Power Rankings: Which Left 4 Dead Special Infected Do You Want to Be?

Left 4 Dead (and its sequel Left 4 Dead 2) is a multi-console zombie survival game where you fight hordes of zombies trying to get to safety in a zombie apocalypse. It’s pretty straightforward and there is literally no backstory provided.

What is provided are eight different kinds of “special infected,” or zombies with unique attributes and uniform appearance. To my mind, you would much rather be one of these guys than any regular old zombie.

Obviously, since you’re spending even an iota of your time reading an inane pop culture blog, you’ll very likely become a zombie in the event of the aforementioned apocalypse. And that makes one wonder: what special infected do you want to be? Don’t worry, I’ve done this work for you, and have compiled a complete power rankings.

NOTE: I solely based these decisions on what is observable in the games. If there is some expanded universe where we learn more specifics about these infected, I am not aware of it.

8. Spitter

Spitter_2You absolutely do not want to be a Spitter. I mean, just look at her. I am usually for body positivity, but she really should be wearing more clothing. In a list of different types of the undead, the Spitter manages to be head and shoulders more disgusting than any other. If her flabby, overexposed body wasn’t enough to turn you off, her zombie mouth has basically come to dominate her face and her neck.

Not to mention, her special ability (spitting acid) has no practical purpose and just seems like a nuisance. How can you kiss someone when your saliva burns? I’m not saying tons of zombies are going to be looking at you thinking, “I gotta get me some of that,” but one might, and you want to be able to participate in some form of connection, right?

Also, it’s not pictured, but the Spitter has absolutely terrible posture. Like, I’m just gonna come out and say it: the Spitter is definitely the white trash of the zombie world. Take away the green acid and giant mouth, and I could absolutely see her loitering outside of her ex-boyfriend’s trailer on an episode of Cops. When the special infected sorting hat is on your head, it is most wise to quietly repeat, “Not Spitter. Not Spitter” and hope for the best.

7. Witch

Witch_2I really did not want to put the only two female special infected last, but Valve gave me no choice. Take your complaints up with them, and not me, because you really don’t want to be a Witch either. Her existence is completely miserable, and that’s on top of being a zombie, which is definitely not a cakewalk in the first place.

What does the Witch do all day? She cries. She moans, she groans, and then gets really, really pissed off when someone disturbs her. She is the zombie version of that girl with the dyed hair and Hello Kitty backpack you went to high school with, and while I’m sure that girl has moved on and is pleased with her existence, we cannot say the same about the Witch.

Like, the one thing you have going for you as a zombie is camaraderie. You can go up to basically anyone and just be like, “You’re a zombie, too?” and you have a connection. Unfortunately for you if you end up as this wailing woman, the Witch completely eschews that. She’d rather be alone and cry, which is ridiculous because it’s not like other zombies don’t know what she’s going through — they’re all zombies, too. I dunno. Maybe she’s still upset over MCR breaking up. Don’t be the witch.

6. Jockey

JockeyYou’d really rather not be the Jockey. As you can tell from the picture, he is rather small, and when most of your communication is gonna be through snarls and grunts, size means a great deal. However, he does have big hands, and if this election cycle has taught us anything, having big hands is very important. I do worry about the his small head, too, as that might render you even dumber than all of your friends who are, quite literally, brainless. Also, and no one ever talks about stuff like this, but how are all of your old hats going to fit?

But most importantly, to my mind, in terms of whether or not it would be a pleasant experience being the Jockey is his posture. It is absolutely abhorrent. As someone who walks on two feet, it offends me just to look at. It’s like, dude, walk with your back straight. And if becoming a Jockey gives you some kind of scoliosis-type ailment, then you gotta get that sorted out. You might be able to get away with it for a while, but by the time you reach retirement age, you won’t be able to walk.

I suppose a positive about being the Jockey is that you can jump fairly high and ride on people’s heads. You might not think about it, but with this skill, Jockeys probably never miss a minute in a parade. Oh? You can’t see? Just jump on some other zombie’s head. But, in the same vein, you might get trampled on if you go in a crowd of zombies, as you are very small, and zombies have never been known for their carefulness.

5. Boomer

Boomeridle_1I won’t sugarcoat it: you’re gonna have a serious weight problem if you’re the Boomer. With the Spitter, it’s gonna come down to whether or not you want to be the talk of the town come swimsuit season, but with a Boomer, it’s about whether or not you need to buy two adjacent seats when taking an airplane. It’s not pretty.

Speaking of not pretty: your whole appearance, even with the fat thing notwithstanding. You have massive tumors all over your body and face. You really gotta hope to meet some blind zombie who just likes you for you if you are the Boomer. Also, your fashion choices are terrible. I understand that the selection is limited at most ‘big and tall’ stores, but get a tailor or stylist or something. It’s worth the money.

Your ability is to projectile vomit, which is not so much a special attribute as an unwelcome party trick by a college sophomore. However, this is not as annoying as some others. Moreover, it might actually help you lose some weight. If you eat a big meal, you don’t need to worry about sticking your fingers down your throat in order to purge. Just command it, and it shall come.

4. Charger

Chardger_001_big_01There are worse things in the world than being the Charger. For instance, genocide. Also, being any of the four special infected listed above. The Charger has one major thing going for it, and it is pretty obvious from the embedded photo: it’s got one big-ass arm. If you’re the Charger, you can basically get away with sucker-punching any zombie who tries to hit on your girl because once you make contact with your fist, they’re probably dead.

A major downside of being a Charger is, of course, his tiny left arm. This, obviously, might come in handy if a man finds you busting up a chiffarobe for a young lady and takes you to court for raping her in the Deep South, but in most other cases, it’s just a nuisance. You won’t be able to eat spaghetti that sophisticated way where you use a spoon to gather the spaghetti and wrap it around your fork.

Your ability would be to charge at people really fast, and I just can’t see this coming in handy that often in day-to-day life. Like, I guess it might be useful during Black Friday shopping, but Black Friday shopping with zombies is probably just the same as it is with humans, so you’ll probably kill some innocent people that way. Still, you probably won’t be late places, and if you’re anything like me, that would be a change.

3. Smoker

SmokeridleYou should be pretty pleased if you end up being a Smoker. Life as a zombie won’t be so bad for you. I know, I know, you’re remarking how absolutely ugly the smoker looks and how you would never be able to pick up chicks (or dudes… zombies don’t recognize heteronormativity, I think) if you looked like him. But what you don’t understand is that A. you’ve got the most normal sense of style yet, and B. you’re really tall. Those have got to be two of the biggest pluses in the zombie game. Because obviously, everyone is ugly: you’re undead. So if you have a more pleasing body shape (slender… tall) you will probably do pretty well for yourself.

Despite what it may seem like from might descriptions, undead life is not all about the nookie, and the smoker should be fine in other aspects as well. His power is that he can shoot out a long tongue to grab onto thing and that should be really useful. Imagine how much better binge watching TV would be if you could simply shoot your tongue out to grab the remote controller. Also, you’ll never, ever have to say the phrase, “Don’t you walk away from me!” ever again because you can just pull them back.

The downside to the Smoker is the downside to an estimated 40 million Americans: you smoke. I do not own a Smell-o-Vision, but I can assure you from playing many games of Left 4 Dead that the smoker does not smell good. He smells like that guy who likes Metallica a lot and smokes “just to feel something.” Plus, it’s bad for your health, man. I mean, you’re already undead, why harm your body even more. It’s just irresponsible.

2. Tank

TankidleCongratulations. You’re the Tank. You should feel lucky. You’re really strong, and big, and important. No one fucks with the Tank, and as of now, the Tank is you. Believe me when I say that anyone upset at being a Tank doesn’t deserve good things in their life. Be grateful.

Obviously, given his name and the picture to my right, the Tank is a big frickin’ dude, and that’s what you want to be in a zombie apocalypse. You can push your way through a horde of your braindead friends without a care in the world. You know why? ‘Cause you’re the fuckin’ tank. Also, we all know ladies love a guy who has big muscles, and your muscles would be so big and strong, they more resemble rocks than actual human anatomy. Not even peak bodybuilders can say that.

What’s the downside to being a tank? Narrow doorways, probably. Also, you kinda gave up your neck, and while that’s not the worst thing in the world, you can only be such a good friend without the idiom, “Stick my neck out for you.” Plus, there are probably times where you just want to veg out on the couch and listen to some tunes, but you’ve got like twice the body mass of a regular human to worry about. It’s probably worth the attention and physique, but I bet it can get tiresome.

1. Hunter

Hunter_1If you are to become a zombie and be turned into any Left 4 Dead special infected, you most want to be the Hunter. Life is basically just as good as it was before becoming a zombie for the Hunter. I mean, you’re wearing a relatively normal outfit, for one. Like, if you pull that hood down and wash a little of that blood off your collar, you could pass as a normal person for a while. And what is being a zombie but just trying to be a human again, right?

You don’t have any weird body mutations, so congratulations. The only thing that is different physiologically is that now you have extra sharp claws, which are just convenient. You’ll never have to borrow your friend’s paper shredder for private documents ever again. Three quick swipes with your nails and no one can steal your identity. Plus, you now can jump really far and pounce on people. Obviously, I don’t condone violence, but hopping onto buildings is really cool and will definitely get your significant other in the mood.

I can’t think of any downsides to being a hunter than aren’t just downsides to being a zombie in general. Unlike the other bozos we’ve rattled through, the Hunter is actually dressed to survive a full year. I’ll bet the Tank and Charger will be glad they tore through their clothing come winter. Hunters have it made. Perhaps, if you’re a sensitive guy like me, it might be difficult to be so much more popular than other special infected as a Hunter, but I think you’ll manage.


I hope you enjoyed evaluating your options in becoming a special infected from Left 4 Dead. Clearly, your experience is very much tied to the choices the zombie gods make. As you embark on this endeavor, I can only wish you good luck, and remind you to look out for more posts from PopCultureDeepDive.com in the future.

Power Rankings: Which Left 4 Dead Special Infected Do You Want to Be?

The Arrests of Olden Polynice

I must confess that a not-that-secret, not-that-guilty pleasure of mine is obsessing over crimes committed by professional athletes. It’s hard exactly to pinpoint why; perhaps because it shows that they’re imperfect, perhaps because I like to laugh at people who make worse decisions than me, who knows? However, this obsession led me to discover an absolutely incredible website called nbacrimelibrary.com. It is perfect. It is a catalogue of every NBA arrest on record, going all the way back to the fifties.

One great thing the site offers users is the ability to discover things about players’ pasts that they never knew before, or the pasts of players they had never heard of before. And that’s where Olden Polynice comes in. For the record, I have no recollection of ever watching Olden Polynice play a minute of basketball, and the name meant absolutely nothing to me prior to learning about his transgressions. However, I can tell you the following from his Wikipedia page: he was a center from Haiti who played in the NBA from 1987 to 2003. But what I can tell you from NBA Crime Library is much more interesting.

