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Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Day of the Moon": This week's DOCTOR WHO makes Chris numb all over his gray matter!

I mean that in a good way...

The one bit of British television that I had my DVR set to record this week (and I mean that in a good way too), tonight brought the second episode of the sixth season (or the thirty-second season, if we're counting to the show's very beginning in 1963) of Doctor Who. Picking up from "The Impossible Astronaut", "Day of the Moon" continues the first Doctor Who story to be filmed in the United States. I watched "The Impossible Astronaut" twice more over the past week and had my expectations set high for Part 2.

I don't know what precisely to say but, alternatively, "WOW!" and "HUH?!?"

The episode picks up three months after last week's episode, still in 1969 and on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, with Amy Pond fleeing across the Utah desert. Her pursuer? None other than Canton Delaware... who is also seen chasing down Rory and River Song. And curiously, all three have tally marks covering every exposed inch of their skin. Meanwhile the Doctor is being held prisoner at Area 51 (Matt Smith giving us the most disheveled-looking Doctor in the history of anything).

And somehow from there we get to an abandoned orphanage, to the cockpit of Neil Armstrong's command module, to the streets of New York City... in what has to be the most dizzying and mind-warping tale that Steven Moffat has ever weaved in all the years that he's been writing for Doctor Who. But don't fret. It all makes sense in the end, as the Doctor and company set out to rescue humanity from the Silence: an alien race that has been running amok on Earth for, it turns out, thousands of years. And in classic Moffat fashion, it's like the best magician's tricks: being done right in front of our eyes, without us even realizing it until the Doctor's moment of triumph.

"Day of the Moon", I'm almost afraid to say that this sets the bar way too high for the rest of the season. This is practically season finale material, friends and neighbors. Karen Gillan continues to be a pleasure to watch as Amy, and Arthur Darvill's Rory is beginning to grow on me more as a regular companion to the Doctor. But the real delight, as in every episode that she appears in, is Alex Kingston's River Song (just wait'll you see her gunplay). Also have to give props to Stuart Milligan's portrayal of President Nixon, for whom Moffat took a considerably high-brow approach toward writing (it might be the best treatment that Nixon has had on the television medium in decades).

"Day of the Moon" gets this reviewer's full FIVE Sonic Screwdrivers in rapturous approval! And that would have been even without the shocker of a final scene... which is almost certain to set tongues wagging about Doctor Who mythology more than anything in many, many years.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Benny Hinn is a Dark Lord of the Sith!

Good friend Deborah Taylor (who was previously known as Deborah Wilson :-) and her husband Dennie found this uproariously funny video and I just had to share it with y'all...

Y'know, Benny Hinn is known for pulling off mind tricks. And didn't he once claim he could keep people from dying, just like Darth Plagueis was reputed to be capable of? Maybe there's something to this....

I'm only wondering what should Hinn's Sith title be. "Darth Pantene" perhaps?

Thoughts and prayers going out across the South

This past week, the southeastern United States has been thrashed in the worst way.

Sanford, here in my home state of North Carolina, is still recovering from a horrific tornado that went through there this past weekend. And since Tuesday communities from Mississippi and Arkansas all the way east to Virginia have been hit by even worse storms. At this hour the death toll is approaching 300, in what is being called the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes the south has ever seen. We were under tornado watch for most of yesterday and early this morning but, doesn't look like any touched down.

For those who are hurting this day, our thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A thought from today's meditations...

There is all the difference in the world between rejecting God, and still seeking God.

Do not be quick to challenge the righteousness of another, if he or she has yet to arrive to a place with God. Rather rejoice that such a one is chasing after Him. Trust that God will answer such a person in His time, and to His satisfaction... and that it is not dependent upon our own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A good friend just started a franchise biz!

Nicholette Haynes is a very dear and sweet friend. And earlier today she announced that she had begun a PartyLite home business. PartyLite is an outfit that sells things like candles (especially scented ones), home decor and sweet-smelling stuff for bath and such. There's some great stuff that Nicholette is selling as a PartyLite consultant and you can find them all on her new website! Give it a looksee and give Nicholette some business :-)

25 years after Chernobyl

It was twenty-five years ago today, on the morning of April 26th 1986, that the Chernobyl disaster - the very worst nuclear accident in history - happened.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located at Pripyat in Ukraine, suffered a severe meltdown in Reactor No. 4 following an attempted experiment. The town of Pripyat was evacuated and thousands of firefighters and other workers died either during the immediate crisis or in the following weeks from radiation poisoning. The reactor ended up entombed within a "sarcophagus" and the entire area rendered a wasteland. It'll take several thousands of more years yet before human resettlement within what has come to be known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone will be possible again. The years since have seen some very tragic results, such as birth defects and an increase in cancer rates of those who were most in the path of the radioactive cloud (which wound up being detected all over the world).

One other effect of Chernobyl is that the disaster crippled the finances of what was then the Soviet Union. It is thought that the accident served to accelerate the collapse of that country's economy and led to the end of the Soviet government five years later.

Naturally, you can find out much more about the Chernobyl disaster on Wikipedia. But by far the most intriguing online resource about Chernobyl is the website of Elena Filatova, AKA "Kiddofspeed". A few years ago she rode her motorcycle through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and documented her travels, along with several photographs of what the area around Chernobyl looks like today. They might be some of the eeriest photographs you're apt to find on the Internet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I have an idea...

...and next week, Lord willing, I'll be turning it into a great post for this blog.

(Well, it's important to me, anyway :-)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hauntings and hopes

I can't understand why it is so...

Why it is that some people, can choose to get drunk, or get high on some kind of drug, and the substance abuse causes them to veer out of control and to do horrible things to the ones closest to them. And yet if they want it, more often than not they do find forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration if they hit rock bottom and come to their senses and acknowledge that they have to stop and take responsibility for their actions.

I've known lots of people who have been in that kind of situation, and I have seen God bring them back to the ones they love.

And then, there are those who have a mental illness... like bipolar... and it leads to actions that are just as destructive, because the person is just as uncontrollable. But as in my own case, there was never any substance abuse. There was no choosing to put a bottle to my lips, or to shoot dope into my veins or to smoke a joint or inhale a line of coke.

I thought that I was playing by all the rules of keeping my body and my mind physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. Not because I felt like I had to, but because I was utterly and sincerely wanting to.

And still, my own mind turned against me and tried to destroy me. In defiance of everything that I held precious and sacred.

There are moments when I almost wish that it could have been as easy as liquor or heroin. Because EVERYONE actually UNDERSTANDS those things. They can see them. They see loved ones drinking or shooting up. They see that it's a tangible choice and somehow, somehow that makes the damage and destruction that substance abuse causes FORGIVABLE.

There is no choice in mental illness. There is nothing that any of us with it choose to bring into our bodies that causes us to lose control of our thoughts and our emotions. There is nothing for others to witness with their own eyes apart from the hurt and suffering that we too often do cause. Others can't possibly see the agony that we are suffering: from a medical condition that can't be diagnosed with a stained slide or drawn blood.

Even marijuana shows up in a urine sample. If only bipolar disorder could be found as easily. That would be something: to have solid evidence that people can see and recognize that it's not something that's imaginary or just "in my head".

