Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - From Russia With Love

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look upon the films I own, and I watch them and rant about them.  We're about to go into a stretch of James Bond films, starting with what many regard as the best Bond film ever, From Russia With Love.  This is dated in my notes at March 17, 2013.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Day After the Day of the Doctor

So, here we are.  We've now had the awesomeness that was the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.  So I felt like taking to the blog to just share my thoughts.

I should issue a spoiler warning.  As I began live-tweeting my reactions yesterday, had quite a few friends tweet back "SHUT UP!  I'm doing stuff today and I'm recording it!"  So for those who have lives and such and haven't watched it yet, turn away now.

Still here?  Good.

To borrow the Ninth Doctor's catchphrase:  fantastic.  I thought it was a little slow to get going at the outset, but once we got halfway through and started ramping up the emotion, it was so great.

So wonderful seeing David Tennant back as the Tenth Doctor.  (Or is he the Eleventh now?  I see the debate is raging as to how/if they should be renumbered.)  And the interplay between him and the Eleventh Doctor was great.  They bickered like brothers, which was a great way to take it.

John Hurt, as the mysterious War Doctor.  As briefly alluded to in the end of Series 7, this Doctor is the one that ended the Time War by annihilating both the Time Lords and the Daleks.  And when we meet him in this special, he's made the decision to do it, but he hasn't yet.  He knows he's turned his back on the name and concept of the Doctor, but he hasn't just yet, so he still has that twinkle in his eye.

And it was very interesting how they brought back Rose.  Well, not really Rose.  See, the doomsday weapon that the War Doctor uses to end the war has never been used, because it gained sentience.  As the one Time Lord general said about it, "No one wants to use a weapon that will judge you for having used it."  So as the War Doctor goes to activate the weapon, it's sentience takes the form of Rose.  Well, actually, it takes the form of Bad Wolf, the omnipotent form of Rose from the end of Series One.  Very clever, and such a tease that she wound up being in scenes with the Tenth Doctor, but there's no interaction between them.  (She's projected telepathically into the War Doctor's mind, so only he can see her.)

It was just so much fun.  I enjoyed it immensely.  As our three Doctors team up to stop an alien invasion on Earth, and in doing so, help the War Doctor make his terrible decision to end the great Time War.

But not.  Thanks to that wibbly wobbley timey wimey stuff, they determine a way to end the war and save the Time Lords.  As the Eleventh Doctor eventually realizes, he's had 400 years to think about how he would have done things differently.  And now he has the chance to.  Leading to one spectacular climax where the Doctor finally saves Gallifrey, thus earning a spot of redemption.

But of course, the Easter Eggs and callbacks to other aspects of the franchise.  My top 5:

5)  The donor of the Vortex Manipulator
4)  The retro opening, which re-creates the opening of the very first episode
3)  The blink-and-you'll-miss-it brief appearance by the forthcoming Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi
2)  The Tenth Doctor's final words in the special. 
1)  The identity of the Curator. 

I do kind of wish I did pay the money to go to the theatre and see it in 3D.  Something tells me the effects of the 3D oil paintings were probably pretty spectacular.

I'm still kind of sad that Christopher Eccleston chose not to be a part of it, and therefore no Ninth Doctor, but why lament the awesomeness we could have had?  It was pretty damn spectacular as it was.

And while I'm on the subject, I may as well offer up my thoughts on the other 50th anniversary special, An Adventure in Space and Time, the docudrama which told the tale of the show's creation back in the 1960s.

Again, it was good, if a little...perfunctory.  When you do a project like this, one of the traps you can fall into is getting too wrapped up in recreating the time, place and events, and thus you really don't get to know the people involved.  This definitely fell into that trap.  You never got sense of why these people believed in this project so much.

For example, Sydney Newman, the head of the BBC Drama department at the time, who created the general concept for Doctor Who.  Brian Cox plays him like a big cartoon character of a Hollywood producer.  It feels a little...out-of-place.

