Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Ralph Breaks the Internet

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it.  I've been doing this for eight years now, so if you haven't figured it out yet...well, thanks for stumbling across my blog!  Today, I'm doing Ralph Breaks the Internet.  I originally watched it and blogged about it on March 10, 2019.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Phantom Menace at 20

Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace just celebrated it's 20th anniversary.  And if there's one thing that's making me midlife crisis hard this year, it's that fact.  Firstly, the prequels are now as old as the original trilogy when the Special Editions came out.  For all we know, if George Lucas were still running the show, we might be getting prequel special editions this year.

And secondly, it now means it's been 20 years since I finished college.  As I've blogged before, Episode I pretty much served as our grad party.  Most of my final semester in college was about the countdown to that film.  When that legendary trailer first dropped, I talked one of my professors into letting us use that newfangled projector in the lecture hall to watch it on the big screen.  Hell, being a physics major, a lot of my friends were computer science majors.  (You have to take a lot of math courses in both disciplines, so we wound up in a lot of the same math classes.)  The night that trailer dropped, their pals in the campus IT department noted there was a massive uptick in network usage that night.

Graduation from Augustana University College (now known as the Augustan Campus of the University of Alberta) was that first weekend in May.  I was back a week later to buy my tickets.  That's another advance in film marketing that Episode I brought about.  It was the first movie that did advance tickets.  Nowadays, it's par for the course that tickets for a much-hyped blockbuster go on sale several months before the release.  But, for Phantom Menace, tickets went on sale a full week before the film came out, and that blew minds.

Online ticketing wasn't a thing yet, either, so on the morning of May 12, 1999, I was at the Duggan Cinemas in Camrose at 9AM to stand in line for tickets.  They went on sale at 1PM.  And...I was already third in line.  But still, some friends came to hang out with me.  The soundtrack had come out a week before, so we were cranking up Duel of the Fates.  My only regret is that I didn't bring a) a chair, and b) my copy of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, as playing it would have been a great way to pass the time.

Anyway, I got my tickets.  Got interviewed by the Camrose Canadian, as apparently coming all the way down from Entwistle made me newsworthy.

And then, a week later, on May 19th, I was back to watch The Phantom Menace.  And again, we stood in line for hours.  We all got tickets to the 7PM show, so we spent the whole day unofficially standing in line (the cinema wouldn't let us stand in line for the 7PM show until about 5PM or so), so "unofficial standing in line" consisted of hanging out the Duggan Mall in Camrose.

The moment came.  We all gathered in the theatre.  When the title came up, it was the first time I'd ever heard a movie theatre cheer.  And we watched the film.

I came out of the film having loved each and every single moment.  I thought it was just beautiful filmmaking.  But some of my friends...well, looking back now, I recognize the shock on their faces.  I remember asking one of my friends -- the Star Wars superfan who had devoured every novel and comic book -- I remember jokingly asking him, "So, how many books did it contradict?"

He just looked at me and said, "It's not that.  It's...it's...bah!"  And he walked off.

Here's another thing people tend not to remember.  Initial response to The Phantom Menace was ecstatic.  People loved it for its first few weeks of release.  The hatred and the backlash didn't really begin until after it had been out for a month, and people started seeing that it really didn't hold up on multiple viewings.  I wound up seeing in the theatre three times -- still a record for how many times I've seen a film in the theatre.  I saw it again on July 7, declaring it my birthday movie that year.  And I saw it again in January of 2000.  Me and my friend were going to see Fight Club but it wasn't playing at the loonie theatre anymore, so we looked at each other and said, "Episode I again?"  And we did.

And now, here we are, twenty years later.  It's the middle of a long weekend, so I figured I would sit down and binge-watch the entire prequel trilogy to commemorate.  I'd never done a binge-watch of the prequels.  Hell, it's even been ages since I did a binge-watch of the original trilogy.  I think the last time I binged the original trilogy was in the spring of 1999, as me and a few friends decided to do it to prep for Phantom Menace.  So, that's how I spent May 19, 2019.  I cleared my schedule.  Skipped all my exercising.  And watched the prequels.

What now follows is my twitter thread after re-watching Phantom Menace:

"In my prequel binge, just finished Phantom Menace.  News flash:  I don't hate it.  The countdown to Episode I dominated my final year of college.  That film is deeply tied to my nostalgia for those days.  Podrace is still pretty cool.  Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul is still the best lightsabre fight.  Watching it again, I forgot how front-loaded it is.  The first 20 minutes is nothing but action as we get off Naboo.  And the first ever massive CGI armies climax that now dominates films.  So, yeah.  Phantom Menace.  I don't hate it."

Before tying into Attack of the Clones, I thought I'd take a break from the binging and order lunch.  Decided to treat myself to pizza.  I miss pizza.  It's not that I swore off it or anything.  When I started eating healthier a year ago and started doing more meal prep and such, I just don't think to order it anymore.  Since I tend to use apps to order online, I can track how often I order pizza.  I last did it on New Years Day, again, to fuel a day-off movie binge.

Anyways, I'm still enough of a small town boy that ordering food to be delivered is kinda foreign to me, so I had to leave my house to go pick up the pizzas.  Got the pizza from Dominos.  Only on the way over did I remember that Pizza Hut/KFC/Taco Bell had the tie-in for Episode I, so I guess I should have gone to Pizza Hut for historical accuracy.  Or get a bucket of KFC.

Man, the merchandise for Episode I.  I didn't really bother with the Pepsi cans, because it seemed like my corner store didn't have a wide enough selection.  Besides, with Doritos being my #1 snack, what I did collect a lot of was the mini trading cards in every bag of Doritos.  I used them to make a frame around my computer monitor.

Pizza in hand, I sat down with a couple of slices and fired up Attack of the Clones.  What follows if my twitter thread after re-watching:

"Attack of the Clones.  Easily the most problematic of the prequels.  10 years ago, a dead Jedi ordered the creation of a clone army, at around the same time the chancellor pushing for the creation of an army came to power.  Does this not raise any red flags?  The Anakin/Padme romance could have been played much better.  He goes from chill to rageaholic in the blink of an eye.  Does this not raise any red flags?  And forget Last Jedi not answering anything.  It's been seventeen years.  WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHO SIFO DIAS IS?  But there is still good.  The Jango Fett/Obi-Wan space battle...the monsters on Geonosis.  My method to make the prequels better is they should have been buddy cop movies, and we get a bit of that in the beginning.  But yeah.  Attack of the Clones.  I saw it back-to-back with the first Spider-Man."

