Thursday, May 23, 2013


(because I am not a dick).

So here is the deal with the new Star Trek franchise: when you say you "like Star Trek", or you don't like Star Trek, what exactly are you referring to?  This is the problem that has plagued Star Trek for the past 40 years.  Which "Star Trek" is currently in the movie theatre? 

Look at Star Wars as a comparitive for example.  There's six movies.  That's it.  Now, I know that there are video games and books and action figures and cartoons, but basically, for 90% of us, when we think of Star Wars, we think of the original three movies (the good ones) and then the next three movies (which are the first ones, or the bad ones—this may be confusing, so let's refer to them as the "Jar Jar" ones).  I would pay $20 to kick Jar Jar in the binx. 

This newest Star Trek movie reboot is loosely-based on the 1960s TV show.  When J. J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009, I gave a big ho hum.  It wasn't even a "boo!" - I just didn't care.  The Star Trek Franchise has gone on the following run in the past 40 years:
  • Original Series (1960s) - virtually nobody watched it
  • Original Series (reruns) - watched it when you were sick and home from school
  • Next Generation (1987) - lots of people really enjoyed this show
  • Deep Space Nine (1993) - okay, we are starting to get a little tired of this
  • Voyager (1995) - good lord, even baseball only has 162 games
  • Enterprise (2001) - I am officially terrified of turning on my TV at any time of the day or night for fear of seeing Star Trek.
Plus the movies!  There were six "Original" movies and then four more with the Next Generation cast.  That's a lot of Trek.  More like Star Bleecchh!  (Thanks Mad Magazine.)

However, J. J. Abrams got every thing right with the 2009 reboot.  It is designed for people who would not normally go to a science-fiction movie—the movie has great characters not bogged down with years of backstory, and the action is second to none. 

That brings us to the newest installment: Star Trek Into Darkness.  Quite simply, this is a perfect action movie.  I loved everything about it so I won't just drool like a nerd and leave—instead I will rave about Benedict Cumberbatch, who is a british actor.  He plays the villain in the movie.  If you ever get a chance to watch BBC's Sherlock, you will see how great an actor Cumberbatch is.  (Plus Sherlock stars Tim from The Office, or maybe you know him as the Hobbit.  Anyway, Sherlock is a fantastic show).

As much as the action is the driving force in the movie (big crashes, fist fights, etc) - there are a lot of really intelligent, strong characters in the film and that is the backbone of any great story.  Every really good movie has a powerful villain who doesn't act like a villain (they think they are the hero), and this film has a perfect villain (Cumberbatch).  

If you don't like crowds or people talking on their cell phones, I recommend seeing a film during the workday. There were nine people in the theatre.  One guy sat down within forty feet of my seat and I was outraged. 

I watched the movie in 3D but I'm not sure how much that adds to the experience—in some scenes, the 3D is awesome, but in others, like when people are standing around, it can be kind of distracting.  I keep waiting for someone to throw a machete at me or something.  Anyway, I loved this film. 
At the end of the day, a great movie (to me) is one that you get to the end and you didn't look at your watch, or wonder about work the next day.  I was totally engrossed and loved it.  If you are a science-fiction fan or an action fan, check out the 2009 film (simply called "Star Trek") and then hit the theatre for a big-time action movie. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I was flipping around on TV the other day and stumbled across a commerical for yet another horrible sit com.  It is set to premiere this summer!  (Never a good sign when the show premieres while 2/3 of the potential audience is out camping).  Fortunately, in this day and age, we don't have to settle for crummy, run-of-the-mill sit coms.  I turned off the TV and remembered a DVD I had grabbed a while ago.  (Well, okay, I turned back on the TV; I hadn't really thought that through).  I had heard about a quirky, arty show called Portlandia which originally aired on IFC back a couple of years ago.  I checked out the DVD of season 1.  

If you like Kids In The Hall, then you will probably like this show.  It is really, really weird.  Really weird.  Like "crushing your head" with your thumb and forefinger weird.  I always thought that Kids In The Hall was 20% brilliant and 80% weird.  This show is like that.  I guess it is no surprise since Lorne Michaels is involved in the show (as a producer), as he was on Kids In The Hall.  I doubt Michaels is sitting there for hours reviewing scripts, but it definitely has a similar feel. 

It stars Fred Armisen, who you might have seen from Saturday Night Live.  Although he has been on SNL for over 10 years, Armisen have never really been a household name.  On Portlandia, Armisen plays a number of characters, along with Carrie Brownstein, who was (and is) a musician, but also a very funny actress. 

Portlandia is basically a sketch show; each little five or six-minute sketch is absurd and off the wall.  The season opens, for example, with a music video about how stuck in the 90s Portland is, and then dives in to a couple who spend an eternity bombarding the waitress at a restaurant about the living conditions of the free-range, organic chicken that they are about to order from the menu.  After fifty or so questions about the chicken, they cannot bring themselves to order it and must instead drive thirty or so miles out of town to check the farm for themselves.  It is hilarious. 

I must say, for a small-budget show with no laugh track, shot on various locations throughout Portland, this show is worth a shot if you are in a weird mood and like weird sketches.  Did I mention it was weird?

Saturday, May 18, 2013


This just in: I'm old.  Well, I'm not 20 anymore.  So when Fleetwood Mac decided to pull the drum kit out from storage and tour, I had no problems agreeing to go. 

