Wednesday, May 28, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Recently I watched the latest installment in the X-Men movie series, X-Men: Days of Future Past.  You can creep my twitter profile for the short version, but where's the fun in that?  Read on (sort of spoiler-y I guess)...

Let me start off with the best part of the movie: Magneto as played by Michael Fassbender.  All of the sequences involving him (either taking part of the action or just in the action) are excellent.  The best sequence is from the end - and I'm definitely not spoiling the contents of that scene, because it's worth experiencing.  A close second would be Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique.  She also had some very strong scenes in the film, and without spoiling it, was very central to the plot.

Now then...there were some weaker moments, as I alluded to on Twitter.  The worst moments: Wolverine piping in with "...but I know someone who can help us!" when they run into a road block.  To be fair, I think this only happens twice, but the overall characterization of Wolverine is actually not very strong.  To me, he comes across as much more emotional than we've seen in any of the previous movies.  Yes, he's shown some strong emotions (other than "GRR!  I'm angry!") in the other movies, but in this one he almost seems sentimental.

That's not the character we know; however one could argue that this decades-long war against the sentinels with deaths of all his friends has changed him.  I would buy that argument if maybe we'd seen a movie set completely in the future (or the present? I know it's supposed to be the future in the comic book, but it's a little muddy in the movie).  It does help that we see some of the mutants get killed in horrible ways in the opening sequence - it helps cement the idea that this is a terrible state of affairs for mutants.

I also feel that James McAvoy's Professor Xavier recovers a little too quickly from his depression.  I feel like this should have been a more important part of the plot, but it's not handled with much grace.  On the other hand, I think this is a third strong point I found in the movie - James McAvoy.  I won't say too much - I just liked his performance in the movie.

I would definitely watch this movie again and anticipate the day it arrives on home media.  One thing to note if you were let down by X-Men 3 - this movie pretty much wipes its events out of the movie series canon.  I liked parts of X-Men 3 but I feel like that was a good move; unfortunately the movie also undoes some of X2, but it's unclear exactly how much of that has been undone.

The next X-Men movie should be pretty good - it's supposed to be set in the '80s, so none of the "old" trilogy actors should be appearing in it (though wouldn't you think that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are still a little too young-looking in the '80s to pass as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen?).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Deep Space Nine: The Adversary

Full disclosure: Deep Space Nine is probably my favourite TV series; while TNG might be the Trek I grew up on, DS9 has always been my favourite.  It's a shame that I never watched it during the original run (until the later seasons) and had to watch it as re-runs.  It's also a shame that no network carries them in syndication that I know of - they instead prefer to show TOS, TNG, and Voyager.  Weird.  I think DS9 is very underrated.  I'm currently re-watching DS9 with Vanessa, mainly as an excuse to watch my favourite TV series.

Episode: The Adversary (Season 3, Episode 26 - S3 finale)
Directed by Alexander Singer

The season 2 finale of DS9 really kicked off the whole Dominion plot line, which continued into the third season; season 3 was still rather episodic when compared to the latter episodes though.  The Adversary really kicked the Dominion plot into high gear.  The short version of the episode is that a Changeling (one of Odo's species, if you don't know) infiltrates the Defiant and attempts to start a war with an alien species in order to take the Federation out of the picture to ease an Alpha Quadrant invasion.  Surprise!  It doesn't work, but Odo learns of a very important fact: it's too late, the Changelings (also called The Founders) are everywhere.

As an episode, it was fantastic: the writing was on, all the character notes were great - but I wanted to highlight the technical aspects of this one, because I thought they were above and beyond the rest of season three.

Very often in Star Trek (and especially DS9), we're presented with a giant ship (or station), where the characters have tons of room to move around.  The Defiant, though, is a tiny ship in contrast.  It's designed to be highly maneuverable, and highly efficient.  The bridge is nice and big, and by necessity so is the engine room, but the rest of the ship is small.  It's basically a submarine in space.

The Adversary does an excellent job in depicting the size of the ship.  Camera angles were very tight and close, and the characters were put in some claustrophobic situations.  Unfortunately I don't think many other episodes featuring the Defiant use these techniques as well as The Adversary; ironically I feel that these tight shots really showcased the Defiant more than wide shots otherwise would have.

