Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers -- Extended Edition

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many, many movies in my home video library.  Today, we get back to the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings with The Two Towers.  This entry is originally dated July 15, 2012.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Do It A Little Faster

One of the first things they told us in broadcast school about developing an on-air persona was to find someone you liked, and copy them.  Not going to lie...one of the folks in radio I try to emulate is Mike McGuire.  He became famous for his very generous spirit on the air, and I can tell you, that generosity continues over into real life.  He was a year ahead of me at NAIT, where I got to know him.  During my Great Year of Unemployment...that year between finishing NAIT and pounding the pavement looking for my first radio gig...he was incredibly supportive, always offering advice and encouraging words.  Plus, you know, he's the one who introduced me to "Weird Al" Yankovic, and is thus pretty much responsible for the greatest day of my life. 

For those who may not have heard, I've been transferred to the radio station in Westlock, but my new place isn't going to be open for me to move into for another week.  So, for the past few weeks, I've been commuting from Athabasca to Westlock everyday.  Tonight, while on the drive home, I plugged my MP3 player into my car stereo and fired up the latest episode of Mike's podcast.  One of Mike's newer passions in life is running, and in this episode, he was chatting with one of his running coaches.  So, as I was driving off into the sunset, listing to Mike and his coach talk about running, my mind started to wander and it wasn't long before I was reflecting on my experiences with the sport of running.  And, like most of my experiences in sports, it mostly takes place in junior high gym class.

I once talked to some of my friends to see if they had to go through the monthly ritual of the 12-minute run.  The name explains it all:  once a month, we'd have to run laps in the gym for 12 minutes straight.  Usually, to warm up to it, we'd also do as many push-ups as we could in a minute, and as many sit-ups as we could do in a minute.  But the centerpiece was that 12 minute run.  One time I looked it up online to see if the 12-minute run had an actual purpose, or if it was just something the gym teachers made us do when dodgeball was going to require too much effort.  Turns out it actually does serve a purpose...it's one of the few fitness tests that teachers can give to gauge a child's improvement.  So it was just what you do in gym for an exam.

But still, it was that one thing once a month that I loathed.  Being an nonathletic person for, well, ever, gym class was never my best class.  And it was that one day a month where things seemed to get the most competitive.  There was a big board on the gym wall that charted our progress and our personal bests, you see, so it quickly became a competition to see who could do the most laps.  While the die hard jocks would always get numbers up in the 50s, I was usually languishing down there in the 20s.  I'd run a bit, but walk for most of it.  When the jocks lapped me they'd always take a moment to glance and smirk.  The girls who had, *ahem*, female troubles, and were excused from the exercise, would usually commandeer the gym's sound system and crank up whatever cassettes they had in their Walkmans.  So it all played out to the bubblegum pop of the late-80s/early-90s.

But as the school year went on, something strange started happening every month, as I looked at that board and charted my progress.  I was getting better.  I was able to do more laps.  I was able to run longer without taking a break by walking.  I'll never forget the first time I hit 30 laps.  My teacher made a big deal about 30 laps, because that was equal to 1 mile.  Even more momentous was the first time I was able to run for the whole 12 minutes without walking.  I was enthralled.  I even remember which late-80s pop gem was playing on the gym's loudspeakers when the buzzer went off and 12 minutes was up.

Suddenly, the sideways smirks of the jocks didn't sting so much.  I did it.  I finally went for 12 minutes.  I went the distance, literally and figuratively.  For pretty much the only time in gym class, I felt like I accomplished something.

Don't get me wrong, though.  I still hated the 12-minute run with a passion.  My vision of Hell is still doing laps in the gym for infinity while New Kids on the Block plays on an endless loop and the Devil is a young, 20-something woman fresh out of teacher college who's just a little too perky and encouraging.  Still, though, if you can go through hell and manage to accomplish something...you feel good.

Well, I'm settling into middle age quite nicely, and now that I'm a grown up and don't have to do anything that I don't want to do, I've fully embraced my nonathletic ways.  But I do love to walk.  I'd spend my afternoons just roaming around Athabasca.  Saturday mornings, I'd even make a weekly trek from Canadian Tire to Athabasca University and back.  And for the past couple of years, I'd start thinking, "Ya know, if I did this a little faster, I'd be running." 

