Jan 31, 2018

Monthly Movie Recap - January 2018

Welcome to the first Monthly Movie Recap of 2018!

A few reminders
1: Movie links go to Amazon where you can order the movie (or anything else) and drop a coin into the site's meager coffers.
2: You can find me on Letterboxd which is sort of a social network site for movie watchers and a great way to keep track of your viewings.
3: Feel free to drop a comment about something cool you've seen recently or to chat about any of the movies below.

*Star Wars The Last Jedi (2017)
I think I look forward more to the second viewing of a new Star Wars movie because it's easier to take in when you have an idea what to expect. I really can't think of another movie in recent history where I felt so much emotion watching it.

Haunters: The Art of the Scare (2017, Netflix)
This doc takes a look at people who put on their own haunted houses. Although there are a couple people interviewed, it seems to focus more on McKamey Manor, an extreme haunt that is more of a psychological endurance test. It's amazing how much of their own money these people sink into their haunts. Heck, if I could do it, I'm sure I would too!

"Saw" You Later: I get some people are looking for that "next level" scare but I prefer my haunted houses to be more traditional and Halloween related. But don't let that stop you from checking out this flick.

Rating: Documentaries are hard to give a number rating to. If you're into Halloween, see it!

Kong: Skull Island (2017, HBO)
I'll admit, I'm really only passingly familiar with Kong but I had a ton of fun with this one! I thought it was a really great creature movie. Although it's set in the 70s, it has a 40s/50s "lost world" pulp vibe going on. I do have to wonder how the ecosystem supports such big creatures.

Brie-ng It On: Somehow I've never seen Brie Larson in anything before now and I'm really looking forward to seeing her as Captain Marvel.

Rating: 7/10

*Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
This was the first and last Hellraiser I saw in the theater. Coming back to it the only things I remember were a CD shooting Cenobite and that I didn't care for the movie very much. My feelings haven't changed. This is a bad attempt at making Pinhead more like Freddy, complete with wise cracks and weird dream stuff going on. Also, how do you Hellraise with so little gore?

Audio Flashback: The best thing about this movie is the soundtrack. I've listened to it countless times since '92 so it was a treat hearing the songs in the movie.

Rating: 3/10

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) 
I was a little excited for this one, usually when horror franchises go to space you get some crazy awesome stuff. While the ideas they have here are great, the could have been carried out a lot better if they had a budget. Terrible, terrible CGI.

Drag Me to Anywhere but Hell: I am starting to wonder which is the lesser evil: forcing myself through this series or opening the puzzle box. I'm not really "getting" the series, it feels like more of the same every time.

Rating: 4/10

The Fate of the Furious (2017, HBO)
AKA, As The Wheels Turn. Look, no one is mistaking this for high art cinema, it's a high octane soap opera/comic book come to life and is a crazy over the top good time. Someone needs to make Michael Bay watch this to see how insane action and blowing stuff up can still make a fun movie.

Roads? Reportedly, there is talk of the next installment going to space. Let the good times roll! Fly? I really want a Rock/Jason Statham spin-off myself.

Rating: 6/10

A Christmas Story Live (2017, Fox)
Okay, I know it's a musical but I was pretty music'ed out after the first half hour. What it lost on me in musical numbers, it made up for in clever camera work and set design. There was one set change during Dad's number about the lamp that just blew me away. Watch the number here and remember it's live so there's no cutting away.

Rating: 5/10

Lights Out (2016, HBO)
I was expecting another ho-hum PG-13 horror flick but this shows just what you can do when you have more scares than slaughter going on. Yes, it has the requisite jump scares but it's also pretty creepy! It has an actual story with some family drama and an interesting take on the beastie's origin.

Sleep with the Lights On: Might be a good idea to watch this one during the day...

Rating: 8/10

Year to Date Total
New: 6   Rewatch: 2

Jan 24, 2018

Star Wars Space Punch

Although the blog post title sounds like something the pilot of an anime mech would shout when attacking, it's actually about a beverage.