The other thing that was really neat were the lack of cuts from the camera.  I think this is directly related to the director (Singer) choosing to film the characters up close, so that when the camera needed to move to another area in the scene, it pulled back in a fluid motion - as if the viewer is the camera, and has to back up ever-so-slightly in order to survey more of the scene.  It was really neat.  But this also helped to simulate the effect of the Changeling watching the crew and being careful not to be noticed.

I don't normally notice these things, but I thought I needed to highlight these sneaky-but-awesome camera tricks in a well-written episode.  If you haven't seen this one, track it down - you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Toe-riffic Challenge

I've never broken a bone before in my life; that's a 30-year streak, which is pretty impressive!  I've had my fair share of massive bruises, but I guess I'm just big-boned.  Hopefully, that streak has not ended as a result of dumb luck.

This past Monday afternoon, I somehow managed to stub my toe on one of the pipes that stick out in the basement while carrying a basket of laundry to the laundry machines.  At the time, I simply thought it was a run-of-the-mill toe stub: no visible marks to my toe, it seemed to be pointing in the right direction.  It was just sore - which to me seems normal for a stubbed toe.

I went on to play some softball Monday night, which required wearing cleats - they were a little tight against my toe, and I played with a pretty bad limp.  After the game when I took my cleats off, my toe was pretty much black and blue all over.  Not a good sign!  (For those who haven't researched broken toes on the Internet, this is pretty much the number one indication that it is broken.)

Since then, the bruising has gone down a LOT, and I'm just experiencing some minor pain (I'd qualify the toe as "tender").  I went to see the doctor, and he was able to move my toe around quite a bit.  Without doing an x-ray, his best assessment was that it's probably not broken - and either way, the treatment would be the same: ice it, keep it elevated, and don't wear tight-fitting shoes.

Which brings us to the challenge - I have some fitness goals to meet, but I'm not supposed to wear shoes, essentially.  It's great that it's the summer time and I can wear sandals, but it's also softball season.  I'm not 100% sure what to do here - maybe it would be best to not play for a week?  And, there should be plenty of exercise that can be done that doesn't require wearing proper shoes - I just can't go to the gym.

The whole point of this rambling is just to say that I'll have to find a way to stay active despite this really tiny limitation ('s my pinky toe).  This really shouldn't be a huge problem - I've hurt my feet in different ways before; this one just could have been, and potentially could still be, much worse.  All because of a stupid pipe in the basement.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Short Post About Glee

Please allow this brief interlude from talking about weight loss (I think I need a break from talking about that anyway).  I'd like to talk about Glee.

I like the show; that apparently is not a popular opinion for guys to hold, and I'm not sure why.  I guess some guys don't like singing and dancing?  Anyway, having said that, I don't like the last two seasons of Glee as much as the first three.  I think we're at 5 seasons - it's hard to tell with the amount of hiatus periods this show has (which is something I definitely do not like).

I liked the first three seasons because of several reasons, chiefly that there was actual character growth.  The overall plot was also somewhat realistic - the Glee club didn't win it all the first go-around (or even the second time), and had to deal with true adversity.  It wasn't until the third season that they actually were able to pull it all together and win - and it felt like a truly well-deserved win.  I liken it to a professional sports team, who after learning how to lose, finally wins it all.

I felt that the writers/producers hit all of the right beats in those first three years, and that's where the last two seasons fell short.  I will grant that they tried to make me care about the new cast and give them original stories; but you could tell that they realized that avid fans still wanted more of the original cast - hence the split time between Lima and NYC.  However, I don't think it's a coincidence that the show changed focus to NYC and dropped the Lima stories.

Going back to character growth for a quick minute - it just seemed that the characters in the last two seasons were cardboard, and that the whole show became a parody of itself.  I like that it is self-aware (if it wasn't, I think I would have hated these seasons), and I'm glad that the high school kids didn't win Nationals in the end - I swear, everything I was watching felt like they were going to win it, even though they didn't deserve to.

The show is apparently going in another new direction (haha...get it??), so I'm not sure what to expect.  All I know is that if I were to want this show on DVD, I would stick with the first three seasons.  It was a solid show, but it's just faltered a little bit.  Who knows, maybe it will pick itself up again.