Trying to do it a little faster might be key as I get ready to move to Westlock.  One of the great things about Athabasca is all the hills.  A brisk walk is enough to get you to work up a sweat.  But Westlock...it's very flat.  More effort is going to be needed to get the heart rate up.  But I've already read a few warnings online.  Running is not something you can start overnight.  You can't just jump off the couch and say, "I'm going to run 10K today!"  You won't make it and you'll feel crappy and you'll quit.  So, you have to ease yourself into it.  Much like the 12 minute run of old.  Just do as much as you can, and then start walking.  And then run again.  Just keep doing that on a regular basis, and before you know it, you're going for the whole 12-minutes.

At least, I think that's how it works.  I don't think I'll go as hardcore as Mike and get me a coach and start training for marathons and such, but just go a little faster.  When you put it like that, it doesn't seem to hard. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin: King Kong (2005) - Extended Edition

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the movies in my DVD library.  Today, we get to the extended edition of Peter Jackson's King Kong.  This entry is originally dated July 14, 2012.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Down Time

I know, between prepping to move to Westlock and the stresses of starting a new job, I really shouldn't be going off on flights of fancy, but I'm fond of quoting my mother:  "Sometimes, you just have to treat yourself."  I'm also fond of quoting Captain Kirk:  "The greater the intelligence, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."

And that's how I'm justifying going into Edmonton yesterday.

I still had some money left on a Christmas gift card, and I had it earmarked for getting Skyfall on Blu-Ray.  The latest James Bond movie, and, in my opinion, the best of the Daniel Craig ones to date.  Had to get that for my collection.

Plus, also, more James Bond movies!  As I've already blogged, I'm not in much of a rush to upgrade my DVDs to Blu-Ray, because I don't have a HDTV yet to fully enjoy them.  But I don't know if you've noticed, but the James Bond Blu-Rays are dirt cheap right now.  So while they are priced so low, I've been upgrading them while I can.  Back in the fall, I got The Spy Who Loved Me, because, damn it, my DVD just won't play any more, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the lone George Lazenby Bond film, because it was the toughest one for me to find on DVD, so I figured I should snap up the Blu-Ray while I could.  A couple of months ago, I upgraded Tomorrow Never Dies and The Living Daylights, so the last of mine to upgrade was Goldfinger.  And there it was, in HMV's 2 for $20 section.  But, what other one to get for $20?  I decided to go with my second favourite of the Roger Moore Bonds, Moonraker.  So, I guess, rather than just my favourites, I'm now getting my second-favourites as well. 

Well, I haven't upgraded everything yet.  I still have to get Casino Royale on Blu-Ray, but darn it, most places still want full price for that one.  But I see, to tie-in with Skyfall, it's just been released in a nice little 2-pack with Quantum of Solace, so that just might be worth getting.  

but yeah...that was pretty much it.  Not a very eventful city trip.  Got in, got my movies, got out. 

But I did get some work done on the moving-front.  Before I left for the city, raided Athabasca's grocery stores to get more boxes.  And it gave me time to watch some Saturday morning cartoons.  Justice League Unlimited is now on in re-runs, and it's still a great adaptation of the DC Universe.  This one featured a character I wished they explored a little more, Galatea. 

The mytharc of Justice League Unlimited concerned Project Cadmus, a secret government agency tasked with creating super-weapons should the Justice League ever fall to the dark side and this army of superheroes try to take over the world.  Their chief assassin and super-soldier:  Galatea, an evil clone of Supergirl.  Whereas Supergirl is always a teenager of 16 or so, Galatea was artificially aged to her physical prime...age 30, I believe they said in her first appearance.  However, a fluke in cloning process has given her an empathic link with Supergirl, which resulted in the side effect of Galatea being cursed with a conscience. 

This particular episode happens when things with Cadmus and the JLA come to a head, and Galatea is dispatched to lead an assault on the Watchtower...the Justice League's space station headquarters.  Professor Emil Hamilton, the scientist who created her, is doing all that super-soldier monitoring stuff, making sure she's ready for battle, outfitting her with her latest gear...it's all very business like, with Hamilton having an air of detachment about it all.  He's just doing his job.  When the job is done, when Galatea gets up to leave, she pauses at the door for a moment, turns around, and comes back to Hamilton and gives him a great big hug...like how any soldier would say good-bye to their loved ones before going off to war.  She whispers in his ear, "Good-bye, Dad," and then heads off to slay the Justice League.

