Kirst Words

They only sound cursed.

September 19th, 2014

Neil Gaiman once wrote “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch” in response to a fan who was disgruntled at the fact Martin took a long time to write his books. Because he’s Neil Gaiman you may have heard of this.

Greg Rucka writes a web comic called Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether and he created a kickstarter to fund a hardcopy version. This did phenomenally well but, as many kickstarters go, Greg was unprepared for many of the issues with producing a book or for the manpower required to deliver those books. There were many reward levels including different editions as well as numerous add-ons preventing a simple mailing solution. Then he had a death in his family. All of these things add up.

The books were initially due in December, 2013. As I write this it is September 2014 and I have not received my copy. This is no big deal but Greg seems to imply there are those who are “disappointed” at the pace of his shipping. Was Greg naive and unprepared for all minutiae involved in producing a physical book and shipping it to three thousand people? Yes. Is it his fault for being naive and unprepared? Unfortunately, also yes. People make mistakes and even the best laid plans do not always come to fruition but that should not absolve either. Nevertheless, I still say Greg Rucka is not my bitch. Even though I paid him for a book that he said was going to be out much earlier and he’s had in his possession for months, Greg Rucka is not my bitch. Even if he’s intentionally being slow for whatever reasons, justified or otherwise, Greg Rucka is not my bitch. Life happens and I believe he’s trying. Now if Greg comes out and says I’ll never get a book then I might tell him, “Oh hell no, bitch! You’re my bitch and you better get me my bitchin’ book!” But until that day comes (and I don’t think it will) Greg Rucka is not my bitch.

I list dates because Greg’s kickstarter is by no means the latest I have backed. Karl Stevens’ Imitating Life was originally due in October 2012. He has rarely updated and eventually declared he needed to delay his already late project to fall 2013 because he got a job that paid him. While I find this unprofessional I understand he needs money and that good paying art jobs can be few and far between. It is almost a year later than that and he now believes the book will be out in fall 2015. With all that I don’t even think he’s my bitch. He occasionally posts and I believe he is trying to get it done, horribly delayed as it is. I will get my book when I get my book. Unless, of course, I don’t…

September 12th, 2014

What a weird, slow, late summer movie season it’s been. I’m almost tempted to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Almost.

I bought Cap 2: Winter Soldier on 3D blu-ray as it was the same price as the 2D version. Since Marvel is now owned by Disney and Cap 2 was both financially and critically successful, it is unlikely the price of the movie will decrease over the next 10 years. So why not buy it now. But Godzilla next Tuesday — maybe wait until Christmas or next summer for it to be $10 or less. But… Godzilla.

I got my check for Jury Duty and it was ~ $83. Jurors are paid $40 a day plus a flat travel rate based on home zip code. $43 seems like a lot for travel though I guess it comes to about $1 a mile at 20+ miles each way. I doubt I would have been paid for missing the day I forgot to call in for if they needed me and that would make travel $3 which seems low for one day. Who knows. Not in jail.

Pam challenged me to write stuff I’m grateful about seven days in a row. I think I’d've had a hard time doing it when I was in a good place. I’m no longer in a bad place but I don’t think I can do 7 days of things to be grateful about. Why couldn’t I have been challenged to the 15 movie thing that’s going around?

My fire alarms all went off yesterday morning while I was in the shower. They’re linked so if one goes off they all go off. I wandered around the house wet and naked carrying a fire extinguisher hoping not to find anything. The house is all comics, books and paper for art so I’m sure it would go up in a second if there were a real fire. This spring I discovered I had a smoke alarm in the basement through it’s constant but irregular beeping. I never changed the battery for that cuz I never knew it was there. In tracking it down and other stuff I found the alarms the house came with needed to be replaced by 2014. That’s now so with the false(?) alarm yesterday I decided to replace all my smoke alarms. I hadn’t turned the heat on yet (it’s on now) so it wasn’t that but I’ve had issues where if it was too windy and the windows were open they would also all go off. Hopefully this will fix things. Amazon had them $6 more each than Crescent Electric and CE only charged $9 for shipping which turned out to be 1-day shipping. Well worth it. Even with shipping and tax it was still $25 cheaper than Amazon, and next day instead of the 2-weeks my non-prime customer service would get.

I thought of a better way to display all my books/comics in a two tiered fashion. I’m doing a test on how well the Ikea (f***in’ Ikea!) Besta shelves hold up. If only I ever had people come over to see them.

September 6th, 2014

So I’ve been summoned to jury duty plenty o’ times but never federal jury duty. There are only a few federal courts, but at least one per state, of which there may be nine in Illinois but I’m thinking it’s much less. Like three. A month or so back I was summoned and two weeks ago I began my service period. The federal courthouse to which I was summoned was the Dirksen Building at 219 S. Dearborn in Chicago. Initially I thought “they have it wrong, I live out in the burbs. I used to live in Des Plaines which was close to Chicago but not anymore.” Working at the Aurora Police station which also houses the Kane County Courthouses I thought I would go to work and just walk to the other side of the building. But I was wrong. Federal Courts have a wide area to choose their jury pools from. I had to appear the first day, Monday August 25, and if not chosen to serve, I would have to call in the night before for every following business day to see if needed.

