Take Our Word: Kingdoms

robert-baratheon-1024

The Word

There are plenty of kingdoms in pop culture these days. With Game of Thrones‘s fourth season now long done, there’s been a severe lack of good royalty portrayed in television this year. On the games front, Shovel Knight has been the new hotness, and all the pomp and circumstance of a good medieval royalty story is there (King Knight and Enchantress Queen, I’m looking at y’all.) We’re going to be doing a little stretching to fit three diverse, quality pieces of media under the header of Kingdoms, so be prepared for some regal regaling of royalty.

The Recommendations

Allen

Queens of the Stone Age: I just couldn’t pick one thing to recommend from this California-based rock group. Their frontman, Josh Homme, is one of the most personable musicians based on his many public interviews and concerts, and QOTSA’s work is pretty consistently fantastic. I’d specifically recommend you go down at least one of two rabbit holes to get a full appreciation of their work: Listen to, in order: Songs For The Deaf, Lullabies To Paralyze, and …Like Clockwork. If you don’t have time to jam out to some of the best rock music of the last decade, at least poke around YouTube to find all of their music videos, particularly the ones for …Like Clockwork. Any good kingdom needs some Queens.

Here’s where you can buy …Like Clockwork on Amazon, which you absolutely should: http://www.amazon.com/Like-Clockwork-Queens-Stone-

Age/dp/B00CY1JUW2/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_mus?ie=UTF8&qid=1405475485&sr=8-1&keywords=like+clockwork

And if you hate long links, here’s one for their YouTube VEVO channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/QueensStoneAgeVEVO/

Magellan

Dungeons & Dragons Next Basic Rules: Although I haven’t had the fortune of playing pen and paper role playing games on any sort of a regular basis, I do love to collect books and look at the different ways that game designers choose to represent and implement certain concepts. D&D is a great case study of that, having gone through several generations of rules changes, all under the scrutiny of thousands of fans. This year will see the release of the franchise’s 5th Edition, and Wizards of the Coast has kindly put out a stripped-down version of the game for us fans to pick apart. It’s a free PDF that outlines a few core classes and other essential rules. From what I’ve read of it so far, it looks like Wizards has learned the lesson of 4th Edition and scaled back the combat focus, making the game less like an MMO and more like DnD. It has also learned the lesson of 3rd Edition and made the game much less complicated. Of course, it’ll take the full set of core books to see a complete picture of this new edition, but as it stands now this PDF makes me excited at the prospect of reading through and collecting DnD books again.

Here’s a direct link to the PDF if you’d like to take a look: http://media.wizards.com/downloads/dnd/DnDBasicRules.pdf

James

Demon Knights: When I think Kingdoms, the first thing that comes to mind is Moonrise Kingdom, which is a fantastic movie, but utterly too banal for Take Our Word. Instead, I am going to write about the demon Etrigan. With the release of the New 52 reboot of DC Comics came a somewhat surprising entry about the demon Etrigan. In the series, titled Demon Knights, Etrigan’s origins are explained. Etrigan is a demon bound to the immortal human Jason Blood, by Merlin. After Merlin’s death and Camelot’s fall, Jason discovers the poem that turns him into Etrigan. Oh, did I not mention? Etrigan spits out fat rhymes, in iambic pentameter. This brawling demon who rhymes every word he says is one of the most bizarre comic creations I have ever seen. And what’s absurdly funnier is the fact that it actually works. The character is interesting, with compelling stories, with Demon Knights set in a Medieval Europe ravaged by war and magic. There are many King Arthur references, as Jason Blood served at the court of Arthur, which further heightens the cool Medieval atmosphere. The plots are great and even though it was cancelled, it’s still one of my favorite New 52 reboots.

You can buy the first volume of this fantastic comic book here: http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Knights-Vol-Seven-Against/dp/1401234720
The Round-Up
My kingdom for some good Round-Up ideas! Ugh, even I hated that. Anyways, the first game that I think of when I hear Kingdoms is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. (Sorry, Kingdom Hearts fans. Go enjoy your metaphysical anime Disney nonsense and get back to me later.) The developers at 38 Studios ran into some economic troubles after the game’s launch, and the pushback from the Rhode Island government itself proved more interesting than the game itself.
The story of the company’s bankruptcy itself is recounted in the Giant Bomb wiki entry for the company: http://www.giantbomb.com/38-studios/3010-6332/
Kevin Dent also recounted the story more eloquently on Kotaku two years ago: http://kotaku.com/5913492/curt-schillings-big-huge-38-studios-debacle
And just the fact that it made local Rhode Island news shows just how serious this case got. It’s not fun to highlight game industry troubles, but it’s a reality of the business that people need to take into consideration: http://wpri.com/2014/02/11/sony-exec-blames-ri-pols-for-38-studios-debacle/

