Archive for Entertainment

My Top-20 Horror Movies Of All Time — Part 2

Posted in Entertainment, Movies with tags , , , on October 26, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Like any good horror movie franchise, here’s my sequel to yesterday’s list of horror movies that put a scare into me.  Today, I’m looking at numbers 15-11 on my list, counting down to my number one favorite later in the week.

15.   Suspiria (1977)

If there’s a movie in my top-20 that someone reading this hasn’t seen yet, then it’s probably this one.  From the mind of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento, Suspiria was a film I had never seen until recent years, when it appeared in its uncut form on one of the myriad satellite channels I get (I believe, I saw it on IFC, though I can’t remember for certain).  I heard about it originally from the Bravo special running a few years back, the 100 Scariest Movie Moments — and I’m glad I did and wish I’d seen it sooner.

The hallmarks of the movie — a tale of a American ballet student attending a dance school in Germany where terrible things are happening — are the vivid colors used throughout, giving a nightmarish quality to the the story, and the music — a powerful soundtrack unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a horror film before.   Also, the violent deaths in the movie are brutally graphic and over-the-top in their depictions of blood and gore — it’s definitely worth catching the film in as close to an uncut state as possible if you can in order to get the full effect.

If you think that all horror films are nothing more than some masked killer preying on a bunch of horny teenagers, then this movie will change your perception dramatically.  There’s nothing really out there like it, and that’s a sign of what a horror masterpiece this movie is.

14.   An American Werewolf in London  (1981)

One of the more underrated movies on this list, it was directed by John Landis — yeah, that John Landis who directed Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Trading Places.  But don’t be fooled into thinking this a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, even though there are definitely comedy elements mixed in with the horror.

The plot follows two American students traveling in England, and their encounter with a werewolf on the darkened, fog-shrouded moors.  One of the students, played by Griffin Dunne, is killed while the other, played by David Naughton, survives — though he finds that he may have been better off if he hadn’t.

The English settings and the largely English cast give the film a tremendous atmosphere, as do the great sets.  The special effects at the time (the centerpiece being the main characters transformation into a werewolf) were groundbreaking at the time, and they still hold up strongly today.  I had a soft spot at the time for the nurse played by Jenny Agutter (at age 57, she’s still gorgeous today), and the story isn’t just a horror film — it’s a tragic love story as well.  But there’s no shortage of scares — the  nightmares suffered by the protagonist, for example, are as frightening as anything you’ll see on this list.

13.   The Evil Dead  (1981)

When I watched the scene in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 where Dr. Octopus’ tentacled arms come to life and brutally kill the medical staff trying to attend to him, my first thought was, “It’s moments like this where you can see Raimi’s horror movie roots shining through.”

This horror classic follows the story of five students who travel to an isolated cabin in the Tennessee mountains to spend a weekend.  While there, they discover “The Book of the Dead” and accidentally use it to summon a host of demons and evil spirits, which then begin to possess them.  Needless to say, the weekend goes pretty much all downhill from there.

The sequels that followed the exploits of the main character Ash (portrayed by the brilliant, underrated Bruce Campbell) were far lighter in tone than the original film.   Like a number of films on this list, the violence is graphic and disturbing, but the film isn’t just a sequence of violent deaths repeated ad nauseum.  It does beg the question, however — are there any films where people go to an isolated cabin in the woods and don’t end up dead?  Certainly, that’s not the case in our next film on the list …

12.  Friday the 13th  (1980)

The original that kick-started the long-running franchise of horror films, this is also the one that’s known as “The One without Jason”.  While the hockey-masked, unstoppable killer Jason Voorhees would become the face of the series, the first only features him as a boy (and possibly only as a hallucination) at the end of the film.  This movie does follow the standard series plot, though, of having a host of hot-blooded young teenage counselors going to Camp Crystal Lake — and slowly getting picked off one by one.

What sets this film apart from the others in the series — and why it’s on this list — is that, for one — it’s genuinely scary.   With the exception of one early death, the first half of the movie is mostly about building suspense — you know someone’s stalking the doomed counselors, and half the scares are in waiting for the shoe (or axe) to drop.  Unlike many of the other Friday installments, while there’s gore and violent deaths, there’s also plenty things you don’t see but have to imagine instead (this is probably the least gory of all of the movies in the series).

In addition, there’s actually attempts made to develop the characters, and the ending where the killer is revealed is a great twist the first time you see it (though, by now, everyone knows who the killer is — it’s iconic enough to have been used in the opening of Scream).  And as a bonus — it has Kevin Bacon in it for crying out loud.   Enough said.

