Category Archives: Movies

Signs & Portents Where You Can Find Them

We went and saw “Rogue One” (wonderful, but darker than normal for the franchise) and “La La Land” (outstanding, fun, and the opening 7-1/2 minute tracking shot musical dance number is amazing, so don’t get there late!) and then saw this after grabbing some dinner.

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It might not be up there as a “Noah on Mt. Ararat” class rainbow, but I’m not going to be picky right now. Pretty is pretty and there’s way too much gloom and doom lurking about out there.

I hope that each of you found some light and beauty somewhere today. And tomorrow, too.

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They Crossed A Line

The Long-Suffering Wife is addicted to Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. She watches the Valentine’s Day love stories (which start about January 2nd) and the June wedding love stories (which start about February 15th) and the Halloween love stories (which start July 1st)… You get the picture. But while she watches those, she’s addicted to the Christmas movies.

This is no doubt better than being addicted to crack cocaine or heroin (I guess it’s sort of being addicted to heroine?) but some of these movies can make me question just how much better.

I end up watching bits and pieces of many (most?) of them because, while they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for viewing, I like spending some time every night with my wife (go figure!) and I can get some work done on my phone, tablet, or laptop while relegating the movie to background noise where possible.

My issue is usually that they’re just so predictable and formulaic. I can come in during the middle of one I’ve never seen and in 30 seconds or less say, “That’s the heroine who’s engaged to the successful but stuck up rich boy toy who doesn’t stand a chance against the flannel-wearing goofy funny good ol’ boy in the small town where she’s going to amazingly find a way to find the true meaning and save Christmas while also ending up under the mistletoe with flannel boy.”

There are occasionally mitigating factors that make the viewing less stressful for me. Alicia Witt. Lacey Chabert. Danica McKellar.

On the other hand, the other night there was “Journey Back To Christmas.”

I can ignore the really lame time travel story. I’ve been reading science fiction for well over fifty years. Sometimes time travel is done really well, sometimes it’s an excuse to take a really boring story and try to make it different, and everything in between. No matter, time travel? Meh.

No, it’s the incredibly bad depiction of a comet, a key plot point, that had me ready to throw things at the screen.

Folks, you don’t have to be an astronomer to know that comets don’t streak across the sky like fireworks for two minutes and then vanish. People don’t stand out in the village square at just the right moment and “there it is!” so cue the oohs, the aahs, the awe, the magic and there it goes!

Comets are typically seen months, if not years before they’re at their brightest. Look back and see how many months I tried to get decent pictures of Comet Lovejoy. They start out dim, way out in the far reaches of the solar system, gradually brighten as they get closer to the sun and start to boil off gasses, then dim again as they move back out into the depths of the solar system or interstellar space, frozen snowballs.

If they happen to get close enough to Earth at just the right time, which can happen a couple of times a century, a comet can be big, bright, and close to Earth. It will be news. It will be front page news for about two months beforehand and for months and months afterward.

These guys stumbled across a reference to it in an old diary or newspaper…

So, to recap:

  • Huge
  • Bright
  • Flashes across sky in a handful of minutes
  • Has a tail that stretches from horizon to horizon
  • They’re the only ones who know about it
  • They only know about it because they got lucky
  • One minute it’s not there, the next it is, then it’s gone again

What utter bullshit!

Friends, if a comet comes by that catches us that off-guard, it’s only doing so because it’s doing 0.9c, traveling just in front of its light wave. Let me tell you, if something that big is coming that close to Earth at 0.9c, it had better have Bruce Willis sitting on it with a nuke (or Robert Duvall – a better movie by far) or our ass is grass.

But if it’s passing by at 0.9c, it’s going from horizon to horizon in well under a second. There’s no way it has a tail – it never lingered near the sun close enough to start melting. And there’s most certainly no way that it’s periodic and coming back in 71 years. That sucker’s going to be fifty light-years past Alpha Centauri and outbound in 71 years.

Sappy story? No worries.

Stupid plot? Okay.

Half-drawn caricatures for characters? As expected.

Actors we recognize who really, really should be getting better roles? Hey, it’s a paycheck.

Time travel? It’s different for a Hallmark Christmas movie, but hey, isn’t “A Christmas Carol” sort of a time travel Christmas story as well?

But have a huge, key, major plot point revolve around getting 3rd grade astronomy so very, very wrong that there are ten-year olds watching and yelling, “What the hell is wrong with these freakin’ idiots??!!”

That’s when they crossed a line.

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Filed under Astronomy, Death Of Common Sense, Entertainment, Movies

Senior Discount

I took my first “senior discount” today.

