Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, December 30, 2011

News from Markworld: 2011 Edition

 So, once a year, I decide to e-mail out a letter to friends and aquaintiances just to update them on what's going on in my life.  Since e-mail address change and go defunct and all that, I decided to post it to the blog this year, in the hopes that maybe, some long lost friends who are curious as to what happened to me, may Google my name some night.  Here's my 2011 letter.

News from Markworld: The Chaos in a Box Newsletter.

Good day, ladies, gentlemen, and various other individuals I haven’t e-mailed in over a year.

‘Tis I, Mark Cappis, with my annual note updating you on all the occurrences in my life.  Usually, I send this out at the start of December, to get snail mail addresses and weed out my Christmas card list.  But, life got busy and I wound up putting this off for most of December.  It’s too late now to be a Christmas letter, so I guess it’s a New Years letter.  All for the best, really.  I’ve always felt that New Years was a more universal and inclusive holiday. 

Writing this letter reminds me of the classic fantasy comic book The Sandman.  In one issue, a man comes up with the ultimate scheme to live forever.  When Death comes to collect his soul, he’ll simply say, “No thanks.  I’m not going.”  Death, overhearing this conversation and being a cheeky character, decides to grant this wish for immortality.  Death’s brother, Dreams, not having much of a life, decides to strike up a friendship with this newly immortal person, and they vow to meet every 100 years, have a drink, and catch-up. 

So what I’m trying to say here is, it’s been a hundred years.  Who’s buying this round? 

What’s Going On In My Life

My life is still very much uneventful.  You’ll still find me up in Athabasca, working at 94.1 the River.  I’m still the wacky morning guy, and you can hear me on the air every morning from 6AM to noon.  Back in April, I celebrated 5 years up in Athabasca, and I’m still loving every minute of it.

The job really showed me how important a radio station can be to a community.  You may recall that back in May, Slave Lake was victim to some devastating wildfires that burned down a portion of the town, resulting in the entire town being evacuated.  Athabasca became home to the largest evacuation centre.  Every day, on the air, I’d provide daily updates on what was needed at the evacuation centre, and every day, the listeners would provide it in droves.  It was a very busy couple of weeks, but really reminded me that this job does have certain great powers, and great responsibilities, to paraphrase an old comic book.

This year, I also ended my time with the Magnificent River Rats Festival, Athabasca’s Canada Day celebration and music festival.  I spent two years as treasurer, and I was really starting to find the job very taxing.  I’m proud of my work with the festival, and I’m sure it will be very successful in the years to come.  But rather than kick back and relax, I quickly found something else to fill my time.

Like a lot of other facets of the entertainment industry, radio tends to be full time work for part time pay.  I’ve spent my five years in Athabasca living on a very tight budget, and I had some cost-of-living increases over the past year that threw my budget out of whack.  So, I finally had to break down and, like a lot of my radio brethren before me, get a second job.  I now spend my evenings down at Buy-Low Foods keeping the produce section stocked.  It’s created some interesting reactions from listeners who recognize me.  One assumed I was starting some kind of Dirty Jobs segment on my show and wanted to know when I’d be coming down to her business.  Another seemed genuinely angry that I have to work two jobs and threatened to call my radio boss and demand I get a raise.  I never got a befuddled memo from my radio boss about that, so I’m guessing he never called. 

That’s the main reason why this letter is so delayed.  Between Christmas events that I was broadcasting live from, and working double shifts at the grocery store for the Christmas rush, I was run pretty ragged this December.  But now, I’m looking forward to a quiet January and things settling back into some sense of normalcy. 

Favourite Quote of the Year

“Didn’t you go to NAIT?  Didn’t you run for president?  Dude, your campaign was hilarious.” – An Edmonton Oilers PR exec, when the Oilers came to Athabasca for an event.  Turns out he was taking some business courses at NAIT when I decided to...make an impression.  Let this serve as a reminder that you never know when, where, and what you’ll be remembered for. 

“How on Earth can I find you?”  “Just make a wish.  That seems to work.”

As always, my online footprint is massive, so if you ever want to catch up with me, a quick Google search will turn up all manner of options.

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

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

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

My work blog:  www.941theriver.ca

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/chaosinabox

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/chaosinabox

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

...And the Adventure Continues...

And that pretty much sums up my 2011.  No runs, no hits, no errors, as my dear ol’ Dad would say.  All in all though, I’m starting to find that Dr. Johnny Fever summed up the radio announcer lifestyle quite accurately on a rerun of WKRP:  “Pushing 40, and still living like a college kid.”  But when all is said and done, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

See you again in 100 years.  Next time, you’re buying.

Mark Cappis

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prometheus Trailer

Well, today, we got our first official look at one of the more mysterious blockbusters coming in the summer of 2012, Prometheus.

Why is this film so mysterious?  As we all know, in this day and age, everything is preqeuls, sequels, and remakes.  So, 20th Century Fox eventually decided to make a prequel to their best-know horror/sci-fi franchise, Alien.  The general concept was to tell the story of the "space jockey," the pilot of the downed ship that our brave humans discover in Alien where they eventually unleash the Alien.

People were ready to shrug this off as just another shameless cash-in for the franchise.  But then, things got interesting.  Fox was actually able to convince Ridley Scott to come on board and direct this.  Scott, of course, director of such blockbusters as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, the recent Robin Hood and...the original Alien way back in 1979.  This is Scott's return to the sci-fi genre even since he made the cult-classic Blade Runner way back in 1982.  The Alien fanboys have longed for Scott to return to the universe he created, and Scott's involvement brought a new excitement to the project.

So, the development stage went on.  The script was refined.  And then, Scott and the writers and producers started saying that things had taken a turn.  As they continued exploring the story and its possibilites, it evolved into something new.  Scott went on record as saying that the film had changed so much that it was no longer an Alien prequel, but that the fans would be able "to see the strands of Alien's DNA."  Adding to the confusion was that many Fox higher-ups and several of the cast members continued to refer to it as an Alien prequel.

And that's what makes this film so mysterious.  What exactly is it about?  Just how much of a connection is there to Alien?  Yeah, there's been a spoiler-filled script review circling the Internet for months now, and I could go read it, but where's the fun in that?

The first trailer went online today, and the questions continue.

Well, one thing people seem to be agreeing on...based on the visual asthetics in the trailer, it at least takes place in the same sci-fi universe as Alien. Many have pointed out that the trailer itself seems to be an homage to the original trailer for Alien.

Needless to say, I am intrigued by Prometheus.  The mystery that's been surrounding this film is starting to get to me.  What little we see in the teaser does some intriguing...it's almost like Scott finally has the budget, or the special effects technology, to really open up the universe he created, rather than the minimalist approach he had with the original film.

It's gotta a pretty star-studded cast, too.  Noomi Rapace, the original Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist heading out to the stars to discover the origins of mankind.  Charlize Theron is along as Meridith Vickers, a corporate figurehead, and Michael Fassbender, who was the young Magneto in X-Men: First Class, is David, the Alien stock character of the cold-hearted android.

I think I'll be seeing this this summer.  It's been enough of a tease so far that I'm hooked.

How exactly does this fit in to the Alien universe?  I guess will find out on June 8. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First Trailer for The Hobbit

So.  Let's talk about The Lord of the Rings.  Truthfully, not much of a fan.  Don't get me wrong, the movies are good, and I respect that it sparked this whole trend of "filming the unfilmable" that's getting such upcoming movies as John Carter.

