How To Train Your Walrus

2 comments

httyd_dvdIn a word, this movie is awesome. In a few words, How To Train Your Dragon is as good as anything Pixar has done. Blasphemy to say about a DreamWorks movie, I know, but true.

 

Story

 

The main thread of the narrative is one that everyone has seen a hundred times in kids movies or books. Hiccup is a misfit teenage Viking trying to find his place in the world. His attempts to find that place lead him on an adventure in which he learns something about being a Viking, his family and village learn something about Hiccup, and everyone learns something about dragons.

 

While that premise may sound trite, the script deftly melds an action-fantasy story with positive messages about prejudice, disability, and being yourself. I am probably more cynical than the proverbial next guy and none of it felt corny, heavy handed, or manipulative. This is about as good as it gets for a film that is entertaining for adults yet teaches good stuff to the kids.

 

Presentation

 

The visual style is interesting, the design of the different types of dragons is fantastic, and there are a number of great battle/flying scenes. Experts would probably be able to point out how the graphics are not at Pixar standards, but my undiscerning eye couldn’t tell.

 

Jay Baruchel seems a bit flat at times as Hiccup, but most of the voice acting is very good as well. It is especially fun to hear the Scotsmen, Craig Ferguson and Gerard Butler, cut loose. The former Dr. Who, David Tennant, is credited, but only has one line that you’ll probably miss.

 

STORY

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PRESENTATION

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REWATCHABLE

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No surprise here, I’ll definitely be rewatching How To Train Your Dragon again in the future.

The "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" Slayer

6 comments
Let me state up front that sight unseen, I have no interest in or intention to watch a Buffy, The Vampire Slayer reboot. (Even if Joss Whedon was involved, I have no interest in a reboot. If Whedon were to be involved with a reunion, I'd definitely check that out, although I don't really need it.)

With that said, a Buffy reboot does not bother me. I quite simply do not care. Unless Malcolm McDowell comes to my house, I will not be forced to watch this new version. And, it's existence does not erase my Buffy or Angel DVDs.

Remakes, reboots and reimaginings are a part of life. They've been happening for years. A property is created by a person, but the companies that fund the creation have ownership. They have the legal rights to go back to the well on these things. And why shouldn't they? It's easier to hit the ground running with a known name as your vehicle.

Don't get me wrong, I find this to be creatively bankrupt. This is akin to those horrible, cheaply produced DVDs that you see pop up in stores at the same time Disney movies come out based on public domain characters. It's about name recognition and trying to get the audiences attention in a sea of varying channels.

I'm one of those guys that didn't want a rebooted Star Trek. I said before that I'd rather see J.J. Abrams do his own space movie instead of labeling it Star Trek. But it doesn't matter what I want. "Star Trek" isn't mine. It's Paramount's. And "Star Trek" is going to make a million times more money than "Space Journey" or whatever wacky title Abrams would have come up with so they're going to use the name. Then it's up to me to decide if I want to watch it or not.

Same here, Internet. Buffy isn't ours. There were seven seasons of television goodness (for the most part) plus an excellent spin-off. And sequel comics for those that choose to read them. We own the feelings those shows gave us, but not the show itself.

Take ownership of your feelings now. Calm down and realize that the more upset you get about this reboot, the more attention it receives and the less the makers have to spend on publicizing it. Is that what you want?

(Nerd) Lunch Special: Wendy's Fry vs. Fry

7 comments

Over on the Twitter, I was able to respond quick enough to a request by the Wendy's Twitter account to send them a direct message for a chance to try their new product. It was a cool social marketing tactic to get some early word going about their new french fries. Sadly, the Tallahassee, FL-area Wendy's did not offer the fries as early as I was led to believe. That's okay. It's all worked out.

