Archive for August, 2019

In Fear of Sundown

August 31, 2019

The town of Rosewood had a problem. During the day, everything was fine and everybody’s life went along easy. Well, as easy as life in a pioneer town in the west could be. Rosewood was a cattle town and not much else so life was simple but rough. The problem was at night. It started with the cattle on one moonless night years ago. There had been no sound during the night but one of the cattle was gone the next morning and there was a lot of blood in the dust. When guards were posted at night, they started disappearing too. Nothing was safe outside at night. When nothing was outside at night, people found scratch marks on windows and doors. Everybody lived in fear of sundown.

It was The Rule that had eventually kept everyone safe. The Rule was that when reaching the age of ten, everyone in town had to receive the brand. The symbol of the brand had been foreseen by the Blind Sisters in a vision that they only vaguely spoke of. Nobody could remember the Sisters’ names. Everybody was too embarrassed to ask and they would most likely not have shared them. Nobody had asked the sisters but one day they had been screaming that they had the solution outside of the tavern. Many had not seen the two of them outside of their house in years. Some had thought they were dead already.

Of course, nobody had actually listened to the Sisters and they were eventually shooed back to their house. After that, the two of them had begun painting the symbol everywhere. The scratch marks stopped appearing. As an experiment, the ranchers left a steer outside after branding it with the symbol. The steer was untouched in the morning but a little spooked. It had nearly pulled the post down. Still, it was alive. Suddenly, the next cattle drive seemed like it might be possible. The deep dread that lived in the town’s hearts began to lift. The Reverend Sawyer was bitter that his prayers and crosses had done nothing when these arcane symbols had seemingly solved the problem.

It had been Ben Hoscut, the town blacksmith, who came up with the idea of branding the skin of humans with the symbol. People had thought the idea was barbaric at first and were content to wear makeshift amulets. Old Sheriff Williams had outlawed the practice and the wives of Rosewood had backed the decision. He and his deputy had tried to enforce the ruling but they could not watch everybody at all times. Bit by bit, people still received the brand. Hoscut had been thrown in the jail and the Sheriff had confiscated all of the branding irons that he could find. He had gotten the evil eye from some folks for it but it was his job to protect the town, even from itself.

Hoscut’s son, Angus, had solved the argument by getting the brand and branding the sheriff’s daughter, Rebecca. The two of them walked out into the desert at night. He was gone all night and nobody, not even the sheriff, was willing to go out and look for him. In the morning, he came back untouched. Even the sheriff had to admit that the brands were the right way to go. As soon as the practice was widespread, nobody mysteriously disappeared anymore. For the first time, there was a feeling of hope in Rosewood. There was still something out there but the people could now just push it from their minds and carry on with their lives.

After the second cattle drive, Williams passed in his sleep and the town started to decide who would be Sheriff next. Everybody looked to Deputy Westcott to step up but he turned the offer down, not wanting the responsibility. Besides, he might have felt some residual resentment from his backing of the Sheriff’s plan to block the Rule. Everybody argued over who it should be. When people said they should ask The Sisters, Reverend Sawyer had objected strenuously. When they knocked on The Sisters’ door anyway, there was no answer. The town became divided over the choice with various groups backing various candidates. During these days, a young woman with long fiery red hair and dark skin walked into the tavern. She ordered a drink and sat down.

It was Billy Hampton who approached her. “Ma’am,” he said. “You might want to move on from here. This town isn’t safe.”

“I don’t want to leave,” the woman said. “I heard this town was in need of a sheriff.”

“To be honest,” Billy said. “I don’t think you’d understand this town enough to have a prayer.”

The woman laughed. “Prayer is for the weak,” she said. “I think I’m exactly what this town needs.” She brushed her hair from her neck and there was the symbol, tattooed on her neck.

Media Update 8/29/19

August 29, 2019


The New Legends of Monkey King

I was a big fan of the two Journey to the West movies that I have seen, Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back. When I heard my friend Jill tell me about this show, I was intrigued. The show follows a similar story to Journey to the West but removes all references to Buddha. Instead, the central conflict is between demons and the long lost gods. A young woman must free the legendary Monkey King if the world has any hope against the demons who have taken over the world. I have not gotten too far yet but I love the show so far. The cast is really good. Luciane Buchanan plays Tripitaka, the young female scholar’s apprentice who is learning that all of the legends about Monkey were not exactly accurate. Chai Hansen plays the legendary Monkey King who is a lot of fun. Emelie Cocquerel plays Sandy, a confused woman who may be a demon or a god or something else. What interests me is that this is a New Zealand production inspired by a Japanese production based on a famous Chinese novel. It actually works as the show adapts the source material but provides plenty of changes and twists to keep it fresh. The action sequences are inventive and the special effects are good. I definitely recommend it.


