Friday, June 27, 2014

the transformers age of extinction review

So, it's like butt thirty in the morning, and I got in a little bit ago from watching "Transformers: Age of Extinction".  I'm tired, I have to be up in a few hours so I can go and do work... but I thought it would be a great time to toss out a quick review of this film, in case you want to see it.

First, I have to tell you the trilogy that comes before this film is both loved and hated.  The first one was pretty awesome, the second was dreary and not awesome, while the third rebounded quite nicely to make a good--not great--film... think of it how "Ocean's Twelve" was just awful, leading into a watchable "Ocean's Thirteen"... only with more explosions, less casinos and no Pacino.

After the events of the previous film, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", which by the way, they make no mention of anything that happened in the first two films, other than a Megatron reference here and there... anyway, Chicago was wasted in that last film, and now the Autobots are the enemy.  A CIA agent, played very d-baggedly by Kelsey Grammer, a dirty ops leader (character actor Titus Welliver, who you would know if you saw him) and a scientist (played by Stanley Tucci, naturally) are all working together to gather the metal from the Transformers to create a new kind of metal so they... you know what, it doesn't matter.

The film is good.  It's not great.  It's not very good.  It's just good and satisfying.  The first hour is a little slower, setting up new lead Mark Wahlberg (No Shia! No Shia! No Shia!) and his family as the heroes, with Optimus Prime returning for battle. 

What I liked about this film is the story was actually understandable and cohesive, with only a few plot holes this time around, plus the action is done in a way where you don't lose sight of what you are watching.  The first film, and especially the second, had a habit of blending the CGI together so badly that when robots fought, you couldn't tell who was what.  This is a more of a broader picture, so you can actually see who you are rooting for... and the transforming is also better.  Again, in previous films, it was just one big blur of special effects and sounds to turn a robot into a Ferrari, but here, I could actually see Optimus Prime's moving parts as he turned into a big rig truck.

Mark Wahlberg is good, as is Stanley "The Tuch" Tucci, while comedian TJ Miller is in danger of stealing the movie with his funny one liners.  The dialogue was also good, without the constant silliness, sometimes a little dirty and mostly stupid lines we got from Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.  Sure, the bad guy robot at the end, yelling at the top of his lungs, "YOU HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING!!!" was a little much, but overall, it was pretty good. 

(Sidebar:  One of my favorite podcasts is Doug Benson's "Doug Loves Movies", which actually features TJ Miller as a guest frequently... and it also has a running gag about Mark Wahlberg which, as my buddy Mikey pointed out, "Marky Mark is hard for me to take seriously amymore.  Doug Loves Movies podcast has completely ruined him for me.")

The bad news?  It's long.  It's so, so long.  Our movie started tonight at 945pm... and no lie, we were done at 12:54am.  Its just over 3 hour running time with trailers included.  This film did not need to be this long for any reason... it just kept going and going, with several parts that could have easily been cut out, or pared down.  Michael Bay seemingly did us the courteousy of having the first two films, this one and the next one, in his new trilogy all crammed into one film... its overindulgent and explody (my friend Hurricane Rhett used these terms which I thought fit the bill precisely)

The Dinobots do make an appearance, but by the time they showed up, I almost didn't care because it was so far into the movie.  When they do come in, while extremely cool, it struck me to be similar to the Army of the Dead, coming in to do their thing at Minis Tirith in  "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." (nerd alert! nerd alert!)

The question of the day--is it worth the money?  If you are diehard Transformers fan, yes.  If you are a casual fan, maybe not.  Try to catch a matinee, and leave yourself plenty of time to get in and get out.   Will the kids like it?  Depends on how patient yours is... it's a slow start, and though the action is plenty, there are long spells of conversation and exposition in between the action scenes. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

if you give a soldier a sundae

When I write something, I'll usually plug it on various social media sites, like Facebook--my own profile page, the Dreamers & Builders group page I'm in, the Clouds in my Coffee FB site, etc--and then sometimes on Twitter and even on Instagram.

Not going to do that with this post, because this isn't about what I did. It's about what we should all be doing.

The Lovely Steph Leann is out of town this week, doing a Young Living Essential Oils conference for the week. I'll get some Aunt Becky relief with Campbell on Tuesday night, but until then, its been hashtag guys weekend from Saturday morning, all day today and through tomorrow night--Campbell and I just hanging. The fact that the house hasn't burned to the ground is likely a good thing.

We went to Kingdom Comics today, as my friend Hurricane Rhett was on a Transformers discussion panel... I think KC is going to start a podcast, Kingdom Cast, which is an idea probably long overdue... anyway, Campbell was in the stroller as I wheeled him around the store while the panel was taking place--its small enough that I could still hear everything being said. Eventually, I stopped strolling him and just picked him up, where he proceeded to squirm, then stop squirming and nearly go to sleep in my arms. So, it was time to get him home...

