Friday, November 25, 2011

Move Night: Super 8

   Maybe it's J.J. Abrams as director, or maybe Steven Spielberg as producer. Maybe it's just brilliantly written, casted, and acted. But this is one of the the best movies I've seen in a very long time. Super 8 is "Stand by Me" meets "The Goonies" meets "The Sandlot". With aliens. I give it a A+. It's your standard coming of age, early teen, "nerdy boy gets hot girl" movie, but with a heart and soul, and characters that move you. Set in 79 it falls story wise after "Stand" before "Goonies" and right around "Sandlot."

   The acting in this movie was really great, or once again, maybe just really well directed. There was one scene that will forever stand out for me. It's where Alice is asking Joe how to "play" a Zombie. Then she's looking at him just normal like, and the "zombie" comes over her. She "attacks" him, abet in slow motion, ending with a bite on the neck. Then she draws back and goes back to normal Alice. This almost made the hair stand up on the back of my head, the way her expression slowly changes, and her's amazing acting. I think the whole scene was to show off just how good Elle Fanning really is. Since this is a movie, in part, about making a movie, there's another scene they really let her go to town on. It's her first scene in the boys movie, and she's to play the wife. They do a "run through" of the scene, and she just really nails it. You really feel like she's feeling it. Keep an eye out for this girl, she's going places. She's been in quite a bit of films already, but I think she's just coming into her own now.

   Not to say the other actors, kids as they might be, are slouches. Most of these guys did a really good job, you can really get into some of them, Joe, Alice, and Charles really shine. Most of the rest of the cast, with the exception of Joe's dad Jac, take a back seat. I think all of them are solid performers in the film, the supporting cast really didn't get enough meat on the characters to really judge their talent. But there was no "bad" acting in my opinion, but with sketchy characters is can be hard to tell what's by design and what's by accident. I did feel the "sexy sister" was hammed up a bit, but that may have been design, and no fault of the actress. The video store clerk, mainly a plot device to get the kids from one scene to another, was also a bit awkward. I think it was the writing, not the acting. He was more a plot device, like the "sexy sister", then a character, they just needed to give him enough flesh to explain him, but they didn't really flesh him out enough I felt, but it worked. Movies are time limited.

   It's got a sweet "like" story going on behind the scenes (too young and innocent to be a "love" story), but it addresses deep issues in it's plot. It shakes a finger at human kind and it's fear of the unknown, it shakes a finger at blame, and guilt. As Sci-Fi as the film is, that's almost just a backdrop for this character driven story. It never goes into the Sci-Fi parts, just touches on them in passing. There is no science here at all, nothing is explained. It's not science fiction, but human fiction. It can be a bit campy at times, but unlike in many movies, it all fits with the feel of the movie. If this movie is lacking anything it's the character development could go even deeper and spread wider exploring more of the cast. But J.J. Abrams is always good at pacing, and this moves seems to have that great balance of pace, dialog, and action that makes a good story a great movie. This story would make a great book, then the characters could really be explored.

   You see the love("like") story coming a mile off. The plot twist that explains an early scene, and the "Romeo and Juliet" type unexplained hatred between the two fathers, is foreshadowed and no surprise if your paying attention. I think it would have been better served WITHOUT the foreshadowing, I think it would have hit harder, but no one asked me. Anymore, most of us have seen so many movies, and read so many books, there's isn't much new in stories anyway. But just because you see it coming doesn't lessen the impact, or take away from the moment it is revealed. It's even kinda sweet and touching once it unfolds, even though for pacing it's quickly glossed over.. I must admit the scene with the two fathers facing their issues is really good, not because of how big and grand it is, but because of how much it's not. How small and down-to-earth it is.

   I must say, one of the things I think I like most about this movie, is how "real" it is. There are a few scenes that seem kinda out there, but mostly is seem like what would happen to normal people, in a normal town, on a normal day. Well, if a very angry, bad ass, alien is set free on that normal day. And it doesn't seem that far fetched to me at all, none of it. It's much like "Stand by Me" and "The Sandlot" that way. And the outlandish parts are not that far off what we see in "The Goonies". It is a touch scarier then the other movies in a few parts, and has a scene or two of gore on the bus. It also has a bit of cussing by the kids, not constant, and mostly justified, but it's there.