Wu Assassins

A young food truck chef in San Francisco is just trying to navigate his life after surviving a difficult childhood. He finds himself stuck in the middle of an emerging gang war between the Triad and the newly arrived Scottish Mob. While he just wants out of it, he is tapped to be the Wu Assassin. Imbued with the skills of 1000 monks, the chef must now fulfill the destiny of the Wu Assassins by taking out anybody who would misuse the powers of Wu. These are the elemental powers of fire, water, earth, metal, and wood which make the villains actual supervillains. The problem is, the very conflict he was hoping to avoid is wrapped up in the ancient conflict between the Wu and the Wu Assassins. Iko Uwais plays the main character and he is instantly likable and interesting. He also has a lot of wickedly awesome martial arts scenes. Li Jun Li plays the main character’s friend, a successful restauranteur, and an incredibly intelligent person. Lewis Tan plays the main character’s other good friend who deals with both sides of the crime war as a front for an auto theft racket. He is joined by Katheryn Winnick who plays an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the Scottish Mob. Celia Au plays the ethereal trainer of the main character in the use of his powers and she just so happens to be the very first Wu Assassin. The show is a lot of fun so far with great action scenes, comedy, and great characters who I want to get to know. I definitely recommend it.


The Protector

This is a Turkish production about a legendary Protector who is destined to eliminate an Immortal threat to the city of Istanbul. The young man in question is the kind of guy who is scraping and scrapping to get ahead in life despite a humble upbringing. Honestly, the main character immediately gives the show a Guy Ritchie kind of feel. He is charmingly played by Çağatay Ulusoy. He discovers that he is the chosen one after stumbling randomly into the ancient battle. He also finds himself with new business opportunities. Since he is clueless, the main character is assisted by Hazar Ergüçlü who trains him with her guts and biting sarcasm. Ayça Ayşin Turan plays the main character’s new boss, a woman who got to the top and has little respect for the main character trying to take shortcuts. The show looks like it will be very interesting with many twists and turns full of intrigue. I really want to see where this show leads. I also recommend it.

 

Music of the Week:
Kaskade, Meghan Trainor – With You

Caravan Palace – Plume

VAVA – 我的新衣 My New Swag

Tarkan – Yolla

Sick Truth – War Ancestry

 

Media Update:
– This week’s theme is “Defenders from the East”
– I watched more Stargate Atlantis Season 1
– I watched more How to Get Away with Murder Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more iZombie Season 5
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 3
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 3
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 4
– I finished Mindhunter Season 2
– I finished Riverdale Season 3

Negativity in Shrek

August 26, 2019

(Edited to expand on the Robin Williams story because it is genuinely fascinating)

In talking about Megamind a few weeks ago, I talked briefly about Megamind being free of dated references (and there were some but easily forgivable). It made me think of the references in Shrek and how some of them were a mistake at the time and some of them were probably not mistakes at the moment but definitely are now. While some pop culture references and double entendres have not aged well, I am specifically talking about the call outs. To explain that, I am going to have to give a little bit of history. I am also going to spoil some gags from Shrek but not the whole thing. Be warned. I am not intending this as a takedown of Shrek or Dreamworks, just a bit of a pet peeve that I want to counter with some constructive criticism.

In the early nineties, the four men at the top of Disney were CEO and Chairman Michael Eisner, President Frank Wells, Roy Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg. They worked together during the so-called Disney Rennaisance which included such animated hits as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Hercules, and Mulan. Katzenberg had been brought along from Paramount by Eisner and was loyal. However, Katzenberg developed an ego and made some bad creative and business decisions.

The big problem was that he pissed off Robin Williams during the making of Aladdin by breaking a promise. It was still fairly early in Robin Williams’ career but he was already a famous stand-up comedian, sitcom star, and movie star. The writers of Aladdin wrote the script with Robin Williams’ fast-paced stand-up routine in mind for the Genie. Robin had dabbled in Disney before. He co-starred with Walter Cronkite in the Back to Neverland attraction for Disney Parks. Katzenberg invited him to consult on a movie called Aladdin that was in development but the script was still unrecognizable from what we all would see later. Eventually, Katzenberg admitted that he wanted Williams to play the Genie. Robin was hesitant as he was already finishing work on Hook and Ferngully and was already signed on to star in Toys.

Katzenberg convinced Robin to sign on to Aladdin. Williams reasoned that doing the movie would give his kids something of his to watch and he would also be participating in the grand Disney tradition. Also, the Genie was not a big part of the movie at that point. Williams agreed to only being paid $75,000 dollars (against his agent’s recommendation). However, such low pay would come with requirements on Disney’s part. Disney was not allowed to use Robin Williams voice to sell merchandise, they were to limit the Genie to 25% or less of signs and posters, and they had to limit the use of his name in marketing. Part of this was because Robin Williams did not want his voice or character to be used to market toys and merchandise to kids. He was about the movie and not the stuff. The second big thing was that he was gearing up to work on Toys and it was a project that was important to him. Toys was directed by Barry Levinson who had directed Robin in Good Morning, Vietnam. Toys had taken fifteen years for Levinson to get off the ground and Robin did not want the marketing for Aladdin to overshadow it.

The agreement was made and Robin squeezed in voice recording sessions and song rehearsals when he was not on set for Hook or Toys. Katzenberg went back on the deal pretty quickly. He authorized a commercial that had Genie shilling Burger King. He authorized commercials using Robin’s voice as Genie. He found sneaky ways around Robin’s rules by obeying the 25% rule but reducing the size of all of the other characters. He put up big bus stop displays of Genie. When Williams saw those displays, he complained that this was a violation of the deal. Katzenberg apologized and told Williams they would all be removed and destroyed. Except, Katzenberg only had the ones in LA destroyed and they remained up all over the country as if Williams would never find out from friends abroad. Williams was pissed. After Aladdin, he swore never to work with Disney again. He later returned but only when Katzenberg was gone and Disney issued a public apology to him.