But I've never really been able to get into them because of the books.  I've tried many, many times in my short life to read the books, but I find them so boring.  That's why I've avoided the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings.  From what I gather, all they really did for the extended editions was put in all the exposition and back story that brings the plot to a halt in the books.

22 years ago -- Christmas 1989 -- I got this handsome boxed set of The Lord of the Rings, and just by looking at the spines on my bookshelf, you can see all my previous attempts to read the trilogy.  The Fellowship of the Ring is well-worn, like it's been read a dozen times.  The Two Towers is in pretty good shape, like it's been read once or twice.  And The Return of the King is as pristine as the day I tore off the wrapping paper.

However, also in the boxed set is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The HobbitThe Hobbit is beat-up, dog-eared, slightly torn like it's been read a thousand times.  And it has.  Despite my distaste for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit remains one of my favourite books.  It's just such an easier read...it's nowhere near as dense.  My fantasy-loving friends once told me that The Lord of the Rings is simply The Hobbit with every single footstep described in painstaking detail.  I haven't read The Hobbit in a few years...I think I'm due to read it again.

So, then, like a lot of nerds, when The Lord of the Rings started making serious coin at the box office, we knew it was just a matter of time before they made The Hobbit in order to keep the franchise going.  There was some legal stuff to sort out first...the movie rights to The Hobbit were owned by MGM, and The Lord of the Rings was owned by New Line.  Eventually, they figured out the legal stuff and resolved to work together.  Peter Jackson, director of the trilogy, was on board...as a producer.

To direct The Hobbit, Jackson selected Guillermo Del Toro, the director of the Hellboy films and fresh off the Oscar-winning fantasy epic Pan's Labrynth.  The plan at the time was to make two films:  the first one, a straight up adaptation of The Hobbit.  The second one, they were going to pour through all the various appendicies and footnotes that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and concoct an original story to fill in the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

However, MGM was going through some financial woes, and Del Toro got fed up just standing around, waiting for the bankruptcy thing to sort itself out.  So, Del Toro quit the project.  And Jackson said, "Well, I guess it's up to me," and decided to direct The Hobbit.  Also around this time they tossed the original "bridge the gap" film idea...instead, they were just going to cut The Hobbit in two and make two movies.

Of course, we have some returning cast members from The Lord of the Rings.  Sir Ian McKellan is back as Gandalf, Andy Serkis is back as Gollum, Hugo Weaving is back as the Elf king Elrond, and they even worked in some cameos for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.

Our hero, Bilbo Baggins, will be played by Martin Freeman.  This isn't the first time that Freeman has played a cult-classic literary character...he was also Arthur Dent in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and on the new BBC production of Sherlock Holmes (you know...the one that's supervised by Steven Moffat of Doctor Who fame), he's Dr. Watson.  He was also Tim Canturbury, the original British version of Jim Halperin, on the original British version of The Office

The first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, hits theaters on December 14, 2012.  The second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, comes out December 13, 2013.

And the first trailer just went online.

I do get a little goosebumpy watching this. It's truly nice to see a return to this cinematic world. And as I've always enjoyed The Hobbit, I'm more familiar with it.

I think it's time to re-read The Hobbit to get ready for this film.  And who knows?  It might even give me enough of a running start to finally tackle The Lord of the Rings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises Trailer

So, if you went to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows over the weekend, you probably saw the latest trailer for the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

The third and final in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy hits theatres Summer 2012, and I like what I'm seeing so far.  Part of me is really, really glad that they're ending this with a third film.  Having grown up with Star Wars and Back to the Future, one thing I learned is that it's best to end a film franchise as a trilogy.  Besides, last time a Batman film went to a fourth, we got & Robin, a name that still sends shudders down the spines of Batman geeks.

But what really gets me is how they're really playing up that this the last one in this particular tale of Batman.  Shouldn't be too surprised, though.  As they pointed out in a recent Cracked.com article, there really is only one reason why you'd want to use Bane in a Batman movie.

The famous scene from Batman: Knightfall where Bane breaks Batman's back across his knee.

I think I blogged before that before that Bane was on my shortlist of villains I really wanted to see in this next Batman film.  Bane fits in with Christopher Nolan's realistic take on Batman quite nicely, especially if they go with the animated series interpretation:  a superstrong South American hitman brought in by the mob to settle the Batman problem once and for all.

And besides, Bane really needs to be done justice.  One thing folks forget is that Bane is super-smart.  In his first appearance, the legendary Knighfall storyline, he successfully determined Batman's true identity and set about to thoroughly destroy Batman.  And it really looks like that's what we're going with in this film.

Still scratching my head trying to figure out how Catwoman figures into all this.  But what Selina Kyle whispers into Bruce Wayne's ear has me intrigued.  And with the references to Commissioner Gordon being a "war hero, but we're not at war," is really starting to make think that Gotham City has been lulled into a false sense of security.  One thing that's already been confirmed is that this takes place 8 years after The Dark Knight.  Who knows how kind the past 8 years have been to Batman?

I'm going to throw in the latest poster now, just so I have a kick-ass thumbnail when I post this to all the social networking sites I'll be plugging this blog entry on.

The Dark Knight Rises teaser poster.

All in all, with all the references to this being "The final adventure" and "The legend ends," I'm starting to think that this might be the closest we'll get to a cinematic rendition of The Dark Knight Returns...Batman's final adventure before he retires, dies in action, and/or takes his war on crime to the next level.

How will things end for the Dark Knight?  We'll find out on July 20.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Targ Returns!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Sorry I missed things last night, things got busy and all in my dayjob.  But I'm back now with an all-new episode of U62: The Targ

In Episode 5.05: Cold Hands, Cold Heart, I decide to vent some anger by complaining about the cutting of Christmas specials, the cancelling of my new favourite TV shows, and getting into a Twitter feud with a celebrity.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Be a fan in Facebook!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Here Come the Sequels!

It's that time of year.  The trailers for the big blockbusters of next summer are starting to roll out, and as we all know, sequels are still the name of the game.  So let's take a look at a couple of the sequels coming out this summer.  Let's start with the one I'm not so excited about.

Men in Black.  Loved the first movie.  I felt the second one was a tired retread.  It's been 15 years since the first film (holy moly, has it been that long?) and 10 years since the second.  Is it too late for a third?  Well, we'll find out when Men in Black III hits theatres this May.

Men in Black III is known in Hollywood circles right now for being a very troubled production.  They had to shut down production for a few months to work out some kinks in the script.  Executive producer Steven Spielberg even brought in his Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull script doctors Jeff Nathanson and David Koepp to iron things out.  So it's going to be interesting to see what kind of film comes out of this.

I already talked about executive producer Steven Spielberg coming back...also back as director is Barry Sonnenfeld.  I've mentioned before that Sonnenfeld is a director due for a comeback.  In the 1990s, he proved he could do blockbusters with Men in Black and The Addams Family films.  He proved he could do character-based comedy with Get Shorty.  But, he did make Wild Wild West, which kind of killed his big screen career.  He's been biding his time with some "brilliant-but-cancelled" television, being responsible for some of my favourite short-lived TV shows, mainly the live-action version of The Tick and Pushing Daisies.  So I'm kind of hoping that Men in Black III re-energizes his big screen career.

