Archive for May, 2018

Faith of the Raven Pt. 4

May 19, 2018

The three new companions rode out at dawn. The innkeep would not get up to cook breakfast but allowed them the use of the kitchen. Galath cooked up some eggs and sausage and then packed up some food for the road. Arne had suggested that they just leave as punishment for the lazy innkeep but Galath left a gold piece and Carania approved. While the two finished packing up, Arne swiped the gold piece with nobody the wiser. Now, they were on the path back to the forest with Carania at the lead with Arne and Galath riding side by side. Of course, being a dwarf, Galath was riding a war pony he had purchased a month prior. Arne and Carania each had exotic Kofrani horses. Carania’s had been a gift from the Silverlight family but she wondered how someone as shabbily dressed as Arne could have gotten such an expensive horse. Arne had spent the earlier part of the morning talking softly to his bird, Grimalkin, while Galath and Carania had remained quiet.

Finally, Arne broke the silence. “So, it’s weird to me to see an elf and a dwarf working together. How do you feel about it, fearless leader?”

Carania looked over her shoulder at Arne for a moment and then glanced at Galath before she turned back to watch the road ahead. “It’s true that there exists a long distrust between our peoples,” She said. “but I was brought up differently. I have no problems with dwarves.”

Galath smiled and looked at Arne. “And I have no problem with elves,” he said. “My family was intolerant but we did live underground where all we had were stories and a few unwelcome elven visitors to go by. Once I decided to live above ground, I learned to judge people by the content of their character instead of the pointiness of their ears.”

Carania smiled at that. “That’s a good way of putting it.”

“That is kind of strange, too,” Arne said, turning to look at Galath.

“What’s strange this time?” Galath asked.

“You said that you ‘decided to live above ground’ which is strange already for a dwarf,” Arne said. “On top of that, you are a cleric of Pelor, a sun god, which generally never happens.”

“I recognize that it is strange to worship something a dwarf rarely sees,” Galath said. “However, on a trip to the surface for trading, I was struck by the beauty of the sun that I could not get it out of my mind. I set out on my own and encountered a temple dedicated to Pelor in the first town I encountered.”

“So that’s when you saw the light?” Arne asked with a smirk. Carania groaned pretty audibly at the pun.

Galath just grinned and shrugged. “Yes, I suppose I did. In Overbrook.”

“I can’t understand the religious life,” Arne said. “I rely more on what I can do with my mind.”

“That sounds like a priest of Ioun,” Galath said.

Arne laughed and Grimalkin cawed in an almost laugh. “I am definitely no priest. If I was a priest I would be thrown out of any temple by now.”

“I’m new to the religious thing myself,” Carania said. “This is only my second day as a servant of the Raven Queen.”

Galath and Arne looked at each other and then back at the back of Carania’s head. “The Raven Queen does not have a lot of worshippers, per se. I guess we agreed to help you so quickly that we never heard that story. How did you become a devotee of the Great Spooky One?”

“Don’t mock her,” Galath said.

“I’m not sure if you mean Carania or the Raven Queen but I assure you that both of them can take care of themself,” Arne said.

“Never doubt it,” Carania said as she stroked the hilt of her sword instinctually. “The truth is that the story is strange and it’s still kind of sinking in for me.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Well, ou have to tell the story. It will help pass the time on the way to the battle.”

Carania paused for a moment and thought about the story and suddenly felt a little nervous. “It’s a pretty unbelievable story, I suppose. I’m not sure.”

“Now I’m really curious,” Arne said. “Please tell us. I want to know what I’m dealing with.”

“Tell your story or don’t,” Galath said. “Either way I am with you if your cause is to put an end to an undead threat. Nothing you say can make that cause unworthy.”

“Until the day before yesterday I was a bodyguard for one of the Silverlight daughters. I had trained for the job by training under three diferent sword masters at True Cross.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Being lead by an accomplished and well-trained fighter is definitely a comfort.”

“I’m so glad to comfort you,” Carania said, glancing back to show her sarcasm with a smirk. “I was on my way to a new assignment at the Capital when I was ambushed by a few thugs. I was skewered by an arrow and I fell to the ground and bled out. I died.”

“I can only imagine how horrible that was,” Galath said.

