…just another face in the crowd.

Meat the Family

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Nov 18

First, some background:

My father was a butcher, as was his father.
One of my brothers went on to be one as well.
When I was about 5 years old, my father shut down the family business which was a meat market located on the land behind my grandmother’s house.

The buildings remained for many years afterward and, though I have very few memories of the place actually in operation, I grew up playing in the buildings which were just glorified storage buildings by that time.
My mother was a banker, and as such, did most of the accounting for the business.
Needless to say, she also learned a few things about meat over the years.

Anyway, I told you that to tell you this…

As I’m mooching lunch off of my mother today, she proceeds to tell me about a cut of meat she’s found at one of the local grocery stores that, while it isn’t as good as what she normally uses to make chicken fried steak, it’s good enough and a little cheaper.

I sit there and listen, pretending to be interested because free food, but she can see that my eyes have glazed over and I really don’t care about whatever she’s going on about.

Mom: I’m so happy that I finally know about something that you don’t.
Me: Well, if I ever get a meat-powered computer, I’m coming to you to let you fix it.

Also, the chicken fried steak was excellent.

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Toasting the Coast

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 27

I just started watching the movie San Andreas.

First off, I have no delusions that this movie will be any good.
I mean, it’s an action/disaster movie starring The Rock.
I’m simply looking for a little mindless entertainment.

BUT I’m 3 minutes in (after like a minute and a half opening credits) and my very first thought is, "Surely it would have been cheaper to push an actual vehicle down a cliff than to have CGI’d it."
I mean, I get that they needed it to come to rest in a specific way, but blowing your budget on the actual fall rather than the stop just seems wasteful.

Then again, it doesn’t look like whoever animated it had ever actually seen a movie where cars go over a cliff so I doubt they paid too much money for it and, therefore, it may have actually been cheaper to do it this way.
The only way it could have possibly looked any worse is if they had done it in miniature.

Now at the 48 minute mark and some of the effects are greatly improved.
Others, not so much.

It’s almost like they spent their CGI budget wisely but then got into editing and realized they were missing a few shots but didn’t have the money to do them properly so they had to go to Bob’s Discount FX Emporium and get what they needed to finish the movie.

As with all disaster movies, your characters have to be in a constant fight for survival while their world crumbles around them.
I understand that and expect it from these kinds of movies but I’m hoping they don’t carry it to the extreme level like the movie 2012 did such that the whole thing just becomes one 90 minute near miss.

SO FAR it has managed to keep the ‘narrow escape cliche’ to an acceptable level.
Unfortunately I’m not quite halfway into the movie (the earthquakes have just started in earnest), so there’s plenty of time for them to let me down.

(**mild spoilers ahead**)

One thing that does trouble me is that the movie starts with the dude and his team as a tight-knit 4-man helicopter rescue operation.
Then disaster strikes in another city (they are unaware of how much worse it’s gonna be) and they’re being sent off to help soon.
So when they’re actually dispatched for their rescue job in the other city, why aren’t the other 3 guys in the helicopter with him?

I realize that story-wise their absence is pretty much necessary in order for him to blow off the millions in trouble to go save his family but still, where did the other 3 guys go?
I can’t imagine them driving to the site 5+ hours away while he brings the helicopter, and he’s already airborne when the sh*t hits the fan.

Maybe I missed a line of dialogue and I need to go back to find out that he was gonna go get the helicopter washed or something before coming back to pick up the rest of his team. [updated below]

Despite my couch’s best efforts to lull me into unconsciousness, I finally finished the movie and I’m ok with it.
Like I said at the start, I’m not expecting a cinematic masterpiece… I’m expecting a disaster movie that entertains me but hopefully won’t make me facepalm too much.

Yeah, the science is dubious and the story pacing is uneven but all told, it was a decent popcorn movie without annoying children or pets tossed into the mix to make certain situations even more difficult, nor was it just one long string of narrow escapes.

(***spoilers ahead***)

So with that in mind, I have these additional points of contention:

1) Helicopter interiors are noisy under the best of conditions and the headphones only help so much. How are you able to have a quiet moment now that the rear door has fallen off?

