Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Tron: Legacy

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I nerd out about one of the movies I own.  This one is kind of unique, as almost 7 years ago, this movie was about the only thing I could talk about.  It's Tron: Legacy.  This is in my notes at May 15, 2017.

Tron Legacy Poster

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Tron

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, watching a movie I own and blogging about it.  This time out, we take a look at Disney's 1982 classic Tron.  This is in my notes at May 15, 2017.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Avengers: Infinity War Trailer

Avengers: Infinity War Poster

How did we get here?

In the late 1990s, Marvel Comics was growing tired of selling off the movie rights to their characters, only for no movie to be made.  So they hatched the idea for Marvel Entertainment.  Rather than simply license out their characters, they would provide the movie studio with a complete script, character designs, a director...essentially walk the studio through the pre-production process.  It was a success, with the strategy finally getting X-Men and Spider-Man on the big screen.

But it didn't take long for Marvel to start thinking that, if they're doing all this work, they may as well just make the darn movies themselves.  And so plans began to create Marvel Studios, a movie studio dedicated to making adaptations of Marvel characters.  As Marvel Studios' president Kevin Feige described the reasoning, "Yeah, we didn't have the rights to our heavy hitters like X-Men and Spider-Man, but we had the rights to Marvel's 800 other characters.  Could all of them sustain their own film franchise?  No.  But a lot of them could...."  Once financing was secured, Marvel held a panel at the world-famous San Diego Comic Con to announce the creation of Marvel Studios, and their first three films would be Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Ant-Man.

Marvel Studios made their entry with Iron Man in the summer of 2008, and it was a smash hit.  But the very first of those post-credit stingers got everyone buzzing, when Nick Fury appeared to invite Tony Stark to take part in "the Avengers Initiative."  Fans started salivating.  "Oh my God, are they really going to do The Avengers some day?"  I've heard conflicting stories.  Iron Man's director Jon Favreau said at the time that there were no plans to do The Avengers yet...he just slipped that in to be one hell of an Easter egg.  In publicity today, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says yup, it was the plan from day one.

Either way, it immediately became the plan.  Before 2008 was out, Marvel Studios had announced "Phase I."  Ant-Man was put on the back burner, replaced with Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, before all building up to The Avengers.  It was an announcement to get Marvel some serious respect in Hollywood...enough that they were snapped up by Disney in 2009.

And here we are.  It's 10 years later, Marvel Studios has almost 20 films to their name, and along the way, they created the new concept of the cinematic universe, where all their characters share the same fictional world.  Well, they didn't really create it, as many will say that Universal created it with their monsters back in the 30s and 40s.  In which case, then, we can say that Marvel Studio updated the concept quite well for the 21st Century.

The culmination of that 10 years of work is what brings us to Avengers: Infinity War.  Marvel Studios wants Avengers: Infinity War to be significant in 2 ways.  Firstly, 2018 will be the 10th anniversary of Marvel Studios, so Infinity War is to serve as their 10th anniversary party.  Secondly, they promise that it'll provide what many superhero film franchises rarely receive:  an end.  They keep telling us that this will provide a conclusion to what began when Tony Stark uttered those words, "I am Iron Man."  Does this mean it's the end for Captain America, Thor, et al?  We'll know when the film comes out this May.

A lot of the McGuffins in Marvel films -- the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avengers and The Avengers, the Aether in Thor: The Dark World, the Eye of Agamoto in Doctor Strange -- have been revealed to be the fabled Infinity Stones.  These are gems of immense power, left over from the creation of the Universe, and to possess all six means to gain omnipotence.  And that's exactly why the alien warlord Thanos covets them, and comes to Earth looking for them.  To fend of Thanos, it's going to take the combined efforts of every hero the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown us so far. 

This trailer just looks amazing.  As we can see, it looks as though a lot of it will take place in Wakanda, the homeland of the Black Panther.  At least, one of our biggest battles is going to be there.  This truly looks to be the biggest film Marvel Studios has put together so far.

We never thought we'd see this many heroes sharing the screen.  And now, here they are. 