11.   The Blair Witch Project (1999)

This entry will almost certainly be the most controversial on my list;  it’s definitely one of those, “You either love it or you hate it” entries there’s absolutely no in between with nearly everyone who’s seen the film.

Presented as found footage discovered a year after three student filmmakers vanish in the woods in Maryland, the movie was a triumph in independent film making, Blair Witch becoming the most profitable film independent movie ever released.  So convincing was the film-s unique set-up, that many viewers initially thought that what they were watching was a real documentary (and even today there are still people who think the events of the movie actually happened).

Unlike almost every movie on this list, there’s nearly no violence, no gore, and nobody dies (presumably) until the end.  So why is it on my list?  Well, it’s what you don’t see — and what your imagination tells you is out there — that makes the story scary.

My biggest complaints is a lack of much going on for the first two thirds of the film — stop arguing about the map already! — and the nausea-inducing movements of the hand-held camera (a necessity for the film’s premise, though).  But all faults are forgiven in the spine-tingling ending in the abandoned house, which left me more than unnerved when I left the theater and kept me that way the entire drive home.

Now up for your entertainment — click here for numbers 10-6!

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Halloween’s Coming, So It’s Time For A Good Scare — My Top 20 Horror Movies Of All Time, Part 1

Posted in Entertainment, Movies with tags , , , on October 25, 2010 by thelasthonestman

We’re less than a week away from Halloween, so what better time to crack out a list of movies that are some of my favorites in the horror genre?

Horror movies — and scary stories — have always been a favorite of mine, even since I was a little kid.  As a writer, a number of my fiction projects have used horror and suspense as their backbone as a result.  And even today, I’m a sucker for a good scare on the big screen.

Which movies are my favorite?  Probably not the one that are yours;  like any list, this one is completely subjective — your mileage may (and will) vary, and everyone’s welcome to chime in on their own favorites in the comments.  Besides, there’s not a whole lot of difference between most of the films in the bottom half of my top 20 anyway.

What you won’t see in this list:  With one exception, nothing made more than 40 years ago.  I’ve got nothing against the classics that started it all, but it’s difficult to rank movies like Frankenstein against modern-day fare like Hostel — it’s definitely a case of apples and oranges.  In addition, most of the classics are movies I haven’t seen in an eternity, and certainly not as many times as I’ve seen some of the movies on this list, so I don’t think I’d be doing them justice.  You also won’t see Jaws (a great movie, but just not that scary, at least to me), Seven (again a incredible movie and unnerving at times, but it doesn’t feel like a film that fits the genre, and Silence of the Lambs (see: Seven) — all of which I’ve seen on a number of top-whatever lists.

So without further delay, here’s Part 1 of my Top 20 Horror Movies Of All Time.  Look for Parts 2, 3, and 4 coming later this week!  But for now, here’s numbers 20-16!

20.  Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

The first time I saw this movie, I didn’t understand it.   And I definitely wasn’t sure what I thought about it, and whether I liked it or not — and I wasn’t alone, as the critics (and audiences) were equally divided.  The movie follows a Vietnam veteran and his increasingly disturbing hallucinations.

Further viewing made me appreciate the film more and more, and it’s definitely a movie that will disturb you at a deeper level, in addition to giving you a couple of good-old-fashioned scares.  Jacob’s Ladder features a top-notch cast, headed by Tim Robbins — not a guy I’d think would make a good horror movie lead, but he does a great job here as a man whose sanity is quickly slipping away.

19.    The Wicker Man (1973)

No, no — not the godawful remake with Nicholas Cage.  I’m talking about the original, starring Edward Woodward (The Equalizer!) and Christopher Lee.  We’re just going to pretend that remake never happened, okay?

The plot revolves around a British police sergeant (Woodward) investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a remote island.  What our helpless hero finds is an island with a populace participating in a cult, engaging in pagan rituals, and seemingly oblivious to the investigation at hand.

The movie is unusual in that its hero is a devout Christian who is — gasp — celibate, and who finds his own beliefs challenged by the acts around him.  The movie takes a while to build, but the tremendous ending makes up for it in spades.

18.   Paranormal Activity (2009)

An entry that may be controversial, this movie follows a young couple seemingly haunted in their suburban home.  The film is shown in the format of  “found footage”a technique that’s come into greater use in recent years as a storytelling device.  It’s a technique I have mixed feelings about — some of the films employing it have done so with great effect, while others (like Cloverfield) simply made me feel motion sick.