We do get to meet Verity Lambert, Newman's former personal assistant whom he promotes to being the first producer of Doctor Who.  She was a bit better character, as she battled both her nervousness at being given her first show, and the sexism in the BBC offices, as her role producing Doctor Who made her the BBC's first female producer.  But again, her character arc quickly fades into the background as the show takes off, and the movie becomes more wrapped up in recreating how the show was made back then.  The coda tells us that, upon her death in 2007, she'd become revered in the British television industry as a bona fide legend.  I'd almost like to see a movie purely about her.

But still, it is great watching her transform and start really, truly becoming a producer.  There is the one scene where she's battling with Newman about the first Dalek storyline.  Newman wants to axe it because killer robots is one of the sci-fi tropes he really wanted to avoid with the show.  But Lambert fights for it because it's a very good, very thoughtful, sci-fi script with meaty concepts.  Newman does get this strange mix of pride and fear seeing his protege turn into this tough-as-nails producer he knew she could be...and all of her new found skills and confidence are being unleashed on him.  

On the other side, a character that could have gotten a little more attention, I feel, is Waris Hussien, who was the first director of Doctor Who.  As they show in the film, he also had hurdles to face as the BBC's first Indian director.  He and Lambert form a fast friendship, as they both battle the racist and sexist old guard.  I would have liked to have seen a little more of him.

But the heart and soul of the film was David Bradley, who played William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor.  It was fun seeing him transform.  When we meet him, he's a gruff old actor who's getting typecast as gruff old soldiers.  But when Lambert and Hussien pitch this new TV series to him, it does catch his attention.  And as the show becomes popular, and he sees how he's becoming a hero to children everywhere, it really does start to soften him up.  He begins taking his role as hero to millions of children quite seriously.  It's fun watching him change, and thus makes it all the more heartbreaking when his ailing health eventually forces him to quit the show. 

Which leads to my objection about the film's end.  It ends with Hartnell filming his final scene, and as he wonders if the show will go on without him, he looks to his side and sees a vision of...the Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith in a cameo, just looking back at him and smiling, thus assuring Hartnell that the show ill go on.  Something about this whole scene just felt awkward.  Because Smith does nothing more than stand there and twitch, I can't tell if he really did film the cameo, or if it was digital footage of Smith awkwardly inserted.  Definitely feels like the latter. 

That being said, though, I'm glad it shone a light on the bumpy road the show had in its beginnings.

And before I wrap this up, I have to share this bit of hilariousness.  There was a third 50th anniversary special.  I mean, lots of fans were upset that the other classic Doctors didn't make an appearance.  And we weren't the only ones.

Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor, wrote and directed this special called The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, in which he, Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) and Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor) launch their campaign to appear in The Day of the Doctor. 

Oh my God, you guys, this is so funny.  I don't know how many of the cameos I should spoil for you.  But trust me, this is just a nice way to cap things off.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Wreck-It Ralph

Time for another edition of Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of one of the many, many, many DVDs clogging my shelves and blogging about.   This time out, we get to Disney's animated epic of 2012, Wreck-It Ralph.  This entry originally appears in my notes at March 16, 2013. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Returning Heroes and Villains

Another late night at work, so while I've got some free time on my supper break, I may as well take to the blog and blog about some recent news items that caught my eye.

This is a few weeks old now, but it sure got tongues wagging.  Marvel Studios recently announced a huge deal with Netflix to start producing original TV series based on Marvel characters exclusively for Netflix!  The four characters getting their own shows are:
Following the model of the Marvel movies, this will all build up to a Defenders mini-series, featuring these characters teaming up.  I don't know much about The Defenders...they're usually assembled by Dr. Strange to combat supernatural threats.  And they were widely mocked in Twisted ToyFare Theatre back in the day for being the low-rent Avengers.

Each hero's series is going to run 13 episodes.  And they've already announced some of the talent.  Daredevil is going to be overseen by Drew Goddard.  Goddard is a frequent Joss Whedon collaborator, having written episodes of Buffy and Angel back in the day.  On the big screen, he co-wrote (with Whedon) and directed the horror film deconstruction The Cabin in the Woods.