Carania nodded. “The next thing I knew, I was in a strange place talking to a woman who claimed to be the Raven Queen. She offered me my life back as long as I hunted those who would mock the barrier between life and death and the undead horrors they might unleash. It was not much of a choice so here I am.”

“I don’t know which is scarier,” Arne said. “That being real or you being crazy.”

“It’s true,” Carania said. “I don’t know who else would have had that power and would have left this mark on me when I woke up.” She held up her hand with the raven symbol on it.

“I believe it,” Galath said. “I have never directly conversed with Pelor or Lathander but I have felt their presence and the existence of religious visions is known. I’m envious even though I can see the burden she placed on your shoulders.”

“I suppose there are things beyond this world that I have not experienced,” Arne said. “For the record, I think she chose the right person to be her champion but we’ll see if she was right. Won’t we?”

“I suppose we will,” Carania said.

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Media Update 5/17/18

May 17, 2018


Baby Driver

So, I hesitated to watch this movie because it has Kevin Spacey in it and I am pretty much done with him. However, skipping an Edgar Wright film did not sit well with me especially since it was recommended so much to me. Thankfully, Spacey is not a huge part of the movie. Instead, the movie belongs to Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Ansel Egort who are all really fun characters. As the movie continues, Lily James is great as well. The real star of the movie is the music, though. Everything is choreographed to some great and somewhat obscure music. Gunfights and car stunts are more like dances and are all done practically with minimal CGI. I would describe the movie as ‘relentless’ as every time I thought there would be some downtime, the movie’s energy just kept surging on. The movie is different (but equally as excellent) from previous Edgar Wright movies. While there is a little comedy, this is more of a tense action/drama movie and the casting reflects that. Also, every time I thought I knew where the movie was going, I was wrong. This movie was a loving tribute to music and it ended up being fairly touching in places when my heart was not pounding. I definitely recommend it.


Hardcore Henry

I have played video games most of my life but I have stated before that I kind of stink at first-person shooters. This movie is basically a live-action version of watching a let’s play video of a shooter game. It is based on the music videos for a punk band called Biting Elbows. Both the music videos and the movie are directed by the same guy who is a member of the band. This movie is shot via go pro attached to a mute character as he tries to fight and escape an evil corporation. The movie is almost always nonstop action. The violence is visceral and bloody and there is a lot of it. The plot of the movie comes from snippets of dialogue from Haley Bennett, Tim Roth, Sharlto Copley, and Danila Kozlovsky who are the only characters who speak English. Everyone else speaks Russian. The soundtrack is mostly some really good techno music a lot of which is written by the director. It is a really fun experiment of a movie that has never really been tried before and I am glad I watched it. The plot does not get in the way of good action. As a bonus, it was really fun to watch while I was doing cardio at the gym. I recommend it.


Shoot ‘Em Up

I actually was a bit lazy this week and only watched two new things but I realized that I never talked about this movie on my blog so I might as well. Next week I hope to be back to watching three new things. This movie is also a nonstop action piece similar to Hardcore Henry but with a tad more plot and no first-person views. The concept of the movie is figuring out all sorts of ludicrous ways to shoot people. Clive Owen plays the main character who is trying to keep a newborn infant safe while shooting a lot of people with guns. He is joined by Monica Bellucci and opposed by the always excellent Paul Giamatti. The movie is pretty much insane and each scene tries to top the last with how over the top it is. What amuses me is that there is so much gunplay but part of it is about making sure common sense gun control laws are actually enacted. Once again, this is a movie that has very little plot to get in the way of the action and plenty of bad guys that I did not mind seeing get shot. I recommend it as a pleasant diversion.

Music of the Week:
Biting Elbows – The Stampede

Mint Royale – Blue Song

The Artist – Alesana

The Damned – New Rose

Sam Lachow & Raz Simone – Nothing’s Gonna Change

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Nonstop Action”
– I started watching the PBG Hardcore series
– I watched more Barry Kramer on Youtube
– I watched more of The Pinkertons
– I watched the season finale of the Joel McHale Show
– I watched more Stephen Colbert and John Oliver
– I watched more Better Call Saul Season 3
– I watched more Beauty and the Beast Season 1
– Two of this week’s movies were extrapolated from music videos

