Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Got a Targ For You


 I've only just started the podcast up again, and already I'm taking unexplained absences. Sorry there was no show last week. I had to put in some overtime at work and then family came to visit. But I'm back! And I've brought Episode 8.03: Secret Origins.
  • I once again wade into the "music or no" debate on the podcast, going into the secret origins of the podcast.
  • Recapping the Marvel news of the week, as there's been a lot of new about their films.
  • Sharing my general thoughts on the Hobbit trilogy, as my Blu-Rays arrived the other day.
But the big thing is doing another installment of Mark Tastes Random Things. I had a friend visit Japan back in the summer, and he brought me back some legendary Japanese Kit Kats. They'd been sitting in the back of my fridge since July, so if this is uploaded, I didn't die.

Head over to the main site to give it a download!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Spider-Man 3

Here we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of a movie I own, and ranting about that movie.  We're closing out Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy with Spider-Man 3.  This pops up in my notes at May 24, 2014.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Superspies Unite!

It looks like 2015 is going to be a good year for the superspy genre.  We just had Kingsman: The Secret Service, which had a good time embracing and lampooning the cliches of the genre.  And I thought it was pretty darn good.  This Christmas, we get the original superspy, James Bond, returning in Spectre.  And this summer, two pretty sharp looking films in the genre.

The first up is The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Based on the classic 1960s TV series of the same name (which was created with input from James Bond's creator, Ian Flemming), it follows the secret agency UNCLE, a multi-national task force established to take down threats to the entire world.  The primary threat:  THRUSH, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

Our heroes are the dashing and heroic CIA agent Napoleon Solo, and the enigmatic KGB agent Illya Kuryakin.  Of course, as this show was released in the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, depicting the CIA and the KGB working together was quite groundbreaking.

This new movie version had been in development for quite some time.  Guy Ritchie, who brought us the legendary British crime films Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and also the Robert Downy Jr Sherlock Holmes films, is directing.  Solo is played by the current big screen Superman, Henry Cavill.  His partner Kuryakin is played by the current big screen Lone Ranger, Armie Hammer.

Here's the trailer!

I'm digging this trailer.  Given the now kinda dated premise, it was a good idea to set it in 1963.  Looks like with Solo and Kuryakin they're going with a "buddy cop" formula, depicting them as professional rivals who are forced to work together.  And is just me, or does the American accent/voice that Cavill adopts for Solo make him sound kinda like Christopher Reeve?  (Cavill is British, in case you didn't know.)

The Man from UNCLE comes out on August 14.

Also coming out this summer, Tom Cruise gives us the latest installment in his Mission: Impossible franchise.  Man o man, can you believe this franchise has almost been going for 20 years?  The first one came out way back in 1996....

As I've blogged before, the Mission: Impossible franchise is one I want to like, but I always find the films kind of lacking.  I remember enjoying the hell out of the first two when I first saw them, but I barely remember them.  I have yet to see the third one, although I'm curious to see what JJ Abrams' reboot was like, because I'm one of the few trekkies who thought he did a good job rebooting Star Trek.  But I did enjoy Ghost Protocol, mainly because I adore the work of director Brad Bird.

This fifth installment has been given the title Rogue Nation, and to direct it, Cruise recruited Christopher McQuarrie, no doubt because they had a good working relationship on Jack Reacher.  And trying to forge some continuity in this series, it looks like the IMF team is made up of agents from previous films, such as Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner.

The trailer gave us our first glimpse of the plot, which involves Ethan Hunt and his team trying to take down the Syndicate.  In the original TV series, "the Syndicate" was just the catch-all term for organized crime rings.  But for the film, looks like they've been rebooted into an evil IMF...the THRUSH to IMF's UNCLE. 

Trailer ho!

