Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zombie

It's finally arrived, the final day in the Blogging A Through Z challenge. And it's been a blast. But between my someone frantic daily life and attempting to fit in all these extra posts, I can't say I'm sorry to see it come to an end. But I've loved reading everyone's (or as many people as I could get to) blogs and can't wait to see what my new blogging friends have going on next. And for everyone who made it all the way through . . . 


An now back to today's regularly scheduled program. I'm sure plenty of other A through Z bloggers are planning on doing Zombies for the letter "z". After all, they are one of the most popular movements in entertainment currently, and one of the few topics that start with a "z". Truth be told, I used zombies to close out my A through Z theme in last year's challenge as well. 

Considering that, I decided I'd try to do something to make today's post a little more interesting. This time, rather than talking about the mindless zombies that plague my nightmares, I thought I'd talk about a few of the species that break the mold. 

Z is for (Friendly) Zombies 

Billy Butcherson (Hocus Pocus) – Billy Butcherson, the once lover of Winifred Sanders, died in 1693 after Winifred caught him "sporting" with her sister Sarah. Poisoned, mouth sewn shut with a dull needle, and then reanimated in order to do the witches' bidding, Billy appears to be your typically terrifying zombie. However, he ultimately proves to himself an ally of the Max, Dani and Allison, protecting them from the Sanderson sisters that caused him so much misery.    

Mike and Terry (The Walking Dead) – Mike and Terry are best friends who travel together with Mike's girlfriend Michonne. When attacked by a horde of walkers, they both get bitten and eventually becomes zombies themselves. However, rather than dispatch them immediately  Michonne chooses to keep them alive as as kind of companion/protection. I mean, sure she has to hack off their arms and jaws in order to keep them from infecting her. And, okay, she keeps them on chained leashes like common household pets. But that being said, they make a happy trio and manage to provide Michonne a certain degree of protection and companionship.

"R" (Warm Bodies) – R is perhaps the most fascinating member of this list. Like all zombies, he was once a normal boy who died somewhere in the murky past he has no memory of. But with each passing day and each moment he spends with Julie, a human girl he rescued from becoming a human happy meal, he becomes less and less like the mindless dead, and more and more . . . human. He dreams, he loves, he fights for humanity. R is the start of a new race of beings that lies somewhere between human and zombie. 

Zombie Horde (ParaNorman) – What at first seems like a horde of angry, flesh-eating monsters in fact is nothing more than a group of misunderstood Puritans. They made some mistakes. You know, accusing a little eleven-year-old girl of witchcraft and sentencing her to death. As I said, mistakes. But they regretted their mistakes in their afterlives, coming back as zombies in order to atone, attempting to help Norman right their wrong and put Agatha back to sleep and break her curse over Blithe Hollow for good. 

Mike, Vanessa, Tim and Cindy (Wasting Away) – A zombie film from the perspective of the zombies, Wasting Away is the story of four young adults who eat a mysterious military substance that turns them into the walking dead . . . only they don't realize it. They cannot understand why people go running from them in horror. They band together with Nick Steele, a soldier who is similarly effected, as they learn how to live (and love) in their new world. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite (Friendly) Zombies. What are some of your favorites? __________________________________________________________________________________
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Young Ladies of Substance

By now anyone who has ever stopped my blog has gotten at least a taste of my very conflicting opinion on the helpless princesses of my Disney filled youth. My nostalgic side will never lose its love them for these romantic depictions of the dashing knight and his fair maiden, but the rest of me  the girl who loves Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley  struggles with the idolization of female passivity. But rather than continue on my soap-box here, I thought I'd devote today's blog post to a few young, strong female characters that I think any child would look up to. 

Y is for Young Ladies of Substance (The Anti-Princesses) 

Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia series) – The youngest of the Pevensie children, Lucy proves to be the most unwavering of the four siblings. Her love for Narnia never wavers, her courage remains a constant, and her sense of adventure grows with every passing day. Lucy is the very essence of childhood and the inherent belief we're all blessed with in our earliest years. 

Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time series) A Wrinkle in Time was my favorite book as a little girl, and Meg Murry my idol. She's the girl who doesn't fit in. With her glasses and mousy hair, not to mention her extraordinary intelligence that puts her in conflict with teachers and fellow students alike, she is a misfit to the very core. But despite her own lack of confidence and fear of the unknown, Meg never fails to do what needs to be done and protect the people that she loves. She teaches us that it's okay to be different, and that what's different is sometimes what the world really needs. 

Alice (Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) – I have long been fascinated with Lewis Carroll's famous young heroine. A little girl no more than seven years of age, she encompasses a clear and orderly intellect far beyond her age. When faced with a world full of strange and nonsensical circumstances, she indulges her innate curiosity even as she tries to find order among chaos. 

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series) – Hermione Granger is one of the best young female protagonists and inspirations for young ladies. She's bossy and clever, book-smart and level headed. She proves early on to be so much more than the know-it-all who annoys everyone in school. Hermione is loyal and brave, willing to sacrifice her life for her friends, determined to be a voice for "non-humans" who've been marginalized, and always ready to fight for the side of good against evil. 

