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Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Movie Musings: Who Watches the Watchmen

     Yesterday Sam and I took in Atomic Blonde, Starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. It's an excellent spy-trhiller that kept me guessing until the end, and finding out at the end I guessed wrong. Not going to spoil anything, it would literally be like telling you Vader is Luke's Father, or revealing the disguise of Verbal Kint. You need to go into this one unspoiled, unsullied and innocent.

     Apart from the well crafted plot, there are two things that stand out. Maybe three.

  • The trailer makes the protagonist look super-dangerous, but also superhuman. She is definitely not. The fight sequences are bloody, exhausting, and brutal. they appear to take a physical toll not only on the characters, but the actors and audience as well. what you have is human beings, desperately trying to survive and win, and the extreme lengths they will go to. The main character, Lorraine does have an excellent spur-of-the-moment planning ability, and it's why she usually comes out on top. 
  • The soundtrack- memories from the Heyday of MTV, like Der Kommisar, 99 LuftBallons, often in highly ironic spots  in the movie put this one up there with Guardians of the Galaxy V1 and 2, as well as my next subject here, following this bludgeon of a transition. 

     Not my first watch, not my last. Amazing soundtrack, with evocative mood-setters by Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, Bob, Dylan and many more. I think that this is probably the best movie you could make out of the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It didn't get Alan Moore's blessing, but what ever has? He refused to even see it. This film is Zach Snyder at his very best, his most faithful to the panels of the comic and the characters who live within them. 

     I once thought of Adrian Veidt as Lex Luthor as a superhero, and there is that element, but when I watched it this time I was looking for Justice League analogs, and I found them...and unfortunately, they were all Batman...

     Yep. Three characters, three different interpretations of Batman. 

     Nite Owl (Daniel Dreiberg): Also compared to Ted Kord(AKA the Blue Beetle) He reminded me of the idealistic 1960's Batman- the Adam West Batman- thrust into a violent and terrible world and dealing with it with his gadgets, and his belief in the right course.

    Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt): The cold, chessmaster Batman who is always moves ahead of everyone else, and who plans(for instance) for the day his friends will go bad by figuring out how to kill or incapacitate them. For him the end always justifies the means. 

    Rorschach(Walter Kovacs): is the grim, uncompromising Frank Miller-esque Batman, with a running Internal Monologue providing a soundtrack to his mental state, which can either be utterly insane or frighteningly sane depending on which angle you view him from. He is the Batman for whom Bruce Wayne is the mask, and the Dark Knight is the true face. I happen to think he is the most interesting and complex character in the movie. 

     As always, the film's ending leaves me wanting, yet dreading more, with Rorchach's war journal about to be published with all his observations and secrets. If you haven't seen this one, watch the director's cut. If you have, but it's been a while, give it another watch. 

     One final thing. Zach Snyder KNOWS what superheroes should look like when they fight. The greatest triumph of Batman V. Superman is someone finally captured Batman really fighting and why he is able to hold his own among the strongest that world has to offer. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Actual Conversation with Sam

     Sitting in a restaurant, after she has informed me that her Blood Glucose meter failed and she has replaced it with another, same type

she has gone to check her blood, and I am studying the package:

     She returns and I tell her "I figured out what went wrong with your meter. I see it was a ReliOn Prime..."

Sam: "this is about to be a transformers joke, right?"

Me: "Yep. so I suspect that it is giving inaccurate readings because it has lost it's matrix of readership"

Sam:" Ha ha...actually, that was kind of good..."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Toysday: Archers Icons

     I learned that I had a taste for the art of archery early on, before the age of 10: My brother had a small recurve bow (in Creamsicle orange fiberglass color) and some arrows and he taught me how to shoot in the back yard. I continued on through High school with a recurve bought at a thrift store with a crack through the riser that no sane archer would shoot with. My first Bow bought as an adult was an old Ben Pearson 45# target bow with brown fiberglass. What I shoot now is a Green Mountain Longbow at 65# draw that I have had for 25 years or so. I Alternate that with an Appalachian archery recurve at 64# draw that is just beautiful. I have a compound bow, but to be honest, it's no fun to me. Not my style of archery.
The old Pearson recurve- she may be older than I am, but still shoots great

My Appalachian recurve. Black locust limbs...

