Monday, July 31, 2017

Dunkirk left me a little shell-shocked which is to say that it's an incredible film.

What to say about Dunkirk?

I really knew nothing about this part of history going into the movie. I decided to go and watch it in IMAX, because Christopher Nolan never half-asses anything and I knew that if this film was going to be released in IMAX, that it would be filmed for that particular screen in the highest definition film possible. That's just how Christopher Nolan does things. The effect was visceral, explosive, thrilling, and got me so emotionally invested in this film that I want to see it again.

And this movie...is it a movie?...was so different from anything else I have ever seen that it felt more like an experience to me. You know how you can go to Harry Potter world and get your own Harry Potter experience with magic wands that light things up? You know how you can go to Disney World now and visit Pandora? It felt a lot like that.

There are no main characters in Dunkirk. I actually don't recall anything except for one boy's name who was in a lot of the scenes, but he certainly didn't have any more dialogue than anyone else. I know Kenneth Branagh was there looking amazing in his English navy uniform. Harry Styles was there too (playing a French soldier) along with Cilian Murphy and Tom Hardy (Christopher Nolan regulars). The really weird thing is, I felt like I was there too. About the only thing that breaks the notion of me being there is the presence of the music...a masterful soundtrack by composer Hans Zimmer. I realize that in real life, there's no soundtrack following me around adding tension or romance to scenes, but if that kind of thing did exist it wouldn't be a bad choice to go with Hans Zimmer. The man knows how to score a scene (even the really long ones).

I think Dunkirk is visual poetry. It's taking an event and presenting it with all of its chaos and inter-moving parts and characters, somehow throwing it all into a mixing bowl, and then laying it out again yet somehow it all works. Despite not knowing any of the characters backstory or their names, I found that I cared what happened to them. Nolan made me believe that the ships that kept getting sunk by the German planes were so real that I felt a little shell shock. As brave soldiers died by getting trapped in sinking hulls, I felt the same tension in my lungs (and the longing for a breath of air) if just for a moment. Somehow...Nolan was able to connect with me (and others in the theater) to form a strange empathy with all of us to the point that I don't think there was a single person present that had any other thoughts except the story.

Dunkirk (at least for me) captured 100% of my attention.

If you haven't seen it, you really should go. Pay for an IMAX ticket. It's worth the price.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dark Matter on SyFy is actually a really good science fiction space opera that you should be watching.

Dark Matter is actually a pretty good show. I've been a fan for some time now, but when I first watched, I admit that I was skeptical. How would six total strangers waking up with no memory of who they are even end up somewhere remotely fun? I guess my imagination just didn't see a future for it. It didn't see the "humanity in the future" potential that it currently is. So boy, was I wrong.

I love every episode that involves time travel, groundhog day, and being in the past. The Yoshida as emperor arc was really interesting. They've even got a character now that has lost her corporeal body and exists entirely within the matrix of the ship's computer database. Oh and "The Blink Drive" is really cool. And let's not forget that the crew of the Raza has duplicates now from another dimension. The list goes on and on for the wonderful things that the show's creators are bringing to SyFy on a regular basis. If I had to describe it to a roleplayer from the eighties and nineties, I'd say, "It's like 'Shadowrun' in space, but without magic."

If you haven't gotten into the show yet, most of the early episodes rotate around the afore-mentioned self-discovery theme, which can get kind of boring. The real magic started to happen when the show's characters learned about who they were, and then we get to watch as they like less and less of themselves or their ship mates (as a result).

Another thing that I continue to like about the show is that the Raza set looks amazing. And, it's not an "aliens of the week" kind of show that Star Trek oftentimes found itself in. Sure, there are a few stereotypes...the Asian swordmaster comes to mind. But the writing is really solid and the actors are some of the best I've seen in years. It kind of reminds me of the way I felt about Battlestar Galactica about a decade ago.

I think the whole first season is on Netflix, and if you are looking for a great show to watch I highly recommend that you set aside time and just binge. Also, this is not a "people in a bottle" series, which you can easily get confused into thinking that it is. Stick with it, and you shall be rewarded.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The new Spider-Man cartoon on Disney XD has a vaguely modernized 1980's vibe to it.

I think I'm gonna have to start watching the new Spider-Man cartoon that's coming to Disney XD on August 19th. Below is one of the shorts they've released. It's engineered at getting his origin story out of the way so that they can just go straight to adventuring (a splendid idea since most everyone that even likes Spider-man knows how he got his powers).

Given Disney's deep pockets, I am a little bit dismayed that this animation looks only marginally better than the Avengers and Hulk cartoons...meaning that it looks like it has a budget to rival the cost of a Wendy's value meal. But, I guess I could always give it one or two episodes and if the writing matches the animation, then stop watching. One criticism that I have with the animation is that there's little to no shading. That's something any artist learns pretty quickly in art school (of any kind). For some it just comes naturally. Shading in animation must be hard. However, there is one thing I kinda do like about the animation: it has a vaguely modernized 1980's vibe that reminds me of old Dungeons and Dragons cartoons.