Jo March (Little Women) – Jo March is one of the very first written young ladies of substance. She's opinionated and blunt, speaking her mind without considering the consequences. While she often lands herself in trouble for her progressive thinking and direct attitude, Jo acts as a hero to little Tom-boys the world over who don't care for playing house or doing make-overs. She has hopes and dreams that she's bound and determined to follow, refusing to let antiquated gender norms get in her way. 

And last bu not least, here are a few honorable mentions: 
> Merida (Brave) 
> Matilda Wormwood (Matilda
> Valentine Wiggin (Ender's Game

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Young Ladies of Substance. What are some of your favorites?  
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for eXtraterrestrial eXterminators

Sorry for my liberal use of "X" here, but I couldn't let the entire blogfest pass by without highlighting a few of my favorite alien killers. When the little green men from outer space . . . or in most of these cases, when giant, dangerous extraterrestrials invade earth and try to kill off its inhabitants, the following are the men and women I want protecting us:

X is for eXtraterrestrial eXterminators 

Captain Steven Hiller and David Levinson (Independence Day) – Sometimes they feel more like a comedy duo than a pair of highly trained counter-invasion specialists, but when the chips are down and earth is on the line, Steve and David are there to save the day. Their only problem  they're "gonna have to work on their communication." 

Ellen Ripley (Aliens franchise) – The progeniture of the sci-fi action heroine, the mother of all extraterrestrial exterminators, Ripley is the badest of the badasses. And my personal hero. With the skills of a warrior and the instincts of a mother protecting her offspring, Ripley is a gun-toting killer who will stop at nothing to survive and take down her alien foe. Her screamed, "Get away from her you B%@#&," goes down as one of the greatest lines of all time. 

Sergeant Michael Nantz (Battle Los Angeles) – A United States Marine Sergeant on the cusp of retirement, Michael Nantz gets called out to defend Los Angeles against a deadly alien attack. And defend it he does, risking his very life to take out their ships and winning the loyalty and love of the men who follow him. He's a true American hero and excellent eXtraterrestrial eXterminator. 

Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Battleship) – Okay, as a fan of the Battleship game, alien invasion flicks, and Taylor Kitsch (of the Friday Night Lights series), this movie was guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. And it did not disappoint  With his cheesy lines and tormented looks, Alex Hopper was an excellent hero in this amazing, and not at all ridiculous film. Let's just hope Hopper makes his way into a seqel! And to you aliens out there thinking about taking on the United States Navy . . . you're sunk. 

Agent J and Agent K (Men In Black franchise) – Known for their black suits, dark shades, and "flashy thingies" that erase memories, the MIB protects us from alien invasions on daily basis.  Agent K is a MIB veteran, highly knowledgeable in the extraterrestrial field and quick with a smile. Haha, just kidding. And Agent J, well . . . "he makes this look good." 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite eXtraterrestrial eXterminators. What are some of your favorites?
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Witches and Wizards

I've long been fascinated with witches and wizards, ever since reading about the cannibalistic crone with the delicious gingerbread house in the classic Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. Some good and some evil with a capitol "E", witches are fascinating creatures straddling the line between this world and the supernatural. And since there are simply too many amazing witches and wizards to list just five (or six or seven), today's post is going to be a sort of free-for-all. 

Note: In deference to the quantity of characters on this list, I'm going to keep my descriptions minimal. 
W is for Witch/Wizard

Merlin (Arthurian legends) – The wizard who raised Arthur out of obscurity and made him the king he was born to be, Merlin is one of the most famous and recognizable wizards in classic literature. 

The Grand High Witch (The Witches) – For those of you who've never read Roald Dahl's The Witches (or seen the British film adaptation starring Anjelica Huston), please do so. Immediately. She is one of the most horrible, most evil, most wicked creatures ever dreamed up. And for those of you who have them . . . keep an eye on your children before the Grand High Witch makes them disappear. 

Winifred Sanderson (Hocus Pocus) – "She put a spell on you" . . . or at least me, ever since I first watched Hocus Pocus when I was nine. One of the more delightfully evil characters on this list, she and her sisters spend All Hallows Eve attempting to suck the lives out of little children and stay young forever. [Note to self, don't ever light a black flame candle.] 

The White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia series) – Many of you wondered where the White Witch was under my Q is for Queen post, but I thought I'd save her for today. The self proclaimed "Queen of Narnia" with the power to turn anyone to stone, she places a spell over Narnia so that it's forever winter and never Christmas. Talk about a real . . . uh, witch. 

Gandolf (The Lord of the Rings series) – A member of the Fellowship of the Ring, Gandolf is the grey (and later white) wizard who brings the nine together, uniting them in their quest to stop Sauron from his evil reign.  

The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz) – One of my earliest acquaintances with witches as a girl, the Wicked Witch of the West caused many a nightmare. With her green skin and flying monkeys by her side, I found her absolutely terrifying. Still do, truth be told. 

Grand Witch Muriel (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) – I loved this remake of Hansel and Gretel, the fairy tale that inspired my love of witch stories. Muriel's ability to morph from a beautiful woman to a grotesque witch was an inspired addition. 

And now, because I simply can't pick just one character to represent the Harry Potter series, here are my favorite witches and wizards that I feel deserve a closer look (minus of course Severus Snape, who was already mentioned  here). Or in other words, here are a few of my favorite Harry Potter characters that aren't the three main protagonists . . . 