 

Take Our Word: Girls

Daenerys

The Word

College is a time for students to develop new ideas and opinions that will define them for the rest of their lives. If there’s one single idea that has popped up continuously in my first two years of class, it’s that women deserve way more respect than we give them. There isn’t a single thing separating men from women when it comes to being a strong protagonist save for the writers themselves. Oh, and did I mention that HBO’s Girls came back this week? God be damned, you just have to watch Girls if you’re looking for some strong female protagonists being awful to each other and everyone around them. What we’re highlighting here isn’t just the entire gender of female, but a few shining examples of it being portrayed powerfully and fairly in pop culture.

The Reccomendations

Allen

Beyond Good & EvilWell-regarded as one of the best games that nobody played, Ubisoft’s 2003 adventure game Beyond Good & Evil is exactly the type of game that we need in the gaming landscape today. It harkens back to the best 3D Zelda games with its open world and clever dungeon designs, it respects the player’s time with plenty of substantive activities and secrets to discover, but most importantly, it treats its own story with the proper respect. You play as Jade, a photojournalist in a fantasy world that resembles a less futuristic, more primitive version of The Fifth Element, and you’re on the case of unraveling a totalitarian government conspiracy against the anthropomorphized animals of your world. Jade is never sexualized or treated as a gender-neutral character. She never uses her body to evade trouble, and she never has to rely on her strong male counterparts to do what she can’t. Armed with nothing but a camera, some mean staff-fighting skills, and a thrill for adventure, Jade is exactly what all female protagonists should strive to emulate. It also helps that her adventure is lengthy and fun, even if it was cut short by a cliffhanger and little potential for a sequel.

 You don’t even have to dig up the old PS2 or Xbox to play Beyond Good & Evil. The original version is on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/15130/ , and an updated HD version was released in 2011 on PSN and Xbox Live: http://us.playstation.com/games/beyond-good-evil-hd-ps3.html
 
James
 
A Song of Ice and Fire: One of my favorite series is A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. This is better known as The Game of Throne Series. The setting is somewhat medieval, with knights, castles, and kings, but the women are portrayed in a surprisingly human way. Martin has been asked about how he makes his literary females so compelling and strong. Martin’s response is to say that he just writes the females as if they were regular people. Martin avoids the hyper sexualization of characters that his fellow  fantasy writers often succumb to, sheerly due to his ability to write the women as real characters. From Cerci Lannister to Sansa Stark, the women are powerful, capable, and use their sexuality for their own benefit. While there are a few sex scenes, they are all given a purpose, and what’s more, a real voice.

A link to the first book: http://www.amazon.com/Game-Thrones-Song-Fire-Book/dp/0553573403

Magellan

Kissing Jessica Stein: I think we all have those films that we see the poster for every time we log into Netflix, and then one day we decide “To Hell with this, I’ll just watch it.” A couple days ago, I had just that kind of a moment with Kissing Jessica Stein, and I don’t regret that decision one bit. Going into this movie I knew next to nothing, except that there would be kissing and there would be a girl named Jessica Stein. The lack of a comma also indicated, although implicitly, that this mysterious Jessica Stein would be somehow involved in the kissing. It turns out that this assumption was correct, as Kissing Jessica Stein is a kind of off-beat romantic comedy in which the protagonist, Jessica Stein, tentatively embarks on a lesbian relationship with a bisexual art gallery director named Helen. Oh, and Jessica is a flaming heterosexual. Nowadays that kind of blasse treatment of homosexuality may come off as offensive, and I guess that elevator pitch sounds like the worst blend of chick flick and Lifetime movie you can think of, but the film itself has an under-budget, quietly urban style to it. The characters feel realistic (despite the somewhat far-fetched circumstances), and I left the movie with a distinct sense of satisfaction. If you’re looking for a movie with some strong women and an undeniable charm, you should give Kissing Jessica Stein a chance. Oh, and Jon Hamm’s in it for like two minutes, so that’s fun.
 
