A Rocky Road, Westworld Wins

And here we are for my second installment of Quick Reviews! I still need to get current on Flash, Supergirl, and Arrow, but I am keeping up with everything else. Mostly. So let’s get started!

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Westworld — Seriously, this may be the best show on TV right now. This story is deep, the characters are well crafted, and it’s masterful in the art of the slow reveal. I love how we’re seeing more of the scary dark side of Dr. Ford; his lunch with Cullen was a beautiful depiction of how he may be playing the adorable grandfather, he’s using it to hide his keen and manipulative mind.

As a table-top RPG player, I’m also loving the exploration of people “playing” the park, with William as the type of gamer I prefer to be/have in my group, and Logan as the typical Munchkin who could care less about story, setting, morals, NPCs or other players, except in how he can use/abuse them for his own good time. Sticking Dolores in with these two is going to be interesting. Speaking of, I do wonder how she had her conversation with Bernard, while still out with those two. Is her “memory” being remote loaded into that little glass room with him? And it’s interesting that Bernard is keeping her clothed in these little secret meetings, against Dr. Ford’s insistence on keeping them naked behind the scenes to drive home his “these are things, not humans” agenda.

Getting back to the slow reveal side of the show, the hints on Harris’ Man in Black. He’s perfect in this role; the menace in his “Say another word and I’ll cut your throat. This is my vacation.” line gave me chills. I love that he’s searching for a game with real stakes, I’ve known that type of gamer as well. They can be a great addition, or poison, depending on what they’re looking for in your game. Then that end scene, I see a robot uprising in our future.

Supergirl — I finally got a chance to watch the first two episodes, and the move to the CW really hasn’t hurt the show at all. Mainly because it continues to be a show about optimism and heart, with a stellar cast. Losing Cat hurts, but at least she’ll come back for visits. Speaking of the cast, shuffling Jimmy to the new boss, the DEO into new digs and folding Winn in with them works for me. These first two episodes were full of fun, heart and Tyler Hoechlin is the Superman we need and deserve. He had great chemistry with the group, especially Kara, and he nailed both Clark and Kal-El. Like a lot of other people, I would be really interested in him having his own series.

As for the plots, I hope that Lena is not secretly evil, but she is a Luthor. I won’t be shocked if that reveal happens, though it would be a better twist (and fit the show’s heart) if she was legit. The worst would be if they play the “she was legit, but X happens, she blames Kara and turns evil” bit. It would mirror Lex’s story (some versions), but it’s a bit overplayed and hokey these days. I like Cadmus being the season’s Big Bad. They did a good job with Metallo, but he reminds me of a minor thing that’s been bugging me since the show started: they’re giving Kara a lot of Kal’s villains/stories in this series, which makes me wonder what he’s been doing/who he’s been fighting for the 12 years he’s been flying around Metropolis? (And yes, loved the “Moving back to Gotham” line)

Ash vs Evil Dead – The show continues to be so much better this year. Ash over his dead dad was the perfect mix of pathos and humor, and the line “Think of your life as a good time, not a long time,” was pure Ash. The addition of Ted Rami has been great, but I always enjoy his work. The rodeo with the Demon Delta was a blast, and intercut nicely with the ladies hunting down the spawn of the Necronomicon. It was also cool seeing the hell portal in the trunk of the car, and I can’t wait to see what trouble tossing the book inside is going to cause.

Gotham – The storyline with the Mad Hatter continues to be mildly interesting, but Gordon himself remains the least interesting guy on the show. The real reason I keep watching it Penguin/Nigma, and now it looks like the show is going to screw that up with a dumb love triangle storyline. Those always work out so well. Here we had a chance to have a show with a decent non-heteronormative relationship, and they’re gonna screw it up with a cheap attempt at manufactured drama. I’m going to keep watching, hopeful that the show is pulling off a cunning or crazy misdirection, but I’m worried. I’ve walked away from this show before, and if they screw this up, I’m willing to do it again.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – This show is still improving, but Daisy/Sky/Quake backslid again this week into “I hate her” territory. I’ll be glad when they finish off this self-pity arc they’ve locked her into. Ghost Rider continues to be cool, though I totally called him letting his uncle get grabbed by our physics ghosts while he killed off the gang guy. I also liked the new director facing off with the Congress lady on TV, but I’m not sure that I’m going to like the political angle they seem to be setting up between them in the end scene. Still, watching May & Coulson continues to make the show worthwhile.

Legends of Tomorrow – Another show that continues to improve in its second season. I’m happy that this Vixen is joining the team, and I loved their little adventure in Japan. Though I do have to wonder why a show that is strapped for the budget to do Firestorm on a regular basis added a guy who’s powers are another expensive CGI effect. Ray’s struggle of “am I a hero without the suit” arc is hopefully ending soon, with him building a better looking set of armor. I also hope they end the “Secret Message from Barry” thing quickly/the return of Hunter before they get tiresome as well (which won’t take long).

Arrow – I finally watched the first episode of the new season, and while Mopey Oliver is always a drag, at least by episode’s end he seems to be pulling out of it. I also got a little tired of their naear constant attempts at putting over Diggle. The guy doesn’t need it, we already know how good he is, was there ever a question about his skills? Still, I like our new bad guy in town, and the fact that we’re going to have both Wild Dog and Ragman, two of my favorite underutilized DC characters, makes me very happy and hopeful for the season.