Neville Longbottom – The boy who could have just as easily been the "Chosen One", Neville is my personal favorite character from the series. Though I liked him from the first book on, he won my heart in The Order of the Phoenix when he worked harder than anyone in the DA, spurred on by Bellatrix Lestrange's breakout from Azkaban. But it wasn't until The Deathly Hallows when he stood up to Voldemort and lead the other students in a rebellion against Snape and the Carrows that Neville became a real leader and hero in his own right. 

Luna Lovegood – Luna's character started off a little spacey, but it becomes clear over the course of the last three novels that she's stronger and smarter than anyone gave her credit for. My three favorite Luna scenes are: 1) When she's the only one able to comfort Harry after Sirius has dies. 2) When she and Neville are the only two former members of the DA who continue to check their DA coins, and thus the only two besides Hermione, Ron and Ginny to protect Hogwarts in the Battle of the Astronomy Tower. And 3) When she helps Harry produce a patonus during the final battle at Hogwarts when he believes all is lost. Her faith in him and innate strength never wavers, and for that I believe she is one of the greatest additions to the Harry Potter franchise.

Ginny Weasley – As Harry's girlfriend, Ginny got a lot of attention; however, I think she was somewhat overlooked as an independent character. She proved herself to be inordinately clever with her famous "Bat Bogey Hex", not to mention her skills on the Quidditch pitch. And of course, she's much cheekier than given credit for. Her twin brothers Fred and George are known for their pranks, but Ginny has a wicked side to rival theirs, shown to particularly good effect in The Order of the Phoenix combating deplorable Professor Umbridge. 

Professor McGonagall –  My absolute favorite Hogwarts professor, McGonagall was an incredible witch and defender Hogwarts and its students. With her tartan tin of cookies and no-nonsense attitude, she's one tough old lady. Who can ever forget her standing up to evil Umbridge and telling Harry that she'd make sure he became an Auror "if it's the last thing I do". 

Cedric Diggory – Last but not least, the boy wizard who changed the game. Before Cedric's death in The Goblet of Fire, never would I have dreamed the lengths to which Rowling would go. But following his murder, a young boy barely of age, Harry Potter readers world-wide would finally understand . . . no one is safe.

And there you have it, my Top, uh, 12 favorite witches and wizards. What are some of your favorites? 
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Villain

Every hero needs a nemesis, and these villains . . . well, they're pretty terrifying. Depicting a the darkest side of human nature, these characters are the most evil, the most terrifying, the most, well, villainous in all of film and literature. 

V is for Villain 

The Joker (The Dark Knight) – I think we can all agree, both Marvel and DC fans alike, that Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight was arguably the most incredible performance as a comic book supervillain ever filmed.  A sociopathic killer teetering on the edge of insanity, he manages to stay just sane enough to be absolutely terrifying. And of course to drive the heroes of Gotham to exile or madness themselves. 

Iago (Othello) – Iago is first and foremost a schemer, a manipulator of the highest order. He exploits, deceives and entices, never directly acting out, hiding his true poisonous nature behind a charismatic veil. He's one of the most sinister characters of classic literature because of his ability to mislead others, never suspecting his dark motives. In my personal opinion, he is the most evil of all Shakespearean characters. 

Professor Umbridge (Harry Potter series) – I'm sure when most people think about the villains of the Harry Potter series, the first logical choice that comes to mind is Lord Voldemort. However, I think there's someone much more sinister than the snake-faced Dark Lord . . . Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge. Pens that use human blood for ink, Inquisitorial Squad, and worst of all, lurid pink cardigans and kitten paraphernalia  She is simply evil, right down to her core. But I think it's important to note that Umbridge marks one of the few truly malevolent characters in the series  that is not a Death Eater. She proves that there is not simply a line between good people and Voldemort's followers; rather there are shades of grey that we cannot ignore. 

Mrs. Danvers (Rebecca) – With the ghostly presence of Rebecca lurking around, it's the very real presence of Mrs. Danvers that threatens the (otherwise unnamed) current Mrs. de Winter. The Manderley housekeeper who remains devoted to Rebecca long after her death, Mrs. Danvers does everything in her power to make Mrs. de Winter's life miserable, from convincing her to wear a costume she knows will upset Maxim de Winter to attempting to influence her to jump from a window several stories up. And may I say that personally, she's one of the creepiest villains I've ever come across. 

Hans Gruber (Die Hard) – I simply cannot complete this list of my favorite villains without the addition of one of the all-time greatest action hero nemeses – Hans Gruber. The criminal mastermind behind the Nakatomi Plaza building take-over, he's clearly a villain of incredible skill and intelligence. Too bad for him John McClane is an even more extraordinary action hero. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Villains. What are some of your favorites?
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Ugly Duckling

Transformation stories are some of the most common in classic fables and fairy tales, stories we've grown up with from childhood. And I have to admit that some of them, like Cinderella, really bother me. At least they bother me as an adult – Cinderella happened to be my favorite Disney Princess as a kid. But come on, how could he not recognize her without the stupid shoe? What a shallow, inconsiderate, self-centered son-of . . . Moving on. 

