Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review - Batman: The Killing Joke

I've blogged before about how I've grown bored with the DC/Warner Brothers straight-to-DVD animated films.  So much of the same old Batman and Superman, that I'm longing for something new.  I've skipped the last three or so (although, seeing Starfire's Sailor Moon-inspired transformation from Justice League vs. Teen Titan makes me want to check that out.)  But, their most recent one has been one of the most demanded ever since DC and Warner Brothers launched this project.  So it's time to check out...

Batman: The Killing Joke Blu-Ray cover

Batman: The Killing Joke

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - You Only Live Twice

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about one of the many movies I own.  Just when I think I'm done with James Bond, I get drawn back in.  Here we've got You Only Live Twice, originally in my notes at November 8, 2015.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Thoughts for a Lazy Summer Afternoon

When I was a kid, my school had this thing called USSR:  Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading.  Every day, for the first 15 minutes after lunch, everyone would read.  It was a pleasant way to start the afternoon.  And it was one of those school assignments where there was no way to do it wrong.

Until I got to Grade 7.  A few months into junior high, my English teacher, Mr. Twerdoclib, asked me to stay after class one day.  It turned out he didn't like my choice of reading material during USSR.  For you see, I was still hooked on Choose Your Own Adventure books.  After having been my teacher for a few months, Mr. Twerdoclib couldn't understand why I was reading them.  "Your test scores show you're reading at a high school level, Mark," he said.  "Quite frankly, Choose Your Own Adventures are beneath you."

He then encouraged me to broaden my literary pallet.  "Read some science fiction, read some fantasy, read some mysteries, hell, even try some romance novels, just please stop reading Choose Your Own Adventures."

So I did.  Stopped reading Choose Your Own Adventures that day.  That led into the first time I re-read The Hobbit, and my first attempt at reading The Lord of the Rings.  Someday I'll finish reading The Lord of the Rings, but it still just bores me to tears.  For the mandated mysteries, I borrowed some of my mother's Agatha Christie novels.  A lot of my friends were dabbling in the Dragonriders of Pern series, so I gave that I shot.  Seeing that I was gravitating towards sci-fi and fantasy, Mr. Twerdoclib recommended the The Dark is Rising Sequence.  Made it through the first book, The Dark is Rising, but found it a little too confusing.  Since I had begun embracing Star Trek as my one, true fandom, I soon settled into a steady stream of Star Trek paperbacks.

But Mr. Twerdoclib's words still haunt me this day, especially that last bit:  "Hell, every try some romance novels."  And that's why, when I'm at the book store, or even my corner store, I find myself taking a moment to browse through the Harlequin romance novels.  Some day, I'll probably pick one up and give it a shot.  Because, hey:  Mr. Twedoclib said.

There's this phenomenon in Norway known as Slow TV.  NRK, the nation's public broadcaster, showcases these marathon broadcasts of the most mundane things.  They've featured twelve hours of knitting, eight hours of wood burning, and 18 hours of salmon fishing.  So imagine my surprise when I noticed that many of these marathon broadcasts are now on Netflix.

For the hell of it, I watched bit of the very first one, Berginsbanen -- Minnut for Minnut.  The Bergen Line is a very famous railway line in Norway, connecting the cities of Bergin and Oslo.  They have a camera mounted to the front of the train, and it's the entire 7-hour train ride.  Uncut and unedited.

As a guy who's always been fond of trains and rail travel, I found it to be one of the most relaxing things I'd ever watched.  It's such beautiful countryside.  It's actually pretty hilarious when the train goes into a tunnel.  The screen goes black, and all you hear is the white noise of the wheels on the rails.  Apparently, in the original broadcast, during these parts, they'd cut to some historical clips about the history of the railway.  But not here.  You're just on the train.  In the darkness.

I tell you, it's just amazing.  It helps that the Norwegian countryside is gorgeous.

I am reminded of the Travel Channel tried something similar.  They had a TV show about 10 or 12 years ago called Canada's Greatest Ride, which took you from one end of the country to the end by rail.  Just like Slow TV, the vast majority of the footage was filmed from a VIA locomotive, facing forward.  And to premiere it, for one week, they showed a marathon of all their raw footage.

That was actually...pretty boring.  When people think of going across Canada by rail, the first thing they think about is going through the Rocky Mountains.  I was so looking forward to seeing some amazing Rocky Mountain vistas from the rails.  But, for some reason, they decided to film the Rocky Mountain portions of the show at night.  So, all you saw, was darkness in all directions.  You only saw what the headlight saw.  Until you went into a tunnel.  Then that lone headlight would light up the tunnel magnificently, and you'd see an amazing tunnel interior.  And then back out into the darkness.

