Happy Spooky Season!
The witches brew, fruit of the cauldron, magic in liquid form, bottled and corked, and ready for mass distribution. They can be medicinal, toxic, empowering, destructive, or just plain weird. Sometimes it’s important to just randomly drink bottles you find on the ground especially if they glow, because it could be any of those adjectives, or all of them, and you’ll only know if you try.
Hold your nose, down the hatch, and hope this one isn’t poison. It’s the Top 10 potions. (more…)
The word “prequel” sends shivers down the spine of every fan of an IP, be it book, film, game, or otherwise. Not the good kind of shivers either. But once in a while we are spared our apprehension and given that rare and wonderful thing, an enjoyable prequel that serves the original well.
Now, let us be clear that we are in no way saying that these prequels are better than their original properties, just that they did a good job of trying to tell the story before the story starts. They might make us see the original in a totally different way, add context, close plotholes, or just be fun to watch in their own right. With that in mind let us get into our Top 10 Good Prequels.
10) The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Starting with an unusual one, the video games Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena were highly regarded, in fact by many they’re regarded as being better than the films, detailing the bloody escape from triple max prison of one Richard B Riddick, earning him the infamy he boasts from Pitch Black onwards.
Graphics are very early 00’s, but Starbreeze delivered an excellent stealth/action game with some of the best voice acting from Diesel himself, Ron Perlman, and Michael Rooker. Riddick is easily a better game character than film character, but I still love Pitch Black and damn you if you say otherwise.
9) Star Trek: Enterprise
Enterprise was set before the events of the original series, and over the course of its four seasons we witness the dawn of teleporters, the coming together of species (politically and physically), the foundations of the prime directive, and humanity finding its place among the older space faring races.
It stands among the greats, with incredible stories, performances, and characters, lending new insights into the Star Trek universe and creating something new and enjoyable in the process. Captain Archer may not stand up to Picard, Kirk or Sisco (sorry Janeway, but… y’know) but he’s still an excellent centerpiece for characters who are the equal of any other Starfleet crew. And Floxx is a comedic masterpiece.
8) X-Men: First Class
The X-Men series of films doesn’t get enough love. No really, they don’t – There were a few rough films (and the more of us that forget about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better.) However, what the X-Men series has always managed to achieve is a wealth of excellent characters introduced in a relatively simple to understand plot. The overall plot is convoluted, but each contained story within is easy to digest.
As such, when the X-Men franchise got a soft reboot in the form of a sort of prequel, it’s no wonder that it did so well. Of course, First Class isn’t the only prequel in the series – There are a number of them, including: X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse and next year we’ll be treated to X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
The series is always a joy to watch, even if I personally think they’ll never beat X-2.
7) Hannibal – The TV Series
Here I profess to having never watched Hannibal, but I’m willing to concede public opinion when I’m repeatedly told that something is worth a watch. While no one will best Anthony Hopkins for portraying the cannibalistic gentleman, of those who could at least make an effort Mads Mikkelsen must surely be near the top of the list.
In his three seasons he is truly sinister and charismatic, and in the role of a psychologist turned serial-killer-coach it seems the part is almost tailored to him. The series serves as a prequel to Red Dragon, before even the novels, telling some of the early tales of the famous man-eater, telling an original story without compromising the original creation.
6) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Long before the events of Harry Potter, the wizarding world was still just as dangerous and as magical. In America, the No-Maj, or Muggles as we in England refer to them, lived somewhat obliviously to the magical world around them. Although in England the events of all things magical happen in their own secluded areas, such as Hogwarts or otherwise. No instead, the wizarding world is hidden in plain sight.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a huge success, breathing new life into a franchise which had seemingly reached its apex. Where the series goes from here will be wild and wonderful – But it’s fascinating how many more tales from the wizarding world that J K Rowling could venture down, as some of the stories could be exceptional.
5) Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Before the movie, the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t quite as Wicked as she became. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch as we know her, is actually not all that wicked as we’re first made to believe in the original Wizard of Oz. In fact, she’s interested in the politics of the land of Oz and it turns out that treachery and deception makes her the way that she is – The green skinned witch.
Wicked became a play, many, many years after the release of the novel. Not only was it a play, it was a hugely successful one. With a film on the way in 2019, if you’ve not had the opportunity to check this out, I’d highly recommend looking out for the film in the coming years. It’s going to be wicked!