Rhymes with Cabinets

May 14, 2018

In 2010, I had arrived back in Baltimore after living in New Jersey for 9 years. I was a little at a loss for what to do with my life and I felt like I was adrift. I had worked professionally in theater for five straight years but I had lost my passion for it. I also wanted my nights and weekends back. At the time, my mother had started dating a man who is now my stepfather and, through him, I was introduced to a good friend of mine who I quickly began to call my cousin. It was suggested that I join him in working on a political campaign, something I had never really done before. In fact, I was 27 years old and I had never really voted with any regularity. However, I needed something to do and I was told that working on the campaign might lead to a job. And so I spent the entire summer of 2010 putting up 4X8 political signs and I spent the fall knocking on doors and cold calling people. It was probably one of the hardest jobs I have ever had but it taught me a lot.

As I am writing this, it is Friday, May 11, 2018. Yesterday, the candidate I worked for, Kevin Kamenetz, suddenly died of a heart attack. It was quite a shock. I know for a fact that Kevin was quite wealthy and took care of himself physically so I was surprised to hear he had been taken so suddenly. While I have not talked to him in eight years, his name has never escaped my mind and it never will. I used to put up gigantic 4X8 signs with his name emblazoned on them, I wore a shirt with his name on it, and I said his name so often that it became second nature. I will also remember his name because of the friendships that formed in the trenches of that campaign that I value to this day. Finally, I will remember his name because Kevin made sure that people remembered him by being an impressive politician.

More than impressive, I saw Kevin as a force of nature. I was rarely at campaign headquarters because I was often out on the road but when I know that Kevin was also rarely there. He was the leader of the Baltimore County Council but he was also always out campaigning. He was shaking hands, making appearances, and attending meetings all while sincerely working for the people of Baltimore County. I had very few run-ins with him while all of this was happening (at least not until late in the campaign) but every single one was memorable. I attended a meeting as his assistant once and I got to witness him talk. He must have been a great attorney before politics because he spoke with conviction and passion and he was impossible to ignore. As we drove to and from the event, we talked one on one and he made me feel like he was listening to what I had to say.

Obviously, I was not the only person impressed with Kevin. He gained a huge following and, in the last few days, plenty of people have had kind words for him. Even people I thought of as his enemies, like Larry Hogan, had great things to say about him. The thing that I always pointed to when asked during the campaign was the thing that I continued to be impressed by in his career. He was a champion of schools and education which was why he was originally endorsed by the teacher’s union. He was involved in trying to make sure that all Baltimore County schools had air conditioning so that we did not have to choose between baking our children or sending them home early in the early and late parts of the school year. As somebody who spent a lot of time sweating in 100-degree weather for his benefit, I appreciated the focus on good air conditioning.

It took me a while to sort through and figure out what Kevin had given me. At the end of the campaign, he did give me a chance for a job. In the end, it was not something I was passionate about and I should have used it as a stepping stone instead of a missed opportunity. Beyond that educational experience, working for Kevin taught me a bit about the inner workings of politics as I talked shop with the people around me. I started to read the news more and pay attention to the world around me. I really started to decide what kind of person I was going to be when it came to my politics. In the end, the person I became did not agree all the time with Kevin’s policies. However, it was clear that he and the people who worked for him were dedicated to serving the community as best they could. If he had lived, I definitely would have considered voting for him for governor (especially against Hogan).

I am proud to say that I worked for Kevin Kamenetz. He was not always the easiest person to work for because whatever you accomplished he always demanded more. While this was frustrating at the time, maybe it was way more positive than it first appeared. Always striving to do better is how you succeed in life and in my last few jobs, it has been a personal goal of mine. In the end, Maryland has suffered a loss and it will take a while for the political system to recover. My heart goes out to his family and friends who must be way more devastated than I am.

When It All Ended Pt. 12

May 12, 2018

In the morning, Cassandra was sitting at the table near the kitchen by herself first. She was pretty much the only morning person of the group. She had the jar holding Monela sitting on the table in front of her, next to the eggs and sausage she had summoned from thin air. Galath and William came down the stairs together next. They both eyed the jar warily but sat down and food and drink were put in front of them. None of the three chose to talk just yet. Morgan and Percival came down next and they looked rested and in good spirits. Sensing the mood, even the usually verbose Percy stayed quiet while he started to eat his breakfast.