Katzenberg tried to step over Frank Wells to become Eisner’s second in command. Everybody objected as Eisner had grown close to Wells and Roy Disney did not like the uppity Katzenberg. When Wells died, Katzenberg eagerly awaited his promotion but instead, Eisner took on the role of both CEO and President. Once again, this was something that everybody (but Katzenberg) agreed with and when Roy Disney and Michael Eisner agreed on something, you knew it was important. Katzenberg was instead forced to resign as bitterness between all parties increased. Katzenberg went off and co-founded Dreamworks and basically became in charge of the animation division. He helped create some great movies at a time when Disney was not doing so great in the animation department. He was able to stretch his wings again and do some good work.

Then came Shrek which is definitely a good movie and it is full of fun. However, Katzenberg definitely influenced the script and production design in a toxic way. The first thing he did was make the villain, Lord Farqhuad, into the spitting image of Michael Eisner. Making Eisner into an ineffectual, vain, and short villain just seems petty. He also had references to classic Disney characters having them tortured, imprisoned, or implying that they were morally bankrupt. Some of the references are clever. The appearance of the Magic Mirror is a clever reference and is not really done in a spiteful way. Gepetto selling Pinnochio to Farqhuad comes off as bitter. There are plenty of other little digs and references, some are clever and some fall flat (in my opinion).

The thing is, I may not know the whole story about Katzenberg, Eisner, and Disney. I know that Katzenberg sued Disney and Eisner and that lawsuit got really heated. I just feel like these dated references were the wrong way to go. Katzenberg left Disney and helped create The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado. Both are extremely underrated and beautiful and entertaining movies. Neither references Disney or Eisner. Shrek’s shots at Eisner and Disney feel kind of gross to me. If Eisner really did him wrong, Katzenberg had a much better option in front of him. The best revenge against your enemies is to be successful and leave them completely behind. At its heart, Shrek is a great inversion of fairy tales which went against what Disney was doing at the time. It has insightful, cute, and funny moments. Katzenberg should have just ignored Disney and done his own thing which would have made his work even better.

This feeling is my goal to become more positive in my life. Why take shots at other things and people when you can promote the positivity of the world and your own product. The core of movies like Shrek are positive but negativity clings to the movie which makes me less likely to watch it again. Compare that to Disney’s model when it comes to animated movies. In general, Disney does not reference much out of its own work. Also, by only referencing itself, Disney feeds its fandom and contains their product. That makes the work more theirs and it makes the jokes hit a higher percentage of the time. The only references I can think of that break that rule are either subtle or timeless. (See: The random Chinatown reference in Inside Out). I guess the final point here is to be positive. Release your anger and do your own thing and you will be far healthier and probably more successful.

Distracted

August 24, 2019

The cat sat in the middle of the table, eyes half-closed. He seemed either oblivious or completely indifferent to his surroundings or both. His tail swished this way and that and he yawned mightily. The team of adventurers was sitting around the table, all watching the cat. They had found the cat in a local goblin den and had gone to great lengths to bring it back to town with them. If they had known the cat from earlier, they would have known that his name was Orlando but they had elected to call him Smudge because of his gray coloring. He did not answer to either name so it hardly mattered.

“Who do you suppose owns this cat?” Cait asked. The little halfling bard peered at the cat curiously, her eye level was just barely over the top of the table. She adjusted her glasses and ran a hand through her hair and idly plucked at her ukelele. “What do you guys think?”

Gobo the Goliath was on his hands and knees in order to more comfortably fit under the tavern’s ceiling. He leaned in close, putting one eye at table level opposite Cait. The closeness from the half-giant was enough to finally get the cat’s attention and unsettle him briefly. “I think it’s cute,” he said. “Can we sell it?”

“You always want to sell almost everything we touch,” Vel said. The gnome investigator was leaning back in his chair and sipping a whiskey, really savoring it. “Let’s slow down, the cat might be important. We’re not hurting for money right now.”

“More money means more money for ale,” Gobo said matter of factly. He returned to sitting on the floor, more comfortable with roughing it. He had a singular focus on mostly two things. The first was consuming food and alcohol, the second was violence. He was quite cheery as long as he had one or the other. He was a simple beast.

“Solid reasoning,” Vel said, a sarcastic edge to his voice. He leaned back and sipped his whiskey again, studying the cat. He was a criminal investigator, he had little interest in pets before but the current mystery was intriguing.

The elven druid, Melina, stood up suddenly with a gasp, she was decked out in glitter and the prettiest leaves she could find and also some antlers on her head. She had been the one who named the cat. She was also the only one of them who could have talked to the cat to ask its name. “What if Smudgey is a familiar?” She was so enthralled by the idea that there were stars in her eyes.

Karinne, the tiefling wizard, sighed. “Familiars are not actually animals,” she said. “They are actually otherworldly beings. Celestial, fey, or fiend.” It was very easy for her to slip into teacher mode even so far from the academy.

Melina gasped again. “Smudgey could be a fairy?” She was nearly vibrating with energy. She rarely stayed seated when she was conscious. She and Gobo were the intellectually challenged pair of the group, but they meant well.

“No,” Karinne said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “That is definitely a cat. Can’t you tell when something is an animal?” She loved and respected Melina but sometimes the girl could be trying. The two had been officially a couple for only a short time and Karinne was still adjusting to the contrast between their personalities. Karinne had been doom and gloom for so long that the sunshine could be blinding.