I found these last month at my local corner store. It was kind of funny, we were coming back from vacation which was Star Wars-centric (read all about it here) and we had to stop for milk on the way home from the airport. I walked into the store and there was this display.

I hadn't heard of it before but being the collector person I am, I had to grab at least one of these to check it out. I picked up Poe because he was the only other light side can other than C-3P0. Sorry, 3P0. Each character is numbered but there was no checklist with the display. Poe is 20 and I definitely didn't see 19 more cans here.

This was just before The Last Jedi was released so I presumed it was a tie-in but thought it strange there was no TLJ branding on the cans or display. Then I ended up looking at the display photo more closely and noticed that's a Deathtrooper on the second shelf and not a First Order TIE Pilot.

After a bit of Googling, I found these debuted in Europe last year and made their way to the US in October but in limited distribution. Currently, there are 20 designs with possible plans for 40 (!) more in the future. Oddly, I'm only able to find images online for 12 designs in the US right now.

The tall, thin can design would have you think it's an energy drink but it's more of a lightly carbonated fruit drink. And it's got vitamin in the name, so it must be good for you!

But how does it taste?

Not great. It's like all the juice in the fridge had a sip left and they decided to mix them all together. Having made my share of "suicide" drinks over the years I know it's fun to experiment with flavors but this...just....no.

It's a blend of blackberry, blueberry, grapefruit, orange, pear, and raspberry juices from concentrate. That's too many flavors, you're just asking for trouble.

Although the drink goes down the drain, I did go back recently to see if they had any different designs and I was not let down.

You can find Star Wars Space Punch at convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores. Retail varies between $2.50 and $2.99. If you really gotta have it, you can get a 12 pack from Amazon with all different designs for $38.

Jan 17, 2018

Awesome Little Green Men

It's been awhile since I picked up a new blind box toy. Going to the stores week after week and not finding anything I really want, I decided to pull the trigger and check out Awesome Little Green Men.

These small soldiers (2"-3" tall) are sold in single blind boxes and in battle packs of 4 or 8. Each blind box comes with one of 106 figures, a dog tag, and a new recruit poster (checklist). They don't outright say it, but I suspect some of the rare vehicles figures are only available in the multi-packs.

Like the age old army men figures, there are two sides but now they're blue and green. Blind boxed toys having rarities is nothing new but it also comes into play with the game they've built around these guys.

See hello to Private Midrats.

Midrats is a member of the Eagle Eye Unit, as you can see from his helmet. It's hard to tell under there, but I think he's got his left eye closed so he can take aim. Each army has six different units. While no two figures are exactly the same, it looks like they painted the molds to make different looking troops.

I like the cartoonish design of the figures. They remind me of army guys I drew in middle school. (Remember that game on paper you'd play with a friend where you each draw your army on one half a sheet of paper and then make a "shot" by marking it and folding the paper over to see if it hit? Anyone?) Part of what made me get one was seeing the battle packs on shelves. The packs have some cool packaging that looks like a military truck and is mostly transparent so you can see some of the figures.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a game you can play with them. You can get the rules on their website. This is where the rarity comes in. Each figure has a point value on the base which is used to figure out an army's strength so that both sides are balanced. Their rank determines how strong they are and how many hits they can take. It's sort of like intro to tabletop wargaming. And I can totally see little kid me playing this on the floor.

Little kid me would have liked something like this. Loved it if they were spacemen and/or aliens! The blind boxes go for $4 (or $1 in little kid times). It's a decent value with the figure and dog tag. I think the dog tag really adds something to the package because a kid can take it and use it in their own play stories.

But I have to wonder how well they might sell. Anyone that's ever played army men will tell you, the more the better. At $4 a pop for a single unknown soldier, I could maybe see parents picking up one or two to go with a battle packs. Then you either need a lot more or a friend that has their own army. Or you could just, you know, play army men!

Be sure to check out the Awesome Little Green Men website for game rules, a checklist, and more. You've got your orders, now move out!