Not much is known yet about the plot...just that we find Agent J time traveling back to the 1960s to help out a young Agent K.  Will Smith is back as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones returns as Agent K, Josh Brolin plays the young Agent K, Emma Thompson plays the new MiB commander, Agent O, with Alice Eve playing the young Agent O.

Men in Black III hits theatres this May.

And now, let's get on to the sequel I am excited about...the second G.I. Joe film, G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  I've blogged before that I enjoyed the first live-action G.I. Joe film.  While it offered nothing new in the way of action films and there some glaring plot holes, my childhood nostalgia for the property blinded me to the flaws.  And given the cliffhanger that the film ended on, I knew a sequel could be good.

I've already blogged about the new cast members and who's working behind the scenes, so I'll just provide a link rather than re-hash myself.  (That would be this link right here.  Clicky click!)  All I can say is...wow.  I love this trailer.  Once again, my childhood nostalgia for the property is making me giggle.  Unlike the Transformers film, I'm getting the feeling that they're trying to advance the story.  I can hardly wait for this one.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation hits theatres on June 29.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Comin' At You in 3D!!

So, with Hollywood trying to tell us that 3D is all the rage, and with remakes also being popular, it was just a matter of time before Hollywood went, "Hey!  Rather than re-make these old films, let's just convert them to 3D and stick them back in theatres!"  So, 2012 is going to kick off with a bunch of 3D re-releases of recent classics.  I just wanted to take a moment to run through some of the trailers.

First up, Disney is giving us Beauty and the Beast:  3D.  Following the success of Disney's 3D re-release of The Lion King, Disney announced that they're going to be converting and re-releasing four of their recent classic animated films.  Well...2 Disney films and 2 Pixar films.  The first one out of the gate is Beauty and the Beast.  (The others are Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and The Little Mermaid).

Weird thing about Beauty and the Beast is that this was supposed to be Disney's first 3D conversion.  It was supposed to come out 2 years ago...way back in the spring of 2010.  But for reasons never disclosed, it was postponed.  Couldn't have been because of technical limitations...it's already played overseas!  So Disney's been sitting on this for a while for some reason.

Anyway, Lion King 3D convinced them that they can pull this off, so they're finally releasing Beauty and the Beast 3D.  It hits theatres on January 13.

I love the movies of James Cameron.  Here's a guy that's dedicated to pushing the limits of filmmaking technology to realize his vision.  In fact, we can thank him for 3D films for being all the rage, thanks to his last film, Avatar.  When it became the #1 movie of all time, naturally folks would start thinking that 3D is here to stay.

Well, let's not forget, before Avatar became the #1 film of all time, the record was held by Titanic, also by James Cameron.  I love the story of how Titanic came to be.  Shipwrecks is Cameron's thing.  He loves diving to them.  And he always wanted to see the wreck of the Titanic.  So one day he said, "Hey.  I should make a movie about the Titanic.  I can convince a movie studio that I need to film the wreck for the film, and get them to foot the bill."  So, he walked into a Hollywood producer's office and said, "How's this?  Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic."  He came out with a blank cheque and the rest is history.

Not gonna lie...I like Titanic.  I think it was the first film that used all of modern special effects to recreate a historical period.  Like most of Cameron's films, I respect it for its technical achievments.  I've blogged before that my completely arbirtary made-up tradition is I watch it every New Year's Day.  Because hey, why not?  That being said, though, a 3D conversion is not enough for me to go back to theatres to watch it.

Titanic 3D hits theatres on April 6, 2012, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

And lastly, we come to one of the most beloved film franchises of all...but we're starting with its most reviled film.  When 3D starting becoming big, of course George Lucas said, "Hey!  I think I know what I'm going to do for the next special edition changes to the Star Wars films!"  And he announced he'd be converting all 6 Star Wars films to 3D.  He'd release one a year, starting in 2012.  And he'd be starting with the first one in numerical order which means...we're starting with The Phantom Menace.

Look, I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I seem to have become completely burnt out on Star Wars.  10, nay, 5 years ago, a trailer like this would have given me goosebumps.  But now...nothing.  I feel nothing towards this.

Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace 3D hits theatres on February 12.

Now, that being said, I would kind of like to see this trailer in 3D.  Not the whole film...just this trailer.  Mainly because it evokes memories of the trailer for the Special Editions from back in 1997.

Wouldn't that trailer be fantastic to see in 3D? With the images in the TV in the middle of the screen being in 2D, and then the X-Wing flies out in 3D? Yeah...that would be awesome.

So I'd like to see the trailer in 3D...but not the movie.  

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's Sunday!  That means it's time for a new episode of U62: The Targ!

We're trying something brand new for Episode 5.04: Scarecrow's Christmas Mix Tape.  In this super-sized episode, we take a look at some of my favourite Christmas songs to ring in the holiday season!  It's full of music, stories, and Christmas cheer.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Be a fan in Facebook!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This Week's Targ!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's Sunday!  That means it's time for a new episode of U62: The Targ!

In Episode 5.03: Bigger on the Inside, we offer on update on the Royal Alberta Museum, we bring back What's Wrong with Society, and we discuss the rumors of a Doctor Who movie!  

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Be a fan in Facebook!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2 Snow Whites and 14 Dwarfs

As we all know, Hollywood seems to have run out of ideas.  And this become blatantly obvious every couple of years when two movies of shockingly similar theme come out very close to each other.  The popular examples are still 1997, when we got two volcano movies (Volcano and Dante's Peak) and 1998, when we got two asteroid movies (Deep Impact and Armageddon).  Well, those times have come again, because in 2012, we're getting two gritty reboots of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The first one to get a trailer is Snow White and the Huntsman.  I will admit, I kind of find the premise of this one intriguing.  As we all know, in the original tale, the Evil Queen orders the Royal Huntsman to take Snow White deep into the woods and kill her.  But, the Huntsman is a good guy, and cannot kill in cold blood, so he tells Snow White to just run and hide in the woods.  But, in Snow White and the Huntsman, the Huntsman takes Snow White into the woods and says, "Look, the Queen has obviously gone insane, so here's what we're going to do.  I'm going to hide you in the woods and train you to be a badass warrior woman, so one day you can take your vengeance and rightfully claim your throne."  And much fantasy film action ensues.

Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame is Snow White, Charlize Theron is Ravena the Evil Queen, Thor himself Chris Hemsworth is the Eric the Huntsman, British actor Sam Clafin is Prince William (nee Charming), and the Seven Dwarfs consist of such esteemed British character actors as Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, and Nick Frost.  Behind the camera is rookie director Rupert Sanders. 

This definitely looks like the darker of the two...the electronic score in the trailer has people likening it to the gritty fantasy films of the 1980s.  And don't worry, it doesn't get too gritty...the filmmakers assure us that Snow White still ends up with Prince Charming, and Snow White and the Huntsman's relationship is strictly teacher/mentor.

Snow White and the Huntsman hits theatres on June 1.

The second Snow White reboot we're getting is Mirror Mirror.  This one is definitely more comical and I'm really getting a Princess Bride vibe from this trailer.

