All posts by chaos

February Special: A Month of Holidays

Well, when I posted my Christmas special podcast, I said, “Gee, I’d U62: The Targbetter make a podcast pretty early in the new year, or else the first thing people will see when they come by my website is the Christmas podcast, and that’ll get out-of-date pretty quickly.”

It only took me until Groundhog’s Day to do it!  That, and, as I was blogging last week, I figured that there’s lots I have to podcast about, so I should get to it.

And here we are with February Special: A Month of Holidays.  So what compelled me to sit behind the mic once again?

  • Sharing my woes that I didn’t get a Classic NES for Christmas
  • Geeking out over my new phone and my first adventures in Pokemon Go.
  • And mourning the closure of HMV, and reminiscing about all the music stores that used to be in West Edmonton Mall.

And so many trailers came along in January!  I’ve got to share my thoughts on the trailers for Power Rangers, Logan, and Beauty and the Beast.

So give February Special: A Month of Holidays a listen!

 

Download here!

And subscribe in iTunes!

Movie Review – The Founder

The Founder

Directed by John Lee HancockThe Founder Poster

Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak, and Laura Dern

Backstory

I know, at the outset, The Founder doesn’t look like the kind of movie I’d typically go out to see.  No superheroes, no space battles…none of that stuff.  However, I do like fast food, and it’s far beyond just going out to sample the latest promotional burger.  I’ve spent lots of time reading up on the history of these chains that dot our landscape, and I’m fascinated with how they came to be.  So when I first heard about The Founder, a biopic on Ray Kroc, that wound up on my “must-see” list.

Plot

Ray Kroc has been a salesman for most of his life.  He does OK at it.  He can afford a nice house and provides a decent living for his wife, but Kroc wants more.  When we first meet him, he’s working in restaurant supplies, selling a special milkshake mixer that can make five milkshakes at once.  When he gets an order from a restaurant for six of these mixers, his curiosity is piqued.  What kind of restaurant needs to be able to make 30 milkshakes at once?  He soon discovers a hamburger stand called McDonald’s.  The owners and founders — Dick and Mac McDonald — have developed revolutionary new food preparation techniques that they call “Speedy Service,” getting you your food in 30 seconds.  Kroc is fascinated with this, and goes into business with the McDonald brothers.  Now selling McDonald’s franchises, Kroc begins his journey to turn McDonald’s into the fast food empire it is today.  But before long, Kroc is battling the McDonalds for control of the company.  Who will come out on top?  And at what price will Kroc pay for success?

What I Liked

Michael Keaton is just spellbinding as Ray Kroc.  He manages to walk the fine line between charming and sleazy, when Kroc’s on the road pitching his wares.  And its fun watching him chase the money and adjust his sales techniques to get that mythological more.  Equally good is Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald, the more vocal of the McDonald brothers in his opposition to Kroc’s changes.  There’s a fantastic eye to the period, as they perfectly the capture the late 1950s when this all takes place.  It also plays with convention quite a bit.  When the McDonald brother share their tale with Kroc as to how they came up with their concept, the film briefly turns into a documentary, as we get all the documentary tropes of still photos with narration and talking heads.

What I Didn’t Like

Would have been nice to delve into Kroc’s personal life a little more.  When he does eventually leave his wife for someone who shares his desire for more, it seems more like a requirement of this genre, rather than getting fully explored.

Final Verdict

A fascinating film about the rise of one of the most prominent industries today, and the people who made it happen.  I really enjoyed it.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryRogue One

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmend, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker.

Backstory

So, when Disney bought Lucasfilm and started pumping out their new Star Wars films, they also promised a series of standalone films set outside the main saga.  As Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy said, “It’s about thinking of the Star Wars universe as a setting, rather than a saga.”  And here we are now with the first of that series, Rogue One.  We all know that events of Star Wars (A New Hope) kick off when the Rebels get their hands on the Death Star plans, but did you ever wonder how they got them?  That’s the story Rogue One sets out to tell.

Plot

Jyn Erso has been living on her own, ever since her father Galen was abducted by the Empire.  But now, Erso has been brought in by Rebel forces in need of her help.  A defector from the Empire has word of a terrible new weapon that the Empire is developing, and Galen was one of its creators.  The defector, Bodhi, has a message from Galen for Jyn about this weapon.  With Jyn now a reluctant rebel, our team is off to find Galen and find out more about this weapon.  Meanwhile, Director Krennic, the one in charge of the project, is desperate to find the leak on his team, as it looks like the Empire is about to wrest control from him and give the weapon project to <spoiler redacted>.  Will Jyn and the rebels find her father?  Will they uncover the secret of this new weapon…this Death Star?

