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Young Hollywood Obsession

Posted on January 4th, 2018

Dave!My first screen crush was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Not from her initial run that started in 1975 (I was 9 years old) but later on when the show was syndicated on whatever cable channel reran old pop culture TV shows in 1981. I was flicking through channels and happened upon what I thought was some kind of military show, until Diana Prince exploded in a burst of light and Wonder Woman appeared on my television.

Shew was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

In every sense that mattered, Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman.

To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I kept watching the show every chance I got... even when they destroyed it by abandoning the World War II setting and had Lyle Waggoner play his own son in "modern times" (while accompanied by a bleep-bloop computer named IRAC and a robot called ROVER).

My Lynda Carter awakening game me an all new appreciation for other shows I was tuning into at the time...
• Erin Gray who played Wilma Deering in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
• Pamela Hensley who played Princess Ardala in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
• Barbara Eden who played Genie in I Dream of Genie reruns.

Of these four women who shaped my fantasy life in my developing years, I've only met one of them, Erin Gray...

Me and Erin Gray

Note she is just as beautiful now as she ever was. And she was nice!

Other crushes came and went... depending on who was the "it-girl" of the moment on MTV or in the latest TV show or Movie I liked, but everything began with Lynda, Erin, Pamela, and Barbara.

And then came Blade Runner in 1982.

Always looking for the next big sci-fi extravaganza to fuel the fire lit by Star Wars (or, more likely, The Empire Strikes Back), I trudged to the theater to take in Blade Runner, which was a big treat for me at the time.

It was there that I literally had my breath taken away when "Racheal" appeared from the dim recesses of Eldon Tyrell's corporate headquarters...

The cool, detached demeanor that Rachel exhibited throughout Harrison Ford's interrogation was just the icing on the cake. I had just fallen in love with Sean Young.

This meant saving up the insane amount of money to buy a copy of Blade Runner on VHS tape when it was released in 1983 (seriously, it was like $100 or something). It also meant following her career (going backwards to see her first film appearance in Stripes first), which was pretty hit-or-miss over the years. But I always loved Sean. Even when she would play to the absurd, like she did in 1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

And so you can imagine my shock when 1982 Sean Young appeared on-screen in last year's Blade Runner 2049 sequel. Looking exactly as she did when I fell in love with her 35 years ago...

Digital Rachael

Unlike the way they resurrected Carrie Fischer's Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sean Young looked real. So real that I was convinced they must have digitally cleaned up footage from the first movie and reused it somehow. How could it be otherwise, because everything about it Was. Real.

It also lead to a moment of confusion for me when Deckard (Harrison Ford) spoils his reunion moment in Blade Runner 2049 by telling Wallace he screwed up because the real Rachael had green eyes. Except... from my staring into them for hours at a time, I knew that her eyes were actually originally brown, just like the new copy. It's then I had an "ah ha!" moment when I realized that Decker was merely using the eye color line to screw with Wallace by essentially saying he would always know she was a fake.

I had kind of forgotten about this somewhat shocking moment from 2017 cinema until today when I ran across a story about how they actually did recreate Sean Young digitally for the cameo appearance. They just took the time to do an extraordinary job of it...

Digital Rachael

And here's the VFX reel...

Amazing.

I'm guessing in the next ten to twenty years, the visual effects will be so jaw-droppingly realistic that they can resurrect anybody from any time and bring them to life again on-screen.

I'm not going to dwell on the legal or moral consequences of doing so. But I am going to dwell on the possibility that we'll one day get an "animated" feature film of 1975 Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.

15-year-old me is counting on it.

   

Video17

Posted on December 28th, 2017

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 2017

#1 Thor: Ragnarok
While critics were kind of meh on the first two Thor movies, I loved them. The first captured the grandeur and majesty of a prince of Asgard and set up Loki as a major player in all that would follow. The second faltered a bit on story, but had the best Thor action we had seen to date. And now we get Thor: Ragnarok which heads into new, more comedic territory to deliver one of the most entertaining Marvel Studios films to date. Writer Eric Pearson, who came out of nowhere with only episodes of television's Agent Carter under his belt absolutely nailed the perfect balance of action to laughs. Director Taika Waititi went full-on Jack Kirby with the visuals and made the script absolutely sing. And then there's the flawless cast headed by Chris Hemsworth and his way underutilized comedic chops... plus Tom Hiddleston being the best Loki yet, Cate Blanchett taking the crown as Marvel's best villain yet, Jeff Goldblum being the most Jeff Goldblum we've seen yet, Mark Ruffalo giving us (by far) the best Hulk yet, Idris Elba finally being given something substantial to do and bringing the best Haimdall yet, plus Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie... easily one of the best additions to the Thor saga yet. The plot is almost incidental given the amazing cast and visuals, but it doesn't suck. Thor and Hulk in a buddy movie and it's glorious. By far my favorite film of this year. Of most years.

