movietime at the cinemark: the fate of the furious

(Movie Week concludes, for now, with the second of the catch-up reviews.  We’re now ready to go to some more movies: bring on a carefully chosen selection of summer blockbusters and also a new actor-driven caper movie that my movie going companion is very interested in.)

It’s a well known fact that the world is divided into two groups of people: those who think the Fast and Furious movies are a ton of fun, and those who think they are dumb,  way over the top, or both.  What is less well known is that those two groups overlap.  I am in the intersection, so sue me.

The Fate of the Furious, oh flick of the dubiously clever title, is the eighth outing in the series following street racer Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his chosen family as they embark on a wildly unlikely series of adventures that usually involve cars that go very fast. This one is notable for being the first film in the series produced after the death of actor Paul Walker, who played Dom’s partner, best friend, and eventually brother in law, Brian.  That character is missed, but life goes on, and so do these movies. The action never stops until it goes too far, as usual.  All is well, and this movie is just fine if you like this kind of thing.

In case you want to be surprised by a late viewing of Fate (not that it’s very surprising), click to read a paragraph that really belongs above the cut (except that it’s spoilery), and the usual random notes. Continue reading

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movietime at the cinemark: the lego batman movie

(Welcome back to Movie Week, where we are catching up on some reviews of movies I saw earlier in the year but was too lazy or distracted by real world issues to write about.)

I knew The Lego Batman Movie would be a difficult movie to review, at least in the way I usually review movies.  It’s not that I didn’t like it– I liked it a lot– but the usual tactics of talking about casting, performances, plot, storytelling and worldbuilding, then putting the flick in context and adding my own weird observations and comments, and of course lots of throwing in lots of spoilers, just don’t seem to apply.

This is Lego, everybody.  Animated Lego.  And it’s great.  The original Lego Movie was an unexpected delight, and the Batman character was the best thing in it. (My friend B, who is a bit of a Batman maven, says Lego Batman is the best Batman ever in a medium other than comics.) So it’s hardly a surprise that he got his own movie.  The Lego Batman Movie is concentrated Batman in the context of Lego, with a cast of Batman characters (including pretty much the entire Rogues Gallery) and all the crazy vehicles and settings  (including an incredibly well developed Gotham City).  And everything is made of CGI Lego.  Sounds weird.  Works great.  My notes from the day I saw the movie specifically mention the climbing Bat vehicle called the Scuttler, and two of the sets: the vast Great Hall at Wayne Manor with the animated Lego fires in the enormous fireplaces, and the winter garden party set.  The world needs more giant narwhal ice sculptures executed in imaginary Lego.

Casting was sound, and the (Lego with voices) performances are sometimes quite good.  Alfred the butler, who is my favorite Batman character, is great here– father figure, grandfather figure, and superhero in his own right.  Robin is a fun silly-sometimes-touching kid character, and Barbara Gordon (she and Batman are Just Good Friends) makes a great sidekick.  The villains are highly entertaining, including one of the best depictions of the Joker since Heath Ledger’s, but if I may offer a criticism, there are too many of them and it might have been more interesting if the writers had concentrated on a few bad guys and developed them more.

Or maybe not.  Because one of the greatest things about the Lego movie world is its lavishness.  Regular readers of my media reviews and other criticism know that I am not normally a big fan of bigness– in storytelling, in settings, in plots.  But Lego movie world is big, so, so big, and it works for me.  Maybe because it is built out of those familiar little plastic blocks that we all understand with the deep understanding that comes from our mutual childhoods.  We all know what Legos are, and most of us have played with them and dreamed of having an infinite number of pieces and being able to build everything.  The Lego filmmakers are in just that position, with their never empty box of digital Legos, and perhaps we are living vicariously through them.

So I end up loving the bigness of the Lego movie world– its wildly detailed sets, huge vistas and massive casts of minifigures with their endless wardrobes and selection of props. (Lobster Thermidor, anyone?)  Everything I sometimes complain about in movies that are supposed to be somehow “realistic” is just tremendous fun when translated into computer Lego. In a Lego movie we are all living the dream.

(Note that I have typed the word “Lego” more times in the previous five paragraphs than I have in my entire life up to this point.)

 

 

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a correction. and a picture. and a link.

People throughout the multiverse have been reading my review of the newest Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Happily their number includes my friend B, who points out that the character Kraglin, played so well by Sean Gunn, did appear in the first film in the series, and so should not really be called a new character even though he has a much larger part in the new outing,  This is what I get for not rewatching the first one before I saw the second, but it’s all good because observant readers are there to point these things out. It takes a village to raise good pop culture criticism.

(Ed: I also just fixed a typo that R pointed out a few minutes ago.)

Now I am really looking forward to seeing the first Guardians again, because the second one has made me a Kraglin fan.  So here is a picture of him:

(And while I have you here, are you following the official Pam Bliss Facebook page?  It sometime has its own unique content, and you do not have to be a member of Facebook to read (and, I hope, enjoy) what goes on there.

Find it at https://www.facebook.com/kekiongacomics/)

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movie time at the cinemark: guardians of the galaxy volume 2

The first film in the Guardians of the Galaxy series was the great surprise movie of the summer of 2014. When I think back on it that’s what I remember: a more or less ordinary space opera made delightful by a series of surprises: the bright colors and the music and the weird characters doing weird and funny things against a background of Jim Starlin and Jack Kirby comic book art brought to life.  I don’t remember what I was expecting, since I had no more than a surface acquaintance with the comics– maybe a conventional Marvel movie with an outer space setting?  But that isn’t what I got.