Yeah, looks like it has this franchise's one defining characteristic:  Tom Cruise doing crazy stunts.  And I find it kinda weird that they music they use is a remixed bubblegum pop tune by a Disney kid.  And Alec Baldwin is in it!  Again, as I've blogged before, I find it tough to take him seriously anymore after his years on 30 Rock

As with the rest of the franchise, I want to like this but...meh.  It was originally supposed to come out this Christmas, but got moved up to this summer out of a fear that it would get crushed between the new James Bond and Star Wars films.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is go see it on July 31. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What I've Been Watching on Netflix

I've been wanting to sit down and jot this down for a while...just some capsule reviews of the  half-a-dozen or so films I've watched on Netflix recently.

The Three Musketeers

A few years ago, I remember first watching the trailer for a new movie version of The Three Musketeers by the creative team behind the Resident Evil films.  I watched that trailer and though, "This looks so ridiculous and over the top...I must see it."  It was one of the first titles I looked up on Netflix.

And I was not disappointed.  It was ridiculous and over the top, but not so much that it got goofy.  Don't get me wrong, it was pretty ridiculous.  Milday de Winter becomes some kind of 17th Century Black Widow.  And steampunk airships.  Dear God.  Steampunk airships.  I can't believe they actually rip off the climax of The Wrath of Khan.  Replace starships and a nebula with steampunk airships and a storm cloud.

It's got a phenomenal cast, too.  Because it's the Resident Evil team, Milla Jovovich is Milday de Winter.  Christoph Waltz is perfectly cartoonishly villianous as Cardinal Richelu, with TV's Hannibal Mads Mikkelson making the perfect henchman in Rochefort.  Ray Stevenson kicks butt as Porthos, Luke Evans (Bard in the Hobbit films) is an upstanding Aramis, and James Cordon, aka that guy from those Doctor Who episodes, is the perfect comic relief as the Musketeers' servant, Planchett.

I found this one to be delightfully entertaining.  Perfect for a rainy afternoon. 

Total Recall

When I saw the first trailers for the 2012 remake of Total Recall, something about the whole endeavour seemed off to me.  Paul Verhoeven's late-1980s grit and grime was such a part of the look and feel of the original, that this remake looked a little too slick and polished for my tastes.  And that feeling just kind of hung over the whole film.

Don't get me wrong, I found the new dystopia they created rather interesting.  Rather than Mars, it now takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth.  After the ravages of war, only two regions on Earth remain livable:  the United Federation of Britain, which is the remains of Europe, and the Colony, which is the remains of Australia.  Travel between the two is possible via the Lift, a massive elevator that travels through the Earth's core. Rather than a rebellion fighting against the corporations that control Mars, it's the Colony fighting for independence from the UFB. 

Other than that, the story beats match up so closely with the original, you really start to wonder why they bothered with a remake.  There's an epic battle on an elevator.  There's a three-breasted hooker.  And yes, in the midsection, there's a fake-out where they try to convince Quaid that this is all a dream. 

Another thing that I liked was they beefed up the role of Quaid's wife, played by Sharon Stone in the original, and Kate Beckinsale in this remake.  Rather than kind of disappearing when Quaid's adventure begins, she actually becomes the leader of the agents hunting Quaid down, taking on the Kurtwood Smith role from the original.  It was a great way to keep her present for most of the film.

Yeah...it just kind of devolved into generic sci-fi action.  Good, but the original's still better.

Black Rain

This one piqued my interest when I saw it.  Many years ago when I was in Japan, this was a film talked about and discussed by my Japanese co-workers, as they found that, to gaijin like myself, it was their first exposure to "everyday" Japanese culture.  (i.e. not filtered through anime and Godzilla films).  That, and for my first few months, it seemed to be on NHK constantly.  It's also accredited to introducing the Yakuza - the Japanese mafia - to North American pop culture.

Michael Douglas plays Nick Conklin, a typical burnt out New York City police detective, currently up on corruption charges.  One day, he witnesses a murder in his local watering hole, and catches the Japanese man who did it.  Turns out this murderer is Sato, a high ranking Yakuza lieutenant,  and Conklin witnessed a Yakuza hit.  In order to get out of town for a few days, Conklin gets the job of escorting Sato back to Osaka for trial.  But, the Yakuza swindle this gaijin detective into releasing Sato to them.  Looking to save face (and, since he was on corruption charges, there's already accusations that the Yakuza bribed him), Conklin decides to stick around in Osaka and help the Osaka Police Department re-capture Sato. 

