Monday, January 18, 2021

Bewitched by WandaVision!

My first impression? "What the H - E - double hockey sticks am I watching?"

Okay, my second impression? I can't wait to find out more.

This is not your normal MCU fare. There is no intricate plot, no action sequences, no bad guys. (No, Kathryn Hahn does not count as a bad guy. She's not going to turn into her Spider-Verse incarnation of Doctor Octopus. Or is she?!) Even the displays of superpowers are punctuated by silly animated stars and magical symbols. 

So seriously, what the heck are we watching?

WandaVision is definitely a classic style sitcom, and a darn good one at that. The first two recall the 1950s and 1960s, with later decades represented in later episodes. It's so well done that it can hardly considered a parody of The Dick Van Dyke Show or Bewitched. This is authentically a good sitcom, down to the word choice, the era-appropriate humor, and the blocking. WandaVision was even filmed in front of a live audience using camera lenses from the time period, and tungsten lights to add to the authenticity of creating a sitcom. Incredible work on the details!

So how does WandaVision fit into the larger MCU? Wanda and Vision have no recollection of their past, and it's clear by the end of the first episode that they are being observed. It's great to have some genuine mystery in this show: Who is watching them? Is Vision alive? And how is Kathryn Hahn so incredible in everything she does?

It's also important to point out the two MCU elements that were introduced in WandaVision. The symbol of a sword in a circle was seen several times. Is this the symbol for S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation Response Department)? Of course it is, this is Marvel, afterall!

And finally, Monica Rambeau. Remember her from Captain Marvel? She's the daughter of Maria Rambeau, and she's the one who helped Captain Marvel pick out her suit's colors. Well, she shows up in this strange and intriguing world of WandaVision as an adult. Why? Not sure, but I'm on board to find out...

And honestly? I'm hooked! I can't wait for the next installment of this interesting world. Not just because I love the MCU and want to find out how it plays out. But I'm genuinely engaged by WandaVision

And by Kathryn Hahn.



Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday Creature Feature - Calvin's Snowmen


Back in elementary school, Calvin and Hobbes was always a hot commodity in the library. You had to be quick to check out those comics before someone else. And of course one of the antics that Calvin is known for is his snowmen. Some (like his parents) may call it demented, but I prefer to think of it as creative. Kids are weird, so let's embrace some of Calvin's dark humor and have a good laugh today.

There's always an opportunity to make fun of Dad.

Hard work comes in many forms, I guess.

It's appropriate at Halloween; why not at winter too?

*insert theme from Jaws*

We've all done something like this right?

Calvin gets deep and philosophical sometimes.

What's for dinner?

Welp... That happened.

On a side note, I wouldn't be surprised if that last comic was the inspiration for one of Steven Moffat's iconic Doctor Who villains.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Burrow

Released alongside Soul, Pixar's newest short Burrow tells the story of a young rabbit who wants to build her dream home, even though she has no real clue what she's doing. Yes, she's a dumb bunny. But here's the cool thing: rather than ask for help, this bunny literally digs herself deeper and deeper into trouble, until she hits rock bottom. Literally. Watching this with my Minecraft-raised children, they shouted, "NEVER DIG STRAIGHT DOWN!" They know. There are rules to digging!

So I can't help but watch any new media in terms of the pandemic and current events. And somehow, Pixar helps shine a light on my own personal situation. Burrow is no exception. When we move past the calming Oboe Concerto by Mozart, the animation that looks like it came straight from a Beatrix Potter or Richard Scarry book, and the fun Easter eggs (did you see Kitbull?), we are left with a timely message about community and reaching out. 

We can all related to that moment when the water breaks and our little rabbit has nowhere else to turn. And I'll admit to shedding a tear or two when she finally tells her story, becomes distraught, and covers her face with her ears. Oh, honey, there aren't ears long enough to cover your face when you feel like that. But it all turns around when the neighborhood menagerie shows up, equipped with shovels and goggles, ready to work. 

