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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Get Out and Do Something

I'm fighting a cold.  Just when I thought I was over it, it came back.  I just went into the city last week and spent too much money.  I fully planned to just spend my long weekend on the couch, doing nothing, binging on The Hunger Games franchise on Netflix.  Facebook has their new "On This Day" app, where they show you your postings from a few years ago.  On Monday morning, I clicked that app, and I saw I posted this about three years ago.

"I really want to get out and do something this long weekend, because I just realized that this is my last free weekend until about the middle of September."

I'm pretty much in the same boat again.  I think Labour Day is going to be my next free weekend.  So I took a shot of Buckley's for the cold, payday has come and gone so there's a little bit of money in the bank.  And Mockingjay - Part I isn't leaving Netflix anytime soon.  I put some gas in ol' Bessie-Lou and I was off to the city.

In a way, all I did on this city trip was just go through the checklist of things I chickened out of doing last week.  After double-checking my back-ordered Blu-Rays on Amazon.ca, I noticed that both of the Blu-Rays I'd ordered had now been put on back order.  So this time I thought, "Screw it!  I'm cancelling the order and buying them at HMV."

To refresh your memory, the two back-ordered special editions were The Last Unicorn and The Black Stallion.  Yes, I'm an 8-year old girl at heart because I bought movies about ponies.  The Last Unicorn is one of my favourite animated films.  As I blogged before, when I was a kid, and VHS was new and exciting, it always seemed like there was one film that all my friends had watched, and was the mainstay of slumber parties and such.  The Last Unicorn was one of those films.  I have it on DVD, but it was one of the very first DVD releases from 15 years ago or so.  Shout! Factory has just released a new Blu-Ray special edition.  It's got some great new bonus features, like a running commentary with Last Unicorn creator Peter S. Beagle, and a featurette about the making of the movie.  I watched a bit of the Blu-Ray when I got home, and in hi-def, it's stunning.  Such a beautiful film.

And I can NEVER WATCH IT AGAIN!  After watching the brief snippet to write the above, now whenever I pop in my Last Unicorn Blu-Ray, it freezes up on the loading screen.  I think it's time to upgrade my Blu-Ray player.  This isn't the first disc I've experienced this with.  Looking up the problem, they tell me my player needs a software update.  Looking up my player, I see a software update hasn't been released in 3 years.  Yeah, it was a combo pack, so I got the film on DVD, too.  It's on Netflix now, so if I want hi-def, there's Netflix.  But it frustrates me when my beloved technology betrays me!

And The Black Stallion.  Again, this film is almost forgotten.  It was one of those VHS mainstays from my youth.  I had one friend who loved it and had all the merchandise.  But no one talks about it anymore.  Just reading the credits on the back of the Blu-Ray box.  Francis Ford Coppola was the executive producer, and he recruited a lot of the creative talent behind his Godfather films to work on it.  Melissa Matheson was one of the writers, and this won her the gig to write E.T. for Steven Spielberg.  Why is a film from the creators of The Godfather and E.T. not revered?  Anyway, it just got a spiffy Criterion release, and as I blogged earlier, those really class up the Blu-Ray shelf.  And going through the bonus features, I'm shocked it doesn't have a running commentary.  I think it's the first Criterion I've ever seen that doesn't have a running commentary.  Hell, Criterion invented the running commentary.  The very first running commentary was for the Criterion Laserdisc of King Kong released in the mid-1980s.  But I digress.

With that off the checklist, it was time for lunch in the food court.  And it was time to skip the burgers and fries and be adventurous!  So I wound up at the Japanese place and I had a beef bowl.  For those who don't know, a beef bowl is a popular Japanese fast food item.  It's pretty much what it sounds like:  a bowl of rice, topped with some beef and veggies.  It was a big bowl...very filling.

Want an untold tale of Japan?  Many years ago in Japan, I spent my Christmas vacation visiting my friend in the northern city of Sapporo.  But, my flight home was delayed, and when my flight landed at Tokyo, the train station was closed and I was stuck in Tokyo for the night.  Unable to find a place to stay, I ultimately found a 24h Yoshinoya -- a fast food joint that specializes in beef bowls -- where I ordered a large beef bowl, settled down in a booth, and ate slowly.  Trains started running again at 5AM, and I was on the first one back to Kumagaya.