The person who I have been writing about in recent days - the one who said that I must "pay the consequences" of my bipolar - apparently believes that I really am a monster and a wicked man who never had faith in Christ and... I guess this person really does hate me now.

And it won't stop haunting me.

I keep praying to God, asking Him for... well, to be honest, at this point I don't know what to ask Him for. I know He's there. But He is still so silent. And once more I don't know if He can't hear me and the reason for that is because my mind is too damaged and broken for Him to hear my cries. There are times when I find myself thinking "Chris, if people who knew you best can't hear what you are trying to tell them, why should God hear you?"

If I didn't have Christ in my life, I wouldn't have to feel like this. I could escape that sense of predicament with drink or with drugs or with lust.

But instead I do know that I have Christ... and because of that I have been made to feel that as long as I have breath in my lungs on this earth that I will always be an unforgivable monster, driven away from so many who I have cared for in my life.

That is not the life of the Christian that I had thought it would be. That isn't what I hoped it would be at all.

My sole sliver of comfort at this hour is what one dear friend told me yesterday:

"If being a Christian was easy... everyone would do it!"
(Thanks for that, Nicole. It has helped to get me through more than you know.)

Yes, I do have more than a few friends and family who have been extremely supportive in their encouragements and their prayers. I just, cannot be thankful enough for God putting them in my life. If He is silent, then I have to cling to the belief that He did provide that aid and assistance. More than I'll ever feel that I deserve. I hope that I can be just as much an encouragement to others, if and when the times comes for that.

So I'm not alone. I'm never alone.

But even so, I am haunted with longing for forgiveness and reconciliation which, I am finally beginning to doubt will ever come in this lifetime.

Today is Easter Sunday. The day we remember that our Lord and Savior arose from the tomb. Today, I will and do choose to cast my cares and worries at His feet, just as my transgressions were laid at the cross and have been forgiven for all time.

Because that is all I can do now. Just, trust in the Lord. Trust Him with everything. Trusting that He does understand the pain and the loss... because there is nothing common to man which He did not already go through on our behalf.

I will trust Him. Because He is faithful... even when so much in this life is not.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011: Year of the ALPOCALYPSE!

Pestilence. War. Death. Weird Al?!?!?

Anyone else think it's funny that the man famous for so many song parodies about food has taken the place of Famine among the Four Horsemen? :-P

(Gotta love the use of Orff's "O Fortuna" too!)

Save the date! June 21st heralds the coming of Alpocalypse: the first original album that "Weird Al" Yankovic has produced in five years! And behold the album cover art!

Best. Weird Al. Cover. Ever!

And on a happy note, Al has announced that his parody of Lady Gaga's hit "Born This Way" will be on the new album after all! Not only that but "Perform This Way" will be hitting iTunes on Monday. Turns out that Lady Gaga loved Al's spoof (it was all a misunderstanding or miscommunication or something).

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Lynwood to be born? The Alpocalypse cometh June 21st!!!

Just watched the DOCTOR WHO season premiere, "The Impossible Astronaut"

Okay, that was off the chain, folks!

The first ever episode of Doctor Who to be filmed in the United States (the show began in November 1963) had Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor ummm... killed by a spacesuit-clad assailant before the horrified eyes of Amy, Rory and River Song, in the middle of American desert. Then a stranger (played by William Morgan Sheppard, who's done a lot of great work over the years) shows up with a can of gasoline for the Doctor's body to be given a makeshift Viking funeral.

Then the scene shifts to a roadside diner and the Doctor coming out of the men's room looking fine and dandy.

Then the Doctor and crew flew the TARDIS to the Oval Office of President Richard Milhous Nixon in 1969.

And for reasons which are not immediately clear, President Nixon has been getting a mysterious phone call from a child every night for the past two weeks.

Are we suitably confused enough yet?!?

Steven Moffat continues to amaze in this, his second season as Doctor Who showrunner. Lots of references to previous stories, without it feeling like any prior knowledge was in order. Heck, I could see how "The Impossible Astronaut" would be as fine a diving board as any for those who haven't yet jumped into the Whoniverse.

The two-part premiere continues next week with "Day of the Moon". Looking forward to it but in the meantime, "The Impossible Astronaut" gets the full five Sonic Screwdrivers from this reviewer! :-)

Friday, April 22, 2011

It would be easier if I were NOT following Christ...

Well, that's what it feels like at times.

In the most recent installment of Being Bipolar I shared how I lost my faith in God because of some things that should never happen to anyone. And then over the course of many years how I found God again and came to have a relationship with Christ. That has been almost fifteen years ago and I am thankful that more times than not, I do appreciate that I have done my best to seek after Christ with all my heart, with all my soul and with all of my strength and, yes, with all of my mind.

Two nights ago I opened up and shared the hurt that I was feeling about a person who had been close to me telling me that I had to "pay the consequences" because of bipolar disorder: a mental illness and medical condition that I am only recently come to recognize that I have been struggling with for the duration of my entire life. It's something that I was born with and will die with and that I very often can't wait to die and be free of at last.

And I guess that it hurts most especially, because I know that I have been seeking Christ and because I did believe that this other person, was doing likewise in their own life. I desperately needed to believe that this person who I had cared for and still do care for, had that much in common with me: Christ, Who is enough to overcome all our failings and shortcomings.

I needed to believe that because I do need Christ and His grace. Because I am nothing without Him.

But what if I hadn't been a follower of Christ?

I can't help but think that, I would be having a much easier time right now.

Because without Christ, there would be no love for this person at all. Without Christ, I could be more than content to simply "move on" as this individual and others have been telling me that I should. Without Christ, I know without a doubt that I could absolutely just keep going on living my life for my own sake, without any regard or second thought about any other person. Without Christ, I could be selfish.

Without Christ, I would be free to not have the care and love that is so ingrained into my nature and that I have never been able to disassociate myself from.

Without Christ, I'm sure that according to the measure of the world, that I would have enjoyed more comfort and success than I have ever been able to achieve before.

But I have chosen to follow Christ. And that does entail having to endure and be subject to trial and tribulation and torment. And of those, the worst has been - as I said previously - being thought of as a monster and a person who didn't follow Christ at all.

I suppose, this is part of the cost. None of the people who most led me to Christ ever told me that it would be this hard. Did I take following Him too seriously? Did I take following Him not seriously enough?

Is it that, as I have pondered before already, my mental illness keeps Him from hearing my prayers? Has He ever heard my crying out to Him? Can He hear me, at all?

If I were not following Christ, I would not have such thoughts occupying my mind, night and day. Just as if I had no mental illness, I could have been a man ten times better than I could ever be, according to some.

But, I do have Christ. And I guess because of that, I have something that is painful and messy and brings wretched grief and so very often doesn't seem to make sense at all...

I have a life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Tonight I have been told that I must "pay the consequences" for having a mental illness.

I did my best. I honestly did. And I never, ever took anyone for granted.

this is the worst part of the hell of having something like bipolar. Knowing that you will never be good enough and that there is someone ten times better than you can ever be, because your own mind is too damaged and diseased and God won't tell you why He allowed it.

I know of no more damning feeling than to be thought of as a monster, as a fraud and a fake, as a person who isn't doing what he can to seek after Christ first, by those that he has cared for most and the ones who he would do anything to let them see the real essence of who I am.

