Movies

Infinity War

I’ve been meaning to write something up regarding Infinity War for quite a while, but I just never got around to it. I’ve seen it twice now and I feel like it’s about time that I let my thoughts loose about the movie itself and some of the contentious reviews surrounding it. As always, everyone is entitled to their opinions about whether something is good or bad, but in many of the reviews I’ve read, their issues don’t seem to stem from the movie itself, but rather what they know to be true of the world outside the MCU.

Spoilers below!

My Wife Loves Me Pt 2

Last week, I wrote a post about how my wife loves me by hating me just enough to get me into the gym. This week, I’m here to talk about an entirely different kind of love. The kind of love that lets you live out your dreams without making you do things that are good for you. The kind of love that says, “You’re a complete nerd and you have habits that may kill you one day, but I’m going to let you indulge in this one because it means so much to you.”

That kind of love, ladies and gentlemen, buys you tickets to see The Avengers: Infinity War at the Alamo Drafthouse!

Yep! The Alamo Drafthouse here in Raleigh opened on April 12, just in time for one of the biggest releases of the year and the kickoff of the Summer movie season. I’m so unbelievably excited about this. The stars aligned and not only did Marvel decide to shift The Avengers release to my birthday weekend, but the Alamo Drafthouse is here for me to watch it in all it’s glory. It’s prove that God loves me and wants me to be happy.

I’ve wanted to go to an Alamo Drafthouse to see a movie since I lived in Tallahassee way back in ’08. I think that was around the time where I discovered that they existed and had some pretty intense rules for movie viewing in their establishment. They’re a place that you go if you’re a movie fan that really doesn’t have any patience for people who aren’t really there for the movie, or love to pull their phones out while you’re trying to enjoy your film. I was really keen on it a few years back because I think Tallahassee audiences were some of the worst I had ever been around. The Raleigh area hasn’t really messed me up too much when we go to see movies. I think I’ve had to tell a couple people to be quiet over the few years that we’ve been here. That being said, a set of rules that means you can get pulled out of the theatre for being obnoxious is pretty awesome.

They have a ton of food and drinks as well, so I’m excited to see how all of that works. I’m just so pumped I’m gonna die. I can’t believe Stephanie thought to do this for me on my birthday. The Avengers on my birthday at Alamo Drafthouse. Good gravy.

Iron Man Holds Up

Tonight, I watched Iron Man for the first time in a long time. Stephanie and I decided that we wanted to attempt to watch all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, and that starts with Iron Man.

This movie came out in 2008, so there are definitely some things that would likely have been different in today’s world. There is a brief mention of MySpace which I’m sure will leave some kids shaking their heads in the future. All in all though, it does a great job of telling a story and not grounding itself in a time past. Even the CGI is great in this. I actually though the CGI in this is far better than Justice League and that just came out late last year.

Marvel took some major gambles on this one, mostly in the form of Robert Downey Jr. At the time, he wasn’t just a name in Hollywood, he was one of the names you can’t put on movies without putting up a fight. He’d had some trouble with substance abuse and was just trying to get his feet back under him. Lucky for him, he had Jon Favreau going to bat for him for this movie. So much of what this movie became depended on the casting. RDJ was a perfect fit for Tony Stark, because he IS Tony Stark. There is a surprising amount of improv in that was done in this movie all thanks to him. If I remember correctly, the writers would basically bring him the script for the day and he would toss out quite a bit in favor of his own flair.

The one major thing that didn’t work out is Terrence Howard as Rhodey. It’s one major issue with the whole franchise. I liked Terrence Howard just fine, but I’m so much more of a Don Cheadle fan. They made a great move in decided to move on. I think it was a money thing with Howard and he just wouldn’t play along. To be fair, this was at a time when Marvel was under Ike Perlmutter and he was a notorious penny pincher. In recent years, Disney has moved the Marvel Studios division out from under him and I believe it’s made them free to make better movies and better decisions since they have a seemingly endless bag of money.

While watching this, I was really amazed at the setup for the whole universe that they were doing. There was no guarantee that there would be an Iron Man 2, much less the slew of other movies that came after that. They took the chance anyway. They through in reference after reference of a bigger universe, culimating in that first post-credits scene involving Nick Fury. Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, no less. They went all in on believing that this was going to be a huge hit and usher in a new era of cinema. Now, for better or worse, everyone has a universe. Some more successful than others. Marvel did the right thing by setting out from the start to make a universe and tie everything together. They took their time, and they established every character before putting them all together. I’m looking at you DC. Get your crap together.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Iron Man again, and it made me realize that Marvel has been making good decisions since day one when it comes to these movies. The Incredible Hulk being the only possible exception. It wasn’t a bad movie per say, it just wasn’t great either. Iron Man totally holds up, and I’m excited to get to watch all of these leading up to Infinity War. I have a feeling it’s going to be so awesome.

