Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Secret World of Arrietty

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly evidence that I have too much time on my hands because I watch one of the many movies in my video library and blog about it.  This time out, we're chatting up the latest Sudio Ghibli release that got a major theatrical release in North America...The Secret World of Arrietty.  This entry is originally dated May 26, 2012.






Friday, December 21, 2012

News from Markworld: 2012 in Review


As I began doing last year, allow me to blog my annual Christmas card letter, in the off chance that those friends who've drifted away may wonder whatever became of me and are googling my name one night.

Good tidings, all!  Mark Cappis here, with my annual Christmas newsletter, letting you know the things that happened to me in the year that was.

I know, I try to get this out at the start of December, so I can get new snail mail addresses and update the Christmas card list, but as I’ve been trying to write this, I find myself encountering a terrible case of writer’s block.  No matter how hard I wrack my brain, I just can’t find any interesting tidbits or sparkling bits of news to pass along.


Not the most attention grabbing intro to a newsletter, I know.


Nevertheless, the fact remains that, at some point in the past, we knew each other.  And whatever our relationship was, it convinced me that you might be interested in knowing what’s happening to me.  So...here’s what’s happening.



What’s Going On In My Life
You’ll still find me up in Athabasca, Alberta...far enough north for most to be considered the remote part of the north.  I’m still working at 94.1 the River, the radio station in Athabasca, and filling the role of “wacky morning guy.”  Come springtime, I’ll have been working here for seven years.  Yup, the same length as the average Star Trek TV series.  It’s a little bit strange.  Back in the days of minimum wage crap jobs, when you’re there for six months and then move on to another one, the thought of staying in one job for seven years is somewhat alien.  But now that it’s approaching, I find it somewhat comforting.  Obviously, someone must be liking what I’m doing to keep me around for so long.  And I must be liking what I’m doing to stick around for so long. 


When we last spoke one year ago, I revealed that the low pay that comes with radio had gotten me down, so I’d gotten a second job at Buy-Low Foods.  Well, I gave that up back in May.  As much as I appreciated the additional income, I was just starting to find it too difficult to balance the two schedules.  Granted, this means that finances are incredibly tight, but I’m managing. 


And really, that’s it.  Oh, and I saw The Avengers.  That movie is so good, you guys. 



Favourite Quote of the Year
“Puny god.” – Spoken by the Hulk, after he pounds the tar out of the evil Norse god Loki, in The Avengers.  Dude, when I saw this in the theatre, the audience was laughing so hard, I actually missed it.

To Be Found, You Must Make Yourself Visible
As always, my online footprint is massive, and you can always find out what I’m up to with a click of a mouse:


Chaos in a Box.com (my website):  www.chaosinabox.com


Midnight Ramblings (my blog):  www.chaosinabox.blogspot.com


U62: The Targ (my podcast):  www.chaosinabox.com/targ


My work blog:  www.941theriver.ca


Facebook (personal page):  www.facebook.com/chaosinabox


Facebook (fan page):  www.facebook.com/officialchaosinabox


Twitter:  www.twitter.com/chaosinabox


My YouTube Channel, where I sometimes make videos:  www.youtube.com/mcappis911


Google+:  https://plus.google.com/105350704002510248210/posts



...And the Adventure Continues...
We’re reaching the end now, which is good, because I’ve struggled long enough to come up with things to say.  In the end, all I can think of is what they taught me in school.  When you don’t know what to say, just wrap it up and go to the next song.


Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewin’ on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble!  Give a whistle!
And this’ll help things turn out for the best....





‘Til next year!

Mark Cappis
 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - American Graffiti

We're rolling right along with Fishing in the Discount Bin.  Today, we get to one of the films that George Lucas made before he became "the Star Wars guy"...American GraffitiThis entry is originally dated May 25, 2012.  




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Teaser

WOO!  The one big summer blockbuster of 2013 is finally giving us its first glimpse.  And that would be Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to 2009's critically acclaimed reboot of Star Trek.


"But Mark," you're saying.  "Why are you just blogging about it now?  The trailer's been online for a few weeks."  What, you're talking about this?




That's actually the "announcement teaser." That's right, movie promotion has gotten so ridiculous these days that trailers have trailers.  Before I started typing up a blog entry, I wanted to wait for the full trailer, which went online yesterday!

I know that 2009's gritty reboot of Star Trek had its detractors.  Many die-hard Trekkies felt that the optimism and the bright future predicted by Gene Roddenberry, and the haughty sci-fi and weighty debates about the human condition were abandoned to make just another big dumb action movie.  To be fair, many made the some complaint about the Next Generation films, too.  I, though, loved 2009's Star Trek to pieces.  For the first time in a long time, it was a Star Trek movie that actually felt like a movie.  It was critically acclaimed, was a massive hit, and it looked like Star Trek was back in a big way.

The sequel was originally supposed to come out this past summer, but director J.J. Abrams got so busy making Super 8 that the film wound up getting pushed back.  Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, the writers of the first film, are returning to scripting duties, and this time around their bringing their fellow Lost writer and guy who wrote Prometheus, Damon Lindelof.

The entire cast of the first film is back, led by Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock.  And this time around, they're doing battle with a mysterious villain played by Bennedict Cumberbatch, best known as Sherlock Holmes on Sherlock, and the current #1 pin-up boy for many a girl geek.

Speculation is still running rampant on who the villain may be.  Along with the release of this trailer, came the revelation of the character's name:  John Harrison.  Those more knowledgeable in Star Trek canon than I have identified John Harrison as a very minor background character who was in a dozen or so episodes of the original series.  Many are saying that this is just an alias, and John Harrison's true identity will be revealed in the film, much like how Marion Cotillard's character in The Dark Knight Rises was originally announced as Miranda Tate, but as the film went on, we learned she was actually a very familiar Batman character.

Ever since the end credits rolled on the first one, the #1 contender for the villain has been Khan.  During interviews for Dredd, Karl Urban, reprising his role as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, let slip that the villain is Gary Mitchell.  Mitchell was the villain on the original series' second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before.  Mitchell was one Capt. Kirk's dearest friends who was granted God-like powers when he came into contact with a mysterious energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy.  Kirk was then forced to kill his friend before he went mad with power and re-made the universe in his image.  So who is the villain?  We'll know for certain when the movie comes out.

But, something that didn't get as much fanfare was the announcement of another returning character.  It was revealed that Alice Eve is in the cast as...Dr. Carol Marcus.  For those who've never seen Wrath of Khan, Dr. Marcus was an old flame of of Capt. Kirk's, and the mother of Kirk's son.  Might this film include the conception?  Does this connection to Wrath of Khan lend more support to the theory that Khan is the villain?

Many mysteries are surrounding this film right now.  And I like that.  That's why I'm kind of reluctant to go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX because I don't want to see the first 9 minutes.

But enough of my rambling!  Here's the full trailer!




In the off-chance the YouTube police have it taken down by the time this goes up on Tuesday morning, here's the link to see it at the Apple Trailers website.

So what are my thoughts on this?  Very similar to my thoughts upon seeing the trailer for the first film.  I'm still getting used to seeing Star Trek on such an epic scale.  The mystery of the villain is really played up, and I'm starting to get really, really interested.  And the whole thing with doing the Vulcan salute through the glass?  Man, they're really playing up the allusions to Wrath of Khan.

Needless to say, I will be there on May 17, when it hits theatres.  


Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

There And Back Again ("But that's the name of the third movie." "Read the book.")