I am not a perfect person. I haven't and never will claim to be that. But, I have tried to be a good person and a person who has put God first in all things as best I could.

If you are reading this and you know someone who has bipolar or some other mental illness: please love them in spite of their condition and what it does make them do all too often. Please know that they don't mean to hurt you.

I'm never going to be forgiven for having a mind that turned against me.

Please don't let someone you love go the rest of their life unforgiven. For anything.

"Weird Al" Yankovic parodies Lady Gaga with "Perform This Way"! But...

...according to Weird Al himself on the song's YouTube page, this song will not be part of his forthcoming album! In Al's own words:
This is my parody of Lady Gaga's song "Born This Way" -- which, I'm sorry to say, will NOT be included on my upcoming album. I will give the details of the whole Gaga saga (and offer free mp3 downloads of the song) on weirdal.com very soon.
If this is at Lady Gaga's insistence, I hope she will come to realize that to be chosen by Al to be the subject of one of his parodies is an extremely high honor! I mean, when Weird Al marks you for spoofing, it proves that you've achieved musical immortality: more so than getting a Grammy, in my opinion.

Well anyhoo, here is "Perform This Way":

UPDATE 1:29 p.m. EST: Al has posted his account of what happened that kept "Perform This Way" off his new album and... well, I have to admit that it's one of the stranger stories that I'm aware of from his 30-plus years-long musical career. Yeah, even more strange than what happened with "Amish Paradise". Of particular note, Al was set to donate proceeds from the song's sales to the Human Rights Campaign. And Al was already planning an accompanying music video that "was going to be BEYOND AWESOME, and disturbing on many levels."

Chalk me up as one of Al's fans who is disappointed to hear this, but is also hoping that Lady Gaga might yet change her mind :-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

President Kenendy demanded classified UFO files ten days before assassination

Somewhere tonight, The X-Files creator Chris Carter is certainly licking his chops about this...

President John F. Kennedy wrote two letters to the head of the CIA, asking for highly classified files pertaining to the existence of unidentified flying objects.

And JFK sent the letters on November 12th, 1963: just ten days before he was killed by an assassin(s?) bullet(s?) in Dallas, Texas(?).

One of the letters asks for the UFO files and in the other letter, Kennedy expresses a strong desire to cooperate with the Soviet Union on space activities.

Very interesting. And no doubt going to be the fodder for a whole new industry of conspiracy theories :-P

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Classic SESAME STREET: Don Music tries to write a song

For this Sunday night, I ain't got nothing!

Well, nothing except this vintage Sesame Street clip, with Kermit the Frog doing his reporter gig from the studio of master songwriter Don Music, as Music bangs his head on the piano in frustration over his latest work...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chris sees ATLAS SHRUGGED, PART 1 and says it's a SPECTACULAR movie and the most elegant adaptation he's EVER beheld!

Six nights ago I was sitting in a theater in Asheville, North Carolina during ActionFest for a midnight screening of Hobo With A Shotgun, with a mostly male audience that didn't quite fill all the seats in the house.

A short while ago, I came back from the one theater in Greensboro, North Carolina that's showing Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 on its opening day, and I saw it with a MUCH bigger audience: this one made up of men and women and boy and girls of all ages... who sat in utter silence during the hour and 45 minutes that the movie run and then wildly applauded at the end with many asking "When does Part 2 come out?!?"

If tonight was any indication, then you read it here first dear readers: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is going to be a big, big sleeper hit at the box office.

But lemme preface this review by admitting that it was only a month and a half ago that I read Ayn Rand's masterpiece novel for the first time. Yeah, like in, ever. It was just one of those book that I wanted to read, but based on what others had said about it I thought it was too daunting a task until I found time to take a stab at it. But with this movie coming out, and some trusted associates telling me "Chris we can't believe you never read Atlas Shrugged before!" I finally bought a copy. It was during a stop at the friendly neighborhood Books A Million, purchasing Atlas Shrugged alongside The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and "Weird Al" Yankovic's new children's book When I Grow Up.

Guess which book, after reading it, that I already have on my short list of most influential works of literature ever after the Bible? Not that there's anything wrong with Yoda and Weird Al, but I digress...

So I'd known the basic story of Atlas Shrugged for a long time. Mostly 'cuz of snippets of it here and there on the Internet, like Francisco's "money speech". But I didn't understand Atlas Shrugged with the intimacy that comes with actually having read the book.

And now that I have, I can certainly attest that I came away from it an inestimably better person. That's not to say that I agreed with everything Rand preached in her novel. I have a serious problem with her fierce atheism. But I have arrived at my own solemn vow for living my life, and if there's any merit to what Rand was conveying through John Galt, I think it's only perfectly fitting that I can adhere to what I believe and have the utmost faith in that.

But anyhoo, having read Atlas Shrugged, I had heaps of high expectations for the film. And unfortunately I was bracing myself for the worst. There have been attempts to adapt this to film for forty years now, and for all of that effort I was girding myself to expect a half-hearted effort with cheesy production values along the lines of too many "evangelical Christian" movies that go straight to video and are an embarrassment to watch, much less produce...

I drastically underestimated director Paul Johansson and his crew. Because Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 ended up being a spectacular thrill ride that doesn't just stand toe to toe with everything else playing in cinemas right now, it surpasses them. This is a film about business and power and virtue and corruption on the same level as The Godfather and There Will Be Blood...

...and I'm gonna really be watching with giddy interest how people will be reacting to this movie. After reading some of the reviews and then witnessing the reaction at the cinema tonight, I can put it no clearer than this: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is gonna be a helluva litmus test.

If you've read the book, then you should go in knowing that Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 covers the span of the novel's Part 1, right up to its fiery and defiant ending (which is as violent a cliffhanger as I've seen in any movie). The film begins in 2016, and that's the one thing which I didn't like about this movie: it should have simply told us it was "A few years from now...", like Mad Max did. To me, giving a year like that in a science fiction movie (and I do consider Atlas Shrugged to be a science fiction novel about a dystopian near-future) is too much like a "sell by" date. But I can let it slide this time, 'cuz Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 - incredible though it may seem - is actually a very smart update of Rand's original novel. The first few minutes set up the situation: how worldwide economic turmoil has made rail transportation of people and goods one of the few reliable industries remaining. And in this America that may yet come to pass, there is no bigger railroad company than Taggart Transcontinental.

Well, there's not much else that I can comment about the story if you've read the book, because Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is almost certainly the most elegant adaptation of a novel that I've ever had the pleasure of watching. We see Dagny Taggart (played by Taylor Shilling) work against her brother's incompetence and political backstabbing to keep her family's company rolling and profitable. And that means taking a gamble when no one else will by contracting with Hank Rearden (Grant Bowler) to replace hundreds of miles of dilapidated rail across Colorado and Wyoming with new ones consisting of the newly-forged Rearden Metal.

And if they had lived in a sane world, what Dagny and Hank achieve would have been the beginning of a new renaissance of industry and science and transportation. It would have, were it not for a government of schemers and a societal "elite" that are bringing about such ridiculous laws as "the Anti Dog Eat Dog Act" which are stifling innovation "for the public good". And looming over it all is the rash of disappearances of industrialists: people like Midas Mulligan and Richard McNamara, who vanish without a trace... save one. The ubiquitous question that tantalizes from the common vulgar: "Who is John Galt?"