You Are My Friend

Mr. Rogers is a national treasure. To a lot of folks he may have just been a weird, quiet, old guy in a sweater who wanted to teach your kids about feelings. To me, that’s pretty much what he was for most of my young life. Though the more we research about child development, the more we seem to learn that Mr. Rogers was right. Helping kids navigate their big feelings is one of the biggest challenges that a parent faces, and Mr. Rogers was right there from the start trying to help. Turns out, as we study children, we learn that most of the crazy tantrums and super pouting fits stem from not understanding how they feel and doing what any impulse driven person would do. They just freak out. Mr. Rogers knew there was more to it than that, and if you could help them patiently and calmly walk through the feeling, you could avoid a lot of frustration for you and them.

The reason I decided to write a post about this glorious, sweater-clad human is because a movied called You Are My Friend just got greenlit, with Tom Hanks set to star! Imagine that! The nicest TV guy in America is played by the nicest Hollywood guy in America. I can’t imagine better casting than Tom Hanks to play him. The movie will follow Mr. Rogers relationship with a journalist who was sent to profile him back in the 70’s. This guy apparently didn’t want to have anything to do with a profile on a kid’s TV guy, but came away with a transformed view on life. I can believe that.

There has never been a story about Mr. Rogers that describes a negative interaction. There are mostly stories that end in tears of appreciation for who he was. His patience was something to be admired. He was never in a hurry and never found himself without spare time for a “neighbor” in need. If you ran into him on the street, there’s almost a 100% chance that he would happily talk to you. He was just that kind of guy. There’s a reason that his quote about the “helpers” shows up every time there is a national tragedy. He is basically a symbol for hope in humanity. Probably moreso than Superman at this point.

I’m super excited for this movie.

You Are My Friend accounced

Mr. Rogers earns PBS funding when Congress threatened to cut it.

Double Fine Adventure

I am such a ridiculously HUGE fan of Double Fine Adventure. The documentary created by Double Fine and 2 Player Productions as part of The Biggest Kickstarter of All Time(tm). Okay, it was the biggest one at the time it was done, earning over $3.3 Million to make an adventure game and a documentary.

If you’ve been around me long enough, you know that I am a huge adventure gaming fan. I was a fan of them long before I even knew what to call them. The first PC game I ever owned was called Putt Putt Goes to the Moon from Humongous Entertainment. Little did my eight year old self know, that company and those kid’s games were created by Rob Gilbert. He’s easily one of the godfathers of graphic adventures along with Tim Schafer and others. Double Fine Adventure covers the creation of the game, Broken Age.

I just popped in my blu-ray edition and watched the vast majority of it with the commentary on. I’ve seen this stuff no less than four times, but there are some cool tidbits you get from watching it with the commentary. It should be a bit of a testament to the quality of the documentary that I can watch it that many times and still enjoy it. The game ended up being amazing, but I’m that kind of nerd that almost enjoys watching the creation of something as much as I enjoy the end product. I thing it helps me to understand that everything starts as a ball of mush and can grow into something beautiful.

I struggle with the creative stuff and realizing that my ideas are worth something. Seeing people bring these weird ideas to life is fascinating to me, and it’s inspiring. Getting this in depth of a view at the creation of a game helped me realize that, yes there are brilliant people working on them, but they start out just as lost as anybody would when they start throwing stuff at the wall. There’s little idea as to what is going to finally take shape, but they just plow forward making some stuff.

Here’s a link to the ENTIRE documentary on YouTube. You dont’ get the special features, or the color correction and audio fixes, but you at least get to watch the doc. That’s the way I watched it the first time and I got just as much out of it.

Watch on YouTube

Buy Broken Age – GoG

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is both one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen and one of the most beautiful. I have no idea how it ever got a greenlight, but I’m so thankful that it did. It’s one of those movies that I can’t get out of my head after seeing it. I start day dreaming about it and asking questions that I know I won’t get answers for. It’s like letting a puzzle marinate in the back of your mind for a few days, and you keep coming up with new thoughts about it.

