Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hollow Pursuits

Well, it's here.  The end of August.  As I've mentioned, August was a super-busy time at work, but now that the month is done, things are slowing down again to a more normal pace, and as such, I finally have a little breathing room to pursue some of my outside interests...like brilliant-but-cancelled TV series.

I was tickled the other day when my DVD release of Now and Again finally arrived from Amazon!

On my wish list of "brilliant but cancelled TV shows that need to be released on DVD," Now and Again was always at the top of that list.  In fact, reviewing that list and going through my DVD library, I'm pretty sure it's the last one on that list.  It premiered in the fall of 1999 and only lasted one season.  Had a great pedigree, too, as it was created by Glenn Gordon Caron, who brought us the legendary 1980s TV series Moonlighting.

Now and Again followed the life of Michael Wiseman.  An insurance salesman working in a big Manhattan office.  He loves his wife and teenage daughter.  It's a pretty good life.  But then, he's killed in a freak subway accident, and he wakes up as a brain in a jar.  Here, a shadowy government scientist offers Michael choice:  get his brain implanted in a bio-engineered perfect body and become a super-soldier, or die.  Oh, and one condition:  his family and everyone he knew in his previous life must remain convinced that he is dead.  So, Michael wakes up in his new body, and sets about to become, well, Captain America pretty much.  But the heart and soul of the show was watching Micheal's wife, daughter, and best friend grieve and rebuild their lives, as Michael always finds himself drawn back to them, and how everyone's new lives intertwine in interesting ways.

Fantastic cast as well.  Eric Close, who went on to star in the detective series Without a Trace and is now on Nashville, played Michael Wiseman.  Dennis Haysbert, before he shot to fame as the President on 24, played Dr. Theodore Morris, the shadowy scientist in charge of the program and Michael's handler.  Margaret Colin, best known at that point as Jeff Goldblum's wife in Independence Day, plays Michael's wife Lisa, and Heather Matrazzo, star of the 1990s indie classic Welcome to the Dollhouse, played Michael's daughter Heather.

I'm really looking forward to revisiting this series, and seeing if it's still as good as I remember.  And also, the bonus features.  One of the features is a roundtable discussion with the writers as they mention what they had planned for Season 2.  Which is great, because Now and Again is one of the most frustrating things ever:  a TV series that ends with a cliffhanger.  In our cliffhanger, a series of mis-understandings leads Michael to believe that Dr. Morris has become convinced that Michael's family has learned of the secret, and as such, Michael and his family are going to be killed.  So the series ends with Michael going rogue, snatching his wife and daughter from their house, with Dr. Morris and a team of commandos a literal 2 steps behind them.  Meanwhile, a terrorist known as "The Egg Man" (so named because he distributes nerve gas by injecting it into eggs), escapes from prison, bent on revenge against Michael for capturing him, and accompanied by a new sidekick played by wrestling superstar Mick Foley, doing a variation on his Mankind character. 

So, yeah.  I hope these interviews with the writers can finally give me some closure. 

And of course, with free time means I can finally go see a movie.  Having grown up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was mildly curious about the new, Michael Bay-produced reboot  now in theatres.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Poster

For the last TMNT movie, the 2007 animated one, I was genuinely excited for it, but this one, I just couldn't muster any kind of excitement for it.  The Turtles looked too big and hulking.  There was that leaked early script where the Turtles were changed from teenage mutants to aliens.  Unlike the rest of the TMNT fans, though, I was actually pretty OK with Megan Fox as April O'Neil.

After seeing it, it's not bad, it's just bland.  It's a pretty phoned-in, by-the-numbers, superhero tale.  We've got a fairly standard "destroy the city" plot at play.  Shredder is pretty much wasted, and the other villain, our billionaire industrialist Eric Sachs, turns into a fairly routine villain pretty quick.  Megan Fox winds up being a pretty bland April O'Neil, and Will Arnett, who's usually a pretty funny guy, is also bland as April's sidekick and cameraman Vernon.