Julia Roberts plays Clementia the Evil Queen, Lily Collins, star of the new 90210, is Snow White, Armie Hammer, the Winkelvos Twins in The Social Network, is Prince Andrew Alcott (nee Charming), and Nathan Lane is Brighton, the Queen's aide.  The talent behind the camera is Tarsem, directed of Jennifer Lopez classic The Cell and the recent blockbuster Immortals.  Given that, I was expecting this to be grim and gritty, too, but this trailer is decidedly campy.

Mirror Mirror hits theatres on March 16.  

I like that the one thing these re-tellings seem to have in common is Snow White picking up a sword and claiming vengeance herself, rather than, you know, just laying comatose waiting for Prince Charming to come along and fix things. 

For historical completeness, I feel as though I need to remind you we were originally going to get a third Snow White reboot next year, and damn it, it's the one I was most looking forward to.  It was to be done in the style of a classic kung fu movie.  The action was to be moved to 19th century Hong Kong, with Snow White re-imagined as a British aristocrat and the Seven Dwarfs transformed into seven Shaolin warrior monks.  Natalie Portman was all signed on to play Snow White in that one, but she left the project and the whole shelved when she got pregnant. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

We're not off to a good start...just two episodes into the new season, and already we missed a week!  Oh, well, let's get back on track with Episode 5.02: Tube of Sunblock.

In this episode, we rant about the saga of the Royal Alberta Museum, share the news on the next James Bond film, and I obsess over Star Wars on Blu-ray

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Be a fan in Facebook!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday Night Cartoons

Well, you know me, I love my cartoons, and a couple of trailers for new animated films just came my way that I need to pass along.

First up, we have The Lorax.  Based on the classic Dr. Seuss book of the same name, this tells the tale of an industrialist who comes to a magical land to start logging and making stuff, but the Lorax appears to speak for the trees and try to save the environment.

I like the criticisms of this trailer that have branded it "hippie environmentalist bullplop," to which I have to say, "Umm, have you not read the Dr. Seuss original?"

This was produced for the big screen by relatively new animation studio Illumination Entertainment, which exploded onto the scene a couple years ago with the critically beloved blockbuster Despicable Me.  Chris Renaud, the director of Despicable Me, is also directing this one.

For voices, we have Danny DeVito as the Lorax, Ed Helms (Andy on The Office) as the Once-ler, the industrialist who starts logging, and Zac Efron as the boy the Once-ler tells the legend of the Lorax too.  Taylor Swift and Betty White also pop up.

I've got to say, the track record for Dr. Seuss adaptations has been spotty at best, but at the very least, this trailer looks like candy-coated goodness.  The Lorax hits theatres on March 2.

And now, we head across the Pacific to the legendary Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli.  Their latest animated blockbuster has finally been dubbed and is getting a major North American release.  The original Japanese title...The Borrower Arrietty.  The English name...The Secret World of Arrietty.

Inspired by the world-famous series of British children's novels The Borrowers, the film tells the tale of Arrietty, a young Borrower who develops a friendship with a human named Sho.  Sho's grandmother, however, glimpsed a Borrower in her youth, and suspects something's up with Sho, and soon goes on a mission to find the Borrower's living in her house.  Can Sho save his new friend from his ruthless Grandmother?

Arrietty hit theatres in Japan in the summer of 2010, and as is the Studio Ghibli way, it kicked ass at the box office and cleaned up at all the major awards.  It was directed by veteran Ghibli animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who made his directorial debut with this.  And Studio Ghibli's resident living legend, Hayao Miyazaki, wrote the screenplay. 

The North American distribution is being handled by Disney, and like the past decade's worth of Ghibli films, the dub is being supervised by Pixar folks, because being a Ghibli otaku is pretty much a prerequisite to work at Pixar.  The English-language dub was directed by veteran Pixar sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who also directed the Pixar short Lifted.  The English dub voice cast includes Disney kids Bridget Mendler and David Henrie as Arrietty and Sho, Carol Burnett as Sho's grandmother, and Will Arnet and and Amy Poehler as Arrietty's parents. 

I watched this trailer and it gave me goosebumps.  I love Studio Ghibli, particularily the films of Miyazaki.  I'll definitely be going to check this out because of his involvement.

The Secret World of Arrietty hits theatres in North America on February 17.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

DVD Review -- "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!: The Alpocalypse Tour

It's a lazy Sunday morning full of blogging, so since I just reviewed Batman: Year One, let's review the other straight-to-DVD production I just bought....

"Weird Al" Yankovic Live!:  The Alpocalypse Tour

Directed by Wayne Isham

Starring "Weird" Al Yankovic, Jim "Kimo" West, Steve Jay, John "Bermuda" Schwartz, and Reuben Valtiera.  

Backstory:  The first DVD I bought around 10 years ago was "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!, which was Weird Al's first ever concert DVD.  Having never seen Weird Al in concert yet at that point in my life, I figured this would be the closest I would ever get.  Here we are now, 11 years later, and Weird Al has finally released a second concert DVD, The Alpocalypse Tour.  Since I'm slowly upgrading everything to Blu-Ray, it was time to see Weird Al in hi-def.

Plot:  What plot?  It's a concert DVD!  Filmed at Toronto's Massey Hall on July 16, 2011, we get to see Weird Al doing his live show to promote his latest album, Alpocalypse.  He sings such classics as Fat, Amish Paradise and Smells Like Nirvana, and tracks off his new album like Skipper Dan, TMZ, and Perform This Way.  

What I Liked:  Weird Al puts on a phenomenal live show, and I'm glad to have a visual representation of it.  It's just highly entertaining.  

What I Didn't Like:  A lot of stage banter seems to have been left on the cutting room floor -- a key part of any concert experience.  I have some minor quibbles about certain songs left off the set list  (why couldn't he have done a live version of Albuquerque for his encore, like on his last tour?).  And also, mildly disappointed that there isn't a 5.1 channel surround sound mix.  

Final Verdict:  If you've never seen Weird Al in concert, pick this up, because it's the next best thing.

3.5 Nibs

Bonus Features:  On the DVD, you get the music videos for Perform This Way and Polka Face, some extra live concert performances (the classic Weird Al originals Frank's 2000" TV, You Don't Love Me Anymore and You Make Me), some videos that Weird Al made for his YouTube channel, and some online videos that Weird Al starred in for various humour sites. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Movie Review -- DC Showcase: Catwoman

Well, since there's a new DC Showcase short on the Batman: Year One DVD, I thought I would review it separetly as I've done in the past.  So, let's take a look at....

DC Showcase:  Catwoman

Directed by Lauren Montgomery

Starring the voices of Eliza Dushku, John DiMaggio, Tara Strong, Cree Summer, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Lillian Mumy.  

Backstory:  A prime way to illustrate my disappointment with the DC animated direct-to-DVD films is the DC Showcase line.  This animated short films give focus on beloved B-list characters that could clearly  carry their own film.  The best example:  Catwoman.  Bruce Timm, the producer in charge of these films, has long said a Catwoman film is one he would love to do...but it looks like this short film is all we're going to get.  Don't get me wrong, I love these shorts, but...they could be whole films!

Plot:  On one moonlit Gotham City night, Catwoman saves a stray cat from being mercilessly gunned down by a couple of thugs.  This piques the Cat's curiosity, so she begins to investigate, and she's soon doing battle with a notorious diamond smuggler known as Rough Cut.  What is Rough Cut's nefarious plan, and can Catwoman get to the bottom of it?