What I Liked

The humour.  A lot of the characters have a dry sense of humour, no doubt the gallows humour that comes from being in the trenches.  I really liked Donny Yen’s character, Chirrut Imwe, who was a Jedi temple guard back in the day.  While he’s not a Jedi and cannot use the Force, he believes in the Force and is a fierce hand-to-hand combatant.  There’s a lot of fun cameos, some amazing special effects, and much like the Force Awakens, the last 10 minutes are one gigantic nostalgia-fest that had me in tears.

What I Didn’t Like

Would have been nice if we got to get to know our new characters a little more.  Even though she was our lead, I never really got to know Jyn as a character.

Final Verdict

A very enjoyable addition to the Star Wars canon.  Loved it quite a bit.

3 Nibs

Christmas Special: Scarecrow’s Second Christmas Mix Tape

December is upon us, and I just had an itch to do a Christmas U62: The Targpodcast.  As I explain in the podcast, every three or four years, I figure I need to freshen up my Christmas music library, and buy a bunch of new Christmas albums.  I did that last year.  So as I was scrolling through my Christmas music, listening to the tunes as I decorated the apartment, I figured I should share this music in a podcast.

And this, Christmas Special: Scarecrow’s Second Christmas Mix Tape.  I mostly play a bunch of my favourite Christmas songs, and in between, I share some stories of the season.

  • I celebrate some little victories.
  • I share what I want for Christmas (a classic NES, if they can still be found.)
  • I share a little bit on the history of A Christmas Story
  • And a special holiday edition of Mark Tastes Random Things, where I try all the Christmas pepperminty stuff from Tim Hortons.

All this and more in Christmas Special: Scarecrow’s Second Christmas Mix Tape.

Download here!

And subscribe in iTunes!

Movie Review – Moana

MoanaMoana Poster

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements; co-directed by Don  Hall and Chris Williams

Starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temeura Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk.

Backstory

Some were excited for Moana because she’s Disney’s newest princess.  Others are excited because Broadway’s current superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda did the songs.  I was excited because of directors John Musker and Ron Clements.  During that time in animation now lovingly called “The Disney Renaissance,” Musker and Clements gave us The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules.  While I’ve mostly enjoyed Disney’s current run of films, I was hoping Musker and Clements first foray into CGI could give things a little more of that Disney Renaissance feel.

Plot

On the south Pacific island of Motunui, young Moana is being groomed by her father to some day take over as chief of their tribe.  But, Moana’s heart belongs to the ocean, and she longs to strike out and journey.  There’s a darkness starting to consume the land, started a thousand years ago when the demigod Maui stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti.  And now, to save her people, Moana must strike out on a quest to find Maui and make him return Te Fiti’s heart.  It’s a quest full of coconut pirates, a journey to the Realm of Monsters, and they must even face off against a lava demon.  Can Moana and Maui survive the journey and save Motunui?

What I Liked

Almost as much as Robin Williams’ Genie, Dwayne Johnson steals the show as Maui.  He just oozes so much bluster and bravado, and who knew the Rock could sing?  Just as scene-stealing is Maui’s tattoo, who occasionally comes to life and serves as Maui’s conscience.  Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho is just as charming as our young heroine Moana.  It’s got a great soundtrack, full of incredibly catchy songs.  And because it’s Disney, you know that the animation is just amazing.

What I Didn’t Like

Pretty much the same complaint I had with Musker and Clements last film, The Princess and the Frog.  The plot is formulaic as heck.  That being said, I love that the formula this time out is more “hero’s journey,” and less “princess in distress.”

Final Verdict

I’ll tell you this, I liked it a lot more than Disney’s last princess tale, Frozen.  Fun and crowd pleasing.

3.5 Nibs

Bonus Materials

I hadn’t heard much about the short film that runs in front of it, Inner Workings.  Kind of a riff on Inside Out, this one shows us a guy’s average day from the perspective of his internal organs, and we see the age old struggle between the head and  heart.  Very fun, 3 Nibs.

Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Fanstastic Beasts PosterThem

Directed by David Yates

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, and wow, that really was Ron Perlman.

Backstory

Because Harry Potter made ALL the money, you just knew that Warner Brothers wasn’t going to let the franchise die once they’d finished adapting all the books.  So they sat down with JK Rowling to come up with a spinoff.  The end result?  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Casually mentioned in the Harry Potter books as the premiere textbook on magical animals, Fantastic Beasts will follow the adventures of its author, Newt Scamander, as he travels the world documenting said fantastic beasts.  And now here we are, the first of this proposed five film franchise is in theatres.  All I know is, here, finally, is a Harry Potter film where my Harry Potter-lovin’ friends can’t give me heck for not having read the books first.