...but first, I had to eat. So, I zipped down I-65 until I got to Hwy 119, then cut across to Sonic, where I proceeded to order a #1 combo with cheese, mayo, mustard and ketchup, tots and a blue coconut slush.  

As I waited for my order, I noticed a young man in camouflage walk up, followed closely by a little girl who was maybe 4, and a pretty young lady, who I guessed was either his wife, or at the least, his babymama.

I didn't mean to stare, but I kinda did, as he picked up the little girl, played a little, his wife laughing, and playing with the little girl too, and made my decision. When the chick came up to bring me my food, I took it all in, said thank you, and as she turned away, asked, "Can you do me a favor?"

"Sure!" Perky Carhop replied.

"See that guy in the camo right over there? And the little girl and woman with him?"

"Yup!" Perky Carhop replied.

"Do you know what they ordered? Like, do you know if they got dessert? Like, could I buy them a milkshake, or can you tell if they've already ordered their sweets?"

"Uh... I mean, I don't know... I don't... I didn't..." Perky Carhop stammered, smile gone.

"Never mind that," I said. "I have ten dollars. Can you take this, go inside and purchase two 5 dollar gift cards, and when you come out, just give one to the solder, and one to the young lady, and simply say that someone wanted to thank them both for their service and sacrifice? Please don't point me out, just give them the cards."

"I... I mean, I think... I don't know if we sell gift cards for $5, like, I'm like, not sure if you have to get them at $10 or more but... " Perky Carhop's friendly demeanor was all but gone, as I now was the customer she wanted to get rid of.

"Just please check for me. If you cannot get cards for $5 only, let me know, and we'll do something different..." I instructed.

Perky Carhop smiled wanly and disappeared back into the building.

And I then waited for at least 10 minutes. The family got their food finally, including sundaes and such, making the gift cards a better idea. Finally, I pushed the red button, wondering what in the world could take them so long...

This is the country that has made Iggy Azalea popular, as well as that "#SELFIE" stupid piece of crap song famous, mostly based on the purchases of today's youth, so I wasn't at all surprised that they were having issues doing... well, their job.

At last, Perky Carhop came back out to the car, and asked, "You wanted the gift cards, right?"

To me this was a completely puzzling question, because we just did four laps on this topic fifteen minutes ago, so I kinda feel like it was one of those questions you know the answer to, but you still ask it anyway as a way to simply bring it back up. Which is strange.

"Yes ma'am." I said.

"Okay, we can get those! I'll bring them out in a second!" Perky Carhop was back.

"New plan," I instructed. While she was in the building doing whatever it is she was doing that prevented her from loading two Sonic giftcards with $5 each, I thought about it, and thought about Campbell, who was happily in his carseat, just playing with his toy remote with the spinny wheel on top. He won't remember this instance at all... but I still wanted him to see the soldier and the family. Not so we could get praise, but so he could be there in the moment as we--me and my son--showed them appreciation that they so richly deserve. 

"If you wouldn't mind," I asked Perky Carhop, "please just bring the cards to me. I want me and my son to give them over." 

Perky Carhop smiled a smile that was not as much "That's so nice of you" as it was "Cool with me, so I can carry on with my day." She wasn't disrespectful at all, just more of viewing me as hindering her work, which I guess was kinda true. Still, I thought this was important.

Perky Carhop brought the cards out to me a few minutes later, and I unbuckled Campbell, and pulled him out of the seat. I walked over to the family, and simply said, "Hey guys... my name is d$ and this my son Campbell. We wanted to just tell both of you thank you so much for serving. And we wanted to give you each a small gift card, first to you sir, for serving, and then to you, ma'am, because you sacrifice a lot too so he can serve. Anyway, just wanted to say thank you, because you keep me, and especially this little guy safe at night."

Both the solider and the wife were bewildered at first, with the little girl looking on in curiosity. Then, the wife smiled, and said, "Oh my gosh... thank you, that's... that's so sweet... I mean... thank you..." and the soldier didn't so much smile as just have a "taken aback" look. "Thank you man. I mean, I really appreciate that. That's great."

"It's not a lot," I replied, "but enough to buy you two a milkshake or something. Anyway, you guys have a great day and enjoy your dinner!" Campbell grinned, tugged on my ear and probably said something like "Bah bah bah geh geh..." That could mean any number of things, but this time it probably meant, "Yes, what Daddy said just now. Dig that."

They waved, said thanks again, and we headed back to the Kia Soul. I loaded Pocket Change into the carseat, and as I got out of the backseat, the soldier stood there. "Hey man... thank you. I wanted to tell you how awesome that was."

I smiled, shook his hand, and said, "My dad was Air Force, fought in WWII and Korea, and so I have a deep appreciation for what you guys do, and for what your family has to sacrifice to let you do it."

He smiled, and said, "Yeah, honestly, I think my family has it harder than I do when I'm not there."