What I Liked:  Well, a good portion of the film takes place in a strip club, and they really push the limits of the PG-13 rating on this DVD.  Like a lot of the DC Showcase shorts, it's kind of short for character development, so the main focus is on action, and there's some great action set pieces in this.  The voice acting is really good, and the quality is very high level.  And throw in a script from fan favourite Batman writer Paul Dini...it's all good.

What I Didn't Like:  IT'S TOO DARN SHORT!!

Final Verdict:  I really  like this DC Showcase concept, and if this is all we're going to get for characters the level of Catwoman's popularity, then keep bringing them on.  

3 Nibs 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review -- Batman: Year One

Hey!  Another DC Comics direct-to-DVD animated film came out a couple of weeks ago.  And I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it.  So let's get to my review of....

Batman:  Year One

Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery

Starring the voices of Ben McKenzie, Bryan Cranston, Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, Alex Rocco, Jon Polito, Jeff Bennet, Steve Blum, and Grey DeLisle.

Backstory:  I tend to repeat myself whenever one of these DC animated films comes along, and that is, I'm getting very disappointed in their choice to just focus on Superman and Batman.  There's so many great "lower A-list" and "upper B-list" characters that could sustain a film, but apparently, Superman and Batman are the only ones with enough "mainstream appeal" to make this project profitable.  And, my disappointment reached new heights when it was announced that they'd be doing Batman: Year One, Frank Miller's legendary retelling/updating of Batman's origin tale.  Seriously, so much of Batman: Year One inspired Batman Begins that how could you do a Year One adaptation without it seeming like a Batman Begins rehash?  Well, my copy arrived from Amazon.ca a few days ago, so let's pop it in and find out.

Plot:  Lieutenant James Gordon, still recovering from a police scandal in Chicago, arrives in Gotham City for a new posting with the GCPD and a chance at starting over.  Meanwhile, after 12 years of traveling the world, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne finally returns to Gotham City.  Wayne, himself, has been working on his own plan to help clean up the streets of Gotham, and he seems ready to enact it.  Gordon soon finds himself quickly being the only honest cop in a police force that's corrupt to the core, and he's soon put to work on a special task force to bring in this vigilante that the press has dubbed "The Batman."  Can Gordon remain the only honest cop in Gotham City?  Will Bruce Wayne's plan succeed?  Will these two be able to strike up a partnership and bring hope to this troubled city?  

What I Liked:  This is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the original graphic novel.  I'm glad that the story's action centerpiece -- a tense standoff between Batman the Gotham SWAT team in a burnt-out apartment building -- survived unscathed.  Probably the best voice acting in this film comes from Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Sackhoff as Detective Sarah Essen, Gordon's partner.  They really put emotion into their roles.  And the animation, as always, is of very high quality.

What I Didn't Like:  The voice acting of our two leads -- McKenzie as Batman and Cranston as Gordon -- is...not the best.  They both sound really sleepy in their roles.  This being a Frank Miller comic, when they do wake up, they seem to take their acting cues from Sin City.  In fact, in most of his scenes, McKenzie seems to be playing Batman as though he's Dwight McCarthy, or at least Clive Owen's portrayal of him in Sin City.  

Final Verdict:  Meh.  It's OK, but it could have been better.  And, surprisingly, it didn't feel like a Batman Begins rehash.

2.5 Nibs

Bonus Features:  There's an interview with the current creative team working on the Batman comics, a running commentary with film`s directors and producers, a featurette about returning Batman to his dark roots, a preview of the next direct-to-DVD film, Justice League:  Doom, 2 bonus episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and they resurrect the DC Showcase concept to bring us an all-new short film all about Catwoman

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Targ Returns!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Well, I think we've reached that time...it's time to bring back U62: The Targ for another season!

In Episode 5.01: What, This Again?, I take the time to explain where I've been and why it was time to bring it back, I recap the superhero movies of the summer, and I disclose my podcast's secret origins.

Give it a listen!

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Be a fan in Facebook!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2 Famous Sleuths

Hey, look, we have a new trailer for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Actually, I'm just posting this because it gives me an excuse to blog about some movie news I've been wanting to blog about but have been putting off.

News broke a couple of weeks ago that, for his next franchise, Robert Downey Jr is looking to resurrect another famous sleuth for the big screen...none other than the legendary crusading defense attorney, Perry Mason.

Perry Mason, created by Earle Stanley Gardner in a series of mystery novels back in the 1930s and 40s, and elevated to mythic status thanks to the legendary TV series starring Raymond Burr.

For the new spin, they're going to go all the way back to the beginning, and set the film in the 1930s...where the character first made his appearance and the time in which the first stories are set.

There's absolutely no word on when or if this'll ever hit theatres.  All I know it is it could be pretty neat.  I have a minor fascination with Perry Mason, ever since I read a newspaper article in my teen years chronicling how the character has developed a Trekkie-like following.

All I know is, if the movie ever comes to be, they've got to remember to work Park Avenue Beat into the soundtrack.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Latest from the Master

We are very blessed this holiday season.  We are not getting one, but two new movies from the guy who is generally considered to be the greatest living director today, Steven Spielberg!

First up, the one that's been bigger on my radar, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.  As the legend goes, Spielberg became a fan of the legendary comic strip back in 1981, when a European film critic called Raiders of the Lost Ark "the greatest Tintin movie ever made."  Spielberg sought out the comic, instantly became a fan, contacted Herge, and acquired the movies rights.  Spielberg has then been trying for the past 30 years to try to get a Tintin movie off the ground.

A few years back, Spielberg took a "now or never" approach to it.  He contacted Weta Digital about doing a CGI Snowy (Tintin's faithful dog and sidekick).  Peter Jackson, who brought us The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the owner of Weta, and a huge Tintin fan himself, immediately called Spielberg and convinced him to do the whole film with performance capture.  Because, you know, a few years ago, before Mars Needs Moms tanked at the box office, we were all told that performance capture was going to be the future of filmmaking.

So, Spielberg and Jackson joined forces to finally bring Tintin to the big screen.  Spielberg is directing and Jackson is producing.  They will switch roles should this be successful enough for a sequel.  For the script, they drafted a trio of phenomenal Brits:  Steven Moffat, the current showrunner on Doctor Who, Edgar Wright, director of the much-beloved (be geeks) Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Joe Cornish, director of the critically acclaimed Attack the Block.  The story is an amalgam of three classic Tintin storylines:  The Secret of the Unicorn, the Crab With the Golden Claws, and Red Rackham's Treasure.

For our cast, Jamie Bell, still best remembered as Billy Elliot, is Tintin, Andy Serkis, best remembered as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is Tintin's longtime friend and sidekick, the salty sea Captain Haddock, Edgar Wright film regulars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the identical detectives Thomson and Thompson, and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, is the villainous pirate Red Rackham. 

It had its first press screening in Tintin's homeland of Belgium a couple of weeks ago and has been getting really good reviews.  It comes out in the UK at the end of the month, and it hits North American theatres on December 21.

But wait!  There's more!  Turns out Spielberg had another movie on the go that was under my radar.  While waiting for the animation to be finished on Tintin, Spielberg went and made another movie, War Horse.  

Based on the classic children's novel of the same name, War Horse follows the adventures of Joey, a horse who is sold to the army and made to serve in the cavalry during World War I.  Albert Narracot, Joey's young owner, can't bear to be separated from his beloved horse, so he lies about his age, joins the army, and the two are soon on a quest to be reunited with each other in the trenches of World War I.