So for today's post I'd like to highlight some of my favorite Ugly Duckling stories. The ones where the duckling finds independence and self-confidence, and someone who loves them despite their appearance, rather than simply for their beautiful, swan-esque end product. So, without further ado . . . 

U is for Ugly Duckling aka. Transformation Stories

Penelope Wilhern (Penelope) – Penelope's is one of my very favorite transformation tales. Long ago following the betrayal of a young, pregnant servant girl, the aristocratic Wilhern family was cursed. The curse the stipulated that the first girl child born into the family would be born with the face of a pig, face she would keep until she was accepted by "one of her own". Penelope was that girl. Born with a pig nose and ears, Penelope's story becomes one of finding independence and learning to accept yourself for who you are. It's a message I think every little girl should learn from an early age (rather than the messages spread through misguided, albeit fun and classic, Princess movies).

Toula Portokalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) – Perhaps one of the sweetest transformation/love stories, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the story of Toula Portokalos, a modern woman struggling with her Greek background. Over the course of her metamorphosis, she must learn to stop letting her family dictate her life, but also that her background shapes who she is. 

Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion/My Fair Lady) – Eliza Doolittle is one of the most misunderstood characters highlighted in the blogfest, in part because of the final scene in My Fair Lady [Spoilers] implying that she goes back to Henry. As originally intended by the play-write, George Bernand Shaw, at the end of the play Eliza leaves Henry Higgins, grasping her new found independence with both hands. Her transformation is one of a timid flower girl to a an independent, educated woman who emancipates herself from the man who transformed, but emotionally belittled her. 

Princess Fiona (Shrek series) – Ahh, Fiona. The princess who spent her days as a princess and nights as an ogress, waiting for the day when true love's kiss will break her curse and reveal her true form. Through Fiona and Shrek we learn that real beauty doesn't always look the way we expect it will. A transformation story doesn't necessarily mean that the "Ugly Duckling" becomes a beautiful, Barbie-like swan; sometimes it means learning to accept yourself for who you are and finding beauty in what's there rather than what you wish were there. 

Gracie Hart (Miss Congeniality) – Okay, I can't say that we learn a ton from Gracie Hart other than the pretty pageant girls want world peace and, okay, they're nicer than they seem. And it's certainly suspect that her love interest falls for her only after she becomes beautiful. Her story is less one of self-discovery through transformation and more sticking to her conviction through despite others' doubt. But I simply couldn't leave her off the list. Why? Because the scenes between Gracie and Michael Caine's character were just too funny to ignore. "I'm gliding here!"

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Ugly Duckling transformation stories. What are some of your favorites?
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Treasure Hunter

Everyone loves an adventure, and what's more adventurous than searching for lost treasure? Truth be told, I've always wished I were a professional treasure hunter. Not simply because finding a vast wealth of gold or precious jewels would make me unimaginably rich . . . though that's certainly a draw. But more to the point, I long to experience an adventure of my own. Sigh. Still, if I can't take off for worlds unknown myself, I'm glad I can experience it through the following treasure hunters . . . 

T is for Treasure Hunters 

Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones trilogy - the fourth one doesn't exist in my world) – Perhaps the most famous treasure hunter in the history of American cinema, Indiana Jones is the handsome archaeology professor who can't be confined to the classroom. Transforming from the tweed-wearing intellectual to a fedora-wearing, whip-cracking, thrill-seeker, Indy represents a common desire to escape our mundane day jobs and take off to the ends of the world in search of treasure . . . and more importantly, adventure. 

Lara Croft (Tomb Raider games and movie series) – An intelligent, athletic, aristocratic, and  ahem  busty archaeologist, Lara Croft is the hero of female gamers world wide. She brings a whole new meaning to the term "girl power" and a certain femininity to the world of treasure hunting. With her agile grace and kick-butt attitude, Lara reminds us that she's an adventurer first and a lady second. 

Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island/Treasure Planet) – A mere boy not yet past puberty, Jim Hawkins is the son of an innkeeper, living a quiet life near Bristol, England. But when an old pirate on the run dies in front of Jim's eyes, he discovers the pirate's hidden treasure map and sets off on a quest to find it with a salty crew of seamen. [I enjoyed following Jim Hawkins on his literary adventure as a child, and similarly loved the Disney remake of the novel, Treasure Planet.] 

Jack Colton (Romancing the Stone) – The love interest in my favorite 80's romantic adventure flicks, Jack Colton is on the hunt for a quick fortune. And when shy, romance novelist Joan Wilder comes running his way with a treasure map in her hands and gun-toting bad guys on her (highly inappropriate for trekking through the jungle) heels, he sees the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Benjamin "Finn" Finnegan (Fool's Gold) – Finn may not be honest. He may not be responsible. But when it comes to searching for sunken treasure ships, he's the best around. With the potential to make history  and a fortune  by uncovering the lost Spanish galleon Aurelia,  Finn and his ex-wife Tess are on the hunt. The treasure hunt, that is. 