4) Monsters University
Without question, this was the prequel that inspired the list, and may even be the best prequel I have ever seen. We bring together Sully and Mike at University, and while it may not be easy for John Goodman and Billy Crystal to play teenagers, the characters are brilliantly rolled back to their younger and more arrogant selves. Mike is the nerd with delusions of grandeur, Sully is the lazy jock getting through on a scholarship he doesn’t deserve.
Watching the two overcome their differences to work together and bring their new friends from the bottom to the top of the MU pecking order casts new light upon their tight friendship at work many years later. Ok, so it’s a classic college film, the Dean is mean but ends up friendly, the mismatched pair get dumped with the frat of underdogs and losers, but come out on top. But with monsters! And Nathan Fillion!
3) Samurai X
Before the days of Rurouni Kenshin, the samurai was a lot more dark and gritty than we could ever have imagined. With the release of a 4 episode special known as Samurai X, we learned a lot about the dark past of the character, along with a perfect lead into the first episode of the highly popular anime. It was bloody, it was gritty and yes, Samurai X is one of the best anime prequels released.
I’d personally so far as to say it’s the best anime prequel – Granted it doesn’t have huge catalogues of other anime to go through with a prequel. In fact, off the top of my head, the only other anime I had was Dragon Ball Z’s Bardock. However, Samurai X was such a grim retelling, it made for most-see viewing. It’s stylish, it’s dark and yes, it’s everything you’d want from a story about samurai.
2) Star Wars Rogue One
I don’t think any of us expected to see episode 1-3 on this list, simply not going to happen. Rogue One on the other hand fed perfectly into the beginning of episode 4, and gave us a new hope (hah!) for the reign of Disney over the property. The elite force sent to gather the plans for the Empire’s new superweapon were always doomed to a tragic end, but the journey taken is nothing short of epic.
The film throws the evils of the Empire into far harsher relief than we have seen elsewhere, families torn apart, the oppression of an omnipresent regime, cities stripped of their wealth and then destroyed with space lasers, so that to hear Luke talking about joining the Rebels makes him seem a little more noble, and a lot more naive, unaware of the kind of horrors that he is putting himself against.
1) Castlevania III – Dracula’s Curse
WHAT IS A MAN?!
Well before Simon Belmont became a fixture name in Castlevania, there was a name even more powerful in the Belmont family. Trevor. Trevor Belmont was the first man to go and take down the evil Dracula. Say what you will about Castlevania, but it’s a franchise that not only has stood the test of the time, but it is partially responsible for creating a genre that is still inspiring games today with Metroidvania.
Frequently getting into Top 10 lists for Best NES games ever released, Castlevania III introduced some amazing new mechanics, such as mid-air jumping and wall climbing in the form of Grant Danasty. Along with Trevor, being able to switch between companions is a hugely important addition to the franchise – Without this game, we’d probably not have seen any more continuations of the legendary Castlevania series.
Some things are just good – No matter how you look at it. Some things are good, but sorta not quite on the level as the above list. Whatever you think about our next two entries, they both were definitely well received additions to their respective franchises.
Bit of a polarising one, and would have been considerably less so if the practical effects work in the film had been left broadly untouched, because a lot of effort had been made to ape the style of the 1982 horror masterpiece. The 2011 prequel was actually very well written and directed, but there’s no question that thanks to studio fiddling it became a poster child for the evils of CGI against practical puppetry.
There’s still the air of mistrust and suspicion, and the terror of the beast. Watching it embrace someone and absorb him into its amorphous mass is grisly, and you feel the fear on the poor man’s face as he’s devoured. Watching someone’s head split open to reveal the lashing tendrils and rows of wicked teeth, knowing that three people are trapped in a helicopter with it is a tense moment unmatched in the ‘82 film. The CGI took a hefty chunk out of the enjoyability of The Thing prequel, but give it another shot, it’s still a damn good film.
Puss in Boots
When Shrek 2 came out, everybody was infatuated with the newest (and sassiest) character introduced. It was the lovable little orange fuzzball himself; Puss in Boots! We all loved him, from his cute eyes, to that little hat and the boots he wore. Oh and it helps that this cat bites back, with a razor sharp tongue and an equally as dangerous rapier. Yes, Puss in Boots is cute but deadly!
Of course, the Puss in Boots standalone film was considered a success. Similar to how the Minions movie was out not too long ago, there seems to be something to be said about lovable, cuddly mascot characters and their own films. Sure, Puss in Boots wasn’t anything special, but it gave you a bit more story about him in his own adventure.