Went to the city today, and I come home with a sense of incompleteness.  As I sit here, and gaze at my collection of Star Wars action figures, I still feel incomplete.

Went to the city today.  Went browsing at some of my favourite comic book and collectable stores.  And there, on the shelves for the first time in a long time, I spied my holy grail of Star Wars action figures...the McQuarrie concept Stormtrooper.

For those who don't know, Ralph McQuarrie was the artist who did the concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy.  He very much designed what Star Wars looked like.  And, a few years back, they made a batch of Star Wars action figures that were 100% faithful to McQuarrie's original designs.  While I did snatch up most of the McQuarrie concepts that appealed to me, the one I never got was the McQuarrie Concept Stormtrooper.  Compared to the Stormtrooper we know and love from Star Wars, there's a lot less black highlights in the uniform...he's almost all-white.  And he's armed with a shield and a lightsaber.

I'd love to have a McQuarrie Concept Stormtrooper in my collection.  But the price tag was $25.  Despite my extensive collection, I have never bought an action figure in a comic book and collectable store.  No matter how tempting it is, I've never been able to bring myself to spend more than $20 for something I can get down the street at Toys R Us for $6.99.

So I stared at that McQuarrie Concept Stormtrooper for a good long while...and then I walked away.

And then I went over to where they have the Doctor Who toys.  And I found...the Eleventh Doctor.  The current Doctor.  Mr. "Bow ties are cool himself."  Now again, I would love to get an action figure of the Doctor.  My buddy went to England about a year ago, and brought me back a TARDIS that he bought at a London comic book store.  I would love love love to have a Doctor to display in the TARDIS.  But again, he's really hard to find.  First, you've got the import factor working against you.  And secondly, the scarcity.  You can never find him, and with good reason.  He's the hero.  Everybody wants the star of the show.

And finally, there he was.  In the shop.  But for $25.

So I stared at that Eleventh Doctor action figure for a good long while...and then I walked away.

I'm sure some of you think this is insane.  How could one purposely choose to not complete a collection like this?  I don't know.  Maybe I'm at the age where I'm finally recognizing the difference between needs and wants.  And while I want an action figure, that $25 can buy a meal I need.  Or maybe I just get off on torturing myself.

All I know is those figures won't be there next time I go to the city.  I rarely get a second chance when it comes to buying action figures.  Others snap them up so quickly.  Oh, well.  Like the guy in the movie says, may I never be complete.

Speaking of my buddy who bought me a TARDIS, I was in the city today to meet up with him.  He texted me earlier in the week and said, "Hey.  I think we should head to the city this weekend, exchange our Christmas gifts, and see The  Hobbit."  And that's what we did. 

So what are my thoughts on the first in this Hobbit trilogy, subtitled An Unexpected Journey.  Well, as I'm been blogging for years, I've never really been able to get into The Lord of the Rings, but I love love love The Hobbit.  I count it as one of my favourite books.  Whereas The Lord of the Rings is bogged down in exposition, The Hobbit is light on it and instead focuses on the adventure.

So I started having doubts about The Hobbit when I learned that they would be expanding the one book into a trilogy.  As I was reading online, not only did they leave in all the exposition, but they poured through J.R.R. Tolkein's notes and appendixes and added even more exposition.  So I walked into The Hobbit with some lowed expectations.  It sounded like they took everything I hated about The Lord of the Rings and put it into The Hobbit.

But still, I was excited for the film.  When it started, and Howard Shore's familiar themes started up, I just couldn't help but smile.  And the good thing about these films being so long is...it's all there.  Everything.  All your favourite scenes.  I really perked up when Gollum made his appearance and he and Bilbo had their famous riddle contest.  And the scene with the trolls was straight out of the books.  It's all there.

But I did have problems.  There's fat that can be trimmed...and a lot of it has to do with the new stuff that was added.  There's a subplot with a wizard named Ragdast the Brown and he brings news of a new evil known as the Necromancer.  Thorin, leader of the dwarves, gets a personal arch-enemy in the form of an orc king that me met in battle years before.  It feels so...unnecessary. 

And, being a prequel, I found it did have a few of the problems that the Star Wars prequels have.  The filmmakers seem to have an obsession with matching the story beats with its corresponding film in the original trilogy.  And they occasionally desire to recreate scenes from the original trilogy.  Sometimes it's cute...sometimes it's distracting.

But when's all said and done, I found it to be a very enjoyable film.  It's nice going back to Middle Earth.

After that, my buddy and I exchanged our gifts, and we went our separate ways.  He was off to his girlfriend's LARP group Christmas party.  He invited me along, but I declined.  I hate going to parties where I only know one guy there.  Hell, I hate going to parties in general.  Part of the reason I got into the job I did...I can only seem to talk to people if I have a microphone.

But on the drive home, I began reflecting on LARPs.  For those who don't know, LARP stands for "live action role playing."  It's a role playing game, like Dungeons and Dragons, only instead of just simply sitting around a table rolling dice, you actually dress up in costume and act it out.  I remember explaining to a friend, and he said, "So like, what, they go out into the middle of the woods and sacrifice a dead pig?"

"No," I said.  "They rent a church basement and just pretend to sacrifice dead pigs."

Role playing games is just one of those aspects of being a geek that I've never embraced.  Yeah, me and a few friends in high school played a little D&D during lunch hours.  But then I got to college, and most of my college friends looked down on D&D as being "a child's game" and played role playing games that were 10 times more complicated.  They invited me to observe their games a few times in an effort to get me hooked, but that didn't last long.  I couldn't get through a game without heckling the proceedings, so they banned me.  That's probably what killed my burgeoning interest.  Every player I knew took it so fucking seriously.

Did I ever tell you my experience my LARPs?  I've told others in conversation, but I don't think I've ever put pen-to-paper.  So back when I was going to NAIT to get my broadcasting degree, one of the assignments in writing class is to find a non-profit organization (NPO) in the city and design an ad campaign for them.  One of my dearest friends was a pretty big wheel in Edmonton's LARP community at the time, and told me that one of her LARP groups actually had NPO status.  So I was going to do a radio ad campaign for LARPs.  I presented the proposal to my writing teacher, and she was thrilled, as this was vastly different from the usual charities that most students usually do.  But then, when I mentioned that the client was a friend of mine, my teacher rolled her eyes and sarcastically said, "Oh.  So when it comes to the part where the client has to grade you, something tells me that you'll do very well."

So for those who've never written radio commercials, you have to do some product research so you know what to cram into your 30-second spots.  And for this LARP group, they didn't have any pamphelts or flyers that I could go off of.  And it was fun.  I got to hang out with my friend, meet all her friends, quiz them excessively about their group, but everyone agreed, for me to fully understand, I'd have to come down to a game.  And these guys were hardcore into LARPs.  They didn't allow an audience into their games.  If you come, you play.

A few weeks later, there I was, at a conference room at the Coast Terrace Inn in Edmonton, being handed a black robe and given a quick briefing on my character.  Apparently, I was going to be some kind of M. Night Shamylan plot twist where I was a long-lost bastard son of one of the vampire clans.  And in I went.  Now, as you'll recall, my friend took her role playing games very seriously.  And I knew all these people took the game very seriously.  I remembered one of those games in college where, one of the players did something so unexpected, that my friend, as the one in charge of the game, had to shut things down for about 20 minutes so she could figure out how this unexpected thing affected the entire game she had planned.  So I was scared out of my mind.  For all I knew, if I sneezed I probably would have altered the whole thing.  So I kept my mouth shut and stayed at the edges until I had everything I needed.  My friend told me a few days later that I really pissed off a few of the players by doing that, because "quiet guy in the corner who has no fucking clue what's going on" was not one of my character's traits.