There's no shame in admitting your faults, in facing your weaknesses, and especially in asking for help. It's increasingly difficult to feel a part of your community when you are quarantined and literally hide from your neighbors. But people are finding new and creative ways to connect in this world. Because after all, we are not meant to burrow and hide ourselves underground; we are meant to have interconnected lives where we pitch in, help each other out, and face our own weaknesses.

And having a disco bathroom doesn't hurt, either.



Friday, January 8, 2021

Sarah Jane Adventures Retrospective

"I've seen amazing things out there in space, but strange things can happen wherever you are. I have learned that life on Earth can be an adventure too. In all the universe, I never expected to find a family." Sarah Jane Smith ("The Man Who Never Was")


This post is dedicated to the late Elizabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith, companion of the Third and Fourth Doctors and friend of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Beloved by classic and modern Doctor Who fans, she tragically passed away from cancer ten years ago this April. In my opinion, her spin-off series, Sarah Jane Adventures, is the pinnacle of Doctor Who spin-offs. So here’s to Sarah Jane.

I’d watched Sarah Jane Adventures on Hulu a few years back and loved it. And then during my current Doctor Who rewatch, I decided to throw in Sarah Jane Adventures with it (thank you, HBO Max for having this wonderful series available). Watching it in conjunction with Doctor Who didn’t necessarily add anything to the Doctor Who episodes, but it made me appreciate Sarah Jane and her Bannerman Road crew even more.


Season one features the beginning of Sarah Jane’s crew. It’s set some time after “School Reunion” and Sarah Jane is the recluse she’s been for years since the Fourth Doctor left her behind. With Maria’s help, she meets a human clone created by the Bane. This clone becomes her adopted son Luke. Maria and Luke become friends with Clyde, who joins Sarah Jane’s team. A big highlight of this season was the introduction of the Trickster, who became an arch-foe of sorts to Sarah Jane. For Doctor Who fans who haven’t seen the series, he was referenced in “Turn Left” after Donna sets the timeline straight again. Also, speaking of "Turn Left", note that Sarah Jane and her friends were referenced as saving the hospital from the Judoon in Donna's alternate timeline.


Early on in Season 2, Maria and her dad move away and only return to the show for one more special appearance. She’s replaced by Rani on Sarah Jane’s team shortly after, as they continue fighting alien invaders. Highlights from this season include the return of the Trickster (as he tries to change Sarah Jane’s past) and the last televised appearance of the Brigadier before Nicholas Courtney passed away three years later. He appeared as a Cyberman to the Twelfth Doctor, but this was his last time with his own face.


The third season was one of my favorites. K9 returned from guarding a black hole and we got a special guest appearance from the Tenth Doctor, during his time companionless before his regeneration. It was cool to see the Doctor facing off against the Trickster at Sarah Jane’s wedding. It marked the last appearance of the Trickster, though I’d love to see him back in Doctor Who. Also, I first watched this episode years after the Tenth Doctor had regenerated, so it was beautiful to see one final Tenth Doctor episode after all that time.


Season four was the last full season and it marked Luke’s departure to college, leaving Sarah Jane an empty nester. If you’re only going to watch one story from this season, it has to be “Death of the Doctor” where the Doctor teams up with Sarah Jane Smith and Jo Grant Jones. The Eleventh Doctor being with Jo for the first time in nine regenerations made me so happy, even before I’d watched Classic Who. It also established that before the Tenth Doctor regenerated, he visited all his companions. Not just the ones seem in "The End of Time". All that being said, I think the last story of this season “Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith” was my favorite because of how it tugged so hard at my heart strings.


The final season of Sarah Jane’s adventures was cut short due to her passing. As sad as that makes it, I’m grateful for the last season. We got to see Sarah Jane be a mom again as she adopted Sky and the best part of the season was seeing Luke and Sky meet for the first time as brother and sister. There were rumors that Jo Grant, the Trickster, and even Ace would have returned later in the season. But we’ll never know now.

