Thor: The Dark World


ImageLet this be a warning.  If you are trying to hop on the Marvel Movie Bandwagon, Marvel Studios will grant you no mercy.  Going into this film, there is an expectation that you have seen all the movies up to The Avengers. If not, good luck understanding much of what is going on in this film.

More so than Iron Man 3, Thor: TDW is a sideways sequel to The Avengers. A couple story lines from The Avengers are carried into this film. The most obvious is Loki’s fate and the ramifications of his actions.  In fact the film opens with Odin sentencing Loki to solitary life in an Asgardian dungeon.

From there we are whisked away to Thor and the Warriors Three defending one of the realms from an invasion.  Then we are taken to London to find Jane Foster trying to get back to a normal life, but still obsessed with Thor.  Back to Asgard and we find a sullen Thor trying to accept that he has to be King, and only wanting to be with Jane. And then back to London where Jane finds a temporal anomaly and gets sucked into another realm, where she comes into contact with the Aether, a mysterious dark force hidden away eons ago by Odin’s father, Bor.

When she makes contact with the Aether, she absorbs it into her body. This does a couple of things. It makes Thor come to Earth to see what the hell happened, and it wakes up Malekith, a dark elf who wants to use it to plunge the universe into darkness. Thor takes Jane to Asgard, and this is where the film really starts to shine.

Malekith and his dark elf army discover that the Aether is in Asgard and attack. Asgard suffers pretty significant losses because they were not prepared.  Thor is forced to team up with Loki to defeat Malekith. Cover_of_The_Mighty_Thor_347

The relationship between Thor and Loki is tumultuous at best, and this film really has fun with it.  Loki is probably the coolest villain in the world.  The banter between Thor and Loki is really quite funny in this film as well.

My only real beef is with the bad guy.  Malekith is kinda boring.  You never really know why he wants to plunge the universe into darkness. He just wants to.  The threat seems bigger than is actually portrayed on the screen.

This is a fun movie.  I really enjoyed it, and recommend it highly.  However, if you have not watched Thor and the Avengers, you may want to do that.

Marvel has once again shown that they get it.  They understand that these characters are great, and are only made better by sharing a universe together.  I have said it before, but that was always the best part about reading the comics.  Knowing that these characters live in the same universe and would interact with each other made reading the stories all the more exciting.  The Marvel cross over events were legendary.  6 or 12 issue mini series that all characters participated in.  One story that affected every hero in the universe.  Secret Wars, Inferno, The Infinity Gauntlet.

Ahhhhh the Infinity Gauntlet.  Let’s talk about that.

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****SPOILERS*****

The mid credit scene  all but announced what Avengers 3 will be.  Some version of the Infinity Gauntlet.  We got a hint of it in the Avengers mid-credit scene, with Thanos smiling when his minion speaks of “courting Death”.  The mid-credit scene in Thor: TDW all but confirms this is where the story is going.

Seriously, stop reading because I am going to tell you.

Still here? Ok.

Sif and Volstagg deliver the Aether to THE COLLECTOR.

Collector

Yes….the COLLECTOR.  He then says, “one down, five to go”.  So the AETHER is an infinity gem.  And we also learn the TESSERACT is an infinity gem.

MARVEL NERDS will note that The Collector was one of the keepers of an infinity gem.  We know that Thanos is alive in this universe.  We know that next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy has Gamora and Drax, two characters with very close ties to Thanos and have prominent parts in the Infinity Gauntlet.  This is happening.

I seriously cannot wait for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Make Mine Marvel!

The Winery Dogs


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I am going to see these guys tonight.

Billy Sheehan (Mr.Big, David Lee Roth), one of the greatest bass players of all time.

Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob, Avenged Sevenfold) one of the greatest drummers of all time.

Richie Kotzen, one of…..well we won’t mention what band he played in for a while.

I love this group.  The album is a fantastic piece of hard rock music.  I am looking forward to the show.

cAo Brazilla


I really like this cigar. Taste chocolate, and then the maduro wrapper kicks in and its a nutty, peppery taste that really satisfies.

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Star Trek Into Darkness….AN APTLY NAMED FILM


Star Trek Into Darkness

There will be a lot of spoilers ahead.  You have been warned.

