Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Rant Too Long for Facebook: StarWars.com at 20

Two years ago, I was reading the coverage from a tech conference.  This one article was confused as to why Pizza Hut was giving a keynote address at a conference for web developers.  The author eventually discovered that Pizza Hut was there to talk about their website.  When Pizza Hut launched their website in 1994, it was the first website for a major pizza chain that let you place your order online...bleeding edge technology in 1994.  So Pizza Hut was there to talk about the 20th anniversary of that milestone. I walked away from that article thinking, "Have we really reached the point where websites are celebrating 20th anniversaries?  Is the Internet really that old now?  Am I?"

It's a wave that's been washing over me once again as my social media lit up with the celebration that this past Saturday, November 26, was the 20th anniversary of www.starwars.com, the official Star Wars website.  As they share in the extensive oral history they compiled to commemorate this occasion, starwars.com was originally launched to promote the special editions coming in the spring of 1997.  But, with development on the prequels well underway, and dot-com bubble not having popped yet, George Lucas knew he wanted a toehold on this new Internet thing to start spreading the gospel of the prequels.  And here we are now, 20 years later, and it's still the online hub for all things Star Wars.

As I read up on this, I had two fond memories of starwars.com that I felt like sharing.  First up, was the incident that made starwars.com, the release of the first Episode I teaser.  It was on a wintry November night in 1998, much like this one.  I was still in college, living in the dorms at Augustana University College.  That previous summer, the dorms had been wired into the campus computer network, and I tell you, having high speed Internet in the time when a 28.8k modem for your dial-up was considered fast...well, it was the best perk of living on campus.

The trailer went online, and even with the campus Internet, it was slow going to download that trailer.  I had a special download manager on my computer, so I set it to download the trailer at 2AM.  I figured that would be when the campus computer network would be at its least-used.  I woke up the next morning to the trailer, watched it several times, and it was all we were talking about over breakfast in the cafeteria.

A lot of my classmates were studying computer science, and as such, they were in tight with the campus IT folks.  They learned from the IT department that, while so many students downloading  the trailer didn't crash the network, there was a not-insignificant slowdown in service.

The second memory has to do with Hyperspace.  For a while there, starwars.com had a paid subscription service called Hyperspace, a section of the website that granted you exclusive access to all kinds of exclusive exclusives. 

2007 marked the 30th anniversary of the franchise, and to celebrate, Hasbro released some of the most beautiful Star Wars action figures...the McQuarrie concept figures.  These figures went back to the beginning, and were based on Ralph McQuarrie's original concept art. 

And it turned out that one of those Hyperspace exclusives was the McQuarrie concept R2-D2 and C-3P0. 

Now I didn't have a Hyperspace account.  Didn't see the need.  But I had a friend with one.  And I needed the McQuarrie R2-D2 and C-3P0 for my collection.  So I plied him with e-mails asking him to buy it for me and I'd totally pay him back and all that stuff.  He said he'd look into it.

A couple weeks later, I came back from vacation to find a box from the FedEx guy sitting on my desk.

McQuarrie Concept R2-D2 and C-3P0

It even came in that nifty protective plastic bubble.  They used to sell those protective plastic bubbles at starwars.com's online store, and I thought about buying a case or two for my collection, but the shipping and handling out of the States was ridiculous.

Anyway, that's it.  Just some ramblings about the 20th anniversary of starwars.com that was a little too big for a Facebook post.  Looking at the calendar, I see that the next 20th anniversary of a website that's going to make me feel old comes a year from now...November 2017.  Which website is it?

My website, chaosinabox.com

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Time is Here

A friend of mine was asking me not too long ago what my biggest nostalgic trigger is.  "What instantly takes you back to that time when you were seven years old, and you were at your happiest?"  Truth is, it's always been going to the movies.  Especially that first thirty seconds when they're scrolling through the production company logos.  It's that feeling that you're about to be taken on a journey...that anything can happen.