2) Your other daughter is dead so you’re more protective of the one you have left. I get that.
But why are we bringing the movie to a halt to flashback to her death?
Oh, now I see the payoff… you wanted us to watch the remaining daughter die the same way.
That was a really long way to go for that one.

3) Did you really expect to roam the rubble of San Francisco until you ran across your daughter?
Sure, you’re a rescue jockey and you made a plan during your brief communication with her, but what now?
Granted, I completely saw the laser pointer bit coming from the moment they first showed it, but to have even been in the position to make use of it was like holding a lottery and then only letting the person who won the lottery search for the needle in the haystack.
WAY too much perfect timing and super-vision involved.

4) Ok, so the boyfriend turned out to be the bad guy because I guess we needed one in the story?
Sure, we wanted a nice, tidy ending where the parents get back together but was it necessary to vilify the guy like they did?
He came very close to death and was in shock when he decided not to go back.
This is fine… mom will dump his ass (and she did via voicemail) but that really could have been the last time we saw him.
He could have just been one of the faceless millions in the city who may or may not have survived.
We see him a couple more times in crowds of survivors moving through the streets and it would have been fine if we lost track of him there.
But for some reason we needed a scene where he took someone else’s cover and that person died as a result of it.
Then we get to his final scene where he dies from something that our heroes were able to narrowly avoid.
Mom had already dumped him and he was no longer a factor in the story so I guess I just don’t see why it was necessary to demonize him and then kill him.

Oh, and to follow up, I did go back and see if I had missed a throwaway line about why his team wasn’t with him, and it’s there.
He was taking his helicopter in for maintenance before they got underway since it had been damaged in the opening scene.

But while that sounds reasonable, after that opening scene, he had landed at the airport where they keep the helicopter, the maintenance guy was also at the airport where they keep the helicopter and commented on the damage, and there had been no indication that the helicopter had been moved from the airport where they keep the helicopter during the intervening time.

So why does the helicopter need to be taken to a different location to have its winch fixed when, by all accounts, it should have already been parked in the location where both the parts and the dude to install those parts were?

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Adventures in TV Pilots: Heroes Reborn

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 26

I finally got around to watching Heroes Reborn tonight.

I’m a little wary of this series after the way the original Heroes went off the rails, but I’m still willing to give it a shot.

Heroes is actually the show that inspired my "7 episode" rule because that show felt like it was wandering without any hope of ever giving even the smallest bit of payoff to the audience.
If I hadn’t stayed for 7 episodes, I’d have missed out.
Sure, that final season was a major letdown and it suffered from the usual ‘too many episodes, not enough story’ problem that affects so many network shows.

Anyway, based on the first 2 episodes, this one looks like it’s both back on track and set to give a better entertainment experience than its predecessor… but time will tell.

My only real problem with it at this point is that surely they know part of their core audience plays videogames, so why is it that the videogame that plays a significant role 1) has a stupid name, and 2) is rendered like something you’d see in one of those cheesy insurance commercials for The General?
I mean, videogame technology as it exists right now is practically photorealistic.
What this says to me is that they either don’t have the budget or the time to do these scenes right and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d contracted that Taiwanese outfit that does those goofy animations for news stories because it looks just like that.

Seriously, I’m intrigued by this whole "going Tron" concept but if that’s what it’s gonna look like, they need to abandon the idea as quickly as possible because it’s hurting the production value of the show.

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Adventures in TV Pilots: Limitless

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 24

Today’s episode is the show Limitless.

It’s a sequel to the movie Limitless in the way that Stargate SG-1 was a sequel to the movie Stargate, only with all different characters and situations.
Basically it takes place after the events in the movie, they make a couple of tweaks to the lore to allow the story to continue, and tie it all together by having Bradley Cooper show up (the movie protagonist — not a spoiler, he’s in the promo) to keep the plot moving along.

The show was kinda fun as yet another outsider + cop show so I have no reservations about sticking around for 7 episodes to see how it develops.
I liked the premise of the movie and this is just more of the same, so it should be ok.

