Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

This post is inspired by our church’s vicar, because he used the Rolling Stone top 10 list as an illustration in his sermon on Sunday, and I thought it was a rubbish list! :) I have seen three of the movies on it, but only one is on my top 10, and the other two are on my do-not-rewatch-ever-again list, so I’ve been inspired to go back through my IMDB movie ratings for the year and make my own top 10 of 2013 list.

I'm giving special honourable mention to Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon. It was technically released in 2012, but it was a limited release, and didn't come to theatres in Calgary until 2013. I really love a well-done Shakespeare movie, and this is definitely one of them. It's completely different from the Kenneth Brannagh adaptation of the 90s, and I couldn't choose between them. 

I’m also going to give a shout-out to my review of Les Miserables, because while it came out in 2012, I didn’t see it in theatres until 2013. 

It was very hard to number my list. I liked them all quite a lot, for varying reasons, and it’s difficult to choose one over the other. 1, 9, and 10 I’m sure about, but other than that, really, they all tie for an equal number of stars. I was going to rate them out of so many tears, but my tears for 12 Years a Slave and The Book Thief were totally different than my tears for Despicable Me 2, for instance, so that doesn’t work either…

So, be assured that I think all of the movies on my top 10 list are worth seeing, and if you’re someone who was involved in making a movie that’s lower on the list, just remember that you’re competing with The Hobbit for number 1. If you had thought to have Freeman and Cumberbatch together in YOUR movie it might have edged it out. :)

10.   Iron Man 3
I watched the first two Iron Man chapters on DVD in preparation for seeing the Avengers, and I liked the second one better then the first one, and liked the character of Iron Man a lot better after seeing the Avengers, so I had high hopes for IM3, and I’m still not really sure what I thought of it. Pepper Potts is amazing, and I really liked that they tackled PTSD so head-on, and it had funny moments, but I think the PTSD thing made me so sad that it stole some of the joy out of the movie going experience. I should probably watch it again, just to make sure...

9.      Jack the Giant Slayer
I liked Jack so much that I came home and reviewed it relatively quickly, basically hoping that other people would go see it and love it’s quirk and charm as much as I. Not sure if that worked, since I’m pretty sure my list is the only one you’ll see Jack on...

8.      The World's End
Simon Pegg is hilarious, and I love Hot Fuzz, so The World’s End was definitely on my to-watch list. We went to see it in a dinky theatre in the middle of nowhere BC, and it was a great escape from the rain. With a fantastic cast of British talent, including Martin Freeman as a BlackBerry addicted businessman, I loved nearly every minute of it. If you like quirky British humour, I highly recommend it!

7.      12 Years a Slave
What a fantastically heart-breaking movie. Not since watching the Help have I been so conflicted about a movie. On one hand, it should win all the Oscars. On the other hand, I’m definitely never watching it again. It crossed my radar because of some of the brilliant acting talent in it; I wasn’t expecting it to be so horrific. And the kicker is, as horrific as the movie was; it probably wasn’t as realistic as life as a slave would have been. It unflinchingly shows the brutality of slave life in the American south, and it’s history that everyone should be familiar with, but not wallow in. It was violent, but not gratuitous – every blow told the story of a million other ones that went unrecorded. Such heartbreak!

6.      The Book Thief
And speaking of heartbreak, on a different scale...I just saw this movie this week. So beautiful – so sad! It’s not very often in the West that you see a movie set in Germany during the Nazi regime, and this is a very well-done take on it. The Book Thief is a little girl adopted by a German couple who hide a Jew in their basement. It’s haunting. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, so I don’t know how it compares, but I highly recommend it.

5.      Thor: The Dark World
Thor 2 was fantastic. Thor’s Mom totally kicks butt, and I totally fell for Loki’s trickery. I was a bit frustrated with Jane’s character, but overall I was thoroughly satisfied with this installment, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they deal with the things they left set up for Thor 3!