 

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Polynice was arrested five times during his NBA playing career. Of course, that’s easier to do if you have a 16 year career like Polynice and not a nine game stint like, I don’t know, Casper Ware. But yes, plenty of players with long careers never get arrested at all. Fair. But many do get arrested, even well-respected basketball minds like Jason Kidd get arrested three times in three different decades. I digress. Polynice was arrested five times in his career, but we’ll only be focusing on the last three. The first two were very normal NBA arrests–two assaults in the mid-nineties. Yet, his last three all jump off the page.

We’ll start with the last one, which is somehow the most normal of the Big Three. On July 23rd, 2001, Polynice was arrested in Salt Lake City for assault and disturbing the peace, just days after not being resigned by the Utah Jazz. Reportedly, Polynice was playing golf with some friends and went back to a previous hole to retrieve his lost scorecard, however, he was accidentally hit on the arm by a fellow golfer’s chip shot, and Olden did not take kindly to this. Mind you, Olden was not exactly a youngin at this point; in fact, he was old enough to run for all political offices. Yet, that didn’t stop him from allegedly punching and spitting on the guy who accidentally hit him.

This is just an incredibly uncouth gesture and would not be worth mentioning if not for his other, yet to be mentioned arrests. Yet, as it stands, it is a nice bookend to his saga. It will become abundantly clear that Olden Polynice is, in fact, the type of guy who is willing to throw hands over an errant golf shot.

How do I know this? It started in October of 2000, when Olden Polynice was arrested for impersonating a police officer. Yes. Impersonating a police officer. Apparently, Polynice was upset at a fellow motorist who cut him off in traffic and decided to follow him home. Once there, Polynice flashed an honorary badge given to him by the Los Angeles Police Department years before, claiming to be associated with the police. Obviously, the couple he was menacing took down his license plate and he was arrested.

preview0304_polyniceAnd I really wonder how he thought he was gonna get away with that. Obviously, it’s bizarre that the guy didn’t immediately recognize him, as I doubt there’s a single black person over 6-foot-10 living in Salt Lake City that doesn’t play for the Jazz, but that aside, his actions make it very clear he is not a police officer. How often do police officers follow traffic violators home, skip tickets or warnings, and simply threaten people?

Also, what does Olden get out of this? Is he concerned that at some point, this guy would cut him off again in traffic, and he’s planning ahead against that? Like, is it worth following a person home and threatening them just to scold them? Did he chalk that up for his good deed for the day? “You did good, Olden. You taught those guys a lesson.” Like I mentioned earlier, somehow, despite being an NBA player raking in upwards of one million dollars every year, Polynice managed to live seemingly every minute almost nothing to lose.

Being that I’m a halfway-decent writer, I obviously saved the best Polynice arrest for last. Now, it’s understandable for you to be wondering what could possibly be stranger, funnier, more exciting than a grown-ass NBA player getting pinched for impersonating a police officer. You know what is all of those things? A grown-ass NBA player getting pinched for impersonating a police officer again.

Yes, two of Olden Polynice’s five career arrests were for impersonating a police officer to people who he got into traffic disputes with. The second arrest, unfortunately, was actually for an incident that happened before the first arrest (which sucks because it would be a lot funnier if he got arrested for doing it and decided it was still worth it to do again), but that just means that he was serial offender at this.

In this incident, which happened in September of 2000, Polynice reportedly told a driver that flipped him off for speeding that he was “with the California Sheriff’s office,” and could “have him arrested.” This obviously means that not only did Polynice impersonate a cop, he did an even worse impersonation than the time before. This altercation was in Utah, mind you, and somehow, Polynice believes that he has the power to get people arrested two states over from where he apparently works.

And once again, why is Polynice doing this? Because when I imagine someone getting arrested for using an honorary badge as a real one, it’s to get extra benefits or classified information, not to talk down to bad drivers. Also, there is no way in hell that that badge looked real. Obviously the LAPD isn’t that smart, but someone had to make sure the honorary badges look honorary.

There’s no denying that Polynice’s pair of police impersonating arrests are peculiar in their own right, and would be bizarre if the man who committed them was a middle-aged accountant from Poughkeepsie. However, the fact that Polynice was a minor celebrity, no matter how minor, just makes it fascinating to me. It’s dumbfounding that someone with the support system that the National Basketball Association has to offer would do something so odd.

I suppose that’s why I’m obsessed with arrests in sports. Because dumb actions that are usually committed by dumb people are even dumber when they have all the safeguards in place to stop them from being dumb. Like, I expect a run-of-the-mill dumb person to wrap marijuana in aluminum foil and try to go through a airport metal detector, but not professional NBA player Damon Stoudamire, who should undoubtedly have a friend who could hold his weed or at least tell him that you can’t bring aluminum foil through a metal detector.

I have no earthly idea what makes Olden Polynice or any athlete for that matter do something obscenely stupid, whether it is light enough fare for me to laugh at or not. What I do know is that very few things in recent memory have made me laugh as hard as the idea of a professional basketball player using an honorary badge to intimidate fellow drivers. It has the perfect blend of stupidity, randomness, and entitlement that makes athlete and celebrity arrests great. All we needed was for Polynice to tell the cops, “Don’t you know who I am?”

The Arrests of Olden Polynice

I Heard You Like NFL Street 2

I loved NFL Street. NFL Street 2 was the much anticipated follow-up to NFL Street for the XBOX, Playstation 2, and Nintendo Gamecube. It featured condensed versions of all 32 NFL teams (as of, like, the 2004 season) as well as some past legends (but not anyone too special, for licensing reasons). It also featured one other player.

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That’s right. Rapper Xzibit was a playable character in NFL Street 2. In fact, he wasn’t just a playable character, he was the “narrator” of the game, starting from the tutorial. I have fond memories of the rapper (born Alvin Joiner) telling me to tap the X-button to juke. Of course, my eight year old self had never heard of Xzibit, as it would be about a year before I would catch my first episode of Pimp My Ride, but even then, I had no goddam clue why this guy had to be in the game. It wasn’t like he just lent his voice to background information like Bruce Campbell in the Spider-Man games, or played a fictional character like numerous celebrities over the years (my favorite, of course, being Patrick Stewart’s performance as a character who gets killed no more than twenty minutes into Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion). He was Xzibit. The fact that he was Xzibit mattered.

It mattered so much that he was the proverbial boss in one of the game modes. Besides “Own The City” and “NFL Challenge,” there was “NFL Gauntlet,” in which you chose a team and had to beat every other team in the NFL in order to win. But oh wait, I almost forgot. You ALSO had to beat Team Xzibit.

If the meaning of “Team Xzibit” doesn’t immediately occur to you, I understand. It was a team of the game’s best players (like LaDanian Tomlinson, Jeremy Shockey, et al.), sort of like an all star roster. Oh yeah, except that at quarterback was Xzibit.

Obviously, Xzibit has the best attributes of any quarterback in the game, because why even bother lending your voice and rights if you’re going to be a scrub. Additionally, Xzibit provided a song for the soundtrack (side note: I could write a whole different blog about this game’s soundtrack), called “Hey Now (Mean Muggin’)” featuring Keri. This game showcased Xzibit, which is perhaps why it is so strange to look back upon. One would expect a rapper with this special of treatment from a large, successful corporation in Electronic Arts to, I don’t know, be more successful today. Eleven and a half years later and no one remembers or cares about Xzibit’s rap career. In fact, the last place I saw him nflstreet2_ps2box_usa_org_000was on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and while that’s not a bad way to get checks, I don’t imagine that’s where he saw himself when he walked into EA Sports BIG (the production company behind NFLS2) sometime in 2004.

While still fun every time I decide to pick it back up and play it, the inclusion of Xzibit makes NFL Street 2 feel so incredibly of its time, and not simply because Xzibit is no longer relevant beyond the occasional “I herd u like” meme. Video games simply do not have the absurd tie-ins that they used to. NBA Street V3 — an EA Sports BIG game that was released around a similar time — featured the Beastie Boys as their own team, for instance. Yet, to act like it mattered that Xzibit was in the game from the start is baffling in 2016. As if someone was ever going to start up their XBOX, Gamecube, or PS2, press start, and shout, “Oh shit! No one told be X was in this!”

The only comparable tie-in I can remember is in the ill-fated Sims: The Urbz on Gamecube, in which all four of the Black Eyed Peas are NPCs in a specific area of the game. But even then, they’re just regular folks as far as the game is concerned, as long as you’re willing to make peace with Woo-Hooing with a man named Apl.de.ap. Unlike the Urbz, where the Black Eyed Peas are inessential and were likely put in later in the game’s production, Xzibit is the central figure of the game. The difference between NFL Streets 1 and 2 is that Xzibit is in the second one.

And to the question of why? Seriously, honestly, why was Xzibit so heavily featured in NFL Street 2? I have no clue. EA Sports BIG was discontinued in 2008, so we may never know.

I Heard You Like NFL Street 2

Power Rankings: The Top 20 Smartest Murderers in the show ‘Monk’

The first “grown-up” show I ever watched was the USA Network original series Monk. I loved that show and still love it with all of my heart. In my opinion, what the show did better than every other crime-procedural was have crazy, out-of-the-box motives and executions of the murders in question. Sometimes I worry for the safety of our streets for how ingenious the murder plots could be on Monk.

So, naturally, I’ve decided to rank the top twenty “Smartest” murderers the show had. My definition of “smartness” is purely subjective, but I am willing to defend my positions. This list was made entirely from my own memory and looking over an IMDB list of episodes. I did no more research, and will do no more research on any of this, so if any facts about the episodes are wrong, then that’s on me. But trust me, I’ve watched Monk a lot.

Massive spoilers for 21 episodes of Monk ahead, obviously.

Dishonorable Mention: Mr. Monk and the Rapper

MonkI wanted to start off this list with the guy who is, without question, the dumbest murderer in the history of the show. That is not to say that I do not enjoy Mr. Monk and the Rapper quite a bit, as Snoop Dogg’s turn as hip-hop artist “Murderous” is really something, but the killer in question is a moron.

Basically, the killer is a hip-hop mogul who is looking to kill his business partner in a car bomb (I forget why). He puts a time bomb on the company limo and sets it to when his partner will be in the car. But, uh oh, he forgot about Daylight Saving Time, and set it wrong, accidentally blowing up his best rapper instead. WHATTA MOOK.

Not only that, his business partner and him apparently met every Sunday morning for brunch, and the car ride that was supposed to kill him was to that brunch. However, expecting him to be dead, the murderer mogul didn’t order his partner brunch. If that doesn’t scream “I expected you to be dead,” I don’t know what does. It’s goddam tragedy it took Adrian Monk 43 minutes and change to solve this one.

20. Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine

143018040-mr-monk-takes-his-medicine-episode-9-gettyimagesI include this one if but for no other reason than quick thinking. Our murderer (whose name I don’t remember — a common theme) doesn’t actually murder anyone during the runtime of the episode, a rarity in Monk. However, he did murder someone a few years prior, so I can still call him “murderer” and have a clear conscience.

What he does do is shoot Captain Stottlemeyer in the arm, as evidenced by the sling he is wearing in the above photo. Why does he do this? (Will I continue to use rhetorical questions as a lazy device?) Because his ex-girlfriend killed herself and confessed to a crime that they and a friend committed years prior in a suicide note. Obviously, that’s a big problem for our friend, the murderer. Before taking her life, she called him and told him that she was going to confess to everything. However, when he showed up to stop her, she had already jumped. His only recourse was to get rid of the note. But how? The police were securing the scene!

