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Monday, July 27, 2015

Flush with Birthday Cash

I've been feeling good lately.  I know I've been panicking quite a bit about my personal finances, but, after balancing the books and paying bills a few days ago, I noticed that I'm a little bit ahead.  It's mainly because I got a little bit of birthday cash.  That, and I've mentioned that summer is a busy time for us radio folks, as we're live on location from all the festivals that come around.  It's the only part of the job I get paid overtime for, and that's starting to show up on my paychecks.  I know such a reprive is temporary, but it's making me breath a bit easier.

And so, I feel I'd earned myself a day in the city.  It's good to get away every once in a while, even if it is just down the road to the thriving metropolis of Edmonton.  Such excursions always have me go to Best Buy first, and see if there's anything new in the world of Blu-Rays that I'd like to add to my collection.  I was hoping to get the latest DC Comics straight-to-DVD animated film, Justice League: Gods and Monsters, but I got the release dates wrong and it doesn't come out until next week.  I saw the new extended edition of X-Men: Days of Future Past, and as tempting as it was, I decided to pass.  When it comes to multiple editions of films, I've never been to keen on extended editions.  When I drop my $20 for a Blu-Ray, I want to see the same film I fell in love with in the theatre.  The only exception is when the price drops down and I fish it out of the discount bin.  That's how I finally procured the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings.

In fact, while fishing around in the discount bin, I spotted the Steven Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and I started thinking that we can thank Spielberg for this whole trend of special editions.  See, theatrical re-releases of older films used to be quite a common occurrence.  The growth of popularity of home video in the mid-1980s finally killed that trend.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out in 1977, and when the studio was prepping it for its first re-release, Spielberg went to the studio with a proposal.  There were several scenes for Close Encounters that he really wanted to include, but he never got to film them because they ran out of time and money.  Could he go back and film those scenes, and include them in the theatrical re-release?  The studio liked the idea, but they added a caveat.  When feedback from the film started rolling in, the audience also requested several scenes to help flesh out the story of the aliens.  They would go along with this plan...as long as Spielberg also filmed the extra scenes the audience demanded.  Spielberg conceded, filmed the extra scenes, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition hit theatres in 1980.

Spielberg produced one other alternate edition of Close Encounters.  For the film's 20th anniversary and first DVD release, Spielberg was able to re-edit it one last time his way...without the extra scenes that the studio insisted upon.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Collector's Edition came out in 1998.  And I noticed that all three versions are on the Blu-Ray.

So as tempting as it was to grab that out of the discount bin, I chose not to.  Besides, I ordered some special editions from Amazon not too long ago, and they hadn't shipped yet, so I should sit back and wait for them.

Leaving Best Buy empty-handed, I drifted down to West Edmonton Mall...the destination for all my city excursions.  It was getting to be around lunch time, so I headed to the food court for lunch.  As I've blogged before, I tend to feel a twinge of sadness when I hit the food court.  When I was a kid, the food court was such a place of adventure.  Mom would give us kids $10 with the instruction that we could have whatever we want.  But I seem to have lost that sense of adventure.  No matter how good the curry from the Indian place smells...no matter how tempting the rice bowls at the Japanese place look...no matter how much I want to be an Avenger and check out the shawarma place...I always go for the same ol' chains.  On this day, it was Extreme Pita.

With a full belly, I began to browse the Mall.  I went to one of my favourite action figure stores, to see if there's anything worth adding to my collection.  I've slowed down a bit on the action figure collecting front.  Gotta save up my money for this fall when the Star Wars: The Force Awakens merch goes on sale.  But I've mentioned my fascination with these new figures put out by Funko called the ReAction figures.  They've picked up the licenses to a bunch of cult films and they make action figures in the style of the quickly-made mass produced figures of the early 1980s.  They recently released some new ones for 2015, including from two of my favourite TV shows, The Flash and Arrow.  So as I was perusing the racks, my eyes went wide and my jaw dropped when I saw they had #1 on my wish list.

Star Trek.  The original series.

Funko's Spock ReAction Figure

I love Star Wars, I love Doctor Who, but Star Trek is still my first and biggest fandom.  Hell, Star Trek action figures were my gateway into action figure collecting.  So when I saw them, I knew I had to get them.  It was a bit pricey, but, I learned a long time ago when it comes to these action figures, there's rarely a next time.  You go back to the store, they're gone.  So I snatched up Star Trek's main trinity of Kirk, Spock, and Bones.  I felt bad about buying them, because they were a bit pricey, but I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!

Still trying to calm my passion for new Blu-Rays, I went next door to HMV.  As I was browsing the Blu-Rays, I started looking for those ones that I'd ordered on Amazon that hadn't shipped yet.

And I found them.  For about the same price.  I started pondering a question.  Do I whip out my smartphone, fire up the Amazon app, cancel my order, and buy them now?  Or do I just wait and see?

So what are these special editions I'm waiting for and obsessing over?  First up is the animated classic The Last Unicorn.  My DVD is one of the very first DVD releases from the early-2000s, so I'm due for the Blu-Ray upgrade.  And a company called Shout! Factory just released a really sharp new special edition with some great bonus features.  The second is The Black StallionThe Black Stallion is kind of weird.  When I was a kid, I remember it being everywhere.  I'd seen it a few times, it seemed like all my friends had seen it, like most kids films of the era it was merchandised to death, but now, no one seems to talk about it anymore.  It just got one of those very classy Criterion Blu-Ray releases.  I ordered them on Amazon, but The Last Unicorn got back-ordered, and they haven't shipped yet.

