Why didn’t Anyone Tell Me Cons Were So Much Fun?

I just got home from my first day of my first con and WOW what a rush! I can’t believe I have waited until my age, which no I will not tell you, to go to a con! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me how much fun they were?

So I am at ConBravo, which is in Hamilton. It isn’t Comic Con by any means, but it is busy enough to give me a real taste of the madness. These are some seriously creative and nice people. I have been to many a mass event where the participants were grumpy and mean but here everyone was in a good mood. It didn’t matter how long the line or how big the crowd everyone was your friend. Are they always like this? I am still just gobsmacked.

Then there were the costumes. My virtual hat is off to all of the people who have the time, energy and creativity to put together these outfits. I was having so much fun just people watching and seeing how many costumes I could recognize. I think I could spend a whole day just watching the Pokemon go by.

I will have more about some of the specific panels soon. I especially want to talk about The Games for Good initiative that James Portnow has created, but right now I am too tired and too scattered to be anything approaching intelligible. Good night everyone, my bed sounds very good right now.


What is it with fairy tales lately? Mirror Mirror, a little late.

Some trends seem to last forever. A few years ago everything was about animated zoo animals, more recently zombies have been explored in every genre and every possible medium. When I was a kid I remember many variations on ninja animals and even further back every other movie was about surfing. Trends are likely to continue to dominate the entertainment scene  and fairy tales seem to be in full swing.

I am a bit of a closet fan of this trend. I am one of the only people I know who actually follows Once Apon a Time closely enough to know what is happening and I was one of the only people I know who actually really liked Brothers Grim.  I was even a fan of Hansel and Gretel, though don’t expect me to defend it in print. Even I couldn’t put a good defense into writing.

It was from this perspective that I finally got around to watching Mirror Mirror . Well, even I can’t get behind this. This is pretty darn horrible. I could have guessed that from the ratings on IMDB or from any number of critics I follow but some people just have to learn for themselves. It seems to want to be a satire of the genre but it waffles between serious and silly a little too much to pin down. The script has moments of funny but they are surrounded by predictability and in the case of the dwarves, down right insulting stereotypes.

The one bright spot I saw was the cast. There is a good amount of talent here though they don’t have a huge amount to work with. Armie Hammer has perfected the slightly obtuse aristocrat and Nathan Lane is fantastic as Brighton the cowardly toady and substitute for the classic woodsman in the Snow White story. I was even ok with Lily Collins as the poor hard done by princess. Julia Roberts had her moments of brightness but seemed to be phoning it in for most of the movie. The dwarves, well, lets just not talk about them. It hurts my head to even think about how bad they were. They were such stereo types I expected a yellow brick road to appear and guide them back home.

In the end this is a movie that had some good concepts but the execution killed it long before any poison apple could have.

My Favourite Royal Movies

All of this hulabaloo about the newest member of the royal family in Britain has got me thinking about the princess movies out there. Most of them are wretched. I can’t handle most of the original Disney movies with their simpering brain dead leads and sweet as sugar screen plays. Bletch, spare me. Still, I wasn’t, and I am not, 100% immune to the royal fan girl phenomenon so I thought I would talk about my top three favourite movies centered on crowned heads.

First and forever foremost, The Princess Bride. Oh André the Giant you left us too soon. This movie was a perfect storm of witty writing (the book is also by William Goldman and also fantastically fun), great on screen chemistry, perfect one liners and a perfect supporting cast. I don’t want to hear your quibbles about how wooden Robin Wright is or how there is just not enough Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini. It is my go to movie for all occasions. My version of chicken soup and no one will ever convince me it is not perfect.