“Simple,” our murderer thinks. I’ll just drive over to an active crime scene and shoot a cop, as to distract all nearby units. And guess what? It works like a frickin’ charm. He goes up to the room and destroys the note easy-peasy. His biggest mistake was writing a new, general suicide note on her behalf, ’cause it’s like, that’s clearly not her handwriting, my dude. But I appreciate the effort.

19. Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum

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Kevin Nealon guest stars, as a mental patient completely unrelated to the crime in question. I just thought I should mention that.

Much like our last murderer, this murderer’s cleverness involves covering up a crime from years past. Five years before the episode takes place, the head doctor of this asylum (from now on referred to as “Top Doc”) murdered another doctor. I can’t recall why. He then dumped the gun in the chimney of the old building. Fast forward five years, and they’re remodeling that area of the asylum. He’s real worried they’re gonna find the gun in question, so he has to fish it out.

How does Top Doc fish out a gun from a chimney without anyone noticing? Well, you clearly don’t know that one of his patient’s mental disorders is an obsession with and delusional belief in Santa Claus. So, Top Doc moves this Santa guy in the only room with a window near the chimney, and when he goes fishing for his firearm, he wears a Santa suit, so the only guy who can notice him will just sound like he’s talking his usual crazy. It’s usually a bad thing to take advantage of the mentally unwell, but it earns my respect in this case.

18. Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale

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If you’re seven hundred pounds and confined to a bed, a pretty good way to get away with murder would be to make it look like you did it. That’s exactly what strangely-recurring character Dale “the Whale” Biederbeck does in just the third episode of Monk.

For some reason, he wants this judge dead. However, he is unable to kill her himself as he is, once again, seven-hundred pounds (and played by Adam Arkin). But he does have a doctor/assistant who can do the deed for him. (If you’re wondering why exactly the doctor would kill on his boss’s behalf, it is because he had done a surgery drunk and killed a child a decade earlier, and was living under an assumed name, and Dale threatened to expose him. But whatever.)

Yet, Dale is a lot more clever than just getting his pal to slay the judge. He gets him to kill her wearing a massive fatsuit, and goading an eyewitness by “accidentally” setting off the fire alarm. So after the murder, the only witness is like, “The guy who did it was like 500 pounds!” but then the police are like, “It sounds like Dale, but he can’t walk! Woooooaaaaah!” Needless to say, he got caught, but is there any truer sign of body acceptance than using your weight as an alibi?

17. Mr. Monk vs. The Cobra

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The “Cobra” in question is a Bruce Lee facsimile named Sonny Chow who, while not making an appearance in the episode, is its central figure. This murder plot is complicated (as are SO many of these), so I figure I’ll take it from the murderer’s perspective.

I don’t remember the murderer’s name, but he’s played by the guy who played Badger on Firefly, so I’ll call him Badger. Badger just got released from prison after serving a short term for stealing some jewels. It’d be longer, but they never found the jewels (hint, hint). Prior to being caught, he was working a job at a cemetery, where he ended up hiding the jewels in the casket of martial arts legend Sonny Chow.

Being a free man again, Badger faces a problem: how the heck is he gonna get those jewels out of the casket? Contrary to popular belief, it is not acceptable behavior to dig up random corpses in a cemetery (also, a big monument was erected on his gravestone, and no normal shovel can take care of that). Therefore, Badger needed a reason for Chow’s body to be excavated. Enter “murdering.”

In a stroke of genius (and the move that gets him on this list), he commits a murder of one of Chow’s enemies, while wearing full ninja gear (making sure to get caught on surveillance camera). He then leaves behind some of Chow’s hair (that he stole from a museum) and writing “Chow” with the murderee’s hand in blood. Bing, bang, boom, they’re digging up Chow’s body to make sure he’s actually dead, and Badger can get his jewels again. Unfortunately for him, he has a heart attack and dies before the conclusion of the episode, but that’s neither here nor there.

16. Mr. Monk Goes Home Again

150841789-mr-monk-goes-home-again-episode-2-pictured-gettyimagesThe genius of this murderer once again lies in how he tries to cover up his previous attempted murder. I’ll explain. Our murderous friend (who I’ll call Baldie, ’cause he’s bald, if I remember correctly) wanted to kill his wife. One thing he knows about her is that every day before going to bed, she eats the same brand of fictional candy bar. His plan was to poison that bar and kill her. Obviously, though, he’d be implicated. He had a solution, however.

He poisoned about seven of the bars at the store to make it seem like there was a serial poisoner running around and his wife just happened to be one of the victims. This is already an ingenious plan. Unfortunately for Baldie, he was caught returning the poison back to his place of work (and I don’t remember what it was, but it was somewhere that had poison, apparently), so if a bunch of people started dying from this poison right after, he’d be implicated.

So, he had to get rid of all of the poisoned bars. One problem: a security guard had just bought one right before he got to the store. And a bigger problem: he’s eating it on the way out! Quick thinking alert! He pulls out a gun and shoots the guy like ten times. Why? Because who the heck does a toxicology report on a guy with ten bullet holes in him? Additionally, one of the bars was delivered to Monk’s agoraphobic brother Ambrose (guest star John Turturro), so Baldie has to try to steal it from his candy bin. This murderer’s improvisational skills are so great, you’d think he studied at Second City.

15. Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas

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As Monk was a TV show that existed after the year 2000, James Brolin guest starred. He played the killer in an episode where Monk went to Vegas. Brolin had a problem that plenty of people on this list have: he needed to kill his wife. Well, “needed” is a funny word, but he really, really wanted to kill his wife. But, Brolin was the owner of a big casino in Vegas, so it would be hard to get away with killing his wife, unless he hatched the following plan.

He would get on the elevator from their penthouse to the main casino floor. They would be dressed for a gala, with his wife wearing a long, flowing scarf. On the elevator ride down, Brolin’s mistress (who looks strikingly similar to his wife) would enter through the elevator shaft hatch wearing the exact same outfit and strangle his wife. Then, she would hide the body in the same place, right outside the hatch. When they got to the bottom, they’d briefly make an appearance — too quick for anyone to notice it wasn’t exactly his wife, and note that they forgot their tickets. They’d go back up the elevator, with Brolin’s mistress intentionally catching her scarf in the elevator door. She’d scream. Then, she’d climb back out of the elevator and put the dead body back in position. Oh damn, it looks like a accident.

And this all worked exactly as drawn-up for Brolin. If that sounds like it’s worth a lot more than 14th place, I see where you’re coming from, however, I had to dock it several positions because of the ridiculousness of using a near look-a-like for your murder. I mean, the two looked different enough where someone would’ve had to notice. Still, pretty nice work, all things considered.

14. Mr. Monk and the Circus

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If you want to get away with a murder, a good way to do it would be faking shattering your ankle, dressing up like a ninja, doing a bunch of parkour moves, murdering your target, and then actually shattering your ankle so when the police get suspicious, your breakage checks out. That’s exactly what our murderer in this episode does. It’s pretty ingenious actually.

The writing is a bit cliche in that the reason the murderer is able to get away with faking an ankle shatter is because she is Romani (let’s just say they use a different word in this episode from 2003) and won’t go to a hospital, but the way she ends up shattering her ankle on purpose is crazy. She straight up uses the circus elephant that is trained to squash watermelons on command to squash her ankle. And if that wasn’t enough, since the elephant trainer gets suspicious, she plants a walkie-talkie in the elephant’s ear and commands it to squash down when the trainer has his head under its hoof as to demonstrate its tameness. Obviously they don’t show anything, but I saw this episode when I was like 8 or 9, so even implied elephant-head-stomping was scarring.

13. Mr. Monk Gets Married

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The “smart” murderer in question here is not actually the murderer that is caught in this episode (played by the always good Nestor Carbonell), but rather one in like 1850. In order to explain, I have to jump to the end of the episode.

Basically, Nestor Carbonell marries Lieutenant Disher’s (a supporting character) elderly mother after three dates and takes her to a couple’s counseling retreat right after as a honeymoon, and Monk and his assistant Sharona have to pretend to be married to investigate his motives. It turns out, he’s going there because he found a cryptic note from a miner from the 1800’s in an antique drawer that said something about the answer to the location of his gold being found “in his journals.” After making this discovery, he, of course, murders his antiquing partner and finds a way to go to where these journals are kept. Where? You guessed it: this couple’s retreat.

Once again, Nestor Carbonell is not the smart murderer here. It is, in fact, the guy from the 1850’s. He qualifies as a murderer, for one, because he too murdered his partner. But he’s smart because of the clue. There are like 150 journals that he wrote and none of them make any sense. Nestor tries and tries to find clues in them and gets frustrated repeatedly. However, what he doesn’t realize is that the answer was always in the journals, ’cause guess what? The ink was mixed with melted down gold. The journals were literally holding gold! He wrote 150 journals worth of inane bullshit just to keep his riches in a safe place. That’s fuckin’ genius. And it allows a guy who existed centuries before Monk ever took a case to make this list.

12. Happy Birthday, Mr. Monk

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Spoiler alert: the guy on the right is the murderer. This one will be quick because the genius lies purely in the execution of the murder and has nothing to do with circumstance or motive. He is trying to kill his business partner, so he has celebratory drinks with him. They both drink from the same bottle with the same ice and everything. However, the murderer is fine and the partner drops dead. Why? Because the poison was in the ice cubes!

Now, I’m proud of myself, because this was like the only episode of Monk that I predicted correctly, in terms of murderer and methodology. It’s only at 11, however, because it’s a method I had heard of before in riddles and whatnot, so it’s not completely original like some of these on the list.

11. Mr. Monk and the Captain’s Marriage

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If you’re a dirty cop, and you murder someone, but they punch out a tooth of yours, and the good cops are coming too quickly for you to remove all evidence of your blood and teeth from being there, how do you avoid getting caught? If you answered “Goad a police captain into punching you in the face by implying you’re having sex with his wife,” then congratulations, you’re the murderer in this episode. Much like our killer in Mr. Monk Goes Home Again, this guy is just such a good improviser. Like, if I was in his situation, I’d go crazy and flee to Mexico or something, but he’s calm, cool, and collected when he alludes to making sweet love to Leland Stottlemeyer’s spouse.

Somehow, this gambit works out for our dirty cop friend, as the forensics people kinda throw their hands up in regards to searching for physical evidence. I mean, they probably could deduce in some capacity that some of the cop’s blood is in places where it wouldn’t be just from getting sucker punched, but, hey, smart guys gotta have some victories. Especially ’cause, you know, he goes to jail at the end of this one.

Additionally, the Captain gets a divorce at the conclusion of this episode. Luckily, it was not because the dirty cop was fornicating with the missus, but instead because Stottlemeyer was a workaholic and didn’t trust his wife when she said the cop was lying. I bring this up because…

10. Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend

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…two seasons later, his first girlfriend after the divorce ends up being a murderer. Sure sucks, doesn’t it? Unfortunately for Leland, his new girlfriend has some serious competition in the real estate business that she could really use to get rid of. That’s why she decides she’s gonna murder him. But how should she get the perfect alibi? I don’t know… use a police captain as an eyewitness!