American Horror Story: Roanoke – This season is amazing. I had wondered why on Earth the husband had come back to the house, as he was the only one I couldn’t figure out. The actors didn’t believe in the ghosts, and the wife wanted her husband back, but the reveal on why he went back into this merry land of murder made sense. As did his wife’s reaction, the poor dear. I’m wondering if she’s going to be our sole survivor. Speaking of, there were so many kills this episode, three before the opening credits! I’m so happy the producer died, but is it bad that I wish the jackass had suffered a bit more, at least on camera? I love the real Butcher, and felt so bad for Bates’ character at their fated meeting, especially her meek little “I just wanted to be on TV…” before her head was split from crown to nose. Though with the other three ladies being held by the murder hillbillies and the Butcher’s forces at the house, I wonder how they’re going to make this last for three more episodes.

Channel Zero – This show continues to be a slow reveal, slow burn kind of thing, and really working on the creepy vibe more than out and out scares, which is nice. I’m still trying to figure out how the tooth fairy fits in with Candle Cove, and we have the mystery of the teacher’s level of involvement. I like the twist that the main guy had to kill his brother because of what the show was turning him into, and I wonder now what it’s doing to his daughter. It still feels a little forced at times, but I’m still enjoying it enough to stick with it.

The Walking Dead – The hell with this show. And not because of the deaths of [SPOILERS], lots of people have died on this show. My issue with the show is that it’s fallen into a horrible formula. Unless it’s the first episode of the season, the mid-season finale, the return episode or the final finale, not one damn bit of real plot motion happens. There’s more life in the undead on the show than in its plot. All you need to watch for each season is those four episodes, and you won’t miss a damn thing, and that’s frustrating as hell. JDM was great as Negan, but I don’t think he’s gonna be enough to make up for the lack of plot progression and once more having to watch Rick suffer through a crisis of “Oh god, I can’t do/deal with this!” whining. And I’m also sick of his and Daryl’s plot immunity. Negan should have killed Daryl for slugging him, and the only reason he didn’t was the “If Daryl Dies, We Riot” crowd would turn on this show and tear it to pieces. Maybe this season will change, but I have my doubts.

Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s do the Time Warp Again – Someone at Fox has had a burning desire to remake Rocky Horror for at least 10 years, at least that when I first heard of their thinking about doing this. I’m personally not opposed to remakes; my favorite movie is a remake, John Carpenter’s The Thing. But if you’re going to do a remake, you should at least try and bring something new to the table, and this, well . . . it did add “Superhero” to the end, so that was new.

Most of the cast did their best, I loved Milian & Carny as Magenta & Riff Raff, the casting of Ben Vereen as Dr. Scott was genius, and it was cool that Curry was the Criminologist. Everyone else was pretty solid, though McCartan over-sold Brad’s squareness but did well after his tryst with Frank.

Speaking of, casting Laverne Cox as Frank seemed like a good call. And while she can sing, her Frank just didn’t work for me. Her Frank was sexy as hell, and had some great outfits, but Frank should feel dangerous, slightly crazed and have an edge. And she felt Hot Topic edgy. Especially with removing the cannibalization of Eddie. But, in a way, that’s my complaint with the whole thing. This was bloodless, toothless and somehow sexy yet nearly sexless. Most of the songs were decent, but overall, this is not gonna be the version anyone thinks about or requests when they wanna see Rocky.

Quick Reviews

So, yes, I and this blog site, are alive. Because the internet doesn’t really kill anything until the servers break down. Or you’re a popular superhero MMO that people still miss to this day.

I have missed writing reviews and the like for the site, but life’s been interesting and kept me away; mainly doing the podcasting and posting over on the social media, aka Facebook. I have been posting my thoughts on the TV shows that I’m watching over there, and it suddenly occurred to me “Hey, why not post them on that blog thing you’ve been neglecting for three years!?” This way, I have stuff for people to read here, and I can expand/expound a bit more than I can over on the FacBoo. So that is what I’m going to do!

Now, while I can say more here, I fully intend to still keep these as short reviews, so I can keep up with them as I watch the shows, and not fall behind as might happen if I were to try and do an in-depth look at each show. I want these to be a quick hit of what I’m enjoying (or not) in each show.  I was thinking of calling this Blipviews, in reference to Max Headroom’s Blipverts (kids, ask your parents), but it doesn’t quite work for me. If I do come up with a clever name, I’ll let you all know; or if you have a suggestion, please leave a comment! Now let’s get started!

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Channel Zero – Watched the first two episodes, and it’s okay. Not good, not bad, just ok so far. I like how it seems to be merging two Creepypastas, Candle Cove and the Tooth Fairy, but some of the “weird-for-weird’s sake” feels forced. The jumping back and forth chronology and flash-cuts to cause confusion, tension or jump scares could also be handled better. And the show is desperately trying to grab the “Stranger Things” vibe, and not doing that so well. On the other hand, it does have some great visuals, and they’re doing a great job with the Candle Cove show inside the show itself. I’m going to stick with it, as I like anthology shows, even in the AHS-season story vein, though my preference is the one-and-done Twilight Zone style.