"I'll bet. Campbell doesn't talk yet, but I want to teach him to say thank you to you guys, even if it's just a simple 'thank you Mister Army Man'. I want him to understand."

"And we are trying to teach our daughter about doing nice things for other people.... and you gave us a great lesson to show her. Thanks again." The wife hollered out, "Thank you!" and waved from the table.

We parted ways, I got in the car and drove away. I looked in the rearview mirror at Campbell, smiled, and said, "That's how you do it. Just that simple."

Our military needs to be thanked endlessly. If I had had a $1000 gift card to give them, it wouldn't be nearly enough... how do you put a price on missing your kid's birthday, or your anniversary, or funerals of loved ones, or time with your spouse to grow closer together? You can't. And you certainly can't with a $1000 Sonic gift card... and I'm not sure who would want a $1000 Sonic gift card anyway.

Thank a soldier. Just extend your hand and say "Thank you". Or if you are in a Starbucks or McDonalds or a Sonic and you see someone in uniform, grab a $5 gift card and give it to them. Buy them lunch or a shake or a latte... let them know that you appreciate who they are and what they are doing. 

Sometimes they'll just nod your head and say, "Thank you." Many times they will talk to you, and you can see real appreciation and gratitude in their faces. It's so sad when the mere act of showing a soldier thanks results in you getting more gratitude from them then you are giving to them. Many parts of our government are increasingly showing less appreciation to the men and women in uniform AND to the families and friends who have to pick up their slack left behind while they fight--and are injured, maimed, or killed--for us.

Anyway, just wanted to share that with you. Like I said, this wasn't about me doing anything noble, it was about how we should all be doing the same until the act isn't so uncommon.

Thank you, Mister Army Man

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

the edge of a dozen movie dash

Here's what I like to call "The Dozen Movie Dash"... a quick review on 12 movies I've seen recently, some new, some old...

MALEFICENT (2014)... If you love the original film, you may have an issue with this retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. Well, not if you love it, I mean, if you are a loyalist to the original animated film... because this takes that film, flips it over like an Etch-a-Sketch, shakes it, and redraws a new tale... and this tale is very polarizing, as most people either love it or hate it. I don't know that I loved it, but I liked it very much.

Those cheekbones are a little weird... but overall, she's fantastic in this role.
We see Maleficent as a young fairy, meeting Stefan for the first time, forging a friendship and growing up together... and we see the heartbreak Maleficent had when Stefan forgot all about her, in order to chase his dream of being a human king. As the original story goes, a daughter is born (by a queen we see for a few minutes, and then hear that later, she's sick), is cursed by Maleficent, and is put into the care of three bumbling fairies named something, another and whatever (not the Fauna, Flora and Meriweather we all know and loved). The story does take a turn somewhere towards the end, though you might predict the "True Love Kiss" aspect of it, especially if you've seen "Frozen", and ends in a big battle scene, complete with the requisite dragon and everything.

The star of this film, though, is Angelina Jolie... she is completely mesmerizing. I'm one of about four guys in the entire world of 7 billion people who doesn't find Jolie all that attractive (she looked her best when she looked all mussed in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), but in this film, I was just captivated. When she's onscreen, you can't look away, as they put her perfectly sculpted face and ruby red lips front and center each time. Even the cuteness of Elle Fanning as Aurora can't take anything away from AJ... and I'm okay with it. "Maleficent" is Angelina's movie, as I cannot think of anybody who could have done this film as well as she did.

Love it, like, dislike or hate it, this isn't a movie you'll forget, especially Angelina in the title. role. Rated PG for fantasy violence.

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)... There are three things that I learned about this film. First, Tom Cruise still has it. He's excellent in this, he plays cowardice (early in the film) wonderfully, and we know he can be the hero (the rest of the film) from all the other movies he's been in. Second, despite what you hear, this isn't "Groundhog Independence Day", though I could see how one might think it. The whole plot centers the planet Earth, in the midst of an alien invasion, and a solider named Cage (Cruise) who ends up replaying the same day over and over... when he dies in battle, and in the beginning, it's very quickly, he wakes up again the day before, in the same spot. Only every time he starts over, he has learned a little more. Unlike "Groundhog Day", you learn in "Edge" of exactly why he is coming back again and again. And the story itself isn't entirely living the same 24 hours over and over again... the plot expands, and it's very well written, comical at just the right time, and a great popcorn movie to be enjoyed.
Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise facing off in their battle gear.  As long as
Tom stays away from "Oblivion 2", we're okay.
Oh, the third thing I learned? Emily Blunt is beautiful. Well, I already knew this, but she's great in this. PG-13 for language and science fiction violence.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (2014)... In this typical Disney sports film of overcoming the odds, Jon Hamm is JB, a sports agent who has seemingly lost the account that will save his agency. Things look grim, things look bleak, things look downright impossible... and yet, one night, while randomly watching Indian cricket with his friend and business partner Aash, he gets the stroke of inspiration he needs... hold a talent competition in India to find the next, great Major League Baseball pitcher. Off he goes, and first it doesn't work out, then it starts to, and then there are trials and tribulations and toss in Alan Arkin being crotchety as usual, then Bill Paxton in a low key coaching role and the gorgeous Lake Bell for eye candy, plus a few unknowns from Bollywood... and you have this movie.