I hadn’t expected it to happen for a while, since most of them are for folks 62 years and older, or maybe 65. But I was getting movie tickets and the senior discount applied to everyone 60 and over.

I was faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, four bucks is four bucks. That’s half of a soda once I’m in the theater! On the other hand, would taking the discount be the first chink in the armor of denial I had put up about my age?

Then I remembered that they give those discounts out because they expect people to be dead at 70 or 75. Maybe 80. But I have every intention of living to at least 150 or 175 – so the joke’s on them!

The movies were fine. So was the four bucks. As long as I don’t get hit by a bus or trampled by a herd of stampeding gnus (no gnus are good gnus!) in the next 90 years or so, my bet pays off.

Suckers!

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Filed under Health, Movies, Paul

See, We Were There

Two pictures from last night’s preview screening of “The Finest Hours” on the Disney lot.

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That’s producer James Whitaker talking to us before the film.

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It’s not that I’m super stoked about the movie – it was good, but it’s not like a NASA Social or anything. It’s just that I’m so freakin’ swamped between my day job and my CAF job and having my car die and needing to buy a car this week and needing to keep working on the interminable task of getting ready sometime in the next year (or less!) to move out of the place we’ve lived for over twenty-five years…

I’m feeling a bit short on time.

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An LA Perk

Occasionally one here has the opportunity to get to see a movie earlier than the general public.

This might mean going to a screening where you get to fill out some questionnaire at the end – sometimes that means that the movie in question is only about 90% done and what you see is not quite the final edit. Many years ago we got to see “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock” at one of those, with several of the big special effects scenes rendered in animated pencil drawings. Still, we were among the first to know that the Enterprise got sacrificed in that film. Then we had to keep absolutely quiet about it with all of our SF con friends for a couple months.

On the other hand, sometimes that means that you get to go to one of the studios and just see a film early for some reason or the other. Maybe there’s a connection at work (as was our case), maybe you know someone who knows someone, maybe you just are in the right spot at the right time to get an invite. Thus it was that tonight the Long-Suffering Wife and I ended up on the Disney lot in Burbank to see “The Finest Hours.”

It’s a good film, I recommend you go see it when it hits the theaters in two weeks. Chris Pine is great in what I considered to be a different sort of role for him, but I always will see him as Captain Kirk. Casey Affleck tries hard to steal the show on his end, Eric Bana is still trying to get Chris Pine killed, Holliday Grainger plays a kick-ass woman stuck in the 1950s, and the rest of the cast, while not Hollywood superstars, did an excellent job.

With a big enough special effects budget you can make anything believable and the storms and dangers at sea were extremely believable and graphic. Despite the use of special effects, it looks like everyone on set was probably wet and cold from actual ice water about 99% of the time.

We saw it in 3-D, which for this film was worth it. I’m not a “3-D for 3-D’s sake” guy, but it worked well here.

Check it out when it comes to a theater near you, even if you can’t see it in 3-D or on the Disney lot.

Mickey would want you to.

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Star Wars VII

OH, YEAH!

Go see it, ASAP, if you haven’t already. We waited two weeks and managed to avoid any spoilers, but that’s getting tougher. My undying thanks to all of my friends and social media companions who saw the movie and held their spoilers so it wasn’t ruined for me.

If you’ve seen it already, I’ll see you in line to see it again.

Tuesday evening, 16:30 showing, regular theater with no IMAX or 3-D, and it had maybe a dozen seats vacant. We got there about fifteen minutes before the show figuring it wouldn’t be a problem to get tickets – we were in the second row, it was all that was left besides the front row.

Wonderful, wonderful movie, I enjoyed every minute of it. Lots of nods to the best parts of the first three movies, lots of old friends, both mechanical and biological.

The one great thing about the second row is that John William’s score will pummel you, in a good way. I’ve said before that five hundred years from now the scores from our movies, particularly those of John Williams, will be played and live on much as we today play Beethoven and Mozart. Listening to this music didn’t dissuade me a jot or a tittle from that opinion.

Especially for me, with the way Williams’ original score resonates with me and my memories of those first three movies, the way each character had their themes, it really hit me hard when those themes were woven into this soundtrack at just the right moments. You’ll see what I mean.

Damn, that was a good movie!

No spoilers, everyone!

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Juicy Chunks O’ Wisdom For Friday, October 2nd

‘Cause giving a damn is too much of a pain in the ass at the moment, that’s why.

