I have a love/hate relationship with Sonos Home Audio.
On one hand, they are very good speakers. The sound I get from a single Sonos One (the cheapest, smallest speaker in their lineup) is better than I get from the speakers on my pricey Sony television. Sonos speakers are very well balanced to handle just about everything. Music sounds just as good as audiobooks which sounds as good as TV shows and movies.
But on the other hand, Sonos can be incredibly frustrating. When I replaced my Sonos PlayBar with a Sonos Arc, I spent a full hour talking with their support to get everything working. It was supposed to be an easy, no-brainer task, but it sure didn't end up that way for me. And then there's weird networking drop-outs that happen at random and can be a real bitch to resolve considering the only thing I ever get told is "IT'S BECAUSE YOUR WI-FI NETWORK SUCKS!!!" (as if I have some kind of cheap-ass Wi-Fi router buried in the basement instead of dual AmpliFi Alien routers in a mesh network that blankets my home with perfect Wi-Fi).
In the end I am happy enough with Sonos to ignore its shortcomings (no line-in is fucking stupid on a level of fucking stupid that has me reconsidering what I consider to be fucking stupid given how expensive their speakers are... and don't get me started on not being able to use dedicated left and right channels for surround sound). I have quite a few of their products collected from Black Friday sales over the years, and most rooms in my house are covered with Sonos sound. Heck, I even have Sonos in the bathrooms so I don't have to miss what's happening on my television shows when I have to get up and go pee.
And then Sonos decided to get cute and offer a new line of "Era" speakers. The Era 100, which takes the place of their entry-level Sonos One speaker... and the Era 300, which takes the place of their long-abandoned Play 3 speaker.
At first I was going to safely ignore their new offerings because I have neither the money nor the desire to expand upon my speaker collection.
But then I learned that the Era 300 is designed from the bottom up to support Dolby Atmos and I was intrigued. Dolby Atmos allows precise sound placement within a room. This is usually reserved for theaters which can install speakers all the way around the seating area... along with the ceiling... so that the action can move around the room to match what you are seeing. It's a pretty nifty trick. The technology is something that is supposed to be supported by my Sonos Arc soundbar, but the effect is minimal to the point that it might as well not even exist at all.
The Sonos Era 300 has an up-firing speaker that looked substantial enough to actually maybe kinda support actual Atmos sound bouncing down on your from above...
So I used my final two Sonos upgrade credits and all the Black Friday money I had left after buying Neon Bad Monkey and pre-ordered a pair of them.
And now they're here.
And I'm just going to cut to the chase here. They are... pretty good.
Because whether or not you have great Atmos sound largely depends on the audio mix that movie and television studios add to their products. I've tested these speakers for hours with all kinds of movies available in Dolby Atmos, and it's very rare that I find myself going "Whoa!" because some sound playing above me was distinct enough to catch me by surprise. No, for the most part, you're largely just getting a better, fuller surround sound experience. Back-To-Front and Front-To-Back audio is far more distinct with those up-firing speakers because you can feel the "movement" better. Far better than I did with my Sonos Ones as rear speakers. For that reason alone I am quite happy with my purchase. And who knows? Maybe as more and more people have Dolby Atmos available at home, studios will start doing better mixing so that my speakers can take advantage of it.
Now lets get to the Dolby Atmos experience that's truly worth it... Atmos Music!
I tell you what... I had read that Apple was partnering with Sonos so that their spatial audio tracks would play on Sonos hardware... but I wasn't thinking of that when I fired up some music to see if it sounded good from the 300s. A couple tracks played and I was suitably impressed.
Then the song If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know) by The 1975 dropped and I thought I was hallucinating. Lead singer Matt Healy's vocals were IN FRONT OF the music. And acoustical queues were all over the room. If I closed my eyes, it was as if The 1975 were set up in my living room. Then I remembered about the Apple Music Atmos thing and, sure enough...