I liked it okay enough, but I won't remember it in six months. PG for language and drinking and such.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)... I loved this film. I thought it was great, it was inventive, it was funny, and it was so, so well written. The all star cast includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with), Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, who has gotten no love in the last awards season for his part even though his hair alone was amazing... of course, the movie itself got no Oscar love either, nominated for 10 or 11 awards, and won absolutely Zero of them.  The director is David O. Russell, who did The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook... and yeah, those movies contain a many of the aforementioned cast.

Lots of cursing, as you'd expect from a Rated R film to contain... now, the story is a con movie. Who's conning who, who's telling the truth, who is lying, and so on. I figured it about 2/3rd of the way through, but that didn't lesson the enjoyment of the film at all. If you liked The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook (both are superior films), you should enjoy this--the performances, which are marvelous, outdo the story itself.

PAIN & GAIN (2013)... I'll watch anything with The Rock, and am a big fan of Mark Wahlberg as well, so this had potential. Set in the mid-90s, Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) recruits his friends Paul (The Rock) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to help kidnap a millionaire (Tony Shalhoub) because they all feel like they deserve more, and "they are doers". Full of random comedy, yet wanting to be a crime story too, it sorta works. A little long for my tastes, and its hard to believe the characters are as stupid as they are--of course, it was based on a true story. One of the funniest parts sees one The Rock actually grilling hands that have been cut off from dead bodies... to remove the fingerprints. Suddenly the scene freezes, and the words "THIS IS STILL A TRUE STORY" are shown on the screen... and I laughed heartily. Rated R for lots of language, some random boobage, and lots of violence.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014)... Following the success of 300, which was a great movie, this is not only a prequel, but its a sequel... and a... concurrentqual? The storyline of Rise of an Empire begins before the events of "300", during the events of "300" and continues after the ending of "300", with many callbacks to the "300" characters, notably Leonidis (Gerard Butler). His widow, played by Lena Hedley, plays a big part in this one, as well as former Bond Girl, Eva Green. Honestly, I couldn't decide if I found Eva Green attractive, or if I was terrified of her. Not as good as "300", but not as bad as you think it would be. Rated R for language and boobs. And violence.

You'll find yourself singing that "Everything is Awesome" song a whole
lot after you see it.  It's addicting, as it should be.
THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)... Everything is awesome! Everything is awesome when you see this film... Everything is cool when you are watching this film, everything is awesome! This movie is great... I mean, just great. Its fun, its original, its funny, its filled with hidden jokes, the cast is perfect (Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, so many more), and the ending scene has a great twist that I did even see coming... I know a few people who don't like this movie, and I just don't get how you can't at least find this movie mildly amusing. Its great. Rated PG.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)... This film is excellent. I mean, just excellent in so many ways. The cast is brilliant--Tom Hanks shines as Captain Phillips, while newcomer Barkhad Abdi is the lead Somali pirate, Muse, is both creepy and menacing and sympathetic and pitiful all at the same time. It took a slightly different direction than I expected about halfway through, though the movie is all the better for it... based on a true story, this movie is thrilling and pretty much non-stop all the way through. Rated PG-13 for violence.

THE INTERNSHIP (2013)... Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two dudes who need some direction in their lives, and they end up applying for an internship at Google... there is this summerlong program where people compete in teams, with the winning team landing jobs at the Google empire. Of course, Owen and Vince get placed on a team of misfits (like Dodgeball... or The Watch... ), and though I won't spoil it for you, you can guess where this leads... especially when you toss in Pretty Girl that Seems Unattainable But You Know Will Be Attained and Arrogant Dude That Always Gets His Way Until This Movie, Where He Will Get His Come-Uppance characters. Typical, predictable, yet Owen and Vince are charming enough to make is sorta funny. We enjoyed it, but we also like those guys alot, which might have helped. Rated PG-13

Here is the DIVX cover.  It's all bad.
FIRESTORM (1998)... After the success of Christian Slater and John Travolta in the military plane "Broken Arrow" (a film that is awful awesome awful awesome), someone said, "Hey... Howie Long did pretty good as Travolta's sidekick. Let's give him a movie!" Then someone else said, "Hey! Let's put fire in it!" and then someone else said, "Oh, fire in the wilderness!" and then some big suit down at the end pounded the table with a closed fist, saying, "Dang it! That's it! We make Howie a fire fighter in the woods! By jove, we've got it!" And so they made it. And the results are pretty stinkin' awful. I mean, its bad. Rated R for language and violence.