I would like to start by saying  I am not a big fan of Star Trek.  I never have really watched any of the television shows, although I have tried.  I just cant get into them.  However, I do enjoy the characters and movies.  In fact, Star Trek aside, Wrath of Kahn is one of my all time favorite films.  What makes it great is that you don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy it…the film is great enough to hold it’s own.

However, in 2009, when the STAR TREK reboot was released, it was something I enjoyed quite a bit and was very much looking forward to this sequel.

I have not been this disappointed since Prometheus. 

*SPOILERS*

So, if you have not surmised by now, the bad guy is indeed Kahn, although it is not revealed until half way into the film.  In fact, up until then, the film is quite enjoyable.  After the reveal is made, the movie goes into full Wrath of Kahn remake mode.  Really.  They try to squeeze all of the greatness of Wrath of Kahn into about an hour of movie. And it never adds up.

In what I assume is an effort to remake the film and pay homage to it, Abrahams simply recreated moments from WoK without understanding what made the original ones so great.  He changes situations slightly, and a different character says an exact line of dialogue that was said in the original. It gets so bad that the film gets embarrassingly predictable.  Right down to the “KAAAAAAAHHHHHHNNNN” scream.  And it simply does not work.

At no point did I feel threatened by this Kahn.  There is no history between Kahn and Kirk, and therefore no tension.  They try to artificially create that tension, but it falls flat when Kirk and Kahn are on screen together.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a sufficient sequel to the original if you have nothing invested in the franchise.  On that level it is an enjoyable film.  However, since they made the attempt to remake not only the best Star Trek film, but one of the greatest science fiction films, it falls very, very flat.

Why Google’s New Compose Window is ALL kinds of Awesome


Google is pushing out a new compose window feature for Gmail. This is a long time coming. And I love it.

Looking back, the original compose method in Gmail was, if anything, a workflow killer. And it has been one of the few chinks in an otherwise impenetrable armor. Since GMail is web based, when you clicked on compose, a new web page opened. A web page in the form of a virgin email form. You immediately lost access to your inbox. If you are like me, your emails usually include reference to other data in your inbox. In Gmail, once I committed to writing a new message, my inbox was gone.

Eventually I learned to RIGHT CLICK and OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW. However it was very cumbersome. Also I am a genius and many users never learned this trick.

Now they have added the New Compose window and it is everything i need and more. There are even new features that I didn’t know I needed, but now I can’t live with out.

The new window opens within your inbox, allowing you to maintain a visual on your stuff. And the best part is there is a fly out function. Thats right. Just click the arrow to set your compose window free! You can open another message. You can open your calendar…and still maintain your separate compose window. My workflow just flexed.

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But wait…there is more! You can also add photos directly inline. Also any files in your Google Drive. All with one button. I have been using Gmail since the beginning and this is, so far, the best update to the service. One that was long over due.

Game a Day: Space Harrier


What can you say about the original Space Harrier? Brilliant..innovative…fun. Essentially the game took Space Invaders, put it in first person perspective, and threw everything at you. With a little Centipede thrown in for good measure. Oh, and did I mention you have a jet pack strapped to your back, so that you are constantly moving forward?

Originally released to the arcade in 1985 by Sega, the game was the creation of Yu Suzuki, who is responsible for many popular Sega games, like Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter.

The arcade cabinet was one of the first to incorporate mechanical feedback to mirror the action in the game.  You would sit and actually move with the analog controller. Another first in arcades. Perhaps the first.

I have a very fond memory of the first time I played in an arcade. It was at King’s Island, an amusement park close to where I lived. I begged my dad to let me play, and I from the moment I sat down, I was in hooked. As soon as your put in your tokens and pressed start, a digitized voice said “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone….Get Ready” and BAM…you were flying.

Space Harrier also was one of the first games to feature serious level progression. Each level was a different world…with different enemies and bosses. Sure they wee all similar and simple palette swaps, but it was enough to make you keep going. For every one million points you got an extra life.  Or, you kept plugging quarters/tokens in. This game also existed in the era of the High Score. Like many games of the time, it had a leader board and you put your initials in when you achieved a ranking on it. There was no save. If you ran out of lives, you started over. This concept is foreign to many today.

It is a relentless, furious game that offers you no short cuts.  This was a game that tested your reflexes and memory.  Some obstacles could be shot out of your way, others could not.  And if you hit one of those, it was lights out.  Game over, man. The only advantage was that the enemies and obstacles came in patterned waves….so as long as you knew where and what to expect, you could make it. Sorta.

