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Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Quick! To the Movies! – “Star Trek: Beyond” and “Suicide Squad”

Posted in Reviews on August 13th, 2016

Just a couple quick takes on the movies we went to see this weekend. A hugely rare event for us, going to two movies in a weekend is something we never do.

Star Trek: Beyond

This one was on our list from the beginning, and worked it’s way higher after a number of reviews remarked favorably on the lack of stupid visual effects that do nothing for the story. (Take a note here, J.J., we really don’t like the lens flares.)

Overall, a good flick and worth the price of admission. There’s one bit that stood out for both the Wife and I, however as ridiculous in the extreme: at one point, Kirk asks Uhura to open the all-ship address system. A fairly routine request on a starship, you would think – probably happens about twice a day. You’d expect this to be a couple quick taps on one of the square yards’ worth of touch-enabled consoles, right? Nope. Uhura has to reach up over her head with both hands to flip open the safety latches, and then flip a pair of toggle switches to turn on the mic.

O_o?

Thankfully, this is the most-egregious bit of bad blocking in the movie. They did manage to leave a bit of an open plotline by not definitively nailing down the fate of the bad guy’s right-hand man. (This bothered the Wife more than me, but it’s there.)

Suicide Squad

This one was on and off our list a number of times due to ‘meh’ reviews and the general handling of the DC universe by Warner Bros. (We still have not seen, nor desire to see, ‘Batman v. Superman’). The final deciding factor for us was Kevin Smith’s review of the movie. Die-hard comic book guy liked it? OK, we’ll watch.

It ended up being better than I thought it would be. I was disappointed with a couple things. It stood out badly that Rick Flag had the scruffy beard and they had him portray the character with a kind of Southern redneck personality that just didn’t work for me. (At one point I swear the guy had a pinch of chewing tobacco in his mouth…) I think Adam Baldwin did a better job in the Justice League animated series.

To the guy suing Warner Bros. for not including enough Joker? I side with the editors on this one, they cut whatever they cut for good reasons. This was not a Joker movie, this was something else. Joker will have more of a presence in that upcoming Harley movie that’s hot in the rumor mill now.

 

So, if you’re of a mind, either movie will sit well with you I believe. Enjoy!

One Fast Cat exercise wheel

Posted in Geekery, Life, Reviews on February 25th, 2016

Since we’ve moved to the smaller apartment, Trouble has been missing having a racetrack, and Wasabi, well, he’s just got energy to burn, so we took a recent windfall and splurged on a One Fast Cat exercise wheel. They get good reviews, and people say their cats are happier, so it was worth looking into.

Wasabi agrees:

The Sunday following

Posted in Life, Pubcrawl!, Reviews on December 5th, 2010

9:30am. Breakfast with the lovely Illyana at Holman’s. (A great little dive, by the way; you should check it out on a day when I’m not going to be there – I like it quiet.)

11:30am. Left the restaurant and called my insurance company – and got the “please call back during business hours” message. I called back again, and this time impersonated a clinic and got into the automated system, which then confirmed I am eligible for lenses and frames; no idea on the value thereof. Went to the mall.

Noon. Saleslady confirmed that I indeed have a hardware credit available and priced things out for me – both sets of frames I chose fell under the coverage limit, but the lens options I wanted would bring the total up to $169. Money well-spent, I figure. It’ll take 10 days to get them though.

Crap.

This is where I give some mad points to Binyon’s: they offered to give me a pair of “loaner” lenses to use until my ordered lenses come in. This is extremely cool, because it involved them throwing away a set of basic lenses – it’s not like anyone else will have my exact ‘scrip, so they won’t be able to re-use the lenses.

So, either they are very cool about this, or the lenses and two hours’ worth of technician time to grind and fit them is really a lot cheaper than they want us to think it is. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt this time and say they’re cool.

Noon to 2:00pm. Wandered ’round the mall killing time while Binyon’s built my glasses.

