Friday, August 1, 2014

My Guardians of the Galaxy Rant

I reserved a healthy dose of skepticism coming into this movie. I've enjoyed pretty much all the Marvel Universe movies that have come out. I have heard some bad things about the Hulk movies, and have only seen bits and pieces of them on cable, but they are on my Netflix queue and I will get to them someday. If you had told my 14 year old self, that this is what comic book movies would be I would never have believed you.  I remember sitting with friends in the 7th grade and casting our dream X-men movie. I'm pretty sure we nailed Patrick Stewart as Prof. X, meanwhile Fox had Roger Corman making the worlds worst fantastic four movie so they didn't lose the film license. Around this time Marvel was going bankrupt, and the rights of some of their biggest properties were going to the highest bidder. It's why Spider-man and Wolverine, sometimes Avengers will never be able to join the Avengers on the silver screen. It's why we are going to get a horrible Fantastic Four reboot next year. It's why we are now suffering through a horrible Spider-Man reboot.

Anyway, to me the Guardians of the Galaxy is an unknown. The resurgence of these characters is pretty much past my prime as a comic book reader in my youth, while I am always tempted to start buying them, I know I probably shouldn't walk into a comic book store, as I will walkout without next month's rent payment. Having them as an unknown, got me really enthusiastic for this next chapter in the Marvel cinematic universe, as I had no frame of reference it is all knew. I had read the few bad reviews, and they mirrored some of my concerns... would it be too campy, would I care about these characters, too much flash and not enough character development blah blah blah...

Well these reviewers are idiots. I don't think they saw the same movie. I stand with the 90% certified fresh people on Rotten Tomatoes. This is non stop entertainment from start to finish that you can see will fit in seamlessly with the rest of the expanding universe they are developing. It has action, comedy, character development, and the acting is great. This is the summer blockbuster everyone has been waiting for, and maybe it's better than The Avengers.

But this is not my rant topic, I could gush over the movie for pages, I'd like to get back in the car and go see it again. No... I am using this opportunity to vent on another topic.

About halfway through this movie, I got angry... like seething mad. The reason is, I wish the Star Wars prequels did not exist. To be fair the CGI stuff has come a long way, but man... do the CGI characters in those movies absolutely suck. It's really a travesty. George Lucas who is responsible for such an expansive and colorful universe, gave us Jar-Jar Binks. The word "give" is too high praise... he inflicted it on us. This is not a new complaint, people have been ranting on this since the initial shock of what we had witnessed wore off, but I'm looking at it in a whole new way. It's absolutely dreadful.

James Gunn, maybe best known for writing the live action Scooby-Doo (and some other stuff admittedly, but that seemed funny). Gave us more heart, character development, conveyed more emotion, and told a better story with Bradley Cooper as a Raccoon, and Vin Diesel as a walking tree that can only say three words. The integration of these characters into the film is seamless, you will forget that they are not real at times. If anything and this is probably sacrilege, they one-upped Gollum from Lord of the Rings here, and that's purely just a technical leap.

I couldn't believe I got so mad in the theater but there it was, I was distracted from what was going on in front of me, because I was wishing Lucas left well enough alone. I sat in the theater and watched the Phantom Menace four times trying to convince myself it was good. It is not. I know it's popular to hate on George  Lucas, and it's popular in some circles to send hate-waves towards Disney for acquiring Lucasfilm, but boy am I glad he no longer has no creative control over his greatest creations. After watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I have no doubt that the right people are at the helm, and whatever these guys want to do with Andy Serkis is going to be leaps and bounds greater than whatever the hell than the pure drivel that was put out in episodes I, II and III.

I'm done with this for now, but go see this movie, you will enjoy the hell out of it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Replacement Level

December 2014....

Duke Farms

It's been a beautiful summer weekend. Alison had a plan for us to check out Duke Farms, a local attraction, that I had known about for some time, but did not really know much about.

It turns out it's a pretty fascinating place. Tobacco magnate James Duke, consolidated thousands of acres of farmland in nearby Hillsborough. There are all sorts of man made lakes, and man made hills, it's a beautiful place. When he passed away, his daughter, "world's richest girl" Doris Duke, sued her mother and one of the awards from the suit was this property. She decorated it with the spoils of her globe-trotting and incredibly fascinating life. Eventually she opened it to the public, it was closed for a few years, but re-opened in 2012.

Our first trip basically ended when Jackie's peanut butter and jelly sandwich dropped in the dirt, maybe 30 minutes in. We spent another hour and change alternating between crying Catherine, and crying Jackie, and sometimes both, but it was still a pretty nice trip. I'm glad such a great place is nearby for us to explore, it's free, and we'll definitely be going back.

Jackie did a lot of running on the paths... which was a good thing, she slept pretty well that night.


