Gene Wilder: Another legend gone too soon

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Gene Wilder was already an established actor when he accepted what would be a pivotal role in the history of Pop Culture. His work as Willy Wonka in Mel Stuart’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory forever cemented itself among the pantheon of great cinematic creations. The cult following that followed the release of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, still brews today but the Golden Globe winning actor was and is more than the cinematic face of Willy Wonka for many generations.

In my youth, I was blessed enough to have parents who weren’t afraid to allow me to see waco kid gene wilderand experience great movies. The movies of a certain writer/director, Mel Brooks, were some of my favorites. One of Mel Brooks favorite actors to use in his films was my Willy Wonka: Gene Wilder. So these two worlds meshed and mingled in a way that just made sense. One of my father’s favorite movies is Blazing Saddles and I remember many times, laughing with my dad while watching the antics of the recovering alcoholic gunslinger, The Waco Kid. The movie was outlandish and it was just perfect enough to make me continue wanting to see Mel Brook’s movies.

gene young frankensteinThe acting talents of Gene Wilder were evident in all of his movies but I think that his other Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein, deserved the Academy Award nomination. Whether he was starring with the comedy legend Richard Pryor, being directed by the amazing Mel Brooks or acting aside his late wife, SNL alum Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder was a cinematic genius. The world lost a legend upon his passing this week and I lost my Willy Wonka. The news reported that he died quietly in his home, while holding the hand of his 4th wife while listening to his favorite songs. A fitting ending for an amazing man.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top Ten: Guitar Solos

Ever since the invent of the electric guitar in the early 1900s, the electric guitar has been commonplace in all musical genres. From the jazz guitarists and big band ensembles of the 1930s to Muddy Water’s Chicago Blues or Chuck Berry’s beginnings of Rock n Roll to Kurt Cobain’s riffs in Seattle’s Grunge scene; we love the guitar. The electric guitar has came along way from the original amplified electric guitar that was adopted by those original great jazz guitarists. Rather rhythm or lead guitar, we all have those favorite melodic solos that make us close our eyes and drift away while appreciate that skill of the guitarist. In my list of my favorite guitar solos of all time, I am regretfully steering clear of amazing soloists that are not in a song with lyrics. This would exclude all instrumental tracks. I will list some of my favorites now for nostalgia’s sake but will exclude them from the Top 10. My favorite instrumental tracks are Joe Satriani‘s Made of Tears, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Black Star, Steve Vai‘s For the Love of God, and Metallica‘s The Call of the Ktulu.

For this list I will venture into all genres of music. May be a little bit of blues and a little bit of rock n roll. There aren’t a lot of ‘newer’ music per say because unless your Avenged Sevenfold…you don’t really appreciate the greatness that is a guitar solo.

So here it is…..

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Guitar Solos

 

10. CreamCrossroads

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Eric Clapton

9. Van HalenEruption

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Eddie Van Halen

8. PanteraFlood

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Dimebag Darrell

7. B.B. KingThe Thrill is Gone

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B.B. King

6. Guns N Roses – November Rain

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Slash

5. Led ZeppelinStairway to Heaven

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Jimmy Page

4. MetallicaOne

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Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield

3. Jimi HendrixAll Along the Watchtower

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Jimi Hendrix

2. NirvanaThe Man Who Sold the World (Unplugged: Live in New York)

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Kurt Cobain (from Mtv’s Unplugged Live from New York)

1. Pink FloydComfortably Numb

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David Gilmour

 

Honorable Mentions (I had enough of those that I could do another top ten list):

Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover, Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird, Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody, Stevie Ray Vaughan – Pride and Joy, ZZ Tops – La Grange, Thin Lizzy – Whiskey in the Jar, Fleetwood Mac – Go your own way, Dire Straights – Sultans of Swing, Ted Nugent – Stranglehold, Jeff Healey – Road House Blues, Eagles – Hotel California, Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top Ten: Westerns