But now, with my client research done, it was time to get to work.  I designed the ad campaign, pointed out the flaws in their previous campaigns and suggested solutions, wrote commercials that ran on NR92, NAIT's college station, and even produced them over in production class.  I sent it all off to my friend for the client's part of the grading, and then gave the whole kitinkaboodle to my writing teacher for the final grade.

A keystone in NAIT's broadcasting program is their college station NR92.  Essentially, for a good chunk of the program, they put you to work at the station, so you get a lot of hands-on experience right out of the gate.  But...you only work at the station from 9 - 5.  After hours, we students were free to do our own shows in the classic college radio tradition.

So there I was one night, chilling out in the control room of NR92, doing Chaos in a Box 2.0, when my writing teacher comes in, wanting to have a chat.  She sits down and she starts talking.  She mentions that she remembered me mentioning that the client for my NPO project was a friend of mine, and she wanted to know if I was currently on the outs with this friend, or if we'd had a fight lately.  I said no, we hadn't.  And my teacher says that she was wanted to know because, she was grading the NPO projects, had just read the client evaluation on my LARP ad campaign, and in all her years of doing this, she found it to be one of the harshest client evaluations she`d ever read.  She was wondering if my friend was mad at me and just being vindictive.  But since the answer was "no" on all counts, my teacher left and went back to grading.

A few minutes later, my writing teacher comes back in.  Her earlier tone of concern had now been replaced with one of elation.  She shared with me my friend's client evaluation, and at the end, in the "additional comments" section, my friend wrote something like, "We found Mark's analysis of our previous ad campaigns and their strengths and weaknesses to be highly effective.  We will be adopting most, if not all, of Mark's recommendations in our future ad campaigns."  Apparently, never in the history of this assignment, had a student's recommendations completely re-shaped an NPO's advertising strategy.

Needless to say, I wound up doing very well on the assignment.  And that's my only experience with LARPs. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gritty Reboots of Great American Heroes

Well, the age of the gritty reboot is upon us.  This past week, we got flooded with a bunch of new trailers for 2013's summer blockbusters, and the two that are standing out for me right now are the gritty reboots of two classic, boy-scout-ish, superheroes.

The first one that came along was for Disney's gritty reboot of The Lone Ranger, starring Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto, from the makers of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.




I'm still having the same problems with this that I had with the first trailer that came out a few months ago.  I'm just not used to seeing the Lone Ranger this dark and gritty.  I miss hearing the William Tell Overture.  And all that stuff in there about being "a spirit walker...one who has been to the other side and returned...one who cannot be killed in battle."  I said it before, that supernatural BS doesn't belong in The Lone Ranger.

But still...consider my curiosity piqued.

The other one was for Man of Steel, aka the new Superman movie.  Warner Brothers second attempt to reboot the Superman franchise after Superman Returns underwhelmed.  I've blogged it before and I'll blog it again:  I think Superman Returns was a movie that needed to be made.  With the original Superman films being such an indelible part of pop culture, I'm sure people were expecting the reboot to pay homage to it in some way.  Now that the homage is out of our systems, we can  head on to a fresh interpretation.

And a fresh interpretation we are getting.  Zack Snyder  (300, Watchmen) directs, with The Dark Knight Trilogy's director Christopher Nolan on board as a producer.  Funny thing is, Snyder was originally offered Superman Returns, but turned it down saying he couldn't get a handle on the character.  So, The Dark Knight folks must have come up with a take that made it accessible to Snyder.

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, Amy Adams is Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne is Perry White, Kevin Costner is Pa Kent, and Russel Crowe is Jor-El.




I'm still not sure what to make of this.  This is definitely a lot more moody than I thought I'd be.  Not so sure that the angst kind of works with Superman.  But, they get the iconography right.  Love that shot of Superman on fire, but the flames aren't burning him.  And that music...I'm missing John Williams.

This just looks so different from what we've come to know and love about Superman.  And different is good.  So I'm willing to give it a shot.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Goofin' on NetFlix

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the many movies in my home video library.  Something very different this time out.  Back during the May long weekend, I helped my parents get hooked up for NetFlix, and wound up wasting the weekend going through the NetFlix catalogue.  This is my chronicle of that weekend.  Originally dated May 21, 2012.




Sunday, December 09, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Review


My review for Wreck-It Ralph is now online!

Head on over to my movie review page to give it a read!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Pick Me Up I Needed

Christmas is here, and I'll admit, I'm finding it rather rough this year.  Finances are a lot tighter that I thought they'd be, and when I'm out there getting my shopping done, whenever I look at price tags, I feel like going home and crying.  Like I've told a couple of friends, you know you don't make much money when you're interviewing the folks from the food bank, you accidentally let slip how much money you make, and they suddenly switch from pressuring you to donate to pressuring you to take home a hamper.

That's just a sad truth of the radio biz, kids:  there's not much money in sitting on your butt and talking.

But still, I have responsibilities and obligations, and at this time of year, that means getting the Christmas shopping done.  This seemed like a good weekend to do it, and so I was off to the city!

High on my list was taking care of my nieces, so I was heading for Toys R Us.  I've been told that one of my nieces is reaching the pony age that all little girls go through, so I was off to the My Little Pony aisle.  I wanted to get in and get out quick, so I wouldn't be mistaken for a Brony.  Far be it from me to criticize another's fandom, but I just think that middle aged virgins should stick to the Star Wars action figure aisle.

With that done, and the final names on my list checked off, I was in the mood for a movie.  Not much out there right now that I want to see.  I saw SkyFall a few weeks ago, and The Hobbit doesn't come out until next week, so I settled on Wreck-It Ralph.  I'll admit, the trailers for Wreck-It Ralph weren't grabbing me.  I had a similar issue with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Yeah, I had an Atari when I was a kid, but I never graduated to a Nintendo or a SNES.  I've just never been much of a gamer.  So, I don't get all misty-eyed for The Legend of Zelda or Street Fighter II like some of my compatriots do.  As such, the trailers for Wreck-It Ralph were just looking like Video Game Nostalgia: The Movie.  But, I was reading lots of good reviews from the geek circles and the film websites, so I figured I'd give it a chance.

It all takes place in an arcade.  After hours, all of the video game characters come to life and hang out with each other.  Our hero is Wreck-It Ralph, the villain in a video game called Fix It Felix Jr.  And Ralph is getting tired of being the villain and being hated by everyone and the dude just wants a little appreciation for what he does.  So, these feelings make him decide to abandon his game and journey from game to game in a quest to prove himself a good guy for once.  And his quest eventually leads him to a cart racer called Sugar Rush where he becomes the only friend and ally to a little girl, Vanelope Von Schweetz, who's going through pretty much the same thing he is.

The one review I read online that finally convinced me to see it was one that read, "In 2012, it's like Disney made the Pixar movie and Pixar made the Disney movie."  And I totally understand that now.  Brave follows Disney's "princess" formula pretty closely, and Wreck-It Ralph follows Pixar's "buddy movie" formula pretty closely as well.  And since I'm programed to be a Pixar junkie, I wound up falling in love with Wreck-It Ralph.  I found this movie to be surprisingly good.  The friendships that form in this film, and the character development, it all seems genuine.  I felt for these characters, and whenever a movie can make me do that, I regard that as a good movie.