She lays the framework in place months prior. She Skypes (well, some fake version of Skype) with the captain nightly at around seven from her bedroom. It becomes a tradition. On the night of the murder, it happened just like any other time. Then, twenty minutes later, her competition was shot dead. “Well, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t her,” you say. BUT, her house is an hour away from the crime scene. How did she do it?

The correct answer is that, of course, she built a one-to-one replica of one side of her bedroom in the back of a UHaul truck that she parked a few blocks away from the murder site, and Skyped with the captain from there. Obviously it wasn’t a perfect plan — she got caught (because she parked on a hill and a pen on her desk rolled a little) — but it was pretty damn close.

9. Mr. Monk and the Class Reunion

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If you found your wife’s old suicide note that she wrote in college in the basement, what would you do with it? If you were this episode’s murderer, you’d first kill the only other person to read the note who would recognize it (in this case, a former school counselor) and then try to recreate every event mentioned in it at her upcoming college reunion. If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right, because it is.

A few things our murderer had to do to complete his mission were… buying a dog and pretending it was already named Tangerine, as that was her dog’s name in college, finding a random lady named Gertrude to hang out with because she had a friend named Trudy back then who is now deceased, and making a bunch of grown-ass people play touch football on a college quad. While this is number nine in terms of “smartness,” it really is way too much work in order to kill your wife. Like, there’s tons of different ways to get away with murder that aren’t as contrived as this. I dunno, man, take a chill pill.

Also, something that always bugged me about this episode was that I’m pretty sure they would be able to tell if a suicide note was like twenty five years old. It’s not like paper is impervious to the effects of father time. However, the effort was so high, and the plot was so surprising, a nine spot was the least I could do.

8. Mr. Monk and the Miracle

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I believe it was the current Dalai Lama who once wrote that the best crimes are committed to cover up murders from like seven years ago. With that in mind, we come to Mr. Monk and the Miracle, where two people do just that. ‘Cause they’re in some deep shit.

When these folks learn that the fountain under which a dude they murdered is buried might be dug up to make room for a new church building, they know they have to spring into action quickly. While most would simply chain themselves to the fountain and claim it as a municipal landmark, our murderers take a much more roundabout approach.

They somehow realize that a way to stop them from digging up the fountain would be to convince people that the fountain had miraculous powers. And no, before you ask, neither of the murderers was Jesus, so they couldn’t literally perform miracles themselves, but they could convince others differently.

Luckily for them, one of the two was a pharmacist, and he did the following: take people with chronic pain conditions off of their medicine without their knowledge, paint a drawing of the fountain on their front door, and start giving them the right medicine once they visit the fountain. In that way, it looked like the fountain healed them! It’s so convincing, our friend Captain Leland Stottlemeyer briefly quits the force to become a monk (not a Monk).

I do have to dock these murderers a few points though, as the episode intentionally misunderstands the strength of pain medications in fighting chronic pain. ‘Cause that shit doesn’t work overnight.

7. Mr. Monk is on the Air

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I’m gonna try and breeze through this because, to be frank, I don’t like this episode that much. In fact, I’d wager that the murder plot in this one exists just because some writers were trying to one-up each other. It’s so impractical and ridiculous, but because I have to accept the world of the show as it is, I gotta acknowledge that if a guy were to pull off a crime in this manner, he would be pretty freakin’ smart.

Anywho, Steve Ryan guest stars as a radio shock jock who wants his wife dead, surprise, surprise. Obviously, the best alibi he could have would be to be on the air at the time of her death. How could he kill her then? Well, while dogsitting his neighbor’s puppy, he trains him to respond to the phrase “Yabba dabba doo,” or something. I don’t remember exactly what it was. Then, he starts to incorporate this phrase into shows. What the dog is supposed to do upon hearing this phrase is to enter Steve Ryan’s house through an open basement window, go up to his bedroom, and open up the gas line to his fireplace, while the flume is still shut. Yes. This fucker trained a dog to murder for him. I know that’s so, so, so jumping the shark, however, like I said, it’s definitely a smart way to murder someone. I was left with little choice.

6. Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man

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A common theme of many great Monk murders (and some not great ones) is the conceit that one cannot be two places at the same time. This episode is no different. The man who most signs point to being the murderer was also apparently running in the San Francisco marathon at the same damn time. That’s a conundrum.

His methodology was pretty simple actually, but the idea of using a freakin’ marathon as an alibi is nuts to me because, like, I wouldn’t run a marathon even if I didn’t have to get away with murder. So, basically, our murderer runs like the first two hours of the race legitimately. He’s in pretty good shape, so it’s easier for him than it would be for me. Then, he ducks out, kills his mistress, and gets back in the field and finishes.

Now you might be saying, “Well, of course. Anyone could leave a marathon at any time. It’s not a real alibi.” But that’s where you’re wrong. Perhaps because this is a real thing or perhaps because it’s a plot device, every marathon runner had a tiny device hooked up to them to track their time and progress, to prevent someone from cheating, and lo and behold, the tracker shows that the murderer never left the race. How did he do it? It’s painfully simple, and I’m dreading this reveal. He stuck it on the back of a motorcycle-camera rig that was following a famous runner in his final race. It was a consistent time that was middle-of-the-pack enough for him not to be noticed leaving. Yes, it seems so obvious, but it’s important to note the significance of using the motorcycle and not another runner or something, as they even checked to see if he had an identical time to any other runner. He didn’t.

5. Mr. Monk and the TV Star

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Before I tell you exactly how the murderer in this episode (played by Billy Burke — so naturally, I wll only refer to him as Billy Burke) pulled his crime off, I need to let you know that my father guessed how this guy did it after the first commercial break. It was the closest thing to a superpower I’ve ever witnessed with my own eyes. (It was also on the morning of my aunt’s wedding, strangely.) So keep that in mind.

Billy Burke wants his ex-wife dead. So naturally, he gets in a public bar fight and goes to her house to lay low (they’re still friends). As he’s outside trying to get paparazzi away from her house the next morning, a scream is heard inside. He runs to her aid. He comes out thirty seconds later covered in blood. SHE’S BEEN STABBED! Now, knowing that he did it, as I informed you previously that he is the murderer, I ask: how did he do it?

Well, he obviously got into that bar fight to make sure there were witnesses to him being outside while his wife was screaming, right? But even before that, he made a copy of his ex’s yoga VHS and, about three minutes in, edited in a scream at full volume. Now, you may know that we have the technology to determine if someone’s voice matches previous records of their voice, so it wasn’t any old scream. It was a scream from a slasher film that his ex had a minor role in back in the early 90’s. Then, once the scream was heard, Billy Burke ran back inside, grabbed a knife hidden in a potted plant and stabbed his understandably confused wife. Pretty smart thinking from the dad in Twilight.

4. Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect

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I think it’s fair to say that there’s no better alibi than being in a coma, so therefore, the killer in this episode has the perfect alibi. Before you cry unrealism, as no one would ever intentionally put themselves into a coma: you’re right. It was an accidental coma. He got in a car crash while trying to commit enough vehicle crimes to put himself in jail when the murders were due to happen. He merely stumbled upon his absolutely airtight alibi. The reason he’s on this list, though, is because his plans were really smart, in any case.

Mr. Snoozer wanted to kill his siblings, I think over some inheritance thing — it’s been a while. He also happens to know how to make bombs. He’s gonna mail his siblings some bombs. Now, assuming his intended plan worked, he would be in jail when his bombs were delivered by mail to his siblings. How would he do this? By putting just a touch of superglue on the top of the packages, and sticking them on the “ceiling” of the mail drop-off box, and waiting for the glue to slowly stop working.

This clever sonofabitch was also smart enough to test how long this would take — with glass ketchup bottles strangely, as they were about the same weight as his mailbombs. I suppose my point is that even if he didn’t put himself into a coma (which he happened to wake up from once they put the pieces together–GROAN), he still would safely have a place on this list.

3. Mr. Monk Meets the Playboy

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The murderer in this episode is basically a Hugh Hefner clone, but that has literally nothing to do with why his murdering skills are awesome. Why are they awesome? One word: MAGNETS.

Yes. The CEO of a Playboy parody kills a dude with a magnet. How? I’m glad you asked. Luckily for our murderer (played by legitimately underappreciated character actor Gary Cole), his old friend happened to own the apartment right below the office of the publisher of his magazine who, uh oh, was planning on shutting it down! Gary Cole was understandably not gonna let that happen.

The publisher, like many middle-aged guys in San Francisco offices, I assume, had a room with a bench-press that he used every morning. Gary Cole knew this, and boy did he take advantage. He sent his old friend on vacation, went into her apartment, and set up a fuckin’ electromagnet right under the weight room. So once the publisher started bench-pressing–BAM! he’s getting choked by the bar. He was literally killed through the floor. If my excitement about this murder is not coming through clearly, than I am a terrible writer because this is so freaking cool I can completely ignore the lack of morality involved.

A magnet, man. Jesse Pinkman would be proud.

2. Mr. Monk and the Astronaut

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You know when I said being in a coma was the best alibi? I lied. It’s being in fucking space. And gosh darnit, this murderer here (played by Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame–or, I suppose, not-fame) commits a murder from space.

Okay, okay, okay, lemme get all the logistical stuff out of the way before I get the pleasure of explaining how a fictional character murders someone from space. Jeffrey Donovan needs to get rid of an old mistress who is likely to rat him out as a cheater. He also happens to have a four day mission to space coming up. It’s a perfect opportunity.

Like two days before he goes up into the great beyond, Donovan visits his mistress and spikes her drink with something to knock her out for multiple days (apparently that’s a thing) and leaves after fastening a rope around her neck that is connected to a pulley system that is OPERATED BY A GARAGE DOOR OPENER. Yup, this guy’s using fuckin’ science.

Then, to be delivered while he’s in space, he orders an anonymous package to his mistresses’ house that contains a teddy bear with a pressed-down garage door opener inside of it, so once it’s in range, the pulley system activates, and the mistress is hanged to death remotely. Then, once he’s down from space, but before anyone discovers the body, Donovan carefully disassembles the system and places a knocked over stool below the body. Presto-change-o, it looks like she hung herself.

Goddammit, if all murders were this well-executed, they ought to be legal, let me tell you that much.

1. Mr. Monk Goes Back to School

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I get it. You’re wondering how exactly something could beat being in space. Well, you haven’t heard the number one murder yet, and lemme tell you, it’s a doozy. From the moment I started compiling this list, I was only kidding myself if I thought this wouldn’t be number one. It is so bonkers-ingenious, it legitimately holds a special place in my heart. I think about the way the murderer (played by Andrew McCarthy) kills his mistress (WHAT A SHOCK) quite frequently.

What is McCarthy’s alibi, you ask? He’s administering the SATs. For all of you who are too young to have taken the SATs or too old to remember, the proctor has to stay in the room at all times. He or she can’t use the bathroom much less murder someone. Now, obviously, in order for the SATs to be a valid alibi, McCarthy would need to prove that his mistress died during the SATs. This was no problem from him. Rather than be coy, I’ll explain exactly what he does.