The group expected Garth last but first Clio glided down the stairs with a big smile on her face. As they all stared in surprise, she walked over to the table and grabbed a handful of eggs and shoved them into her mouth before walking out of the mansion through the front door. Everyone’s gaze was drawn to the top of the stairs where Garth had just awkwardly coughed before descending the stairs. He walked down and sat at the table with everyone and took hold of a magically conjured chalice and drank deeply of the juice it held. There was a very pregnant pause as everyone tried not to stare at him.

Garth started to eat as if nothing had happened but he was the first one to break. “Alright, yes. I shared a night of passion with the faerie woman.”

William grinned. “And how was it? Are you intact?” Many of the group stifled a laugh at that.

“I am in peak condition,” Garth said. “Ready to face danger.”

“How was it?” Percy asked. Morgan elbowed him in the ribs gently and he gave her an apologetic look.

“Unforgettable,” Garth said. “I’m really not interested in kissing and telling. I know I would normally boast and share all of the gory details but this is a woman who could literally tear out my spine. The good news is that she has agreed to assist us today. She is actually itching to get her hands dirty.”

“Didn’t she do that last night?” Percy asked which earned him another elbow from Morgan but pretty much everybody laughed, even Garth.

“That’s good news,” Morgan said. “We’re welcome to have her and, of course, Cassandra has enlisted the djinn Monela. Thank you, Cassandra, and thank you Monela. You will be released from that jar soon enough. Percival and I also enlisted the assistance of Amien’s wolfpack.”

“And you’re alright with that, Percy?” Galath asked, half-joking and half-concerned.

“We need all hands on deck for this one,” Percy said. “After this, Amien can ride or run off into the sunset and I’ll never have to see him again.”

“Or he could die in battle,” Garth added helpfully.

“Nobody is dying today,” Morgan said. “We are going to take out this dragon together.”

“Agreed,” William said. “I’ve never known a better group of adventurers than Morgan’s Raiders. In truth, I have never known a better group of people.”

“I’d still be alone at the academy if it weren’t for all of you,” Cassandra said.

“I would still be petrified in the middle of the forest,” Galath said.

“I’d still be a mere sellsword,” William said.

“I’d probably be locked up somewhere,” Garth said.

“There’s still time for that,” William said and everybody laughed again.

“And I’d still be puttering around that library,” Percy said. He and Morgan paused for a kiss.

“I’m proud of you all,” Morgan said. “You have saved the day with me several times over. We saved the world together when we barely knew each other. Now that we’re a family, we’re unstoppable. If it was any other group, I don’t think I would be leading them into the capital of my homeland to fight a dragon.”

“So what’s the plan?” Galath asked. Galath had always gotten to the point fairly quickly. One kind of expected a cleric to hold patience as one of their virtues but his directness had saved lives before. Although he was a healer, he never claimed to be a doctor so he was never worried about his bedside manner.

“Right,” Morgan said. “Let’s get to it.” She smiled and mentally composed the bullet points in her head. “The guard, Amien’s pack, Clio, and Monela will go in first and engage the dragon’s hangers-on. If the dragon chooses to engage at that point, then we will spring into action. Otherwise, we will head directly to the palace roof. Hopefully, Princess Cora will lure the dragon to the roof and we will fight it there. If not, we will have to confront it inside the castle which is less than ideal. After we take down the dragon, we help finish off any lizardmen or wyverns left over. This is our show so we’ll start and finish the fight. Any questions?”

“What’s our strategy when fighting the dragon?” Percy asked.

“I’m thinking it’s the same as when we fought that beholder that one time,” Morgan said.

Cassandra had a photographic memory and was a perpetual student so she felt compelled to speak. “William stays in the dragon’s face while you hit it with arrows from a distance. I hang back just in range and hit it with spells and try to disable it. Percy and Galath also hang back to heal and do what they can. Garth will be sneaky and look for openings to attack. If somebody falls, we get them up and keep going.”

“Exactly,” Morgan said. “And this breakfast you just fed us is our hero’s feast, right?”

“Yes,” Cassandra said. “I used my last chalice to summon it.”

“I was wondering why I suddenly felt braver,” Percy said.

“I suppose all that’s left is to go out and greet the day?” Garth asked.

“Yes,” William said. “Which means you’ll have to see your Clio again.”