Here’s the trailer (don’t watch it, it’s awful): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCRSXG1tg_w

And this is Roger Ebert’s review, to give you a more balanced and sophisticated take on the film: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/kissing-jessica-stein-2002

 
The Round-Up
 
If you haven’t had your fill of strong female protagonists after all of that, look no further than the combined works of Joss Whedon. The man has a knack for putting women in good, non-sexualized roles, and he’s both done and been the subject of many convention talks about this exact thing.
 
Here’s his speech on gender equality from 2006: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYaczoJMRhs
 
Here we see Joss in his natural habit, Comic-Con, discussing strong female characters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7YKYAe0jo4
 
And let’s wrap up the Round-Up with a video of Eliza Dushku discussing how amazing Joss is at writing female characters at Fan Expo 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7C-Zp5xmV8

Take Our Word: Shields

ShieldsThe Word

This week has been a busy one all around, what with schoolwork in full swing and all sorts of new television to dominate our time. All right, it’s mostly the television. After all, this week gave us dozens of premieres to keep track of, and we need to be at the vanguard to bring you all the freshest and most informed pop culture opinions that we can offer. At least, that’s how we justify it to ourselves. What better subject of our final collaborative piece of the week, then, than a show that is equally steeped in the complexity and density of our modern pop cultural world: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The premiere of this newest head of Disney and Marvel’s fearsome cultural Hydra has prompted us to bring you our favorite shield-related pop culture recommendations.

The Recommendations

Allen

Star Trek OnlineBefore you assault my home with pitchforks and Nerf guns, take a moment to remember that the ships in the Star Trek series do in fact have shields. Cryptic Studios launched STO back in 2010, and it has since gone completely free-to-play. It’s the rare free MMO that doesn’t require you to pay for stat boosters or armor, and it opts for premium cosmetic items and some bonus optional content instead. I only played it for about a month, but I was consistently surprised by how much care and detail was put into making this a fully explorable Star Trek universe. Borrowing from all eras of the shows and films, players can take their spaceships to Deep Space Nine, fight off Borg cubes in intense space battles, and even set phasers to stun! The combat was pretty solid, with ground battles involving lots of rolls and dodging attacks, but the space battles were even more spectacular. As your ship flew around the enemy, you could divert power around to weapons, shields, or engines on the fly. It made for some incredibly close fights, and the group content only magnified the game’s combat strengths. The only reason I stopped playing was that the quests themselves were kind of dull and repetitive, but I definitely recommend giving it a shot just to take a fly-by tour of your favorite Star Trek locales with some of your buddies.

The game is free on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/9900 and it runs surprisingly well on all sorts of hardware.

If the game makes you want more of this universe, check out this Netflix search for “Star Trek” on Netflix and take your pick of the various shows, films, and documentaries: http://movies.netflix.com/WiSearch?raw_query=&ac_category_type=none&ac_rel_posn=-1&ac_abs_posn=-1&v1=star+trek&search_submit=

James 

FTL: The shields are down, enemies are in your ship, and your weapons systems are down. Do you try and drain the invaders of oxygen, or do you dare to fight? In the game FTL, you control a space ship replete with crew and subsystems. The object of the game is simple: escape the rebel fleet that is chasing you. The game puts a new spin on sci-fi space battles, turning the typical laser gun battle into a desperate survival attempt as resources get scarcer, and enemies become more demanding. The game demands patience in the face of frustration, as fantastic playthroughs can be destroyed within the course of a few minutes, with no salvageable value. However, this makes the gains even more worthwhile, and any progress becomes amazing. For those of you who wished that you were Captain Quirk on the bridge of a slightly knock-off Emterprise, this is the game to play. All shields up Scott. Set engines to go.A Steam link for the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/212680/

Or you can go to the official site for the game itself: http://www.ftlgame.com/

Magellan

Critical HitI have two gripping nerd-obsessions that I should probably air out right now: podcasts and RPGs. For years I’ve enjoyed myriad aural pleasures from dozens of podcasts, be they comedic or not. Over time I’ve come to enjoy specific podcast personalities, and in this case I’d like to extol the crew over at Major Spoilers, a website concerned with all sorts of comic book and pop culture journalism. They host a handful of great podcasts, but the one most germane to our discussion of “shields” is their D&D liveplay podcast: Critical Hit. It chronicles an epic fantasy campaign populated by the nerdy funnymen over at Major Spoilers. Admittedly, the show is at this point fairly far along in the campaign, and I’ve had to drop it because I just don’t have the time to keep up, but I still stand behind the first dozen episodes or so as being a solidly entertaining, self-contained story.