The SATs begin at 8. At 7:45, McCarthy parks his car right underneath the school’s big clocktower and meets his mistress at the top. He quickly bludgeons her to death. Then, he takes her body to maintenance room of the tower, and puts her dead body onto the minute hand of the clock. Luckily for him, none of the classrooms face the tower (which is a plot hole, but shut the hell up) and he runs to his class to proctor the test. At around 8:20, once the minute hand becomes too steep to support a fully-grown woman, McCarthy’s mistress falls off of the clock, onto his car that’s panic alarm goes off wildly. Everyone in the school hears this. To them, it’s clear that, assuming she jumped from the tower (which seems likely as she was ALONE), it was at around 8:20. Where was Andrew McCarthy at this time? ADMINISTERING THE SATs!

The dude literally used a clocktower as a mechanism in his murder. Show me another TV murderer who does that. C’mon, do it. I was honestly disappointed when Monk caught him because if you’re going to do shit like that, I’m sorry, but you deserve to get away with it. The law doesn’t apply to gods, and that character is a god among men.

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If I missed any that you think were totally genius, it’s certainly because I forgot about it. I had trouble remembering a lot of the later-season episodes, as they weren’t as good so I rewatched them less. If you have any I missed, however, let me know, and if you disagree strongly, let me know that as well. If you never want me to write in upwards of 5600 words on a mid-2000’s cable show again, fuck off. You don’t tell me what to do.

For more stuff like this, if you’re so inclined, check out the rest of Pop Culture Deep Dive.

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Editors note:  A very angry friend of mine, who I choose to not name at this juncture, insisted that it is actually Mr. Monk and the Astronaut that features the smartest murderer in the show’s history. As I cannot come up with a good reason why not beyond person preference, I felt it necessary to note this here.

Power Rankings: The Top 20 Smartest Murderers in the show ‘Monk’

A Discussion of Great Sequel Names

Not all sequels have subtitles or creative names. The second Back to the Future is simply called “Back to the Future Part II.” The second Ride Along is just “Ride Along 2.” This suffices, I suppose, but there is no art to these titles. Now, I am not enough a connoisseur of the history of film to create a power rankings of the best movie sequel titles of all time, as I would undoubtedly leave a few out. However, I would just like to share a bunch of my favorites, and why exactly they’re so great.

It’s important to note that in my opinion, any change or subtitle is preferable to no change or subtitle at all. A lot of these objectively suck, but upon reflection, are amazing.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

I would be perfectly okay if every sequel from now until the end of time had the subtitle “The Squeakquel.” It makes me smile just thinking about it. I have never seen Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (while I have seen the original — a discussion for another time), but I can tell you for certain that its title goes for it. It makes no bones about how much squeaking is going to happen in this movie. Also, let this first entry set the tone of the fact that I have not seen a great deal of these films.

Speed 2: Cruise Control

When I pitched the idea for this entry to my suitemate Nick, this was the first one he came up with. And for good reason. Not only is “cruise control” a common phrase, it is also the plot of the film. They are literally trying to control a cruise ship. In just 4 words, I get that this is a sequel to Speed and that they will be controlling a cruise. I sure hope that the title was not the reason Keanu chose not to return, or else I’ve lost serious respect for the man.

Die Hard with a Vengeance

There are plenty of great sequel titles to choose from in the Die Hard franchise, and if I run out of steam before reaching my goal of — I don’t know — 50,000 words, I might add them to this list, but this one has got to be my favorite. Like many others, it just lets you know the plot from the get-go. What is this one about? Someone is taking vengeance, you can discern from the title. And wouldn’t you know it, the villain in this one is the villain from the first one’s brother! The added stakes both make the film (which I quite enjoy) and the title that much better.

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a film that is only known by me and most people because of its incredible subheading. I have no earthly idea what the movie is about, nor do I want to know. There is no way it can hold up to the joy that the words “Electric Boogaloo” bring to my soul. Not to mention the fact that they rhyme with “Breakin’ 2.” Truly masterful work.

Aliens

You might think I’m crazy for honoring a title that literally just added one letter onto the original, but think about how it raises the stakes. You thought shit was crazy when there was one of these guys? Now there are multiple. You know Sigourney and company are in trouble. It’s also great because of how confusing it makes it to talk about the films. Like, if you mishear one syllable, the whole conversation goes to hell and handbasket, which is the real goal of any serious filmmaker.

Rocky Balboa

Don’t kill me, but I must confess I’ve never watched a Rocky movie in its entirety. With that out of the way, let me say I love the power move of calling the sixth movie in your series the full name of the main character, despite his first name being the title of the first five. Because, in many ways, it’s like hitting the reset button, rather than going to six, but it also retains the essence of the series, and it is by no means a spin-off. Let’s move on, because I feel myself getting too sincere about why I like this one.

The Final Destination

Another power move. You know that word they were using in all of the other titles to refer to something else? Well now, it refers to the fact that this is the last film in the franchise because of the word “The” in front of it. Isn’t it nuts how English works sometimes?

Babe: Pig in the City

I don’t know why, but this one just brings a smile to my face. It’s a freakin’ pig… in the city! It just gets me excited. Additionally, and you might know this already, but this film, believe it or not, was co-written and directed by none other than George Miller, A.K.A. the guy who made all of the Mad Max movies. Speaking of which, a few of those have good sequel titles, so Mr. Miller may be making a reappearance. And I’m not being coy. I honestly don’t know what’s coming next, as it’s not like I plan ahead or anything.

Analyze That

I know so little about the series of Analyze This and Analyze That except that their titles, when put together, are movie-making magic. Despite being made like a decade apart, they manage to have a conversation with each other, which is all we’re really trying to do in this life, right? Like others, this sequel title only works in relation to the original, which is not a knock on it. In fact, I think it makes it all the more special.

Magic Mike XXL

The sequel to the highly-successful Magic Mike doesn’t shy away from what made the first one successful. What viewers want out of the sequel is not just another one, as “2” would signal, but they want it to be bigger, both from a figurative standpoint, and in regards to the size of the main cast’s packages. Many sequels say they go bigger in advertisements and whatnot, but this one promises it.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

It is no secret that I am a sucker for replacing the word “to” with the number “2,” and this film does it well. Especially because the original, Journey to the Center of the Earth, used the word “to” in its usual form. This does get docked some points because, quite frankly, I don’t care how mysterious the island is, it can’t beat the center of the Earth. Thank god the Hunger Games happened or Josh Hutcherson’s career might have been best known for this vehicle.

Teen Wolf Too

My love of misusing all of the forms of “to” goes all directions. This one works great because, in the film’s universe, the main character really is a teen wolf as well. His cousin, M.J. Fox’s character from the original was the first Teen Wolf, so, naturally, he’s a Teen Wolf Too. Great title, great marketing, and, as far as I can tell without seeing it, horrible film.

For a Few Dollars More

This is of course, a classic western that I have never seen, as I would rather eat one of those solid tires that comes on forklifts than sit through a western, but boy does it have a good title. The first is called A Fistful of Dollars, so naturally, in the sequel, they go for a few dollars more.

2 Fast 2 Furious

If you thought they were fast or furious in the first installment, wait until you see this one. They are too fast and too furious this time. One thing sequels do really well — or poorly, depending on how you enjoy movies — is be more excessive than their predecessor. This movie lets you know from the title that it will be doing it. Those things you love about the original (namely the fastness and furiousness) will overwhelm you in this one. Good call, guys.

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Those are all of the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but of course, if you have any others in mind, let me know in the comment section. Follow this blog for more, stupid pop culture shit just like this.

 

A Discussion of Great Sequel Names

‘The Room’ Character Power Rankings

I love “The Room.” For those not in the know, The Room is writer-director-actor Tommy Wiseau’s film about a man named Johnny whose fiancee Lisa is cheating on him with his best friend Mark. It is, however, considered one of the worst movies of all time. Obviously, I have seen this movie about nine times. Therefore, it is only right to rank every character with a speaking role in the film (excluding the baristas who recommend the cheesecake, because that’s kind of background noise). The rankings are based primarily on how much they add to my enjoyment of the film, and what they bring to the table. Without further ado, The Room character power rankings.

11. Flower Shop Woman

tumblr_n03jnxkqhu1rskk8io1_1390887501_coverThe flower shop woman’s low rank is simply due to her lack of screen time. Had Tommy Wiseau written a longer backstory to her, I’m sure she would shine. However, all we see her do is give Johnny flowers, and that isn’t much to write home about. However, the scene is famous for its ludicrously fast, unnatural dialogue. It’s also worth mentioning that, despite working at (or perhaps owning) a San Francisco flower shop, she knows Johnny decently well. At first she remarks that “[She] didn’t know it was [him]” and then, as he is leaving her establishment, mentions that he is her “favorite customer,” which of course raises the question: how many flowers does he buy? I don’t have the answer to this, and you’ll find that that is a common theme in these power rankings. I can only rank what I see on screen.

Also, while she couldn’t be lower, she is aided by her adorable dog on the counter, although I doubt the dog is content in that position. He doesn’t have anywhere to go.

10. Michelle

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Michelle is Lisa’s, Johnny’s fiancee’s, best friend and confidant. If I had to venture a guess, she exists because Tommy Wiseau had seen a “best friend character” in other films, and thought she was needed. The only thing that puts her over the top of the Flower Shop Woman is screen time. She is in the movie for far too long to be ranked last, and, quite frankly, far too long in general. Oddly enough, her character’s performance and dialogue is not good by any means, but rarely bad enough to mention. No one goes to a screening of The Room quoting Michelle lines.

On the other hand, and we’ll talk about this more later,  she and her boyfriend Mike apparently sneak into Johnny and Lisa’s apartment to have sex on a regular basis. Why do they do this? No clue. They might be homeless transients. And in that case, I can sleep well at night knowing I didn’t put a homeless transient last on my list.

9. Steven

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It should come as no surprise that the character of “Steven” only exists because the actor who played Peter, the other friend of Johnny and Mark’s, quit midway through production. Therefore, during the climactic scenes, they gave all of Peter’s lines to a character named Steven. Why is Steven ranked above Michelle, despite having one-eighth of the screen time? Because he delivers one of the most over-acted, nonsensical lines of the film, “I feel like I’m sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for it to go off.” What does that even mean? And does Tommy Wiseau know how atomic bombs work? You really can’t sit on them, and furthermore, they tend to drop from the sky rather than “go off.” You could talk me out of putting Steven here, and that’s fine, but a bad movie is always helped by an unexplained character coming out of nowhere joining the action.

8. Peter

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Yes, Peter is only slightly better than the guy who replaces him. The important thing to remember about Peter is that he is a psychologist, and he always “plays psychologist” on Johnny and Mark. He (and Steven by extension), exists only to be a friend of Johnny’s who is not sleeping with Lisa. He however, has a problem with Mark’s behavior, specifically smoking weed on top of the roof. Because of this, Mark nearly throws him off of said roof. It is debatable if this is the closest anyone gets to being murdered in this film.

