Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, April 30, 2018


It has always been said that good things come to those who wait.  Having taken this advice to heart several times in my life, I'm usually content to sit back and wait for a lot of things.  Sometimes it'll mean the lines are shorter and things are less crowded, but other times it means the store is all sold out by the time I get there.  Such was the case when Nintendo released their NES Classic in the fall of 2016.

I never had a Nintendo Entertainment System when I was kid.  It seemed like all my friends and all my cousins had one, but I didn't.  It's probably why I never grew up to be a gamer.  it was common for my brother and I to rent one on rainy Sunday afternoons, but owning one was something that was never in the cards.  Every Christmas, I tend to tell the story of how I almost got one.

I was in junior high.  It was the time of the great console wars, when Nintendo and Sega were fighting for dominance in the toy aisles.  One morning, over the breakfast table, Mom was talking about how Christmas was coming, and that Santa was thinking about bringing us a video game console.  But Santa was having a tough time deciding between Nintendo or Sega.  To me, the answer was obvious.  Nintendo.  All my friends had one.  All my cousins had one.  It was the one we rented on rainy afternoons.  Nintendo was the clear choice.

But my brother, on that day, stood up and declared his affiliation for Team Sega.  See, in his youth, my brother was all about aircraft, especially military aircraft.  Top Gun was his favourite movie.  G.I. Joe was his favourite toy, and he had every G.I. Joe aircraft.  He even got the legendary G.I. Joe personalized figure just so he could fly those planes and helicopters himself.  And it turned out that Sega had a very popular and well-received flight sim called After Burner that he would spend countless hours playing over at a friend's house.  He just wanted a Sega for After Burner.

The discussion between the merits of Sega and Nintendo grew heated.  The heated discussion soon turned into a screaming match.  As the screaming match was about to become a fistfight, Mom finally broke it up and said, "Hey!  If you're going to be like this, NO VIDEO GAMES FOR CHRISTMAS!"  And thus my home went Nintendo-less.

Until I decided to do something about it myself.  I was already working my first job.  I was a paperboy, back when that was still a thing.  I remembered that, when I was younger, my parents got me a thing called a "bank account."  If I took the money I made off my paper route, and put it in this "bank account" instead of always blowing it on pop and comic books, I would eventually have enough money to buy my own Nintendo!  And that's what I did.  Even made a special trip down to Red Deer to buy it because I had an aunt who worked at Woolco and could use her employee discount to save me a few bucks.  But in the weeks leading up to that Red Deer trip, I decided to go with Nintendo's hot new console at the time, the Game Boy.  I still have it...and the second one that my parents got me for Christmas a few years later, because I played it so much I wore out the buttons.

As much as I enjoyed that Game Boy, it still wasn't a proper Nintendo Entertainment System.  So the NES Classic sounded like it was right up my alley.  Of course, I could see online that many hardcore gamers were poo-poo-ing it, saying that you can already enjoy many classic video games thanks to emulators and the like.  But the NES Classic was definitely geared for the nostalgia market, and folks like me, whose yearning never really went away.

But we all know what happened next.  The NES Classic sold out almost immediately.  It was the hottest toy for the holiday season of 2016.  I thought, "No worries.  We've seen this with the hot Christmas toys before.  Come February, all the stores will be re-stocked and I'll be able to buy one with no hassles."

But the stores never did restock.  Nintendo didn't anticipate it being so popular, and made it in very limited numbers.  It was a one-time only, limited edition thing.  But, Nintendo soon announced the SNES Classic.  Same thing, but with a Super Nintendo.  It came out in the fall of 2017, and did similar business to the NES Classic.  It looked like it would be good enough, but still no NES Classic.  I figured I'd take the same strategy.  Maybe Nintendo learned their lesson, and they'll actually restock in the spring.

About a month ago, I'd made a quick trip into Edmonton after work to pick up Thor Ragnarok on Blu-Ray, and to my surprise, there was one SNES Classic left on the shelf.  I thought about getting it, but, if you've been reading this blog for the past year or so, you know that I've become quite worried about my financial situation as of late.  So, I mustered up all my willpower, and said no.

