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The Howling at Midnight

Posted on Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Dave!I have come to the conclusion that once you pass 50 it takes two days to recover for every day you go without a bare minimum of sleep. I went three days without sleep, so it's going to take six days before I recover. Which, for me, will be sometime Saturday.

It was not always like this. Used to be I would operate on a few hours sleep for weeks and suffer no ill-effects. Sometime in my mid-30's this changed and I needed a couple hours extra sleep to recover from a week of insanity. Then I hit 40 and suddenly I needed a day for every day of missed sleep to recover. That was at least manageable. But two days per day? How do I schedule for something like that? Being able to operate at only half-speed is killing me.

Last night I went to bed much earlier than I usually do (around 11:00pm instead of 1:30am) in an attempt to make up for lost rest. Jake, who usually sleeps with me most nights now, fell asleep in the downstairs guest room so I wouldn't be bothered by him. This left Jenny, whom will hop off the bed and go sleep in the other guest room the minute I fall asleep.

But not last night.

Oh no. I fell asleep while petting her and she was very upset about it.

VERY.

I woke up to the sound of her walking around my room howling because I dared to fall asleep before she was done with being petted. When she gets upset or wants attention, she will meow from time to time... but this was howling. Keep in mind that this camera is downstairs, so what you're hearing is one floor and three rooms away from the microphone. That's how unbelievably loud she was...

I love how she is so loud that Jake wakes up and is all WTF?!? and goes walking upstairs to see what Jenny is on about.

And so... I pet her for another twenty minutes until she was satisfied, then eventually fell asleep and hour-or-so later. Not quite getting the sleep I was hoping for, but... well... cats... you know.

Speaking of cats...

One of my favorite things on YouTube is Super Easy, Barely An Inconvenience, a series of "pitch meetings" for popular films by Ryan George for Screen Rant. The guy does the same thing every time and yet it is hilarious every time. The most recent pitch meeting is for the Cats movie, and it's one of the best yet...

And so now I'm binge-re-watching all of the episodes of Super Easy, Barely An Inconvenience while I work, which is a fantastic use of my time. Better than most stuff on television if I'm being honest.

And here's hoping that Jenny gets all her required petting in before I fall asleep so I can maybe... possibly... perhaps... kinda get some sleep tonight?

Well, she's a cat, so I'm not holding my breath. But maybe I should hold my breath. Can a cat howling in your bedroom wake you up if you've passed out from holding your breath?

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Bullet Sunday 644

Posted on Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Dave!We may be on the verge of World War III as a reckless, clueless president is intent on starting a war to distract from his impeachment, but all is not lost because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Oh Deer. So there I was falling asleep last night when the security system alarm goes off on my phone telling me that there was a person on the side of my house and in my back yard. I thought it might be a cat trying to get into the catio again, but Jake and Jenny were in bed with me. Nope... definitely not a cat... it was A FAMILY OF DEER! A couple others came along after this video...

Apparently with the warmer weather they are looking for something to eat, because they spent some time in my shrubs before moving on...

A deer walking through my back yard.

I feel horrible that somebody may harm them as they try to survive by heading into suburbia.

   
• RIP Syd Mead. It's unbelievable how so much of how we envision the future was defined by one guy... Syd Mead. He has created a tremendous volume of incredible work, and I was saddened to hear of his passing.

Syd Mead scene from Bladerunner showing a futuristic city street.

Syd Mead scene from Bladerunner looking out of a flying car's windshield.

Syd Mead future submarine-like-craft that shows futuristic construction.

Syd Mead scene from Bladerunner showing a futuristic cityscape skyline awash in lights.

2010, him. Aliens, him. Blade Runner, him. Blade Runner 2049, him. Star Trek the Motion Picture, him. Tron, him. You will be missed, sir.

   
• Poop. I loathe coffee. I have never liked it despite my proximity to Coffee Central (AKA Seattle). On those occasions where it's the only thing to drink, I will try it (again) and want to barf (again) so I've just stopped trying. Finally, finally I've found a video which encapsulates how I feel about the entire situation...

Smart kitty.

   
• Persevere. And speaking of cats... for all the challenges you meet in 2020... take courage from this cat who perseveres over whatever life throws at them!

Way to go, buddy!

   
• Squishy. HOLD UP A MINUTE... how many butternut squashes were y'all going to let me buy, peel, and cube before telling me that they make LUXURY BUTTERNUT SQUASH that comes pre-peeled, pre-cubed, and frozen for my convenience?

Me holding a bag of frozen butternut squash.

Y'all are on my list now. — I think I was dangerously close to breaking down crying in the supermarket when I saw it in the freezer case. This changes so much!

   
• Fly Someone. And lastly, I missed this adorable Christmas commercial from Heathrow Airport. Well worth your time to watch...

What a nice way to end Bullet Sunday! Have a good one, everybody.

   
Stay safe and be kind, everybody...

   

Bullet Sunday 645

Posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Dave!The world may be cold and bleak right now but there's a bit of warmth to be had, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• WWDD? I am very late to the party with What Would Diplo DO? but am very glad that Hulu recommended it to me. James Van Der Beek plays a parody of real-life DJ Diplo and the result is some of the funniest television I've ever seen. I can't believe that Diplo signed off on this (as well as produced it). I hesitate to link to this (NSFW) trailer because the show is so much better than this would indicate, but here it is...

It seems impossible we haven't seen a second season since the show was originally released in 2017. Since there's only five episodes available (which I've already watched twice), I need more Diplo in my life.

   
• Deeply Faked. I was disappointed by The Irishman... everybody involved has done better work elsewhere and I was bored by it all. But I did watch it. And a big part of the movie is the fact that the story is told over a long period of time. So Netflix had to pony up a big chunk of money for computer FX to de-age the characters. It was done well enough that it wasn't distracting... nor did it stray too far into uncanny valley territory. But it wasn't terribly convincing either. Which is why I find the fact that some guy used free "deep fake" tools to do a much better job of it for zero dollar so amusing...

These are the same free tools that did a far superior job of replacing Superman's face after Henry Cavill couldn't shave his mustache for Justice League. I wonder how long until Hollywood gets smart about these tools. I also wonder how long before faked video is indistinguishable from authentic video... and how that's going to change the world. What happens when you can't tell what's real any more?

   
• HEADLINE: 32-year-old Medford man fighting severe flu case. I stopped getting the flu vaccine because it never seemed to make a difference. I started again when I became a granduncle because I wanted to take every possible precaution that I wouldn't get him sick. My doctor once asked me if I had gotten my flu shot and I told him that I stopped doing that. His reply? "Well, 50,000 people a year die from the flu, but it's your call." That didn't change my mind, but I see this story and what he said is stuck in my head. 32 years old. Man, I wish this poor guy the best of luck and hope he gets better soon. Get your flu vaccine, people. And if you want to know more about it, the CDC has a page for that.

   
• Front and Center. Holy cats! This $3 utility restores MacOS X window functionality so that clicking on one window will bring all windows for that app to the front. I have NO idea why Apple changed this behavior from all the MacOS's before X, but it drives me insane. And now it's BACK, baby. No idea how much I've missed this. 100% critical app.

   
• WAKANDA FOREVER! Yo, Marvel Studios... what is it going to take to get an M'Baku series on Disney+? The guy steals every single scene he's in! He lives in one of the most magical places on earth! He's a character everybody loves! Winston Duke is a cinematic treasure! It's like... how many pieces need to click together before you do what needs to be done? Is Kevin Feige asleep at the wheel?

And who wouldn't guest star in THAT piece of awesome? Black Panther? Shuri? Okoye? Nakia? They could all make an appearance. This is a show that's begging to be made.

   
And now for some hot chocolate.

   

Better Than Sliced Bread?

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2020

Dave!When I got home from work I burned through thesecond season of Fleabag. Don't ask me why it took me this long to get around to it. Maybe it's because I didn't freak out over the first season like everybody I know did. Sure I liked it, but it wasn't better than sliced bread, I tell you what.

No, it's the second season of Fleabag that's better than sliced bread.

And speaking of better than sliced bread...

Nice to see that Marvel dumped some serious money into giving Black Widow the movie she deserves. Taskmaster is the perfect opponent, so something to look forward to (as if I weren't already).

   

QNAP if You’re NASty

Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Dave!For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.

So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.

Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...

Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...

Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.

Anyway...

Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.

I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.

There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.

I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.

Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.

For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...

A visual comparison of an original photo of a sunset vs. the version Plex serves up.

Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.

I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.

Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.

And so... bravo Plex.

I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.

UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.

So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...

Make sure the NAS can be reached and refresh the page!

...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...

QNAP Robot Assistant

Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.

My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.

QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.

Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).

Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.

And so...

  • I fucking hate the fact that QNAP doesn't really work as a media center as advertised. THAT'S WHY I PAID EXTRA FOR THIS MODEL!
  • Their video apps are worthless garbage that can't even do rudimentary shit like fast forward video.
  • They don't include enough memory to do even basic tasks.
  • Their HDMI television output can not be altered for settings like brightness, contrast, color, etc., which is no big deal considering it's fucking useless without decent apps for it anyway.
  • The included remote control doesn't control shit. And what it can control is garbage and doesn't work.
  • Their web interface is brain-dead idiocy that confuses even the most simple things.
  • Nothing about operation of the QNAP unit is even remotely intuitive. Nothing is easy to find and the byzantine menu system is difficult to use. The fact that they don't have an abstraction interface for moderately-experienced users makes zero sense. They ONLY want to serve the professional market? How strange.

I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.

   

Star Trek: Reboot

Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Dave!I am a massive fan of the original Star Trek series. And the original cast movies too.

I did not like Star Trek: The Next Generation because it was just so boring. Aside from an occasional good episode, the lack of conflict on the ship and Gene Roddenberry's "new vision for the future" was a massive downgrade from where he started. Then Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along and, while beloved by critics and fans, was somehow worse. Odo the non-shape-changing shape-changing alien? Quark comic relief? The Prophets? I mean, sure there was Avery Brooks, but holy crap. AND THEN, just when I thought things couldn't possibly get worse... Star Trek: Voyager. I was totally excited for it. At first. Enemies on the same ship? CONFLICT! Biomechanical ship? COOL! Stranded across the galaxy where survival is a constant struggle and no allies in sight? EXCITING! But then they ended up doing the same old Next Generation shit all over again and boring the heck out of me. Star Trek: Enterprise was a step in the right direction, but they burdened it with a "Temporal Cold War" that was a boat-anchor tied to the show in a horrible way.

Naturally, when CBS announced they were coming out with Star Trek: Discovery, I was skeptical. The cast was amazing (seriously amazing) and they looked to be doing something new, but the ship looked like shit and the early previews with engine spores and stuff looked like crap.

Boy was I wrong.

The first season of Discovery was phenomenal.

The performances and characters were incredible. The stories were cool as all getout. And the "big twist" was about the best thing to come out of Star Trek in decades. I loved just about everything about it. Critics said it "wasn't Star Trek" and hated on it terribly. This made me laugh my ass off, because it was easily the most "Star Trek" thing to happen since the original series! People who said it "wasn't Star Trek" were saying it wasn't "NEXT GENERATION Star Trek." Which, of course, was my favorite thing about it. The second season wasn't as good, but it was still worth watching.

And now there's Star Trek: Picard...

Star Trek: Picard movie poster with Picard at his vineyard with his dog as the sun sets.

Obviously I was not enthusiastic about the continuation of a show which I feel is the point Star Trek went terribly wrong. I like Patrick Stewart... like him a lot... but more Star Trek: Next Generation was not something I was interested in. Paying extra for CBS All Access to see it was the nail in the coffin. Except... I read more than a couple interviews with Patrick Stewart and other people working on the show who promised that it was not going to be more of the same old thing. They were doing something new.

Well, sign me up! Even though I was certain it was going to suck.

Boy was I wrong.

First of all, Patrick Stewart is phenomenal in this. He's playing up the age of his character rather than trying to act like he's twenty years younger. Second of all, my mind was completely turned around when Picard said the words "Starfleet was no longer Starfleet!"

Finally somebody understands what the show needs to be interesting. The story being set up feels like it's going to be entertaining. The cast they've assembled is great. The guest-stars from the old new generation seem like they will be used to good effect. And, oh yeah, the special effects are fantastic...

I have high hopes that the talent behind the show have an ending that's going to be worth it all.

CBS sure seems to think so... they renewed the show for a second season AND invited Whoopi Goldberg back, who's "Guinan" is one of the most interesting characters to come out of the old new generation. So fingers crossed.

Something else that was new today? Jay & Silent Bob Reboot...

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot movie poster.

I'm a huge fan of Kevin Smith's "Askewniverse" films... Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, and (to a lesser degree), Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. And now we're getting the sequel, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot. To me it was a mixed bag. Sure it was great seeing all the characters again and it was pretty funny in spots (though a lot of the humor relies on the viewer having seen all the previous films), but it's almost reached a parody of the parody it was parodying and priority is put on famous cameos and injecting his wife and daughter into things rather than humor, insightful commentary on pop culture, and the characters that made me love the movies so much.

I was glad I saw the movie (worth the $10 price tag), but couldn't help but think that half of it was wasted. I am really, really hoping that Smith goes back to form with Clerks III instead of sabotaging himself again.

Kevin Smith needs to Picard himself instead of giving up more Voyager.

   

$5 Judgement Can Be Yours

Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

Dave!I used to buy a lot of movies. Like... A LOT a lot of movies.

But now the budget I used to devote to buying films has been transferred to streaming services, so I rarely bother any more. Unless it's a film that I know I'll be watching over and over and over again, it's just not worth the money. For a while I had transitioned from buying to renting, but even that is too high a price. Why rent Terminator: Dark Fate for $6 when that could pay for an entire month of Hulu? The movie will show up on a streaming service I rotate through eventually, so I'm happy to wait.

My weakness is sale movies.

A movie I wouldn't rent for $6 is really appealing when it can be purchased for $6.

As I type this, Dredd is on sale for $5. This is not the absurd "I AM THE LAW!" Stallone version (which I actually thought was semi-decent) but the wonderful Karl Urban version which was excellent...

Dredd movie poster featuring Judge Dredd standing on top of a building while a city is errupting in destruction and flames.

Based on the British comic book, Judge Dredd, the new movie version was surprisingly faithful. Blood, guts, gore, destruction, and dark humor abound. I enjoyed it enough that I'd definitely watch it more than once, so $5 is quite a bargain, isn't it? Assuming I live long enough to watch it five times, that's just a buck a showing for 90 minutes of hardcore entertainment.

And so I bought it.

Where else can I have this much fun for just $5?

Speaking of movies... I just read that Kirk Douglas died at 103 years old. He had an amazing career as an actor. I remember him most from a Disney double-feature that ran at the local drive-in where he was in 1954's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I also remember him from such movies as Lust for Life (the Vincent Van Gogh biopic), Spartacus, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. As the father of Michael Douglas, he started a dynasty that continues with his grandson, Cameron Douglas. Resst in peace, sir.

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Bullet Sunday 649

Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Dave!It's Oscar Sunday but I just don't care, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...


   
• Crapple! Given my longstanding rant against Apple being complete and total assholes by sticking their customers with shitty butterfly keyboards for years before they FINALLY thought to replace them with something not-quite-so-horrible, this one's for you. It's at the 2-minute mark...

People think this is funny... but, but I'm the biggest Apple Whore I know, and even I was seriously shopping for PCs before the 16-inch MacBook Pro was released. I hope Apple is fucking embarrassed at this, because they should be.

   
• Gold! I used to do a big thing on the Oscars, but I stopped giving a shit when they kept rewarding the same old crap. This year it looks like things are on a better track. Here's my list...

  • Best Picture: Should Have WonJojo Rabbit, Won—Parasite. Not the least bit disappointed. Parasite was a remarkable film.
  • Lead Actor: Should Have Won—Jonathan Pryce, Won—Joaquin Phoenix. I have no desire to see Joker. It's not the comic book character and I don't care how many accolades it gets.
  • Lead Actress: Should Have Won—Renee Zellweger, Won—Renee Zellweger. That was a pretty darn impressive performance, even if I was kinda meh on Judy.
  • Supporting Actor: Should Have Won—Brad Pitt, Won—Brad Pitt. It's surprising that Brad Pitt actually lives up to the hype. I've been a fan since 12 Monkeys, and he should have won for Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds AND Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
  • Supporting Actress: Should Have Won—Scarlett Johannson, Won—Laura Dern. Dern is a fine actor, I just hate hate HATE the film Marriage Story. Complete crap. Jojo Rabbit, on the other hand, is genius.
  • Director: Should Have Won—Bong Joon Ho, Won—Bong Joon Ho. As a diehard Tarantino fan, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood should have ben a shoe-in. And he was, until I saw Parasite.
  • Animated Feature Film: Should Have WonToy Story 4, WonToy Story 4. I don't think this was as good a finale for the series as Toy Story 3 was, but it was a good story with mind-blowing animation by Pixar.
  • Animated Short: Should Have WonHair Love, WonHair Love. I liked all the nominees... and Kitbull was such a great short. But Hair Love feels new and timely in a way that made a huge impression on me.
  • Adapted Screenplay: Should Have Won—Taika Waititi, Won—Taika Waititi. This was the no-brainer of the night.
  • Original Screenplay: Should Have Won—Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han, Won—Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han. This was a tight race for me. I loved Rian Johnson's Knives Out, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood... but Parasite felt truly original. Don't ask me why Marriage Story is here though. It's just people yelling at each other.
  • Cinematography: Should Have Won—Roger Deakins, Won—Roger Deakins. Despite not liking The Irishman even a little bit, I think the cinematography was great. And Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was gloriously shot. But 1917 was next-level, and I regret deeply not seeing it in theaters.

The love for Parasite, which would usually be thrown in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category (it still was and won there too), was a breath of fresh air. I didn't see it until last week or else it surely would have been one of my favorite movies of 2019.

   
• Mythical! If you haven't been watching Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet on Apple TV+, it's worth a look. Especially if you love video games. Apparently Rob McElhenney (who is at his most Rob McElhenneyist here) and Charlie Day consulted heavily with Ubisoft to get some semblance of accuracy even though this is a comedy about what goes on behind the scenes at a video game company. It shows. The show is absolute gold, and will easily make my list of favorites for 2020. It's not quite The Office or The IT Crowd, but it kinda draws from both...

The jokes come fast and most of them land well. I cannot believe that they got F. Murray Abraham. He has the perfect amount of gravitas for his part. But this is Rob McElhenney from start to finish and he's absolutely perfect.

   
• Starch! Wow. How come nobody told me that adding corn starch to scrambled eggs makes them taste like they've been slow-cooking for 30 minutes? This is reeeeeally nice. So creamy and rich. If you haven't tried it, these are pretty great. Also works wonders with omelettes. I will never cook scrambled eggs without it.

   
• NEWS: Antarctica logs hottest temperature on record with a reading of 18.3°C. That's 65°F, people. When I visited, there were many times I took off my jacket because Antarctica was too warm to have it on. I worry for the wildlife which calls this continent home. How is this going to disrupt their habitat and can they survive it?

Neko Harbor Penguins, Antarctica

Penguins are already having a tough time of it, and things look to be getting worse. And then there's polar bears starving in the Arctic. Troubling times for our planet.

   
• trAIn! Apple has put Artificial Intelligence "Machine Learning" in their iPhone and are making good use of it (especially with the camera). As time goes on, it's just going to be surreal how it changes our lives. Take for example this footage from Denis Shiryaev, which upscaled the video to 4K with machine learning and resounded it... Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, by Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896...

Looks old, but almost new. Here's the original footage...

We are really close to the unreal easily being mistake for the real, if we're not there already.

   
• Netflix Fix! And, lastly, apparently there is a God... you can finally tell Netflix to STOP AUTO-PLAYING FUCKING PREVIEWS WHILE YOU ARE TRYING TO SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH! People have been complaining about this bullshit FOR YEARS and Netflix did nothing. Apparently somebody finally figured that customers were worth listening to... or maybe it's because many other streaming services are treating customers with a lot more respect by not irritating the ever-loving-shit out of them...

The preference panels in Netflix shwoing that you can disable the autoplay previews..

Apparently you set it once in your preferences and it goes into effect everywhere. I haven't yet verified this, but I sure hope it's true.

   
And that's a wrap, little golden statue dude!

   

Luke Perry and Love in Paradise

Posted on Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Dave!The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally addressed the omission of Luke Perry from the "In Memoriam" segment of The Oscars telecast... tl;dr, they only have a limited amount of time so he got bumped to their website instead.

Now, far be it for me to tell The Academy how to run their low-rated shitshow, but they can shove one of those little gold statues straight up their collective asses.

First of all... Perry appears in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, nominated for Best Picture in the same fucking telecast. And he was glorious in it. Totally held his own against Leonardo DiCaprio in a fantastic, critical scene. You can't claim that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a great movie without acknowledging his part in it. Of which Quentin Tarantino said this...

“It was really fun,” says the director. “I had a couple of different roles I could have put Luke in. Luke was like, ‘I want to be on the Western show!’ Because he’s just a really great rider and he loves doing Westerns. When we did one of his big horse scenes, Luke slides the horse to the front of the saloon and all the other riders fall in alongside him. I was like, ‘Luke, do you want us to help you out? Do you want me to put a mark on the ground?’ He was like, ‘Quentin? You could take a dime and throw it in the dirt and I will land on that dime. The take you’ll use is when everyone else gets it right.’”

Luke Perry in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on his horse dressed up in a Western suit complete with cowboy hat and leopard-print band.

Second of all... THIS WAS LUKE PERRY'S FINAL FILM ROLE!!! How the fuck do you use "we were short on time" as an excuse when the guy's last film is a Best Picture nominee at the time of broadcast? Insanity.

Third of all... did I mention that he was in The Fifth Element? Only like ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME!

Luke Perry in The Fifth Element, leaning back in a chair while getting ready to tally Aziz, Light!

But anyway...

I'd like to end this diatribe on a good note, so here we go...

As you may or may not be aware, I am a Hallmark Movie fanatic who has seen hundreds of them. If you go to the main screen of Dave's Hallmark Movie Page and scroll down to FAVORITE MOVIES you will see Love in Paradise (2016) listed there. This is essentially "The Luke Perry Hallmark Movie" and I reviewed it thusly...

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite Love in Paradise
(Winterfest • Emmanuelle Vaugier and Luke Perry • January 2, 2016)
Okay, come on, it's a Luke Perry movie! Say what you like about him, he's a surprisingly good actor and can make even the smallest parts something special (remember him in The Fifth Element?). In this one he plays a former Western movie star who's having to do TV commercials for beans in order to make a living. But when a family ranch in Montana calls him away from his pampered New York City lifestyle as a publicity stunt, both parties get more than they bargained for. This one is funnier than you'd think... mostly because Luke Perry has never been one to shy away from poking fun at himself and is just plain funny. As a fake cowboy trying to keep up with a real cowboy's routine, he plays it note-perfect. And you really can't discount Emmanuelle Vaugier as the straight-man, because she's terrific too. The romance is a bit forced, but the chemistry between the leads is flawless. I didn't even mind that this was yet another SAVE THE RANCH FROM EVIL DEVELOPERS story.

   
In the movie a big point is made about Luke Perry's character being a fake cowboy star who didn't know how to ride a horse. On his movies he had people to ride the horses for him, and he just pretended to mount and dismount. But, by the end of the story, he's a darn good rider and it made me wonder if Perry had to learn how to ride for the movie.

— queue the laugh track —

After Googling for an answer, I found out exactly what Quentin Tarantino was talking about. Apparently I missed the riding movie 8 Seconds (1994) where his prowess in the saddle was showcased. After reading his short interview in American Cowboy, I of course checked out 8 Seconds. The movie was panned by the critics, but adored by fans, and I can see why. Technically it wasn't great, but it had a lot of heart... and Luke Perry was at its center. From there I found other Luke Perry Westerns like Fine Step and A Gunfighter's Pledge plus a series of other Hallmark movies in the Goodnight for Justice series. The guy was a serious cowboy actor. Who knew?

And so... yeah... Luke Perry didn't get an on-broadcast mention in the "In Memoriam" section of The Academy Awards, but he was a dedicated and beloved actor for decades who ended his career in an Oscar-nominated movie. If that's not a qualification, I don't know what is.

And don't ask The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because they apparently don't know either.

   

Bullet Sunday 653

Posted on Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Dave!Its... THE SHITTIEST DAY OF THE YEAR, but help is on the way... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Lose an Hour! There are many people who don't like the time change to Daylight Saving Time. Not me... I FUCKING HATE IT! There is nothing more stupid than dicking with the clocks twice a year. Ask anybody...


And yet politicians won't do a damn about it. They've got bigger things to do... like fuck us over for lobbyist cash. I mean, holy shit. This is the ONE THING they could do to better our quality of life that wouldn't cost them a fucking thing, and yet here we are. JUST PICK A FUCKING TIME AND STICK WITH IT! And now I get to do my taxes.
UPDATE: Annnnd... my effective tax rate went up AGAIN under the "tax-you-less" president. How nice. And now he wants to cut the Social Security I fucking PAID INTO my entire working life? Oh well. At least we're getting a brand new tennis court at the fucking White House.

   
• Women! On the bright side, it's International Women's Day! Which is kind of silly because shouldn't every day should be International Women's Day?

   
• Guardians! James Gunn confirmed that he'd like to see a Drax & Mantis movie. Which I'd love to see too but, let's face it, the ideal home for such a project would be Disney+ streaming...

A tweet from James Gunn confirming that he thinks a Drax and Mantis movie would be amazing.

Drax and Mantis sitting on golden steps.

If James Gunn were to pitch a Disney+ series for Drax and Mantis to Kevin Feige that he would write and direct, Marvel Studios would be falling all over themselves to say yes. First of all, without Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, the cast budget is a fraction of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Second of all, without Rocket and Groot, the special effects budget could be a fraction of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. This makes good sense. This makes phenomenal sense. And I'm willing to bet that Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff would 100% be up to do it. These are some of the most fun characters they could possibly play, so why not?

   
• Just Watch It.

   
• Sirens! There are plenty of television shows that I'm sad they canceled. One of the biggest is Sirens, which I love beyond all reason. I was rewatching them this weekend while working and started missing it all over again. Especially Billy, which is one of my favorite television characters of all time...

Billy Moments - Season 1 from mrnmrsreese on Vimeo.

He was a reoccurring character in Season One... but they (wisely) made him a regular in Season Two. There was no Season Three. But oh man do I wish there was. Both seasons are on sale for $4.99 on Apple's iTunes, if you want to check them out.

   
• Kern It! OH MY SWEET LORD! STOP ALLOWING PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT TYPOGRAPHY AND KERNING TO MAKE TITLES FOR YOUR TELEVISION SHOW! If this is not the worst I've ever seen... it's certainly in the top ten. SCRIPT TYPEFACES ARE MEANT TO BE CONNECTED! STOP SPACING THEM APART!!! And holy shit! THAT "B" IS SO FAR AWAY IT'S IN ITS OWN FUCKING ZIP CODE!!! GAH! GAAAAAAHHHH!!! My eyes are bleeding...

Shitty, SHITTY fucking kerning in the movie title for The Perfect Bride.

I simply do not understand how these kind of blaring typography errors flourish. Proper kerning is not rocket science. Watch a fucking YouTube video or something.

   
• NO TIME TO DIE! Daniel Craig was on SNL this weekend and, just like his previous hosting gig, it's surprising just how good he is at this. Of course he parodied his upcoming Bond flick, No Time To Die ...

I am sad that it's his final James Bond film, but if it means he's going to do more movies like Knives Out, which he was also great at.

   
And that's a wrap. Enjoy your higher taxes and losing an hour of your day!