4.      The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I only briefly mentioned my first experiences with the Hunger Games on my blog, which I regret a bit now, because I wish I'd taken the time to really capture my impressions. I saw the first movie before I read the books, and it blew my socks off. I didn’t like it particularly, but it was thoroughly engrossing. So I read the books. Back to back, staying up till all hours of the night to finish. And then I cried tears of rage and frustration over how it all ended and how the third book was written. But since the second book was my favourite of the series, I went to see Catching Fire. What a good decision! The brilliant person who adapted the script smoothed over a lot of the things that had annoyed me, and the movie was incredible. I’m so stoked for the third one, because I’m hoping that the screenwriter will fix that one, too. :)

3.      Despicable Me 2
I loved the first one so much, and the second one topped it for sure. There were happy tears, and all the minions! I’m so excited for the minions getting their own movie – they are totally the best hench-creatures ever invented. It’s just such an all-around brilliant series, with humour and heart.

2.      Star Trek Into Darkness
I’ve already done a very thorough review of Into Darkness, so I won’t say much else about it, except that for all of my peeves about it, I still adore it!

1.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I loved the Unexpected Journey, and now I’m waiting for the Desolation of Smaug to hit the cheap theatre so I can see it again. We went on opening day to see it in IMAX 3D, which was glorious, but I also want to watch it again to absorb more of the plot, too. The only thing I remember from reading the Hobbit years and years ago was the dwarves escaping in barrels, and that was my favourite scene in the movie. Funny and tense, it was an exciting ride. I’ve heard people complaining that they don’t really need three movies to tell Tolkien’s story, to which I say SHUT UP AND LET PETER JACKSON TAKE MY MONEY! Because I’m enjoying the HECK out of the trilogy, and would way rather see these than more Expendables or Fast and Furious, for example...I think the Hobbit is perfect! It ended on a hell of a cliff hanger though!

And the song for over the closing credits is so powerful – if you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here now!

These are the other four movies I saw in-theatre this year, that I don’t recommend and that didn’t make the top ten, from bad to worst:

4.      Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
When I saw the first Percy Jackson movie, I hadn’t read the books yet, and in the intervening years I’ve read pretty much everything that the author has written, and LOVE it. So Sea of Monsters fell hideously flat for me, unfortunately. The only good thing was Nathan Fillion, and sadly his scene was only a few minutes long. Although he managed to squeeze in both a Firefly AND a Castle reference, so that was almost the cost of admission right there. :)

3.      The Great Gatsby
Gatsby was a bit of a disappointment for me. I knew it’s a literary classic, so I don’t know why I was expecting some sort of happy ending, but that’s definitely not what I got! I think I was projecting too much or something – so while it was sumptuous and well-done, I just couldn’t identify with any of the characters or their motivations, so I had a hard time getting into it.  

2.      Gravity
Yah, Gravity is only THE MOST STRESSFUL MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN. My ulcer hurt by the time it was over, and I now have a phobia of lack of gravity. I really don’t know why everyone’s so chuffed about it. (shudder)

1.      American Hustle
Again, not so sure why everyone’s so chuffed about this one, either. I won tickets to a free screening this week, and I was not impressed. The scriptwriter wouldn’t have had to do a lot of work, because every other word was a profanity, and it was so slow-moving I actually kept checking my watch – something I’ve NEVER done in a movie theatre before. The ending was pretty clever – I hadn’t seen that coming – but it was not quite fair to someone who had initially only wanted justice to prevail. And all of the characters were so unlikeable! The only one I felt sorry for was the kid. I just couldn’t get into it - it's probably the worst movie I've ever seen in a theatre.

So, there it is! I'm still hoping to see Saving Mr. Banks, August: Osage County, and the new Jack Ryan one this year, and I didn't get to see Philomena, Frozen, Austenland, Lone Ranger, or Pacific Rim, but I did manage to see one or two! Hopefully this will inspire you to see one or two that you haven’t gotten around to yet. 

Merry Christmas! :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm not dead yet!

I've been sadly neglecting my blog - this semester totally got away from me! Between four classes, life in general, and planning a youth retreat, October slipped through my fingers.