This is a mystery movie. This is an action movie. Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is a film that could not have been made in decades previous... and I like to believe that it's providential that it's coming out in theaters now, of all times. The acting is high caliber (I especially found Shilling's portrayal of Dagny to be spot-on perfect, as is Jsu Garcia's turn as Francisco D'Anconia and he is going to be a hoot to watch in Part 2, if this installment is any indication). The production values are stellar, and surprised me profusely. I was anticipating some terrible CGI work when it came time to see the first train of the John Galt Line make its run. It turned out to be a beautiful and triumphant sequence... but even that was dwarfed by the final scene of the film.

And when it got to the end, and that toad-strangler of a dangling thread that Part 2 cannot get here soon enough to pick up, I was... astonished. So were the two friends that I watched it with. Along with most of the audience, I would safely gauge.

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is the kind of film adaptation of a novel that most of us would demand to see but never expect to seriously happen. It is a rollickin' good film for any audience. This is assuredly a popcorn movie... but it's also one that's asking hard questions and demanding answers from those who watch it. In short: a film for the intellect as well as the eyeballs.

And I'll give it my highest recommendation. DON'T wait for the DVD or the Blu-ray for this one, folks. It's well worth seeing in its first run!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Animated THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. 'Nuff said...

What is regarded by many as the greatest Batman story ever told may be getting the DC animated treatment very soon...

Entertainment website Bleeding Cool is reported that The Dark Knight Returns is being adapted by the same team that worked on All Star Superman and the upcoming animated rendition of Batman: Year One.

Hailed as the defining treatment of Batman for the modern era, Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's The Dark Knight Returns is as bold and striking today as it was when it first hit comic book stores in 1986. The tale of Bruce Wayne - now 55-years old and having stopped being Batman ten years earlier - having the ultimate mid-life crisis and coming out of retirement into a world indifferent and even hostile to justice, not only broke new ground: it put Batman back on track to where he was perhaps always supposed to be.

I first read The Dark Knight Returns in the summer of 1989 (the summer of everything Batman) and ever since, I've been dreaming of a full-length feature adaptation of this story. Here's hoping that Warner Bros. won't be timid and will allow this film to have the hard "R" rating that it deserves. Yeah Warners, don't skimp on anything. Not even Bruno's exposed and swastika-tattooed breasts and buttocks (something that Batman creator Bob Kane confessed being mystified about). And however much money it takes, bring on Clint Eastwood to voice Batman!

Between that and nice long sequences of the scenes where Batman and his retinue are on horseback, this is already set to be animated glory.

(And hey, nice to have some good Batman news hot on the heels of those horrid costumes from the Batman Live show :-P)

A vow of liberty and conscience

I swear by the life that God alone has given me, that I shall control no man nor be controlled by any men.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"What hath God wrought"

Because I have such a love of history, Samuel Morse's first message by telegraph seemed more than a fitting first post to make from my new iPad :-)

Chris finally recovers enough from ActionFest 2011 to file a report!

I got back from ActionFest late on Sunday afternoon. And I'm still whomp-boggingly exhausted from the sheer awesomeness of it! Part of me wants to crawl back into bed and try to recuperate some more. But being a responsible blogger, I can't do that!

So here's my report comin' atcha!!

(I said it during my live Twitter-ing from ActionFest and I'll say it again: the girl in the bumper that ran during this year's festival is cute as a button! :-P)

There was also a "30 Seconds of Action" competition for this year's festival. Here was the winning entry: "Action Figures"...

And here's another "30 Seconds of Action" entry: "Death Machine"...

I've been looking for the "Farmacide" clip, but can't find it on YouTube yet. If anyone else at ActionFest this year spots it, let me know at theknightshift@gmail.com 'cuz I loved it :-)

This was ActionFest's second year. And two things that I want to emphasize from the getgo: first, the festival's sophomore outing was MUCH bigger and extremely more well-attended than it was last year (and last year's was already pretty successful). Second, ActionFest has firmly cemented its purpose and reputation as being the only film festival in the world dedicated not only to action movies, but to the men and women who work to make them a reality and who unfortunately have gone all too unsung until now. And if it keeps to that, I can only see ActionFet getting bigger and bigger and better and louder and even MORE INSANELY UBERKEWL!!!

Okay, so here's what I saw that transpired there. Thursday night, April 7th saw the festival open...

Ironclad (2011, Directed by Jonathan English, United Kingdom)

This was the first time that this movie had been shown outside of Great Britain. And it's gonna remind everybody why that land will never, ever again have a king named John (the bastard!). Ironclad is an intense film about a little-known episode in English history: how King John attempted to go back on his word after the signing of Magna Carta and vent his fury on the barons who compelled him to agree to its terms. Very powerful cast in this one including James Purefoy (who already more than earned his action credentials in HBO's Rome), Brian Cox (one of my very favorite actors), Jason Flemyng, Kate Mara, and Paul Giamatti turning in a wicked performance as King John. The same folks who I saw drunk on Scotch while watching Braveheart back in the day are certainly gonna thrill just as hard or harder when they get to see Ironclad upon wide release. Darn good movie, in every way possible.

And after the Ironclad international premiere, we were treated to an impromptu Q&A session with Richard Ryan, stunt coordinator for Ironclad and who also worked on The Dark Knight and a bunch of other movies!

During the festival I was lodging with my filmmaking partner "Weird" Ed Woody. We left the Ironclad showing and went back to his place, and proceeded to wind down a night of British ultra-violence with my DVD copy of Ultramarines, the first ever Warhammer 40,000 movie. Which is also pretty good, especially considering that it features the vocal talents of Terence Stamp and John Hurt. Yah I shoulda written a review of that already. Here's hoping there'll be more 40K movies (personally I'd love to see a Caiphas Cain one with Johnny Depp as Cain, but anyhoo...).

So the next day we spent watching the Blu-ray set of Tron: Legacy (and also the original Tron) before heading back to Asheville and more ActionFest! Up next was...

Little Big Soldier (2010, Directed by Ding Sheng, China/Hong Kong)

Set around 200 B.C. during a time of civil war between the various independent kingdoms of China, Little Big Soldier has Jackie Chan as an older soldier who (accidentally) captures a young general (Leehom Wang) from the opposing army after a brutal battle. Chan's character has it in mind to drag the bound general back home, where he'll be rewarded with rich farmland and the chance to continue his family name. If only the journey was that simple...

Okay, it's pretty obvious in Little Big Soldier that Jackie Chan... well, he's had a long and good career, and unfortunately he's not doing the stunts that he was so spry to do thirty and more years ago. But you know something? That doesn't matter, 'cuz even though Little Big Soldier marks Chan growing older, it also demonstrates that he has kept growing and has grown considerably as an actor. And instead of being hindered by a lessening agility, Chan is playing up to that. The result? One of the best action stars of recent memory with a great role in a movie that is a positivalutely hoot to watch! We giggled and cheered through every minute of it... right up to its heartbreaking but perhaps inevitable conclusion.

After Little Big Soldier, Ed and I chilled a bit in The Powder Keg (the lounge for those with VIP badges) and then at 7 p.m. it was time to take in...