Avengers: Infinity War hits theatres May 4. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Sin City

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing and blogging about one of the many movies I own.  This time out, we look at the mid-2000s classic Sin City.  This is in my notes at April 29, 2017.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Weird Wednesday

I've blogged before how hitting that deer with my car almost-5 years ago has made me kind of jumpy when it comes to winter driving.  So, needless to say, when I woke up on Wednesday morning to all kinds of traffic reports telling me that a slight skiff of snow in the night had made the roads extra-slippery and that everyone needed to be super, super cautious when on the roads, I was thinking twice about heading into Edmonton that day.  But, with my week-long vacation still going on, I'd set aside Wednesday to do more Christmas shopping.  I knew if I did what the guy on the radio was telling me, I could be extra cautious and still make it in. 

And I did!

I made my way down to West Edmonton Mall, and I always forget how wonderfully quiet West Edmonton Mall is on a weekday morning.  You don't get swallowed up by any crowds.  You've got lots of space to move and breath.  Store are wonderfully quiet, so you're not struggling to get a clerk's attention.  But, sometimes, the quiet can make the clerks a little stir-crazy.

As I discovered when I went into the Disney Store.  A blog entry or two ago, I blogged about some new Disney Store exclusive Star Wars action figures and though, "Eff it, I'll get 'em."  I was also browsing through their Christmas tree ornaments.  When I was a kid, we had this Bambi Christmas tree ornament on the tree.  It was Bambi wearing a little Santa toque, and darn it, I was feeling nostalgic for it.  So I was hoping to find a Bambi Christmas tree ornament. 

And that's when the clerk came up to me.  She was carrying around a Duchess plushie.  (Duchess is the cat from The Aristocats, for those who don't know their Disney lore.)  Now, it's not like she was stocking shelves and just carrying it over to the plushie section.  She was lugging this around and manipulating it like a puppet.  Duchess was her helper for today.  As I explained what I was looking for, she was nodding, and Duchess was nodding, and when we couldn't find any Bambi-related Christmas tree ornaments, both she and Duchess were heartbroken.  They were heartbroken in that way you act heartbroken to a five-year old as they tell you about some great injustice that happened to them on the playground.  The whole exchange was somewhat surreal.  But what you can do?  It's Disney.  No doubt, Disney Store clerks are true fans, and true fans of anything always have their own brand of crazy. 

Then I got a massage from one of those mall kiosks that specializes in such things.  The social custom when it comes to those mall kiosks is as long as you don't make eye contact, you can make it out OK.  But this clerk was so weirdly aggressive.  There I was, just walking down the mall, when this woman jumps in front of me and goes, "YOU!" 

I stop in my tracks.  "Um...yes?"

She points to the massage chair.  "SIT!" 

"Ooookay...."  I sit down.

"$10 for 5 minutes.  Is that OK?"

"Um...yeah?  I guess?" 

And I got a five minutes massage.  Followed by a 10 minute sales pitch for all the various personal massagers that I could take home with me.  All the while, I'm being as polite as possible just to get the hell out of there.  Eventually, after I said "No" enough times, I was allowed to leave. 

But it wasn't all stir-crazy clerks as I tried to get some Christmas shopping done.  Part of the reason why I was so determined to go on Wednesday because it happened to be the opening day for Coco, the latest animated offering from Pixar.  I loves me some Pixar, so I had to check it out.

Coco Poster

It seems like we've been waiting for this one for a long time, as Pixar originally announced it at the start of the decade in the same news conference where they announced Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur.  There was a fear there that it had been cancelled because it looked awfully similar to the 2014 animated film The Book of Life, but other than both film drawing their inspiration for the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead, they are two very different films. 

Young Miguel loves music.  He craves to be a musician.  He feels a certain kinship with Ernesto de la Cruz, one of the greatest musicians in all of Mexico, who just happens to hail from Miguel's hometown.  But there's one big roadblock to Miguel's aspirations.  Many years ago, Miguel's great great grandfather walked out on his great great grandmother to pursue his musical ambitions.  Because of that, to this very day, Miguel's family has banned all music from their home. 

Undeterred, Miguel decides to enter his towns Day of the Dead music festival.  But in order to enter, he swipes a guitar from de la Cruz's tomb.  Stealing an offering for the dead on the Day of the Dead curses Miguel, and he becomes a ghost and crosses over into the Land of the Dead, where he gets to meet his deceased relatives...including his great great grandmother.  Miguel can return to the land of the living if he gets his family's blessing, but his great great grandmother will only grant her blessing on the condition that he give up his musical aspirations.  Teaming up with a man named Hector, who becomes his guide through the Land of the Dead, Miguel goes on a quest to find his great great grandfather, perhaps the only one who'll give Miguel his blessing with no strings attached. 