For many Dolby Atmos music tracks, what you hear is flat-out mind-blowing. The 1975 remixed all their stuff, and (for the most part) it's incredible. Some songs are more experimental than others. Some songs push it too far to the point of distraction. But most of the songs are perfectly rendered in a way that makes the whole experience... maybe not better... but perhaps nicely different.
All of a sudden I was scouring all my favorite tracks to see if they had Atmos mixes available.
And it was like discovering music all over again.
Yes, there are instances where the Atmos is a gimmick that doesn't work. But for others? It runs the gamut. The biggest surprise was Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour. Whomever came up with her mixes just knocked it out of the park (with a couple notable exceptions which are gimmicky as hell). It. Is. Sublime. In Oh, What a World when that banjo hits, I had chills running up my spine. It's a fantastic experience. My favorite Post Malone tracks were wonderfully mixed for spatial audio. The newest Taylor Swift album is beautiful. And some bands you just know were hopping on the bandwagon early with Atmos remixes... like ODESZA. The track they did with Namoi Wild, Higher Ground, feels like her vocals are ON TOP OF the music. Or something. I can't even begin to explain it. But it's fantastic. Of course, it was a great track even before spatial audio...
The highest praise I can offer for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos music is that, when mixed right, the vocals never get lost in the music. They are always distinct and rendered front-and-center. One of the best songs to hear this is with Miley Cyrus's Flowers. There's places that she harmonizes with herself. But when listening to it without Atmos, the voices blend together. With Atmos, however, the harmonizing backing vocals are... like... elsewhere. They don't merge or compete... they're just another part of the music. I don't know quite how to explain it. But once I hear the difference... then go back to regular stereo... I can no longer un-hear it because the Atmos version feels like it's the way you're supposed to be hearing it.
So... probably not returning my pair of 300s... even though there's some bullshit right out of the gate.
First of all, Sonos finally... FINALLY... added bluetooth and line-in to their speakers. But when you configure them to be part of a Dolby Atmos setup... YOU NO LONGER CAN USE THEM FOR EITHER! WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK, SONOS??
When that message popped up, it was all I could do to keep from throwing my phone against the wall. I was more than a little upset... I was fucking pissed.
I'm sure that Sonos will come up with some kind of bullshit excuse to explain it away, but the simple fact is that you could easily... easily... just have the speaker ignore all other input once the line-in is receiving input. This is not fucking rocket science. The fact that I can't just plug into one of my pricey new speakers with a frickin' line-in is so far beyond rage-inducing that I honestly don't know what to do with my anger from it.
But at least there's the option for a line-in... AT ALL.
If I were flush with cash I'd likely buy a single Sonos Era 300 for my bedroom and run a line from my television. That way I could have darn good TV sound along with a kick-ass speaker for music (the stereo separation from a single 300 is surprisingly good).
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Assuming I win the lottery tomorrow, it's not enough to just buy a $450 Sonos Era 300 speaker for my television. YOU ALSO HAVE TO BUY A FUCKING $20 MINI-PLUG DONGLE! It's like... holy shit. There's fleecing your customers, and then there's Sonos fucking gouging their customers. This is pretty disgraceful.
So... to summarize in bullet points...
And there you have it.
If you've got a showroom somewhere near you with Sonos gear, it might be worth a look if you're thinking about investing in new speakers.
Pixar has been really hit or miss with me lately.
Onward and Soul were disappointing. Luca was glorious. Turning Red and Lightyear were okay, but far from the greatness I expect out of the studio.
Then today we get the first full trailer for their upcoming June release, Elemental...
Other than Catherine O'Hara, I'm not familiar with the rest of the cast, which is a bit odd. When it comes to the movie itself, it looks like a mash-up of Inside Out and Soul, but not in a bad way? I guess? I mean, I'll definitely watch it when it hits Disney+, but it's not having me excited enough to run to the theater.
That's reserved for Adrian Molina's follow-up to Coco which is called Elio. It's coming out a year from now.
When it comes to a list of movies I love and have watched a multitude of times, Amélie would most certainly be on that list. Not only was it beautiful to look at, had an exceedingly smart and clever story, and made me fall in love with Audrey Tautou... but it was just fun. It had a whimsy and joyfulness that most movies... don't.
