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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kristen and Fonzo review MAN OF STEEL (because I couldn't get around to it...)

Man of Steel, poster, Superman, Henry Cavill, Zack SnyderMan of Steel came out just over two weeks ago.  I've seen it twice and the more I think about it, the more I'm of the mind that it's not only the finest Superman film made to date, it's also the best comic book movie thus far (tying with The Avengers and The Dark Knight).  Dang near everything about Man of Steel is spot-on perfect: from Henry Cavill's performance as Superman to Zack Snyder's direction to the sight of Metropolis getting the slats beaten out of it, to the beautiful and epic score by Hans Zimmer.

I'd wanted to write a review, but kept getting bogged down with stuff during the past several days.  But who says that I have to be the only one writing a movie review around here?

So here are two fine people who have some thoughts about Man of Steel that they'd like to share with you, dear reader!  First up is this piece by Alphonzo McIver: one of the coolest cats I've ever known.  "Fonzo" is a true afficianado of great movies, and I've always trusted his word as bond.  He just turned in this piece about Man of Steel and it's well worth sharing...

Man of Steel Review
by Alfonzo McIver
I have to say I really liked Man of Steel. I thought it was a great new way to tell the Superman story. There were a lot of people, and critics that did not like the movie, and that is fine we are all entitled to our opinions, and reasoning. The problem comes from some of the things I read are either nit picky, or can have a justifiable reason for why the movie was done the way it was. Before I get started I have to warn that there will be spoilers in this, so if you have not seen Man of Steel then do not read any further.

The first issue I have read was about the characters, and how some where "wooden" or did not serve the purpose they should have. I agree that they should have focus a bit more on Zod, and show him more as a foil for Superman. For the rest of the characters I felt that they were showcased properly. One of the characters that people saw a problem with was Perry White. I heard things like " He should have been in it more." I have also heard that all he was just a comic relief. I don't know about that last one. I saw his character as being in there enough to introduce him, and show the type of person he is. He cares for his employees, and what is right. He is stern, and kind of a father figure within the Daily Planet. For his time in the movie that comes down to Superman not become Clark Kent "Mild Manner Reporter" till the very end. There was no reason for him to be in there more than he was.

Next is the fight scenes. I will start this one by saying that it took me a while to respect what Christopher Nolan did in Batman Begins. I am a martial artist, and when it comes to fight scenes in movies I like to see the movement, the technique, the art in motion, so in the beginning I did not like it. My respect came when I saw what Nolan was doing. He wanted us to see Batman's hand to hand from the eyes of the criminals he was beating. The quick blinding camera shots represented Batman coming in, handling business, and you on the ground before you know what is going on. I felt the same thought was put into the fight scenes in Man of Steel. We know that Superman is powerful, but he is also fast, and those from Krypton would have that same power and speed. I feel that Zack Snyder, David Goyer, and Chistopher Nolan saw it as what would a fight with these aliens look like from the eyes of a human being. I'm sure the fights would be hard hitting, and near invisible to the naked eye.

The death of Zod. I read that someone did not like it, there was not a point to it, there was another way, Superman would not do that, etc, etc, etc.... I think the first question I pose is Batman killed Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins. Why is there not a problem with that? Batman does not kill, but he left Ra's in the train car knowing the outcome. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he did nothing to stop it either. Superman did kill Zod in the comics. I will not go that route though. I look at it in two ways. One is that they set up Zod's character in a way that the only way to stop him would be his death. He said that he was made for one purpose, and he would stop at nothing to fulfill that purpose. If you banished him back to the Phantom Zone he would find a way back. It is him, his nature, his hard wiring . The second is I feel it was a statement. It was Superman making a choice between his past and his future. Almost like him saying that Krypton had its chance now it is time to let Earth have its time. The problem that I did have with this is that I felt not enough time was spent on Zod's death. This is significant, this is the first time Superman took a life. I did not like the fact that he killed Zod, yelled, cried in Lois's arms, and that was it. There should have been more. There should have been a separate scene where he talks to Lois, and tells her that he would not take a life. There is a lot of that in movies now where significant characters, are killed, and not enough time is devoted, or the death does not fit the person in my eyes. The death of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight bothered me. She was Bruce Wayne's childhood friend, and love interest. She is the one that Bruce was going to give up the cape for, and the aftermath of her death was relegated to Bruce looking out the window. Nolan said that there was supposed to be a funeral scene. It was cut because of time, and how it took away from Batman finding the Joker. Keep the funeral in there. It was needed. You could have cut the barge scene a bit. No matter how many times I see that movie the barge scene is the scene that I always start to nod off. I can forgive Man of Steel for this because this is the first movie. They have another movie in which to explore the death of Zod impacting Superman.