   

Pathetic Earthlings!

Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Dave!For many, many years, I had Max von Sydow staring down at me.

Well, Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. but, yeah, that guy who has been in so many cool sci-fi movies. The guy who was in Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, Dreamscape, Dune, Judge Dredd, Minority Report, and, of course, he was the Three-Eyed Raven from Game of Thrones (before it turned to shit). Amongst others.

But to me he was mainly Ming from Flash Gordon because this poster was hanging in my bedroom. A poster I still have, by the way...

The Flash Gordon movie poster featuring Max Von Sydow as a menacing-looking Ming the Merciless

Unfortunately Max von Sydow passed away yesterday. Given the number of awesome films he's been in over the years, he will be sadly missed but fondly remembered. He even played Blofeld in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, for heaven's sake.

You can tell that you're getting old when the actors from all the movies which defined your childhood start to die.

Rest in peace, sir.

   

Bullet Sunday 654

Posted on Sunday, March 15th, 2020

Dave!We all may be in social distance, self-quarantine exile, but you're in good company... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Rise? I both liked and hated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when I first saw it. On one hand, seeing many of the original trilogy characters come back one last time was pretty great, and the special effects were visionary and sublime. On the other hand the script was complete and total shit. JJ Abrams perverting The Force into whatever he wanted it to be in order to fill in a few of the many, many plot holes in his crap story was embarrassing and insulting. And the fact that almost nothing in the movie made sense, had past precedent, or was ever explained, was ten buckets of lame. Nowhere was this put into such vivid relief than in a reply by Elijah Wood(!) to one of several expositional chunks of story left out of the film, but dropped in fucking tweets...

On Friday I got an email from Apple telling me that my digital copy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was available to watch (a few days early because Disney is doing their part to keep people home). I ordered it when I didn't think I'd make it to the theater to see it... then forgot to cancel after I finally saw it. And so I watched it again. Now I've totally changed my mind on the film, I just outright hate it now. What a shitty, SHITTY way to close things out. My only consolation is that the shitty sequel trilogy was marginally better than the horrendously shitty prequel trilogy when taken as a whole...

My ranking of the Star Wars movies from Perfect to Complete Shit in this order: Empire, Rogue One, Star Wars, Awakens, Solo, Sith, Skywalker, Last Jedi, Jedi, Clones, Menace.

Thank God that whole mess is over. Now just let the Skywalker crap finally die like it should have done after Return of the Jedi. As the excellence of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has shown us, there's far better things to do with the Star Wars Universe than continuously rain shit upon it.

   
• Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Along with the digital release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney also released Frozen 2 three months early. I guess they figured they might as well try to drive up subscription numbers for their streaming service since they've had to shutter most all of their movie/television productions...

I'm going to be perfectly honest... I am not a fan of musicals. Some of them I like more than others, such a The Lion King, for instance. Live-action is more difficult, but tolerable if I like the soundtrack (like Grease and Xanadu, for example). The first Frozen was annoying musically, but I loved the character of Kristoff (wonderfully brought to life by Jonathan Groff). And so I tuned into Frozen 2 to see what his character was up to. Turns out he's acting weird and being made to play the fool while a really tacked-on story unfolds. It's not that this was a bad movie, it's just that I didn't get what I wanted out of it. Still, better than nothing, I guess? Or is it? I can't help but feel that things should have been left alone after the first one. Except... the animation and design is phenomenal, beautiful, mind-blowing stuff.

   
• Joy! In addition to crap Star Wars and an unneeded animated sequel, I've been delving back into all five seasons of Killjoys. The show always amazes me. It has fairly good (but not extravagant) production values which are complimented by complex stories and multi-faceted, highly interesting characters. Every episode feels as though they made the best possible use of budget and resources while never losing sight of the big picture of the universe they were building...

Smart, funny, violent, serious, disturbing, and all-around good sci-fi, this is the whole package. My amazement only grows as I rewatch it from the beginning (the fifth and final season ended last September). The series follows three "killjoys"... bounty hunters... as they work through their personal demons while trying to skate a moral divide between doing good and doing their job. It started strong. Got better. Kinda dropped off a bit at the end, even though I can't really complain about how it ended. It probably was good to cancel it before the show bottomed out, but I can't help but think there were more stories to tell. And could be more stories still if we get some movies or specials or something.

   
• MAR10! March 10th is known in Nintendo circles as MAR10 (MARIO) because a number of games and Mario products end up with a discount. One of the games on sale was Yoshi's Crafted World for $20 off, so I snatched it up. The game itself is a simple, fun, and clever platform puzzler which has a cool "handcrafted" look where everything is made from paper, cardboard, and other crafting junk...

Yoshi games have always been fairly easy to play... slightly more difficult to complete at 100%... which makes it a perfect choice for a casual gamer like me who wants a distraction instead of a serious challenge. Oh yeah... it's adorable too.

   
• Go West! And so... the third season premiere of Westworld is finally here. I had read some seriously mixed reviews of the first four episodes that were made available to the press. I, of course, have only seen the first episode. It was... interesting? I mean, they've completely jettisoned what made the show be the show... i.e. Westworld... so it's pretty much just fake people on a murder-spree in Futureworld, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...

Watching Delores go full-on Terminator in a wonderfully-imagined future is pretty great... so even if that's all we get, I'll keep watching. The thing about the first season which made it so fantastic is that it was so beautifully plotted and deep in concept. The second season was far shallower, but attempted to compensate by going non-linear with the story to poor effect (the first season played with the timeline amazingly well, so I don't know what happened there). It looks like they are not bothering to play with the timeline this time around... unless this really IS Futureworld and Delores is a GUEST? How mind-bending would that be? Well, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright are phenomenal, regardless, so I'm hoping this reduced 8-episode season is worthy of their talent.

   
• FIVE! Tonight was also the finale of Avenue 5, a fantastically funny space farce starring Hugh Laurie. I have been loving the show, even when it took a decidedly dark turn last week (in a way that was actually still pretty darn funny). The ending isn't an ending, which would have me furious if not for the fact that HBO has already renewed it for a second season...

It's surprising that HBO is fostering such a delicious series when I know that the twisted humor is not going to appeal to the masses. But it very much appeals to me, which is all I care about. I am really hoping that they can manage to expand on the show for next season instead of retreading what they've already done (something that was already starting to happen at the end). And thank you to HBO also for giving the show such a massive special effects budget. I mean that... the sets are expansive, beautiful, and look like they cost a fortune. Worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

   
And that's enough of that... keep washing those hands, everybody.

   

What I Do In The Shadows

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Dave!I am doing as well as can be expected given everything that's been going on. I occupy my time with lots of work, lots of television, lots of movies, lots of video games, and lots of time with my cats. Basically anything to keep my brain focused on anything except the outside world. Because if I start paying attention I would probably end up with a brain hemorrhage. Especially when our president is going 180º on the coronavirus. First it was a Democratic hoax that's been overblown by the media and going to disappear any day now because he's doing such an amazing job... now it's him knowing it was a pandemic before it was even declared a pandemic... all while none of his followers are calling him out on his crap. I don't expect our government to ever be truthful about anything. We know they're fucking incapable of such a thing. But I don't expect people to roll over and not call politicians out on their bullshit, regardless of which political party they support.

Oh well. I'm getting used to being perplexed by blind party loyalty.

And getting used to getting this crap out of my head by re-watching my favorite entertainment. Last night it was What We Do In The Shadows, which is a movie I love beyond all reason...

The cast of the movie, which includes a scary looking 8000 year-old vampire dude.

Followed by a marathon of the television series, which is SO good because the original creators are still involved (and even make an appearance in an episode!)...

The TV cast for What We Do In The Shadows with two vampires pointing fingers at a third vampire

A second season is dropping on April 15th, and I cannot wait to see it.

Tonight I will be watching my second-favorite Hallmark movie of all time, A Winter Princess, which was just released on home video...

Hallmark movies are cheesy and ridiculous to extreme levels which is what makes them so entertaining. I particularly like this version of the holy-shit-it-turns-out-they're-royalty trope because the actor playing the princess (Natalie Hall) actually looks like a frickin' princess. I mean... damn is she brutally gorgeous. The story in this one is tired, but the movie is actually pretty good. Interesting to note that they filmed it at the Big White ski resort (outside of Kelowna, BC) doubling for a ski resort called "Snowden Peak" in Colorado. It is an amazing location and they (surprisingly) make pretty good use of it. From a design perspective, I loved how they made the "Snowden Peak" logo an exact duplicate of the "Big White" logo so that they didn't have to change it out in the long shots. Smart, smart production team there. Anyway... worth a look if they are playing it on the Hallmark Channel, which I have started watching again since they've been working with GLAAD to not be such homophobic idiots.

   

Quentin Quarantino

Posted on Monday, March 30th, 2020

Dave!I am still lucky enough to have work to do, which means my days aren't quite as boring as they could be (knock wood). But, like everybody else, it is a little tough not being able to hang out with my friends. March is usually a month where I spend a lot of time traveling to see friends... going out with local friends... working on projects with friends... and it's just all... gone.

I'm spending some of my extra time cleaning and getting projects completed around the house, which is always a good thing. I'm also playing some Animal Crossing: New Horizons and catching up on television shows. I've also been checking to-do's off like list like cutting my hair, baking bread, washing windows, repairing clothes, and getting ready for planting my flower beds (assuming that's something I get to do this year).

But there's also something I've been meaning to do for years that I've never found the time for... watching all of Quentin Tarantino's films in the order he made them. He's my favorite director and I can't watch his films enough times. So tonight I've decided to wrap up my March Foreign Film Festival and watch two Tarantino films a night until I've run through them all.

Tonight was a double feature of Resevoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (I am saving True Romance and Natural Born Killers until the very end since he wrote them but did not direct)...

Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs Movie Poster.

Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction Movie Poster.

It's interesting seeing how Tarantino's story and dialogue were equally excellent in both films... but how his directing game improved quite a bit. Pulp Fiction is so incredibly polished and beautiful to watch because so many points were conceived and implemented so incredibly well.

Not that he had a ton of room for improvement. Resevoir Dogs is about as perfect a debut movie as you'll ever find. Almost unbelievably so.

If only I could say the same about my debut blog post.

   

Groceries in the Face of Armageddon

Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Dave!I have enough groceries to last another two or three weeks. Probably longer. I may be eating pasta with frozen vegetables and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I will survive just fine. My cats have enough prescription food for another month. I also have two bags of "regular" dry food with a year left on the expiration date (which I keep on-hand for emergencies), so Jake and Jenny are good.

Because I've got food for a while I hadn't planned on a grocery store run... until I got a call from a friend in Seattle. They were wondering if I was headed to the store any time soon and, if I was, could I please pick up some things for their elderly mother who can't risk going to the store due to health concerns in our new COVID-19 Reality. I could drop them on her back porch and they would happily Venmo me money to cover the cost.

And so... off to the grocery store for me.

I figured that since I was going, I might as well cash in a bunch of Safeway Monopoly Instant Winner Free Product Tickets and Instant Winner Discount Coupons I won before they expire. I would also pick up ingredients I need to make more of my mom's Applesauce Bread...

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Applesauce
  • Walnuts

Well, silly me, the four things I needed were all out of stock. They did have applesauce and walnuts, but they were the tiny containers which cost a fortune, so I passed.

The lack of flour had me concerned about not being able to bake bread for much longer, so I ended up buying a loaf that I could freeze. I also bought Coke Zero, Lay's Potato Chips, and Quaker Brand Chocolate Rice Cakes. They are not things I need, but they are things I want. Surprisingly, produce was in good supply so I picked up some onion, garlic, cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, and tomatillos to add some nice variety to my meal planning.

Plus I bought two apples, just because it would be nice to have a fresh fruit treat in the face of armageddon.

The store had everything on my friend's mom's list except paper towels and toilet paper, of course, but I had some extra rolls to stick in with her groceries so it was all good. Most of the things she wanted were prepared foods like soups and boxed/frozen meals, all of which were in good supply.

Atmosphere at the store was generally cheery. People didn't seem overly-angsty or angry. A few people with facemasks and gloves and everybody trying to keep their distance... but otherwise it was just like any other shopping day.

Except I won free AAA batteries, free cooking spray, and a free sesame bagel playing Safeway Monopoly, so that was a bonus. And these days I'll take as many bonuses as I can get, thanks.

Tonight I continued my Quentin Tarantino movie marathon, but I watched only one Tarantino film, Jackie Brown. That way I can have Kill Bill parts 1 and 2 as a double feature tomorrow night...

Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown Movie Poster.

Jackie Brown is an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, a book I ran out and bought immediately after finding out it was the basis for this amazing movie. Surprisingly, the movie follows the book fairly closely. There's some elements jettisoned from the secondary characters out of necessity, but Jackie's story is pretty much left intact. She's an airline flight attendant running drugs for the wrong people and just trying to get by in life and get out of a life of crime. It's really smart and surprisingly funny in spots. What's nice about reading the book after seeing the movie is that you can imagine Tarantino's version of the characters while you read plus get additional details as to everybody's back-story and motivations. Rum Punch is a sequel to another Elmore Leonard novel called The Switch, which is also very much worth reading (which could be said of most everything Leonard ever wrote).

And because the prequel to Jackie Brown was The Switch and because that book had been adapted into a movie called Life of Crime (starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins), I decided to watch it to complete my double feature since I hadn't seen it before (iTunes $7.99)...

Life of Crime Movie Poster.

Surprisingly, it's a decent movie! I mean, not Jackie-Brown-level-great, but still worth a look. The plot is the same as Ruthless People in that a wealthy woman is kidnapped and held for ransom only to have an adulterer husband who wants her dead anyway and refuses to pay. Ordell Robie is played by Mos Def instead of Samuel L. Jackson... and Louis Gara is played by John Hawkes instead of Robert DeNiro... so there's a considerable adjustment you have to make mentally, and yet there are certainly worse actors you could have cast as younger versions of the originals! The movie is definitely worth a watch if you're a fan of Elmore Leonard and Jackie Brown (though I thought Ruthless People was more entertaining).

And now I think it's time for a crisp apple and a Quaker Brand Chocolate Rice Cake to top off my evening's events. Good thing I ended up at the grocery store today.

   

Peanut Butter Pastime

Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Dave!My mom loved peanut butter. She would be happy to eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and dinner every day. When her memory was failing her, I saw her eat them for breakfast on more than one occasion. Whenever she was bored and hungry, a peanut butter sandwich was her go-to snack. I once remember her laughing while reading an article out loud to me which had somebody saying that peanut butter breaks down after three months and shouldn't be eaten. For a jar of peanut butter to last her more than two weeks was a rarity.

After I had to move her out of the house, I threw out a jar with a few spoonfuls left in the bottom and stopped buying peanut butter.

That was almost four years ago.

Yesterday when I was buying groceries for a friend's mom, one of the items on her list was peanut butter. It sounded delicious after so long not having it, so I bought a jar. Mom preferred creamy JIF, but she would buy Extra Crunchy JIF too because she was happy to eat it as an occasional change of pace and knew that it was what I preferred.

And, oh yeah, that loaf of bread I bought yesterday? I thought I would try the new Franz "Keto" bread in case I couldn't find flour to bake my own. But before I stuck the loaf in the the freezer, I pulled out two slices and put them in a baggie to give it a try with lunch today. People were raving about the stuff, so why not? Well, to start with, there's the $6 price tag. Secondly, the loaf is a small.

Turns out there's a third reason why not... it tastes like crap.

Maybe it's because I'm used to the delicious breads I bake, but this dry, tasteless, boring "Keto" bread was awful. Don't get me wrong... if you can't have carbs, it's definitely better than nothing... but I will not be buying it again, that's for sure. Even when loaded with tons of Extra Chunky JIF peanut butter I had a tough time choking it down.

As tonight is my third night of Quentin Quarantino I watched the next two films in his catalog... Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2...

Kill Bill Volume 1 Movie Poster with Uma Thurman

Kill Bill Volume 2 Movie Poster with Uma Thurman

Likely one of the most stylish revenge flicks ever put to film, Kill Bill features Uma Thurman hacking her way through her former fellow assassins until she gets to her former boss, Bill. It's a brilliant and bloody spectacle with amazing fight sequences. The movie features cool wire-work which gives it a magical quality... but not so much that it feels surreal. The dialogue is pure Tarantino and, because he decided to cut the movie in two rather than cut down on the dialogue, it makes for a good balance.

Like the balance between my delicious homemade bread and this here JIF peanut butter I'm eating while blogging.

Can't believe I waited four years.

   

Staycation Day Cleaning

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Dave!I worked extra hours over the weekend and through Wednesday so I could take the rest of the week off. It's time for my seasonal cleaning ordeal to prepare for Spring houseguests. This year, thanks to COVID-19 quarantining, I won't be having any houseguests until June or July, at earliest, but I still want to get a jump on my filthy home.

Well... it's filthy to me. It's not like I ever let my house get overrun with dirt and grime. It's just the little things that bug me. Walls need to be wiped down... rooms need to be torn apart so I can scrub the floors... books and furniture needs to be pulled out and cleaned... windows need to be washed... that kind of thing. I decided today I would jump on the kitchen when I fed the cats at 7:00am, then work my way to the living room.

I went back to bed after feeding Jake and Jenny, then slept and lounged aroud until 10:00am. Then ate a late breakfast. Then read a book on world mythology.

I wanted to beat myself up over wasting half my day, but I so rarely get time to do what I want that I decided to congratulate myself instead. Cleaning can commence tomorrow.

Originally I was going to have my Quarantino Double Feature be Tarantino's Grindhouse: Death Proof with Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse: Planet Terror (since they were originally released that way), but I was anxious to get to Inglourious Basterds, so I resisted...

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof Movie Poster

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof Movie Poster

Now, Death Proof is just an excuse to have a car chase with tons of stunts worked into it. There's not a lot of brainpower that the viewer has to summon. Kurt Russell is a sadistic bastard who picks a fight with the wrong women. Zoë Bell, cars, and violence ensue. Surprisingly, as is the case with most of Tarantino's films, dickhead reviewers based their critiques on what the film WAS NOT instead of WHAT IT IS. Go in with the proper mindset, and it's just a fun thrill ride that's a terrific movie experience to have. Go in expecting Shakespeare and you're just an idiot. Not my favorite Tarantino flick, but I do like it a lot.

Inglourious Basterds, on the other hand, is escapist revisionist history cinematic genius. I love this film to an unhealthy degree. I've seen it at least twenty times. After Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, it's likely my favorite Quentin film. But there are days I like Basterds better than both of them. From the gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances to the fantastical story and crackling dialogue. It's the complete Tarantino package all wrapped up in a war movie, and an experience I never get tired of. God bless Christof Waltz for giving Quentin his movie.

And God bless us all as the Coronavirus death toll keeps climbing. Due to our complete lack of preparation and our government completely ignoring and denying what was happening, the deaths here in the USA yesterday were double the worst daily death toll from the flu. And we're just getting started. The highly contagious nature of COVID-19 along with extended incubation period and overall lethalness... not to mention dumbass governors who are still not quarantining the public at large to prevent spreading... are all going to make sure of it.

   

Caturday 154

Posted on Saturday, April 4th, 2020

Dave!I had somebody read about the cat feeding station I built (I needed a way to clean the cats' eating area easily), then email me to ask just how messy Jenny could be when eating. The answer is... very. She loves loves love wet food, but she won't bite it. She always licks it. Problem is that she barely gets any in her mouth that way, so I bought a small blender so I can liquify her half of the wet food for every meal. That way she can lick it all up and be happy as a clam.

After she's done eating it looks like a murder scene or something...

Jenny making a mess with cat food being splattered everywhere.

That was after last night's dinner. This was after this morning's breakfast...

The mess Jenny made with cat food being splattered everywhere.

I always clean it after breakfast, though in the summer I usually clean it after breakfast and dinner because I don't want to attract bugs.

Is it a lot of trouble? Yes. Would my life be easier if I fed my cats only dry food instead of dry and wet? Sure. But I love my cats entirely too much, and this is what you do to keep them happy.

They're totally worth any amount of trouble...

Jake and Jenny snuggling in a cat bed.

Last night I watched my two Quarantino movies after I had blogged for the day, so I'm going to plop them right here. My double feature was Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight...

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained Movie Poster.

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained Movie Poster.

Django Unchained is one of my all-time favorite movies. Period. It's a really cool flick filled with terrific characters and fantastic performances by everybody involved. Easily my favorite movie each from Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio, the biggest surprise was Samuel L. Jackson playing one of the most loathsome characters in cinematic history. He is vile. Christoph Waltz didn't have the exceptional material that rocketed him to stardom in Inglourious Bastereds, but he makes the most of his every scene.

My least favorite Tarantino film is Death Proof... not because I don't like it (on the contrary, I love it), but because the rest of his films are just so amazing. The Hateful Eight is in the same boat, coming in just ahead of Death Proof. I love it... and if it were in any other list it would come out near the top... but in a list for Tarantino is comes out near bottom just because some movie has to. This movie is more subtle all the way around, giving us a closed-door mystery with some decent intrigue and stellar performances. It's also one of the most beautifully-shot Tarantino film with the second best red herring in "The Lincoln Letter" (#1 would be "The Briefcase" from Pulp Fiction).

And now all that's left is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I will be watching tonight.

After which I will have to resist the urge to watch all of Tarantino's movies all over again.

   

Bullet Sunday 656

Posted on Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Dave!The world may be at a standstill, but the blog keeps turning... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Free-Fitty-Free! For the month of April, HBO is streaming some of their most acclaimed content for free, no subscription required. A full list of shows and instructions can be found here and, if you need a recommendation, I'd take a look at Bill Hader's Barry which is a pretty great show. It starts off a little slow... but snowballs into insanity in short order.

   
• Nice! I love projects like this one...

The world is smaller than we realize. Given current events, it's good to remember that.

   
• Upload! You know when you see a trailer and it's so good that all you can think is how the actual show couldn't possibly live up to what you're watching... but you are hopeful anyway? That's me watching this...

Greg Daniels is running the show, so I have reason to be hopeful. But still... fingers crossed.

   
• Disney At Home! A Disney animator is teaming up with Josh Gad to create some Frozen shorts while quarantined at home. The result is pretty great...

The tools make things easier and easier for animators... but they don't mean a lot if the person doing the animating can't tell a story.

   
• Buttholes! I said a while back that this is the only way I would ever watch Cats. And here's why...

This is the only way I'd ever watch Batman vs. Superman again too.

   
• One?! So laughable that an abhorrent network devoted to far-right presidential dick-sucking can in any way claim to be serving "One America," but here it is...

Thank heavens that John Oliver is still doing his show while under quarantine at home.

   
• Munneh! I had $90 in PayPal that wasn't doing anything, so I signed up for a Robinhood account and got their app so I can play the stock market. I'm now worth $108.23, so my market savvy has me well on my way towards becoming a billionaire, I can feel it! — I will try not to forget you, the little people, once I am a part of the 1% and above your petty existence.

   
And that's all the bullets we have for today.

   

Never Surrender!

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2020

Dave!Last night I was looking at movies on iTunes and saw that there were some titles available to RENT for $20. To RENT!

Then I realized that they were all movies which had just been released to theaters right before the lockdowns started. They are being shoved to home video early at a premium price in the hopes that they can reclaim some of the money they missed out on. None of which I would pay $20 to see... but heaven only knows that there are movies I'd pay $20 to see. Like Black Widow which keeps getting pushed back.

Of course I'd much rather pay $0 to see a movie.

Which is why I'm always looking through services like HBO and Amazon Prime.

Much to my delight, Amazon Prime has a documentary that I didn't even know existed... Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary...

As one of my all-time favorite movies, I was keen to see this because so many of the people behind the film are in it (including Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver).

Sadly, my favorite part of the movie... Alan Rickman... had passed away and couldn't participate...

Alan Rickman in his alien makeup for Galaxy Quest.

His very dry humor was hilarious, and he has one of the most touching scenes in the entire film. Fortunately, there are others in the documentary who remember his work there. He was Sir Alexander Dane! I love that.

Never Surrender lead to my watching a documentary on Susan Oliver called The Green Girl, which was absolutely fascinating (and has a short appearance by Betty White!). Unbelievable how shitty she was treated by Hollywood...

The Green Girl then lead to another documentary called United We Fan (about fan campaigns to save canceled television shows), which was also interesting...

And THAT lead to my watching yet another great documentary called Geek, and You Shall Find...

And then I happened upon With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, which was as interesting as you'd think it would be...

At that point I could have watched a dozen more, but ended up going to bed instead so I could stare at the ceiling and not sleep.

Definitely getting my money's worth out of Amazon Prime this month!

   

Trolls (The Good Kind)

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Dave!There was a time I loved going to the movies. Me and my friends meeting up to catch some Summer blockbuster that I'd been dying to see. Sitting in front of that big screen waiting to be blown away by the lush sounds and the smell of popcorn. It was an experience like no other.

But then my attitude started changing as time marched on. There's always been rude people at the cinema, but it just keeps getting worse and worse as society degrades further and further. And once mobile phones became commonplace, the experience became unbearable. I actually blogged about it ten years ago when I went to see the Angle Jolie thriller Salt while in Chicago. The entire fucking film was spent looking at a sea of mobile phones glowing in the darkness...

DaveToon: Theaters Suck with Phone Glows

I was livid.

Going to the movies is not cheap. And now that movie studios are demanding a bigger cut of the films they release, theater owners have to compensate for their losses by charging huge amounts of money for popcorn, candy, and drinks.

At this point I downright loathe going to a movie theater. You pay absurd amounts of money to be constantly distracted by rude assholes. It sucks.

So I don't go to the cinema any more. I'm done. Occasionally I make exceptions so I can see a Marvel Studios movies before any spoilers leak... or will go to hang out with my friends if there's a movie they feel strongly about seeing in a theater... but that's about it. Even then I never go to a "regular" theater but instead go to the "premium" theater in the hopes of having a decent experience.

The beauty of it all is that I really don't have to go to the theater any more. Not when I have a theater of my own at home. I've got a big-screen TV with a great picture and really good surround sound. Popcorn and drinks at my house are dirt-cheap. There's no assholes to spoil my movie-viewing experience unless I invite them over. It's perfect, really. I love watching movies at home! And, thanks to digital downloads, I can get them the minute they are released! No trudging to the store for a DVD or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

The only down-side is that it takes months for the movies to be released digitally because first they have to have a theatrical release. At least they did.

Enter COVID-19.

Thanks to people having to quarantine and movie theaters having to close, movie studios are having to release movies to home video without a theatrical release. It's expensive, sure... $20 to rent the movie... but is it really more expensive than going to the cinema? After you buy a ticket and get gouged for popcorn and a Coke, you're likely in for $20 anyway. And if you are a family of four? A $20 rental is far, far less expensive than going to the theater.

Right now there is a huge dust-up over the movie Trolls: World Tour because Universal Pictures claims that the film made $100 million without ever having seen the inside of a theater. This disclosure made the AMC theater chain so livid that they quickly banned all Universal films from being shown in their cinemas (once they reopen).

Which is about the most stupid thing they could have possibly done given how it's going to be a long while before people are comfortable sitting in a theater with a bunch of people who may be carrying the plague.

Furthermore, anybody wanting to see a Universal film is going to have to go to AMC's competition... or not bother seeing it in theaters at all. They should have been understanding as to why Universal had to do a home-rental release to get their money back on a film that was being lost in the Coronavirus shuffle. And why they had to release the non-box-office numbers so they could assure stockholders that they weren't losing money with their decision. Universal literally didn't have a choice here!