Extra Honourable Mention
I knew I wanted to get a mention in to this film, because this is incredibly convoluted… And I wasn’t a fan of the film/s, but I know people who are fans of it… So I’m playing devil’s advocate today and giving an extra honourable mention to:
The Desolation of Smaug – What a fantastic title for a film! Of course, The Hobbit is a relatively average sized novel, featuring Bilbo Baggins and a crew of Dwarves. They go on journeys with Bilbo, who happens to be a Master Thief, in an attempt to save the Dwarves home. With the evil, dangerous Smaug in their home, it was up to Bilbo to steal a specific item to draw Smaug out so the Dwarves could reclaim their home.
It’s not a genius story and, in terms of chronological order, it was indeed a prequel to The Lord of the Rings… However, it’s not a prequel! The Hobbit was written first. When we came to Peter Jackson’s vision of the stories, he chose The Lord of the Rings to be translated to film. Then, many years on, he chose to go to The Hobbit to be the next trilogy. If only it was translated to one film.
So yes: It’s a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but it’s actually not a prequel, as it was written first. So there!
If you thought I was originally good, you should have seen me before the original me! Whether or not you’re a fan of prequels, or if you think they’re a blatant way to spin some extra cash out of a story, they’ve been around for some time – and they won’t leave us any time soon. However, we’re now in the Christmas season – You know what that means, right? From next week onwards, our Top 10’s will be somewhat festive! Help us choose the first of our Festive Top 10’s:
That’s it for another week, we’ve gone back and re-examined the past and we’ve come to the conclusion that it was good. The future looks great, but the past was just stellar. But, what did you think of our Top 10 list this week? As always, if you think we missed any great options out, then let us know. Did we get the order right, or did we mess that up? As always, let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.
Even amongst monarchy there is a hierarchy; some kings are more kingly than others, entire reality shows are dedicated to picking the best queen, and with so many Disney princesses how are you to choose? Be they leaders of government, warrior monarchs, whether they reign over nations, planets or worlds, all were considered.
What do you get when you cross a character whose motives are rather simple and ingenious, with some really garish clothing that really doesn’t suit anyone in the world? Or how about when you cross a character who wears a full suit to a gymnasium and ends up schooling those guys in their workout wear? Generally, you end up with one rather eccentric character, someone who breaks conventional norms.
Yes, the eccentric is often an integral part of a story; They’re there and they help progress the plot, though you might not always expect what they are going to do. This is because the eccentric has a mind of their own, a purpose only they can determine… and we just get to sit back and watch how they go about a rather simple world. This is our salute to the men and women who are seriously out there.
10. Donkey – Shrek
It’s hard to be normal when you’re a donkey that talks. There’s no need to sing, or hum, or whistle, or dance, or talk to absolutely everyone until they hate you, imprison you and generally belittle you in any way possible but dammit if you’re not going to try to be friends with them all. Donkey is enthusiastic and so filled with nervous energy that it repeatedly gives him very close to death, one such incident resulted in an unlikely wedding and a brood of half-dragon donkeys.
Comedy foil to Shrek’s serious performance (a rarity for a Mike Myers role) Donkey provides most of the goofiness and very obviously Eddie Murphy style shenanigans, but there’s a quirky charm to Murphy that he lost somewhere around the Nutty Professor sequel that he manages to reclaim as the loveable misfit ass with a love of music and absolutely everyone.
9. Emmet Brown – Back to the Future
A student of all sciences, Emmet Brown (“Doc”) is the inventor of the very first ever time machine… A freakin’ DeLorean. I’m sorry, I could stop this entry right there. I mean he decided that the best machine to build a time machine around is a DeLorean?! Alright, whatever. Let’s think about some of the less practical aspects of his life.
Well, he came from a rich family – And decided that the best use for all of the money is his Time Travel project. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clear that spending all of that money was a good thing, because he actually managed it… But when you think about it, all of that money is gone and all he’s got to show for it is a DeLorean. With catch phrases such as “Great Scott”, the Doc is certainly more than a little bit out there.
8. Johnny Bravo
I want you to go to a beach – I know this is a weird thing for a geek to ask a fellow geek (I don’t get along well at beaches personally). I want you now to look around at all of the people on the beach. You’re going to find a man who is similar to Johnny Bravo there. Crass, crude, a little bit rude, but over all they’ll have a very toned body. Does it necessarily make them strong, or manly, or even heroic? Not in the slightest.
But what separates Johnny Bravo from the boys on the beach is his incredibly diverse set of… Shall we say interests? He’ll chase any woman, even alien women, but he’ll always blast out his catchphrase “Ooh mama!” even to his own mama! Sadly, perhaps Johnny Bravo isn’t too different to some of the muscle heads out there, but if there’s one thing he knows how to do better than anyone else, it’s The Monkey. Dance on, Johnny. We salute you!