ENOUGH SAID (2013)... Out of all the great performers we've lost in the last year--Dennis Farina, Larry Hagman, Philip Seymour Hoffman--one of the biggies was James Gandolfini. He was such a versatile actor, and in this romantic comedy-drama, he shows even more range. A divorced father ends up meeting a divorced mother, played perfectly by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and somehow they hit it off. Things get complicated when they end up knowing the same people, and try to make a relationship work, even though neither have dated for a long time. The movie is sweet, and funny, and bittersweet all at the same time. It never tries to bill the characters off as sexy or hot or perfect, or even likable, though they are very likable. The movie just shows them as real people, which is what makes this movie so fun and real. I loved this film, and at the very least, you have to appreciate the performances by both Julia and the late, great Gandolfini. Rated PG-13 for language and sexy stuff.

MONUMENTS MEN (2014)... With a cast like George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, that guy from The Artist, and more, how can this movie not be the best movie like, ever. The premise is that in World War II, there were a group of soldiers commissioned to track down and save priceless works of art, those paintings and sculptures and more that Hitler had seized and stolen, to open his own self-aggrandizing museum in Germany. This is based on a real story, from a real book that I read earlier this year.

And like the book, this movie just didn't do it for me. It felt like a series of vignettes that were only slightly connected to each other. It ran long, parts were just uninteresting, and though the book itself tells you of the hundreds, maybe thousands of men who were a part of this Monuments Men team, the movie doesn't even refer to anyone else but the immediate team. Just eh. Disappointing more than anything, because the cast itself almost promises you a better film, and it breaks that promise.

And a bonus...
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN (2013)... On The Deucecast, we do an Assigned Films segment, where we assign each of the other two co-hosts a film to watch and be prepared to discuss them on the next episode. Sometime we get funny, and give movies to each other that we know they will hate, just for laughs, and other times we hand off movies that we genuinely think the other person will like. And then, for fun, sometimes you get handed a 3 hour and 58 minute documentary about "The Nightmare on Elm Street" films. So, over the course of the last week or so, I watched it via Netflix, in bits and pieces, when I could.

And I loved this movie. Every second of it. Now, I'm not a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan... I liked the original, I thought the third one was pretty good, and the seventh, "New Nightmare", in which all the actors actually play themselves, suddenly terrorized by Freddy Krueger, who has escaped imagination and entered the real world, was just cool.

Though the 238 minute running time is itself a nightmare, it's really an extremely easy watch--it's broken up into 15 and 20 minute segments, each concentrating on a different film in the series. Starting with the first, then the second ("Freddy's Revenge"), then then third ("The Dream Warriors"), then fourth ("Dream Masters), fifth ("The Dream Child"), then the sixth ("Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare"), then the finale ("Wes Craven's New Nightmare") and ending with the encore ("Freddy vs Jason").  Somewhere in the middle, the film even has a segment devoted to the short lived late 80s TV series. 

Along the way, you get great interviews with the actors in each movie, some of them with characters that die in the first few minutes, others that live through multiple films, and of course, lots of Robert Englund (who plays Freddy), Wes Craven (the creator of the series) and Robert Shaye (the former CEO of New Line Cinema, who released the films).

For anyone is even a passing fan of the Elm Street series, this movie is worth a watch, even if you only catch it segment by segment. It goes by much quicker than you think, it's entertaining and it's full of behind the scenes tidbits on how to make scary movies on practically no budget whatsoever.

So there ya go... twelve thirteen movies for your enjoyment... choose wisely.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

the beginning of happy days

Considering this is my #SummerofHappy, or #100HappyDays, as most are calling it, it's a mention of happiness every day between Memorial Day thru Labor Day this year. Here's my first 13 days...

Here's a recap of the first ten days thusfar...

First, The Lovely Steph Leann did a guest post on her very first 5K run, and I was so proud of her...

Day 2... my love of notebooks came to the forefront.

Day 3... brought us X-Men: Days of Future Past. I loved this movie more than you could possibly know... brilliant take on the comic book story.

Day 4... was this fun little nugget from my friend Lauren, who has heard me use the term "Crap it all" many, many times as an exasperation...

Day 5... was meeting Tattooed Tinkerbell

Day 6... was having family come over in the middle of the night... So, the keepers of the kid are out of town this week... So as a result, The Lovely Steph Leann's sister Angie came to town, bring with her her 16 going on Diva Madeleine and her 12 year old son Benjamin. The West family (the three I just mentioned) agreed to keep Campbell during the day. They arrived in the evening, headed to stay in Big Ron and Mama Ruthless' home (Steph and Angie's parents)... But when they got there, they found a towel, still damp. A bed, unmade. An attic very dark and lights that don't work. And a mother and daughter freaked out and a son who is like "whatever." My theory was that the brother, Tyler, and his wife Brynndolynn, came through town, stayed there and didn't tell anyone.