  • Listening to “Jeopardy” by Greg Kihn Band as it comes up on the satellite feed reminds me again how many songs of the late 1980’s through the early 2000’s I now recognize more by the Weird Al Yankovic parody version.
  • Taking the trash out yesterday evening was an adventure. It was full dark, but we have one of those motion-activated flood lights out there, so no worries. I was just opening the gate from the front yard and it hadn’t yet triggered on, when something slammed into my left leg and another something slammed into the trash bag I was carrying in my right hand. No flood of insanely bad smell, so they weren’t skunks, and I don’t usually see the raccoons moving that fast, so my money’s on rabbits.
  • Observation made the other day – I would prefer that my life story be directed by Frank Capra, but instead I got Hitchcock. Or Kubrick.
  • Twenty-nine days until “NaNoWriMo” starts. Do I participate this year? Do I have an idea to use? Feeling a bit stretched thin and abandoned by my muse.
  • After the leporine hit-and-run, the light turned on and I looked behind me into the front yard. Jessie was there, oblivious to the (at least) two conejoes that had just scampered in front of her nose. We’ll cut her some slack, she’s getting really old and having some mobility issues. Back in the day, she would have chased those rabbits all the way down the block. Of course, I would have been trying to chase her all the way down the block, so maybe it’s just as well.
  • Maybe I need to learn to play the bagpipes. Yeah, that’s it!!
  • Even then, could I get the “2001: A Space Odyssey” Kubrick? No such luck. More and more days it’s feeling like the “Clockwork Orange” Kubrick. Or “Full Metal Jacket.” Or “The Shining.”
  • re: NaNoWriMo, it might be like the line about needing an hour of meditation a day, unless of course you can’t afford the time, in which case you need two hours.
  • No, I haven’t seen “The Martian” yet.
  • Wait, a decent set of bagpipes costs how much??!! And I thought it was the noise that kept more people from playing them.
  • Can we try for “Eyes Wide Shut?”

Remember, “You have to go to people’s funerals or they won’t come to yours.” Thanks, Yogi.

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Filed under Critters, Juicy Chunks, Movies, Music

That Moment, June 11th Version

That moment when after going like a bat out of hell all day while only getting four hours sleep last night (up late to see the ISS Expedition 42/43 crew say goodbye to the 43/44 crew and close the hatches, then woke up at 05:00 with a nightmare and the dog needing to go outside) and ALL of the adrenaline wears off at once and suddenly you’re literally not sure you can walk to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

Followed by that moment when some enzyme in your system runs low or some sleep deprivation toxins redline high and not only do you start to feel lightheaded (hypoglycemia for the win!) but your legs start to twitch and jerk. Not a lot, it’s not like I can’t walk. I’m not turning into a John Cleese or Steve Martin sketch. But it’s more than enough to be really annoying.

BY THE WAY (as long as I’m twitching and rambling incoherently)

It was wonderful seeing the Expedition 42/43 crew land successfully.

Another clueless male who’s drowning in privilege that he can’t comprehend or observe (despite the fact that he won a Nobel Prize) has stuck his foot into his mouth big time, then doubled down on his screw up, then gone on some BBC talk show or news show to mansplain it and now he’s REALLY stuck in it. (Some people just don’t have a clue when they should shut up and stop making things worse.) Just do a search for “Tim Hunt” for the particulars. Much better than his actions are the reactions from the half of the population that he insulted and belittled. Remember the #GirlsWithToys meme about three weeks ago? This time it’s #DistractinglySexy that’s a gathering spot for women to try to point out to this clown that he might have his head stuck up his ass. The responses are highly entertaining – check them out.

The Youngest Daughter has (correctly) pointed out that I had my head up my ass the other day when I was telling everyone to go see the trailer for that fantastic movie coming out, “The Astronaut.” Um, that’s not the name of the movie. It’s about an astronaut, but the movie (and the book) are called “The Martian.” In my defense, it was really late, I was rushing, and I was really tired. That being said, since those same conditions exist in spades tonight, I make no guarantees that my correction is correct and isn’t making the mess even worse. (I didn’t want Tim Hunt as my role model, despite the obvious similarities.) I am, as she has also correctly pointed out on FaceBook, a dork.

I think I’m going to crawl on my face toward bed now.

But first, maybe there’s one more little thing I can take care of. A loose end. Or two. Maybe three or four. No more than ten, I promise!

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Filed under Family, Freakin' Idiots!, Movies, Space

Juicy Chunks O’ Wisdom For Tuesday, June 9th

‘Cause I read the comments, that’s why.