Back on Saturday, I was back in the city, back at that same store.

Now there were three left on the shelf.

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It had been a rough couple of weeks at work.  The short version is half the office was on vacation, so I was burning the candle at both ends, covering for a lot of people.  I had paid bills earlier in the week, and was pleasantly surprised that I had actually, somehow, managed to come out a little bit ahead for the first time in a long time.  I looked at that SNES Classic and said, "Screw it.  Let's do it."

Even the clerk was surprised that they had some on the shelf when I waved her over to unlock the video game cabinet.  We wound up having a nice little chat about classic video games and sharing rumours.  Nintendo has already announced they'll be bringing back the NES Classic this summer.  The clerk heard the persistent rumour that Nintendo will be moving on to the next console and giving us an N64 Classic this Christmas.  Time will tell.

That was a really good trip to the city, and I had yet to accomplish my primary reason for hitting the city, which was to see Avengers: Infinity War.

Marvel Studios -- the movie studio arm of Marvel -- is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and Avengers: Infinity War is being billed as the climax of 10 years of movie-making.  Marvel has redefined the concept of a film franchise these days, by reintroducing the concept of the cinematic universe.  Having heroes from one film show up in another film to help out more heroes?  It sounds revolutionary, but as many moviegoers will say, Universal did it first with their classic monsters back in the 1940s.  And as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said in a recent interview, they weren't trying to revolutionize anything.  They just wanted to replicate what you see in the comics...that feeling that the Hulk might smash his way into the latest Iron Man adventure.  And now, it's all led up to Infinity War, where pretty much every hero that Marvel Studios has introduced to the big screen since Tony Stark declared "I am Iron Man" is teaming up to take down the Mad Titan Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War poster

Bruce Banner falls from the heavens and crashes into the Sanctum Santorum of Doctor Strange, causing Strange to reach out to Tony Stark for help.  Banner has a message:  Thanos is coming.  Out in space, the Guardians of the Galaxy respond to a distress call, where they rescue Thor from the wreckage of the Asgardian rescue ship.  Thanos has laid waste to the remnants of Asgard.  Back on Earth, the disciples of Thanos attack Vision, attempting to extract the Infinity Stone from his body.  This brings Steve Rogers and his secret Avengers out of hiding.  While they may be scattered across the globe and galaxy, they being plotting against their common foe:  Thanos.  He is in search of the six Infinity Stones.  With all six, he seeks to wipe out half the population of the universe…an act, he believes, that will bring about a paradise.  Will our heroes succeed in defeating Thanos and save the universe?

Well, I hope you're up to speed on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because there is very little in the way of recaps.  We hit the ground running.  But the plus side to that is, pretty much the only new character introduced is Thanos.  As such, there's a lot of time dedicated to establishing him and developing as the villain.

But man.  We just move from one big superhero action set piece to another, with barely a moment to give us a chance to breath.  Plus, there's some nice callbacks and even a few surprise re-appearances from some characters that are nice rewards to long time fans of the franchise.  And it's got one hell of a cliffhanger ending to set things up for Part II, coming next year.

Avengers: Infinity War is a spectacular payoff to 10 years of film-making.  4 out of 4 nibs, full review on the website.

After that, it was time to head home and fire up my SNES Classic.  First I had to do some minor re-wiring to my home theatre set-up so I'd be about to route the audio through my stereo.  And then, I put my feet up, and started playing.

I haven't become completely wrapped up in it yet.  I just spent most of Saturday night exploring.  A little Super Mario World, a little bit of Donkey Kong Country, just kind of exploring the console.  As the weather outside right now looks kind of grey and rainy, I'll probably start having more fun with it.  Already getting tripped up on just the second level of Donkey Kong Country.

