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Wicked Nerdery

Where psychology, pop culture, and true crime collide

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8 Amazing Holiday Movies You Might’ve Missed…

There are 12 more days until Christmas and not nearly enough Christmas classics.  Many of us have already gone through our favorites, watched all the ones that are played on TV, and are now left with repeats.  There’s nothing wrong with watching the same films to put you in the spirit of the season, but if  you want something new here are eight equally seasonable suggestions…

3 Days of the Condor (1975)

A thriller in the manner of 60s’-70s’ films such as The Parallax View and The Manchurian Candidate it stars Robert Redford as an analyst for the CIA who, after his office is attacked and everyone else murdered, works to uncover the reasons why.  A wonderful spy movie all on its own it also qualifies for Christmas as carolers appear more than once, singing of tidings and joy, while Redford’s character tries to figure out who wants him dead and how to survive the next potential hit.  This film is a great way to mix your conspiracy films with Christmas time.

The Verdict (1982)

The only Christmas movie most can think of that takes place in a courtroom is Miracle on 34th Street, but there is another.  Paul Newman stars in 1982’s The Verdict as a down-on-his-luck alcoholic lawyer who catches a medical malpractice case that starts as a chance for a quick cash-grab settlement, but turns into something more as he finds himself increasingly invested in doing what’s best for his client.  Not only is it a surprisingly uplifting story, The Verdict also takes place during the holidays with subtle hints of lights and songs that give nod to the season.

GoodFellas (1990) & Casino (1995)

For those who enjoy watching The Godfather trilogy during the holidays and want more crime bosses with their Christmas there are two great mobbed-up options. First is Goodfellas‘, which covers the true rise and fall story of Henry Hill, a man connected to the New York mob in the 1950s through the 1980s.  His tale of gangster crime includes the infamous Lufthansa heist committed on December 11, 1978 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (which was the biggest on record at that time) and it’s this event that leads to a crucial scene occurring around Christmas time.

Casino focuses on the rise and fall of Sam “Ace” Rothstein and numerous associates of his after he’s given control of Tangiers casino in Las Vegas by the Chicago Italian mob.  Like Goodfellas it comes from a true story; that of Frank Rosenthal, who ran the Stardust, Fremont, and Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago mob from the 1970s until the early 1980s.  Also like Goodfellas it starts Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in top gangster form…the holiday aspect is slightly less, true, but there are enough bright lights and green bills to make a few hundred Christmas themed money-trees.

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Before Australian actors Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce became big names in the States they starred together in the noir crime film, L.A. Confidential.  Based in 1950s’ Los Angeles it revolves around their two characters – police officers Bud White and Ed Exley respectively – attempting to get to the bottom of murder and corruption in the wicked wonderland of the LAPD.  Mixed in is the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, the nastier aspects of fame, and, of course, Christmas…complete with a key police incident referred to as “Bloody Christmas”.

Joyeux Noël (2005)

For anyone who loves war movies and/or historical films Joyeux Noël is perfect.  Taking place during the real life WWI Christmas truce in December 1914 the film explores the event through the eyes of both sides including British, French, and German soldiers.  While maintaining certain classic war film scenes of gunfire and explosions, this movie stands out when its characters embrace the spirit of peace and loving your fellow man that is the cornerstone of the holidays.  Putting aside orders soldiers lay down their guns and pick up their voices (and bagpipes) to share songs and cultures with one another, eventually turning the traditional “no-man’s land” into a safe zone where they share chocolate, champagne, and family photos with one another.  A remarkable film about a remarkable incident in which the Christmas spirit overcame the harshness of war.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Before 2015’s hit, Krampus, there was another holiday horror movie that involved a creature who was super into killing humans for the holidays called Rare Exports.  The Finnish movie twists classic traditions – such as reindeer, Santa’s sack of presents, and gingerbread men – in unique and disturbing new ways as a young boy, Pietari, tries to catch the creature terrorizing his village at Christmas time.  …Sadly, explaining anymore may give the wonderful and frightening twists away, but if you enjoy those creepy and deadly creature-features this movie is perfect excuse to watch horror during the holidays.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Nothing says Christmas quite like the Cold War, am I right?  Maybe not.  But in the film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the two events collide in the hunt for a double agent in British intelligence.  Based on the book of the same name by famous spy novelist, John le Carré, it follows a number of different spies working for the British government…or are they?  With enough twists and turns you’ll be on the edge of your seat and before-they-were-famous leads you’ll be smiling in recognition upon meeting every other character this is an amazingly entertaining departure from the traditional seasonal film.  As dark, deep, and intriguing as a snowy night and with a holiday party being a cornerstone for certain events you can certainly get away with watching this film at Christmas time.