Please note that I said Westerns not Westeros or Westerners. I am speaking of the movies which showcased the American old West. Romantically showcasing the nomadic cowboy or revenge seeking gunfighter whose revolver and horse are all that he has to his name. Stetson hats and cowboy boots. Shooting bandits and saving cowardly townsfolk. Sounds western-movie-historyAexciting right? The ‘Wild West’ has been a popular mode of entertainment as far back as people have been ‘going west’. The novelas or mini book depictions showcased the heroic lawmen and brandish outlaws in such a grandiose fashion that readers were hooked. The simple morality tales stretched the saint like status in an almost Arthurian style. These Western Knights held their brand of honor stood for justice. Radio shows/stars like the Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy popularized the airwaves with their stories of Western life until the big and small screen (Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel, etc) made the Western a worldwide phenomena. Much like the radio shows, books and news articles; the early western movies depicted life in the American West. They showcased the struggles of the inhabitants of these inhospitable areas of New Mexico, Texas or other western location.

The western morphed and changed due to advances in technology but mostly kept the same premise. The Spaghetti Western, which is a subgenre of the Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s  after Sergio Leone’s patented style which showcased the infamous Clint Eastwood. The Western grew in popularity in the 1960s, 1970s and until this day. Since my father was a huge fan of the Western, I grew up watching Westerns and love them to this day. So here is my Top Ten favorite Westerns of all Time.

Top Cat Top Ten: Westerns

10.  The Revenant (2015)

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9. Open Range (2003)

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8. High Plains Drifter (1973)

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7. Young Guns (1988)

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6. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1978)

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5. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

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4. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

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3. For a Few Dollars More (1965)

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2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968)

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1. Tombstone (1993)

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Honorable Mentions: Proposition; Pale Rider; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Coming soon to theaters: The Magnificent Seven

Thor’s Thursday Tour: Paul’s Place Famous Hotdogs

Even if you’re the God of Thunder, there are times that you just want a hot dog. Sometimes Thor just walks down the Bifrost Bridge and asks the omniscient god Heimdall a question and if Heimdall deems the trip necessary; he will open to bridge to travel to that  specific location. Sometimes Thor asks Heimdall suggestions of where to go and sometimes he remembers something that Tony Stark himself taught him to use: the internet. So while sitting around the royal halls of Asgard; Thor decided that he needed a glorious treat that he found while on his many journeys on Earth. We are of course referring to the grilled or steamed sausage garnished with a variety of tasty accoutrements while being served in a sliced bun. We are talking hot dogs.


While doing research on the internet, Thor thought that he might enjoy eating a hot dog with a friend so he called the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Tony happened to be flying over North Carolina. Tony says to Thor, “Let me take care of this big guy.” Then he instructs F.R.I.D.A.Y. to do an in depth analysis and find the best hot dog joint within the parameters of his location. Results: Paul’s Place Famous Hotdogs in Rocky Point, NC. Iron Man touched down within seconds of Heimdall sending Thor to this destination. They decide to walk inside and the smell of hotdogs was permeating the air. The simplistic decor and down home personalities create a welcoming environment. An environment which even welcomes superheroes. 

Selecting the ‘all the way’ hotdog (which is a steamed hot dog simply garnished with mustard, relish and onions) along with a side of hand breaded onion ring justs felt right. So that’s what the two Avengers did. The two ate their fill and talked about their many accomplishments. Each story more grandiose than the next. Each story more boastful and over the top exaggerative than the previous. The hotdogs were eaten and they both flew back to their homes with a belly full of a delicious local delicacy.

Suicide Squad: why all the hate?

suicide squad posterJust in case you are one of the five people that have not contributed to the almost $300 million in ticket sales world wide for Suicide Squad, you should probably stop reading now. So…that’s your spoiler alert.