It's snowing like CRAZY today in Calgary (it's probably ankle-deep already!), which, of course, makes me think of summer. The  most glorious weather of our whole summer holiday was the Saturday we were in Quesnel, BC, and our friend Sarah took us blueberry picking.

Trevor in the back of the car, having way too much fun... :)

Hiking in
I haven't been blueberry picking since I was a kid, and then it was at a u-pick place. Wild blueberry picking is a whole different experience - teeny tiny dusky blueberries on plants with red and gold leaves everywhere. It was so beautiful, and I heartily regret that I forgot to take my camera with me. There were so many blueberry patches leading into other about going off on a rabbit OCD-ness was working double-time...
I actually dropped a half-full margarine container at one point, and the berries sank into the ground cover, never to be seen again. :( It was really hard to leave with so many berries un-picked, but it would have been impossible to have gotten them all. I definitely want to do that again...

We also met a baby goat...
And saw some steampunky old mining equipment.

The Quesnel River

The last of the summer roses
The Quesnel farmers' market was also one of the best ones I saw all summer - I was very sorry that I wasn't grocery shopping to make dinner!
I'm going to try to get back into blogging once a week, but we'll see how it goes - I'm in the middle of midterms, and then I have to get started on my end-of-semester writing projects, so if I don't post again till Christmas, don't be alarmed... :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September Soyuz Launch

I am buried under all the German homework, but today was exciting because I got to watch a live feed of the Soyuz launch and docking, in the background while I tried to write an essay in German about a my mythical trip to Berlin. Woot! :)

It's unbelievably cool to sit at my computer and watch people get SHOT INTO SPACE. I feel like I'm in some kind of spec fic story!

Here's a quick Twitter roundup of today's space-related events...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin" by Marlene Dietrich

I interrupt my regularly scheduled reminiscence of my summer holidays to bring you this rather haunting tune by Marlene Dietrich. We watched in German class as part of our section on Berlin, and I'm having a hard time shaking the mental image it produced. You can Google English lyrics if you like, but essentially she sings about still having a suitcase (Koffer) in Berlin, and compares it to other cities, but none of them draw her back the same way as Berlin.

Now, please note that this is an entire flight of fancy, but this image that showed up in the thumbnail produced a train of thought. Dietrich is staring off into the middle distance while well-dressed man gazes at her, which, since I don't know who he was, provoked an interesting idea about Dietrich as the Allies great weapon, propaganda. She was well-known for being anti-Nazi and became an American citizen in 1939. She toured with the USO, and also did campaigning for American war bonds. "Ich habe noch einen Koffer" wasn't written until after the war was over, but can you imagine the influence she would have had on a USO tour, with her husky voice and distant eyes, longing to go home to Berlin? Talk about inspiration to win a war...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The View from the Road Trip

It seems like so long ago already, and I guess it kind of was - it was August 23 when we left Jasper to head to see friends in Vanderhoof. The delay in posting is due to the terrible internet while we were gone, the massive number of photos to sort through, and the fact that school started promptly on our return to Calgary. So I'll probably be stringing out these photos of rocks and trees and water in BC for at least another post, or even two. :)

This is Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It's an easy stop just after you pass our of Jasper National Park, heading west.

Panoramic photo of Purden Lake from Trevor's iPhone
We took a stretch break at Purden Lake Provincial Park, about halfway between McBride and Prince George. It was a bit overcast, but just lovely. Unfortunately, a contractor was there pumping out the outhouses, so if you got too close it didn't SMELL too lovely, but it was a really nice place to stop for a break.

We spent a few days with our friends in Vanderhoof, which is the geographical centre of BC (if you're ever there, eat at Woody's Bakery, which is THE BEST bakery I've ever experienced, and that's really high praise...), and then we headed even further north to Smithers.
On our way up to Smithers we took a detour to Fort St James National Historic Site, on Stuart Lake. I hope you go there, but if you do, be warned that your Garmin GPS will not be able to find it. You'll have to watch for the signs, and if you get to the main intersection, you've gone too far. :) It was absolutely beautiful there - the ocean is still several hundred kilometres away, but it's easy to imagine the early traders making the journey inland and arriving at Fort St James. It feels very different from the coastal and southerly BC I know and love - it thrilled the heck out of my internal history geek. :)

Recreations of the tea bales that traders would have brought to the fort - the amount of work it would have required to get this tea from China to central BC blows my mind!