They did make a few tweaks to the Turtles' origins that I was OK with.  (SPOILER WARNING:  April's father was a scientist running experiments with the ooze and the Turtles and Splinter were his test animals.)  It seems like in every Turtles adaptation, they make a few tweaks to the Turtles' origins, so extra tweaks don't bug me.  The one tweak that did seem lame was Splinter.  Now, instead of being (a) ninja master Hamato Yoshi turned into a rat by the mutagen or (b) Hamato Yoshi's pet rat who learned ninjutsu by watching his master, and then made humanoid by the mutagen, Splinter is now just a plain ol' rat who figures they're going to need some way to defend themselves, so he starts teaching the Turtles the art of ninjutsu from some books he found in the sewers.  

At least they got the Turtles right.  When you get over their new, hulking designs, they pretty much act like the Turtles we all know and love.

So, yeah.  At the end, I didn't find it bad.  Just bland.  2 Nibs.

I've got the complete review posted up at my website. 

And of course, being in the city to do some frivilous shopping, I lost my mind when I popped in at one of my favourite collectables shop and they had a whole ton of those ReAction Figures that are out, so of course I had to snatch up the Back to the Future ones. 

I thought I blogged about these when I managed to find my Rocketeer ReAction figure a few months ago, but it looks like I didn't.  Here's the story about these figures and why they're awesome.

It all started with Alien.  Back in 1979, 20th Century Fox and Kenner sought to duplicate the success of the Star Wars action figures with a line of action figures for Alien.  The first toy from the toyline -- an 18" version of the titular Alien creature, perfect for menacing your G.I. Joes -- hit store shelves, and parents groups lost their freakin' minds.  How DARE they make a line of action figures based on an R-rated horror movies, especially when the monster is so grotesque and phallic!  So, Kenner scrapped the plans for the rest the toyline...a series of 3.75" figures of the film's characters.

Flash forward to the present day.  Toy and collectable company Funko heard of the legends of the lost Alien action figure line, and managed to find the lost prototypes and packaging mock-ups deep within the Hasbro archives (Hasbro having bought out Kenner in the mid-1990s).  Funko decided to finally produce those Alien action figures, and were inspired to created a new line of collectables called ReAction Figures:  action figures for cult classic movies, done in the style of the quickly made and cheaply produced tie-in figures of the 1980s.

When I posted that picture to Facebook the other night, a friend commented, "Did you get the Alien figures, too?"  No, but I was tempted.  For next to these Back to the Future figures were the Alien ones, and the Firefly ones, and the Pulp Fiction ones, and the Goonies ones, and the Terminator ones, and Snake Plissken from Escape from New York.  Needless to say, in order to keep my bank balance healthy, some tough decisions had to be made.  

And before I wrap this up, I have to share some recent developments among movie geeks that made me sad.  Leonard Maltin has announced that the 2015 edition of his famous Movie Guide will be the last.  Maltin says the main reason why it's coming to an end is that there's so many websites and apps these days that offer the same service, that sales have really taken a hit in the past few years.  And besides, with an entire generation now trained to get information online, a reference book is starting to seem...antiquated.  People want their wealth of movie reviews the day it comes out, not six months later. 

It's interesting reading the history of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide.  Maltin began his career as a film critic and historian when he began running a movie fanzine in high school.  His fanzine impressed people with its professionalism, and at the ripe old age of 17, he was soon meeting with a publisher about launching a Movie Guide.  The first edition of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide hit bookstore shelves in 1969, with an update 5 years later.  In 1978, he started updating it every 2 years.  And in 1986, he started updating it annually.  It started getting so thick, that starting in 2005, he split it into two volumes:  the "Classic Movie Guide" for movies before 1960, and the regular "Movie Guide" for films after. 