I know, it may sound strange, but I grew up in a small town where the nearest movie theatre was an hour's drive away.  Going to see a movie was always an event.  And now, with the holidays right around the corner, going to the movies was always intrinsically tied to Christmas.  I mean, if you're going all the way into the city, you may as well make the most of it, right?  Weekends in December when I was a kid fell into a routine of a full day of Christmas shopping, hitting all the shops around Edmonton and checking people off our list, dinner at a really nice sit-down restaurant, and maybe, if there's time and the latest Disney family feature out, a movie.  Good times.

And I could use a little more of the good times right now.  I've been out-of-sorts as of late.  There's been some shake-ups at work, which has caused the Charlie Brown Christmas-esque holiday depression to set in a little earlier.  So I definitely need a nostalgic distraction right now.

Typically, when I blog about my days in the city, this is where I tell you about the stuff I bought as part of my retail therapy.  Well, given the time of year, most of the stuff I bought was my Christmas shopping, so to blog about that would be getting into massive spoiler territory for my friends and family.  Let's just say I made a really good start on my Christmas shopping and leave it at that.

So with the first round of Christmas shopping safely tucked away, it was time for a movie.  I decided to check out Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Now, I'd always been pretty indifferent towards the Harry Potter franchise.  Read the first book.  Saw all the movies except the last two (Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2), but it just never grabbed me the way it grabbed a generation.  But, ya know, Fantastic Beasts being a spinoff and no prior knowledge of Harry Potter being required, I figured it'd be a pretty good jumping-on point.

Too bad that seeing Fantastic Beasts turned out to be one of the most unpleasant movie going experiences of my life.  There was this guy.  Firstly, in a half-full theatre, he decides he has to sit right next to me.  He has no concept of personal space.  He's hogging the armrest.  He's jabbing me with his elbow whenever he reaches for his popcorn.  He's sitting with his legs crossed and constantly kicking me when he adjust himself.

And then, the yelling started.  I have never experienced the person who yells things at the screen during a movie.  I was starting to think that it was just a hacky sitcom joke.  But this guy starts yelling at the screen.  The first fantastic beast we encounter in the film is called a Niffler.  And the guy shouts out, "THAT'S A NIFFLER, EH?  HE'S PRETTY CUTE!"  The next magical beast we encounter.  "LOOK OUT FOR THAT NIFFLER!"  And he just keeps going.  "MACUSA IS STUPID!  THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC IS MUCH SMARTER ABOUT THESE THINGS!"  "I WANT TO STUPIDIFY THAT GUY OFF A LEDGE!"  "I THINK HE'S THE OBSCURUS!"  "I HATE THOSE SECOND-SALEMERS!"

On a side note, I think he may have been mentally handicapped, because three-quarters of the way though the film, one of his friends finally turned to him and said, "Shh...shh...remember, we talked about this.  You can't talk to the screen here."

I should of said something.  Hell, at the very least, I should have moved and found a better seat.  But my standard response to an unpleasant situation has always been the "The is fine" comic, so I just said, "This is fine" and tried to watch the movie.

Fantastic Beasts Movie Poster

But other than that, how was the movie?  It was OK.  When my Harry Potter-lovin' friends explain the universe to me, I would always tell them that I'd be interested to see the Men in Black of the wizarding world...those wizards and witches who are sent in to cover things up when wizarding affairs threaten to break the barriers between the wizarding world and the Muggle world.  And my friends are like, "Dude!  Those guys exist!  They're called Aurors.  I tell ya, JK Rowling thought of everything!"  So it's nice to see Aurors at work and what they do.  They play a pretty major role as Newt Scamander's rampaging magical beasts threaten to expose the wizarding world.

In fact, just the interaction between the wizarding world and the non-magic world, as the villain's plot is to break down those barriers and declare war on the non-magic world.  I'd always been curious about the mechanics of how these two worlds co-exist.

That being said, I didn't think our new hero, Newt Scamander, was much of a compelling hero.  I get that he's kind of shy and timid, but that sadly means we don't really get a chance to know him or why he's dedicated his life to these fantastic beasts.