And, who knows, Universal may very well end up saying "Okay then. Fuck it. We don't need theaters anyway!" and just release their movies directly to consumers at $20 a pop rental. Or even $40 a pop if it's a huge expensive movie. I'd gladly pay $40 to watch Black Widow and all the Marvel Studios movies at home! Hell, I'd pay $75 if it meant I didn't have to go to a movie theater to see it on opening night! The theater experience is so shitty now-a-days that I'd do just about anything to avoid it. Whether that means waiting months (for movies I think I like) or paying more up-front (for movies I know I'll like), it doesn't really matter.

A still frame from Trolls: World Tour showing a mean punk troll with a guitar staring down a cute troll... or something like that... I honestly have no idea who is mean or who is good and honestly don't care.

One thing is for certain... when this whole COVID-19 thing is over (if it's ever over!), it's doubtful we will ever go back to how things used to be. Every decision we make is going to have to be tainted with the realization that there is a risk involved. People will have to weigh whether going to a movie theater is worth potentially being exposed to a virus or disease. On top of all the other risks that we take just by walking out the door.

It's a hard truth for AMC to face, I know. And I most certainly don't blame them for the pandemic we're all living with. They are losing money every day and I'm sure a lot of theaters will end up closing in the fallout, so I understand their frustration. The situation is sad for them and for people who love to go to the theater. But lashing out at the hand that feeds you at a time like this is just bad business. Everybody is doing the best they can to accommodate what's happening in the world right now, so let that sink in before making rash decisions... like banning movies from your theater.

People need to stop acting like it's "business as usual" when it's anything but "business as usual" right now.

   

Bullet Sunday 660

Posted on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

Dave!I'm bored out of my mind without being able to hang out with my friends, but excitement awaits me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Nadiya! One of my favorite Great British Bakeoff contestants, Nadiya Hussain, has a new Netflix series out... Nadiya's Time to Eat. Not all of it is vegetarian, but I've gotten some good ideas from her show. Including this gem...

Sounds amazing, right? And how charming is she with her lovely British accent? Nadiya's got some cool ideas for quick and easy meals that makes her show a great thing to watch. Just keep in mind that the British terms for certain foods can be different ("caster sugar" there is "fine baker's sugar" here), and sometimes products (such as Double Cream, which is 48% milkfat, for example) may not even exist where you live (the thickest I can get is Whipping Cream, which is only 36% milkfat. Also? Nadiya provides all oven temperatures in Celsius, so you'll need to convert to Fahrenheit.

   
• Facebook "Standards!" It's gotten to the point where I can't understand the point of Facebook any more. They are so wildly inconsistent with the posts they ban that you can't really know what is acceptable or not. Take for instance this tweet I reposted that is clearly a joke on all the "5G causes the Coronavirus" conspiracy theorists...

Tommy Sinbazo: Just to let everyone know I work in the 5G field. I was doing dome work from home and realized I had the units set to the Corona setting instead of its default Make Everyone Gay setting. Whoopsie.

Meanwhile, some of the anti-vaxers and homeopaths and flat earthers and other morons are posting shit that is ACTUALLY MISINFORMATION THAT CAN CAUSE HARM and have free reign? Dafuq? I have posts taken down more and more lately, and in no case did I agree with the decision or even see why they took it down in the first place. Facebook has no concept of context or humor and are acting like total dipshits with this ban-hammer crap.

   
• Love Is Love! One of the members of my "Bible Study for Non-Christians" group brought up the movie Road to Edmond, which they decided to watch because it sharply divided Christians who saw it. None of the rest of us had heard of it, but it was free to watch on Amazon Prime Streaming, so we all agreed to take a look so we could have a discussion about it. I honestly don't know what my takeaway is. I almost stopped watching 20 minutes in because one of the characters was driving me crazy and the non-budget and amateurish acting was almost too much to take. But I stuck with it because I didn't want to be left out of the conversation with my group. Turns out that everything was building to something, not everything is what it seems, and it's actually a fairly remarkable film. I definitely understand why some people are completely incensed with it... heaven only knows there's enough to provoke that reaction. But I also understand why some people have fallen in love with it too. As I said, I honestly don't know how I feel about it... maybe I'll have more perspective once I've discussed it. All I definitely know is that I love the closing credits song as much as I could possibly love any song... it's Love is Love by Trey Pearson.

Trey Pearson has a lot of great songs, this one is called Silver Horizon and is every bit as good...

And if not for Road to Edmond, I likely never would have found it.

   
• Download! Boo! BOOOOOOOO! AMAZON'S GREAT NEW SHOW, UPLOAD, ENDS ON A HUGE CLIFFHANGER! And what are the odds that they won't renew it? Fuck all the television studios who refuse to show a complete story in a season. All this does is fuck over fans of the show when they cancel it.

BOOOOOO! And what's so frustrating is that they didn't need the cliffhanger. It's just lazy writing, and NO show should end a season on a cliffhanger unless they have the next season already started. So rage-inducing. If Amazon cancels Upload I'll be more furious than usual when this happens.

   
• After! Somebody edited together the underlaying narrative of grief that runs through one of my favorite shows so far this year... and it's almost unbearable to watch. What makes After Life so amazing is how it tempers the grief with humor. Without the humor though? It's a serious exploration of the human condition. Spoilers, obviously...

Ricky Gervais really knocked it out of the park with this show. He's already said that he's been so touched by the outpouring of love for the show that he's working on a third season. And, oh well yeah, HE DOESN'T END HIS SERIES ON A FUCKING CLIFFHANGER BECAUSE HE KNOWS THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THAT THERE WILL BE A NEXT SEASON! He's talented enough to come up with a way to start a new season without cliffhangers.

   
• Suess Raps! These videos of a guy rapping Dr. Suess over Dr. Dre beats is total genius...


I hesitate to guess how many times he had to practice these before getting this good.

   
• Better! TIME IS JUST A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT TO KEEP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU WANT TO DO IT! WELL SCREW THAT! I AM IN CONTROL OF MY OWN DESTINY! SO... MORNING DRINKING at 9:00AM IN MY UNDERWEAR WITH CHEETOS AND TELEVISION, BABY! — MY DAY IS BETTER THAN YOUR DAY!

Me watching TV with a beer, Cheetos, and no pants.

So how was your day?

   
And that's that for bullets on this fine Sunday in quarantine.

   

An Iris Revenge Story

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

Dave!I've been spending a couple hours each day puttering around my flower beds. A neighbor was kind enough to pick out some new plants for me, so I've been working hard to create a home for them.

One of the things I've been meaning to do for years is pull out the irises in the front of my house. I've never understood these flowers. They're pretty for a few days, sure...

Flowers!

But they are top-heavy and fall over... many times before they even bloom, which means they bloom on the ground. Then the yard care team runs over them with the mower and they look horrible until they finally die. Then it all repeats next year. I try to move them off the lawn so they at least don't get torn up by the mower, but they still look pretty bad and have to go...

Stupid Irises on the Ground!

And yesterday was the day. I ripped out the two plants in the front of my home. But those flowers got their revenge, let me tell you.

The pollen got all over me and I had an allergy attack unlike any I've had in years. It was so bad that I had to take a big dose of Benadryl, then have a nap.

When I woke up an hour later, I was covered in blood.

I ended up with a nosebleed that would not stop, though it did slow to a trickle when I finally fell asleep around 3:00am. I was expecting to wake up and have to slog to the clinic to get it cauterized, but it had miraculously stopped overnight.

The irises on the side of my house can stay right where they are. I'm afraid of these flowers. I missed a half-day of work because I had to catch up on sleep because of these flowers.

Today I tried to take it easy and definitely not sneeze or blow my nose. Instead I laid on the couch and watched television, including a clever movie called The Great Seduction which is not some period romance bullshit as you would expect from the title...

I love it when I happen across a movie I've never heard of and actually end up enjoying it!

Kinda a nice way to end a day that started out so badly.

   

Bullet Sunday 662

Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Dave!The weather is finally warming up, but the hottest place to be is right here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• More Brothers! One of my favorite films to pop up in my foreign film binges is Kardeşim Benim, a really charming and funny Turkish film about two estranged brothers on a road trip after their father dies. A subtitled version is available on Amazon Prime streaming and for sale on iTunes...

I loved it and was happy to see that they made a sequel. Alas, Kardeşim Benim 2 was not available anywhere... even without subtitles... and all I could find was a trailer, which looked every bit as good as the first movie...

Fast forward to this past week and I saw that Amazon Prime Streaming finally had the sequel available to watch... with subtitles! It was darn good, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first film. It was a bit confusing, however, because the female lead from the first one has mysteriously disappeared. I was left scratching my head while thining "Wait... what happened to Zeynep?!? Who is Didem and where did she come from? Hakan is marrying her? Did I miss Kardesim Benim 1-1/2?!?" Still, well worth a look, especially if you saw the first one.

   
• Mow Your Tuna! I love languages and have studied more than a few of them. The only language I ever felt fluent enough to hold a conversation in was Japanese, which has long-since escaped my memory. Languages I studied just enough to blunder my way through when traveling have been Swedish, Thai, Portuguese, and Italian. The first language I studied was German and I studied Spanish in high school. Neither stuck. I did attempt learning French before my second trip to the country. It did not go well. Which is why I had a good laugh over this...

Now, I am the first to admit that English is no better. There are loads of homophones that make zero sense and can easily confuse anybody attempting to learn the language. But when it's the language you grow up with, it just makes sense.

   
• Casting! QUEEN LATIFAH AS THE EQUALIZER?!?!? SIGN ME UP, PLEASE! I am absolutely fascinated at how a show like that might work. I am so happy to have some really different television to look forward to and this fits the bill nicely.

   
• Electoral Math! "Democrats and losing elections is like Princess Peach and getting kidnapped by a lizard. At a certain point it starts to seem like y'all like this shit." — Oh... here we go... a total breakdown of how politics work where I live and how Democrats are 100% fucking it up. AGAIN...

He's not wrong. About any of it.

   
• Mo Betty! NEWSFLASH: Betty White to star in new Lifetime holiday film at 98 years old. — Squeeeeee!

   
• Magic! As we remain locked down in quarantine, I've been incredibly impressed with how much Disney has been doing to distract us from it all. On their blogs they've been releasing a slew of amazing recipes for some of their most popular dishes and desserts at their parks. As if that wasn't enough, theyve been posting videos to their YouTube channel of all kinds of things... from fireworks displays to attraction ride-throughs, like their latest and greatest: Rise of the Resistance...

So cool. Really hope I can ride it in person next year. The Disney Parks Blog is here. The Disney YouTube Channel is here. Enjoy!

   
• Hugs! And because I want to end today on a happy note, here's a video of people hugging animals hugging people...

Doesn't get much sweeter than that.

   
And that's all the bullets we have for today.

   

The Empire at 40

Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Dave!The Empire Strikes Back is one of the greatest movies of all time. Easily the best film of the entire Star Wars franchise. It's an epic sci-fi adventure story that doesn't pander or self-sabotage with kiddie shit like we would get out of Return of the Jedi and the awful prequel trilogy. We wouldn't see anything like it in the Star Wars Universe again until Rogue One and The Mandalorian.

And today is the 40th anniversary of Empire hitting theaters...

Movie poster for The Empire Strikes Back

So naturally I had to watch it for the hundredth time.

As if I need an excuse.

The difference being that I watched the original film and not the "Special Edition." Sure the re-release is prettier and the effects are more polished, but it has some idiotic changes that are beyond bad. Greedo shooting first... that hilariously clumsy and inexplicably redundant scene with Jabba (didn't we just go through this conversation with Greedo?)... they're jarring in the worst possible way. What would be great if we could just get the original movie with the updated effects, which is all you really need.

Obviously, The Empire Strikes Back totally holds up despite being 40(!) years old.

After viewing the film I ran to my bookshelf to grab the epic The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back book by J.W. Rinzler...

The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

If you haven't already read it, the book is well worth tracking down.

I wanted to re-read the movie novelization, but my copy has long-since fallen apart from use. It's a shame, because it adds some depth to already memorable scenes. Like when Lando is walking Han and Leia to dinner, the door opens up, and Darth Vader is there. In the novel they talk about how Han draws his blaster fast... maybe the fastest he's ever drawn it... which is a cool detail that you can't get from the movie. I'm pretty sure that I have the comic book adaptation somewhere, but that would take more digging than I'm prepared to do.

Oddly enough, watching The Empire Strikes Back doesn't make me want to forge onward with The Return of the Jedi, but it does make me want to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie was severely underrated, and Donald Glover's take on Lando Calrissian is pretty great.

So I guess I've got the rest of my evening planned out then.

   

LOST: Motivation — REWARD IF FOUND

Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Dave!My house is a total disaster. Which leads me to believe that the only reason I've been keeping everything obsessively clean all these years is because I had people dropping by and regular houseguests staying with me. Now that there's nobody here but me and the cats, I just don't bother. And it's getting completely out of hand.

This morning I noticed a smell coming from the dishes piled in the sink and finally decided to (begrudgingly) do something about it. Then I looked over at my pile of dirty clothes and decided to do something about that too. But that's as far as I managed to get before running out of motivation. Again.

It's all psychological of course, and that's something I've been trying to get sorted. Mostly it comes down to acknowledging that I took a great many things in life for granted.

I never really thought of myself as a social person, but apparently I'm far more social than I realized. Now that I can't just hop in my car and go visit my friends. It makes my world feel very, very small. Which is ironic considering the entire world is literally at my fingertips every time I open my computer.

That's not the same though, is it?

I've decided to keep my grocery store visits to once a month. I live in an area where masks are considered "a violation of American freedom" and people are overtly assholish towards you when you wear one. Never mind that it's for their protection in case I've been exposed... I still catch crap for looking out for others. And the fact that they can't extend the same courtesy to me is disheartening, to say the least. Apparently they've bought into all the idiotic nonsense about "masks cause carbon dioxide build-up that will kill you" and "Bill Gates wants to insert microchips in everybody" and whatever else wing-nut anti-science propaganda bullshit is out there being force-fed into social media. Guess it's more fun to believe the stupid shit than the simple reality of it all.

Not that I wouldn't rather skip out on reality, mind you.

I try to do exactly that every chance I get.

This month it's by watching movies from Central and South America that have been piling up on my watchlist. One of the better ones I've seen is a movie from Venezuela called Azul y no tan rosa (which translates to My Straight Son)...

I very nearly stopped watching because there's a horrific violent scene in the beginning that I really didn't need right now. The world is depressing enough. But man am I happy I kept watching. What a fantastic movie. Highest possible recommendation if you're looking for a sweet film to hunker down with over your Quarantine Memorial Day Weekend.

When I needed a break from subtitles, I happened upon an interesting art-house sci-fi film run amok called Infinity Chamber...

I avoided it for the longest time because there were some bad reviews and people were saying that the acting was amateur. This was bizarre to me because I thought Christopher Soren Kelly, upon whose talents the entire movie hinges, was fantastic. Sure the movie went on too long and the ending was a bit meh, but I liked it well enough.

Beats cleaning my house, that's for sure.

   

Bullet Sunday 663

Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2020

Dave!You may be stuck in the house, but you won't be lacking for televised entertainment... because a very special Streaming Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
Big Eden! For better or worse, small-town rural America has been saddled with a shiny veneer of down-home values and a sense of strong community. And, having lived that my entire life, it feels an accurate way of looking at things. But this image kind of glosses over the general bigotry and specific homophobia that seems to permeate it all. Big Eden is a movie which shows what happens if it didn't permeate it all...

This is such a warm, charming, and wonderful movie. I don't want to spoil a thing, but suffice to say that it's flawlessly realized cinema. After finishing it, I had to watch it all over again because there are dozens of tiny moments happening in the backgrounds by actors performing at the top of their game. This won a slew of LGBTQ awards, but I'd hardly call it a "gay movie." It's just a movie about a place that you wish existed.

   
The Ultimate Gift! I had ZERO expectations for yet another "spoiled rich brat loses his fortune and turns his life around" movie... but The Ultimate Gift was a really good take on the genre...

James Garner is a multi-billionaire with a truly horrible family. This includes a spoiled grandson who spends money like it was water and hasn't worked a day in his life. Everybody gets short-changed in the will when James Garner dies, but the grandson is given a second chance at an inheritance. All he has to do is complete a series of challenges which will win him gifts... ending with "The Ultimate Gift" after all the challenges have been met. But the challenges are not easy and are designed to push him into being a better person. Yes, there are some over-the-top moments to create artificial angst and drama but, overall, I walked away really enjoying this one.

   
Hide Away! (Josh Lucas, James Cromwell • 2012) — This movie has polarizing reviews. Some people hated it. Some people loved it. I absolutely loved it. Josh Lucas shows up at a small coastal town and buys a beat up old sailboat to refurbish. The entire movie is a metaphor for rebuilding your life after tragedy, and has been filmed beautifully. I mean really beautifully...

Some of the reviews were screaming "NOTHING HAPPENED IN 85 MINUTES OF RUN-TIME... NOTHING!!!" To which I can only respond "Maybe everything happened and you just weren't paying attention?" The movie 100% relies on Josh Lucas selling it, and he does not falter. From beginning to end, his nuanced performance and commitment to the story were pretty incredible. The ending takes a little thought to process, but was well-handled, I think.

   
Kid Brother! This was one of those films where I pretty much had to trust Amazon's recommendation because I would have never given it a second look had I just seen the poster on the Prime Streaming page. A reclusive janitor's life takes a very different turn when his kid brother comes to stay with him...

Do not let the trailer fool you, there is some really good subtle humor and great performances. Where did Alan Longstreet come from and why hasn't he been in like A HUNDRED MOVIES by now? Clever, charming, and some real heart, Kid Brother is worth a look.

   
The Lovebirds! Amazon doesn't have an exclusive on enjoyable movies. Netflix just dropped The Lovebirds, starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjani. I'm big fans of both, so I was planning on tuning in even if it looks kinda slapsticky and goofy...

And, don't get me wrong, it's absolutely slapsticky and goofy... but it's not without its charms, and I thought Nanjani and Rae did an incredible job of selling it. When all is said and done, it's a cute, sweet film that manages to overcome its weaknesses. It also take place in New Orleans, which is a definite plus.

   
Mythic Quest: Quarantine! And, lastly, a lot of television shows are doing "quarantine" episodes or finding other imaginative ways to carry on. Late-night talk shows are thriving in the age of COVID-19. But none of them... none of them... can compare to the sheer brilliance that they came up with for an all new episode of Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet...

The trailer shows none of the ingenuity which makes the episode so bloody brilliant, which is actually pretty great because it doesn't spoil anything... including an amazing finale. I really enjoyed the first season of the show from Apple+... this is just icing on the cake.

   
And that's all the movie bullets I got. Stay safe, everybody.

   

Buy a Sad Song on a Monday

Posted on Monday, June 8th, 2020

Dave!As I mentioned a while back, I had a DVD stop working and decided to backup my massive CD/DVD/Blu-Ray collection to computer files that I can import into my Plex Media Server. It's been going great so far, and I've been ripping through everything as fast as I can. Then I'm boxing all the physical media up and storing it in my garage. That way I have proof that I bought it in case anybody wants to accuse me of piracy. I don't steal content. On the contrary, I'm proud to support the artists who make the media I enjoy.

But CDs and DVDs aren't the only thing I'm attempting to back up.

For those TV shows I have recorded on VHS and 8mm tape which are not available to purchase, I'm converting them as well.

One of the shows I was going to convert from 8mm tape was My Boys because iTunes didn't have it for sale. But then I thought to check Amazon and managed to get DVDs of seasons 1-3 for just $17! How sweet is that?

Such a great show. Alas, the final 9 episodes of the series that made up Season 4 can't be found anywhere. Everyplace I've found which has DVDs for sale end up being bootlegs. And since I don't steal content, I certainly don't support people stealing content.

I've still got many, many shows to convert over but, as of today, all my music has been ripped or re-purchased digitally. Re-purchasing is easiest, but so many things I only have on mix-tapes or cassette singles or LP singles just aren't available. I keep checking through.

The only thing I cannot figure out how to purchase is some of the short films I've saved over the years. Some of them I've actually found on iTunes to buy. But others? No clue.

Plex got confused between two of these short movies I love... Sign and Signs. After separating them and telling Plex that they are not the M. Night. Shyamalan movie Signs, I had to watch them again, of course. This first one is entirely too sweet. I've seen it a dozen times and love it more with each viewing ❤️...

Here's the other short film that Plex got confused on. It's absolutely wonderful. More happens here in 12 minutes than you'd find in most movies that are 2 hours long ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜...

I sure do wish I could support these filmmakers and actors by buying these films on iTunes... or anywhere, really, so if anybody knows where they're for sale, I'd appreciate a heads-up.

   

Facing the Music

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Dave!Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is one of the greatest movies ever made.

It's funny, it's smart, and it's got a really good story that doesn't pander or cop out on the time travel elements. Which is amazing when you consider that it's essentially a stoner comedy without the drugs! Bill S. Preston Esq., Ted Theodore Logan, and Rufus are timeless, beloved characters that made a throw-away movie so compelling that it endures even today... despite having a lackluster sequel.

So of course I'm thrilled that we've got another movie coming...

Hopefully it's the awesome sequel we should have got out of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.

If not, I suppose we've still got the cartoon show...

EXCELLENT! (well, the first season was, where Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and George Carlin reprised their roles for the voices. The second season came along with a shitty TV live-action series and those actors do the voices).

I sure hope that Bill and Ted write their universe-saving song really fucking soon now.

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Bullet Sunday 666

Posted on Sunday, June 14th, 2020

Dave!If I were a religiously superstitious man, I'd say that a Bullet Sunday associated with The Mark of the Beast is strangely apt given the times we live, and yet there's no need to go fearing the apocalypse just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia! There are some people in the world who would have skipped right over a blog post numbered "666" out of fear that this number invokes the devil. This fear is known as "hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia." Quite a mouthful. My fear of satan has long since disappated because we've got hell on earth happening all around us. From Impeached President Trump scheduling a rally at the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Juneteenth (then rescheduling, but no worries... we know what you meant)... to Impeached President Trump erasing transgender American health protections during Pride... to Impeached President Trump easing restrictions on killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens so Donald Trump Jr. can spend tens of thousands more tax dollars on hunting trips... evil is being unleashed from the very top of our government every fucking day. Who needs the devil?

   
IMDB That Shit! How my mind works... "What was that series I wanted to watch that has General Hux from Star Wars and Zoey from Nurse Jackie? Was it called "Escape?" And it was on Netflix, wasn't it? No... I saw it advertised before Last Week Tonight a few weeks ago so it must have been HBO? Or was it before Upload on Amazon Prime? Surely it's not one of those Apple TV+ shows is it? No, pretty sure it was HBO. Ugh... so many shows... what was the name... what was the name... what was the name... dang. Guess I'm going to IMDB. The guy was definitely in that amazing time travel movie with Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams that Richard Curtis made... what was it? Oh yeah! It was About Time! Man I loved that movie. I should remember to watch that again. Hmmm... guess I'll look up About Time on IMDB and... WAIT! I remember, it's DOMHNALL GLEASON! Hard to forget an Irish name like that after he discussed how the M and the H are just there to confuse Americans! Domhnall Gleason. Boy, he's an amazing actor, isn't he? That's why I have to watch this new series. But it's not "Escape." Oh wait... it's Run! The name of the show I want is Run! Sweet! I didn't need IMDB after all because I'm just that smart! SUCK IT IMDB! Huh... wasn't the woman who played Zoey in Nurse Jackie also in The Walking Dead? =sigh= I guess I need to IMDB that shit.

   
Whoa! I totally missed this. Or forgot I saw it. Or something. This is a "faithful, word-for-word recreation of one colorful day in the American court system" as recreated by Rick and Morty...

Because American justice sometimes perfectly resembles a cartoon. And Rick and Morty is the perfect cartoon to do it. Insanity.

   
Damn, Daniel! This is faked, of course, but still hilarious...

I ended up watching this video five times in a row so I could look at everybody's reactions. Thank heavens all my Zooms are on my iPad and I physically close it when I leave the call (which disconnects everything).

   
Alexaaaaaa! A slice of life in 2020...
ALEXA: "From Amazon Product Ratings: Three months ago, you purchased 9 Inch Bread Banneton Proofing Basket. How would you rate this product from one to five stars?"
ME: "What the fuck? Alexa, stop bothering me with this shit!"
ALEXA: "Okay. I'll stop asking you for product reviews for a while."
ME: "A WHILE?!? WHY NOT PERMANENTLY?!?"

This is how it starts, doesn't it? Technology slowly creeps into your life and eventually just takes over. It's not like The Terminator didn't warn us this would happen.

   
Not-So-Foxy! Lately FOX "News" has been caught Photoshopping images to support their idiotic narrative as to what's happening in Seattle... to being so desperate for news on what's actually happening in Seattle that they fall for absurd Monty Python parody posts. I guess the truth about what's really happening in the tiny little 6-block section of Seattle which has sectioned itself off as an autonomous zone is just too boring? Better lie and bias it up then. Seems to make no difference to their viewers. Maybe when Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs invades Seattle personally, as he's threatened to do, they'll have the story they're really looking for.

   
Party! It's gotten impossible for me to support any facet of the Republican Party. Where I live, I generally voted Republican on State issues because the Democrats which dominate Western Washington don't give two fucks about what happens East of the Cascades... there's no votes for them here, so we get ignored. No, I don't support a lot of what Republicans represent, but there's really no choice if the region where I live wants a fair share of the pie.

All that stopped after Cadet Bone Spurs Trump was elected. Any party which enables... and continues to support... this monster has completely lost me. There is no reality where I would ever vote Republican now. Instead I do what I swore I would never do... check every fucking Democrat on the ballot. Because even if a Republican publicly condemns the president, there are still too many other horrific people and issues that never get condemned. And ANY Republican who even attempts to be a human being by representing ALL of their constituency is quickly targeted and devoured by the Republican Party. Perform a same-sex wedding to offer support for a segment of your community. Get fucked. It's just the way they operate now. The Republican Party has no future unless they can gerrymander it.

   
And now back to our regularly-scheduled hell on earth.

   

Uncanny Canyon

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Dave!uncanny valley • Used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. — Lexico, Powered by Oxford

Entering the uncanny valley is a different experience for different people. Some people can't tell the difference between computer-generated humans and actual humans. Some people have a sense something is off, but aren't bothered by it. Still others don't like it at all. As for myself? It freaks me out in ways that I can't express... or even fully comprehend.

The worst experience for me is easy to pinpoint... it's Star Wars: Rogue One. In this film they have computer-generated appearances by Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia... circa 1977. Peter Cushing (Tarkin) died in 1994. Carie Fisher (Leia) was alive when Rogue One debuted in 2016, but died before I made it to theaters to see the movie.

Carrie Fisher had only one scene at the end and she looked straight-up bizarre. Her glassy eyes and weird expressions were way freaky to me, especially when her head was 10-feet tall on a movie screen...

A plastic glassy-eyed fake Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia from Star Wars

It was like a video game character gone horribly wrong. This was not uncanny valley, it was uncanny canyon.

Grand Moff Tarkin had many scenes in the movie. In a way, he came off a little better than Leia because there were some shadows at play. Alas, this made the glassy eyes even more pronounced. His skin tone also had some serious issues, looking more like plastic than human skin. I really think that they would have been better off if they got a different human actor for the part... or found a way to eliminate him from the movie entirely. But, still, it was a fun connection to the original movie, and the connections were part of why I liked Rogue One so much. So... who knows? Maybe this is just the way it had to be.

I was reminded about this all again when somebody posted a video that attempted to fix Grand Moff Tarkin so he wasn't quite so freaky...

Now, I would hardly consider this to be "fixed," but it is a step in the right direction. It's probably not as good as it could have been if the face-mapping were on an actual human instead of a CGI replica.