Trevor kicking back in an early version of a lazy boy, padded with a buffalo skin that was traded into BC from Alberta.

Fort St James - so pretty!
We took the time to watch the interpretive videos and look in all the buildings, and then got on the road again.
The campground we stayed at in Smithers was called Glacier View. See that lump of clouds in the middle of the mountains? Yah, the glacier is behind the clouds. :P Sadly, the weather in Smithers was not quite what I was hoping for (and the campground was too close to the highway for tenting - logging trucks run all night!), but we wandered around the historic downtown, checked out the museum, ate at a good Japanese place, and went to a movie. (The World's End, with Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman - SO FUN!)

Our last day there the weather improved, of can see the glacier in the distance... We went to hike Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, because the website talked about the amazing fossil beds, and the name caught my attention, but alas, we didn't see any driftwood, and the part of the park with the fossils is out of bounds! I was very disappointed! We headed further up the back road to another provincial park, but the trails there were muddier then we were up for, so we headed back to Vanderhoof for another few days with our friends there, and another trip to Woody's Bakery. :) Then we were off to Quesnel for a few days, which shall be another post, because I have German homework to do now...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Summer Holiday - Jasper

Two weeks ago today Trevor and I left Calgary for our road trip. It feels like ages ago already!

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Lake Louise. I haven't been there since I was about 13, and it wasn't as big as I remembered it being. :)

The drive along the Icefields Parkway is BEAUTIFUL. We're definitely going to do it again.
And next time we're going to stop at the icefields instead of just zooming by!
We took a trip to see this amazing canyon and waterfalls just a few minutes away from the Jasper townsite. It's called Maligne, and it's stunning. Unfortunately, the sun was at the wrong angle to light up the canyon nicely, and my camera skills aren't good enough to compensate for it. But hopefully this gives you an idea!
We did an hour and a half-ish hike around Annette Lake, which has quicksand at one end of it. I've never seen quicksand before, and I was expecting it to look more like the Fire Swamp...
View from a bench on the far side of Annette Lake.

The nights in Jasper were FREEZING - the first night we were there it got down to zero, which was a bit cold for my taste! But we're hoping to go back next summer earlier in August when it's not quite so close to fall.
If you ever go to Jasper, be sure to go on the Friends of Jasper walking tour around the townsite - it was really interesting, and admission is by donation. I quite enjoyed it, and I'm pretty sure Trevor paid attention as well. :)
Right now we're in central BC in a teeny tiny town called Clearwater, which is basically the townsite for Wells Grey Provincial Park. On Friday we leave to head for home, spending a night in Revelstoke on the way. It's a bit bittersweet - I like being outdoors so much, but I do miss my cats and my own bed, and I'm looking forward to the new school year.
Watch for a post in the next week or so about our adventures in BC! :)

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Words Collide 2013

This past weekend was the third annual When Words Collide here in Calgary. It's sort of a reader con, or a literary festival of genre fiction, and it's a great opportunity for learning and networking for writers, readers, editors, and publishers. My schedule is full of notes and stars next to names - I have a lot of new-to-me authors to add to my to read list now...

It started on Friday at 1 pm, and I wasn't as early as I would have liked. There were three workshops that afternoon that required signing up ahead of time, and I wasn't there early enough to get in line. There's never been a lineup for the signup sheets before - I didn't realize how much bigger it was going to be this year!

