Thanks, and Sorry, Dad

I was on my back driveway last night watching three or four of C-17 Globemasters landing at McChord Field one after another, their landing lights shining behind some low clouds, and thinking what an awesome sight it must be from up there; turning and banking over the cities and bays and islands of Puget Sound. Once again, I remind myself I could have joined the Air Force and maybe, possibly  have seen it for myself (but who am I kidding… Dad was an Army guy through and through. He’d have given me an immense amount of shit if I’d joined any other).

But I didn’t serve. And that might be more of a good thing than bad I guess (but the fact is I could have used a severe ass-kicking at the time , and boot camp might’ve been beneficial). More importantly, Dad (Mom too) insisted that I go straight to college of some sort after high school. He discouraged any interest I might’ve shown in the military for the same reason he refused to get me a decent-paying job at the lumber mill where he worked. He’d just seen too many young men get sidetracked. Maybe work a year or two after high school, put some money in the bank with the intent to go to college. And then they buy a shiny new truck, and maybe some other toys. Then, blink, 30 years later and you’re still working there, with kids to feed and/or a house to pay off.

So I went straight to college, and finished in a semi-respectable 5 years. Dad even agreed to lend me some $$ when, as a senior, I seriously ran out of funds. He just wanted me to finish. And finish I did.

Unfortunately, after graduation, I moved home with an inflated sense of self and a head full of liberal notions and ideas that no doubt both alienated and enraged my father. He even took me to a pro-timber industry “Save Our Sawmills” meeting to show me …I’m not sure what his motives were honestly but it took a lot of courage for him to take me (my father was not a “joiner”, nor was he an activist). At any rate, I came out of the meeting convinced how misguided these people and their intentions were. Sadly, it took me years to appreciate how important it was that my dad took me to that meeting, and also just how ridiculous and annoying my 23 year old self had to be in order for that to happen.

My father and had differing opinions about the world, but he never once judged me. And he always, always supported me and had my back when I was in a difficult way. Thank You, Dad, and sorry if I was such a little shit at times.

 

 

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Miss You Dad (part 2) : Twenty Seconds !

Recently I passed the twenty-year mark as a resident of WA and the Puget Sound region. This means that for nearly two decades, my interactions with Dad were roughly  two weeks a year of personal time in Medford, and the rest of the year was by phone. No email, no texting…(I’m sure that if he had his ‘druthers he would have never upgraded from the rotary-dial model). And mind you he was no fan of talking on the phone. I usually got about 20 seconds before handed the phone off to Mom.

A Typical Conversation from 5+ years ago

Dad: (answers phone) : Hello?

Me: Hi, Dad!

Dad: How you doin?

  Me: Oh, about the same. (insert yesterday’s weather, Ducks football, the Mariners are terrible, etc.etc. Ask Dad how the Blazers are doing;)

Dad : Terrible. As usual I guess. Uh here’s your mother mm hmm love ya bye.

Me: LOVE YOU TOO DAD BYE (Said loud in the hopes that he can hear me mid-pass of phone )

Mom: Hello?

 

 

 

 

 

Miss you, Dad

It’s now been almost a year and a half since I lost my father, and I miss him every day. Increasingly, I find myself echoing his words and actions and mannerisms. Now that I am the sole owner of his name, I feel just a little responsibility to do his name justice, although I know it is futile to live up to his legacy. He was a man of few words due to his speech impediment; instead, he used action to communicate to the world. Specifically, building and creating, with his own hands:

  • a deck on our house
  • planters
  • a vacation cabin at the family property on the Oregon coast
  • Windchimes
  • etc. etc. etc

Myself, I can barely pound a nail into a two by four, so my legacy to the world will have to be one of words and ideas. Some to make you laugh, some to piss you off, but always to make you think. That is one way that I can honor my father who gave me his name not out of laziness, but rather in the hope that I would one day be the man that he was.

That’s all for now.

blueDonald, 3/19/2018

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – my review

 

King Kong's hand spotted in first Kong: Skull Island billboard! KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)

 

Before Godzilla, before Cloverfield, before any giant monsters roamed the Earth, there was King Kong. While nothing will probably top the thrills of the 1933 original, this film is a very good remake/ reboot which is respectful and complimentary to the legacy of Kong. It’s action packed and quite entertaining, which is more than I can say for some of the earlier versions. I’m thinking mainly of Peter Jackson’s bloated 2005 CGI-wankfest that had the unique problem of having not enough and too much action at the same time. This movie does it right. The story moves along at a swift clip and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The plot is the same old same old: A ragtag bunch of explorers (and one woman) find their way to a mysterious, uncharted island which is populated by the namesake giant ape, along with a bunch of other primordial beasties and of course the native tribe that worships Kong as their god and savior. The twist this time is that the film takes place in 1973 (I suspect by doing this they are giving Kong an extra 40+ years to continue growing in order to match the size of um, ….another giant monster J). Lots of Vietnam era music is heard on the soundtrack, and is used quite well.