Now, that being said, I have these problems with it:
– The pilot was basically a condensed version of the movie storyline. Not unforgivable as an introduction so I’ll give this one a pass to wait and see how it evolves.

– It’s yet another "use 100% of your brain" story. However, it’s much better than Lucy was so it’s got that going for it. I sincerely hope that they sort of back off on the "imagine if you knew this" and "I can remember all of this" type stuff, tho. Sure, you need to do some of that to indoctrinate new viewers as you go along, just don’t beat us over the head with it the way Supergirl does with "my cousin." Again, maybe this was just because it’s the pilot.

– It’s kind of a 1-trick pony. Dude takes pill and becomes super detective while working with an FBI agent to solve crimes.
That’s gonna get old after a while.
Then again, wasn’t the show "House" essentially the same thing but with drama instead of wonder drugs and action?
It seemed to do ok.

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Adventures in TV Pilots: Minority Report

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 23

Today’s second pilot is the show Minority Report.

After getting 15 minutes into the pilot for Minority Report (which I only recently found out was a thing), two things are immediately pretty obvious:
1) This show is kinda bland. The future seen in the movie should be amazing but the TV budget has made it pretty lifeless.
2) Wilmer Valderrama can’t act.

The show’s premise is (not a spoiler because 1) this is all in the trailer and 2) it’s also in the first 3 minutes of the show) that one of the male “precogs” from the movie is seeing flashes of future crimes so he wants to try to stop them but isn’t having much luck because without the 3 precogs being linked together, his margin of error is pretty high.

Now, as an example of how completely self-unaware the show is, at one point the precog dude blurts out something about a future event as an insult to someone he and his cop "partner" are talking to.
Since no one but his partner knows what he is and the information is of no use other than for her to ask if he can see that far into the future (he can’t), it’s pretty obvious it was done purely to amuse the audience.
Sure, the man had just unknowingly insulted him by speaking poorly of the precogs, but because the guy doesn’t know he’s a precog, the "future-based insult" is completely meaningless, wasn’t said for his partner’s benefit, and he himself knows predicting it is beyond his abilities.
It was done for a cheap laugh and is a sure sign of weak writing.

I’ll give it the usual 7 episode benefit of the doubt, but I’ll be surprised if this one lasts that long.
Also, Fox tried the whole near-future sci-fi cop show a couple of years ago.
It was called Almost Human and it was infinitely better than this.
It lasted 13 episodes.

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Adventures in TV Pilots: Lucifer

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 23

Today’s hours spent lounging on the couch diligently researching video entertainment includes the show Lucifer.
It isn’t due out until 2016, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch it anyway.

Strangely enough, I don’t have a lot to say about this one.
I suppose that’s because I kinda like it.

It’s yet another ‘cop teams up with outsider to solve crimes’ show.
This one has sort of a Constantine vibe to it because of the whole supernatural angle but maybe it’ll stay a little more grounded in “reality” than that show did by focusing mostly on solving mundane crimes rather than fighting demons every week.
Maybe that angle will help it stay around a little longer than Constantine did because it’s more relatable to audiences that have zero interest in occult things.

The premise is interesting… the devil decided he was tired of Hell so he left and owns a nightclub in LA.
There are clearly consequences to that decision and they’re using the same “visit from an angel” bit that Constantine used to allude to them so they aren’t abandoning the supernatural thing altogether.

The character is very charming and quite likable… sort of like you’d imagine the devil to be.
However, they’ve made a refreshing change to the old formula by not having him hide his identity.
I mean, he’s not broadcasting it to the world, but he doesn’t try to conceal it from anyone either.
Naturally they don’t believe him, and I think that’s the device they’ll use to let him remain low-key.

Unless they massively re-tool the show before it launches, I’m looking forward to seeing how this one plays out.

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Adventures in TV Pilots: The Muppets

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 22

A new TV season means a new batch of shows to check out.
I’ve decided to start with The Muppets because 1) I loved the original Muppet Show and 2) some upright, uptight citizens group opposes it.

For my money, any show that is opposed by some sort of Million Moms or Family Council organization is automatically worth watching and, once again, I was proven right.