I went to the Live Action Slush: Early Bird Edition, which is always fun. I learn so much about editing and what publishers are looking for from almost every live action slush I go to. I did have a writing submission in that pile too - and while it didn't get the  book offer I was hoping for, I did get some good feedback. :)

Next I sat through three mystery-oriented panels in a row - Have Gun Will Murder, Violence in Literature, and Pushing the Limits of Traditional Mystery. Have Gun was about western mystery genre, and the panelist posted a list of recommendations on her website. I didn't get a chance to chip in, but Hell on Wheels, Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey, and The Apparition Trail by Lisa Smedman are all western-based fiction that I recommend. Violence in Literature was an interesting panel - there was discussion about whether violence in fiction is necessary, and the general consensus seems to be that some of some sort is necessary - the panellists were clear not to glorify it, and some introduce it off-screen rather then on, but there's violence in real life, and it's a good tool to use to move the story along. One of the panellists is a paramedic/former cop, and he had some good info about violence and how to write it realistically, and fielded questions about things like how long people tend to stay unconscious. Pushing the Limits talked a lot about the genre of 'cozy' mysteries and why they work and why, for some readers, they don't work. Apparently there's a new line of gluten-free cozies, which produced general hilarity. :)

Then I went to a YA-focused live action slush, and a live action editing panel, where we looked at handouts of things that make publishers reject stories and got some hands-on experience, which was pretty cool. Hopefully they'll do one like that again next year. Although one of the plots that they rejected reminded me a lot of a Monty Python animation I watched last night, and we all know how popular Monty Python ended up being...

The guests of honour (six of them who were paid to be there - EVERYone else volunteered) spent about an hour and a half each giving a short talk about their work in the industry and told stories and whatnot, and it was interesting as always. All of the guests this year were new to me, so it's a good chance to get a feel for the personalities, which helps when trying to choose between three panels later in the weekend. On Saturday, there were ELEVEN scheduled things every hour to choose from, which is hard! Then I popped into the EDGE party room until it go too crowded and noisy for this introvert, then I fled. :)

Saturday was jam-packed with all kinds of goodies. I was there from 9:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night, and I'm still trying to recover! If there's programming running, I want to be participating in it, so it can be rather exhausting. The first live action slush of the day was all about fantasy, and it had some good content - there were a lot of manuscripts that were really well received. A panel called Doom and Gloom and Dark Despair, Young Readers Love Them Everywhere was a bit disappointing. In hindsight, they really should have had the guest who's a child psychologist on that panel, which is what I was expecting. It was a discussion about the darkness of YA books these days, but the panel was really big and not super focused, so I left unenlightened. Making the Everyday Fantastic was a really good panel, with writers talking about how they take everyday places and things and make them fantastical, and I ended up buying Through the Door by Jodi McIsaac because of its setting in Halifax.

Each Generation's Sherlock Holmes was a fascinating look at Sherlock Holmes through his various incarnations on stage and in movies and tv shows. The two guys who led it, Charles Prepolec and Jeff Campbell, have co-edited a bunch of Sherlock Holmes anthologies and what the two of them don't know about the 'franchise' isn't worth knowing. Next year I'd love to see a panel discussing the influence that Sherlock Holmes has had on detective fiction as a genre, or something like that.

The Steampunk Art and Science Society did a couple of presentation on steampunk costuming (I'd give my eyeteeth for mad sewing skills!) and on Tesla vs Edison, which is always a fun topic. :) The panel on Canada as Our Exotic Home was quite good - lots of discussion about Canada as a place to set stories (will that turn off American readers?) and if there's something that defines Canadian fiction as a genre. There was a good mix of panelists, and I really enjoyed that one.

I went to another Sherlock Holmes panel called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Bag of Tricks, which was really interesting, but the AC was running really loud, and I was too tired to focus, so I ended up sneaking out early. I wish I knew what all his tricks were, but I just couldn't sit still anymore! :P The last panel I was going to go to before dinner was about this software called Wattpad, and I thought it might be interesting, but after looking at the leaflet they were handing out, and not being anymore prepared to focus, I went and dozed in a big chair until Trevor came to have dinner with me. Dinner and a walk gave me a second wind for a busy evening, thankfully.

Editor for Hire was a great panel that basically convinced the burgeoning writers in the room that they need to hire an editor of some sort to look over their manuscripts before submitting them to publishers, which was just what I wanted to hear, that being my developing speciality. :) Make Your Mark Online turned out to be not really for me, although I did pick up a few ideas about some Wordpress plugins to check out. I don't have a need for a blog or a newsletter promoting my editorial business, so it mostly just wasn't relevant to where I'm at right now.