And after that, it was straight into Revenge of the Sith.  My twitter thread:

"Revenge of the Sith.  Hands down, the best of the prequels.  People rag on them for their flat acting, but everyone's trying really hard this time to bring this to an end.  Some real artistry, too.  Anakin and Padme staring across the city pondering their fates...the Order 66 montage...the dual birth of the twins/birth of Darth Vader.  But still, "she's just lost the will to live," remains the laziest death in the franchise.  Oh!  And that opening space battle.  Almost James Bond-ian, the way they open with wrapping up their latest caper."

And that's how I spent my long weekend.  Revisiting the prequels and weeping for my lost youth.  I'm seeing a lot of the prequels in the real world right now.  Avengers: Endgame is still riding high, and reading all the interviews with the cast and crew, highlighting background details, really reminds me of that first month after Phantom Menace, when there was still nothing but love for that film.

Twenty years ago, for about a month, there was nothing but love Episode I.  We had a new Star Wars movie, I had just finished college...I had nothing but optimism for the future!  Whatever happened to that world?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the routine by now, I watch a movie and blog about it.  This timeout, I'm finishing off the Hellboy Animated films with Blood & Iron.  This is in my notes at March 2, 2019.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms

And he we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the drill...I watch one of the movies I own and blog about it.  Don't get much simpler than that.  Today I watch Hellboy: Sword of Storms.  I originally watched it and blogged about it on March 2, 2019.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Goonies

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie I own and blog about it.  You know the drill by now.  Tonight, we do the 1980s classic The Goonies.  This is in my notes at February 16, 2019.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Blinding Snow

The best thing about being up early for my job is you're quite often the first to hear about things when news breaks early in the morning.  So, a few weeks ago, when the news dinged that Avengers: Endgame tickets were now on sale, I snapped mine up immediately.  When for an Edmonton show on Saturday, April 27 at 11AM, because in my old age, I prefer to go see movies on Saturday afternoon. 

But, as always, there has to be a wrinkle in the plan.  As the day drew nearer, the weather report started listing one of those wonderful spring weather anomalies:  a snowstorm.  I kept an eye on the weather report as the week went on.  The TV weatherman said that the weather system would be moving south and east...my route to the city would just be getting the edge of it.  I woke up the morning of the 27th.  I looked out the window to see grey skies.  The road report said the roads were good.  The weather report said weather was good.  I was off to see Avengers!

I left Westlock heading south on Highway 44.  Grey skies, good highways.  I started running into the snow when I hit Villeneuve.  "No worries," I said.  "Just a little bit of wet snow.  Nothing I can't handle."  I went farther south, to where Highway 44 meets the Yellowhead Highway.  I hit the brunt of it.  The roads were terrible.  Whiteout conditions.  I could barely see in front of me. 

"Well, looks like I'm not seeing Avengers today," I thought.  "I'm not too far from the big Husky truck stop at the Acheson Industrial Park.  There, I can safely turn around.  Failing that, I can hunker down in their diner and have a bite to eat and wait for the storm to pass." 

Thanks to the whiteout conditions, I missed the Acheson overpass. 

I kept heading down the Yellowhead Highway in a panic.  I had no idea where I was going to turn around.  The speed limit is 110, but I was barely doing 60.  In the middle of this, I got a text from my mother.  "I saw on the news that that new superhero movie is out today.   You're not going to it in the middle of this snow, are you?"  And then, out of the blizzard, I saw a sign indicating an off-ramp:  Anthony Henday Drive.  Edmonton's ring road.  I saw that and thought, "Well, I made it this far.  May as well press on." 

I made it to West Edmonton Mall.  I parked the car.  It was around 9:30AM.  I went inside, and given that text I got from my mother, figured I should probably give her a call and let her know I made it OK. 

My movie wasn't until 11AM, so I spent the next hour just kind of wandering around West Edmonton Mall burning off nervous energy.  10:30AM rolled around, and even though it's a fancy-pants modern theatre with assigned seating, I got there nice and early and settled in to watch the Endgame

Avengers Endgame Poster

Are we past the moratorium on spoilers yet?  Because I'm going to get into some mild spoilers as I describe the plot and my favourite bits. 

The film opens shortly after the end of Infinity War, as our heroes regroup at the Avengers Compound.  With the newly-arrived Captain Marvel, our remaining heroes head off to kick Thanos's butt, reclaim the Infinity Stones, and undo the snap.  But when they find Thanos, there's just one problem:  Thanos used the stones a second time to destroy the stones themselves.  There's no going back.

We jump forward five years, and our heroes are wallowing in various degrees of self-pity.  But then, the newly-returned Ant-Man comes to our heroes, explains how he survived, and presents a plan to recover the stones.  The Avengers then head off across time and space on a desperate plan to resurrect the stones and bring everyone back. 

Two words:  "Avengers assemble."  I've been waiting the whole franchise to hear that line spoken, and when it is finally uttered, it is the ultimate payoff. 

I can't think of anything I hated about this movie.  It could have almost been called Callbacks: The Movie because it is so full of referecnes to all the other films that came before this.  When it's on home media, you're going to have to watch it frame-by-frame to get all the Easter eggs.  I like that the film mostly focuses on our original six Avengers and brings their stories to a close. 

The film is three hours long, but doesn't feel like it because it moves along so quickly. 

And I think we can finally retire the "massive CGI armies duking it out" climax that so many of these movies have, because Endgame has the biggest one that there ever will be. 

Another little thing I noticed.  I know the Marvel films have gotten a lot of flak for not having really distinct film scores, but I still listen to those scores a lot, and composer Alan Silvestri really tries hard with Endgame.  Don't get me wrong, his Avengers theme is, hands down, the best theme that Marvel produced, but in his score, I noticed Silvestri also slipped in a little of Captain Marvel's theme when she returns, and Ant-Man's theme when he returns, and even his Captain America theme at appropriate times. 

I'm probably just getting emotional in my old age, but man o man, this movie made me cry, it's so good.  I give it four out of four Nibs.  Full review on the website. 