"Deepfake"... a technology which remaps one face on another face... shows far more promise than CGI humans currently do. I've talked about this plenty of time on Blogography... the last time being in January where somebody "fixed" the de-aging effects on The Irishman...

Now, the place that people always go with deepfakes is this: "Pretty soon the technology will be so good that we won't be able to tell what's real!" And my response is always the same... "Well, yeah, that would be terrible for getting to the truth, but just think of how great it will be for movies!"

Because if I never see a dead, glassy-eyed, dead person ten feet tall on the movie screen again, that would be okay by me.

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John Benjamin Hickey and Obsession

Posted on Friday, June 26th, 2020

Dave!When it comes to television and movies, I'm a bit of an obsessive-compulsive. Sometimes I will latch onto an actor, pull up their IMDB profile, then watch every last appearance I can find. It's just something I do for whatever reason. This time it happened after I watched the movie The General's Daughter (with John Travolta!)... then went back to rewatching Barry... only to realize that John Benjamin Hickey is in both. He's a solid actor that pops up in a lot of places, but I most remember him as appearing in The Big C. He played Laura Linney's homeless brother. And so... I decided to work my way back through his acting catalog.

The first movie I found that was free for me to watch was called Forever My Girl...

It has a crappy 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I figured I'd have a higher tolerance for it because I enjoy all those crappy Hallmark romance movies. Despite precious little chemistry between the leads, it's actually a pretty good flick! And the little girl who plays the daughter is great. Sweet, feel-good stuff.

I went back to Rotten Tomatoes in order to find out what critics hated about it... and did a double-take when I saw that the Audience Score is 79%. This is like... really good for an audience score (as a comparison, Titanic has just 69%). Of course this is exactly the kind of movie that critics feel obligated to hate, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

What totally did surprise me? The guy who stars in it... Alex Roe (somebody I'd never heard of before)... is British. Not just British... very, very British...

The movie is also hilarious... if only unintentionally so. Early on Alex is running six blocks BAREFOOT in New Orleans to get his mobile phone fixed. And while running barefoot in any big city could be dangerous... NEW ORLEANS?!? In the French Quarter, no less.

And now, if you'll excuse me, more John Benjamin Hickey is calling... this time in the movie Tallulah.

P.S. I don't know which Hollywood types need to hear this, but... voicemails are not stored on your mobile. They are stored on a server at your carrier. So a major plot point in Forever My Girl is pretty laughable. And not in a good way.

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Old Guard, New Cinema

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2020

Dave!If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that movies based on comic books are a mixed bag. Sometimes they do a great job of translating the source material... other times they do a horrendous job. But in every case, there's always changes that get made.

Marvel Studios has been the most successful in respecting the original comic books with their films. When they make changes, they are usually in the service of the story and are made so that the essence of the characters and stories will work in an entirely different format. DC had some very good Batman movies with Christopher Nolan's take on The Dark Knight, yet their current movies have been worse than shit. And then there's the 20th Century Fox X-Men movies, which were awful to extreme levels of bad, and about the worst comic book translation you'll find.

You just never know.

So when I heard that Netflix was creating a movie based on The Old Guard, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I loved the comic book. Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez told a great story in a cool way and it had incredible potential for a movie. So when Netflix unleashed it, I tuned in with a mix of both excitement and dread. How much of the story would they butcher? How many senseless changes would they make?

Turns out they did a fucking amazing job.

This story of immortal beings working as mercenaries stars Charlize Theron, which was reason enough to watch. She has never disappointed. And she absolutely does not disappoint here. She kicks copious amounts of ass and delivers exactly as you'd expect her to. That much was not surprising.

What was surprising? Not did Netflix keep two of the major characters gay... but they did not reduce their characters to platonic shells as what usually do. Take this scene between them from the comic book, which was incredibly touching and romantic as it gets...

A page from The Old Guard comic book.

And compare it to The Old Guard movie...

The scene is not just faithful... it's word-for-word faithful.

There was a time not even ten years ago that this would likely have not been the case. If the characters of Joe and Nicky were allowed to stay gay, they would have been neutered or played for laughs. And then there's the fact that the two leads of an action movie are women... and one of them is a Black woman. Don't see a lot of that, even in 2020.

And so...

Highest possible recommendation. If you like action movies, it's definitely worth a look.

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Last Christmas for Travel

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2020

Dave!I've flown somewhere every year since 1983. Today it hit me that this may very well be the first time in 37 years that I go nowhere. And I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, it has been SO nice to not have to drive 2-1/2 hours to the airport... deal with airport security... sit on a plane for hours... stand in line at the rental car counter... sleep in weird hotels... live out of a suitcase... not to mention, well, this right here... and... the travel part of travel pretty much sucks.

On the other hand?

I've been stuck at home instead of out exploring the world.

Every place I had on my list to see before I die suddenly doesn't seem as important as it once was. Except possibly India. I am very upset that I haven't got to visit yet and something inside of me dies at the thought of never seeing it. I would also like to visit Africa again. But other than that? It's not so much places as it is people I will miss. I have friends scattered around the globe, and there are more than a few I'd be very sad not to see in person again one day.

In other news...

I passed on the movie Last Christmas last year because A) It only got 47% on Rotten Tomatoes... and B) I suspected I knew how the story ends up just from watching the commercials. — I was right about the story, but Rotten Tomatoes got it wrong. Maybe it's the Hallmark Christmas movie lover in me... but I thought this was a really good film. I love Emilia Clarke and the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, but had only ever seen Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians. His fantastic performance in that film was no accident. He is crazy charming in this movie. And it's not like you can go wrong building your soundtrack around George Michael...

A nice mid-month surprise for my annual Christmas in July movie marathon!

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Every Steven Spielberg Movie RANKED

Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

Dave!ScreenRant recently published Every Steven Spielberg Movie Ranked from Worst to Best and I have thoughts. In some places I definitely agree with their assessment. But in many places I do not. But since lists like this are subjective, that's only natural. If there's one thing I think we can all agree on it's that Spielberg is responsible for some truly great movies. He's got vision that propels stories to movie blockbusters and there's no denying his talent.

Except...

If Spielberg had only made the first ten films on my list, he'd be one of my favorite directors of all time. But it's the bottom ten than kinda sink him for me here. It has me wondering if Quentin Tarantino's plan to only direct ten feature films is a good idea. This focuses the director on making ten of the best films they could have possibly made instead of squandering their talents on a scattershot oeuvre that's uneven and mired by mediocre efforts. Heaven only knows how much better some of even Spielberg's best works could have been if he hadn't been distracted with some of these projects.

Food for thought.

My list is ordered "best to worst" instead of "worst to best" because I don't buy into the idea that there's any suspense to be found from saving the best for last. My favorite movies deserve to be first on a list! So here we go...

The original Raiders of the Lost Ark movie poster with Harrison Ford.

  1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I disagree with the ranking of much of ScreenRant's list... but have no argument whatsoever that Raiders deserves the top spot. I've seen this movie more times than I can count, and it still delivers each and every time. Sure, much of the credit goes to the inspired casting of Harrison Ford and his sublime performance, but I don't discount Steven Spielberg's contribution in just how brilliant it all turned out. Amazing set-pieces. Thrilling action. Humorous moments which accent but don't overwhelm. And let's not forget plenty of punching Nazis in the face as God intended. Everything good about movie-making can be found right here.
  2. Jurassic Park. Nothing quite prepared me for the dinosaur effects in this movie when I saw it in the theater very early in its run. So many awe-inspiring scenes handled so wonderfully. I would rather watch this again that revisit any of the sequels that followed. That pretty sums up my feelings on just how good Spielberg can be when he isn't mired in over-sentimentality and unnecessary drama.
  3. Jaws. This is a brilliant film that transcends the "special effects" possible at the time it was made. Now-a-days it would be remade with a CGI shark that would be over-used, killing the suspense and build-up that made the original such a fantastic popcorn cinema effort. In some ways, Spielberg's direction was all downhill from here, but that's not necessarily a slam on his talents. It's more blind-admiration that somebody managed something this good so early in their career.
  4. Schindler’s List. A punch in the gut that everybody should see. It paints a picture with such vivid relief that you simply cannot believe the inhumanity of it all... but then look at current events and see how history does indeed repeat itself.
  5. Minority Report. Sure there were some problems here... and plot holes you could drive a truck through, but I really, really enjoyed this sci-fi thriller. It's a fantastic near-future vision that is executed very well. Absolutely agree that this is one of Spielberg's best efforts and one of his most underrated.
  6. Saving Private Ryan. Sometimes the horrors of war have to be shown so people understand why it's to be avoided at all costs, and this movie takes an unflinching look at exactly that. The opening invasion scenes are hold-your-breath-edge-of-your-seat brilliant, then get tempered with hope and heart in a way that elevated above your average war flick. Performances were gut-wrenchingly amazing at every turn, and the fact that Spielberg managed to hold it all together is an amazing effort.
  7. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. This movie tried to fix all the things that went so wrong with the previous installment... and succeeded far more than it deserved to. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were flawless in their roles, and I can't believe this smart, funny, high-action, escapist cinematic delight was allowed to devolve into the utter crap we got in the next movie in the franchise, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  8. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. I know. I know. This is a brilliant movie on every possible level and has performances which deliver in spades... but it's also kind of overwrought where it should be thrilling. There's no denying I love the movie... I've seen it multiple times... it just doesn't impact me like other films on this list do.
  9. Munich. This was a well-crafted film that held my attention from start to finish... something that Spielberg rarely accomplishes with me. The complex morals at play here add a depth that he doesn't reach too often, and the performance he got out of Eric Bana was sublime. This was a smart, taught film from a director at the top of his game.
  10. Catch Me If You Can. This is a fun film that didn't have much depth... but boy did it deliver in entertainment. Sure it goes over-the-top at times, but it's fantastically reserved for Spielberg, and the thrill of the chase drives the entire film forward with few stumbling blocks.
  11. Empire Of The Sun. While it gets so many things right... and it certainly feels ambitious... it also suffers from an uneven flow that disrupts the narrative far more often that it should have. Even so, I really like this film because it does what films are supposed to do... take you to another place. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, sections of the movie seem to trivialize war. Yes, it's strange in not-so-great ways. But it's also really good movie fare.
  12. Duel I had no idea that this was a Steven Spielberg film until I saw it on the list! I mean, at some point I must have known... I've seen the movie at least twice... it just never registered to me. This is Spielberg's directorial debut and it's everything you could want. Suspense and thrills on overdrive, it's no wonder this lead to him getting to direct Jaws.
  13. Bridge Of Spies. Most of my enjoyment of this film can certainly be set on the Coen Brother's script... but there's something to be said for Tom Hanks' brilliant performance and Spielbergs cunning in letting the movie unfold as it needs to. Espionage thrillers are among my most favorite movie genre, and this is a darn good effort amongst a lot of truly great efforts.
  14. The Color Purple. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it made me want to read the original novel, which turned out to be more enjoyable and far more impactful to me. Even so, the actors were all fantastic. Whoopi Goldberg turned in the performance of a lifetime, and it's unreal that this is her first feature film role.
  15. Always. This film was dead-last in ScreenRant's list. They called it "cloying" and a "slog" which I find surprising. To me, it's exactly the opposite of that... a charming movie which takes its time to delivery a beautiful message about life. Audrey Hepburn was her brilliant self, and her final role in Always was a treat to behold.
  16. The Terminal. Second-to-last on ScreenRant's list, I couldn't disagree more that this movie "languishes" and that Tom Hanks is "too starry" for the role. It's actually a sweet story with great characters that doesn't go "full-on-Spielberg" and have over-the-top emoting with annoying kids injected for no reason.
  17. The Post. This was a good film that strives to show the merits of journalism in a time of "fake news," but it didn't necessarily translate into a good story. Ultimately I enjoyed the film very much, but it falls flat too often and takes way too long to truly get moving. For what it was about, I was expecting a more exciting film than what ended up on screen.
  18. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. For whatever reason, I do not care for this movie at all. Yeah, yeah, it's an iconic film... but it suffers from cloying drama that is so blatantly manipulative as to be criminal. The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't hate the kids, as they were only mildly annoying instead of hugely annoying like what you usually get in movies like this. The John Williams score was also next-level amazing. What I did hate was the stupid 2002 revision that served no good purpose. Turning guns into walkie-talkies? Seriously?
  19. Lincoln. Eh. I mean, it was a good film with stunning visuals and an epic performance by Daniel Day-Lewis... and it was complex in a good way... but it still fell a little flat for me. The camera choices were distracting. The god-like take on Lincoln was trying. And the attempt at turning history into myth was amateurish. I just don't have the same reverence for Lincoln that so many people seem to.
  20. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. There's moments in this infamous sequel which make you wonder what could have happened if only somebody with actual storytelling ability were to take a run at the script. Instead you've got Kate Capshaw being made to say stupid things and screaming a lot... an annoying kid injected for no good reason who is responsible for such brilliant lines as "No time for love, Doctor Jones!"... and a borderline-racist and highly ignorant look at other cultures. Ouch. Even so, I think this movie gets a bit of a bad rap because, at its core, it's got Harrison Ford turning in a really good performance of Indiana Jones that you really can't fault.
  21. Amistad. While I appreciate Spielberg's effort to not gloss over slavery as a vehicle for some kind of idiotic white savior character, I still think that this movie didn't really do the real-life story much justice. It was just so... dull. A slog of a courtroom drama interrupted with moments of brilliance that are quickly buried. Even so, I'd recommend seeing it for the opening scenes alone... and a truly great performance by Djimon Hounsou.
  22. War Of The Worlds. While there were some really great moments here and the Spielbergian tension was among his best efforts, things just kinda fell apart in the third act. I 100% agree with ScreenRant that Spielberg having Tom Cruise's son end up alive didn't make sense and was a huge misstep that undercuts the narrative. I had exceedingly high expectations for this movie, but ultimately felt it would have ended up a better film if somebody else was at the helm.
  23. The Adventures Of Tintin. This is a really good story that somehow fell apart in the animation for me. It's uncanny valley times one hundred, and I was pulled out of the film more times than I can count because the character design was just so inexplicably horrific. If only this were traditionally-animated... or made live-action... or something to keep the viewer from having to look at these freaky-ass characters for the entire runtime, it would have been a far better movie.
  24. Sugarland Express. I was very late to this movie (seeing it in 2010, maybe?) and that's the problem. Despite some good performances and nice style choices, the movie just felt oddly displaced to me. Not necessarily dated, but not anchored enough in its time to feel real. Still... not a bad film by any means, and really good for a directorial debute.
  25. The BFG. The source material seemed like it was a good fit for a movie... but it didn't quite work out, despite a lot of effort put into the CGI animation to stay faithful to Roald Dahl's story. It just seems so pedestrian given the amazing visuals, and that's a real problem. It's just a slow, forgettable effort that I'll never watch again.
  26. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. This was a wholly depressing story that had an inexplicably stupid ending-on-top-of-an-ending that sunk any emotional weight that had been building for the entire movie. Painfully manipulative at every turn, this is Spielberg at his worst. Stanley Kubrick's idea should have died with him, because I find it impossible to believe that this is what he would have given us.
  27. War Horse. I never saw the stage play or read the book... both of which I'm told are fantastic... but this was just plain bad from start to finish. I felt terrible for the poor horse, not because of the character in the story, but for being forced to appear in this movie to begin with. Spielberg's biggest fault is that he's so absurdly and obviously manipulative, but this a manipulative fiasco that takes it to an entirely new level.
  28. The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 100% agree with ScreenRant's assessment that this is just a retread of the original movie with better effects but worse story. I remember walking out of the theater wishing I could have those two hours back.
  29. 1941. A painfully unfunny "comedy" that squandered the talents of everybody involved.
  30. Hook. Total disaster of a movie which was poorly conceived and felt forced every step of the way. Heaven only knows what other movie we might have gotten from Robin Williams if he had taken a pass on this dud.
  31. Ready Player One. While I liked the book okay despite a lame plot and even more lame ending, the translation to screen was awful. Visuals were awful. Performances were awful. World-building was awful. Pile that one all the faults the novel had and you end up with a mess that's so unwatchable that I ended up fast-forwarding through many, many parts of it.
  32. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Absolutely shitty fourth installment of one of the best characters in cinematic history. Doesn't help that I fucking detest Shia LaBeouf's "Mutt" character so badly that this alone destroyed any chance of this film having any redeeming qualities... Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, and Karen Allen aside. Nuking the fridge... fucking ALIENS... dumbass Mutt Williams... it all adds up to one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

See you in the movies, cinema fan.

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Bullet Sunday 671

Posted on Sunday, July 19th, 2020

Dave!The USA may be leading the world in COVID-19 infections, but that's not the worst news you'll hear today... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Psych... Again! NBC's new streaming network, Peacock, launched this week. To entice people to subscribe to yet another service, they are making some content free for a while. Including Psych 2: Lassie Come Home...

I had forgotten how much I love this show. The one-liners are as fast and funny as ever and the story is actually pretty darn good! It features the return of Timothy Omundson (Carlton Lassiter) after his stroke, and he is wonderful. Everybody is. I tell you, bringing back Psych would be a sure-fire way to get me to subscribe to the network, that's for sure.

   
• Coming 2! Heaven help me, it might actually be worth getting infected just to go see this...

With the exception of all the Marvel Studios movies waiting to be released, this is what I most want to see.

   
• Leibovitz? In my work I've seen this many, many times. Photographers shooting Persons of Color the way they shoot white people because they cannot be bothered to learn how to create a shoot for darker skin. And apparently it can be a challenge for even the best photographers. Annie Leibovitz is a true artist, but she completely and totally failed in her shoot of Simone Biles. The Vogue shots are dim, murky, and poorly adjusted...

Simone Biles and her family looking murky and green in a shot for Vogue Magazine.

My guess is that Leibovitz is of a caliber that she can dictate nobody modify her photos, which is a shame because Simone Biles is a beautiful young woman who deserves far better (as does her family). Any pro photographer worth their salt will be able to get stunning shots regardless of skin tone because that's their job. Or, you know, Vogue could hire Black photographers who have a lifetime of experience shooting Persons of Color... just sayin'.

   
• Viola! Case in point? Meanwhile over at Vanity Fair where they hired the first Black photographer in the history of the magazine to shoot a cover story of Viola Davis...

Viola Davis looking amazing shot from the back looking off to the left.

Viola Davis dressed in black shot in front of a gold background looking gorgeous as she looks upward.

Viola Davis would probably look amazing even if she was murky and tinted green... but, boy, this is phenomenal work by Dario Calmese.

   
• STOP! I've seen demos of SawStop technology before. It still takes my breath away to see it in action, and here it is in slow motion...

I use a table saw as an absolute last resort because I am well aware of how dangerous they are. No matter how careful you may be, accidents do happen. SawStop is a pretty brilliant way of keeping the damage to a minimum.

   
• Hobbes and Me! As a massively huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, I can't believe that I missed these shorts when they were released back in 2014...


You can see the entire series right here. You're welcome!

   
And that's a wrap. Enjoy your pandemic, everybody.

   

Bullet Sunday 672

Posted on Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Dave!Comic-Con San Diego may have been canceled this year, but you can't cancel Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...

   
• EXCELLENT!! Not only did we get a brand-new trailer for the upcoming Bill & Ted movie at Comic-Con at Home, we also got a release date of September 1st. But the best news? It's going to be released for streaming rental day-and-date with the theatrical release!

Sure it will probably cost $20 to rent early, but I would pay it in a heartbeat to avoid having to go to a bogus COVID-19-infested theater!

   
• NANDOR! I watched a few virtual panels and, by a wide margin, my favorite of the bunch featured the cast of What We Do In The Shadows. If you're a fan of the show, there's no need to tell you what to do...

I know the second season just ended, but I want a third season right now.

   
• SEEKERS! What I want more than anything else from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is a sequel to their incredible movie, Paul. But outside of that, I'll take whatever I can get. Including their new paranormal hunter show... Truth Seekers...

Alas, no date is given as to when the show debuts on Amazon Prime, but here's hoping it's soon-soon rather than later-soon.

   
• DECKS! I have no problem with an animated Star Trek. The original animated Star Trek series was pretty darn great. But a comedy? I don't know that I get why that has to go under the umbrella. It seems an odd fit...

Guess I'll see how I feel once I've seen an episode or two. Lower Decks drops on CBS All Access on August 6th.

   
• Jack! Not exactly Comic-Con-related, but Jack Whitehall has a new Netflix special out. If you like Jack, it's a great waste of time...

I sure am sad that we likely won't see any more episodes of Travels with My Father, but watching this special makes me want to watch all the episodes we got all over again.

   
• Cutesplosion! And lastly, I leave you with this...

   
And that's a wrap, True Believer.

   

Thursday Night’s Alright for In-Fighting

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Dave!With life being more virtual than in-person now-a-days, I've been spending more time socializing online. It can't take the place of Real Life, but it's better than nothing... and it does actually have some advantages. Namely that you don't have to get dressed or leave the house. Also? You can find like-minded individuals much easier on the internet.

And yet...

Because there's no in-person interaction, things can go sideways very quickly.

Tonight I left an anime discussion group when there was a fight because somebody started a chat over the upcoming Studio Ghibli film Aya to Majo, which is a computer-animated film instead of traditionally animated feature...

"COMPUTER ANIMATION IS NOT ANIME!"

"ANIME LITERALLY MEANS JAPANESE ANIMATION AND THIS IS JAPANESE ANIMATION!"

It ended up in a shouting match with name-calling and everything.

Yeah, I'm ready for this whole COVID thing to be over.

   

Shades of Other People’s Money

Posted on Monday, August 10th, 2020

Dave!It's always a pleasant surprise when I watch a television show or movie for entertainment value and walk away learning something. I'm not talking documentaries and true-life story adaptations and stuff like that... I'm talking fictional stories built for entertainment purposes which have at their core some real knowledge to be had.

Most of the time, this happens with something small. Maybe you learn the capitol city of some country you never knew about. Maybe you learn some oddball scientific fact. Or maybe it's something really off the wall like the way a particular poison can be used to get away with murder. There's all kinds of small facts that are weaved into TV and movies, and it's these facts big and small which can lead your head to accepting the larger fiction.

A recent example of this is the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Most people had no idea that such a horrific event ever happened until the HBO super-hero show, Watchmen, made it a primary plot point for the mini-series. I'm sure some people even thought it had been invented just for the show. That's how buried it was in our history.

For me personally, the movie that most comes to mind about learning something was a 1991 film starring Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck, Penelope Ann Miller, and Piper Laurie called Other People's Money. It was based on a play of the same name by Jerry Sterner...

The movie poster for Other People's Money with Danny DeVito being showered with money as he stands in a suit and tie with a Wall St. Building behind him.

I went to the theater to see the movie because A) I fell in love with Penelope Ann Miller after she appeared in Kindergarten Cop and I realized she was Brenda in Adventures in Babysitting, and B) It was Danny DeVito starring in a movie that looked like he might be doing something along the lines of Ruthless People, a movie I love, and C) Piper Laurie was hot off of Twin Peaks, a show I love, and D) Gregory Peck...

Looking back at a film from nearly 30 years ago, you just know that there's going to be plenty of problematic moments. And there truly are. The sexism alone paints Other People's Money as a dinosaur from another age.

But man if I didn't learn a heck of a lot about how Wall Street works, how stocks and shareholders work, how hostile takeovers work, how money works. Just look at this scene that gets the movie ball rolling...

And don't think that the movie is all money talk. We got lawyer jokes too!

But the real education came at the end of the movie when I learned how proxy fights work. Now, if you have any plans to see this movie... and I suggest that you do see it... this video is a bit of a spoiler here. Gregory Peck has just made an impassioned plea to the stockholders to save his wire & cable company and not give in to Danny DeVito and his culture of greed. The room goes wild and he is lauded with thunderous applause. And then it's Danny DeVito's turn...

Fantastic performance there. And here's the thing... Danny DeVito makes an argument that is completely air-tight. You can't argue with what he's saying in the context of the movie. And the big lesson I took away from this was that when it comes to situations like this, it's not always black-and-white. It's shades of grey. Or, in this case, shades of green.

I've been thinking a lot about Other People's Money as it relates to contemporary times.

There are industries that are dying yet we keep propping them up just because it's politically advantageous to do so. There are many, many examples I could drop here. Many. But the one that got me thinking about this movie is the coal industry. Coal is dead. It's beyond dead. Many of its uses have become antiquated. Nobody burns coal to heat their home or make a train run any more. And while I'm sure there are some industrial uses for it... like coal-fired pizza ovens and such... coal has fallen out of use in favor of cheaper sources like natural gas and renewable energy sources (both of which are cleaner as well). The use of coal for electricity production is plummeting year-over-year. It's quickly getting to the point where nobody wants to buy coal any more. The pandemic has put that fact in vivid relief. Coal mining companies are declaring bankruptcy left and right.

And yet politicians keep dragging it along with their campaigns so that they can pick up some electoral votes in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

And it makes zero sense.

Other than the fact that voters fall for it hook, line, and sinker.

And you know who gets hurt by all of it? The coal miners. Coal miners get screwed along with all the workers associated with coal mining.

Because no matter how long politicians want to prop up coal... whether it's with subsidies or by coming up with idiotic nonsense like the notion of "clean coal"... it doesn't change the fact that coal is dead. And rather than accept that coal is dead and move forward by creating new jobs for coal workers with new renewable energy technology jobs, politicians keep dragging it along while foreign countries invest in renewable energy jobs which won't be going to American workers.

And why is that?

Lobbyist money, of course.

Big Coal and Big Oil and Big Pharma and all these "Big" companies OWN our politicians. They BUY them off to promote their bullshit so they continue to make money while American workers lose their jobs and American citizens get screwed.

And we have nobody to blame but ourselves because we keep re-electing them.

I feel badly for the people who keep voting for politicians who don't have their best interests at heart because the lie is always so much easier to believe. They trust the people who say they will take care of them even though it rarely turns out to be true... and is getting less true by the minute. I probably learned that from a movie somewhere, but the best way to learn is to just look at the news.

Assuming you can find actual news any more.

Much like the buggy whip and coal, actual, factual news seems to be dead...

A man on The Daily Show saying that if you want to rip the heart out of a democracy, you go after facts... that's what modern authoritatrians do. Step 1: You like all the time. Step 2: You say it's your opponents and the journalists who lie. Step 3: Everyone looks around and says What is Truth? There is no truth. Then resistance is impossible and the game is over.

So, game over, I guess.

   

Bullet Sunday 676: FanDumb Edition

Posted on Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Dave!Fan conventions may be on hold, but don't get your super-suit tights in a bunch... because an all new DC Comics Fan Dome Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
FAN DOME! In the absence of fan conventions (like Comic-Con) there's been an awful lot of "virtual cons" happening. DC Comics held their own virtual con event this weekend, called Fan Dome. The only thing I actually tuned in live for was Wonder Woman 1984 and Suicide Squad. Everything else was just when it hit YouTube. Precious little information was dropped for Aquaman 2, Shazam 2, or a new Superman film, but everything else happening in the next 2-3 years was touched upon. Let's take a look, shall we?

   
THE SUICIDE SQUAD! Technically, this is Suicide Squad 2, but in order to distance James Gunn's take on the franchise from the previous installment, they added "The" in the front and left "2" off the back. Packed to the gills with characters even more obscure than the original team, Gunn promises a unique take on the material which follows his incredible success with the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks over at Marvel. Out of all the films DC is unleashing on us, this has the best shot of my liking it...

ODDS TO LIKE IT: 85%

   
WONDER WOMAN 1984! I was completely unprepared for Patty Jenkins' incredible Wonder Woman movie, released in 2017. It was a fantastic, faithful, and fully entertaining representation of everybody's favorite Amazon for the silver screen. Three long years later, we're finally getting a sequel. I am not 100% sure how exactly how this wacky throwback is going to play out, but the trailer sure looks encouraging...