American Horror Story – Speaking of which, this season continues to be f’ng amazing! The “twist” of turning it into a “reality” show is a bit of genius, and gets the whole cast into the house. There were two bits that surprised me, but should not have, was seeing the “actress” Kathy Bates is playing. I forgot that her scenes were “re-enactments”, so of course she’s an actress. Though her going bug-nuts in the role is brilliant. The other was related, in that the the real crazy nurses were different, and much scarier in appearance, which made me happy. Other things that I liked: When the PA acted like a normal person and decided “Fuck this, I’m out of here.” “Fuck her, I’m don’t care who that is!” and “Oh fuck, there’s a pig headed ghost in my car!” The text cards explaining that the show never aired and we’re seeing the footage stitched together (though I wonder then, who’s watching this?) was a nice touch. The glimpse of the “real” professor’s tape, and that Angela Basset directed it. My only question is why the husband came back to the house. I know the actors don’t believe in the ghosts, the wife wants to get back with her husband and the sister wants to clear her name, but why in the world would the husband willingly come back to this place? Still, this show is just killing it this year (ha!) and I am so sticking with it to the end.

Ash vs Evil Dead – At last, this show finally feels like what I was expecting! Episode two fully embraced the old “Splatstick” description of the original movies. The big fight between Ashy Slashy & the possessed intestines was horrifying and hilarious. I was right there with Ash in screaming “Not up the butt! Not up the butt!” And yeah, it’s nice to have a show brave enough to balance female naked with full Monty pierced male naked, even if it was on a corpse. For episode three, everything with the possessed Olds killing the teens was great, it’s always good to see Ted, even with the weird blonde hair, and it was nice seeing Ash make up with his dad, before waxing him, which they telegraphed five miles off, but it was still funny/shocking. I’m loving Bruce and the gang, the show is the mix of funny/gory that we’ve been promised, and I can’t wait to see where this all goes, though I really am gonna miss Lee Majors.

Gotham – This show continues to be amazing. It’s grabbed hold tight onto the Bat-Guano crazy rail, and the more it does so, the better it gets. Gordon continues to be the most boring guy on the show, but Bruce is coming along nicely (as well as growing like a weed!) The Cobblepot/Nigma bromance is the best thing on the show, and I know the shipping community must be having a field day. I almost bought that Nigma was going to turn on Penguin, because of how crazy that would be, but I was glad that it was a fake-out. When it was over and they were talking at Casa Penguin, his and Nigma’s embrace at the demanded to end with a kiss. I’m also wondering where they’re going with Chief Chickles and Alice’s blood in his eye.  I hope they don’t kill him off, but I’m not sure he’s gonna survive the season.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The show continues to improve! The story is getting a lot more interesting, and I’m glad they’ve forced the band back together so we stop having dueling storylines. I’m still highly annoyed with Daisy/Sky/Quake, but I liked Simmons standing up to her, and I loved Ghost Rider facing off with explosion guy. The look on his face when he held the flaming chain was perfect. I’m not sure where they’re going with AIDA, but I’m guessing she’s gonna be more of a back-end of the season story arc thing, with all the setup going on while we deal with these Physics Ghosts/obligatory tie-in to Dr. Strange. And while I kinda hope he sticks around, my feeling is that G-R is gonna be G-one when this arc is finished.

Flash – Episode two had the most awkward family dinner ever, but aside from that, it was a solid episode. Any appearance of Jay Garrick/John Wesley Ship makes me all kinds of happy. I also like that the Flashpoint event wasn’t just insta-fixed, and it looks like this is our new reality, at least until the big-mega-five-show cross-over happens. And while Berlanti keeps saying Supergirl is gonna stay separate, I’m hoping that it’s a cover, and the BMFSCO is a mini-CRISIS/multiverse collapse that merges things. And no, I still haven’t caught up on Arrow or Supergirl, as I have to find time to watch them. Though I have been watching…

Legends of Tomorrow – So far the show continues to be an improvement over the first season. I like Canary as the leader, though I didn’t enjoy seeing Stein struggling as the “ahh, ahh, I need a minute” guy. What I did enjoy was watching the JSA kick Nazi ass all over the place, even with the bad CGI on the Uber-Nazi. I would have also liked seeing Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite and Obsidian have more to do. Or lines. But still, it was a fun romp, which is more I can say about most of season one.

I also watched some movies this week, and here are my thoughts on them.

Steve Jobs – The one with Fassbender as the tech/design guru. It was not your standard bio-pic. It plays in three acts, showing us Jobs backstage before three big events in his life, and the conversations he had with people before he headed out onstage. It’s a clever setup, as it gives everyone a reason to be there and have these talks that reveal Jobs, his mindset and the growth of his life. He talks with the mother of his child & the child, with the Woz, and others. The first act is before the introduction of the Macintosh, the second is before the introduction of the NeXT, and the last is before the introduction of the iMac. The movie does not sugar-coat Jobs, and shows that while he was brilliant in design and knowing what a computer can do, or how design matters in use, that he was also a bit of a condescending jerk, a control freak and be overly vindictive when he felt wronged. It’s a good movie, especially if you like bio-pics or have any interest in the history of personal computing.