Jan 11, 2018

Star Wars at Hollywood Studios - Part 2

Picking up from Part 1, we're moving into the Star Wars Launch Bay! In the first area you get into, there are lots of prop replicas.

They stopped us here to point out that there is a tiny Mickey and Minnie poster in the bridge of the Tantive IV (Leia's ship). During a break in the tour, I asked our female tour guide if she knew why it was there. She said she didn't and I explained to her how the original model makers hid a pin-up poster in there and showed her a photo I took years ago when I saw the model in person. She got a kick out of learning something on her tour too. The guide that was closer to my age (and seemed grumpy all day) said he was familiar with this but they don't tell that story on the tour.

There are a couple of screen-used props as you head down a hall toward the character meet and greet area including Anakin's podracer cockpit and a full sized speeder bike. I have photos, they didn't come out great and you probably know what they look like anyway.

We then got to meet Kylo Ren, Chewie, and BB-8 who is a relatively new arrival. Kylo Ren is a pretty wild character experience. He's a little intimidating as he talks to your group. For some reason he was grilling me about the Resistance. Maybe it's my hat?

While waiting to meet the characters, you may see a pair of First Order stormtroopers on patrol! You can actually run into them almost anywhere in the park. The queue areas leading to the characters have some great replica prop displays. On the Dark Side, they have various bad guy lightsabers and Imperial helmets from clone trooper all the way to the First Order. On the Light Side, you've got good guy lightsabers, including Ezra's gun-saber, and various Rebel helmets.

This is one of the things I really enjoy about being at Disney. It brings together things from all aspects of Star Wars. As fans, I think we tend to think in terms of original or prequel movies and cartoon series but here it's all one big galaxy and you might just find yourself thinking about things in a new way.

This Jakku display is opposite the character queue area.
Heading out of the character area, you pass through a little cantina set where you might find some jawas hanging out. If you're crafty, they might trade small items with you.

Beyond that is the prop area. When we visited last year, they had props from The Force Awakens. This year, it was all Rogue One. I imagine soon, if not already, it will be changed over to The Last Jedi.

Some of the things on display here are actual props on loan from LucasFilm, like the Shoretrooper above. If you look at the plaque that tells you about the item, you'll see some have a line at the very bottom saying it's on loan.

I really like Cassian's rifle and how it can be assembled into a sniper configuration.

Chirrut's Lightbow was cool to see as you don't get a chance to get a good look at it in the movie. After all this, you of course end up in a gift shop. As we made our way out, the guides stopped us to see a character parade. I'll circle back to that but here's the video.

Star Wars character parade

We then headed over to the Backlot Express for a lunch break. Lunch is included in the tour, so that's a bonus! While we were eating, a couple of First Order stormtroopers we checking ID badges. This one picked up one kid's Porg and was checking it out.

We also each got a plastic Chewbacca stein (below, top), some stickers, and a lightsaber churro!

It's a churro covered in either red or blue sugar and served in a lightsaber hilt tube. Churros are probably my second favorite thing in the park, behind Dole Whip of course, so I was pretty excited that we got these. It was the least tastiest churro I have ever mostly eaten.

After lunch, we finished the day with the Galaxy Far, Far Away show. This stage show features characters from all the films. Remember that character parade? That was them leaving the stage show to go "back stage." This isn't my video but the show is so cool I wanted to share it.

I don't know about you, but the music gets me every time.

And so our tour came to an end. It's about a 5 hour walking tour, you get to learn about the history of Disney and Star Wars, front of the line access during the tour to the Star Wars attractions, and lunch. Oh yeah, you also get reserved seating for that night's fireworks display! If you're even just a casual fan, it's worth doing at least once.

I think a lot of people may go the parks and not realize there is much more to do than just the regular attractions. The tours are an additional cost on top of your park admission, but they are totally worth it.

Jan 9, 2018

Star Wars at Hollywood Studios - Part 1

Last month we took a trip to DisneyWorld. Not a whole lot has changed since we went last year but this go round, we took the guided Star Wars tour at Hollywood Studios. If you're a Disney park fan, these tours are a great way to get something new out of your next visit.