ODDS TO LIKE IT: 75%

   
THE BATMAN! When it comes to Batman live-action movies, the character has fared better than most, but there have been some serious missteps...

  • Batman (1989) Demented Tim Burton Batman fun!
  • Batman Returns (1992) Memorable for Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer and an absurd story.
  • Batman Forever (1995) Joel Schumacher taking a huge, stupid dump on the franchise.
  • Batman & Robin (1997) Joel Schumacher's nail in the coffin of Batman movies.
  • Batman Begins (2005) Christopher Nolan reinvigorates Batman for film in a new trilogy.
  • The Dark Knight (2008) The pinacle of Batman movies with the definitive Joker.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012) A drastic step down has Batman ending on a whimper.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Zack Snyder shits all over Batman, specifically, and super-heroes, in general.

With the exception of The Dark Knight Rises, the best Batman going has been the LEGO games/movies and the animated cartoons. And here we go again, this time with Matt Reeves directing Robert Pattinson in The Batman. Alas, it's looking like a bit of a mess in the trailer, but who knows?

ODDS TO LIKE IT: 25%

   
BLACK ADAM! I hate hate hated the Shazam! movie. Now we're getting a movie around one of Shazam's biggest villains, Black Adam. I have no clue what this is supposed to be. Is he fighting Shazam? Is he going to be an actual villain? Who knows. I'd abandon all hope, except Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is starring in it, so I guess that's something.

ODDS TO LIKE IT: 20%

   
THE FLASH! One of the worst parts of Zack Snyder's shitty Justice League was his take on The Flash. Wrapped in one of the shittiest movie super-hero costumes of all time, Ezra Miller's godawful versions looked like a pile of junk instead of the sleek, elegant character from the comics. And those horrific "jokes" that he simply would. not. shut. up. with (courtesy of Joss Whedon, I'm guessing?). has me not giving a crap about this movie. About the only thing even remotely interesting to me is the fact that Michael Keaton's Batman will be making an appearance. Otherwise? Ugh.

ODDS TO LIKE IT: 10%

   
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE SNYDER CUT! One of the worst super-hero films ever created, Justice League was a horrific pile of shit that followed Zack Snyder's truly awful Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel fiascos. While the fact that Snyder has created it guaranteed it would suck, the fact that Joss Whedon was brought it to make it "funny" in the hopes it would perform like his two Avengers movies made it even worse. An inconsistent mish-mash that I hated more than I ever thought possible. Now Zack Snyder has been given millions of dollars so he can "restore his vision" for the film. Which means it's still going to be a pile of shit... it's just going to be a consistent pile of shit.

ODDS TO LIKE IT: 2%

   
I suppose if theaters ever open up in the USA again, I might actually get to see some of these. But, more likely than not, I'll just be waiting for home-video. If I'm going to risk death in a theater, it won't be for anything coming out of DC Comics, that's for sure.

   

Wakanda Forever

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2020

Dave!It's strange how you just kinda get numb to the horrors of the day. A pandemic is ravaging the world. California is burning from wildfires. Louisiana is getting devastated by a hurricane. It just never stops. Everything is awful and seems to be getting worse.

Then today Chadwick Boseman dies... at 43 years old?

Best known for playing Jackie Robinson in 42 and T'Challa in Black Panther, this is truly awful news. The guy was incredibly talented and his career had just gone stratospheric...

I was so looking forward to seeing him in Black Panther 2. It's one of the things that's been keeping me going through these dark days.

Condolences to Boseman's wife and family. So incredibly sorry for your loss.

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Bullet Sunday 677

Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2020

Dave!Summer may be coming to a close, but the bullets are just beginning... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Forever! This weekend I held a Chadwick Boseman memoral marathon... starting with 42, Gods of Egypt, and Marshall yesterday... then blowing through all his Marvel movies, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet, and Avengers: Endgame today. Mr. Boseman was diagnosed with third stage colon cancer in 2016. Which means he had to be feeling effects while filming Civil War and Marshall... and was battling it in force while filming Black Panther and the Avengers movies. His amazing acting talent is on screen for all to see. But the strength it took to be filming while undergoing treatment for cancer? You never saw that...

It's been weighing on me all day. I've read that he said that he prayed that he would get the role of Black Panther before he was cast. I can only imagine that playing the character kept him going. I don't know. What I do know is that I sure would have loved to have seen more movies from him. But, man, what we got was sure amazing wasn't it?

   
• Jeopardy! Seems an apt time to remember when Chadwick Boseman was responsible for one of the funniest sketches to ever air on Saturday Night Live...

And now I want potato salad.

   
• EXCELLENT! One of my favorite movies of all time is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Far from being a high school stoner comedy (albeit without the drugs), it was actually an incredibly smart film. Time travel was handled exceedinly well, the soundtrack was fantastic, and the casting was genius. George Carlin was an inspired choice as Rufus... and of course Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were genre-defining in the title roles. The sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey fell short, but was still a fun ride. And now, 30 years after the original debuted, Bill & Ted are back...

While it's not in the same league as the original... and how could it be when George Carlin is gone?... it was still pretty darn entertaining. I am not going to say a word about the movie because you really need to see for yourself. And you can do that with a $20 rental or $25 purchase price through iTunes and other streaming services. I don't know if it's worth the first-run cost, but it's not like you can run out and see it in theaters.

   
• #GiantMeteor2020! Well, dang.

   
• Bird Shit! Johnny Harris does it again... this time with a fascinating video on why the US has all these islands scattered around the Pacific...

Truth is so often stranger than fiction.

   
• HAN SHOT FIRST! Restoring old films so they will appeal to modern audiences is nothing new. Cleaning up the dust and scratches. Minimizing grain. Sharpening the picture. It's pretty cool what technology can do to help make old films look new. But there is such a thing as going too far. I first remember this kind of controversy when Turner Network Television "colorized" old black-and-white movies. I never thought this was so terrible, but a lot of people did. What I do think is terrible is when classic films are altered so that the story changes. Guns becoming walkie-talkies in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial... and, of course, Greedo shooting first in Star Wars.

There was a lot of outcry over Star Wars... so much so that when they released the modified "Special Edition" on DVD they included a "Bonus Disc" which had a cleaned up version of the original film. I was happy to have it, because the only way I could watch the original was on my LaserDisc copy, which was a very nice picture for 1982, but disappointing for 1997. I didn't mind so much that they replaced the special effects shots with new CGI versions... but the other changes (like Han not shooting first) were pretty crappy.

Now there's a new technique for "stacking" multiple sources of the film so that you can build a more detailed picture...

Here's a still from the original film off LaserDisc...

A scene of X-Wing fighters from Star Wars... off LaserDisc.

Here's the same still from the DVD Special Edition Bonus Disc of the original film...

A scene of X-Wing fighters from Star Wars... off LaserDisc.

And here's the restoration version which uses details from multiple sources to create a far sharper version...

A scene of X-Wing fighters from Star Wars... off LaserDisc.

Pretty amazing. Here's an explanation video. Fast forward to 40 minutes if you just want to see what's happening...

Technology so nifty, eh? THIS is a kind of restoration that does more good than harm.

   
And that's a wrap on my Sunday.

   

Bullet Sunday 678

Posted on Sunday, September 6th, 2020

Dave!Summer doesn't seem to be ending any time soon, but don't let 100° days get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Growth! I don't remember how I ran across this video, but it's really, really cool...

Jake and Jenny seemed to grow up exactly this fast.

   
• Squirrel! I somehow missed this amazing Mark Rober video, which is a must see...

His channel is one of those that I wish posted more often... but you just know that it wouldn't be this good if he did.

   
• Die! And the new James Bond trailer is out...

Looks almost worth risking your life going to a movie theater for!

   
• Expecting! I watched the HBO Max series Expecting Amy which is absolutely fascinating. Not because of Amy Schumer, but because of her husband Chris Fischer. In her Netflix special, Growing, her talking about him and his being on the autism spectrum is the absolute best part of the show. In Expecting Amy you get to see the reverse side of it all. The guy seems as sweet as can be and is a massively famous chef, so he's a lot more than "just Amy Schumer's husband."

So, yeah, worth a look. And also watch their cooking show Amy Schumer Learns to Cook on Food Network.

   
• Bash! Earlier this week I had mentioned that NBC had picked up the amazing medical drama, Transplant, starring Hamza Haq. I know absolutely nothing about the guy, so I searched YouTube for some interviews. He does not disappoint...

But the real treat was spending the day with him during Ramadan during quarantine...

Very much looking forward to a second season.

   
• Christie! Back when cable TV first came to town, we got a 6-month trial package that included HBO or Showtime or both or something. It was then that I discovered that one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, Death on the Nile, had been turned into a film. I watched it many, many times. Now, after a successful remake of Murder on the Orient Express, we're getting a remake of Death on the Nile as well...

Interesting to note that both versions of the film has quite a few name-brand stars...

ROLE1978 VERSION2020 VERSION
Hercule PoirotPeter UstinovKenneth Branagh
Louise BourgetJane BirkinRose Leslie
Linnet Ridgeway DoyleLois ChilesGal Gadot
Marie Van SchuylerBette DavisJennifer Saunders
Jacqueline de BellefortMia FarrowEmma Mackey
Mr. FergusonJon Finch 
Rosalie OtterbourneOlivia HusseyLetitia Wright
Manager of the KarnakI.S. Johar 
Andrew PenningtonGeorge Kennedy 
Andrew Kathchadourian Ali Fazal
Salome OtterbourneAngela LansburySophie Okonedo
Simon DoyleSimon MacCorkindaleArmie Hammer
Colonel RaceDavid Niven 
Mrs. BowersMaggie SmithDawn French
Dr. Ludwig BessnerJack WardenRussell Brand
Euphemia Annette Bening
Syd Adam Garcia
Bouc Tom Bateman

Looks like it will be worth a look!

   
And that's the end of that. No more bullets to be had this week.

   

The Sleeper Must Awaken

Posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Dave!To say that I'm excited for the new Dune film is a massive understatement. The original Frank Herbert book is one of my favorite novels ever, I've read it at least a dozen times, and have been mesmerized with the entire "universe" that Herbert built since I first read it on summer break before my freshman year of high school.

There was a previous Dune film in 1984 by David Lynch that I very much enjoyed... despite it not being a very deep take on the material. This is not really Lynch's fault because the novel is essentially unfilmable. Much of what's going on is what's in people's heads and that's difficult to translate to screen. Even so, Lynch did an amazing job of translating the worlds and technologies to the big screen, and any subsequent readings of the book had his visuals in my head.

We don't talk about the 2000 Sci Fi Channel mini series adaptations.

The new Dune film by director Denis Villeneuve is apparently on track for release in theaters on December 18th, and I will likely risk COVID-19 to see it. His track record in cinema is exceptional... Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049... so I'm guessing his take on Dune will be, if nothing else, interesting and visually stunning.

And that was my take before I saw the trailer, which was released today...

There's a lot to unpack here.

And since there are many, many geek websites doing exactly that, I'm going to restrain myself and just focus on a few things I saw which interest me.

Dune 2020 Movie Logo

SETS

What makes Dune so incredible is the "world-building" that Frank Herbert accomplished. The planets, the politics, the social structure, the technology... it's just all so solid. It's so deep that you feel it actually exists, and translating that to screen is not an insignificant challenge. I thought Lynch did a brilliant job at a time where practical effects were the norm. Now, of course, you can CGI whatever you can dream up, so of course the visuals have a better chance of mirroring what your imagination built from the books. Villeneuve's take on Blade Runner was about as perfect as you can get, so I have little doubt that his vision for Dune will be incredible. From what little I can see, it looks like he is trying for a muted, less ornate and fussy take on the sets, which is smart... I think? The Lynch film was so warm, lush, and gorgeously visualized, that you can't blame Villeneuve for striking out in a different direction. His take on Caladan feels much more Game of Thrones being more rough-hewn and utilitarian...

A massive stone study with books lining the walls. Paul is facing down the Reverend Mother who is seated with a box at her hand.

A large room in shadow made from stone.

Contrasting with the deep shadows of Caladan is the blown-out sunlight of Arakis...

Troop transports landed on Dune in glaring sunlight.

Interesting to see that the sand seems to permeate everywhere on a planet full of the stuff...

A large hallway in shadow with a fight happening in the middle, sand piled on the floor.

CASTING

PAUL: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides seems a good fit. He's 24, but looks younger, which is what we need. In the book, Paul is like 15 or 16 or something, and that's an important point. He's a kid thrown into a situation beyond his years and his story is becoming a man under extraordinary circumnstances. I think Kyle MacLachlan was also 24 in the first Dune film, but looked older than Chalamet, which was a bit of a misstep, in my opinion...

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides.

CHANI: Like Chalamet, Zendaya skews younger in this movie than Sean Young did in the previous Dune. In the books, if I remember correctly, she's older than Paul by a bit, but I like the idea of her also being a kid being thrown in a war spanning the known universe...

Zendaya as Chani.

DUNCAN: Jason Momoa wouldn't have come to mind for Duncan Idaho, but it looks as though he's playing it a bit more "every man" in which case he's a good choice.

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho.

LETO: I admit that I know precious little about Oscar Isaac outside of his character on the final Star Wars movies, but he certainly looks the part of Duke Leto...

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho.

BARON: Villeneuve has said that he's wanting the Harkonnens to be more evil and menacing than we've seen, which certainly has my stamp of approval if he can pull it off! Stellan Skarsgård was an inspired choice, especially if you've seen him in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladamir Harkonnen, rising from the mud.

RABBAN: Dave Bautista is a delightfully versatile actor, and it will be very, very interesting to see his take on The Beast, especially if we're getting something truly villainous from the character...

Dave Bautista as The Beast Rabban.

MOHIAM: If there was one area where I thought Lynch's film faltered, it was the weird shaved-head look given to the Bene Gesserit. It absolutely played into the cult-like elements from the sisterhood, but it was distracting. Going with these heavy veils seems a lot more interesting, and you couldn't ask for a more interesting choice as Charlotte Rampling for The Reverend Mother...

Reverend Mother Mohiam holds a Gom Jabbar at Paul's neck.

GURNEY: Okay, Josh Brolin is perfect for Gurney. No surprise at all he was cast, because it really is flawless. What surprised me is...

THUFIR: Holy cats, that's Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat beneath that parasol in back there! I loved him as Omar in the 2008 series New Amsterdam, and this is truly inspired and brilliant casting news. And boy did Villeneuve come up with a fantastic look for the Mentat Master of Assassins! Completely unexpected...

Paul walking with Gurney and Thufir in the Dune sunlight.

TECHNOLOGY

If you've read the Dune novels, you know that technology has a bit of a strange place in the story. Thanks to an uprising by "thinking machines," artificial intelligence has been banished and any advancements are strictly utilitarian. We don't get to see much in the trailer... but we do get a glimpse of the Emperor's Sardaukar troops dropping in with their battle armor...

Sardaukar troops landing on Dune. Uh oh.

We do get a better look at the Holtzman personal shields in use. I have to admit that I think Lynch's take was a more visually interesting approach... and his having it centrally located on a belt seems a more logical place to have it instead of on some kind of hand-strap. That being said, Villeneuve did come up with a look that seems a heck of a lot more realistic...

Holtzman shield fighting practice between Paul and Gurney.

Holtzman shield fighting practice between Paul and Gurney.

SANDWORMS

Now, as cool as giant worms may sound when you read about them in a book... it's an absolutely absurd visual when translated to the screen. Lynch did as best he could, but the effort ultimately looked silly. We were told they were terrifying instead of seeing they were terrifying. Welp... thanks to CGI, that's not a problem any more. Sandworms are like something out of a nightmare, exactly as they should be...

A sandworm chomping down on a spice harvester.

A massive sandworm approaches figures in the dessert... thousands of teeth crowding its maw.

STORY

Dune is Dune. The political backstabbing and intrigues... the fight for power... the complex family interactions... the fascinating religion and customs of the peoples... it's all woven together into something far more amazing than the sum of its parts. Lynch's movie had to gloss over a lot of it out of necessity. There's only so much you can do in a two-hour movie. Villeneuve caught a bit of a break in that he was able to split the movie into two parts... plus he is getting a companion series on HBO Max. Whenever Dune: The Sisterhood airs, it will allow considerable more world-building than two films could accomplish on their own. This is truly exciting, because it will (hopefully) allow for many of the subtleties and complexities to play out in a way we've never seen. We get a tiny glimpse of this when Paul says "My father rules an entire planet." The Reverend Mother responds "He's losing it." Paul fires back with "He's getting a richer one." Reverend Mother nips that one at the bud with "He'll lose that one too." It's this kind of immense scope that you truly need if Dune is to have the proper weight to it.

With any luck, we're going to get a movie which Dune fans have been dying to see for over 50 years. And if it fails? Well, I guess I can always re-read the book for the hundredth time.

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Bullet Sunday 681

Posted on Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Dave!September may be coming to a close, but not everything has to end... because an all new Special Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Yikes! Need to be filled with awe and wonder today? Need to be filled with awe and wonder while shitting your pants? Well here you go...

There are some places you'd swear that man was not meant to go. Which is why they go, I suppose.

   
• Panda! Think wrangling kids is tough? Try looking after pandas...

It's the cutest kind of mischief, I suppose.

   
• Circles! I may not like a lot of Posty's music... but this song and video are sublime...

That he had a hand in writing it as well just makes it all the mor impressive a track.

   
• Hello! "912, what's your white emergency?"

If. Only.

   
• Enola! Looking for something good to watch? Netflix has a movie about Sherlock Holmes's teenage sister, Enola Holmes...

Really, really hope that we will be getting a sequel.

   
• Ted! Dang. Apple TV Plus is finally releasing shows compelling enough that I may actually want to pay for it when my free subscription runs out. Mythic Quest, Central Park, and Long Way Up are great television. But Ted Lasso is next level. Funny, sweet, and surprisingly deep... it's sure to make my Best of 2020 list...

And to think... Foundation is still on the way!

   
There it was... that was the last bullet for September.

   

Bullet Sunday 683

Posted on Sunday, October 11th, 2020

Dave!Time to make time to be kind as the world crumbles around us... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Lume! If we are COVID-controlled by the time The Lume's immersive Vincent Van Gogh exhibit comes to the Newfields Museum in Indianapolis, I'm so there. Van Gogh is my most favorite painter, and I suffered through an episode of the abysmal Emily in Paris (on Netflix) just to look at this exhibit from when it was in Paris...

Kinda shocked that this hasn't been to Amsterdam. That would be a much better fit for the experience given that this is where the Van Gogh Museum is located!

   
• Free! As a huge Ryan Reynolds fan, I've been looking forward to the movie Free Guy... and my anticipation just kicked up a notch with the latest trailer...

From what I've read, there's already a sequel in development because Ryan Reynolds loved the movie so much. No clue if movie studios are even going to be in the business of making films now that movie theaters are shuttering and attendance is plummeting where theaters are open. Heaven only knows I'd rather bypass theaters since the experience is so shity now-a-days... even without COVID-drenched audiences in tow.

   
• Trek! The final episode of the new Trek cartoon show, Star Trek: Lower Decks came out and I still don't know what to make of it. It's too adult for kids, but it lacks biting stories to appeal to adults. It aims to be funny, but doesn't have big laughs thanks to lazy comedy tropes. And I while I guess this can exist along-side the Star Trek shows and movies... it seems an odd fit since it is essentially a parody of Trek and doesn't really go anywhere except within it's own bubble. The finale had Riker and Troi in it, but not really...

JRiker and Troi in the middle of a Red Alert on Star Trek Lower Decks.

Oh well. I did find the show entertaining enough to keep watching. I would not be made about there being a second season. I just hope they push it a little harder to make it stand out in the world of Star Trek instead of recede like it's doing now.

   
• Diagnosis! President Trump catching COVID is hardly surprising. He holds super-spreader events, doesn't practice social-distancing, rarely wears a mask, and regularly hangs out with people who are proudly proclaiming their ignorance when it comes to the coronavirus. It was only a matter of time. And THEN... once he got it he was given every conceivable treatment for mild symptoms... treatment that "regular" people have to be on death's door to get. Regardless of how you feel about our impeached leader, there were mistakes on all sides of the president's diagnosis and the media storm around it. This is a fairly balanced critique courtesy of Dr. Mike...

I remain dumbfounded that there are people who still don't take this shit seriously. And it starts at the top.

   
• Your'e! This is one of the best things I've seen all week courtesy of Captain Kate McCue's TikTok...

@captainkatemccue

Classic.

   
• DO NOT CALL OR TEXT! Despite telling The Democrats and The Republicans several times that I do not want them calling and texting me and to please remove me from their lists, I keep getting them. And when I complain I'm told that there are multiple lists and names get spread from one to the other. Which means it will never stop...

JRiker and Troi in the middle of a Red Alert on Star Trek Lower Decks.

I don't think people understand how awful unsolicited contact is. When my mom was alive and had to be moved to a facility, every single phone call was dread-inducing. Are they calling to tell me she is sick again? Are they calling to tell me she broke the other hip? Are they calling to tell me she's dead? Alerts for texts like this were a complete nightmare. And now that she's gone it's not much better. Most every time I get a phone call... and at least half the time when I get a text... it's bad news. Just hearing my phone alert me that somebody is calling or texting is triggering. Is another one of my friends dead? Is somebody in my family in the hospital? What horrible even is it now? This fucking sucks when it's somebody calling that I KNOW. But when it's somebody I DON'T KNOW who is sending a text or a call that I DON'T WANT and DIDN'T ASK FOR? Fuck that. It is an invasion of my privacy and my life and it should be ILLEGAL.

   
• What? Holy shit. This is absolute insanity...

And it just gets worse...

I've been working my way through David Pakman's video catalog and occasionally come across stuff like this which defies belief. I would come unglued. Credit to Pakman for staying sane while addressing this guy, because it's all I can do to stay sane just watching.

   
• Beouf! I may detest Shia LaBeouf's "acting"... but holy crap what a great guy! This is awesome!

I sure wish I could get past his work on such travesties as Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Man Down, and the shitty Transformers movies. Apparently his last two films (Honey Boy and The Peanut Butter Falcon) don't suck but I've refused to watch them! I dunno. Maybe one day I'll have to get over it and just give them a try.

   
And I guess that's the end of my bullets this fine Sunday.

   

Nothing Days and Nothing Nights

Posted on Monday, October 19th, 2020

Dave!After seeing a rainbow out my window on Friday I decided not to go into the office over the weekend. I needed a short break so I can relax for a minute.

It didn't work out quite that way. Instead of putting in 8 hours at the office on Saturday, I put in 8 hours cleaning out my garage. Tore down my wood-shop... put away my tools... took out the trash... swept up the concrete... all because I didn't want to scrape frost off my windows in the morning.

Sunday I did a little better. Cooked up some toasted ravioli, vacuumed the stairs, used a leaf blower to clean out the catio and blow the cobwebs off my home... THEN DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR THE REST OF THE DAY! Well, not "nothing." But close to it. I ate crap food, watched crap television, and surfed crap internet. That's it.

Then I felt guilty about it.

What a waste of a day.

I fell asleep last night creating a list in my head of all the things that I could have done but didn't. I really should have cleaned the cat feeding station and scrubbed out my sink, right? Or steam-cleaned my floors. Or scrubbed my bathroom. Or washed my windows. Or vacuumed out my laundry room. Or cleaned out my refrigerator and freezer. Or any of a hundred other things that really need to be done around the house.

Instead I watched all the Police Academy movies.

I was compelled to after happening upon a story where Steve Guttenberg was talking about how they are wanting to reboot the series. Gutenberg left after #4 (Citizens on Patrol), which was pretty bad, and yet they slogged on for three more movies. By the time they got to #7 (Mission to Moscow) they had run the series so far into the ground that I’m amazed they think they can bring it back.

But you can say that about a lot of things, I suppose.

   

Bullet Sunday 685

Posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Dave!The first snow of the season would cause lesser blogs to crumble, but not this blog... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Bridges! One of the things that boggles my mind when I travel is how old the world's architecture is. Notre Dame de Paris cathedral started construction in 1163, for example. The Colosseum in Rome was built in in the year 0070-something. And the Great Pyramid of Giza? Oh... that started in the year 2580 BC. How they were constructed is not really a mystery (despite people thinking the pyramids were built by aliens and shit) and it's no less fascinating than the structures themselves. Still, reading about how they were made is not the same as seeing it...

Makes me think of the amazing David Macaulay books, which were responsible for my escalating love of architecture as a kid. Some of them were animated by PBS, and boy wouldn't it be amazing to see more of that. In the meanwhile, we get an occasional video like this tossed our way.

   
• More! And so... Borders is dead. LONG LIVE BORDERS!


Thank heavens Johnny Harris is still making videos despite the rug being pulled out from under him when his series was canceled.

   
• Quibi-Free! It's kinda hilarious that absolutely everybody knew that crappy short-form streaming service, Quibi, would be a massive failure... except founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman. They had a shitty concept with shitty "shows" and it was inevitable that it wouldn't work (WE BELIEVE SHORT-FORM VIDEOS ARE THE FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT... HERE'S PART ONE OF SEVEN!). I thought it might take a year before they shut it down. It only took six months. Not a good day for the people and companies which invested ONE POINT SEVEN BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS! Wealth is wasted on the wealthy. Holy shit... just think of the shows we could have gotten for that kind of money. Blergh.

   
• Hallmark? Weird that the promos from Netflix's slate of cheesy romance movies are out-Hallmarking Hallmark. As shown in the movie Falling Inn Love and the trailer for Operation Christmas Drop, Netflix is serious about quality over quantity, which is the exact opposite of Hallmark. We got another darn fine looking cheesy trailer for another cheesy Christmas romance...

Yeah, I'll be tuning into that one too.

   
• Normalization! I've added my pronouns to all my social media crap because I am 100% onboard with anything that encourages somebody to be who they are and live their best life at zero cost to me...

He/Him: I'm Dave2 from Blogography!

If you can remember their name, you can remember their pronouns. You don't have to agree with it. You don't even have to care. Because it has absolutely nothing to do with you. It's just common courtesy and common courtesy should be normalized. This should be our default.

   
• Bennu! After a little over four years, NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) finally made contact with the asteroid 101955 Bennu. It's mission is to grab a 2oz. sample of "asteroid stuff" off the asteroid...

Miraculously, OSIRIS-REx did too good a job. It ended up grabbing for more than anticipated. It sucked up so much that the sample collection door couldn't close and they are having to deal with that. But will this sample give us any insight into the origins of the universe? We won't know until OSIRIS-REx returns in three years. After that, we're not exactly done with 101955 Bennu. In its Wikipedia entry, we learn that the asteroid has a "cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199."

   
• Hole! Falling down a YouTube rabbit hole is not always a bad thing. I've grown tired of trying to hunt down new podcasts to listen to while I work, so I've been playing YouTube videos that I can listen to while I work. One such YouTube channel I've been obsessed over this past week is Lindsay Ellis. She's a writer who has an interesting viewpoint on a number of topics. I accidentally came across her while researching the term "Streisand Effect" and there was no turning back. My favorite videos are when she does deep dives on Disney. They're fantastic...



But don't stop there, she's got thoughts on a myriad of topics. This one completely surprised me...

Intrigued? You can find her YouTube Channel here.

   
I'd go out to play in the snow, but it has long since melted.