Hey, I don't think I ever got around to blogging that I saw Shazam, too.  I saw Shazam, too, when it came out a few weeks ago.  I was reluctant to talk about it because, when I saw it, I was having a bit of a bad day, and I was in a bad mood, as such, I really couldn't get into the film.  Without getting into too much, April has shaped up to be a bad month for me.  Avengers made it better, though.

Anyway.  Shazam.  I've always had a bit of a fondness for the Big Red Cheese.  Young orphan Billy Batson is spirited away on a magic subway car one day, and comes face to face with the wizard Shazam.  By speaking the wizard's name, Batson is turned into the superhero Shazam.  But there are others who covet the power of Shazam, like the evil scientist Dr. Sivana, whom the wizard Shazam rejected as his champion years ago.  Now, the superhero Shazam and Sivana will come face to face to determine once and for all who will wield the power of Shazam!

The film is pretty good.  Zachary Levi makes a really great Shazam, showing of the "kid trapped in an adult superhero body" comedy aspect.  I really wish we got to know of Billy's foster family, though, to help flesh out this universe a little more.  And as I lamented, I've probably seen too many of these things now, as I saw a lot of the big twists and turns coming from a mile away.

I'd really like to see it again, because once I'm in a better headspace, I'll probably warm up to it more.  I give it three out of four Nibs.  And again, full review on the website

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 6

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a DVD in my collection and blog about it.  We've reached the end of the 1990s animated classic Shadow Raiders.  This is in my notes at February 10, 2019.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 5

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  Watching DVDs and blogging about them as it gives some sense of structure to my life.  I'm continuing my dive thought Shadow Raiders as we get to volume 5.  This is in my notes at February 9, 2019.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 4

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the routine, I watch a movie and blog about it.  We go back to my journey through the old late-1990s animated series Shadow Raiders, as we're now on volume 4 of the DVD complete series set.  This is in my notes at February 3, 2019.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Willow

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a film and blog about it, giving some sense of purpose to my life.  Today, we take a look at the 1980s fantasy epic Willow.  This is in my notes at February 3, 2019.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 3

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch something.  I blog about it.  You get it.  I'm currently powering my way through Shadow Raiders.  I'm on volume 3 of the series.  I watched it and blogged about it on February 2, 2019.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 2

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie and blog about it.  I've stumbled across my DVDs for the old cartoon Shadow Raiders, and today we're on volume 2.  This is in my notes on January 27, 2019.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Of Pizza, Movies, and Marvels

So it appears that spring has finally sprung, and with it, my neurosis about traversing winter roads into the city to catch a movie are starting to subside.  And just in time, too, as Marvel's latest, Captain Marvel, has been thrust upon the world.  But of course, there had to be a last-minute panic.  Thursday, it was a quick trip into the city after work for a dentist appointment.  Everything was fine.  Friday...a huge dump of snow.  But, above zero temperatures for the next day.  Would everything be find on Saturday morning?  I woke up, looked outside at the sunshine, saw the above-zero temperatures on my weather apps, an "all clear" on the road reports, and I knew my day in the city was a go!

After a lovely, uneventful, springtime drive, I arrived and made my first stop at Wal-Mart.  For you see, I was in the market for some new socks and underwear.  Sorry, gang, but not all my big city purchases are always sexy new action figures and sexy new Blu-Rays.  I need the neccessities, too.  And double sorry, but you're not going to see any pictures of my sexy new underwear.  I may have lost some weight, but I've still got a long ways to go before you're seeing pics of me with rock hard abs.

For those who may not have seen my tweets or Facebook posts over the past year, it's good news.  About a year ago, my mother finally convinced me to get a full physical.  And the prognosis was good, with a big "but."  The doctor's exact words that I was in "the grey zone for diabetes," so I had to lose some weight and get my blood sugar under control.  Here we are, a year later, and the doctor says I'm down 20 pounds, and my blood sugar has gone from a dangerously high 6.3 to a more typical 5.7, officially getting me out of "the grey zone."  I haven't really noticed the weight loss, but friends say they have.  And I can pull my pants up over my gut and starting wearing them around my waist like a normal person again.

Which led me to the most delightful brain fart as I was buying underwear.  I looked at the tags and started thinking, "What's my pants size again?"   I tried discreetly looking at the tag on the jeans I was wearing, but they'd been through the wash too many times, and the writing was too faded.  So I went with a different option.  Since I always complain that I could never find pants in my size, I went to go look at the pants, to see if the ones that were sold out would jog my memory.  It seemed to work, and I made my best guess at an underwear size.

I arrived at West Edmonton Mall, just in time for an early lunch, and settled on a rice bowl from Edo Japan.  Again, all part of the attempting to eat healthier and get healthier.  I'm opting less and less for the burgers in the food court and trying to explore the healthier options...like rice bowls.  And besides, as my dietician once advised, "A burger every once in a while ain't gonna kill you...as long as it's not one of those half-pound monster burgers."

I checked my watch and saw that I had a full hour and a half before my movie.  I figured I may as well get up and explore the Mall.  Hadn't made it all the way down to the Mall in a while, so I was looking forward to just exploring.  "And this is a good time to squeeze in some cardio," said the healthy part of my brain.  On the one hand, I hate that I'm having thoughts like, "This is a good time to squeeze in some cardio," but on the other hand, I love that I'm having brain farts like, "What's my pants size again?"

I got up and started exploring the Mall.  I've traversed these halls ever since West Edmonton Mall was built back in the mid-1980s.  I love how dynamic the mall is, always changing, always something new.  But, it also gives me a sense of nostalgia.  I miss the opulence of West Edmonton  Mall in the 1980s, when they really leaned into the "World's Largest Mall" quite hard and everything about the Mall had to be the world's largest.

Which is why it's always a shock when I see that a big change is coming.  It may not seem like a big change to some, but I was shocked to see that the Brick is moving.

The Brick is one of those anchor tenants that's been in the same place in West Edmonton Mall since it first opened in the mid-1980s.  I remember my family buying a new TV from the Brick in West Edmonton Mall in 1994.  I miss the Star Wars diorama they used to have.  They had this diorama set-up designed to look like an alien world, complete with a few model AT-ATs and Star Wars action figures set up.  And then, they had camcorders set up all around it so you could try them out by filming the diorama.  They did a massive renovation to their store in the late-90s/early-2000s and a had a huge grand reopening.  I remember because my favourite radio station at the time was on location from the newly renovated Brick for, like, an entire month.