#2 Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Sony Spider-Man films went from pretty good and took a slow slide to comic book tragedy. I was always glad when a new one was released, but never cared much for what I saw. Until Marvel got the character back and made him exactly the character he needed to be. Spider-Man: Homecoming is easily the best Spider-Man to ever hit the screen. Painfully respectful to the source material (holy crap... Spider-Man is just a kid!) with some fantastic updates (Aunt May isn't ancient! Tony Stark is his mentor!) and laced with dazzling special effects that never overwhelm the story, I loved every minute of the movie. Michael Keaton adds new dimension to The Vulture, who is stealing all the tech in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and creating powerfully-armed super-criminals which Peter Parker stumbles upon. Trying to balance being a super-hero with school, his friends, his aunt, and his love-life gets to be quite a challenge, but makes for fantastic entertainment. Robert Downey Jr. popping up from time to time is just the icing on the cake.

#3 Wonder Woman
It's no secret that I positively loathe the new "cinematic universe" being created by DC Comics and Zack Snyder. Dark, depressing, and absolutely no fun... Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and Suicide Squad just plain suck. I hated them all. But then Patty Jenkin comes along and plucks Wonder Woman from the gloom to create a glorious representative of what the DC films should be. Taking place in World War I, Steve Trevor crashes into the ocean near Themiscyra, home of the Amazons. Princess Diana, born into a destiny for greater things, leaves paradise to search for Ares, god of war and whom she is convinced is behind the horrors emveloping the world. Things don't go quite as she planned, but Diana becomes the hero we need along the way. Kudos to Gal Gadot and Chris Pine for their amazing performances, which elevate an already remarkable story. When Diana climbs out of the trenches to cross "no-man's land" and save a village in France, we were treated to one of the most surprisingly emotional moments on film in 2017. It was that moment that Princess Diana became Wonder Woman, and Patty Jenkins brought hope to the future of DC Comics on film.

#4 Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2
The original Guardians of the Galaxy has long been one of my favorite Marvel films. It was a complete surprise. I held no hope at all it would be any good, but James Gunn figured out a way to make it more than "good" and I loved everything about it. The sequel didn't capture my imagination like the first... the story is a bit convoluted and lost a bit of the emotional charm... but it's still a wholly entertaining ride that I loved to watch. Kurt Russel pulled off the character of "Ego" the way few others could, which just added to an already flawless cast... the highlight being "Baby Groot," who absolutely nobody can help falling in love with. But above everything is the emotional center that Gunn put at the core of it all. Peter Quill's self-discovery and need for family drives the story in ways that most super-hero flicks can't match, and that's why the movie works as well as it does. Cannot wait for Volume 3.

#5 Blade Runner 2049
It's an unnecessary sequel with a story that was in desperate need of editing, but it was also a revelation with stunning visuals that made it a worth successor to the original film. Most people I know either loved it or hated it with nothing in-between, and I totally get that. And it's part of the reason I liked the film so much... it totally went for the brass ring and took risks that could alienate its audience. Was it the story I most wanted to see? No. But it was still very much in keeping faith with the original, and Ryan Gosling as the Replicant "K" has once again upped my opinion of his talents (the first time being in The Good Guys where he was amazing). Harrison Ford's return as Deckard was in many ways underwhelming, but this isn't his story, so it works. Yes, the film dragged on with every scene feeling far longer than it needed to be, but it was also amazing to look at and had an unexpected emotional punch. Dismal box-office practically ensures we won't be getting any more Blade Runners until the inevitable reboot seven years from now, and that's probably okay. Though, by the end of the movie, I was left very much wanting to see more of the dreamy future world that K lives in. I guess that's about as good as an endorsement as I can give.

#6 Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress who knows exactly how to inhabit the roles she takes on. Never is this more apparent than with this 1989 Cold War spy thriller that is filled with some of the best "James Bond" action you will ever see. Relentless action highlighted by some of the most brutal fight scenes you'll see by a woman... or a man. The fact that it was such an amazing 80's soundtrack attached is just the icing on the cake (though I honestly can't picture the movie without it). The twist on a twist at the end was not as surprising as it could have been, but it wraps things up well and has me dying to see a sequel.

Favorite Movies 2017

#7 Get Out
Who knew? I dismissed Get Out as another Key and Peele bit of funny fluff like Keanu and had no plans to ever see it in theaters... thinking maybe I'll catch it on video. But the critical acclaim built up so fast and was so overwhelmingly positive that I had to see it. I was not disappointed. Jordan Peele has stepped away from comedy (while leaving one foot in the pool) to craft a remarkable thriller that has a running commentary on society that few others could handle so deftly. And yet... wholly entertaining on top of that.

