Guardians of the Caribbean

Many movies are either sequels, prequels, remakes, or reboots these days, and I saw two of the former this month, and here we have a double review. I don’t have a whole lot to say about each film, but I did want to give my thoughts on both.

To start, in the heavens above, with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2:

landscape-1468945290-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2

I really, really love the first volume of Guardians. It is unexpected, raucous, hilarious, offbeat, and just plain fun. I was really hoping for more of the same from Guardians 2. What I got was mostly that. It went in different directions, while keeping the same elements in place. What I also got was a tale of fathers and daughters and sons.

Ahem: spoilers.

Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, meets his father who seems nice but then turns out to be a philandering, posturing, jack-ass who (I did say spoilers, right?) killed Peter’s mother. Gamorra’s adopted sister, Nebula, returns with a massive girl-on for Gamorra, who in her mind always seemed to steal their adopted father’s, “Mad Titan” Thanos, love and affection. When Peter finds out the truth about his dad, he turns on him, with help from the Guardians, and kills him, in the process realizing that the man who raised him, Yondu, was his real daddy. Finally, during the battle, Gamorra and Nebula realize that they both were fighting for the same thing: survival, and neither cared at all about their “father” and have more in common than they thought.

What I loved was the father/son/daughter storylines. I am a sucker for good family stories, and this one delivered the emotional goods. When (look, ye be warned) Yondu dies saving Peter from his father, I got genuinely choked up. When Gamorra hugged Nebula, I got choked up. Good stories do that. I also love the wacky Drax who might finally be healing from the loss of his family, and the odd-couple of Rocket and Baby Groot. When I wanted them, they were there, doing their shtick, but doing it well. The soundtrack was awesome, as in the first film, and I love getting more of the Ravagers and the crazy denizens of the galaxy.

For my money, Guardians Vol. 2 was exactly what I wanted. I look forward to what happens with the Guardians after they meet the Avengers and how Vol. 3 plays out.

Now to the seas below and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

bf5e1d2159266359fa64ae92663932ec-pirates-of-the-caribbean-dead-men-tell-no-tales

I also really, really, love the Pirates franchise. Ever have. Always will. Perpetually. Well, if I am honest, I don’t love On Stranger Tides as much, but I’m totally drunk with rum on Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. But this is about Dead Men…, and this film introduces a new element into the supernatural Caribbean which is ghosts. And zombie sharks. I shivered just typing that. No thanks. But I egress, or digress, either.

Anyway, Jack, who isn’t quite the same pirate he was without the Black Pearl, is reduced to robbing banks with Gibbs and other various miscreants. Enter (yup: spoilers here, too, matey) Will and Elizabeth Turner’s son Henry who is looking, like father like son, for a way to free his father from the Flying Dutchman. He, like most people in the Caribbean it seems, need Jack’s magical compass to find the Trident of Poseidon to do that. Jack, Barbossa, and a host of new and old faces race to find the Trident while being pursued by the aforementioned ghosts of a Spanish warship led by a ghostly and vengeful Capitan Salazar who has a score to settle, like most people in the Caribbean it seems, with Cap’n Jack.

Barbossa’s (still) daughter and Will’s son find the trident and save everybody. Except Salazar. He dies. And Barbossa, the elder and less hygienic. He sacrifices himself to save his daughter from Salazar. How touching.

I loved the call-backs to previous films in the franchise, and the epically beautiful fight scene at the bottom of the ocean over the Trident. I loved down-on-his-luck Jack and Barbossa’s not-a-witch daughter. I loved that the Pearl finally gets out of the bottle.

What I didn’t like is that David Wenham had so little to do as the British Navy’s representative at sea. I think his character just wasn’t needed at all and he was a waste of a good actor, sadly. The climatic final battle was too short. Also, and this was just bad luck, not enough of the pirates made returns, in cameo form or otherwise. And Jack’s compass, didn’t Tia Dalma give him that?