Plus it has a wonderful life lesson that is a genuine teaching moment to all humanity.
If you haven't seen it, I offer my highest possible recommendation...
And now genius director of the film, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, has released a shocking expose on the character 22 years after the film was released!
Well, it's a joke, but it's actually a darn impressive retrofit of the characters true nature. If you haven't seen the original film, this won't mean anything, so go watch Amélie first...
It all makes perfect sense!
Nice to know that Jeunet has a sense of humor about his work. Probably why he's such a freakin' genius.
A bit of a Summer setback for me today as the weather turned cold as balls, but never fear... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Zipline! Whenever I run across something incredibly cool that has been around a while... but I never heard of... that's gold right there. Take this drone delivery system that's been running for SIX YEARS. And I had no clue. This will be one of the coolest things you see in a bit...
Fantastic. Ingenuity like this gives me hope for the future.
• 1D! I keep running into songs by One Direction that kinda blow my mind. Like this song, which I had never heard before. I was scrambling to Shazam it thinking it was brand new. Nope...
It actually feels like a classic soft rock hit or something.
• Topol! The Flash Gordon movie from 1980 was absolute genius... even if most people didn't see it that way. I've seen it a dozen times or more, and will likely watching it many times more. A big part of what makes the movie work is the over-the-top performances, among them being Chaim Topol's performance of Dr. Hans Markov...
But that's not my favorite role of his. This honor goes to Columbo on the James Bond flick For Your Eyes Only, where he chewed up the scenery unapologetically...
Sadly, Topol passed away a couple weeks ago... but his legacy will live on with his works.
• Hyper-Real! I will never complain about any of my tax dollars going to NASA to explore our solar system and our universe. On the contrary, I wish more of my tax dollars went to NASA. Especially when I see images like this...
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, JPL, SSI, Cassini Imaging Team
You can get a much better view and more information on Saturn's moon Hyperion by going to NASA's website.
• TO INFINITY...! The stuff that you can do with LEGO truly knows no bounds. Take this infinite domino track...
Pretty nifty, isn't it?
• Cunk! Finally got around to watching Cunk on Earth (Netflix)... and it's madness. Absolute madness. Mostly because she sounds like a lot of real-life people...
It's relentless. She doesn't stop unleashing stupid. Ever. It just keeps going. And I am deceased.
• WORF! The first season of Star Trek: Picard was just okay, though the ending was messy. I didn't like the second season because it was a scattered crapfest and tried to shoehorn in characters that should have never been there in the first place. But this THIRD season? Holy crap. Quite probably the best Next Generation show I have ever seen. Cinematic and exciting. It will be very interesting to see if they can wrap it all up in a satisfying manner given that this is the last season we're getting. And ZOMG... WORF! His character has made a radical shift that's absolute genius, and Michael Dorn is playing him with such deft ease...
It makes me wish that this is what we were given from the start. Paramount+... please give Worf his own series ASAP, dammit!
• Flerfer! The thing I will never, ever understand is how there are people thinking that the earth is flat. It makes absolutely zero sense from every possible observable fact. We new about the earth being a sphere thousands of years ago. And yet... ignorance is still here. Which is why I love videos like this....
Of course it makes no difference how many facts you throw at Flerfers. Logic, reason, and common sense has already been thrown right out the window.
And away with you! Begone!
The weather continues to be a hot (then cold) mess, but I'm committed to warm vibes... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Puppers! Every week I click on the latest one of the "We Rate Dogs" videos to see if the dogs were good again this week... and every week I have to really hold it together so I don’t burst out in tears. This week is no exception (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@weratedogs Top 5 Dogs of the Week #weratedogs ♬ Metamorphosis - Danilo Stankovic
• DIE! TikTok is overrun with funny videos which use music from the Dumb Ways to Die song. I decided to look up the entire thing and was surprised to find that there's a cute video to go with it...
Most of us are going to die dumb. It's a part of life.