More running

Enjoying the fountain

This was her silly picture, and pre pb&j drop

Catherine enjoying a cool beverage

It was tough to convince her to pose after the sandwich mishap

Looking for Bears.. I told her that her loud complaining scared them all away

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pretend Camp

Jackie's pre-school offered some summer day camp sessions with a different theme each week. We had decided to send her for a few weeks to give her some additional activities over the summer and play with the other kids. This was the first week, and the theme was Animal Planet.

I am sorry to say though, that when I came home from work on Monday things were pretty grim. Jackie didn't want to talk about camp, she was quite argumentative in fact. Finally, after a little bit of dinner, I got some information out of her. It wasn't real camp you see... there were no tents, or s'mores, or any real camp things to do, and she was so disappointed. It was pretend camp.

Happily, she seems to have gotten over it. Yesterday, there was a petting zoo activity they kids got to see a dove, a wallaby, a fox, and a hedgehog. I saw the pictures on facebook that they school had posted, so when I got home I was asking her about the animals. I forgot one though, and she was happy to inform me that she got to pet a chinchilla, whatever that is.

So things have been going better at pretend camp, apparently they have ice pops. They were kind enough to send this photo along of Jackie enjoying a grape one after a rough morning of running through sprinklers. When I asked how camp went while I was home for lunch, she reminded me it was not camp, it was pretend camp.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Back From the Dead?

Well.. well.. well... here we are.

A happy Father's Day was had.

Dad and the Girls

Pool time

Stand up...

...and Celebrate!

Shucking Corn with Great Grandma

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chuck E. Cheese Please

Thanks to their incessant advertising on the various children's television networks, the eldest child, our dear Jacqueline has been requesting a trip to Chuck E. Cheese for about six months. Since we drive past it routinely, we get asked about it just as routinely. Today with the dreary cold weather, and the bleak frozen wasteland of a yard preventing any real time outside, I decided to bite the bullet and take the family for a trip out there to A) wear her down for her nap, and B) either curb the requests, or double them, not sure yet how that is going to work out yet.

I dutifully clipped coupons for a pizza deal, and 20% off some tokens, helped Alison get the kids ready, and off we were to the Bridgewater version of what I thought for certain would be adult hell on earth.

It was not quite hell on earth, not by a long shot. By some measures it might have even been pleasant. In my haste to make a decision for the day trip however, I did make one miscalculation. I never contemplated the sheer volume of birthday party kids that might be present at say 1 PM on a Saturday afternoon. It was pretty chaotic when we first arrived, any design on maybe skipping pizza for the second day in a row and settling on a healthy option from the menu went out the window when we saw the sheer volume of toddlers present in the play area. We just made the quickest decision possible, the pizza pack, bought some tokens and went on a search for a seat.

We found a table, unpacked and I took Jackie around for a pass of the game area. We played a few games including this age appropriate gem.

Around that time the parties got called in, so mercifully the floor cleared, and we played a few of the ticket dispensing games. I was a bit disappointed that there seemed to be a four or 5 ticket cap on each game. This prevents me from parking at the ski ball on future trips and clearing them out of tickets and prizes, a major dissapointment for sure. Jackie didn't quite get the grasp of ski-ball or some of the other ball tossing activities, but she had a great time. The pizza arrived and was better than expected, we played a few more games, let Jackie crawl through the rat habitat they had hung from the ceiling, and we escaped with our sanity and a pile of tokens, we bought way too many with the coupon we had, so we have just prepaid for three or four more trips to the place. Good thing it's close.

I will add that from the reviews on sites like yelp, this appears to be one of the better franchises. I would confirm this, but it's really my first experience in one of these places. It was clean, the staff was friendly and attentive, the games are cheap, the food was edible and better than expected. We shall return. Birthday parties, are probably not in the cards though. The Chucky Cheese character walking around had body language that reminded me of Will Ferrell's ill fated turn at ice capades in the movie Blades of Glory. Then when I expected a bad animatronic rat to be revealed behind the stage curtain they had set up in the party area, which was visible from the entire restaurant, and got precisely what I expected, it seemed a little worse than lame. Kids might not notice, but I don't think I could subject other adults to such things involuntarily.Whatever happened to the good old days of parties at roller rinks. Now that was entertainment.
Playing some kind of game or another, a limit of four tickets is the universal prize. This seems like some sort of everyone gets a trophy and is a precious snowflake type deal.

Can't really describe how thrilled she was to be there, it's a kid thing I guess.

Enjoying some pepperoni pizza

Helping Jackie steer the snowmobile, we won first place

Scurrying through the rat tunnels

This retrofit was a bit strange

She was moving to quick for the camera

Jackie had a great time and Catherine cooperated, what more could parents ask for?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dark Lord of Cuddles

The force is strong with this birthday gift from Uncle Joe and Aunt Lara.

Jackie soundly sleeping with a variety of Lucasfilm and Pixar properties