Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney Buys Star Wars

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

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

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

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

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

And then...today.

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

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

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

We're getting the sequel trilogy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Evolution of Cellphone Photography

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

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

Of course, I wanted one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mount Robson, from summer vacation 2009.

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

Some deer in a front yard in Athabasca.

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

Steam tractor on the Athabasca riverfront.

Christmas decorations up far too early at Canadian Tire.

Batman wins the Stanley Cup.

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boo! It's a Halloween Targ!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

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

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

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

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

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Be a fan in Facebook! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1 Review

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

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Directed by Jay Olivia

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Nibs

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

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

Spring:  The Dark Knight Returns Part II

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Snowball Express

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iron Man 3 Trailer!

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

The Iron Man 3 Teaser Poster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin.

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

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

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Just Another Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And just $15!

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

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

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

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

The End of Athabasca's Fringe Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's On Your iPod?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Last Unicorn

It's time again for Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch one of the multitude of DVDs in my home library and offer my thoughts on it.  Today, we do one of my favourite animated films from my childhood, The Last Unicorn.  This review is originally dated March 15, 2012.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Johnny Lightening Cars

So, a few months ago, I did a blog entry about the Hot Wheels cars that have found their way into my action figure collection.  That blog entry always felt incomplete to me, as I have a few more die-cast metal cars in my collection, that are in storage with the bulk of my action figure collection back in my parents basement.

When I went home last week for Thanksgiving vacation, I figured it was time to rectify that.  I guess, then, this is Part II of my previous blog entry.  I noticed that both of these are of the Johnny Lightening brand, so it's appropriate then that I call this entry "My Johnny Lightening Cars."

I've always had a soft spot for the VW Beetle.  I'm sure it all goes back to one of my earliest conscious memories of television being Disney's short-lived Herbie the Love Bug TV show.  As such, I've also had a soft spot for the Herbie franchise.  I even took my niece and nephew to see Herbie:  Fully Loaded

Fully loaded...a term that can now also apply to Herbie:  Fully Loaded's star Lindsay Lohan.  Bazinga!

I know on the air I've also mentioned my fondness for the board game Monopoly.  I know I've told the story of the marathon games my brother and I used to play...the kind that start at 2PM on a rainy Saturday afternoon and end at 2AM on Sunday morning when our fighting got Mom out of bed and she ordered us to shut it down. 

I also remember that when the Dodge Viper first came out in the early 1990s, it was a really big deal to all the automobile enthusiasts I was in high school with.  Back in the early 1990s, the Viper was the ultimate sports car.  So when I saw this "Boardwalk Dodge Viper," I figured this would be a neat addition to my collection.

I've often read about gigantic, professional Monopoly tournaments.  I wonder what it would take to organize one of those for Athabasca?  Charge a modest entry fee, raise the money for charity, get the banks involved so we can get real bankers to be the bankers.  I like that idea.

Anywho, that's the rest of of my cars.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

James Bond, iPhones, and How I Spent my Thanksgiving Vacation

So, while enjoying my week off, I finally had to succumb and do what I'd been planning for a while.

I got an iPhone.

If you're my friend on Facebook, then you'll know that this is something I've been thinking about for a while.  My cellphone contract was due to expire at the end of July, and I figured that would be a good time to upgrade.  But, as I also lamented on Facebook, my car ran into some troubles and getting my car fixed wound up wiping out my iPhone savings.  But I figured that would be OK.  I could make do with my BlackBerry for a few more months, get the savings back up there, and hopefully by that time, the shiny new iPhone 5 would be widely available and I could get the latest and the greatest.

But, as we've learned from the movies, fate had other plans.

I was back home in Entwistle, lounging with my folks, when my BlackBerry started acting up.  I had an older model with a trackball, and the trackball frequently siezes up.  I'd read online how to fix this, and had fixed it many times in the past.  What you are to do is to get some isopropyl alcohol and gently flush out the trackball.  Do you have an old head cleaner cassette tape or VHS tape?  Isopropyl alcohol is the head cleaning solution. 

So my Dad had some out in his garage, so I took my BlackBerry out to the garage, dipped a cotton swab into the isopropyl alcohol and began gently scrubbing the trackball.  With that done, I went to turn on my BlackBerry.

My BlackBerry wouldn't turn on. 

So, I reset my BlackBerry.  I pulled out the battery and put it back in.  It came on fine, the trackball was fine, but the keyboard was toast.  Couldn't push any buttons to make anything work.