   If you liked those other films, you'll like Super 8, if you didn't, well then you might not like this one either. I will say "The Sandlot" and "The Goonies" are in my top 20 FAVORITE movies of all time, if not in the top 10. "Stand by Me" wouldn't make my top 20, personally. But if I was to list the GREATEST movies, not just my favorites, it would rank in the top 20. I think I'm a romantic at heart, without the underlying "love" story I just doesn't make the list. And in this one they don't even kiss, or show their growing regard in any physical way, till the very last moment of the movie, then it's very, very tame. This had made the list however, my personal top 10 FAVORITES. It would be in the running on the GREATEST list as well.

And all with a no-name cast.... of course most good "kid" movies are....

Movie Night: Conan, The Barbarian (2011)

   This remake of Conan wasn't that bad really, I'd give it a Solid C+, maybe a B-. I was entertained and it engaged me. I had heard some people remark that Conan shouldn't be that small, but I don't think once your watching the movie you notice he's small at all, he's not a hulk like Schwarzenegger r, but he does come off larger then life in the movie. And really, Jason Momoa as Conan isn't a small guy unless your compairing him to someone as large as Schwarzenegger anyway.   

   I'm not really sure if it was the writing, or directing, but the female lead, Rachel Nichols as Tamara, come's off very forced at first, like they are trying to portray her as 10 different things at once. But she settles into the role finally. I wonder if those were some of the first scenes shot, or if they were trying to cram about 90 minutes of character development into 10 minutes.

   The "evil daughter" of the main antagonist was a strangely written, directed, and acted character as well. That may have been intentional, she's one whacked out girl, but I think they were also trying to make her sexy, and evil, and crazy, and powerful all at once. But pulled none of them off with great success. She's just one crazy B%amp;. There is one scene where she's trying to take "Who's your Daddy" in the incest direction it seems, and it's pretty disturbing. 

   Ron Perlman as Corin was good, course I'm a big fan of Ron Perlman, so I may be biased. In his case it may have been a case of brilliant casting more then acting or directing. But Jason Momoa did very well in this movie also. I had a feeling the director has a hard time with women, or did in this movie at least, the men he did very well on, but fell short on the women.

   It seems this director has a thing for remakes, he's directed 6 films, most of them remakes of classic movies:

2003The Texas Chainsaw MassacreYes
2009Friday the 13thYes
2011Conan the BarbarianYes
2012The FlyYes

   Also this movie is pretty bloody and gory, not for the weak stomached. In the very first scene there is a field C-section done on Conan's mother. It has about 5 mins of completely topless girls in it also. And one semi-softcore love scene. Those parts reminded me more of 80's skin flicks, but it wasn't a theme through the whole movie. So it's not exactly kid friendly, but you might find this one is your 13 year old boys favorite movies, and you may have to retrieve it from his room a couple of times....then hide it. LOL

   It was an pretty good movie really, the story wasn't too bad, the directing was what kept if from being a solid B or B+ movie. I don't think the writing was really good enough to get it to an A. Also I kinda feel some of the scenes were so the director or producers could stare at some naked girls on set for a day or two. I'm sure the crew didn't mind, but they don't get to choose, so we know who the horny teenagers on this film were....LOL.

Movie Night: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

   When I came out of work on Wednesday morning (I work nights) and went to the Redbox in our lobby like I do every Wednesday morning, to get the latest releases, Pirates was out of stock. That's a first. Only employees in our building have access to this machine, so it's always had any movie I've ever tried to get. I then got on my phone and used my Redbox app to search, out of 30+ machines in the area, there wasn't a copy within 25 miles. 

   Even though I couldn't get copy when I wanted too, this boded well as an omen to how good this movie was going to be. Later in the evening, as people would have been returning their copies, I got on the web site and found one close by, and reserved it. 

   Honestly, I didn't really feel it was worth the trouble. Johnny Depp still made the movie, but he seemed somehow an older, and calmer Captain Jack Sparrow (not a good thing). I missed the story line, and the actors, from the other 3 movies. Those that returned were ok, but not brilliant. I wasn't engaged with Black Beard near as much as I had been with Davy Jones in the previous movies, or even Commodore Norrington.