With a full belly, and Blu-Rays bought, it was time to catch a movie.  I still had some money left on the gift card I got for my birthday, so at least the movie was still free.  As I said in this week's podcast, all the movies that I had a burning passion to see this summer have come and gone, so I'm left with the movies I kinda-sorta want to see.  It's a short list:  Terminator Genisys and Mission: Impossilbe - Rogue Nation.  As Mission: Impossible has been getting better reviews, I went with that one.

Mission: Impossible is a franchise I've always wanted to like, but at the end, the movies aren't...well, I'm not sure how to explain it.  I keep expecting "great", but I always come away with "really good".  And, Rogue Nation continues that fine tradition.

Tom Cruise returns as superspy Ethan Hunt.  He's finally able to confirm the existence of the Syndicate, a shadowy spy organization dedicated to stirring the pot worldwide.  Thing is, thanks to many reckless missions (i.e. the first four films), the IMF is being disbanded and the remnants absorbed by the CIA.  So, to continue his quest to uncover the secrets of the Syndicate, Hunt goes rogue.  But before long, he draws in more of his former IMF comrades, and Hunt draws ever closer to taking down the Syndicate.

Look, the highlight of this franchise has always been the insane stunts and action sequences, and this one delivers.  I'm sure we've all seen the trailers of Tom Cruise hanging off the side of the airplane.  Well, that's our James Bond-style pre-credits sequence, and things only get bigger from there.  And the strength of Mission: Impossible in the superspy genre has always been it's team aspect.  It's taken five films, but we finally got a team that sticks around for more than one movie and are likeable, in the persons of Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames.

That being said, a formula's been established and we stick to it.  Ethan Hunt goes rogue...again.  There's a person on the team who may or may not be a mole...again.  We get it.

It does what a summer movie's supposed to do:  give you two hours of fun in an air-conditioned movie theatre.  I give it 3 out of 4 Nibs.  Full review on the website.

For what it's worth, I saw the film in one of Cineplex's UltraAVX theatres.  For those who don't know, UltraAVX is Cineplex's proprietary "premium large screen format."  What some would call "Lie-MAX," but Cineplex had the good sense to put their own brand on it.  I tend not to go to UltraAVX, because I'm not sure it's worth the extra money.  I figure it's worth the extra if you're going to a 3D film, because it has assigned seating and you can pre-select the best seats for the getting the most out of 3D.  But as I said, I still the birthday gift card, so it was free, so why not?

I was reflecting on this on the drive home.  It is almost like the 1950s all over again, isn't it?  Back in the 1950s, when TV became a thing and movies saw it as a threat, they had the first big push towards wider screens and 3D and other gimmicks to get people out to the theatre.  Now the big threat is piracy and streaming video and all these options to see films at home.  UltraAVX, IMAX, 3D...I have yet to try Cineplex's fancy-shamncy VIP theatres.  The lobby is a 4-star restaurant.  They serve alcohol.  Your seat is a super-sized easy chair.  Snacks are brought to you by a waiter.  But it's pricey...$50 a ticket or so.  They've had one in Edmonton for a couple of years now.  Each year I say, "On my birthday," but I haven't done it yet.

Some of the gimmicks are pretty good...like Timeplay.  I've blogged about it before.  It's this new thing Cineplex has.  You have the app on your smartphone, and you get to play these games on the big screen before the movie starts.  I'm getting pretty good at it.  I just wish they offered better prizes.  I've heard of some theatres giving away free popcorn and pop.  Most I've seen and won is bonus SCENE points.  And the Scotiabank Theatre in West Edmonton Mall really needs to get their act together when it comes to Timeplay.  When I went to see Jurassic World, they forgot to turn on the TimePlay projector.  So I played just by hitting random buttons on my app.  And seeing Mission: Impossible, they turned off the TimePlay projector halfway through the game and started playing commercials.  So I finished my game, again, just by hitting random buttons on the app.  Must not be a lot of TimePlay players when I hit the theatre, because in both instances, I came in first.

 And I do like the drive to show more classic movies on the big screen.  I've got a long list of favourite movies that I've only ever seen on TV that I'd love to see in a theatre.  Cineplex does it, but the scheduling throws me off.  They're usually on weekday afternoons, when I'm at work.  But I think I may have to clear my schedule for Sunday, October 25.

A photo posted by Mark Cappis (@chaosinabox) on

For the franchise's 30th anniversary, a marathon screening of the entire Back to the Future trilogy.  I never saw the first one in the theatre....it's on that aforementioned list.

And that was it.  From there, it was a nice, leisurely drive home.  My mission was accomplished to get out and do something so the long weekend wasn't considered a waste.  Bring on August, which looks to be the busiest month of the year!

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