7. Mr Satan – DragonBall Z
Mr Satan, or Hercule, if you saw the English versions of DragonBall Z, is a bit of a light relief from the otherwise generally serious show that is DragonBall. On Earth, he is considered the strongest human (Although this is certainly something that belongs to Krillin… I mean even Yamcha could probably beat Mr Satan). No matter, he’s got his own sense of style and with his image to protect, he has plenty of powers which makes people not only question him, but kind of pity him.
For instance, he believes his own hyperbole, which he puts so much conviction into. If you think that’s not bad enough, he worked for ages on developing a technique, which goes by many names. Be it the Dynamic Mess Em Up Punch, the Megaton Punch or otherwise, he believes this is the most powerful punch in the world, to which Android 18 was rather unamused by. Still, it’s with his showmanship attitude and flair for hamming it up that Mr Satan gets through so much. He won the Cell games, did you know?
6. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
“HOOOOOO!” – ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan
Okay, this man is utterly barmy and we have to love him for it. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is a retired professional wrestler, who was infamous for shouting out “Hooooo!”, being damn proud to be American and for being incredibly loud. When he had his eyes set on something, he became hell bent on getting it, often to his detriment. With this said, he is an iconic character from the world of what was then called the World Wrestling Federation.
For the wrestling fans out there, you may be wondering why we chose Hacksaw over the one and only Macho Man Randy Savage? It’s simple: Macho Man was indeed pretty darn out there, incredibly eccentric and outright entertaining as all hell. But “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan didn’t even need clothes, or to constantly say “yeah” to be eccentric. Macho Man is amazing, don’t get me wrong for a second, but the “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan deserves a little respect. Besides, he’s the only character I’ve ever known to be so out there that he’s allowed to carry his 2×4 everywhere with him. I mean that… Everywhere.
5. Professor Elemental
Character and stage persona of the exceptionally British rapper Paul Alborough, the Professor is a pith helmeted adventurer and steampunk airship captain with an orangutan butler named Geoffrey who’s hopped all over the world, through time and into untold levels of peril. He’s bounced across time, space and a variety of dimensions in pursuit of… something, probably a better brew than he can find at home but it doesn’t seem likely. More recently in pursuit of aforementioned orangutan butler who appears to be missing.
And yes, I got to interview the man behind the lunatic, and I am far too proud of the fact.
Anyway, the man himself is comparatively down to earth and approachable, with only a few traces of the personality bubbling and brimming behind the amicable smile. To say that the Professor is a character is true enough, but it’s a character deeply rooted in his creator, that maniacal and gleeful fiend that Paul Alborough has been sitting on for far longer than he’s been bringing him to the stage.
4. James – Pokemon
One of the Team Rocket duo, James deserves a spot in this list, simply because he’s a man who happens to have some of the most incredible sense of style and timing. I don’t think he does it for dramatic effect, I think his brain is wired in such a way that he only sees himself being prepared for any event. Of course, with Team Rocket, the plan is pretty simple: Capture that Pikachu as best they can.
So whether he’s dressing up as a lady and having a larger bosom than anyone else, or he’s crying over his belt buckle, James is a man who puts his sense of fashion first. He’s faked amnesia, because he sort of believed his own amnesia, at least whilst it was convenient. He’s an oddball, he’s not really afraid to revel in that fact. Still, if you’re going to steal a Pikachu from some snivelling children, the best thing to do it in is a hot air balloon in the shape of a Meowth face, right? No one will see THAT coming at all…
Oh and James is loyal, but in bizarre ways too. He once gave up his entire bottle cap collection for Meowth… And not only that, he even cares for his opponents, having told Ash that he’d rather take an honest Pokemon battle over underhanded tactics. If nothing else, James does his dastardly deeds with style and class.
3. Ruby Rhod – The Fifth Element
Chris Rock in an elegant evening dress with multiple hair bobbles and a stick mike should paint a clear enough picture in your mind for interstellar DJ extraordinaire, lover to the stars, in the stars and personality super-titan Ruby Rhod but it doesn’t quite capture the character. I don’t actually think words are adequate to sum up the strut, the wildly swinging pitch of his voice, the leopard print that somehow seems to have reached into his mind and taken control.
Even once the action steps up several notches, bullets start flying and bombs start being thrown around indiscriminately, Ruby Rhod’s panic stricken screams somehow manage to keep the same level of ferocious energy, and faced with the end of the world and being one of the only people who can stop it he’s still giving it every ounce of energy he has, and that’s a lot of energy.