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Me and the whole famn damily just left the theaters from seeing another comic book batman animated showrelated movie. We have been excited to see Suicide Squad since we heard about its early stages of development last year. My wife just happens to have been a huge Harley Quinn fan since watching the same show that made me truly fall in love with the backgrounds of the characters in Batman; the Batman: The Animated Series TV show. Since me and Daniel have been playing Batman: Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Knight and harley quinn cartoon and movieInjustice: God’s Among Us; we have had ample experience continuing to fall in love with Harley as well. Harley has been a band wagon character here and her growing fan base has caused a lot of hate; much like the hate for Marvel’s golden bad boy: Deadpool. I had seen the trailers and heard the early reviews but I still wanted to see the movie for myself. We optimistically purchased our tickets and within the first 20 minutes, I recall looking over at my wife and enthusiastically said, “I don’t care what anyone says, this movie is great!” Some of the delivery was campy. The Joker’s tattoos and gold teeth were a bit much. The Croc looked like a really bad street thug with terrible acne and really bad teeth. But I cannot complain. Batman had just the right amount of interaction while the story line was believable and I for one loved it.

I’m normally a comic book purist when it comes to movies. I didn’t like that Hugh Jackman is over 6 foot tall while the comic book Wolverine is much shorter. How about how terrible that Anna Paquin’s Rogue is? Oh how it still makes me shudder. The truth of the matter is that I think that Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Will Smith and the rest of the comic book characters come to life did a really great job. Was it perfect? No. But honestly what Hollywood made comic book movie is?

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Top Cat’s Top Ten: Video Games (Chris edition)

If you were a kid that grew up in the 80s then you were able to experience some amazing things. I mean we had: MTV, amazing toys (MASK, He-Man, GI Joes, Star Wars, Transformers), ground breaking clothing styles (black high top Vans, cutoff half shirts, light up LA Gears, tight acid wash jeans and The Pump Reeboks), the movies (The Karate Kid, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Star Wars, The Neverending Story), TV shows (Perfect Strangers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Alf, Who’s the Boss?, Saved by the Bell), your mom’s mini van, and who could forget the mullet. Most important of all, the 80s and into the 90s brought something that would literally change the world forever: video games.

Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘but Chris, video games were made as far back as the 50s and Pong was made which was the most popular video game of its day was made by Atari in 1972’. I know all of this. I know about OXO that was created by Alexander Douglas in 1952. I know about William Higinbotham’s Tennis for Two. I know about Pong. I know about Space Invaders and the Atari 2600 but I’m referring to the home and handheld video game systems/games that has caused the zombification of kids around the world. All the eyes bloodshot for hours, fingers riddled with carpal tunnel, bellies full of hot pockets and Doritos…..just to get in more time with your favorite game. Everyone had their favorite. Kids today have their favorite. Daniel (and other kids his age)’s list will be VERY different from my generations because the generation that I grew up in had the pleasure of seeing and playing everything from the NES and the Sega Genesis to the current Xbox 1 and Playstation 4. So since I have had the pleasure of playing video games since I was old enough to hold a joystick at the arcade, corded or wireless controller or handheld device; I am going to list my favorite games of all time.

Chris’s Top Ten Favorite and Most Influential Video Games of all Time

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10. Tetris – The 1984 time sensitive puzzle game had me hooked as a kid. I had just got a Nintendo Game Boy in 1989 and Tetris was my favorite game. I remember the times that I wanted to throw my Game Boy out the window because of the complexity of the falling shape variations; but all in all it was and still is as simple and addictive as it was 30 years ago.

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9. Killer Instinct -By 1996, the video game industry had completely revolutionized gaming and changed the landscape for the better. Killer Instinct followed a lineage of fighting games, which at that time had failed in comparison to Killer Instinct. The arcade style fighting game had a huge push from Nintendo and I even purchased one of the limited edition black cartridge with remixed game soundtrack CD that was included. I would turn on my black-light in my bedroom, turn on my fan and blast the game’s soundtrack while playing the game. The game was pushed by Nintendo enough that it got my attention and was able to keep it for years to come.

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8. WWE All-Stars – I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember {I even blogged about my love for wrestling here} and by the time 2011 rolled around, I had had many years experience with wrestling related video games. I remember wrestling video games all the way from Wrestlemania for the NES system back in 1989 to one of my favorite video games of all time (this would have made the list at around 12) WCW vs nWo World Tour for the Nintendo 64 to the current WWE 2k?? games. There was just something special about WWE All-Stars though. The larger than life, muscular characters could throw their opponents higher, hit harder and almost possessed super human abilities. It was a perfect blend of a great wrestling game and Mortal Kombat. What could go wrong there?