For Jessica Jones, they're talking with Melissa Rosenberg.  Rosenberg is a veteran television writer, who was responsible for some of the better episodes of Dexter.  On the big screen, she wrote the screenplay for every Twilight movie.  Apparently, back in 2010, she attempted to get a Jessica Jones series up and running, so she's already familiar with the character.   

It's all slated to premiere in 2015. 

I think this is a great idea.  Obviously, the Marvel Universe is so big, that they can't adapt every character into a movie.  So why not give some of the B-listers a TV series?  Netflix is widely becoming the place for new, original content, with such hits as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.  Because each series is going to run 13 episodes, we can have a definite story arc running for those episodes, which will really give them an opportunity to tell an epic story.  Might be finally time to sign up for Netflix!

And there was a news story that broke on Friday night that caught my eye.  The producers of the James Bond films have finally reacquired the movie rights to the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

For those who aren't familiar with Bond lore, Blofeld is James Bond's arch-enemy, head of the terrorist organization known as SPECTRE.  Blofeld and SPECTRE were the villains in pretty much all the James Bond movies of the 1960s.  They were always stirring up Cold War tensions between The Western Powers and the Soviet Bloc in the hopes of starting World War III, and then building a new world order from the ashes.  For the first few films, he was shown only from the back, stroking his white, long-haired cat, thus establishing that supervillain cliche.

How the Bond producers lost the rights to the Moriarty to Bond's Sherlock Holmes is a long and sordid tale.  This is as best I understand it.  Back in the late 1950s, when Bond was starting to take the literary world by storm, Bond's creator Ian Fleming partnered with a young writer named Kevin McClory to write a James Bond screenplay to shop around to movie producers.  Somewhere along the way, Fleming and McClory had a falling out, and went their separate ways.  Not wanting to let a good story go to waste, Fleming published the unused screenplay as the Bond novel Thunderball

Needless to say, when Thunderball hit bookstore shelves, McClory was pissed, and sued to get his due credit and royalties for co-writing Thunderball.  The judge sided with McClory, and as part of his settlement, McClory was granted the movie rights to Thunderball.  As the movie version of Thunderball was already in production by the time this settlement was reached, McClory got a co-producer credit on the film, and was barred from exercising his film rights until 10 years after Thunderball's release. 

Flash forward 10 years.  As the Bond producers are getting ready to do a gritty reboot of Blofeld and reintroduce SPECTRE on the big screen, McClory launched a second lawsuit.  The lawsuit said, since Blofeld made his first appearance in the novels in Thunderball, McClory also owned the rights to the character of Blofeld.  Once again, the judge ruled in favour of McClory, and the Bond producers could no longer have Bond fight his arch-enemy.

All throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, McClory tried to use his ownership of the movie rights to Thunderball and Blofeld and mount a rival Bond film franchise.  The only fruit of those labours was the 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again, which is considered non-cannonical because it wasn't made by the true Bond film producers.  And all throughout that time, McClory and the Bond producers filed several nasty lawsuits against each other, all over who owned what aspects of the Bond mythology. 

McClory passed away in 2006, and this settlement was finally reached through years of negotiations between the Bond producers and McClory's estate.  Now, all the film rights to every aspect of James Bond is now, finally, owned by the producers of the James Bond films. 

And again, I think this is fantastic news.  As I blogged before, Skyfall left me feeling that this Bond reboot is complete.  With our new M, Q and Moneypenny back in place, all the elements are back for some classic Bond adventures.  And now that Bond's arch-enemy is back, they can truly reboot the franchise.  I wonder what SPECTRE would be like in this present day.  Would they make it like the terrorist cells that we see in the War on Terror?  Who knows?