   I found Penélope Cruz as Angelica was an awkward character though most of the movie, but in the end turned out ok I guess. The pacing of the movie, however action packed it was at time, was slow and the timing seemed off. I think changing directors for the 4th movie was a big mistake, it barley kept our interest.

   Overall, it was an ok movie, I'd give it a B-, it would have been better if I hadn't have seen the first 3 movies and already had an idea of how it should have been made. I didn't think the $1.20 I paid was to much, but I'm glad I didn't see this in the theaters.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Motorcycle Journal: Ride to Live, Live to Ride

   There are no words really to describe The Ride. It's something you can really only understand for yourself once you've experienced it. It's something like waking up for the first time, and really seeing the world around you. It's breathtaking like a sunset or a sunrise, and powerful like the ocean. I suspect it's similar to what the cowboys felt in the old west when riding their steeds, or something like the Wright brothers or The Red Barron must have felt soaring with the eagles. It's something like Freedom.

   It's all these things really, but then again, it's something more and something all it's own. I've ridden since I was so young I don't remember a time before riding. But I know the difference between driving a car and riding my bike. Even a bicycle can't get close to touching it. Somehow it's the wind on your face, and the feel of the road passing just inches below your feet. It's the smell of the earth, and how the temperature changes from the bottom of the valley to the top of the hill. Even over the noise of the wind and the bike, it's the sounds of the world around you. It's leaning into the curves, and the wild power you've willingly placed yourself on top of. 

   I've grown used to non-riders never understanding. They go on about the danger, and how unsafe riding can be. They love to tell about someone they know who used to ride and now can't walk, or even talk. And you know what.... I feel sorry for your loss, and theirs, but it's worth all the risk. Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. And I'm not one to think avoiding the former is worth giving up the latter!!! 

   Maybe that's why it seems it's the risk takers who so often become Riders. Or those that wish they were more outwardly risk takers, the ones with the seed inside, that for what ever reason, never bloomed. The quite, mild, accountant who on weekends likes to ride all over the countryside on his chrome steed. In everyday life he may play the part of the mouse, but on his own time maybe he dreams of being the cat sometimes. It's not that riding makes you some kind of bad ass, but man or woman, you have to have some balls. A bike is somewhat like the sea. You have to not show your fear, be strong and confident, and treat it with respect or it's will consume you. It's also much like a wild animal, never quite tame, unpredictable. I can't tell you how many times a dog, cat, opossum, deer, or raccoon has been waiting right in my path as I round a corner at 50 MPH. Or sand, dirt, leaves, and crazy cage drivers have been laying in wait unexpectedly to send to me to the pavement. 

   Cool nerves, a level head, quick reflexes and a good amount of skill can save you in most cases. And sometimes you just have to clench your butt hole and ride it out. Even OVER the dog if you have too. And then sometimes nothing can save you. If your lucky you get some road rash and a bruised ego. And sometimes it's worse, but the cost is still worth the payoff.

   I've always felt there were non-riders, those that never had the urge and can never justify the dangers. Then there are riders, those that ride because they want to impress someone, maybe even themselves. Or they can't afford other transport, maybe they've done the math and are saving gas, or want to save the environment. But they are not riding to Ride, just to get from A to B, or to impress the guys, or see if it's true that a bike can be panty remover. Then there are The Riders. This group rides for the pure joy and freedom of the ride. For them it's the Journey, not the destination. It's not about getting there, but HOW you get there. It's about The Ride. And if someone is impressed, or panties happen to come off, all the better, but it's about The Ride first. Once you get where your going it's almost sad, because now your going to have to stop.

   The wife had never ridden a bike, and she's wasn't exactly happy when I bought this one. At least until I took her on her first Ride. She loved it, even told me it was OK that I had bought it now. SHE's the one who bugs me to go riding when we have someone to watch the baby. SHE's the one who bitches when I get to go somewhere on the bike without her. She's got a taste of The Ride, and she likes it!