This is the show’s archives over at the Major Spoilers website: http://majorspoilers.com/category/critical-hit/

And here’s the TV Tropes page for the show if that sort of thing whets your whistle: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Podcast/CriticalHit?from=Series.CriticalHit

The Round-Up

Now that we’ve shoved three vaguely shields-related recommendations in your face, it’s time for us to hunker down back in the trenches of the fall premiere season. Of course, we could use some comrades in this struggle, so join us down in the comments and sound your battle cry. That, and go through our boot camp of a Round-Up this week, which is a collection of links to the pilot episodes for shows new to television this fall.

The Blacklisthttp://www.nbc.com/the-blacklist/video/series-premiere-pilot/n41047/

Brooklyn Nine-Ninehttp://www.fox.com/brooklyn-nine-nine/full-episodes/48219715729

The Crazy Oneshttp://www.cbs.com/shows/the-crazy-ones/video/

The Goldbergshttp://watchabc.go.com/the-goldbergs/SH55300819/VDKA0_30pa1zhh/?CID=google_sem_1

Lucky 7http://watchabc.go.com/lucky-7/SH55300805/VDKA0_8tgrr30y/pilot

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.http://watchabc.go.com/marvels-agents-of-shield/SH55300807/VDKA0_xbsx0pri/pilot

The Michael J. Fox Showhttp://www.nbc.com/the-michael-j-fox-show/video/series-premiere-pilot/n41115/

Take Our Word: Cars

CarsThe Word

Since it’s release on Tuesday, Grand Theft Auto V has already made over $1 billion, making it the most successful and best-selling entertainment launch of all time. That’s the kind of milestone that we here at Pop Modern like to celebrate, and with that game dominating the video game consciousness we’ve definitely got cars on the mind. That’s why this week we’re revving up and screeching out of the garage to deliver you some of our favorite cars-related pieces of pop culture.

The Recommendations

Allen

BullittI had never heard of Bullitt until it was mentioned on a podcast somewhere about good action movies, and I’ve never seen a film exactly like it since. The film stars Steve McQueen as Frank Bullitt, and it was essentially a 1960s revenge film with that focused less on violence and more on thrills. What set it apart was that it was a car chase film set in the bumpy, unpredictable streets of San Francisco. In the later half of the film, as Bullitt discovers who killed the witness in a recent crime spree that he was investigating, they engage in one of the most terrifyingly fast chases over some of San Francisco’s trolly lines. And if watching beautiful 1960s sports cars bounce up and down on hard pavement doesn’t cause a little distress in you when you watch it, then know that the scenes between the chases are just as well-done. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, but I specifically remember the final scene taking place on an airport landing strip, and the final gunfight being pretty cool for such an old film.If you’re not interested in seeing the actual film and just want to see the famous chase, here it is, you weirdo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBLOLi_Ex-Q

If you’re cool and want to actually see this amazing film, it’s pretty cheap on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bullitt-Steve-McQueen/dp/B00407PNY2/ref=tmm_dvd_title_0

Finally, if you just want to watch somebody fetishize Detective Bullitt’s 1968 Ford Mustang engine ignition, then do I have the video for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcs7GR1YzPE

James

Burnout ParadiseThis week, I am recommending the game Burnout Paradise. I know, I know, it is a somewhat straight-forward answer for me to give, but honestly, Burnout Paradise got everything right. This 2009 game is a graphically decent car crash simulator. With full disclosure, it is actually an open-world racing game, but due to my poor driving skills, I have seen more crashes than a driving school for the visually impaired. The game features multiplayer races, as well as a free-roam mode, allowing players to choose whether to race against each other or drive around the sizable streets of the game’s “Paradise City.” The game features an impressive selection of cars, with a variety of speeds and benefits. The race types are varied and fun, from the simple race to the demolition race. I would highly recommend this game.

Here’s a link to buy the game on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Burnout-Paradise-Playstation-3/dp/B000MUW98O

But, if you don’t feel like buying the game, go ahead and watch some gameplay footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFJbE_hsQw4

Magellan

The CarsThe Cars’ eponymous 1978 debut is the first thing that springs to mind when I hear the word “cars.” Although that may seem an obvious connection, I don’t think you’d be able to find a pop culture selection more fitting and enjoyable without a fair amount of stretching. With tracks like “Just What I Needed” and “My Best Friend’s Girl,” The Cars is a new wave classic from start to finish, and arguably one of the best debuts of all time, if not one of the best albums. The music is catchy and driving, but also possesses a distinct pop-rock flair and instrumentation. It’s surprising that such a unique musical experience can be wrapped up into just nine songs, but The Cars takes those nine songs and makes each one into an instant classic. If you need something to listen to inyour car, I would highly recommend giving The Cars a try.