Then I went upstairs to the Steampunk Arts and Sciences party room, and chatted with a few people about their costumes, and tried some Absinthe (an acquired taste, but interesting...) and then fled again when it got too crowded. The party rooms at this new venue are smaller then I remember the ones at last year's hotel being, so it didn't take many people to make me feel claustrophobic.

By Sunday my attention span was even shorter - Pantser, Plotter, or Quilter was a good panel that caught my attention for supporting the Oxford comma, and turned out to be an interesting mix of people and had some good discussion about writing styles. The Live Action Slush: Mystery Edition turned out to be a bit of a disappointment because there weren't very many submissions, but I guess a lot of people didn't know that would be an option, so hopefully there are more next year, and I kind of wish I'd just gone to Getting Past the Middle Doldrums in Novel Writing.

Writers Tools in the Digital Age was a fascinating look at the availability of software tools to help the world-building author. I'm not a world builder myself, but it was incredibly interesting. I wanted to ask about editing tools, but the panel went too long for many questions. Mystery, Science Fiction, and Fantasy was a panel with three authors, each of whom write in one of those genres. I went to it mostly because I'm a big fan of Robert J. Sawyer, but it was a really interesting discussion and good combination of panelists. Here's a blog by Barbara Fradkin, the mystery guest of honour, who was on that panel.

I went to the EDGE book launch up in on of the party rooms, where they had readings from some of the new books EDGE has recently published. Shanghai Steam is a Chinese steampunk anthology that sounds really good, but again the claustrophobic feeling had me getting out of there before it was over, so I kind of wish I'd gone to The Role of Beautiful Language. I went to the Live Action Slush: Romance Edition, but it was over really early, so I also went to the last half of Historical Whodunits, which had good panelists who didn't seem to be the right fit for that topic. And the very last panel of the weekend was The Publisher's Panel, which was a good discussion between a bunch of publishers about the market, trends, things they're looking for, and developments in the industry, which was a good way to end the weekend.

Last year I stayed for the wrap-up party, but I was so tired I just came home. I'm actually still quite tired - I started getting ready for bed at 8:30 last night! But it's one of my favourite weekends of the year, and I'm SUPER excited for next year - Diana Gabaldon, one of my all-time favourite authors is coming. She's an experienced con guest, and really good at giving writing advice, so I know she'll be excellent. Sometimes I think I learn more in a weekend at WWC then I do in a whole semester of school...too bad they don't issue BAs! :)

The team of volunteers that puts this conference on does a fantastic job, and I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to attend, and to have the rare opportunity to go to a conference where I'm not volunteering in one capacity or another. It's definitely worth every penny of the very low registration fee, and I highly recommend it!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Lost! On Tunnel Mountain!

(The title of the post is intended to be read loudly, with dramatic flair, in a deep announcer voice.)
What with one thing and another I hadn't managed to get out of Calgary to go hiking at all this summer, so last Monday we headed to Banff for the day with a couple of friends. I wanted to hike Johnson Lake again, to see it without all the snow, but when we got there, the road in was closed due to a grizzly sighting. So we heeded the sign and went to Tunnel Mountain instead.
It started out beautifully - the sun was shining and the view of Banff through the trees was lovely.

I'm the only one without an iPhone...
The Banff Springs Hotel
By the time we got around to the other side of the mountain, looking east (-ish?) it had started to cloud over a bit, and the cool breeze was nice.

Not to mention the fact that the light rain was still clearly far away. I wasn't prepared for such an uphill hike - Johnson Lake is rather flat - so I was pretty winded, and when it started to drizzle and we heard a crack of thunder we thought about turning back. But someone coming down said that the top was only about five minutes away, and since we'd come so far we pressed on.
My plan had been to eat our picnic lunch at the summit, but by the time we got up there it was POURING rain so hard I was soaked to the skin. I didn't really mind cooling off, but it wasn't exactly picnic weather, and then the hail started, so we booked it back down as fast as we could go, which wasn't very fast, because it was so slippery.
Drenched at the Summit!