The book was turned into a critically acclaimed play a couple of years ago.  Spielberg saw the play, instantly fell in love with the story, and set out to bring the tale to the big screen.

As I said, this one was below my radar, but when I saw the trailer, I knew it was classic Spielberg, from the lavishly filmed sunsets to the John Williams score.  War Horse hits theatres on Christmas Day. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just Wait 6 - 8 Weeks

One thing I miss about childhood are all the great mail-away offers.  You remember the ones, right?  With just 3 proofs of purchase and $5.99 shipping and handling, you could get some kind of really nifty thingamabob.  There was just something about the anticipation of waiting for it, the exclusivity of the thing you were sending away for, and just the novelty of getting mail.  Not just a letter or a birthday card from Grandma, but a full-blown parcel!

Of course, growing up with G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, it was something that became ingrained in you.  G.I. Joe was great for this, as each and every G.I. Joe toy had "Flag Points" on the back.  The Flag Points were your proofs-of-purchase, which you used to mail away for all the exclusive action figures.  My brother and I diligently collected all our Flag Points for a good three or four years, and then, when he was 12 and I was 10, we finally figured it was time to cash in.  Man o man, that was a great summer and a good portion of the fall.  Just about every two weeks we were getting another package from Hasbro with more rare G.I. Joe toys.  And it was all such legendary G.I. Joe mail away exclusives like the Manta Windsurfer, hooded Cobra Commander, and the one that started it all, the Steel Brigade customized figure.  For your six Flag Points and $5.99,  you could get a G.I. Joe whose code name was one that you chose, and whose real name was your name!  My brother was always nuts for aircraft and had just about every G.I. Joe airplane and helicopter...he got his Steel Brigade figure (code name:  Hi-Fi) so he could finally pilot all those planes.

When I grew up and started going to high school and college, I still sent away for the occasional thing.  When I was writing my epic series of entries about all the times I bought Star Wars, I mentioned that you could get a VHS tape of the TV special The Making of Star Wars, with two proofs-of-purchase from Froot Loops and $4.99.  I've still got that tape and watch it every once in a while...I'll probably be watching it less now seeing as to how The Making of Star Wars was included as a bonus feature on the new Star Wars Blu-Rays.  For more Star Wars stuff, I remember when the Special Editions hit theatres.  You could get an exclusive "Spirit of Obi-Wan" action figures from Lay's Potato Chips for three proofs-of-purchase and $4.99.  I got that, too, and it's still a nice addition to my action figure collection.

But my favourite had to be the hockey pennants.  Back in high school, I was eating a lot of Pop Tarts, and they had the promotion where they were giving away miniature hockey pennants...nothing fancy, just a three-inch strip of felt with the logo of an NHL team on it.  They were neat, but no matter how many Pop Tarts I ate, I kept getting the Chicago Blackhawks.  No offense to that fine organization, but after getting two dozen pennants, that's when you start getting a little frustrated.

That's when I read the side panel of the box, and discovered that for two proofs-of-purchase and $6.99 shipping and handling, you could send away for the complete set of pennants, plus a special board to mount and display them on.  So that's exactly what I did.  And, 6 - 8 weeks later, I got my complete set of pennants.  The mounting board was all laid out in the proper conferences and divisions...I remember it was the final season where the conferences and divisions were named after people (eg. the Whales Conference and the Campbell Conference instead of the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference).  I checked the sports section of the newspaper to make sure I got all the teams in their right divisions, and then hung it on my wall.  Some where between my teen years and my adult years, I misplaced that.  I kind of miss it...I'm sure there must be some kind of sports memorabilia collection who might pay a couple of bucks for it.

But now that I'm a responsible adult, I just don't do stuff like that anymore.  Walk down any grocery store aisle, and you'll see that there aren't really a lot of companies doing stuff like that anymore.  Granted, I do buy a lot of crap online, but that's just not the same.

So, back in the early summer, I was perusing the snack aisle, looking for some snacks to feast upon during another quiet, lonely night at home watching DVDs, when a fancy-looking Pringles can caught my eye.  Pringles was having a special mail away offer!  For 4 proofs-of-purchase and...nothing shipping and handling, you could send away for a gadget that turned a Pringles can into a speaker.  My curiosity was piqued.  So, I bought a can of Pringles for my movie-time snacks, and for the next few weeks until I had my four proofs-of-purchase.  I tossed my four proofs-of-purchase in the mail, and began waiting the 6 - 8 weeks.  Actually, 10 - 12 weeks, according to the package.

And then, late last week, I got a package in the mail from Pringles.

A red box with a picture of a speaker in middle, and with the title Pringle Amplified Speaker

Woo hoo!  My speaker had arrived.  So, of course, I had to open it up and try it out.  I was a little stunned that it was an amplified speaker...the original order form didn't say that.

The speaker gadget, 3 AAA batteries, and the instructions

In the box was the speaker gadget, three AAA batteries (Yes!  Batteries are included!) and the instructions.  So, of course, I had to fire it up and try it out.  The instructions are pretty simple:  put the batteries in, snap it into the top of a Pringles can, plug it into an MP3 player, turn it on, and enjoy some tunes!

So, what is the sound quality like from a speaker made out of a Pringles can?  Well, I made a video demonstrating it.

As I say in the video, the sound quality is a little tinny, and you occasionally get this weird metallic echo when you're listening to a podcast.  Other than that, it's pretty neat.  It'll find a place in my kitchen for listening to the radio when doing dishes.

It was a nice trip down memory lane, to once again send away for something like this.  However, I'm not as thrilled as I once was when I was a kid.  When I was a kid, I was all like, "Wow!  It's finally here!"  But now, I'm all like, "Oh, it's here."  Maybe my sense of childhood wonder had finally dissipated.  Maybe it's clinical depression.  All I know is, I have a really neat speaker. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marvel's The Avengers Trailer

Holy moly.  When all the superhero adaptations, this is one folks thought they'd never see.

It was always a bit of a pipe dream about five years ago when Marvel announced that they were forming Marvel Studios with the intent of producing their own films based on their own properties.  Cuz hey, they owned all the rights to the characters, so why not?

But still, no one was expecting that fateful day in 2008, when Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk both became big hits at the box office, and Marvel made the announcement that they were building towards this.  The plan:  Iron Man 2 and Thor in 2010, and Captain America and The Avengers in 2011.

Well, various production delays caused the schedule to be juggled around, and it soon changed to Iron Man 2 in 2010, Thor and Captain America in 2011, and The Avengers in 2012.

For those who've never followed the comics, The Avengers is Marvel's supergroup, of which Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk are all members.  And the fact that they got all the same actors from all the previous films to come back...well, it's stunning, really.

So, once again, we get to see:

  • Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Scarlett Johannson as the Black Widow
  • Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye
  • and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and he finally gets to do more than wave after the end credits.
Marvel and Edward Norton had a bit of a falling out, so Mark Ruffalo takes over as Bruce Banner/the Hulk.  Following the original comic book origins of the team, these heroes first come together to battle Thor's brother Loki, who's launching an all-out assault on Earth.  (Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki.)  Some rumors even say that Loki has assembled an army of those perpetual Earth invaders, the Skrulls.