And now it's moving.  All the way to the other side of the Mall where Sears used to be.

My nostalgic stroll continued as I went into Sunrise Records.  A part of me still thinks of that store as HMV.  I browsed the shelves of Blu-Rays, and as much was I wanted to buy a few new films, I knew I had to show some restraint.  I see Chicken Run is finally on Blu-Ray, and I still think it's one of the funniest animated movies ever made, but I put back, thinking that my old DVD is still good enough.  I see the Steve Martin classics The Jerk and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels have just gotten new super-special editions, but they were a little pricey, and so I left them behind.  But I did break down for one.

Backdraft, Ron Howard's 1991 loving ode to firefighters.  Won great acclaim at the time for its practical effects...cleverly hidden propane torches to put the actors right in the middle of the fire.  This one seems to have been filling discount bins for far too long, and I've been tempted to pick it up, but seeing it in novelty VHS clamshell packaging for just $10, I couldn't resist.  When I bought it, the clerk and I complained a little bit that the retro VHS packaging was being billed as "1980s packaging," and Backdraft came out in 1990s, but whatever.  It'll still look good on the shelf.

I glanced at my watch, and saw it was a half-hour before my movie.  Even in this modern age of assigned seating at the theatre, I still like to show up about a half-hour early to claim my seat, get settled, and open up any noisy candy packaging.  So I made my way over to the Scotiabank Theatre and settled in to watch Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel Movie Poster
On the distant planet Hala, home of the Kree Empire, a Kree warrior named Vers is troubled. She’s still learning to harness her massive power under the tutelage of Yon-Rogg. Their squad of Kree commandos are sent to take down a cel of evil shapeshifting aliens known as Skrulls, but Vers is capture. She eventually escapes, and winds up on the planet designated C-35 by the Kree, but the natives call it Earth. Something about Earth begins triggering memories in Vers, and she begins to learn that she was once a woman named Carol Danvers. But, Skrulls led by Talos have made it to Earth as well. With her new partner, SHIELD agent Nick Fury, can Carol Danvers uncover the secrets of her past and save Earth from a Skrull invasion?

I found Captain Marvel to be a very satisfying superhero film.  Yeah, I've probably watched too many of these, as I saw some of the big plot twists coming from a mile away.  And the soundtrack, full of 1990s rock (as it's set in 1995) is cute, but does get a little too...obvious as the film goes on.  I was kinda worried about Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, because she struck me as kinda flat in the trailers, but she brings it in the film, and does a great job.

I give it three out of four nibs.  Full review over on the website.

With the movie done, I still had very special plans for dinner.  I had resolved that, this night, I was going to check something off my bucket list.  I love pizza.  And for many, many years, anchovies tops the list as the most hated pizza topping.  But here's the thing.  Because it is so hated, it's very hard to find an anchovy pizza.  They hardly make them anymore.  So it soon got added to my bucket list to find and try an anchovy pizza.  After some searching online, I found I could get one at Famoso.

Famoso is one of those newer restaurant chains that's been popping up in power centres all across the land.  They specialize in traditional Italian-style pizza.  I've eaten there a few times, and they do make pretty good pizza, and it was one of the few places where I could get my anchovy pizza.

I hit up Famoso in Spruce Grove, and placed my order.  They changed it up a little bit since the last time I was there.  Originally, they had you fill out your order yourself and take it to the front counter.  But now, they have the waitress do that for you, like a regular restaurant.  Having studied the menu online, I knew exactly what I wanted:  a Magherita pizza with anchovies.  The waitress asked if I wanted the anchovies pre-cooked or fresh.  I went with pre-cooked.  She said OK, and then I sat back and waited.

She brought me my pizza, and I dug in.  I tasted the cheese, the tomato sauce and...that's it.  Couldn't taste anything else.  I figured the cheese and tomato sauce must be overpowering the anchovies.  So I picked one off an ate it on its own.  I found it to be a greasy, salty little thing.  That's probably why it's not liked...and that's probably why the cheese and the tomato sauce overpowered it.  I finished off my pizza, and resolved that I'd have to try this again, to see if having the anchovies fresh makes any difference. 

The waitress brought my bill and I settled up, and that's when I realized that she got my order wrong.  My own fault for not eating there enough and not being familiar with the Italian words on the menu.  I ordered a Magherita pizza with anchovies, and I got just a plain pizza with anchovies.  I decided to let it go and just move on, but since I'm blogging about it a week later, obviously I haven't done that.  Besides, the whole mission was to try an anchovy pizza, and that's what was done.  And since I'm going to try this again with fresh anchovies, I'll be able to try again. 

But with a full belly, I returned home, on another uneventful drive on warming, ice-free roads.  I got home, and after noting my car's mileage, realized I'm getting due for an oil change.  At my last oil change, they noted I should probably get a tire rotation in the spring.  But getting a tire rotation means going to a proper mechanic, and not one of those "Quickie Lube" oil change places.  I always worry about taking my car into the mechanic.  It might be for something as simple as an oil change, but once they get it up on the hoist, they're like, "Oh, yeah, you need a new fliberty gibbet.  That'll be $8000, please." 

My car.  I love ya, but I'll always have reason to worry. 

(Oh, and the underwear fits.)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 1

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I think you know the drill by now.  I watch a DVD I own and blog about it.  This time, I'm going to crack into an entire series.  We're watching volume 1 of Shadow Raiders.  This is originally in my notes at January 26, 2019.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Venom

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the drill, I watch a movie and blog about it.  This time out, we're doing the surprise hit of the fall of 2018, Venom.  I originally watched & blogged on January 13, 2019.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the drill...I watch a movie and blog about it.  This time out, I'm doing the original animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I originally watched this and wrote this on December 16, 2018.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Cabin Fever

We're coming up on the 6th anniversary of when I hit a deer with my car.  Before that incident, I used to be so confident about my winter driving.  I had a rusty old 1996 Dodge Neon with balding tires, and I'd drive that thing through snowstorms when it was forty below just to get into Edmonton to see a movie.  But ever since then, when winter rolls around, I'm checking road reports and weather reports whenever I want to hit the city and I see the mercury has dipped below minus ten. 