2:00pm. Picked up my new glasses. I be stylin’ now. Once my eyes get used to the change in ‘scrip, I’ll be able to see a little better. Now time to vacate the mall because I have spent far too long there for one day.

5:00-8:00pm. Office Holiday Party at Uptown Billiards. Food was good, table arrangement in the party room is still poor – one of the pool tables is pushed too far to one side to allow for a dartboard, and wouldn’t you know it, half our group ended up hanging out on the narrow side of the room and were constantly being asked to step aside for a pool shot. I expect a little better out of a pool hall. The Boss stole all of my blackjack mojo, and I ended up just breaking even this year.

Saturday needed help, but the weekend turned out ok.

Good neighborhood Chinese food

Posted in Reviews on February 8th, 2010

Tolerant and I are very fond of the Chinese Village at 82nd & Stark, but it can be a bit too far to drive after work, so we’ve been on the lookout for something closer.

Chino Sai-Gon fits the bill rather nicely. They handle most of the Asian favorites with large portions at a reasonable price.

Now if only they delivered…

Looking forward to my commute?

Posted in Life, Reviews on May 2nd, 2009

Da Roomie and I have been sadly watching the downward spiral of local radio in Portland, and it has gotten to the point where I just can’t take it anymore. Radio sucks, and I get tired of swapping CD’s around on the road – especially when I’m flying solo out to one of the wineries on the back twistys and don’t want to stop just to change discs.

So, I’ve been saving up for a new toy, and today I treated myself (and my passengers) to some new audio capabilities: a Kenwood KDC-HD942U. So far I’m diggin’ it. MP3-on-CD-R support, USB support and built-in HD radio.

I don’t really care about the HD radio – it sucks just as bad as regular radio – but that USB support is crucial. The reason for this particular model, however, is that the USB port is a cable that they routed from behind the unit to one of the center console pockets. On all the other models in my price range, the USB ‘support’ is a port on the faceplate so you can break off you thumb drive and kill the port with an accidental grab at your drink.

A quick trip to the electronics store netted me a 4GB USB drive, which is plenty of room for my roadable selections. Of course, it will take a bit longer to dig my way through the manual to figure out how to use all the functions on the thing.

Iron Man: quickie review

Posted in Reviews on May 5th, 2008

Just a quickie here, since everyone else has reviewed it already.

Technical cinematography: Damn, this is a gorgeous movie. Props to the prop men, lighters-in-the-air to ILM, and something else to the other guys. I’m a bastard for pointing out bad edits, and I couldn’t find any. Technically, this movie is amazingly well put together.

Downey as Stark: hammer, nail, head. Pow. Hmmm… an actor known for his boozing and womanizing playing.. a billionaire inventor known for his boozing and womanizing. Gee, tough stretch. He does, however, nail the flipside of that role pretty solidly as well.

Paltrow as Potts: Again, a solid bit of casting. She’s never the damsel in distress, and never the token eye-candy. Solidly played.

Howard as Jim Rhodes: The downer cast member. Honestly, I thought he came off a bit gay, which just doesn’t seem to fit for a character that is A:) a ranking military officer chosen to be the liason to Stark Industries, and B:) the guy who will eventually be War Machine.

Bridges as Obadiah Stane: he dies in the end. Thank you. My sense of hearing is a bit weird – I hear pretty well, around the top end of the human ability. The problem is in the filtering: out in the woods, I can hear you coming long before you’ll see me. In a loud room however, I have trouble filtering out the rest of the room and paying attention to the person I’m talking with. To combat this, I have become a half-assed lipreader over the years and use it to fill in the gaps when my ears get overloaded. This means that while you may be watching their whole face for expression, I’m just watching the mouth, and I can’t stand Jeff Bridges’ mouth. He talks like an old man who forgot to put his teeth in. Plus he looks terrible as an old bald guy.

The Verdict: Two paws up. Go see the movie, and don’t worry about paying full ticket to do so. I may go back and watch it on the DLP screen.