For me, this was just like watching The Muppet Show as a kid except that it’s been written for me as an adult.
There’s all sorts of subversive humor thrown in that little kids won’t understand but their parents will.

The premise for this particular incarnation is that they’re doing a late night talk show on TV (thus justifying the celebrity human guest du jour) but they’re also being filmed by a documentary crew a la The Office so we get to see all the stuff that happens outside the talk show.

There was one particular exchange early in the show that sold me on it:
Kermit: (to Dr. Teeth) Well, we have meetings every morning. You’re in one right now.
Zoot: Huh? This is a meeting? Oh. (stands up) I’m Zoot and I’m…
Floyd: (whispers) Different meeting.
Zoot: Oh. (sits back down)

It was followed closely by a discussion about how the word "gesticulate" needed to be removed from the script because shaky hands is the "first step to making babies."

So if they can keep up the muppet craziness and sly humor without giving in and turning it into strictly a kids show, I expect to enjoy it.
However, I don’t expect it to succeed unless they move it to a more family friendly time slot.
I predict that *IF* it survives, it’ll end up on the weekend.

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Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 16

Signs your superhero movie sucks: It takes 45 minutes for the first interesting thing to happen.
Then again, that’s pretty much true of any movie.

Seriously, it was 83 minutes into a 93 minute film before the Fantastic Four grouped up to fight the bad guy.
It’s not even as a ‘team" but more like "we’re partly responsible for this bad thing that happened and since we’re the only people here that are still alive, we may as well go for it."

Then we’re done with our epic superhero battle by the 90 minute mark.
At 92 minutes we do the whole "we need a name" bit and at 93 minutes, the credits roll.

For as weak as the original FF movie was, it was infinitely better than this one.
I’m officially rating this movie lower than Pixels.

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Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 14

Now that I’ve seen Pixels, I can confirm that the movie is crap.
However, it’s not any crappier than most other crappy movies so it’s not like it’s the cinematic equivalent of the antichrist or anything.
It’s just another stupid Adam Sandler movie and if you don’t go into those expecting to be disappointed, you’re just kidding yourself.

Now to be fair, there were a few chuckle-worthy moments, mostly around Peter Dinklage’s character.
Unfortunately there weren’t enough of them to be strung together to make a movie from them.

I have only 2 non-Sandler related complaints about the movie:
1) If it was meant to be an homage to 80’s videogames, it failed miserably. I feel like the premise could have been done so much better.
2) Futurama did the premise so much better in a 5 minute segment 13 years ago.

Oh, and the 16-bit version of the entire movie that runs during the end credits tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the story without forcing you to sit through the movie.
Unfortunately, it’s like milk at the back of the grocery store and you’ve gotta slog through everything else just to get to the thing you want.

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What’s Happening

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2015 Sep 13

For the last couple of days, I’ve been dreaming about my old comic book store.

Two nights ago I was dreaming about turning the garage on my mother’s house into a new store.
But it was being done in the style of all these "house flipping" shows I’ve been watching lately where they throw a graphic up on the screen with the cost of each improvement.
Framing: $1,500
Drywall: $900
Plate Glass Windows: $2,000
And so forth.

When it was all said and done, it was kind of a nice space.
But then I’d probably have to name the store something stupid like Krazy Kuntry Komix to attract the locals.

Then last night it was more like I had remodeled my original store.
I was putting the finishing touches on it because the building was still empty when the group of dwarves from The Hobbit comes in and wants to murder their leader and bury him behind my store.
I was ok with this as long as they didn’t mess up my new carpet.

A little while later as I’m digging around in the floor in the front part of my store (apparently the carpet was put down over dirt?), an old friend from high school comes in with a couple of dead celebrities (Cher and Elton John) and wants to know if I’ll chop them up and bury them under my store.
I calmly explain to him that they won’t both fit in the hole I’m digging so what we’ll do instead is put them in boxes and ship them to random addresses via UPS.

Maybe the fumes from all these boxes of old comic books stacked against my wall are starting to get to me, not unlike the way the trees attacked humanity in The Happening.

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