But maybe that's a bad thing.... Oh nostalgia, thou art so powerful.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Was Brandon Stark in control of Nymeria in Game of Thrones' Stormborn?

In "Stormborn," the second episode of Game of Thrones seventh season, the most interesting occurrence might have happened in the woods with no one around but Arya. The scene unfolded like thus: Arya was by a campfire, her horse tethered to a tree or bush slightly behind her, when it became clear that the horse was becoming more and more agitated. Wolves started to show up, and they circled her as if guided by something that had commanded them into some kind of formation.

Before too long, a giant dire wolf showed up. All of us jumped to the conclusion that this was Nymeria, Arya's long lost wolf from season one episode 2, when she was forced to chase it into the woods to avoid a killing by order of the Queen (for having bit Joffrey). Sansa's wolf (still a pup) was put down and suffered the fate that was intended for Nymeria. I'd long wondered if that wolf had some part to play, and I suppose with its introduction, the writers are saying that it definitely does.

Arya of course, tried to talk to the wolf to get it to recognize her. She said, "Nymeria, it's me, Arya." And the wolf seemed to recognize her because it left along with its pack of much smaller wolves. Arya wanted Nymeria to follow her to the north, and there was disappointment at first as the dire wolf left. However, then there was something that I didn't quite understand that happened. I had to watch it twice to be sure. Arya says, "That wasn't you." Then she has this look of understanding that crosses her face.

I think what happened is that Arya has spent so much time in the presence of followers of the Many-Faced God that she believes she saw something in Nymeria's eyes. I think that person was Brandon Stark, who is now south of the wall, probably feeling safe, and exploring the world through his warging/three-eyed raven powers. I think Bran saw Arya through the wolf's eyes, and she recognized him. Maybe not enough to put a name to it, but it certainly would explain the wolf formation and the absolute command that the dire wolf seemed to have over its pack.

Anyway, this is just a theory (one of my own that's not from the internet). But it's just possible that we saw how Brandon expects to use his power to help out his family.

What do you guys think?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

People who I would consider marginalized by society love Cersei Lannister and I find that horrifying.

I've been noticing a strange phenomenon since the season 7 premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones this weekend: people whom I would consider "marginalized" are professing love for Cersei Lannister. Before I get into that, let me define "marginalized" and what it means for me. They are people who harbor bitter attitudes just beneath the surface (regarding their poverty, sexual currency, or overall lot in life). In my experience, marginalized people blame everything BUT themselves for any of their failures. Just to be clear...I'm not saying that society hasn't put its foot on the backs of these people. But in my life's wisdom, there's usually a combination of things that lead a person into a downward spiral of "bottoming out," and one of them certainly can be racism, prejudice, or other ills created and spread by society. But that is also (rarely) the only thing that's going on. But why the bitterness? Well...when you grow up being told that you are a special unique snowflake, and it doesn't turn out that way (rather, maybe the opposite ends up being true) then it's easy to see why some people might be bitter about that. The rub is that (as adults) we can't show our bitterness unless we want to have no friends at all. So people learn coping skills to hide all that bitterness and rage beneath a shallow smile so that (to most onlookers) they appear like a normal human being.

Anyway, all of the above is old news to anyone that has gotten to know a decent sample size of the human race. The adult lot is full of "disappointed dreamers" who feel emotionally (and perhaps socially) castrated and unappreciated for their greatness. What I find interesting though, is how many of them identify with the character of Cersei Lannister, perhaps one of the most notorious psychopaths in fiction. Not only that, but they admire her for her strength and dedication. When I found this out through several conversations, I was horrified and fascinated at the same time. Their reaction to my horror was priceless, because many of them didn't think it was bad to have admiration for a mass murderer. Another interesting fact: all of my samples are liberals. Yeah. These are people who want free health care for all, universal basic income for all, feel that the world would be a better place if love was everywhere and everyone had multiple sex partners and could stay stoned/high all the time so that there was only pleasure and no pain. Yes...these same people profess admiration for a woman that burned all of her enemies alive in wildfire and destroyed the entire Sept of Balor (the Westerosi equivalent of Vatican city). I was floored.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cersei Lannister, she's a Machiavellian ruler who has stopped at nothing when it comes to seizing her throne. Her last living child even committed suicide because of the horrors that Cersei inflicted, and she hardly batted an eyelash. She even twisted his actions saying, "He betrayed me," as if in those three words it was completely okay that your son committed suicide by throwing himself to his death. If the murdering wasn't bad enough, she's tortured people to death or given them over as rewards to undead monsters to rape and enjoy, and she's had an incestuous relationship with her brother her entire life (while married to the king whom she cuckolded gladly). The list of her horrible traits is a mile long, and I thought for sure that there was nothing to admire there. Yet, it seems, if you are feeling "oppressed" in any way, she's probably the character you like most.