Here’s the video for “Just What I Needed”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hwE0slNd3Y

And this is “My Best Friend’s Girl”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swunpZMkZAk

The Round-Up

There you have it, three pop culture vehicles that will get you where you need to go, Of course, none of them are as adrenaline-fueled as the newest GTA, so maybe just stick to that this weekend. And hey, if you still haven’t gotten around to buying the game, or you need another reason to, check out this week’s Round-Up: selected tracks from GTA V‘s soundtrack, sure to get your blood pumping and your motor running.

“A.D.H.D”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjlFqgRbICY

“Adult Education”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s22ufU-67iM

“Night Moves”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mRFWQoXq4c

“Party All The Time”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDbpzjbXUZI

“Radio Ga Ga”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t63_HRwdAgk

“Regulate”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1plPyJdXKIY

“Still D.R.E.”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CL6n0FJZpk

Take Our Word: Scrolls

ScrollsThe Word

Earlier this week, Bethesda Softworks released its Elder Scrolls Anthology, a collection of all of the games in the Elder Scrolls series released to date, from Arena to Skyrim, downloadable content included. We here at Pop Modern are outspoken fans of these games, especially Oblivion and Skyrim, so we thought it fitting to dedicate our latest collaborative article to the series as a whole. Of course, we’re not going to talk about the games themselves, as that would be far too orthodox and on-the-nose for our taste. Instead, we’re going to throw out some random, “Scrolls”-related pop culture recommendations faster than you can shout “FUS-ROH-DAH!”

The Recommendations

Allen

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Who would have thought that Chinese mythology (and the all the scrolls that entails) and a children’s animated series would mesh so well? Despite its reputation for being a kids show, Avatar: The Last Airbender showcased some of the best animation and storytelling on television. In three seasons, it managed to tell a young boy named Aang’s entire journey across a fictional world, and his adventures with the studious Katara and her brash brother Sokka as they help him master all of the elemental arts before the apocalypse. Scrolls actually played a large role in several episodes, with most of them containing some sort of spell or ancient text that could spell the end of the world prematurely if they weren’t destroyed. Besides being visually stunning from start to finish, the writing in The Last Airbender was in a league of its own. Characters reacted to events with maturity and vulnerability, and humor was used only to make some of the show’s darker storylines easier to digest for kids. That didn’t stop them from killing characters, redesigning others from the ground up, and dealing with such heady themes as war, hopelessness, love, family, and betrayal. Anybody looking to show their kids something more intellectually engaging than today’s average animated shows needs to show them The Last Airbender TV show. The 2010 M. Night Shyamalan movie can be skipped, and it’s a disgrace to the creators of its wonderful source material. Just writing about the show makes me want to take the journey with Aang and friends again, even if I know that it ends after three short seasons.
Here’s a link to buy Book One, aka the first broadcasted season of The Last Airbender: http://www.amazon.com/Avatar-Last-Airbender-Complete-Collection/dp/B000FZETI4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1378779342&sr=8-3&keywords=avatar+the+last+airbender

If you’ve already watched the show and want more canonical adventures of Aang and his friends, the two epilogue comic book series, “The Promise” and “The Search” are both fantastic. Be warned, “The Search” hasn’t actually wrapped up yet, and the last issue ended on a huge cliffhanger: http://www.amazon.com/Avatar-Last-Airbender-Promise-Part/dp/1595828117/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378779468&sr=1-2&keywords=the+promise and http://www.amazon.com/Avatar-Last-Airbender-Search-Part/dp/1616550546/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378779491&sr=1-2&keywords=the+search+avatar

James

Super-Skrull: Here at Pop Modern, we sometimes pretend that we are hard of hearing. Keeping that in mind, today I am recommending the comic Fantastic Four #18, a Marvel comic which introduced the Super-Skrull. This series introduces the leader of the Skrulls, the mortal nemesis of the Human Torch. As such, he has the attributes of the Fantastic Four. His natural appearance is somewhat bizarre, with a flaming arm, a rocky arm, a stretching leg, and an invisible leg. How this benefits him is slightly confusing, but as a character he is still menacing in his own way, capable of shape-shifting, pyrokenesis, invisibility, stretchiness, and strength greater than that of any of the individual Fantastic Four members, in addition to controlling a vast Skrull army. A menacing character, he is one of the most fun villains in the Marvel Multiverse, and a good initial read to get into the Fantastic Four.