#8 LEGO Batman: The Movie
Amazing. DC should just scrap everything they're doing and just LEGO everything. I laughed more time in this film than any film in recent memory. I was sorely tempted to just slap this at #1 and be done with the list... but... so many good films this year.

#9 Coco
It's as if Pixar releases shit like Cars 2 and Cars 3 then compensates for it by releasing stunning works like Brave, Finding Dory, and now Coco.... A heartfelt story married to lush, colorful, gorgeous visuals. Seriously, this is one of the prettiest films ever made.

#10 Kedi
It took owning cats for me to fall in love with cats. Kedi is a love-letter to the stray cats of Istanbul... thousands of them... and the people who interact with them. If you're fascinated by felines, documentaries, and other cultures, this is your movie. Heck, even if you're not into any of those things, this is still your movie.

#11 Baby Driver
A lot of movies tout themselves to be "thrill-rides" and end up being anything but. This movie is a thrill-ride that actually delivers. Edgar Wright took both car chase movies and heist movies to another level by combining gritty action with a phenomenal cast and a killer soundtrack. It's a real shame that Kevin Spacey turned out to be a shit, because this movie typifies him taking on a subordinate role in a film and just killing it.

#12 Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)
Just when you thing the body-swap trope has been done to death and you never want to see it again, director Makoto Shinkai uses it to craft a beautiful, compelling, complex love story unlike any other. Besides being beautifully animated, the story has real emotional impact and a twist you feel. It's a real shame that so few Westerners will see this movie because it's well worth seeing.

   
SPECIAL MENTION...
I love a good standup film. I live for a great standup film. Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King is a standup film to die for. I've seen it five times. I will undoubtedly watch it a dozen more...

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

Because I am not an Indian-American Muslim, Minhaj cannot speak to my experience being an Indian-American Muslim. But he makes it so that I can relate to his story and reach a place where I can better understand what it means to be an Indian-American Muslim in this country... and only the very best comedians can do something like that. This is game-changing, groundbreaking, beautifully-realized, entirely entertaining comedy film that is not to be missed. And that's true no matter who you are or what you believe.

   
SPECIAL MENTION...
Last year my #9 movie was La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle), which was a 2016 movie for me because I saw it on the festival circuit. It was put in general USA release this year, so I'm mentioning it again because it's just too beautiful to overlook...

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

Gorgeous animation from Studio Ghibli that's a warm blanket in visual form (there's no dialogue). The story is a tale of survival that unfolds like a classic fairytale... but ends up being so much more. I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen it on the big screen where it's visual grandeur can truly be appreciated, but it will resonate with you when viewed at any size. Watch it. And watch it without distraction so you can soak it all in the way it was meant to be experienced.

   
HONORABLE MENTIONS...

  • Dunkirk. I didn't think of Christopher Nolan as a historical drama filmmaker, but this is a film which proves his storytelling knows no boundaries. Everything about it is meticulously orchestrated to deliver emotional impact in the best possible way. I saw this in IMAX, which is probably the best way to experience it, but it's really unmissable, glorious filmmaking in any form.
  • The Big Sick. Based on comedian Kumail Nanjiani's real-life relationship with (now-wife) Emily V. Gordon, this is a romantic comedy filled with wit and charm that's made fresh by the cultural divide in the middle of it all. With beats of dark humor popping up from time to time, it's a movie that strives for entertaining substance... and succeeds.
  • I Am Not Your Negro. "The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story." Based on an incomplete manuscript by James Baldwin, this is a telling of that not-so-pretty story. A brilliant, visionary film taking a hard look at race in this country that demands to be seen.
  • Colossal. Where? Where did this come from? I saw no advertising for it when it was in theaters. I only saw it when it popped up on iTunes as an "editor's choice" kind of thing while I was bored and looking for a movie to watch. I was so intrigued by the cast (Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis?) and the concept (movie monsters?) and the reviews (critics absolutely loved it?) that I was compelled to buy it. Loved it. Brilliant in every way.
  • Gifted. I loathe "heartwarming kid movies" and avoid anything that even looks it like the plague. But this was the only movie I hadn't seen on a long flight, so I dug in hoping that Chris Evans would do a decent enough job to salvage it. Imagine my surprise when not only did Evans turn in a phenomenal performance... but the story was really good as well. Oh... and the kid wasn't nearly as annoying as they usually are.
  • It. A pleasant surprise in many ways, I avoided this film in theaters because I didn't see how they could top Tim Curry's amazing take on Pennywise the Clown. Turns out they didn't attempt. to top it... they just went in a different direction entirely. Interestingly enough, this movie is only half the book. I'm guessing that, given the huge box office it did, the second half of the story will make it to screen sometime soon.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2. The original John Wick completely surprised me with how good it was. This one was just as good despite my high expectations. The ending sets us up for a third installment that promises to up the stakes yet again... I'm ready.
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I loved the first film. A lot. The sequel had escalating entertainment value, but really faltered in a number of places. I liked the movie. I wanted to love it. The fact that I didn't has me worried for the future of the franchise.
  • Logan Lucky. Smart. Funny. Surprisingly good entertainment. If you haven't seen it but are looking for a good film to watch, then just watch it. Don't go researching it or even watch a trailer. Let Logan Lucky take you by surprise like it did me.
  • Hidden Figures. A beautiful movie with a flawless cast marred by the fact that we apparently can't have accurate mainstream Black history movies based on real events without tossing in fictional white saviors to make it "feel-good-marketable" in the process.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes. We're in our third movie of the new trilogy and I don't know how they do it. All three of the Planet of the Apes films are good, but this may be the best yet. I honestly want for there to be another one if we're going to get a film like this.
  • Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukaku (After the Storm). This is a film that is intrinsically Japanese in that it is a simple, beautiful movie on the surface... with plunging depths that are only hinted at lurking underneath. Surprisingly, it's perfectly enjoyable just to let the surface wash over you without having to think so much... but there's more to the story waiting if you are game to look for it. Stars Abe Hiroshi, one of my favorite Japanese actors of the moment.

