Tuesday, June 19, 2018

June Recap

Well, I seem to be deep within a blogging slump.  Maybe I just needed a break?  But I just can't seem to find words right now.  Here's a summary version.

Movie roundup:

Been to the theater a lot the past two months, but it's mostly been repeat viewings of two movies, both of which I love immensely.  Those are Avengers: Infinity War and Ready Player One.

The only new movies in the theater I've seen have been Solo (entertaining, pretty solid except for that stupid female robot that very nearly ruins the entire movie, but the film doesn't push my personal buttons and isn't one I have any need to see again), and the second Incredibles movie.  I admit, I'm not a fan of the first Incredibles (that's not to say it's not a very well done movie -- it is -- it's just not my cup of tea), but I enjoyed the second one a lot more than the first.  I liked the characters a lot more in this one.

New to me on DVD rental from Netflix:

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - love Harrison Ford, love Ryan Gosling... but man, this movie has an interesting premise that drags out forever and ultimately goes nowhere.  Not to mention a soundtrack by my least favorite composer that made me want to hit mute multiple times.

Coco (2017) - the only Pixar movie my family had not seen.  Safe, bland, skippable.  My nephew and I immediately wanted to rewatch Book of Life again instead.

Cars 3 (2017)  - pretty good.  Much better than 2 (though, lame as 2 is, it has some parts I really like).  The animation... holy smoke, the animation these days is absolutely astounding.  The detail they put in just awes me.  This was a beautiful movie.  I think I loved this movie more for the animation than for anything else, though more time with Doc Hudson and now Smokey, made this movie worthwhile.

Macbeth (2015) - quite enjoyed this take on the play and this is definitely my favorite version of it that I've seen.  Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard were fantastic together.

Night and the City (1950) - it's been a very long time since I didn't finish watching a movie... but I'm embarrassed to say I didn't finish this one, barely even got about 15 minutes in.  I think my timing was just wrong, and I'll revisit this in the future when I have more time.

Other than that, off-work time consists of pulling weeds from my huge yard Every Single Day and getting nowhere.  The weeds here are like Hyrda.  Pull one weed, two grow in its place.  It's driving me crazy.

(Southern-most end of Lake Pend Oreille)
(Silver's ears!)

Friday, May 11, 2018


Spring has arrived.  Everything is in bloom right now, and it is beautiful.  The temp is up on the 60s and 70s, but the nights are staying nice and cool.  My family has joined me and is currently sharing my home with me.  This, I've discovered, makes for zero time to do anything on my own, but that's okay.  We're helping yet more family move up here this weekend, so there is more box moving and lifting in my life.

I have watched almost no movies on DVD whatsoever for the past month and a half.  I have seen Ready Player One (loved it) and Avengers: Infinity War (loved it), and I hope to write up thoughts on both soon.  If I can ever get more than 10 minutes of time at any point...

For now, here are some pics of my neighborhood in bloom and also the wildflowers (blue camas) that covered a hillside on one of our hikes.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Kate Wilhelm

I just heard from a writer friend that author Kate Wilhelm passed away on March 8th.  To lose Ursula K. Le Guin and Kate Wilhelm...

Kate Wilhelm was the bigger influence on me.  Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang should be required reading for everyone.  That book is so good.  I preferred her science fiction stories to her mysteries, though I love Death Qualified, which is sort of both.  My all-time favorite stories of hers are two novellas:  The Plastic Abyss and Naming the Flowers.  I re-read those two quite frequently and will probably re-read Naming the Flowers today.  I have several collections of her short stories, and find those inspiring to read as well.  There is a short story of hers called "The Funeral" that I loved long before I ever knew who she was.  It wasn't until years later that I realized she was the author, then I just nodded to myself and said "of course!"

Two big losses to the writing world this year. 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Doctor Strange (2016)

I realized I never wrote a review of Doctor Strange when it first came out, so thought I'd write about it now for Hamlette's We Love Superheroes week.

I still consider The Avengers (2012) the best of the Marvel movies to date.  It is as close to perfection as a superhero movie can get, and, from 2012 until late last year, I would have named it my favorite.  But I've finally accepted that my favorites are not static.  They change over time, and for once, I've completely burnt out a movie so badly that it has to drop off my favorite list... I just have no need to see The Avengers again for about ten years. 