Superman is not Superman. Superman is supposed to be a "boy scout" For this you have to look at the time in which Superman grew up. When Superman first came onto the scene good guys wore white hats, it was apple pie america. That character was widely accepted.I like what my friend said. If you want Superman to be a boy scout watch Superman Returns. This Superman grew up in the 80's, and 90's. He grew up in a time of question, and conspiracy theories. He grew up in a time of who can you trust. It is only fitting that his character would be a little rough around the edges. I saw this Superman as a good upstanding character he was just more guarded than the Superman of old.

Lastly, this was not a new telling of the story. Alien baby rocketed to earth from a dying planet. grows up with powers far beyond any human. Uses said powers to protect humanity. Wealthy boy watches parents murdered grows up to become masked vigilante . I know it seems as though I am beating up on the Nolan Batman trilogy. I am not, I loved all three of the Batman movies. My problem comes in where we can accept the fact that there was not really a new telling of the Batman mythos, but we criticizes the telling of the Superman Mythos. Characters like that are iconic, and there is really no change to the heart of what makes those characters. The world, the people around them can change, but the outline of the story needs to stay the same. No matte how many reboots of comic book characters they do, the overall outline of the character will never change whether it be Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, etc... At its core the origin will be the same.

That is enough of my ranting. I really liked Man of Steel. I just feel that as critics you lose sight of the movie experience because you are trained to look at the faults. There are bad movies out there, but Man of Steel was not one of them, and just remember this is the first of a franchise that is supposed to spawn a Justice League movie.

Fonzo and I are planning on seeing Pacific Rim together in a few weeks, so don't be surprised if he writes a review of that for this site!

Next up are some thoughts by someone who is no stranger to these pages: my girlfriend Kristen Bradford.  On our way back from seeing Man of Steel, we had quite a discussion about the film and Kristen came up with... well maybe I'm being biased but I thought she had some positivalutely brilliant thoughts about it.  I asked her to do a write-up, and she turned this in over a week ago but I hadn't been able to post it until now.

So here are Kristen's thoughts and commentary about Man of Steel.  Take it away, Kristen!

The Profound Messages of Man of Steel
by Kristen Bradford

I had been wanting to see “Man of Steel” after seeing the trailers – it looked so much more promising than 2006’s “Superman Returns.” Perhaps even better than the Christopher Reeve films (which I vaguely remember, so I can’t accurately compare them).  Then Chris saw it Friday night, unsure of what to make of it.  So when we went Saturday night, I was optimistic but prepared for the worst.

I must say that it was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time.  From the time the end credits rolled until we got back to Chris’ house, we were discussing themes and elements that we both noticed.

Before I get into this, please note this may be spoiler-y, so don’t read any further if you haven’t seen it yet.  And if you’re not a Christian, well, I hope you respect my thoughts and understand where they are coming from, because I saw a lot of parallels between this film and the Christian faith.  That being said, if you have not seen it and you’re not a Christian, don’t be turned off from going.  The Christian elements in the film don’t come across as “beating you over the head” with it.  It’s more subtle.

I view this film as sort of a cautionary tale.  One that is warning our society of what our future can hold.  When the film starts, we see Krypton, not far from the end of their world.  As the movie goes on, we learn that their people used to be explorers, colonizing distant planets and learning more about the universe around them.  By the time of the events of the movie, the outposts are long dead, abandoned for unclear reasons.  Children aren’t born, but artificially created (Clark, or Kal-El, is the first natural birth in their society in years, maybe even centuries).  Babies are created to play a specific role – like to be in the military, for example. Their people have no choice in what role they will play in life.  And that is General Zod’s downfall at the end.  He knew nothing else except to protect Krypton, and he would do so by any means necessary.  He could do nothing else.

Krypton represented a society that was hell-bent on control.  Their obsession with control led to their destruction.  Which is why Jor-El could not go with his son – he knew he was part of the society that brought them to their end in the first place, and wanted Kal-El to learn a different and better way of living life.

Kal-El grows up as Clark Kent, knowing he is different from everyone else but not realizing why until he is a little older.  Throughout his life, he struggles with his outcast role.  He strives to help people because he is able to, but in turn has to remain hidden and, as an adult, moves from job to job when he makes his powers known.  But he discovers his own destiny.  He is not forced to be a farmer, or a doctor, or anything else.  He makes his own choice.  And his choice is to save the human race, to use his powers for good, if you will.

At one point in the film, after General Zod announces to the world his demand for Kal-El, Clark is unsure of what to do.  He has already learned that Zod cannot be trusted, but at the same time has this passion for saving people, at any cost.  He ends up at a church, and through the course of talking to the priest, admits he’s the one they’re looking for but is torn about what to do.  Should he give himself up, even if it means Zod won’t keep his word?  As he is leaving, the priest says to take a “leap of faith.”

And that’s what we all need to do sometimes.  When the odds are against us, or when things seem unclear, there is a time where we just have to take a leap of faith that everything will turn out okay.  In this movie, I’ll just say it gets worse before it gets better!

One thing that stuck out with me was the pro-life element.  Yes, you read me right.  Krypton, for some reason, looks down on natural births.  When Jor-El tells Zod they had a naturally born son, Zod yells “heresy!”  It makes me wonder if this is the path our society is going towards.  I hope not.  When we try to control how future generations are made, that messes with the natural order of life.

I highly recommend this movie.  And not just for Henry Cavill’s abs!  It is a very well-done film (though it did get a little CGI-crazy in the climax) and an interesting take on the character of Clark Kent.  We always see Superman as confident and ready to fight for justice.  In this story, we have to see him work towards that confident superhero.

(By the way, did anyone see references to LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises?  And the two Battlestar Galactica alumni?)

"Not just for Henry Cavill's abs"?!? Kristen, your boyfriend has a (kinda) hot physique too, ya know :-P

Thanks to Kristen and Fonzo for their contributions!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's a sunbathing pup as Tammy Tuesday returns!

All right gang, I'm gonna try to get back into the swing of things on this blog.  First up: another dose of that very-cute-but-terribly-mischievous miniature dachshund, Tammy.  Who has lately demonstrated that she's getting much better behaved!  If only she wouldn't jump out of nowhere to bite at my ankles every so often...

So today I took her outside so she could do her "doggie business" and the first thing she wanted to do was head to her favorite place in the yard.  I don't know what it's allure is, but there's this one little area of lawn that Tammy will go to, lay down and often roll on her back and enjoy the warmth of the sun shining on it.  I guess it's just her "layin' spot".

Here she is enjoying the early summer sunshine...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Clawing my way back from bipolar depression

In light of the e-mails that came asking if things were okay on this end, I'm feeling led to address why I've been absent for the better part of the past two weeks.

There's really no other way to put it: I got hit with a bipolar depressive episode.  The worst that I have had to go through in a very long time.  And it absolutely robbed me of my desire to write or to post anything at all.  Apart from a few Twitters or Tweets or whatever they're called, my activity online was a fair reflection of my activity in real life: pretty much nil.

I've written about bipolar depression before, but this latest bout refreshed in my mind how horrible this condition is and how I would never, ever wish it upon any person.  One moment, you're feeling high on life.  And the next, totally without warning, your interest in everything flatlines.

I could not be interested in this blog.  I could not be interested in the news.  I could not be interested in Star Wars.  I could not be interested in the music of "Weird Al" Yankovic... and as Homer Simpson once observed, "He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life."

I was not living, but only existing.  Bipolar depression is like a torturously-long drawn-out death: you want to live, but you don't know how to live.  You don't know how to want to know how to live.

There were entire days during the past two weeks when I wanted to die and get it over with.  To welcome Heaven or oblivion, because either would be better than the hell I was going through.  Once upon a time I might have considered taking steps toward ending my life and putting a stop to the pain.

