Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Matrix Revolutions

It's time once again for Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly watching of a movie I own, then ranting about it.  We're finishing off The Matrix Trilogy with The Matrix Revolutions.  This is in my notes at May 4, 2014.

The Matrix Revolutions Poster

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Matrix Reloaded

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of a DVD, Blu-Ray, and occasionally, an ol' VHS I own, only for me to sit here and rant about why I like it.  Right now, I'm working my way through The Matrix franchise, and we get to the second in the trilogy, The Matrix Reloaded.  This shows up in my notes at April 27, 2014.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Scarecrow's Oscar Picks - 2015 Edition

Hey!  I just realized that the Oscars are less than a week away, and I haven't blogged my usual list of Oscar picks yet!

Scarecrow's Oscar Picks!

This is a proud tradition, going back to the early days of my website, and my college radio show.  See, I do my Oscar picks a little bit differently than anyone else.  Every other Oscar preview show you watch, they'll be telling you about the Best Picture predictions, and the Best Actor & Actress predictions, but not me.  I'm only going to give you my picks in the categories that I have good track record in predicting the winner:  Best Visual Effects, Best Original Song, and Best Animated Film.  So, let's get to it!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Trilogy of Mark Tastes Random Things!

So I do this bit on my podcast called Mark Tastes Random Things, where, live on mic, I sample whatever latest pre-packaged food concoction I've discovered and offer my thoughts.  It all started a few years ago when, at the Bargain Store, I discovered the Jones Soda Holiday Pack on sale, and bought one.  I figured it'd be a good bit as I sampled their Gingerbread Soda and Candy Cane Soda and rambled about it.  And it was good.

So I knew it was time for a resurrection a few days ago when I was at the grocery store, and, in the pop cooler, I found a bottle of Jones Soda's Peanut Butter and Jelly flavour.

Since I'm still in a netherworld of rebuilding my website before I start up the podcast again, I turned to Sound Cloud to do a special installment of Mark Tastes Random Things for the Jones Soda PB&J flavour.

But that's not all!  Cleaning out my hard drive, I found two, never-released-to-the-public installments of Mark Tastes Random Things that I made just to make my friend laugh.

I was ready to make this segment a one-and-done thing, but my friend loved it so much, he encouraged me to keep doing it.  And, since I love fast food, one of the main topics quickly became whatever latest promotional item the nearby fast food restaurants are serving.

I joked about this on my podcast as to why I think my friend encouraged me to do this.  I think it's because I've become his fast-food-consumer-by-proxy.  See, about 12 years ago or so, after reading books like Fast Food Nation and watching movies like The Corporation, he decreed fast food restaurants to be the evilest of the Evil Corporations, and swore to boycott all fast food forever.  I, however, have no such political convictions, so I have no problems with a mass-produced burger.

So it makes sense that these two episodes I made just for him were some of McDonald's promotional items in late 2013.  First up was the McDonald's After Eight Pie.  Are you familiar with that tasty chocolate known as the After Eight?  Well, McDonald's figured out how to turn it into a pie.  After one co-worker described them as "murder your wife for one delicious," well, I knew I had to give it a go.

But that's not all!  At around the same time was the last time McDonald's brought back the most famous of their promotional items, the McRib.

And that's all I got right now for Mark Tastes Random Things.  In one way, it's good announcing practice, as they taught me in broadcast school that one way to practice your announcing is to narrate your surroundings while you're driving down the road.  And here I am, narrating what I'm eating!  I don't like doing it, though, because I don't know how to fill the dead air while I'm actually eating.  Should I smack my lips and make all kinds of obnoxious loud eating noises?  I don't know. 

So that's why it remains as infrequent as it is. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Matrix

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I gaze upon one of the many movies I own and rant about it.  I think it's time I delve into the Matrix franchise, and crack open my ol' Matrix boxed set.  Let's take a look at The Matrix.  This is in my notes at April 27, 2014.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wear Your Fandom on your Sleeve

OK, let's get to the big movie news of the week.  In case you've been living under a rock since Monday, Sony gave Spider-Man back to Marvel

Well, not really.  Sony still technically owns the movie rights to Spider-Man.  Sony still has financial and creative control over the character, and will handle all production and marketing and distribution of any Spider-Man solo films.

But, under this new deal that's been signed between Sony and Marvel, Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios and grand czar of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is now in charge of the Spider-Man film franchise, and Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are now free to interact with each other.

So how did we get here?  Well, way back before they formed their own movie studio, Marvel did what any other comic book company would do:  sell off the movie rights.  The movie rights to Spider-Man were sold off ages ago, and after a court battle that lasted for most of the 1990s, the rights were granted to Sony, and thus the Spider-Man film franchise that we know was born.