As I blogged many years ago, seeing a good movie can be a great pick-me-up.  And Wreck-It Ralph provided me with just the pick-me-up I needed to get through this holiday season.  Granted, the season isn't done yet, but it's getting better. 

One last thing I want to mention before I go.  Perhaps the most subtle joke in all of Wreck-It Ralph.  Way back in the early 1980s, when arcade games were becoming a thing, a duo called Buckner and Garcia recorded an album of novelty songs all about the video games of the era.  It scored them the one-hit wonder, Pac-Man Fever.  Well, for Wreck-It Ralph, Disney found whatever casino Buckner and Garcia are currently performing in and got them to write a song about Wreck-It Ralph.  Just might be worth picking up the soundtrack for it.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - MASH

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ode to how much time I have on my hands by watching one of the many movies in my home movie library and blogging about it.  Today, we have the source material for a very famous TV show, MASH.  This review is originally dated May 5, 2012.




Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Christmas IDs for the Targ

I've been waiting for the holidays to roll around so that way I can share this radio experiment on the blog!

So, a few years ago, I decided I needed to make some Christmas IDs for my podcast, U62: The Targ.  Ah, yes, I remember the genesis now.  The Shrek Christmas special, Shrek the Halls, was premiering with a lot of hype, and I thought, "Hey!  Christmas IDs!  And I'll be sure to tape the Shrek Christmas special and get in something from Shrek!"  And I thought the Shrek Christmas special was incredibly lame and didn't find any clips from it that I liked.  But I soldiered on anyway, and still grabbed clips from some of my favourite, classic Christmas specials!


Christmas IDs by Mark Cappis

So, to run down the clips I used in this IDs:

The Weird Al Show: The Obligatory Holiday Episode - As Weird Al says in the intro to this episode of his short-lived kids show, he thought it was best to celebrate every holiday and get them all out of the way.  Which is why I go with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in these IDs...just to tie into this joke.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Still better in 22 minutes of animation than the Jim Carrey film.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - As I blog every year, there's no better...acknowledgment of season holiday depression.  My mother really likes this one.

A Garfield Christmas - As my sister was nuts for Garfield when we were kids, this was a must to view every year.

The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special - Recently re-discovered a few years ago, and has since become a kitsch favourite with kids of the 1980s.  The one power more powerful than the power of Greyskull at defeating Skeletor:  the Christmas spirit.

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (aka the Simpsons Christmas Special) - The very first televised full half-hour of The Simpsons.  Chosen for this mainly because I had the DVD kicking around.

Some day, I will make the one I originally wanted to make alongside these ones, but I couldn't find it online.  Maybe this year.  I also wanted to do one acknowledging that favourite with college kids in the 1990s, A Pinky and the Brain Christmas.  For those who don't remember it, Brain's latest scheme for world domination is he's created a doll with mind-controlling capabilities.  And he wants to infiltrate Santa's workshop by disguising himself and Pinky as elves, trick the elves into mass-producing it and Santa into distributing it to the world.  And as t hey parachute into the North Pole, Pinky and the Brain have this exchange:

Pinky>>  I've changed my mind, Brain!  I don't want to be an elf anymore!

Brain>>  Really, Pinky?  What do you want to be?

Pinky>>  A dentist!

Brain>>  (pause)  You've watched far too many Christmas specials, Pinky. 

Some day, I will make that. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

It's that time of the week again, for Fishing in the Discount Bin.  Isn't it weird how things are lining up?  Because of movie schedules, DVD release schedules, and my self-imposed schedule on this blog, I seem to be hitting all the big blockbusters from this time last year.  Case in point:  Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which came out on December 16, 2011 -- almost two weeks shy of its theatrical release.  This entry is dated in my notes as having been written on May 4, 2012.




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Muppets

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many, many, many movies in my home video library.  Today, we get to one of the big releases from this time last year, The Muppets.  Dude, did it really come out a year ago?  Man, how time flies.  This entry is originally dated May 4, 2012.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Numbers on Undies for Christmas



I guess one of the good things about being perpetually trapped in the friend zone is that my female friends are just chalk full of advice for the day I start dating. One bit of advice that I've been remembering lately is that you never, ever buy lingerie for a woman.

As my friend explained it, it all comes down to the size. If you guess too big, you're telling your girlfriend that you wish she was curvier. If you guess too small, you're telling her to lose weight. "And that's why you never buy lingerie for a woman, unless you're absolutely sure of the size. Then it might be OK," she said, as she continued trying on bras in front of me, and I sat there wondering when if I'd ever have an opportunity to make a pass.

(OK, that last part never happened, I just thought it'd make for a funnier end to the story.)

I was reflecting on this advice because, as I put together my radio show every morning, a heck of a lot of "buying lingerie for a Christmas present" statistics have been coming across my desk. Looks like my friend was wrong about the "unless you're absolutely sure of the size" part, as lingerie is the #1 gift that women hate to get from men.

For completeness sake, the top 5 that women hate to get from men:

  1. Lingerie
  2. Cosmetics
  3. Perfume ("They never pick the right scent," says the study)
  4. Kitchen utensils
  5. Cheap jewelry. (I think the important part there is 'cheap.' I'm sure expensive stuff is still OK.)

Despite my friend's advice, and the above list, another study says 53% of men are planning on getting their wife or girlfriend lingerie for Christmas. As for what kind of lingerie they're going for, 41% says they're going to go for the super-sexy stuff, 21% say they're going to go for the basic, everyday stuff, and 14% say they're going to go for something unsexy, like flannel jammies.

Now, picking apart my friend's advice, she says it's OK if you get the size absolutely right. Of course, the logical way to learn your girlfriend's size would be to just ask her, but as another female friend told me, my problem is I'm a logical man in an illogical world. Of those planning to get lingerie for their wives and girlfriends for Christmas, a full 50% don't know her size. So how are they going to learn her size?

10% are going to bring along a female friend for help
30% are going to ask a clerk at the store for help.

And the remainder figure their know their significant other well enough, that they can just guess. Did I also mention that 20% of couples have broken up over bad gifts?

And speaking of bad gifts, if you still want to go with lingerie after all this, here's the top 4 types of lingerie that women hate getting as a gift:

  1. Crotchless panties
  2. Anything leather
  3. Edible underwear
  4. Fishnets

And at the risk of being practical, it seems like buying lingerie as a gift is a waste of money, as 25% of women wear it just once, and another 20% never wear it at all.

So if I may add to my friend's advice, after having now run the numbers. Never buy lingerie for Christmas. Unless you're absolutely sure of the size. And even then, it's still a bad idea.  Seriously.  Just grab the Blu-Ray of The Notebook or something like that.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lazy Saturday and Lazier Sunday

Went into the city yesterday.  It's become habit to sit down and blog about my days in the city, but this particular trip was literally nothing to write home about. 

We're about to get into the super-busy Christmas rush at work, so that means free weekends to do Christmas shopping will soon be few and far between.  I conduct my Christmas shopping much like a military mission.  So yesterday was phase 1:  recon and intel gathering.  This phase largely consists of window-shopping, figuring out a budget, and pondering the question, "What am I going to get so-and-so?"  I've got a few good ideas, so the next phase - actually buying the stuff - should go OK. 

And of course, it's just not a trip to the city unless I spend too much money on DVDs.  Because I'm a sucker for all things comic-book-based, had to grab the Spider-Man reboot.  And since I'm a sucker for all things Pixar, had to grab Brave.  And that's pretty much my plan for the lazy Sunday afternoon.