Unless you've been living in seclusion on Ahch-To, you probably heard they're building a whole section of the park that will be Star Wars themed called Galaxy's Edge.

Here it is!

Exciting, eh? I could almost hear the swelling of the Binary Sunset theme as I stood there, imaging what the future Star Wars land will be like.

But enough daydreaming, let's get back to the tour. Check in is before the park opens to the public so you get a few minutes of walking down Hollywood Blvd (the main street) with practically no one else in sight. When you do check in, you get your tour lanyard and a little receiver with an ear piece so you can hear the guide.

The back of your pass details what you'll be seeing on the tour, which is not anything you can't experience on your own, you just get to bypass the lines and get choice seating at the short films. Everyone in the group is assigned a planet, as you can see, I got Coruscant. These are used to break the tour group into smaller groups for some activities. And there's a handy Aurebesh decoder to translate Star Wars-ese.

When you check in, you also have to declare your allegiance to the Light or Dark Side. Depending on your choice, you get a Jedi/IMperial name tag like the one in the left photo with your name in Aurebesh. Weird that the title is in English but whatever.

We had three guides that shared speaking duties around the park, one guy probably just a bit younger than me, another guy and a girl who were both late 20s/early 30s. They each introduced themselves and told us a bit about their history with Star Wars. As you go from place to place in the park, they talk about how Star Wars and Disney came together.

One of our first stops was Star Tours. Surprise!
If you haven't been on it since October 2017, there are spoilers ahead!

The park still hadn't opened yet so we were able to leisurely go through the queue area while the guides pointed out some Easter Eggs, like these pipes on the floor.

The top one references Harrison Ford. 07/13/42 is his birthday and IND is obviously Indy. The second one is James Earl Jones, following the same setup.

Before boarding the ride, they lit up the vehicle is housed in so you could see just how big it is. That was pretty cool and the only real "behind the scenes" stuff we got to see. The ride seems to have changed up a bit from the last time I visited. It's more in theme with the direction the new area will be, which is set during the current series of films.

A lot of the randomization has been removed and it seems like the main sequences no longer change, staying within the current trilogy. I think the only random part to it now is which hologram transmission you see. You travel to Jakku where you fly alongside the Falcon evading TIE fighters (cameo by Finn). You then end up on Crait during the walker assault (cameo by Poe). This was before The Last Jedi was released so it was pretty rad to experience! The final destination is a brief glimpse at Batuu, the planet that is the basis for the upcoming section of the park.

If you have younglings, one of the biggest advantages of the tour is that they can participate in Jedi training. You also get to stand in a reserved viewing area. There are multiple shows each day but if you're a regular park guest, the spots are hard to get unless you arrive early.

The Jedi Master coaches the kids on their routine.
If you're not familiar with this show, groups of kids get basic lightsaber training from a Jedi master and his padawan then put their skills to the test against Force visions at an old Jedi temple. In the current show, kids fight Vader and Kylo Ren. Aw, a family reunion, isn't that nice? Having the villains be "visions" allows everything to stay within canon. I think it's kind of odd they're pushing to keeping things canonical at a theme park but maybe that's just me.

Previous shows have had the Seventh Sister from the Rebels animated series and Asajj Ventress and Ahsoka from the Clone Wars series. It's fun to watch these little kids get their Jedi on. There was one girl who was really afraid but like a true Jedi she didn't let fear get in her way and she confronted Vader like a boss.

Back at the front of the park, not only did we get to watch the March of the First Order but we "infiltrated" their ranks and marched behind them up Hollywood Boulevard.

The march ends at a stage where Phasma drills her troops.

After that display of force, we went over to the Star Wars Launch Bay to see the 10 minute film "Dreaming on a Galactic Scale" which has interviews with people that work at LucasFilm as well as the directors of the recent movies. What's great about this, and the Launch Bay in general, is that they update it when new movies come out.