And the lock of surprise and horror on Hamilton's face, as he realizes that this living weapon he's created has come to regard him as its father, is priceless.  Their relationship  is definitely something worth exploring.  But sadly, that was Galatea's second and final appearance in the show.  Hopefully, the comic writers will pick it up some day. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - King Kong (1933)

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many, many DVDs in my home video library.  Today, we get to the genesis of all giant monster films, the grandfather of the special-effects driven blockbuster, the original King Kong.  This entry is originally dated July 13, 2012.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II Review

Well, I think it's time to take a break from packing and panicking about the move to kick back, relax, and finally take in the latest DC Comics/Warner Brothers direct-to-DVD animated movie.  Let's take a look at....

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II

Directed by Jay Olivia

Starring the voices of Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Michael Emerson, Mark Valley, Michael McKeen, Robin Atkin Downes, Tress MacNeille, and Conan O'Brien

Backstory:  Again, for the most part, I've been enjoying this series of direct-to-DVD movies, but it seemed like craziness to try to adapt The Dark Knight Returns.  With such a seminal graphic novel, you can't help but fear they'd get it wrong.  But, at least they had the good sense to split it up into two movies to make sure it would be done right and not rushed.  Part I came out back in the fall, and quickly became a critical darling, sweeping much love online.  Me?  I merely thought it was good, not great.  But I had hope for Part II.  Because of how they split it up, I knew Part II was when we'd be getting to all the good stuff from the graphic novel.  So does Part II bring us a satisfactory conclusion?

Plot:  When last we left the Caped Crusader, it was the dystopian 1980s.  Batman, now in his 50s, comes out of retirement, takes down a viscious street gang known as the Mutants, and gets back to work cleaning up the streets.  During Batman's years of inactivity, the Joker has been existing in a catatonic state in Arkham Asylum.  But with Batman's return, the Joker snaps back to life and begins plotting the mother of all comebacks.  But in this era, most superheroes have given up their secret identities and gone into hiding, save for one Man of Steel who sold out and became a government agent.  With Batman keeping law and order in Gotham City, the government is starting to look foolish in the public eye.  The stage is set for two climactic showdowns:  Batman's final battle with Joker, followed by Batman resisting arrest at the hands of Superman.

What I Liked:  This movie is very faithful to the original graphic novel.  And there's a few nice embellishments as well.  Of course, since they did away with Batman's internal monologue, the dialogue then conveys most of the information, and Batman and Joker's banter during their final battle is amazing.  The action sequences are also pretty good, with Batman and Superman's final fight being much more brutal than what they did in the comics.

What I Didn't Like:  Naturally, this movie had to be very compressed when compared to the comics, so a few things had to get cut out.  Certain scenes and certain side plots are reduced to throwaway lines, which is a little disappointing,

Final Verdict:  Probably as best an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns that we'll ever get.  But still, the book is better.

3 Nibs

Bonus Materials:  For bonus features on the Blu-Ray, you get a featurette on the times that Batman has fought Superman in the comics, a featurette on the Joker, a featurette on adapting the legendary graphic novel, 3 bonus episodes of Batman cartoons, and a preview for the next film Superman Unbound, coming out this summer.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - John Carter

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many movies in my home video library.  I already remarked that, thanks to how the schedule is working, I seem to be doing movies that came out a year ago.  And, it was almost a year ago that the new record-setter for biggest bomb of all time came out, John Carter.  This entry is originally dated June 24, 2012.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Super Bowl Movie Spots

It's been a few days, and I haven't had a chance to sit and blog about the Super Bowl movie spots.  Not much really caught my eye this year.  According to the news the day after, the most watched one was the one for Oz: The Great and Powerful.  And I'm still scratching my head that they made a sixth Fast and the Furious movie.  But there were a couple that did catch my eye.

One that grabbed my attention, our latest look at the new Star Trek movie, Into Darkness.

We didn't get to see much new in this spot, but I am still interested.  With Benidict Cumberbatch's line, "I'm better than you...at everything," I'm starting to get more convinced that the villain is Khan...or some genetically engineered super soldier.

And yes, I do have the much-ballyhooed app, and I've already scanned it and seen the 2-second longer version.

The other one that caught my eye was for Disney's The Lone Ranger.  At 90 seconds, it was the longest movie spot at the Super Bowl...almost the right length for another trailer.

It's looking good...but still very different from The Lone Ranger that I grew up with.  I still fear that they pumped it full of supernatural BS.  The last time they did that with a perfectly good Western hero was Jonah Hex, and look how that turned out.

It just might be a good summer at the movies.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

From Up on Poppy Hill Trailer

From Up On Poppy Hill movie poster

I've been waiting for a glimpse of this film.  Coming to theatres in North America later this spring, the latest from the legendary Japanese studio Studio Ghibli, From Up on Poppy Hill.