Nonetheless, The West family showed up at our door at midnight, just to sleep easy. Yes, my theory was exactly what happened, with Tyler saying, "Forgot to tell y'all..." It was still fun to have them for the night...

Day 7... sitting on a Star Wars/Disney Panel with my friend and comic book shop owner, Stan Daniel

Day 8... was Maleficent, the movie, on a date night with The Lovely Steph Leann

Day 9... was my popsicle from Steel City Pops

Day 10... is a 21st anniversary throwback to my high school graduation, in some of these pictures I stumbled across in stalking glancing at my friend Tonya's Facebook pictures.

Pictures of myself, Tonya and Chris at graduation... then me and Greg, sitting on the bus on our class trip to the Bahamas.... then myself, Greg, Chris (looking like Richard Grieco) and Jason at prom... and finally, my mom with myself, Chris and Tonya, again at graduation.

Day 11... poop jokes. Need I say more.

Day 12... "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King.... such a great read, like always. Most of King's books are of the fantasy, the supernatural or even the horror kind, but sometimes he does put forth a novel like this, one that has nothing to do with supernatural forces--its just a psychological story of a retired cop being taunted by the "one that got away", a crazy killer who ran a Mercedes Benz through a crowd of people at a job fair... and he's still on the loose, and looking to end the game with a "bang". Great read, great story, especially for fans of crime fiction.

Day 13... My Waffle House Table... ever get a good seat at the Waffle House? You know, that table at the end of the bar that is sometimes there, that only seats 2 people? Getting that all to yourself is the equivalent of getting an airplane seat empty next to you. And I had the table to myself yesterday morning... it was awesome!

So there's the first 13 days. Follow me on Instagram for pictures of everything... superdave310 is what to look for.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

the alabama phoenix festival

Every year, starting like, last year or something, Birmingham has hosted a geek-fest known as The Alabama Phoenix Festival, which is a small version of the San Diego Comic Con or the Dragon Con that happens around the country... I didn't get to go last year, but because our podcast--The Deucecast Movie Picture Show--was actually a guest of the Festival, I was somewhat expected to be there.

There are a few facets to the Alabama Phoenix Festival itself, which include the Exhibition Hall, a large ballroom area full of vendors, artists, dealers, writers and so much more.  They had everything from a LEGO corner (four large tables just covered in LEGOs where people could sit down and just build stuff), to a huge Kingdom Comics area with lots of comics and toys to The Alabama Ghostbusters, who had several large set up areas... plus, a group is building a life sized Millennium Falcon, and you could sit inside a life size cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.  I mean, how stinkin' cool is this.

There were also "Panels", or discussion groups set up all during the weekend, all day long.  Topics included Anime... Ghostbusters... Star Trek... Star Wars... Lord the Rings... making costumes... making armor... Avengers... comic books in general... there was also a room for "Bronies" and "Pegasisters", which from what I understand, was pretty much one of the two or three most popular rooms the entire weekend.

Anyway, here are some little notes, stories and pictures from the weekend...


What's this "Bronie" or "PegaSister" you speak of?  Adult male and female fans of My Little Pony.  No, I'm not kidding.  Seriously, stop laughing, I'm not kidding you at all.  This exists.  And it's big.  They had a two hour singalong where every song from every episode of the latest incarnation was playing, and the entire room sang loudly and proudly.

The gem of the night came, though, when my buddy Hurricane Rhett let his daughter go in there unattended.  When people were answering questions and discussing their love for the Ponies, little Catalina, 7, stood up and proudly proclaimed how her daddy had watched every episode with her, how her daddy loved the Ponies, and how he kinda gets upset when she watches My Little Pony without him.  On an unrelated note, I saw Chris Hansen this weekend, walking around with some sort of transcript, a plate of cookies and a stool to tell people to "Have a seat right there."