However, Peter just talks a lot in his scenes. Not much is accomplished. When he “plays psychologist” he kind of just points out obvious things about other characters’ behavior. Sure, the scene where they play football in their tuxedos (don’t ask) and he falls down is funny for a bit, but it is such a ham-fisted attempt at slapstick comedy that, even in a movie like this, it is neither actually good or so-bad-it’s-good.

7. Denny

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Denny is, at times, too creepy and dare-I-say autistic to generate laughs in a so-bad-it’s-good sense. Denny is a college(?) student who lives in Johnny’s building, who it is revealed doesn’t have parents and is living on Johnny’s dime. He is like a son to them. However, he is very attracted to Johnny’s fiancee Lisa. Johnny doesn’t have much a problem with this for some reason, but there’s too much stuff in this movie to dwell on this.

Denny’s peak moment occurs at the beginning of the film when Johnny and Lisa very clearly are going to have sex and go upstairs. When they get up there, Denny runs up and starts pillow-fighting with them. He then, I shit you not, delivers the line “I just like to watch you guys.” The man/boy lives on these people’s money and has the gall to tell them that he likes to watch them have sex. In fact, the central question to Denny’s existence is if he is a man or a boy. It’s worth noting that Tommy Wiseau remarked that he believed Philip Haldiman, the actor who played Denny, to be little bit mentally-challenged.

The climax of the Denny storyline is of course the drug deal gone wrong in the second half of the film. This, we will cover with another character.

6. Mark

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It might be sacrilege to rank a main character relatively low in a power rankings, but I am left with very little choice. Mark just does not contribute that much to this movie. In fact, he is only ranked six because he, by being a main character, is involved with most of the good scenes in the film. It’s worth mentioning now, by the way, that in between the three main characters, there are four sex scenes (two with Johnny and Lisa, two with Mark and Lisa). None of these sex scenes are sexy and they all render any audience uncomfortable. In fact, they’re only “funny” upon reflection. I digress.

Mark’s only purpose in the film is to service the story. We are given literally no reason as to why he betrays Johnny other than “Lisa is hot.” When Lisa first goes out of her way to seduce him he asks, “The candles… the music… the sexy dress… what’s going on here?” I actually do not blame Mark that in this scene there are no candles or music, but I do blame him for being so slow on the uptake. Lisa is literally caressing him at this point.

Then, their first sex scene takes place on the spiral staircase in the apartment. At first, that seems like a cool, inventive place to do the deed. But on further inspection, it has to be the most uncomfortable setting in the world. Was that Mark’s idea? I have to blame him, as all of the sex Johnny and Lisa have is strictly in bed. Which reminds me, the spiral staircase leads to the bed. Could he really not control his libido for that long?

Mark is the best-looking person in the moving, being played by male model Greg Sestero, who, to his own credit, wrote The Disaster Artist, the book about the making of The Room that James Franco is turning into a movie. However, that does not excuse him for having a plot point in which he shows up without a beard. You may be wondering: was this Lisa’s idea? Does she like him for this? Did he screw up shaving in the mirror? We have no clue. We are just told it’s a big deal because we zoom-pan up to his clean shaven face.

Mark, though, is an awful friend, and not in an aggressive manner that would be funny to watch. He doesn’t so much cheat with Lisa as he lets her cheat with him. He is a passive character, and besides almost throwing Peter off of a roof because he has problems with his pot-smoking, he does very little in the film. The movie would have been worse and therefore funnier if Tommy Wiseau made Mark an interesting character.

5. Mike

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The main reason Mike is number five is because he makes this face while getting blown by Michelle. If this isn’t the single-greatest acting moment in the twenty-first century so far, tell me what is. So much is going on here. As I mentioned before, Michelle and Mike like to have sex in Lisa and Johnny’s place, so the facial expression you see is happening while they’re trespassing. However, we have not seen the last of Mike being a great character. When Michelle and Mike are eventually caught by Lisa and Claudette (her mother), after having done the deed, Mike comes back in the room to retrieve his underwear and is caught by Claudette. In a later scene, he recalls this incident to Johnny, describing them as “me underwears.” Truly a god among men.

Also, in a scene that has yet to be explained to anyone, Mike gets pushed into a trash can by Mark, maybe? I can’t tell if it’s on purpose or just bad physical acting. It’s during one of The Room’s famous football-tossing scenes, so we’ll never know.

4. Lisa

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The Room’s terribleness is mostly fun and harmless until it comes to Lisa. Being about five and a half years away from the first time I saw this movie, I can confidently say that Lisa is a manifestation of pent-up misogyny from Tommy Wiseau. She is literally a character who cheats on her perfect fiancee simply because she is “bored.” And that is the explanation you get when you pry. She just cheats because, I don’t know, that’s what women do. It’s kinda messed up when you think about it, and since I enjoy watching this movie, I try not to.

Anyway, Lisa makes the top four because she is so downright reckless in her schemes. She plays with fire at every opportunity, going as far as to sneak downstairs with Mark to fool around with him at Johnny’s birthday party. Not to mention the fact that she will discuss her affair with anyone who will listen that is not Johnny. Obviously part of this is in how Lisa, in some way, wants to get caught, but a lot of it is far beyond that.

Lisa, however, thinks about everything. Why wait for Johnny to tell you that he wants a pizza? Order the pizza already! Lisa’s attitude towards Johnny fluctuates wildly. Like, at the beginning of the film, you would never expect Lisa to want to cheat on him. They literally bone within the first ten minutes, and all Johnny had to do was get Lisa a red dress. Yet, around the halfway mark, she gets him drunk so she can accuse him of hitting her. If Tommy Wiseau wanted to elicit a reaction of “Bitches be crazy,” he certainly succeeded.

What is most puzzling about her character’s actions, and I think this makes the movie more entertaining is when she and Johnny announce at his birthday that they’re expecting a child. However, when pressed on it, Lisa admits to Steven and Michelle that “There is no baby” and she made it up to make things more “interesting.” What? Is she playing the Sims 3 or something? In what world is it beneficial for her to make things more “interesting?” That’s not something that real people do. Unless she’s based on someone Tommy Wiseau dated, and in that case, I feel very bad for the man.

And, SPOILER ALERT, at the end, when Johnny kills himself, she has the audacity to, leaning over her dead fiancee’s body, say to Mark that “at least [they] can be together,” as if that’s something he’d agree to in that situation. Not only does she cheat unrealistically often, she does it in such a piss-poor manner that it’s impossible to feel bad for her.

3. Claudette

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Lisa’s mother, Claudette starts the top 3 strong. She is completely superfluous in this movie for so many reasons, and that makes her scenes even more enjoyable. Like, literally every word out of her mouth doesn’t service the story.

There is no use beating around the bush as to what he best moment is. It is this line, which is, without a doubt, the best line delivered by someone other than Johnny. Before you ask, no, this is never brought up again in the rest of the film. She just declares to her daughter that the test results say that she “definitely has breast cancer,” and they move on. It is never referenced again. Lisa shows no concern for her dying mother. Rather than being the life-or-death situation that it should be for her, it is simply another thing she needs to worry about.

Claudette is in this movie because apparently she spends time with her daughter with a ridiculous frequency. This movie takes place over a fairly short time span and she is at their apartment on numerous occasions. Most notably, besides the breast cancer reveal, is when Denny gets held at gunpoint by Chris-R. After learning that he owed him money for drugs, she chews Denny out for being involved with that type of person. Denny, for his part, responds, “You’re not my fucking mother!” leaving us to thank Tommy Wiseau for including such an unnecessary character to be yelled at.

2. Chris-R

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I know I said that the Flower Shop Woman was ranked so low because of her lack of screen time. Obviously, Chris-R doesn’t spend much more time with us than her, so how is he number two? Simple. He holds a (likely) mentally challenged man-child at gun point while wearing a black skull cap. The tone of his appearance is so wildly different from the rest of the movie, any writer-director with a basic understanding of movie-making would have cut it on the first edit. Why exactly does Denny need to have bought drugs? And why didn’t he pay for them? Once again, these questions are never answered.

As Chris-R (who called this by Denny, and credited as such, despite there being no other Chrises in the film or mentioned in the film) yells “Where’s my fucking money, Denny?” repeatedly, it becomes apparent to the viewer that, holy shit, this guy is the best actor in the movie. When he pulls the gun out of the back of his pants, he actually does it like a regular person would. I have literally no problems with Chris-R’s performance, which is great, because he lets the preposterousness of his existence in this film speak for itself.

Chris-R, after being confronted by a concerned Johnny and Mark, is taken away “to the police station,” apparently without putting up much of a fight. This hurts his stock a bit. However, any character in a bad movie who pulls a weapon on the mentally-challenged character is special in my book. So Chris-R is secure in his number two spot.

1. Johnny

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Is there any surprise? If you haven’t seen this movie, and you really should, don’t think for a second that I’m only putting him number one because he is the main character. He is sincerely the thing that makes this movie as bad as it is. Tommy Wiseau’s writing and directing would be never have been noticed if not for his atrocious acting. The most famous scene of his, is, of course, the “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA” scene, so there’s a link to it if you want to remind yourself/see it for the first time. It is truly something to behold. Not to be overlooked is the “Oh, hi Mark,” bit, which is also pretty well known outside of people who have seen the whole film. These lines and performances, however, are nothing out of the ordinary for the movie. Tommy Wiseau manages to go the duration of the film without saying a sentence like a normal person. It’s quite the accomplishment.

Johnny is, to put it mildly, an approximation of a regular American guy from the perspective of an alien. He works at a bank: but what does he do? We don’t know, other than the fact that the bank has put his ideas into practice, and that they save money. This job, though, is stable, as Claudette repeatedly reminds us. He has two close friends, with Mark being his closest. How did any of these people meet? We never know. He plays football with his friends? Does he throw a football in an overhand spiral like a normal person? Of course not. He tosses it underhand like a loaf of bread.

He looks, both face and body wise, like a God crumpled up a person like a piece of paper and then unfolded them. And then, on top of that, gave them gangling, long, jet-black hair. Also, God convinced them that they look good in Stevie Wonder sunglasses.

Johnny does not only pronounce things unlike a regular person, he also says phrases no person in their right mind would say, like, “I will record everything!” to himself, after deciding to put a tape recorder on his phone. In addition, he has no clue what a chicken looks or sounds like. He makes no sense.

It’s clear Tommy Wiseau wanted to make Johnny this perfect guy that we would feel deep sympathy for when we realized his life was crumbling around him due to the actions of his horrible fiancee Lisa and his evil best friend Mark. What we felt instead was nothing but confusion. Who is this person, and how can we return them to their home planet?

What is certain about Johnny, though, is that he is exactly who Tommy Wiseau wished him to be. Which is probably the scariest thing of all.


If you disagree with my list, let me know. If you enjoyed it, let me know that as well, if you want. For more deep dives into pop culture, follow this blog and read the stuff that’s already here. More will come.

‘The Room’ Character Power Rankings

The Master of Disguise: 13 1/2 Years of Questions

In the year of our lord 2002, I saw the Dana Carvey film, The Master of Disguise, in theaters. It was during a weeklong vacation to Cape Cod. For some reason, my father and our family friend decided to take me, my two brothers, and our family friend’s son (our friend… it’s confusing to refer to one’s family’s friends) to the movies to see the film.