“She’s not my Clio…,” Garth said as they got up from the table. The table and all of the food vanished as they did and Cassandra grabbed her jar before it could clatter to the floor. Morgan and Percy were last out of the door and they both looked back at their home and then at each other before going out to meet the day.

Media Update 5/10/18

May 10, 2018


Battle of the Sexes

Steve Carrell is kind of hit or miss for me as I find that he mugs a bit too much sometimes and goes into business for himself. However, this movie is an actual historical piece and everybody treats their roles with respect. The movie follows the real-life event where tennis champion Billie Jean King faced off against former champion Bobby Riggs in an intergender match. King was in the middle of a battle within the sport to gain equal pay and equal respect for women. Emma Stone is so, so good as King as she brings both strength and vulnerability to the role. King was in the midst of struggling with her sexuality at the time as well. Carrell plays Bobby Riggs and we get to see a bit of his private life as well as he struggles with a gambling addiction and basically being an asshole. The acting is so good in this as both did a great job bringing the tension to an unprecedented and important event. The two are joined by great actors like Andrea Riseborough, Alan Cumming, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Elizabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, and Jessica McNamee. It was an interesting look at a battle that is still ongoing as the pay gap and the respect gap still remains open wide. It had some humor to it but it was more often very dramatic and it was hard not to love these two flawed individuals. I definitely recommend you watch it.


Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

I have been a huge Aubrey Plaza fan since my brothers introduced me to Parks and Recreation and I instantly loved her offbeat comic delivery. I have since seen her in a bunch of things and anytime I see her on a cast list I often want to check out whatever she is in. I heard good things about this movie and the trailer interested me. The movie ended up feeling like a mix of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and 22 Jump Street. Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick (who I’ve never really seen much of) are a great comedy team as totally insane women. Adam Levine and Zac Effron are also really fun together. Then most of the movie is the four characters mixing it up in different combinations, all of which are fun. All four of them are both the protagonists and the antagonists of the movie and it is an interesting dynamic. I would compare it to Step Brothers except that all four characters are actually lovable and get a little bit of redemption. The movie was funny and it had a lot of heart in a movie themed on self-reflection. There are also some great supporting performances by actors like Stephen Root, Sugar Lyn Beard, Sam Richardson, and Kumail Nanjiani. I definitely recommend it.


Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

I had read a little bit of this story in Grant Morrison’s Supergods book which details a lot of the history behind the creation of classic comic book characters. To be clear, this movie covers the story behind the creation of Wonder Woman by three people. William Marston was a Harvard professor of psychology who taught the DISC system, an axis of Domination, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. His wife was his partner in life and in research and she helped him invent a device for measuring systolic blood pressure which would become a component of the lie detector. The two of them also created Wonder Woman based on an ex-student of Marston’s and the various subjects of psychological study that the Marstons conducted. Of course, this included things like bondage and other “abnormal” parts of human sexuality. The movie is great and there is a great slow burn as we follow these three people on a journey of self-discovery. I definitely recommend it but be prepared for a little sexiness.

Music of the Week:

Childish Gambino – This Is America

Christina Aguilera – Accelerate

Outlaws – Green Grass and High Tides

Kate Higgins – Waiting on My Heart

Broken Social Scene – Hug Of Thunder

Weekly Update:
– This Week’s Theme is “Gender Studies”
– I watched more of The Pinkertons
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube
– I watched more Better Call Saul Season 3
– I watched more Joel McHale Show
– I watched more Stephen Colbert
– I finished A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2

A to Z Challenge Reflections 2018

May 7, 2018

It was certainly a long but interesting April, was it not? I tend to prepare for April months in advance and this year was no different. I worked fairly hard at picking my posts carefully based on what I thought would be fun to write about. On April 1, I was over two weeks ahead which was really nice. It gave me plenty of time to work on Media Update posts and to actually take a little break from blogging. During week 2 I wrote week 3 and then took another break and then I banged out the rest. For the most part, the writing went easily. Some of it was done at lunch hour at work, some on the train to and from the movie theater, but most of it was done from my couch.