   
HAVEN'T SEEN YET, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Downsizing
  • The Shape of Water
  • Loving
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
  • Lady Bird
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • The Disaster Artist
  • God’s Own Country
  • City of Ghosts
  • Jane: In The Shadow Of Man
  • A Ghost Story
  • Okja

   
NOT AS BAD AS THEY SAY...

  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I went into this movie with such huge expectations... it was to be the spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element for heaven's sake. But it let me down in so many ways. Watching it a second time with zero expectations let me enjoy it for what it was, and I may actually kinda like it now.
  • Ghost in the Shell. As a huge fan of the original manga and animated series/film, I was let down by this ScarJo movie spectacle. On second viewing, the problems are still there... but the amazing visuals are too. I don't hate it. I just wish it could have lived up to its potential.

   
THE WORST...

  • Power Rangers. It starts with a bull masturbation joke and just gets progressively worse from there. The TV show reveled in its cheesiness... the movie tries to take it seriously and failed utterly. Nothing makes sense. Everything is stupid to the point of being offensive. I'm embarrassed for everybody involved.
  • Justice League. I held out no hope for this continuation of the Zack Snyder travesty wrecking the DC Comics Cinematic Universe, and swore I would wait for video. I broke my oath because I was bored while at a work site. I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would... but still hated it. A disjointed, disaster-porn mess with a useless villain that not even Wonder Woman can save. The only thing positive to come out of it was the glimmer of hope that Ezra Miller's "The Flash" could be a fun movie.
  • The Mummy. THIS is what was supposed to kick off the new, improved, and unified "Dark Universe?" So bad. So groan-inducing awful. Tried too hard to capture the fun of the Brendan Fraser version and failed miserably. Really hated everything about it.
  • The Dark Tower. You know your movie is shit when not even having Idris Elba starring in it can save the thing. A confusing, incoherent, poorly-conceived movie where even the action is boring.

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Bullet Sunday 534

Posted on December 17th, 2017

Dave!It's time for a Very Special Antarctic edition of Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...

   
• Go! Antarctica is a pricey trip, but it's not the horrific monetary spectacle you might think. Not including airfare, you can take the same ship I did... have the same type of experiences I did... for as little as $5,000 in Antarpply's 2018 season. I went via Muench Photography Workshops, which was quite a bit more expensive... but it had world-class photography instruction with people like Will Burrard-Lucas, which made it worth the ridiculous cost. If you've always had a hankering to see the bottom of the world, it's worth saving your pennies to do, and doesn't necessarily have to cost $15,000 for a great experience... penguins and all.

Penguins!

   
• Darkness! The strangest part of being back to the Real World? That it gets dark. Something that barely happened when I was in Antarctica. The fact that it starts getting dark around 4:00 and is pitch-black by 5:00 just makes it all the stranger. I've gotten used to light at 10:00 at night!