I took the train in, giving myself almost an hour to get from Union Station to the Dirksen building as opposed to 20 minutes which the next train would allow. It takes a while just to get out of the station with everyone exiting and I figured I’d grab a meal or something but if I had to I could make the later train. As it turns out there were issues with the train and all trains from my area ended up about 25 minutes late. I arrived with 25 minutes to spare which turned out to be the minimum needed to “get me to the court on time.” Once there I had to pass through TSA level security which involved all electronics being removed from bags and placed separately on the conveyor belt. I brought a laptop, a 3DS, a hotspot, a usb charger, my work phone (an iPhone 4s) and my personal phone (a blackberry — it’s small which is something to consider when you have to carry two phones at all times.) I also had to take off my belt. The procedure ensured I would not be going out for lunch nor would I be bringing much if required to return.

After checking in, within an hour I was selected in the first group to be a potential juror. I’m not sure if I can legally say anything about the case so I won’t. The room was beautiful. Modern classic with everything in nice stained wood. The public benches where we waited ended up being beautiful but after about 5 minutes just drove you crazy. It was like the old Fine Arts Theater where you were just in pain. I had to sit there for more than two hours.

The judge explained jury duty and then wanted to see if people needed to be excused. One person was a sole care provider for someone with disabilities and was out. Another said Jesus forgave him and he would always forgive. No matter what. So he was out. I wanted to murder his family and see if he would forgive me but the judge had probably been through this enough that he just let him go. Some people had pending trials and convictions and he kept them. One person tried to argue he had pending court case which could not be delayed to which the judge said, “if you’re chosen, have anyone involved with your case call me and I guarantee they’ll make time.”

After people were weeded out that way came the actual jury selection. Twelve jurors and two alternates. They started with six and asked them a series of questions and then the prosecution and defense could question them. They could then eliminate potential jurors. If they eliminated a person from seat 2 the next potential juror was seated in seat 2. We got through the first 6 and had done the first round of questioning for the second six when we had lunch.

At lunch, there was a group of us that eventually sat together and discussed things. Not the case, the judge had forbidden that, but things like where we were from and if we got paid. Jurors are paid $40 a day plus an amount for travel based on your zip code. The money isn’t taxed and only has to be declared if you make above a certain amount from jury duty per year. Whether you take public transportation or drive and spend $40 on just parking it makes no difference. There was a student who was thrilled to be chosen as she had no job and this meant she was making money.

After lunch the second six were chosen and I was almost chosen as an alternate. The juror seats were hella comfortable and the speakers for the courtroom were not as loud in the juror box. One of the cool things was when there was a sidebar someone hit a switch and the speakers produced static to drown out any possible eavesdropping. I was still amazed the prosecution and defense were able to discuss amongst themselves without being heard. At least by me. After sitting through all that I was disappointed to not be chosen. Especially if it meant having to go through that again if summoned another day.

I got out just before 2:30 and tried to make the train that left around then but just missed it. I debated whether to call someone up and hang out but really just wanted to go home so I waited the 45 minutes for the next train and made it back shortly after 4:00. For the next two weeks I called the evening before every business day except for the evening of Tuesday, September 2nd. I wasn’t needed any of those days and suppose if I get a subpena or federal marshals show up on my doorstep, I was needed for the Wednesday I didn’t call. The last day of calling I put it on speakerphone at work so everyone could hear whether I was needed or not.

No pictures. Photography of any kind was expressly forbidden in the summons as well as at every other stage of the jury duty process.

August 27th, 2014

This is one of those viral things going around, like name your life in the songs of one artist or any of those surveys everyone did in the early days of Facebook and the height of MySpace. This one is 10 books (not necessarily good, even) that stayed with you.

1. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Hornby captures the social intricacies of specialized retail life with uncanny accuracy and still manages to tell a story acceptable to mainstream audiences.
2. The Collector Collector by Tibor Fisher. An hilarious, strange tale about a shape shifting pot that is actually collecting collectors.
3. On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony. While many lives were furnished in early Moorcock, I read Piers Anthony. Xanth. Split Infinity. Everything. But On A Pale Horse was a cut above the rest. It exceeded the rest of the series and most of his other works and is still worth reading.
4. Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. Elric was the true, tormented anti-hero before I understood such concepts. I found Corum a cooler character conceptually but Elric’s stories were easily better.
5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Still my favorite Gaiman book. And I’ve read them all. I thank that’s the issue in that there’s a type of story Gaiman tells and I can feel it. Ocean at the end of the Lane is a close second though he doesn’t necessarily break new ground.
6. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore. Moore’s sense of humor shines in all of his books but this was my first and much like many of the other books on this list, the new experience really stuck with me.
7. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. Dan Brown showed me the world of the thriller with a catch. I blame him for my love of Pendergast and Sigma Force. All of his books really are the same book but they’re well done and fun. My challenge is to read Angels & Demons and DaVinci Code in any order. The one your read first is most likely the one you like more.
8. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. The second of the Thursday Next books. It’s invention of the footnoter phone is still the cleverest thing I have ever read and something that can only exist in books.
9. Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein. My first real favorite book. I have read it at least 10 times in the 25+ years since I first read it, though not in the last 5.
10. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Audrey Niffenegger and Erin Morgenstern bot cited Tartt as one of their great influences but I found this book a good, if marred, first work and could never get through her second book. Erin confessed to never reading that one either. But still, it sticks with me and I have even recommended it over better books for reasons unknown to me.