This month was a little bit interesting for me because, as we all know, the real world does not stop while we blog. There was a little family get together for Seder and Easter during the weekend of April 1 so I was out of town. That’s what buffers are for. There was a much larger family get together two weeks later which was a memorial for my Great Aunt Tuta. I saw a lot of family that I had not seen for a while, some of them for at least over a decade. It was really fantastic to have a buffer built up so I could concentrate on hanging out instead of taking that time to write. I also started seeing a psychiatric nurse in April and tending more to my physical and mental health. I started on Zoloft last week.

I thought the posts I came up with worked out pretty well. Some of them ended up a little weirder than I originally intended. For example, Xenopus was a little slice of life story about a frog trying to date a human and realizing he never wanted such things. As with most one-shot stories I do, it is a reflection of what I was feeling at the time. I felt similarly odd about the story of a guy who gets dragged under a commuter train and then resurrects (Died on a Saturday). I also spent quite a bit of time doing some fan gushing about Critical Role, Undertale, NSP, and other favorites of mine. I usually never write such gushing posts but I felt like the challenge was a good excuse for it. I reviewed some movies I had I had been meaning to see. I reviewed the law (twice) and had a lot of fun doing so. Finally, I did three parts of a new as yet unnamed ongoing story.

I hate to talk numbers on my blog as I have stated over and over that I do not write this blog for page hits or views or anything. However, I was touched at how much this little blog was visited over the last month. The first year I did this challenge in 2015, I got 142 views which blew my mind. Last year, I got 398 views which really made me happy. This year, I got a whopping 528 views with 243 visitors and I am at 1000 views for the year. To put that in perspective, I am now at 2/3 of the visitors I had all year last year and it is only May. I am so glad to have all of you and that you spent even a moment on my shenanigans. Your kind words in your comments and your insightful questions were really encouraging. I hope I responded to all of you. I made a point of doing so.

I visited a lot of blogs this past April. I had a lot of fun reading your stuff and seeing how I could improve my own material. It felt really good to be so connected just like I am every year at this time. I always wish I could have done more and seen more every year but there is only so much time and energy in my day. I loved the utilization of Google Sheets to really lay out who was participating. I wish all of the links had worked but I feel that had a lot to do with people posting links before publishing the accompanying post. Once again, I feel like there is a divide between WordPress and Blogger. I wish the two linked together better but I think everything mostly worked out. I had to dust off the old HTML skills to post links in Blogger comments and I was glad to still have those skills.

I would like to give a shout out to the people who were particularly vocal in my comments and whose posts I also enjoyed:

Iain Kelly
https://iainkellywriting.com

Silvia Writes
https://silviatomasvillalobos.wordpress.com/

An Artist’s Path
http://artistpath.wordpress.com/

Beyond the Flow (Rowena)
http://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/

Donna B. McNicol
http://dbmcnicol.com/

Colette Bates
http://colettebates.wordpress.com/

And many more and also the people who visited but did not comment, I hope you enjoyed yourself!

March Madness: Pixar Pt. 2

May 5, 2018

It’s time for the second part of this March Madness Bracket post now that we have arrived in May! I’m not going to waste any more words, here we go Pixar!


Up vs. Brave

We are starting off with a difficult choice. Brave is an underrated (and underperforming) title in the Pixar franchise. For one, I love Scotland and the accent of Merida, the first Pixar Princess, is really beautiful yet strong. I think it was the story that threw people. I do not think anybody was expecting all of the bear stuff. I happened to love it but it definitely did not follow a traditional plot. Still, the movie was fun and also had great emotional beats and a clear message about the balance of self and family. However, Up was a revelation when it came out. People are still talking about using the opening sequence as a tool to discover robots in the future. If you do not cry, you will be sent to the junkyard. The rest of the movie is nonstop laughs, tears, and adventure. The movie also follows a clearer plot structure and the pacing ends up being better because of that. Winner: Up


Toy Story vs. Toy Story 2

Kind of a weird matchup here. Toy Story was a movie that absolutely destroyed me when it first came out. To this day, it is the only movie that I have seen a full five times in theaters. It briefly made me want to be an animator though I later put that energy into other artistic pursuits. The movie really hit home for me then and now as I often identify with Woody, the character suddenly relegated to the background. As a shy kid, I often felt left out. Also, I feel like the movie is great for an older sibling to watch soon after the birth of their younger sibling. Toy Story 2 was a great continuation of the first movie. Just as Woody gets over not being in the spotlight, he is tempted with a return to his former place but must lose his friends. I just feel like the pacing, characters, and story of the original still outmatches the sequel even though both are great. I think number 2 just feels like it was a rushed rehash of the original movie’s message with a mortality message in there too. Winner: Toy Story