Super (2010, Directed by James Gunn, United States)

Last year we got Kick-Ass. I saw Kick-Ass and... I didn't like it. Now, I sincerely respected what that movie was trying to do: realistically depicting what it would mean to be a costumed crime-fighting vigilante straight out of the comic books. But that movie... was missing something for me. Just didn't satisfy at all.

Super however was everything that I had been hoping to see in this kind of a movie.

Rainn Wilson (The Office) plays Frank D'arbo: a pitiful and self-pitying chap who struggles to cling onto some chance of happiness in life, of which his beautiful wife (played by Liv Tyler) is one of his few bastions of joy. Unfortunately she's got quite a drug habit and winds up in the clutches of heroin-dealing lowlife Jacques (Kevin Bacon). The police can't help Frank. And then the finger of God touches Frank's exposed brain (not kidding) and Frank realizes that it's now his divine mission to become a costumed superhero and clean up the streets.

Super is at last the film that warns us about the insanity of the superhero life and why choosing to follow it... isn't something to be taken lightly. And I keep thinking of the character played by Ellen Page (who was previously seen in Inception). Without spoiling anything, well... let's just say that Page's "Boltie" has a sadder career than Jason Todd ever had.

Some will say that Super is a dark comedy. I disagree. There is very, very little "funny" about Super (apart from a hilarious "Christian superhero" played by Nathan Fillion). This is a serious perspective of comic book superheroes that to the best of my knowledge hasn't been done (or at least not done successfully). James Gunn has produced a very good film here and I'm looking forward not only to watching it again but also discussing it with others.

There's not a poster image for the next film that we saw, 'cuz it had just wrapped a few days before and we were the very first audience to see it! But this screening did have one thing: the presence of director and actor Michael Jai White!

So with White in the house, we came to...

Never Back Down 2 (2011, Directed by Michael Jai White, United States)

I said it twice during the Twitter-in', and I'll say it again: Never Back Down 2 makes The Karate Kid look like The Care Bears Movie! You don't need to have previously seen the original Never Back Down: as far as I can tell the only thing the two films have in common is that they involve the increasingly popular sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Michael Jai White plays Case: a former MMA champion who was headed for great things before personal tragedy took him out of the game. White brings four young men from different backgrounds and trains them for "the Beatdown": an underground MMA competition run by a somewhat dorkish college kid named Max (Evan Peters). Never Back Down 2 also stars Alex Meraz (from the Twilight movies), Todd Duffee, Scott Epstein and Dean Geyer.

Okay, I really enjoyed the bejeebers out of this movie. This is Michael Jai White's directorial debut and I for one hope that he directs many more, 'cuz the man has some severe talent at directing hard action. But I'd also be remiss in my capacity as a journalist if I didn't also note that Never Back Down 2, as Rocky no doubt accomplished with many others, opened my eyes quite a bit on the realm of mixed martial arts. Until I saw this movie, I didn't think much of it other than it runs on Spike TV a lot and it looked pretty mindless and savage. "Savage"? Yes. But far from mindless. I also look forward to catching this again in wide release.

And after Never Back Down 2, Michael Jai White stuck around for a bit to sign autographs and get some photos taken! Here he is with "Weird" Ed and Yours Truly :-)

Good lord, I look hideous! Had barely slept and hadn't had a shower in like 48 hours. But Michael Jai White (who also played Spawn in Spawn, Gambol in The Dark Knight and a bunch of other stuff) always looks cool :-)

And speaking of cool, a few minutes later it was time for the midnight showing of a movie that I first discovered a few months ago, and had been looking forward to watching it with Ed to see his reaction to it. I speak of course about...

Black Dynamite (2009, Directed by Scott Sanders, United States)

This is a movie that demands to be watched during a midnight showing! Preferably with lots of other people too (and I don't think that will be a problem :-) Black Dynamite is already being called a modern classic and according to Michael Jai White himself, it's even now achieving cult status only afforded to such rare films as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hey, I can dig that! At the ActionFest showing people were screaming lines at the screen ("Cream Corn, NOOOOOOO!"). I need to buy the Blu-ray of this sometime, and not just watch it whenever it appears on Starz :-P

After that we went back to Ed's place to grab what few hours of sleep we could before a full day of Saturday at ActionFest.

Oh yeah, all during ActionFest there were clips provided by Trailers From Hell, featuring numerous well-known filmmakers giving commentary on classic (and some not so classic) movie trailers. Like this one f'rinstance: The Real Don Steele announcing that "RON HOWARD POPS THE CLUTCH AND TELLS THE WORLD TO EAT MY DUST!!!"

And this one for Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!...

Anyways, Saturday at noon and it was time for...

Bangkok Knockout (2011, Directed by Panna Rittikrai and Morakot Kaewthanee, Thailand)

Bangkok Knockout... is a movie that I can only best describe thusly: it is The Running Man meets Hostel with a gracious dash of The Mighty Ducks thrown into the mix. And maybe even fare like American Idol for good measure. I even heard some say that they were reminded of The Hangover (no I haven't seen that movie, and don't know if I will anytime soon but I digress...)

Bangkock Knockout is about a group of youthful performers take part in a martial arts and stunt competition, of which the winning team will be brought to Hollywood to take part in a major film production. Well, that's what they think they've won, anyway...

Yes, there is a plot (and a rather brilliant one) in Bangkok Knockout. But that is merely the springboard from which is launched some of the craziest stunt sequences that I've seen... ever, in the history of anything! Including a guy who fights with a flaming axe and a climactic battle in and around and under a moving tractor trailer. This was classic Asian action cinema in its finest form... and the audience loved it!

The next good while at ActionFest, we attended the panel discussions. And the first was a tribute to the recipient of ActionFest 2011's Lifetime Achievement Award: legendary stuntman, stunt coordinator, second unit director and actor Buddy Joe Hooker!

Hooker has worked on Blazing Saddles, First Blood, Octopussy, Scarface, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the television series Airwolf, and a ton of other movies and shows! Hooker's showbusiness career goes back to his appearing on the TV series Rin Tin Tin, and some other series before he went into stunts full-bore. The tribute ended with a clip from Clay Pigeon, showing a car Hooker was driving turning over and over and over and over nonstop down a hill: I found myself screaming "Oh Lord make it stop make it stop MAKE IT STAAAAWP!!!" But fortunately it did (and I'm happy to report that Hooker's two sons have also chosen to go into stunt performing :-).

After the Buddy Joe Hooker panel, it was time for The Art of Fight Direction panel, featuring renowned kung-fu movie scholar Ric Meyers, Michael Jai White, Richard Ryan, and Larnell Stovall (who was recipient of last year's ActionFest Award for Best Choreography). I posted the details of that in the Twitter feed and for sake of brevity I'll just say that it's all there. It was quite a good discussion, especially about the growth of fight choreography in the video game industry.

We also attended the ActionFest Awards ceremony. One movie that I didn't get to see is A Lonely Place To Die, and now I wish that I'd made the opportunity to see it 'cuz there was a lot of strong buzz about that film (it won the Best Action Film for the festival).

Well, at 7:30 there was a free screening of a film that Buddy Joe Hooker was involved with, and a movie that had one of the biggest explosions in cinema history.

It also stars Charlie Sheen.