August 22nd, 2014

This weekend was Wizard World: Chicago and it’s been expanded to four days. Thursday through Sunday and I went for the first two days. I wasn’t sure I would go this year but they had Lenil Yu in as a guest and I think he’s just an amazing artist so there you go. Two days is about my limit. I ended up buying trades and a few things in artists alley as well as seeing a movie.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Poster
We’ve all seen Eva Green’s boobs (and they’re incredible) but in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For there’s hardly a time where you don’t see them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it can be a bit distracting. Much like in 302 Eva is an incredibly charismatic woman who manipulates the world around her. Howver in 302 she achieves her goals through, guile, skill and a little bit of sex. In Sin City it’s all sex. The world of Sin City is not kind to women; they only exist as objects of male desire: stripper, call-girl, femme fatale. In defense of the world created by Frank Miller, it’s a dark, hard-boiled, gritty world evoking old pulp stories and film noir and women were rarely well represented in those stories.

Sin City is comprised of three slightly interwoven tales. The first involves Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt,) a lucky player trying to make a name for himself, who goes after Senator Rourke (Powers Boothe.) He has ulterior motives for picking Rourke but this is Sin City, where everyone has a secret. Rourke is also the target of Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) in the second. In a continuation or the That Yellow Bastard storyline from the first movie, Nancy’s loss of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) has driven her mad and she’s out for revenge. She enlists the aid of Marv (Mickey Rourke,) who died in the last film, but if you read the comics as they came out, you’d know all Sin City stories happen before Marv’s death. Unfortunately they were published 20 years ago and I’d guess very few people remember that. Marv also appears in the titular third story involving Dwight (Josh Brolin replacing Clive Owen.) In more time travel, in the comics A Dame to Kill For happens before The Big Fat Kill, the Dwight story from the first movie. In theory, the surgery Dwight goes through changes his looks from Josh to Clive — his accent as well. Dwight used to go out with Ava (Eva Green) and she needs his help again. She’s bad, she knows she’s bad and so does he. He doesn’t want to but can’t help himself. No man can resist her and she drags him into a world of hurt.

sin-city-a-dame-to-kill-for-2
The only story I was familiar with from the comics was A Dame To Kill For which followed the comic very closely. If you were a fan of the comics or the first movie you’ll probably like this. It’s very much the same thing again but the weakness of the film is the lack of continuity. Without reading the comics, why would Marv still be alive? The Nancy story even seemed out of continuity for the comics and possibly the first movie. In the comics Marv leaves Wendy (Jamie King) with a very sane, normal Nancy before going off to kill Cardinal Rourke. Not so sure about the movie. (Too lazy to research now.) Much like Guardians, my lack of a complete Sin City knowledge left me wondering.

I saw this in the Muvico 18 theater and it was their MuviXL format. (MuviXL features a bright white screen that is over 72 feet diagonal, two 4K projectors with RealD XL 3D technology, and Dolby Digital 7.1 sound.) I wore glasses (instead of contacts) and sat sorta in the middle. The Muvico setup prevents you from sitting at the very back unless you get premium tickets. The 3D was amazing. Smoke, explosions, Eva’s boobs, they all came out at you. Not sure if it was the XL or something else.

Trailers: The November Man, The Hateful Eight, Maze Runner, The Equalizer, Amityville

Things I bought:
Thursday
Lenil Yu Sketchbook 2010 20
Lenil Yu Sketchbook 2009 50
The Adventures of Red Sonja Vol 1 10
WildC.A.T.S Covert Action Teams: A Gathering of Eagles 5
Cassanova: Luxuria TP 7
God of War 7.5
Archie Meets Glee 7.5
Jack Kirby’s The Losers HC 15
John Carter Warlord of Mars Omnibus 25

Friday
Sin City 2 16
Popcorn / Lg Drink 12
Witchman vol 1 HC 45
Little Guardians 1&2 30
Annihilation Conquest 2 17
Yi Soon Shin HC 12
Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby HC 18
Mighty Avengers 2 Venom Bomb HC 8
Clandestine Classic HC 10
Gibsons 95
– Crabcake
– 14 oz Filet
– 1/2 order of mushrooms
– iced tea
The filet came with a side of Bearnaise which I’m not overly fond of. Surprising for someone who loves butter and eggs as much as I. The flavor of tarragon was a bit too prevalent. It worked better as something to put on my bread.