And...ooo!  I saw Skyfall, aka the new James Bond movie.  It's so good, you guys.  In a way, this finally completes the reboot that began with Casino Royale.  James Bond finally gets a thoroughly modern villain in the form of a cyber terrorist.  Classic Bond supporting characters such as Q are finally re-introduced.  And while debates as to whether Bond is the right kind of hero in today's global political climate have been brushed off with glib comments in some of the recent films, in this one, it's openly debated by the characters and actually becomes a plot point.  It's also neat to see Bond's origins finally explored somewhat, although it does get dangerously close to Batman Begins at one point.  I'll elaborate more, but it gets into spoiler-territory.

I did find it a bit predictable, though, in how they were setting up certain parts of the Bond mythology to re-introduce.  Again, though, it didn't take away from the film.  And it resulted in some great touches and homages to the Bond films of the past.  

But yeah.  While I'm hesitant to call it the best Bond film, it's definitely the best of Daniel Craig's run to date. 

I'm going to share some of my favourite spoiler-filled bits of the film, so if you haven't seen the film yet, I'd suggest you click away now.  If you need something to click to, why not go to my main site and read my proper review of Skyfall?

Spoilers after the jump!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Adventures in Babysitting

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many, many movies in my hove video library, where I watch it and wonder why the heck I bought it.  Today, we get to a much-beloved 1980s teen comedy, Adventures in BabysittingThis entry is originally dated April 1, 2012.



Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Condorman

Time once again for Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly love-fest for one of the many DVDs in my collection.  Today, we do a beloved forgotten Disney movie from the early 1980s, Condorman.  This review is originally dated March 31, 2012.




Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far, Away, There Was a Targ

U62: The Targ -- My podcast



Still reluctant to start Series 6, but I had to meet a challenge.

After the news of the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm broke out, I was exchanging text messages about it with a buddy of mine, and he said, "Dude, I bet you could do a whole show about the Disney buy-out and what it means."

I took it as a challenge.

Star Wars Special: Welcome to the House of Mouse is the vast collection of my thoughts on Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, what a potential Episode VII could entail, and just wondering what comes next.

Actually, as I review it, there were a few things I wanted to bring up, but forgot to.  I was listening to Rob Paulsen's podcast today, and he interview writer Charlotte Fullerton.  She mentioned that she worked on the legendary Star Wars fan film Troops.  What does this Disney buyout mean for the future of fan films?  Disney is pretty fierce in defending their copyrights, don't you know.

It's a strange new world, folks.  And all I can do is rant about it.  So give a listen to Star Wars Special: Welcome to the House of Mouse


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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Police Academy

Welcome again to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rant about one of the many DVDs in my home video library.  Today, we get to one of those movies that truly defined my childhood, Police Academy.  This entry is originally dated March 30, 2012.




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney Buys Star Wars

Not too long ago, I was lamenting that I was burnt out on a beloved sci-fi franchise.  As far as I was concerned, there had been too much, it had grown very repetitive, and it just had nothing new to offer me anymore.  When I heard that a new movie was coming along, I just rolled my eyes in derision, but knew I'd make the time for it, because, you know, I'm a fan.

The year was 2009, and that franchise was Star Trek.

But then, something weird happened.  I started seeing some of the first pictures from the set.  I saw the first trailer.  And I started getting excited again.  For the first time in a long time, a new creative vision was being brought to it, and it looked like just the shot in the arm that Star Trek needed.  And just like that, I was a fan again.

For quite a few years now, I've been the same way about Star Wars.  In fact, I know the exact moment when I declared myself burnt out.  It was 2007, and I went to the theatre to see the feature film kick-off to Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  As the end credits rolled on the movie, I threw up my hands and said, "I'm done."  Star Wars: The Clone Wars is such a bad movie, you guys.

Granted, a few things came along, and I shelled out the money for it.  I got excited for the Blu-Rays.  I'm planning to go see Star Wars Identities at the Telus World of Science some day soon, because, you know, I'm a fan.  There are some parts of fandom that just never go away, no matter how disillusioned you get.

And then...today.

The entertainment world and the nerd world was blindsided by the news that Lucasfilm, George Lucas's company, the owner of all things Star Wars, was bought by Disney for around $4 billion.  This is one of those things that no one saw coming.  In his official statement as to why he sold his company, Lucas states that it's now time for him to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.  "I've always believed that Star Wars would live on without me, and it was important that I start that transition in my lifetime."

When the news was first brought to my attention, I thought it was a hoax.  I started scanning the dates on the news stories to see if there was an "April 1" date.  But then, more and more mainstream media outlets started running the story, and it slowly started sinking in.  This is real.  Star Wars now belongs to Disney.

But that's not the news that excited a lot of geeks.  The news that really threw this over the top was the announcement of Episode VII in 2015.

We're getting the sequel trilogy.

The sequel trilogy has been the stuff of legend for years.  The very first special edition touch to Star Wars was way back in 1979.  To bring things in-line with The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas re-wrote the opening crawl to include the now famous title Episode IV: A New Hope.  At the time, Lucas told us that this trilogy was actually the middle of a 12-part epic with the overall title The Journey of the Whils, and that the only characters in all 12 films would be R2-D2 and C-3P0.

When The Empire Strikes Back finally did hit, Lucas revised his story to say that it would be nine films total.  Many years ago, I read an interview with Gary Kurtz, the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and during the making of Empire, they had the nine films mapped out like this:

Episode I:  The Jedi Knights and what they're about.
Episode II:  Obi-Wan's story.  Who he is and how he came to be.
Episode III:  Anakin's story.  His fall from grace and how he became Darth Vader.
Episode IV and V:  OK, this is where Kurtz just kind of gave his reflections on making the films.
Episode VI:  Would have been very depressing.   Han Solo would have died.  Princess Leia would have become a queen, and left to the very lonely life of a monarch.
Episode VII:  Luke "walks the galaxy," as it were, completing his Jedi training
Episode VIII:  Luke finds his long lost twin sister; not Leia.
Episode IX:  The final, epic battle between good and evil...Luke and the Emperor.

Needless to say, these plans have now changed.  Plus, it's a region that's been explored to death in the expanded universe.

But it's going to happen now.  No word yet on what the story may be.  In the video released on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas says that, include in the sale, are some very detailed treatments he wrote for the sequel trilogy.  (For those who don't know movie talk, a "treatment" is a summary of the film that you write to get the movie studio interested before you write an actual script.)  And many other movie sites are reporting that, in all other Star Wars things that Disney will produce, Lucas will still be on board as a "creative consultant."

That's the one thing that started going through my mind as I went for my afternoon walk and started pondering this.  What talent will Disney attract to work on these new Star Wars movies?  Wish lists of directors are popping up all over the place, including such folks as Brad Bird and Joss Whedon.  Hell, I remember reading movie websites back in Y2K that reported that Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are) was practically begging Lucas to let him direct Episode II.  No doubt, in Hollywood, there'll be some very prominent fanboys lined-up around the block to direct this. 

With all the focus on Star Wars, full ramifications of the deal are still coming to light.  Disney now also owns the legendary special effects house Industrial Light and Magic.  Sounds like Disney's going to pretty much leave them along to keep doing what they're doing.  Now that Lucas has been pushed to the side, will we finally get Blu-Ray releases of the original theatrical versions?  This also means Disney now owns Indiana Jones...will we get the fabled fifth movie?  A gritty reboot with a new actor as Dr. Jones?  Time will tell.

