Staff Picks - Alyson
A collection of Books, Movies, Music, TV Shows and more that Alyson has enjoyed and recommends.
Bates Motel (TV Series 2013– ): After his father's death, Norman Bates and his mother move to White Pine Bay and establish the Bates Motel. Things get a bit psycho as their unhealthy relationship progresses and the dark side of their new town is revealed. This doesn't have the same power to inflict terror as the movie that inspired it (what does?), but it's still worth your while - Highmore and Farmiga are deliciously creepy.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (TV Series 1998–2013): The show where everything's made up and the points don't matter is my favourite half-hour of television. Four actors improvise scenes based on things suggested by the audience or written on cards they've never seen before. And then things get crazy. I've seen episodes enough times to quote them, yet I still crack up whenever I see them. I ♥ Colin, Ryan and Brad. Never knew arctic terns made that noise, but I DID know Africa is a continent. Meow.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (TV Series 1988–1998): The original British version of funniest half-hour television program I have ever seen. Contestants improvise scenarios based on suggestions from the audience, with hilarious (and often quite insane) results. Though I prefer the American version to this (the British version is a bit more censored and restrained), this still has its moments - most of my favourites were courtesy Tony Slattery. Such fun.
Heartland (TV Series): Canadian family series set on a ranch in Southern Alberta. After the tragic death of her mother, Amy Fleming discovers her gift of working with and rehabilitating horses. She and the other residents of Heartland Ranch - including her gruff but loving grandfather Jack, ambitious sister Lou, and juvenile-delinquent-turned-love-interest Ty - endure many trials and tribulations as the series progresses. Heartwarming and fun without being sappy or preachy - love this show.
The Secret of Monkey Island (Mac): Guybrush Threepwood wants to be a pirate, but he gets much more than he bargained for when Ghost Pirate LeChuck kidnaps his new lady love, Governor Elaine Marley. Gathering a crew to rescue her, Guybrush journeys to the fabled Monkey Island, encountering many a puzzle and a pun along the way. The funniest game EVER - brings back fond memories for me. I love the revamped edition as well.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES): Link must traverse two parallel worlds to save the decendants of the Seven Sages from the wrath of a wizard, the unwitting pawn of the evil Ganon, who seeks to rule Hyrule with the power of the Triforce. My very favourite Zelda game of all, and one of the first video games I ever played.
The Lost Vikings (SNES): A trio of Vikings are kidnapped by aliens, and must make their way back home across time and space to take on Tomatoer, King of the Croutons (best villain name EVER). Each Viking has his own special abilities, and all three must be used strategically to pass each level. This game is equally fun and challenging, and a real hoot to play.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES): A campy shoot-em-up game featuring every monster in horror history, who are all hungry for Zeke and Julie's unwitting neighbours. Nothing a squirt gun and some cans of pop can't handle. One of the most fun games I have ever played - I really must get this for my Wii.
Dissidia Duodecim 012 Final Fantasy (PSP): Forces of Cosmos and Chaos have been summoned from many worlds, and must duel each other endlessly in a vicious cycle until one side is declared triumphant. This RPG/fighting hybrid features the main characters from all of the major Final Fantasy games, and it's great to see them interact with each other, like a visit with old friends. Not the most engaging story from Square, but still time well wasted.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP): SOLDIER Second-Class Zack Fair is assigned to search for Genesis, a genetically-modified ex-SOLDIER hell bent on getting revenge. On the journey he is mentored by Sephiroth and befriends new SOLDIER recruit Cloud Strife. However, a fateful trip to Nibelheim changes the courses of all their lives forever. One of only two games to make me bawl uncontrollably, this sequel to FFVII surpasses the original in my humble opinion.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (PSP): Three young keyblade wielders - Terra, Aqua, and Ventus - must take on the Unversed, a new threat plaguing many worlds. The real threat lies with Xehanort, who plots to create an all-power keyblade by manipulating and jeopardizing this threesome's friendship. This prequel also features classic Disney worlds from their oldest films, and has a great cast of characters. One of my favourites in the series.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance (3DS): Sora and Riku take on the Mark of Mastery exam to become true Keyblade Masters and ready themselves to take on the biggest threat they've ever encountered: Xehanort. Not my favourite in the series (I HATED the Drop System), but still worthwhile, especially since one can play as Riku once again. And Lea is back (SQUEE!). :D
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2): Sora reawakens from his 1-year slumber and continues on his journey to find his lost friends and drive darkness from the world. He must take on and defeat Organization XIII, who plot to recreate Kingdom Hearts and unleash the power of all hearts contained within. Though this game feels a bit more railroaded than its predecessor, it's still a great addition to the series.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS): While Sora sleeps, his Nobody counterpart Roxas is recovered and recruited by Organization XIII, where he and other members are sent on missions to restore Kingdom Hearts. There he befriends Axel and Xion. Soon enough however, the Organization's evil intentions are revealed, and Roxas must discover the truth of his forgotten past and ties to both Xion and Sora. A sweet tearjerker of a sequel in this excellent series.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (GBA): Keyblade Master Sora and his compatriots Donald and Goofy encounter Castle Oblivion, where to find is to lose and to lose is to find. Sora and friends slowly lose their memories in an attempt to find the truth as they scale the floors of the castle. In the meantime, Riku also awakens in the castle and seeks to conquer the darkness within him. A VERY challenging but worthwhile sequel. Loved playing as Riku, my favourite character.