Hatchet – This is one that’s been on my “I need to get to this list” for a few years, because I’m a huge fan of Kane Hodder, and this movie was pretty much built around him. That and as a throwback to “old-school” slasher horror. And it is pretty much that. We have about a 40 minute opening of meeting a bunch of thinly drawn characters, watch them venture they shouldn’t go, find out about our mad killer, and then enjoy his dismembering the poor doomed fools in various inventive ways. If you like this kind of horror, you’ll enjoy it.

Maggie – This is the zombie drama that’s notable in that it stars Schwarzenegger doing a fairly serious, dramatic role as a father who’s daughter is slowly becoming the undead. It’s an understated, indie drama, with a zombie frame, and it’s ok. Schwarzenegger gets to show off his dramatic chops, and while he’s not bad, it’s still hard to buy him as any kind of a “normal” guy and not the larger-than-life guy we’ve come to expect from him. The movie also suffers from an ending that is a mixed success in that it tries to make a statement on the power of family, but it also tries to be ambiguous and feels unsatisfying. I’m not unhappy that I watched it, but only watch if you’re a hard-core zombie or Schwarzenegger fan.

Z for Zachariah – This movie is apparently based on a popular book, and has Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine as survivors of some kind of radioactive apocalypse, living in a valley that was somehow spared the fallout that wiped out the rest of the world. Robbie is a devout Christian girl who grew up in the valley, Ejiofor is a scientist who makes his way there, and then Pine is a miner who gets there after Ejiofor & Robbie has been together for a while. This is a movie with three great actors, an interesting premise, and yet still manages to still be boring as hell. It wants to be a meditation on faith, science, love and relationships, but instead it was like watching paint dry. When the movie finally gets to the big climax between Ejiofor & Pine, it decides to be ambiguous (there’s that word again), and ends up feeling more frustrating/annoying than compelling/interesting. I hate to end on a downer, but don’t bother.

Almost Too Dangerous for Canada

I’ve posted this story on my LiveJournal, but as it’s turned into a bit of a dead zone there, and not a lot of people here have probably read my LJ, in honor of Canada Day, I thought I’d share my adventure into the Great White North last year.

A quick basic summary, for those who don’t know, or don’t remember:

Last year, my job folded, and I was given a generous severance package. I decided to use the funds to move from North Carolina to Seattle, and while doing so visit all my various on-line friends. For my trip, I’d gotten a route plan, called a TripTick, from AAA. I also purchased a TomTom GPS, and spent the extra cash to have Darth Vader’s voice on it. So with the Dark Lord of the Sith as my guide (and the AAA maps as backup), I headed North. My first stops were up near Boston, then on to Ottawa to visit our Podcast Queen, Deanna.

I took I-89 North through MA and VT, and the views were amazing. Absolutely beautiful mountains and vistas which I wish I had taken pics of, but every half-mile were signs saying “EMERGENCY STOPS ONLY” in the side-lanes, so I kept driving.

I had lunch at this little place called the Route 4 Deli, a great roast beef sandwich with sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese. It was there that I realized that I forgot to let my bank know that I was going to Canada, and better tell them so that they wouldn’t freak out and block my card when it crossed the border, thinking it was stolen or something.

So I pull over on Route 4, just before the exit back onto I-89 to make my call. As I’m finishing up, this cop comes by. I wave “hello” to be friendly, and they turn around, park behind me and come up to the car. And I’m thinking “oh great, getting arrested here would SUCK.” I rush the call and hang up just as the cop gets to my window. I know I need to call my bank back, as I missed just about everything they said about fees and crap while I’m in Canada, something like a charge for every purchase and $5 charge for using any ATMs here. But I did not want to still be on the phone as the cop started talking, as police don’t like you telling them “Hang on a min, I’m busy.”

So he asks me who I am, what I’m doing, where am I from, what’s with all the crap in my car, so I give him the basic thumbnail version. Gary, heading to Canada, NC, moving because of severance package, etc. and that I’d just pulled over to use the phone. He looked a bit skeptical but said “Ok, drive safe,” and left.

This really should have been a warning for me on what to expect later, but I was just relieved to not be in a Vermont jail. Not that I’d done anything to deserve being in a Vermont jail, but that’s never stopped people from being arrested in the past.

I got back on the road and had to stop for gas in Williston, VT where I saw a sign for the “Garden of Eatin’ Cafe” and wished that I had not had lunch before then as I’d love to say I’d eaten there.

From there, it was more I-89, though the Champlain Islands where I stopped at a 9/11 memorial and saw people ice fishing. ICE FISHING! I’m sorry, I can’t imagine enjoying eating fish so much that sitting on ice in a shack for a few hours seems like a good idea.

From there I ended up taking a Ferry from the islands, going back into New York State, and here my Tom Tom made my voice purchase worth every penny as Darth Vader tells me “Now board the ferry, and bring me all the passengers. I want them alive!” It’s fun being a nerd.

The ferry ride was cool, especially as I landed a spot at the front of the ferry, and had a really good view.