Guillermo Del Toro crafted this beautiful tale of a mute woman falling in love with a sea monster, and he did it so well that I believed in this relationship between the two. He says it’s one of his most personal films, and one that he is most proud of, and I can see why. The script is incredible, the set pieces are maticulously detailed, and the story has so much heart. Deep within the narrative, there is a very simple story of loneliness and the need for belonging. Each main character is dealing with the idea of loneliness in their own way. Some better than others.

Eliza, the mute hero of our story, is played to perfection by Sally Hawkins. She did an incredible job emoting without using her voice. The passion she has when she’s begging for help to save the sea monster from the secret government facility is incredibly moving. There are questions that arise about her from the very beginning and it lends just enough myster to who she is without distracting from the main thread of the film.

One of the things I love most about Del Toro’s movies is his attepts to use as little CGI as he can, while crafting beautiful monsters. The use of makeup in this movie is fantastic and truly makes the movie more believable. When Eliza reaches out to touch this monster, she’s not touch a guy in a lime green CGI suit. She’s touching a physical thing. That connection shows and it matters. I never want this man to stop proving that practical effects, though often challenging and expensive, are always worth it. He’s one of the few filmmakers left that works in fantasy and insists that CGI should be used to enhance more than create.

Michael Shannon’s portrayal of the villain was so spot on perfect that I was uneasy even watching him. He’s so emotionless, but so believable that I was afraid of him. Given that this movie takes place in 1962, there is also some social commentary going on that makes you hate him even more. Between the civil rights issues that are evident in at least one scene, you also get a glimpse at male superiority complex over women. It’s heart breaking given the recent news and explosion of folks in the #MeToo movement, and it’s horrifying. It’s brilliant that Del Toro makes you more afraid of the human than the monster. He’s always been great at that.

I highly recommend seeing this one. I’m glad I did. Stephanie and I both have had a hard time getting it out of our heads and continue to come to these revelations over small details. Get out and see it in a theatre if you can, but at the very least it deserves a rental as soon as it comes to a RedBox or Amazon Prime. Careful watching with kids. Even if you aren’t a “prude,” it’s worth noting that there is bit of full frontal nudity and other sexual content. It’s done with class, but I know I would probably skip watching with parents.

The Shape of Water – Trailer

Man of Steel

*THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR MAN OF STEEL IN THIS POST*

I’ve been a fan of Superman since I was I was a little kid. I ran around my house in Superman pajamas nearly all day pretending to fly and trying to get my Velcro cape to stay attached to my shoulders and billow just right. I wanted to be Superman. I wanted to fly, have super strength, be invincible, and save people everywhere. That’s pretty much the intention of Superman, I think. Inspire us at a young age to be not only strong, but good to each other. To inspire hope and teach us that it’s not about us but the greater good of people. I think he does a pretty good job of that most of the time. He’s often criticized in today’s age for being too much of a boy scout, too much of the good guy, and completely unrelatable. I’m pretty bummed out that people can feel that way when we all should strive to be boy scout, the good guy.

I started this post after having finally seen Man of Steel. Two times. It’s an attempt by Zach Snyder, David S. Goyer, and Christopher Nolan to bring Superman into today’s times and make him something that we can once again relate to. Someone we can see as a shining beacon of hope for all of humanity. I think they did a fantastic job pulling it off.

In the past, Superman has suffered on the screen because those in charge of getting him there have been very focused on his powers and giving him big things to fight or heavy objects to lift. These people have pretty much missed the point of Superman. He’s super powerful, yes, but he’s also a very complex human being. He has every human emotion that any of us have, but the only thing that is ever focused on is which villain he’ll fight and how he can be shown doing super human things. We have created a Superman for the screen that is unrelatable. It’s not something that is simply ingrained in his character. We made him that way.

What the team behind Man of Steel has done is brought Superman back down to our level. Show him for what he is: an alien on a planet that may not accept him for who he is, an outsider, a person searching for answers to why he’s here, and someone struggling to find their place in our world. They focused on the “man” part of Superman first and foremost and let him find his way into being Superman. They really drive home the point that we should feel for this person who has no idea who he is supposed to be or what he is supposed to do with his abilities. Not only that, but he has a father on Earth that has pushed that he not reveal anything about himself until the world is ready. Pa Kent, played incredibly by Kevin Costner, is terrified of how the world will change once they realize that an alien with incredible powers is on Earth. It could change everything about what we believe.

There was so much about this movie to love. I may have gone in with expectations so high that no movie could have satisfied all of them, but Man of Steel came darn close. It’s not the campy mess that we’ve had in the past. The filmmakers took this one very seriously and made sure that the world we were seeing was believable. They wanted us to believe that this could happen in the world we live in and what reaction we may have to it. They also had some amazing casting choices that pushed it over the edge for me. The script had it’s weak points, and some really weird lines of dialogue, but the cast delivered everything with excellence. I guess that’s what you get when you hire a few Oscar winners to back up your less-than-well-known main star. That being said, Henry Cavill is Superman.

We don’t get to see Henry Cavill playing Clark Kent as much as I’d like, but we do get to see enough to know that he will rock that role as soon as it’s given some more legs. The focus in this movie seemed to be less about finding out about the Clark Kent side of Superman, and more about getting him into the suit and letting him use his powers for good. He’d had to hold back pretty much his entire life in order to protect his identity and to protect those around him from whatever threats there may be. That didn’t always stop him from saving the day though. We get to see plenty of that. This movie was all about Clark finding out about his origins and getting him into that suit to truly go kick some major booty.

This was definitely an action movie at the end of the day. The action set pieces were amazing and the amount of destruction rivals any movie that I have ever seen. Fans have been wishing for a movie where we get to see Superman punch something and they definitely delivered that and then some with this movie. Between the giant machines that Zod brings to earth and the battles that occur between Superman and the other Kryptonians, multiple skyscrapers are simply reduced to dust. There is an apocolyptic amount of destruction in this movie. It’s insane.

The action is all well and good, but the points in this movie that really grabbed me were the heartfelt moments shared between Clark and his earth parents. I was reduced to tears more than once during those times when it shows Clark as just a good kid with parents who really love him. There is a scene that pulled directly at my heart when little kid Clark is getting hammered by X-ray vision and his super hearing, and gets so overwhelmed he runs out of the classroom. The only person that can talk him down and get him calm is his mom, who is so incredibly sweet in this scene I don’t know how you couldn’t be touched. If it didn’t grab you, you may not have a soul. Get that checked out. There’s another scene where Clark comes home after his long journey to find the answers, where his mom is just downright excited to see him but at the same time worried she’ll lose him. It’s so real, and I wish that there had been more moments like that to really bring it home how much of a human he really is.

Aside from those few quiet moments that we get, this movie is fast paced and packed to the brim with action. From the opening moments on Krypton, to the epic fight with General Zod, we’re given pulse pounding action sequences that I know kept me on the edge of my seat. I really wish I could say more about them, but it’s honestly something you just have to experience to get a real understand of. I can only assume that the script had one line that said “forty-minutes of destruction all over the place” that they then had to fill in with their imaginations. They definitely succeeded there.

I loved this movie so very much. If I had one thing to say about it, I would ask for more of those quiet, real moments and about 10 minutes less of crazy action. There were a few moments where I was getting bored with the action. You can really only see someone get thrown through a building so many times before it becomes a bit repetitive. There were also moments where I felt like they were just running out of idea and felt like they just needed to keep hitting Superman with bigger stuff. It was a great action sequence for sure, but it could have been a bit tighter in order to keep our attention.

There is one major moment in the movie where Superman does something that many feel is incredibly un-Supermanlike. He kills General Zod. We all know that Superman never kills. It’s just something that he would never do. However, given the circumstances of what was going on, plus this ‘real’ take on Superman and how they are looking at him, there was really no choice here. General Zod is ready to burn a small family alive with his heat vision while Superman has him in a headlock. Kal-El is BEGGING Zod to stop, but Zod refuses even going so far as to say he’ll never stop. I think it’s this realization that drives Superman to snap Zod’s neck. The remorse he feels is evident split-seconds after it happens. It’s devastating. I think it drives home Superman’s moral compass more than any other moment in the film. Henry Cavill shines in this moment, when he lets out an absolutely painful scream of regret. Lois shows up moments later and as he’s on his knees, she just comes over to hold his head while he downright weeps. It’s a beautiful moment. My mouth dropped open.

To understand the entire fight between Zod and Kal-El, it’s super important to understand WHY Zod is doing what he’s doing. General Zod was engineered from birth to be a warrior, to protect the people of Krypton, and to ensure they’re survival. This isn’t just something that he was tought to do, it’s something he was bred to do. It is literally in his DNA. It IS his purpose in life. When Superman banishes all of his people back to the phantom zone, Zod’s world ends. Zod is now alone on Earth, with no more people of Krypton to protect. He sees Kal-El as an abomination to begin with (the first natural birth in Krypton for over 100 years), and how that abomination has destroyed all hope of Krypton’s return to prominence. Zod is not happy about this. “My soul. That is what you’ve taken from me,” he says with an intensity that only Michael Shannon could project. That man dials the crazy up to 11 and leaves it there throughout the entire movie. But not without reason. It’s actually less crazy and more intense. You definitely understand what he’s doing, but you also do not want him to carry out his mission. I love this approach to Zod. It’s logical and gives him an actual reason to want to take over earth. The entire idea of how Krypton works is amazing to me, and it really stands out as one of the best decisions they made when it comes to the Superman mythos.