Yup, from 1986 it's The Wraith

The Wraith also stars Sherilyn Fenn (a few years before playing Audrey Horn on Twin Peaks... what does that say of me that I knew that without having to look it up?), Nick Cassavetes, and Randy Quaid. This screening of The Wraith was a beautiful 35mm print and came courtesy of Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (published by Fantagraphics Books). Oh yeah, I learned something new from The Wraith: drinking hydraulic fluid isn't all that hot an idea.

Ed and I went back to The Powder Keg and waited a short while and then made our way to the 10 p.m. showing of the movie that has me feeling the most conflicted of any film that I've seen during two ActionFests thus far...

Bellflower (2011, Directed by Evan Glodell, United States)

I need to see Bellflower again. I honestly do want to see Bellflower again. Because... I'm not sure exactly how I feel about Bellflower.

I've been that way about movies before. Feeling obligated to give one the benefit of the doubt before making a final decision on whether I like it or not. I think if I had seen Bellflower at anything other than a film festival devoted to action movies, that I might have gone away with a more decisive mind about the matter. And toward the end of the movie I did feel a little twinge of "okay I get this now..." But it's not quite all there. Not yet, anyway.

Bellflower is about two childhood buddies who have watched The Road Warrior perhaps too many times than it probably healthy. These guys are now obsessed with the character Lord Humungous and have daydreams of ruling the wasteland once the Apocalypse comes. So Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) do things like build their own flamethrowers and trick-out a muscle car with armaments and smokescreens and set out to start their gang, "the "Mother Medusas".

I think the biggest disappointment I'm feeling about Bellflower (but that might change in time) is that, okay... it's like Chekov's Rule of Drama: if the gun is to be fired in Act 3, it must be shown on the wall in Act 1/if the gun is shown on the wall in Act 1 it must be fired by Act 3. Well we see a lot of cool homebrewed weaponry in Bellflower... but we don't really get to see it used to its maximum potential!

But as I said, I might change my mind about Bellflower. And based on the final moments of the film and what I was led to contemplate because of them, I do expect to do that. Probably landing in the margin of people that do think it's a great movie. But as things stand now, I want to see it and mull it over some more. And that's only fair.

And then, with a few minutes before midnight, it was time for a movie that I have been eager to see for a very long time...

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011, Directed by Jason Eisner, Canada)

Without a doubt, my absolutely FAVORITE film of ActionFest 2011! I have to say that because this movie has obligated me to ponder it more than just about any action movie I've seen in years. And some of what I'm about to say about Hobo With A Shotgun is going to have many readers going "Huh? Say WHAT?!" But just hear me out...

To me, Hobo With A Shotgun is as profoundly a Christian a movie as is A Clockwork Orange. This is a film about the world gone straight to hell, because good people have been intimidated into just letting the wicked run amok. Fercryinoutloud, that's a child begging for help in the car window of that mall Santa pervert... and nobody is bothering to even care! Everyone that is, except for the Hobo (Rutger Hauer), easily the greatest cinematic hero with no name since Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name.

The Hobo isn't out to be a bad-a$$. All he wants to do is save up enough money to buy a lawnmower and start his own landscaping business. This is a guy who wants to earn his keep. Who wants to be a productive and hard-working individual. Except that the world he's in won't allow him that opportunity. And then there are the innocent children that he sees around them. The children that, he knows he can't let them grow up in a world like this.

That is what the Hobo is, in my mind. He is the one shred of conscience in the ultimate town without pity. A place run by a lunatic named the Drake (Gregory Smith) and his demented sons, a city rife with murder and prostitution and drugs and worse.

Hobo With A Shotgun is the most brootal, most unrelentingly vicious movie that I have ever seen. It is also one with a surprising amount of heart and soul. And this movie absolutely makes Jason Eisner as a filmmaker to watch. His Hobo With A Shotgun began life as a faux trailer for Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse contest a few years ago. And if you've seen that trailer then you're likely knowing what to expect from the full-length Hobo With A Shotgun feature. Instead, Eisner has made it into something profoundly more.

And I can't wait to see it again with some friends when it hits wide release! I'll probably have a lot more to say about it then, too.

Well, the next day was Sunday, the final day of ActionFest 2011, and I had time to take in one more film before I had to head back home. So I ended my personal festival experience with...

Tomorrow, When The War Began (2010, Directed by Stuart Beattie, Australia)

I want to see this movie again. And again and again and again. That, and I want to find the bestselling novel series by John Marsden that this movie (the first of a planned trilogy) is based on.

And I also want to scream until my lungs are bloody ravaged shreds of tissue about why it is that this Australian movie shows more bluster and courage and sheer cajones than the ones here in the United States who are committing an abominable FUBAR of a travesty with the Red Dawn remake.

Tomorrow, When The War Began follows a group of Australian teens who go camping in the Outback, only to return home and find that their hometown has been invaded and taken over (along with a huge chunk of the rest of Australia) by "the Coalition": a group of Asian countries that is obviously dominated by communist Chinese forces. So the teens decide that whether they want to or not, that it falls to them to do what they can to fight back.

We were told that Marsden's series of books drastically outsells the Harry Potter novels in Australia and if this film is any indication, I can see why. It's a young adult mythos that chews up and spits out those "vampires" and werewolves from that other franchise (coughcoughTwilightcoughcough...). Incidentally, Tomorrow, When The War Began marks the directorial debut of Stuart Beattie, who's already written all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for Disney. Yet another movie that I look forward to seeing in wider release (its ActionFest appearance heralds the movie's first screening outside of Australia).

And that was my ActionFest 2011 experience. My expectations were really set high after last year's inaugural festival, and this year wildly exceeded them! I just hope that the festival stays in Asheville: it really is the ideal town not only for action movies, but for appreciating the individuals who labor to make them a reality.

Bigtime props to everyone involved in this year's festival! Can't wait to attend again next year :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today is also 30th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle flight!

Wow. Lots of history to be commemorated today. Now I'm being reminded that it was thirty years ago today that the first Space Shuttle flight - which was the orbiter Columbia - took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Here's footage of the launch...

I remember watching that! 'Twas knee-high to a grasshopper as they say. It was supposed to have lifted off a day or two before, but the launch was scrubbed 'cuz of technical problems. And I was about to leave for school that morning and really hoping that it would take off without any more delay and then... WHOOOOOSH!!! It was the first manned spaceflight that I ever got to watch live on television.

In case anyone's wondering why the external tank is white in this clip, the tank was painted on the first three flights of the space shuttle, but after that it was left its normal fiberglass-y orange: not painting the tank saved a lot of weight (and subsequently, fuel).

And unfortunately as everyone knows, Columbia was lost in that tragic re-entry accident over Texas in 2003.

But on this day, this blogger honors its maiden flight, and the inauguration of the Space Shuttle system.

50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight into space!

Longtime readers of this blog know that one bit of history that I'm particularly fond of is Russian space exploration. Say what one might about the policies of the Soviet government during those early years, I can't help but have huge appreciation for the engineers and pilots who took part in that endeavor. It wasn't politics that drove those men and women: just good ol' human adventure and tenacity.

So that said, The Knight Shift salutes the memory of Yuri Gagarin, who on this day in 1961 became the first human to journey into space... and not only that but became the first person to complete an orbit of the Earth! His flight aboard Vostok 1 would be his only spaceflight. And unfortunately a few years later Gagarin perished during a training flight in a MiG 15. He was only 34 at the time.