We've got all the Pixar hallmarks here.  The animation is beautiful.  In a film where music plays such a prominent role, the music is amazing.  And there's a lot of raw emotion revolving around the theme of family.  That being said, I've probably seen one too many of these films, as I know the formula by heart and could see every shocking plot twist coming from a mile away.  But a formulaic plot can be forgiven when everything else is just so good.  3.5 Nibs.  Full review on the website.

Olaf's Frozen Adventure Poster

And, as has become the Disney and Pixar tradition, it opens with an animated short film.  We're keeping the Frozen franchise alive with Olaf's Frozen Adventure.  Now, this originally began life as a Frozen Christmas special for TV, but Disney thought it was so good they thought they'd release it in theatres.  And that explains why this short film is 20 minutes long...about twice the length of an average short.  (And also why there's a little, "Please stick around for Coco!  We worked really hard on this!" featurette between Olaf's Frozen Adventure and Coco.)

Anyway, it's Anna and Elsa's first Christmas since Frozen.  Anna and Elsa are lamenting that, because of Elsa's very sheltered upbringing, they don't have any family traditions at Christmas time.  Wanting to cheer up the two special ladies in his life, Olaf heads out into the kingdom to find out what various family traditions the people of Arendelle have, and bring them back to the castle. 

And all I can say is...meh.  Even at 20 minutes, you can feel the padding.  It's just an excuse from some new Frozen songs and to push some new merch, until we finally get Frozen 2 in 2019. 

That pretty much wrapped up my Wednesday in the city.  I think I can also safely say I followed through on my goal to get my Christmas shopping done this week, so I'll be relatively relaxed this December.  All I had to do was make the drive home.  And I did.  Yay! 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Time again for Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie and blog about it.  It's time for Star Wars once again, as I re-watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  This is in my notes at April 29, 2017.

Rogue One Poster

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

20 Years of an Online Presence

I was walking home from work last week, letting my mind wander, when it came back with the thought, "I've now had some form of online presence for 20 years now."

It was on a frosty November night in 1997.  Me and my best friend had just gotten back from Edmonton, where we were doing research for our top-secret project.  Well, it wasn't very top secret.  My best friend had just resigned from his position as editor of the school paper, with the grand design to produce the college's first TV show on the local public access station.  I was the first one he brought on board.  Not knowing how the real world of broadcasting worked, we decided to see if we could get tours of a real TV station and a real radio station, under the cover of writing an article for the school paper.  So, we spent the morning getting a tour of the A-Channel (now CityTV Edmonton) and the afternoon touring the Bear (now and forever the Bear.)

We spent that evening in the newspaper office, comparing notes and planning our articles.  "I'll let you write the one about the Bear, seeing as to how those are your people," I remember my friend saying, as a harbinger of things to come.  But as many a late night in the newspaper office with my best friend tends to go, our topic of conversation soon turned to whatever pop culture nuggets currently caught our attention.  This being the late-1990s, it was the advent of the Internet and the dot-com bubble.  "Man, I'd sure love to have a website to plug my radio show," I said.  "Well, I've already got one up for the TV show," said my friend.

And that's when he showed me all these free web-hosting services that had popped up, the one that he preferred, and their online tutorials as to how to build a website.  Before I left the office that night, chaosinabox.com was born, although I didn't buy the URL until about 5 years later.

I did the usual radio stuff.  Posted a weekly top 10 list, what the topics of this week's show were going to be.  As I was already doing an opinion column in the school paper to plug my radio show, it was no-brainer to start posting the columns to the website.  My much-desired online presence was born.

I started doing the movie reviews on the website the following summer.  I saw the late, great Roger Ebert on a talk show, and someone asked him the age-old question of how they can become a movie critic.  Ebert's response was, "Same advice I give anyone who wants to be a writer:  just keep writing.  Practice your craft."  He then went on to extol the virtues of the Internet and how it was giving voice to many an aspiring film critic as now anyone could post their review.  Inspired by that, I wrote a review of Deep Impact, posted it on my website, and I've been reviewing movies ever since.