This is such a run-of-the-mill 1980s cop film, that the Osaka location doesn't do much to spice things up.  They try to play off rule-breaking Conklin and the by-the-book Osaka PD as being a culture clash, but no, it's the same "buddy cop" clash you've seen in every cop film.  I was expecting more culture clash, but no.  I was hoping for more from director Ridley Scott.  Yes, this is the same Ridley Scott who gave us Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator.

Men in Black 3

When I saw those first trailers for Men in Black 3, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought, "Really?  It's been 10 years since the last one...are people actually clamoring for this?"  And I also remember reading about it's trouble production.  They started filming without a finished screenplay.  It's been known to happen with these big blockbusters...but in making Men in Black 3, an incomplete script turned out to be such a big problem that they actually shut down filming for a few months to get it done.  But still, fond memories of the first two made me decide to check it out.

A brutal alien mercenary named Boris breaks out of the Men in Black's maximum security prison on the Moon, and since Agent K put him away 40 years ago, Boris swears vengeance.  Upon hearing this news, Agent K grows unusually despondent, and Agent J gets concerned.  When Agent J shows up at MiB HQ the next day, he receives quite a shock.  Turns out Agent K was killed in action 40 years ago, trying to apprehend Boris.  But Agent J remembers history playing out differently.  The only conclusion they reach is that Boris must have gone back in time and teamed up his younger self to kill K.  The only solution:  Agent J must go back in time and team up with the young Agent K to set the timeline right.

Of course, the joy in this is Josh Brolin playing the young Agent K.  With some make-up prosthetics and careful mimicry of Tommy Lee Jones' southern drawl, he is a young Tommy Lee Jones!  This does kind of become Agent K's origin story, as he goes from the freewheeling young man to the stoic, gruff agent we all know and love. 

There's some great new concepts, too, such as Griffin, an alien that K and J team up with in the past.  His people exist in five dimensions, allowing Griffin to see all possible timelines and advise K and J as to what they need to do to save the future.  Griffin also provides a movie-ending gag that's as good as the epic camera pull-back that ended the first movie.  Boris is a great alien, too, who seems to be nothing but a mass of scorpions masquerading as a human.

And the score!  Danny Elfman really delivers.  The first Men in Black film got Elfman his first Oscar nomination, and he's having a ball revisiting these themes.  

Very clever, a lot of fun, and a worthy addition to the Men in Black franchise.


I like trains.  But, they don't make a lot of movies about them.  So, when the 2010 film Unstoppable came along, all about trains, I was mildly curious.  Unstoppable has also become a sad note in film history, as it is the final film from legendary action director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, True Romance) before his tragic suicide in 2012. 

Denzel Washington is Frank Barnes, a well-respected veteran train engineer.  Chris Pine is rookie conductor Will Colson, and they're thrown into their first job together.  But, some idiot yard engineers accidentally leave a train full of volatile chemicals idling, and the breaks fail, and we've got a runaway train.  The first half of the film is Barnes and Colson trying to beat the runaway train to a siding so they can safely get out of its way, while the railroad company tries a variety of half-assed schemes to stop it.  The second half, with Barnes and Colson now behind the runaway train, this puts them in a unique position to try and sneak up behind it, hitch on, and slam on the breaks to stop it. 

Washington and Pine are good together, as they do the typical seasoned veteran/rookie bickering.  And Rosario Dawson shows up, and she's pretty good too, as the yardmaster who tries to stop the train, and is the lone voice of common sense in these films as all the stuffed shirts attempt their half-assed, face-saving train-stopping plans. 