In fact, one person I know, did just that in recent days.  A very good, sweet and devout Christian person.  I don't know if she had bipolar but she was suffering from an agony that nobody can possibly understand without experiencing it personally.

Sometimes I wonder if someday, that might be me too.  If the pain will become too much to bear and my cries to God seem so unheard and neglected that I feel no other alternative than to "opt out".  Because I didn't consider doing that these past weeks, but there certainly were times when I asked Him to just let there be an end to it all.

I know it's not "me".  I know it's the bipolar.  I know it doesn't last forever.  It didn't this time and it won't next time either.  And my prayer is that everyone who goes through any kind of mental illness might realize that and hold onto it during their times in the valley.

Were it not for the honor of being in a best friend's wedding last weekend, my girlfriend's presence and encouragements, and a few other things, I wouldn't have been able to get out of this house at all.  Okay, Tammy the Pup still needed walking a few times a day, so there was that.

Thankfully the episode is retreating.  My interest in life is returning.  Kristen tells me often that I won't have this problem so severely after we're married (parse that as one will, heh-heh...) and Lord willing that will be sooner than later.  My desire to write is coming back and I'm going to try to make up for some stuff in the next few days (not the least of which will be a review of Man of Steel: a film which I am increasingly of the mind is the best superhero movie made to date).

Okay, back to work I go...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's not a Tuesday... but here's Tammy anyway!

The girlfriend reminded me late last night that I had missed posting a Tammy Tuesday this week.  And then earlier tonight she told me again.  So you can direct thanks to Kristen for kicking me in the tail and getting a new pic of my mini dachshund up for your viewing pleasure :-)

This week, nothing too special.  Just a photo I took with the iPad of Tammy in my lap, as I tried to get her to hold still...

There may be some more pics of her out and about town next week. We'll see :-)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

This could be a bumper sticker...

I'm not a crazy person.  I'm just someone who had to survive too many crazy people.

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz is officially verboten

It's taken an act of legislation to wipe out the longest word in the German language.

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, beef, Germany, German, language, words
"You vill EAT your
undt you vill LUFF it!!"
"Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz" - a 63-letter long title for a law "for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling" - has been removed from official use in Germany.  The law, passed in 1999, regulated testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalitis: also known as "mad cow disease".  The European Community is dropping recommendations for testing healthy cattle for the disease.  And with it goes... that word.

I bet spelling bees are something else over there...

Tip o' the hat to Scott Bradford for spotting this!

El Reno tornado: Widest ever recorded

The tornado which touched down in El Reno, Oklahoma this past Friday is now in the books as the biggest ever documented.  At its maximum, the tornado was a staggering 2.6 miles in diameter...

tornado, El Reno, Oklahoma, weather
El Reno, Oklahoma tornado, May 31st 2013.  Photo Credit: WHOTV.com

Nineteen people perished from this storm, including three veteran tornado chasers.  The tornado carved a path more than sixteen miles long and has been categorized as an EF-5: the most powerful possible.

Thoughts and prayers going out to the people of Oklahoma.

"Weird Al" Yankovic's next album to be his last

Musical parody pioneer "Weird Al" Yankovic is working right now on his next album.  And he's not planning on making another.

Yankovic confirmed it with journalist John J. Moser of The Morning Call in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania...
There's no question about it, parody singer "Weird Al" Yankovic says.
A world where virtually everyone has access to YouTube or other Internet video sites, and far more immediately than he does with physical CDs – and a world where music comes and goes with ephemeral popularity , his job has become far harder.
In fact, it's so difficult that Yankovic, who plays Sands Bethlehem Event Center at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, says his next album is likely to be his last.
"I have one more album on my contract, and I'm looking forward to doing more digital distribution," Yankovic says in a call last week from his Los Angeles home. "Cause I think, particularly with what I have to do, I need to be as immediate as possible, and that means getting my material out quickly."
"So I don't even know after this next CD if I'll be doing any kind of traditional releases anymore because it seems like everything I do is geared more toward being online and being immediate. And I'm doing my best to figure out a way to do that."
Sounds like Al will not be retiring anytime soon, thank goodness!  He's just doing something he's very very good at: adapting and rolling with the times.  Besides, Al has been tilting toward this direction in the past few years already: in the summer of 2009 he did his "Internet Leaks" series of song releases, and they sold quite well on iTunes.  After his new album, we won't have to wait years for new Al songs.  They'll get to come to us immediately!