Plot

New York City.  The 1920s.  Newt Scamander arrives with a magic suitcase full of his fantastic beasts.  But, a mix-up on a street with muggle (or, as Americans call them, no-majs)named Jacob Kowalsky sees some of his beasts accidentally released.  Before long, Newt and Jacob are teaming up with a disgraced Auror named Tina Goldstein and her telepathic sister Queenie to track them down.  But, there’s doin’s a transpirin’, as dark forces seek to tear down the boundaries between the Wizarding World and the No-Maj world and conquer the No-Majs.  Scamander’s escaped beasts present the perfect opportunity to expose the Wizarding World…and Scamander, the perfect patsy.  Can Scamander and his newfound allies round up the beasts and clear his name?

What I Liked

When my friends tell me about Harry Potter, I tell them, “I wanna see the Men in Black of the wizarding world…those who are sent in to cover things up when wizard affairs start infringing too much on the muggle world,” and my friends are like, “Dude!  Those exist in the books!  They’re called Aurors!”  So it’s nice to see the Aurors and who they are and what they do.  There’s lots of cute magical creatures conjured up through CGI.  And we do get some intriguing new characters.  I liked Queenie.  After watching the movies, I said before how enamored I was of Luna Lovegood and how whimsically odd she was.  Queenie borders on an adult Luna.

What I Didn’t Like

Sadly, our hero, Newt Scamander, isn’t one of those intriguing new characters.  I like that he’s kind of shy and timid, but that gives us little opportunity to get to know him.

Final Verdict

A very fine franchise starter.  It was fun.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Doctor StrangeDoctor Strange Poster

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton.

Backstory

Wow.  Marvel Studios.  They just keep plugging along.  For a guy who loves superhero films, we currently live in a golden age, so of course the question becomes, what new can we bring to the formula?  As many have pointed out, we really haven’t tackled any magic-based heroes yet.  Granted, Thor comes across as magic, but they’ve always written that off as “science so advanced it appears to be magic.”  So it was time to start bringing in magic.  And in Marvel Comics, the first and last name in magic-based heroes is Doctor Strange.

Plot

Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly gifted neurosurgeon, and his skill has made him cocky and arrogant.  Until, one fateful night, and he’s in a car accident.  Extensive nerve damage robs him of the steady hands a surgeon needs, and he begins searching for a cure to regain full use of his hands.  His search eventually leads him to Tibet, and the hidden city of Kamar-Taj.  But there, he finds more than a cure.  The Ancient One opens Strange’s mind to the concept of other worlds and dimensions, and soon, Strange is studying the mystic arts.  But, there is evil afoot.  Kaecilius, a former disciple of the Ancient One, as stolen some ancient texts, and seeks to summon forth the demon Dormamu to bring about the end of the world.  Will Doctor Strange be able to master the mystic arts to join fellow disciples Baron Mordo and Wong in the battle against Kaecilius and Dormamu?

What I Liked

There’s a lot of good in this movie.  I like Cumberbatch, and he makes a great Strange, bring that same “smartest guy in the room” vibe that Cumberbatch brings to a lot of his roles.  I like the character arc they give to Baron Mordo.  In the comics, he is Doctor Strange’s arch-enemy, so I like that he starts as a friend and ally to Strange, and this becomes very much Mordo’s origin story, too.  And visually, this film is dazzling.  The animators had a hell of a time depicting the other realms.  Visually, this is the most striking film that Marvel has done.

What I Didn’t Like

It’s kind of Marvel’s curse that the villains aren’t as memorable as the heroes, and we barely get a chance to know Kaecilius and his motivations.  And yeah, there’s a formula in place for superhero films now, and it follows the formula pretty closely.

Final Verdict

Enough new twists on the superhero formula to give us another solid outing from Marvel Studios

3 Nibs

October Special: Turkey Time!

Well, here I am, home alone on this Thanksgiving weekend, so however will I pass the time?  Let me answer this question with a meme.

It's the "cat reading a newspaper" meme with the caption "I should do a podcast."

And so, here I am, rolling out October Special: Turkey Time!  What rambles have been brewing inside me all summer long?

  • How I spent my summer vacation, recounting my recent adventure in the mountains
  • Force Friday, and getting my hands on all the Rogue One toys for my collection
  • Recapping some of the summer blockbusters, with some reminiscing on Ghostbusters and Star Trek Beyond
  • And we take a moment to lament the demise of Shomi

All this, and a little bit more, in October Special: Turkey Time!

Download here!

And subscribe in iTunes!

U62: The Targ

Movie Review – Suicide Squad

Suicide SquadSuicide Squad Poster

Directed by David Ayer

Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Cara Delevingne.