And I knew that isn’t what I was going to get with Volume 2.  You can only blindside the audience with cotton candy once.  So what did we get instead?

Well, we got More of the Good Stuff.  More fairground science fiction, more big Kirby on the screen, more great music on this volume of the Awesome Mixtape, mixed in with more big action.  More jokes. (Very good jokes.  And sarcasm.  This is an extremely funny movie.)  More talking raccoon and more tree creature.  More credit scenes.  Lots more of those, and they are a lot of fun.

But in addition to the More we got some Other Stuff.  In this category, we could add character stuff and actual plot.  Maybe this is because we already know the characters and the filmmakers can develop them beyond the introductions.  But I thought Chris Pratt’s Quill was a much more interesting person in this film, less of the one dimensional wisecracking rogue and more a guy who has been shaped by his life and especially by his relationship withhis father figures.  Is Pratt a better actor these days? Does this film have a better script? Do I just know Star Lord better, now?

Other characters seemed more nuanced as well.  Gamora and her sister Nebula give the flick its Bechdel test credentials, and Dave Bautista’s Drax, so much the unexpected highpoint of the first installment, continues to delight, especially when paired with new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff).  Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper and acted by Sean Gunn, who also plays another character, Kraglin the space pirate), continues to be the best mostly-CGI character anywhere and turns out a cracking performance, including some very touching scenes. Baby Groot is Baby Groot– you’ve seen him in the trailer and he’s just as cute in the full length version.  And many scenes are stolen by a much more fully developed Yondu, ably played by Michael Rooker.

The plot of Volume 2 was also improved, I think, mostly due to the very able work of longtime genre film specialist Kurt Russell as a mighty villain who is also personally significant to Quill.  A hugely powerful Big Bad is normally not also an interesting person, but this guy is–and the more you get to know him the more horrible he is, which is a twist on the usual increase in sympathy that comes with understanding.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2: highly recommended.  While I know there are several other interesting projects coming out this summer, and some of them may well be better films, I think they are going to have a hard time beating out this one for the title of “best summer movie”.

You will find the usual spoilers in the Notes Behind the Cut. Continue reading

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it’s movie week!

It’s movie week here on the blog, featuring what I hope will be three new movie reviews, and possibly the debut of a new movie related feature.  First up (later today if I can possibly manage it) will be my review of the really rather fabulous Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.  To get you warmed up, you can read (or reread) my review of the first movie in the series here.

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mary marvel meets a little monster

The proof of the lineart for a pinup of Iowa as a child wearing a Mary Marvel costume, with the camera newly renamed the Little Monster.  All of my cameras have names, mostly because camera companies refuse to name them, preferring the typical corporate alphanumerics that make it easy to market across lines of language and culture.  But when you have a Fuji X-T10, an X100T and an X-M1, it’s a lot easier to keep them straight if you think of them as Mischief and Tahki and, now, the Little Monster.

Usually, I will name some important possession very early in the process, often before I actually buy it, but this small monster has resisted naming for the better part of the year, rejecting numerous variations of Rocket (which I was convinced was the right direction).  But then this afternoon I set it down on the scanner on top of this proof, and thought fondly that it is such a little monster of a camera, and that’s it.  Might actually have been kid!Iowa who thought of it.

You’ll be seeing more of this image soon.

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found art hero

Met a superhero at Menards on Memorial Day. Code Name: Super Spark Fountain. I suppose “Emits Showers of Sparks” counts as a superpower. Plus he can fly, if the documentation of a fireworks package can be trusted.

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a minicomic for a holiday weekend / dire corgi in a mirror

Our neighborhood had its collective garage sale extravaganza today, and that got me thinking about the minicomic I made a while ago about a garage sale in Kekionga.  So let’s celebrate the holiday long weekend with the reading of a comic!

As an experiment, I’ll be posting this comic on the official Pam Bliss Facebook Page.  Find it here.   This is a public page: you do not have to be a member of Facebook to read (and, I hope, enjoy) it. If you are a member, I invite you to follow the Page– it has its own content as well as that it shares with the blog.

I plan to post two or three pages a day over the next few days, and a lot of likes and comments will undoubtably speed up the process.  After the posting is over the comic will be going up on the regular “read a comic” site here on WordPress if you would prefer to read it there.

(Above– bonus photograph of the Dire Corgi garage sale-ing.)

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on the naming of trees

Here in the US Midwest, this tall, fast growing tree with its distinctive leaves is a familiar presence in residential landscapes in almost every suburb and small town. Its common name is “tulip tree,” but you have to be paying attention for a week or so in the late spring to find out why. 
A magnificent neighborhood tulip tree in full bloom this afternoon– its yellow-green and orange flowers will be gone in a few days.

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drawing of the day for mermay …

Well, that was unexpected.

Around the Internet, some cartoonists and artists are celebrating “Mermay” with a month of drawings of mermaids and mer-people of all kinds.  I don’t generally do challenges of this kind (except Inktober, which I did last year and plan to do again).  But I’ve seen some interesting mer-drawings, and yesterday I thought I might try it for one day, if not a whole month.

So I blocked out the vague outline of a mer-person– and got this guy.

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