From Up on Poppy Hill originally hit theatres in Japan in the summer of 2011, and served as a reconciliation between father and son.  The screenplay was written by Studio Ghibli's genius emeritus, Hayao Miyazaki.  And the film was directed by his son Goro Miyazaki.  Goro had long been reluctant to get into the family business, having had a successful career as a landscape architecht.  He made his directorial debut with the 2006 Ghibli film Tales from Earthsea.  He originally joined the project as a consultant...then got promoted to a storyboard artist...and finally getting promoted to director.  The elder Miyazaki was apparently furious with the decision.  As Hayao said in an interview at the time, there used to be a rigid system in Japanese animation where you'd cut your teeth on TV shows before graduating to animated films, but a new generation raised with the Disney films of the 1990s wanted to leap straight into feature animation.  He felt his son just hadn't paid his dues.  But, Tales from Earthsea hit theatres, and Hayao Miyazaki felt it was pretty good, and father and son reconciled.  Hayao admitted that the main character in his 2008 film Ponyo was based on Goro at age 5, and they finally officially worked together on From Up on Poppy Hill.

By the way, if you've never heard of Tales from Earthsea, I don't blame you.  While the elder Miyazaki liked it, most critics didn't.  It's kind of regarded as the Cars of the Studio Ghibli catalog...it's not very good, but it gets a pass because it was made by studio know for high quality.  When Disney dubbed it and released it in theatres, it didn't get a wide release, only playing it a few film festivals in 2010, and then they quietly released it on DVD in 2011.

And speaking of Disney, From Up on Poppy Hill is notable in that it's the first Studio Ghibli film since the late 1990s that's NOT being dubbed and released by the Walt Disney Studios.  It's being released by a company called GKIDS.  GKIDS originally started as the organizing body of the New York International Children's Film Festival.  In 2008, they expanded into theatrical distribution, bringing to North American theatres such Oscar-nominated animated films as The Secret of Kells, Chico & Rita, and A Cat in Paris.  In 2011, they scored a major coup when they acquired the theatrical distribution rights to the entire Studio Ghibli catalog.  I think Disney still owns the home video rights.

That being said, though, there's a lot of Disney personnel still involved in the dubbing process.  The dub was produced by legendary producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen "the new boss of Luscafilm" Kennedy, who produced the dubs of Ponyo and The Secret World of Arrietty.  The English dub was once again directed by legendary Pixar sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who directed the English dubs of Tales from Earthsea and The Secret World of Arrietty.  And, following the Disney tradition, the dub has an all-star voice cast, including Once Upon a Time star Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christina Hendricks, Chris "Mr. Big" Noth, Beau Bridges, Aubrey Plaza, and Ron Howard.

So, given all that, what is the film about?  Set in early 1960s Japan, it's the tender coming-of-age tale of a teen girl named Umi, who has a daily routine of raising signal flags in her front yard which overlooks a nearby harbor.  These flags soon catch the attention of a boy named Shun, and they engage in the typical teenage romance.  And they soon band together to help renovate and fix up the building that houses their high school's clubs.  And Umi tries to come to terms with her father, who died during the Korean War when she was very young.  

It did play a few Oscar-qualifying runs at film festivals in the fall, and many thought that, with the Ghibli name, it would have been a lock for a Best Animated Film Oscar, but it wasn't.  It starts hitting theatres in North America this March.  But, let's be honest, GKIDS doesn't have quite the reach of Disney, so if you want to see it in theaters, keep an eye on your local movie listings for when it hits your local art house.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Upon Leaving Athabasca

I've been thinking for the past few days that I'd like to sit down and share a few thoughts upon leaving Athabasca, but the more that life gets in the way, I find the desire to do it is starting to leave me, so I figured I should do it while the shred of desire is left.

People keep asking me if I'm excited that I'm leaving, or starting the new gig, and the truth is...no.  That's no slam against Athabasca, or Westlock, or the Company, it's just the way I am.  When I went to Japan all those years ago, I wasn't excited until I was pulling up to the airport.  When I cam home from Japan, I wasn't excited about going home until the plane touched down at Edmonton International.  When I started working in Athabasca, I wasn't excited until my second day at work.  It was on the second day when I felt truly on my own and that it was all on me.

So, no.  I'm not excited yet.  There's still too much to do.  I still haven't found a place in Westlock, and once that's done, there's the packing and the moving.  Excitement will find its moment.