Final Fantasy VIII (PS1): Squall, an aloof recent graduate from an elite military academy, is assigned to a resistance faction in a war against evil sorceress Edea and her forces. There he meets and falls in love with Rinoa, a charming young lady and his exact opposite. Together they discover there is far more to the sorceress' plot than they ever expected, and they must traverse space and time to stop her. My second-favourite FF game populated by engaging characters. Gotta love Laguna.
Final Fantasy VII (PS1): A mercenary with a secret past joins a group of eco-terrorists to save the planet from powerful mega-corporation Shinra. Together they come to realize an even greater threat seeks an end to the world - Sephiroth, the One-Winged Angel. Despite its boxy graphics, this game still manages to pull on the heartstrings, thanks to several memorable characters, including protagonist Cloud Strife. A classic if there ever was one.
Final Fantasy X (PS2): A cocky teen athlete's world is destroyed by the powerful entity known as Sin, and he is transported 1000 years into a very different future. There he joins a beautiful summoner and her guardians on their quest to defeat Sin. Secrets are revealed on the journey, obstacles are conquered and lives are changed forever as the athlete and the summoner fall in love. This is one of the most beautiful, powerful stories I've ever encountered, and I'll never forget it.
Kingdom Hearts (PS2) - A young teen named Sora spends his days dreaming of other worlds with his friends Kairi and Riku in their island paradise, until his home is overrun by the Heartless, a powerful dark force. Sora is separated from his friends and must travel the universe in search of them. He teams up with Donald and Goofy as he searches many a Disney-themed world. This action RPG is my favourite game of all time, and not to be missed.
The Breakfast Club (1985) - Five high school students - conveniently stereotyped as The Criminal, The Jock, The Brain, The Princess, and The Basket-Case - share a Saturday detention together and discover they have much more in common than they ever imagined. The clothes and the lingo may have changed in the last quarter-century, but the central message of this movie still rings true. A refreshingly honest teen movie from John Hughes, one of my favourite directors ever.
On the Beach (1959): The last refuge on Earth after a global nuclear war is Australia - but soon the radiation will spread, and residents must come to terms with their impending doom. This movie's gut-wrenching message still rings true over 50 years later. This is one of those movies that stays with you long after the credits roll. Wow. Just - wow.
Dollhouse (TV Series 2009–2010): Another unfortunately short-lived Joss Whedon TV show. Dollhouse is an incredibly cerebral and often very dark series - quite a departure from the comedically/dramatically balanced Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eliza Dushku is Echo, an empty shell of a person who can be imprinted with any personality while under contract to a morally-bereft corporation. Takes a while to get going, but SO worth the effort.
Sherlock (TV Series 2010– ): Amazingly brilliant modern-day update of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle character, portrayed to perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch. Each episode is feature-length, and the cinematography is of cinema-quality. Smart, snappy, British wonderfulness. LOVE IT!
About a Boy (2002): Wonderful British comedy about a slacker who lives off the royalties of a popular song his father wrote: he's never had to work a day in his life. He discovers by accident that he likes to pursue single mothers, and thus must invent an imaginary son to win them over. The oddball son of one of the members of the single parent support group he joins finds him out, and the two develop an unlikely friendship. I always wanted Hugh Grant's character's occupation in this movie.