For Christmas 1986, I begged my mom and dad for this.  Only because one of the launch games was Space Harrier.  Since the only arcade around me that had it was at Kings Island, I didnt get enough of it and I wanted more. The only catch was the gift was also for my sister…so I had to share.  That sucked.

Since then, Space Harrier has had not so good sequels, and been released on just about every platform known to man.  But it started in the arcade for me, and it remains one of my favorite games of all time.  And one of the greatest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOd0CEuB-dM

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


The Hobbit was the first book I ever really read. And I loved it so much I read it all on one summer day in 1983. To this day I have fond memories of checking it out from the book mobile, waking home with it, and sitting by the pool all day reading.

Obviously it turned me onto The Lord of the Rings, and the rest is history. Needless to say, I was anxious to see this movie.

The Hobbit is not like any of the books in the LOTR trilogy. It is a much more light hearted book, intended for a much younger audience. In some places, it is very silly. It really isn’t even a true prequel to the LOTR series. It is sort of a sideways prequel. As it is short. Like I mentioned, you can read it in one sitting.

These facts are what made me nervous when I heard that the book was being made into three movies. There really isn’t that much there to pull from. Now that I have seen the film, I see what they are doing…and I am on the fence about it.

When writing his epic, Tolkien crafted an elaborate world with a deep history of its own. He wrote volumes of back story in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, as well as various other books documenting the history of Middle Earth. From what I can tell, the movie makers have mined this information heavily in order to make these movies more of a prequel trilogy to the movie trilogy. There are characters from the original films that have major parts here weren’t even mentioned in The Hobbit to bridge the trilogies. They are injecting things that flesh out the LOTR movies more, and that sometimes over burdens the film.

Again, The Hobbit is a lot more light hearted story than the LOTR books, and the movie tries to keep that light hearted nature, but I felt like it was unbalanced with the ominous foreshadowing of that is to come. In some places it went from slapstick to pathos in one scene.

Bilbo becomes an after thought for most of the film. And had I not read the book, I would have known the other dwarves at all. They are sorta left on the back burner too. This story is all about setting up The Lord of the Rings. I just feel like they jammed too much stuff in and forgot the fun of the book. And like the LOTR movies, they don’t follow the exact order of the original book. Sequences are placed inline with the overall tale.

That all being said, I liked it. Taken as a prequel to the LOTR movies, it is awesome. And if I put it up against another prequel opening film, it’s LIGHTS OUT. ( I am looking at you, Phantom Menace). It is a fun, if slow at times, film. The good thing about the book being so short and making such long films, is that the film is able to hit every note from the Hobbit. Down to the dialogue coming straight from the book.

The final hour is the best of film, with it hitting the same riffs of the end of Fellowship, even down to the camera shots. Riddles in the Dark was spot on, and one of my favorite moments in the film. Gollum is perfect….and it was fun to see him on screen again. He is also a little funnier this time around.

It’s good…not as great as I wanted it to be. My hope is this film will feel better with me after I see the next two. However, I didn’t walk out of The Fellowship of the Ring feeling this way.

FOR THOSE WONDERING: this film ends with Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire.

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Smartphones: don’t be cheap


A family member contacted me today about what iPhone she should buy. I told her she should wait a few weeks for the iPhone 5.

“but I can get a really good deal on a 4 now” she said.

A good point. Saving money is normally a smart idea. But when it comes to something like a smart phone….any smart phone..it is always good to buy as much as you can possibly afford.

And she wants an iPhone. Good for her. But if she buys one now, with the knowledge of a new model in two weeks, why would you want to invest in a product that will be out dated in that time?

Apple will also be releasing a new version of their mobile OS. The new iPhone has been developed on hardware with that OS in mind. Developers will be updating and making apps with the new hardware specs. My wife (and by proxy, my kids) has an iPad 1. She is already getting told by several apps that they are not compatible with her iPad.

Why would you want to restrict yourself like that?

So if your contract is up, you are going to get a deal anyway. Why not invest your money in the best product available?

JAWS is my FAVORITE Film


Who remembers VCRs? Who remembers a time even before tape rentals?  When a VHS release of a major motion picture costs in the upwards of $100 to buy?  You simply did not walk into a Best Buy and purchase the movie.  If you had a movie library, you made it yourself.