I wish I did sit down to write this, though, before I did my final show back on Friday.  When things were done and I was reviewing the audio, I was a little embarrassed.  If I sat down to write this and had collected my thoughts a little more, before going on the air, I wouldn't have sounded so raw.  It would have been polished a little more.  But there are nuggets of truth in there.

As I said, because small town radio stations have notoriously high turnover, there's a large segment of the listening population that thinks I've only been here six months or so.  But I was here just shy of 7 years.  April 2006 - February 2013 is how it'll read on my resume.  And the little old radio station went through quite a few changes in those years.  I started when we were on AM and a country music station, then we flipped to classic hits and changed our name, then we flipped to FM and changed our name again.  In a performance review, I was asked what I felt my greatest contribution to the station was.  I said consistency.

But as I said on the air on Friday, one thing that has constantly amazed me about Athabasca and the listening area is the ability of the community to band together and achieve the impossible.  I know the go-to example in recent years has been how Athabasca opened their homes to the Slave Lake evacuees during the Slave Lake fires, but I was thinking before that.  I was thinking about how the Athabasca Regional Multiplex came to be.  When I first started here 7 years ago, the Multiplex was still an empty lot and a dream.  Yeah, the town and the county chipped in some money, there were a few provincial grants as well, but the lion's share was raised by the people because they needed that facility.  The field house isn't named after the Rotary Club through some name-rights deal...it's because the Rotary Club single-handedly raised $2 million for the building.  When the Edmonton Oilers had their kids training camp here a couple years ago and I was emceeing the opening ceremony, I said that minor hockey built the Multiplex, and I stand by that.  The Multiplex started when the Athabasca Minor Hockey Association approached the municipalities and said, "We need a new rink."  Minor hockey did the vast majority of the fundraising.  The Multiplex was built by the people.  The grand opening of the Multiplex in the spring of 2008 was the last big event I got to cover before being promoted from news to on-air.

Lots of people don't remember that, either.  I started here as the news reporter, and spent two years doing that before I became the wacky morning guy.  I paid my dues spending late nights covering town council meetings, followed by early mornings writing it up for the 6AM news.  A town concillor stopped me the grocery store the other day and asked if I'd ever spend late nights covering town council meetings.  Apparently, he'd forgotten that I was the reporter at all those town council meetings back when he was the mayor.  I missed covering council meetings when I left the news department.  They go from high drama to deep lunacy...they're delightfully entertaining.

One thing I'll miss the most about Athabasca is Athabasca University.  I love that place.  I'm a big fan of post secondary education - that's why I've done it so many times - and for this world class facility to be in a small Alberta town is just amazing.  Every year, when Convocation rolls around, and people from all over the world come to Athabasca to have their moment on the stage and accept their hard-earned degree, I just can't help but cheer.  It's a signature Athabasca event that really deserves more attention.  Even when I was no longer a reporter and wasn't obligated to be there anymore, I'd still take a moment to head up there and take it in.  And it was practical, too, as I'd often be hanging around the Financial Aid office trying to find help in finally getting my student loans paid off.

As I packed up the various mementos around my office, I took a moment to remember.  I had a hockey puck from the Battle of the Border...a fundraiser held for the Multiplex.  The Canadian Women's Olympic hockey team took on the American Women's Olympic hockey team in an exhibition game.  I've got another hockey puck from the Oilers, and that aforementioned training camp for kids they held here a couple years ago.  I took down my Canadian flag, which had hung in my dorm room all throughout my college years, and when the 2010 Winter Olympics came along, I hung it in my office to cheer on Team Canada, and just kind of left it up.  I remember when the MLA came down one day to record some commercials.  He looked at that Canadian flag, rolled his eyes, let out a sigh of disgust, and said, "You really should have an Alberta flag up."  I threw out my trophy from when I represented the station at the Winter Festival of Speed in Lac la Biche a few years ago.  I came in third, and the person who placed first - the announcer from the Bonnyville station - decided to play a rather mean-spirited prank on me.  I'm still sore about it.

Athabasca really has been the culmination of a life's goal.  When I was 10 years old, I saw the movie Good Morning Vietnam and decided that being a radio announcer was what I wanted to do when I grew up.  When I went to college, first thing I did was volunteer for the college station.  After college, I thought the whole radio system would be out of my system and I could become a grown up.  But it wasn't.  So I went back to college, got my degree in broadcasting, and started in Athabasca.  And now, I'm getting ready to head off to a new town, new station, and do it all over again.  The dream goes on.  The adventure continues.

I think excitement is finding its moment.