   

The Flu Vaccine and All The Sleep

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Dave!Today was "Flu Shot Day" at work. I got it for years, then stopped because I so rarely get sick, then started again when my doctor said "Tens of thousands of people die each year from the flu, but you do you." Physically, the shots never bother me. I used to get three allergy shots a year for decades. It's the psychological game that does me in. It's like I can FEEL those tiny amounts of weakened flu strain viruses whooshing into my arm... along with my body going "Oh shit!" and creating antibodies to battle it out. I can't really, of course, but that's my imagination for you. Creating a horror narrative where none exist.

And speaking of a horror narrative...

As I think I've mentioned a few times, I have "themed" months for the movies I watch. October, of course, is devoted to horror films. It's not my preferred genre, to be sure, but there are gems to be had. Last night I finally got around to watching Doctor Sleep. And since HBO had the extended "Director's Cut" available, that's the one I went with...

The poster for Doctor Sleep featuring Ewan McGregor.

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

It's light on genuine frights, but has some truly disturbing moments. One of the moments is so disturbing that I question how they even managed to film it. Acting is acting, but some things are just too "out-there" even when you're pretending.

Doctor Sleep is Stephen King's follow-up to The Shining. The sequel book was excellent, and very much worthy of the original novel. Even as a King fan, I find some of his books miss the mark for me, but this was definitely not one of them. It continues the story of Danny Torrance, now all grown up, after what he went through at the Overlook Hotel. Some of the beats are predictable (Danny is using drugs and alcohol to dull his "gifts") but there are still some good surprises to be had. Along the way he is contacted by Abra, a young girl with shining powers that eclipse his own. There's also a spooky group of villains in "The True Knot" who hunt people with the shining so they can torture them, kill them, and extract their power as life-extending "steam."

King infamously hated the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation of The Shining. I was disappointed in the changed that were made, but found Jack Nicholson's performance more than made up for it. This was one of those rare instances where I liked both the book and the movie... but for different reasons.

The Doctor Sleep film is kinda strange in that it's not a direct sequel to the movie, though it definitely takes its cues from there. It's also not a true adaptation of the book. It pays homage to both and I think is better because of it. Suffice to say that fans of both will find things to love and to not love so much.

The best part of the film is the casting. Ewan McGregor as Danny is flawless. He has an amazing knack for being able to draw on the haunted narrative that his character demands, and I don't know that many other actors could have done as good a job of it. They also struck gold with Kyliegh Curran as Abra, a critical role that would have ruined the movie if they cast somebody up to the task. But the real standout to me was Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat. She completely nailed the role. You walk away from the film hating her. In a good way...

The poster for Doctor Sleep featuring Ewan McGregor.

There wasn't a minute she was on screen where I wasn't wanting her dead.

I think the movie is approachable even if you didn't read/see The Shining. Though, of course, you'll get a little more out of it if you've seen the Kubrick film). If you're looking something to watch to get in the Halloween spirit, this is worth a look (and see the Director's Cut, if you can find it... HBO Max has it as an "extra").

And now, if you'll excuse me, the battle for flu virus supremacy continues in my bloodstream. I was told this year that they are giving out higher doses, so I guess we'll see. It's 2020, after all.

   

Bullet Sunday 686

Posted on Sunday, November 1st, 2020

Dave!The ghost and goblins may be gone, but spirits still linger... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Tres Lassos! My favorite show of all time, Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ was just renewed for a third season, even though they haven't started filming the second season yet...

Sad to think that it could be up to a year before there's any more Ted Lasso to watch, but at least there's new Ted Lasso coming. If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth a free trial at Apple TV+ to binge the show.

   
• Bond, James Bond! Standing out in the news of the week was James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery dying at 90 years old. My first "Bond" was Roger Moore in Moonraker in 1979, but once VHS home video allowed me to see all the earlier 007 movies, I was obviously blown away by the cool-calm that Connery brought to the role...

Though his work as Bond is probably my favorite role, he has plenty of other movies which made me a fan of his work. Of course Highlander immediately comes to mind. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, The Name of the Rose, Rising Sun, Playing By Heart, and The Rock were also flicks made memorable because he was in them. It's tough for me to reconcile being a fan of his work with his misogynistic bullshit, however... most famously with his infamous Playboy interview where he advocated slapping women. One could argue that he was a victim of the times he lived in because he said it in 1965, but he totally doubled-down on the idea over two decades later in a Barbara Walters interview. It wasn't until 2006 where he finally tried to walk back his idiotic stance, but an autobiography by his first wife alleged that he physically battered her, so seeing him as anything but an abusive asshole isn't easy. But you could almost say the same for James Bond in general. I guess the only thing left for me to say is "Rest in Peace."

   
• Happy! Fell down another TikTok rabbit hole while waiting for my clothes to finish in the dryer last night and got this video suggested to me... and I honestly don't know whether to be happy about it or break down in tears. It's heartbreaking to think that there are people who would wish this kind of thing upon a teenager. And yet we just got a new Supreme Court Justice who thinks that sexuality is a "preference" and will almost certainly interpret our laws accordingly. It's tough not to be disheartened by such events, but maybe videos like this one will change hearts and change minds so that we can celebrate people being who they are... and kids don't have to spend their young lives wondering if they will ever be allowed to be happy.

   
• Human Gaze! Isn't this how The Stepford Wives got started?

Or at least Westworld. In either scenario... not a great day for humanity.

   
• Maggie! As if the casting of Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher wasn't brilliant enough... this promo for the upcoming fourth season of The Crown has a cover of "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths attached!

After this, there's only two seasons left to go. Then I guess the monarchy just ends? Or something?

   
• Semi-Annual! Here we are again... my second of two posts each year where I say that ending Daylight Saving Time is FUCKING STUPID. Either make D.S.T. permanent or fucking split the difference because I am seriously over this moronic bullshit. I thought that Washington State had put an end to the insanity, but apparently federal approval is required...

If the E.U. can pull their fucking heads out of their asses and put an end to this crap next year, why can't the USA? Because our federal government is too fucking busy lining their own fucking pockets and giving lobbyist blow-jobs for fucking reelection cash instead of serving the American fucking people. That's why. Time to fucking overhaul the government so lawmakers do their fucking job instead of become useless career assholes? Oh probably.

   
• New Mando! I swear, The Mandalorian has no right to be as good as it is. If you like all things "Star Wars" and haven't seen it, might be worth a Disney+ free trial to take a look. The second season just started and the first issue is great...

A better take on Star Wars than the prequels or sequels... and right up there with Solo and Rogue One which I loved. Kind of amazing how Jon Favreau kicked off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and is responsible for saving Star Wars. I hope Disney is paying him really, really well.

   
And that's your post-Halloween bullets for the day.

   

Bullet Sunday 689

Posted on Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Dave!Time may wait for no one, but time definitely waits for this blog... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Wonder Max! And so... Wonder Woman 84 is coming to HBO Max on Christmas Day. And I will absolutely be subscribing to HBO Max for a month to watch it. My enthusiasm for theaters has lessened more and more over the years thanks to rude people talking on phones and texting... theaters not replacing projector bulbs when they start to dim... and the absurd cost of snacks. The only time I ever go to theaters are to watch the latest Marvel Studios films or when invited by friends. I'm MUCH happier watching at home. And yet... some of the big budget films (like Marvel Studios movies) rely on box office revenue to justify the money investment. If theaters go under because they can't wait out the pandemic, what does that mean for the movies I love?

VERY Colorful Wonder Woman 84 Poster

Still... kudos to HBO Max for not charging extra to see the film like Disney+ did with Mulan.

   
• Maximum! The advertising "feud" between Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman keeps getting better...

But they've been pretty funny in their own ads as well...

Even when they appear in each other's ads...

And let's not forget Ryan's ad from last Christmas...

If only all of Hollywood put such effort into their charity endeavors.

   
• Hallmark? Let's see...
Big city executive goes back to their small town for Christmas: ✓ CHECK!
Small town has an unbelievably wholesome and cheesy name: ✓ CHECK!
White cast, but Person of Color best friend: ✓ CHECK!
Runs into some country hick that gets dismissed: ✓ CHECK!
Country hick has unexpected depth that city-slicker was too ignorant to see: ✓ CHECK!
Christmas romance ensues: ✓ CHECK!
Man and woman live happily ever after: WAIT ONE DANG MINUTE!!!

Not Hallmark after all... Paramount Network.

   
• Life Day! I am old enough that I actually saw the original Star Wars Holiday Special back in 1978 when it aired on television. Back then it was the only new "Star Wars" available since the movie was released the previous year. It was horrifically bad. Phenomenally horrifically bad. Forty-two years later and LEGO is giving us an all new version...

While nothing great, it's darn clever... mashing up all the various Star Wars characters throughout space and time. It's also funny. And far, far, better than the original live-action version. That's LEGO for you.

   
• Muties! I detested the FOX X-Men movies. They were all pathetic cash-grabs that in no way lived up to the promise of the comic book source material. I did like X-Men: First Class and kinda liked The Wolverine, but that's it. Everything else was garbage. When it comes to The New Mutants, I was a fan of the comic book during its Claremont and Sienkiewicz run. The movie is very loosely inspired by their "Demon Bear Saga" story arc from The New Mutants 18-20...

New Mutants #18 Comic Book Cover

What was promoted as a super-hero horror flick wasn't very scary at all. I was 100% bored and regret having spent $6 to rent the thing. It's mostly just angsty teens calling each other "bitch" and "asshole." What a waste. But, as the final film from the whole FOX Marvel super-hero era, why did I expect it to be anything else?

   
• Do You Know Bo? As good as The Mandalorian was in its first season, it's really knocking things out of the park in the second season. The most current episode is the best thing to come out of Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back. I won't spoil it. But I will say that LAST week's episode was incredibly rewarding. Especially if you watched The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons...

Bo Katan in animation and in live-action.

Look, there's some things that don't quite add up with Bo-Katan, I am fully admitting this. But can we just be happy that she made the leap from animation to The Mandalorian? Can't we just be grateful that Katee Sackhoff was asked to play the character since she was the voice in the original cartoons? Can't we just assume that some things about her appearance won't be explained, and we'll just have to fill in the gaps with TV magic or something? Because, I gotta say, her showing up caused me to squeeeee my ass off. In The Big Picture this works just fine. Don't get caught up on too many of the tiny details... just enjoy it.

   
And that's enough bullets for me. I'm out of time after all.

   

If anything happens I love you

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Dave!There's a meme running through TikTok of people recording their face before and after watching a short animated film on Netflix called If anything happens I love you. It's parents dealing with the aftermath of their daughter dying in a school shooting.

The "before" shots are mostly TikTokers with a normal look on their face... or whatever passes for "normal" now-a-days. The "after" shots are always people in emotional distress... crying and looking helpless. Some people even recorded an occasional reaction during the movie. Bawling their head off halfway through and whatnot. Suffice to say, there's a lot of crying going on in TikTokLand.

And while I thought it's a lovely little feature with excellent animation and really nice music... I felt... nothing.

The iPhone MagSafe charging puck.

Well, maybe I felt anger. It's tough not to be angry when there are people so damaged that they would shoot up a school, and we have a society content to let it keep happening. Mental health problems are stigmatized and mortally underfunded in this country, and that just fuels our horrific, upsetting, terrifying, and profoundly sad violence-laden world. Unfortunately, this is exactly what our "normal" is now.

Well... then-now. Not now-now due to school closures during the pandemic. Probably future-now though, because we never learn a damn thing.

And it's because of it that I feel mostly nothing when I see the raging debate over guns reignite once again.

I've gone over my feelings on this subject many times before on this blog. Banning guns is a painfully short stop-gap measure which will ultimately fail. We are this close to being able to 3-D print an assault rifle in the comfort of our own homes. THIS. CLOSE. So unless people are going to be monitored 24-7 to make sure they aren't crafting weapons in their basement to use or sell, we have a serious problem on the horizon whether current weapons are factored in or not.

I don't pretend to know what the answer is, but it doesn't take an Apple Genius to see that diffusing the hate that's escalating every damn day is a good start. Whether that happens by getting our leaders and media to stop being such hate-mongering assholes... working mental health into our education curriculum... destigmatizing mental health problems... making it easier and free to get mental health assistance... providing better monitoring of those with a violent history... stopping creation of conditions which drive people to the kind of desperation which can result violent acts... or one of a hundred other things. Because if we don't start doing something Real Soon Now we're in some deep shit. Or rather we're in deeper shit than we already are.

But hey. We can't even get people to wear a damn mask so the moisture from their breath isn't spreading a potentially lethal virus. How the fuck are we going to get people to give a shit about the mental health of other people or, more importantly, themselves?

Good luck with that.

Because just like people who only believe that COVID exists when their lungs are failing, they're not going to give a shit or think it's a problem... until it happens to them.

   

Bullet Sunday 690

Posted on Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Dave!The holiday season is officially upon us, but don't start celebrating just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Friend! Oh wow. They made a film out of The Friend: Love is Not a Big Enough Word. I read this so many times when taking care of my mom that I practically have it memorized. I hope it's a good film. It looks like it could be...

It's difficult to see how a movie can compete with the power of the original article, but I'm keeping an open mind.

   
• Rook! My dad taught me how to play chess when I was fairly young. It wasn't really a game I was interested in, so I never played it much. In high school I'd play an occasional game for something to do, but I didn't really care enough to study so I was never terribly good. During my gap year I had a new found interest in the game and started playing via the internet. I got fairly good, read a few books on chess theory, and could hold my own by the time I started college. I haven't played a game since. It was for this reason I had decided to skip The Queen's Gambit when it debuted on Netflix. But the reviews were so stellar that I ended up watching it the following week...

The Queen's Gambit Poster

It's a really good series. The acting is excellent and the way they communicate the strategy and energy of the game is terrific. But the best part is the production values. They are exceptional. They've recreated the 1960's right down to the last detail, and I ended up watching parts of it again last night just to look at the appliances, automobiles, dishware, music, clothing, and all the other things which made it such an experience to watch. If you've got a Netflix subscription and haven't seen it, I'd recommend giving it a look.

   
• Bai! If there's something which lessens the horror of having to vote for Joe Biden, it's that Ajit Pai is losing his job as FCC Chairman. He went out of his way to work against the best interest of the American people by trying to give corporations control of our privacy and our lives. He's a disgusting special-interest-sellout and a colossal asshole who should really be jailed for treason...

I guess now Pai will take a high-paying job with one of the many compies he sold us out to. Just wait for it. It's a revolving door that's as predictable as a sunrise. And until we get money the fuck out of our politics, this is how it's always going to be. Our government is for sale, and we're paying for the privilege of getting screwed by by the people we elect to serve us.

   
• FAKE! I know I post a lot of these "Deep Fakes" comparisons to special effects which cost magnitudes more money... but I just find it fascinating. This one is phenomenal. Such a huge improvement over what you see in the movie. It almost makes me wish that Disney would invest the money to redo Jeff Bridges face in Tron: Legacy. And Carrie Fischer and Peter Cushing's faces in Star Wars: Rogue One...

It's just so good.

   
• Better! It was the 10th anniversary of Joel Burns epic "It Gets Better" speech in October...

It seems like it was yesterday. But I go back to Bullet Sunday No. 202 from October 17th, 2010, and there it is. Boy time flies.

   
• Control? Unless you're buying into government propaganda, you already know how the U.S. pandemic response was a badly-botched job which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people. But it's still surprising to see it laid out all in one place...

If you can watch it (on Hulu) without getting very, very angry, you're a better person than I am.

   
And that's Enough bullets for this week.

   

Vader! You Seek Vader!

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Dave!David Prowse, the actor who embodied Darth Vader died this past Saturday.

A case can be made for Darth Vader being the best movie villain of all time. All you have to do is Google "Best Movie Villains of All Time" and you'll find that a lot of people believe this to be true (No. 2 is Hannibal Lecter, but I digress). He was menacing, powerful, and the best possible kind of cinema evil. And though he ended up having a bit of a redemption moment in Return of the Jedi (and was completely neutered in the awful prequel trilogy), he will always be remembered by me as The Only Villain That Matters.

David Prowse was half of the Vader equation.

But because James Earl Jones's voice is such a touchstone for the character, the contribution Prowse made is often overlooked. And that's a real shame. Last night I rewatched the Original Star Wars Trilogy and paid careful attention to how Prowse played the character. His every gesture oozed power. Yet it was never overplayed. At no moment did you get the feeling that Darth Vader was a man trapped in a suit. He was the suit. And that was true from the minute Vader first appeared walking through that smoke...

Darth Vader appears!

Darth Vader appears!

Darth Vader looking menacing!

Even when he's just standing there next to Grand Moff Tarkin saying nothing, there's a menace to him. And though it would be easy to say "that's just the badass costume," it's what lead up to him just standing there that is actually what's working. And that was all Prowse. Just look at the way he's pitched forward, looking like he'll choke a bitch at any second...

Darth Vader looking menacing!

Which, of course he does. He's Darth Vader!

The lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi is a bit tame. Darth Vader looks practically timid throughout everything, and I remember being a bit disappointed that we didn't get something more. But still, my young mind was suitably blown as I watching things go down...

Darth Vader looking menacing!

Darth Vader looking menacing!

Vader next appears in the battle on The Death Star in his cool custom T.I.E. fighter (of which I had a model when I was a kid)...

Empire space ships in the trench at the end of Star Wars!

Darth Vader inside his custom TIE fighter!

Interesting to note that in one scene where Vader is under red lights, the dark red lenses in his mask show Prowse inside. To my knowledge, it's the only time you ever see his face... well, part of his face... on screen...

David Prowse behind the eye lenses of the Darth Vader helmet!

The movie ends with Darth Vader being knocked into space. When I was a kid I had a T-Shirt that I ordered out of a magazine which proclaimed "VADER LIVES!"

Vader's TIE fighter spins off into space!

Which, of course, he did in the sequel.

And this time we got a tantalizing glimpse at what's under that dark helmet...

The back of Vader's scarred head revealed!

In The Empire Strikes Back, the best of all Star Wars movies, Prowse provided two moments so iconic that my brain still fails to fully process them. The first is when he is revealed to be the dinner host at Cloud City...

Han Solo fires at Darth Vader!

Darth Vader deflects the photon blast!

"We would be honored if you would join us"...

Darth Vader invites our heroes to dinner!

What's always been interesting to me is that Vader begins and ends this scene... seated. I've never understood director Irvin Kershner's thinking behind that. There was no reason for it, and I think it diminished his power. It would have been far smarter to just have him standing the entire time. The more times I see him sitting down, the weirder it looks to me...

Darth Vader invites our heroes to dinner!

And the second iconic scene is, of course, that pivotal moment in cinematic history which follows a pretty cool lightsaber duel. Far more exciting than the one we got in Star Wars...

Darth Vader stands menacingly in the shadows while luke approaches to battle!

And here we go. If you watch Vader as he's confronting Luke here, you can really see how important Prowse was to making the moment so mind-blowing. He is physical, but restrained, which is far more menacing than had he been all over the place...

Darth Vader clenches his fist!

Then Darth Vader drops the bomb...

Darth Vader leans forward!

Admit it, I didn't need to type a thing. You saw this and immediately heard "Luke, I am your father!" (even though the line was actually just "No, I am your father!"...

Luke screams NOOOOOO!

Now, this was before the internet. I stood in line to see Empire on opening night. I knew absolutely nothing about the movie except what I had seen in commercials. There were no spoilers to be had. I walked out of the theater putting the pieces of my brain back into my 14-year-old skull. It was such an amazing moment, and it wasn't thanks to the heroes. It was thanks to Darth Vader...

Darth Vader doesn't think Luke understand the POWER of The Dark Side!

Return of The Jedi was, for the most part, a disappointment to me. It jettisoned all the things that made Empire so great and replaced them with burp jokes and Ewoks so George Lucas could make billions of dollars selling toys. The only thing I like about the movie are what happens in-between the idiocy. That speeder-bike chase. That space battle. The Emperor revealed. And, oh yeah, that final duel...

Darth Vader waits for Luke, his saber glowing!

Darth Vader attacks!

Darth Vader and Luke battling it out!

What's so incredibly sad is that the evil Emperor Palpatine overshadowed Darth Vader in this movie. He was the evil this time. He was the memorable villain this time. He stole the movie this time. Vader was conflicted and embattled, and Luke handed him his ass. Happy Father's Day...

Darth Vader gets a beat-down from Luke Skywalker! Happy Father's Day!

We did get one final cool moment with Darth Vader. Though I never really had a chance to study it until I bought Return of the Jedi on LaserDisc. They animated a skeleton as the emperor's force-lightening struck Vader's armor. I think they enhanced it for the Special Editions, because I don't remember it being this detailed through...

Darth Vader's glowing skeleton!

Just look at the mechanical parts in there!

Darth Vader's glowing skeleton!

Buh bye...

Darth Vader's glowing skeleton!

Darth Vader's glowing skeleton!

I think I remember reading an interview with Irvin Kershner (who directed the far, far superior The Empire Strikes Back) that he thought it was a mistake to show Vader's face at the end. I agree 1000%. I didn't mind that Vader had found redemption... even though it seemed a little silly that he could walk back from all those murders he's responsible for... but I did mind them ruining a huge part of the mystique which made Vader so compelling...

Darth Vader's beautiful black visage is stripped away to reveal a crusty old white man!

I still think it's unfair that Prowse didn't get to play crusty old Anakin Skywalker in this scene. Lucasfilm kinda owed it to him, didn't they?

And that was the end of it. SPOILER ALERT! Vader dies and Luke lights him on fire in a funeral pyre. Thankfully with his mask on...

Darth Vader's funeral pyre!

Darth Vader is on fire!

And that was the end of it. Vader was done.

Until he wasn't, of course.

In later years, Prowse had a falling out with LucasFilm. He claimed that they owed him money that was never paid. This did not go over very well, and LucasFilm were total assholes who them prohibited him from appearing at conventions, which was his primary source of income. Be that as it may, David Prowse left a legacy which will live long past his death, and LucasFilm can't ever take that away from him.

Thank you, sir, for filling my childhood with wonder and giving the world a villain that will quite probably never be eclipsed.

Even when Darth Vader is played by other actors.

Out of the trilogy of trilogie films, I only like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The rest are just weak retreads with no added value. I do like the spin-offs Rogue One and Solo, however, as they seemed more invested in finding those things which made Star Wars so frickin' amazing. A mantle that has now been picked up with The Mandalorian TV show.

Interesting to note that it's in Rogue One where we finally... finally... get to see Darth Vader unleashed. The final scene of that movie leads to the very first scene of Star Wars, and it's glorious. No, David Prowse isn't inside the Vader suit, but he's got his stamp all over this terrifying moment as Darth Vader mows through the Rebel soldiers in an attempt to get those Death Star plans.

The sequence begins in an eerie nod to the original very first scene Darth Vader appears. But instead of him stepping out of white smoke, this time it's red...

Darth Vader appears, red lightsaber glowing!

Rebel soldiers firing at Vader in vain!

Darth Vader easily deflects the blaster fire!

In a genius move, the Rebel soldiers are shown to be horrified at Vader's power as he easily cuts a path through them...

A Rebel soldier screaming!

Darth Vader showing no mercy!

And here's The Force being used as you dreamed Vader would wield it. No stupid-ass senseless hand-gestures with no consequences like the idiotic prequel battle on Geonosis... Vader is brutal and ruthless with it. Disarming his opponents and crushing them...

Darth Vader crushes a Rebel scum on the ceiling!

Darth Vader shoves a Rebel out of his way!

Darth Vader using The Force like a Boss!

Darth Vader destorying his enemies!

Darth Vader embattled as the door closes!

Finally. Finally we get to see Darth Vader exactly how you want to see him. Overwhelmingly ruthless and powerful. And that final Vader scene. Perfection...

Darth Vader destorying his enemies!

Darth Vader destorying his enemies!

Rest In Peace, sir. You'll always be Darth Vader to me.

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Bullet Sunday 691

Posted on Sunday, December 6th, 2020

Dave!I may be spending my day celebrating, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten about this blog... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Happy Birthday! Jake and Jenny were feral rescues, so their birthdate is kinda-sorta estimated. I think. Maybe the person who found them knew the exact date and reported it when they got to the Humane Society, I'm not sure. In any event, December 6th is what's on all their paperwork and their insurance, so this is the day I wish them a Happy Birthday. And this year I am actually home to tell them "Happy Birthday" in person, which is rare. They weren't available for adoption until they got out of foster care and were fixed, and that was February 16th, 2016 (meaning these photos are of them when they were 2 months and 11 days old)...

Jenny & Jake

Jenny & Jake

Jenny & Jake

They were both so scared that it took weeks before I was even allowed to touch them. Most of their time was spent hiding under the couch. Jake was easily motivated by food (and still is) but Jenny took much longer because she's so much more cautious (and still is). Adopting them remains one of the best things I've ever done, so happy birthday to my amazing cats!

   
• AutoSleep! Speaking of my cats... at 3:30am I was awakened by Jake really struggling with a hair ball. My cats rarely have hair balls since I brush them regularly, so I got up to make sure he’s okay and clean up the mess. I would have thought that I dreamed it all, except I've been using the AutoSleep app with my Apple Watch and can verify exactly when I got up...

Jenny & Jake

AutoSleep is an app that has all the data that Apple's own Health app is missing... like the most basic of information, HOW MUCH SLEEP DID I GET? Health just gives you a start and a stop time, leaving you to have to mentally calculate it out, which is plain stupid. AutoSleep does so much more in addition to basic functions, which makes it well worth the $5 price tag, and I highly recommend it for Apple Watch owners who wear theirs to bed at night.

   
• Dysfunction? Since there are so many assholes still not willing to mask up to stop the spread of COVID, maybe this will motivate them... Another Reason to Wear a Mask: COVID-19 May Cause Erectile Dysfunction. We can only hope. Thanks to way too many people not being careful and acting like the pandemic isn't real... and even more of these people getting together for Thanksgiving despite the risks... hospitals are already starting to reach maximum capacity...

ICE T's Father-In Law Was an Anti-Masker Until He Got COVID and is Near Death.

This doesn't just affect people who have serious COVID-19 symptoms and will die without hospitalization, it also affects anybody who get a treatable health problem... like a heart attack... who can't get into a hospital because all the beds are taken by COVID patients. Stop being an asshole. This virus doesn't just kill old and sick people, it can kill anyone. A vaccine is just around the corner (along with even more incredible treatments in the pipeline) and everything can just wait.

   
• Weight! On November 19th, I reached the heaviest I've ever been... 192 lbs. Usually I try to stay at 170 lbs. and not exceed 180 lbs. because that's when I feel my best, but gave myself a pass because of COVID shit happening. But enough was enough, and I started trying to eat sensibly again. No more Family Size Bag of Lay's Potato Chips in a single day... no more Pop Tarts for breakfast... no potato salad at midnight. Two weeks later I'm down to 186 lbs., which means I've got 16 lbs. to go to get to my goal weight. It's shocking to think that I managed to put on 22 lbs. since March, but when you sit around the house doing fuck-all day after day, I guess that's what can happen. I need to eat better and be more active, because I'm getting old enough that the weight doesn't fall off as easily as it used to. Bring on that vaccine! I want my life (and body) back!

   
• Mulan? Good Lord is the live-action Mulan a boatload of shit. Very, very beautiful and pretty... but shit. Thank heavens I didn't pay the $30 to see it early... which I was this close to doing because I love the Disney animated classic original so much. The story doesn't even make sense anymore. And they left out Mushu, which is just madness when they've given her magical powers from The Matrix which makes the whole thing fantasy anyway...

ICE T's Father-In Law Was an Anti-Masker Until He Got COVID and is Near Death.

Ugh. What a waste of money that could have been put into another Star Wars series or Marvel Studios series for Disney+.