As was the situation a week ago, when the Family Day long weekend rolled around.  Thanks to the Polar Vortex, this has gone on record as one of the coldest Februaries in recent history.  But it was the long weekend, and I really wanted to get out and do something.  I won a free pass to Landmark Cinemas at the office Christmas party, and I had it earmarked for The Lego Movie 2.  It was cold during the entire long weekend, but the holiday Monday was predicted to be the warmest, at a balmy minus twenty.  So I figured I could do what I did when I went to Bumblebee about a month ago:  head to the new-ish Landmark Cinema on the north end of St. Albert.  Get in, see the movie, get out, time on the streets would totally be minimized.  Waking up on Family Day Monday, and seeing that the extreme cold warning had been brought back didn't daunt me...I had a plan! 

Until I checked the movie listings for Landmark Cinema and saw that The Lego Movie 2 was already sold out.  Gee, one of the biggest family movies in the country is all sold out at the movie theatre that's having all kinds of Family Day specials.  Should have seen that coming.  But damn it, I wanted out.  I needed to see a movie.  This was becoming a holy crusade. 

Yup, because of Landmark's Family Day specials, pretty much everything in St. Albert was sold out.  The next closest theatre would be Cineplex's North Edmonton Common.  To go there would mean driving straight through St. Albert.  Road reports and street reports all looked good.  Got a Cineplex gift card for Christmas so could still see it for free.  But again, Family Day and family movies, Lego Movie 2 was sold out.  Second choice:  Alita: Battle Angel.  My brain was pondering whether to go through with it, but my hand was moving of its own volition.  Before I knew it, I'd purchased my tickets to Alita: Battle Angel.  The die is cast.  We're doing this. 

I got behind the wheel, and started up my car.  I think I've mentioned this before.  I love my car.  I've had it for eight years now, and I still think of it as my new car.  That rusty ol' Dodge Neon finally gave out at around Thanksgiving of 2010.  So, I ran some numbers, got a second job, and got a 2007 Chevy Cobalt, which I'm driving to this very day.  I do my best to look after her.  The last major repair I got done was she needed the brakes done and a new set of tires about a year and a half ago.  She has served me well.  But, Dad always said that when a car is more than 10 years old, it's time to start thinking about trading up, because that's when things start falling off.  And, as my job frequently requires me to be up before the snowplows, something with four wheel drive would be nice.  But for now, my little old Chevy is tried and true. 

I hit St. Albert city limits, and slowed down accordingly.  The city streets weren't too bad.  Before I knew it, I had safely made it through St. Albert, and was heading towards Edmonton city limits.  I arrived at the power centre that's home to Cineplex's North Edmonton Commons, and saw that I had made it with just enough time for lunch.  And wouldn't you know it, a Popeyes Chicken had just opened up in that power centre. 

Just to refresh your memories....  Popeyes Louisiana Chicken is a very popular fried chicken fast food chain.  A few years ago, they were bought out by the same consortium that now owns Tim Hortons and Burger King, and thus began an aggressive Canadian expansion.  Popeyes' first western Canadian location opened in Edmonton during the holiday season of 2016, and was a runaway success, with people line up around the block to try it.  My first journey to Popeyes Chicken was their third location.  I believe this new one on the north side is now officially their seventh location, and would serve for my second visit.

No lines out the door this time, as I was easily third in line, and the lunch rush was well underway.  Popeyes offers two kinds of combos:  the combo and the platter.  With the combo, you get one side dish, and a medium drink.  With the platter, you get two sides and a large drink.  I opted to go for a Chicken Tenders platter, because hey, it's just my second visit.  May as well sample as many side dishes as I can.

I placed my order, only for the clerk to tell me that they were out of Chicken Tenders.  So I went with a two piece platter instead.  It's funny.  I've recently discovered Reddit, and from there, I've learned this is a common exchange in newer Popeyes locations in Edmonton.

Clerk:  And would you like to try (promotional item)?

Customer:  That sounds delicious!  I would love to try one!

Clerk:  Sorry, sir, but we're all sold out of (promotional item).

Customer:  Then why did you ask me if I wanted one?

Clerk:  Manager makes us stick to the script.  

I went with the mild chicken instead of the spicy.  It was good.  Nice and crispy, and juicy on the inside.  For my sides, I opted to go with the coleslaw and the red beans & rice.  Coleslaw was nice and tangy, and the red beans & rice had a nice texture to them.  Now that this is literally the closest location to me, a third visit will be much easier. 

With a full belly, it was over to the theatre to catch Alita: Battle Angel.  This is a film that feels like I've been reading about online for years.  Based on the manga (Japanese comic book) Gunnm, Alita had one North American fan in James Cameron, he who gave us Titanic and the Terminator films.  About 15 years ago, Cameron announced that he had two performance capture epics in development.  One was a live action Alita, the other was an original property of his with the code name Project 880.  Whichever one took off faster, would be the one he made first.  Well, Project 880 turned out to be Avatar, and made all the money.  It was widely assumed that Alita would be Cameron's next film, but he got wrapped up making his Avatar sequels.  So, a few years ago, Cameron passed the Alita football to Robert Rodriguez, he who gave us Sin City and Spy Kids, to carry to the end zone.  And now Alita is finally here. 

In the distant future, when cyborgs are common place.  One cyberneticist, Dr. Dyson Ito, is scavenging the scrapyard for parts, when he finds perfectly intact cyborg head with a still breathing human brain inside.  He gives this woman a new body and names her Alita.  Alita has no memories of her past life, but finds that being place in extreme combat situations triggers old memories.  So, against Dr. Ito's wishes, she gets a job as a hunter-warrior (bounty hunter) and starts participating the extreme sport of motorball.  On top of that, there's no shortage of people coming after Alita to kill her.  Will Alita uncover the secrets of her past?

I liked Alita.  Needless to say, it's visually stunning.  Our lead, Rosa Salazar, is just adorable as Alita, even when performance capture turns her into a live-action anime character.  And it's good to see Christoph Waltz going against type a bit as the fatherly Dr. Ito, rather than the villains he's usually stuck playing these days. 