Somehow in the downpour we managed to miss the proper path and ended up on a goat trail that stopped a steep slope that was clearly not the way we'd come up. Frustratingly, we could still see Banff, but not the main path. We bushwhacked around for a while, trying not to slip and break any limbs, and eventually met up with the path again, and by that point the sun was back out and except for the lingering damp, it looked like the storm had never happened. Welcome to Alberta...
I was talking to someone later who knew someone else who'd gotten lost and had to spend a night up there, so at least we didn't get THAT lost!
I was disappointed to find that there isn't actually a tunnel in Tunnel Mountain - CP Rail was going to build one, and then they didn't.
The view of the mountain from Banff.
The rest of the day involved a picnic in Banff, in the sunshine, a hot, crispy, sugary BeaverTail, and a lightening-delayed dip in the hot springs. The storm came back just as we were in line to pay for admission, and they waited half an hour to be sure the lightening was over before they opened the pool again. And on the way back we chased a rainbow from Exshaw almost to Calgary.
Such an adventure-filled day. :) Hopefully there will be more hiking this summer, but likely not till we get to Jasper later this month - stay tuned! This weekend I'm going to the third annual When Words Collide convention, and I'm very excited. I always learn so much and meet interesting people. I went to the first one in 2011, and last year I even blogged about each of the three days. Not sure if that'll happen this year or not, but watch for something about it sometime next week.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness: My Favourite Moments and My Biggest Pet Peeves


This post has been so long in coming for two reasons; one, I didn't want to spoil the movie for anyone, and two I was waiting to see it a second time, in the cheap theatre. :)

I realized I'm being really hard on Into Darkness because I expected SO MUCH from it - don't get me wrong, I think it's very good, especially when compared to a lot of other movies, but there were a few things that could have made it even better. I saw it opening night in 3D and when it was over I just sat there gasping like a beached fish because EVERYTHING happened so fast I almost wasn't sure what had happened. And after about an hour of amazed silence, the more I thought about it the more a few things annoyed me.

And they still annoyed me the second time, but I think I understood the characters, at least Kirk and Spock, a little more. I still jumped out of my skin when Khan popped up off the floor where he was supposed to be stunned unconscious, and the friend I was with, who was seeing it for the first time, grabbed my arm. :)

One of the most entertaining internet things about Into Darkness has been all the crossover graphics, some of them combining Sherlock AND Star Trek AND Middle Earth, which I find highly amusing.



See? Fangirl fodder galore.

As for the movie itself, there were lots of things I really like about it.

Scotty's facial expressions are brilliant. Simon Pegg's Scotty needs his own movie. BUT I was disappointed that he actually left the Enterprise. It turns out there was a job for him to do, so it wasn't pointless, but I didn't really think he'd actually gone, and when the warp drive failed and Chekov was sent to fix it, I expected Scotty to pop out from behind a console and safe the day. After keeping him apart from the crew for large chunks of both of the first two movies, I really hope he's more present in the third one.

Which brings me to Chekov, who's now probably all of 18 years old? Just a baby, really, and he's ADORABLE. His accent and his puppy eyes - I just want to pat his head and tell him he's wonderful. :) It's also sad that he's exiled from the bridge for a good chunk of the movie, because he's such a wonderful character. I guess that's the problem with such a big cast - there just can't be enough screen time for all of them.

Sulu does an excellent turn as acting captain, which is one of my favourite moments in the movie, as is Bones' response.

Bones gets the best one-liners of maybe any franchise ever. But what I didn't like was the fact that he just happened to have a dead tribble on hand, and he thought that injecting it with the blood of a super-human they knew little about was a good idea. (facepalm) I get that they were setting up Khan's blood as a cure for Kirk's radiation poisoning, but that had already been done in the sequence that introduced Khan at the beginning of the movie. I just though that was really lame. And does that mean that there are now super-tribbles infesting the Enterprise?

This is one of my favourite moments...