However, the turning point was this past summer and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  Granted, it made $700 million worldwide, but it was the lowest-grossing Spider-Man movie ever.  That, coupled with the critical drubbing it got, had fans everywhere screaming, "Give Spider-Man back to Marvel!"

Meanwhile, ever since Marvel formed their own movie studio, they have been trying to re-aquired all their properties.  As we learned during the Sony hacks, it turns out Marvel and Sony were having some deep negotiations about Marvel regaining Spider-Man.  And some 11th hour shenanigans must have taken place for Marvel to get their way, because rather than the big splashy media events they like to do to announce this stuff, it was mentioned in a news release sent out just before midnight on Monday.

So, with Marvel now running the Spider-Man film franchise for Sony, and Spider-Man now free to interact with the Avengers, Marvel's been shuffling around their release schedule.  The first Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man film is coming in July 2017, and the release dates for Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and The Inhumans are all being shuffled around to make room.  Spider-Man is also allowed to appear in one Marvel film before his first solo film.  It's all but confirmed now that that appearance will be in Captain America: Civil War, because Spidey was a big part of the original comic storyline. 

New franchise-runners also means a new Spider-Man.  Andrew Garfield, who I thought did a stellar job despite mediocre stories, is being show the door.  Apparently, Marvel wants a younger Spider-Man, more like the teenager that Spidey is always known to be.  (Garfield just turned 31 in real life.)  Marvel apparently wants an actual teenager to play the teenaged Spider-Man.

And Sony has also announced that, despite these developments, their still soldiering on with their Sinister Six, Venom and TBD Female Character spinoffs.  Of course, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been canceled in favour of the Marvel reboot.

And out of all this, all I can think is, "Is it too late to film a new post-credit stinger for Avengers: Age of Ultron, one featuring Spider-Man?"  I was always more of a DC guy when I was a kid, but the only Avengers comic I had was one where Spidey tried to join the Avengers.  Alarms were going off in Avengers Mansion, the Avengers assembled to track down the intruder, and they eventually found Spider-Man, who had made a web hammock beneath the QuinJet's wing, where he just casually said, "C'mon, guys, let me join."


Meanwhile, over on the DC side of the street, we just had the epic 2-part episode of Gotham showing us the secret origin of the Scarecrow.

Yes, everyone I went to college with, I know the Scarecrow was on Gotham.  For those just joining us, Scarecrow has always been my favourite Batman villain.  So much so, that back in my college radio days, Scarecrow was my on-air name.

I'm enjoying Gotham for the most part right now.  I'm just a little afraid they'll fall into the Smallville trap.  On Smallville, it was always fun to see these hints and secret origins of various Superman characters, but by season 6, you're screaming at the TV in frustration.  "GET ON WITH IT!"

So for Scarecrow's secret origin, we met the Scarecrow's father, Dr. Gerald Crane, and the Scarecrow proper, Johnathon Crane, is just a teenager.  The elder Dr. Crane lost his wife in a house fire, and he blames himself for her death because he was too afraid to go back in and save her.  Thus leading to his obsession with phobias and fears.  Dr. Crane has been torturing people by literally scaring them to death, in an attempt to find a cure for fear.  And of course, he experiments on his son.  The final scene is the future Scarecrow, having received an overdose of his father's cure, cowering in fear as he hallucinates being harassed by terrifying scarecrows. 

It was OK.  I'm not sure I like this idea of the Scarecrow being a legacy villain, taking the mantle from his father.  But you can see some motivations.  Maybe now the Scarecrow becomes obsessed with fears and phobias because he's trying to cure his condition.

What can I say?  I always kind of hoped they'd do young Scarecrow much like how they're doing young Riddler.  Have Prof. Johnathon Crane be this brilliant, yet slightly off, professor of psychology over at Gotham University who's called in as a profiler on a couple of cases.  And, since it's been established that Harley Quinn studied psychology at Gotham University, I always had this idea that maybe Harley Quinn studied under Prof. Crane.  So you can introduce young Harley Quinn by having Harlene Quinzel be one of Prof. Crane's grad students.

In other news, I'm on vacation again this week, burning off more vacation time.  Decided to head into the city, because I always enjoy how wonderfully uncrowded West Edmonton Mall is on a weekday morning.  Swung by HMV, and I stunned myself.  I finally bought Brazil on Blu-Ray.