Should I cancel my Amazon order and buy them now?  I texted my friends for guidance.  One said, "Yes!  Absolutely!"  Another said, "Well, how badly do you want them?  If the answer is 'a lot,' then buy them now."  Ugh.  If I wasn't feeling so bad about buying all the action figures, it wouldn't be a debate.  I'd just do it.

I decided to step away for a bit and ponder it.  Wandered around the Mall, stopping into some stores I don't frequent that often.  Like Lammle's Western Wear.  Such a fascinating store.  So many cowboy hats and designer jeans and cowboy merchandise.  The action figure collector in me is always mildly interested in the rodeo rider action figures.  I remembered a friend of mine from college.  She was originally from Vancouver, and found such stores so novel.  I was slightly embarrassed by her marveling at the novelty because, having been born and raised in Alberta, at least half of my back-to-school clothes were bought in such stores.  What can I say?  They always had good jeans.

Wandered by the empty space where Target used to be and wondered what new store might be moving in.  I could almost be a West Edmonton Mall historian, as I remember what stores used to be where.  The empty space was originally Eaton's, until they went under in the late-1990s.  Then Zellers moved into that spot (Zellers originally being where Winners now is), and was there until Target bought out Zellers for their big Canadian expansion.  And now, Target's dead, and it sits empty.  It's such a big piece of real estate, I can't imagine the Mall letting it sit empty for too long.

Walked slowly by Victoria's Secret.  That's a store that fascinates me, but I have no reason to go into it.  I'm not a woman.  I don't have a girlfriend that I'm shopping for.  Someday, my curiosity will get the better of me and I'll go have a look around inside.  I'll have to convince a friend-who's-a-girl into going in, so I can play the part of bored boyfriend.

But, all excursions to the Mall invariably wind up at the movie theatre, and I was there to see Ant-Man.  Marvel's latest chapter in their Cinematic Universe.  I'm sure we all know it's very strange history right now.  The pet project of Edgar Wright when Marvel Studios was first founded in 2006, but he left the project last year just mere weeks before filming began.  How would the last minute changes to this C-List hero affect his film?

Ant-Man Teaser Poster

Scott Lang, career burglar, fresh out of prison, and ready to go on the straight and narrow for the sake of his daughter.  But, he's soon enlisted by reclusive scientist Hank Pym for one last job.  Pym discovered how to shrink people to the size of an insect, and once used this power as a SHIELD operative, but walked away from it all when he discovered SHIELD was trying to reverse-engineer his shrinking method.  But now, Pym's former protege Darren Cross has almost discovered the secret of Pym's shrinking process, and is getting ready to mass produce and weaponize it.  Pym wants Lang to don his old shrinking suit, break into Cross's company, and destroy all his research before Cross's evil plans come to fruition.  Is Lang worthy of Pym's old legacy as the new Ant-Man?

First up, Ant-Man is funny.  Because Lang is a burglar, of course he has a gang, and they are colourful and eccentric and just highlights of the film.  The shrinking process provides for some very inventive battle sequences.  I'm sure you've all seen the bit in the commercial of our hero and villain battling atop Thomas the Tank Engine, but when you see that entire sequence, it's both thrilling and hilarious.  And after the gigantic epics that were Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's relaxing to have something a littler smaller scale...no pun intended.

However it is a bit cliched.  I mean, the hero has to defeat a villain with powers just like his...again.  And as much as I loved a fight with a certain Avenger in the middle of the film, it did seem awkwardly smooshed in just for the Marvel Cinematic Universe connection.

I still found it entertaining though.  3 out of 4 nibs.  Complete review on the website.

With the movie done, I went back to HMV to ponder my Blu-Ray dilemma once again.    I decided to put emotion aside and be logical about this.  I reviewed my order on the Amazon app and saw how much I'd be paying.  I opened the calculator app and crunched the numbers as to how much I'd be paying at HMV that day.  Buying on Amazon was $2 cheaper than buying that day at HMV.  Lowest bid wins.  I walked away.

When it comes to heading home to Westlock, I've taken to taking the longer way through Spruce Grove.  It's been built up quite a bit over the past few years, and there's some newer fast casual chains sprouting up in the new developments.  Plus, as you're outside the city, it's not as crowded.  While I've been frequenting Carl's Jr, mainly because it's newer, this time, I figured it was time to go back to Fatburger.

Fatburger makes a very good hamburger.  I went for their current promotional item, the Texas BBQ Burger.  Pulled pork on a hamburger is a wonderful, horrible thing.  Wonderful in that it tastes so good.  Horrible in that it's a wad of meat that could put the Double Down to shame.  It's good for sometimes, but not all the time.

With a full belly, it was time to head home to Westlock.  The rain was starting, which was OK, as it's sure been a hot dry summer and we need it.  I know I get a lot of heck both personally and professionally for not taking enough time off, and days like these are definitely needed.  But, in the grand scheme of things, a day is all I need. 

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