“Now now,” Vel said. “We can all plainly see that it is a cat. Is it also magical?” He lit his pipe carefully.

“I got nothing from the cat when I swept that chamber with a detect magic spell,” Karinne said with a shrug. “It is a normal cat. Fairly healthy-looking.”

“Yeah,” Melina agreed. “Smudgey does not feel magicky.” She reached for her cup of milk happily. She had never touched a drop of alcohol.

“Magic glows,” Gobo said matter-of-factly. “That cat does not glow.”

Karinne made an exasperated sound but Melina reached out to grab her hand. Karinne relaxed and decided it was not the time for school, especially with a student disinterested in learning. Perhaps Melina was wiser than she appeared.

“Thank you for your expertise, Gobo,” Cait said. “So it is a normal but cute cat. So I think we come back to whose cat is it?” She had her journal laid out in front of her on the table. She was always focused on the story and the song.

“Well,” Vel said. “The cat carries no identification, no collar. It makes it incredibly difficult to identify the cat.”

“Must the cat belong to somebody in this town?” Cait asked. “Could it be an errant cat?”

“Well,” Vel said. “This is the closest town to the goblin den. I can’t imagine goblins would focus on dragging a cat very far.”

“It could have been a feral cat,” Cait said.

“In those woods?” Vel asked. “There are way too many predators.”

“True,” Cait said. “It really is a mystery.”

The others had gone silent. Melina was chugging her milk happily, Gobo was distracted by a passing moth, and Karinne had zoned out. They were clearly not as invested in the mystery.

Halan, the Half-Elf Paladin of the group, walked in. He stopped short when he saw his friends still staring at the cat. He walked over. “Are you all still staring at the cat?” He asked.

Vel shrugged. “It is quite a mystery.”

Halan laughed. “You guys are really naive, aren’t you?” he said. “There is no mystery. Goblins often take cats along with them in raids to eat.” Everybody was visibly repulsed, even Gobo.

“Gross,” Cait said. “but that does not answer the question of who this cat belongs to.”

Halan shook his head. “Let the cat find its own way back,” he said. “There are zombies two towns over. We have to go.”

The adventurers moved to pack their things and clear out their rooms at the inn. They handed the cat to the barmaid who promised she would feed the cat and also promised that somebody would take the cat in. The adventurers had no more time to worry about it.

(Inspired by this post.  H/T to my friend Liz of CatAList Crafts)

Media Update 8/22/19

August 22, 2019


Spider-Man: Far From Home

After the crowning moment of Avengers Endgame, the MCU has to find a way to continue and this is the first movie to lead the way. This is the first movie to really address the post “Blip” world which is confused by some time travel. However, Peter is also still in high school and has to navigate that confusing mess as well as the loss of his mentor and being a hero. Tom Holland continues to be such a good Peter Parker and Spider-Man, so quick-witted and naturally gifted at humor and drama. Zendaya returns as MJ, and she is such a great character to have around and she is given more to do in this movie. Jacob Batalon returns to steal many scenes as Ned, this time along with comedy partner Angourie Rice as Betty Brant. Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei are delightful returning as Happy Hogan and Aunt May Parker. We get the return of Samuel Jackson and Cobie Smulders as Nick Fury and Maria Hill, trying to figure out where they fit in. Finally, Jake Gyllenhaal is so good as Mysterio. The Spiderman movies are continuing the new trend of good villains and I love it. I definitely recommend this movie as it is packed with action, comedy, and a compelling story.


The Boys

I am not the biggest fan of comic books that get dark and graphic just for the sake of shock value. Often these comics are deeply racist and misogynist and just needlessly dark. I am specifically calling out Frank Miller, Mark Millar, and, I guess, Garth Ennis. Thankfully, people are getting better at adapting these sorts of things. While Frank Miller is unsalvageable, the Mark Millar series Kickass was redeemed through its adaptation and made more palatable. The same is true of The Boys. The creators of the show have adapted the comic book to have a serious message in our current climate. This show does have a good message. In a world where the United States has tons of superheroes, we see a more realistic fallout. Superheroism has been consumed by capitalism and cynicism. Superheroes have become sponsored, corporate entities and that has led to them becoming hedonistic, sociopathic creatures. The show examines what it is like inside of their world but also what it is like to be a normal, powerless person. It is a really dark show but it has a point. I hope people see that point instead of just reveling in the ultraviolence and sex. I definitely recommend it but it is definitely triggering so be warned.


Hellboy (2019)

The 2004 version of Hellboy made me a fan of Guillermo Del Toro and Hellboy, both of which I was not fully aware of yet. When I heard about that this new movie would be taking the place of a third Del Toro Hellboy film, I was disappointed. When I found out that David Harbour was getting the lead role, I was pleased and intrigued. I was willing to give this one a try. The movie set itself apart from the original while still staying fun and honoring the source material. The movie is R rated and they have a lot of fun cursing and getting bloodier. Harbour is definitely a great choice for Hellboy. He is funny but also good at being moody and dramatic. Milla Jovovich plays the villain, an ancient witch in one of her more charismatic roles that I have seen. In this movie, Hellboy gets new sidekicks in the form of Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim, both of whom are a lot of fun. Ian McShane puts in his usual strong performance as Hellboy’s father figure. The special effects were fantastic and there was a lot of inspiring fantastic imagery. My only problem is that the script needed further editing and there were probably two or three movies jammed into one movie. I recommend it as I do not believe that it earned its abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score (I think some critics were overly bitter about Del Toro but they should have just gotten over it).