“Cabaret” at the Armory

Posted in Reviews on October 20th, 2007

Tolerant and I decided to get some culture into our mundane lives, so we went out last Friday to see the Portland Center Stage’s rendition of Cabaret, starring Storm Large as Sally Bowles and Wade McCollum as the EMcee.

Cabaret is set in Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich, a time when Berlin had become home to the strange and eccentric. Life outright sucked in the late 20’s for your average Berliner, and entertainment had to be suitably exotic to take your mind off your woes. As the program they handed us mentions, “if we actually put on stage tonight what was happening in those clubs in Berlin – we’d be shut down.” Thus we enter the Kit Kat Klub, one of the more notorious nightspots Berlin had to offer.

Clifford Bradshaw is a young American writer who has been traipsing around Europe and England living the Bohemian lifestyle and trying to find himself as much as anything. On his way to Berlin, he meets Ernst, an German businessman who introduces him to his favorite nightspot, the Kit Kat Klub. There Clifford meets Sally Bowles, a singer from England living life as much as she can in the Dionysian extravaganza that is Berlin. The two get wound up in the middle of this craziness just before things truly start to fall apart.

Based on the play by John Van Druten (itself based on the stories of Christopher Isherwood) Cabaret is probably familiar to many of you, and from what I can gather, this performance holds much in common with the original Broadway production starring Liza Minelli – but not so much in common with the movie of the same name. With a good script, all you need is a group of performers that don’t suck to pull it off. In this case, they had a great script – the author set out with the purpose of knocking your worldview just slightly out of whack, and he keeps it there throughout.

For this production, this excellent script had the benefit of a very talented cast of performers to staff the Klub, and the whole thing went off extremely well. All of the Players in the troupe gave the show their best, and they work very well together. Cabaret is a whole string of ups-and-downs, and the cast are very adept at riding that roller-coaster. I would be very hard-pressed to pick out a favorite, despite my being a big fan of Storm Large’s singing.

To top it off, the Gerding Theater at the Armory is an excellent place to put forth this production. The theater lends itself very well to a period play such as this, as there is a preponderance of exposed brickwork for the crew to work around, really giving you the feel of being in a run-down portion of the city. While the acoustics of the auditorium are very good on their own, the cast had the benefit of portable microphones the size of a Q-Tip, so their speaking voices didn’t have to have the usual “I’m yelling so the folks in the cheap seats can hear me but really I’m whispering” effect and they didn’t have much in the way of visible technology ruining the ambiance. Wade put this tool to excellent use throughout the play.

The only thing that I think would have improved it would have been to run the show as dinner theater, so you would really get the feeling of being in the Kit Kat Klub. That would limit seating down to about 50 persons though, so I can understand why they wouldn’t want to go that route.

While tickets might be a bit spendy for your budget, I would still recommend seeing this show. I give it 4 out of 5 Paws.

More than meets the eye

Posted in Media, Reviews on July 10th, 2007

Back when I was 17 and in high school, I met this gal AH at an SCA event about a 2-hour drive from home – turned out she lived about 10 miles from me in the next township, and we ended up hanging out on weekends. (Yes, we dated too, but it went nowhere – we just were better friends.)

Anyway, up until this point I had been introduced to the idea of the Transformers only peripherally – I had seen commercials, but not the cartoons due to lack of cable. One or two of my friends may have had them, but it just never really came up, you know? Come to think of it, aside from Saturday morning cartoons on the Big 3 Networks, I hadn’t been exposed to decent animation either.

AH, on the other hand, was a huge fan of Anime in general and a BIG Transformers freak. she sat me down at her place one weekend and we went through her entire collection of video tapes – nothing huge by today’s standards, but remember I was just a hick kid who had never seen this stuff before. She didn’t have more than about 6 episodes of Transformers, but the ones she did have led directly up to the movie, which she also had. I was stunned, enthralled and completely taken with the genre, but the Big T got me the most. (I’ll admit it, I cried a little when Optimus died and again when Hot Rod became Rodimus Prime.)