   
• Photography! My most used lens was a 24mm-70mm. It worked for glaciers, icebergs, and wildlife that was near me. My second most-used lens was a 70mm-200mm... which I really, really wish was a 70mm-400mm. Fortunately, my 200mm lens optical quality is excellent and I had massive 42.4 MP images I could easily crop into... but things would have been much easier if my telephoto had more reach. I also took a 10mm-18mm ultra-wide angle which I used occasionally. I didn't use any other lenses I took.

I highly recommend having two camera bodies on you. That way you can have both zooms handy and be sure to capture most anything at a moment's notice. You also have a backup body in case one fails, which is pretty much essential isn't it? You aren't going to go all that way and not have a camera!

I took a monopod because it was easier to pack than a tripod. I never once used it. I imagine that you could set up for taking shots, but there was plenty of light to go handheld 100% of the time, and the flexibility was critical towards getting my best shots.

I fretted over condensation accumulating when I came from the cold outdoors to the warm indoors ruining my cameras. Was never a problem (heck, my glasses never even fogged over). It was suggested that I take a plastic zipper-bag to put my camera in so that the condensation forms on the bag and not my camera. After spending weeks finding one big enough, I never had to use it.

I bought a massive dry-bag that I could put my whole camera bag into so my gear would be safe during a Zodiac landing. Thing was... I never took my entire camera bag. Just my two cameras and their lenses. Which meant my dry-bag was massive overkill. I should have bought a smaller one and just wrapped my cameras in towels or something.

I took circular polarizing filters. Never used them. They might have been handy to cut glare on the water when the whales turned up... but they were just a hassle every other minute of the day, so I ignored them.

   
• Un-Borrowed! I needed a backup camera body, but couldn't afford to buy a full-frame one to take with me. So I decided to rent one from BorrowLenses.com. I received an email telling me that I could pick it up at Kenmore Camera the day before I left. I went to pick it up and it wasn't there. I called and found out there was a mess-up of some kind with UPS, and it wouldn't be arriving until after I left for the airport. Their attitude was absolutely shitty. First of all, they would never give me a tracking number so I could find out if it was THEIR fault or UPS's fault (of course they blamed it on UPS). Second of all, they did nothing... NOTHING... to try and make the situation right. It was all "Oh well... stuff happens!" No offer to buy a body from Kenmore Camera and rent that to me. No offer to express ship to my hotel in Buenos Aires. No attempt to find an alternative. No offer to try and find a rental company in Argentina. Absolutely NOTHING. They didn't care about helping me out in any way, despite their promise to have the camera available on the date I requested.

And so... I had to spend $1400 I did not have to buy a camera I did not want. Especially since I could have put that money (if I had it) towards a new Sony a7R mark III. Such a crappy situation. I mean, what choice did I have? What was I going to do? Go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica without a backup camera? Impossible. Thanks for absolutely nothing, BorrowLenses.com for being a total piece of shit.

UPDATE: I complained on Facebook. Borrow Lenses refunded my money and gave me a credit for future rentals. They were apologetic about the situation (this time) which has me wondering if I just got the wrong customer service agent... or if they only act this way when called out publicly?

   
• SmartWool! There was a lot learned on my expedition to Antarctica. The most surprising? How fantastic SmartWool socks are. I have been wearing them ever since I got back and have had warm, comfy feet despite cold temperatures in my home town (and a history of cold feet).

SmartWool Sock!

Don't know how I'd get through winter without them now that I know about them.

   
• Warmth! As it turned out, I worried way too much about being too cold. As it's summer in Antarctica and global warming is actually a thing, it was never all that cold. Certainly not even close to how freezing cold it was on Cadillac Mountain when I was waiting for the sun to rise in Acadia last month! I usually ended up taking off my winter coat on land excursions and just wore my fleece, waterproof pants over jeans and long underwear. Only a couple of times when the sun was clouded over and it was snowing did I double up on long underwear and wear my coat. And, despite buying hand-warmers and spending two days in Ushuaia finding Zippo lighter fluid to put in them, they went unused. So glad I didn't rent an arctic parka and snow pants. I would have never put them on. I guess what I'm trying to say is... prepare for the worst. Make sure you have enough clothes to stay warm if the weather is terrible. Have layers and layers available so you can build the outfit you need to be comfortable in cold weather. But... don't obsess over the idea that you need to buy Antarctic-winter-level expedition gear to stay warm. Unless something goes really sideways, you just won't need it (and if things go that sideways, your landing will probably be canceled anyway). I'd recommend following the advice you'll get from your ship if it conflicts with my experience... but it really shouldn't.

The only thing that ended up being a little cold was my feet because the rubber boots you get from the ship for the landing are not well-insulated. My SmartWool socks with liners made sure it never got that bad. On cold days where I'd be in snow for long periods, I doubled my SmartWool socks, and... problem solved (seriously, those socks are amazing).

One final tip... it was highly recommended that I get two or three pair of Merino Wool long underwear. The stuff is soft (not scratchy) and does a really good job of keeping you warm. Best of all? It doesn't trap odors, so you can wear a pair for several days and not smell like a locker room. Which is what I did... except... I bought some inexpensive disposable men's underwear (which seem very much like cotton panties... or "manties") as a fresh daily barrier to help keep my long undies clean. Worked great. Took up practically no space in my suitcase. In the end, Merino Wool is a bit pricey but so worth it. I bought two pair of the mid-weight tops/bottoms directly from Minus 33 and was very happy with it. I loved that it was so thin that I could double it up on colder days and be toasty warm.

   
• Sun! The sun reflecting off the snow and ice is pretty harsh. Take good sunglasses (and, if you wear glasses, get good prescription sunglasses). And, oh yeah... TAKE SUN SCREEN! I had a friend tell me that he got sunburned pretty bad on his Antarctica trip. So I took Banana Boat SPF 30 and applied it liberally to my face. Wore it every landing we had. Still got burned. So... take a higher SPF than 30 if you want to avoid sunburn!

   
• Expectations! I was warned many times to keep my expectations in check. Antarctica is wildly unpredictable on all fronts, and having lofty expectations is almost certainly setting yourself up for disappointment. All you can really do is get excited for the possibilities... then roll with whatever comes your way. I mean, just look at my trip! We had to cancel one of our landings so we could detour to have somebody airlifted to Chile for a medical emergency. We had to cancel another landing because of bad weather. And yet... everything worked out. I was just thrilled to see what I got to see and do what I got to do...

Antarctica Neko Harbor

And, seriously, it could have been worse. It can always be worse!

   
• Inflight Movies! With nearly thirty hours in planes that had a rather large film library, I was able to watch a few movies to occupy my time getting to Buenos Aires and back...

  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — I went into this movie with such huge expectations... it was to be the spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element for heaven's sake. But it let me down in so many ways. Watching it again with zero expectations let me enjoy it for what it was, and I may actually kinda like it now.
  • Atomic Blonde — I loved this movie so hard. Between the Cold War spy plot, perfect 80's soundtrack, and Charlize Theron kicking abundant amounts of ass... it was too good to be true. It only improves on second viewing.
  • The Mummy — THIS is what was supposed to kick off the new, improved, and unified "Dark Universe?" So bad. So groan-inducing awful. Tried too hard to capture the fun of the Brendan Fraser version and failed miserably. Really hated it.
  • Logan Lucky — Smart. Funny. Surprisingly good entertainment.
  • Ghost in the Shell — As a huge fan of the original manga and animated series/film, I was let down by this ScarJo movie spectacle. On second viewing, the problems are still there... but the amazing visuals are too. I don't hate it. I just wish it could have lived up to its potential.
  • Power Rangers — It starts with a bull masturbation joke and just gets progressively worse from there. The TV show reveled in its cheesiness... the movie tries to take it seriously and failed utterly. Nothing makes sense. Everything is stupid to the point of being offensive. I'm embarrassed for everybody involved.
  • John Wick: Chapter Two — Really wish I saw this in the theater. The original completely surprised me with how good it was. This one was just as good despite my high expectations. The ending sets us up for a third installment that promises to up the stakes yet again... I'm ready.
  • Alien: Covenant — While not the disappointment that Prometheus was, it still falls way, way short of being Alien-worthy.

   
And... no more Antarctica for you. Or for me. See you next week.

   

Marvel Cinematic Rank

Posted on November 13th, 2017

Dave!When I put in my two cents on Thor: Ragnarok, I mentioned that I was questioning if it were my new favorite Marvel Studios movie. Ultimately, I decided it just couldn't be. When The Avengers came along, it was my every comic book fanboy dream come true on the screen. The magic from that movie hasn't gone away. Yet.

But then I had somebody ask me... How would you rank the rest of the Marvel movies then?

Well, this is how... at this moment, anyway...