Great cast, some great train action scenes, and you've got Denzel and Captain Kirk.  It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's a pretty enjoyable film. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Spider-Man 2.1

He we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, as I watch a tasty treat of a film on home media, and then blog about, because what else am I going to do on Sunday afternoons?  Watch sportsball?  I'm going through Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy right now, and we get to the extended edition of the best one, Spider-Man 2.  This is in my original notes at May 18, 2014.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Week, New Podcast!

As I’ve been saying for quite a while now, as much as I’m usually down on Daylight Savings Time, I’m thrilled that it’s now light out later!  I can go home from work in the daylight!  And it’s a good feeling that I’m trying to hang onto.

As such, in this week’s podcast, Episode 8.02: Springy Weather, things kind of got away from me as I found I had lots to ramble about.  Some of my ramblings:
  • In honour of Pi Day, I tell a little story on how knowing math recently won me fabulous prizes!
  • Throw a little love to Shout! Factory and their recent home media releases
  • Recapping the Star Wars news of the past week
  • The creation of cinematic universes, including the announcements of Valiant and Ghostbusters universes
  • An installment of Mark Tastes Random Things on the Shamrock Shake
  • And an update on the music yes/music no debate.
All this and more in this week’s episode of U62: The Targ!

Head over to the main site to listen streaming or download it!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Spider-Man

Here we go again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch one of the many movies I own, and ramble about it.  We're going to start on Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy now, kicking off with the appropriately titled Spider-Man.  This shows up in my notes at May 17, 2014.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Targ Returns Again! For the Eighth Time!

Well, now that I’ve rebuilt the website, I guess it’s time to start generating content, and what better way to do that than by bringing back the podcast?

Episode 8.01: Back and Catching Up continues the proud tradition I do on every first podcast back from a hiatus, and that’s begin by explaining the hiatus!  Then I take you around the website and all the awesome rebuilding I did, and then ramble about all the things that happened while I was gone, such as:
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic releasing his album Mandatory Fun and talking a lot like he was retiring.
  • Marvel Studio’s announcement of Phase III of their Cinematic Universe, and the fact that they got Spider-Man back!
  • And general reaction to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer
Plus, I have an important lesson for you, the listeners, so give it a listen!

Head over to the main site to listen streaming or download it!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

A Website Reborn

Well, gang, my hard work for the past few months is finally done.  Well, done to the point where I think it's ready for public consumption.

My I present my newly rebuilt and redesigned website, Chaos in a Box.com

Chaos in a Box

My website had been due for an overhaul for quite some time now.  As much as I liked how it looked, my knowledge of HTML peaked in 2003, and it was starting to look it.  And every time I wanted to update it or revise it, I found myself dusting off my old copy of Microsoft Front Page and having to write a new webpage from scratch.

Besides, I never really finished my last rebuild 9 years ago, leaving it a mess of dead links spread across three servers.  It would all get very messy if you started clicking around too much. 

So I started thinking about doing a rebuild about a year ago.  Rather than always having to build a webpage from scratch, I started looking at all the DIY web designers that are out there now.  Having read the reviews, and chatting with friends that are more knowledgeable than me, it looked like WordPress was the way to go.  I had one of those more knowledgeable friends install WordPress on my server for me, and I was off to rebuild my website!

Then I kinda got bored with that and finally opened a Netflix account.

But then, as 2015 started, my employers realized I had two weeks of leftover vacation time from last year.  And they really wanted me to get it off the books.  With two weeks off, I figured this would be the perfect time to just sit down in front of my computer and get it done.  Once I tweaked the settings in WordPress and got a layout and design I liked, it just a ton of cutting and pasting as I copied all my old webpages, and pasted them into WordPress's templates. 

I put in almost full workdays, taking breaks occasionally to enjoy some sunshine, eat, and watch episodes of Jem on Netflix.  It was a lot of cutting and pasting.  But at the end, I had some statistics:  248 podcasts, 188 movie reviews, and 348 entries in my original blog were all copied over. 

It's all there now.  It's searchable.  You can dig it all up.  The best thing I discovered about WordPress was its embedded MP3 player, so you can now easily listen to my podcasts in your browser. 