This is the character’s page on the Marvel Wiki: http://marvel.wikia.com/Kl%27rt_(Earth-616)

And here’s an Ookla the Mok song to tell you everything you need to know about the Super-Skrull: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk_tu2MwZDw

Magellan

Kronos Quartet: In true Take Our Word fashion, I’ve gone with a recommendation that sports the weakest of tangential connections to the topic at hand. You see, I was in my high school’s orchestra, so when I hear “scroll” I think of the curly part at the end of a viola, violin, or cello’s fingerboard. That’s what it’s called after all, the scroll. Anyway, at first I was going to dismiss this instinct, but then the Kronos Quartet came to mind. For those who don’t know, the quartet is a highly-respected, venerable group of string musicians who have been performing together for forty years. Their music is at once expressive, adventurous, and beautiful. The reason I decided to suggest checking out their music for today’s article is that their decidedly epic (a word I use sparingly) sound is perfect ambient music for setting out on a fantastical Elder Scrolls quest. Not that the games don’t already have great soundtracks, but personally when I play video games I usually listen to my own music, and the music of the Kronos Quartet is really the only stuff suitable to kill dragons to.

Here’s a link to the group’s official website: http://www.kronosquartet.org/

You may be familiar with their performance on the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack. If not, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpL7YqtD28o

The Round-Up

Clearly, if the entire Elder Scrolls Anthology isn’t entertainment enough for you, there are plenty of other “Scrolls”-related options out there. But hey, if you think we missed anything you can do some scrolling of your own, down to the comments section. Feel free to let us know what you would have added to this list. Beyond that, you can go ahead and follow us on twitter at twitter.com/PopModernBlog for links and articles that we find amusing. You can also stay right here and scroll through this week’s Round-Up, where we’ve put together an Elder Scrolls anthology of our own. It’s a series of Elder Scrolls-related YouTube videos to get you in that questing mood.

Elder Scrolls Lore Series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0Od2lbw9N4&list=PL7pGJQV-jlzCPBUy9uAXQUXZ4UBaDLKS5&index=1

“The Good, The Bad, and the Dovahkiin”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F84oQejFvss

Morrowind Speedrun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_fFApDyki4

Oblivion Bug: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDnnxI_9sPA

Skyrim Trick Shots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJDmxtRPoGk

Theme Song Medley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adlIBRAy6uM&feature=youtu.be

“Things to Do in: Skyrim“: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWl-IHKsKdE

Take Our Word: Times

TimesThe Word

Another week’s content nearly done, and the clock keeps ticking onward. You see, what with the seasons beginning to change and the school year almost back in full swing, we here at Pop Modern can’t help but be occupied with thoughts of time. “Why are things changing so quickly? What does the future hold? How long will it take me to write this stupid article?” To help ease our fears of the ever-flipping pages of our crossword-a-day calendars and the infernal ticking of that atomic clock on the wall that likes to tick backwards sometimes just to mess with us, this week we’re talking about “Times.” Maybe talking about our fears will help alleviate them. Or, if nothing else, this will eat up a few more revolutions around that white-faced wall monster with the mismatched arms.

The Recommendations

Allen

Groundhog Day
I unfortunately just discovered this Bill Murray classic a few years ago, which I only regret because I wish it had become a staple of my annual movie rotation from an earlier age. It tells the fairly dark story of Phil, who is forced to relive the same Groundhog Day over and over again. At first, he revels in the ability to learn about the people he met that day, and ultimately manipulate them into making his day better. He learns all about a girl named Rita (played by Andie Macdowell), and essentially tricks her into falling in love with him. His cavorting around a small town that still believes in the titular groundhog myth and his cynical attitude comes across so well thanks to the excellent acting by Bill Murray. What I like most about Groundhog Day is how unquestionably cruelly it paints its main character early on. Harold Ramis, who previously directed Ghostbusters and its sequel, knows how to use his main actors well. He also doesn’t allow the movie to end on a bad note, and, similar to his role in Scrooged, Murray’s character learns to enjoy every day of his life, and not take advantage of the people around him who already offer him so much kindness and warmth. Few movies fit into the later winter/early spring season that Groundhog Day does, and it manages to bring back memories of watching old VHS films over and over again until I could recite them verbatim. It’s just a fun film all around, and I highly recommend anyone check it out with some family or friends as the big jackets go into the closet, and a new era of sweatshirts, exams, and lazy Sundays begins.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Phil memorizes when his annoying pal Ned is going to greet him in the street, and he takes his revenge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOwhG_y0HQg