But I will give it this.  At least it works as a movie.  My biggest problem with these franchise starters these days (e.g. John Carter, Terminator: Genisys, Independence Day: Resurgence) is that they leave so many loose threads and unanswered questions with the attitude, "That'll be answered in the sequel," that you rarely get a satisfying ending.  This remembers that it has to function as a movie, and we do get an ending.  So, yeah.  It works as a movie.

I give it 3 Nibs with an asterisk, because that rude guy threw off my concentration so much, my rating may change when I see it free of distraction.  Full review on the website.

And speaking off full reviews on the website, I've been meaning to take to the blog and ramble off some of my off-the-cuff comments on Doctor Strange.  Yeah, I saw Doctor Strange a couple of weeks ago, but I never got around to doing my "rambling blog entry about my day in the city" that I typically do.  So, just some off-the-cuff comments on Doctor Strange that you won't find in the full review on the website.

Doctor Strange Movie Poster

I really liked Doctor Strange.  I know it's starting to get trendy to hate on Marvel for not taking any creative risks, but the other side of that is they've developed a winning formula that you know is going to deliver.  I mean, speaking as a frustrated DC guy, Doctor Strange is kind of what I wanted Green Lantern to be.  The way Doctor Strange uses magic to conjure up all manner of weapons, and do reality-bending combat...that's how Green Lantern should have been using his ring.  The way Steven Strange is all cocksure, but then learning humility is what sets him on his heroic journey...that's how Hal Jordan should have been portrayed.  The way Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo start out as friends and allies, but their differing philosophies eventually put them on opposing paths...that's how the relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro should have been portrayed, instead of Sinestro slapping on the yellow power ring in the post-credits stinger and going, "LOL, I'm evil now."

But yeah, Doctor Strange is another solid entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  3 Nibs.

Back to the present.  After Fantastic Beasts, it was time to head home.  But first, dinner.  As I've blogged before, I tend to avoid going to sit-down restaurants when I'm on my own, because I feel silently judge for being there by myself.  But strangely, I don't feel silently judged for going to animated films by myself.  (You're next on my Christmas blockbuster to-watch list, Moana!)  This time, though, I knew I had to brave the sit-down restaurants, all in the name of Star Wars.

I was mildly intrigued a few weeks ago when I saw the TV commercials, and learned that the fast food tie-in with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is with...Swiss Chalet.  Swiss Chalet's not a fast food place.  So, when I stopped at the power centre in St. Albert where I typically eat before leaving the Greater Edmonton Area, rather than Wendy's, I went to the Swiss Chalet on the other end.

It was very strange being there by myself, but I made the most of it.  This is the 21st century after all, so I could pass the time by burying my nose in my smartphone.  As I did that, I had to chuckle to myself.  Everyone laments how people burying their noses in their smartphones is destroying social interaction.  What would have happened if I started wandering around the restaurant, chatting with random strangers, attempting to make friends?

This being that time of year, I treated myself to Swiss Chalet's famous Festive Special...their quarter-chicken dinner served with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a box of Lindt chocolates for dessert.  I think I stumbled through it with a minimum of social awkwardness.  And I was given my reward...a Rogue One collector's cup!  

A photo posted by Mark Cappis (@chaosinabox) on

And for those already asking, yes, these are of a much sturdier construction than the flimsy ones that Subway was giving out last year. 

I returned home, and set about unwinding.  Thanks to my encounter with Captain Loudmouth, this trip to the movies wasn't quite the nostalgic trip that it usually is.  But, if I learned anything from this time last year, the biggest nostalgic trip to the movies will be when I got see Rogue One in about a month. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Dark Crystal

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about a movie I own.  Today...today we get to a film I've been wanting to revisit ever since college...The Dark Crystal.  This is originally in my notes at February 6, 2016.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Movie Review - Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Well, DC and Warner Brothers have gifted us with yet another straight-to-DVD animated Batman movie.  As I've mentioned for a while, I've mostly grown bored with them and have been giving them a pass, but this one...this one I felt was worth picking up.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusades Blu-Ray cover

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Directed by Rick Morales

Starring the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, and Lynne Marie Stewart.