The acting isn’t great –in some places, frankly, it’s downright awful — but that adds to the films realism, as it makes it easier to believe that what we’re seeing is something real and not just a movie.  And it’s difficult to get past the stupidity of the protagonists — particularly the male lead — at points in the film to maintain the suspension of disbelief that’s necessary.

So why is it on the list?  Simply put, it uses a less-is-more approach that’s very effective, and sometimes, it’s the waiting for the littlest things to happen that makes for the most effective scares.  And it was one of the few movies on this list that made me want to leave a light on somewhere when I went to sleep the night I saw it, well after I’d left the theater.  That’s worth something right there.

17.   The Descent (2005)

Another entry from our British filmmakers across the pond, this follows five women who get together for a weekend in the Appalachian Mountains and look to do some spelunking.  Bad idea.

The women soon are lost in the caves following a collapse — and if that’s not bad enough, there’s something else underground with them.  What follows is a tense, claustrophobic movie experience that was one of my favorite surprises when I first saw it.  It’s also a film with a number of unique, well-developed female characters who carry the film — and that alone makes it a rarity.  Highly recommended.

16.  The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter’s underrated classic is something you almost never see — a remake that exceeds the original movie it was based on.  It’s a movie that didn’t do well during its initial release at the box office, but which has gained a cult following in the years since.

As for me — well, I love me some John Carpenter movies.  You won’t see some of his other fare on this list — the underrated The Fog, They Live, or Escape from New York (though you will see another of his films, no surprise which one though you’ll have to wait until the reveal) — but there wasn’t much that Carpenter did in the decade that was the late 1970’s through the late 1980’s that I didn’t like (his more recent offerings — eh, not so much).

Every one of Carpenter’s films has a style that set it apart, and The Thing is no exception.  The cast is outstanding, headed by Kurt Russell but featuring great turns by half a dozen other outstanding actors.  The plot involving an alien that can mimic the appearance of anyone — including those stranded at this distant Antarctic base — keeps the viewer continuously guessing that who can be trusted and who can’t.  It’s currently being remade/homaged — but I’m thinking whatever we see will be a disappointment compared to this classic.

That’s 20-16 — check out numbers 15-11 right here!

Weekend Wrapup In The Form Of Bullet Points

Posted in Entertainment, NFL Football, Personal, Sports, Television, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Since I had a busy schedule for the entire weekend, my posting on Friday had to be pushed back until today — in addition, since my schedule is still pretty hectic for the next couple of days, today’s  wrap-up is going to be briefer than normal, with a lot of short points rather than lengthier diatribes.  However, if time ends up allowing it after all, I’ll try to have something lengthier up later on — in the television world, I believe they would call that “bonus coverage”.  Or something like that.

But I wouldn’t necessarily count on it — I’m headed into the time of year when I’m preparing heavily for two main things: the plethora of fantasy baseball drafts I participate in, and arrival of several guests from out of town for the main one of those drafts.

Which means I have a brief vacation coming ahead — but not starting until next week — but it doesn’t mean we won’t have some great content upcoming as well.  I’ll have my second annual diary of the NCAA Tournament coming up on Thursday, and my notes on the upcoming fantasy baseball season will be arriving sometime around three weeks from now, just in time for the start of the season.

But in the interim, here comes my bullet point presentation on the weekend (and week) that was.  So without further ado, let’s get on with it, shall we?

— Lo and behold, the Chicago Bears apparently have an officially licensed NFL draft hat?  Don’t you actually need draft picks for that to come in handy?  Maybe I can get Jay Cutler to autograph one for me — I’m sure that will make up for the lack of any activity during the first day of the draft for my beloved Bears.

In other NFL news, there has been a flurry of other activity around the league.  In one of those moves, LaDainian Tomlinson has signed a two-year contract with the Jets, apparently to fill the role the departed Thomas Jones had with the team.  Unfortunately for New York, LT has lost a lot of tread off of the tires, and the likelihood of his making a positive impact with the team at 31 years of age and with nearly 3000 career carries isn’t good.  It’s much more likely that he’ll be taking away carries that should be going to the explosive Shonn Greene, which won’t help the Jets at all.

Meanwhile, Brady Quinn has been dealt to Denver in exchange for — well, not much of anything really.  Quinn never really got a chance to do anything in Cleveland, but he should at least be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job in Denver.  Of course, I’m not really sure it says much about your upside when Mike Holmgrem thinks that a washed-up, turnover machine like Jake Delhomme is a better option than you are.