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7. Batman: Arkham City – As a comic book lover, I have also been intrigued to play comic book related games so I had no doubt that one of my favorite superheroes would have an amazing video game. After the immense popularity of the first two movies in the Dark Knight trilogy and the award winning Batman: Arkham Asylum game, it only made sense that DC Comics would continue spewing out action-adventure video games for our favorite caped crusader. The graphics and storyline of Batman: Arkham City are as spell-bounding as the Dark Knight himself.

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6. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – After Sega asked their creative team to create a mascot for their company (like Nintendo has Mario, Disney has Mickey Mouse, etc); the creative team created Sonic: an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog with super fast speed. Sonic allowed Sega and their Sega Genesis to lead the way through the early 16-bit era. Sonic the Hedgehog had his own cartoon voiced by 90s icon Steve Urkel (yes I know his real name is Jaleel White). The coin grabbing hedgehog’s was joined by a double tailed friend and this second game was by far my favorite at the time.

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5. Super Mario Kart – Oh the hours…oh the hours spent playing the 3rd best selling Super Nintendo game of all time. In single mode, Super Mario Kart allows you and seven other computer-controlled Mario series characters to race around tracks on your souped up go-kart. In a multi-player mode, you and a friend can simultaneously take part in the cups and race one another while the third multiplayer mode is Battle Mode. The Guinness World Records has chosen Super Mario Kart as the top console game ever and my 10 year old self can reassure you that it is deserving of that title.

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4. Super Mario World aka Super Mario 4 – By the time Christmas of 1988 rolled around, I had been playing video games for more than half of my life, thanks to a hand-me-down Atari 2600. When I tore open the wrapping paper to reveal my “Action Set” NES which included the normal game controllers, NES Zapper and a game containing Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt; I think I shed a tear. I plugged in the appropriate cords and begin to journey on my quest to save the Princess. Well years went by and Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario Bros 3 came and went. Also the Nintendo NES became obsolete because the new “Super” Nintendo had been released in a bundle package with the new Super Mario World aka Super Mario Bros 4. This game brought about all the things that you loved about the original three games and jumped them into the 16 bit landscape. The  joy of riding Mario’s newly found dinosaur friend Yoshi was reason enough to have this game Spin Attack itself into my 3rd slot.

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3. X-Men – I have always loved comic books and the X-Men have always been some of my favorites but when the X-Men video game was released around the same time that my second favorite cartoon of all time was released……both had me hooked immediately. F0x’s X-Men cartoon was a huge hit and the X-Men video game followed suit. The side scrolling video game allowed you to take out Mutant frustration on all sorts of evil villains and live our your X-Men related dreams. From the Optic blasts of Cyclops to the claws of Wolverine…your favorite X-Men was available at your finger tips.

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2. Mortal Kombat 3 – Mortal Kombat was a phenomena. First beginning as one of my favorite arcade games, the Mortal Kombat fighting games came spinning wheel kicking its way onto the Nintendo Entertainment Systems. By the time the fanfare of the release of Mortal Kombat 3 had ceased, I was enjoying the new Fatality finishing moves and all of the new characters. The fighting seemed smoother and I got better at it the long that the game stayed inside my Nintendo; which was a really long time.

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1. Injustice: God’s Among Us – To say that a game is your ‘favorite of all time’ is saying a lot but DC Comics released a video game in 2o13 that completely blew my mind. There had been games where you could play as your favorite comic book super hero before but this game brought the DC Comics legends to a Mortal Kombat style arena. In the Injustice storyline where Superman from an alternate universe goes a little crazy after the Joker tricks him into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis. In an effort to stop Superman, Batman comes to our reality and enlist the help of our superheroes. Of course you can follow the storyline or you can just go straight up and fight. You really want to find out who would in an all out, battle to death between the Joker and Batman? Well…now you can live out your fantasy. You want to find out who can punch faster: Flash or Superman? Well now you can. The game and the storyline are intriguing and I am definitely looking forward to the sequel which will be released next year.

Honorable mentions: Shadow of the Colossus (2005), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (arcade game), Street Fighter II: The World Warrior 

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