BY RECORDING DIRECTLY FROM BROADCAST TELEVISION.

That’s right kids…they used to broadcast major motion pictures on NBC, ABC, and CBS.  Of course this was a few years after the theatrical run and they were always “EDITED FOR TELEVISION”, but that was how you watched them at home.

I think my Dad brought home our first VCR around 1978 or 79.  It was roughly the size of an iron lung, and you could lose a hand  in the tape ejector.  I used to put action figures on top, push the eject button, and launch them into the air.  Until Dad caught me of course. This was the exact model we had:

The remote was tethered by a cable.  But the GREAT THING…was that I could record movies!!! And much to my parents chagrin, watch them over and over.   Some movies were shown once a year…they were special events!  Movies like KING KONG and THE WIZARD OF OZ.

And of course…JAWS!

Because of commercials, some of these movies were cut into two parts.  Two hours one night and two hours the next.  I remember the announcer saying at the end of the first part “stay tuned for scenes from tomorrow night’s epic conclusion!”.  I loved it. But I hated the commercials.  So, I would watch the film with remote in hand, carefully pausing the recording during each commercial break.  Each year I would mess up and either forget to pause for commercials or forget to un-pause and miss chunks of the film.   That was heart breaking.

And the artist in me would, every year, design and create my OWN cover.  I wish I would have had the foresight to keep some of them.

And this is how my love affair with JAWS started.  I was too young to see it in the theaters, but my parents figured since it was on broadcast TV, it would be ok for me to watch.  I was in love from the first scene.

From the moment Chrissy went swimming and got eaten, I was hooked (pun intended).  The fact that you didnt see much of the shark until the end of the film kept me enthralled.  I loved that only the audience and Brody seemed to know it was a shark.  It was our secret!  Nobody believed Brody except me!

I loved Hooper.  I wanted to be Hooper.  I wanted a boat like his…with under water lights.  I loved when they gutted the tiger shark and all that crap spilled out onto the docks.  WHAT?  IT ATE A LICENSE PLATE?  Hooper quickly taught me that Tiger Sharks are like garbage cans, and will eat anything.  Tiger Shark?  A TIGER and a SHARK…that is awesome you can’t make up.

All of this build up.  The confrontations with Larry the Mayor. And of course, Quint.  The baddest man you will ever meet.  When it was televised, the first part was mostly QUINTLESS, so it made part two even more delicious.  To this day I remember when part one would end. It’s when the trio head out to catch the shark.  The boat leaving the harbor.

So, the following night, it was ALL on the boat and about sharkin’.  I loved that Quint had a harness.  I remember thinking how big the fish were he caught, because he had a harness.  And the way he latched himself in, that first time he got a tug on his line.  So methodical.  So focused.  Quint was a man not be trifled with.

The night sky, in the shot over the Orca…I remember being amazed by the falling stars.  To this day, I make sure to look for them.

When I got a little older, I was able to read the book.  WOW.  It is almost a different story.  It has the mob and SEX!  But I still love the movie more.

Maybe I love the film because of the connection to my youth.  But I do love it.  A lot.  When I was a kid, my uncle lived in Beverly Hills, and my parents went to see him.  They went to Universal Studios and came back with stories of the JAWS ride.  And pictures.  I remember staring at those pictures forever.  Curious, and also a little scared, thinking if I rode it and that shark came up on me.  I love JAWS.  My first born son is named Alex.  After Alex Kintner.  The boy who gets eaten by the shark, because Brody wasn’t allowed to close the beaches.

Remember when his mom slapped Brody?

25 odd years later, I finally got a chance to ride JAWS.  With my kids.  And you know what?  The shark looked fake as hell.

And I got goosebumps and teared up a little.

Excellent Piece on The Dark Knight Rises


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I wish I could write like this.  I agree with this guy on every point and feel he is SPOT ON.

“That’s an interesting aspect of the film, too: The Dark Knight Rises wears its influences on its sleeves. It lifts directly from The Dark Knight Returns (I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited to see the old cop and the young cop chasing Batman), Year One, Knightfall and No Man’s Land, and there are smaller influences from plenty of other stories as well. But in mashing all of those up, it came away with something those stories could never have: an ending. Or at least, a kind of ending.”

Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/07/24/dark-knight-rises-review-logic-symbolism-christopher-nolan-batman/#ixzz21aabvuYu

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