Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Time is Here

A friend of mine was asking me not too long ago what my biggest nostalgic trigger is.  "What instantly takes you back to that time when you were seven years old, and you were at your happiest?"  Truth is, it's always been going to the movies.  Especially that first thirty seconds when they're scrolling through the production company logos.  It's that feeling that you're about to be taken on a journey...that anything can happen.

I know, it may sound strange, but I grew up in a small town where the nearest movie theatre was an hour's drive away.  Going to see a movie was always an event.  And now, with the holidays right around the corner, going to the movies was always intrinsically tied to Christmas.  I mean, if you're going all the way into the city, you may as well make the most of it, right?  Weekends in December when I was a kid fell into a routine of a full day of Christmas shopping, hitting all the shops around Edmonton and checking people off our list, dinner at a really nice sit-down restaurant, and maybe, if there's time and the latest Disney family feature out, a movie.  Good times.

And I could use a little more of the good times right now.  I've been out-of-sorts as of late.  There's been some shake-ups at work, which has caused the Charlie Brown Christmas-esque holiday depression to set in a little earlier.  So I definitely need a nostalgic distraction right now.

Typically, when I blog about my days in the city, this is where I tell you about the stuff I bought as part of my retail therapy.  Well, given the time of year, most of the stuff I bought was my Christmas shopping, so to blog about that would be getting into massive spoiler territory for my friends and family.  Let's just say I made a really good start on my Christmas shopping and leave it at that.

So with the first round of Christmas shopping safely tucked away, it was time for a movie.  I decided to check out Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Now, I'd always been pretty indifferent towards the Harry Potter franchise.  Read the first book.  Saw all the movies except the last two (Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2), but it just never grabbed me the way it grabbed a generation.  But, ya know, Fantastic Beasts being a spinoff and no prior knowledge of Harry Potter being required, I figured it'd be a pretty good jumping-on point.

Too bad that seeing Fantastic Beasts turned out to be one of the most unpleasant movie going experiences of my life.  There was this guy.  Firstly, in a half-full theatre, he decides he has to sit right next to me.  He has no concept of personal space.  He's hogging the armrest.  He's jabbing me with his elbow whenever he reaches for his popcorn.  He's sitting with his legs crossed and constantly kicking me when he adjust himself.

And then, the yelling started.  I have never experienced the person who yells things at the screen during a movie.  I was starting to think that it was just a hacky sitcom joke.  But this guy starts yelling at the screen.  The first fantastic beast we encounter in the film is called a Niffler.  And the guy shouts out, "THAT'S A NIFFLER, EH?  HE'S PRETTY CUTE!"  The next magical beast we encounter.  "LOOK OUT FOR THAT NIFFLER!"  And he just keeps going.  "MACUSA IS STUPID!  THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC IS MUCH SMARTER ABOUT THESE THINGS!"  "I WANT TO STUPIDIFY THAT GUY OFF A LEDGE!"  "I THINK HE'S THE OBSCURUS!"  "I HATE THOSE SECOND-SALEMERS!"

On a side note, I think he may have been mentally handicapped, because three-quarters of the way though the film, one of his friends finally turned to him and said, "Shh...shh...remember, we talked about this.  You can't talk to the screen here."

I should of said something.  Hell, at the very least, I should have moved and found a better seat.  But my standard response to an unpleasant situation has always been the "The is fine" comic, so I just said, "This is fine" and tried to watch the movie.

Fantastic Beasts Movie Poster

But other than that, how was the movie?  It was OK.  When my Harry Potter-lovin' friends explain the universe to me, I would always tell them that I'd be interested to see the Men in Black of the wizarding world...those wizards and witches who are sent in to cover things up when wizarding affairs threaten to break the barriers between the wizarding world and the Muggle world.  And my friends are like, "Dude!  Those guys exist!  They're called Aurors.  I tell ya, JK Rowling thought of everything!"  So it's nice to see Aurors at work and what they do.  They play a pretty major role as Newt Scamander's rampaging magical beasts threaten to expose the wizarding world.