Cocobolo riser. such a beautiful bow

My longbow. Maple riser...

Elm limbs

     What's it got to do with toys??? Well, I have always loved the toys I could find of my icons, and of those things that are a part of me.

     Oliver Queen...Clint Barton...Legolas, Prince of the woodland realm...Robin of Sherwood...Katniss Everdeen...All of them using archery as their primary skill-all of them inspiring some fan to pick up a bow. Real world icons like Fred Bear...Howard Hill...even Ted Nugent, though he has managed to fall far for me with his politics.

     I Love toys with bows. To me Archery has always been more of a draw to me than guns. I know each has it's own high level of skill involved. But to me, the bow has always been the thing...

My name is Oliver Queen. After five years in hell, I returned home with only one goal: to save my city. But my old approach wasn't enough. I had to become someone else. I had to become something else. I had to become the Green Arrow.
Hey, look at me. It's your fault, it's everyone's fault, who cares. Are you up for this? Are you? Look, I just need to know cause the city is flying. Ok, look, the city is flying, we're fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense. But I'm going back out there cause it's my job. Ok, and I can't do my job and babysit. Doesn't matter what you did, or what you were. If you go out there, you fight and you fight to kill. Stay in here, you're good. I'll send your brother to come find you. But if you step out that door, you are an Avenger. All right, good chat. 

Mastermind Creations Elita-1 with a short Energon bow

Rodimus got his Energon bow in his brief stint in the Animated show-
 this is Masterminds version of him,

Medicom Toys Miracle action figure Reideen. Bought him years ago at a comic shop that is now no more...

     Oh... Side note- if I ever see anyone make a huge technical mistake with a bow in a movie, or in an illustration, it fouls it up for me... big time. So if you are going to shoot it, shoot it right!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Movie Musings: Marvel Phase 1

     Superhero TV Shows and movies have been with us for a while. I tend to think it was Tim Burton's Batman that began the modern age of Superhero movies. Far from the strong-jawed idealism of Superman the movie, and ages apart from the silly camp of the 1966 Batman {WHAM!} and [POW!!] this was dark, gritty and concluded with the gruesome death of the Joker after falling (assuming I counted the steps correctly to the top of the Gotham Cathedral) about 20.000 feet to the Gotham street. Since that time, most of our Superheros have been casual killers. No Christopher Reeve carting Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty off to jail sans due process...

The Joker- dead and getting the last laugh. 
The Penguin- Dead and surreal penguin funeral
The Green Goblin-Dead
Doctor Octopus-Dead but redeemed
Iron Monger- Dead
Whiplash- Dead
The Red Skull-Probably dead

     Oddly, it was The Nolan Batman trilogy that seemed to re-establish the Batman no-killing rule. 

     Now if you are one of the five people still trying to avoid spoilers on Spider-man Homecoming, read no further, for I shall speak that which you cannot hear. 

     In Homecoming, Peter does not just spare, but actively runs into fire to save an enemy who knows his identity, and who has already threatened his life and family. I hope to see this as a trend that continues. 

      Superheroes don't kill, unless there is no other choice, and there is usually another choice. One of the big complaints about Man of Steel was that Superman killed someone. 

     Not what I planned to talk about, but here we never really know where Mondays are going to lead me. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Movie Musings- The Walking Dead

     News over the weekend is that George Romero Passed at the ripe age of 77- He was considered by many to be the father of the American style zombie film. I Have seen Night of the Living Dead, none of the others. Before that news though, I had watched a few this week that were not his.

     Bubba Ho-Tep- not really a zombie movie, the titular character is actually a mummy. The tagline is "the King of Rock and Roll Vs. the King of the Dead".

     I think Bruce Cambell really enjoyed playing the aging Elvis, the movie is more of a character piece than a true horror film. reflective and moody, but wht I got watching it this time was that everyone seemed like they were really having a good time doing the film- a true labor of love. there is talk of a sequel, but they can't seem to decide what it would be about...
Favorite Quote:
Elvis: Ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.
JFK: Hey, you're copying my best lines!
Elvis: Then let me paraphrase one of my own. Let's take care of business.
JFK: Just what are you getting at, Elvis?
Elvis: I think you know what I'm gettin' at Mr. President. We're gonna kill us a mummy.