  But I will admit, sometimes to truly enjoy the ride, you have to have the right equipment. For me I have to have some kind of eye protection. I don't know if it's because I wear glasses, or just the way my eyes are, but I have to wear goggles, I can't see at speed otherwise. I can see better WITHOUT my glasses at speed, but then I can't see anything because I don't have my glasses on. Also I've ridden in 20 degree weather, but I'll admit anything below 50 and you really need some good riding clothes. If your going to ride in below 40 degree weather, you needs some really good winter riding gear, or it's not going to be much fun. Wind chill at 50 mph is insane. But when it gets really cold, if your riding just to get somewhere close by it's easier just to drive a cage. Getting in and out of all that gear, and being comfortable when you get where your going takes a bit of effort and time. 

   Riding in the rain isn't so bad when it's warm, and isn't bad at all if you have the right equipment. The key here is the right equipment. Eye protection of some sort is really handy in the rain. And if you get to the point you can't see you have to be smart enough to pull over and wait it out a bit. You don't have windshield wipers and cages can't see you as well either. You also can't avoid as easy as on dry pavement. Riding in the rain is more about being smart then being good. Or tough. 

   And if it's icy out....forget it. Leave the bike at home, walk if you have too. This and the rain are both cases where balls can lead you into trouble. In fact, with ice, the bigger your balls get the smaller your brain. Even if  you can keep the bike under you on ice, cages are going to cream you for sure. Their brains seem to shrink around bikes anyway, and on ice they can't even stop hitting other cages. Ice and bikes on city streets just really don't mix. I've ridden in the snow, on the farm, but in the city I don't ride till they have the streets clear and ice free. Not just for me, but because of other people who can't drive worth a hoot on the stuff. 

   I love to ride, and will ride whenever I can. I wrote this so maybe some non-riders might understand where us Riders are coming from. And maybe one of them will one day become a Rider too. If you Ride, nothing I've said here will surprise you, and may even seem to be understating The Ride, but words just always seem to fall short. 

Ride safe, and keep the rubber parts on the ground!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Motorcycle Journal: A Personal History about Life on Two Wheels

I remember learning how to ride a little Honda 50 Minitrail minibike before really learning how to ride a regular bike. It's exactly like the bike from the picture above, color and all. I have fond memories of puttering around the neighborhood on that little three speed.

I then moved up to a Honda XR80 dirt bike. I rode that thing all over the farm. I think I spent whole summers with more time on the bike then off. It was the perfect bike for running around the farm and having fun on.

Other then the 80 I messed around on friends and a cousins 125s and doing a little motocross stuff. But I never owned a bike during this time myself. To be honest I guess my Dad owned the 50 and the 80.

My step Dad had bought a Yamaha Maxim 650, he planed on buying a Harley but hadn't ever ridden so bought this bike as a learner bike. It was pretty sweet, and he would let me ride it some. He even let me take my motorcycle license test on it.

The first bike I ever owned all on my own was a Yamaha SR250, "thumper". They called them thumpers because of the sound they made, they were a rather large singe cylinder bike. There was a kid in the neighborhood who had it, he was quite the wheeler dealer, and I don't remember exactly how it all turned out but I know over a year we traded a bunch of stuff back an forth for this bike. I think I bought a laptop from him for like $80, then he wanted it back and I traded the laptop to him for the bike. I fixed it up got some problem parts replaced and the next year had problems with it and traded it back for a Playstation 2 and 30 games plus some cash. Or maybe more stuff, he liked to trade stuff. In fact I think he ended up trading this and some more stuff for a Porsche 928 when he turned 16. It was a beater, but he was the only kid with a Porsche! LOL

My next bike was a 1979 Honda 10th Anniversary Limited Edition CB750L. What that meant was every dealership was only allowed 2, that was the Limited Edition part. At the time the CB750K was one of the most popular bikes going, and they had come out in 1969. So in 79 they made the CB750L version for the 10th Anniversary. Pretty much it was a K with custom 10th Anniversary badging and two tone coloring. It also had all chrome bolts and hardware as apposed to the other models. It later became the CB750C "Custom" in later models, mainly that meant all chrome goodies.