After the short film you go into the Launch Bay proper which has replica and actual props on display, a small cantina, and character meet and greets. And this is where we wrap up part one of the story. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Jan 4, 2018

A Unique Christmas Gift

First off, a proper Happy New Year to everyone!

Every year, I usually do a Holiday Haul post showing off the gifts I received. This year, I wanted to focus on one particular present. Not that I didn't get a lot of other great stuff but this one is truly unique and completely unexpected. It brought back a little of that childhood Christmas magic.

Meet "Little Eddy."

He stands (sits?) just under 6" tall. He was created by Bre's Bits N Pieces as a commission. She makes all sorts of whimsical creatures. Bre says he is an impling. He has a bit of a Brian Froud design look to him like he could be hanging out in Labyrinth somewhere. I kinda felt like Billy seeing Gizmo for the first time when I pulled him out of the box.

Here you can see a bit better, he is actually wearing a black hood. All the better to keep hidden when being mischievous! I think the shape of his nose and the facial markings make his face look like a pumpkin, which is totally appropriate! The only suggestions given for his creation was that I like Halloween and Jack Skellington. Which also explains his orange and black striped vest.

And this is what makes him a unique gift.
He was hand-made which makes him truly one of a kind!

Bre makes some really amazing things. In addition to commission work, she also frequently puts other creations up for adoption through her Facebook page and Etsy store. Even if you're not looking to buy, her stuff is fun to see. If you do end up adopting from her, tell her Little Eddy sent ya!

Jan 1, 2018

Monthly Movie Recap - December 2017

Another month, another year! Where does the time go?
I'm guessing a few of you might have seen that Star Wars movie that set the internets on fire. What did you think? What else did you catch this month that's chat worthy? Let me know!

Yes, I'm late to the party on this one but better late than never, right? I thought they tipped their hand too much with the trailers and I knew where it was going to go. It went there, put down the pedal, and blew right past my expectations. Excellent performances all around and a razor sharp script make this one not to miss.

Rating: 9/10

Better Watch Out (2016, Shudder)
Take Home Alone, make Kevin a bit older sociopath with a crush on his babysitter and here you go! The movie is pretty fun once it gets going. The lead kid does psycho really well and it's got a couple of inventive kills. The "twist" at the end doesn't seem possible given how things lead up to it but I'll give it a pass.

Fun: In one scene, the two boys play FMK with Adventure Time characters

Rating: 6.5/10

Red Christmas (2016)
One of the few holiday horror movies that goes beyond a typical slasher. There's an actual story to the madness instead of a crazed killer making his way through the cast. Dee Wallace is really great in this. The pacing could use some fine tuning but you can't deny there's some beautiful camera work.

Rating: 6/10

Bright (2017, Netflix)
The trailer would have you think this is a typical Will Smith buddy cop comedy. While there are some funny bits, it's not a straight up comedy but there is a lot of shooting. I've seen a lot of people saying this is the worst movie of year and as someone that willing watches SyFy originals, this is nowhere near that bad. I really enjoyed it! I like what they did with the urban fantasy setting.

Wins the Award for: Best Fight Sequence at a Gas Station

Rating: 6.5/10

Star Wars The Last Jedi (2017)
With every new Star Wars movie, I know I need to see it at least a second time. The first viewing is for taking everything in and experiencing it. The second is for digesting and forming a better opinion. Having said that, I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. What I did love is all the Rey/Kylo, Luke, and Jedi stuff. What I didn't like was the slowest chase the galaxy has ever seen. It's still boggling my brain two weeks later.

Something Fishy: I'm not against strong female characters at all but I really think Holdo's role should have gone to Ackbar. He deserved better than what he got in this installment.
Needs Less: Earth-isms (your mom jokes, the phrase "big ass") and face cameos (Sorry Gareth, you pulled me out of the film).

Rating: 7/10, still need at least a second viewing

Month Total
 New: 5  Rewatch: 0

Year Total
 New: 61  Rewatch:7