August 16th, 2014

It’s Saturday, Aug 16 and orders are due on Monday the 18th so let’s do this again. This time with a bit more on the thought process behind the individual books. Again, the general idea is to order things I don’t think my comic shops will order. There are occasions where I still order that item and this is one of those months. This is the list of things I found interesting enough to mark in previews:

AUG14 0029 DREAM LOGIC HC 12/10/14 $35
AUG14 0114 ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN HC VOL 01 JUNGLE BOOK 12/03/14 $25
AUG14 0334 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED DELUXE ED HC 12/03/14 $30
AUG14 0335 BATWOMAN TP VOL 05 WEBS 11/05/14 $20
AUG14 0391 FRANK MILLERS RONIN GALLERY ED HC 12/24/14 $195
AUG14 0447 JOE KUBERT ENEMY ACE ARTIST ED HC 11/26/14 ? ~$150
AUG14 0481 STAR TREK NEW VISIONS TP 10/15/14 $20
AUG14 0574 BLACKHAND COMICS HC 10/01/14 $20
AUG14 0593 NAILBITER TP VOL 01 10/01/14 $10
AUG14 0613 WALKING DEAD ALL OUT WAR AP EDITION HC 10/01/14 $35
AUG14 0894 ORIGINAL SIN HC 10/22/14 $50
AUG14 0896 NEW AVENGERS PREM HC VOL 04 PERFECT WORLD 11/05/14 $25
AUG14 0897 AVENGERS PREM HC VOL 06 INFINITE AVENGERS 11/05/14 $25
AUG14 0910 IRON FIST LIVING WEAPON TP VOL 01 RAGE 11/19/14 $18
AUG14 0911 ELEKTRA TP VOL 01 BLOODLINES 11/05/14 $17
AUG14 0913 SILVER SURFER TP 01 NEW DAWN 11/19/14 $18
AUG14 1138 ART OF MODESTY BLAISE SC 10/29/14 $40
AUG14 1289 IN SEARCH OF LOST DRAGONS HC 10/22/14 $35
AUG14 1376 RED SONJA TP VOL 02 ART BLOOD & FIRE 10/15/14 $20
AUG14 1468 COMPLETE EIGHTBALL HC BOX SET 10/29/14 $120
AUG14 1499 IN REAL LIFE GN 10/15/14 $18
AUG14 1503 DRAWING WORDS & WRITING PICTURES SC 09/17/14 $35
AUG14 1504 MASTERING COMICS SC 09/10/14 $35
AUG14 1552 LUMINAE HC VOL 01 10/29/14 $25
AUG14 1574 CIUDAD HC 12/17/14 $20
AUG14 1585 BAD MACHINERY GN VOL 03 CASE OF THE SIMPLE SOUL 12/10/14 $20
AUG14 1614 HELLO KITTY HELLO 40 HC 10/08/14 $30
AUG14 1685 GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU HC 10/29/14 $20
AUG14 1763 PRINCESS MONONOKE FIRST STORY HC 10/08/14 $35
AUG14 1915 ART JAPANESE MONSTERS GODZILLA GAMERA & SF FILM ART SC 10/01/14 $40

Out of all of these things the two things I really want are Silver Surfer and Princess Mononoke. Why? It’s drawn by Mike Allred whose style is reminiscent of 60′s pop art. Every time I see his work it’s wild, vibrant and a bit groovy but it also frightens me a bit. Mononoke is by Miyazaki — hopefully I won’t have to explain that. I don’t need to order the Surfer trade but it’s gonna make the list and I’ll probably even order it. Surfer is the the thing I want enough to order even though I don’t have to — to guarantee I get it.

Despite needing only two books, I am still interested in the rest. Let’s talk big ticket items first. No way I’m spending $120 on Eightball so that’s out but there are maybes on the Ronin and Enemy Ace Artist Editions. I’ve never read much of either but the Artist Editions are essentially first printing only one shots so I’m leaving them on. Jumping around a bit there are two how to draw books by Jessica Abel. Now I’ve seen the first (Drawing Words and Pictures) and never bought it but have never seen the follow up, Mastering Comics — the advanced course. I’m more interested in what would she thinks is needed for an advanced course anyways. That makes the cut and will be ordered. I bought Bad Machinery vol 1 and loved it but just checked and never got vol 2, so no on vol 3. Batwoman, the two Avengers collections as well as Iron Fist are out as I don’t need to order those. Even a crappy shop would carry those (and the shops I frequent aren’t) so no fear of missing out. I’ve been told Orignal Sin is bad so it’s out. Possible trade buy as I love Mike Deodado’s art. Blackhand, Nailbiter, Modesty Blaze, Sonja, Luminae and Lost Dragons are out cuz I don’t really know or care enough about them but most of those would be possible buys if I saw them. So what does the list look like now?