And I kept watching it to see if I'd catch a glimpse of train coming through my hometown of Entwistle  But it never came.  Finally, in one of the documentary segments, they explained.  Shortly after they left Jasper, their camera crapped out.  So they got no footage of Jasper to Edmonton!

I'd like to remake it.  Do it properly.  Full HD cameras.  Film it in daylight.  Start in Edmonton.  Head into the Rockies, through Jasper, down to Vancouver.  Then back into Alberta through Banff and into Calgary.  And back north to Edmonton to complete the circuit.

But until then, I've got my Slow TV on Netflix.  Might not dive back into the Bergen line, but they have some 1-hour episodes of Norway's shorter rail lines.

There was some good news out of Edmonton this past week.  A construction project I've been interested in and have been following for a few years was finally declared finished!

It's the brand new Royal Alberta Museum in downtown Edmonton!

They've been trying to get this built for about 10 years now.  Originally announced by Ralph Klein to celebrate the province's centennial in 2005, it got shuffled around and put on the back burner and such until it was finally made a priority 5 years ago or so.  And now it's here!

Click on that link above to see CTV's video.  (For some reason, the embed code won't work for me.)  It's just beautiful inside.  Sadly, though, it's not open for business yet.  Now begins the 1.5 or so year process of moving everything in and building the displays.  The original museum closed up back in the spring to being packing.

And that's the question now that some people are asking.  What's to become of the original museum?  As they say in the news story, because of the process of packing up and moving, there's no immediate plans.  It's still a perfectly fine building.  The only reason why the Royal Alberta Museum is moving is because they ran out of room.  Something like 80% of their collection is in storage because they have no room to display it.

The government did ask for estimates to demolish it back in the spring, and was immediately met with public backlash.  Last time I was there, I marveled at what a magnificent building it is.  It truly is a product of its time.  Built in 1967 as a Canadian centennial project, the entire building just screams 1960s "fortress of knowledge."  You can just picture steely-eyed missile men inside, smoking their pipes and planning ways to beat the Commies to the Moon.  So it really would be a shame to lose it.

When the project was first announced, and people started discussing what to do with the old building, I heard several good ideas.  Alberta is one of the few provinces that does not have an official residence for its Lieutenant Governor, so one idea was converting it into the Lieutenant Governor's mansion.  Another idea was the City of Edmonton has acquired so many artifacts over the years, that it may be time to build a City of Edmonton Museum.

But I think my favourite idea was the Natural History Museum.   What's always been a centerpiece of the Royal Alberta Museum was its wildlife gallery.  Some of the finest taxidermied specimens of Alberta wildlife, displayed in elaborate dioramas showcasing their natural habitats.  Before the gallery received a massive refurbishment in the mid-2000s, it really was set up like an art gallery, as you walked down row upon row of those amazing displays.

The Moose dispaly from my last trip to the museum

The Antelope dispaly from my last trip to the museum

The Bighorn Sheep dispaly from my last trip to the museum

The Grizzly Bear display from my last trip to the museum

So one idea that was floated was to keep all those dioramas at the original museum, and turn the whole thing into the Natural History Museum of Alberta.  That is one idea I could get behind.

But the point is, the original Royal Alberta Museum is too beautiful a structure to see demolished.  So let's make sure it gets preserved and reused into something wonderful. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Inside Out

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the movies I own.  This time, we get to Pixar's spectacular 2015 epic, Inside Out.  I originally watched the film and wrote this on November 8, 2015.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Toy Story that Time Forgot

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing and blogging about a movie I own.  Here, we get into Pixar's most recent foray into TV specials, Toy Story That Time Forgot.  This is originally in my notes at November 8, 2015.

Toy Story That Time Forgot Poster; drawn by comic legend Mike Mingola

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Going Backwards

Well, there's a new superhero movie on the horizon, and that means I'd better head off to the city and see it!  But then, as I looked back over my blog entries, I realized that, for the last few movies I've seen, I just ran into the theatre on the north side, and then headed home.  I hadn't spent a full day in the city just bummin' around.  It felt like I was due.

While perusing the movie times for Suicide Squad online, I noticed that the earliest show -- 11:30AM -- still had some pretty good seats.  So I was going to the early show.  I decided, then, to do things backwards.  Rather then spend the day goofing around and capping it off with a movie, I'd see the movie first and then goof around.