It almost makes up for the fact that I did have one major strikeout on this city trip.  No matter how hard I looked, couldn't find any of the new action figures for Solo: A Star Wars Story.  But if there is one thing Nintendo has taught me, it is patience.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fishing int he Discount Bin - Spirited Away

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie I own and blog about it.  Simple as that.  This time out, we tackle the modern day animated classic Spirited Away.  This is in my notes at December 10, 2017.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Men in Black

Rolling along on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie, I blog about it, because I'm nostalgic for the joys of writing book reports in elementary school.  Today, I file my report on Men in Black.  I originally watched it and wrote this report on November 26, 2017, because that's the kind of keener I am.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Thaw

I've mentioned it to friends, and I even tweeted about it.  I was feeling a little off in March.  March was a month that was full of movies that should have been right up my alley -- A Wrinkle in Time, the Tomb Raider reboot, Pacific Rim Uprising -- but my desire to go see them was non-existent.  That did change, though, with Ready Player One.  I'd been reading about the book online for a while, I was hoping to read it before going to see the movie, but I never got around to it.  I wasn't able to see it the weekend it came out, because that was Easter and I was doing family stuff.  Last weekend was no good, because I was on location.  But this weekend...this weekend, I was ready.

Headed off to the city bright and early on Saturday morning.  Before heading off to the movies, though, I had to hit the department stores to get some of that grown-up stuff.  I can never seem to find pants in my size, so when I find some in my size, and on sale to boot, I pick 'em up.  So I have new pants.  Can't go to work without pants!  I learned that one the hard way....

Of course, had to check the toy section, too, as we're getting closer and closer to Wookie Weekend.  For those just joining us, ever since Disney bought Star Wars, Disney has had massive retail events for the when the new Star Wars toys that tie in to the next Star Wars movie go on sale.  For our main saga films (that's Force Awakens and Last Jedi), they called it "Force Friday."  For Rogue One, they called it "Going Rogue."  And, for Solo, they've called it "Wookie Weekend."

Now, Wookie Weekend is this Friday, April 20, but you never know.  Clerks have been known to make mistakes and get the stuff on the shelves early.  Which is what I found at Toys R Us.  They had the LEGO sets out, they had the vehicles out, but they didn't have any of the figures out yet.  So it looks like I'll still be making a quick trip into the city on April 20 after work to see if there's anything left.

Then I made it to West Edmonton Mall in plenty of time for my movie.  Sometimes, I just like to wander around West Edmonton Mall, do a little people watching, and take in the ambience.  Plus, I've also recently discovered this cool YouTube channel called Best Edmonton Mall that's dedicated to telling the history of West Edmonton Mall...closed down attractions, editorials on recent changes, stuff like that.  I had to tweet them my appreciation because, in their video about West Edmonton Mall's bronze whale, they used my pictures of the whale being dismantled, and gave me proper credit.  Those pictures are from this ancient blog entry, in case you're wondering.

Anyway, one of their videos was about some recent changes to Galaxyland, so I decided to take a wander through Galaxyland and just take it in.  As always, when I go through Galaxyland, I take a moment to stop at the former location of the Drop of Doom and sigh wistfully.  About my only regret when it comes to West Edmonton Mall was I was took chicken to try the Drop of Doom back in the day.  According to one of my friends at school, if you wanted to see something really neat, you'd put a penny on your knee at the start of the ride.  When they dropped you from the top, thanks to the differing terminal velocity of the penny, the penny would slowly rise from your knee until it appeared to be floating in mid-air just in front of your face.  And then, when you curved at the bottom to coast to a stop, the penny would smack into the ride car, just past your head.

The last time I actually did Galaxyland -- like,ride the rides and stuff -- had to be in the early 2000s.  It was those hazy days when I'd just finished college and hadn't figured out what to do with my life yet.  It was my nephew's birthday, so I was meeting up with my brother's family and my parents for a birthday celebration.  I noticed one of my old friends from college working there, and since there was no line at the ride she was staffing, I excused myself for a bit and went over to say hello.

I remember chatting with her, and our conversation was interrupted by one of the loud airhorns or bells or something like that that signified the start of the ride.  "How can you stand working here?" I asked her.

"I can't," she replied.  "Gave my two weeks notice this morning."

