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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Filed under Entertainment, Movies, Science Fiction

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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