I went straight into West Edmonton Mall.  I do love arriving at the mall early, as the parking lot is pretty empty and it's easy to find a good spot.  I had just enough time to browse HMV before the theatre opened.  I always marvel at how HMV has changed over the years.  When HMV first opened in its currently location in the late 1990s, it was very much HMV's flagship store.  Both levels, nothing but CDs.  Rap, country, and a few other genres of music had their own rooms...pretty much like stores-within-the-store.  There was a listening lounge, which was the popular meeting spot for me and my friends.  But now, that's all gone.  The CD selection is getting smaller and smaller, and the focus is changing more and more to pop culture gift-ware.  Can't find the latest Criterion release?  Well how about a Game of Thrones coffee mug instead?

Still had some time before the theatre opened, so I hit the food court for an early lunch.  The only problem with hitting West Edmonton Mall so early is there's no place to have lunch.  It was 10:45, but most places didn't open or start serving lunch until 11AM.  About the only place open was New York Fries, so I treated myself to their Bacon Double Cheese fries.  It's their fries, with cheese curds, and then covered with cheese sauce, and topped with bacon bits and green onions.  Very cheesy.  Nothing like a cheese-coated cheese curd for some cheese-ception.

With a quick lunch in my belly, it was time for Suicide Squad.

Suicide Squad Poster

Suicide Squad is a wonderful concept for the comics.  Super-criminals blackmailed by the government into becoming a black-ops group.  But, the sheer fact that they decided to make it into a movie struck me as very reactionary.  Specifically, a reaction to Guardians of the Galaxy.  When Guardians hit it big, I fully imagine that some Warner Brothers exec said, "Hey!  Doesn't DC have a wacky super-team of misfits that we can make into a movie?"  The reactionary attitude continued with the marketing.  When Deadpool hit it big in the spring, the marketing took a shift to make the film look more irreverent, like Deadpool.  And, truth be told, as the release date drew nearer, I was already burnt out on the film, as it seems like they'd been hitting us with trailers and behind-the-scenes footage and pictures and teases for years now.

With the rising influence of meta-humans in the world, ruthless government agent Amanda Waller hatches a plan:  take some of the meta-humans already in custody, and blackmail them into working for her.  Among those she recruits:  Deadshot, the world's greatest marksman; Harley Quinn, best known as accomplice and love interest to the Joker; Captain Boomerang, the Aussie bank robber who's skilled with his country's signature weapon;  El Diablo, a guy with fire powers and maybe possessed by a demon?  It's never really explained.  Anyway, one of Waller's earlier recruits, a sorceress known as the Enchantress, has gone rogue, is vowing revenge on Waller, and has begun laying waste to Midway City.  So, Waller's team -- dubbed the Suicide Squad -- is sent in to quell the situation.

I know the reviews haven't been very good.  But I didn't find the movie incredibly bad.  I didn't find it incredibly good, either.  It's only crime is mediocrity.  As superhero movies go, it's just overwhelmingly...average.  As many other critic has pointed out, I'm getting kind of tired of the "swirling vortex of doom that the heroes have to shut down."

But there is good in the movie.  Margot Robbie absolutely nails Harley Quinn.  She is so spot-on perfect in the role.  Will Smith is also really good as Deadshot, the hitman who's trying to be a better person for his daughter.  And Jared Leto is a great Joker..but we see so little of him.  In fact, the opening is great, where we're introduced to all of the Squad, and we see how they were apprehended (bringing in quick cameos by Batman and the Flash, to help build that cinematic universe).

But as soon as we hit Midway City and they set out to take down the villain...yeah.  It's just so average.

I give it three nibs.  Full review on the website.

From there, it was out into the mall to explore, and wander, and hopefully spend not too much money.  I made my way down to the Bay.  With the Olympics in full swing, and the Bay being the official outfitter of Team Canada, they were actually having a bit of a fashion show, showcasing all the Olympic clothing now on sale at the Bay.  I remember watching the Vancouver 2010 Olympics on TV with my Dad.  Dad mentioned he actually liked some of the winter gear that Team Canada was wearing, and actually seemed mildly disappointed that the Bay was the official outfitter and, as such, you could buy all that stuff at the Bay.

And, of course, there were the Pokemon GO signs all over the place.  When Pokemon GO came out and hit it big about a month ago, West Edmonton Mall had a brainstorm when they discovered that several Pokestops and Gyms were in the mall.  They actually printed up giant signs pointing out where exactly they are.  They've got a contest going on, too.  Post your pictures of your pokemon on the mall, hastag it #pokemonWEM, and you're entered into a contest.  I think this is a brilliant idea.  I see lots of my Facebook friends mocking the popularity of Pokemon GO, but the part of brain that lives in the station's promotions department, I'm always thinking, "How can I use this to plug the station?"  And I think West Edmonton Mall's idea is a good one.