Upon leaving the ferry and going up the one road into NY, there was a state Sheriff road block/ID checkpoint. I don’t know if it’s always there, or they were looking for something, but it was my second interaction with The Powers That Be of the day. So I roll my window down, and it’s a repeat of my conversation with the VT officer. I give him the same thumbnail, and then he asks me “Are you wanted for anything and on the run from North Carolina?” I laughed and said “Oh, God no!” and smiled my best smile. He grinned back and sent me on my way.

I then spend the next hour and forty-five minutes driving through the backwoods, and I mean serious backwoods of NY State. It could have easily passed for the backwoods anywhere in the South, aside from the two wind farms that I drove through. And driving through them at dusk, with Metallica’s Sanitarium playing on my radio, those very tall towers with their slowly spinning blade/arms, silhouetted against the red and purple sky, I could understand why Don Quixote attacked them as giants.

So around eight pm, I finally hit the Canadian border, crossing at the town of Cornwall. I give the Canadian Border Security lady my passport card, and she asks about anything to declare, while eyeing all the crap in my back seat. I say I have nothing to declare, and she asks about the stuff. And I stupidly tell the truth, that I have a lot of my crap with me and in the trunk. So she points off to the side and says “Go park under that awning and go into that building.” Which I do.

I go inside and talk to another CBC lady, give her my ID, she asks where I’m from, what states have I lived in, what’s in my car, how long am I staying, and all the rest. She then goes away for about 15 minutes, then comes back with my visitor paper and says she and another lady CBC officer are going to search my car, and I can sit outside and watch as they do so. I pop the trunk for them, and the lady does a double-take, as every square inch is filled with boxes of my crap.

She looks at the boxes, then looks at my luggage filling the back seat before coming back over to me. She says “Ok, well, I am going to deny you entry into Canada today. You just have way too much stuff in your car for just a simple visit. You have no job and no home address to go back to, so we can’t risk that you’re going to try and just stay here. You’re going to have to go back to the US, get all that stuff out of your car, ship it, and then you can try and come back.”

I was, well, flabbergasted. As you can imagine. I wondered where there would be a storage unit near the border, or would I need to get a hotel room for my stuff while I was in Canada? I saw money flying away, or my trip into Canada being canceled right there.

So I start talking with her, explaining once more the situation about the move, that I shipped most of my stuff to Seattle ahead of me, and only have clothing or personally valuable/fragile things in the car. The second CBC lady was more receptive to what I was saying, but I made sure to keep focusing my discussion with the first lady. She asks me how did I know the person I was visiting? I told her that we did a podcast together.

Had I been to Canada before? I tell her no, and she seemed shocked it was my first visit.

What was a podcast? I said “internet radio show, and that seemed to placate her.

Why was I crossing into Canada there? I said “Because this is where my GPS said to go.” I thought it would be unwise to say “Darth Vader told me to come here.”

The questions kept on rolling: What I did for my old employer, and details on what that entailed? Where I was going to live in Seattle? What was going to be my job when I got there? What route was I taking to Seattle? How much was my severance? How much money did I have now? Did I go to college? What skills did I have?

It was very personal, but I spilled it all, full disclosure and honesty. The truth was crazier than anything I could make up, and lies would just encourage my being bounced.

I must have looked or sounded a mix of pathetic and honest enough that she started asking me if I could prove any of this.

Did I have the receipt for shipping my stuff? No, as I did that over the phone last week…but I did have the card of the place I shipped it with! But they were closed.

I had the tracking info in an email…that I couldn’t access because my smart phone had no signal.

I could see she was on the edge when I remembered my AAA TripTick thing, with all the maps of my route from home to Seattle! So I asked “Can I get you something out of my car that will back me up?” She said yes and followed me over to the car. I pulled the two TripTicks out and said “Ok, here, I had AAA make these for me. This one covers my route from NC to Canada then down to Austin, and here is from Austin to Seattle.”

She looked them over for a few moments, kinda nodded and said “Ok, you can enter Canada. But you have to leave before midnight on March 7th. If you are still in the country at 12:01, a warrant for your arrest will be issued. When you leave Canada, you must check in with the CBC building at the border, like this one here, though you don’t have to cross back through here. If you don’t check in, the warrant will still be issued for your arrest.” To which I replied “Which means I go to Canadian jail, which is not something I want to blog about.” She nodded back and said “Yes.” Then she sent me on my way.

It said all that on my visitor paper, along with the restrictions that I was unable to get a job while in Canada, or attend any schools or job training courses. They were really worried that I was going to be some kind of illegal immigrant. I joked with a friend all day Monday and Tuesday that I was a dangerous man, and apparently Canada agreed.

I loved that I couldn’t just leave Canada, that I had to check out with Border Security on my way out, or they would have issued the arrest warrant for me anyway, making me an international fugitive.

Once in Canada proper, I got a sandwich, drink, and a doughnut at a Tim Horton’s, as it’s a Canadian thing to do, then drove the rest of the way to Deanna’s place. I amused her and her husband with the border crossing story, and then got settled into the guest room they were kind enough to let me stay in while visiting, it even had a real bed!

I put up the ultra-short version of this story on FacBoo and Twitter to amuse people, slept and spent the day relaxing after all my close calls with the Law.