Backstory

While I’m amazed that a Suicide Squad movie got made, I couldn’t help but feel it was made as a reaction to Guardians of the Galaxy.  It was like someone at DC said, “Hey!  Don’t we have our own wacky team of super-powered misfits we could turn into a movie?”  That’s more evident ever since Deadpool came out this spring, as the ad campaign took a turn to be more wacky and irreverent, like Deadpool.  Plus, add to that that this is now part of the DC Cinematic Universe, created as a reaction to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.  Could something so reactionary be able to stand on its own?

Plot

With the growing presence of meta-humans in the world, secret agent Amanda Waller comes up with a daring plan:  with so many of the bad meta-humans already in custody, why not blackmail them into doing government missions?  And thus, Task Force X is born, and they immediately get the nickname the Suicide Squad.  With war hero Col. Flag overseeing them, the Squad consists of Deadshot, the world’s best marksman, Harley Quinn, best known as the girlfriend of the Joker, El Diablo, a fire-demon, Captain Boomerang, the Aussie bank robber, Killer Croc, and Katana.  For their first mission, they’re turned loose in Midway City when a former member of the Squad, the Enchantress, unleashes a demon bent on world destruction.  And a further wild card:  when the Joker learns his girlfriend has been sprung from prison, he starts carving a path of destruction to get her back.  Can the Squad prove that there’s good in being bad?

What I Liked

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn steals the show.  She is pitch perfect, if only that the Brooklyn-esque accent the character traditionally has tends to waver.  Will Smith also makes an excellent Deadshot, and I really hope we get to see more of Jared Leto’s Joker in this cinematic universe.  The introductions to the characters are great, as we see how they’re apprehended (and get quick glimpses of Batman and the Flash)!

What I Didn’t Like

A lot of heroes, like Katana and Killer Croc, kind of get short shrift in the film.  As much as I love the Joker, he’s not in it all that much.  And, as many other critics have pointed out, I’m getting tired of the whole “glowing portal of world destruction” that all these movies have.

Final Verdict

As superhero movies go, Suicide Squad was just so overwhelmingly…average.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek BeyondStar Trek Beyond Poster

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, and Sofia Boutella.

Backstory

I have a love/hate relationship with the Star Trek reboot films.  I love the first one, and hate the second one.  I mean, I’ve blogged extensively about my problem with Into Darkness, so I won’t go into it.  The short version is there was one moment in the film that was a callback to the most famous Star Trek film, but it’s handled with such a lack of subtlety that it pulled me out of the film, and I couldn’t get back in.  So my expectations were lowered with Beyond.  The trailers, with their Beastie Boys and dirt bike races, left me cold.  Even the promise of new blood, with new director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious 3 thru 6) and Simon Pegg pulling double-duty as writer and Scotty wasn’t enough to get me excited.  But, a newer trailer that looked more Star Trek-y, and the fact that Star Trek remains my first fandom, got me into the theatre on opening weekend.

Plot

The Starship Enterprise is halfway through its five year mission of exploring deep space, and a certain malaise is setting in with our favourite crew.  Both Kirk and Spock are starting to entertain other offers.  While re-stocking at Yorktown — Starfleet’s most remote starbase — the Enterprise receives a distress call from a planet deep within an unexplored nebula.  They go off to investigate, but it turns out to be a trap, and the Enterprise is destroyed.  Stranded on this unknown planet full of alien technology, the Enterprise crew soon finds themselves at the mercy of the alien warlord Krall.  With the help of Jaylah — an escapee from Krall’s prisons — Kirk and the Enterprise crew begin plotting the rescue of their shipmates.  Will they get off the planet?  And who is Krall, and why does he have such an intense hatred of the Federation?

What I Liked

Firstly, there’s no big callback to a previous Star Trek movie that pulls me out of the proceedings.  There are, however, enough Easter eggs to make you smile.  (A lot of them actually have to do with Enterprise, which I’ve been revisiting recently on Netflix.)  And now that I see how the dirt bike race and the Beastie Boys are worked into the plot, it works.  As always, our crew is a delight.  It’s fun seeing them paired off when they initially land on the planet.  Spock and Bones get thrown together, and we get some classic Spock and Bones interplay.  Idris Elba is a great villain as Krall, and Sofia Boutilla is also quite delightful as Jaylah.  The plot itself is actually a great callback to the plots of original series episodes.  And they way Leonard Nimoy’s death is worked into the film is quite poetic.

What I Didn’t Like

As Justin Lin is the Fast and Furious guy, I was expecting better action scenes.  But a lot of the fight scenes are in the dark and it’s tough to follow what’s going on.

Final Verdict

I couldn’t stop smiling as I came out of the theatre.  This was the most fun I’d had in a Star Trek film since, well, the first in this reboot trilogy.  I really enjoyed it.

3.5 Nibs