   
• HEADLINE! Warner Bros. Smashes Box Office Windows, Will Send Entire 2021 Slate to HBO Max and TheatersIn an unprecedented announcement, the studio will send 17 films — including The Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad and Dune to its streaming service for 31 days the same day they hit theaters.

Look, as I've stated many, many times, I absolutely hate the "theater experience" any more. Between people texting and talking and letting their kids run around and generally being assholes, it's about the worst form of "entertainment" there is, and I'd rather do just about anything else for fun. The only movies I see in theaters are those that I can't wait for (like Marvel Studios films). Otherwise? No thanks. So, for obvious reasons, I am thrilled by the news that I will be able to watch Dune and The Matrix 4 at home with an HBO Max subscription. But, on the other hand, I wonder what this means for those massively expensive blockbusters that I love. Will they even be able to be made any more if theaters don't exist? My guess is that they will still make them because A) Streaming services are already paying insane amounts of money for movies... B) Special effects are getting cheaper, and expensive actors can be replaced if they refuse to work within the new budgets... and C) This is where the future was headed all along as the home viewing experience gets better and better. So I dunno. I am certainly not rooting for theaters to die off completely... I think they still have a role to fill... but I'm not going to complain about not having to suffer through a theater for the movies I want to watch, that's for sure.

   
• HEADLINE! Elliot Page, Oscar-Nominated ‘Juno’ Star, Announces He Is Transgender. — Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot,” Page wrote in a statement that he posted on Tuesday

And good for him. I'm thrilled when somebody figures out who they are and what it takes to live their best life at a cost of $0 to me. Because this is not about me! Who Elliot Page is has absolutely zero effect on my life what-so-ever. How great is it that he's got it all figured out, because many people never do. My gender identity was a cakewalk. I'm a man. I've always felt like a man. My genitals align perfectly with who I am at my very core. I've only ever been attracted to women. I've only ever had sex with women. And I can't imagine somebody telling me that I can't be who I am... just like I can't imagine somebody feeling entitled enough to tell Elliot Page who they are either. Whether you accept it or not, transgender persons exist. And when they have the strength to come out to the world, it will undoubtedly save lives. Far too many transgender kids are killing themselves because they can't picture a world that they could ever exist in. Elliot Page shows them that they can.

   
Now it's time to stop slinging bullets so I can go serve Ocean Fish Pate "birthday cakes" to my fuzzy kids. Be safe, everybody.

   

A Frosty Affair

Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2020

Dave!I finally caught up on 2020 Hallmark Christmas movies this past weekend. I had been putting it off because after so many good ones (Christmas by Starlight, Five Star Christmas, The Christmas Doctor, and A Timeless Christmas), they were starting to go downhill. And, what's worse, they are not improving. Last night Hallmark finally debuted this year's Danica McKellar movie that I had been looking forward to for weeks... and it sucked. It sucked so hard. Not even my undying love for Danica McKellar could save it because it was just so bad. Not Christmas Coupon tragic-bad, but still... not so great.

Fortunately, other studios have been picking up the slack with excellent Christmas movies to watch while I'm working... like Netflix with Holidate and Midnight at the Magnolia. Even though I am essentially using my television as background noise, I still want my background noise to be good television.

Enter older "Hallmark-style" Christmas movies that I come across which I haven't seen yet.

There I was paging through the movies I get for free with my Amazon Prime membership and I see A Frosty Affair starring Jewel Staite. She's an actor I've had a crush on for near-decades thanks to her being in Firefly, and there was no way I wasn't going to give it a look...

A Frosty Affair Movie Poster

Loved it.

Yeah, yeah, it's no Shakespear. These movies never are. But it's good fun and Jewel Staite was, as expected, perfect in it...

There were some very clever lines that made it well worth watching. "You should probably allow an inch or so for shrinkage... probably two..."

Make no mistake, this is one silly movie. But it's more charming than absurd, and I ended up liking it quite a lot.

In Canada (where the movie was shot and takes place) it was originally released with the title 40 Below and Falling... and was the first ever rom-com shot in 3-D. I don't recall it ever being shown in local theaters here (let alone in 3-D), so I'm guessing it wasn't in wide release? I dunno. I generally don't pay to see rom-coms in theaters, so it could be that I just never noticed it when it was playing.

If you're looking for a distraction, have Amazon Prime, and like Hallmark-style movies as much as I do... then A Frosty Affair just might be to your liking.

   

Giftmas Part 2: Beats Solo Pro

Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Dave!I didn't really do much for Black Friday despite it being the most important shopping day of the year for me in past years. But I did make a purchase on Cyber Monday that I had been wanting to make for a while now... new wireless over-ear headphones.

While I live alone and can blast music as loud as I want to, I don't actually end up doing this because it is tough on my cats with their sensitive ears. Sometimes I watch a movie with the sound loud and they don't seem to mind... or run upstairs if they do mind... but I generally don't do that because it's not really fair to them since they can't escape the noise.

Enter the Beats by Dr. Dre Solo Pro WiFi Headphones which were knocked down to $170 (from their usual $300 price tag). And since I had $50 in reward certificates piled up at Best Buy, that knocked the price down to a reasonable $120...

My beautiful new Beats Solo Pro headphones!

Sexy, aren't they?

Not in the same league as Apple's incredible new AirPods Max headphones, but those cast $550, which is half a mortgage payment, so they're out of my league.

Probably the easiest way to review these is to just run through the pros and cons, so that's exactly what I'm going to do...

PROS:

  • The WiFi pairs effortlessly with Apple products. My iPhone recognized them immediately and, now that my iPhone knows I have them, I'm told that the firmware will be kept up-to-date automatically. Likewise, my iPad, AppleTV, and Mac can all have their sound sent to the Beats Solo Pro cans with minimal effort. This is how wireless should work.
  • No matter what music source I'm listening to... iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, or AppleTV... if I get a phone call, the Beats Solo Pro will ring through. That's a nifty feature, and why staying withn the Apple ecosystem has a payoff.
  • The sound is top-notch. Really well balanced without the horrific bass fuzz overload that plagued the older Beats I had tried.
  • Very good wireless range. I can listen uninterrupted everywhere in my home except the garage (though, admittedly, my house is fairly compact).
  • Stylish to the last detail as only Apple can manage. I love love love the red model I bought because it (mostly) matches my Product(RED) iPhone case.
  • They feel like a quality product... not at all cheap and weak.
  • The sound cancellation is phenomenal. Seriously good. Puts the BOSE and Sony sound canceling models I tried to shame.
  • "Transparency mode" (which allows outside sounds to permiate the headphones) works really well, but is not going to make a difference when listening at high volume.
  • Invoking Siri with a long-press of the Beats right-side plate controller is a flat-out cool feature. And since it is getting info from your iPhone connection, you can literally ask Siri for just about anything.
  • Includes a soft case that's not going to offer much protection, but it's better than nothing and will at least keep them clean.
  • Battery life is very good. I was only down to 50% after about 10 hours of off-and-on listening in "transparency" and "noise cancelling" modes. If you run out of juice you can get a 10-minute quick charge that will last you 3 hours.
  • To turn them on, you unfold them. To turn them off, you fold them. This is elegant and smart because you'll always know whether your battery is draining just by looking at them... but I do wonder if it will cause more wear and tear on the hinges this way. In any event, it's smarter than a switch, which I always seem to forget to turn off and drain the battery. It's habit after only three days to "fold them off" when I'm done listening.
  • The packaging is gorgeous.

CONS:

  • Despite being a Product(RED) color Or close enough to it), from what I can tell no money from my purchase actually went to Product(RED). Absolutely no idea why Apple, who has been such a big supporter, didn't go all Product(RED) with these?
  • I disregarded the complaints in reviews from people saying they are "too tight" because I have a thin head. Didn't make a difference. These are tight on my pin-head and definitely lead to fatigue. This is categorically absurd and I have no idea what the hell Apple was thinking. If you have a normal size head, they're going to be uncomfortable. If you have a large head, these are going to be painful. And thank heavens I have thin wire frames on my glasses, because if I had regular frames these cans would be excruciating. I hope that they loosen up over time.
  • Not only do they get uncomfortable after a while because they're so tight... they also get hot. There's absolutely no breathability with the vinyl ear pads, and you'll be taking a break after a couple hours or it just gets too warm to be comfortable because of how tight they are pressed against your ears.
  • Does not support Apple's new "spatial audio" feature. At all. It's just stereo and nothing but stereo. But wait... it gets worse! While most movies played the sound in stereo as expected, some shows... most notably Ted Lasso on AppleTV+ played the center channel through the right-side and the rest on the left-side? Likely an Apple problem, which leads me to believe that it will happen on others as well. If Apple can't get it right 100% of the time, what hope do I have for others?
  • The sound doesn't auto-switch between Apple devices. Listening to music on your iPhone then turning on AppleTV does not switch the audio to AppleTV... in fact, your AppleTV won't even remember that it was last playing to your Beats Solo Pros and will have to be told. Again. Even worse? Sometimes the connections are janky. My work computer recognizes them immediately and I can manually route the sound to them, but on occasion no sound will play even though they are confirmed to be receiving a stream.
  • While the sound, as noted above, is excellent overall... there are times I feel the treble is a bit too crisp, and since you don't really get equalizer controls out of most apps, that's what you're stuck with. Not terrible, but could be better. I wish there was a way to adjust this globally in the headphones themselves.
  • There's no obvious way to tell whether you're holding them with the right side on the right and the left side on the left because these look identical however you hold them. I thought that maybe Apple had devised a magical way to know which way they were situated on your head and adjusted the stereo feed accordingly, but nope. You have to be sure to look for the tiny "R" or "L" to make sure you have them on correctly. This is a serious design flaw.
  • They get plenty loud for me, but I'm surprised that they don't get louder than they do. There are a few tracks that I really want to crank, and these headphones are not having it. Probably a good thing because it will save my hearing.
  • The microphone for talking to Siri or answering phone calls is pretty good... but not great. I made a test call to a friend who said that I sounded okay, but they could tell I was not using the handset microphone.
  • You can invoke Siri hands-free by saying "Hey Siri"... but if you have other Apple devices (like my MacBook Pro) running, it will intercept the command and force you to do a long-press on the Beats plate to get Siri to listen.
  • The charging is via Apple's proprietary "Lightning" port because of course it is. Everything else in the world has gone USB-C (including Apple's own iPad) but because Apple doesn't give a fuck what's logical or convenient, they have to go with the cable that's dying and will soon be discontinued (as I'm sure iPhones will be going wireless-charging-exclusive any day now). Lord how I fucking HATE this bullshit. But it's Apple, and this is the kind of crap that Apple does.
  • The controls are kind of janky. The right ear-cup has a "Beats" logo plate on the side. Pressing on the top increases volume... on the bottom decreases the volume. Pressing the plate in the middle will pause/play or answer the phone... but you have to hit it just right or else it doesn't work. You have to push dead-center to get it to play/pause and it took me a while before I was able to get it to hit every time.
  • The controls for skipping forward or backwards (double/triple clicking on the Beats plate) doesn't seem to work outside of Apple's apps. When listening from the Amazon Music Unlimited app, for example, it does nothing. WTF? Likewise, telling Siri to skip a track outside of Apple apps doesn't work either.

And that's a wrap. Most everything I have in the "cons" column can be overlooked or dealt with except the tight fit. And I cannot for the life of me fathom what Apple was thinking here. Surely they had people try them on before releasing them to manufacturing? If I were to return these, it would be for that reason alone. It's absolutely infuriating that this is a huge concern and outright complaint on these cans by so many people yet Apple has chosen to ignore the feedback. Infuriating but not surprising... just look at Apple's idiotic "butterfly keyboard" that they stuck to like glue despite years of massive outrage by customers telling them it was shitty. Apple always does what they want and doesn't give a crap about how it affects usability or comfort. You either live with it or you don't. And what a shame.

I guess we'll see if having my head squeezed is a dealbreaker and I end up returning these. In the meanwhile, I sure do like the sound I'm hearing.

   

Giftmas Part 3: Apple AirPods Pro

Posted on Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Dave!Now that Apple has released their $550 AirPods Max, it seems fitting that I review my new AirPods Pro. I had done some work for a friend this past Summer who kindly showed their appreciation with an Amazon gift certificate. I never knew what to do with it until I bought a new heated mattress pad and had some left over to buy AirPods Pro. I wasn't going to get them because I didn't like the original AirPods, but they were on sale for $180 and reviews claimed that all the things I hated about the originals had been solved... and then some. And since I may end up traveling again one day, they seemed a handy thing to have. The sound, while nothing great, is good enough when you're traveling and don't want to cart around a big pair of headphones.

So let's get to it, shall we?

PROBLEM: AIRPODS FALL OUT OF YOUR EARS CONSTANTLY
This was my most hated flaw of the originals. It got to the point where I was afraid to travel with them because they would never stay in my ears. Fart with your head turned and you're guaranteed that at least one of them would pop right out, and I was furious that Apple screwed the design up so badly. Eventually I "solved" this by purchasing silicone cups to put over them, but it was a crap solution because I had to take them off in order to fit the AirPods back in the charging case. AirPods Pro, on the other hand, have silicone cups already on them (in your choice of sizes) and stay in my ears perfectly fine. In addition, the seal they make provides better sound.

PROBLEM: WIRELESS CHARGING CASE COSTS EXTRA
AirPods Pro come with a wireless case included, thus saving me from trying to track down the stupid-ass Apple "Lightning" cable with a USB-C connector. Considering I have ONE USB-C charging brick that I can never find (amongst a hundred USB-A bricks), I usually end up having to charge from my MacBook Pro. What kind of life is this? JUST SWITCH EVERYTHING OVER TO USB-C ALREADY!!! Holy shit. The dream scenario of just having to lug around ONE charger for everything will always be out of reach when Apple keeps forcing us to suck on their shitty, antiquated, idiotic Lightning port. But NOPE!. Fortunately the MagSafe puck I'll be traveling with can also charge these wirelessly, so at least there's one less thing to forget at home.

PROBLEM: NO NOISE CANCELATION
When traveling... especially on a plane... having noise cancelation is essential unless you want to blast the volume to insane levels. I really missed it when I upgraded(?) to AirPods, and am happy that AirPods Pro have remedied this. Not surprisingly, Apple did a great job and it works well. And when you don't need the cancelation, there's "transparency mode" which allows outside sound to come through.

PROBLEM: POOR CONNECTIVITY
The original AirPods used the W1 chip which had wonky connectivity problems which popped up at random. Apple then developed the H1 which improved on this greatly in their second generation AirPods. This was carried over into AirPods Pro and it is a far better experience. The H1 also features "Always On Siri" which means she's always listening and can respond to commands.

PROBLEM: SEALED, DISPOSIBLE DESIGN
Of course Apple hasn't solved this problem... they are in the disposable design business! Like previous versions, AirPods Pro are glued together so you can't replace the battery when it won't hold a charge any more, essentially making them landfill poison. About the only thing you can do other than toss them is take them to Apple for recycling. Apparently there's a battery program at Apple, but they don't actually replace the battery, they just give you a new pair and recycle the old ones for a price.

PRO EXTRA: SIZE
AirPods Pro are slightly smaller, but in a way that makes them look a lot smaller when you're wearing them... a good thing.

PRO EXTRA: SPATIAL AUDIO
And here's what convinced me to pull the trigger on the AirPods Pro... spatial audio. This weird, magical technology somehow simulates a kinda "surround" style sound where the speakers know when you turn your head in relationship to the multi-channel audio coming from your late-model iPhone or iPad. And it totally works! Turn to the left and your right AirPod has the center channel directed more towards it. The effect is actually best when your head is turned than when you're looking straight ahead... but it's still pretty good even so, because occasional head movement you're not even aware of keeps the illusion intact. I sincerely wish that this was a feature on the Beats Solo Pro cans I reviewed yesterday.

IN CONCLUSION...
I would not have bought AirPods Pro if it weren't for the gift certificate balance I had. And I certainly wouldn't have paid the full price of $249 for them. But for "free" (relatively) and $180 (on sale)? They're still way overpriced, but ultimately worth it for travel or even just walking to work given that these ACTUALLY STAY IN MY EARS. These are what Apple should have released the first time, design-wise. On the plus-side, the sound is better than other wireless earbuds I've tried (but still not spectacular), pairing with Apple devices is effortless and the way everything works together is magical and seamless, the wireless charging case is great, the spatial audio is fantastic, and they work as advertised. On the minus-side the built-in disposability is awful.

Once I'm able to travel again, I guess I'm set for audio now.

Assuming I ever get to travel again.

   

Bullet Sunday 692

Posted on Sunday, December 13th, 2020

Dave!I'm set adrift on memory bliss... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Star Wars on Disney+! There were loads of announcements at Disney’s Investor Day 2020 event, and there was a lot of gold to be found for pop culture geeks like me. So let's dig in, shall we?

Star Wars Series Posters for Disney+

  • Ahsoka. The reason Rosario Dawson was tapped to play Ahsoka in The Mandalorian is because they very obviously wanted to spin her off in her own show... and here we are. A fan-favorite from the cartoons, she worked really well in a live-action series, and I can't wait to see where they go with her character.
  • Rangers of the New Republic. The second spin-off from The Mandalorian, I have no idea what this will be about. But the fact that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni are producing it (and Ahshoka) leads me to believe it will be more Star Wars excellence. That all three of their shows will cross over at some point is intriguing.
  • Andor. One of the few Star Wars movies past The Empire Strikes Back that I enjoyed is Rogue One, and a huge part of why I liked it so much is Diego Luna's Cassian Andor and Alan Tudyk's K-2SO. The fact that Disney wisely decided to give them a prequel series is great news.
  • Lando. The other movie past The Empire Strikes Back that I enjoyed was Solo. And the reason why was becaues Donald Glover's take on Lando Calrissian was =chef's kiss= perfection, and I sincerely hope that he's involved in the show. Otherwise, what's the point?
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi. I loathed the prequel trilogy, but greatly enjoyed Ewan McGregor's take on the iconic character. Exiled to Tatooine where he can watch over Luke Skywalker from a distance, I can only imagine that Obi-Wan will be called off on some grand adventure, because Hayden Christensen is returning as Darth Vader in the series.
  • The Acolyte. Well this was unexpected... Leslye Headland getting a new series which takes place in the "High Republic" era? How did that happen? Needless to say, I'm intrigued. The "High Republic" is the golden age of the Jedi back when they were revered and at the height of their power and influence. Hundreds of years before the trilogy of trilogies. Who wouldn't want to see that?
  • Droid Story. R2-D2 and C-3PO are joined by a new droid hero for a new (I'm guessing animated) story.
  • Visions. This is a series of short films crafted by some of the best Japanese anime creators. The idea is almost too good to be true if you've seen any of the anime Star Wars projects that have popped up over the years.
  • The Bad Batch. Another cartoon coming out of The Clone Wars which may prove to be interesting... or could drag out the Clone Force 99 concept to a poor end. I'm hoping for the former, and with Dave Feloni in charge I'm hopeful.

   
• Star Wars Movies! While there were some parts of the sequel trilogy that were okay, the movies as a whole were disappointing. A mediocre rehashing of far better stories that had already been told. And nobody was sadder about that than me. Then The Mandalorian came along and suddenly I was thinking that perhaps Disney+ was the best future for Star Wars. Until... Taika Waititi was brought onboard to create a new movie and I was excited again. No details have been released on that, but we did find out that Patty Jenkins (of Wonder Woman fame) is developing Rogue Squadron about the best of the best X-Wing fighter pilots, and I am understandably intrigued by the possibilities...

"The greatest fighter pilot movie of all time?" Um, yeah. Sign me up!

   
• Marvel Studios on Disney+! Boy oh boy were there a smorgasbord of tidbits dropped about upcoming Marvel shows on Disney+... and announcements of entirely new shows we hadn't heard of before...

Marvel Disney+ Series Posters

  • WandaVision. Wanda's mental breakdown after the death of The Vision is straight out of the comic books. The previews from the live-action take on the material looks like it's going to be interesting... if not over-the-top oddball strange. I have no idea if this will be any good, but I'm certainly hoping so.
  • The Falcon and The Winter Soldier looks to be far more in the ballpark of what I want to see out of Marvel Studios. Fingers crossed.
  • Loki. Well, well, well. Now we know what this series will be about... Loki falling afoul of some kind of temporal space/time regulatory agency. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it looks interesting enough that I'll definitely be tuning in.
  • Hawkeye. It's been rumored that the upcoming Disney+ series will be based on the Matt Fraction and David Aja series of the same name... one of the greatest comic book stories of all time. And now we know the rumors are true, as we're getting a lot of images of Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop. All I can do is hope that it does the source material justice.
  • Ironheart. In the comic books, child genius Riri Williams builds her own Iron Man armor and has her own adventures. Now we're getting a live-action version of the same. Not sure if they will skew this one towards a younger audience or not, which I think would be a mistake.
  • Armor Wars. After playing guest shots in many Marvel Studios films, Rhodey is finally getting a series all his own after the Iron Man technology falls into the wrong hands. Don Cheadle is back in what seems like it will be an action-packed show, which is all you can hope for.
  • She-Hulk. We finally get confirmation that Mark Ruffalo's Hulk will be appearing alongside Tatiana Maslany's She-Hulk, so at least they are taking things seriously. Absolutely no idea which way they will take this, but the comic books have so many ideas as to how things could be approached that there's no excuse for doing something deserving of the material.
  • Moon Knight. No confirmation that Oscar Isaac will be taking the role, as rumored, which is a shame considering how perfect he would be for the part.
  • Ms. Marvel. In addition to Kamala Khan getting her own series, we've also learned that she will be appearing in Captain Marvel 2 along with Monica Rambeau. I don't really know how this will work given how odd her stretchy powers are, but it does bode well that she's going to be a part of something bigger in the MCU.
  • Secret Invasion. Finally. Samuel L. Jacson's Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Skull Talos get their own series! Secret Invasion was a Marvel Universe-spanning comic book arc, so I'm not exactly sure how they will be able to adapt it with just two players... but maybe they aren't? Maybe anybody who's anybody will be making guest appearances? How cool would that be? Since Sam has been in all their movies, the least they can do is return the favor. And hopefully Samuel L. Jackson will be making calls to Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in order to get them to drop by for Skrull guest appearances!
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. James Gunn is working on this one, which is going to shoot at the same time as Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3. If it's taken seriously, I'm excited for it. If not... and we're going to get some kind of farce in the vein of The Star Wars Holiday Special... I wish they just wouldn't.
  • I Am Groot. A series of shorts featuring Groot which we don't know if they are going to be actual stories... or some kind of breaking-the-fourth-wall anthology (like the Forky shorts that came out of Toy Story 4).
  • What If?. Now that I've seen the beautiful animation they've created for this series of stories which might have happened had circumstances unfolded differently than they did... including What If Peggy Carter Became Captain America and What If T'Challa Became Star Lord... I am really, really looking forward to this series.

   
• Marvel Studios Movies! Now that we're a year behind where we are supposed to be thanks to the pandemic, there's future news to be had to tide us over, I guess...

Marvel Movie Posters

  • Black Panther II. We have confirmation that Marvel will not be recasting T'Challa after the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman, which is as it should be. But after Shuri herself, Letitia Wright, came out as a full-blown anti-vaxer and conspiracy theory dumbass on her social media, I find myself wishing that they would just not do anything more with Black Panther until the inevitable MCU reboot a decade from now. Let Okoye and Nakia appear in other movies... give them their own series (along with W'Kabi, HINT HINT HINT!)... but just let Black Panther Rest In Peace.
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Peyton Reed is back for a third film, which was great news... but the big news was that Jonathan Majors has been confirmed as Kang the Conqueror! As one of the MCU's most powerful villains, it will be interesting to see if his appearance here will lead to the next big event for the movies.
  • Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. The first movie was good, but was mired in origin story stuff that didn't really get us the Doctor Strange we have been dying to see. THAT came in Infinity War and it was glorious. Now we are getting a sequel which will be exactly what we've been hoping for: a real Doctor Strange movie. Plus Scarlet Witch. Plus Mordo. Plus Wong. Plus Dr. Palmer. Plus America Chavez(!). Plus maybe even Spider-Man (because Doctor Strange will be in the next Spider-Man movie). And while it's upsetting that Scott Derrickson won't be back to direct, I choose to see Sam Raimi stepping in as a good thing, even though I really wanted to see the horror movie that Derrickson was promising us.
  • Fantastic Four. After three utterly shitty FF movies from FOX, we're finally... finally... going to get a proper Marvel Studios movie. And it's going to be directed by Jon Watts! We know nothing more about it, but if there's any hope at all of us getting something good, Marvel is the way it's going to happen.
  • Shang-Chi. No real news... but we did get confirmation that Michelle Yeoh will be in it, which is all I need to know.
  • Captain Marvel 2. What this movie will entail is a mystery. Given that she's one of the most powerful characters in the entire MCU, it's difficult to have earth-based adventures with her that can make much sense. Anything that's cosmic enough in scope to be a worthy adversary would surely attract the attention of every hero on earth and not just Carol Danvers. My guess is that it's a space adventure of some kind, but given that it's going to have Kamala Khan in it makes me wonder. Monica Rambeau will undoubtedly be getting her Photon powers (if she doesn't already get them in WandaVision), so she could certainly go cosmic, so anything's possible I suppose.

   
• Disney-Pixar! New movies Raya and the Last Dragon, Encanto, Iwaju, Luca, Lightyear, and Turning Red. New series for Disney+ built around Zootopia, Baymax, Tiana, Moana, and Cars. But the only news I really cared about was Dug Days, which looks fantastic...

Perfect.

   
• Alien! In one of the bigger surprises, Noah Hawley is creating an Alien series for Hulu?

Alien Poster.

All we know is that it will be set here on earth, and is supposed to be scary. Good enough for me.

   
• Kiss! Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair recreated their kiss from Cruel Intentions for the 2020 MTV Movie Awards...

Just makes me want to watch the movie all over again.

   
• Rook! My dad taught me how to play chess when I was fairly young. It wasn't really a game I was interested in, so I never played it much. In high school I'd play an occasional game for something to do, but I didn't really care enough to study so I was never terribly good. During my gap year I had a new found interest in the game and started playing via the internet. I got fairly good, read a few books on chess theory, and could hold my own by the time I started college. I haven't played a game since. It was for this reason I had decided to skip The Queen's Gambit when it debuted on Netflix. But the reviews were so stellar that I ended up watching it the following week...

The Queen's Gambit Poster

It's a really good series. The acting is excellent and the way they communicate the strategy and energy of the game is terrific. But the best part is the production values. They are exceptional. They've recreated the 1960's right down to the last detail, and I ended up watching parts of it again last night just to look at the appliances, automobiles, dishware, music, clothing, and all the other things which made it such an experience to watch. If you've got a Netflix subscription and haven't seen it, I'd recommend giving it a look.

   
• Interview! I was Leah's guest on her podcast Finding Favorites where I talk about travel (my favorite thing) and you can listen to it right here. I really need to get a better microphone for things like this.

   
And that's an end to my bullets, Sunday.

   

Falling In Love On Film

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Dave!Falling in love is one of those things that most everybody can relate to. And it all comes down to a moment. That one moment when the wind gets knocked out of your lungs, your heart feels like it's going to explode, and you feel yourself falling out of the earthly confines of your body. There's no other feeling quite like it.

I've had my share of love... and loss. Though the one time I fell the hardest was the time it came back to bite me in my ass the worst. She destroyed me in the worst possible way and I don't think I ever fully recovered. I'd rather never fall in love again than go through that hell again.

The Hallmark rom-coms I have playing for background noise rarely have any kind of authenticity to them. You never see that moment where you feel that the characters have fallen in love. Forget Hallmark movies... you rarely see that in any films.