It's been fun watching the pendulum swing on the old Batman TV series from the 1960s.  When I was a kid, and Tim Burton's Batman came out, and Batman was all dark and gritty again, it was derided for what it did to the Batman mythology.  But in the past 10 years or so, it's been rediscovered and re-embraced as this wonderful addition to the Batman universe.  Things have really stepped up recently, as Warner Brothers finally cleared up the legal quagmire surrounding the show and is now able to merchandise the heck out of it.  And when Warner Brothers started pumping out these straight-to-DVD movies, it didn't take long for people to start thinking, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if they did one that was just like the Batman show from the 1960s?  Bring back Adam West and Burt Ward to voice Batman and Robin for one last hurrah?"  And here we are, and they also brought along Julie Newmar for one last hurrah as Catwoman.


On a peaceful Gotham night, as billionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward Dick Grayson kick back to watch their favourite variety show, they watch in horror as the show is taken over by their four most fearsome foes:  the Joke, Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman.  It's to the Batpoles, and they take to the streets as Batman and Robin to stop their evil plot.  Their plans involved a duplicator ray, a trip to outer space, and plans of global conquest!  But, Catwoman has a little something extra:  Batnip, a drug of her own design that will turn Batman to the dark side.  Will Batman and Robin stop these fiends?  Will Batman actually fall to the dark side?

What I Liked

SPOILER WARNING:  Yes, Batman falls to the dark side, and the entire mid-section of the movie is Catwoman and Robin teaming up to take down an evil Batman.  Making Batman the bad guy is the most hilarious twist they could do on the classic 1960s formula.  Especially as he first starts turning evil, and Batman goes through this phase where he starts acting like the more modern, angst-ridden, moody Batman.  Hearing Adam West's Batman start doing lines from The Dark Knight Returns as he puts on the Bat brass knuckles is gut-bustingly funny.  Or when he does the classic bit of mysteriously disappearing from Commissioner Gordon's office when Gordon turns his back mid-sentence:

Gordon:  He's gone!  Like a bat in the night!
Chief O'Hara:  Well, that's not very Batman-like.

And poor Robin is stuck there wondering how he's going to get home. 

And it's full of in-jokes and references to other facets of the Batman mythos.  My particular favourite is this dig at The Dark Knight Rises:

Catwoman:  I'll turn myself in, Batman, on one condition.  When I get out, run away with me to Europe, where we can sip tea in cafes and live happily ever after!
Robin:  Holy unsatisfying ending. 

The voice acting is great.  Yeah, Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar all show their age in their voices, but damn it, they're giving it their all.  And the voice actors they got to do Joker, Penguin, and Riddler to some damn fine impressions of the original actors.  The music is great as they capture the sounds of the 1960s show perfectly, if just a big bigger and more orchestral.  And the tone of the 1960s show is preserved, but the scope is greatly expanded. 

What I Didn't Like

Not much, man.  Not much. 

Final Verdict

One of the most entertaining straight-to-DVD Batman films they've pumped out in a long time.  Bring on the sequel! 

Oh, didn't you hear?  They already announced a sequel.  Finally, Two-Face comes to the 1960s Batman universe, voiced by William Shatner. 

4 Nibs

Bonus Features

Not much for bonus features on this one.  A couple of featurettes about the making of the film, some previews for the other Batman straight-to-DVD animated films, and that's it. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Labyrinth

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the movies I own.  This is another situation where I feel I have to remind you that I write these several months in advance.  For it was back in January of this year that we heard of the tragic death of David Bowie, and that's what inspired me to pick up Labyrinth.  This is in my notes at January 31, 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Time Machine

Rollin' again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about a movie I happen to own.  This time, we get to a true classic of the sci-fi genre, The Time Machine.  This was originally in my notes at January 31, 2016.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Director's Cut

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I sit and blog about a movie I own and just re-watched.  Because, you know, it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something rather than just lazing around on the couch.  Today, I fire up the Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the Third KindWell, not today.  According to my notes, I originally watched it and wrote this on January 24, 2016.