For years I’ve wanted Sarah Jane’s gang to return in Doctor Who to give her a proper goodbye on the show. No such luck. However, this year during quarantine, we did get a little bit of something. We got a short little audio story of Sarah Jane’s funeral, featuring mentions of countless previous companions. Besides Sarah Jane’s gang, it also featured live appearances from Jo, Gita, and Ace.


Overall, I love the Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s Doctor Who that I’d be comfortable with my daughter watching as she grows up. Torchwood was made for adults, Class was made for teenagers, and Doctor Who has aliens that might be too freaky for little kids. But Sarah Jane and her gang keep it clean and try to avoid violence. Family friendly alien fun to be enjoyed for years to come. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again before too long.

"And the story goes on.... forever"

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

10 Game of Thrones Quotes We All Need

 The HBO series Game of Thrones wrapped up in 2019, and then the world ended. 

Coincidence? Yeah probably. 

I think that with the new year we could all use some wisdom from Westeros, so whether you've watched the show or not, here's some of the best quotes from Game of Thrones



10: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who doesn't read lives only one." -Jojen Reed

The Game of Thrones franchise has always encouraged reading, from Tyrion's quote on books to Sam Tarley repeatedly saving people because he took time to do research. Jojen's quote applies to all media, including video games, since gamers don't need to get a life, they have a 1UP. 

9: "The man who fears losing has already lost." -Syrio Forel

It's hard to find just one quote from the former First Sword of Braavos to add to the list. The swordsman taught Arya how to survive in the harsh world by teaching her how to control her fears and become the master assassin we all grew to love. She could've died a dozen times if she gave into her fears, but instead she remembered her teacher's wisdom and survived. 

8: "It's dangerous to be free, but most come to like the taste of it." -Ygritte

 Being one of the wildlings, Ygritte didn't see the need for kings or to be ruled over, she focused more on living life the way she wanted to. She taught Jon Snow that he could choose his own destiny, and that it didn't have to be bound to what family he was born into or who his parents were. He could just be him. 

7: "All my life men like you have sneered at me. And all my life I've been knocking men like you in the dust." -Brienne of Tarth

Brianne bucks every stereotype she can find. She's a female warrior who takes out every man who challenges her, and all while wearing practical armor. She is one of the few knights that lives up to their vows, making her one of the few straightforward heroes in the story. 

6: "Any fool with a bit of luck can find himself born into power. But earning it for yourself, that takes work." -Lord Varys

In a world where it matters who your family is and what your lineage is, few have come so far as the Master of Whispers Varys. He plays the power games better than most, and has no problem letting the people around him know that he's not there because of who his daddy was but because he earned it. 



5: "Everyone dies. Don't worry about death, instead worry about life and taking control of it." -Petyr Baelish

Petyr is another character who came from relatively nothing. He could've just been a relatively rich lord in the Fingers, but he made his way to Master of Coin on his own and become a successful business owner in the capital. He knew he had one life to live and he made the best with the hand dealt to him. 

4: "The greatest fools are often times more clever than the men who laugh at them." -Lord Tywin Lannister

The head of House Lannister didn't become arguably the most powerful leader in Westeros by not listening to good advice, no matter where it came from. He knows that fools speak the truth more openly than anyone else and took it to heart, which gave him the insight to know when to act to position his family in the kingdom. Remember that the court jester was the only one who could say whatever they wanted to the king as long as it was true, which often made them the most reliable source of information in the land. 

3: "The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands." -Daenerys Targaryen

Being polite, stating your boundaries, and being respectful are all wonderful traits, but sometimes you have to let someone know who you're dealing with. Daenerys learned to speak up for herself, and that she didn't need to be treated as anything less than the queen she was destined to be. So many of her quotes were good but this one is perfect on its own without much context. 