Brazil.  Terry Gilliam's legendary dystopian tale.  Rather than anything malicious on the part of the state to crush your will and bring you under control, it's the relentless bureaucracy.  I have actually never seen it.  I've been wanting to see if for ages.  Way, way back in high school English, when we were studying 1984, it was a film that my teacher would reference and name-check a lot.  I knew a girl in college who cited it as her favourite movie.  With that pedigree, I knew I must see it some day.  And besides, it's a Criterion edition.  The Brazil Criterion has long been held up as one of THE Criterion editions, and the reason why Criterion does what they do. 

Since I got my first DVD player in 2001, I've been eying the Criterion of Brazil, but I always stopped myself because Criterion editions get pricey.  But, that day, I looked at the $39.99 price tag, and said, "Screw it.  Let's get it."  And then I got to the till, and when the clerk rang it up, it came up at $32.99.  Clerk said, "Huh.  The computer says it's $7 cheaper.  I won't tell if you won't."  And I got it for the lower price.

With a new Blu-Ray in hand, it was then upstairs to see Jupiter Ascending.

Yay!  The Wachowskis are back with a new sci-fi epic!  Always curious to sew what else the creators of The Matrix are creating.  And I know I'm a minority here, but I love, love, LOVE Speed Racer.  So what did they concoct for us this time?

Jupiter Jones.  The daughter of Russian immigrants.  Makes her living as a cleaning lady, scrubbing the toilets of Chicago's elite.  Inspired by stories of her astronomer father, who died before she was born, she gazes up at the stars and dreams of something more.  "Something more" falls in her lap one day when aliens try to kill her at a medial clinic, and Caine, the half-human/half-wolf bounty hunter rescues her.  Turns out Jupiter has the exact same genetic make-up as the recently deceased Queen of the Galaxy, and under the rules of ascension of the galaxy, this makes her next in line for the throne.  Of course, this makes her a target for the Queen's children, because her existence is a threat to their claims to the throne.

I got strong John Carter vibe from Jupiter Ascending.  They focus a little too much on world-building than plot and character development.  And despite being our protagonist, Jupiter isn't very proactive, just kind of going along with the flow of this new world she's been thrust into.  And, as such, the plot gets rather repetitive, as Caine is always charging to her rescue, as she gets swept up down the wrong path.

That being said, it is pretty funny in some places.  While most of the characters speak in that faux-Shakespearean that's common to sci-fi/fantasy films, Jupiter keeps acting all commoner like and reacts to all these unbelievable situations with the same, "Holy crap."   And there's a great scene halfway through showing us the galactic bureaucracy.  Who knew that laying a claim to the throne had so much paperwork? 

All in all, maybe I'm getting old and have seen too many space operas, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen it all before.  2 out of 4 Nibs.  Complete review is over on the website.

And before I wrap this up, just one little side quest.

My new routine when coming home from the city is to take the long way through Spruce Grove, where I'll stop for supper at one of the two new burger chains making inroads into Canada:  Carl's Jr or Fatburger.  Yesterday, Carl's Jr won the coin toss.  What can I say?  I'm still enjoying the novelty of how new they are.  Same way in the late 1990s when Burger King finally came to Alberta.

Anyway, on my parka, I've got a Doctor Who button.  Just the smiling face of the Tenth Doctor.  A friend of mine brought it back for me after a vacation in London.  I'm sure he paid no more than £1 for it.  But that button has become the best icebreaker ever.

Case in point, the clerk at Carl's Jr.  She saw the button, let out a shriek of glee, and began extolling the virtues of Doctor Who and how it's like every great science fiction and superhero franchise rolled into one.  I was pretty into it, but after about 10 minutes, I started thinking, "I'm really hungry.  Can I place my order now, please?" 

But still, it's great time to be a geek.  Cute girls are reveling in the fandom, and not recoiling in horror, like they did when I was in high school.  I just like not feeling alone anymore. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Netflix Nonsense - Jem and the Holograms

At the start of January, I was elated to discover Jem and the Holograms on Netflix, and began cherry-picking my favourite episodes.  Then, I was crushed to learn that it was being removed from Netflix by the end of January.  I missed my chance to watch every episode when I missed Amazon's lightening deal to get the complete series for dirt cheap...never again!  Luckily, I had already booked the last week of January off to use up some leftover vacation time from last year.  My plan was to sit back, relax and watch every episode of Jem.

Some might call such a plan...truly outrageous.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Hidden Fortress

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog where I watch one of the movies I own and rant about it.  Today, something a little different.  I'm looking at the 1958 samurai epic The Hidden Fortress.  This is dated in my notes at April 5, 2014. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis Review

Another season, meaning the good folks at DC Comics and Warner Brothers are out with another straight-to-video animated film.  Let's look at the latest one....