Things started changing in 1999.  I graduated from college.  Without my opinion column in the college paper, or my radio show, I started growing desperate for some form of creative outlet.  That's when I started thinking, "But I still have the website...."  There was nothing stopping me from continuing to write my opinion column, and posting it to my website.  I don't think I had heard the word yet, but I had just launched my first blog.

Yeah, the blog got me into trouble over the years that I wrote it.  When I did my time in retail hell as a clerk at Extra Foods in Drayton Valley, I wrote a few stories about the idiot teenagers I worked with being idiot teenagers, and they were none too pleased.  When I was going to NAIT, a few of my instructors pulled me aside a few times and said, "Gee, you'd better watch what you say on your blog because there's a very realistic chance no one's going to hire you based on what you're posting."  I know that some of my friends lament that I no longer get deeply personal in my blog and write about the minutia of my life, but when my first boss at my first radio gig proudly told me that my blog as the first thing she read every morning, that put a scare into me, so I figured I should stop.

Besides, at that point, the blog was giving way to the podcast.  It took me a year after graduating from NAIT to land that first radio gig.  And I will forever be grateful to my instructors at NAIT because, during that  year, they were always letting me sneak in after hours to use the equipment and re-cut my demo.  And most of those evenings were spent chatting with the instructors, getting job hunting advice and fishing for leads.  One night, after saying that the number one thing that was coming up in my rejections was lack of experience, I was asking my instructors the age old question, "How do you get more experience when on one will hire you?"  And my instructor said, "Well, you've got that website.  Why don't you do a podcast?"

So, I started doing my research.  Looked up what a podcast was, and what upgrades I'd have to do to my website to be able to do it.  Once I had all that in place, the podcast launched.  I don't know if it actually did provide that much-needed experience I needed for my resume, but I landed that first radio gig a month after launch.

The podcast was fun, but again, I kind of drifted away from doing it.  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that, even though I've got an OK set-up on my home computer, I preferred going into work after-hours to use the stuff at work.  I mean, if I have access to a semi-professional recording studio, why not use it?  But the problem with that was, once I was done recording the podcast, I'd go, "Well...since I'm at work, I may as well get this done.  Ooo, and I can get a start on that," and before you knew it, what was going to be a couple hours banging out a podcast turned into a full day of unpaid overtime.  So I figured it's best to sped my days off taking a day off.

"Now Mark," you're probably asking.  "You said you gave up the blog.  Then what is this that I'm reading right now?"  Well, this is my second blog.  I launched this one back in 2003, when I was still in Japan.  My laptop died on me, and I had no way to update my website.  But I still had to maintain that o-so-valuable online presence.  Most of my friends were using Blogger, so I went to Blogger, launched this blog, and that kept my online presence up-to-date.  This way, I could easily update things from an Internet cafe, or a library, or anywhere else with free Internet access and public computers.  I couldn't find anyone in Japan who wanted to attempt to fix my North American laptop, so the original blog started up again when I returned home that summer.  I kept doing this one, though, with the idea that the original blog would be for my "real" writing, and this would be for off-the-cuff comments.

And I hardly use this for off-the-cuff comments anymore, because that's what I use Facebook and Twitter for.  It's just so easy to whip out the smartphone and bust out 140 characters saying what I thought of a new trailer or the new burger at Wendy's than wait until I get home and see if I can get a page's worth of material out of it.

And it's all part of the industry, now.  Every radio announcer has a Facebook page and Twitter page, as it's been embraced as another way to engage with the listeners.  It almost makes my NAIT instructor's warnings seem passe.  Heck, last time we had a kid down at the station to job shadow us and put together his NAIT application, he revealed that making a viral video is part of the NAIT application these days.

20 years ago, developing an online presence seemed like such a monumental undertaking.  Now, it's a reality of daily life.  I asked my friend once if building an online presence would be as big a deal back then if we had the resource of today.  "Probably not," he said.  "We'd probably just launch a Tumblr page for our TV show and call it a day."  As for the TV show, sadly it never came to be.  I don't know why we drifted away from the project, but we did.  I wonder if my friend still has the test footage we filmed at the TV station one afternoon.  It'd be fun to stick that up on YouTube.

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