AUG14 0029 DREAM LOGIC HC 12/10/14 $35
AUG14 0114 ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN HC VOL 01 JUNGLE BOOK 12/03/14 $25
AUG14 0334 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED DELUXE ED HC 12/03/14 $30
AUG14 0391 FRANK MILLERS RONIN GALLERY ED HC 12/24/14 $195
AUG14 0447 JOE KUBERT ENEMY ACE ARTIST ED HC 11/26/14 ? ~$150
AUG14 0481 STAR TREK NEW VISIONS TP 10/15/14 $20
AUG14 0613 WALKING DEAD ALL OUT WAR AP EDITION HC 10/01/14 $35
AUG14 0911 ELEKTRA TP VOL 01 BLOODLINES 11/05/14 $17
AUG14 0913 SILVER SURFER TP 01 NEW DAWN 11/19/14 $18
AUG14 1499 IN REAL LIFE GN 10/15/14 $18
AUG14 1504 MASTERING COMICS SC 09/10/14 $35
AUG14 1574 CIUDAD HC 12/17/14 $20
AUG14 1614 HELLO KITTY HELLO 40 HC 10/08/14 $30
AUG14 1685 GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU HC 10/29/14 $20
AUG14 1763 PRINCESS MONONOKE FIRST STORY HC 10/08/14 $35
AUG14 1915 ART JAPANESE MONSTERS GODZILLA GAMERA & SF FILM ART SC 10/01/14 $40

There are still only three things I’m going to order for sure. Surfer, Mastering Comics and Mononoke.

Dream Logic is a David Mack thing and I’m a big fan of his. Jungle Book is an “underground classic” that I’ve never read but has enough of a pedigree that I’m interested. Superman Unchained is written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Jim Lee but I’m going to hold off for a cheaper trade edition. The series was plagued by delays near the end and may have been rushed to a quick finish. Especially since it’s that perfect-for-collection nine total issues. I don’t care enough about Ronin to start with a $200 version. No on Kubert’s Enemy Ace for the same reason. Passing on the Buscema Surfer Edition last month makes passing on Artist Editions easier as I really love Buscema’s art on Silver Surfer. Star Trek New Visions is fumetti (photo comics) by John Byrne. He’s doing more, so I may be able to wait for a better collected edition down the line but I’m still going to leave it on. I don’t like Walking Dead but I’m fascinated by pencil art so it stays. Elektra looks beautiful but I really don’t have to order it so it’s gone. In Real Life is by Cory Doctorow and published by :01 First Second which is a bigger blessing than you might have thought. Ciudad (which I always saw as cuidad (as in cuidado — danger)) looks interesting enough; written by Winter Soldier (movie) writers and the one picture shown is nice but I’d like a little more art to sample first. (Yes, I could look online but I haven’t. And as I’m not ordering it I’d still say it’s Oni’s problem.) Hello Kitty may or may not be cool — enough so that I’m dropping it. God is Disappointed is something I have no idea about but the ad looks so good I’m actually moving that to an order. Art of Japanese Monsters is a collection of movie posters. Nice but I’m going to cut it here.

Pondering things a bit more, I’m going to drop Dream Logic so I can buy it from David Mack at a con. (Artists at cons like it when you buy things and he does enough cons that I should see him once it comes out.) Everything else with the possible exception of Walking Dead is a go. Again, love pencil art but don’t really like Walking Dead. (I read the first 5 collections and it’s not for me.)

So the final list broken down looks like this:
Challengers
AUG14 0114 ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN HC VOL 01 JUNGLE BOOK 12/03/14 $25
AUG14 1499 IN REAL LIFE GN 10/15/14 $18
AUG14 1504 MASTERING COMICS SC 09/10/14 $35
AUG14 1685 GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU HC 10/29/14 $20
AUG14 1763 PRINCESS MONONOKE FIRST STORY HC 10/08/14 $35
Graham Crackers
AUG14 0481 STAR TREK NEW VISIONS TP 10/15/14 $20
AUG14 0613 WALKING DEAD ALL OUT WAR AP EDITION HC 10/01/14 $35
AUG14 0913 SILVER SURFER TP 01 NEW DAWN 11/19/14 $18

The breakdowns go slightly heavy towards Challengers as I’ll most likely end up buying the stuff I didn’t order (like Elektra) at Rick’s. If I choose to not order walking dead (I haven’t sent them in yet) I’ll probably move Mastering Comics to Rick’s order.

August 3rd, 2014

I started the weekend with a trip to Mitsuwa for their annual Summer Fest (Natsu Matsuri.) The summer fest is exhibitions and food stands. They started with Taiko drumming and by the time I left they were in the middle of karate. The final thing is the bon odori (dance of the dead – but not like the tango de la meurte) which is exhibition to start but ends with everyone allowed to dance. Or at least it has been in the past. I didn’t stay that long; two hours, if that. They had the typical food stands: yakitori/takoyaki, ramen, “corndog,” etc. But I noticed two new stands. There was a pulled pork pita but next to it was a grilled wagyu stand which had no business. Why? It was $10 a stick. $10 for five pieces of wagyu that were an inch by a half-inch. That’s pretty small. But it was worth every penny. I spent $20 on wagyu and almost spent $30 but that stuff’s pretty rich and I’m glad I didn’t.