 

I don’t remember much of that experience, except that right after we had gotten tickets, another family tried to buy some and were told that the showing was sold out. I cannot begin to explain the ways my life would have been different had we been that group.

 

Apparently, after seeing the film, I was satisfied. In fairness, I was only 6 years old, so moving pictures across a screen were usually enough to satisfy me. But, what was more confusing was my older brother, who was eight at the time, who should have known better.

 

We were so satisfied, that Christmas, we got the DVD as a gift. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have seen the film nearly a dozen times since then. And every time I watch it, and every time I Google it, I am left with more questions than answers. No answers will be provided in this blog, only explorations of the nuclear meltdown of a film The Master of Disguise.

 

The Master of Disguise killed Dana Carvey’s career. If you check IMDB, he did not have a starring role in any movie until 2011’s Jack and Jill–another dumpster fire–and even that was almost a cameo. The director of Disguise, Perry Andelin Blake, never directed another film. It would be unthinkable that a movie that made more than twice as much as its budget would kill two careers, had you not seen the film.

 

For those fortunate enough to avoid Disguise, here is a quick summary that will, no doubt, make zero sense. Dana Carvey plays Pistachio Disguisey (yes, that is his name), an Italian boy/man/child? who works for his parents restaurant in America. Little does he know that the Disguisey family (surprise, surprise) has a long history of disguising itself. However, his father, Fabrizzio, played by the woefully miscast James Brolin, decided to that “this is no life for [his] son. He will never learn of his true destiny.”

 

Unfortunately for our nutty-named protagonist, Fabrizzio and Pistachio’s mother, whose name I cannot recall, get kidnapped, and with the help of his estranged grandfather, Pistachio uses his genetic predisposition for disguise to get them back and save the day.

 

Obviously, much of the “humor” from the film is derived from Pistachio’s disguises, which, of course, take advantage of Carvey’s talent at impressions. In total, Pistachio does 21 different impressions (or 20, if you don’t count being a literal pile of shit as an impression). [Exact numbers provided by Johnny Efstathiades (@jefstathiades).]

 

The first set of questions I will ask is about the impressions he chooses, because, boy, do they make no sense whatsoever. For a character that is supposed to use disguise to get places and information he normally wouldn’t be able to, he sure disguises himself as things that make him stand out. For example, when trying to get invited to the main villain, Devlin Bowman’s (played by Brett Spiner of Star Trek fame) party, he disguises himself as a handsy elderly woman named “Gammy Num-Nums.” This disguise choice is so bad, that he is completely unsuccessful in his mission.

 

Furthermore, the disguises that Pistachio uses are much less sophisticated that than of his father and grandfather. While all of Pistachio’s disguises look more or less like Dana Carvey in makeup or a wig, those of his father and grandfather are played by completely different actors. These are the logical inconsistencies that can plague one’s mind for years on end.

 

Having watched the film several times in my adult life, it has dawned on me just how many references in the film went completely over my head as a child. Now, that is something you can probably say about most kids movies. However, there are entire scenes and motifs that could not possibly be gotten by anyone under the age of ten. For example, one of Pistachio’s disguises is basically just Tony Montana of Scarface. What person in the target demographic of the film would have seen Scarface? I get it. Dana can do a decent Al Pacino. But when I was a youngin, he was just a strange guy with a lot of chest hair. Also, for what it’s worth, the classic, outside-of-the-house shot from The Exorcist is recreated. Fun for the whole family.

 

The Master of Disguise was a big studio film. Several dozen people had to say yes to most of these decisions. It is truly a tragedy that Dana Carvey’s career had to end due to their negligence.

 

Speaking of tragedies: the Turtle Club scene. Whenever I bring this film up to friends, the only scene any of them ever remember is the Turtle Club scene, and it’s little wonder why. Pistachio, trying to get info from the exclusive Turtle Club, dresses up as a guy who looks like a human turtle. He has a shell on the back of his green suit, thick rimmed glasses, and a bald head. Also, he moves his neck like a turtle, and speaks with the cadence that a turtle would, I suppose.

 

Obviously, the Turtle Club is actually a lounge for rich gentlemen, but that is no matter for Mr. Disguisey. You would think his assistant, Jennifer Baker (played by Jennifer Esposito), would correct him on this mistake, but nope. Anyway, he gets into the club after Baker, being attractive, convinces the bouncer that it’s been his dream. Once in the Turtle Club, he acquires the information from veteran character actor Eric Avari and then gets made fun of, because he looks like a complete weirdo.

 

Then, in one of the most puzzling scenes in cinema history, he proceeds get into some kind of scrum with some suited guys. At one point, he literally bites a man’s nose off, drawing no blood, and spits it back onto his face, perfectly. No one makes anything of this. No one says, “Holy shit. This guy is magic. He just ripped a guy’s nose off his face, and put it back on perfectly.” After this, in what is the most confusing editing choice I have ever seen in all of my life, we slow fade to a top down shot of Pistachio break dancing on the floor of the Turtle Club, yelling the word “turtle” for no more than five seconds. This means, that after violently assaulting patrons and not belonging in the first place, they let him break dance unmolested.

 

However, I have not gotten to the most important detail of the Turtle Club scene. I would not believe this if it were not confirmed by IMDB’s trivia section. The Turtle Club scene, which is without a doubt, the most memorably bad scene from this memorably bad film, was filmed on September 11th, 2001. Apparently, after news of the terrorist attack reached set, the cast and crew held a moment of silence. I wish we could chalk the work they produced up to grief and confusion, but something tells me it didn’t make much of a difference.

 

None of the characters in this film make any sense. For one, by all accounts, Pistachio Disguisey was raised in America his whole life. However, he retains as thick of an Italian accent as his father and grandfather. What’s more, his grandfather looks no more than ten years older than his father. I don’t know how they casted those roles so poorly.

 

And that brings us to Jennifer Baker. Why does Jennifer Baker become Pistachio Disguisey’s assistant? Because she needs dental insurance for her son Barney, a name I didn’t think people were still being named after the Reagan administration. This children’s movie had jokes about dental insurance. Yay. Baker is the only competent person for the duration of the film. She, being played by pre-gluten allergy Jennifer Esposito, is way out of Pistachio’s league. Of course, they fall in love anyway.

 

Which begs the question: what does she see in him? Is there a boyish charm in 47 year old Dana Carvey playing an ambiguously young loser? Throughout the movie, Pistachio demonstrates a half dozen markers of autism and learning disabilities. He is not a schlubby manchild. He is literally a man with the mental capacity of a child. Not to mention the fact that he speaks in the silliest Italian known to man, despite being from the same freaking city as Jennifer Baker.

 

In case you were wondering, and I know you weren’t, the reason Devlin Bowman kidnaps Fabrizzio is to force him to use his powers of disguise to steal priceless artifacts, like the Apollo 11 module and Liberty to sell on the Black Market. If you were wondering if the aforementioned “Black Market” was a literal online market and not just a general concept, then congratulations, you may have written this movie. Who is purchasing things on the Black Market? Obviously, Kenan Thompson, as “Kenan.”

 

One of Fabrizzio’s disguises, by the way, is of actress, model, and international icon, Bo Derek. Because movie magic isn’t magic at all, Bo Derek “plays” Fabrizzio disguised as her. If my memory serves me correct, she is on screen for no more than a minute and a half. However, this did not stop her from being nominated for a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. It’s that kind of movie.

 

I just cannot emphasize enough how inane, thoughtless, and, one an occasion or two, racist the disguises are in this movie.

 

Oh, and I almost forgot. What is the name of the mystical power that gives Disguiseys the ability to disguise? Energico, of course. Energico is not explained at all, and something tells me it’s for the best. If there were a Master of Disguise prequel in which someone explained that his grandfather had abnormally high levels of “Energico,” it would have been a Star Wars/midichlorians-type situation.

 

Pistachio spends a large duration of the film training to be a Master of Disguise. I suppose this is a good a time as any to mention that the film’s running time is only 80 minutes, and that includes ten minutes of credits. This film almost couldn’t be considered one of the worst movies of all time simply because it was almost not a feature-length movie.

 

And the during- and post-credits stuff sure is a doozy. For reference on how long this goes on, imagine the shwarma scene at the end of the Avengers. Then imagine that it lasted another nine and a half minutes. Dana Carvey literally performs new characters just during the credits, which suggests that even during principal photography, they knew that their film would be just a nose longer than an episode of True Detective.

 

And what would a film be without an original score. What original songs are on the soundtrack you ask? There’s M.A.S.T.E.R. Part 1 by Hardhedzz featuring Play. There’s M.A.S.T.E.R. Part 2 by Play featuing Lil’ Fizz from B2K. There’s also Master of Disguise by Vitamin C. The subject of all three of these songs, as should be no surprise, is the Master of Disguise.

 

I have so, so, so many more questions about this movie. As does my brother Kevin (@mskevinchristie),  who aided in writing this tour-de-force. Like, why after almost getting attacked in her fake kitchen set-up, does Pistachio’s mom look at the surveillance camera and say, “No more caramel corn for me” as if she knows Pistachio is watching? Or how exactly did Pistachio get into his cow poop outfit so quickly? Did he have it on him in his Tony Montana outfit? Or did he improvise it with actual cow poop? And why does he get up so quickly after laying on the ground in that outfit? These are all questions that are only appropriate to discuss around other people who have seen the film more than seven times, so I will spare you the exercise.

 

However, I do still have a copy of the movie in my dorm, so if you would like to watch, I am always available for a movie night.

 

 

The Master of Disguise: 13 1/2 Years of Questions

B.o.B. vs. Science: A Beef Examined

The world was reminded of rapper B.o.B.’s existence after his January 24th Twitter lecture on how he believes the Earth is actually flat. To many, this was their first foray into the world of Flat Earth Truthers. However, being a veteran of boredom on the Internet, I recalled reading about the “Flat Earth Society” way back in the day. Apparently, their website (http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/cms/), still exists.

Somehow, these people have managed to convince themselves that thousands of years of science are completely incorrect. Most believe Christopher Columbus disproved the flat-earth theory, but in fact Greek mathematician Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth almost exactly way back in 240 B.C.E. So even before Jesus was crucified, people would have given B.o.B. side-eye for what he is espousing.

So what leads B.o.B., who was born Bobby Ray, to disbelieve what is such basic science? He provides his own explanations, which you’ve no doubt heard by now. On the off-chance that you have more important things to do than read the Twitter feed of Mr. Ray, here’s a quick rundown of his “evidence.”

For one, he takes issue with the horizon being flat. To him, if the Earth really were curved, so would the horizon. Obviously our field of view simply isn’t wide enough in order to see the curve, but B.o.B. has no time for such nonsense. What’s more, he posted a series of photos of varying heights, explaining that if the Earth were round, photos from a high enough elevation would also show the curve. Once again, these pictures, while taken from high places, were not high enough.

You may be thinking about how there are photos high enough that show the curvature of the Earth, like the video taken by Felix Baumgartner, the daredevil who famously broke the record for longest fall by a person for Red Bull a few years ago. Not so fast, says B.o.B. According to him, the curvature of the Earth in that video is simply a result of the GoPro’s lens.