I first discovered Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide back in junior high, in my school's library.  I recognized Maltin as "that movie guy from Entertainment Tonight."  I started leafing through it, and my mind was blown.  I had no other way to describe it than "a dictionary for movies."  I'd check it out of library for weeks on end, just to have it at home and leaf through it.  It was something that did not go unnoticed, as my sister gave me the latest version for Christmas that year.  And thus began a holiday tradition, with my sister giving me the latest edition for Christmas, and me spending Christmas afternoon running around to the family members going, "Name a movie!" so I could see what Leonard Maltin had to say about it. 

It's a tradition that lasted until 2005.  I know it ended in 2005 because the 2006 edition is on my shelf.  As I'm sure you've figured out by reading this blog over the years, I can be a real asshole sometimes, and such a moment came on Christmas morning 2005, when I opened up my present from my sister and went, "Oh, gee...Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide."  And after getting Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide from her for more than a decade, I began teasing her and mocking her relentlessly for her lack of originality when it came to picking Christmas presents.  I genuinely upset her, and I apologized, but she vowed then and there to never get me Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide for Christmas ever again. 

I can tell it's still a sore spot with her because when I shared the new on Facebook along with a sarcastic, "Gee, now what's my sister going to get me for Christmas?" she responded with hearty "Go to Hell."  Part of me hopes she'll give it to me for Christmas this year, you know, because it's the last time she'll ever be able to do it, but I know I upset her so much that day that it'll never, ever happen. 

So Jeanette, once again, I'm very sorry for the things I said on that Christmas morning. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Man of Steel

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about one of the many movies I own.  This time out, we tackled 2013's big reboot of the Superman mythology, Man of Steel.  This arises in my notes at November 17, 2013.

Man of Steel Poster

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Monsters University

Here we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie I own and blog about it because why not?  I'm a little distressed that we're not getting a Pixar movie this year, so it seems like a good opportunity to revisit their animated hit from last year, Monsters University.  This appears in my notes at November 16, 2013.

Monsters University Poster

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Pacific Rim

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of some Blu-Ray I own, and then blogging about it, because blogging.  This week's entry may be a little controversial as I tackled that newly-beloved geek classic Pacific Rim.  This is originally dated in my notes at November 3, 2013.

Pacific Rim movie poster

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Well, my podcast is still on its summer hiatus, but I've got a lot of musings about pop culture brewing inside me, and I feel like it's time to get them down on paper and share them with the world!  So share I will.

My heart is already turning to September...and fretting about how much it's going to cost me.  It's that time of year when all the summer blockbusters will start hitting Blu-Ray.  So, of course, as soon as they come out, I'll be picking up Godzilla and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Also coming out is the new 30th anniversary box set of Ghostbusters 1&2.  I'm actually looking forward to picking up that set just for Ghostbusters 2.  In addition to be remastered in hi-def, we're going to get a round-table discussion with co-writer Dan Aykroyd and director Ivan Reitman, plus some long-lost deleted scenes.  Ghosbusters 2 has grown to be so hated when compared to its predecessor, that it makes me more and more curious about its making. 

But the one that gives me the most pause is an boxed set called The Star Trek Compendium.  This is a new box set of the Star Trek reboot and its sequel, Into Darkness.  I already have both on Blu-Ray, why double-dip?

Well, when Star Trek Into Darkness hit Blu-Ray, it caused some controversy.  In the name of retail exclusives, all the bonus features were spread across multiple versions.  For example, if you wanted to see the deleted scenes, you had to buy it from Best Buy.  If you wanted to hear the director's running commentary, you had to buy the iTunes download.  If you wanted to see the "making-of" features, you had to buy it from Target, and for different "making-of" featurettes, you had to buy it from Wal-Mart.  It was nuts.  But, in this Star Trek Compendium boxed set, all of the bonus features will finally be in one set.

And that's not all.  Following the lead of films like The Dark Knight, Into Darkness had some of its major action sequences filmed in IMAX.  The Star Trek Compendium release will finally feature Into Darkness's IMAX sequences in their proper aspect ratio.