The Goonies (The Goonies) – A band of young boys from the "Goon Docks" attempting to save their neighborhood from being demolished, the Goonies are the heroes of my childhood. With time running out and their homes on the line, they find an old Spanish map in Mikey's attic and hatch a plan to find One-Eyed Willy's buried treasure. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 (or 6, again. I may as well stop kidding myself and calling it Top 5 in the first place) favorite Treasure Hunters. What are some of your favorites?
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Sleuths

First of all, I want to apologize for my post on Saturday. Apparently blogger chose to publish a draft of my R is for Rebel Leaders post rather than the ACTUAL post, something I didn't notice until late yesterday afternoon. Apologies to those who read it. And now for today's A to Z post:

A sleuth is, in essence, a detective, one who solves mysteries for a living. Though they sometimes work alongside cops and law enforcement, fictional sleuths are generally considered outside the police world. Known for their keen observational skills and intuition, sleuths are ready to take on any mystery. 

S is for Sleuth 

Nancy Drew (Nancy Drew series) – Nancy Drew is the idol of my childhood. An independent high-school girl with a a mind for mysteries, Nancy is smart and resourceful, quick-thinking and inquisitive  In short, she has all the qualities necessary for a successful amateur sleuth. With her two best friends,  Bess and George, she's ready to investigation any mystery, from theft to murder. 

Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes canon) – You can't say the word sleuth without immediately thinking of Sherlock Holmes. Houndstooth, magnifying glass, and smoking pipe    Sherlock is the very image of gumshoe detective. He has a veritable host of tricks up his sleeve when it comes to solving a case . . . not to mention his incredible deductive reasoning. And of course his loyal side-kick Watson. When it come to solving a mystery, Sherlock is the best. It's elementary my dear readers. 

Richard Castle (Castle) – As a best-selling crime novelist, Richard Castle might not be your typical sleuth, but when he partners up with Detective Kate Beckett, they're practically unstoppable. With his extensive knowledge in criminology and the mystery genre, not to mention an unlimited imagination, Castle is quick with a theory (which are often ridiculous and off-base), but never gives up on a case until the killer is caught and brought to justice. 

Mystery, Inc. (Scooby Doo series) – Amateur is the word that comes to mind when I think of this mystery solving team – particularly when it comes to Shaggy and his best friend/Great Dane Scooby Doo. With their love of food and penchant for screwing up carefully constructed, villain-catching plans, this duo is hard not to love. Lucky for them, Fed, Daphne and Velma are there to save the day. Together this team of teenagers and their dumb dog too are an unstoppable force of crime-solving sleuths. So if you have a monster, ghost or plain old bad guy that needs to be unmasked, just call Mystery, Inc. 

Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars) – Veronica Mars the teenage daughter of a former police chief turned private investigator who uses her prodigious skills to solve a crimes at Neptune High, starting with the murder of her best friend Lily. In some ways she reminds me of a modern, sarcastic Nancy Drew. 

Shawn Spencer (Psych) – Shawn Spencer is a bit different from the other sleuths on this list. Why? Because he's psychic  or at least he says his is. In truth he's just incredibly observant, able to deduce a great deal from a single glance. Acting as a freelance consultant for the Santa Barbara PD, Shawn uses his supposed psychic episodes to communicate his observations. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 (or, again, 6 in this case) favorite Sleuths. What are some of your favorites?

This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Rebel Leader

Rebel leaders are one of the most interesting character trope in film and literature. Sometimes as military leaders and sometimes as symbols, they inspire rebellion against the corrupt and malignant organizations that impose their rule, inspiring the oppressed to rise up against those that oppress them. Here are a few of my favorite examples of rebel leaders . . . or to be more exact, here are some of my all time favorite characters. 

R is for Rebel Leader 

Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly) – Once a Brown Coat sergeant in the Unification War Against the Alliance, Mal Reynolds turned away from the life of a soldier after they lost the war. He contends himself with taking odd jobs here and there, content to stay off the radar and simply drift through space. However, when the Alliance kills off those he cares about in order to get to him and the Tam siblings he gives shelter, Mal digs deep for that rebel, Brown-Coat attitude and fights back. In other words, he aims to misbehave. 

John Connor (The Terminator franchise) – He was raised from infancy to become a leader, taught weaponry and self-defense by his mother Sarah. He pushes and drives the resistance, organizing what's left of humanity to fight against Skynet and the machines that seeks to wipe humanity out forever. 

Harry Potter (The Harry Potter series) – In the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter is encouraged by Ron and Hermione to create a secret group, named Dumbledore's Army. The DA is basically the youth division of the Order of the Phoenix, created to oppose the Ministry's interference at Hogwarts via. deplorable Professor Dolores Umbridge. The DA further rises up to fight against Voldemort himself in the Battle of Hogwarts. 

Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Admiral Ackbar (Star Wars) – The Rebel Alliance, created in opposition to Palpatine's Galactic Empire, is an allegiance of insurrectionist factions working to restore the Old Republic. With leaders like Luke, Han, Leia and Ackbar, they take on Palpatine, Darth Vadar and the Empire's fleet and bring the Imperialist regime to an end. 

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games series) – Katniss Everdeen never intended to get mixed up in a rebellion against the Capitol. She wanted nothing more than to live a quiet life with her younger sister and best friend Gale, hunting and traipsing around the woods. However,  when she inadvertently starts and uprising and learns the lengths to which the Capitol will go to bring it to its knees  including the torture of the boy who once saved her life  she agrees to become the Mockingjay, a symbol for the resistance.  