I don't look at it in terms of nationalities. I much prefer to see things on a larger scale. Gagarin was the first human to leave the confines of Earth's gravity and atmosphere. And just think: a little more than eight years later, we were walking around on the Moon.

Kinda makes you wonder whatever happened to that kind of gumption.

But on this day, we honor Yuri Gagarin: the first man in space.

The American Civil War began 150 years ago today

I have heard many dissenting opinions during my lifetime as to who fired the first shot: the Union army that was holding Fort Sumter, or the newly-minted Confederate army (which is said to have initiated hostilities with a 10-inch mortar round from nearby Fort Johnston).

But there is no dispute about the fact that the bombardment of Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina - an act which had no combat casualties - would lead to the greatest conflict in American history and the loss of more than six hundred thousand lives on both sides.

It was one hundred and fifty years ago today, on April 12th, 1861, that the North and South first clashed at Fort Sumter.

The American Civil War had begun.

This blogger pauses to remember those on both sides of th ewar, who fought only for what they sincerely believed to the best of their mortal minds was the right thing.

On that note, I think I'll pop in my DVD of Gods and Generals for the rest of the evening, if only for background noise.

Have we learned NOTHING from Joel Schumacher?!?

As if the costume design for the Broadway trainwreck called Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark wasn't bad enough...

Here are the duds that'll be worn by the cast of the new touring Batman Live show:

Click on over to GeekTyrant for a couple more pics, including a close-up of what must be the most ridiculous Joker costume in the history of anything.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Little girl turns to the Dark Side at Disneyland

This video made my day! While at Disneyland with her family Sariah Gallego got picked to jump on the stage of the Jedi Training Academy feature. But this was one girl who wasn't satisfied with being a mere Padawan learner! No, she wanted something... more. She wanted to follow her passion. Even if that meant turning to the Dark Side of the Force.

And so in front of everybody including no less a person than Mace Windu, Sariah swore allegiance to Darth Vader and became his Sith apprentice! Behold the video...

Don't know what else to say but... you go girl!! :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back from ActionFest!

I am... frazzled.

But then again, four nearly nonstop days of action movies at the world's only film festival devoted to action movies and the (largely unsung) talented individuals who make them happen, will do that to anyone. Heck, just back-to-back nights of Never Back Down 2, Black Dynamite and Hobo With A Shotgun is enough to pack a wallop!

Full report coming soon. I gotta decompress first :-P

Sidney Lumet has passed away

I'm still in the mist of ActionFest (report coming soon) and without a digital rig of my own to publish when I wish. But even so, this sort of thing demands a moment to pause and remember...

Just read where Sidney Lumet, one of the greatest directors in motion picture history, has passed away. He directed Network, Serpico, The Verdict, and many many other classic films.

Think I'll watch Twelve Angry men when I get back home, in his memory.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Gone to ActionFest in Asheville!

"The Film Festival With A Body Count" is back... BIGGER AND BADDER AND BLOODIER THAN EVER!

Yes faithful readers, in a short while I shall depart home for a few days and drive out into the dusk for the mountains of North Carolina. Destination: Asheville. The reason? the second-ever ActionFest! The inaugural festival last year was a huge success (here's the after-carnage report that I posted) and this year is gonna be even more honkin' sweet! It all kicks off tomorrow night, April 7th with Ironclad: a hack 'n slash epic set against the signing of the Magna Carta and starring Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Jason Flemyng.

And what else is playing at ActionFest? How about... Hobo With A Shotgun!

And Friday night at midnight... because this is soooo a movie that must be seen at midnight on the big screen... it's none other than Black Dynamite!

I am purposefully going in fairly blind to what's scheduled, 'cuz I wanna replicate the delight and discovery that I had at last year's ActionFest. Anyhoo, my filmmaking partner "Weird Ed" Woody and I will be there together and if you wanna hang out with us, shoot me an e-mail at theknightshift@gmail.com and we'll hook up or something!

And just like last year, I'll be Twitter-ing from the festival, so feel free to follow the action from your desktop or laptop or smartphone or iPad or whatever. But don't be content to follow it at all 'cuz... YOU OUGHTTA BE AT ACTIONFEST!!

More regular blogging when I return in a few days. In the meantime, try to behave y'all :-)

Chris sort-of reviews TRON: LEGACY 5-Disc Blu-ray Collector's Set (which also includes original TRON on Blu-ray!)

Tron: Legacy came out on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday. I've been eager to own this ever since catching the movie this past New Year's Eve (click here for my initial review of the movie), not only 'cuz I thought it was a great film and worthy follow-up to the 1982 original Tron, but because I was seriously giddy to see how this flick would look on my high-def home entertainment rig. Tron: Legacy was the prettiest pushing of pixels that I've seen in the history of anything: say what one might of some of the film's weaknesses (I've read some say that it could have been a bit leaner, but we'll get to that), visually it was gorgeous.

And oh yeah: Disney announced a few months ago that the original Tron would be released on Blu-ray along with Tron: Legacy. Another reason to look forward to this release!

Well folks, I got Tron: Legacy 5-Disc Blu-ray Collector's Set yesterday and I've spun both of these movies twice in my player, along with the extras. And in spite of being unable to turn in a complete review of this package, I must heartily suggest it for your own personal library.

So why can't I review it all?

Simple enough reason: Disc 1 is Tron: Legacy on 3-D Blu-ray... and I don't have a 3-D Blu-ray player! And you ain't likely to see me own one anytime soon either. At least, not until 3-D high-def sets come out that don't require those funky glasses. And if there's any merit to what some are saying about glassless 3-D right now, that might be awhile longer yet. So for now Disc 1 of this collection is gonna remain a virgin.

Disc 2 however is positivalutely stunning, I can happily report! In fact, this might be the best picture quality of any Blu-ray that's currently in my collection. The details are crisp and sharp as a razor, and the colors of the digital realm - even the pitch black parts of it - pop out magnificently. The Blu-ray of Tron: Legacy maintains the aspect ratios of the IMAX 3-D release, so sometimes it fills up the entire 16:9 screen and others it doesn't. The sound quality is also superb: I don't have a Surround Sound setup, but despite that I was consumed by the audio, especially during the lightcycle sequences.

Disc 2 also contains the extras, including "The Next Day", a mini-feature about the underground "Flynn Lives" movement that has quite a few surprises for fans of the original movie (and is said to dovetail into the third Tron movie allegedly in pre-production). Incidentally, when you get to the end of it, feel free to play around with the arcade game screen that pops up. Especially with that high score (that's all I'm gonna say). Disc 2 also includes other stuff like the "De-Rezzed" Daft Punk music video, and a vignette featuring Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski and how he implemented a crowd cheering at Comic-Con into the arena fight scene. All in all, the bonus features that come with Tron: Legacy are pretty solid stuff.

Disc 3 is Tron: Legacy on standard DVD. Which I also played for a bit out of curiosity about its image quality. It's great DVD, but hey if you got a Blu-ray player you know what disc you're gonna reach for. Still, since I don't have a Blu-ray drive in my computer just yet, I'll no doubt be using this disc to rip Tron: Legacy for my iPod and iPad.

Disc 4 is the digital copy. Which every major DVD/Blu-ray release is including these days and I haven't used a single one. 'Cuz I make my own digital copies (only for personal use 'course) from the primary discs. 'Cuz that's just how I roll :-)

Awright, now we come to Disc 5: the original 1982 movie Tron, finally on Blu-ray! Not only that but beautifully cleaned-up and digitally remastered.