What are some of your favorite non-traditional holiday films??  Share your suggestions in the comments!

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5 True Crime Novels For After You Binge Mindhunter

Netflix’s latest big, marathon-worthy, hit is Mindhunter.  It follows two FBI agents attempting to understand the inner workings of seemingly motiveless killers and develop a way to catch them before they kill again.  It’s a compelling show in no small part because it covers a fascinating topic – why certain people, like Ted Bundy and Ed Kemper, murder.  There have been countless true crime books written on the topic, but certain ones delve into the minds of the killers and share that uniquely personal connection between killer and investigator the show does.  Here are five must-reads from that group while you eagerly await season two…

Mindhunter

This is an obvious recommendation, I know, but it stands.  Not only is this book the basis for the show, but it’s also wonderfully written on whole.  At it’s most basic it is the autobiography of John Douglas, one of the founders of the FBI’s Criminal Profiling Program, explaining how he developed the science of profiling.  It is, however, more than that.  Fascinating and at times hilarious Douglas delves into the personal and professional lives of himself and those around him with surprising honesty.  He discusses his experiences with some of the most infamous criminals in US history and breaks down the in-depth, complicated, and impressive methods of catching them he helped create.

Whoever Fights The Monsters

Written by Robert K. Ressler, John Douglas’ fellow profiler and interviewer of criminals, it gives yet another view of the intriguing work.  Along with coining the phrase “serial killer” Ressler is a man who worked to categorize killers by their particular methods and patterns, advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs (also with Douglas), and faced off against numerous variations of the criminal mind.  His writing is a textbook of information on those who murder and how they were caught without ever giving off that “textbook” feel.

In Cold Blood

One of Truman Capote’s most discussed novels and for good reason.  A story told with remarkable style and empathy for its investigative journalism roots, In Cold Blood is often considered one the original true crime books.  In covering the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, Capote (with the help of author-friend Harper Lee) researched the crime, the town, and the killers for over four years.  He went beyond just interviewing the police force and citizens of the town and into profiler territory by speaking with the killers numerous times…and even seemed to develop a bond of sorts with killer, Perry Smith.  While the veracity of certain events in the novel have come under fire over the years there is no question the book takes a deep dive into how a crime both comes together and tears everyone around it apart.

The Stranger Beside Me

Ann Rule had a friend, Ted, whom she worked with at a suicide prevention hotline.  They got on wonderfully and, to her, he was an amazing guy.  Remarkably handsome, always helpful, and very friendly.  What she didn’t realize was that her friend was also committing a series of disturbing murders in the area…the same murders she planned to write about.  Her friend was serial killer Ted Bundy.  From this bizarre twist of fate Rule was able to write a true crime novel unlike others – a mixed (hers and his) biography covering her friendship with a notorious killer during his years of murder and mayhem all the way up and through his execution.  The book explores the complexities not just of Bundy, but of Rule’s position as his friend.

Killing For Sport

Profiler Pat Brown founded The Sexual Homicide Exchange (SHE), a nonprofit criminal profiling agency that helps to solve cold case homicides and spent years training law enforcement to improve their profiling techniques.  Then she wrote a book to help the general public do the same.  Breaking down everything from victim to criminal to profiler into easily digestible pieces makes for an easy-to-follow book for anyone looking to peak behind the curtain of profiling.  Brown has no problem pointing out the cliches, explaining when and why they’re wrong, and what’s the truth instead.  It’s a highly entertaining read as she maintains a straightforward, to the point of almost amusingly blunt, approach with the audience.

mindhunter_ford_tench_profilers

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  Have any other suggestions for the Mindhunter fans out there??