• COOKIE! HOW DARE THEY! HOW DARE THEY GIVE A NATIONAL TREASURE LIKE THE WORLD'S ONLY COOKIE FLUTE TO LIZZO TO PLAY?!? OF ALL PEOPLE! I mean, sure, she's a world-class renowned flautist, BUT I AM DISGUSTED TO MY VERY CORE! SHOW SOME RESPECT, SESAME STREET! THESE ARE OUR COUNTRY'S TREASURES!!!
You laugh, but I'm betting Tucker Carlson is writing a rant about it as I type this. The dumbass went off with his manufactured outrage over candy mascots, so you just know his panties are in a bunch over this.
• Busters! The movie We Have a Ghost is actually not half bad. They gave Jennifer Coolidge hair by Tammy Faye, which is epic. And, let me tell you, David Harbour deserves all the awards. His character can't speak, so he has to sell every scene by force of will, and he does a fantastic job with it...
Streaming now on a Netflix near you.
• Facts. There is an actual danger to kids in this country. And it ain't drag queens...
@newgirlny_fl Things you won’t hear from LibsofTikTok or #rondesantis #trans #transgender #thisiswhattranslookslike #mtf #lgbtq #lgbt #🏳️⚧️ #rainbowmafia ♬ original sound - Kristen B
Drag queens have been entertaining people for decades. Hell, Bugs Bunny was in drag in a number of his cartoons. But now that bigots are wanting to divert attention away from what's going on in their own back yards, it's suddenly a problem. Milton Berle and Flip Wilson want their wigs back.
• Life! And while we're on the subject... NEWSFLASH: Proposed South Carolina bill could make abortion a death penalty eligible offense. — Preserving the sanctity of life... as only death can. Jesus.
Onward and upward...
Thursdays are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. It means that there's only one more work day until the weekend... and it also means that new episodes of Poker Face and So Help Me Todd are airing. Well... not so much So Help Me Todd, because CBS keeps fucking around with their air dates (no new episodes until March 2nd and the previous episode was all the way back on February 2nd).But a really good new episode of Poker Face was to be had.
And, like every episode, I'm like HOW? How did they get such stellar guest-stars for each episode? This time we got Nick Nolte, Tim Russ, Luis Guzmán, and CHERRY JONES?!? And holy shit does Cherry deliver! The entire episode hinges on her performance, and she doesn't falter...
This show is glorious. IT'S GLORIOUS!!! Very much Columbo for a new generation.
After the episode was over, I put on Babylon because the cast was excellent. Except it's easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It's like they were all... let's just film extravagant shit and force feed it to people OVER THREE HOURS. Awful. It looks pretty and is shot beautifully, but that's it. What a waste of money and talent...
So I guess not everything on Thursday is bullet-proof after all. I should have just re-watched Poker Face.
Oh yay. I am spending more money I don't have!
Today only, the original Complete Series Tom Selleck of Magnum P.I. was on sale for $35 at the iTunes Store. All eight seasons. All 162 episodes. I went ahead and snagged it, because that was too good of a price to pass up. Especially since the return of the excellent reboot (now on NBC/Peacock) has me feeling all nostalgic...
Ultimately, the show doesn't really hold up by modern standards. And yet... still incredibly entertaining. Tom Selleck had a flawless take on the character, and it made the show a lot of fun. Still prefer the reboot (Juliette Higgins is one of my favorite television characters of all time), but the original sure takes me back.
And it looks like I may be buying more shows and movies outright like this now that I am completely disenchanted with most all of the streaming services.
Netflix and HBO are cancelling everything. Paramount+ has one of the shittiest fucking apps ever created (that barely works even when it's working). And absolutely everybody is raising their prices. Essentially giving you less for more money.
Well good luck with that.