Music of the Week:
Ari Lennox – BMO

Depeche Mode – Useless

Grace VanderWaal – Waste My Time

Blameshift – The Enemy You Need

F. Virtue – License and Registration

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Comic Books Adapted”
– I watched more Stargate Atlantis Season 1
– I watched more How to Get Away with Murder Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more iZombie Season 5
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 3
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 3
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I started Game of Thrones Season 4
– I started Mindhunter Season 2

Yensid Containment Facility

August 19, 2019

(After studying so many dark rides through YouTube, I decided to try my hand at designing my own. This is a ride narrative of sorts and if I could draw well, I would probably provide imagery. The concept for ride combines my love of Disney with my love of the horror genre. I was inspired both by the older Disney dark rides and the haunted houses in Halloween Horror Nights at the Universal parks. However, this is intended to be no scarier than my experience on Snow White’s Adventures.)

Queue Area:

People step into a large cold, concrete room with a queue set up by chrome railings. There are conspicuous security cameras everywhere and accouterments suitable to a high-tech prison. There are wanted posters up for Disney Villains that have not been caught or are missing in action. Madame Mim, Chernabog, The Horned King, Shan Yu, Shere Khan, Yzma, Prince Hans, Turbo, and Frollo among others. Speakers detail various security rules “Please Remain Orderly”, “Please Report Any Magical Items to Security”, “This Yensid Facility Thanks You for Your Patronage”. At the end of the line, castmembers dressed as “security” waive people through magic detectors instead of metal detectors.

Preshow:

Riders sit on benches in a small theater. It is the same concrete as the queue area but somewhat warmer even before the lights dim. A movie starts up and on-screen is the Duke of Weselton (from Frozen).

Duke: Welcome to the Yensid Containment Facility. I am the Duke of Weselton and I have graciously stepped in to act as warden for this facility. As you well know, all of our worlds have been damaged or threatened at one point or another by villains. While our worlds share the core belief that there is good inside of everyone, some individuals refuse to embrace their good side. They fall into the shadows and never return. This facility was built for the capture and containment of those who would threaten our worlds. A place where they can safely go through the process of rehabilitation but cannot hurt those around them.

We here at Yensid strive to do our absolute best to keep the worlds safe from these rapscallions. I made an error of judgment once and helped hurt innocent people but my eyes have been opened to who the true villains are. This building suppresses the magical abilities of some of our more volatile residents. This is why you were searched for any magical items or effects. While we trust our very important visitors, we do not want to take any chances that would result in the villains getting released or you harmed. Otherwise, enjoy the tour and try to remain calm. You are in no danger. Repeat, no danger. Don’t panic.

The doors open and castmembers usher people into the ride vehicles.

The Ride Itself:

The ride takes people down a winding black stone corridor. That corridor is lined with thick, clear plastic panels. Next to each panel is a computer readout that blinks on as the vehicles approach. These readouts display the name of the villain and a specific warning.

The vehicles approach a line of three cells on the left.

Duke: Some of our villains are relatively harmless, mere humans. However, they are still dangerous. Do not underestimate them.

The first cell holds Cruella De Vil with the Warning: “Do not mention dogs”. Cruella sits on her bed, smoking her trademark cigarette. She looks at the riders and cackles and then sighs.

The second cell holds Stromboli with the Warning: “Watch for Strings”. Stromboli sits on the floor of his cell playing with two marionettes and paying no mind to the riders. Several marionettes dangle from the ceiling of his cell. He looks up and glares at the riders.

The third cell holds Gaston with the Warning: “Requires Five Dozen Eggs Per Day”. Gaston grunts as he does chin-ups on a bar from the ceiling of his cell.

Duke: See? Completely harmless.

There is suddenly a large sound from the right as Captain James Hook slams himself up against the glass of his cell with a shout of “Avast!”. He scratches his hook down the surface, making a squeaking sound. He laughs bitterly as he leers at the riders. “No Ticking Clocks Please”

Duke: Of course, some of them are more dangerous than others.

Immediately after that, The Queen of Hearts slams against the glass on the left. She repeatedly pounds her fists against the glass. She shouts “Off With Their Heads!” over and over. “Warning: Violent Temper”

Duke: Unfortunately, we are finding it hard to keep them from making new friends inside. Some people should not be friends.

The next two cells on the left are Doctor Facilier and Mother Gothel. “No Shadows” and “No Flowers”. Facilier extends his hand and his shadow appears in Gothel’s cell and extends a shadowy flower toward her. She touches her chest in surprise and emotion.

Duke: Others are busy making new enemies.

The next two cells on the right hold Scar and Clayton. Clayton sits on his bed and points his hand like a gun at Scar in the next cell. Scar growls and pounces at the wall and growls. Clayton laughs. Warnings: “Killer Lion” and “Great Shot’.

Duke: Now onto the more magical members of our little prison.

The next cell on the left contains The Evil Queen Grimhilde (from Snow White). Warning: “Do Not Take Food From Inmate”. The Queen, stuck in her Old Witch disguise, stares in her magic mirror. She holds a hand mirror limply in her right hand. The mirror signals toward the riders with his eyes. She touches her face and then abruptly turns from her mirror and smashes the hand mirror against the glass. She cackles and shouts “Don’t Turn Away, My Pretties!”