Plus, when I upgraded Star Trek to Blu-Ray, I got the "movie-only" version of the disc.  In this set, I'll finally get all of Star Trek's bonus features upgraded to hi-def.

Wow, it really sounds like I'm talking myself into it, aren't I?  We'll have to see what the price is when it comes out.

So what's going on with the Spider-Man franchise?  Sony's really starting to beat that rented mule.

The original plan was Amazing Spider-Man 2 this year, Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2016, Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018, and then a couple of spin-offs featuring Venom and the Sinister Six.  Even though Amazing Spider-Man 2 made $700 million at the box office, that makes it the lowest-grossing Spider-Man film, causing Sony to rethink their plans.

Now, we're going to be getting the Sinister Six spinoff in 2016, the Venom spinoff and a new spinoff about a TBA female character (rumoured to be either the Black Cat, Silver Sable, or Spider-Woman) both in 2017, and Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2018.

I'd be on board with a lot of this if it looked like Sony had a plan.  But it doesn't.  Instead, it seems like Sony is just being reactionary to Marvel.

"So, you like big, shared continuity universes, eh?  Well, look at all these Spider-Man spinoffs we're planning!"

"So, based on all the money Avengers made, you like seeing massive team-ups.  BOOM!  Sinister Six, baby!"

The #1 question that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige was being asked during the press for Guardians of the Galaxy was, "So...when's Marvel going to do one with a female lead?"  And Sony said, "Us!  We're doing it first!  See?  Spinoff with a female character!"

See?  It looks like Sony is just trying to do what Marvel's doing.  There's no overreaching plan, they're just emulating.

Add my voice to the chorus crying for Spider-Man to be returned to Marvel, so he can be in the Marvel cinematic universe.  But, Sony won't give him back until the films stop making money, so I don't think it'll be happening anytime soon.

Had a dentist appointment the other day, and afterwards, I went to HMV to buy myself a treat.  Was finally able to upgrade to CD two classic film soundtracks from my youth:  Ghostbusters and Back to the Future.  Thanks to the resurgence of vinyl, HMV actually had Ghostbusters on vinyl, and I was tempted to get it, but no, went digital. 

When it comes to these soundtracks, Back to the Future was always my jam.  When I was a kid, my first paying job was as a paperboy, and I spent many an early morning, roaming the streets of Entwistle, delivering papers, and listening to The Power of Love on my Walkman.

Now that I have these two soundtracks, it's time for my grand plan.  Because I've discovered those record labels where I can get obscure film scores, I also own the complete, uncut scores for Back to the Future and Ghostbusters.  So the goal now, with each of those films, is to create a playlist that plays each and every note of music in the exact order it appears in the film.

Doing that with Ghostbusters will be interesting, as the complete uncut score features a lot of music that was ultimately unused, as they producers replaced it with the pop songs you find on the soundtrack.  With Back to the Future, it could be complicated.  How exacting do I want to be?  There are songs used in the film that don't appear on the soundtrack album...do I buy those odd songs on iTunes in the name of completeness?

Or do I go as hardcore as my friend?  He did this exercise with The Transformers: The Movie, only he edited the songs so they are the exact length and sound exactly as they do in the movie.

But in the short term, at least I've got a lot of great, nostalgia-inducing music.

I'm not much of a gamer, but this announcement came down the other day and it caught my eye.

Activision announced that they're relaunching the Sierra label, and even bringing back one of Sierra's most famous franchises, King's Quest.

Sierra pretty much invented the 3D, puzzle-solving-based, adventure game back in the 1980s, and it was a genre they dominated until the mid-1990s.  With the tech boom and the dot-com bubble, they were bought out, and traded hands many times over the past few years, becoming a shell of their former self.  Activision acquired the brand in the early 2000s, and quietly shut it down in 2008.