With that trip down memory lane finished, I left through Galaxyland's main entrance and back out into the mall.  Wound up doing a little more reminiscing.  I remembered when West Edmonton Mall first opened back in the mid-1980s, the mall boasted that it had three McDonald's.  And we're not talking food court kiosks, we're talking full restaurants.  There was one right across the main entrance from Galaxyland, one was on Bourbon Street, and the third was in the Phase III food court...the one closest to the Deep Sea Adventure.  Now, the mall has only one...a food court kiosk in the Phase I food court.  That's the one closest to Galaxyland.

Now that I was done being nostalgic, it was time for the nostalgia-fest that is Ready Player One.

Ready Player One poster

In a dystopian not-too-distant-future, the main escape from the drudgery of real life has become OASIS...a virtual reality MMORPG where imagination is your only limit.  When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, passes away, he announces in a pre-recorded video message that he hid an Easter egg in OASIS, and you need to find three keys in order to access it.  The first to find the Easter egg will win Halliday's personal fortune and complete control of OASIS.

Our hero is Wade Watts.  In OASIS, he goes by Parzival.  Like many, he's dedicated his life to tracking down the Easter egg.  When he's the first to find the first key, he draws the attention of allies -- like fellow egg hunger Art3mis -- and enemies, particularly the corporation IOI, who wants to dominate OASIS so they can ramp up its monetization.  Before long, all out war is brewing between Parzival and his allies and the IOI corporation in both OASIS and the real world for control of OASIS.

I really enjoyed the film.  You've probably seen the commercials and TV spots, where see OASIS is crammed full of pop culture references and is a mash-up of all kinds of pop culture stuff.  "Forrest Gump for Gen X" is how I saw one blogger describe it.  But I'm pleased to report that, much like Wreck-It Ralph, the nostalgia is merely sprinkles on top, and not necessary to understand the plot.  That being said, the plot is a pretty routine "hero's journey" kind of tale, with heroic heroes and slimy villains.

Oh, and the Iron Giant fought Mechagodzilla.  Which was awesome.

So,  yeah.  I really liked Ready Player One.  I give it three out of four nibs.  Full review on the website.

And before departing from the mall, I made a quick stop through Sunrise Records.  They finally had a Blu-ray in stock that had been on my Amazon wish list forever, and I finally thought, "What the hey?" and picked it up.

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Ghost World.  The critically acclaimed 2001 movie, based on the indie comic by Daniel Clowes.  It's the movie that pretty much made Scarlett Johansson famous, which is kind of weird, because Thora Birch is the star.

Birch is Enid, recently graduated from high school, what modern society would call a hipster, and is kind of drifting through summer, trying to figure out what next to do with her life.  Johansson is her best friend Rebeca, who's going through a similar malaise.  Enid soon falls in with a super-nerdy record collector played by Steve Buscemi and...that's all I know, really.

I've actually never seen Ghost World.  I just know that, when it came out in 2001, most of my friends at the time were raving about it.  It seemed to perfectly capture that post-college confusion of "What comes next?" that we were all going through.  So when I saw that Criterion released an edition back in the fall, I just looked at it and thought, "I want this."

 Grabbed it off the shelf, went up to the clerk...and I swear, this clerk was Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.  He sees that Blu-ray cover and he starts going off about some little Brazilian animated film that he describes as being super-weird, and I'm like, "Yeah, thanks, can you finish ringing me up please?"  When I left the store I started wondering about it.  I wonder if he, too, has never seen Ghost World, and based on the Clowes' artwork on the Blu-Ray cover, assumed it was some indie animated film?

Anyway, as I finish writing this up on Sunday morning, sitting down and watching Ghost World is my Sunday afternoon plan.  So if you'll excuse me, it's off to the rest of my weekend! 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Cars 3

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it, because why not?  As I do love Pixar, this entry tackles Cars 3.  I originally watched it and jotted this down on November 12, 2017.

Cars 3 Poster

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Coraline

Moving right along with Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie I own, and blog about it.  This one is in my notes at October 29, 2017, which is why it mentions Halloween being right around the corner.  And what movie did I watch to get me in a Halloween mood?  Coraline.