Sunday I finally made my way to see Guardians of the Galaxy. Almost everyone I know went to see it Thursday.
XXX GUARDIANS-GALAXY-MOV-JY-0704.JPG A ENT

Guardians is an atypical Marvel movie from an atypical source. If you’re not a comic fan, you’ll still most likely know Captain America and the Hulk. But even as a comic fan I would not be surprised if you didn’t know the Guardians. The original Guardians in the comics were essentially The Avengers from a thousand years in the future. Semi-recently, a present day iteration was created.

Guardians centers on Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who, just after his mother dies, flees the hospital and is captured by aliens. Cut to 26 years later and Quill (aka Starlord) is a intergalactic rogue whose only tie to earth is a mix tape his mother made him of awesome songs. Quill steals an orb which is the macguffin for the the whole movie. Everyone wants this thing. Yondu (Michael Rooker) who kidnapped Quill as a child, Ronan (Lee Pace) who needs it to trade with Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who Ronan sends to retrieve the orb from Quill. Yondu puts a bounty on Quill and the pair Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) want to cash in on the bounty. Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot get captured and put in jail where they meet Drax (Dave Bautista) who wants vengeance on Ronan. That’s the set up.

The movie is fun summer viewing and knows it. It tries to inject some real emotion in with varying degrees of success but for the most part it smiles back at the audience and knows it’s fun. But it works. My biggest issue was my knowledge of the Guardians in the comics. Unlike X-Men:Days of Future Past where I was able to ignore all my comic knowledge and enjoy the film (it can be really annoying otherwise,) my less than encyclopedic knowledge of the Guardians worked against me as most of what I knew wasn’t what was shown. I found myself pondering things that had nothing to do with the film and more with current comic continuity. But none of that should apply to most people who see this.

karen-gillan-nebula

On a side note, I found myself more attracted to Karen Gillan as the borgified Nebula than I’ve ever been. Which includes her in kiss-o-gram, short, police skirts. Unfortunately she didn’t get much to do.

There were two stingers. The first which happened before the credits was very cute but did nothing to promote a future Marvel film. Though it did make me want one of those dancing flower things — modified of course. The second was also Guardians centric, unless Marvel’s planning on remaking one of their 80′s prospects. The cameo was so unexpected (but completely plausible considering The Collector (Benicio Del Toro)) that I gasped.

3D stuff: I haven’t seen 3D since Godzilla and as I mentioned then, I tried 3D with glasses (not contacts) sitting in the back of the theater. It wasn’t as good. I’ll sit much closer next time. Not sure if sitting in back reduced the 3D effect or it wasn’t that prominent but it didn’t come off as crazy 3D. And there were ships and lasers and explosions. Rocket kicking grass was the most 3D to me.

There were previews for: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Big Hero 6, Dumb and Dumber to, Annie, Into the Woods (which isn’t being promoted as a musical!), Expendibles 3 and The Hobbit 3. And maybe that football thing with Cavizel but that may have been part of the pre-trailer stuff.

SPOILERS

This is stinger one. So CUTE!

July 27th, 2014

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Lucy is an existential piece about existence designed as an action film. Sound crazy? It is. It doesn’t always work but it’s such an intriguing concept that it’s worth taking a look. And it has Scarlett Johansson as the titular character. (See what I did there? A joke with Scarlett Johansson and tits? sigh.) The premise is simple. Lucy is captured by Korean drug kingpin Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi — Oldboy) and inadvertently ends up being one of four drug mules for the rare GH4. Her package is ruptured and it gets into her system causing Lucy to start using more than the 10% of her brain the rest of us use.

Lucy

As the percentages rise, Lucy discovers she’s becoming emotionally disconnected to the world and that her physical existence will soon end. She heads off to see Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman,) the world’s foremost expert on using more than 10% of your brain so she can pass on what she has learned. In the meantime she has recruited Parisian Officer Del Rio (Amr Waked) to round up the other mules and retrieve the drug which she needs not only to stay alive but achieve her full potential. But Mr. Jang really needs his drugs and is out to reclaim his property. We end up with a race. Will Mr. Jang get to Lucy before she can fully evolve?

The movie is visually gorgeous but not necessarily the best thought out film. Lucy could easily have prevented the end fight scene with Mr. Jang. When you’re one with the world (able to control, time, space, physical matter and minds) what does a shootout matter?

July 25th, 2014

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On Wednesday I caught an encore showing of Monty Python Live (Mostly). I discovered Python in the mid 80′s in high school when everything the troupe was doing was still considered cutting edge and they’ve stuck with me ever since. My biggest fear was the jokes performed by men in their 70′s would not hold up. None of that mattered as the show brought me back to my teenage self and they could do no wrong. This is a summary of the show mostly from Dominic Cavendish. He went to the first show where Stephen Fry was on Blackmail. I reproduce it here (hopefully with all the appropriate changes for my viewing) to preserve for myself.