In fact, just the interaction between the wizarding world and the non-magic world, as the villain's plot is to break down those barriers and declare war on the non-magic world.  I'd always been curious about the mechanics of how these two worlds co-exist.

That being said, I didn't think our new hero, Newt Scamander, was much of a compelling hero.  I get that he's kind of shy and timid, but that sadly means we don't really get a chance to know him or why he's dedicated his life to these fantastic beasts.

But I will give it this.  At least it works as a movie.  My biggest problem with these franchise starters these days (e.g. John Carter, Terminator: Genisys, Independence Day: Resurgence) is that they leave so many loose threads and unanswered questions with the attitude, "That'll be answered in the sequel," that you rarely get a satisfying ending.  This remembers that it has to function as a movie, and we do get an ending.  So, yeah.  It works as a movie.

I give it 3 Nibs with an asterisk, because that rude guy threw off my concentration so much, my rating may change when I see it free of distraction.  Full review on the website.

And speaking off full reviews on the website, I've been meaning to take to the blog and ramble off some of my off-the-cuff comments on Doctor Strange.  Yeah, I saw Doctor Strange a couple of weeks ago, but I never got around to doing my "rambling blog entry about my day in the city" that I typically do.  So, just some off-the-cuff comments on Doctor Strange that you won't find in the full review on the website.

Doctor Strange Movie Poster

I really liked Doctor Strange.  I know it's starting to get trendy to hate on Marvel for not taking any creative risks, but the other side of that is they've developed a winning formula that you know is going to deliver.  I mean, speaking as a frustrated DC guy, Doctor Strange is kind of what I wanted Green Lantern to be.  The way Doctor Strange uses magic to conjure up all manner of weapons, and do reality-bending combat...that's how Green Lantern should have been using his ring.  The way Steven Strange is all cocksure, but then learning humility is what sets him on his heroic journey...that's how Hal Jordan should have been portrayed.  The way Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo start out as friends and allies, but their differing philosophies eventually put them on opposing paths...that's how the relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro should have been portrayed, instead of Sinestro slapping on the yellow power ring in the post-credits stinger and going, "LOL, I'm evil now."

But yeah, Doctor Strange is another solid entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  3 Nibs.

Back to the present.  After Fantastic Beasts, it was time to head home.  But first, dinner.  As I've blogged before, I tend to avoid going to sit-down restaurants when I'm on my own, because I feel silently judge for being there by myself.  But strangely, I don't feel silently judged for going to animated films by myself.  (You're next on my Christmas blockbuster to-watch list, Moana!)  This time, though, I knew I had to brave the sit-down restaurants, all in the name of Star Wars.

I was mildly intrigued a few weeks ago when I saw the TV commercials, and learned that the fast food tie-in with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is with...Swiss Chalet.  Swiss Chalet's not a fast food place.  So, when I stopped at the power centre in St. Albert where I typically eat before leaving the Greater Edmonton Area, rather than Wendy's, I went to the Swiss Chalet on the other end.

It was very strange being there by myself, but I made the most of it.  This is the 21st century after all, so I could pass the time by burying my nose in my smartphone.  As I did that, I had to chuckle to myself.  Everyone laments how people burying their noses in their smartphones is destroying social interaction.  What would have happened if I started wandering around the restaurant, chatting with random strangers, attempting to make friends?

This being that time of year, I treated myself to Swiss Chalet's famous Festive Special...their quarter-chicken dinner served with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a box of Lindt chocolates for dessert.  I think I stumbled through it with a minimum of social awkwardness.  And I was given my reward...a Rogue One collector's cup!  

A photo posted by Mark Cappis (@chaosinabox) on

And for those already asking, yes, these are of a much sturdier construction than the flimsy ones that Subway was giving out last year. 

I returned home, and set about unwinding.  Thanks to my encounter with Captain Loudmouth, this trip to the movies wasn't quite the nostalgic trip that it usually is.  But, if I learned anything from this time last year, the biggest nostalgic trip to the movies will be when I got see Rogue One in about a month. 

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