But with the recent announcement, sounds like Activision is planning to bring them back in a big way.  As one pundit put it, it sounds like Activision wants to make Sierra their label for indie and mid-budget games.  And as part of their first offerings, Sierra has contracted game studio The Odd Gentlemen to give us the first King's Quest since 1998.  It sounds like this new King's Quest will even be in continuity with the original games, with our hero, King Graham, now a grandfather, and his granddaughter Gwendolyn being the main character.

I am kind of excited about this.  Being a computer geek born in the 1980s, Sierra was THE name in PC games back then.  The first PC games I remember owning was a 3-pack of Mixed Up Mother Goose, King's Quest II, and Space Quest.  And then of course, junior high came along, and it was all immature giggling at Leisure Suit Larry.

I hope this new Sierra does the name proud.

And just so I have a picture when I post this to the social networks, here's that awesome Ant-Man poster from the San Diego Comic Con.

The Ant-Man Poster

Based on all the rumours floating around, it looks like Marvel's Phase III is going to give us:

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Fishing In the Discount Bin - The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Treasure of the Peacock's Eye

Here we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie I own and blog about it, because I really don't have much of a life.  Before I wrap up my journey through the Indiana Jones franchise, I thought I'd take a quick look at The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles with Treasure of the Peacock's Eye.  This pops up in my notes at November 2, 2013.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Treasure of the Peakcock's Eye VHS cover

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Trying to Get Out More

Well, a long weekend has passed.  Two whole days of fun and frivolity!  I say "two days" is a long weekend for me, because we're into the super-busy time at work.  I'm going to be live on location just about every Saturday from now until the middle of September.  So with two free days upon me, I knew I should try to get out and have some fun.  I know so, because a co-worker told me to do that on Friday afternoon. 

This is where co-workers can be helpful for more than just work.  For example, after work on Saturday, one said, "Hey, me and my wife are going to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  Are you in?"

Hells, yeah.

I was freaking out slightly on the drive to the theatre.  I've fallen into the habit of getting to the theatre at least a half-hour before showtime, to ensure getting good seats and all.  We only arrived about 5 minutes before showtime.  But, lucky for me, my co-worker had thought ahead and bought the tickets online, and in the fancy UltraAVX theatre with assigned seating and everything.  So good seats were assured.  (And I've got to pay him back for my ticket at work on Tuesday.)

So when Marvel first announced their "Phase II" of films, Guardians of the Galaxy was the real curve ball.  A largely obscure superhero team.  Rather new in comics, too, as this incarnation was a gritty reboot that came about in 2008.  The decision to make a Guardians of the Galaxy film left a lot of people scratching their heads.  But still, there was hope.  Space opera has been a mainstay of comic books and superheroes, going all the way back to the early days with the characters like Buck Rogers.  We haven't gotten a really good adaptation of a comic book space opera.  It could have been Green Lantern.  It should have been Green Lantern.  So all our hopes fell to Guardians of the Galaxy.

Wow.  This film is crazy.  And I mean in that in the good way.  The music.  Ye gods, the music.  The mesh of outer space action and classic pop hits from the 1960s through the 1980s just works.  Maybe hearing classic rock as spaceships zoom by just bring back memories of my teen years and watching Heavy Metal on basic cable late at night.  The humour.  It is incredibly funny.  Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the show.  They are definitely the Han Solo and Chewbacca of these interplanetary outlaws.  And kudos to Vin Diesel, who's able to inject so much emotion and intonation in the constant repetition of "I am Groot." 

And our villains.  Lee Pace surprised me as Ronan the Accuser.  He's come a long way from being Ned the Piemaker on Pushing Daisies.

But of course, there are some flaws.  So many characters, some are bound to get short shrift.  I felt we could have spent a little more time with Gamora and her story.  And at this point, Marvel's got a winning formula, so they don't deviate too far from it.

I found myself getting quite a bit distracted during the film, and I can thank my friend for that.  On the way into the theatre, he was like, "My buddies saw this last night, and they say Nathan Fillion's cameo is really hard to spot!"  So with that in my head, I spent far too much time playing "Where's Nathan Fillion?"  