During my stay, I got to see a hockey game, where a fight broke out 10 seconds after the starting bell, I bought a puck and silly hat, had a delicious pastry delight known as a Beavertail, and other touristy things. Deanna drove me around Ottawa and a bit of Quebec, seeing government buildings including Parliament, the American Embassy, where the PM and other people live, where the Mounties live and train, lots of snow and beautiful vistas.

After a week with Deanna and her lovely family, I headed to Toronto to visit another friend there, just ahead of a snowstorm, which seemed fitting.

After a week in Toronto, I headed back to the US. I hit the border, went around the spot where they check your passport when you come in, and got directions on where to go to check out of the country. So I went in, told the CBC lady my story, and she processed the paperwork so that I wouldn’t be a fugitive from Canadian justice.

This is good, as the RCMP supposedly always get their man.

Once that was done, she said “Let me go with you outside so I can show you how to get out of here.” And I said “Ok,” figuring that I was just enjoying more Canadian politeness. We went out to my car, and after I got in she pointed out the cement walls, the road I needed to take, and the road back into Canada. She tells me to make sure and take the left, and not the road back into Canada, which had a series of pylons along both sides of the road. She says “Don’t drive through those; you’ll set off the alarms. Now go ahead and leave, and I’ll watch you go.”

That’s right; they had to watch me leave, to make sure that I left. Wow. I am so dangerous to Canada!

From there, I crossed back into the US, where a border guard with a thick African accent quizzed me about my trip to Canada, where I was going, did my car have NC license plates, and all other kinds of questions that I answered honestly, but briefly, with no more volunteering info that was unasked for! After three or so minutes, I was back in the US of A, driving through Buffalo. Which is as glamorous as you’ve heard.

From there, it was on to Kansas, then Texas, then Arizona, California, then the long drive North to Seattle.

But that’s another story.

PS: It wasn’t until later that I found out that Cornwall was/is a major smuggling entry point into Canada, so that’s why I got so many questions and looks about all my stuff. Which is also why the AAA route had me entering Canada by another city in their TripTic, but I decided to trust Vader when he guided me to Cornwall.

So, always be wary of advice from a Sith Lord, especially when it comes to border crossings recommended by ones who have a thing for searching for smuggled plans.

hat

 Me & my Ottawa 67’s hat/touque, in Deanna’s basement.

Escape Clause

I fancy myself a writer. Not that I’ve written a lot of fiction, at least on paper. I’ve created characters, stories and worlds for my gaming group, and have other stories knocking around in my skull that I need to write, which I haven’t done as I have self-confidence issues when it comes to writing fiction. In that I think most of what I’ve tried to write sucks.

I have also created many characters for my MMORPG of choice, City of Heroes, which I have been playing since the beta. That’s eight years of characters and story-lines that I’ve played out with my friends that I have made there. I love this game, and could play it forever.

Sadly, the company that runs the game shut it down tonight. No one’s sure why, as the game seems to still be making a profit. There’s a huge effort being put forth by the CoH community to save the game, and I hope that it’s successful, in that either the game’s owners change their minds, or let someone else take over the servers. But it’s a long-shot.

As I’ve thought about this game coming to a close, I’ve thought about all the characters I’ve created, and what their reactions would be to this event. The end of their multiverse. And I’ve thought of transplanting a few to other MMORPGS. Or other games in general. This got me to pondering how characters in CoH would view these other game worlds.

So let me present a piece of useless fiction (useless in that I can’t publish it) from the POV of one of my characters. I hope you enjoy it.

Continue reading

Alive in the Deep

Wow, has it really been since 2008 since I wrote anything here? Four years? That’s a crime. Though part of it was from not really liking our old blogging software/format. And I was writing a lot on LiveJournal.

And I kind of lost my voice for a while. Which you might have picked up on from my lack of posting here and how I’ve gone from at least one review a month to once a quarter here. Though I am doing the RevCast with Deanna, and I am very active on my and the RevSF Book of Face! (If you are there, you have “Liked” us, correct?) So it’s not like I’ve been gone or missing or not sharing my opinion with you all. But I need to get back to actually writing. I miss it.

So, this blog lives again!

Doctor Who 2009 Specials

[ Cool Mood: Cool ]
Okay, here’s what we know so far (all information from The Sun):

1) There are going to be four specials next year while Tennant is off doing Hamlet as a break from playing a Time Lord. That’s a British actor for you, doing Shakespear to relax.

2) Two of the specials will be set in Amercia, and the Doctor will have an American as a companion, like in the Fox Doctor Who tv movie.

3) Speaking of that flick, Paul McGann return as the Eighth Doctor, which I have mixed feelings about. I really didn’t care for the Doctor Who movie he was in, but I can’t really blame him for that. The radio dramas supposedly redeem him, but I’ve not listened to them. What really interests me, though, is that he will be appearing in flashbacks about The Time War. Anything that shows me exactly what happened there has my attention. My main hope, though, is that RTD explains away that stupid "Half-Human" thing from the American Doctor Who movie as a joke or something.

4) One of the specials will have the return of Donna Noble. I hated Donna when she first appeared in The Runaway Bride, but I came to really like her over the course of the last season, so I’m happy about this. Bernard Cribbins will also be back as her grandfather, which also pleases me.

5) Another special will feature the return of John Simm as The Master. Did anyone really think he was dead? The Master is, well, a master of mind control, and that slack look on his companion’s face as she shot him just screamed to me that his being "killed" was The Master’s escape plan.