Duke: This place is so strong it can hold a god.

The next cell on the right contains Hades. Warning: “Talks Too Much”. Hades is chained to the floor with a device across his mouth, preventing his speech. As he sees the riders, his flaming hair turns red and he struggles. The chains tremble but do not break. A blast of hot air hits the riders.

Duke: The next two villains kind of defeated themselves but are still dangerous if released.

Two very small cells on the left each hold a single pedestal. They are for Oogie Boogie and Jafar.

A jar of luminescent bugs wriggles and shakes on a pedestal. Warning: “Do Not Open Jar”

An onyx lamp shakes on its pedestal and falls over and the lid opens to reveal Jafar’s angry eye which blinks and then narrows.

Duke: Don’t worry. They’re all under wraps. I’ll get somebody to pick that up.

On the right, Ursula’s tentacles slam against the glass repeatedly as she laughs. She is underwater. “Poor unfortunate souls!” she shouts. Her tentacles pulsate against the glass but it holds. Warning: “Do Not Tap on Glass”

Finally, the last cell on the left holds Maleficent. She stands in the middle of her cell and glares threateningly at the riders. She then raises her hands and starts to transform into a dragon, spewing smoke and green fire into her chamber. Once again, the riders feel the heat. Alarms start to go off.

Duke: Get them out of there! Do something!

The vehicles speed away from the cells and to the exit as riders hear a last echoing roar of a dragon. As they disembark, the Duke appears on a screen.

Duke: Thank you for taking our VIP tour, I assure you I have everything in hand.

The riders exit into, of course, a gift shop where they can buy Yensid Facility apparel and souvenirs.

The Escape

August 17, 2019

Alvus Silverleaf and Berry Lampwick slowed to a stop in a clearing in the woods. Actually, they were forced to stop as Alvus had to catch his breath, not accustomed to running in the first place and definitely not up to it after being held in captivity for so long. If his captors had allowed him to sleep, he could have boosted his speed with magic but they had taken to purposefully keeping him awake and unrested in between tests. It had been two days since the last test and Alvus was exhausted so he could only look at Berry helplessly. She looked about worriedly.

Berry Lampwick was the best mercenary in the region for infiltrating hazardous buildings on missions. This particular jailbreak had been tricky but it was almost over. If they got a little farther away, there was no way they could track them fast enough. She was beginning to have doubts about Silverleaf’s constitution holding up long enough to get through the woods.

“Are you alright, Lord Silverleaf?” Berry asked, drawing her twin daggers just in case.

“Well,” Silverleaf said. “other than not sleeping for two days and being captive for two weeks, I’m fine. Not that I’m complaining, but who are you?”

“Berry Lampwick, sneak thief for hire,” Berry said. “Your sister hired me to come and get you.”

“Well, I’m not going to complain about somebody coming to pick my locks,” Silverleaf said. “Wait, you called me Lord Silverleaf?”

Berry took a deep breath. “I hate to be the one to tell you this but your father was killed when you were kidnapped,” she said.

“So he’s dead, huh?” Silverleaf asked. “I thought it would be a long time before I would take over. He didn’t deserve to go out that way.” He looked away so that Berry could not see his face. She could see his shoulders slump, though.

“I’m so sorry,” Berry said. “Your sister is waiting for you. We need to get you to safety.”

Silverleaf took a deep breath and looked back in the direction they came, clenching his fists. “You’re right but those people will burn,” he said. “As soon as I regroup with my sister, we’ll rain down fire on that place.” He was suddenly so much more tired than he had been a moment earlier.

“That place is obviously owned by the Heartsongs,” Berry asked. “Why did the Heartsong family kidnap you, anyway?”

Silverleaf paused from glaring back in the direction of the manor. “This is one of Lord Heartsong’s secret manors,” he said. “They have apparently been kidnapping sorcerers and keeping them in hidden locations. They are running tests to see what makes a sorcerer.”

“Involuntarily no less,” Berry said. “What a bunch of assholes. Do you think they have learned anything?”

“I was as uncooperative as I could be,” Silverleaf said. “but I have no idea what they have learned. If they figure out how to reliably make sorcerers, that will definitely not be a good thing. We have to stop them.”

“I might consider giving you a discount for helping out with that mission,” Berry said. “I’ll help you stop these kidnappings.”

A voice echoed from the edge of the clearing. “You’ll stop no one! You’ve crossed the Heartsongs,” the voice said. “Nobody does that twice. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lord Heartsong.” Berry felt her body seizing up and she could not move a muscle. At the same time, a tall tiefling appeared standing dramatically on a stone.

“I will do more than cross you, Heartsong,” Silverleaf said. “I will see you and your gang of hoods hang for this.”

“Unfortunately, I am about to kill your halfling friend there and take you back to my manor,” Lord Heartsong said. “You’ll have to wait a long time to get your revenge.” He laughed loud and long.

Silverleaf grinned. “You dumb bastard,” he said. “You made a fatal mistake.”

Lord Heartsong walked toward Berry, a knife drawn to slit her throat. “I don’t make mistakes, Silverleaf,” he said. “You’re the one who is mistaken.”

“Fool,” Silverleaf said. “My sister sent this woman and my sister is a Silverleaf. A Silverleaf does not spare a single copper when something is important.”