Despite the flaws, I loved this film more than the last one, but not as much as Curse of the Black Pearl. I cannot wait to go sailing with Jack, the curse-free(?) Will and the rest of the blaggards and see if Barbossa can outwit death a second, or is it third? time.

Yo ho and all that.

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checkUp twenty17: April

Tempest fuget! I think that’s Latin for “time flies” but at the moment I’m too lazy to look it up*. Anyway, time does fly, and here it is already April. time-flies That means it is time for another check up into how I am doing with my goals in twenty17. For them what need a reminder (like me) I am pledged to perform the following each month: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. I have achieved these to varying degrees in January, February, and March. But how now April? Let us have a reckoning.

#1. Writing. I haven’t written at all. 0-5

#2. Reading. I did not read this month, except from the book I am reading for my Life Group that meets on Tuesdays, so I guess I will give half credit for that. It isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I have done it consistently. 2.5-5.

#3. Building. I built a futuristic hover truck in LEGO, which I immediately surmised must be from the Star Wars universe and had been a hover truck that the Rebels used to scout planets or guard perimeters or something. Anyway, I think it’s cool. 5-5.

#4. Art. I took a LEGO Portrait of the futuristic hover truck and posted it to Flickr. Check it out. 5-5.

#5. Activities. I have continued to meet at my local church with a group talking about how to have multiethnic conversations and relationships. It has been a rewarding and enlightening discussion every Tuesday and has even built a few relationships. I get decreasing credit for this, because I started this in March and haven’t done anything new, however, a member of the group invited me to a Texas Rangers’ game last Sunday, and I was only prevented of going by work, and that would have been a countable activity, so I will get bonus credit for good intentions. 5-5.

In summation, that is 17.5 out of 25. 70%. Ouch. I really need to get reading and writing. That gives me a total of 79% for the year as I slide further into the dark abyss of doing nothing with my free time. Looking back, I was excited for April, though I can’t figure out now exactly why, but I had plans I evidently didn’t get to.

I hope to do better in May, but I am not sanguine, as I will have other challenges ahead that I can foresee.

 

*well, I misspelled it, but yes, it is Latin and does mean the intended. Tempus fugit!

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Check-up twenty17: March

It is now officially the 1st of April, so I can evaluate my progress through March twenty17. If you’ve been following my writings this year, you know I am challenging myself to do a few things every month: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. In January, I hadn’t yet decided on the last three of those, so that month I had an easy 5/5. February brought me a little lower with 2.5/5 due to not writing and not doing art. Now…March.

#1. Writing. I wrote twice, about the film Logan and about the passing of Carrie Fisher (click on March 2017 to the right of this post and you should see both posts listed for you). 5-5

#2. Reading. I did not finish a book this month, but I did make progress in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Tales from the Perilous Realm. 0-5.

#3. Building. I rebuilt my LEGO Landspeeder and put together a MOC of the Anchorhead market on Tatooine. Both were formed from self-existing sets, so I don’t get full credit. 3.5-5.

#4. Art. I took an artistic picture of the second MOC, actually a recreation of a pic I saw on Instagram, so not completely original. But I did take a new LEGO portrait, so I’ll actually get bonus credit for this one. 8-5.

#5. Activities. I started attending a meeting at a local church about multi-ethnic conversations. This will be ongoing through April and May so I will get decreasing credit in those months for attendance, but for March I get full credit. 5-5.

So, all total, that is a final score of 24-25, grading on a curve with a retroactive 2.5-5 for #2 for actually reading some. 96% for March. For the year I get a total of 82%. Man, not writing in February and not finishing a book in March is killing my average. I need to get on both consistently. Still, I am doing fairly well at staying active and doing things and not just sleeping or playing on my iPhone.

I am excited for April as I have some things planned, but not much that satisfies my personal challenges. Therefore, the excitement of getting to create is high, but the anxiety of having no specifics is also high.