2. The Mad Hatter – Alice in Wonderland
Interestingly, the Hatter started this list much lower down until someone screamed “change places”.
Tea is a noble enough pursuit, some might even call it a lifestyle. In a world entirely dominated by pervasive madness we find a man who seems to have particularly taken it all to heart, master of ceremonies to the eternal tea party in the middle of the woods, a mere throwaway character in the original tale who has become some great mythological figure to fans of Lewis Carol’s epic. The Mad Hatter has seen many hundreds of iterations, including DC’s villain Jervis Tetch, variations in Tim Burton’s interpretation, Once Upon a Time, and the terrible pawn of the Jabberwock in the Zenescope darkly reimagined version.
But the man himself was of little consequence to the story compared to the many weird and wonderful characters, the Red Queen, the March Hare, the Mock Turtle, and yet ask someone to name a character from Alice in Wonderland how many would say the Mad Hatter before Alice. But still, there are more important things to discuss over a nice hot pot of tea, such as the time for example, and how much of it there is.
1. Sheogorath – The Elder Scrolls
The Daedric Prince of Madness himself makes it to our number one slot, because of many reasons, but I’m going to focus purely on a few things. Shall we begin with this demons attire? As you can see above, his demonic armour is a little bit of a miss-mash. He likes the colour purple, a colour of royalty, but the armour seems to be a little bit… Unfinished? But he’s a man of class, he walks with a cane, with well kept hair and a trimmed beard. He loves his luxury and it shows in everything that he does…
But then, we move on to how this demon talks to you. He talks to you as if you have even the slightest bit of an idea what he’s going on about… But there’s a lot of method in everything that he says. You feel as if he has an important message behind everything he says, so let’s end this list on quotes from the master of madness:
“You are the best Septim that’s ever ruled. Well, except for that Martin fellow, but he turned into a dragon god, and that’s hardly sporting…”
“Do you mind? I’m busy doing the fishstick. It’s a very delicate state of mind!”
“The game is a foot. Or a leg. Or all manner of severed limbs!”
Woah, hold your horses there. We’re not done with our list just yet. There were way more characters that we considered, but we thought we’d throw in these two extras as usual. They might not have made the list of our Top 10 Eccentric Characters, but they certainly are eccentric in their own right. A little out there, or even wholly bizarre, these two deserved a nod from us at the very least.
The Taunting Frenchman – Monty Python
ARGH. It was so hard to narrow all of Monty Python down to a single, solitary character, a single eccentric individual that serves as a prime example of the comedy collaborative that sums up what British eccentricity is. Had we called this list some like “eccentric groups” or something…
Anyway, such is life, and so we find lurking in those most honourable deeps the continental gargoyle, cow thrower, ballistic flatulator and general all round silly person the Taunting French Guard from The Holy Grail. Why? Well there was probably a better pick, but in addition to the creative insults carved from the frenchman’s second language and the ballistic use of cows, you can’t help but love the sniggering behind the crenelations and general helmet-tapping, raspberry blowing, barefaced cheek of John Cleese’s most memorable moment from the film.
Jayne Cobb – Firefly
It was a tough call between Jayne and Wash, and while Wash’s fascination with kids toys and Hawaiian shirts was great, somehow we just couldn’t pass up on the man they call Jayne.
Gun toting for some is a profession, a job, a calling perhaps, rarely a hobby, but there’s just no describing the way with which Jayne embraces the thug life. While he does not fit in with the unconventional sort in a conventional way, with his permanently fixed dour and/or grumpy expression, there’s no small amount of pleasure to be found in the grin his bobble-hat brings to his down-turned face, or the way he feels that a gun is adequate exchange for a person.
Okay, let me try to get a hold of this list. We need a dose of daily sanity to counteract this list of whacked out nutjobs, but hey – At least they have their purposes. Sure, some of the characters are literally written to be eccentric, such as Sheogorath, but at least he fits the mould so beautifully. Now I turn to you to help us cast our vote to next week:
For next weeks list, if you’d like to get involved and write it with us (Joel and I get together on Thursdays to discuss the list), then please just drop us an email. As always, thank you very much for reading, please remember to vote for next weeks’ Top 10 and let us know what you thought of this list. Did you enjoy it? Were there any characters we missed, or you felt deserved higher on the list? Perhaps you feel some of our character choices were spot on? Let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. As always, keep being you: because you rock, much like the characters in this list!