That Sunday, we took several cans of Krylon black and grey primer and re-painted her classic 1970 Dodge Challenger. (Did I mention AH was a serious tomboy who had a rockin’ musclecar?). We painted the main body grey, but the hood and trunk lid were done in black. Then we put on the coup de grace – a two-foot wide Decepticon emblem in silver on the hood, with smaller matching emblazons in black on the doors.

That Challenger had been christened “Zioticon” for a couple of years, but now he had the badges to prove it, as well as a really good artist rendition of what he would have looked like transformed.

If you haven’t guessed it, AH was a huge Transformers geek too. :) She even had an original die-cast Japanese import Megatron that looked real enough to shoot in pistol form.

So, with that kind of history behind me, you can bet your britches I went and saw the new movie on the 4th.

I fucking loved it!

This is the only comic book / anime-turned-live-acting movie I have seen in … in … in FOREVER that not only didn’t suck out loud, I actually LIKED it!

Yes, there are a couple of scenes lifted directly out of other movies (the girl in the bedroom for one), but with a bajillion movies out there, it’s hard not too. The acting was good, the writing and dialog were good, and the effects were damn convincing.

Okay – there are those of us out there who still wonder how the hell a three-ton car can turn into a 50-foot tall robot heavy enough to leave footprints in pavement, but we can shut the brain up during the movie.

And yes, I cried a little during some of the combat scenes. Bite me. You go watch it and come out completely dry-eyed, then we’ll talk. Whatever you do, see this movie. It’s worth the money. (But sneak in your own drink – $4.00 for a soda is frickin’ robbery.)

Review: DarkStar One

Posted in Geekery, Reviews on February 18th, 2007

For those of you who have been pining away like me for a new space shooter since we got tired of playing Tachyon: The Fringe and gave up on X3: The Reunion, there is some small bit of hope: Ascaron Entertainment’s DarkStar One.

Basically, the game is a T:TF retread. Your character is given his murdered father’s ship, the experimental DarkStar One after he graduates from flight training. He is of course then tasked to go find his father’s killer. Along the way, he flies from system to system, meets new, interesting people, and kills them.

Yeah, the plotline’s a bit hashed, and I think an almost direct copy of X3, but what the hell. It’s not like we really give a rat’s ass about the plot, we’re here to shoot down other ships.

And, boy, do they give you plenty to choose from.

The hook for the game is the ship itself, which has a new twist up its tailpipe: the ship can be upgraded by collecting Coupons…err, Artifacts that have been left behind by some ancient race.

In asteroids. That are being actively mined for ore. And people just left these things lying around without taking them to any of the hundreds of research stations planted throughout the galaxy…

Yeah, not a lot of thought here.

Keep reading… Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Variable Star

Posted in Reviews on November 27th, 2006

The concept is quite intriguing: a book imagined by Robert Heinlein and written years after his death from the original notes by Spider Robinson, arguably RH’s spiritual successor in the halls of Sci-Fi-dom.

It is a good book, an enjoyable read – I had to ration myself for fear of finishing it too quickly. The characterization is there, the plot is solid, the dialog is well written and carries well throughout the book. All the earmarks of a bestseller.

Then why am I disappointed?

Very simply: Spider has written this book before.

Okay, I’ll cut the guy a little slack. Having written some 32 or so previous books, one can expect that certain things will carry forward from previous books. I was just bummed that so many things carried forward in this one.

The main character has many similarities with Jake Stonebender of the Calahan’s series – and Jake is an extension of Spider himself. The plot is very reminiscent of Starseed if you look at the broad picture. Zen Buddhism plays a big part, as in most of Spider’s work. When it gets right down to it, the only things that are missing from the Robinson canon of plot elements is a mention of “Running, Jumping, Standing Still” and a sexy fat chick.

It was a very good book – but I kept getting the feeling that I had read it before. C’mon Spider, let’s see something new.