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

Directed by Ethan Spaulding

Starring the voices of Matt Lanter, Sam Witwer, Jason O'Mara, Shemar Moore, Jerry O'Connell, Christopher Gorham, Rosario Dawson and Nathan Fillion. 

Backstory:  Well, again, I lament that the bigwigs decreed that the only films that sell well are ones featuring Batman and Superman, and the only way we'll really get one featuring another DC hero is if they feature prominently in a Justice League story.  Hence, the latest film, Throne of Atlantis, based on the New 52 Justice League story of the same name, and giving us the gritty reboot of the origin of Aquaman.  This is also the latest in the new batch of "shared continuity" films that they're giving us, following up on the last Justice League film, War.  So how does this latest animated outing fare? 

Plot:  In the wake of Justice League: War, the King of Atlantis is dead.  Orm, heir to the throne of Atlantis, is eager to take advantage of this, and with the assistance of Black Manta, is eager to stir up tensions between Atlantis and the surface world and bring on full scale war.  But Queen Atlanta knows there is another hope...the child she had with a surface dweller, who resides on land, unknowing of his destiny.  Meanwhile, a series of mysterious attacks on submarines and the the theft of some nuclear missiles has drawn the attention of the newly-formed Justice League, and they being investigating.  In the course of their investigation, the learn of Atlantis's existence, and that war is coming.  To stop the war, the race begins to find the true heir to the throne:  Arthur Curry.  Will Arthur accept his destiny as Aquaman and the ruler of Atlantis and bring peace to Atlantis and the surface world?

What I Liked:  Well, with Aquaman always considered a bit of a joke, there's a few good gags.  Our first introduction to him is drunk in a bar, talking to the fish in the aquarium.  And they do make a subtle reference to the over-the-top Aquaman we saw on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  There's some good character bits with our favourite Justice Leaguers, as Superman teaches Wonder Woman the benefits of a secret identity, and some good Flash/Green Lantern banter.  And it's a great introduction to Aquaman's world, as Mera is also given a prominent role.

What I Didn't Like:  I'm really starting to think this franchise is wearing out its welcome, as there's a whole "been there, done that" hanging over the proceedings.  I'm getting tired of watching the Justice League take down hordes of invaders.  Aquaman's origin story is such a routine origin tale.  We've just...seen this all before.

Final Verdict:  I'm getting so very tired.

2 Nibs

Bonus Features:  For additional goodies on the Blu-Ray, you get a featurette on the score, a deleted scene featuring Nightwing and Robin, the 2014 NY Comic Con panel promoting the film, a featurette on Aquaman's rogues gallery, 4 bonus cartoons featuring Aquaman, and a sneak peak at the next in the series, Batman vs. Robin

Sunday, February 01, 2015

How I Spent My Vacation

So, I'm finishing up a week off.  The Company wanted me to use up some leftover vacation time from last year, so I took a week to just chill out at home.  I had no real plans until I saw that Jem and the Holograms expires from Netflix on Monday, then my plan became binge-watch Jem like my life depended on it.

I'll probably have a full blog entry on the joys of Jem in the weeks ahead.  For those who don't remember this classic product of the 1980s, we follow the adventures of Jerrica Benton, president of Starlight Music and head of the charity the Starlight Foundation for Foster Girls.  But by night, Jerrica becomes Jem, the world's most beloved pop star.  She accomplishes this transformation thanks to Synergy, the world's most advanced AI and sound and projection machine, working through the holographic projectors concealed in Jerrica's earrings.  Only 4 others know her secret:  Shana, Aja, Kimber, and Raya, her best friends since childhood who form her backing band, the Holograms.  And using the powers of generosity, love, and friendship, they do battle with their rival band the Misfits for pop chart supremacy.

It's like every fad and trend of the 1980s threw up on Barbie and it is the trippiest nostalgia trip ever.  As a kid growing up, it was right there on Saturday afternoons between G.I. Joe and Transformers and that's when I first started thinking that girls may not be icky after all.


I came across the episode KJEM.  In this tale, our heroines are asked to underwrite a struggling radio station until the station can successfully relaunch as a community station serving the nearby college.  But of course, there's an evil broadcast conglomerate who wants to put the station out of business, and it turns into every "big evil developer vs. plucky teens trying to save their community centre" plot that was so popular in the 1980s.  However, I was quite taken by this one scene.  When things look dire for our struggling station, the old station manager takes to the air one last time to give his final sign off.  I listened to his speech, and I was like, "Wow.  This just sums up the power of radio so nicely."

So I had to rip the clip to share.

tl;dr: I just dig that the benefits of my business was the moral of a 1980s cartoon.