So, that opened up room for a new movie to slip in.  That movie is Doctor Strange.

There will be spoilers...

I only saw Doctor Strange once when it was in the theater.  Unfortunately for it, Fantastic Beasts came out, and then Rogue One, and that was that...  Nothing could compete with Rogue One!  I quite liked Doctor Strange on first viewing, but wouldn't have thought it would shoot to the top of my Marvel movie favorite list.  The things I love most about this movie are the things I still love: the actors and the characters they bring to life, the beauty of the film, the costumes, the music... and the Cloak of Levitation still steals every moment it's in.

Every since I read Flatland by Edwin Abbott as a young thing, I have been fascinated by dimensions.  So this movie, dealing with different dimensions is right up my alley. I love the visuals and the mirror dimension.  I love things that deal with time, so Strange's time loop solution just makes me grin with glee.

Most Marvel movies are extremely well cast, and this one just hits every note right for me. I have to love the characters in order to love a movie, and I really love these characters.  Did so from the first viewing.  Benedict Cumberbatch is delightful as Doctor Stephen Strange, so full of himself in the beginning, only looking for medical cases that will showcase his own brilliance, not even really understanding that he's saving lives.  When the tables are turned and he's the one in need of medical aid, when Western medical science fails to offer him a cure, he heads to Tibet where he discovers there is far more to the universe than he remotely thought possible.  Watching him light up at the thought of learning something new, watching him study and study, reading every book he can get his hands on... I love it.  I love his reaction when he realizes there's a lot more to what Kamar-Taj does than just teach and learn.

Kaecilius - Mads Mikkelsen looking fabulous and taking no prisoners.  Mads is one of my favorite actors right now, so I absolutely love him here in his snazzy outfit, with that great hair, and owning every action scene.  There's a lot more to his character than makes it onto the theatrical release, but even without the backstory, they offer enough in his dialogue to understand what he wants and what he's striving for.  I would love this movie for him alone.

Tilda Swinton is perfect as the Ancient One.  To my great surprise, she's very nearly my favorite part of the movie, the teacher and protector. I want to study under her.  Her final scene in the movie is one of my favorite moments in any movie, with time slowed to a crawl, as she still, after all the centuries she's been alive, watches the world in wonder and awe and tries to impart a last lesson on Strange.  We all have different themes that appeal to each of us.  This is one of the things I love about Marvel's universe, they can explore different themes, so there's something for everyone.  The importance of death and how it makes life more important is a big one for me.  So is using power for the right reasons.  It is the Ancient One who both talks about and shows this, and I love her.  The way she anxiously waits for Strange to figure out how to use his sling ring, turning her fan over and over in her hands, the way she still tries to talk reasonably to Kaecilius.  The smooth, graceful, and experienced way she fights.  She embodies the soul of this movie and if Mads wasn't in this movie, I would still love it because of her.

I love Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor.  He sees the world and the Ancient One a certain naive way, trusting and unpractical.  He's unwilling to break the laws of Nature for any reason, even when that's the only way to save the world. I am sad he's going down a darker path now, but am looking forward to the next movie, to see how his character develops.

Benedict Wong is great fun as Wong, the librarian.  Never cracking a smile until he cracks up at the end.  I hope he gets a big part of the next movie as well.

One of the things I love about this movie is the main theme for Doctor Strange by Michael Giacchino.  Music is extremely important to me.  As opposed to most movies (not just Marvel movies), I could actually remember the Doctor Strange theme after I left the theater.  I could even remember it weeks later without having re-seen the movie or listening to the score.  Hallelujah!  It's a fabulous theme, just right for this movie, and I love it.  Right now, I couldn't sing you a note of any Captain America, Thor, or Iron Man 1 and 3 movies.  I got crickets.  (John Debney's score for Iron Man 2 is one of my favorite Marvel scores, so it gets a lot of play time.)  I loved the Ant-Man theme too, and could remember that one when I left the theater, but couldn't tell you how it goes now.  (That's another reason Ant-Man is high on my favorites list.)

I just really enjoy this film.  There's nothing particularly new about the man-falls-from-wealth-and-position-and-finds-himself-again, but the plot is handled very well.  I love the training scenes, I love Strange forced to step up before he thinks he's ready.  I love him finding a solution to with his time loop -- by losing over and over, and therefore winning.  I love the Cloak of Levitation saving his life repeatedly.  I love the New York sanctum.