Act One
Long-time Python collaborator John Du Prez conducts an orchestral overture – a medley that includes Sit on My Face, I Like Chinese, Finland, Spam, Every Sperm is Sacred and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Three large screens, embedded in a mock-up music-hall stage complete with red curtains, flicker into life. We’re soon watching a new animation of Graham Chapman’s head being booted across space, through which also hurtles a police-box, a real-life counterpart to which (“The Retardis”) “materialises” on stage and we’re off.
1) The Pythons arrive to mass hysteria (the screens flash the words “photo opportunity!”) in traditional Spanish costumes, Idle and Jones bearing guitars. They launch into the Llamas sketch. Information about the llama follows, conveyed in gibbering Spanish, with English subtitles (“Llamas are larger than frogs…”) The broadcast did not show much of the subtitles which made it hard to get the full impact of the humor even though I knew the gist of what was going on. The “Liberty Bell” theme-tune then kicks in, the famous Flying Circus opening credits roll; 15,000 people clap along, go wild etc.

2) A set trundles on, bearing The Four Yorkshiremen, its intro freshly tweaked: “Who’d have thought 40 years ago we’d all be sitting here doing Monty Python?” Idle, Palin, Cleese and Jones puff on cigars and show the old magic.

3) The Penis Song – Idle in silk dressing-gown as Noël Coward, while Gilliam in ghastly drag, accompanies him on the piano: “Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis? Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong?” The air starts to turn blue.

4) A segue into the Naval Medley, which extended the penis song to sings the praises of vaginas and bottoms with scrolling lyrics “… but don’t ever call it a ‘cunt’ or they will put you in the dock and you won’t get out again.” The first sight of the 20-strong chorus-line, giving it a lot of raunchy emphasis and rude gesticulation courtesy of choreographer Arlene Phillips, who worked with the Pythons on The Meaning of Life. Cleese appears, ordering the company, to “camp it up”, so the dancers shift into a tightly drilled version of the “camp square-bashing routine”.

5) After a video replay of “Batley Townswomens’ Guild presents the Battle of Pearl Harbor”, and a surprise sighting of Vladimir Putin’s face across the navel of Michelangelo’s David, we’re into “The Last Supper”; John Cleese plays the Pope and Eric Idle Michelangelo, contending with his Holiness’s complaints about the generous number of disciples (28) he has depicted, as well as the three Christs.

6) Every Sperm is Sacred, the notorious Catholic-baiting ditty from The Meaning of Life, rousingly chorused here not by children, as in the film, but by the high-kicking adult dance troupe – kitted out as nuns and priests. Two foam-spurting, phallic cannons are wheeled on by way of saucy garnish.

7) Mr and Mrs Blackitt (Palin and Jones) discuss the difference between Protestant and Catholic sexual intercourse. Some footage of the Silly Olympics.

8) Vocational guidance counselor sketch. Palin’s chartered accountant tells Cleese’ counselor he wants to become a lion-tamer. When it’s pointed out to him what a lion actually is, the skit shifts into…

9) The Lumberjack Song. Palin twinkles away in his red-and-black check shirt, surrounded by thigh-slapping Mounties.

10) After footage of the Philosophers’ Football Match, it’s time for Aussie-based audience-participation with the Bruces’ Song in praise of drinker-thinkers. This is where Eddie Izzard made his guest appearance.

11) Crunchy Frog. Terry Jones, hunched at a desk as the proprietor of Whizzo Chocolate, gets a visit from the cops (Cleese and a nicely vomiting Gilliam) on account of the unorthodox and wholly unappetising source of his confectionary.

12) The Man Who Speaks in Anagrams. Idle does so, delightfully.

13) I Like Chinese, the iffy stereotyping number reinvented on a big musical scale for the 21st century, led by Idle. “I like Chinese. They copy everything they sees… But they’re up on the moon soon, they’ll do as they please.”

Intermission
Even in the rerun the intermission was 30 minutes!

Act Two
1) A dead-pan, cod-balletic performance of “Spam Lake” morphs into a lithe, choreographed orgy to the bare-faced, rousing cheek of “Sit on My Face”.

2) The Death of Mary Queen of Scots. Cleese and Jones in drag as Pepperpots slump in a living-room listening to a radio enactment, childishly gruesome and near-wordless, of Mary’s death. Their radio-set explodes, then, after a short discussion some of which involved how boring that Michael Palin’s travel show was conversation turned to the penguin sitting on top of the TV set, which then exploded.

3) Gumby Flower-arranging. Gilliam, sporting a knotted handkerchief on his head and a moronic expression on his face, is on fine dunderheaded form, clumsily stuffing flowers upside down into a vase in a sketch first seen on TV back in 1970.

4) Poofy Judges. Gossiping Idle and Palin get their robes and wigs off to reveal the tights, suspenders and brassieres underneath. The pair took a dig at Cleese, one asking “did you handle the Cleese divorce?” and the other replying “which one? There were four!” to uproarious applause.