But for the time being, the focus is on Star Wars.  And I've got to tell you, for the first time in a long time, I'm excited about Star Wars again.  Maybe, just like Star Trek three years ago, new creative blood is what's needed...that outsider view.  The best one, The Empire Strikes Back, was largely written and directed by others than Lucas.  Maybe others are needed to finally realize Lucas's vision.

I can't explain it.  For the first time in a long time, I'm excited about Star Wars again.  It's a brave new world, and I'm sure the new creative forces will boldly take us where we've never gone before.

Gonna end this with, perhaps, the last time I was 100% truly excited to the core for Star Wars...the teaser for Episode I. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Evolution of Cellphone Photography

So, I've had my iPhone for about a month now, and as is the way, this means I'm going nuts and taking a whole bunch of photos with the camera.  And that got me to thinking about how the quality of cellphone pictures has evolved over the years.

My very first cellphone with a camera was obtained 10 years ago.  It was shortly after I'd arrived in Japan, and I was looking for a cellphone.  I had a friend who was already in Japan, and he'd already been saying, "Dude, it's so weird over here!  The cellphones have cameras on them!"  And I started thinking, "Why the hell would someone want a camera on their cellphone?"

Of course, I wanted one.

And of course, being a tourist for pretty much an entire year, I found it to be an incredibly handy thing.  On a day of sponteniety, you hoped the train to see the sights in the town three stops down the line, but you forgot your camera.  Well, luckily, you've got your cellphone with you!


Sadly, this is my only surviving Japanese cellphone snapshot.  That's a Godzilla made of Christmas lights as part of a Tokyo department store holiday display in December 2002.  I still have my Japanese cellphone in the back of my closet...someday I'll figure out how to get the rest of the pictures off it.  And I feel like pointing out that that's not downscaled or anything.  That's the maximum quality my camera was capable of.

Flash forward four years to 2006 and Athabasca, when I got my first North American cellphone.  And it had a camera.  And right away, I was amazed at how the quality of that little tiny camera had changed.


There's one of my favourites from my 2006 flip phone.  That's a display at the annual open house for the Athabasca Pottery Club.  I've got a soft spot for that event...it was the first event I went out to cover when I started here as a reporter.  

 
Another one from the ol' flip phone, a chalk drawing on the sidewalk for Athabasca's Fringe Festival.  Obviously, I figured out how to turn up the settings for higher quality.

I figured that every three years is when I should upgrade phones, and in 2009, I got my first smartphone, a BlackBerry.  Once again, bigger, better pictures were capable of being taken.


That's a phone booth in my home town of Entwistle.  It's about the same as the flip phone...maybe a smidge bigger.


Mount Robson, from summer vacation 2009.

I don't know what it was, if it was just the age of my phone or whatever, but the pictures near the end of my BlackBerry's lifetime started getting this dirty haze over them.  Could never figure out how to clean a BlackBerry camera lens.


Some deer in a front yard in Athabasca.

And now I've got my shiny new iPhone 4S.  The camera built into it is almost as powerful as my Canon digital camera.  Some stuff I've taken while I'm out and about:



Steam tractor on the Athabasca riverfront.




Christmas decorations up far too early at Canadian Tire.




Batman wins the Stanley Cup.

And yeah.  That's how taking pictures with cellphones have evolved over the years.  Since I like taking these photos so much, maybe I should hop in the Instagram bandwagon.  But if what I read online is right, Instagram is only for taking pictures of food. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boo! It's a Halloween Targ!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast



And we're here!  That start of Series 6!  Or not.

Still unwilling to commit to a brand new series of podcasting, but I have stuff I want to ramble about, so that's as good a reason as any to dust off the old microphone and put together a radio play. 

And that brings us to Halloween Special:  Gimmie Some Candy!  Topics in this episode include various Star Wars ramblings, with a particular focus on the recent opening of Star Wars Identities in Edmonton.  (No, I did not go.  I instead express my desire to go.)  As I previously blogged, I finally got an iPhone, so a I ramble about that.  And I've seen that episode of MythBusters with James Cameron, as they talk about various myths from Titanic.  And I'm sorry, but I think the MythBusters cheated in that episode.  

So, just like last time, I've got one foot out of bed, but I'm not ready to crawl out from  under the sheets just yet. 


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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1 Review

Well, as is tradition, whenever I get my hands on a direct-to-DVD animated film, I sit down and review it on the ol' blog when I'm done watching it.  And even though it's been out for almost a month now, I finally got my hands on the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers....



Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Directed by Jay Olivia

Starring the voices of Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Michael McKean, Gary Anthony Williams, Wade Williams, and Michael Jackson.

Backstory:  I still think it's folly to attempt to adapt The Dark Knight Returns.  Alongside Watchmen, it's regarded as one of the comics that rejuvenated the comic book medium in the late-1980s.  That, and I really wasn't too impressed with their adaptation of another Frank Miller Batman classic, Year One.  And, based on some of the trailers I saw online, it looked like The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 was going to have some of the same problems.  While everyone was geeking out over the casting of Peter "RoboCop" Weller as the aged Batman, in the trailers and clips online, I was seeing the flat, emotionless line reads that I thought were Year One's biggest problem.  But, it's been out for a few weeks, and a lot of the reviews online were very positive, so I figured I'd still give it a chance.

Plot:  In the not-too-distant future as envisioned in the 1980s.  Bruce Wayne is now in his mid-50s, and has been retired from the mantle of Batman for about 10 years.  Commissioner Gordon is nearing retirement.  Gotham City is once again plagued by crime, as a new, terroristic street gang called the Mutants haunts the shadows.  Harvey Dent, proclaimed cured and released from Arkham Asylym, has mysteriously disappeared and Two Face is again terrorizing the city.  In the wake of all this, Bruce Wayne cannot resist his inner demons any longer, and once again dons the cape and cowl and takes to the streets once again as Batman.  The return of Batman inspires a pre-teen runaway to take up the mantle of Robin.  And soon, the fates of all intertwine as they set out to take down the Mutants and their vicious leader once and for all. 

What I Liked:  The good thing about splitting the graphic novel into two parts for film is they can be very faithful.  There's whole scenes that are the comic book panels verbatim, and that did my geek heart good.  The score is very good.  Linking back to its 1980s origins, it's very synthesizer-based and matches the material very nicely.  And it was great to hear so many recognizable voice actors filling out the supporting roles.  But....

What I Didn't Like:  Yeah, kind of what I feared from Year One, a lot of the celebrity voices where kind of flat and emotionless.  And I really did miss Batman's inner monologues from the books...surely they could have worked that in as a narration or something.

Final Assessment:  It was good, but bring on Part II, which is where the real meat of the story is!

3 Nibs

Bonus Material:  Bonus features on the Blu-Ray include a couple of bonus episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, a featurette on Carrie Kelly and how a female Robin shook things up, a featurette on Batman's creator Bob Kane, and a preview of the next DC/Warner Brothers animated film, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II.

And speaking of The Dark Knight Returns Part II, at the recent New York Comic Con, DC announced what their three films for 2013 are going to be.

Spring:  The Dark Knight Returns Part II

Summer:  Superman Unbound, based on the Braniac storyarc from a few years ago that gave us a gritty reboot for Brainiac

Fall:  Justice League:  Flashpoint, based on the Flashpoint event that kicked off the whole New 52 reboot.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Snowball Express

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly series of blog entries where I watch one of the many DVDs in my collection and ramble about it.  Today, we're at a Disney film I saw a lot in my childhood, Snowball Express.  This entry is originally dated March 23, 2012.







Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iron Man 3 Trailer!