This is the man, Brock Parker, one of the leaders of the Alabama Ghostbusters.  And yes, there is such a thing, and has been for several years.  He has his own working proton pack.  He's a buddy of mine on Facebook for a few years, and we finally meet in person.  Not that unusual, except we probably grew up around 15 miles from each other, as he's from Enterprise, Alabama, I grew up in Samson, about 20 minutes Southwest on a country backroad through Five Points.  Not the Birmingham downtown 5 Points, I mean were five country roads come together to form a big circle, and a great place to say "Meet me at..." when you either want to fight or make out.  Or both.  Up to you.  Where was I?
I couldn't attend on Friday, as I wasn't feeling good, plus I had to help The Lovely Steph Leann take care of our offspring, but Mikey, Shawn Sharp, Hurricane Rhett, P!nky (our other The Deucecast co-host) attended, got some good pics, met some good people and had a good time.
Saturday morning, I was on a panel with Mikey and another podcaster, Shazbazzar, from the TechnoRetro Dad's podcast (he also co-hosts a Tron Podcast, which shows his Tron Love, considering you have only 2 movies a short lived cartoon series, you don't have a ton to work with) concerning the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII, and our hopes for it.  Turned out to be a lively discussion amongst the three of us with help from the audience, including a dude in a Star Trek uniform who knew his Star Wars stuff. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Darth Vol.  Yup.
I sat on another panel on Sunday morning, a "podcasting" panel, hosted and moderated by AJ Wiley and Paul Smith, hosts of the Gobbledygeek Podcast, a popculture cast that's picking up steam in this area quite a bit.  Along the panel were hosts from other shows, including several from the Earth Station One network and mostly pop culture.  There was even an Auburn Football show and a personal podcast hosted by a dude who just "talked about whatever I want to talk about".  Sounds like my kind of cast.
It was a good hour, as we all discussed why we started podcasting, where we thought our shows were going, our formats, our content being family friendly or not (The Deucecast is, many are not), and so on.  I knew I was there with some heavyweights, so I had to chime in as much as I could, which I think I did quite nicely, holding my own.  We'll release the show as a podcast episode, and I think Gobbledygeek will release the same hour discussion, at least in part, as one of their shows. 

Tommy Mac takes a ride in the cockpit of the starting phase of the lifesize Millennium Falcon.  This is being built somewhere else, and will be on display when it's finished.  I mean, a full sized Falcon?  First, it's going to be insanely big... and I would probably pass out from the sheer joy I'd have, especially if I could walk inside of it.


There was a costume contest on Saturday night, where everyone who was wearing a disguise of any kind could sign up, walk across the stage, be judged by the judges and hopefully win stuff.  It was entertaining, though only a few costumes really, really stood out.  There were several Deadpool outfits, two of which really should have had the guy wear a cup of some sort... lots of witches, fairies, Dr Who related stuff, a few Walking Dead nods, and a full on Iron Man suit, battle worn, and an Iron Patriot suit, with flashing lights and an AC/DC soundtrack.  Holy cow, it was awesome. 

However, the winners of the costume contest included a pretty convincing Jor-El outfit, and a Jim Lovell Space Suit--both great, but Iron Patriot should of taken that prize home.  They even brought up four of the fan favorites to the stage for the audience to vote via applause, with Iron Man and Iron Patriot being two of them.  When the host asked for applause, Hurricane Rhett and I stood up cheering. 

There was also a chick in an impressive handmaid antebellum dress ("I even made my underwear!" she yelled from the stage) and a costume that I was not familiar with, someone in a nautilus helmet.  Must have been popular, though, as the audience went nuts over the guy.  And he won. 

The host was interesting as well... I didn't know her costume, but it allowed her the opportunity to place the mics between her cleavage and talk into it. 

The kids contest was also funny, as there were are cute costumes all around.  Rhett's daughter, Catalina, was a Zombie School Girl, though she didn't win--she might have done better if she'd played more to the crowd.  Then again, the judges were off, because one cute 3 year old showed up in an incredibly awesome Kid Icarus outfit... and lost to another kid in a... Terminator? outfit?  It was cute.  But nothing like Icarus. 


A working, moving R2D2, courtesy of the 501st Legion.  I really want to join the 501st Legion one day... though the restrictions and qualifications are like, hard core.  And expensive.

I didn't have any quarters, or I probably would still be there playing.
We were about to leave after the costume contest when we heard they were doing Who's Line Is It Anyway on the mainstage.  So, Mikey, Shawn, Hurricane Rhett, our friend Lisa B-Dub, her friend Something or Other and Tommy Mac and I stuck around to watch.  And it... it was... oh em gee... it was just terrible.  Not funny. At.All.  The jokes were flat, they didn't even follow the rules of the game they were playing, they stuttered and stammered and it was just... bad.  I am sure the people in there were pleasant enough in real life, but onstage, this night, this group of people were not humorous in the least... to the point I winced a few times.  It was painful.