     Shaun of the Dead... I'm going to say the first real Zombie Spoof. The movie that taught us that the most defensible place in a zombie attack is the local pub.

Image result for shaun of the dead poster

      A Bizarre fusion of romantic Comedy and zombie horror, this chronicle of a slacker-cum-hero put Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on my personal radar, and I have enjoyed the other collaborations I have seen, such as Paul and Hot Fuzz. It also introduced me the the oddball filmmaking of Edgar Wright.
Favorite Quote:
[repeated line]
Various: You've got red on you.

But good as this one is, it in no way meets the level of bizarre that is...

     Fido: A charming tale about a boy and his pet zombie...
Image result for fido film
     What can I say about this one??? the casting is brilliant, as is the 1950's-ish world where everyone who dies comes back. Billy Connolly is amazing as Fido, and there is Implied necrophilia as well as overt necrophilia...Make sure you pack your head-casket for this one.
Favorite Quote: 
Helen Robinson: I'm pregnant.
Bill Robinson: Oh, I'm sure it's nothing. You're just gaining a little weight.
Helen Robinson: [puts his hand on her belly and giggles]

Bill Robinson: I just don't think on my salary I can afford another funeral.

     To finish off this heady mix, ZombieLand

     A Zombie Film with all the attendant tropes and gore, this is also a film that comes to fruition with the survivors forming a family. Another plus on this is all of the characters evolved in some positive way through their relationships with the others. Always a pleasure to see  in any film. The neurotic becomes more daring, the cold and closed off, more trusting and warmer.
Favorite Quote:
Columbus: When Tallahassee goes Hulk on a zombie, he sets the standard for "not to be fucked with".

Of the four, I think the one that is my favorite pop-in-watch-anytime is the last one- it has more feel good moments than the others. Plus, I understand what it is to be dying for a Twinkie...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Nostalgic Friday: I Miss...

     Sundays gaming- A group of people gathered together to build worlds and fill them with adventure. One friend running GURPS, me with my D&D 3.5 edition, and a bunch of old NPC Friends. The smell of Totinos Pizza rolls, or Cheetos, The subtle hiss of Mountain dew breathing in the afternoon as it slowly lost it's fizz over melting ice. The sound of the dice. The sound of  elation of a natural 20, or the rueful chuckle of a critical fumble, and the anticipation of what shit was going to follow. The core group eventually traded dice for discourse and morphed into the amateurskeptics podcast. we still meet on Sundays but not to build worlds.

     I Miss my old NPCs. they are still here, in the back of my mind, but I find their voices are getting dimmer over time, and there is less excitement over "what would _____ do in this situation." The last time I thought about one of my old characters seriously was considering my powerful blacksmith paladin's version of the "Taken" speech(There are two scenarios here- one of them has you opening the gate, and the other has me taking down the wall, and going through everyone inside...). He came out to play for a few minutes and then life took over again. And Alex retreated back into the recesses of my mind.

     So in an effort to properly memorialize him... His Story

     Born a fraternal Twin to an elven princess and a psychopathic barbarian, Alex grew strong, and tall for a half-elf: full Six foot five. He loved Swords, loved armor and at length, fell to worshiping the blacksmith god, who named him a truesmith paladin and granted him powers...

     Powers to recover from nearly any injury- to heal others with his fiery blood- to forge not just great weapons and armor, but to cast enchantments into them with his blacksmiths song- to spot the flaws in others crafting and to strike those flaws- to heat metal by touch, and to be immune to heat himself....

     He found, and raised to Adulthood a red dragon, whom he named Napalm, and used as a mount. He adventured across worlds, bringing words of his god of progress and industry to all and bringing back many followers, until he was not merely his god's Paladin, but nearly his avatar. He found a woman, his equal in battle, matching his power with her speed and subtlety.

     In a lot of ways, he was too perfect- too much a wish-fulfillment-a lot of his progress was made not in other peoples games but in my own, as I told his tale as a background character, and his legend grew.