But it was an incredibly fun and entertaining movie.  I give it 3.5 our of 4 nibs.  The complete review is on the website.

That was Saturday.  Sunday I mostly spent on the couch.  I'm paying $8 for that Netflix, I may as well get my money's worth.

Then on Sunday, I did have a bit of a plan in place.  Last time I went to the city, you may remember me blogging about the arrival of the American burger chain Carl's Jr arriving in the Edmonton area.  I also blogged that I was able to fully sample their offerings because I went on a full stomach.  So, on my holiday Monday, after eating nothing but a piece of toast for breakfast, I went down to Spruce Grove to again try Carl's Jr.

Got there just after 11AM, so it was nice and quiet as the lunch rush hadn't quite began yet.  Now that I was good and hungry, I went for their Portebello Mushroom Thickburger.  The way I understand it, the Thickburger is Carl's Jr's answer to burgers like A&W's Uncle Burger or McDonald's Angus Third Pounder.  And biting into that Thickburger, I ran into the same problem that I have with those other burgers:  it is so thick, I find it physically uncomfortable to eat.  I can't open my jaw that wide.

But I made it through, and as Swiss mushroom burgers go, it was pretty good.  It was a very sharp Swiss cheese they used, and you could really taste it.  I know an advertising feature of Carl's Jr burgers is that they are messy, and this Thickburger lived up to that reputation, with bits constantly oozing out the back.

The fries were good.  Also nice and thick, just enough of a crunchy outside and soft insides, and not too much salt.

But so far, Carl's Jr hasn't really wowed me.  Wendy's is still my favourite.  But still, more research is required.  Meaning I'll probably eat there a few more times before I make a final judgement.

It was very filling though.  I'm typing this up at 10:30PM, and I'm still full from it.

After that, I started browsing around that power centre that now fills the east end of Spruce Grove.  I constantly marvel at how it's built up over the past few years.  I saw they have a Michael's now, so I stopped in to get a frame.  I figured it was time to frame my autographed poster of Dick Assman.

For those who don't remember, way back in the late-1990s, David Letterman was doing this own version of Jay Leno's Headlines bit.  He'd point out and make fun of some of the...eccentric things that one would find in their local newspapers.  Letterman got this newspaper from Regina, and in it was an ad for a Petro-Canada, the owner and proprietor of it was named "Dick Assman."  Needless to say, Letterman took great delight in the name, and Dick Assman soon became a running gag on the show.  Dick Assman was everywhere.  Once the bit had run its course, Letterman ended it by having Dick Assman on the show.  You had to listen very carefully to hear Letterman and Assman's final words to each other over the music.

Letterman:  So how exactly do you pronounce your last name?

Assman:  "Ozman." 

So, at the height of "Dick Assmania," my brother, an electrician, was working on a job in Regina.  He was heading back to his hotel one night, saw that he needed gas, and was passing by a Petro-Canada with a sign out front saying, "The Home of Dick Assman."  "No way," said my brother.  So, he stopped in for gas, and sure enough, Mr. Dick Assman was working behind the counter that night.  Of course, there was now a selection of Dick Assman merchandise on sale, so my brother picked me up a poster and asked Mr. Assman to sign it, which he gladly did.  My fellow denizens of Moi Hall were pretty impressed when I hung that up in my dorm room.

Anywho, flash forward to the present day.  I have a friend who's a huge fan of Letterman, and upon Letterman's recent announcement of retirement, he dropped everything to head down to New York City and see a taping while he still could.  I highly suggest you listen to his podcast describing the experience.  After hearing his tale, I started wondering about my unique piece of Letterman merchandise and wondering if I still had it.  And sure enough, in back of my closet, in an old mailing tube full of old poster, I found it.  So I figured it was time to bring it out, nicely frame it, and re-hang it.

So those first two steps are done.  Have to figure out that third step now. 

And that was my long weekend.  Like the man said:  Something good...something bad...a little of both.

PS  I just noticed this is my 2500th blog entry.  Wow.