Yep, so this is a long-winded, disjointed way of saying that, basically, this movie simply hits a bunch of my Sweet Spot map items and pushes the buttons that make me happy.  I'm pleased to name it my current favorite superhero movie.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

We Love Superheroes Week - Tag

Well, "we love superheroes week" kind of snuck up on me.  Thought it was waaaay off over yonder, and then bam, it's here.  Right now.  Man, time is flying.  To start things off, we have a tag from Hamlette, who is hosting this week of superhero fun.  Check out this link to find a listing of the entries as they are posted throughout the week.

So, for the tag, here are my answers:

1.  Who are your favorite superheroes?  (Go ahead and list up to five if you want!)
1.  Doctor Strange/Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange)
2.  The Shadow/Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin, The Shadow)
3.  Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, The Avengers)
4.  The Phantom/Kit Walker (Billy Zane, The Phantom)

2.  What's your favorite superhero movie?
Doctor Strange (2016).  No contest.  Yet.  We'll see if that changes with all the Marvel movies coming out this year.  I'll be posting more on this movie later this week.

3.  Do you have a favorite superhero couple?
Assuming they both have to be superheroes, I’m going to go with Ant-Man and Wasp from Ant-Man.  I really loved Natasha Romanoff/Bruce Banner too, but Banner was an idiot and blew that one, so... Ant-Man and Wasp. (Also love Logan and Kayla Silverfox from X-Men: Origins.)

4.  What was your introduction to the world of superheroes?
I thought it was Superman, but realized that it has to be Wonder Woman in the 1975-1979 series, as that pre-dates the first Superman I saw, which would be the 1978 movie with Christopher Reeve.  So, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman was first.

5.  If you could be any superhero for a day, who would you like to be?
Superman.  I’d want to be someone with the ability to fly, and you know, he’s got all the rest to go with that.  Super strength, x-ray vision, basically invincible... except for that Kryptonite thing  He kind of can do it all.  I would like to save and protect people as Superman for a day.

6.  Do you have a favorite supervillain?
Since we got to list five superheroes, I’m applying the same number to this category.  
1.  Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen, Doctor Strange)
2.  John Garrett (Bill Paxton, Agents of SHIELD)
3.  Loki (Tom Hiddleston, multiple films)
4.  Stryker (Brian Cox, X-Men 2)

7.  Can you think of a superhero who should get their own solo film, but hasn't yet?

8.  Do you read comic books?
I read comic books when I was young, but only Star Wars and Elfquest comics (which I still own).  I have not read any superhero comic books.

9.  Why do you like superheroes?
I like superheroes because the good ones have the qualities I was introduced to by Wonder Woman and Superman... they selflessly protect and aid those without super powers who need their help.  They put themselves in danger to protect the innocent.  I also greatly admire the superheroes with astounding skills but no actual super powers, as they take on the same job without the advantages.  (ie: Hawkeye, Black Widow, etc...)  I suppose the concept of superheroes is a bit of wish fulfillment fantasy.  I know I would love to be a superhero.  Just don't ask me to sign the Sokovia Accords, because I won't.

10.  Have you ever cosplayed as a superhero?  Feel free to share pics if you want!
Well, when I was a young thing, I pretended to be Wonder Woman.  But I didn't have a costume, just a lasso and a plastic headband (that was sky blue, but hey, my imagination didn't care that it wasn't gold).  If I had the resources, I'd cosplay as Agent Melinda May.  Not just because she's one of my character matches, but because I love her SHIELD outfit, and it would be comfortable to wear.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ursula K. le Guin

Very sad news.  I just read that Ursula K. le Guin has passed away.  I have a shelf of her books I wouldn't trade for anything.  I have a few authors I revisit frequently, and she's one of them.  She is one of the best writers ever, in any genre.  I have always been in awe of what she could do with the written word.  Her collection of novellas, Four Ways to Forgiveness, and The Earthsea Trilogy are among my favorite books.  RIP.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve has almost always been a melancholy night for me.  Year's end makes me moody, and my moods tend to run dark this night.  I won't be watching my old New Year's Eve standard, Reilly: Ace of Spies, at least.  Though I suspect there will be some Sam Neill tonight.

What a year!  For movies, it started with the high of Rogue One, ended with the low of The Last Jedi.  It gave me Slow West and Salvation, two modern Westerns I've probably watched collectively on DVD more than any other movies this year.  I am completely remiss in writing a review on either.  I could not be more delighted that Ben Mendelsohn is in one and Mads Mikkelsen the other, and that both are great movies.

It was a lousy year for new soundtracks, though a good one for new releases of old soundtracks.  I still need to pick up Damnation Alley, which is one I've waited for a long time.  I think of new soundtracks... hm, did I even buy one?  It does not appear so ("It does appear so to Mr. Wallace"... random movie quote, name that movie, LOL!), and that is sad.  Maybe next year will bring some good music.

There was an incredible solar eclipse this year, the most beautiful I've personally seen (my third), and a trip to Idaho that changed my family's lives in so many ways, big and small.  I'm now living here and am very happy, looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings.

So, here we are.  End of a busy, tumultuous, stressful, crazy year. 

I'll leave you with this song.  It's one of my favorite discoveries this year (via a Mads Mikkelsen movie, naturally, though this is the happy version that doesn't break my heart.), and it is really is perfect for this winter night.

Here's to a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Snow Play

Movies seen this year in review

This has been an interesting year in movies.  I saw thirteen new movies this year in the theater, and eight older/classic movies.  Of the thirteen new movies, I only bought one on DVD.  One.  That one is The Great Wall, and I have watched the DVD quite a few times.  It's my favorite movie of 2017, and that's pretty sad.  The rest were okay (ie: Wonder Woman, Pirates, Spiderman, Beauty and the Beast), or quite fun (like Thor: Ragnarok and King Arthur), or I-Never-Need-To-See-These-Again (Dunkirk, The Last Jedi). 

However, the best new movie I saw in 2017 was Darkest Hour.  That one was sooooooooo very well done and very moving.  I will probably end up up picking it up on DVD next year when it comes out, though it's not the type of movie I normally tend to re-watch.  But Ben Mendelsohn, and the truly outstanding performance by Gary Oldman are worth it.  Lily James and Kirsten Scott Thomas are also great in it.  Highly recommended movie for any who enjoy history, WWII, or dramas.

Of the older films I saw in the theater, the highlights were Ben-Hur and Red RiverBen-Hur I've had the privilege of seeing many times on the big screen, and I will never tire of it.  I got to take my brother-in-law with me this time, and that was delightful.  He had never seen it before, and given the chance to introduce someone to that movie, the big screen is the only way to go.  He was blown away by it.  I got to see Red River at the TCM Film Festival, surrounded by my classic movie loving friends, and it was just an amazing experience all the way around.

I suspect next year will be a much better year for new movies for me.  I'm particularly looking forward to Ready Player One, Avengers Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Black Panther, Wreck-It Ralph 2, Tomb Raider, Robin Hood, Expendables 4, and the next Fantastic Beasts movie.  I'd add on the Han Solo movie, but I'm a bit scared of it. 

I am probably most really really REALLY looking forward to the first Chaos Walking movie, but it appears I have to wait until 2019 for that one.  Patience, patience.... I'll just have to read the books again to tide me over.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Winter joys

Ahhhh!  Snow again!  I have missed snow.  It is delightful to be able to walk Silver in the snow, and/or just let him outside to romp around the backyard.  Neither of us are remotely missing California right now, that's for sure. 

(My street)
(Snow just getting started.  Happy dog.)

(Silver and my dad... yes, my dog thinks he's a cat
 and sitting on people's shoulders is what he should do.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Marvel Heroes Movie Tag

Hamlette tagged me for this one.  Idea is to name a movie that meets the following Marvel Heroes criteria.  Here goes!

Captain America: Name a movie with a "fish out of water" theme. 
Overboard (1987)- I'm not particularly a romantic comedy person, but I dearly love this movie.  Goldie Hawn plays a snooty rich girl who loses her memory and gains a new and completely different life, and, for some reason I have yet to figure out, this movie just makes me happy.

Thor: Name a movie about learning to use power for the good of others. 
Doctor Strange (2016) - I suppose I shouldn't answer a Marvel tag with a Marvel movie, but I love this movie soooooooo much, and Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) certainly learns how to use his power for the good of others and not just himself.

Iron Man: Name a movie about an inventor. 
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) - Captain Nemo invents the beautiful, fantastic Nautilus.

Incredible Hulk: Name a movie with a main character who has two sides to them. 
No Way Out (1987) - Lt. Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) certainly has two sides, and that's part of what makes this twisty movie fun.

Hawkeye: Name a movie that involves archery. 
For Your Eyes Only (1981)- Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) is one of my favorite Bond girls, and she favors a crossbow.

Black Widow: Name a movie about spies. 
Ronin (1998) - In fact, I'm way overdue to watch this one.  Wonderful twisty/turny spy movie with Stellan Skarsgard and Jean Reno and Sean Bean.  And, of course, Robert DeNiro in one of the few movies I really love him in.

Black Panther: Name a movie about royalty. 
A Royal Affair (2012)  - A movie about Danish royalty for a change, instead of English, with Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander.  I liked it enough to buy a copy, even if Mads and Alicia break my heart into tiny little pieces.

Vision: Name a movie involving androids or robots. 
Going with Forbidden Planet (1956) for this one, because Robby the Robot is the classic robot.

Spider-man: Name a movie about teens. 
Stand By Me (1986) - one of the few movies about young people I will happily watch at any time.  River Phoenix and that whole cast are wonderful.  My sister and I still quote it all the time.  "I dropped the comb..." 

Ant Man: Name a movie about thieves. 
To Catch a Thief (1955).  Because I'm not particularly fond of thieves, but retired thieves trying to clear their name... that I like.  This is probably my favorite Hitchcock movie.

Scarlet Witch: Name a movie with powerful female character. 
The Fifth Element (1997) - Leeloo!  'Nuff said.

Dr. Strange: Name a movie where a character learns to be a better person. 
The Book of Life (2014) - Joachin (voiced by Channing Tatum) has a nice, satisfying arc as he becomes a better person in this one.

Falcon: Name a movie with a great sidekick. 
The Great Race (1965) - Peter Falk as Max is the most faithful and funniest sidekick I know.  He is the best.  Very hard to stand your own when you're the sidekick to Jack Lemmon as the dastardly and hilarious Professor Fate, but Max does it handily.

(this is here because one cannot mention The Great Race without thinking of the pie fight, and the pie fight is too good not to share)

Loki: Name a movie with an antagonist/villain who steals the show. 
Rogue One (2016).  I think I have a few movies I could answer for this one, but I might as well cut to the chase.  Much as I love Every Single Character in this movie, it's still Krennic who steals every scene he's in for me.

Agent Coulson: Name a movie where an ordinary character faces an extraordinary situation. 
The Terminator (1984) - Sarah Connor is pretty much the epitome of ordinary woman thrown into a most extraordinary and dangerous situation.

Peter Quill: Name a movie with a character who is more than they appear to be. 
5 Card Stud (1968) - Robert Mitchum's Reverend character certainly is much more than he appears to be.  This is a nifty Western that doesn't get nearly enough attention.

Gamora: Name a movie with a character who changes allegiances. 
The Phantom (1996) - This is a superhero movie I think is great fun.  Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the character who switches sides in this one.

Drax: Name a movie with a physically powerful character. 
Conan the Barbarian (1982) - Going with one of the obvious answers for this one... Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Groot: Name a movie with a character who doesn't talk much. 
Valhalla Rising (2009) - Mads Mikkelsen's warrior character never says a word.  Being Mads Mikkelsen, he doesn't have to ever speak to communicate.  This is a bizarre, violent, surreal movie that I could only sit through once, though I quite liked the first half.

Rocket: Name a movie with a talking animal. 
Babe (1995) - I didn't think I'd like this movie, and I resisted even seeing it for years, but was finally shown it, and it was very sweet.  Being an animal movie, it makes me cry repeatedly, and I have no need to see it again, even though it's very good.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962-2017)

It was great sadness I heard of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's passing.  It is not entirely unexpected, as he has been battling brain cancer, but it is devastating news.  We were still hoping he'd find a way to beat it.  He was a delightful baritone to watch in the Met broadcasts.  The last performance I saw him in was in Il Trovatore, and he was great in that.  My condolences to his family, colleagues, and opera fans around the world who will sorely miss him.