Set up across the room from the Alabama Ghostbusters, its the Florence, AL, Ghostbusters that provided the Ecto-1, which is pretty close in detail.
Towards the end of the night, we were approached by a young lady named Sarah.  She was a UAB student in psychology, and asked if we would be willing to take a survey.  Thinking it was survey about the Alabama Phoenix Festival, most of us said "Sure thing," and took the clipboards to help out.   It was three pages long, and it was absolutely insane.
It was not about the Alabama Phoenix Festival, that was very clear from the first few questions, and as we soon learned, it wasn't about any festival at all.  It was about... well, the psychology of men and women.  It was about preferences, feelings, emotions, stereotypes and even more.  While I figured this would still be anonymous, we had also signed a waiver at the beginning, so our name was actually on the survey.  Pages 1 and 2 were easy enough, though a little strange, but then Page 3 came.
All in a "Give a number 1 through 5, with 1 being strongly disagree, 2 being disagree, 3 being neither agree nor disagree, 4 being agree and 5 being strongly agree" answer format, it was questions about men and women, and the way we view each other.  Questions about whether we men think we are better then women, whether we are uncomfortable when a woman makes more than we do, wondering if women have more potential in the workfield than men, and then, my favorite... "Men should always save themselves first, then women, in a disaster situation." 
When we all finished, we all let Sarah know that we felt the survey was a little manipulative (it was) and not easy to answer truthfully (it wasn't)... "So, if you put 'agree' here, are you saying you 'agree' with what it says you shouldn't do, or should you put 'disagree', because of the way it's worded...?
Sarah seemed a little disinterested in our response to the survey, especially when Hurricane Rhett and I said the following:
Me:  So in this question about whether men should save themselves first in a disaster situation... I guess my question for that is... how hot is she?  Because that might determine what we as men do?
Hurricane Rhett:  Yeah... and then, can she cook?  Can she clean?  Because if the answer to those questions are both Yes, then I'm a little more inclined to break a sweat over her rescue...
Sarah stared at us, forced an uncomfortable smile, and simply said, "".
It was awesome.
Our new friend, Shazbazzar, in a Star Wars Clone Wars panel.  
About that Star Wars Clone Wars panel... having never seen a single episode of the heralded series, I chose to sit that panel out, though Mikey and Shaz again led. There were two more guys that were supposed to be there, but failed to show, so again, it became a lively discussion amongst the two panelists and the audience. I barely had anything to contribute, though I did read a little about Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, who was working with the Kaminoans to... you know what, it doesn't matter.

Stan Daniel and I discuss Star Wars and Disney for a solid hour.  And it was magical.
The final one of the three panels I sat one was probably my favorite.  Stan Daniel, owner of Kingdom Comics, and one of the heads of the Alabama Phoenix Festival is also like me, a huge Disney fan.  So our topic was "May the Mouse Be With You... Always", which was simply Star Wars & Disney.  It was supposed to be about merchandising, and much of it was, but we delved into Harry Potter and Universal's coming on strong, the prospects of a new park for Disney, what to do with Star Wars in the parks, hopes for the new movies, and Jedi Mickey.  Afterwards, our friend Hurricane Rhett, in the audience, pointed at me and said, "I knew he knew Disney.  But this guy KNOWS Disney."  I was proud.

I love Tinkerbell. And I didn't mind a tattooed Tinkerbell.  I told her that I was excited to get my picture with her, and she made a comment about how she'd had two stalkers earlier today. Unsure if that was true, or just saying that because I came on way to strong, I laughed and told her I had the same issue when I wore my Tinkerbell costume.  After she laughed, and then swallowed the vomit that she thew up in her mouth, we got a picture. Her real name is Shay Blaze.


We also had dinner on Saturday, and lunch on Sunday, at Mugshots, a burger joint that I liked very much.  My best mate Wookiee joined us and enjoyed the last day of the Festival, so it was good to have him around.  The food was excellent, reasonable for the location and what it was and the service was also enjoyable.
I told Stan that I was surprised there was no Harry Potter panel of any kind... they even had a "Hobbit: Book versus Movie" panel, but absolutely nothing Hogwarts, and how they should consider that next year.
He asked me what I was thinking, and I told him any number of topics would work... Harry Potter: the Books versus the Movies... Predictions for the upcoming trilogy (which I do not agree with)... Discussions of the locations and little seen characters... anything like that, though what I really wanted to discuss was the Legacy of Star Wars vs The Legacy of Harry Potter, including Universal and Disney in particular.  That is a conversation I could spend hours on, and am planning it for a blog very, very soon.
He loved the idea so much that he said he would seriously consider submitted a Harry Potter track of panels next year, but he also wants myself and Mikey to come and debate in a forum against a local children's author and a local Harry Potter historian ("she knows Harry Potter like it's her Bible", Stan said later, which is good because if she's like me, I don't know my Bible nearly as well as I should).  That will happen sometime later this summer, so that should be fun.
All in all, we had a blast at the Alabama Phoenix Festival. Finally met Brock Parker, attended a real life Ghostbusters panel, saw how big the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon would actually be, met a tattooed Tinkerbell, whispered, "I love you!" as I walked away probably hopefully making her feel all kinds of awkward, discussed Disney, Star Wars and Harry Potter at length, saw a real R2D2, a real Iron Patriot, a real Iron Man, about 72 Harley Quinns, a Joker, a Dr. Who phone booth and just got to hang with my boy-oyz.  So it was great.
By the way, what is it with Doctor Who?  I mean, five years ago, few people cared, and now the TARDIS phone booth thing is everywhere.   Should I be in on this?  Do I have time for this?
Will be making a return next year, as we are already considering doing a live show from there and having a table in the Exhibition Hall to broadcast from and do live games from. 
So, listen to The Deucecast Movie Picture Show once per month (though on iTunes, we have a back catelog of over 75 shows you can listen to as well), like us on Facebook and all that.