V (V for Vendetta) – V was once inmate at Larkhill Resettlement Camp, a concentration camp set up by Britain's white supremacist government. After he frees himself via a homemade incendiary device, he takes on the persona of V in order to become an anarchist and vigilante, seeking to bring down the fascist dictatorship that rules England. He wears the face of Guy Fawkes and transforms himself into a symbol – an idea– because as a man he can be "killed and forgotten, but four hundred years later an idea can still change the world". 

And there you have it, my Top 5 (or 6 in this case) favorite Rebel Leaders. What are some of your favorites?

This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Queen

Often depicted as the evil oppressor of the kind-hearted princess in classic fairy tales, the Queen gets a bad rap. Which let's face it, is sometimes pretty deserved. But of course not all queens are dark and dangerous. Here's a look at some of my favorite fictional queens, both praiseworthy and pernicious. 

Q is for Queen 

Snow Queen (The Snow Queen) – One of Hans Christian Andersen's more famous fairy tale characters, The Snow Queen is both beautiful and dangerous. Queen of the snowflakes, her kiss can make you forget you past. The Snow Queen abducts Kai, kissing him so he no longer remembers Gerda, the young girl he loves, and imprisons him in the frozen lake upon which rests her throne. Only Gerda's love can rescue him from the Snow Queen's frosty clutches. 

Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts (Alice's Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) – Contrary to popular belief, the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts are not in fact the same person. Though often combined into one singular character for film purposes, the two queens are as different as night and day. The Queen of Hearts makes her appearance in Carroll's first Alice book as the lady with the ungovernable rage, flying off the handle at a moment's notice. She's most known for her constant refrain of "Off with their heads!" The Red Queen on the other hand, hails from Carroll's second foray into Wonderland. Unlike her counterpart, the Red Queen is calm and calculating, and refrains from abusing her power. 

Red Queen (Resident Evil) – The Red Queen in Resident Evil is a highly-advanced and self aware computer system with a holographic image designed to look like a little girl. She was created to monitor the goings-on within the Hive, particularly that of the T-virus hidden there. When the virus breaks out, she locks down the facility, imprisoning and killing those below in her effort to stop it from being released into the world. Her actions, though perhaps altruistic in theory, are cold and calculated, willing to sacrifice human life to stop the virus's spread. But that's a queen machine for you. 

Queen Amidala (Star Wars) – Queen Amadala, or Padme, is the doomed wife of Anakin Skywalker and the mother of twins Luke and Leia. A kind and honorable queen, Padme stands for freedom and the liberation of her subject of Naboo. And when the Republic is dissolved in favor of a new, corrupt empire, Padme Amidala is one of the first to sign the Petition of 2000, opposing the increasing rule of Emperor Palpatin (for more on him, see my "E" post here). Her fatal downfall comes in the form of love and trust. She loves her husband Anakin, the future Darth Vadar and the man responsible for her death. 

Evil Queen (Snow White) – One of the most dangerous fairy tale characters ever written, the Evil Queen from Snow White is obsessed with beauty, youth and power. When the Queen asks her magic mirror "Who's the fairest of them all?" and it answers Snow White, she demands that her Huntsman take the girl into the forest and cut out her heart. Upon learning of his failure to carry out her wishes, she then poisons Snow White with her famous poison apple. My three favorite depictions of the Evil Queen include Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman, Lana Parrilla in Once Upon a Time, and Dianne Weist in The 10th Kingdom. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Queens. What are some of your favorites?

This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pirate

Pirates. Those crafty, rum-drinking, eye-patch wearing, dastardly fiends who sail the seven seas, striking terror in the hearts of all who cross their paths. I spent countless hours with a bandanna on my head and a wooden sword in my hand, a pillowcase Jolly Rogers tied to my bedpost, pretending I was the captain of my own pirate ship. 

Oh yeah, and they're cooler than ninjas. Just saying. 

P is for Pirate 

Dread Pirate Roberts (The Princess Bride) – I defy anyone who's ever seen or read The Princess Bride to not fall in love with Westley. The long-lost love of Buttercup, Westley's ship was captured by the famed Dread Pirate Roberts many years before, but rather than kill him, "Roberts"  who was really named Ryan  made him the new heir to the Dread Pirate title. Thus we learn that Dread Pirate Roberts is not really a person, but a persona, a dreaded scourge of the high seas whose very name inflicts terror upon anyone who hears it. 

Captain Jack Sparrow (The Pirates of the Caribbean series) – The hands down funniest pirate on this list, Jack Sparrow . . . excuse me, Captain Jack Sparrow, is smart, crafty, calculating, and all together insane. With a penchant for harebrained schemes that (for unknown reasons) always work out, Jack is without a doubt the worst  make that best  pirate of them all

Ragnar Danneskjold (Atlast Shrugged) – Once a philosopher and schoolmates with Francisco D'Anconia and the infamous John Gault, Ragnar is now a pirate of the high seas. He spends his days seizing ships from US Navy under the orders of the Bureau of Global Relief, returning the wealth that was stolen from those who rightfully earned it through their heard work and ingenuity. Not to be confused with Robin Hood, Ragnar merely sees this as restoring John Gault's followers, penalized for their brains and hard-earned fortune, to their rightful place. 