Ignore the misspelled movie title in this video’s title, because it’s a great smash cut of Phil waking up to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” over and over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYzVdv6V5Vs

You can buy Groundhog Day on DVD or Amazon Streaming for pretty cheap, and enjoy it’s extremely cheesy cover art here: http://www.amazon.com/Groundhog-Day/dp/B000SP1SH6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378058287&sr=8-1&keywords=groundhog+day

James

“Time” by Pink Floyd:
 It may not be a creative choice, but I’m in the mood for the classics today. The song “Time” is my favorite song from the album The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. This is widely considered their best album, and is the second best-selling album of all time, passed only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. “Time” combines a series of great lyrics about the ephemeral nature of life with the gravity of its music. The song has been used as a thrilling song in varied movies and television shows, to provide an epic ending to a story, and its music is well-suited to its popularity. For those of you who have never listened to Pink Floyd, this is a great introduction to a fantastic piece of music within the greater album.

For a look at the song itself, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWTLUmUjo8A

For the full album, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi1sBwV1-tU

Magellan

Slaughterhouse-FiveI don’t read nearly as much as I’d like, and there are dozens of quintessential, classic books that I still haven’t gotten around to. This summer, though, I was able to find the time to knock out one of them, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. The book, which showcases Vonnegut at his darkly comic best, follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a WWII-vet-turned-optometrist who has been “unstuck in time.” It’s not a “time-travel” story, per se, but the novel plays with chronology, fate, and mortality in a bleak, yet hilarious way. The peculiar nature of the protagonist’s perception of the world allows Vonnegut the kind of narrative freedom to jump from horrendous depictions of wartime imprisonments, to suburban humdrum, to outlandish stints in an alien-run zoo, all in the span of a few pages. And, despite the book’s disjointed structure, it still has a clear message: a request to be good to one another and take things as they come. So it goes.

Here’s an Amazon link for the book: http://www.amazon.com/Slaughterhouse-Five-Kurt-Vonnegut/dp/0440180295

And here’s an article talking about Charlie Kaufman writing a film adaptation, which excites me to no end: http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/guillermo-del-toro-wants-benedict-cumberbatch-for-frankenstein-charlie-kaufman-writing-slaughterhouse-five-20130706

The Round-Up

Three time-related ways to pass the time, whatever good that does you. Of course, we’re always happy to facilitate you wiling your time away in any way we can. For instance, you can go ahead and write in the comments section about what piece of pop culture the word “Times” brought to your mind. Or, you can go ahead and follow this blog’s Twitter account at twitter.com/PopModernBlog for sporadic links and musings to occupy the odd minute here and there. And, if all that isn’t enough, you might as well check out this week’s Round-Up, a series of clips from movies involving time travel, in which one character tries to explain to another how it all works, or how things are going to work. If only things were so simple.

12 Monkeyshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q74RKOmIjC8

Back to the Futurehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-77xulkB_U

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventurehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DsFMJQHbMs

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV5H6ySaI6s

Hot Tub Time Machinehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYLGQ2S8kkA

Looperhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvZAAAzNsvM

Primerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPflrB1jRq8

Take Our Word: Eighties

The Breakfast Club movie imageThe Word

With our second consecutive month of content coming to a close this weekend, we here at Pop Modern decided to forgo our usual, topical approach to this column in favor of something a bit more sentimental. Sure, the three of us were all born in the early 90’s, but it seems like nowadays all of pop culture has an ingrained affection for the 80’s, so we’ve seen enough movies and listened to enough music to feel like we were really there, rocking some leg warmers and catching reruns of Miami Vice. So if you have nothing better to do this weekend, why don’t we all live out a fictional version of things that happened to people we don’t know thirty years ago? It just seems like a wholesome way to pass the time.