Finally, catch my Art pics on Flickr here and here and stay tuned for more from me, the Redbeard.

A preview:IMG_1269 - Pizza Aboard the Jolly Ole DS

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Princess, Sister, General

I could never figure it out, and it isn’t really stated anywhere, so as a kid I never knew. Was Leia the elder Skywalker, or was Luke? I know they were retconned to twins sometime after Star Wars and before Return of the Jedi, but still, logically, one is older. Who was it? I was one of three boys in my family, complete and whole, until my sister came along six years later to upset the established order and complete us all. It wasn’t really until I was six or seven that I began to religiously watch the Star Wars saga, so in my mind I became Luke Skywalker and my new baby sister was Princess Leia.

leia-suggested

My sister and I never played that way, that is, never acted out the Star Wars story together, but in my head I saw Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia as the twin sister I never had until I had a little sister, and then as my sister grew up to be a fierce, independent, wise, take-no-bullshit young woman she became Leia to my Luke.

We were raised differently, like Luke and Leia, as my parents doted on the only daughter, gave her her own room (where I had to share space with one or both of my brothers as conditions allowed), and in general lavished the favoritism upon her. I mean, of course my parents said they had no favorites, but really, three boys didn’t hold a candle my to parent’s little princess.

I never had my mind on where I was, or what I was doing, and was always craving excitement and adventure, like a certain young sand-locked farm boy, and my sister always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it and seemed to be driven in ways I wasn’t, like a certain young Senator from Alderaan.

I could stretch the metaphor and say that I like to wear black, and her white and interesting hair-dos but that would be stretching the truth as well. Suffice to say, we met late* in life and became a duo that learned to appreciate and love each other.

Now, as adults, past our “growing up” years, she is, as ever, driven, and I am wandering the galaxy in search of my own Force to guide me. She is the General: moving forward; I am the Jedi: mystically engaged with life’s triumphs and failures.

Given such a personal connection to the character of Leia Organa-Skywalker-Solo, I was deeply affected by the tragic death of Carrie Fisher last year. I had watched her all my life as she “grew up” as a character on Star Wars and I had followed her later life on social media. I always dreamed of going to a Star Wars celebration or ComicCon to meet her, and regret that I will now not have the chance to tell her what she meant to me. Like my sister, Fisher was feisty, funny, and familial. I am not the only one in the Star Wars community to view her as a surrogate-sister, and that was a role she embraced after a certain time. Certainly she was honest about her struggles with mental illness, substance abuse, and a dysfunctional family in a way that made me ok with my own depression and personal struggles.

I grew up knowing that women could be strong, resilient, heroic, steadfast, worthy, sexy, beautiful leaders and sisters and women all at the same time and that was because Carrie Fisher embodied that so well on screen and on the internet, and my sister was all those things and more in what I saw as a little mirror of Fisher.

It seemed at first a strange thing to be so sad at the death of a celebrity I had never met and who inhabited my star-struck fascination with Star Wars, but having come to this realization of what Carrie Fisher truly meant to me in such personal terms, it doesn’t seem strange at all anymore.

As I enter a world now robbed of Fisher, I embrace my sister all the more tightly and thank the Force that I was given such a wonderful gift and example of womanhood at such a young age, that despite not being twins, we grew to be very close, a closeness we share today.

Fisher is now one with the Force, and I have my sister to guide me always. I look forward to the next chapter in our Saga…

 

*If by being introduced when I was just 6 can be called “late” in life.

 

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Logan

There are some films that you watch and when the credits roll, you feel as if you’ve been hit by a truck of emotions and you cannot move from your seat. Logan was such a film for me. Here follows my spoiler review of the most emotional, best superhero film I’ve seen since they’ve been making superhero films.

logan-film-header-front-main-stage

From the moment drunk Logan a.k.a. the Wolverine, stumbles out of his limo to confront some would-be rim thieves, you know this isn’t the 2000 X-Men film that launched a franchise. Well, Logan has always been a bit of a drunk, but never to this extent. You figure a man who has lived 150-200 years and fought in every single hellish war available during that time has to find some way to cope with the horrors he has seen and perpetrated, and especially now, in the 2030’s when (almost) all of his fellow mutants are dead and he yet remains. And then when Logan’s claws extend between his fingers and begin to be shoved through eye sockets and through kneecaps, this definitely isn’t any of the previous X-Men films. For one thing, this one is rated R, and it earns that rating within minutes.