My big objection, though, is it really reminded me of John Carter back in the day.  You can tell Cameron and Rodriguez are off-camera going, "Oh, man!  I can't wait to get into that in the sequel!"  It's stuffed pretty full, with hopes of being the next Star Wars and sparking a trilogy.  That being said, they do remember to actually end the film and bring it to a satisfying conclusion...something they forget to do in a lot of these franchise-starters. 

So, yeah.  I liked Alita.  Three out of four nibs.  Full review on the website.

This past weekend, though, I was finally able to go about my original plan:  straight into the Landmark Cinema in St. Albert to see The Lego Movie 2.  As I said when I first visited the Landmark Cinema to see Bumblebee, it is such a nice theatre.  The chairs...all the chairs are leather, power recliners.  Nice and big so you've got lots of room.  Nice, big cup holders.  Nice, wide armrests so you're not fighting with your neighbour over the armrest.  Such a comfy theatre, and a great place to catch the latest chapter in the Lego Cinematic Universe. 

It’s been some years since our last adventure. The Lego metropolis of Bricksburg has become the wasteland of Apocalypseburg, thanks to constant attacks by beings from the Systar System. But, our hero Emmet is still as chipper as ever, trying to make the best of this new life. But then, General Mayhem of the Systar System kidnaps Batman, Unikitty, Benny the Spaceman, Metalbeard, and Emmet’s love Lucy. Emmet panics, as this all resembles his visions of the forthcoming Armomageddon. Emmet decides he must venture to the Systar System to save his friends. Along the way, he gets an ally in the grim and gritty adventurer Rex Dangervest. Meanwhile, Lucy and the rest have become prisoners of the Systar System’s ruler, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, as she tries to tempt them over to her kingdom. Can Emmet save his friends? Is Queen Wa’Nabi really the villain? And can they stave off Armomageddon?

Lego Movie 2 is also pretty good.  The meta-humour and heart that made the original so memorable is back in full force.  In fact, I'd say this one leans a little more towards "sweet" than "funny" this time out.  As the big twist of the first film is common knowledge now, they play a little more with the breaking of barriers between the real world and the Lego World.  My only complaint is that, well, the freshness of the original is now long gone.  Don't forget, thanks to Lego Batman and Lego Ninjago, this is technically the fourth Lego movie.  So the things that were fresh originally are now part of the formula.

All in all, it was still a fun movie.  Again, three out of four nibs.  Full review on the website.

My only problem, right now, with the new Landmark Cinema is the power centre it's in is rather new, and doesn't have a lot of tenants yet.  So, after the movie, there's not many places to grab a bite.  There's a Canadian Brewhouse, and that's about it.  And after a movie, I'm more in a fast food kind of mood.  I made a quick stop to the power centre next door for a browse through Wal-Mart, and came out mildly disappointed.  The action figures for the new Star Wars cartoon, Star Wars Resistance are now on store shelves, and I'm on the prowl to acquire some for my collection.  But, sadly, Wal-Mart was all sold out.

With that mild disappointment, I decided to hit the power centre up the road and grab a late lunch/early supper at Panda Express.  This is quickly becoming a favourite stop of mine as I leave St. Albert.  It's pretty much the same greasy Chinese food you'll find in a mall food court, but it is rather filling, and it has just the right amount of spice.

And then I ventured home, on roads much nicer than the ones on Family Day.  It looks like our long, cold February is almost at an end, and I'm looking for things to warm up.  Hopefully, when i go see Captain Marvel in a couple weeks, it'll be with much less drama.  

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - City Slickers

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it, because I need something to do on the weekends.  This time out, I'm watching the 1991 classic City Slickers.  I watched this and reviewed it on December 16, 2018.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it.  Simple as pie.  Anyway, in my notes, I'm currently going through all the Christmas movies I bought and watched this year.  I'm up to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which I bought and watched on December 9, 2018.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Mircale on 34th Street

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie, I blog about it.  You know the drill.  I'm getting into all the Christmas movies I watched back in December, which is why on this February 7, 2019, I'm blogging about Miracle on 34th Street.  I originally watched this on December 2, 2018.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Princess Bride

And we're off again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it.  You know the drill.  This time out, I'm watching The Princess BrideThis is in my notes at December 2, 2018.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Scarecrow's Oscar Picks - 2019 Edition

Well, gang, it's time to continue on a tradition that I've been doing ever since I developed an online presence 20+ years ago to promote my college radio show.  It's time to blog my Oscar picks!

The logo I made for this in Photoshop way back in 1997.  It says "Scarecrow's Oscar Picks"

Now, I've always done my Oscar picks a little differently.  I only do the two categories that I have a good track record in picking:  best visual effects and best original song.  Best visual effects because, well, I gravitate towards those movies.  And best original song because, well, back when I started doing this in the 1990s, it was the height of the Disney Renaissance, and for a good stretch in the 90s, the Oscar in this category would always go to the love ballad from the Disney animated film.  When they started with best animated film, I started doing that one, because I love my cartoons.  And I do best picture, because that's the big one.

Got all that?  Cool.

Best Visual Effects

My Thoughts:  I liked Solo, but let's be honest, when it comes to visual effects it really offered up nothing new.  Ready Player One is a visual treat, as about 80% of that film is performance capture was we explore our virtual world, but still, nothing really new.  I really regret not catching First Man in the theatre, as I heard a lot of good things.  A biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong, it was heralded as being one of the most accurate depictions of spaceflight since Apollo 13Christopher Robin, Disney's live-action  Winnie the Pooh, was cute, but we've seen talking stuffed animals before.  Really, though, Avengers: Infinity War wound up being such a pop culture juggernaut this year that it deserves to walk away with something, and this one makes the most sense.

My Pick:  Avengers: Infinity War

Best Original Song

My Thoughts: Personally, I think this on is going to come down to Mary Poppins and A Star is Born.  I mean, people have been raving about A Star is Born since it came out back in the fall, so no doubt it'll be picking up a few trophies.  But, Mary Poppins has been winning over the critics, so no doubt that'll sway some Academy voters.  But A Star is Born has been the favourite for too long.