I bought that bike in parts for like $200, and put about $1200 into it (tires, chain, brakes, seat, random salvage parts, stator, cables, carb rebuild, etc.), it didn't even have a seat when I bought it. I ran great for awhile but I started having issues with the carbs again and since it was a 4 cylinder it had four very complicated carbs. Only one guy in my area would even touch them, and he retired after the first rebuild. I could mess around with them and get them working for a few months at a time, but they needed all new parts throughout and there was no manual or instructions for doing this on these bikes. So I let it sit...for years. One day I noticed it was gone, I figure the apartments I was living at had it towed, but I didn't bother even looking for it. Those carbs had defeated me. I figured it was a good project for someone with a garage and spare time. I didn't have a place in the apartment to work on it so maybe it went to a better home.

Flash forward about 8 years. I'm sitting at work one day and start thinking "I wonder how much I could save on gas just going to work if I bought another motorcycle?" Turns out if I rode it 8 months of the year (and not including the Saturdays I work sometimes) it came out to about 600-700 dollars a year. So I decided to see if I could find a bike again, one that I could make back the money within one year, or two at the most. So I jumped on Craig's List and.....

this is what I got. This is my actual current bike, a 1985 Yamaha Virago XV700N. 50 MPG and a v-twin. Love it. This is the best bike I've ever owned, and it's a joy to drive and ride. I've already done a lot of work on it, but there is still more to go. I've repainted the tank and the left side cover. The right side cover is missing as shown in the pic, I'll find one sometime. I need to repaint the fenders to match. I went with a more glossy finish, this one did strange things when it got gas on it, and it was somewhat chipped already. I also fixed a bad turn signal and starter relay. Otherwise I've done general tune up type stuff. Some day I'll go through and really restore it and fix it up, when funds allow.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wheel of Time Jewelry? Is it sad I think this is cool?

Fantasy Jewelry outlet has a Wheel of Time collection, and for the life of me I can't figure out if it's just really sad I find this cool. They have just about everything you can think of from the books, except for the younglings towers. 

Want an Aes Sedai Great Serpent Ring? It's not what I had thought it would look like, but if you go by the description in the book I guess they got it right!

How about Lan's Ring?

Or Matt Cauthon's signet Ring?

Or maybe you want to wear a Dedicated Sword Pin on your collar? 

But what if your feeling your more of a full Asha'man instead of just a lowly Dedicated? How about a Asha'man Dragon Pin to show the world you a man who can channel at the highest levels, and you serve the Dragon Reborn!

Maybe you just want to show you serve the Ancient Aes Sedai before the breaking? How about a pendent of the Ancient Aes Sedai Symbol?

Oh, and don't forget, just in case there might be some Aes Sedai about, and you don't feel exactly respectful, you might want to get a Foxhead Ter'angreal just like Matt!!! It's even got the right eyes!!

You can also get the Flame of Tar Valon, and Dragon Fang pendents. Then you might want a Horn of Valere pendent, a Asha'man Dragon money clip, Dream Ter'angreal necklace, or Moiraine's Forehead pendent for ease dropping. 

Now, just how cool is all this??!??!

Yeah, I know, means nothing unless your a Wheel of Time fan......

Movie Night: Cars 2


Larry the Cable GuyLarry the Cable Guy...
Mater (voice)
Owen WilsonOwen Wilson...
Michael CaineMichael Caine...
Finn McMissile (voice)
Emily MortimerEmily Mortimer...
Eddie IzzardEddie Izzard...
John TurturroJohn Turturro...

I had read a blog or story once about Pixar, and how that of all their movies Cars was the one big disappointment. It was the authors opinion that all Pixar moves had a common theme. All their movies are at the core about humans encountering something non-human, or vise versa, and overcoming the prejudiced views both had to find a common ground. He also remarked Cars was the only Pixar movie to exist in a world without humans, or at the least to be set in a human world. I believe he also felt it was a bad movie as well. As for me, I liked Cars, I found it cute and entertaining.

Now we have Cars 2. The Cars hater who wrote that blog would be happy to know that ,at least in part, they have returned to their theme of exploring prejudices and overcoming them. But still there are no humans nor is it even a human world. To be honest I enjoy the movie as much or more then the first. It's cute, witty, good for kids and even has very mild adult themes in the background so the adults are not completely left out. But I have to report the wife couldn't really watch it at all. She likes Owen Wilson, but says she doesn't like him in these films. Once she pointed it out I had to agree, Owen is a strange casting choice, and once you start thinking about Lightning McQueen being Owen the character starts not fitting as well. It's funny how I didn't notice till  she pointed it out, and once she did I couldn't get over it for the rest of the movie.