Reviewers have complained about the lack of depth in the characters. To be fair they are not really characters, but familiar archetypes: Tom Hiddleston is the mercenary explorer, and Brie Larson is the gutsy war photographer. John Goodman is the tweedy academic who wants to study the beast, while Samuel J is the military guy who just wants to blow him to smithereens. John C. Reilly almost steals the show as a WWII pilot who’s clearly been on the island too long.  I will say that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts uses his excellent human cast better than Gareth Edwards did in his 2014 Godzilla.

And the giant monsters! First and foremost is Kong himself. Granted, Peter Jackson’s Kong was more realistic, but this Kong has more personality due to the improved motion capture, and his appearance is similar to the original model in 1933 (we won’t even mention the 1976 Kong, let alone the rather awful looking Toho apes…sorry guys, furry creatures are not your strong suit*). There is also a giant spider, and a giant wildebeest, and some “giant f***in’ ants” although we don’t see them. Kong’s main foe in the film are the “Skull Crawlers” and to be honest I was not impressed with these creatures: They seemed to be designed in the JJ Abrams school of excessive “claws and jaws” which show up in many of his films: Cloverfield, Super 8, Star Trek, etc. etc.

It’s not perfect, nor particularly deep or meaningful, but it’s a good piece of popcorn entertainment that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Definitely recommended for anyone who is a fan of kaiju genre films. Especially if you stay until the end of the credits!

 

*the exception being 1965’s War of the Gargantuas.

Blade Runner 2? No thank you

bladerunner

Look, I’m not enthused about this. (Oh really? you say. I couldn’t tell! /sarcasm)  Yes, I’m one of those Blade Runner nerds. Ever since my wise Uncle Dave took me to see it at the Cerritos multiplex way, way back in 1982, it has more or less remained my favorite film not starring a giant radioactive lizard or a wisecracking British secret agent. So when the pop culture reports came in saying that a BR sequel was “definitely, absolutely going to happen”, my response was “please God no.”. And here’s why.

The original Blade Runner (the “director’s cut” and the “final cut” versions) ended on a deliberately ambiguous moment. We don’t know if Deckard and Rachel lived happily ever after. We really don’t know if Deckard is meant to be a replicant himself (despite the “unicorn dream” sequence). The film ends on a serious of unanswered questions. I don’t know if Ridley Scott and the script writers even knew the answers themselves. And that is exactly what I want to take away from Blade Runner: questions that are not answered.

I don’t know if Deckard is a replicant, and I don’t want to know. I do know this: If they try to answer this question in the sequel, I will be very, very unhappy. If this is indeed the main plot point in BR2, then I will be willing to pretend that this film does not exist. (Besides, I’m not a huge fan of sequels that come years – decades in this case – after the original. It just smells of a desperate money grab to me.)

Here, then, is my idea for BR2 that does not compromise the events in the original. First of all, no Deckard (and therefore no Ford). If the character does appear then let it be in reference to events in the past, i.e. remember Deckard?  The cop who disappeared mysteriously with a replicant in tow back in 2019? Yeah, that guy. Maybe a picture on the wall of the police station. Then introduce the new, younger Blade Runner whose story will be completely original and unrelated to the events of the original. Hell, you can even call him Deckard if you want (perhaps it’s a code name no longer in use) and cast Ryan Gosling in the role as has been rumored. Then, if you really want to please all the Phillip K Dick fanboys (and girls) you could incorporate some of the unused elements of his original story. I’ve even got a title for you. Blade Runner 2: Do Androids Dream? You’re welcome. Just give me a screenwriting credit, something to pad the ol’ CV with, and I’m good.

Just my $00.02. Thanks for reading. More rants later.

Okay, so I finally saw Episode 7. A few thoughts…

 

I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens last week and enjoyed it quite a bit. Of course, having disliked most everything about the prequels, I knew that this one would be better, but having low expectations made it even more enjoyable. It was great to see all the old familiar faces and the new characters were (mostly) good as well. Of course it wasn’t perfect and there were a few things that bothered me but, really what film is?