A crossbow bolt sailed out of the woods and sank into Lord Heartsong’s arm. Berry Lampwick was suddenly free and she leaped up and sank a dagger into Lord Heartsong’s eye. Heartsong vanished in a puff of acrid-smelling smoke and soldiers emblazoned with the Heartsong symbol rushed into the clearing. Berry moved to protect Silverleaf while the other mercenaries rushed to their aid and started combatting the Heartsong forces. The battle was brief. Lord Heartsong should have brought more underlings.

“Come and help Lord Silverleaf to his feet,” Berry said after the battle was over. “We need to leave this place before that lunatic comes back with more people.”

Two mercenaries moved to lift up Silverleaf and help him as they moved through the forest. Berry led the way, making sure her charge was kept safe. Silverleaf actually fell asleep before they got back to the carriage on the road. Berry saw that he was safely tucked into a makeshift bed before climbing aboard herself for the ride back to Silverleaf Manor. The Lady Silverleaf would pay her handsomely but honestly, she was just happy to see the man safe. She had heard stories of how honorable the Silverleaf family was and was happy to help. If that meant staying on for a war against the Heartsong family, so be it.

Media Update 8/15/19

August 15, 2019


Witness for the Prosecution

Another old classic that I had yet to see. I bought this movie for my mother since we have watched many of the ABA Top 10 Law Movies together. As with many of the movies I watch, I wish I had watched it sooner but it ended up perfectly anyway. The movie is about a defense lawyer in England played by Charles Laughton who is being forced to quit taking criminal cases because of his health. However, he is presented one last intriguing case. His client is Tyrone Power, a clean-cut guy who swears his innocence. Along the way, he must deal with Power’s enigmatic wife played by Marlene Dietrich. He also has to put up with his meddlesome but well-meaning nurse played by Elsa Lanchester. The movie is based on the work of Agatha Christie and so part of the movie’s charm is an almost film noir mystery full of intrigue. The other great part of the movie is the over the top wit of Charles Laughton, especially when he is battling Elsa Lanchester or making objections in the court scenes. Laughton is hands down the star of the movie but there is plenty to love. I definitely recommend it.


Megamind

I am still working my way through Dreamworks animated films as I have always been a Disney guy. I had heard good things about this movie as one of the underrated selections from Dreamworks. I have to agree. Will Ferrell voices an alien (Megamind) who is sent to Earth at the same time as an alien voiced by Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt’s character constantly overshadows Megamind which convinces him to become a villain in order to balance things out and get a reaction. In a parody of many superhero franchises, he forms a close bond between villain and hero. He is constantly kidnapping a reporter voiced by Tina Fey. He has a henchman voiced by David Cross. Jonah Hill plays Tina Fey’s cameraman. The movie parodies superhero films in a way that is not over the top or corny. Also, unlike many Dreamworks movies, there are very few dated references which makes this movie more timeless and easier to watch compared to other Dreamworks offerings. The movie explores why we do bad things and whether we can change and whether people will let us change. I recommend it.


The Bad Batch

I have still yet to see a Jason Momoa film that I have liked and once again I am disappointed. I thought that based on the movie having Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, and Jim Carrey in it, the movie might be fun. All three of those actors are incredibly charismatic. The movie stars Suki Waterhouse who is sent to a weird post-apocalyptic desert prison in Texas. She has to deal with a new world of criminals and cannibals with no law to protect her. Keanu Reeves plays the cult leader who controls the one safe place and Jim Carrey is one of his people. Momoa plays a wastelander, a man of few words. The movie was very pretty and well-shot but the script left me wanting. The movie is listed as a dark comedy but I saw no laughs and only darkness. It was not even interesting darkness. It was just brutality for brutality’s sake. I guess some message about how easily we can descend into madness. The usually charismatic actors and Suki were all apparently directed to be slow, plodding, and lacking emotion in their performances. More than that was the horribly slow pacing, long lingering shots of either something or nothing. Needless to say, I do not recommend this movie.

 

Music of the Week:
Amanda Palmer – Drowning in the Sound

Starcrawler – Bet My Brains

HAIM – Summer Girl

Ice Cube – Arrest The President

Halford – Undisputed

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Anti-Social”
– I finished Arrow Season 7
– I finished Glow Season 2
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more Defunctland and Yesterworld
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 3
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 3
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I started Star Trek: Voyager Season 4
– I started watching iZombie Season 5

Talking Kings and Successions

August 12, 2019

Lately, I have been thinking about the Lion King a lot. It is not because of the recently released full CGI version in theaters right now. People are all up in arms about it but I will eventually see it and form my own opinion. Actually, I have been thinking about the original Lion King movie because the music is in regular rotation on my Pandora account. Well, really, it is just two songs. I had the cassette of the soundtrack when I was a kid. The movie came out when I was about ten years old. I played that cassette until it wore out.

The song I listened to the most was “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”. It is by far the most uptempo, fun song musically in the whole movie. The other song I listen to a lot now that I’m older is “Be Prepared”. I’ve felt that I love the villain songs more and more as I have gotten older. I still love both songs but recently I have realized they are kind of the same song from different angles. I will warn you that this post is now going to get a little political but not really specific to our current climate. Although, you can draw your own conclusions. Also, Lion King spoilers.