Captain Hook (Peter Pan) – Captain Hook is the one-handed nemesis of Peter Pan, the famed boy who never grows up. His greatest joys in life are plotting revenge and making Lost Boys walk the plank. With a black heart and unnatural hatred for Peter, Hook has exactly one weakness . . . his fear of ticking crocodiles. I love every depiction of him, from Dustin Hoffman in the 1991 film Hook to Dave Barry and Ridley Pearsons's Peter and the Starcatchers series. But I have one important question: What was Hook's name before Peter cut off his hand? 

Long John Silver (Treasure Island) – With a peg-leg and a parrot on his shoulder, Long John Silver is the antagonist in one of the most enduring pirate novels of all time, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. By all accounts he's a smooth-talking, charismatic man; however, beneath his amiable exterior lies a villainous nature so black that even the "bloodthirstiest buccaneer that sailed" the high seas was afraid of him. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Pirates. What are some of your favorites?

This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Outlaw

A popular feature in American news coverage during the 1930's and old Western films, the outlaw has become a celebrated – and deeply romanticized – subject in both film and literature. Wanted for crimes and a fugitive from justice, outlaws can be viewed as both criminal and hero, flouting a corrupt government or oppressive society by committing unlawful deeds. 

O is for Outlaw 

Robin Hood (Too many books and movies to name) – The most famous outlaw of them all, Robin Hood is a British folk hero that's fascinated the world for centuries. He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, lived in the forest with his true love and band of Merry Men, and flouted an corrupt system and wicked king. He is one of the most enduring characters and epic outlaws to ever grace film and literature. 

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (Bonnie and Clyde) – The couple that that captured the interest (and wealth) of America during the Public Enemy Era, Bonnie and Clyde robbed countless banks, gas stations and stores in their three year run together. With his dark and dangerous attitude and her sassy style, not to mention the appeal of a love story between two outlaws on the lamb, Bonnie and Clyde has remained a fascinating subject for nearly eighty years. They demonstrate the age-old adage, those who rob together, stay together. At least until shot and killed by the law. 

Butch Cassidy (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) – A classic American outlaw from the Wild West, Butch Cassidy was a train and bank robber and leader of the Wild Bunch Gang. Made famous by the 1969 film chronicling his exploits and retreat to Bolivia, Butch and his partner, The Sundance Kid, are film icons, bravely charging into a swarm of armed Bolivian guards,  meeting their probable death with sarcasm and blazing guns

Ned Kelly (Ned Kelly) – Considered by many Australians to be a heroic figure fighting British rule in the Australian outback, Ned Kelly was born in Victoria to an Irish convict. After several scrapes with the law for cattle and horse stealing, Ned, his brother Dan, and several friends went on the run, eventually forming the Kelly Gang. Robbing banks and defying British authority, Ned and his gang are revolutionary symbols against an unwelcome outside authority. 

Simon and River Tam (Firefly) – When Simon Tam learns that his younger sister River is being abused and experimented on by members of the Alliance, he leaves his well-respected place at the Medial Academy and cushy, elite life to rescue her. Together they go on the run, hiding from Alliance agents who continue to hunt them aboard the firefly vessel, Serenity. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Outlaws. What are some of your favorites? 
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Ninja

The first half of an argument that splits nerds down the middle (for the other half, check out my "P" post on Thursday), Ninjas are the black-clad, mask wearing, martial arts masters that spawned out of feudal Japan. Sometimes seen as vigilante crime-fighters, and sometimes ruthless killers, ninjas are stealthy, dark and dangerous. And almost as cool as pirates 

Andrew and Andy, this one's for you . . . 

N is for Ninja 

Raizo (Ninja Assassin) – Raised to become the most lethal ninja assassin in the world, and the next in line to lead the Ozunu Clan, Raizo is trained to brutal perfection. However, when Lord Ozunu's actions become too barbarous, Raizo rejects the clan that brought him in and seeks revenge for their dark deeds.  

Rocky, Colt and Tum Tum (3 Ninjas) – One of my favorite movies as a little girl, the Douglas brother protagonists of 3 Ninjas were taught martial arts and Jujitsu at the hands of their Japanese grandfather, Mori. Taking on both kidnappers and an organized crime ring, there's nothing these three ninja brothers can't handle. [And a note to my friends Kalina, Shannon and Becky – I'm still glad they brought the cute Rocky back for the third movie. Why they switched for the second I'll never understand.]

Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) – The best ninjas ever created, the TMNT are the heroes of my childhood. These four brothers were once your garden variety reptiles, but after coming into contact with some toxic ooze, they were transformed into the spectacularly named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Raised in the sewers and taught ninjutsu by their rat sensei Splinter, these turtles love nothing more than pizza, color-coordinated accessories, and fighting crime. [My favorite, by the way, is a two-way tie between Donatello and Rafael.]

Elektra (Marvel Comics) – The only female to make my list, Elektra is a deadly as she is beautiful. Trained by the Hand, an order of evil mercenary ninjas, to become a deadly assassin,  she eventually broke away from the order, but not before they damaged her already darkened soul. One of the most beloved Marvel characters, Elektra is a violent and seductive ninja. 

Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow (G. I. Joe) – Sword brothers, rivals . . . these two men are some of the most dangerous ninjas ever dreamed up. With a vow of silence and wearing head to toe black, Snake Eyes is my favorite of the Joes. And Storm Shadow, his white-clad foe. So conflicted, venturing back and forth between sides. But whether fighting with each other or against, these two frenemies kick some serious butt. 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Ninjas. What are some of your favorites?
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Monster

Hollywood and fantastical literature have long paid particular attention to a category of creatures so dark and so foul they can only be known as Monsters. The beasts nightmares are made of, these dark beings are as fascinating as they are vicious. And yet, one has to wonder if all monsters are are evil, or if some of them are merely . . . misinterpreted So for today's category, I decided to come up with not one, but two Top Five Favorite Monsters – the malicious and the misunderstood. 

M is for Monsters: Malicious and Misunderstood 

Malicious Monsters: 

Count Dracula (Dracula) – The most famous vampire ever written (including that sparkly guy teen girls like to scream about), Count Dracula is the brainchild of Bram Stoker and perhaps one of the most sinister characters ever written. With his seductive manner hiding a bestial nature, Dracula is as deadly as he is enthralling. 

Jabberwocky (Through the Looking Glass) – The Jabberwocky is the star of one of my personal favorite poems, a compelling piece of nonsense written by the glorious Lewis Carroll. Though we have no complete description of its form, we do know a few things about this ferocious beast: it's got jaws that bite and claws that catch, eyes of flame, and of course, can only be killed by the vorpal blade that goes 'snicker-snack'. So always remember, "Beware the Jabberwocky!" 

Basilisk (Harry Potter series) – Sometimes called the "King of the serpents", the Basilisk is a large snake-like reptile with the ability to kill at a glance. Kept hidden in the Chamber of Secrets and controlled by Lord Voldemort, the Basilisk is an instrument of death and a monster to be feared. 

Kraken (Clash of the Titans and Pirates of the Caribbean) – Featured over and over again in film and literature, the Kraken is the great monster of the sea, the massive creature responsible for the destruction of many great ships and the loss of countless lives. My two favorite depictions come from Clash of the Titans and Pirates of the Caribbean, both of which give me sea-monster filled dreams. 

Killer Clown (It) – One of the most haunting creatures ever to be written, Stephen King's "It" is a being of unknown origins. Able to shape-shift into our inner-most phobias, it generally takes the form of a demonic clown, known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Having watched the movie as a small child (thanks so much for that one mom and dad), "It" is quite literally the reason I now suffer from Coulrophobia. 

Misunderstood Monsters: 

Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein) – My favorite literary monster, this one doesn't even get a name. Known simply as a creature, demon or fiend, Frankenstein's creation was once intelligent and gentle, but through the rejection of his maker and everyone he comes across, he becomes cruel and murderous. Seeking revenge against the maker who gave him life only to abandon him to a world he doesn't understand nor understands him, Frankenstein's monster is in my mind, one of the most tragic and piteous creatures ever written. 

Grendel (Beowulf and Grendel) – Described as the demon descendant of Cain, Grendel is a grotesque and monstrous creature that preys on Hrothgar's warriors in the epic poem Beowulf. However, in the parallel novel by John Gardner, Grendel, we get insight into this dark being's thoughts and motivations, humanizing him a deeply sympathetic way. A lonely creature that strives to understand the world around him, his brutality can be seen as a product of mankind's own violent nature rather than a alien bestial. 

Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera) – Known sometimes as the "Opera Ghost", the "Angel of Music", or simply Erik, the Phantom lives in the darkest reaches of the Paris opera house. Born hideously disfigured, the Phantom was the subject of cruelty and abuse from his first breathe, and thus became ruthless and brutal himself. And yet he shows a real capacity for love and selflessness when he allows the woman he loves to go free. 

King Kong (King Kong) – An iconic Hollywood character, King King is the famous gorilla that climbed the Empire State Building with the shrieking, hysterical blond clutched in his enormous fist. Forcibly captured and taken away from the island home to which he belongs, Kong is nothing if not a sympathetic creature. And that scene in the Peter Jackson version where he plays on the ice with Ann Darrow, the one person he cares for and protects at he risk of his own life . . . it broke my heart into teeny, tiny pieces. 

Godzilla (Godzilla) – A surviving prehistoric creature that's mutated after being exposed to nuclear radiation, Godzilla is the beast that terrorizes Tokyo. With atomic breath, advanced healing and superior strength, Godzilla is a formidable foe. And yet, in the 1998 film version (the first memory I actually have of Godzilla), this "monster" is merely a mother trying to protect her offspring. Can you really blame her for being upset after they bombed all her little monster babies? 

Last but not least, here are a few Monstrous Honorable Mentions I would feel ashamed to leave out. And side note, they're all stars of their own spectacular Sy-Fy Channel Original Movies, and NOT to be missed. In fact, they're so terrific I'm adding IMDB links to each creature so you can be sure not to miss out on this action! 

And there you have it, my Top 5 favorite Monsters. What are some of your favorites? __________________________________________________________________________________ This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2013. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is character types and tropes. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the other participants, simply click here.