a semi-circle. Then he asks us with great interest which path we chose in the middle room. We all said the Dark Path, because we wanted to get our money's worth. He then tells us that man in that room was the Devil, and he was trying to trick us, and that both paths led to the exact same place. I'm not really sure what the lesson they were trying to impart on us there was, since there was no correct option. "Trust no one", I guess? Or perhaps "No matter what you do, you're fucked!" He also gave us a very brief pep talk about the choices we make in our life and how important they are. And then we go through one more tiny section of chainsaw people and exit out of a port-a-potty door. And that's it. The exit to hell is a port-a-john. Not terribly surprising, I guess.
I have to say I was rather disappointed. I was hoping for something like they had in Hell House, where they would try to teach us important and hilariously misguided life lessons, about homosexuals, abortion, drugs, the occult, and so on. But there was none of that. I wanted it to be highly offensive and completely out of touch with reality, but instead it was just kind of bland. They didn't even get that preachy with us at the end. They kept it brief and weren't pushy at all, so there was nothing I could even be mad at. I'm all about people believing what they want as long as they don't bother anyone else. And they were surprisingly (and disappointingly) low-key and cool about it. For $15 I wanted to be told how my support of the gays was going to lead to my being sodomized daily by a gorilla demon in Hell...and they just failed to deliver on that. There wasn't really even any kind of theme or point to the paths, or much of a difference at all between them. At the end they had a little survey you could fill out, and get a chance to win an extravagant feast (i.e. "combo meal") at Chick-Fil-A. Big spenders!
If you're in Virginia and you've heard of this and think it might be amusing, I'd advise against spending your money on it. It's really not worth it, and there are much better haunted trails you can spend your money on. So my quest for a ridiculous, over-the-top, preachy and offensive "Hell House" continues. If any of you have had any noteworthy or amusing experiences in one of these Hell Houses, please share your story in the comments! I'd love to hear about it!
In case you didn't know, Krispy Kreme Donuts is doing some special Halloween donuts to celebrate this spooky time of year, so I decided to go check them out. They offer three different Halloween donuts, which if you get in a dozen come in a large "Krispy Skremes" box decorated just for Halloween.
They have a pumpkin face donut, a spider web donut, and a donut with orange and black sprinkles. They also have a pumpkin spice donut which I also picked up, which isn't strictly part of the Halloween promotion, but it's a pumpkin donut, which means it's awesome so how could I not get that?
I wish I could tell you that these donuts had amazing Halloween flavors, that one tasted like corpses, or another oozed a red bloody filling (like Voodoo Doughnut) as you chomped its life away, but sadly these were pretty boring. The pumpkin face donut is just an icing on top of their standard glazed donut, and the orange and black sprinkles were just tossed on top of a plain donut. The spider web donut was filled with a super thick white goopy filling that didn't really taste particularly great, but at least that was something other than plain. Honestly the best donuts in this box were the pumpkin spice donuts that weren't even part of the promotion. But it's still pretty cool that Krispy Kreme is at least doing something different to celebrate the season.
If you happen to have a Krispy Kreme in your area you might as well check them out, but if you don't, you're not exactly missing anything spectacularly exciting. But "boring" or not, these are still donuts, and are thus totally worthy of being devoured.
I'm sure by now many of you have seen Wonder Woman's atrocious new costume. They took one of the most iconic, recognizable superhero costumes and basically turned it into what looks like a 1990s clubbing outfit (and a bad one at that). I have no inherent problem with changing classic costume, but in my mind superheroes should look bold, flashy, and iconic--not mundane and anonymous like this one here. On top of that, it looks like Jim Lee has basically ripped-off his own Rogue costume design from the early 90s. And seriously--are those stirrup pants? Did she raid Cobra Commander's closet or something?
Sure, they've altered other classic costumes before, Superman's and Batman's for example, but the changes that stick tend to be more subtle evolutions that occur over time. The drastic changes tend to be temporary at best (see Spider-Man's various costumes over the years), and often times if the fan backlash is strong enough the editorial department will pull the old "Haha, we were only joking guys, it was only meant to be for two issues even though we made such a big deal out of it at the time, but this was our plan all along, see?" card.
I'm curious to know what you guys think of the new costume, as well as your thoughts on various heroes' costume changes over the years. What ones have you liked? What ones have you hated?
I asked my Henching artist Shironu Akaineko to whip up an alternative to the new Wonder Woman costume, and this is a design that she and her friend Kevin Eckert came up with: (more...)
Well, this is a bit overdue, but I always like to share my Top Ten lists for movies, music, and video games every year. And I've finally come down off the Tibetan mountain after months of meditation, and here's what I've concluded:
Protoclown's Top Ten Movies of 2009:
1. Inglourious Basterds
4. Black Dynamite
5. Star Trek
6. Sherlock Holmes
8. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
10. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Protoclown's Top Ten Albums of 2009: (more...)
I'd been meaning to check out the Arkham Horror board game for a while, so I finally picked up a copy a few weeks ago and tested it out with some friends. At $60, it was one of those things I'd been reluctant to purchase without having played or seen demoed somewhere, but after reading enough positive reviews on Amazon and Board Game Geek, I just decided "what the hell" and dropped the money on it. Besides, it's a Fantasy Flight Game, and with stuff put out by that company, you know you're at least getting quality in terms of the board, pieces, etc.
Based on H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, the premise of this game is that you're an occult investigator in 1920s Arkham, Massachusetts, and one of the Great Old Ones is on the verge of waking from its slumber and treating the world like a yummy chew toy. Portals to other freaky dimensions start opening up at various unstable locations throughout the city, and you have to explore these other dimensions so you can come back out and close the portals, fighting monsters and searching for clues every step of the way. If too many portals remain open unchecked, the Ancient One awakens and then you're fucked.
One of my favorite things about this game is that it's cooperative, which is very unusual for board games. In the core game, up to 8 players can team up to stop the awakening of the Ancient One, and believe me, it's in your best interest to work with the other players and help them out, because if you screw up, the Ancient One awakens and then you have one last feeble attempt at stopping it before you all die and everyone loses. This whole "all of us versus the game" mechanic is interesting, and results in a different playing experience from most free-for-all or team games. (more...)
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