hocus-pocus spell book

(Welcome to Nostalgia Bomb, a series where we take a look back on beloved childhood favorites and discern whether or not they’re actually any good. In this edition: Kenny Ortega’s beloved-by-a-generation Hocus Pocus.)

Hocus Pocus has existed since the dawn of time…or at least that is how I feel. I was only two years old when it came out in 1993 and I have been watching it since then. I cannot recall my first viewing of it, or my second, or my tenth. I was simply too young. Sure, I love plenty of movies that are much older than I am, but for most of those films I was a fully conscious child viewing them. There was a me before the movie. However, like Labyrinth and The Princess Bride, Hocus Pocus is a tale as old as time. There isn’t really a Vanessa BHP (Before Hocus Pocus) only a Hocus Pocus BV (Before Vanessa). I have been watching it since before I knew I was watching it. It was as much a constant in my life as my own parents.

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afterlife with archie

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids trick or treating and everyone telling you to be of good fear! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Halloween has become as big as Christmas. From excessive decorations to Hallmark cards and holiday parties, the reign of the Pumpkin King is encroaching on Santa Claus’ good cheer. Although we have horror films a’plenty, movie fans may be looking for something a little more this year. Something to read when the sun goes down. Something to keep the seasonal spirit alive between slasher flicks and ghost stories.

So how about some great horror comics? From science fiction to the occult to zombies to just good ‘ol Halloween fun, we have got you covered. And most importantly: these series all stand alone, so you don’t have to do the kind of back-breaking research that often goes hand-in-hand with superhero comics. Just pick a title that sounds good and dive right in.

Enter at your own risk and in the words of the Mistress of the Dark herself: “Unpleasant dreams!”

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channel zero

The Halloween season is upon us. You know the signs. Pumpkin everything, the coveted trip to Target’s seasonal section, and of course, the horror movie marathons. Horror is more popular than ever – look the long-running and massively popular anthology series American Horror Story. Look to the box office returns for It. People are eating up the horror genre like rabid zombies. As a self-proclaimed life-long horror nerd myself, I am living for it. However, as I make my hourly scan through social media, freak flags flying, inner witches let out of their summer sunshine cages, I can’t help but notice an absence of something. Channel Zero.

I did not hear about Channel Zero until three episodes into the first season, and a year later the puppets of Candle Cove (the subtitle for season one) still haunt me. While American Horror Story may have the market on the latest Hot Topic gear, Channel Zero is the underdog ready to usurp AHS’s crown. When it comes to story telling and overall horror appeal, this little six-episode SyFy show wipes the floor with the competition. The details of the first season aren’t foggy to me. I remember it clearly. For too long, AHS has favored gimmick and shock over real horror. There is a place for that, but we, as people that like good horror, need more.

Channel Zero is the answer to our unfulfilled nightmares. It is easily the scariest show on television…so why the hell aren’t you watching it?

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The 10 Best Episodes of ‘South Park’

Trapped in the Closet 2

Oh, South Park. The notorious, the infamous, the legendary South Park. I remember being a child and watching South Park while hiding under pillows that my older brothers put over me so that my parents wouldn’t know I was there. By the time I was 11 and my parents had caved, the DVD box sets were being released and my brothers started me back at episode one. The rest was history.

I have seen every episode of South Park, some only once or twice, and others upwards of unfathomable numbers. When tasked to pick my top 10 favorite episodes out of its 20 seasons, I was naive and ignorant to think that this would be super simple. I get to watch South Park and write about it. Hell, yeah! However, once I started scanning through and picking my favorite episodes out of every season to narrow it down, I ended up with a list 60 episodes long. This was a beast.

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girls trip movie

It’s safe to say that the summer of 2017 is all about the ladies…and ladies taking long-held beliefs about what makes a box office hit and completely blowing them out of the water.

Though Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot (and director Patty Jenkins!) and Atomic Blonde‘s Charlize Theron gave women some new action heroes to admire, one movie that deserves a closer look is Girls Trip. What could have been overlooked as yet another Hangover-esque story, Girls Trip has defied expectations, becoming one of the biggest standouts of the summer season. Sure, it didn’t open at number one, but if blockbusters like Batman v Superman and X-Men: Apocalypse taught us anything, opening weekend means very little in terms of quality. Girls Trip not only pulled in more than its projected debut with $31 million, but the raunchy comedy, anchored by an absolutely hilarious cast of black women, only saw a 36% drop in its second weekend, pulling in another $20 million in its second weekend.

The obsession with the number one box office spot will never go away, but after several weeks of holding strong at the box office (it has earned $88 million against a budget of only $19 million), it is time we address the big question: what can Hollywood learn from Girls Trip? The answer is: a great deal.

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atomic blonde trailer

(Welcome to What Women Watch, a series exploring what modern women are watching, and loving, on the big and small screens. In this edition, we examine how the films being made for women are changing for the better, as seen in movies like Atomic Blonde and Girls Trip.)

Last week, I went to see Atomic Blonde and I left that theater feeling like a badass. I left that theater feeling sexy. As I listened to two men on the way out say that Charlize Theron’s Lorraine could kick John Wick’s ass, it felt damn fine to be a woman. In the days that followed, the Atomic Blonde soundtrack has become my soundtrack. I listen to it at the gym, while I drive, and even when I sweep my floor. Her capabilities, her complexity, her charm…I couldn’t stop thinking about Atomic Blonde.