  1. The Avengers (A+) — My comic book fanboy dream come true. Not much else I can say.
  2. Thor: Ragnarok (A++) — Hilariously funny while staying true to the character. A complete surprise.
  3. Captain America: Winter Soldier (A+) — Technically Marvel's #1 movie because it was just so flawlessly put together.
  4. Captain America: Civil War (A++) — If The Avengers was my fanboy team-up dream come true... this... this is the cherry on the top.
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy (A+) — A D-list team given one of the best Marvel movie treatments.
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger (A+) — Brilliant origin story that plays on nostalgia rather than blind patriotism.
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (A+) — Everything you want a Spider-Man movie to be.
  8. Doctor Strange (A) — Mind-bogglingly brilliant, beautiful, and fun.
  9. Iron Man (A+) — The movie that started it all. Still holds up today.
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (A) — A terrific follow-up to the original made great by Baby Groot.
  11. Ant-Man (A) — A complete home-run for a character that doesn't seem movie-worthy.
  12. Iron Man 3 (A+) — A great Shane Black spin on the character that pays off because Robert Downey Jr.
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (A) — Though I enjoyed it, this was not the movie I was hoping for. Ultron was not made at all scary enough for a villain to take on The Avengers.
  14. Thor (B+) — Timing issues aside, this is an underrated gem of a movie.
  15. Thor: The Dark World (B) — I actually liked this movie a great deal, it just has a hard time when pitted against the others in this list.
  16. Iron Man 2 (A-) — Again... I really liked this movie (hey, it introduced us to Black Widow and Rhodey!), but it just falls short in comparison to the others.
  17. The Incredible Hulk (B) — A decent-but-not-great movie that feels divorced from the rest after the role was switched to Mark Ruffalo.

Interesting to note how some movies rank higher when I grade them, but lower when compared to other movies in the list. Iron Man 2 with an A- rating, for example, comes in below Thor: The Dark World with a B rating. On its own merits, Iron Man 2 had so much to love with Black Widow and Rhodey coming onboard. But it's just not as good a story as what we got with Thor: The Dark World (though, admittedly, not by much).

But what's even more interesting to note? There is not a clunker on that list. I love all the films. Marvel is firing on on cylinders, and the movies they release just keep getting better and better and the universe they're building continues to grow.

And they show no signs of slowing down. Still to come? Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, Spider-Man 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3.

And, if rumors are to be believed, we may actually finally get a Black Widow movie after 2019, so.... bonus points.

   

Ragnarok And Roll

Posted on November 10th, 2017

Dave!It is tempting... so very tempting... to say that Thor: Ragnarok is my favorite film to come out of Marvel Studios. Except... how can it be? Surely my favorite film is the first Avengers movie. Isn't it? I mean, that was the prize. That's what everything had been leading to. Finally, at long last, we had a super-hero team movie that actually worked. That was actually good.

And yet... holy crap was Ragnarok amazing. Hilariously funny, but not so farcical that the action beats and serious bits fell flat. Game-changing, but still completely faithful to the source material. Different in feeling and tone from the Marvel we're accustomed to, but still familiar and wholly entertaining.

Thor: Ragnarok is the complete package.

XXX

There are precious few things about this movie I don't love. A short list, just to name a few things off the top of my head, that I love most...

  • Chris Hemsworth's considerable comedic talents on full blast.
  • Cate Blanchett as Marvel's best (and most deliciously evil) movie villain yet.
  • Jeff Goldblum being the most Jeff Goldblum we've ever seen... or will likely ever see again.
  • Loki. Just Loki being Loki.
  • Every second Valkyrie is on the screen.
  • A smart... so very smart... evolution of The Hulk.
  • Idris Elba. Finally being given something worthwhile to do as Heimdall.
  • Kirby-inspired amazing visuals.
  • Mind-bogglingly awesome special effects.
  • Just a really good, funny, highly entertaining story.

I have no idea what the coming Avengers: Infinity War means for Marvel's original character base. Iron Man? Captain America? Thor? will any of them even survive it? If Thor does, they could do a lot worse than to invite back Ragnarok director Taika Waititi (who says he'd love to do another one).

   
Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...

Ant-Man... A
The Avengers... A+
The Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Blade... B
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A++
Catwoman... F
Daredevil... B-
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Doctor Strange... A
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl... B-
Elektra... D
Fantastic Four (2005)... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Fantastic Four (2015)... D+
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2... A
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy... A
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Hulk... C-
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass... B+
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher... C+
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man... B+
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Amazing Spider-Man 2... B-
Spider-Man: Homecoming... A+
Suicide Squad... D
Superman Returns... C+
Thor... B+
Thor: The Dark World... B
Thor: Ragnarok... A++
Watchmen... B
The Wolverine... B
Wonder Woman... A
X-Men... C
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+

   

X-Men! Fantastic Four! Fox News!

Posted on November 6th, 2017

Dave!The big news of the day is the rumor that Twenty-First Century Fox is in talks to sell off most of the company to Disney. Not exactly groundbreaking, as movie studio consolidation has been ongoing over the years... except one thing.

Disney is the corporation that owns Marvel Comics and, more relevant to the point, Marvel Studios.