The rest of the cast was great however, Larry the Cable Guy plays a perfect Mater. And Michael Caine does a perfect "James Bond" type British spy with Finn McMissile. Eddie Izzard however I still have a hard time seeing as anything but a cross-dressing stand-up comic. But even that aside it didn't bother me the way Owen Wilson did. Everything Eddie Izzard is in I always expect him to be in drag in the next scene, but I still think he's a fine actor and I enjoy his roles in all the movies and shows I've seen him in. I guess in all his roles there's a part of me who believes the character, whoever it is, must be a closet cross-dresser. I don't know how that works with a car, but there you go! LOL

I would just about agree with IMDB's raiting of 6.5 for this movie. It's ok, and if the kids like it, great. It's isn't bad enough to make it torture for any adult around either, and the story is good for kids, it has a solid moral. All in all it's a thumbs up.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Movie Night: Green Lantern

So I had heard terrible things about Green Lantern. But I'm a sucker for the superhero movies for some reason, so I rented this on the way out from work the other night. One of the perks in working in a building with 4,000 other people is a Redbox in the lobby! LOL I have to say, I don't get the bad reviews. It's not the best movie I've ever seen, but I would not have called it bad at all. 

I'm not one of those guys who was into comics as a child, or even an adult. I had a few fantastic four and some assorted others, but never got into that kind of stuff. So I can't say how much justice they did to the original story, but the idea for the movie wasn't too bad.

"In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light."

In a nutshell, here's the story of the Green Lantern. There are these ugly immortal dudes who took it upon themselves to be the protectors of the universe. They harnessed the power of will (that happens to be green) and feed it into lanterns all over the universe, that in turn feeds it into the rings of the Green Lantern Corps. The guardians themselves are not Green Lanterns, just the creators of it. There are 3600 sectors in the universe, and each has a Green Lantern to protect it. The Green Lantern Corps is over 3 billion years old. Some stories say there are TWO Green Lanterns per sector, but the movie only shows one, and talks about there being around 3600 Green Lanterns total. So it seems they don't follow that convention for the movie.

"Tomar-Re: Actually, I'm a Xudarian. Our DNA does some what resemble your own ichthyological species. I am Tomar-Re, protector of Secter 2613 and home to...
Hal Jordan: 80,012 galaxies, 2.34 million sentient species. How do I know that?"

The sectors are BIG, that's a lot of ground for a single person, even a Green Lantern to cover, my guess is they only involve themselves in big, huge events. The action is pretty good, but character development is lacking. The movie moves pretty fast, but in do so skims over the heart of the story itself, it come off feeling like a light snack rather then a meal. But it was entertaining and I enjoyed the experience. There were several parts where the wife was a bit confused, so it didn't explain itself all that well, but even she enjoyed it. She blogged about it here.

One part I like is where the female lead, Carol played by Blake Lively, makes fun of the mask after she figures out it's really Hal Jordon in just a few moments after seeing him clearly as The Green Lantern.

"Carol Ferris: I've seen you naked! Of course I know who you are! A simple mask is not gonna hide anything!"

Ryan Reynolds, surprisingly, did a very good job. I wasn't hoping for much, but it turned out much better then I had hoped. Of all the characters, his was the most fully developed, but he was the star so that's not surprising. However I felt his back-story was somewhat awkward, as was the whole love interest thing with Blake Lively. They have her being a bit of every-woman. Hot, smart, geeky, business wise, daredevil pilot, unsure of herself, love sick and coy...kinda all at once. It's comes off ok, but she seems like an awkwardly developed character.

The other strange thing they did was the duel "bad guy" roles in the movie. There is one BIG bad guy, and a small bad guy. The role of the small bad guy is almost a total waste of script. The only reason I think the character existed in the movie was to menace the hotty, so Hal could be the knight in shining armor. This would have made much more sense if he hadn't already made up his mind to save the world before he even knew she was in danger from the little bad guy. They could have left him out and the movie would have been fine.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.