My choices were clear:  keep monkeying with it, trying to get it work, or take it as a sign that the universe was telling me to get a new phone.

I took it as a sign.

The next day, I went into Edmonton, with my sights set on getting a shiny new iPhone.  Now, I know that the Samsung Galaxys are quite popular, and the Google Android OS is pretty much on-par with Apple these days, but I'd been fixated on an iPhone for quite some time.  Hell, I originally wanted an iPhone three years ago when I bought my BlackBerry, but the iPhone wasn't on Telus yet.  And I knew I wanted to stick with Telus.  Living up in Athabasca as I do, Telus still has the best coverage for remote, rural Alberta.  Besides, I've got about three years worth of iTunes purchases on my home computer that I finally want to be able to take out and about with me.

So, it was off to Edmonton to get my iPhone.  Now, as much as I wanted the shiny new iPhone 5, I remember reading all those news reports about how the iPhone 5 was sold out all over the world.  So I fully expected not to find it.  I figured I should go straight to the source...the Apple Store in West Edmonton Mall.  If the Apple Store didn't have it, then I'd be fairly certain that no one would have it.  And sure enough, I went into the Apple Store, chatting with a friendly clerk, and the first thing he said to me was, "I'm sorry, but we're all out of stock on the iPhone 5."  I thanked him, and went on my way.  As much as I wanted an iPhone, I figured I would be better off getting it from a Telus Store, as they would most likely be the most knowledgeable about the various Telus plans.

Rather than hang around West Edmonton Mall, I decided to hit the Telus Stores in Spruce Grove, as those are the ones my parents deal with all the time, and they say nice things.  And let me be the latest to say more nice things.  If you're ever in the market for a new cellphone, and you want to go with Telus, and you're in Spruce Grove, Alberta, then I highly recommend that you hit the Telus Store in the Westland Market Mall.  That had to be the friendliest and most knowledgeable staff I'd ever run into when buying electronics.

I walked into the Telus Store, and was met with a gruff-looking elderly man.  We did the usual clerk/customer banter.  He asked if there was anything he could help me with today.  I said I was in the market for an iPhone, and for the hell of it, I asked if he had any iPhone 5's in stock.  "Afraid not," he said.  "Sold out this morning."  So I inquired about an iPhone 4S.  I was hoping for a model with a 32G memory, because if my BlackBerry was any indication, I'll soon be stuffing the memory full of movie trailers and digital copies of TV episodes.  The clerk said that they only had 16G memory models in stock.  "OK, that'll do," I said.  The clerk disappeared into the back room and came back out with a brand new iPhone 4S.  "You're lucky," he said to me.  "I found one last 32G model in the back room.  It's yours." 

The gruff-looking (but very friendly) clerk turned me over to a young lady to finish up the transaction.  Now, she must have been in the iPhone expert in the store, because she was able to get it out of the box, get it all set up, and answer all my questions about the phone, the new plan I was signing up for, and all that good stuff.  She was even able to go into my old BlackBerry (I'd brought it with me out of force of habit) and successfully transferred over my contacts list to my new iPhone.  She was even able to show me a few tricks to help prolong the iPhone's battery life. 

And I went home that day with a shiny new iPhone 4S.  I am a little worried about my iPhone.  As the clerk reminded me, the big thing about BlackBerry's is their proprietary method for compressing data.  She said that when people switch from BlackBerries to non-BlackBerries, they can see their data usage go up as much as 6x.  But, my old BlackBerry wasn't wi-fi capable, so now that I can get on wi-fi hotspots, the data usage shouldn't go up too significantly. 

Granted, I'm expecting my data usage to be high and my battery life to be short for the next few months, because it's all shiny and new and I can't stop playing with it! 

That wasn't the only thing I had on my mind, though, that I was looking to upgrade.  For about a year or so now, you may have seen me blogging and lamenting that my DVD of the James Bond classic, The Spy Who Loved Me, seems to have given up the ghost.  I've got two DVD players, a Blu-Ray player, and the CD-ROM on my computer and it doesn't play on any of them.  Sadly, The Spy Who Loved Me had fallen out of print.  That's the thing with the James Bond movies on DVD and Blu-Ray...they're only available whenever there's a new James Bond movie about to hit a theatre near you.