The man who Marvel tapped to bring all these characters together is fan favourite Joss Whedon, creator of such cult classic TV series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  In fact, the only other big screen directorial credit Whedon has under his belt of the movie version of Firefly, Serenity.  But most have faith in the Whedon.

The first trailer came out today, and I have to admit, it looks pretty damn sweet.

Marvel's The Avengers (we have to call it that to avoid confusion with the classic TV series of the same name) hits theatres May 4, 2012.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

On the Passing of Steve Jobs

Like a lot of folks last night, I was shocked and saddened when I read about the loss of Steve Jobs.  Jobs, who founded Apple Computers in his parents' garage, went on to become one of the first true IT billionaires, and pretty much shaped the way we view and use technology, dead at the age of 56.  The cause of his death hasn't been publicized yet, but he'd been battling pancreatic cancer for the past seven years.

I saw lots of folks online saying, "Thanks for my iPhone, iPad, etc," and suchforth.   Wanting to be a little different, I posted this:

"Let's not forget his biggest contribution to movies.  Back in 1986, he bought ILM's computer animation R&D lab and turned into Pixar."

Yup.  That's true.  Because of that, he has an executive producer credit on Toy Story.  When Disney and Pixar merged 5 years ago, he became Disney's biggest shareholder.  I highly recommend you check out a documentary called The Pixar Story, which is all about the history of Pixar.  It was released on disc 2 of the 2-disc special edition of WALL-E, so it's easy to come by.  Jobs is interviewed quite a bit in it, and I'll never forget something he said in that documentary.  Even though Toy Story was a massive hit, Jobs wasn't too excited about it.  Said Jobs about his lack of enthusiasm....

"Yeah, but see, I invented the Apple II, which was considered the best success in the history of home computers.  And I followed that up with the Apple III, which is still considered one of the biggest disasters in home computers.  So I wasn't going to get excited until our second success.  That's when I'd be confident that we were on to something." 

As I was lying in bed last night, thinking about all those "Thanks for my iPad" posts, I started thinking about the little ways in which he changed computing.

The year was 1998.  I was still in college, and hanging out with a lot of computer science majors.  Jobs had just made his triumphant return to Apple, and the first product under his renewed leadership was just announced:  the iMac.  Chilling out in the dorms one night, I overheard my computer science friends picking apart the iMac's specs....

"I don't believe it."


"It's got nothing but USB ports."

"You can't be serious."

"I am!  Look.  No printer port, no serial port...just USB ports!"

"Who the fuck uses USB ports?"

"You can't get anything that plugs in with USB ports!  Why would he come up with a computer that you can't plug anything into?" 

Here we are now, 13 years later, and how is your keyboard plugged in to your computer?  That's right, Jobs pretty much made USB ports the industry standard. 

It might finally be time to seek out the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.  I've always wanted to see it.  An HBO original movie, it chronicled and compared the rises to power of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.  ER's Noah Wyle played Jobs.  Jobs was so impressed with Wyle's performance that he actually got Wyle to impersonate him at one of those famous Apple product launches to see if anyone would notice the difference.  Anyway, the film opens with Jobs (as played by Wyle) speaking directly into the camera, laying out his personal philosophies and what he wants to accomplish with computers.

The camera angle changes and we that Jobs is actually talking to legendary film director Ridley Scott as they're about to film Apple's legendary 1984 commercial, and he's telling Scott the vision he wants to get across in this commercial.


That spot, by the way, pretty much accredited with creating the modern-day concept of the Super Bowl ad.

So, yeah.  We lost a man who truly changed the world yesterday.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Next Next Generation

Yesterday marked the official 24th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and to commemerate, Paramount made a big announcement.

TNG is coming to Blu-Ray!

Actually, reading about the show coming to Blu-Ray, I'm learning quite a few things about the show.  Apparently, re-mastering TNG into high-definition has turned out to be quite a time-consuming process, because TNG was filmed in a very unique way, and highly experimental for its time.

TNG was shot on film, and then all the footage was transferred to videotape.  And then, all of the editing and adding in of special effects and pretty much all the post-production work was done on video.  So all of the old masters for all the TNG episodes are on videotape.

The problem with that is videotape doesn't transfer to high-definition very well.  However, Paramount still has all of the original footage on film kicking around in their archives.  And film transfers to hi-def very well. 

So, to get TNG in high-definition, what Paramount is doing is transferring all of the original film footage to high-definition, and then re-editing each and every episode to match as closely with the original episodes as possible.  They're even "re-compositing" the special effects where they need to.  And the whole process is being supervised by Michael and Denise Okuda who, after penning The Star Trek Encyclopedia all those years ago, have kind of become the official Star Trek archivists.

Our first sampling of Star Trek: The Next Generation in high-definition is a special compilation Blu-Ray called The Next Level: A Taste of TNG in High Definition.  This compilation will include the classic episodes Encounter at Farpoint, Sins of the Father, and The Inner Light.  Fanboys are already complaining about these selections.  (Me, personally?  I would have dumped Farpoint and put on Best of Both Worlds.) It drops on January 31, 2012.

And then, they're going to start rolling out complete season sets in September 2012, just in time for TNG's 25th anniversary.

Holy moly, TNG is almost 25.  When did I get so old? 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Athabasca Extrication Challenge

Lookie thar, I've made another YouTube video!

This past weekend, Athabasca was host to the annual extrication challenge, where firefighters from across the province show off their extrication skills.

(That's rescuing people from crashed cars.)

Here's some footage of Team Athabasca in action.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Reynolds-Alberta Museum Harvest Festival

So, when I recently went home for the long weekend, my Dad spoke of his long-held desire to go down to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum and check out their Harvest Festival.

Held every Labour Day weekend, the Harvest Festival is when they fire up the vintage farm equipment and show you what it was fully capable of.

So, yeah.  Here's some footage of vintage farm equipment.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

RIP ToyFare

I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I just found out that back in January, my beloved ToyFare magazine ceased publication.

ToyFare was a sister publication to Wizard, which also ceased publication in January.  Wizard was the magazine for coverage of the world of comic books.  Interview with the artists, previews of upcoming storylines, and a comprehensive price guide, for those who might be looking to make a buck off their collections.  And ToyFare did for action figure collecting what Wizard did for comics.  Interviews with the sculptors who actually made the action figures, previews of upcoming toy lines, and a comprehensive price guide, so I could prove to my friends that I was actually making money with my nerdly hobby.

I started collecting action figures way back in high school.  Playmates Toys had just released their Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures, I decided to pick some up, with the goal of tearing them open and sitting them on my desk.  But then, I read some where that keeping an action figure in its package makes it more valuable, so I kept them in the package.  And hell, they still looked as nice sitting on my desk.  Then Deep Space Nine figures came along, new Star Wars action figures came out, and things kind of snowballed.

I first discovered ToyFare magazine in my college days.  It was one frosty November night, when I was taking a study break to make a Sev-Run.  There, on the magazine rack in 7-11, I spotted it.  It must have been frosty November 1996, because there was a bunch of Borg action figures on the cover, and Star Trek: First Contact had just hit theatres.  I started leafing through it, and as I saw page after page of news about action figures, I was hooked.  I bought that issue, and became and immediately became a regular reader.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yay New Pixar!