Okay, I gotta say this: it's the best that I've ever seen Tron (which was the first movie that I ever watched on a VCR, all the way back in 1983). Tron on Blu-ray looks like it was filmed just yesterday. However the Blu-ray presentation and restoration also makes obvious some things that have probably gone unnoticed for the most part of the past thirty years. Especially the matted elements, like when Sark's carrier is about to chase after the solar sailer (you can see the carrier right through the hangar building!). But rather than deflect from enjoying Tron on Blu-ray, I actually found it added a charming quality to the movie: artifacts of its time, when the use of computers in filmmaking was just then becoming a reality. So nothing really to get in a tiff about there. What I did want more out of this disc however were some more additional features. There are the original DVD features from the 2002 release, and some photos... but not much more than that (although there is a very welcome audio commentary with Tron director Steven Lisberger and others involved in making the film). Perhaps someday Disney will give the original Tron some more respect and laud it with the Blu-ray release it deserves (you can also buy Tron alone as a Blu-ray disc, something I've already had words about its lousy cover art). But until then, I'll be happy to have Tron itself looking the best it's looked since the summer of 1982.

Tron: Legacy 5-Disc Blu-ray Collector's Set is available in a regular box, or in a special "identity disc" package. Unless you wanna fork over some extra coin for what looks like a glorified coaster, you'll probably just want to get the standard box like I bought. It's quite a nice set, and I'm looking forward to watching it again this weekend (my filmmaking partner "Weird" Ed asked me to bring it when I go to his place for ActionFest in Asheville). Highly recommended!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Light musings on a universal conflict

I most want to do what God would have me to do.

I also want to be happy, and I know that true happiness is only found in whatever it is that God requires of us.

So why doesn't He tell us in no uncertain terms what it is that He does require of us?

But then, if He did, then there would be no such conflict between the spirit and the flesh that each of us possess.

And then, life would become extraordinarily boring.

Could it be that God doesn't lay it all out for us perfectly clear, because He not only wants us to grow spiritually (which can't happen without times of trial and tribulation) but also because He does want us to live fully and vicariously as we grow in our relationship with Him?

Just something that I found myself contemplating since this afternoon. I've been weighing my desire to seek God's will for my life, against the fact that He hasn't been as forthcoming with that as I would like.

I guess, I'm consigned to constantly stumble and fall while seeking His will, and having to rely on His mercy and grace to see me through.

But then, that's the way it should be...

Monday, April 04, 2011

Question for iPad owners (about Bible software)

Barring any crazy circumstance, I should be getting my iPad 2 next week! Looking forward to having it for... well, all kinds of good stuff :-)

So I've already been planning which apps I should buy for it: the list thus far includes iMovie, Garageband (I've waited five years for the chance to use that program 'cuz Apple doesn't make it for Windows), and the iPad/iPhone port of Doom ('cuz in my book it's not a real computer unless it plays Doom).

There's one more bit o' software that I aim to install on my iPad right out the gate, but I thought I'd pose this to my readers...

What's a good Bible app for the iPad?

It'd be great to find one that has multiple versions available. Other than that, well... I don't know what I should be looking for.

Suggestions? Any would be most welcome :-)

Bipolar depressive episode: The next day...

Why am I writing about having bipolar disorder? Well, for one thing: I have it. And since this blog is about me and my thoughts and comments and adventures, the honest and genuine thing to do is to chronicle when my thoughts go full-tilt whacko beyond my control.

And I'm a writer. I write about what I know. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of me writing for publication. It sure didn't occur to me back then that someday I'd be running a fairly popular blog (I think the total number of websites on the Internet in 1991 were something like five or six) and that my most heartfelt topic was having a mental illness. But as a wiser person than I told me years ago: "Life is what God does to you when you're busy making plans".

And as I've said before: if what I'm doing now, can save others from any bit of the suffering and heartache that I have had to endure (and that others have had to endure because of me) then, this effort will have been well worth doing.

But a more personal reason is that, writing about having bipolar disorder is, in a very curious way, allowing me to fulfill my childhood ambition of... being a scientist.

What did little Chris Knight want to be when he grew up? An astronomer. A physicist. A biologist. A geologist. A geneticist. All of them at once! Especially astronomy: that's always been one of my bigger interests.

Unfortunately I had something called "discalculia" and it is to mathematics as dyslexia is to reading: it's a math disability. And math is the lingua franca of all science. Ironically it now appears that my having a mental illness all this time was one of the bigger reasons why my math skills have sucked so bad! I've been doing some experiments in the past few months and... well let's just say that for the firs time in my life I can comprehend quadratic equations. But I digress...

So I have a mental illness. A medical condition. And, I have chosen to document what it is like to have it, in an objective fashion but also what I like to believe will be characteristically my own... and that's part and parcel of having myself as the subject of study.

So more than twenty-four hours after the bipolar depressive episode that I wrote about in my last post, I am now feeling better. I am functional again, for however long it might last (and I pray it will last a long time). Most of last night I was unable to sleep because my thoughts were racing so fast, and the medication I am taking was unable in this case to quiet it down. I napped from 5 a.m. until 12 this afternoon, because my brain got too exhausted to keep up.

So right now I'm in a blissful state of creativity and productivity, and I'm about to go into Adobe Photoshop to work on something that I've had an idea for. A new product, you might say (that I might wind up selling through this blog soon).

I have mentioned her before on this blog, but now's as good a time as any to do it again: a few months ago I learned about Kay Redfield Jamison. She's a clinical psychologist who also suffers from bipolar disorder, and she has become renowned as one of the world's leading authorities on the subject. I found this page of quotes by Dr. Jamison, in which she articulates what it's like to have bipolar disorder. It's well worth a read if you're at all interested in what it means to live with this. I plan to finally read her books sometime soon, particularly An Unquiet Mind, which is all about her life with bipolar.

Hey, maybe someday y'all will see me writing a book about having this disease. Then I can hit the lecture circuit and Dr. Phil and all that jazz :-P

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Having another bipolar depressive episode

And once more I understand why some people are driven to commit suicide because of bipolar disorder. Because, death does seem a much preferable thing to what can only be called "anti-life".

I have been trying to compose the next installment of Being Bipolar. My mind has arrested me from doing that and from having interest in most of the other things that I enjoy in my life. My thoughts are on a seemingly non-stop cycle of nothingness, if that makes any sense.

So what am I doing to alleviate it? I've taken my medication and I've spent some time just trying to let my thoughts run their course (because eventually it does peter out enough to let me be productive again). Other than that, there's not much else that can be done.

I'm leaving Wednesday afternoon, for a short trip. Gonna be at that same film festival in Asheville that I attended last year. Knowing that something like that is on the horizon to look forward to, does help and it helps tremendously. If I know I have something to get excited about, it's like my mind can build up some momentum toward that, enough to be able to focus on that and escape the racing thoughts for a short while.

But in the meantime, I'm stuck with my thoughts holding me captive in a state of not living, not caring, not being empathetic or sympathetic to anyone or anything. I am currently alive and un-live.

And not for the first time, not for the last time, I am wondering why God would allow this to happen to anybody.