  • The dog survived her day and night alone with me.
  • Saw a huge accident on the other side of the freeway when I was heading home from the hangar. Many fire trucks, cops, and ambulances, three and a half of the four lanes blocked, traffic backed up for ten miles. Big surprise, given that we’ve gotten rain (so, so, SO weird for SoCal) from the remains of Hurricane Blanca after it pummeled Cabo San Lucas. On the other hand, our side of the freeway was cruising right along at 65+ up until some freakin’ moron decided to slow down to 5 mph in the #2 lane so that he could watch the carnage. That’s a special kind of freakin’ stupid!
  • Of course you’ve seen the first full trailer for “The Astronaut.” Of course. It’s okay, go watch it again. (Watch it in Hi-Def. On a big screen. With the sound turned waaaay up.)
  • The third best thing about how Jessie deals with the absence of The Long-Suffering Wife is the way her ears perk up and she snaps her head around to look at the front door with every creak of the house or sound from the street. When she’s here along with The Long-Suffering Wife and I come home, I’m sometimes here for five or ten minutes before she wakes up enough to notice that I’ve arrived.
  • While you’re waiting for “The Astronaut” to come out, go pick up a copy of the new, remastered, extended, director’s cut, Blu-ray version of “1776.” It’s a masterpiece, I say! You will cheer every word, every letter!
  • The second best thing about how Jessie deals with the absence of The Long-Suffering Wife is the the way she uses gas as a weapon when she wants to go to bed and I’m not ready yet. She lays next to the desk and farts and farts and farts. The Syrian army could learn a lesson from her. “Just a dog being a dog,” you say? Right, sure. So how do you explain the big smile on her face and the way she keeps glancing up at me after each “event”?
  • Did everyone see that the cubesat launched two weeks ago by The Planetary Society has successfully opened the world’s first solar sail? Did everyone see the fantastic picture of it?
  • The best thing about how Jessie deals with the absence of The Long-Suffering Wife is the way she takes off across the yard, even in her ancient, arthritic, and decrepit condition, when she sees The Long-Suffering Wife’s car coming into the driveway. Who fed her, took care of her, cleaned up after her, took her outside over and over, gave her treats… It’s sort of like the way a dad will worth with his son for innumerable hours in Little League baseball or Pop Warner football, and then when the kid gets on national television during his debut he grins at the camera and says, “HI MOM!”
  • 867-5309. Ask for “Jenny.”
  • Has everyone joined The Planetary Society so they can build a full-sized solar sail to test? Plus, you’ll help support their efforts to keep our Congresscritters informed and educated about space and science. Just for taking on that thankless task they should have the support of all of us!

Remember, “Don’t EVER read the comments!”

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Filed under Distracted Driving, Dogs, Family, Freakin' Idiots!, Juicy Chunks, Movies, Music, Science Fiction

Our Generation’s Musical Legacy

While my “normal” musical tastes run to:

  • Random selections from an iTunes playlist of favorites
  • Sirius Radio channel 33, “New Wave”, especially the “Saturday Night Safety Dance”
  • Albums from Jean Michel Jarre
  • Sirius Radio, one of the country/western channels

…sometimes, such as tonight, I get into the mood for musicals, usually the original Broadway cast recordings.

Tonight we’ve started with “The Phantom Of The Opera.” Next up will probably be “Wicked” or “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I’m not sure I could take on “Les Miserables” tonight — wonderful stuff, but a bit strong and grim at times.

A similar class of great music are motion picture soundtracks. Have I ranted before about this?

The short version is that I believe two and three hundred years from now some of the better motion picture soundtracks will be remembered and viewed then the same way that we look at the great works of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and so on.

Don’t believe me?

Go to a concert playing a medley of John William’s “greatest hits.” The themes from “Star Wars,” “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park,” or “Harry Potter.”

Ditto for the work of Hans Zimmer in the “Pirates Of The Carribean,” “Dark Knight Trilogy,” or “Inception.”

Or Howard Shore’s work in the “Lord Of The Rings” movies.

I’m not saying that 200 years from now they’ll be playing every note, just as we don’t play every piece ever written by Mozart. But the showcase pieces, the themes, the “earworms” that you hear in the supermarket or elevator and recognize immediately — they’ll still be performed.

Music appreciation classes of 2315 will learn the “Classical Greatest Hits” such as Beethoven’s 5th, Mozart’s 40th, Dvorak’s “New World” symphony, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” as well as William’s “Star Wars Main Title,” Zimmer’s “Dark Knight Theme,” Shore’s “The White Tree,” Maurice Jarre’s “Lawrence Of Arabia Overture,” or Malcolm Arnold’s “Colonel Bogie’s March” from “Bridge On The River Kwai.”

Just look me up in 2315 so that I can gloat and remind you that I said it first!

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