5a) It would be very cool to see the Master special as a sort of "Reverse Doctor" story, since what’s they kind of made him in the Saxon arc. He shows up somewhere in a TARDIS, finds peaceful people, and brings about some kind of horrible crisis that ruins everything until The Doctor shows up in a cameo and saves everyone.

6) There are plans for a Doctor Who movie, and Tennant wants the role. I personally think it would be stupid for them to cast someone else, unless they were able to woo Christopher Eccleston back in some kind of "Two Doctors" storyline. And RTD wants Catherine Zeta Jones as the companion for the flick. I’m not sure if she’d do that, but I think she’d rock as a companion.

While I’ll miss having a full season of The Doctor next year, I’m really looking foward to these specials. And since each one is two hours long, we’ll only be about four or six hours shy of a regular season anyway. I can live with that.

Disney Gives Me A Birthday Present

I am a very happy geek right now. There’s this movie that was supposed to have come out on DVD two years ago, but it got pulled from release for some unknown reason. Probably just to frustrate me. Now it’s being released on November 11th, just in time for my birthday. The flick is Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh , starring Patrick McGoohan.

This was a three-part story on Disney’s TV series back in the 60’s, and the episodes got mashed together to make a theatrical release. This DVD set will have the episodes along with the movie (which is the only way I’ve seen it, so it will be great to finally see the unedited whole story.)

The show is excellent, and here’s the skinny: Dr. Syn is a former pirate turned parson, but when the greedy King of England levies overbearing taxes against the people, Dr. Syn helps them by becoming The Scarecrow, a blend of Batman and Robin Hood to smuggle in food and other needed goods. Over the three episodes he outwits General Pugh of the British army, smuggler double-crossers, and more.

Here’s why the show rocks. First up, it’s a great swashbuckling/action yarn in the style of the old Zorro/Robin Hood mold, where good men of courage become outlaws to combat a corrupt government. Sure, it’s a Disney work, but it’s old-school original Pirates of the Carribean Disney, where there’s actually a sense of danger along with the fun.

The main reason it rocks, though, is Patrick Filkin’ McGoohan. He’s simply one of the best actors to grace the screen. Doubt me? Watch Ice Station Zebra, where he’s a bad-ass British spy. Watch Danger Man/Secret Agent Man, a series where he out-Bonds James Bond. He’s so bad-ass as a spy that he was asked before Connery to be Bond, and he turned them down. He then pointed them at Connery for the role. When Connery quit, they asked him again, and once more he said no, directing them to Lazenby.

Or you can look at his performance in Bravehart as the utter bastard Longshanks, where he plays a cruel British King as only a Scotsman can.

Then there’s The Prisoner, simply one of the best shows to be on TV, ever. He was the star, head writer and director of this mind-bending masterpiece, and very little has ever topped it.

So McGoohan’s perfect as this former pirate turned priest who dons a scary costume to outwit evil oppressors. When he’s in the Scarecrow persona, he’s got this great gruff voice, and his laugh is truely demonic. McGoohan is the man, and he owns this show.

In short, it’s a fun ride, and I’ll be glad to finally have a copy on DVD to replace my VHS copy from when the Disney Channel ran it a while back. And you should own it too.

Dr. Doom Is Not a Potty Mouth

Over in the forums, there’s a thread about why some of us Revolutionaries are no longer reading Marvel Comics. Allow me to present the most recent exhibit for doing so: They don’t know how to write for the characters anymore. For example, Doom would never talk like this.

Setting aside the whole misogynistic angle of what’s said there, that whole sequence is just not Doom’s style. Doom is proud, arrogant, manipulating, cunning, and evil, but he’s never crude. Just look at these past shots of Doom in action to see what I mean. Here’s a good example of how Doom would make that same threat, in a way that fits his character.

This all really ties into the main problem that exists at Marvel right now: they don’t care about continuity anymore, either historical or when it comes to character consistency.

Just about all of their characters have been acting out of character for years, and they will continue to do so as long as Bendis and Millar are Quesada’s go-to guys.

The only characters that Bendis have really gotten right are Spidey, Daredevil and Luke Cage. Millar hasn’t gotten anyone right at all. These two have written everyone so out of character (turning Tony Stark into a fascist prick, and Mr. Fantastic praticly into Dr. Mengele in Civil War, for example), that Marvel has had to resort to the current Secret Invasion event to try and fix things.

Marvel wouldn’t have had to resort to this event to explain why everyone’s been acting so out of character if Joe Q and the other editors had reigned in their writers and made them write people in character. I thought that was the job of Marvel’s editing staff, or at least part of it.

Somehow, I just get the feeling that SI is going to cause more problems than it fixes, and it’s not going to bring me back into the Marvel fold. Mainly because afterwards, Millar and Bendis are still going to be the "head writers" at Marvel, which was the source of this problem to begin with.

What’s frustrating is that there are some great writers at Marvel, who respect the characters and portray them in ways that stay true to their past. When JMS took over Spider-Man, it was great. Sure, there were some rough patches, but over all, it was Peter, as we’ve always known him. He’s also doing a bang-up job with Thor.