— Instead of watching the draft, what I plan on doing is trying to catch up (before I fall behind) with the new WWII television series on HBO, The Pacific, which premiered last night.  The miniseries — which will run for ten hour-long episodes — is from some of the people who brought the critically acclaimed Band of Brothers to the small screen.  While Band focused on the European theater, The Pacific follows the action in the Pacific theater and the war waged against Japan.

If it’s anything as good as Band of Brothers, The Pacific will be well worth watching this spring and summer on HBO.

— Another good piece of television I’ve been watching for the last several weeks has been The World At War, airing on Friday nights (and repeated at other various times) on the Military Channel.

The World at War is a documentary originally run on ITV (a public service network in Great Britain) in 1973.  The series is noteworthy for a number of interviews with historic figures from the war (including Karl Donitz and Albert Speer), as well as raw footage from the time, much of which had never before been seen before the series was broadcast.

I remember commercials for the documentary series — then available on VCR tapes — being broadcast during local programming when I was younger, and never having seen it, I was thrilled at getting a chance to watch it now.  Even thirty-seven years after it originally aired, The World At War remains an excellent look back at the most momentous event of the 20th century.  While the documentary definitely has a more dated “look” to it, the content is relevant as ever.  For anyone who wants the whole series, it’s also available on Amazon for a great price as well.

Watching Holmes On Holmes Might Save You A Lot Of Money

Posted in Entertainment, Personal, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Mike Holmes, star of the show about renovations gone wrong -- Holmes on Holmes

Since I started my home renovation almost three years ago, I’ve found myself watching a lot of programming on HGTV and their sister channel, DIY.  On a lot of these shows, I’ve seen ordinary people — not trained or licensed in home remodeling or repair — tackling a number of hefty projects around their houses and making it look (relatively) easy in the process.

But it’s not anywhere near that easy for people to do a lot of that kind of work – something I’ve found out numerous times during my own project.  In cases where the job was overly complex, or required skills beyond our capability — like the plumbing or our bathroom tiling jobs, for example — we hired out skilled contractors to handle the jobs for us.  When it’s something that’s crucially vital to the safety and security of your home, hiring a professional should be the safest way to go, right?

Except it’s not.  I’m thankful that the people we hired were tremendously professional and did the jobs they were hired for in a timely fashion and correctly (according to the codes and standards required by the state), but it’s a fact that there are a lot of contractors out there who don’t know what they’re doing at all, or who bite off jobs that are well beyond the scope of what they’re capable of doing — and the homeowners who hire them often find themselves in situations that leave them with structural problems, unfinished jobs, and safety issues — all while costing them ungodly amounts of money in the process.

My education as to how prevalent these situations actually are has been coming lately from the HGTV show Holmes on Holmes, the current season premiere of which will air on HGTV Sunday night at 9:00 ET.  The show, which originated in Canada, follows around contractor Mike Holmes as he attempts to repair and fix botched jobs by contractors who range from the inept to the flat-out unethical.  The show has been one of the highest-rated shows on HGTV Canada during its run, and it’s been running almost daily in the afternoon on HGTV the last couple of weeks, where I’ve been able to catch it.

Needless to say, the show has been a complete eye-opener.  In episode after episode, I’ve watched families whose lives had been driven almost to ruin, whose finances had been all but wiped out, by contractors who either couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do the job properly.  There have been examples of contractors who literally stole tens of thousands of dollars from helpless homeowners, often leaving them with houses that were in ruin and — in some cases — unsafe to live in.  In every one of those cases, it was left up to Holmes and his crew of workers to fix the problems, with the price tag largely being absorbed by the show and on more than one occasion, Holmes himself.

In every one of these cases, the family afflicted hired a contractor who seemed to be the right person for the job.  But what I’ve learned over the course of watching the show is that there are far too many people out there who aren’t doing quality work the way it should be done — and that it’s really easy to find yourself a victim of a botched job if you’re not careful.  For anyone attempting to embark upon a renovation project who’s looking to hire someone for the job, just watching a few of these episodes could save you thousands of dollars and countless headaches.

MY spider-sense was immediately tingling when the contractor dodged the question of permits for our renovation project

How easy could it be to fall for a one of these con artists depicted on the show?  When my home renovation project was started, the first contractor my wife and I talked to about doing the framing on our extension seemed eager enough to take the job — but he wasn’t able to give specifics on budgeting for material or labor, he wasn’t able to give a clear and concise plan for how the project would unfold, and he was evasive when it came to discussing the needs for permits or adhering to code — all red flags according to Holmes (and to me at the time).  We thankfully passed on doing business with this guy, but I had a relative who did hire him for a much smaller job — and who got taken when he took money from her and never did the work.   I remember hearing about it and thinking “That could have been us — but far worse”.   As thankful as I am that we apparently avoided any mishaps along the way of our renovation, I wish we had known then what we’ve learned since — and that I’d seen a show like Holmes on Holmes way back then.