The Scotiabank Saddledome was actually almost full, which shows that there are either lots of Fleetwood Mac fans still around, even though they haven't had a recent hit in twenty years - or it was Friday on a long weekend a people had nothing else to do.  Either way, the Saddledome was very busy.

They opened up with "Second Hand News" and it was apparent right away that Fleetwood Mac actually wanted to be here - they thanked the crowd, looked relatively happy and could still sing the songs. 

My biggest complaint, as it is with any public event, was the people.  If you want to help society instead of be a dink, here are a few tips to make the concert more enjoyable for everyone:

1. Try flushing the toilet.  There is a little handle on the side of the toilet.  If you pull it, your six pounds of Soviet-Union-era borsche will disappear forever.  It's almost like the person just says, "Wow.  This is the most productive I have been all week.  I will leave this here so future generations can admire my handiwork."  No!  The Louvre is on my bucket list - stall #2 in section 119 is not. 

2. Try showing up on time.  This one is tough.  You know that phone that you are talking into during the entire concert?  It has a clock in there somewhere - probably next to the Angry Birds app or the Cappucino rating website.  Because when the lights go out, and 99% of us are sitting in our seat, we want to watch the expensive concert, not you shuffling down the row in the dark, hoping that this is actually your section. 

3. Try not talking for 90 minutes.  I admit, this one is basically impossible.  The two ladies sitting a few seats over had an anecdote about their kids playing soccer, and it was NOT going to wait just because Lindsay Buckingham has spent thirty years mastering the guitar and now wants to "show off".  Did Timmy win his division 3B intramural game?   I wish Stevie Nicks would stop singing, we need closure on this whole Tiny Mites story. 

Overall, the concert was great.  It was a good mix of playing the hits (Tusk, Gypsy, The Chain, Don't Stop, etc) but they also had a 10-minute drum solo from crazy old guy Mick Fleetwood which was really cool.  (He drums great for 65 years old - or any age). 

By the way - did you know that the "encores" at the concerts are actually set in advance?  They don't just decide to come back out and crank out a hit or two.  So when they leave the stage, and the house lights are all down... chances are very good that they are going to come back.  So when they say "goodnight!" and half the audience gets up and starts leaving, hang tight in the seat.  That way, when they come back for the encore, you aren't one of the legions of people now hanging out in the fire exits, wondering what all that racket is back near the stage.  And after the encore... when the lights come on... the show is over.  You can cheer all you want, but they ain't coming back.  When the light come on, THIS is the big cue to talk about your kid's soccer game.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I was complaining the other day - actually, it might have been a couple of months ago - whenever the Academy Awards were - that all the big press comes out for the big movies - your Transformers, your Lincolns, your Alvin & The Chipmunks - you know, the big tour-de-forces that drive the movie business.  But what about the little guy?  Well, I know what you are thinking: if there is one thing that I am known for, it is being a champion for the little guy.  Especially when being a champion means watching movies and then literally just typing while drinking a slurpee.  I am a champion.

I present to you some movies that have been overlooked.  These are not big-budget movies (and they are not new releases), but if you are flipping around on TV and realize that there is nothing on, check out these shows if you want something different.

Moon (2009): It always annoys me when some guy comes along and directs his first movie and it kicks ridiculous ass and then I discover that he is the son of someone famous.  I'm always thinking, "yeah, if I had famous parents, I would be a successful film director too!" and then I realize that I am wearing pajamas and eating cheezies while complaining instead of working hard.  Sorry, mom.  I will no longer blame you because I slept in until 11:00 am on the weekends. 

Anyway, where was I?  Right - Moon.  It was directed by Duncan Jones, who happens to be David Bowie's kid.  Arrgh.  How many geniuses does this family need?  This movie stars Sam Rockwell, who I think is a great, great actor.  He's it.  He's the whole movie.  It's a science fiction movie about a guy who works on the moon.  It also stars Kevin Spacey as a robot.  I don't want to give anything away, but some weird stuff happens on the moon to Sam Rockwell who is working up there.  All is not as it seems. 

If you liked 2001: A Space Odyssey, you will love this film.  It is big on plot and acting and no bounty hunters get lasered or phasered. 

Man On Wire (2008): This movie actually did win an Oscar, but no one really knows about it.  This is one of the greatest documentaries ever.  It is the story of a crazy high-wire walker named Philippe Petit who, with the help of his crazy buddies, strung a tightrope in-between the World Trade Center Towers and then walked out on them. 

The whole movie is plot and mystery.  The buddies aren't sure about the crazy french guy, the crazy french guy is on a unicycle and juggling, and then suddenly they are lugging 1,000 pounds of equipment up flights of stairs to the roof of the World Trade Center.  It is a beautifully-shot caper movie that really shows how insane the whole idea was - and it worked!  I am a huge fan of Philippe Petit and his interviews in the movie are worth the time - his face lights up at the thought of being arrested. 

The Cove (2009): If you find that you have too many dry hankies in your house, consider this movie about the Dolphin slaughter in Japan.  This film has a really important story to tell (about where food comes from and how it gets to your dinner plate) and from a pure entertainment standpoint, the plot is really interesting.  A group of activists join together like a G.I. Joe task force, complete with infra-red technology, spies and guys slinking around at night trying not to get caught.  It is a really great movie, although it is impossible to get through without sobbing uncontrollably.  So don't watch this one on your birthday or if you have to be out in public later.  But if you want to educate yourself about the struggles that some activists are facing, this is an absolutely amazing film.