Eventually it is revealed that Logan is making a living as a limo driver while taking care of a mentally ill Professor Xavier and living with another mutant who managed to survive into this post-mutant apocalypse. It is also evident that something extraordinary is happening to Logan as his famous healing factor has slowed significantly, and he is covered with the scars of past battles. It is a bleak, hopeless picture of enduring pain.

Things don’t get any better for Logan as he is approached by a mysterious Latino woman seeking passage to Canada, and a mercenary who is seeking what the Latino woman is protecting. That protectorate is soon revealed to be a young girl, a young girl with a healing factor and claws. Eventually Logan learns that this girl his genetic daughter, born in a lab and raised to be a soldier.

Reluctantly he begins to protect her from the corporation that designed her and wants her back and takes the girl to Canada, with the ailing Professor X in tow. What follows is a dramatic-road-trip-running-battle that eventually leads to the death of Logan, Professor X, and most of the mercenaries that were foolish enough to cross the Wolverine’s (and his daughter, X-23’s) path.

This film is bleak, tragic, stark, and occasionally humorous. Logan learns a little bit what being a parent is like, buries his last dear friend, and finally realizes the peace of death and the love of (a highly dysfunctional) family. Hugh Jackman is excellent in the role he has played for 17 years – the world weary mutant Wolverine – and Patrick Stewart delivers in spades as old Professor Xavier. The rest of the supporting cast is led by 12 year old Dafne Keen who is spectacular as Logan’s daughter Laura, the mutant known as X-23. From there, the characters range from Caliban, the mutant friend of Logan, and What’shisface, the main mercenary tracking them and Doctor What’shisface the guy who created X-23 and her fellow mutants. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that there are about 23 other mutants that were created by the Doctor What’shisface, mostly children, who are also seeking asylum in Canada. I am being facetious, but I don’t really remember much about the other children or the antagonists because they aren’t really important to the story except to foil Logan or add to the emotional stakes.

I would say this is one of the central flaws of the film, that most of the mercenaries exist to die, and Head Mercenary Guy is there to die a little bit harder, so why should they get story arcs? Similarly, the other mutant children are only glimpsed in context to X-23. I found myself wanting to know why the mercenaries were so against the mutants and what the other mutant children wanted to achieve. You get the feeling, through little story touches like the fact that the X-men had their own in universe comic book series, that they were somewhat accepted and were heroes of a sort, so what happened? The back story to this particular adventure is also scarcely filled in, as it, like most X-men films, only follows a rather loose chronology so you can’t even depend on the previous X-men films for context.

With that being said, Logan is an exceptional film, from beginning to end, and even if the story is a bit vague on the how, it is full of the why, and it tends to hit you, repeatedly, right in the feels.

I don’t know that I want to see it again right away. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but Logan is like a war film for me: it can be exceptional, but it isn’t particularly enjoyable to watch multiple times and feel good and happy after each viewing. There is no shawarma at the end, just blood and death.

In closing, I hear a black and white version is in the works. I think, after my unlimited enjoyment of Mad Max: Fury Road in B&W, I will similarly enjoy a desaturated Logan. I think that would only add to the already rich story and visuals.