Holmes deserves tremendous credit for shining a light on some of the problems in the building industry, in which the contractors have all kinds of protection within the law, but homeowners have far fewer.  His show is well worth checking out if you have the time — and if you’re thinking of doing a remodeling project.  You just may end up saving yourself a lot of money down the road if you do.

Second Iron Man 2 Trailer Is Out — And It Looks Good

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by thelasthonestman

In case you missed it, the second trailer for the movie Iron Man 2, scheduled for release on May 7, has been released.

There’s not much for me to say other than I like what I see so far.  I’ve become a huge Robert Downey, Jr. fan, and there isn’t much I wouldn’t enjoy watching him in these days.  No good comic book movie works without a heavyweight villain, and even though Whiplash wouldn’t have been my first choice for an adversary, Rourke should bring enough weight to the role to make him memorable.  If it had been me, I would have just cast Rourke as the same character playing either the Titanium Man or the Crimson Dynamo (the Russian-based character of Whiplash in this film takes a lot of its elements from either of them, and it’s not like we’re going to not going to have other armored bad guys either, watching the trailer).  But I trust Jon Favreau and Marvel at this point to give us a winner, so that’s me being extremely picky.

Other high points of the trailer (for me) was seeing Scarlett Johansson actually in action as the Black Widow (the costume looks fantastic and she looks absolutely fantastic moving around in it during the trailer) and Don Cheadle in the War Machine armor.  Seeing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury again means we’re also going to get some more development towards the upcoming Avengers movie as well.  I also love the chemistry between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I don’t see a whole lot of movies in the theater, but on opening weekend for this one, I’ll be there.  I’m sure I won’t be alone — Iron Man 2 already looks like it could be the big hit of the summer.

12 Angry Men — An American Film Classic

Posted in Entertainment, Movies, The Wayback Machine with tags , , , , on February 10, 2010 by thelasthonestman

So my wife was lucky enough to pull jury duty for today.  It’s actually the second time this has happened to her (I’ve never been called for it yet myself).  The first time around, the trial was canceled the day beforehand when a plea was apparently reached, but this time she’s headed off to the courthouse.  I’m admittedly curious as to what kind of trial she could be taking part in.  Is it going to be something newsworthy, or more like sleep-inducing?  How long is it going to take — a day or maybe weeks — and will she be given the “don’t talk about the trial to anyone, even your loved ones” request you see jury members given during every television or movie courtroom drama?

Her experience today got me thinking this morning about the depiction of the trial process on the big and small screens.  Almost always, the jury deliberation itself in an afterthought when it comes to dramatizing the events of a trial; we’re usually privy to all of the intrigue taking place behind the scenes with either the prosecution of the defense, but less often do we see the juries themselves, or get to know what’s going on behind those closed doors after both sides have rested their case.

An exception to that approach is the 1957 Academy Award nominated film 12 Angry Men, which is a personal favorite of mine and a movie I make a point to watch whenever I catch it on somewhere.  Adapted from a 1954 television broadcast of the same name, the black-and-white movie is headlined by a fine performance by legendary actor Henry Fonda and features a cast filled with talented and recognizable actors.  12 Angry Men is viewed as an American classic, having been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it’s the owner of tremendous acclaim (it’s a favorite film of Roger Ebert, and it has a 100% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes).  While the story has been adapted for the stage since, and there have been several remakes of the film (most notably a 1997 version made for Showtime), the 1957 version is the definitive version of the story, and the one I enjoy the most.

If you haven’t seen it (an oversight you can and should immediately correct — the film is available on DVD at Amazon), the story’s focus is on the deliberations of a jury serving in the trial of a teenage boy accused of murdering his father.  The jury — twelve men of various social status and economic means — is largely convinced of the boy’s guilt and is prepared to deliver a quick guilty verdict — which would result in the death penalty (according to the story).  But one juror (Fonda ‘s character in the original) is a holdout, believing that the evidence is circumstantial and that the accused deserves as least the time and effort of a deliberation before convicting him.  Juror Number Eight, as Fonda’s character is known (we don’t get anyone’s names throughout the film until the very end — the jurors are all known simply by their number) begins to present the case of the accused innocence to his fellow jurors, many of whom are hostile at first to what they believe is simply a waste of their time.