Same thing when Joss took on Astonishing X-Men. He captured the feel of the characters, and it was like coming home.

Peter David is doing fantastic work with X-Factor and She-Hulk. That brings me to Dan Slott, who is a master of not only respecting continuity, but in using past events in unique ways to drive his plots foward.

I really love the characters in the Marvel Universe, and its past. There are some good people there now, but they’re not the ones guiding the main editorial decisions. As long as Joe Q, Bendis and Millar are the top dogs, writing without any regard to the characters and their history, I’ll not be making mine Marvel.

Charlton Heston: 1924 – 2008

There are a lot of great actors out there. Some become legendary. Even fewer become legitimate icons. Charlton Heston was one of them. He died today at 84, and the world is a lot smaller because of it.

Icon doesn’t even really seem to cover it. Charlton Heston was practically a force of nature that decided to be a man for a little while.

Most actors would be happy to have done a single movie that had the impact of any one of Heston’s films has had on the world. Films like Soylent Green. The Omega Man. Earthquake. Touch of Evil. Ben Hur. El Cid. The Greatest Show on Earth.

Not to mention The Ten Commandments, which pretty much solidified Heston as the voice for God on Earth. When he intones to Yul Brenner, “Let my people GO” you can’t help but get a shiver from the power in his voice.

And, of course, there’s The Planet of the Apes. His performance as Taylor, which he did with the perfect mix of serious and scene-chewing ham is one of the key elements of the film. From his snarled “Take your paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” to the final (and oft parodied) twist of “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” Heston nails the role and made it the movie iconic. It would have crumbled and been a silly mess with a lessor actor, and couldn’t really have been carried off by anyone else.

Not only did his performance make that film, he was a heavy influence on the follow up Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and that’s with him only being in the opening and closing of the film! It’s the search for Taylor that drives the movie, and his presence is felt even with him not being there.

It was also Heston’s idea to blow up the planet at the end of the film, so that a third movie couldn’t be made. This resulted in the third flick sending Roddy back in time to the “present.” This set up the cycle of how the Apes became ascendant over man, so it was still a great idea.

The addition of Heston to a movie as a cameo in his later years added an extra layer of cool. Just look at Tombstone, Branagh’s Hamlet, The Planet of the Apes remake (his was the best scene in that movie), and his Nick Fury-style general in True Lies.

Charlton Heston was a giant. He was an icon. He was a honest-to-god legend. There won’t be anyone like him again, and he will be missed.

M-M-Max is Back-ck-ck-ck, Baby!

[ Amused Mood: Amused ]
One of the best things about growing up in the 80’s, aside from the cool toys, New Wave music, MTV actually playing said music instead of endless "reality" shows, and the threat of nuclear annihilation (WOLVERINES!) constantly over our heads, was that occasionally something really bizarre would slip out through the cracks and catch on.

Like the Smurfs, for example.

But one of my favorite characters from the time is back. Perhaps not in the way I would have hoped, but never the less, Max Headroom has returned.

Originally created as a host for a video music show in England, Max was played by Matt Frewer in a fiberglass suit and rubber get up. He was then filmed, electronically manipulated to have an odd stutter, and put in front of a fake computer background.

Max had a very fun, odd sense of humor, was snarky, cool and had that distinctive st-st-stutter. He went from being a video host to Coke pitchman, hosting a talk show, having a TV movie and then TV series that went 14 episodes.

I loved the TV show. And, in fact, I still have the original British pilot movie on VHS. The show was one of the first to have a cyberpunk aesthetic, with a corporate dominated dystopian future.

(We were sure of one thing in the 80’s: The future was gonna suck, either from the Bomb, or from the Corporations taking over and running everything into the ground. Then both the USSR and Japanese Stock Markets both imploded, ruining my chances of ever entering the Thunderdome.)

The show was groundbreaking and ahead of its time (it’s tagline was "20 Minutes Into the Future"), and was on a major network. Like the best Sci-Fi, it dealt with social issues through the lens of the genre, and Max would usually give a few off-kilter monologues about the subject. Here’s an example. The show was dark, subversive, and seeped in black humor. That the show lasted 11 episodes before getting the axe is a miracle.

One of the great crimes of the TV on DVD situation right now is that Max Headroom is not available on DVD, though it was rerun for a while on Sci-Fi and TechTV (before it became the great hole of suck called G4)

Anyway, Channel 4, which made the original music video show that Max was created for, has resurrected Max from the sea of nostalgia for their campaign to get people ready for the switchover from analog broadcast to digital TV.

This time, Max actually is a completely digital creation, while still voiced by Matt Frewer. And while Max may be a digital being, apparently he’s not immune to the ravages of time:

Still, his irreverence is still there, and the short is fun to watch. It’s a nice trip down memory lane, which you can watch here.

For more Max fun, watch this interview, and his music video with Art of Noise, Paranoimia, which is a favorite of mine.

I’ve really missed Max, and due his performance of the character Matt Frewer is a staple of genre flicks and TV. It’s nice to see him reunited with Max, who really was a pioneer character. Sure, he wasn’t the first AI, but he was one of the first to "look" like a CGI creation (even though he wasn’t), was how most people were first exposed to the concepts of the cyberpunk genre, and he was just digital cool.