It just boggles my mind that streaming service CEOs are still in charge when their decisions drive customers away in droves. Disney just released a bundled deal to get Disney+ and Hulu bundled together... but it's the version with ads. In order to get them bundled for ad-free, you ALSO have to pay for ESPN+. What kind of stupid shit is this? I will never watch ESPN. I couldn't give two shits about ESPN. Not even one shit. Not a single shit given over ESPN. So no savings for me. I have to continue to pay for a non-bundle with zero savings.
Given that Paramount+ and HBO Max are making equally stupid-ass mistakes, I think I'm just going to cancel everything.
Cancel everything then rotate between all of them. Netflix one month. Hulu another month. Disney+ another month. HBO Max the next month. Congratulations on getting 1/6th the money off of me. Y'all deserve it.
The only one I'm going to keep year 'round is Philo. Thanks to their T-Mobile discount and sensible pricing, they're worth it.
I swear, I never thought that streaming would get this stupid this fast compared to cable and satellite, which was stupid from the jump. Now I'm to the point where I really just want to give up on television altogether.
Fantastic Voyage was released just six months after I was born in 1966. I didn't see the film until years later thanks to cable television. It's the work that I most attach to Raquel Welch, who sadly passed away today at 82 years old.
But this was not the first time that I saw Raquel Welch in anything. I'm pretty sure that it was Mork & Mindy. I didn't know who she was, but my mom was quick to identify her when I asked WHO IS THAT?!?
Not from when she first walked on the screen like this...
But later on when she walked on looking like this...
Something that made a very big impression on my 13-year-old brain.
From there I made a point of watching anything with Raquel Welch, wherever she appeared. Up to and including Legally Blonde and Eugenio Derbez's How to Be a Latin Lover (her final film project). But it's Fantastic Voyage that I most associate with her (though the original Bedazzled and One Million Years B.C. are in the running)...
Fantastic Voyage was similar to the Disneyland ride Adventure Through Inner Space (which followed the movie the following year), which is why I probably crush on it so hard (as if Raquel in her skin-tight scientist suit wasn't enough)...
Alas, no appearance by Raquel Welch in the ride.
Rest in Peace to an iconic Hollywood bombshell.
What blows me away is how Marvel Studios puts it all on the screen. They don't "hold anything back for the sequel" but instead treat every movie like the last movie they will ever make.
AND THAT'S WHY THEY ARE SO SUCCESSFUL!
After basking the the majesty that's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I am making my way through all the Chadwick Boseman Black Panther appearances. The first of which wasn't in a Black Panther film... or even an Avengers film. It was in a Captain America film!
What was also in Captain America: Civil War? The first MCU appearance of Spider-Man!
Plus we get Iron Man, Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Vision, Ant-Man, and Winter Soldier! It was basically an Avengers film. Inside a Captain America film. Which is crazy. How many studios would even do that?
Other studios would drag things out so they have something for future movies... then wonder why nobody gives a crap about the watered down film they release. Marvel isn't interested in that. They put everything into the film they are making right now... then force themselves to come up with something new and amazing for the next one.
And then get incredible actors for every single part. Alfre frickin' Woodard just randomly shows up in a tiny nothing of a bit part in Civil War. But it was a critical part that put the entire movie into motion, so they HAD to get Alfre Woodard. And her few minutes of screen time works. So well. In lesser, cheaper hands, it might not have.
The wild success of Marvel movies is not a fluke or a mistake. They are designed to be successful. I remember reading somewhere that Chadwick Boseman always thought that his appearance in Civil War would be a one-off cameo before signing his deal. Given how other studios would probably do exactly that, it's no wonder that he thought this. Obviously Marvel had other plans. They're more than that.
I live in constant fear of Kevin Feige retiring as the mastermind behind these movies. The guy gets it. His successor might not. And these movies have been too good in his hands.
Gizmodo has a story on the ten projects that James Gunn is overseeing for the new DC Comics Universe of movies and shows.
Gizmodo has Creature Commandos listed as "Creative Commandos" which is hilarious. — All I can say that is if these projects were from anybody but James Gunn, I would be laughing my ass off. What's odd is that the new Superman and Batman films aren't coming out until 2025... which is later than I'd thought it would be, but still pretty ambitious. An entirely new universe debuts in just two years? Again... if it were anybody but James Gunn, I'd be laughing my ass off. My comments below...