My Pick:  Shallow

Best Animated Film
My Thoughts:  Wow!  First year in a long time I've seen more than 50% of the nominated films.  Saw Incredibles 2, loved it.  Saw Ralph Breaks the Internet, loved it.  Saw Spider-Man, loved it.  I skipped Isle of Dogs.  I saw the trailers and thought, "Wow, Wes Anderson has finally gotten too quirky for me," and gave it a pass.  But still, the Academy does love Anderson.  And Mirai, our token foreign film.  The first anime in this category that's not from Studio Ghibli.  With a lot of good films on this list, I think Spider-Man surprised a lot of people, and since it came out in December, it's still the freshest in a lot of minds

My Pick:  Spider-Man:  Into the Spider-Verse

Best Picture

My Thoughts:  Firstly, yay!  Black Panther is the first superhero film to get nominated for Best Picture.  And the whole point to expanding the nominations to more than five years would be so more mainstream films like this would get nominated.  That being said, let's be honest.  As great as Black Panther is, I don't really think it's Best Picture worthy.  Green Book was an early favourite, but being an early favourite means it's already getting early backlash.  The film -- about an African American pianist in the 1960s on tour in the south and his white driver/bodyguard -- was lauded when it first came out, but has already started getting flak fore being a sanitized look at race relations.  A Star is Born was another early favourite, but over on social media, the one I see people constantly raving about right now is Roma.  It hit Netflix in December, so lots of folks are raving about it right now. 

My Pick:  Let's go with Roma

The big show's on February 24. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 3

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the drill by now.  I watch a movie, and blog about it.  It's just that easy.  Today, I continue my love of Pixar with The Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 3.  This is originally in my notes at December 1, 2018.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Incredibles 2

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie, I blog about it.  Why?  Because I launched a blog 20 years ago, and I haven't moved on with my life!  Anyway, this time out, I'm watching Incredibles 2.  This is originally in my notes at December 1, 2018.

Monday, January 14, 2019

It's About Time

While I had a lot of fun heading into the city last week to see Bumblebee, it wasn't quite what I wanted to do.  I still wanted to make the trek all the way into West Edmonton Mall and spend some gift cards.  I also had a very specific goal in mind as to what to spend those gift cards on:  calendars. 

Man, calendars seem to be one of those things that are dying out now that everyone has one in their pockets at all times thanks to smartphones.  But at work, I still like to have one on the walls of my office.  It helps keep me organized to lift my head up from my computer and see all the looming deadlines.  Last year, I even got one of those laminated ones that you can write stuff on using whiteboard markers.  I swear, it's how I've stayed organized ever since college.  But that's just in my main office.  I do so much work at work that I'm constantly flitting about from room to room, and I need new calendars in offices numbers two and three.  And it's just that time of year when the calendar pop-up stores are starting to clear out their inventory, and everything's half-off.  So I snatched up Castles of Germany for my main office, Star Wars for office #2, and a second, writable calendar for office #3. 

Then it was time to spend some gift cards.  I went on over to the Scotiabank Theatre to see Aquaman

Man o man, as I was riding the escalator up the theatre, I had a frightening thought.  The Scotiabank Theatre in West Edmonton Mall is going to be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  It opened with much hype in the summer of 1999, replacing Famous Players' old West Mall 5 theatre.  It was the ultimate movie theatre in Edmonton, with its fire-breathing dragon, stadium seating, and curved screens.  And THX!  To date, the only times I've ever seen that famous THX trailer on the big screen was in those early days at the Scotiabank Theatre. 

Of course, being the summer of 1999, the first film showed at that theatre was The Phantom Menace.  I remember seeing the line for tickets on the news.  The line wound down the staircase and around the indoor lake.  The first movie I saw in the Scotiabank Theatre, though, wasn't The Phantom Menace...it was Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.  Although, you may remember, it had a fantastic Episode I-spoofing trailer

But, the old Scotiabank Theatre was showing it's age.  As I settled into my chair, it sure felt kind of small when compared to the gigantic, super-comfy recliner that I enjoyed at the Landmark Theatre for Bumblebee.  It's still a very good theatre, though. 

Anyway, how was Aquaman

Aquaman is bug-nuts, bonkers insane, man.  They lean heavily into the fantasy elements of Aquaman, creating a very lush looking film.  We are treated to some spectacular computer generated underwater empires as we see Atlantis and all the kingdoms under the sea.  And the final battle...as mush as I tire of the massive CGI armies fighting each other, this one has armoured sea life.  Sharks vs giant seahorses.  And the kraken shows up.  It's beautiful.

It's a pretty standard Aquaman plot.  Aquaman's half-brother Orm, the ruler of Atlantis, is seeking to unite the seven kindgoms under the sea and raise an army to go to war with the surface world.  So, to stop the war, Aquaman has to challenge Orm for the throne.  Which sends him on a quest for a magic trident with Orm's forces hot on his tail.

And one thing I keep forgetting to mention is they film actually has a really meaty subplot delving into the origins of Aquaman villain Black Manta.  It almost feels like an entire second movie, and I found the whole thing quite compelling.

But yeah, I really enjoyed Aquaman.  Between this and Wonder Woman, it looks like the DC Cinematic Universe is starting to find its footing.  I give it 3.5 Nibs out of 4.  Full review on the website.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters, and Marvels

Moving along on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie and blog about it.  I tend to work a few weeks ahead with this.  I watched this particular film near the end of November, and originally wrote this on December 1, 2018, when the death of Stan Lee was still recent.  So that's why I watched Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters, and Marvels.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Braving Winter Roads

Well, the Christmas holiday season is practically over, but there was still one thing I wanted to do that I hadn't had a chance to yet.  I wanted to go see a movie.  I wanted to go see Bumblebee.  I had set aside this weekend to do it!  I was ready to go!

But then it snowed all day Friday. 

Dang it.  Do I brave the snow-covered streets to venture into the city to catch a movie, or do I wait another weekend?  I feared to wait another weekend, because Bumblebee isn't doing so hot at the box office.  What if it's out of theatres by next weekend?  What is this poor old Transformers fan to do? 

I woke up on Saturday morning and checked the road reports.  The highway was currently listed in "fair" condition.  OK, that's pretty much typical winter driving conditions.  That's drivable.  But the last thing I wanted to do was navigate city streets in this weather.  So it seemed like it was finally time to check out the new Landmark Cinema in St. Albert. 