My guilty pleasure in this category is Princess Diaries. This is where I bet I lose people but I will stand by it. Yes, it is silly and teen angsty (is angsty a word? If not it should be.) but it has a few things I think hold it up. One, it has Anne Hathaway doing her absolute best to channel Lucille Ball . Blasphemy I hear some of you purists saying! But if you ask me Anne can take a tumble and do physical comedy with the best. She is glamorous and statuesque but not afraid to take one for the team. That is why she reminds me of Lucy and what I saw in this movie. Second, this movie series has Julie Andrews as a queen. If that isn’t type casting I don’t know what is. Third, I admit I love the sound track. Yes, I know, campy campy campy, but it is toe tapping.

My last entry in this genre is Tangled. I suppose it is only fitting that an animated Disney movie made it somewhere here but you have to admit that this is a far cry from Sleeping Beauty. Here is a princess movie where, despite being a shut in…like every other classic animated princess, our protagonist is smart, resourceful and well spoken. She doesn’t giggle and she doesn’t swoon but she also doesn’t have a mile wide chip on her shoulder. She is a perfectly normal girl reacting in perfectly normal ways. Also I love the horse. How could you not love the horse? Oh, and the chameleon! I really need to go re-watch this movie…

There you are. My top three princess movies. As a caveat may I just say that my top three princesses would be a completely different list and yes, Princess Leia Organa would be front and center on that one.

Red 2 or How Byung-hun Lee Flexed His way into my…Heart.

I was fully prepared to start talking about how much Helen Mirren kicked butt in Red 2. I had even thought of a few good one liners about Martha Stewart and sniper rifles, maybe a reference to how prison had been good for her, but as soon as I sat down in the theatre the focus on her was replaced. Now don’t get me wrong, Ms. Mirren is still a rock star in my mind but she was upstaged by some of her fellow performers.

I assume most people know about the premise of Red but, just in case, here is the general idea. Red is an acronym standing for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. It is about the adventures of a group of older super spies who are having a hard time being put out to pasture and keep getting pulled back into active duty for one reason or another. In the first movie one of the spies, Frank played by Bruce Willis, falls for Mary-Louise Parker’s Sarah. Now in the second installment the main thrust of the story is centered around him trying to come to terms with her wanting to take part in his adventures. They are dragged back into the secret agent gig with and admitedly silly and contrived story, but that is hardly the point. I didn’t come here for plausible stories, I am here for explosions, fist fights and great one liners.

Enter my favourite parts of this move and the people who upstaged the great Dame Mirren, John Malkovich and Byung-hun Lee. Both stole most of the scenes they were in. I have been a Malkovich fan for a while so that didn’t really surprise me but Byung-hun Lee was quite a discovery. Those moves, the comedic timing and a body like a Greek god. I have no idea how I have missed this man. I vaguely remember watching The Good, the Bad, the Weird but I guess he didn’t make that big of an impression on me. Boy did he ever this time. I can honestly say that his interaction with Bruce Willis was the part that had me laughing the hardest. Malkovich was classic quirky lovably odd Malkovich and was his usual blast to watch. The rest of the cast was at least strong enough to hold their own and not hold the funny back.

If I have anything critical to say it is that I felt the character played by Anthony Hopkins wasn’t defined enough. I was ok with him when I thought he was just nuts but then they started hinting at a deeper past. The problem is they never told us what his motivations were. Without giving too much away they had to either leave him at crazy or tell us why he is the way he is. You can’t leave it half way between the two. That is just frustrating.

In the end though I have not laughed that hard during any other move this summer so in my mind this one is a winner. Go turn off your brain for a couple of hours and have fun laughing and cheering on old spies.

As an aside, did you know that this movie was made by DC Entertainment? It is based on a comic series! How awesome is that? Was I really the only one who didn’t know that?

Man of Steel meets Bat of Angst

I admit I was not as huge of a fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies as some of my compatriots. I really appreciated Heath Ledger as the Joker but beyond that I was just exhausted by the whole thing. Everyone one was so darn gloomy and depressing. It was like a support group for 90s emo kids. Now I can appreciate darkness. My favourite all time genre is post apocalyptic horror. I can get into hopeless and kicking the character when they are down, but this is a super hero movie! From the tone you would think batman was Oliver Twist not Richie Rich. Yes, ok, I know that is the way the comics are trending, but I reserve the right not to like it. Batman in my mind is Adam West, Not Mopey McMoperson.