I didn't really buy the relationship between Spock and Uhura, just because it doesn't seem to fit with what I know about Spock. I don't dislike it, it just didn't seem that convincing, but it made for some really funny moments. When they actually talk on the shuttle to Kronos, then it started to make more sense to me. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it in the third movie.

But I think my favourite part of the movie was Uhura standing up to the Klingons.

There was a job she could do, and she did it, and it wasn't blowing things up, but simply using her linguistic skills to try to complete the mission. It almost ended horribly, but not for lack of her trying. Her bravery was amazing.

For me the movie's biggest flaw was lack of character development. I've never seen the original Star Trek movies (except for the Voyage Home), and I didn't realized that Into Darkness was going to follow the same general story arc that the original movies did. I BELIEVED J.J. ABRAMS WHEN HE SAID THAT BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH WAS PLAYING JOHN HARRISON AND NOT KHAN. I think that's what ticked me off the most - he didn't need to lie, he could have just not talked about it. So lame! I was looking forward to a totally new bad guy, and given what little I do know about the original series, I was thinking of someone along the lines of Gary Seven. Alas, it was not to be. :(

Anyway, lack of character development... I felt like the movie relied too much on character development that I assume had been built in the original series rather then building its own. Kirk and Spock's friendship was rocky, and the crew's loyalty didn't seem to have much of a basis when Kirk was acting like a spoiled brat for the first half of the movie. He was just going to blow up a city on the Klingon home world, and then he (tried to) beat the crap out of Khan - I just expected more honour from the character, so I was really disappointed. It was hard to root for the 'hero' when I wanted to give him a good lecture and a time out.

Don't even get me started on the epic lameness of Quinto's Spock calling Nimoy's Spock for help, and how despite his vow, old Spock told him what he knew about the Khan from his timeline, when there was so much scope to do something new with the character. Spock says that Khan's goal is genocide of anyone he thinks is inferior, but the character doesn't actually display any of those traits - he seems like a straightforward eye-for-an-eye type guy, and in that moment when Kirk and Khan were waiting to space jump to the dreadnaught, I really thought Khan was going to get his happy ending. Crushing Admiral Marcus' head with his bare hands, in front of his daughter, was a bit sickening, but then the Admiral was a manipulative bad guy...

Kirk's death scene was unfortunate, and I actually didn't even really see it coming. I figured, given the demonstrated potency of Khan's blood in the opening fifteen minutes of the movie, that they'd get Kirk injected with it BEFORE he died. But even when he did die, I knew they weren't actually going to kill off Captain Kirk, so I was actually a bit bored. Apparently in the original, it was Spock who died, and he stayed dead for a whole movie? But I didn't know that, and the hero appearing to die is such an overdone trope that it left me cold. Not to mention the fact that ever since I saw K-19: The Widowmaker the whole idea of radiation poisoning grosses me out beyond words - I find it scarier then zombies or vampires.

And finally, other then the poor character development, my least favourite thing was Carol Marcus' underwear. I mean really, was it absolutely necessary that the camera take a long, slow pan down her body? Seriously? Her and Kirk's reactions to the situation are interesting, and I read a good blog analyzing it, but her state of undress could have been hinted at in order to achieve those reactions. It felt cheap, and quite frankly I expected more from Star Trek then 'sex sells'. I sincerely hope that they avoid anything like it in the third movie...there was a bit of it in the first one, but I don't think it was as gratuitous as this was. Her character is really great and has a lot of potential - she sees things that she can do something about and she does them - and I hope they make good use of her character in the next movie.

I'm only hard on it because I love Star Trek so much. I really, really, really hope that the next movie spends more time on character development, and that breaks away from the established storylines. When it was first announced that J.J. was going to be doing the new Star Wars movie, I was really excited, but Into Darkness has made me a little bit more hesitant. I love the action/adventure stories, but if they don't have good characters, I don't feel them, and that's a problem that plagued the recent Star Wars expanded universe stuff, so I hope the lack of character I'm feeling in Into Darkness doesn't creep into Star Wars as well.

Of course, that won't stop me from buying Into Darkness, or seeing the third movie, or seeing the Star Wars movies... :)