So, with SkyFall coming out in about a month or so, the James Bond movies are slowly returning to DVD...some of them coming to Blu-Ray for the first time.  A few weeks ago, we got the massive Bond 50 boxed set, containing all 22 James Bond films.  I don't want all 22 James Bond films.  When DVD was new and exciting, I figured I'd just get my favourite for each James Bond actor.  And when The Spy Who Loved Me gave up the ghost, my Roger Moore slot was unfilled. 

Perusing my DVD websites, I saw that The Spy Who Loved Me was getting its long awaited individual Blu-Ray release on October 2...but only at Best Buy stores.  Since this tale that I'm sharing all took place on October 2, I knew that one of my stops would have to at Best Buy to finally get The Spy Who Loved Me

I was a little wary, though.  Everything I read online said that The Spy Who Loved Me was going to be available exclusively at Best Buy, but they didn't mention if that included Best Buys in Canada.  So I just took my chances and showed up at the store on the morning of October 2.  And lo and behold, there was The Spy Who Loved Me, and even better, it was at the discount bin price of $10.

At that price, I also decided to upgrade my copy of George Lazenby's lone James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  When you're choosing your favourite George Lazenby James Bond film, you don't have much to choose from.  Actually, next on my list for upgrading would be Tomorrow Never Dies (my favourite Brosnan Bond) and The Living Daylights (my favourite Dalton Bond), and they also had them at Best Buy for $10.  They're next for upgrading because my DVDs are the plain versions...no bonus features to speak of.  I didn't get those two that day, because some times I've got to be careful.  I have been known to buy more DVDs and Blu-Rays than I can watch, and they wind up just sitting until I find the time.  A man's got to pace himself. 

So, as a vacation went, I think it went pretty good.  I got new toys and new movies.  That's all pretty much anyone could ask for. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Godzilla

It's that time again...Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I show that I have no better way to fill my free time than to sit, watch movies in my home library, and blog about them.  This week, it's the orginal giant monster epic from Japan, Godzilla.  This entry is originally dated February 24, 2012

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Lone Ranger Trailer

I think I've blogged before that I have a bit of a soft spot for The Lone Ranger.  Some of my earliest conscious memories of television are watching Lone Ranger reruns on CBC before church on Sunday mornings.  And I knew, with the comic book hero genre dominating the box office these days, it would be just a matter of time.

I've got to admit, everything I've heard about the upcoming movie version of The Lone Ranger is giving me pause for concern.  I mean, when they showed that first photo of Johnny Depp as Tonto, and he had the dead raven on his head, I was one of many who went, "What the heck are they doing?"  Plus, when you heard the rumors that the budget was was $250 million, and that werewolves eventually show up, you start going, "No, no, no...that's not The Lone Ranger."

Well, Lone Ranger promotion seems to have gone into overdrive this week.  Yesterday, we got the movie poster, and again, I was disappointed.  When it comes to doing the posters for these heroes, you tend to focus on the icons.  With the Lone Ranger, what would that be?  White hat.  Black mask.  Silver bullets.  Instead, we get this.

That just kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Why are they making the dead raven on Johnny Depp's head the icon of this movie?

Today, we got our first trailer, and again, something about it just doesn't sit right with me.

I look at that, and all I can think is "All aboard the gritty reboot train!"  That's just a little too gritty for the Lone Ranger I remember.  I can't help but focus on the music.  That music just doesn't work for me.  As I said, it all goes back to the icons.  When I think of the Lone Ranger, this is the music I want to hear.

And of course, I had to scratch my head when the trailer said, "From Oscar-winning director Gore Verbinski."  It took me a while to remember that he won Best Animated Film for directing Rango.  I'm not sure if I blogged about it before, but I'm one of the few who found Rango underwhelming. 

So, yeah.  Right now, it's just striking me as having strayed too far from the source material, but I'm still mildly curious, and will probably find myself wandering into the theatre.

To recap, this production comes to us from most the same creative team behind the firs three Pirates of the Caribbean movies:  director Verbinski, writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and star Johnny Depp, who in this, plays Tonto.  The Lone Ranger will be played by Armie Hammer, who played the Winklevos twins in The Social Network.  Veteran character actor William Fichtner plays Butch Cavendish, the ruthless outlaw who murdered the Lone Ranger's brother, and Helena Bonham Carter plays a saloon owner who helps our heroes.

Wait a minute, both Depp and Bonham Carter are in this?  How is Tim Burton not directing it?

Oh, and when I was reviewing the information for this, and talking about the music and straying from the source material.  I just remembered that Jack White is making his film-scoring debut by doing the score for this.

The Lone Ranger hits theatres on July 3, 2012.