When I did my last rebuild 9 years ago, a friend of mine was sad that I dumped all my movie reviews prior to 2004.  So, just for him, I found all my older movie reviews in my archives, and my movie reviews section is complete once again, all the way back to when I started doing them in 1998!  The first movie I reviewed was the first American Godzilla film, in case you're curious.  And re-reading those early reviews, I'm almost embarrassed at how much I loved LOVED LOVED The Phantom Menace when it first came out. 

My original blog is there as well, but I buried it a little bit.  I mean, I haven't updated it in 9 years, so there's no reason for it to be so front and centre.  Besides, back then, I had no qualms whatsoever about naming names and calling out people who pissed me off.  I did have instructors at NAIT who pulled me aside and said, "Gee, Mark, if you keep saying stuff like that online, you're going to find it really difficult to find a job," and I do know of at least one job the blog cost me.  Reading it again all these years later, I'm a touch embarrassed at it all.  But I can't help but remember how passionate I was back then...how serious I was about my writing.  I really remember posting my articles on Sunday night, and getting excited e-mails from my friends on Monday morning telling me  how awesome my article was and how amazing a writer I was.

So, for those reasons, I kept it.  However, some articles are "special editions," where names have finally been changed to cover my own ass protect the innocent.  And besides, as I observed when I first attempted this rebuild a year ago, most of this stuff has been online now for 10 years or more.  If it was going to come back and bite me in the butt, it would have by now.  (The one incident I mentioned happened a mere month after I posted it.) 

It's all there for the world to see.  As Dinobot said with his dying words, my tale is told to those who ask, the ill deeds with the good, so that I may be judged accordingly.  Head on over to chaosinabox.com, and read my tale.

Click on over to Chaos in a Box.com!

Oh, and as promised, my first new content at the website, my review of Kingsman: The Secret Service

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Animatrix

Here we are on Fishing in the Discount Bin once again.  Not quite done with The Matrix franchise yet, as we still have to tackle it's universe-expanding anime spinoff The Animatrix.  This pops up in my notes at May 10, 2014.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Halfway's Far Enough

I was facing a dilemma.  I wanted to go see Kingsman: The Secret Sevice, but at my usual theatre in West Edmonton Mall, it was only playing in Ultra AVX.  For those who don't know, Ultra AVX is currently one of Cineplex's premium theatre experiences.  You get the maximum allowable screen size without going IMAX, the most state-of-the-art sound systems, assigned seating, more comfortable chairs...and $3 more on the movie ticket.

Yeah, I'm cheap enough that the extra $3 is enough to give me pause.  If I'm going to see a movie in 3D, I'll spring for it, because the assigned seating assures you a good seat.  But for a regular ol' 2D movie?  Ehh....

And then I remembered I don't always have to go to West Edmonton Mall.  As much as I love browsing in that cathedral to consumerism, it's not always required.  Hell, whenever I drive into Edmonton, I always drive by Cineplex's North Edmonton theatre.  It's a good theatre, I've seen lots of movies there, and most of the shops I wanted to check out where there on the north side anyway.  And the North Edmonton theatre was showing Kingsman in a regular ol' theatre.  I was only going halfway this time...to the north side!

On the north side is the Best Buy I usually blow money in, and I had $7.99 left on my last Christmas gift card.  $7.99 is just enough for one Blu-Ray out of the discount bin, and I knew what I was going to get....

Independence Day is one of my favourite films.  Hands down, you will never find better popcorn entertainment.  And I was due for the Blu-Ray upgrade anyway.  Sadly, the Blu-Ray didn't include the extended edition that was on the DVD, so I guess I'll be hanging onto my DVD a little longer.  Oh, let's be honest, I never throw away any DVDs.  I love movies too much, in all their formats.

But it wasn't just oldies, had to pick up the hot new release of the day, Disney's Big Hero 6.  Like many a geek, I believe that superheros and animation are a genre and a medium made for each other.  And when Disney bought Marvel, we were all a tingle at the prospect of a Disney animated Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Big Hero 6 drew its inspiration from a short-lived Marvel comic from about 10 years ago.  Some people were upset that it wasn't an official Marvel production with the Marvel logo up front and everything, but Marvel admitted that Big Hero 6 was so below their radar on what to adapt that they just kind of gave it to Disney and said, "Do with it as you will." 