On Tuesday I went to see Girls Trip. I left the theater feeling like a badass. I left that theater feeling sexy. As I listened to all of the of women in the room (mothers with their daughters, couples, groups of friends) laughing and cheering, it felt damn fine to be a woman. I was a bit shy about seeing a buddy movie alone, but by the 10-minute mark, the whole theater felt like an old group of friends with inside jokes that we kept from the men in the audience. Those women on that screen, their capabilities, their complexity, their charm…I couldn’t help but feel camaraderie, and a certain amount of pride, in my closest female friends.

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Andy Casagrande filming sharks 2

When Jaws premiered in 1975, it created panic. Even for new viewers, seeing those soulless black eyes and hearing that music it changes you. Slasher movies made you weary of what could be hiding behind the shower curtain – Jaws made you afraid of any body of water. In the movies, a Great White Shark was as terrifying as any horror movie ghoul. Except this killer was real.

Sharks have always been a subject of fascination, but Jaws put them in the spotlight…for all the wrong reasons. Peter Benchley, the author of the original Jaws novel, is a lifelong shark advocate and expressed regret for ever writing the book that made him a millionaire. The fear caused by his work led to the hunting of sharks under the guise of safety for beach-goers.

A necessary part of the ecosystem, sharks are quite possibly one of the most misunderstood creatures in the world. But how do you counteract the fearsome persona perpetuated by one of the most popular films of all time? You grab that popularity and use it to feed one of the most educational and popular programs of all time, focusing on revamping the image of sharks and promoting their conservation above all else. Obviously.

The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week capitalizes on people’s morbid fascination with these mysterious creatures, luring people in with stories of shark attacks and up-close footage of real people in the water next to these beasts, and then blinding them with science! And it worked as well as a seal decoy off the coast of South Africa!

Until it didn’t. And then it did again. This is the rise and fall of Shark Week.

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Jupiter Ascending Poster

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: why the failure of Valerian the City of a Thousand Planets allows it to join the club of overlooked space fantasy that already includes the magnificent Jupiter Ascending.)

I saw Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets last week in a practically empty theater, and I left with a smile on my face. Once again Luc Besson gave us a fully immersive, beautiful universe, a romantic fantasy quest in an extraterrestrial setting, with a powerful message similar to that of The Fifth Element: Love conquers all. Inspired by the French comic books by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Luc Besson took us on a welcome journey to somewhere colorful and hopeful, welcome in a year filled with darker sci-fi tales like Life and Alien: Covenant. And yet, no one saw Valerian. It is destined to join the ranks of movies that we discuss for their financial failures instead of their successes.

One close cousin to Valerian is the Wachowski’s delightful 2015 space opera, Jupiter Ascending. Perhaps the reason I so enjoyed Valerian was because I also happen to be a part of another small group that adored this visionary take on a space fairy tale starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. Admittedly, my love for Jupiter Ascending was a bit of a slow burn. It wasn’t until I went to bed the night after watching it that I realized how wonderful it really was. The more times I watched it, the more my love grew. It’s the kind of movie that I imagine watching with my future children and yet, I rarely ever get to talk to people who actually went to see it or have bothered to rent it. However when I do find someone who is part of this club, we have conversations built of pure joy and enthusiasm.

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Garry Marshall Revisited One Year After his Death

(Welcome to What Women Watch, a series exploring what modern women are watching, and loving, on the big and small screens. In this edition, we examine the work of the late Garry Marshall and the fingerprints he’s forever left on the romantic comedy.)

I don’t like to call them chick flicks.”

It has been one year since we lost Garry Marshall and the world has felt a little darker for it. Marshall is one of those filmmakers that has felt more like a comforting friend – Pretty Woman was my late grandmother’s favorite movie and I have probably seen it more times than Cinderella. It’s still my favorite fairytale. When my husband leaves (and since he’s in the military, that is quite often), it is the first movie I watch. During the stressful times when he is gone, I also find myself watching Marshall’s other films, like Runaway Bride or Valentine’s Day, not because they are masterpieces of American cinema, but because, while the other half of the bed is cold, those movies keep me warm.

That may sound hokey, but I mean that with all sincerity. While the world is ready to cringe at anything that feels too…well anything just feels, Garry Marshall offered sincerity in spades. He never shied away from it, his films were heartwarming for the sake of being heartwarming and for that I am forever thankful.

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american-gods-easter-wednesday 2

(Each week, we’ll kick off our discussion of American Gods by answering one simple question: which character do we worship this week?)

“What do you believe?”

After an episode that took a break from the main storyline, “Come to Jesus” returned to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday…and Anansi and Bilquis and the New Gods. American Gods concluded it’s first season with a bang, with a show of strength from the Old Gods and an official declaration of war from the New Gods. Mr. Nancy told us in episode two, and again at the beginning of episode eight that “Angry gets shit done.” With that as the battle cry for the season, American Gods showed us how dangerous these colorful characters can be and left us with the questions of not only what this war will do to the gods, but what will it mean for the rest of America.

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