The deal was that I received two $5 gift cards to sample Wendy's then current fries and then return and sample Wendy's new fries. Cool. Except for one thing...I liked Wendy's fries just the way they were. In fact, when it comes to mainstream fast food/quick service places that can be found across the country, I struggle to think of anything that beats Wendy's in the fry department. In fact, with the exception of places like hole-in-the-wall Niro's Gyros in Champaign, IL, Wendy's fries are the best.

So, why change something that's not broke? Why couldn't this be Burger King changing their fries again, this time to something palatable? Or Arby's bringing back their non-curled fries? Why did it have to be Wendy's? So, upon eating the "classic" fries for the last time, I found my self a bit sad. They were fortunately, a good batch of fries. Farewell, old friends. You served fast food fans like me well.

So, finally, a trip to Wendy's today reveals signage showing that the new "Natural Cut Fries with Sea Salt" have arrived.

To anyone worried about missing the original fries, let me put your mind at ease. The classic Wendy's fries are the new fries' daddy. The Wendy's taste is not gone, but only accentuated with a more potatoey (not a word so I didn't misspell it) flavor. Plus, I don't get what makes sea salt better than land salt, but that gave it a nice hint of extra flavor, too.

So, Fry vs. Fry, which would I choose? I'd choose the new "Natural Cut Fries." Well done, Wendy's. You managed to make a great thing even better.

(Nerd) Lunch Special: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

3 comments

Five Guys Burgers and Fries is another regional burger chain which has garnered loyal fans and high praise. Sort of like In-n-Out Burger, except originating on the east coast instead of the west. Unlike In-n-Out, Five Guys has opened a location in my neighborhood and I was able to drop in for a Nerd Lunch Special without buying a plane ticket.

 

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Burger

The burgers at Five Guys are made-to-order with any of 15 toppings of your choosing. I ordered a standard hamburger (which is 2 patties) with pickle, tomato, onion, mayo, and mustard. The burger tasted like a good pan fried burger I would make at home and that’s a compliment. High quality beef with the right amount of fat and fresh toppings made for a tasty burger.

 

Fries

Five Guys fanatics seem to rave as much about the fries as the burgers. Make no mistake, the fries are very good, but they’re no better than other fresh cut fries I’ve had. If you’re used to frozen french fries from McDonald’s or Burger King, you’ll be impressed. If you have a local place which serves fresh cut/hand cut fries, Five Guys should be on par with those. I was rightly warned about the size of the fries orders; a regular size order easily eclipses a large order from most fast food joints.

 

Other Factors

While the meal was quite good, the non-food factors are where Five Guys fell short. My biggest issue was cost. My hamburger and order of fries (without a drink) cost nearly $9. Maybe you get what you pay for, but much better bang for the buck can be had at a variety of other places.

 

Speed was another issue during my visit.  My order took about 10 minutes to prepare. I was dining on a Saturday afternoon with no appointments to keep, but I would think twice about driving over for a workday lunch or picking up some carryout after work.

 

Five Guys does deliver the high quality burger experience they claim, but not without drawbacks. I’ll probably visit Five Guys again at some point, but my favorite mom and pop fast food place doesn’t need to worry about losing my regular business.

No Interest in a Love Interest

1 comments
(Dark Knight spoilers be ahead for those who haven't seen it.)

There's a lot of chatter about who's going to be Batman's new love interest in Christopher Nolan's third Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises." I've got an idea...how about no one.

When we hear the early casting news about these projects, we find out who has been cast as the hero, the villain, and the love interest. It's just a given. And I ask: Why does every movie just seem to have a default love interest?

I got to thinking about this back when Raimi was still going to be making Spider-Man 4 and there was a big hubbub made about whether or not Kirsten Dunst was going to come back. And I thought, if she doesn't want to come back, don't bring her back. Spend two hours telling a story that doesn't have romance as a component. Problem solved. In fact, the movie would probably be better for it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind and even enjoy a well-crafted love story. Romance and relationships have a huge place in movies and I'm not calling for them to be abolished completely. And in no way am I claiming that there should be no women in the next Batman movie or any other super hero movie. It just seems like these stories are forcibly put into these movies when they don't need to be.

Going back to Batman, after the powerful and poignant death of Rachel Dawes, I don't want to see Bruce find love with someone else. I'd much rather see Rachel's death continue to play a part in his motivations. Borrow a page from Rocky Balboa or Die Hard 3 and make Rachel a character even though she never appears.

Ultimately, when it comes to crafting a story about Batman, I want less time given to a romantic subplot and more time given to Batman solving mysteries and beating up bad guys. The same goes for some of these other characters, too. I keep hoping someone will break the mold here and our best chance is with Nolan. We'll see, but based on rumors so far, it's not looking promising.

Zombies, Mining, and Barnacles

12 comments
Jeeg, PLee and I had a good e-mail discussion yesterday. Here's an edited version that we share with you.


CT:

Re: The Walking Dead . . . suddenly a genre show is cool and if you didn't watch it, you're a nerd outcast. I think I liked it better when society didn't like the things I like.


PLee:
Nerds spend so much time on the cultural fringes, it can be hard to accept something that hits it big in the mainstream. Heck, a year from now Disney will be promoting the hell out of the Captain America movie, and there will be Howling Commando action figures, and I will say, man, I was into Dum Dum Dugan waaaaay back when.


CT:
And for most of society, their nerding out about something is very surface level. I liken it to mining. Average society person sees a shiny rock, calls it gold and moves on. It may or may not be gold. Guys like us see something shiny, really examine it, and if we determine it's gold, we set up camp and mine the heck out of the land.

I think that ticks us off on some level with the surface nerd comes along and says, "Hey, this Dum Dum Dugan guys is cool!" And we're 40 feet in the ground yelling, "I've been saying that for years!"


PLee:
I will say this in favor of the non-nerds: when something makes a big leap into the mainstream, it's oftentimes because someone has done the hard work of taking an old idea, scraping away all the barnacles, and getting it down to its essence.

For instance . . . you ever read any late-70s pre-movie Superman comics? It was the Same Old Crap. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are TV anchors, and I think they might've finally met a black person, but it was just so mired in decades of detritus . . . Donner comes along and says, forget Superboy, Krypto, Earth-2, the Legion, the League . . . let's get down to basics.

Now us nerdfolk, we like the barnacles, so Hollywood wisely paints them up and calls them Easter eggs. So I think the real trick is to give us, say, an Iron Man movie that gets the character across to the non-nerd audience, while still throwing us nerds some stuff like a Happy Hogan cameo.


Jeeg:
There's a whole parallel subculture in music with people who detest it when a band makes the big time and becomes mainstream. And it's not always that the essence of the band changes, but also that the fandom becomes rife with people who don't really understand why the band is good/special.

My wife has pointed out various times when she's thought that my opinion has been based largely on going against popular sentiment. This came up during the Great Chuck Debate of 2010. I responded by pointing out that hardly anyone watches Chuck and it's almost been canceled 3 times, so by that logic I should love it. That did not help my argument.


CT:
I guess I just like my interests to be my own as much as possible. Mainly because that's how it's been for most of my life. Very, very few of my peers shared my interests growing up so these things I like are very much part of who I am. And now that a bunch of other people seem to like this stuff, too, I'm feeling a bit crowded out. Which drives me to find more and more obscure things to like.

With some rare exceptions (the two of you among them), I have a hard time being open-minded when someone tells me, "CT, you should watch ________. You would love it." When Joe Commonperson tells me that, I recoil and now whatever the suggestion was has to fight extra hard to be liked by me.

And nothing against the zombie show, but it's amazing how a five minute clip that largely seemed to rip of 28 Days Later got everyone in a frenzy. "This show is going to be sooooo good!" How do you know?

Eh, whatever. I'm sure it is great and I do plan to watch it some day.
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