It makes me wonder why. The answer may be simple: oppressed people like Cersei because they wish that they could do what Cersei did to her enemies. And that single thought terrifies me. It's made me look at these liberal "friends" in a different light and made me realize, "Hey...I have different values than these people. There's no way I could do the things that Cersei Lannister has done. I'm just not that kind of person."

There's so much anger and hatred in this country that it feels like it's oozing through the polite cracks everywhere. I saw it on the political right first, but now I'm seeing it on the political left as well. It's been a real wake-up call, and it makes me worried for the future. I suppose a television series like Game of Thrones really does have something for everyone, and it should be a reminder to us all that evil makes a flower bed of anger and grows quite nicely if it is ignored.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Here are my thoughts on the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones.

I loved the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones last night on HBO. But there are a few things that bug me with the gap in time between seasons. I mean obviously...there has to have been some time (a month maybe) for Daenerys to sail to Dragonstone with her fleet. If I'm being generous...perhaps three months at sea? So in that time I'm expected to swallow a few of the following (which I did...but I'm kind of complaining about the time compression here):

1) Euron Greyjoy built a thousand ships. Yara and Theon stole all of Euron's good ships, so he had his men go about building more. It seems to me that a thousand ships would be a tall order. They sure as hell slapped those suckers together fast. I mean...the Iron Folk are experts at sailing, but it just makes me wonder how they could put together so many ships in so little time.

2) How did Jorah get all the way to Old Town? I suppose he left Daenerys in the desert so there was enough time that passed. But why did he go to Old Town? I thought for sure he'd go back to the woman that wore the veil in front of her face that we met in season two that said she knew of a cure for greyscale (Jorah's disease). It's disturbing how much of it has progressed, by the way.

3) Why is Jaime Lannister not furious with Cersei? I didn't expect the banter between them to go with such civility. I mean she's a psychopathic murderer whose directly responsible for one of his son's deaths. I don't know why he didn't just strangle the life out of her in last night's episode.

Now onto some assorted musings about the premiere:

1) The White Walkers have undead giants. I wasn't expecting that, and it was a nice touch. Mark my word...before it is all over, Lady Mormont will kill one of those single-handedly.

2) Euron had the balls to mock Jaime Lannister in the throne room in front of Cersei. "I have two good hands." That was hilarious.

3) The Hound has really won me over as someone that has a good heart. I never expected that of him. He has a tremendous amount of empathy for the small folk, and he's swiftly becoming a favorite character.

What about you? Any assorted musings you'd care to share from your watching of the "most-watched television series of all time?"

Friday, July 14, 2017

These are the four shows I'm most interested in watching during Shark Week 2017.

On July 23rd, Shark Week 2017 takes off, and I've already got the schedule of the shows I'm going to watch. There are 18 programs in total that will air on Discovery channel. Below are the details of the four I'm most interested in (and they air early in the week):

Sunday, July 23rd
Great White Shark Serial Killer Lives: Shark experts Ralph Collier and Cal Lutheran, using satellite tags and DNA technology, think that the same great white returns again and again to a certain beach in California to attack people. This interests me simply because I've long suspected that great white sharks are diabolically intelligent.

Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White: Michael Phelps with 23 Olympic gold medals under his belt takes on a great white shark in a race that he's probably going to lose, but it will still be entertaining as hell.

Shark-Croc Showdown: Of course this is happening in Australia...land of the 14-foot crocodiles. Anyway, this promises to show what happens when 14-foot crocodiles move into shark infested waters.


Monday, July 24th
Return to the Isle of Jaws: Divers and scientists seek to unlock the mysteries of the new great white hot spot just south of Western Australia. The episode promises a discovery that's 1) startling and 2) will make everyone rethink everything we thought we knew about great whites.

There are a few others peppered here and there that sound kind of interesting. I most likely will be checking them out simply because there aren't a whole lot of options available on television in the summer. Anyway, are any of you planning on watching "Shark Week 2017?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Here are my six predictions for season seven of Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones resumes its march toward oblivion with the season 7 premiere this Sunday. To say that I'm excited is to understate things quite a bit. I've waited years for this story to finish, and I'm finally going to begin to see who are the best players to win the throne and how on earth are the survivors going to deal with the White Walkers and the Night's King. Here are my predictions:

1) Cersei will die by Jaime Lannister's hands. Part of this is simply because George R.R. Martin (if anything) is unpredictable. But he's so unpredictable that he's kind of become predictable. There's lots of foreshadowing that Tyrion is probably going to kill Cersei. I don't think that's how things will shake out, because that would be predictable. With that in mind, I think Jaime will strangle Cersei to death (remember the prophecy of the fortune teller in season five?), mostly because in the books he's clearly appalled at the monster Cersei has become, and I think that will carry forth into the show as well. He already viewed her with disgust after returning to King's Landing and seeing what she had done to destroy the Sept of Balor. Additionally, it's well within his right to say that Cersei's actions to destroy the Sept of Balor directly resulted in Tommen's death (Jaime's son). Honestly, it's not much of a stretch to go from "Kingslayer" to "Kinslayer." After all, Tyrion did it first.