5) Albatross. The original stuffed albatross has been brought out of storage to enable Cleese, got up as an icecream-tray-carrying usherette, to rail at Jones’s non-plussed customer. “It’s a bloody sea-bird… it’s not any bloody flavour!”

6) Nudge Nudge. Greeted with a roar of recognition, Idle matches his glory days as he gets back into winking, insinuating, spivvy character, with Jones playing the perplexed pub-goer he button-holes.

7) Blackmail, the spoof TV show in which unwilling participants are forced to part with cash to prevent compromising secrets being spilled has been souped up, not least with the introduction of a surprise celebrity cameo (Mike Meyers).

8) Anne Elk. Cleese dons frightful wig, glasses and skirt to play a primly deranged, woman with a theory “which is mine” about brontosauruses, procrastinating with revolting, catarrh-riddled bouts of coughing. An exasperated Idle quizzes.

9) The Spanish Inquisition. Holds good here, with Palin as Cardinal Ximinez of Spain, accompanied by Biggles and Fang (Jones and Gilliam). Carol Cleveland, who has popped up throughout the evening in various guises, plays the mystified house-dweller who’s told to confess. The last weapon of torture is “the fridge”.

10) … which opens to reveal Eric Idle, all dapper, and crooning the eternally touching Galaxy Song. Mesmerising visuals give way to a video skit in which Prof Brian Cox pedantically dissects the lyrics, only to be flattened on the grass of King’s College Cambridge by the speeding wheel-chair of Stephen Hawking. The cameras then cut to professor Hawking in the crowd. One of his assistants waved his hand to everyone.

11) The Silly Walk Song. Bowler-hatted dancers carrying brief-cases indulge in some organized mayhem to a preachy new number about the evils of money.

12) Argument Sketch. Still holding good, despite the evident exhaustion of Cleese at this stage in the evening; his corpsing and chemistry with Palin is a delight. Gilliam swings by on high, suspended on wires, singing “I’ve Got Two Legs”, only to be shot down by Cleese – the former’s fake stomach disgorging entrails.

13) The Spam sketch – Jones squawks away magnificently as the greasy-spoon waitress whose menu is almost exclusively spam-based.

14) As if from nowhere, Cleese appears with the words “I wish to register a complaint” (cue audience whoops) and the caff is disassembled and reconfigured as a pet-shop for the Dead Parrot sketch. Cleese had a huge mis-cue here where he asked “now where were we?” and Palin said “you were about to say ‘Now that is one dead parrot!‘” which brought about great laughs. The skit did a sudden swerve into the Cheese Shop sketch; Palin amiably matches his counterpart in timing, emphasis and infectious delight.

15) A rather “so-what?” sacrilegious-sexy finale number, Christmas in Heaven, allows the ensemble to cavort around in fake-breasts, fake snow a-falling, but it’s really just a means of heralding the true climax, served up as the encore.

16) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, an arena-sized anthemic sing-along that warms your cockles and moistens your eyes as you bid the old timers adieu.
The final images on the O2 screen were:
Graham Chapman 1941-1989
and finally…
Monty Python 1969-2014

July 13th, 2014

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Good. Not award good. Someone was telling me there were reviews claiming it was good enough to win awards. Maybe special effects awards, which were very good, but not acting awards. Not that anyone is bad. Voice/motion capture actor Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar, the first of the intelligent apes. The other returning apes of note are the scar-faced Koba (Tony Kebbell) and Maurice, the orangutan (Karin Konoval.) If others returned, like the Gorilla, they don’t have big enough parts to be of note.

The story occurs 10 years after the outbreak and most of the human population is dead. The apes still live on the outskirts of San Francisco where they have primitive tools like spears and have built huts to live in. Humans have returned to SF and need to access the dam to get power for the city. Unfortunately the dam is very close to the apes’ home. A lot of humans don’t like apes and a good amount of apes don’t like humans. But in each camp there are those who want peace and friendship between the two species.

At the core of the film is a message about family. Caesar has his family and the extended family of intelligent apes. Malcolm (Jason Clarke,) a human survivor, has his son and girlfriend, Ellie (Keri Russel.) Ellie has double duty in coping with the loss of her daughter and trying to get along with Malcolm’s son, Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee.) Each wants to protect their families. Each understands the other and knows working together can benefit both groups.

The humans are coping with incredible loss: family, way of life, survival as a species. All of them are desperate. It’s easy to see how the discovery of a tribe of intelligent apes indirectly responsible for the outbreak could be seen as a threat. Koba, a heavily experimented upon Chimp, sees all humans as a threat. There’s a great line where Caesar says, “humans taught Koba hate and nothing else.” And they did. As much as Caesar and Malcolm try, each side has forces working against them internally and conflict arises. I don’t think it’s as good as Rise of the Planet of the Apes but it’s close. There are a few too many movie cliches and the humans are all a bit one-dimensional. Even Malcolm. Especially when compared to James Franco and John Lithgow’s work in the last film.

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On a technical note there were scenes where I thought are there any practical elements in this movie? Apparently there were lots.