The Recommendations

Allen

Die Hard: Though John McTiernan may be in the news these days for some unsavory reasons, his 1988 film Die Hard will always be what I associate his name with. It tells the story of John McClane, divorced cop played by Bruce Willis, and his mission to subdue the terrorists holding the employees of Nakatomi Plaza, his ex-wife’s workplace, hostage. Although it’s been praised almost universally since it was released for being a brilliant action film and it’s actually taught in film classes as the quintessential example of three act structure, none of that is why I love it. What most people don’t seem to address is that Die Hard is an incredibly simple, base premise. The idea that an ex-cop can single-handedly take out a crew of terrorists (barefoot, I might add!) is actually incredibly dumb. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film at all. More that it goes against everything that the average film critic tends to love; the characters are fairly one-dimensional, it can be summarized in a few sentences, and it doesn’t have the trademark weirdness or deep message of independent film. It’s a well-shot, well-written, patriotic action film that isn’t afraid to pander to the lowest common denominator. And it does so with so little irony and so much craft that it has become a staple part of the Christmas movie marathon that so many Americans like to indulge in every year. In a world of ironic action films and overly dramatic thrillers, it’s nice to know that you can rely on a macho 80’s action hero to save the day time and time again.

Die Hard‘s got a pretty fantastic 80s-as-hell trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qxBXm7ZUTMYou can buy it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Die-Hard-Bruce-Willis/dp/B000O77SRC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1377555828&sr=8-3&keywords=die+hardKeeping up with our 80s theme, here’s the segment on Siskel & Ebert where they reviewed the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNM7yG5X9IQJames

London Calling: Here at Pop Modern, we occasionally suffer inaccuracy for the sake of a good article. While The Clash album London Calling came out in the UK in 1979, the album didn’t come out until 1980 in America, so I feel confident in my decision to put the album in with the 80’s. Considered one of the best punk bands of their time, The Clash melded styles of rock, punk feeling, and lyricism to create an incredible, diverse album. With hit songs ranging from the manic “London Calling,” to the aimlessness of “Lost in the Supermarket,” and the rebellious, anti-authority “Guns of Brixton,” the songs are incredibly diverse, yet remain skilled within their diversity. The themes that The Clash tackle are controversial, from police brutality and the meaningless nature of life to consumerism, yet the issues are given a more adult look than their contemporary bands. The album is one of my favorites of all time for the technical skills of the band members combined with the frenetic energy they give through emotional performances.”London Calling”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vHvzybkqfo

“Guns of Brixton”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqcizZebcaU

“Lost in the Supermarket”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsrEAWcAvRg

Magellan

Heathers: When most people think of 80’s films, they think of classic John Hughes fare: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off come to mind. But I’m not here to talk about those movies. Instead, I’d like to champion Heathers, a movie that I can’t exactly say I liked, but a movie that I find interesting and worth a watch, nonetheless. It’s a Winona Ryder vehicle that seems to run a familiar plot. The local high school is under the thumb of a popular clique (a group of three girls, all named “Heather”) and our female protagonist (Ryder) plays along, until a lovable rogue (played by Christian Slater) shows up to disrupt everything. It seems like typical 80’s stuff until an incredibly dark turn within the first twenty minutes. From then on, the movie is both a parody and a dark manifestation of the Hughes-style school of filmmaking that spawned it. Personally, I was a bit put off by this movie when I first watched it, but then again I was expecting something much more innocuous. I would recommend watching this film, if only to see how it deconstructs the world of 80’s high school movies.

Here’s a trailer for the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTmpKgocyYg

And here’s a clip to showcase the movie’s specific tone (I’d just like to note that on both of these videos, the top comment is about Mean Girls, and the second is about shoulder pads): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ-3rikUQ34

The Round-Up

So there you have it, the scant nuggets we’ve sifted from the roaring resurgence of 80’s culture over the past decade or so. It would seem that the three of us have been drawn to the darker, grittier aspects of the decade, which aren’t always brought up or thought about in discussions of 80’s popular culture. It’s a much more complex and seedy decade than people tend to think, tinged by shady money dealings and Cold War paranoia. Of course, sometimes it’s just fun to forget about that kind of stuff and bop your head to some overly synthesized 80’s tunes. That’s why this week’s Round-Up is a smattering of some of our favorite songs from the decade. Strap on your shoulder pads and enjoy!

“Come On Eileen”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVxcwe7EcaY

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdqoNKCCt7A

“Down Under”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfR9iY5y94s

“Easy Lover”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkRKT6T0QLg

“I Love Rock N Roll”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3T_xeoGES8

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbNlMtqrYS0

“Tainted Love”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEh5pWjcWCg