     I like to think that he's still out there somewhere, happy, adventuring, fighting, crafting new and better blades and armor among the worlds. Perhaps someday I will dredge him up again and see where he's been. But for now, Alexander Kraneth, I miss you;.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Movie Musings

     A new feature here at the hideaway, not necessarily full reviews, just thoughts on what I am watching.

Image result for spiderman homecoming

     Spider-man Homecoming was excellent- wonderful cast, not a change I would make. Michael Keaton makes the Vulture a complex and human villain, sort of an Anti-Tony Stark- a family man, forced onto the wrong side of the law by circumstances, yet with an honor code of his own.

     Peter looks like...acts like...has the concerns of...a High school student- He has to worry about attending and passing his classes- and he is casually smart. He doesn't have to make a big deal out of having the answers, he just knows them.

     His friends, family, people he knows in the neighborhood... all form a very gentle tapestry of film, rather than the hard-edged Spider-man films we have had before. Tom Holland is engaging, and actually knows how to smile! I'm hard pressed to say whether this one or Wonder Woman was actually better, because it's super-close.

Image result for A.I. film
     Other Stuff- Discussions with the Amateur Skeptics on the podcast got me thinking about the movie A.I. by Spielberg. I wasn't a huge fan of the film when I saw it, and watching it again over the weekend, I still found it disquieting...The thoughts it left me with are:

  • How much is one more good day with someone you love worth to you?
  • You are responsible for what you tame. I was incredibly upset at the scene where Monica abandons David and Teddy in the woods-Sharp echoes of abandoning a no-longer-loved pet, even though she did it so he would not be destroyed. She was selfish to imprint him in the first place if she was unsure. 
  • The Flesh Fair was humanity at it's worst, proving itself "superior" by barbarically killing what is copying it. The fact that they couldn't kill a child-shaped mecha does not forgive them. 
AI is not supposed to be a comfortable movie- it's not supposed to make you feel good. it's supposed to ask questions there are no answers to. All I know is it makes me want to go hold my birds and never let go. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

American Heroes.

     I thought long and hard about what to write about this fourth of July. America seems like it's gone a little crazy. People are intense about things in ways they haven't been in a long time. People are going crazy and going on shooting sprees.

     I think it comes down to Tribes.

     Hundreds of years ago, America was occupied by roaming, competing tribes, who would vie for territory, resources, food, honor. We haven't changed much in the last few hundred years, either. And it's no surprise! Tribes are survival- a group of like-minded-folks, banded together against those crazy bastards who don't think like us, don't act like us and don't look like us. You can't trust those others. They are Up to No Good.

     East coast, West coast...Conservative, Liberal...Christian, Muslim...Yankee, Southerner...Texas, Everybody else. Gun advocates, Gun Control advocates. Religion in schools Vs. separation of church from state. Bayformers fans Vs. Geewunners. Star Wars Vs. Star Trek. DC Vs. Marvel. Comics Vs. Movies. The "Biased Liberal Media" vs. the "Fear and Balanced Conservative Media". Black Vs. White.

     All of them tense and ready to fight right now.

     Lots of folks blame 45, Donald J. Trump for this. "He's making people more racist/sexist...etc." Trumps has said he's not racist...(secret fact! Any statement starting with the words "I'm not a racist..." is probably going to end up racist.) It shouldn't matter whether Trump is racist, sexist, a genius or a buffoon. If anything, I think he's just lancing a boil that's been festering. In any case, using the sitting president's behavior as an excuse for your own poor behavior is a huge cop-out. Just like saying "Make America Great Again" is a poor excuse for "let's go back to when racial intolerance and sexism were the order of the day, take the vote away from Women, and give old white guys back the power and prestige they once had". We are better than that. We are smarter. We have tools that can blur the lines between us, yet sadly, we often use them to draw the lines in deeper. We need to use those tools to understand one another better and draw closer, not more divided.

     We are, all of us, racist, sexist, spoiled and self-centered. When we rise up from that, step out of our little tribes and remember that we belong to a big, welcoming tribe called Americans, that is the moment we are the american heroes. When we do things for the good of many, rather than to fill our pockets or glorify ourselves, that is the moment.

     Whatever else you are doing, be an american hero today. Look not at the stories that drag us down but instead at the stories that make us better, that fulfill the promise we were made 241 years ago, of liberty and justice for all. Be that story.