Anyway, when I saw it back in November, I had a great time with it.  And, because The Lego Movie got snubbed, it managed to nab the Oscar for Best Animated Film, too.  Could always use more Oscar winners in the library. 

Quick bite of lunch, and I was off to the theatre!  Here's why I do like going to catch movies at West Edmonton Mall.  When I'm ridiculously early, I can go browse and entertain myself.  But North Edmonton is in a power centre.  And as most critics of power centres will tell you, they are not very pedestrian friendly.  I got a good parking spot near the theatre, but then I had no desire to walk all the way across a frigid parking lot to check out some of the stores.  So I wound up going to the theatre early.  I mean, I'm usually at a theatre early to get good seats, but this is early even for me.

I typically don't eat at the movies anymore, because I mostly go to weekend matinees these days, and since it's right after lunch, I'm not hungry.  But I ate this time because, hey, I'm ridiculously early and standing in line at the snack counter is something to do.  And then I went into the theatre.  Getting there super-early is good because then you can pick the good seats, and you can open your loud, crinkly candy wrappers without bothering anyone, but I looked at my watch, and I had 40 minutes until showtime.

At least I was finally able to get onto the Timeplay server and get that working on my phone.  I have a friend in Vancouver, and they've had Timeplay at their theatres for a while now, and he loves it.  They only rolled it out to Edmonton theatres this past summer.  You've got the special app on your smartphone, and then, during the pre-show at the theatre, Timeplay comes up and you can play interactive trivia games and win stuff.  My friend in Vancouver tells me he's won free popcorn and such, but out here, all they ever seem to offer for prizes are SCENE points.  It's weird.  I've been convinced to sign up for dozens of rewards programs (so much so that I now carry a second wallet just for all the rewards cards), I go to see so many movies, but Cineplex's SCENE is the one rewards program I haven't signed up for.

Anyway, even though I got Timeplay working, I didn't play.  Why?  Because they flash your name on the leaderboard up on the big screen, and I'm actually pretty self-conscious about seeing my name up in lights.  Strange given my day job, right? 

So, I was getting pretty jazzed to see Kingsman.  It was essentially James Bond from the creators of Kick-Ass.  If they could skewer the tropes of the superspy genre the same they did the superhero genre, then I knew it was going to be a good time.  I was shocked when my Mom said she wanted to go see it, because Colin Firth, star of a hundred rom-coms, is one of the stars. 

Eggsy is a kid in London who's been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his life.  Seeking to avoid a prison sentence, Eggsy calls on one of his deceased father's old colleagues, Harry Hart, to bail him out.  Harry sees potential in the boy, and reveals that he and Eggsy's father are members of a top-secret spy agency called Kingsman, and that Eggsy has what it takes to be an agent.  Eggsy begins his basic training, while Harry goes off on his latest case, investigating the tech billionaire Richmond Valentine, who's been brokering secret deals with world's richest and most powerful, and throwing those who don't go along with his scheme into his private prison.  Soon, it's Harry and Eggsy on the case, hunting down Valentine before he can destroy the world.

I enjoyed it.  As expected, just like Kick-Ass, it was very profane, very bloody, and very self-referential.  That being said, it had the same problem as Kick-Ass, in that the creators have too much love for the formula they're lampooning to stray too far from it. 

I give it a solid 3 nibs.  Go check it out!

Normally, this is where I'd post the link to the complete review on my website, but I am so close to finishing rebuilding my website, that I'm going to hang onto it, and it'll be the first content when my rebuilt website goes live. 

And from there, it was just a nice, leisurely drive home.  Since I didn't have as far to drive home, I was home a lot earlier than I thought I'd be, and still managed to enjoy a lot of my evening.  And, most importantly, I save $3 on a movie.