2) Sansa will turn against Jon probably because of Littlefinger. Sansa is an unpopular main character. I for one will freely admit that I've found her chapters in George's books to be tedious. She's only become interesting in the last couple of seasons. I also think that she's a little bit resentful that she saved Jon's life by soliciting the Knights of the Vale to come to his aid in order to take Winterfell. Without them, Ramsay would have won and everyone would have been dead. Instead they all called Jon, "The King in the North." In her own words, Sophie Turner (the actress that plays Sansa) has said, "Sansa looks at Littlefinger knowing that he would have put her as Queen in the North and given her the credit she deserved." That's kind of a powerful motivation to turn against Jon Snow if ever I heard of one.

3)  Samwell Tarley will discover the key to defeating the Night's King. I predict it will be in the Oldtown library that he reached last season.

4)  The Wall will come down. I think that Samwell Tarley is carrying the Horn of Joramun around and doesn't know it, and that Euron Greyjoy will sack Oldtown and take it from Samwell to use it as a bargaining chip with the Night's King. The Night's King (of course) then uses it to destroy the Wall.

5)  Arya will kill Littlefinger. She's a face-shifting assassin these days. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to pull this feat off.

6) The Hound kills his undead brother The Mountain. They call this the "Cleganebowl." But seriously...why else would we keep the Hound alive if it wasn't for this?

That's it for my predictions. Do you have any?

Monday, July 10, 2017

I tried to spot Easter Eggs for you in Spider-man Homecoming which is a great film by the way.

As movies go, Spiderman: Homecoming was one of the best I'd seen in a while. It certainly is up there with the first Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier or Captain America: Civil War. One of the things that really worked for me was the absence of Peter Parker's origin story. I think that's been done to death, and obviously the makers of the movie agreed that it shouldn't be told again on film.

Another thing that I love about these movies are the (SPOILER ALERT) Easter Eggs. So I'll go over a few of these that I managed to remember (and spot) from the film when I went and viewed it with my best bud, Brad Habegger.

First off, when the Marvel logo thing starts spinning, you hear the usual musical refrain associated with Marvel replaced with the "Spiderman...spiderman" theme from decades ago. That was really fun. Then you also get to see "Damage Control" in action, which is a corporation in the comics that cleans up sites of alien invasion (because all that strange tech needs to be cataloged and kept out of the hands of bad people like Hydra). Of course, you know it never works out that way or else there'd be no more good stories.

Then there's the reveal that a character named "Michelle" actually goes by M.J. Hmm? Coincidence? These kind of things rarely are. You only find out about "M.J." right before the credits roll. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this character, it is one of the many love interests in Peter Parker's storied history (a pretty significant one). Of course there's always Black Cat and Gwen Stacey to name a few others, but it seems like the creative team with Marvel will be incorporating M.J. over those two.

We also get to see Shocker in the movie, but he gets disintegrated by the Vulture. However, you'll notice that the yellow shirt he's wearing has a diamond pattern on it. This is obviously an homage of sorts to the comic book character. I doubt Shocker will ever make an appearance in the Disney/Marvel outings because he was used to bad effect in the second Amazing Spider-man movie.

There's also the guy that plays in "Better Call Saul" as the character "Nacho." In Spiderman: Homecoming, he plays a fairly insignificant role, but he shows up in the stinger with a scorpion tattoo on his neck. I think this means that he's going to be "The Scorpion" in a future Spider-man movie (which is also the significance of the stinger if you must know). He's probably going to become some part of the Sinister Six (a group of Spider-Man villains that are pretty destructive because they are all working together).

That's all the Easter Eggs I managed to spot.

Individual musings: I read somewhere that the film team destroyed fifteen Lego Death Stars to get the right shot. It makes my inner nerd weep. I also wonder what the iron suit that Iron Man made for Peter Parker does that the other one in the film doesn't. Bonus, the skin-tight look of the suit on Tom Holland's body is over the top great. The second stinger at the end of the long credits isn't really worth waiting for. It's just a public service message from Captain America. It's kinda/sorta funny but not really.

Things that are cool about Tom Holland, the actor that plays Spiderman. Check out this video below (which premiered on MTV's lip sync battles by L.L. Cool J.). It starts at about 1:47 with "Singing in the Rain," and he frickin' crushes it.