Furthermore, B.o.B. points out that the fact that the stars rotate back into their same places means that the Earth is flat and the heavenly bodies are simply rotating around us. That’s basically it. He provides more evidence, as well as a multitude of pictures of him in front of the horizon, but that’s most of it. For the tweets themselves, this link is pretty helpful.

Had B.o.B. stopped there, I would not have gone on this deep dive. However, Bobby took offense to popular astrophysicist and novelty tie-wearer Neil deGrasse Tyson correcting his bad science. In a move that would have defied explanation just a week before, B.o.B. released what is likely the only diss track on a scientist. It is called Flatline.

Please listen to it. I implore you. There is so much to unpack.

And I’ll be going line-by-line.

Alright. It’s worth noting that the beat is very good. This is a common theme in bad rap diss tracks, in my opinion. Then we start.

Yo, you ain’t seen my best
Checkmate, ain’t a game of chess

My biggest issue with most diss tracks is how long they take to get to the subject of the diss. This one gets there pretty quick, but I don’t need this.

Globalists see me as a threat
Free thinking, got the world at my neck

“Globalist” here means people who think that the world is round. So, according to Bobby Ray, about 7 billion people see him as a threat. This is also, of course, a great example of when you just assumed that it wasn’t necessary to have a term for something.
Hah, am I paranoid? Picture Malcolm X
In a room full of pigs, trying not to bust a sweat

I really would love to tell Malcolm X that fifty years after his death, a musician would compare his struggle in believing the Earth is flat to the Civil Rights Movement. And even if you believe you’re on the same level as Malcolm, you keep that to yourself.

 

Aye, Neil Tyson need to loosen up his vest
They’ll probably write that man one hell of a check

First off, I do agree that Neil Tyson could use to loosen his vest. However, as my good friend Courtney Perkins (@snikrepyentrouc) points out, “the idea that [Tyson] is saying this shit because he’s going to be written a check FOR CALLING OUT A STUPID RAPPER is insane! This is a mild hobby for him!” And that begs the question of who exactly is writing the check? I can only assume some shady Illuminati group.

 

Aye, I’m over here on this side of town
Come on over, over, over, over here try to clown
Aye, I never pipe down
If they weren’t coming for me then
They definitely coming for me now

For one, repeating “over” four times is just bad rapping. Also, who is coming after you? If there really were some conspiracy covering up the shape of the Earth, wouldn’t they have already silenced you?
I can’t even keep my phone charged up

I’ve done some research on this line, and either he means that his phone is being tapped (which it isn’t) or he’s tweeting the truth so much, his phone is dying, which is a dumb thing to brag about.
All this shit I’m talking, I should get my home bought up

Apparently, it is widely believed by conspiracy theorists that eminent domain is used to silence them. So that’s a thing.
Rappers get off of my dick and get your own bars up

C’mon, Bob. Stay on topic. There’s nothing relevant here.
Now the mirror lizard’s breath got the clones scared cuz

And nonchalantly, our friend Robert brings up two crazy conspiracies. First, he implies the existence of lizard people, which, according to lore, are supposed to be revealed only in mirrors because apparently they’re also vampires. Also, he mentions clones. One could pass this by if they were completely unaware of the rest of B.o.B.’s twitter feed. This is a list of all of his tweet’s mentioning cloning. Basically, he believes that the government clones people to make them more docile. For example, he cites when celebrities go to “rehab” as them actually being kidnapped and cloned.
Woo, use your, use your common sense
Why is NASA part of the department of defense?

This is a question I don’t know the answer to. However, my common sense does not tell me, “To cover up the world being flat.”
They divided up the seas into thirty-three degrees

Rather than regurgitate the ridiculous info I gathered on what he means by this, I’ll just say that apparently, Flat Earth Truthers explain seasons by the sun covering different thirds of the Earth at different times.
Feeding kids masonry, bruh, be careful what you read

So apparently the Freemasons are in on this. What I was reminded of on this deep dive is just how conspiracy theorists will literally connect every conspiracy possible. Like, if the Earth really were flat, do the Freemasons have to have something to do with it?

Flat line, flat line
There’s no superior blood line
Flat line, flat line
You got me once but that died, aye

I want to believe that the “superior blood line” refers to an alien race, but there is no evidence to support that (while obviously that doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe it). I will give credit where credit is due and say that if you are going to rap about the Earth being flat, the “flat line” metaphor is fairly effective.
Voice, voice, do I have a voice?

Yes. It’s 1:04am and I’m talking about you.
Do I give a fuck? Do I have a choice?

Apparently not.
Joint, joint, I roll up a joint

You couldn’t help yourself mentioning marijuana could you? And a word of advice for anyone considering rapping about an outlandish conspiracy theory: don’t mention weed. Because we already think you’re high as hell anyway.
Keep my shooters in the game like I hate to disappoint

I don’t get this line, and no one else does, so I’ll skip it.
I see only good things on the horizon
That’s probably why the horizon is always rising

He compares his life to the horizon, which is apparently always rising. This is a reference to how in the Flat Earth Theory, the horizon appears to rise because the sun moves farther away. Jesus.
Indoctrinated in a cult called science
And graduated to a club full of liars

Alright, man. The concept of science is a cult? That’s like saying “History” is a crime or something.
Heliocentrism, you were the sixth victim

Oh yeah. Did I not mention that the Flat Earth Theory rejects heliocentrism, or the belief that the Earth revolves around the sun? This is, if you recall, what Galileo died for. 550 years later, he may have died in vain.
Fuck you and your team, you can sit on the bench with ’em
They nervous, but before you try to curve it

Once again, “your team” being all 7 billion reasonable people.
Do your research on David Irving
Stalin was way worse than Hitler
That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a kippah

Thanks for the recommendation, Bob. I researched David Irving. Who is a Holocaust denier. Perhaps that belief is why he think Stalin is worse than Hitler, because, apparently, he believes the Holocaust to be a hoax. Because of a Jewish conspiracy. Which is why Obama has worn a Jewish hat from time to time.
I’m a man first ‘fore an artist
Get a lawyer, look up Doctor Richard Sauder

A good song shouldn’t make you have to Google, but whatever. For those interested, Dr. Sauder is a conspiracy theorist (surprise, surprise) who believes, among other things, that there are a series of underwater bases and tunnels run by a shady, Illuminati type group. Mother of god.

So after this, the hook comes back in, and then we are treated to a sample of Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining the oblong shape of the Earth. Here it is in full just so you understand the absurdity of B.o.B. using it:

So you want to find the farthest point from that center. And it turns out sea level at the equator is farther away from the center of the Earth than sea level near the poles. It has nothing to do with global warming and melting of the ice caps

(Why is that?)

Because… Earth, we know it spins, once a…. day. Yes, thank you. Three people know that, how long a day lasts here

(Good for row number two, they’re off to a great start)

So you, so you spin, you know when you spin pizza dough, it kind of flattens out. It gets wider in the middle and…so Earth throughout its life, even when it formed, it was spinning. And it got a little wider at the equator than it does at the poles. So it’s not actually a sphere, it’s an…it’s oblate, it’s officially an oblate spheroid. That’s what we call it. But not only that, it’s slightly wider below the equator than above the equator

(A little chubbier?)

Little chubbier, chubby’s a good word, it’s like pear-shaped. So it turns out the pear-shapedness is bigger than the height of Mount Everest above sea level

As Courtney Perkins correctly asked (angrily, I might add), “Does he think that an interlude of Neil deGrasse Tyson giving a detailed description of the earths (sic) shape is going to make us think it’s flat?” But seriously, does he? Because he inserted a clip of Tyson precisely explaining the shape of the Earth, which is not flat.

The song ends after another hook, and we are left to wonder what B.o.B. intended us to think. The most insane thing about it is that we are, I presume, supposed to come away believing in the Flat Earth Theory. Which makes no sense. Because even if the Flat Earth Theory were true, this song is a terrible primer on it.

But what is most concerning to me, and others, is how B.o.B. makes his pitch to the listener’s common sense. After I asked her thoughts on the song, my other friend Emily Fong (@emolyfong) mused, “We live in an world that seems to be constantly regressing in terms of what is deemed as ‘logical thought’ or ‘common sense.'”

Should we really be surprised that people believe this when grown adults also believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old? I don’t know. But Emily points out is that “B.o.B’s refusal to acknowledge something as basic as THE ROUND EARTH THEORY has spurred possibly the greatest beef of all time between a scientist and d-list rapper.” And she’s right.

It needed to be something as ludicrous as the Flat Earth Theory, or else nothing would have happened. As I realized last night, B.o.B. is really most known for only three songs, all of which are most remembered for their choruses by other, featured artists (“Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams, “Nothin’ On You” featuring Bruno Mars, and the formerly ubiquitous “Magic” featuring Rivers Cuomo). He simply is not famous enough for this story to matter if it were something as simple as 9/11 truthing.

In fact, that level of conspiracy theorizing is so often overlooked. I mean, we can pretend that Macklemore never tweeted “911… bush knocked down the towers” or that Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t grill a retired general about the September 11th attacks, but you can’t ignore someone saying that the Earth is flat. That’s the type of thing you lose all of your friends over.

We’re all willing to give B.o.B. the spotlight for this because it is one of the rare out-of-left-field moments we have in this day and age. I was legitimately surprised when I saw the headline, “B.o.B. Claims Earth is Flat,” and I’ll believe just about anything.

Apparently, though, if I had followed B.o.B. closely, I wouldn’t be. After “Flatline” dropped, I immediately set up a call with my high school friend Addison Allen (@addison_allen) to discuss B.o.B. and his theories, and he enlightened me to Bobby Ray’s long history with conspiracies. I’ve shared some of his tweets earlier, but even in his popular music he dabbled with the tin foil hat community.

Addison pointed me to a 2010 song called “Dr. Aden” which is about Bayer selling drugs laced with HIV. He has also made references to the 9/11 conspiracy, among others throughout his discography. When I asked Addison if these references made him see this coming, he said, “Definitely not.” Because of course not. For some reason, in the minds of everyone I’ve talked to about this (and I’ve talked to everyone), they all share the belief that Flat Earth Truthing is a step beyond all other conspiracy theories. It’s on a whole different level.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Bobby Ray also believes that mass shootings are false flags or that the government can read your mind. I don’t chuckle to myself when I hear about people who believe in these things. But flat earth? That’s hilarious.

Emily summarized how I think we all feel, that “in the span of like 6 months, Twitter has given us stories like Zola, Twitter has given us landmark cultural trends like #wastehistime2016. but B.o.B’s flatline…. tops it all.” Because it is just so fucking nuts. Bill Simmons describes a concept called the “Tyson Zone,” named after Mike Tyson, wherein you’ll believe any story that comes out about a celebrity, and not even that would have prepared me for this.

My least favorite thing about the Internet is its capacity to forget. I hate the fact that the Internet will forget this. I want to hold onto this feeling of disbelief I’ve held for over 48 hours forever. Perhaps life’s simplest pleasure is thinking, “Holy shit, I can’t believe someone is that stupid.” Because holy shit, I can’t believe someone is that stupid.

But seriously, get Bob some help. And not from a scientist or whatever.

B.o.B. vs. Science: A Beef Examined