How X-Men Made Way For the Modern Day Comic Film

There are some who say that 2007’s Iron Man was the beginning of the modern comic book movie.  Others argue the start of the grittier, more grounded, versions of the genre came with Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins.  I disagree.  It started years earlier with a story about evolved humans, the prejudices they faced, and how they chose to deal with them…It started with 2000’s X-Men.

Continue reading “How X-Men Made Way For the Modern Day Comic Film”

4 Key Reasons Why Children in Horror Are Terrifying

From The Exorcist‘s Regan to Orphan‘s Esther and literally all those kids from Children of the Corn and Village of the Damned there’s something downright disturbing about the children in horror movies.  Whether simply victims of circumstance or outright antagonists nothing makes the skin crawl like a dead-eyed child destroying everything in their path or, worse yet, a delighted one giggling as they murder.  The question is, why?  Why is it that, more than freaky monsters and cold-as-ice serial killers, do tiny tots with smiles and eyes all aglow strike us as utterly terrifying?

Continue reading “4 Key Reasons Why Children in Horror Are Terrifying”

4 Key Reasons Why Hugh Jackman IS The Wolverine

Virtually the moment Logan came out in theaters people began to wonder who would replace Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Debates over recasting for future movies showed up all over the X-Men fandom and I cringed. Logan, The Wolverine, was always Hugh Jackman. He still is. Like Leonard Nimoy with Star Trek’s Spock, Hugh Jackman has become synonymous with this character he’s portrayed.

This isn’t always the case with every actor or every role out there; it’s a unique event caused by a blend of equally unique circumstances. Some are the result of role or the actor, others are beyond anyone’s control. For Jackman it was a seventeen year perfect storm that solidified him as The Wolverine in the minds of viewers.

Continue reading “4 Key Reasons Why Hugh Jackman IS The Wolverine”

5 Of The Best Female Characters From The Coen Brothers

Ethan and Joel Coen will have another movie to add their collective credit in Suburbicon (written by them, directed by George Clooney) this October and, if the past is any indication, it will be a wonderfully weird journey for audiences. Known for their quirky style, witty writing and unusual blending of genres that defies definition or replication, the Coen Brothers create movies that are entirely unique.

What sets them apart, without a doubt, are the personas they create, and their female characters most assuredly represent that. Strong, strange and iconic in their own right, one would be hard-pressed to pick the best. Still, let’s take a moment and give credit to five who — each in their own way — make the movies they’re in.

Continue reading “5 Of The Best Female Characters From The Coen Brothers”

The Most Dangerous Man In Westeros Did Not Deserve That Death

As many cheered and sang praises for the end of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on Game of Thrones, I sat in forlorn silence. Yes, I liked him. He wasn’t a hero, he wasn’t a strapping lord fighting for honor, but he was interesting. A character who always kept those around him, those watching him, on their toes. He was conniving, manipulative and ambitious. He kicked off nearly every major event on the show and triggered the War of the Five Kings around which most seasons were based. That’s someone who should have lived to win the Iron Throne, not bled out on the cold floor of the Great Hall in Winterfell.

Lord Baelish may have deserved to die, but not as he did. A man who had been scheming since before the story began deserved a far better end.

Continue reading “The Most Dangerous Man In Westeros Did Not Deserve That Death”

Flipism: Of Villains & Their Love of the Coin Toss

The latest season of House of Cards had a cold open in which Frank Underwood briefly explained the concept of flipism: the belief that all decisions can, and should, be made with the simple flip of a coin. Frank discussed the birth of the ideology and suggested it be used to clear up the chaos he created in the latest presidential election. He’s not the first villain to speak in favor of flipping a coin, of using chance, as a way to make a final decision…in fact there’s a history of antagonists both promoting and using such tactics throughout pop culture.

Continue reading “Flipism: Of Villains & Their Love of the Coin Toss”

How Your Fear Can Actually Be Really Sexy

Certain villainous characters make you love them by connecting on an empathetic level, some train you to enjoy them, and we seek out others for more primal experiences — like our own arousal. More accurately, this arousal is actually the fear we experience while watching slasher-horror films featuring villains like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Continue reading “How Your Fear Can Actually Be Really Sexy”

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