Landmark Cinemas is currently the second-largest movie theatre chain in Canada.  They're working hard to narrow the gap between themselves and the largest chain, Cineplex.  Their St. Albert theatre is coming up on its first anniversary, and when it opened up last spring, it was with much fanfare.  While Landmark already has a few theatres in Edmonton, they were all acquisitions.  But their St. Albert theatre is the first one in the greater Edmonton region that they built from the ground up...all according to their standards.  And it's ridiculously easy to get to, on the very northern edge of St. Albert.  When I drive south on Highway 2 to hit the city for the day, it is literally the first building I see when I hit St. Albert city limits.  I wouldn't have to navigate any city streets at all, just kiss the edge of town. 

Plus, I won some free Landmark movie passes at the office Christmas party.  I could see it for free! 

This plan was falling into place.  I can do this.  I have the touch.  I have the power. 

I set out late on Saturday morning.  I figured I'd give the snowplows more time to work their magic.  As expected, it was typical winter driving conditions.  There was enough road salt out there that it made the roads pretty wet.  Good thing I filled my tank with washer fluid before hitting the road.  And sure enough, I hit the first set of lights as soon as I hit St. Albert, and I was there.  I might finally start going to this theatre a whole lot more because of how ridiculously easy it is to get to.

I went into the lobby, and I was taken with how large and spacious it is.  Tables with USB charging ports, so you can check your phone while you wait.  The first strike against it, though.  The box office was closed, so they were making you buy your movie tickets at the concession.  Man, I hate this modern trend of reducing the number of cashiers.  Even worse when they start amalgamating positions.  Most grocery stores these days are doing away with their express lanes and making you go to the customer service desk instead.  Hell, the Giant Tiger here in Westlock only opens up a cashier when the line at the customer service desk is ten people deep.  You're not even replacing cashiers with self-checkouts anymore!  You're just hiring less cashiers and making them do the work of three.  Hate it hate it hate it.

Luckily, the concession/box office line was moving pretty quickly, so I got my ticket and my free popcorn and drink.  The drinks were pretty cool.  They have these Coke Freestyle machines.  You put your cup in, and hit the buttons on the touch screen to decide what you want.  You can even add your favourite flavoured syrups, so I went with a good ol' cherry Coke. 

Went to my theatre and found my seat.  Oh my God.  The seats are massive.  They're at least twice the size of typical a movie theatre seat.  And they're recliners.  The seats are full leather powered recliners.  With cup-holders.  It's pretty much Cineplex's VIP theatre experience, only at regular prices.  Oh, and no folding tray tables to put your snacks on.  But still!  The most comfy movie theatre seats I've had in a long time. 

Second strike, though.  With this big, comfy chairs, there's no place for me to put my coat.  In the old days, I'd just put my coat on the chair next to me.  But with reserved seating becoming more and more the norm, I don't want to do that, for fear of stealing someone's seat.  So lately, I've been folding up my coat and placing it under my chair.  But with big comfy leather recliners, there's no room under your chair.  So I wound up balling up my coat and leaving it on my lap.  This is Alberta, dude, where everyone at the movies in winter is coming in with a parka.  One feature I'd love to see them bring back to movie theatres is good ol' fashioned coat check, so you can hang up your coat.  Or at the very least, lockers in the lobby, so you can stuff your coat inside. 

Anyways, once the previews were done, I figured it'd be safe to literally put my feet up and not block the aisle.  And then I enjoyed Bumblebee

I really like Bumblebee.  Dear God, the opening 10 minutes, where we watch the fall of Cybertron and the Autobots fleeing to the stars is probably the closest we're ever going to get a CGI movie version of the classic cartoon.  I was crying tears of joy.  And you can tell that the director of this one, Travis Knight, must have grown up with Transformers, because Transformers Easter eggs were flying fast and furious. 

But it was more than just gratuitous fan service.  It's taken this long, but they finally realized that one of the best ways to make a good Transformers movie is:

a)  Actually develop the Transformers into characters we love and care about
b)  Make the human characters not annoying

Our heroine is Charlie Watson, played by Haillee Steinfeld.  She's still mourning the loss of her father, and resents the rest of her family for moving on so quickly.  On her 18th birthday, she gets her first car, a yellow Volkswagon Beetle, who quickly reveals himself to be Bumblebee.  Bumblebee's war wounds have damaged his memory, and together, these two damaged souls may just be able to heal each other.

Bumblebee is a much-needed breath of fresh air for this franchise, as some long-missing heart and soul is finally returned to the proceedings.  About my only quibble is the plot is highly reminiscent of The Iron Giant and E.T. so you kinda knew what was coming.  But I loved it.  3.5 out of 4 nibs.  Full review on the website

And did I mention I also saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?  I don't think I ever got around to blogging about it.  But yeah, I saw it three weeks ago, right before Christmas vacation kicked into the high gear.  I also really loved Spider-Man.  I mean, I love animated films.  I love superhero films.  I think superheros and animation are a genre and a medium made for each other, so of course I was going to be there for a Spider-Man animated film. 

Much has been made by now of Spider-Man's animation style, and it is truly amazing.  It really does look like a comic book brought to life.  And the blending of animation styles, too.  Spider-Ham looks and moves like he stepped out of an old Looney Tunes short.  Peni Parker, our anime Spider-Girl, looks and moves like she stepped out of an Astro Boy rerun.  And the climax...wow.  The animation for the big climax almost gets psychedelic.  It just looks great. 

But it's more than just amazing animation.  There's some great character work here, as Mile Morales comes to grips with his spider bite and taking on the mantle of Spider-Man.  Luckily, there's a half-a-dozen other Spiders from across the multiverse to mentor him.  While Spider-Ham gets all the laughs in the trailers, the scene-stealer is Spider-Man Noir, a grim and gritty Spider-Man from a world of pulp fiction heroes, hilariously voiced by Nicholas Cage. 

The focus, though, remains firmly on Miles Morales and his hero's journey, as he tries to connect to his father.  It is a great film, and a wonderful addition to the Spider-Man film canon.  3 out of 4 nibs, full review on the website

And that should pretty much bring you up to speed on my all latest trips to the city.  There's probably one more in the days ahead, though, as I got a Cineplex gift card for Christmas and still wanna see Aquaman.  Hopefully the roads will be better next weekend for a much more conventional trip to the city.