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Check-up twenty17: Jan and Feb

January came and went, and with it blustery winds and driving snow. Well, not here in Texas, but I am sure somewhere that was true. Anyhow, along the way I made a few non-resolutions, and one of them was that in twenty17 I would write more. I want to regularly assess how I am doing and introduce a few new non-resolutions into the mix. Here goes…

January twenty17

Ok, first, writing more. How am I doing? Well, I wrote four blog posts in January, so for that I will give myself a 5 out of 5. Great!  Second, reading more. How did I do? I read a book, The God Who Is There by Francis A. Schaeffer. And that was all I resolved publicly at that point, so for all of January I get a 10 out of 10 and for the year a 100%. Not bad so far.

February twenty 17

Writing…well, sad to say I didn’t write anything in February. I am forced to give myself a 0 out of 5. I did read a short book of mostly pictures, Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe, and I finished The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien so I will give myself a 5-5.  For February a total of 50%. For the year that puts me at 75%. Not terrible, but I need to write more.

Looking ahead twenty17

Here is where we introduce more opportunities for points. So far I have #1: Writing. I will introduce #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. A précis of each will follow, a standard set of guidelines by which to judge myself and my progress, and then I will re-do February and look ahead to March.

#1: Writing – I will write at least twice on the blog, about anything, any time.

#2: Reading – I will finish at least one book per month. Any length, any genre.

#3: Building – I will build at least one LEGO My Own Creation (MOC) per month. Any size.

#4: Art – (here things get interesting) I will create one piece of art each month. This includes photography of LEGO or stormtroopers, or painting, or building of a physical piece of art. Anything artistic, any size, any media.

#5: Activities – I will get out of the apartment for at least one activity each month that does not include my parents or siblings.

I will grade on a bit of curve to begin, to give myself a chance at building a feeling of success, but will lessen the curve as I go on to be realistic. Ok. Let’s look back at February.

February twenty17

#1: Writing – I didn’t write. 0-5
#2 Reading – I finished reading two books. 5-5
#3 Building – I built a MOC of a rally sport dune buggy (pic to follow). 5-5
#4 Art – I didn’t make any art (I didn’t take the pictures of my MOC until March). 0-5
#5 Activities – I met with a friend to chat. 5-5

Total = 70%, grading on a curve I gave myself a retroactive 2.5-5 for #4 since that wasn’t technically a requirement in February.

For the year I get an overall score of 85%. Yeah!

I am looking forward to see how March works out. I will have written at least once on the blog (you’re reading it!) and I have made some art, did an activity or two, and am reading, so here’s hoping I finish well.

Now, for the promised shot of my LEGO rally sport dune buggy:

rally sport

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A Haiku and Other Poems

Here follows a few poems I wrote over the summer, just for fun.

The first two poems I wrote while in traffic on my way to my summer job. I composed them in my head from a few images that came to me as I merged my way to my exit and wrote them down once I had safely parked. Of those two, the first is about a supercar in traffic, a concept I find endlessly amusing and a little bit sad, like a caged animal that deserves to be running free. I give you

Pent Up Rage

TwelV horses
Nowhere to race
Supercar in traffic

The second is a proper haiku about brake lights. For your consideration

Brakelite Haiku

Blinky red asses
Off and on the grey freeway
Little metal ‘flys

Next comes a poem that I wrote while in a local coffee shop called The White Rhino. I was struck by the seeming hipster-ness of it all, and was also contemplating the social justice warrior movement. Included herein are a play-on-lyrics, a reference to a video game, and well, here is

SJWs

The White Rhino watches
Over mocha choca lattes
And lonely hipsters who first
Saw the waves breaking over Dawn
Rifles clutched tightly
Ready to battle the better beasts
Of industry and backward progress
As if they themselves had come
From another era, man buns
Wound tight to ward off the right
A new wave
Of social justice warriors

And last, but not least, a baseball poem based on a William Carlos Williams poem about some rainwater, chickens, and a red wheelbarrow. There is, above the infield, a

Pop up

So much depends upon a white baseball
In the blue, blue sky
Plopping into
brown

leather

So there you have a few poems. I love them, like fragile little butterfly children that I release into the harsh winter air. Be kind to them.

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