Coco vs. Cars 2

Oh wow. This is not even fair. Coco was such a brilliant and fun movie. Its story is based on the Day of the Dead festival and its connected lore. However, the story has a lot of heart and so many twists and turns that I did not expect. For me, the movie also talks about memory which is kind of a big deal in my family since my grandmother suffered from dementia at the end. It also has such great music, most of which is done on guitar and wonderful natural voices. The imagery and mythology were captivating to watch. On the other hand, Cars 2 was really annoying. The movie took a somewhat interesting character played by Owen Wilson and put him in the background of a movie starring Larry the Cable Guy. They tried to mix a racing movie with a rehash/satire of various spy movies. The jokes felt flat to me and it was the first Pixar movie I watched that felt like it was absolutely not for me and was just for little kids which is not the Disney/Pixar way. Unlike Coco, it also held no surprises and all of the characters seemed either willfully ignorant or awful. Winner: Coco


Toy Story 3 vs. The Good Dinosaur

This is the tiniest bit harder. Toy Story 3 is a movie that I was wary of when it was announced because I knew that John Lasseter (the head of Pixar) had turned the movie down originally. Eventually, Pixar committed to the movie and when they did they really committed. They made a movie that was very thoughtful and exciting. It felt like they updated the humor a bit but it did not feel dated and each and every character felt more nuanced and complete. It also has one of the deepest moments in a Pixar movie. It also felt like the first Toy Story movie with a real antagonist that the characters could deal with directly. I really liked the Good Dinosaur when I reviewed it soon after it came out on DVD. The story of a young dinosaur who must try and survive and reunite with her family is very charming. The role reversal that makes the human the ‘pet’ is pretty fun and well done. I just feel like there was not as much meat in this movie. The Good Dinosaur just did not zing as much as a lot of the best Disney or Pixar movies. Still, it is better than Cars 2. Winner: Toy Story 3


Ratatouille vs. A Bug’s Life

Ratatouille was another Pixar movie that I did not see until it was on DVD. I really empathized with Remy the Rat. He was passionate about something that he loved and it was hard to fully explain that so that his family would let him pursue it. I have also felt shy and out of place like Lou Romano’s character. While the movie does get bogged down a bit, it is the voice acting of Patton Oswalt as Remy that really gives the movie its heart. His performance is so great that it is really easy to see the movie through his character’s eyes. The French-inspired musical score is also really pleasant to listen to and it is one of the more chill and mesmerizing Pixar movies. A Bug’s Life was an exciting movie when it came out and proved that Toy Story was not a fluke. It was a very funny movie. It was also very charming as we followed a mistaken identity version of the Magnificent Seven. I also really liked the idea of the togetherness message near the end of the movie. However, I just found it a little less charming and polished. Winner: Ratatouille


Finding Nemo vs. Inside Out

This one was very hard for me. Finding Nemo was a great movie. It is a really cool story not only about a father trying to find his missing son but also about a father learning when to let go a little bit. The movie is fast-paced and emotional from start to finish and the laughs are heavily blended with the stuff that almost makes you cry. It is also the movie that helped put Ellen Degeneres back on the map and her performance is a show-stealer. It was a home run for Pixar as it was a very exciting and funny/emotional movie for the young company. Inside Out is the story of how your emotions and thoughts work inside of you which is a bit more relatable to me. Also, it deals with elements of depression which is definitely something I can relate to now and then. It also has some of the best depictions of imagination. All of that in the midst of a great story with really interesting characters running on two different story tracks that often collide. Also, the general theme of finding the joy in the heart of sadness was really beautiful. Winner: Inside Out


Monsters Inc. vs. Cars

This is interesting because both of these movies are stories about the main characters figuring out they are going about life the wrong way. However, Monsters. Inc is about how you can bring about a happier life by living positively instead of negatively. It also has the voice talents of John Goodman and Billy Crystal who make a great comic team similar to Abbott and Costello. I also love the world-building of the movie as they take a concept from childhood (not mine but others) and builds it into this whole interesting world. Cars is basically a rehash of the plot from Doc Hollywood where city car Owen Wilson learns to slow down and treat people nicer and be less selfish. The movie is fun and the plot is simpler and has more heart than its sequels. Larry the Cable Guy is also way less featured and less annoying. The whole concept behind Cars is also just really troubling the more you think about it. Winner: Monsters Inc.


The Incredibles vs. Wall-E

The Incredibles was the first and only time that the same guy was allowed to both direct and write one of their movies. When that guy was Brad Bird (already famous for Iron Giant) then it was clear that this one was going to be a winner. Also, I will always be a sucker for comic book and superhero movies and this movie has plenty of great superhero action. However, it also has an emotional core as we really get behind each character and get a sense of what they want and need. There is plenty of gentle parodying of superhero faire but also plenty of loving homages and both make me smile. I have a confession to make now. I have not seen Wall-E all the way through. I love Pixar but having a movie with very little dialogue was really weird for me. I am definitely a lover of fine dialogue as I feel that words really help convey intention and character. However, what Wall-E attempted to do was admirable and its central message is one we still need to listen to. One day, I will attempt to watch this movie again. Winner: The Incredibles

Media Update 5/3/18

May 3, 2018


Avengers: Infinity War

As usual, you will find no spoilers here. This was the second big movie this year that I was absolutely hyped to see (the first being Black Panther). It was with excitement that I met my friends to see it in the cushy chairs of the regular movie theater. I have loved every movie so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all of them have built to now. The movie is directed by the Russo Brothers who directed Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. The directors and writers used the same skills to make a lot of characters and plots weave together in a way that was easy to understand. They also managed one of the most all-star casts in the history of blockbuster film. The movie had the same humor, action, and drama that have come to fill each and every Marvel movie. It also felt like they consulted with directors like Taika Watiti (Thor 3), Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) to help blend the tones of their movies in with this new mega movie. All of the actors knocked it out of the park and I was glad to see a little more female presence and prominence amongst the cast. I feel like that can only increase going forward. I definitely recommend this one although you would be well served to watch a lot of what preceded.


Star Trek: Beyond

I have more or less been a fan of Star Trek since I was little. I was first a fan of The Next Generation since that is what came out while I was old enough. However, I did hold a little place in my heart for the original crew. When the reboot in 2009 happened, I was intrigued by the time travel plot especially since it was one that would not be repaired. So far, the fresh new takes on old subject matter have been pretty good although Into Darkness could have been better. This movie was exactly what I wanted it to be. It fell back on the great connections between these classic characters and the actors who played them. It also continues to give the character of Uhura (Zoe Saldana) more proactive things to do rather than just operate the radio. Characters are allowed to take different paths and the evolution of James Kirk (Chris Pine) is still interesting to watch. Throw in guest stars like a villainous Idris Elba and a kick-ass Sofia Boutella and this is an adventure I can get behind. It also felt more like a Star Trek film now that all of the characters are not at odds with one another. As usual, the effects were great and enhanced rather than distracted (unlike the first one). I definitely recommend it.


The Almighty Johnsons

This is an interesting show because it is similar to a recurring idea I first had as a kid. What would happen if a pantheon of gods walked among us in the guise of mere mortals? Of course, in my idea, it was the Greek gods and their was sci-fi aspects. This is not that. This is a New Zealand television show about five Norse gods who are reincarnate as five guys in New Zealand. They are born without that knowledge so they live as normal New Zealanders until they come of age and get their powers back. Except they have to go on a quest to get their full powers back before they slip away forever. The show is an interesting show for mythology nuts. The five main actors are happy-go-lucky guys who are pretty entertaining to watch. The special effects are on par with other low budget fantasy shows like Sanctuary, Hercules, or Xena. It is a pleasant enough diversion and I recommend it as good to play in the background.

Music of the Week:
Dream Theater – Forsaken

Cardi B- Bodak Yellow

Pomplamoose – I’m the S**t

Prof – The Season

The Shins – Simple Song

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Iconic Team-Ups”
– I finished Santa Clarita Diet Season 2
– I started Better Call Saul Season 3
– I finished Black Lightning Season 1
– I watched more of The Pinkertons
– I watched more Beauty and the Beast Season 1
– I watched more Stephen Colbert and the Joel McHale Show
– I finished Freaks and Geeks


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