Hopefully, like the Bond films of the 1960s, this'll give Bond a recurring villain to fight over several films.  It would be neat to see a hero/villain relationship evolve over several films, truly developing Blofeld into Bond's equal.  The next Bond film is slated for 2015...no word yet on how this might change plans for the next Bond film.  But it's just nice that Bond finally has his arch-enemy again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Eighth Doctor Returns!

The Eigth Doctor telling us 8 Days until the 50th Anniversary special

So we have eight days to go until The Day of the Doctor, the big 50th anniversary special for Doctor Who.  It's kind of sneaking up on me, as things are starting to get pretty busy.  But then I was absolutely tickled when I saw this yesterday.

As has become the way with Moffat run of Doctor Who, for specials and such, he likes to put together a little 5-minute prequel and post it online.  Yesterday, we got the prequel for The Day of the Doctor, appropriately titled The Night of the Doctor, and I was over the moon when I saw who it starred.

It's an Eighth Doctor adventure, starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.

So my first exposure to Doctor Who was in the early 1990s.  Back then, with a lot of hype and ballyhoo, YTV became the official home of Doctor Who in Canada, and started showing the adventures of Doctors 1 - 7 in reruns.  I remember reading in the paper that there was a huge kerfuffle between YTV and the Canadian chapter of the Official Doctor Who Fan Club.  In all their promotional materials, YTV referred to the main character as "Doctor Who."  The Official Doctor Who Fan Club angrily pointed out that he's known as simply "The Doctor," so YTV eventually caved and adjusted their promotional materials.

I remember watching the odd episode back then and being...unimpressed.  I'd always catch the last five minutes, and it'd always be the First Doctor sitting in the TARDIS control room, giving a speech about the day's events, and I'd think, "This is it?  This is the famous Doctor Who?  Just some old guy standing around pontificating?  Get this over with so I can watch Ninja Turtles!"  (Ninja Turtles was on right after, you see.)

But the first time I opened my heart and gave Doctor Who a chance was for the American-made TV movie, which wound up being the Eighth Doctor's only adventure.  I watched it in the spring of 1996 when it first aired.  And I loved it.  Finally, with a big budget, and in colour, I got what it was all about!  YTV had stopped showing it by then, so I couldn't go back and give the regular series another chance. 

When I did my Fishing in the Discount Bin on the Doctor Who TV movie, I mentioned that you could see the seeds being planted for the 2005 re-launch.  I mean, with a big budget behind it, there were some things that just made sense to do, so the 1996 TV movie and the current series do have some notable similarities.

But sadly, it was not to be, and so I had to wait for the re-launch in 2005 for more Doctor Who, and it looked like I wouldn't see any further Eighth Doctor adventures.

Until today.

When the revival started, many fans wondered if we'd ever see the Eighth Doctor regenerate into the Ninth, and I guess Moffat figured it would make a good subject for the online prequel.

So let's enjoy The Night of The Doctor, featuring the final hours of the Eighth Doctor!

Hopefully, you just finished watching it, because I'm about to get spoilery.

So I guess this finally confirms what many suspected...that the John Hurt Doctor (referred to as "The War Doctor" in the end credits) is the true Ninth Doctor, as #8 regenerates into him.  Actually, I think this kind of provides a sad end to the Eighth Doctor.  With the Time War raging, and the universe turning to hate the Time Lords, he realizes that his time is at an end and he can no longer walk the universe and help people.  When takes that potion at the end to regenerate into a warrior, and says that the universe doesn't need a Doctor anymore, it's like he's suicidal.

It's a sad end, but it's so good seeing the Eighth Doctor again!

A little trivia note.  I've discovered this outfit called Big Finish, and what they do is they produce these big budget Doctor Who radio plays.  They've even managed to procure the services of all the classic Doctors to play the Doctor in them.  When the Eighth Doctor mutters the names of his previous companions before taking the potion, those are all his companions from the Eighth Doctor Big Finish productions!  I've been tempted to download some of the Big Finish adventures to get more of the Eighth Doctor...despite his short tenure on the TV screen, the Eighth Doctor has apparently had the most expansive adventures in the Doctor Who expanded universe.