So with the Avengers now behind us, it's time to move on to the series of films that Marvel has already dubbed "Phase 2." And it all kicks off with Iron Man 3!

The Iron Man 3 Teaser Poster.


This entire Marvel film franchise kicked off with Iron Man back in 2008, and boy, did it kick things off big.  Robert Downey Jr was prime for his second comeback, and he made the role of Tony Stark his own.  It was a surprise hit to some, as many had written off Iron Man as a second string character with very little mainstream appeal, but it was a massive hit, and when director Jon Favreau added the post-credits tease with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, inviting Stark to join "the Avengers initiative," Favreau thought he was just adding a cute scene for the fans, but Marvel took it and ran with it, and that's how we wound up with The Avengers.

Iron Man 2 hit in the summer of 2010.  As a friend of mine blogged today, quite a few folks didn't like Iron Man 2.  I know director Favreau went on record as feeling it was rushed to meet the release date.  I, however, loved Iron Man 2.  As I wrote in my review at the time, I think I liked it because it was the first movie of 2010 that didn't disappoint me.  What came out in 2010 before Iron Man 2Cop Out came out, and even though I'm a Kevin Smith fan, I thought it sucked.  Alice in Wonderland came out, and even though I'm a Tim Burton fan, I thought it sucked.  But Iron Man 2 did not let me down.

Iron Man, posing in his new armor for the film, in front of all his old armors.


So it was known that #3 was going to happen.  There's still no word on the plot.   We know that Downey is back as Tony Stark/Iron Man.  Gwyneth Paltrow is back as his assistant and girlfriend Pepper Pots.  And Don Cheadle is back as Jim "Rhody" Rhodes/War Machine.  Some of the new cast members include Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killain, who in the comics, created "the Extremis virus," something that involved nanotechnology that proved detrimental to Iron Man.  James Badge Dale is on board as the villain Eric Savin, who in the comics is the cyborg assassin Coldblood, although we've been told he'll be dramatically re-invented for the film.  And, even though he's not directing this time out, Jon Favreau is back as Stark's chauffeur and friend Happy Hogan.

War Machine, his armor now painted in an American flag motif, similar to Captain America's uniform.


Taking over behind the cameras is Shane Black, the screenwriter and director who wrote such classic scripts as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout.  Downey apparently recommended Black for the job after enjoying working with Black on the 2005 action film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin.


While we don't quite know the plot yet, we do know who the villain is.  Ben Kingsley plays the warlord known as the Mandarin.  The Mandarin is Iron Man's arch-enemy in the comics, and they've been hinting at the Mandarin's appearance for some time.  The Mandarin draws his powers from 10 magic rings that he wears, and the terrorist group that kidnapped Stark in the first film, and finances Ivan Vanko in the second film, is known as "The Ten Rings." 

And that's all the backstory you need to know.  Let's get to the main event, shall we?  Here's the first trailer for Iron Man 3

 
 
My thoughts on the trailer?  This looks very different that the first two films and even The Avengers.  It looks darker, it looks grittier, and looks like someone is really out to destroy Tony Stark.  It looks like Stark is going to be thrown through the wringer this time out.  As long as they don't forget the sense of fun that I enjoy in all the Marvel movies, I think it'll be good.
Iron Man 3 hits theatres on May 3.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Just Another Sunday

Woke up this morning debating whether I wanted to go see Frankenweenie or not.  Next weekend would be better, as I'm not working next weekend and thus could have a more relaxed time, but Frankenweenie isn't doing so well at the box office, meaning its time in theatres is growing short.  Since I had nothing better to do, it was off to the city!

Oh, how times have changed.  Tim Burton originally made Frankenweenie as a live-action short film when he worked for Disney in the early 1980s.  Disney deemed the tale - a retelling of Frankenstein in which Victor Frankenstein is a 12-year old boy and his monster is his recently-dead-but-now-resurrected dog - to be too scary for children and refused to release it.  Some say Disney fired Burton over it, other say Burton quit.  Regardless, when Tim Burton started becoming a celebrity director, Disney finally released it straight-to-video in the early 1990s, and it's been a bonus feature on pretty much every DVD release of The Nightmare Before Christmas

So, a few years ago, with The Nightmare Before Christmas rising in popularity and Frankenweenie becoming a cult classic, Disney and Burton decided to re-make it as a full-length stop-motion animated film.

Those who are fans of the original short film will be glad to know that this remake is very faithful to the original.  Tim Burton's influence is all over the film, as the film's location of New Holland is very, very similar to the suburb we saw in Edward Scissorhands.  I've heard some critics say that Edward Scissorhands is the one previous Tim Burton film that this is most similar to, and I'm inclined to agree.

In order to pad out the story to feature-length, they had to create a much larger supporting cast.  And if I have one complaint, that is, we really don't get to know these new characters.  We're told that young Victor has a close kinship with his science teacher, but sadly, we only get one scene of the two together.  Victor and the girl who lives next door, Elsa Van Helsing, have a brief scene that's very reminiscent of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson/over the backyard fence conversations of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, but sadly, it ends just as it gets going. 

Elsa seemed fascinating to me, but darn it, she's not in the film that much.  We see she's living with her uncle, a very mean and cruel mayor.  But again, we don't get to know her that much.  I think a great subplot would have been if Sparky (the true name of the titular Frankenweenie) originally had more accidental havoc in the neighbourhood, and Elsa Van Helsing followed her monster-hunter namesake and started monster-hunting throughout the neighbourhood.  Oh, well.

On a side note, Elsa is voice by Winona Ryder, and the character's design is very, VERY, VERY obviously based on Lydia from Beetlejuice.  A nice little callback to Burton's resume.

But yeah.  It's cute, it's fun, and it's very much in keeping with the original.  3 out of 4 nibs, full review coming to the main site in the next few days.

And of course, it's not a trip to the city unless I come home fearing that I've spent too much money on DVDs.

On my shopping list today was the new 30th Anniversary Edition of Steven Spielberg's masterpiece, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.  For those who may be wondering, this contains the original theatrical version, and not the 20th Anniversary Special Edition.  It's weird.  In interviews, Spielberg seems almost embarrassed that he made the special edition.  I guess the backlash that he digitally removed the guns and replaced them with walkie talkies really got to him.

But for those who liked the special edition, all of the new scenes that he put in are on the Blu-Ray in the "deleted scenes" section.  Sadly, one deleted scene that's still lost to the ages is the fabled Harrison Ford cameo

I also wanted to get the latest DC Comics/Warner Brothers straight-to-DVD animated film, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1.  I'll admit, I almost gave this one a pass.  The Dark Knight Returns almost defies a film adaptation in my opinion, and some of the clips I've seen online, well, I find Peter Weller's portrayal of Batman to be a little too flat.  But the reviews online have been overwhelmingly positive, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

And that was all I'd planned to buy for DVDs today, but then, as I was browsing through HMV, I saw From the Earth to the Moon on sale for $15.  I'd always wanted to see From the Earth to the Moon, and for just $15, I couldn't say no.

For those who've never heard of it....  After the success of Apollo 13, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks felt, that while the movie was good and all, they did a great disservice by not telling the stories of the other men who landed on the Moon.  So, Howard and Hanks teamed up to make From the Earth to the Moon, a critically-acclaimed, epic in scope, 12-part mini-series that tells the tale of the entire Apollo program.  It won a slew of awards, and ever since I first heard about it in my final days of college, I really, really, really wanted to see it.

And just $15!

So I'm finally going to get to see it.