Fonda’s character is clearly the hero of the piece, an outnumbered man facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, but the characters of the remaining jurors are also fleshed out spectacularly throughout the film, as the audience discovers that many of them have their own personal flaws and prejudices that are influencing their votes.  Lee J. Cobb (a fine actor in his own right, who originated the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman) plays the main antagonist in the jury room, Juror Number Three.  Cobb’s performance lives up to the “angry” part of the title, as his juror is a bitter, resentful man with his own private demons that put him in direct conflict with Fonda’s quiet, determined strength to find the truth.  It’s the dynamic between the two that drives the drama, but there are many other noteworthy performers in the film as well — Martin Balsam as the jury foreman, and E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, and Robert Webber as jurors.

The movie is a taunt, tense ride that sees Fonda eventually swaying the remaining jurors over to his side.  Unique in its making is that the film is set, outside of a few brief scenes, entirely in the jury room (only 8 of the 96 minutes of the film takes place outside of there), leaving the claustrophobia of the hot, cramped deliberation room felt by the jurors to seep off of the screen and envelop the viewer.

There are some flaws and inaccuracies in the film — primarily the composition of the jury itself; in the 1957 movie, the jury is an all-male group with no African-Americans — the closest thing to a minority juror is the Czech watchmaker, played by George Voskovec.  Later adaptations rectified this implausibility (the 1997 remake had four African-Americans among the jurors, while several stage adaptations have changed more than one juror’s sex from male to female), but despite the suspension of disbelief needed, the original still stands as the best of them all.  If you haven’t seen it before, it occasionally runs on Turner Classic Movies and is on DVD.  I highly recommend it.

Watching This Show Makes Me VERY Hungry

Posted in Entertainment, Television with tags , , , , on February 3, 2010 by thelasthonestman

One of my recent television discoveries was purely accidental.  I was flipping through the satellite guide a few weeks back and saw a show called Man vs. Food running a marathon on the Travel Channel.  I wasn’t sure what the show was, but the title was intriguing enough, so I flipped over to it.  Needless to say, I was hooked, and I’ve now made it a point to try to catch as many of the reruns of the show’s most current season (its 2nd) whenever possible.  Tonight, Man Vs. Food will be live from Miami and the Super Bowl with a two-hour special, on the Travel Channel at 9:00 ET, and I’ll be one of the ones watching.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the show before, the premise is pretty simple: host Adam Richman (an actor who has two qualities necessary for a show like this — extensive culinary experience and a hearty appetite) travels around the country, sampling popular local dishes at restaurants, diners, and other eating establishments. We’re not talking about high-brow dishes either — no, the choices on this show’s menu are all American classics: pizza, hamburgers, steaks, chili, sandwiches, and more, often coming with unique compositions or constructions.

The highlight of every show is a local “eating challenge” at one of the local establishments in the host city for that week, where Richman tackles a dish that’s often larger than what I manage to put away in a whole day’s worth of eating.   I’ve seen the host tackle 12-pound hamburgers, 12-inch, 22-pound stuffed pizzas, a 74-ounce steak challenge, and foods made with multiple Naga Jolokia peppers, certified as the hottest peppers in the world (so hot, that not only are they rated with an intensity of more than 100 times that of Tabasco sauce, they’re also smeared on fences in India to keep away wild elephants).

As much as I love burgers, I can't even fathom putting this down in one sitting

The eating challenges are absolutely staggering in their size and intensity.  Normally, I’m not a fan of anything that even resembles competitive eating — there’s something unsettling to me about watching one person plow through a ton of food, while knowing how many people in the world still go hungry every day — but Richman is admittedly not a competitive eater (along the lines of a Joey Chestnut).  The challenges themselves, while huge helpings of food, aren’t impossible for the heartiest appetites to overcome.  And boy, do they all look tasty — at some point in the episodes I’ve seen, invariably, I find myself heading to the fridge.

After now seeing most of the episodes of the show’s two seasons, I’ve made a note to myself to check out some of the establishments spotlighted the next time I’m in any of the cities that have been featured (for the regular dishes, and not any of the monster challenges, of course).  The Man vs. Food episode tonight will see Richman tackle a 48 ounce Steak Challenge.  While it’s probably safe to say that none of the dishes you see on the show are the healthiest options for a person’s diet, if you a fan of good food as a guilty pleasure, this show is pretty easy to consume.