Creative (s/b CREATURE!) Commandos (An animated HBO Max show) — It's like... what a bizarre choice. An entire series devoted to monster soldiers? Sounds like a Halloween special, but okay. Something tells me that this was in process before James Gunn took the big chair (with Peter Safran).
Waller (A live-action HBO Max show) — I really hope that Viola Davis is in this, because she's SUCH an amazing actor. UPDATE: Confirmed that it will indeed be Davis.
Superman: Legacy (Theatrical film) — I am confident that James Gunn will find a way to make Superman relevant while also interesting... something that Zack Snyder wasn't able to do AT ALL. I am a bit concerned that the whole "Gods & Monsters" arc for the New DCU will fall into the same trap that Snyder fell into, but it's James Gunn... so... yeah. Maybe.
Lanterns (A live-action HBO Max show) — The Green Lantern movie was a pile of shit so bad that I couldn't believe some of my favorite actors were involved. Terrible, terrible movie. A show might be a way to showcase the many interesting Green Lanterns from the comics, so it could be a very cool show to watch. UPDATE: Apparently this will be terrestrial-based, meaning that it's mostly Hal Jordan and John Stewart stories, so we'll see.
The Authority (Theatrical film) — Now this could be interesting! The comics started out SO good, and if they did a straight adaptation it could be fantastic... so long as it's an R-rated movie, because otherwise why bother?
Paradise Lost (A live-action HBO Max show) — Amazons, I guess. Could be something that pre-dates Wonder Woman to give her eventual debut good context. I hope that they don't fuck up the Greek gods like the (otherwise excellent) Wonder Woman movie did. They're saying it's their "Game of Thrones" so who knows?
The Brave and the Bold (Theatrical film) — Batman & Robin? In my early comic book days, The Brave and the Bold was alway Batman PLUS some other DC Hero (or villain!) teaming up. But still... I will be very interested to see what Gunn has in mind for Batman. Hopefully something more like the Nolan trilogy instead of the emo-goth bullshit we got from the last Batman movie! UPDATE: It's going to be the Damion Wayne version of Robin which is the best news possible. I hope that they make him a little nuts without taking him full-on psycho, because the majority of kids just don't have the acting chops to pull that off very well.
Booster Gold (A live-action HBO Max show) — A LONG time coming. Like... this should have been done a decade ago. I love the character, and hope that eventually the show transitions into the "Blue & Gold" show I've been dreaming of (Booster Gold and Blue Beetle as made amazing by Keith Giffen). Hopefully they get a writer with decent comedy chops to do this right.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (Theatrical film) — Poor Supergirl. The character herself is so interesting... as shown in the Animated DC shows... but her lone live-action movie was trash (despite having Faye Dunaway and Peter O'Toole!). I really, really hope that they hire a truly great FEMALE writer AND director to do this movie right. She deserves it. And there's plenty of great comics to be inspired from.
Swamp Thing (Theatrical film) — Lord. There are a lot of other DC characters I would have put in a film before Swampy. His good TV show was not so long ago (2019), and the idea of a complete film has already been done. Soooo many other movies would have been a better idea than this. I hope "Swamp Thing: The Movie" ends up worth stepping all over others that deserved it more.
I want a Legion of Super-Heroes live-action HBO Max show. I want a Black Canary & Green Arrow show. I want a REAL Justice League movie. I want a Deadman series. I really want a Zantana movie. Where's an Amethyst animated series at? And holy crap... how cool would an Adam Strange series be? Is Guy Gardner going to appear in Lanterns? Because a show for HIM would be great. So many possibilities!
I'm more confident in the DCU now than I was as we suffered through all the Zack Snyder crap, which makes me happy. Nobody wants successful DC movies than me (with the exception of the upcoming Shazam: Fury of the Gods and The Flash: Flashpoint, both of which star highly problematic actors that I really wish would just go away and take their bullshit with them.