A photo posted by Mark Cappis (@chaosinabox) on

Too bad I'm not playing Pokemon GO right now.  It won't run on my phone!  I currently have an iPhone 4S.  I've been told that you can play Pokemon GO on a 4S, but it's buggy and crashes a lot.  Let me tell you a little secret:  everything's buggy and crashes a lot on my 4S.  My contract expired back at Thanksgiving, so I've been looking to upgrade anyway.  The 6S is a little out of my budget right now, but then I see the SE has pretty much everything under the hood that the 6S has, it's just packed into a 5's body.  Or who knows?  Maybe I should just wait until the fall, because it looks like the 7 is coming out sometime this fall.  I don't know.  And as always, I stroll through the Apple Store just made me depressed that I couldn't buy one today.

Then I started browsing in Chapters.  I managed to find a trade paperback I'd been after for a while, and while I was at it, I nabbed a second one.

A photo posted by Mark Cappis (@chaosinabox) on

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Kevin Smith, and over the years I've slowly been acquiring his comic book work.  About 15 years ago, he did a critically-acclaimed run on Green Arrow.  His first story, Quiver, resurrected Oliver Queen from the grave and had him once again claim the mantle of Green Arrow.  His second story, The Sounds of Violence, is about Ollie re-adjusting to the world, and battling Onomatopoeia, a villain of Smith's creation.  Onomatopoeia is a serial killer who targets non-powered superheroes (e.g. Green Arrow, Batman), and shows up in Star City with Team Arrow in his sights.  His name comes from the fact that he only communicates by mimicking the sounds of his surroundings.  Anyway, I've had the trade paperback for Quiver for some time, but have never been able to find the one for The Sounds of Violence.  The one on the left is a new collection which has both of Smith's stories, so I finally got The Sounds of Violence.

The other one, Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet, is much more recent...maybe two years old.  A few years ago, DC was doing a comic called Batman '66, which was a Batman comic continuing the adventures of the Adam West Batman.  Since Smith has written both Batman and Green Hornet comics, and is an admitted huge fan of the 1960s Batman, he seemed to be the natural choice to write a follow-up to the legendary Batman/Green Hornet crossover episode.  To help him out, Smith recruited Ralph Garman, an L.A. radio personality and occasional actor who co-hosts Smith's podcast Hollywood Babble-On, and is also a gigantic fan of the 1960s Batman.  And they whipped up a tale where the Green Hornet and Kato once again find themselves in Gotham City, and cross paths with the Caped Crusader.

It was kind of funny buying them.  When one of the clerks spotted me picking up a Batman comic, he started geeking out and telling me how he was at Anime-thon yesterday (the U of A Anime Club's annual anime festival), and how he was cosplaying as the Joker.  And then I got up to the till and that clerk must have been new or something, as no one had come through her till with graphic novels yet.  She stared at my purchases in utter fascination.  She pointed to the Green Hornet.  "Is this a superhero, too?  I've never heard of him," she said.  I replied, "Yeah, he was very popular in the 1960s."  "That would explain it," said she.

And at that, I started heading home with just a twinge of disappointment.  I was also hoping to pick up the Blu-Ray of Batman: The Killing Joke, which came out earlier this week.  As I've said, I've kind of grown bored with all of DC and WB's straight-to-video animated films, but since The Killing Joke is one of the most acclaimed Batman comics ever, I figured it was worth picking up.  But it was sold out at all my usual haunts, and since I'd spent so much money on the graphic novels, I didn't feel like going to my unusual haunts.  Besides, I still have too many new Blu-Rays in my "to-watch" pile on my coffee table.

And that was it.  My Saturday in the city.  Had a nice, leisurely drive home, and have been blogging ever since.  And now I see it's bedtime. 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - X-Men: Days of Future Past -- The Rogue Cut

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly watch of of a movie I own, followed by blogging about it.  As I elaborate on in this week's entry, I've never been that obsessive about director's cuts, but on the other hand, it gives me a great chance to re-visit a film I love.  And since I loved X-Men: Days of Future Past, I picked up its director's cut, The Rogue Cut, when I saw it for $10.  This showed up in my notes at November 1, 2016.

X-Men: Days of Future Past -- The Rogue Cut