Oh, look.  In celebration of The Night of the Doctor and the Eighth Doctor's return, Big Finish has put all their Eighth Doctor tales on special!

I maintain what I originally said in my Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I'm sure Paul McGann would have been a brilliant Eighth Doctor.  And I'm sure he is on the Big Finish plays.  But, come on, how about a 6-episode mini-series of Eighth Doctor adventures?  Please?  Pretty please?

Oh, well.  I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Pan Am: The Complete Series

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of one of the many things I have in my DVD library.  This week, it's my latest attempt to tackle a TV series with Pan Am: The Complete Series.  This is originally dated in my notes at March 10, 2013. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Long Weekend of Guilt

One of those years where Remembrance Day was kind enough to bless us with a long weekend.  You've always got to tread carefully when we get a long weekend out of Remembrance Day.  On the one hand, you still need to preserve the solemnity of the day.  On the other, LONG WEEKEND, BITCHES!  I remember a tale from a year or two ago of a Calgary bar.  With the Remembrance Day long weekend, their radio spots said something along the lines of, "You'll have trouble remembering Remembrance Day when you get a load of our drink specials!"  Needless to say, that upset a lot of veterans groups, and the spots were quickly pulled.  So I did have some fun and unwind this weekend, but there was always this nagging guilt in the background that I wasn't "lest we forgetting" enough.

Saturday went easy enough.  Got some chores done, got the place all nice and tidy.  And then, because Saturday night TV always sucks, I went to fire up the ol' Blu-Ray player.  This is one of the inherent problems I have doing my Fishing in the Discount Bin series.  When I watch a movie I've already reviewed for the series, I feel guilty that I'm not getting any work done.  But then, some days, you've just got to say, "Fuck it, I'm watching The Avengers again."  So I watched The Avengers again.  Still a great movie.  Never did we think that we'd see all these heroes teaming up on the big screen.

Sunday was about the same.  I was reluctant to do anything on Sunday, because it was a work day, and I did have to head into the station to get some work done.  But I did have enough time on Sunday afternoon to watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day again.  I upgraded it to Blu-Ray about a month ago, and hadn't watched it in hi-def yet.  I mean, it was in a discount bin for $5, so why not?  Plus, I had to watch T2 again as I start devouring more information on next year's X-Men: Days of Future PastX-Men director Bryan Singer has already said that he's had some long conversations with Terminator director James Cameron in regards to Days of Future Past.  See, Days of Future Past and The Terminator have the same basic set-up of "heroes from a dystopian future going back in time to alter the timeline and keep the bad future from happening."  And, as Singer has said, The Terminator films "got it right."  So what I'm saying is, when we're watching Days of Future Past next summer, don't be surprised if there's some heavy Terminator allusions.

The holiday Monday.  I decided to just go for it, and head into the city for some messing around.  First, I needed socks.  Whenever I reach into the sock drawer, and the first three pairs I pull out are full of holes, that means it's time for new socks.  So I swung by Wal-Mart, because they always seem to have 30 pairs for $10 or some deal like that.  With socks in  hand, I then fell into my baser instincts and wandered over to the toy section to see if there was anything new in the way of collectable action figures.

And when I got the Star Wars toys, all I could say was...jackpot.

Star Wars: The Black Collection Slave Leia Figure

The latest series of the Star Wars: Black Collection is out, and of course, I had to get Slave Leia.  Forget my quest for Cocoa Pebbles.  That's nothing compared to the late 1990s, when collection Star Wars action figures became a thing, and I was on the hunt for the first Slave Leia action figure that was released.  Talk to my friends at the time, and they'll tell you of my obsession.  It was a bit on my college radio show.  It was all I was talking about when I was e-mailing with my friends.  And when I finally found one, it was a good day.

So, when I saw the latest and the greatest and the most detailed one that's now available, I knew I had to snatch it up.