Then comes along Man of Steel. I am not sure how to feel about this one. I appreciate the attempt to deal with what it would be like to grow up as the freak with the super powers. I also kind of dug the very obvious messiah parallels. We all know Superman is Jesus in spandex, but this is the first time I have seen the theme dealt with in a serious way. In fact I felt that it was so strong that I was pulled right out of the movie when he and Lois kissed. For a former Catholic school kid that was pretty jarring. Over all though, I did like the movie. The fight scenes got a bit repetitive but repetitive awesome is still pretty awesome. It was definitely a dark and gritty reboot though. Not quite as bad as the Dark Knight trilogy but it did leave its sugary past behind.

How then do we reconcile the powers that be announcing at Comic-Con that Superman and Batman will team up in movie? I am afraid that this could signal that the eventual Justice League movies will closer resemble a depression support group then a team of god like super heroes. Will this mean Wonder Woman will be a survivor of conversion therapy? Maybe Aqua Man will have a secret crippling fear of water? Could Flash be running from a secret dark past? I don’t know, I want to be excited by this idea by I am just getting a bad feeling about this.

The world is dark enough, I am not sure I need it in my super heroes as well.

Why Pacific Rim Almost Worked.

I went to see Pacific Rim the other night. I was happy to pay for the new super ticket and I was happy to see it in all of it’s Imax 3D glory. I went in feeling excited about the epic spectacle about to unfold. My initial reaction was pure gut driven glee. This movie is a visual treat. The kind of well crafted eye candy that has only really been possible in the modern effects driven world. I love the movie on first instinct but on the way home something started to nag at me. I am going to do my best to express why, but beware of mild spoilers.

I don’t want to sound like I didn’t like the movie, I did. No one can paint a digital picture like Guillermo del Toro.  He is a modern master of visual story telling. Everything we once thought George  Lucas was going to be.  This movie is no exception to his usual picturesque brilliance. Every kid who imagined living in the world of Voltron or Godzilla, anyone who has ever watched a Ray Harryhausen movie and wondered what it would really be like to experience a monster in real life, will come away with an answer. The world is believable and the premise well crafted. All of the internal logic works and it looks gorgeous doing it.

So why do i have an irritating little feeling that it wasn’t what it could have been?

The more distance I get the more I think I know the answer, and I suspect it was intentional. I felt like all of the characters were one dimensional. They felt like genre archetypes. Movie Bob expressed it better then I could over at Escape to the Movies. In a nut shell, and apologies to Mr Chipman if I got it wrong, he suggests that the movie was deliberately trying to have every character feel like they walked out of the material that inspired them.  Every person in the story was just what you thought they should be. It was an Anime come to life, but without the depth of character that you get in a long running series. This is fine in theory but you need some very good actors to pull it off.

The supporting cast is not the problem here. I adored the mad scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) and Ron Perlman proves once again why he is a walking cult classic. I was even fully invested in Idris Elba, who is doing his darnedest to become a top tier talent. He is the closest to accomplishing both an obvious homage to the source material and a full person in his own right. The rest of the cast fell short in my opinion.

The leading man and lady were almost place holders. They felt generic. Replaceable. Utterly bland and photo copied. I spent most of the movie waiting to feel anything about them. The closest I came was the memory scene with the junior version of Mako Mori but that is due to the talent of the little girl. I honestly believed they were terrorizing that child and I felt a strong urge to protect her. The minute we went back to “modern day” I lost any real connection to the character.

The movie held me with the eye candy and all to small moments of great stage presence but I am not sure it will be one I will want to re-watch again and again. In the end it was a movie I suspect I will describe it in the future as “Beautiful, breath taking and deep as a puddle”.