I could talk about this movie all day long, and I’m pretty sure that I have. I’ve talked to Stephanie non-stop about it for a year, and my friends and I have been going on and on and on about it, even after seeing it. I’m not sure when I’ll be done obsessing over it. I’m already looking forward to the sequel since I know that they have the foundation set up and we can really see Superman grow at this point.

At the end of the day, this movie really took me back to those times where I ran around in my pajamas pretending to fly. I’ll always be a fan of Superman, and I’ll always sit around and wonder what it would be like to be able to save the day like he does all the time. What if we could have those powers and do those things. How would we handle the pressure of knowing that we could possibly save everyone, but there may come a time when we couldn’t? Would we always be able to show restraint when necessary, or would we end up doing the wrong thing out of some selfish human desire? Superman has and always will be able to decide when and how to use his power, and I think that the same principle applies to us as people. We may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we can always use the talents and abilities we  have to do something good for people.

I think that at the end of the day, that is what Superman is all about. Using our gifts for the greater good. I can definitely get behind that.

Of Star Wars and Skyrim

I just realized that I have yet to write a blog post about what may very well be the most culturally significant announcement of this year. Nevermind that its only January. Legendary, TV/Movie director and creative genius JJ Abrams will be directing Star Wars Episode VII!! I found it hard to believe that they would be making another Star Wars movie, much less they would have the brains to pick a great director who absolutely gets the nerd culture that he’ll eventually be catering to. I don’t know that I could have picked a better person to take this on! I think we’ve all given up on George Lucas at this point anyway, so we’re all glad to have someone we respect in the driver’s seat. 

Django Was Off The Chain!

So I just went to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest film and I have to say this BLEW MY MIND. I had no idea what to expect to be honest, and a lot of the time I walk out of Tarantino flicks having to think about what I just saw. I don’t have to think at all to see the awesomeness of Django. This movie had everything you could want: evil villains, great heroes, epic story, love, incredible characters, the works! I think that Christoph Waltz and Tarantino were born to make movies together. Waltz helps breathe so much life into the words on the page that it appears effortless. He did a remarkable job as Dr. King Schultz, bounty hunter. I could watch him read the phone book.

Memorial Day!

I have had probably the most uneventful Memorial Day weekend of my entire life, but at the same time a few really cool things did happen. Most of the weekend was super boring though and I really should have gone to WV to visit Stephanie. She was in Virginia on vacation for a couple days of it though, so it really just would have been a lot of driving and a little visit. It still would have been nice though, and I wouldn’t have spent my three day weekend moping around.

I did do a couple fun things however and those more than make up for the boring times. I got a killer deal on a brand new LG 42″ LCD HDTV. It’s incredible! I didn’t know what I was missing when it came to HD programming and all that jazz. The TV was $999 at Circuit City and the financing plan has no interest until 2011. I can pretty much take my time paying this thing off, though knowing me I’ll have it paid off in a few months just so I don’t have that hanging over my head. The TV does 1080p, which is awesome and Circuit City even gave me three free Blu-ray movies…the only bad part about that is that I don’t get to watch them because I don’t have a Blu-ray player! PS3 here I come….though I am very sad to say it. I was an HD-DVD fan all the way.

I also got to go see Indiana Jones IV for the second time this weekend and it was even better! I didn’t write an initial review of the movie which would have been slightly less exciting as my second review. I guess it just takes seeing it a couple of times to totally enjoy it. The thing that shocked me the most was the 1950’s era stuff. I liked it for the most part, I just wasn’t expecting the sci-fi spin on everything. Apparently George Lucas thought that this movie should feel like the sci-fi B movies of the 50’s. It did that, but it did it with a very Indiana Jones flair. I liked the movie the first time I saw it, but I LOVED it the second time around.

Well, I don’t have much else to say. I know that I need to start writing in this thing more, because I really do enjoy it. I guess it’s the motivation to write that gets me the most. Once I start writing I really enjoy it and find lots of things to say. But I’ll cut it off here and let you guys get back to your lives. Take it easy!