And since Twenty-First Century Fox had bought the Marvel movie rights for X-Men, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and Deadpool (and subsequently crapped out a series of shitty X-Men films and even shittier Fantastic Four films plus an awesome Deadpool movie) buying the studio would mean the potential to fold these stellar properties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper. I mean, look how frickin' incredible bringing Sony's Spider-Man rights into the Marvel cinematic fold ended up being?

What could possibly top Avengers: Infinity War? I dunno. But Avengers vs. X-Men might do the trick, if handled properly.

Because a part of me wonders if merging the X-Universe with the Avengers universe would be a good thing. First of all... the entire concept of "mutants" would have to be woven into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Until now, they haven't even existed. The creation of mutants could easily be dropped into the fourth Avengers film... maybe Thanos explodes and the energy washes over earth and mutates a bunch of people... but would that be too much in an already crowded universe of characters? Maybe. Then again, to finally... finally get a decent X-Men film after years of mostly shit would sure be a treat. I am just not convinced that they shouldn't remain separate, even if Marvel takes over the property.

The Fantastic Four, on the other hand? No such reservations. Integrate them into the MCU as soon as possible!

The Fantastic Four by Mike Wieringo!

In the comics, The Fantastic Four was Marvel's first "super team" and is literally the cornerstone of their entire integrated super-hero-verse. Their footprint looms large over everything that came after, and it has always amazed me that with such a wealth of material (over 50 years' worth!) that we can't seem to get a FF movie that's worth a shit.

My hands-down favorite version of The Fantastic Four was Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's take which began with an arc called "Imaginauts." In an effort to make them more than Just Another Super Hero Team, Waid/Wieringo imagined them as a team of explorers who happened to have super-powers, and their relationship as a family was put front-and-center. It was entertaining as all get-out. And, despite being one of Marvel's oldest franchises, it felt fresh, new, and exciting. As the MCU passes 10 years of existence, isn't an infusion of fresh, new, and exciting what they need to carry them into the next 10 years?

Marvel hardly needs counseling on how to handle their movies... I mean, holy crap, they just keep getting better and better... but please. Can we pretty please finally get a Fantastic Four movie that lives up to their potential? We've been waiting for so long.

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Bullet Sunday 531

Posted on November 5th, 2017

Dave!Snow may be here but be of good cheer, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• RAGNAROK! I haven't seen Thor: Ragnarok yet because life has been insane lately... but I will be doing so sometime soon. I hope. If you haven't seen it yet and want a spoiler-free experience, DO NOT watch the video below, which is somewhat spoilery, but hilarious...

Of course, the commercials are more spoilery than this, but, yeah.

   
• Tokyo! There are many places on this earth I feel at home in when I visit. Tokyo is one of those places. Which is strange, because it's a city on my list that's very much removed from my "normal." Maybe I lived there in a past life? I dunno. But I love it there. And because I love Tokyo, I also love films which feature the city (Lost In Translation is a great example). And now there's a short film called The Tokyo Project...

If you have HBO and a half-hour to kill, I highly recommend it. Clever story. Beautifully shot. Well worth your valuable time.

   
• Miyazaki! One of the many, many reasons I love Miyazaki films so much is the incredible attention to detail that goes into every frame. I watch them over and over and over because the wealth of details is something to be savored. Here's an Instagram by en93kitchen that focuses on the food in his films, and shows a side-by-side comparison to actual food that's been prepared to look like what's in the movie...

XXX

Amazing!

   
• Busted! Despite the fact that "Mr. Plinkett" is a fictional character (played by Red Letter Media's Mike Stoklasa) the movies analyzed under that monicker are, for the most part, spot-on. His reviews are as insightful as they are entertaining, and I've spent a lot of time watching the Red Letter Media YouTube channel. The latest Mr. Plinkett in-depth was for the Ghostbusters 2016 reboot. A film I mostly hated, but could never really articulate why. Luckily, I no longer have to try. It's nearly an hour long, but balls-on accurate and worth your valuable time...

That fact that the review also includes smart analysis of what made the original Ghostbusters so damn brilliant is just a bonus.

   
• What Happened? So... essentially you can take Hillary's book, rip out the pages, insert this Politico story, and then read What Happened for reals I guess? My loathing for Hillary Clinton is well documented. The fact that I was forced to vote for her because I didn't want a Trump presidency is something that enrages me to this day. The more information that comes out about how there is nothing "democratic" about the Democratic Party should shock nobody. That's the way politics work in this country. What should shock people is that nothing will be done and nothing will change. Ever. We just don't want it badly enough.

   
• Dip! I swear... Eric Trump discovering Fun Dip on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" is one of the best thing I've seen all week...

Dies. Again.

   
It's the end of bullets as we know it...

   

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