I'm still a Pixar fanboy, and as such, a little bit miffed that I never got a chance to go see Cars 2 this summer...even though it looked rather lame.  It's just been announced that it hits DVD on November 1, and I'll probably still pick it just to make sure my Pixar collection remains complete.  (I do own all the Pixar movies on DVD.) 

So, this past weekend, Disney held their most recent fan event/official con D23, and while there, Pixar announced a couple of upcoming films.  To recap, these are the upcoming Pixar films that we already know of:

Brave - Coming out on June 22, 2012.  Pixar's first fantasy film, following the adventures of a princess in medieval Scotland.  It's also Pixar's first film with a female protagonist.  Apparently, at D23, Pixar's head honcho John Lasseter issued the challenge, "It's set in medieval Scotland, I dare you to find the Pizza Planet truck!" 

Monsters University - The exciting prequel to Monsters Inc, detailing Mike and Sully's college years and how they first met.  June 21, 2013 is when this comes along.

But, what comes after these two?  That's what was announced at D23.  I'd like to point out that these are working titles, and not the actual titles. 

The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs - Answering the age old question, "What if the dinosaurs never went extinct?", it's set in the present day of a world where dinosaurs are now the domesticated wildlife.  This one comes to us from longtime Pixar animator Bob Peterson, who helped write Monsters, Inc, Finding Nemo and Up.  Christmas 2013 is when this'll hit theatres.

The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind - That description pretty much sums it up.  Taking place inside a human mind, they tell us this'll answer questions like why you remember certain things and why songs get stuck in our head.  The talent behind this one is Pete Docter, who was the director of Monsters Inc and Up.  Summer 2014 is when this one is slated to come out.

But that's not all!  One of most delightful surprises in front of Cars 2 was a new Toy Story short film, entitled Hawaiian Vacation.  It's been known for a while that a second Toy Story short film was in development, but now we have a name, a plot description, and release information.

It'll be called Small Fry, and is apparently about Buzz Lightyear getting left behind at a fast food place, and having to team up with a kids meal toy to get home.  Glee star Jane Lynch does the voice of the kids meal toy.  It's going to be in front of the new Muppet movie, The Muppets, this November.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

G.I. Joe 2 Update

So, hey!  G.I. Joe 2 began filming last week!

Just to get it out there, I LOVED G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  My attitude towards it is pretty much the same as with Michael Bay's first Transformers movie.  Yeah, it's a deeply flawed, deeply cliched action/superhero film, but my childhood nostalgia helps blind me to all the flaws.

Originally, the release of G.I. Joe 2 was kept kind of vague, but then, J.J. Abrams got all wrapped up making Super 8, and that meant Star Trek 2 got pushed back from summer 2012 to...some time in the future.  So, needing a tentpole release for summer 2012, Paramount fast-tracked G.I. Joe 2 and gave it Star Trek 2's old released date of June 29, 2012.

For a second film, though, it looks like they've decided to go in a completely new direction and kind of disregard the first film.  It was announced that the only returning Joes from the first film would be Channing Tatum as Duke and Ray Park as Snake Eyes.  So who's stepping forward to fill out the ranks of G.I. Joe this time around?

  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is Roadblock.  This caused some head-scratching when this casting was announced because, as Roadblock's wikipedia entry says, Roadblock is "the most prominent African-American in G.I. Joe."  The Rock is not African-American.  But hey, they made Ripcord black in the first film, so why not make Roadblock white for the second?
  • DJ Cotrona is Flint.  Cotrona comes to us from the short-lived cop show Detroit 1-8-7.  
  • Adrianne Palicki is Lady Jaye.  Palicki was on the football drama Friday Night Lights, and most recently played Wonder Woman in the ill-fated, horrible-looking Wonder Woman pilot.
  • French-Asian actress Elodie Yung will be Jinx.
  • Joseph Mazzello will be Mouse.  Mazello, of course, still remembered as the kid in Jurassic Park, and as adult, he was one of the stars of The Pacific.  I originally thought that Mouse was an original Joe for the film, but poking around online, I found that he's a character from the short-lived Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles line.  
And it was just announced that Bruce Willis has joined the cast as General Joseph Colton.  The gimmick in the toyline is that Gen. Colton was the first  G.I. Joe...the original 12" figure from the 1960s.  He was turned into a 3.75" mail-away exclusive figure to commemarate the franchise's 30th anniversary in 1994, and when the comics were relaunched around 10 years ago, he was made the new commander of G.I. Joe, taking over for Hawk when Hawk was paralyzed from the waist-down in a Cobra attack.

As for villains, the only one returning from the first film is Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow.  The only one announced for this new one is Ray Stevenson as the Cobra saboteur Firefly.  Stevenson you may remember as the Punisher in The Punisher: War Zone.

The script was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote the zombie comedy Zombieland.  And the director this time out is Jon Chu.  Chu, of course, best known for the dance films Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D, and the Justin Beiber movie Never Say Never.  In a few interviews, Chu has said he understands why some fans see him, the "dance movie guy," as a bad choice for for an action film, but Chu assures us that he's a huge G.I. Joe fanboy and is doing his best to give these characters justice.

There's not title for the film yet...rumored titles online have included G.I. Joe: Cobra Strikes (which has since been denied) and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

G.I. Joe 2 hits theatres June 29, 2012. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance trailer

With the main focus being on The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-Man as the big superhero films for 2012, there's one that's been in production for a while now that's been sneaking in under the radar.

And that's Ghost Rider 2, which is going by the name Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Nicholas Cage is back as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider.  Interesting fact this time out:  this time around, Cage himself is playing Ghost Rider.  In the first film, all of the Ghost Rider performance capture was done by a stuntman.  But for the second one, Cage did it himself.

The plot, this time around, has Johnny Blaze heading to Europe to stop the birth of the anti-Christ.  To stop the Ghost Rider, the Devil sends that Ghost Rider enemy known as Blackout to defeat Ghost Rider.

In addition to the returning Nicholas Cage, Johnny Whitworth is Blackout, Idris Elba is Moreau, a warrior monk who seeks out Ghost Rider to help stop this anti-Christ plot, and the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert, also shows up as the leader of the warrior monks. 

The directors of Spirit of Vengeance are Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, collectively known as Neveldine/Taylor.  They are the two who gave us the Crank franchise, and according to reports of footage shown at ComiCon a month or so ago, Spirit of Vengeance promises to be full of the same ridiculous, over-the-top action sequences that the Crank films are famous for. 

As for my thoughts on this trailer...meh.  I liked parts of the first film, but to me, the first film was the first indication that the "superhero movie formula" was starting to get set in stone.  It was the first superhero film I saw that I felt comfortable calling "formulaic."  So, really, then, I guess there's no where to go but up.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance hits theatres this February. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Some of That High Class British Porn: Hysteria Trailer

Normally, I just slap something like this straight up on my Facebook page, but since I'm Facebook friends with some of my nieces and nephews, I figure this may not be for their tender eyes.

So, last fall, there was some giggling and nervous twittering when it was announced that Maggie Gyllenhaal had signed on to to do a historical romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator.

Well, guess what?  We have a trailer!

Ladies and gentlemen, Hysteria.

I just noticed this is posted at the YouTube channel for the Toronto International Film Festival.  That's where The King's Speech had its world premiere last year.

I predict this will be seen by a lot of upper-middle-aged people, wandering in to the theatre expecting to see the next King's Speech.

Keep an eye on your neighborhood art house for when it comes to your town.