But even so: I honestly can't imagine a world where there are no more upcoming Weird Al albums.  Every time a new one came out, I've been there on its release date to buy it (sometimes even driving out of the way to get it).  When Poodle Hat was published ten years ago I pulled the shrink-wrap off the CD as soon as I got in the car, put the disc in the player and began listening immediately.  I was laughing so hard that a highway patrolman pulled me over 'cuz he thought I was drunk!

Maybe if we're good, Al will someday give us a compilation album of the new stuff.  Along with the requisite polka medley :-)

"Weird Al" Yankovic, time traveler, Cracker BarrelIn related news, it's been discovered this week that "Weird Al" Yankovic joins Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and Kurt Russell in the illustrious ranks of celebrity time travelers!  The photo on the right is of a framed portrait found in a Cracker Barrel and Al Twitter-ed it.  Given that he is now in apparent possession of a working TARDIS, rest assured that we will have Weird Al to entertain us for many more eons to come...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday guest stars "Weird" Ed Woody!

Hey gang, been a mite busy on this end of things, but don't let that stop us from having our weekly does of mini dachshund hijinks!

This past weekend my longtime friend and filmmaking partner "Weird" Ed Woody came to visit.  And it so happened that this was the very first time that he and Tammy have had a chance to meet.  I was outside with her when he pulled into the driveway and had my camera with me, so I got to record their first-ever encounter...

It took Tammy awhile to get used to somebody so new...

 ...but it wasn't long before she really took on to Ed, as you can tell :-)

Incidentally, Ed and I discussed our next film project.  It's gonna be the first one we've done in quite some time.  Maybe we should give Tammy a cameo?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Matt Smith leaving DOCTOR WHO in this year's Christmas special

On December 25th, time is up for the Eleventh Doctor...

Matt Smith, who the BBC announced four and a half years ago would be the one to play The Doctor after David Tennant left the role, is leaving Doctor Who at the end of this current season.  It will be during this year's Christmas special that the Eleventh Doctor will regenerate, and Smith will hand off to a new actor.

It was really bittersweet to hear that news tonight.  I do think that Matt Smith is taking his bow at the top of his game.  In no small part because of his portrayal of The Doctor, the show has never before been so wildly popular.  The past several years have seen Doctor Who truly become a global sensation, and in this blogger's opinion Smith has become one of the very, very few deserving to be recognized as a pop icon.  He will be the reigning Doctor for the massive fiftieth anniversary special coming on November 23rd.  After everything he has accomplished as the Eleventh Doctor, it would be really hard to find a way to top all of that and go out bigger than that.

But all the same, I think I'm going to miss Matt Smith's Doctor more than any other.  In too many ways than could readily be gone into, the era of the Eleventh really did wind up my favorite of the revived series.

Even so, he will not be soon forgotten.  Because of Matt Smith, "bow ties were never cooler", as showrunner Steven Moffat said earlier today.  Indeed, no other Doctor has made such an impact on modern fashion.

So here it is at last.  Matt Smith is about to leave one of the most legendary roles in the history of television.

And as Moffat put it, "Somewhere out there right now - all unknowing, just going about their business - is someone who's about to become the Doctor.  A life is going to change."

And so begins the craziest sweepstakes in modern culture's memory.  Who... Who... will be the next Doctor?!?  If y'all thought the madness over five golden tickets to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory was something, y'all ain't seen nothin' yet...

EDIT 12:10 a.m. EST:  In light of tonight's news, I'm feeling led to post the clip of Matt Smith's first true scene as The Doctor.  And by that I mean: that singular moment when he grasped the mantle of The Doctor and claimed it as his own, with no going back.  Yes, Matt Smith was the one playing the person who David Tennant's Tenth Doctor regenerated into... but this was the moment, in "The Eleventh Hour", when he became The Doctor:

To say nothing of the regeneration scene itself, considered by many to be the finest in the history of the show. It was certainly the most emotional.