The old faces

I was happy to see Han Solo and Chewie again (and Harrison Ford seemed genuinely enthused to play the old Corellian smuggler again, which was a nice surprise). Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa looked great (the hell with the h8ers). We didn’t see much of R2, 3PO and Luke this time, but I have a feeling they’ll be back…

The new faces

How nice to have a female main protagonist, and Daisy Ridley as Rey seems more than capable. I am wondering where (or who) she got The Force from, hmm….John Boyega was wonderful as the former stormtrooper Fin, looking forward to seeing him again. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren has about 300% more personality than Hayden Christiansen did as Anakin/Darth. Creepy, yet a bit charming all the same (what do you expect with Solo as your dad?). The only new character that I didn’t like was Oscar Isaac as Poe. He might be the best pilot, but he needs to grow a personality in the next film.

Things that bothered me

The political landscape, post-Empire, seemed a bit unclear. Who exactly are the First Order, if not the Empire 2.0?  If the Republic is (comfortably) in power, why is there a need for a Resistance? Who are they Resisting against? I’m not exactly sure who won the war. There are just a few too many similarities to Episode 4 for my liking. The hero/heroine lives on a desert planet. Secret plans are hidden in a droid. The bad guys have a huge, planet sized weapon which can be brought to ruin by hitting one tiny, vulnerable spot. There is a cantina scene. Etc, etc etc.

Things I liked

After the soulless CGI-laden cheese fests that were the prequels, JJ Abrams brings some much needed humanity to the Star Wars saga. The masks come off for this one (literally). The story moved along at light speed with nary a dull moment. The new characters were compelling enough to make me want to know what happens to them in the next film. Speaking of Abrams, I am glad he decided to rein in his usual stylistic touches (lens flares, shaky camera, multi-legged CGI monsters, etc) and keep things moving at a fast clip. I think the franchise is in good hands with him at the helm.

And? This film was 100% Jar Jar free.

Looking forward to Episode VIII!

 

 

 

SPECTRE (2015)

spectre

The story: James Bond, Agent 007, is hot on the trail of a mysterious criminal organization that threatens international security as we know it. The story takes him from Mexico City, to Rome, to Morocco, and back to London. The organization, known as SPECTRE, has a far-reaching influence as Bond uncovers connections with those close to him…both living and dead.

We finally get a “traditional” James Bond movie in the Daniel Craig era. And it is (for the most part) good. Let’s examine thus far:

  • Casino Royale: Bond’s “origin story”. Craftily updated from the 1953 Fleming novel. Generally considered Craig’s best and a high point in the series.
  •   Quantum of Solace : A lovely but deeply flawed sequel to CR in which many of the familiar Bond tropes (and humor) were discarded in favor of a serious, Bourne – style caper. Did not do as well as CR and is widely disliked among Bond fans.
  • Skyfall – The 50th anniversary film re-introduced some of the familiar characters. Well directed and superbly acted, but featured a somber narrative in which Bond took a back seat to the character of M (Judi Dench). Made a huge amount of money, but was still criticized by some longtime fans as lacking humor and “fun”.

Those who enjoyed Skyfall (and there are many who did) may find SPECTRE to be somewhat silly and lacking in substance. Conversely, those who found Skyfall to be too serious and out of character for Bond will be delighted with this film. SPECTRE has a lightness that Skyfall lacked, and is not burdened by as much self-importance. Once again there are gaps in the narrative logic, but it’s almost like SP doesn’t care.
SPECTRE pays tribute to many of the scenes and characters from the early Connery films. Mute henchmen, fights on trains, and Aston Martins with hidden gadgets all make an appearance. There are a lot of homages and Easter eggs to the early Bonds’ here. In fact one could be fooled into thinking this is the 50th anniversary film. Some will like it while others may find it distracting from the story.
Craig looks great, even younger than in SF. He is 100%, “fully formed” James Bond here. Kristof Waltz underplays his part as the creepy villain – does not chew the scenery – doesn’t have to. Lea Seydoux is lovely, but her character is not well written and I had a hard time buying the romance between her and Bond (who looks old enough to be her dad). Monica Belluci and Dave Bautista give memorable but all too brief character turns that leave the viewer wanting more. M, Q, Moneypenny and Tanner are back, and they all get to see some action outside of the office this time.
Technically, Sam Mendes has made another beautiful Bond film. The photography is stunning, especially in the opening Mexico City sequence. The music score is better than in SF– Thomas Newman has figured out how to score an action film. The theme song…Well, it’s lovely, but Sam Smith’s vocals are…an acquired taste.
TL:DR: If you like Craig as Bond you will love this film. If you thought Skyfall was the Best Bond Ever you may be a little disappointed with SPECTRE. If you loved the earlier, sillier Bond films of yore, you will probably like SPECTRE a great deal.
Grade:
A- for huge fans of Daniel Craig
B+ for longtime hardcore Bond geeks
C+ for the casual film goer who could give a monkey’s about most of this stuff.
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN