Friday, May 8, 2009

The moment you've been waiting for...that could crush the very fabric of this blog!!

I'm afraid of what this might have done to what has been a fairly solid blog for me.  I can't believe I've been writing for this blog for over four months, and up until now, things have been pretty good.  That is, until NOW!

What could create such a rip in the space-time continuum?  Well, if you must know, the SO and I bought a new television.  And not just any television, a Samsung 860 series 50" plasma HDTV!

And here's the backstory...

April 25: I set up an entire day of surprises for the SO as it is her birthday.  I won't say how old she is, because I'd never be able to see my testicles again.  Long story short, I propose to her, she says yes, and all is good.

April 26: We have errands to do, but because it's early on Sunday, we stop by H.H. Gregg because it's the only thing open near the mall.  SO jokes about getting a TV, as if because I bought her an engagement ring, she must return the favor with a new TV.

Backstory to my backstory: we're moving in July, we have an old cathode ray tube TV that weighs a metric ton, I have the back of an 82-year old.  You do the math, now back to my original backstory...

We're looking at TVs, when the SO spots the new LED television sets.  They're described as eco-friendly, and use 40% less energy than Samsung's 2008 LCD models of the same size.  As she's a treehugger (nothing wrong with it, just have to point it out), this means a lot to her.  Means a lot to me too, but I'm hesitant about it for some reason.  The salesman (a good guy for putting up with us...I mean, it takes us a month, literally, to decide what to have for dinner the next day) points out that even the best LED/LCD will lag with fast motion on the screen, including football and fast action sequences in movies.  Ugh, don't like the sound of that, so we say we have to think about it.  At that time, the 55" LED, normally $3599.99, was on sale for $2999.99 until Tuesday.

April 28: We go back to H.H. Gregg to look again at the TVs, when I see it in the corner of my eye.  A 58" plasma TV from Samsung.  Clearly, Samsung has the market for LED and plasma!  I'm torn.  I want to help the environment, but the plasma picture looked really good.  So the SO and I go back and forth for 90 minutes.  For some reason, she was leaning yes for buying the LED and I was hesitant!  We decide to investigate plasma TVs, as the same salesman pointed out the myths about plasma, and plan to come back on May 1 with our decision.

April 29: I ask a co-worker about his TVs, if he preferred plasma over LCD.  He loves them both!  No help there, until he realizes we've been to H.H. Gregg.  Somehow, his wife is friends with the wife of the general manager of H.H. Gregg!  So after lab, we rush to the store to meet with the general manager, who makes an incredible deal on the 55" LED: $2699.99!  But I was noticing after viewing that TV that I was slightly getting a headache.  Considering a TV is the last thing I need to give me a headache, I'm really hesitant about LED.  Because of this, the SO starts to lean away from LED.

May 1: Judgment day.  After long consideration, the SO and I agreed on a TV.  Since I liked plasma and we were going to have this TV for the next 25 years, I had to make this purchase a good one.  But the 58" plasma was $3499.99.  Too pricey for us.  So I had researched the day before about the 50" version.  I love it, Love It, LOVE IT!  It was priced from Samsung's website at $2399.99.  Because we know the general manager is a good guy willing to lower the price, we're hoping he has or would have that TV in stock.  He had put the purchase in last week for the 50" model and is willing to sell it to us for $1929.00!  Sold!

Because we have bad luck with electronics, we got the 5-year warranty, plus we paid for H.H. Gregg to deliver the new TV and take the behemoth away.  So all in all, we paid $2600 for this beautiful piece of work.

And why might this destroy the very essence of this blog?  Because I might not be able to ever take my eyes off of it.  It's too beautiful not to get mesmerized by it.  I can already picture watching DVDs 24 hours a day just to see what they look like on 50" plasma.  Not to mention football, basketball, sitcoms!  It just makes me drool...

The punchline to this story is: the TV is so new it probably won't come in until the end of this month.  But it'll be worth the wait.  Now I just have to decide what will be the first thing to watch on it...hmm...Star Wars, anyone?


Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Still shooting first? Asking questions later?"

Never thought I'd be saying, let alone writing, these words down, but I had very low expectations for X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  

Since word first got out that this movie was happening, I was as giddy as a little school girl for this movie.  I thought that 20th Century Fox couldn't get it wrong twice in a row with X-Men, let alone Wolverine.  The first film would be X-Men: The Last Stand, which really disappointed me because everything that was good with the first two films in this series was really, really wrong in the third film.  It seemed like it was less about the story and more about blowing stuff up.  And don't even get me started about the "mutant levels"...

And so I thought that things couldn't really get messed up with the most popular mutant of X-Men.  Wolverine had to be the greatest X-Men member.  He sliced first, asked questions when it suited him.  He's everything that we wish we could be, meaning taking the initiative to get things done, no matter what it takes.  With the release of XO: Wolverine and its subsequent reviews, though, I thought this could get ugly.

I don't even know where to begin.  James Howlett (young Logan/Wolverine) finds his "father" killed by his real father, whose last name really is Logan but only finds this out after killing his real father with his boney hand claws.  James and his half-brother Victor Creed run away, to which we have a quick speed-up of time during the opening credits, learning that the brothers fought in the Civil War, World War I and II, and the Vietnam War.  At this point, time goes back to normal speed.  The boys get in trouble in a Vietnamese village, leading to death by firing squad, which they survive as they have the power to HEAL!

Williams Stryker approaches the two in their jail cell, and they agree to join his special elite team of mutants, including Wade Wilson, Fred Dukes, John Wraith, Agent Zero, and Chris Bradley.  Stryker is bent on finding the source of a meteorite in Africa and is willing to kill the innocent to find it.  Logan can take it no more and leaves to find a quiet life in Canada, where he starts a life with his girlfriend and has a career as a logger.  Stryker comes back into his life six years later, warning him that Victor is killing everyone involved in the elite team and wants Logan back.  Logan brushes him off, only to later deal with the death of his wife at the hands of Victor.  

Logan is persuaded by Stryker to be a part of Weapon X, which involves reinforcing his skeleton with adamantium, the stuff found in the meteorite.  Logan survives this, and Stryker is ready to wipe his memory so he can use Logan as his own personal weapon.  Logan gets word of this and escapes, only to be hunted down by Agent Zero.  Logan is able to defeat Agent Zero, and finds Wraith and Dukes, hoping to get some info on the whereabouts of Stryker's new laboratory.  After a hard-fought battle against Dukes, Logan learns of a mutant who was once held by Stryker in this lab, a gentleman in New Orleans who was described as "Gambit."  Logan is able to find Gambit and the lab, leading to a whole bunch of answers to the questions he had had since his time with Stryker.

To avoid any spoilers, I have to stop there.  Really, the first three-quarters of the movie was predictable and had been shown in all those trailers running on the networks.  Where it finally got interesting was in the "final battle" with an enemy ready to take down Logan.  Too bad the battle was all of five minutes!!  And the way that Logan has his memory wiped of his past was really hard to swallow.  I guess what I'm saying is it was nice to see it on the big screen, but it really could have been so So SO much better.

Way too many characters without enough development.  Yes, this was about Wolverine, but you still need to set the foundation to really run with it.  It seemed the writers were just trying to fit whoever they could into the film, even if it didn't really fit with the comic books or the storyline.  I really think the blades coming out of Wolverine's hands looked very CGI compared to those in the first three films.  Didn't think that was possible.  And what they did with Deadpool...

Maybe it was the shakiness of the projector or the fact that I didn't get the Transformers 2 trailer that I was told showed before this film, but I'm glad I kept the expectations low.  It was fun to discuss with the SO the little intricacies of the film and the history of the X-Men, the villains, and the spin-offs.  It really made us want to go through and read every comic available for the Marvel universe.

Finally, two things that were really wrong with the film.  One, no cameo by Stan Lee.  Un-freakin-believable!  How could you not have him in this film?  He's been in every Marvel film I've watched but not this one?  He's an executive producer, how could he be left out?!

And two, everyone started walking out just as the end credits started.  What was the kicker was the film returned for a short scene, so everyone stopped, including the fat guy who stopped right in front of me!  And to really add flame to the fire, everyone but the SO, myself, and one guy stayed to the very end to see the special easter egg at the end.  For all of you who left before the bitter end, how could you?!  Have you never watched a Marvel film before?  Who does that?

Ultimately, I know this will be a future DVD purchase, mainly because the SO will want to see a naked Hugh Jackman again.  But maybe the deleted and extended scenes will satisfy my thirst for a solid Wolverine origins film.  A bummer to write, but it's how I feel.  Later!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

For once, Best Buy actually means what they say!

Hey-yo!  I'm back with a post I haven't been able to write for a long time: a post about a DVD purchase.  Well, it might get thinner yet, but that's for another time.  So what goody did I shell out money for this time?

Long title, I know.  But it's worth it to have another piece of my childhood in DVD form.  And thanks to one of my peeps, I was reminded why Best Buy has that name.  Luckily, they still honor the price of a competitor, meaning if a competitor has a lower price and I have proof of it, they will sell the product to me at the lower price.  Which means I have more money to spend, er, save on DVDs!

Who would be crazy enough to sell this DVD for cheap?  Of course that would be our favorite retailer, Wal-Mart.  For once, they served a purpose.  Saved me 7 bucks.  I'd say that was pretty good.  And at just $30 for this purchase, I still have $9 in the DVD fund.  Yay!

I don't know when my next purchase might be, because I have something that might shake the very foundation of this blog.  I know, it's that big!  But that's for another post... (of course I have to raise the intensity level, it makes for good drama, like TNT...seriously, I've seen way too many of those commercials).  Later!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Back home everyone said I didn't have any talent. They might be saying the same thing over here but it sounds better in French."

Well, welcome back.  I'm finally able to get the opportunity to write for this blog on a regular basis again... which means it should end pretty soon.  But with the semester winding down, I can get down to the basics: research, exercising, and writing for this blog (hopefully in that order!).  So this review dabbles with one of my secret passions: the musical.  There's just something about them that really keeps my butt in the seat.  I guess because I grew up seeing a musical almost once a year for a long time meant that I grew accustomed to the genre, whether on stage or on television.  And I'm amazed I had never seen this musical until now, An American in Paris.

Pretty simple story: American artist in Paris who's trying to make a living selling his works gets taken in by a socialite who falls for him.  Artist falls for another girl who's engaged to French singer.  Artist's neighbor is struggling concert pianist who's friends with singer and realizes that the artist and singer are in love with the same woman.  Artist expresses his love to girl at party, being overheard by singer.  Girl walks away with singer, while artist dreams about what it would be like to see all of Paris with girl but is awoken from daydream by carhorn because the car brings the girl back to artist, and they embrace one another in only a way 1950s musicals show romantic embraces.

Now I wasn't sure what to think of this film.  I love Gene Kelly, a multi-talented actor who can sing and dance.  Combine that with George and Ira Gershwin music, and I'm sold on the idea.  I thought the SO might get into it for the dancing, especially the big number at the end, but she looked like she was having a root canal done, her face contorted in ways I didn't know were possible for the human face.

Of course the plot was predictable but the music was what keeps you wanting more.  And because I did experience Paris for a bit, I did reminisce about my time over in Europe.  But I didn't see an American artist dancing in the streets to the tune of "I Got Rhythm."  That's probably the major difference between the movie and real life.  Anywho...

Solid four-star movie that was just released on Blu-ray, it's something that truly needs to be seen, and if I need a Gene Kelly fix, I know I have another choice (after Singin' in the Rain, of course!).  Good pick from TCM's 31 Days of Oscar, I would see if it's on the network again, so go see it...come on, go...I mean it!  Later!

Monday, May 4, 2009

"It's not a piece of equipment, it's a suit! It's ME!"

Well, I thought I would take the time to get back to some writing... no, not thesis writing.  That can wait a bit (cue SO's glare... and continue).  No, what I need to write about is the last DVD I've actually watched.  It's been way too long, almost two weeks since I've seen it, but I think I can still do the movie justice.  Because the SO didn't want to decide on what to watch, I took the initiative to choose something with action, comedy, a little romance, something that really gets the blood pumping... a little something I like to call Iron Man.

So what's Iron Man about?  Have you been living in a hole for the past year?  This involves the origins of Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, a billionaire who gets his money from his design and construction of weapons.  He's a very arrogant man who "gets around" any way he likes.  The movie starts with Stark in a Hum-vee in Afghanistan, on his way back from a weapons demonstration.  Along the way, the convoy is attacked, and Stark is hit, so we fade to black.  Stark is held prisoner by a terrorist group, who want him to make his latest weapon, the Jericho missile, for them from weapons they have "confiscated" from Stark Industries.

Unbeknownst to Stark, he has a battery attached to an electromagnet in his chest, which is keeping schrapnel from collecting in his heart.  This contraption is the work of Dr. Yinsen, who helps Stark "create" the Jericho missile, which actually is Stark's way of creating a self-contained electromagnet powered by an arc reactor.  During his captivity, he has created a suit which allows him to escape, unfortunately without Dr. Yinsen.

Stark gets back to the United States to stop Stark Industries from producing weapons, while at the same time he works on a better suit.  With the help of Pepper Potts, Stark's assistant, and some "Stooges"-like robots, Stark is able to create his better suit, thus creating Iron Man.

Unfortunately, Stark finds out that his company has been supplying terrorists through his company's overseer, Obadiah Stane.  Because of his work with terrorists, he finds out the secrets to Stark's original suit, creating new suits through Stark Industries, which would create a new wave in weapons technology.  By incapacitating Stark, he's able to take the arc reactor to power his new suit.  Stark luckily has his old arc reactor, which he uses to power his Iron Man suit and fight Stane, who ultimately loses (because it's the movies).

Stark, in a press conference announces he is Iron Man, to which we see Mr. Badass himself, Samuel L. Jackson, as Col. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. who wants to talk with Stark about the Avenger Initiative.  End movie.

It's really hard to write a synopsis of this movie without being wordy.  That's what happens with origin stories.  There's so much you have to set up in one movie in order for an entire film series to work.  Without it, Iron Man 2 would not take off.  That's not to say Hollywood wouldn't have tried to create a sequel, but the anticipation for it would have been less.  Suffice it to say, Iron Man is just as good on the little screen as it is on the big screen.  The action, the comedic relief, it's a very smooth movie with few faults.  Of course those who are closest to the original material might scoff at some of the ideas and plotlines that occurred, but for the average viewer, the film is a smash hit.

Easily, the SO likes it, so it's a keeper.  Probably one of the funnest movies we saw in the theatres when it came out.  Not being a devout follower of Iron Man, I thought the story moved very well, but then Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man made the entire movie experience.  He body language, his mood, his take on the role was something that just fit.  Without him, the movie doesn't work.

So in the end, this DVD is a keeper (it should be, I didn't even get the super duper deluxe version, just the regular single-disc widescreen... I know, I held back!).  Later!