Next stop was Best Buy, because I had Blu-Rays on my mind.  Pixar fan that I am, I was eager to get Monsters University on Blu-Ray.  I'd been saving my money for the "collector's edition" of the Blu-Ray, but then, when I got to the store and had both the regular version and the collector's edition in my hands, I noticed that the only difference was the collector's edition comes with a digital copy.  For those not in the know, the digital copy is the film as a computer file, so you can load it on your tablets or your smartphones and watch it wherever you are.  I'm not too big on digital copies right now.  If I had a tablet or a functional laptop, and/or I traveled a lot, I would probably then delight in loading up my tablet and watching them in my hotel room.  But until that day, I'm far more content to watch movies on my comfy couch in front of my TV with my surround sound system.  So I saved myself the $5 and got the regular edition.

And then, the main reason for this trip, the chance to unwind on this long weekend, I was off to see the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: The Dark World.   Wow.  Isn't it remarkable how superheroes now dominate mainstream pop culture?  That was the most crowded I'd seen a theatre in West Edmonton Mall in ages.

Thor: The Dark World poster

It's been two years since that incident in New Mexico (the first Thor), and Jane Foster still pines for her Thunder God.  While investigating gravometric anomalies, she comes in possession of the Aether, a mystical artifact that's craved by Malekith, ruler of the Dark Elves, and he needs it to plunge the universe back into darkness.  Of course, this is enough to bring Thor back to her, and it's a journey from Earth to Aasgard to protect Jane from the Dark Elves.  And before long, Thor is making a desperate bargain with his villainous brother Loki to save Jane and save the Nine Realms.

I found Thor: The Dark World to be...pretty good.  Not quite as good as Iron Man 3, but then, who can compete with Robert Downey Jr's oozing charisma?  Tom Hiddleston tries, as Loki proves to be quite the smooth operator himself.  Chris Hemsworth is good as Thor, and it's been great seeing how his character evolved over Thor and The Avengers.  There's some great humour, too, whenever Thor returns to Earth and there's a bit of the culture shock.  Complaints?  Well, Natalie Portman really doesn't get much to do this time out as Jane.  And we really don't get to know our villain Malekith that much.  He's just angry and destroys stuff.  It's a solid 3 out of 4 Nibs.

When the movie was done, I wanted to get out of West Edmonton Mall pretty quick.  The Christmas rush really is beginning, and the mall was starting to get pretty crowded.  And you know it's only going to get more crowded over the next few weeks.  I did browse through HMV, though.  There's this new country singer I'm starting to like named Kacey Musgraves, and I was hoping to pick up her album, but darn it, HMV was sold out.  I'm guessing her winning the CMA Best New Artist award was good for album sales.  Here's her latest single, Follow Your Arrow, which I'm really starting to like, and I hope it gets higher on the charts so I can start playing it at work.

But yeah, the Christmas rush.  As guilt-ridden as I am for doing this on Remembrance Day, I'm glad I did it.  The Christmas rush is always a busy time for us radio folk, and days off are about to become few and far between.  You've got to take that free time, no matter how it comes your way, and just make the most of it. 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Moonraker

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of one of the many movies I own.  Darn those James Bond movies for being so cheap and plentiful!  I really went nuts buying them back in the spring.  So we're still in the world of 007 as we get to 1979's Moonraker.  This entry is dated in my notes at February 17, 2013.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

My 2400th Post

Looking at the numbers, I discovered that this blog post is going to be my 2400th post.

2400 entries!  10 years of tales of my life!  For a milestone as big as 2400, I knew I had to do something special.

I knew it had to be serious.  It has to be something important.  Shall I share the secrets of life as I've learned them in my 36 years on Earth?  Shall I share any profound wisdom on life, love and happiness?

And then I knew what profound nugget I must share with you on this, the occasion of my 2400th blog entry.  This is, perhaps, the most important blog entry you will ever see.

Ladies and gentlemen...the Masturbating Bear.