There are exceptions, however.

The most romantic moment I've ever seen in a movie comes from the most unlikely of places. A Michael J. Fox rom-com called Doc Hollywood. They give you that moment where you feel the characters have fallen in love. Up until that point, there was some clumsy flirtations and you get the sense they might like each other, but there's nothing really past that. Then Michael J. Fox asks Julie Warner to dance as Patsy Cline's Crazy starts to play. It's just a casual social kinda thing...

But then the mood of the scene changes. Colorful lights from the carnival rides start exploding in the background and their posture becomes more intimate...

The dance floor is crowded, but you feel that it doesn't seem that way to them...

And then... the other dancers start to twirl away...

All of a sudden they're the only people left in the whole world. Everybody else has... vanished...

And there's the moment. Their relationship has changed utterly, and there's no doubt they've fallen for each other because you feel it. Then, just like that, the song is coming to a close and the world fades back into existence again...

But they can't even see it. To them, they're still the only two people on earth...

I'm not the most romantic guy in the world, but that scene is about the most romantic thing I've ever seen. Director Michael Caton-Jones and cinematographer Michael Chapman knew exactly what they were doing when they crafted that scene. Something that good doesn't happen by accident.

Doc Hollywood was released in 1991. In the near-thirty-years which has followed, I don't think I've ever seen its equal.

And yet... I did see something recently which comes close. It's in the new gay rom-com Dashing in December (streaming from Paramount Network). And it doesn't matter how gay you aren't... or whether you can relate to their relationship at all... it's still dang romantic.

Peter Porte is a New York financial whiz who returns to his home at a small-town Colorado ranch so he can convince his mother to sell it because it's gotten to be too much work for her. Much to his surprise, his mother is being helped out by Juan Pablo Di Pace, a ranch hand that's living on the property. Naturally, they butt heads immediately. But after they start spending time together, you get the sense that they might be interested in each other.

Then one night after dinner, Juan Pablo Di Pace leads Peter Porte down to the gazebo where he's decked it out like a homecoming dance because he found out that Peter Porte had never danced with a boy before...

As if the setting wasn't romantic enough, one of my most favorite songs... Oh What a World by Kacey Musgraves starts playing on the radio. Despite having been out of the closet for years and having dated a string of guys, Peter Porte is clearly uncomfortable with the idea and goes to get a drink after telling Juan Pablo Di Pace to start without him...

But changes his mind pretty quickly...

Then they pan down to those boots again as they Peter Porte walks up to him, and you know their relationship is about to change...

Peter Porte is nervous, unsure, and every inch of it is written right on his face...

And there it is. There's that one moment...

"Your heart is beating so fast""Yeah, that's on you."

I think the reason that this hit me so hard is because it has such a resemblance to the dancing scene in Doc Hollywood. The difference being that, unlike in Doc Hollywood which takes its time, the Dashing in December scene was cut way too short... it's just a brief moment in the film. Less than two minutes. Which seems criminal for such a pivotable moment (not to mention the price they paid for that Kacey Musgraves track which is barely there). I guess either the editor made a terrible decision... or it was truncated so as not to get people too upset that two men would dare to dance together on television. Regardless, it hurts an otherwise good "Hallmark-style" flick.

It's a shame that we don't get more holiday movies with LGBTQ+ characters... or Person of Color characters... or anything other than the same straight, white, Christian stories we've seen a million times before. Because, like I said, the different is what makes it interesting.

Oh well. Hopefully having boundary-pushing movies like Dashing in December getting greenlit will lead the way for more new and different stories to be told.

Dashing in December is playing on Paramount Network or you can buy it for $6 on iTunes.

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Unholy Perversion Just For You!

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Dave!Oh wow... hate comments! It's been months!

Yesterday I wrote about the most romantic scene from a movie I've ever witnessed... the dance at the squash festival in the old rom-com Doc Hollywood... then compared it to a similar scene from the new rom-com Dashing in December.

But because the latter film features a romance between two men, that was apparently a bridge too far for some people to take. And so... hate comments! I can only guess that I was put on some kind of watch-list ages ago because every time something like gets posted, whomever it is that's hate-reading my blog apparently tells their entire cadre of like-minded friends to come leave nasty comments that I'll barely read (and never approve) because life is just too short. The IP addresses are from all over the USA, so it must be some kind of online group (One-Dozen Moms... is that you?).

What the issue always seems to boil down to is A) My acknowledging that LGBTQ+ people exist and this is somehow considered offensive and dangerous, because B) My blog has "cartoons" on it which attracts children who might see such unholy perversions as this...

And all I can say is... you're welcome!

Because if your kid happens to be gay and does come across something as innocent as a photo of two guys dancing together on Blogography, then maybe it will be a little ray of sunshine which validates their existence and helps them to deal with the toxic atmosphere you've cultivated which lead so many LGBTQ+ youth into self-harm and even death.

And if you're one of those people who would rather have a dead child than a gay child, then fuck you sideways, because you're everything that's wrong with our society. Nobody "turns gay" from looking at a frickin' photo like this. I mean, you didn't. Or did you?

The truly telling thing about hate comments FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN on yesterday's entry is the fact that I regularly drop F-bombs in blog entries and never hear a single discouraging word about that. So it's not all the things I write about here... only some things. Maybe before I started blogging I should have asked the internet for a list of things that are and are not acceptable? Well, too late for that now.

I can no more relate to a movie about gay cowboys falling in love than I can relate to a movie about straight people falling in love (apparently, =insert cry emoji=)... but I find them equally entertaining. Actually, I find the gay cowboy romance more entertaining because it's something I haven't seen a million times before (at least not since Brokeback Mountain fifteen years ago). Happy people falling in love are happy people falling in love and I just don't give a crap so long as it doesn't involve children or unwilling animals. And, on top of it all, Dashing in December is GOOD. Really cute stuff if you are into the whole Hallmark Christmas movie rom-com thing like I am.

And if you think that a bunch of hate comments is going to get me to change my mind about posting innocent photos of LGBTQ+ persons merely existing, read this entry and get back to me.

(hint: the answer is "no")

And now, because I love y'all more than sandwiches, here's the song Take Me Home For Christmas by Dan + Shay which plays at the end of Dashing in December. It's a totally great song... and doesn't have gay cowboys in it, if that's important to you for some reason...

Awwww. Santa puppies are the best puppies.

   

Blog of the Damned

Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Dave!Last night it snowed. Not a ton, but enough to turn the world white here in the foothills of the Cascades.

In the Northeast, of course, it's another story entirely. Which means even if there wasn't COVID happening, I'd likely be unable to get to my annual December work trip in Maine. Assuming I could even fly into Boston and the roads are open, there's still a matter of 2-4 inches of snow falling per hour... followed by rains which will freeze at night. Not a pretty scenario.

Back on my 2014 trip, similar conditions were brutal, and it took a half hour to scrape the ice off my rental car and get the tires free from having been frozen to the ground...

Tires frozen in the snow.

But I can't complain too much. Being stuck in Portland in the bitter cold gave me the opportunity to go exploring with my camera and I got some really nice shots that trip because so few people were out braving the weather...

Portland's Harbor Fish Market.

Portland Maine

Portland Maine

Portland Maine

It will be interesting to see how my travel goes in 2021. Now that the charity has shuttered and work travel has halted indefinitely, it's entirely possible that I'll take just one or two trips a year for vacation or visiting friends and that's it. Quite a change from the dozens of trips I was making each year pre-pandemic. Though when you consider I had zero flights in 2020, even one flight will be a huge change from where I'm at now.

Oh well. I guess the frequent flier status and upgraded seats were good while they lasted. I had 5 years of good status followed by 25 years of amazing status and nothing lasts forever. Still... I will surely miss getting International upgrades. Domestic flights are no big deal. Seattle to Hawaii is just over 5 hours. Seattle to Orlando is around 6 hours. I can tolerate just about any seat for that long. But those 11+ hour flights? Having legroom and comfy seats makes a world of difference.

2006-2013 were my best travel years. When both you and your mom (who has zero status) regularly get upgraded to World Business Class for international trips... you know you are flying a lot of miles. An absurd amount of miles...

Mom and my feet stretched out enjoying World Business Class luxury.

Mom and my feet stretched out enjoying World Business Class luxury.

=sigh=

Those were the days.

In other news... hate comments continue to trickle in because I dared blog about the movie Dashing in December and showed a photo of two gay cowboys dancing together. I hardly ever read hate comments and delete them the second I know what they're about... but this morning I awoke to a comment which merely said "YOU WILL BE DAMNED!" and I had to really appreciate the artistry in that. A comment short enough that I had read the entire thing before I realized it. If I were to respond to this kind of idiocy (and I don't) it might be along the lines of "Settle down there, snowflake! It's not like I posted images of the gay cowboys kissing!"

Gay cowboys kissing.

Closeup of gay cowboys kissing.

Well I'll be damned. I actually did do that!

Please keep your hate comments short and to the point.

   

Bullet Sunday 693

Posted on Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Dave!Christmas is coming, but there's magic happening tonight... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Hallmarked! And... tonight was the last new Hallmark Christmas movie of 2020. I've watched and reviewed them all, as usual, of course. Now I just need to wade through a bunch of the other movies from Lifetime, Netflix, and such, and I'm done for another year. Surprisingly, I think this was the best year in a while. Even so, I'm done. I've been Hallmarked out. Until next year.

   
• RickVertising! If I was a company, I'd have Rick & Morty do all my advertisements...



Serious bang for your buck.

   
• Adopt! Speaking of ads... why is it that I can watch all the so-called "emotional" movies and not get emotional, but a commercial like this has me struggling to keep it together?

Just weird, I guess.

   
• Tater! Please tell me that I'm not the only one who has tried Martha Stewart's baked potatoes. Take LARGE YUKON GOLD potatoes... NOT russets... DO NOT poke holes in them. DO NOT oil or butter. Put a wire rack on the middle rack of your oven (so potatoes don't fall through) then bake at 325º for 90 MINUTES. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN TO CHECK. Just have faith. — After cooking, smash them on a counter, pry apart, then add your favorite topping (I went with salt, pepper, butter, sour cream, and chives). — Remarkable. So creamy it's more like dessert than a potato. And that paper-crispy skin is like candy. Truly the best baked potatoes I've ever had. I won't be making them any other way ever again.

   
• Jangle! I am not into musicals, or fantasy, or kid films... so I've been putting off Jingle Jangle on Netflix. That being said, the production values and costume design? Holy. Shit. This may very well be the most beautiful film I've ever seen. I will be very disappointed if no rewards are won. Even the smallest details are fully realized... and EVERYWHERE...

Jingle Jangle Poster

Worth watching (on Netflix) just for the visuals.

   
• Cop Doctors! One of the most demented (and hilarious) shows to ever air on television was Children's Hospital on Adult Swim (you can watch on Hulu, I believe). I just found out today that Netflix had a spin-off series with a lot of the same cast that aired back in January...

I binged the entire season and loved it. Boy I hope we get another season.

   
• Swap! I look forward to this every year. It never disappoints. I just wish they did even more of it...

Poor Colin. Though I won't feel too sad. He does get to go home to Scarlett Johansson.

   
And that's a wrap. See you after Christmas!

   

A 1984 Blunder Story

Posted on Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Dave!A few quibbles aside, the first Wonder Woman movie was a triumph. Beautifully realized and brilliantly told, it was everything you want out of a super-hero comic book movie. And that scene where Princess Diana of Themyscira crawls out of the trenches and becomes Wonder Woman is one of the best scenes of any movie ever made. I enjoyed it a lot, and feel it sits with The Dark Knight and Superman: The Movie as the pinnacle of of what DC Comic movies could be but often are not.

So obviously I was eagerly anticipating the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984...

   
The short non-spoiler version... I absolutely HATED this film. Easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's garbage from start to finish and trying to find something good to say about it boils down to Gal Godot looking as amazing as ever as Wonder Woman. That's it. That's all I got.

My thoughts are in an extended entry, which will include spoilers...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Bullet Sunday 694

Posted on Sunday, December 27th, 2020

Dave!Christmas may be over, but the greatest gift of all is right here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Snow! This is such a wonderful, beautiful, heartwarming video and I suggest you drop everything and watch it immediately...

You're welcome.

   
• More Snowy! We were supposed to get snow for a white Christmas here and, sure enough, it happened. I can't help but wonder how many of those we have left. The snowfall in recent years pales in comparison to what we got when I was young. And that pales in comparison to when my mom was a kid and people jumped off roofs into the snowfall. Thanks, climate change!

   
• Wonder? As my post yesterday elaborated, I absolutely hated the new Wonder Woman 1984 movie. It was a huge disappointment after the first one, and I wish I had never seen it. Then I read today that Patty Jenkins is getting another chance to either redeem herself or ruin the franchise further with a third Wonder Woman film. I guess since Diana is all about hope that I will hope for the best. It would certainly take a lot of effort to do worse.

   
• Two! I swear, if Coming 2 America disappoints me like Wonder Woman 1984, I may have to swear off movie sequels altogether...

It certainly looks like they made all the right moves. Guess we have to wait a few months and see.

   
• SANTA! And now I'll leave you with one of my favorite Christmas movie moments in any movie ever. Stephen Huszar's reaction to seeing Santa is the absolute best (even though the movie it's from "Mistletoe Magic" was pretty awful)...

Obviously hasn't lost his childhood enthusiasm for the holidays.

   
• Lexus! Though... I think the mom's reaction in this SNL parody commercial comes in at a close second...

Classic.

   
• Robe! And yet... there's Kristen Wiig's reaction in this SNL parody commercial...

Okay. I can't decide on a favorite. But probably Stephen Huszar's reaction to seeing Santa.

   
And that's my last Bullet Sunday of 2020.

   

Video20

Posted on Monday, December 28th, 2020
Dave!And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.

Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of movies I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of movies I never saw that would have probably ended up on my list (we'll get to that later). And here we go...

THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.

Favorite Movies 2020

#1 The Old Guard (Netflix)
In a year where Marvel Studios and Disney pushed their entire slate of features into 2021, the saving grace for movies this year was thanks to streaming services like Netflix. And it's there we got the best super-hero movie of the year by a massively huge margin. Adapted from a terrific comic book series, The Old Guard is about a group of immortal warriors who have to be increasingly careful in a world where surveillance and social media can expose them. And when that happens? Hoo boy. I was bummed that Charlize Theron hasn't filmed a sequel to Atomic Blonde yet, but if she keeps churning out brilliant alternatives like this epic movie, I guess I can be okay with it. But of course now I want a sequel to The Old Guard, so I have twice as many things to be disappointed about. Would this have been my #1 if Black Widow or Shang-Chi or The Eternals came out in 2020? I don't know. But I would have loved to have found out.

#2 The Gentlemen
Guy Ritchie has an impressive number of films I enjoy... but that's never guaranteed (I didn't care for his previous two efforts Aladdin and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword at all). This one had me worried because I could not figure Matthew McConaughey in a Guy Ritchie film. But then he's got Colin Farell, Hugh Grant, and Henry Golding in the mix and I'm like "Maybe?" Then Hugh Grant completely steals the movie, Charlie Hunnam pops up with the best performance of his entire career, and I was totally okay with it. American Michael Pearson is a massive marijuana dealer throughout London and becomes a very wealthy man. Tired of the game, he decides to sell his drug empire for $400 million and retire, which sets the wheels in motion for all kinds of new games. And watching it all unfold is a cinematic treat that is the best kind of Guy Ritchie film... possibly his best since Snatch. If you're a fan of his work, this is what you're likely a fan of.

#3 Uncle Frank (Amazon Prime)
I'm not exactly sure how I ever stumbled across this movie. I think that it was recommended while I was on Amazon Prime Video. In any event, it's about all you can ask for in a film. Paul Bettany unleashes an award-winning performance as a gay man in 1973 who travels back home with his niece to attend his abusive father's funeral. But when they are unexpectedly joined by his lover along the way, the past will catch up with him in a way he can't escape. This is a wholly wonderful film that's made even more wonderful when you understand how important it is. Showing acceptance 50 years ago just makes un-acceptance now seem all the more backwards and stupid. I ended up liking the movie so much that I wanted to know more about it and was shocked that it was written and directed by Alan Ball, which means I must have missed the credits. This made perfect sense, given his magical touch on so many amazing television shows (including Oh Grow Up! which I am still begging somebody to release on DVD or digital). Of all the movies on my list, this is probably the most important.

#4 Tenet
The first time I saw Tenet, I genuinely hated it right up until the end where a few things slammed home for me. Thinking a second viewing would have me appreciating it more, I jumped in again the next day. Feeling I had a better handle on it all, I went ahead and watched it a third time a few days later. Finally the more subtle elements started making sense to me and I felt that I was able to appreciate it in a way I missed completely the first two times. And that's the thing... sure there are special effects sequences in this time-bending rollercoaster ride which would be great to see in a movie theater... but I think experiencing it that way only sets you up for disappointment. With all due respect to Christopher Nolan, home video is what this film was made for. All the things that make it a good movie will completely blow by you until you have a chance to see it at least one more time.

#5 Sometimes Always Never
This is a beautiful character piece that entirely relies on the performances of Bill Nighy and Sam Riley to work, and they do not fail. I have yet to see Bill Nighy in a single role where I wasn't completely absorbed in his character, and this was one of his best yet. He plays a father who has been desperately searching for his missing son who walked out in the middle of a game of Scrabble... while ignoring the son who stayed. While playing online games of Scrabble, he becomes convinced that it's his missing son who's been playing games with him. He sets out with his son to find the truth. Heartbreaking but funny in all the right ways, this is a wonderful (albeit slow) film that I can't recommend highly enough.

#6 The Lovebirds (Netflix)
In all honesty, I did not give this movie a snowball's chance in hell of being as good as it ended up being. But I tuned in because I love both Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Ray, so a movie starring both of them immediately moved to my "Must Watch List." In The Lovebirds they are a married couple who have grown bored with each other and their marriage and have been going through the motions for a while. Then, just as they decide to divorce and go their separate ways, a chance accident happens which changes everything... and sends them on an adventure that's bigger than the film's concept might otherwise imply. I loved this film and have told Netflix to play it more times than I'll ever admit. Because in addition to the stellar performances from two fantastic actors, we get fantastic New Orleans locations, fantastic cinematography, a fantastic story, and some genuine humor that was... well... fantastic. I will be the first to admit that it takes a particular mindset to truly appreciate this gem for what it is. Lucky me, it's precisely the mindset I often find myself in.

Favorite Movies 2020

#7 Palm Springs (Hulu)
A new take on Groundhog Day is nothing very new at all, as they seem to pop up every couple of years. This version, however, it really well done and adds a few twists to the formula that make it worth visiting. While attending a wedding, the maid-of-honor gets trapped in a never-ending cycle of never-ending days along with a slacker living his best life over and over again (played by Andy Samberg). Things are complicated as new facts behind the wedding are revealed, the maid-of-honor wants out, and an enemy set on revenge gets trapped with them. The humor is ever-present, but doesn't overwhelm the story being told... getting the balance just right.

#8 The Invisible Man
This was a smart take on the classic tale, combining genuine thrills with horror beats that land surprisingly well. And then there's the special effects which elevate it all to new levels. This new version of the story has a woman trapped in a controlling relationship from which she succeeds in escaping. Then, much to her relief, her now-ex-boyfriend comits suicide and leaves her $5 million. Unable to enjoy her new-found wealth because she feels she is being haunted by her ex, she is forced to try and find answers. What she finds out is far scarier than a ghost, and the ensuing battle is an edge-of-your-seat affair that is exciting to the very end. Although it's not exactly the end because a sequel is in the works.

#9 Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
It's a Spike Lee Joint, so you know you're in for something interesting... if not outright genius. This time he's telling the story of four Black Vietnam vets who return to find the remains of their squad leader... and also recover some gold they buried. And while the cast is fantastic, I die inside a little when I heard that it was originally to star Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito, and John David Washington. What a movie that would have been (though, to be honest, the remarkable Delroy Lindo deserved this movie and has more than paid his dues to get it). Ultimately this is a darn good film that suffers from being wildly off-balanced, trying to be a commentary on the Vietnam War, a look at Vietnam from the perspective of Black soldiers, a commentary on contemporary America, a comedy, and an action movie... all at the same time. And while it mostly succeeds at most of that, it can also feel a bit disjointed and is long. Regardless, this is a smart, well-crafted, important film that only a director of Spike Lee's caliber could make. As if that wasn't enough, it's got Jean Reno and an appearance by Chadwick Boseman in it.

#10 WolfWalkers (Apple TV+)
Given that The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea are two of my favorite animated features, it's not shocking that Tomm Moore's third film, WolfWalkers made my list. Featuring his hallmark Celtic art style, this is a gorgeously animated film follows a young girl and her father as they travel to Ireland to eliminate a pack of wolves. As they begin the hunt they encounter magic, danger, and mystery in the forest which opens their eyes, alters their perspective, and changes their lives. This is a masterpiece of art and storytelling which has to be experienced to truly be believed.

#11 Bill & Ted Face the Music
While deep down I think that it would have been better to just let this franchise go, I was happy to dive in once again, hoping to get better closure than what came from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey 30 years ago. The result is indeed better than the sequel but, thanks to the absence of George Carlin, didn't feel like it was ever complete to me.

#12 Dashing in December (Paramount)
As diversity continues to creep into Christmas rom-com movie offerings, we're getting so much more than the same old rom-com stuff that keeps being remade over and over. This time, it's a gay couple at center stage, and it makes for a really good story because there are added layers to the standard girl meets boy plot we keep seeing. Repeat Hallmark player Peter Porte is a successful Manhattan financial advisor who heads home to his family ranch in Colorado to convince him mom to sell it. But when he arrives he finds that Juan Pablo Di Pace has been employed as a ranch hand and is definitely opposed to selling. After initially butting heads, their relationship becomes something more as they come to understand each other better. What makes this one work so well is the dialogue which feels honest and true in a way that's usually lacking. After talking about their past relationships and how things never seem to work out for either of them while gluing back some wicker reindeer decorations that fell apart, we're treated to this passage: "They still look broken.""Broken, but happy to have each other." which so beautifully summarizes what they've been through and where they're at now in this moment together. And it's that kind of clever dialogue that makes Dashing in December a cut above other rom-coms... gay or straight. Andie MacDowell is just the icing on the cake.

   
HONORABLE MENTION...

  • Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
    I'm not a big fan of how DC Comic movies are perverted from the source material, and this is more of the same. Though Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is as entertaining as ever... and this is certainly one of the better DC adaptations, that's not saying much. I did end up liking it, however. Just not as much as I felt I should have.
  • A California Christmas (Netflix)
    No, this Hallmark imitation film will never be mistaken for high art or even a great film, but I think it did give us a fresh perspective on the tired old stories we keep seeing over and over.
  • Enola Holmes (Netflix)
    Color me 20 shades of shocked. This new take on Sherlock Holmes shakes things up beautifully by focusing on his younger sister Enola, capably played by Millie Bobby Brown. The result is surprisingly good, wonderfully fresh, and made all the better by having Henry Cavill and Sam Claffin appear as her older siblings. I'm hopeful we get new adventures one day soon.
  • First Cow
    Any other year, drama might have played better for me, but in 2020? Not really what I was looking for, though this flick was darn good... and not what I was expecting (which is always a good thing).
  • Holidate (Netflix)
    This movie starts out terribly, trying to have a holiday rom-com sensibility which is mostly annoying and has terrible music choices. But then... things... change? And you get an entertaining flick that manages to break free of the cheese while not losing the cheesiness which makes it a fun movie to watch.
  • Mank (Netflix)
    Featuring some of the sharpest dialogue you're likely to hear all year, this clever, intelligent, and remarkably crafted look behind the scenes of Herman J. Mankiewicz's writing of Citizen Kane also has performances above and beyond.
  • Midnight at the Magnolia (Netflix)
    For the first time ever, I'm recognizing a "Hallmark-style" movie in my Best of 2020... thanks to a decent script and the performances and on-screen chemistry of Natalie Hall and Evan Williams.
  • My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)
    This was a bizarre yet beautiful look at a man's relationship with... an octopus? It's nothing like I expected, and the way it makes you feel about these surprisingly intelligent creatures will last long past the end credits.
  • On The Rocks (Apple TV+)
    As a massive Bill Murray fan, I was anticipating this being one of my favorite films... but it never quite got there because it tends to meander without "going" anywhere. Even so, it has enough entertaining moments to make it worth a watch.
  • Onward
    It's Pixar, so you know it isn't going to suck... but you're pretty much assured to be overwhelmed with sentiment and have an abundance of manipulative heartstring pulling that gets tiring. That this one delved into fantasy (a genre I'm not a fan of) didn't earn it any favors, but didn't sabotage it either.
  • Save Yourselves!
    a comedic take on alien invasion movies that is a great flick if you don't take it too seriously (which likely won't be a problem). What I don't get is the non-ending ending, which kinda sabotages everything that comes before. I'm not saying that a film has to wrap everything up in a big bow for me, but for a film like this? Yeah. Probably.
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Disney+)
    You would think that after all the Shaun the Sheep movies, specials, shorts, and TV shows I'd be over it already... but this time Aardman Animations took things in a new direction entirely by giving us a clever alien invasion twist that made for one of the most entertaining entries yet. Beautiful to look at and fun from start to finish.
  • Soul (Disney+)
    There's no denying that this is a gorgeously animated feature. My problem is that they get bogged down in the bizarre minutiae of how "souls" and "sparks" work for the first thirty minutes and I had a tougher time getting into the movie than I felt I should have. Once they get down to earth is where the movie actually began for me.

   
DIDN'T SEE, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...

  • Babyteeth
  • Bad Boys for Life
  • Extra Ordinary
  • Freaky
  • Greenland
  • Howard
  • Kid Detective
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • Sorry We Missed You
  • Synchronic
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

   
OVERRATED...

  • Greyhound (Apple TV+)
    A World War II submarine thriller starring Tom Hanks? Sign me up! Except... characters are one-dimensional and barely register against the action, which makes for a somewhat thrilling but also quite boring film. But where this one sucked hardest is with the music, which was horrifically bad. Gut-wrenchingly awful. A repugnant auditory assault you will beg to forget.

   
TOTALLY SHIT THE BED...

  • Happiest Season (Hulu)
    I had been looking forward to the first major lesbian-lead Christmas movie rom-com since I heard about it. Alas they filled it with the shittiest possible people and had some of the most brutally inane and idiotic dialogue I've ever suffered through. What the hell?
  • Mulan (Disney+)
    Take an amazing Disney animated classic, retool it for live action with astounding wardrobe, cinematography, and visuals... then dumb it down to a bucket of stupid with a story that sucks.
  • The New Mutants
    Where do I even start? This movie has languished for years. First because 20th Century Fox apparently didn't know what to do with it... then Disney/Marvel didn't know what to do with it after they bought out the studio. Eventually it was unceremoniously dumped in theaters during a pandemic just to get rid of it because it wasn't a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and would be forgotten anyway. Given that it was supposed to be a super-hero horror film but didn't have any horror... and any super-heroics were boring... I've forgotten it already.
  • Wonder Woman 1984
    Good Lord what a shitty fucking film.

   
Intresting to note just how many of the films on my list are from streaming services. Yes, some of them would have likely dropped out of my Top Twelve if there wasn't a pandemic and studios had released their 2020 slate... but the good movies would have definitely gotten a mention regardless. I think this is very telling about the future of our entertainment. Odds are that theaters will fully open up again in Summer or Fall of 2021 (assuming we achieve some semblance of heard immunity by then and assuming theaters manage to survive), but big-budget movies bankrolled by streamers are likely here to stay. At least if the rising cost of my Netflix sumbscription is any indication.

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