Now, as they taught me in school, when you run out of things to say, just play the next song.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rant about one of the many, many movies in my home video library.  Today, we do the film that launched the directorial career of Tim Burton and made Pee-Wee Herman a star, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.  This rant is originally dated March 15, 2012.




Monday, October 15, 2012

The End of Athabasca's Fringe Festival

A chalk sidewalk drawing promoting Athabasca's Fringe Festival.  A pink heart with the words Fringe Love

Athabasca used to have a Fringe Festival.  It boasted that it was the second smallest Fringe Festival in Canada.  (The smallest was -- and maybe still is -- in Abbottsford, BC.)  It was held in the last weekend of July every year.  Being so close to Edmonton, a few theatre groups from Edmonton would use it to try out their shows before entering them into Edmonton's Fringe.  Venues including the Nancy Appleby Theatre, the Legion Hall, the United Church, and Athabasca's old Community Centre.

The Fringe was held for nine years, from 1998 to 2007.  In my time in Athabasca, I was lucky enough to cover the last two.  Even when I showed up the second-last, I could tell that the festival's days were numbers.  Like a lot of volunteer organizations, the volunteers were starting to dwindle.  And, there some in the community that the rules of a Fringe festival were too restrictive.

As I recall, there are some rules you have to follow to call yourself a Fringe festival.  A couple of the rules I remember is you book the acts on a first come, first serve basis, and you can't say no to anyone.  With rules like that, some of the town's conservative elements felt we got "stuck" with some very explicit and risque shows, and wanted to change it to a more generic arts festival, and thus have more control over the programming.

For its final year, Athabasca's Fringe decided to take a cue from the Edmonton Fringe and adopt a theme to rally around.  They chose to unveil that theme in a big event with music and everything.  I was still the station's reporter, so I was there to cover it.  The theme for Athabasca's Fringe in 2007 was "it's MY Fringe."  People were encouraged to send in their ideas on how it was their Fringe.  It all seemed rather good.

2007, however, turned out to be the final Fringe.  The board said they were ready to step down and move on to other things, and no new volunteers took up the torch.  Well, that's not true.  The new volunteers reformed it into the "Athabasca Arts Alliance" with the goal of promoting arts year round, but I think that organization has now faded away and died.

A poster for Athabasca's Fringe Festival, proclaiming the theme it's my FRINGE, and showcasing some scenes from past Fringes.

For the longest time, we've had this poster for the final Athabasca Fringe Festival sitting in the back room at work.  I saved it from the trash heap many times.  I liked the Fringe, and I'm not sure you can tell from the photo, but it's mounted on a piece of plastic, making it very sturdy.  I just always found it too nice, and a nice artifact from Athabasca's recent past, to just throw it away.

For a while now, I've considered it donating it to the Athabasca Archives.  I've got a friend who's currently pursuing a Ph.D. in history, and she constantly tells tales of the neat things she finds in archives while doing her research.  So, I wanted to add my own neat thing to an archive.  I ran this idea by my friend, and she said, "Uhh...you'd better talk to your town archivist, first, and make sure it's the kind of donation they want."

About a week ago, some of the bosses came to visit, and they went on a cleaning and furniture re-arranging blitz.  I saved the poster from the scrap heap one last time, and figured if I was going to donate it, it'd better be now.

So after work, I tossed it in the back of my car and swung by the Athabasca Archives.  I showed it to the archivist, and she said she's love to have it for the town's archives.  In fact, she even said she had recently spoken with some people researching theatre history and who were amazed when they found out Athabasca used to have a Fringe festival and were looking for documentation on it.

I'm glad I found it a good home, and I hope this very fun part of Athabasca's recent history will be remembered.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's On Your iPod?

"What's on your iPod?" was a popular question to ask in fluff pieces about five years ago when iPods were all hip and trendy.  I still wouldn't mind getting an iPod.  Seriously.  A 160G hard drive on the iPod classic, compared to the 4G memory on my current MP3 player.  To borrow the meme, with 160G, I could finally have ALL OF THE MUSIC!!

Anyway, it's a question I've been asking myself because, as previously blogged, I finally have an iPhone.  I seem to have spend an evening doing the thing that everyone I know who gets an iPhone does:  make a few purchases on iTunes to see what this iTunes thing is all about.  I already know what this iTunes thing is all about, because I've been buying stuff on iTunes for about four years now.  Granted, I didn't have any kind of i-Device that I could download those songs to.  But, my place is small enough that I can run a cord across my living room and plug my computer into my stereo.  Besides, you can play iTunes purchases on a regular MP3 player.  It's a simple, but annoying process of burning your purchases to an audio CD, and then ripping that CD into MP3s.

But now that I don't have to do that, I find I've been loading my iPhone with my past four years worth of iTunes purchases.

And since I've always believed that music is no fun unless it's shared, I thought I'd do a quick blog sharing a small sampling of my iTunes purchases.

First thing I bought on iTunes was ROAR!: Cloverfield Overture, from Oscar-winning film composer Michael Giacchino.  ROAR! is the end credit music that Giacchino created for Cloverfield, and when I saw Cloverfield, that piece of music blew my mind.  It's such an amazing piece, and a wonderful homage to the music from all those classic Godzilla films.  I wasn't the only one who thought it was mindblowing, and popular demand eventually saw the piece released exclusively to iTunes.




And speaking of Giacchino, the film he won an Oscar for was for the Disney/Pixar hit Up.  The soundtrack to Up was released only on iTunes, and being a fan of Pixar and Giacchino's, had to get it.  Here's the most famous cut from the Up soundtrack, called "Married Life."




So a few years back, in 2009, my hero, "Weird Al" Yankovic, decided to finally experiment with digital distribution.  As he pointed out, when he records his albums, he does his original songs first, then waits to find out whatever's current and popular to parody.  Sometimes, his original songs sit on the shelf for a year or so before he finishes the album.  Rather than let them sit, he decided to release them digitally.  The result with his 2009 EP Internet Leaks.  My favourite cut on Internet Leaks has to be "Skipper Dan," about a promising young actor who heads out to Hollywood to make it big...but the only job he can get is playing Skipper Dan on Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride.  Pathos in a Weird Al song...whoda thunkit?




I've found that iTunes has become a great repository for TV theme songs.  If you like that 20-second clip in the intro to your favourite TV show, you can find the whole 3-minute song on iTunes for $0.99.  I like The Big Bang Theory.  I like Barenaked Ladies.  Why not get the theme for The Big Bang Theory?  When CTV first started showing The Big Bang Theory five nights a week, I used to wonder what the music they played in the promos was.  Then I bought the whole thing on iTunes and discovered that the music is actually the theme song's bridge.



And speaking of The Big Bang Theory, let's talk about New Girl.  When I first saw New Girl, it kind of struck me as being The Big Bang Theory in reverse.  Like The Big Bang Theory, New Girl has a cast of four main characters.  However, on New Girl, it's the one woman who's the socially awkward geek, and the three guys who are normal and well-adjusted by society's standards.

The theme song stuck out for me because of a borderline fourth-wall-breaking gag in the pilot episode.  In an attempt to lift her spirits, Jess (the socially awkward geek) sings a little song.  The song is a couple of lines from the show's theme song.  At which point, one of the guys turns to her, and with shock and disbelief in his voice asks, "Did you just write yourself a theme song?"

Well, it was clever enough to get me to drop $0.99 on iTunes.




And that's just a small sampling of what I've got.  Maybe I'll do this again with some other tunes in the not-too-distant future, when again I'm just goofing around on a lazy Sunday morning.