“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is a song sung by young Simba as he plays with Nala. He sings the song mostly as a way to distract his chaperone, Zazu, the King’s advisor so that he and Nala can sneak away to explore the Elephant Graveyard. Zazu and the King have forbidden he go there but he cannot help himself. He sings about how excited he is to become King (leaving out the part where his father needs to die in order for that to happen). He thinks about how he won’t be pushed around anymore when he is in charge. He will be free from responsibility now that nobody will be in charge of him.

This is the short-sighted thinking similar to your average political candidate. Someone who is excited to have the glory of a leadership position but does not think of the burdens. I think this is obvious to most viewers. Simba has no plan on how he will rule as the only monarch in a large area of Africa. He is thinking of freedom and legacy and glory and no responsibility. Zazu and his father continuously try to rein him in. The King’s subjects join in the song but mainly because of fun and because when the prince sings, you join in.

“Be Prepared” is a song sung by Scar, the King’s brother and Simba’s uncle. He is the villain of the movie, heavily inspired by Claudius in Hamlet. The song is a literal command to his secret hyena army. He is telling them of his plan of regicide and succession. As soon as the King is dead, the hyenas need to be ready to protect Scar’s claim to the throne. Scar knows how people think about him and needs the extra muscle to support his new regime.

It is clear that Scar also has no clear plans on ruling the Pridelands. I mean, he certainly has sinister plans but no plans on how to rule efficiently. It is clear that he does not want to burn everything down (even though that is how it ends up). He wants fawning subjects and glory. He wants the easy life of luxury that only a successful monarch gets. When we find him later in the story after he has gotten what he wanted, he has screwed it up and has already descended into madness.

The thing is, at the time that both songs take place, neither Simba or Scar would have made good leaders. Obviously, Mufasa was a great leader and everybody was weirdly happy with his bloody rule as a predator over the Pridelands. However, Mufasa was not an option anymore as Scar and the hyenas had to go and kill him. If Simba stayed in the Pridelands and had been tapped to become King, he would have been out of his depth even with the help of his mother, Zazu, and Rafiki. This was actually explored in Kingdom Hearts 2 showing the events soon after the end of the movie where Simba has a crisis of confidence because he does not have the wisdom to lead. So neither choice was especially good and this is why rulers should not be murdered. As if Julius Caesar had not already taught us that.

The Fifth Floor

August 10, 2019

When I got in the elevator at work this morning, I guess I was not paying attention when I pressed a button. When the door opened, the indicator said I was on the fifth floor. The sign on the side of the elevator door and the sign on the hallway wall both said ‘five’. Big red ‘fives’. 5. The red was unsettling.

I had not been aware that our building even had a fifth floor. I had never gone higher than the second floor. Well, that was not entirely true. I went up to the third floor the one time to steal toilet paper when our floor ran out. I had truly never ventured to the fourth floor but I had heard the echoes of peoples’ footsteps descending from it in the stairwell.

There I was, halfway out of the elevator on the fifth floor. I did not know what to do. I mean naturally, I had to get back on the elevator and ride down to my floor. But did I not have a duty to explore? I certainly had the opportunity and might never get it again. Work would always be there but this mystery might be fleeting. This was my opportunity.

I stepped into the hallway and the door closed behind me. The decision was made. I walked slowly down the hallway. I do not know why I was so cautious. There was no need to fear anything in an office building. Was there? The carpet seemed like our carpet, the walls seemed like our walls. It is always in moments like these that we realize how little we observe.

All of the signs were that disturbing shade of crimson red. The names were all foreign to me. I could not pronounce half of them. Nothing on the signs indicated what the offices were for. No “Dr.” prefixes and no hint of an “Esq.” or “CPA”. There was a definite dearth of evidence in plain sight. I would have to go deeper to figure things out. I was not sure if I wanted to do that. This was getting strange.

I headed back to the elevator but there was no button there on the wall. There was no indicator of what floor the elevator was on. I stood there and waited as if I could mentally summon the elevator. Obviously, nothing happened although I would not have been surprised by it with how weird the events of the day had been. Still, nothing happened. I could almost hear my heartbeat in the silence. I had to give up. My anxiety rose as I realized that I would have to go into one of the offices and ask somebody.

But which one would I try? I walked back down the hallway and stared hard at the office signs. I walked toward one door and at the last moment, I thought better of it. I thought about it a little longer and picked the sign that was the most comprehensible to me. I thought about knocking but you don’t knock on office doors, right? I tried to be as confident as possible as I opened the door. I put on a smile but I did not get a word out.

“Great,” the lady at the desk said, rising to her feet. “You’re finally here.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked. “I’m a little lost.”

“Are you thirsty?” she asked. “Do you want some water?”

“Actually,” I said. “Yes. Water would be great.”

The lady stood up and began to pour into a mug. “Once you drink this, we can begin,” she said.

“Begin?” I asked. “I don’t even know where I am.”

The lady tilted her head back and laughed. She stopped abruptly and held out the full mug. “How true,” she said. “I often feel like that too.” She handed me the mug.

I swished the liquid around in the mug and it made a strange bubbling, hissing sound.

“Is this blue?” I asked. “I don’t think this is water.”

“Oh dear,” she said. “It’s time.”

I felt a sudden strike to the back of my head and I lost consciousness.

* * *

I turned to the other bird on the branch. “So,” I said. “That’s basically how I got here.”

The other bird continued to ignore me.


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