2: "A bruise is a lesson. And each lesson makes us better." -Arya Stark

Quoting Syrio Forel, Arya talks about how she learned how to learn. By this philosophy most of last year was one long class, one I hope we can all take to heart. We have taken a lot of hard hits, but those hits have a purpose. 

1: "Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like an armor and it can never be used to hurt you." -Tyrion Lannister

Knowing your limitations, especially the ones others may put on you and how to own them is the key to happiness. Be who you are, no matter who it is, and live your best life. Tyrion was always discounted because of how he looked, but he never let those limitations hold him back. 



Remember whether you're trying to live through the post 2020 world or you're playing the game of thrones, you've got some inspiration to keep you going if you need it. 

-JOE

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

In 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special was released in all its trashy glory! 42 years later, the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special was released in all its rollicking glory! Both are designed to sell toys, both prominently feature Life Day, and both have some bafflingly unintelligible grunting Wookiees. And both are pretty awesome, but for very different reasons. Lego properties are often light-hearted, genuine, and downright funny. So what makes the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special so full of the force? Let's break it down:

  • BB-8's sassy hand. Such 'tude!
  • Force Ghost Obi-Wan clearing his throat with a loud "ahem!" to get everybody's attention.
  • Roasting tip-yip on the Millennium Falcon's engine thrusters.
  • Vader vs. Vader. Yes, you heard that correctly.
  • The slight bit of flex in the light sabers, to emulate what a "real" Lego saber fight would look like.
  • The only thing cuter than Baby Yoda ... is LEGO BABY YODA!
  • Three Obi-Wan Kenobis. Triple the awesome!
  • The top of Darth Maul hobbling through the desert. (Still the most acrobatic fighter there is.)
  • Old Han asking young Han if he wants to shoot first. (Yes, to quote Greedo, there are oonta goota Solos.)
  • Vader covering for himself when he accidentally spills the beans to Luke that they are related. "My these binary suns!"
  • Kylo's entire shirtless scene. Lego shirtlessness is just as amazing as live action shirtless Kylo!
  • Ever wanted to hear Star Wars characters sing "Jingle Bells"? In the original Huttese? Well now is your chance!
  • Vader doing air quotes. With Lego hands!
  • BB-8 facing off against a light saber ... using just his little Bic lighter thingy.
  • Vader's ugly sweater. Happy Life Day!
  • Great lines like...
    • Poe: "If there are two things Wookiees love, it's arm-ripping, and parties!"
    • Yoda: "Participation trophies for Jedi, there are not."
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Bored. Bored. Bored. Who cares about a trade dispute?!"
    • Vader: "Now I have the ... what IS this thing?"
    • Clone Troopers: "Jinx. Oh! Double jinx!"
    • Luke: "I have no idea what a 'Darth Vader' is..."
    • Vader: "Oh, that's original!"
    • Poe: "The biggest intergalactic disaster since Jar Jar's senate speech!"
    • Admiral Ackbar: "It's a wrap!"
    • Luke: "I think that's what Yoda said. It was all backwards-y."
  • Any of Ol' Sheevy Palpatine's insanely hysterical lines:
    • "Of course I'm the galaxy's best emperor. I'm the galaxy's ONLY emperor!"
    • "Me want-y, you get-y!"
    • "Yeah, yeah, blabbity-blah."
    • "A lousy Tibanna gas mine?"
    • "You think maybe you could put a shirt on?"
    • "Less talky-talky, more fighty-fighty!"
    • "Woo hoo! Dark side!"
    • "Zappity zappity zappity!"
But in the end, what really makes the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special so awesome is its heart. When Force Ghost Yoda shows Rey the scenes she overlooked, it had the same Dickensian impact as the ghosts showing Scrooge scenes from Christmas Past, Present, and Future. He points out that it's all about connection. This was powerful to me. Not only was it a good distillation of the Force (everything is connected), but it also really describes one of my main philosophies in life (relationships are all about the strength of our connections). So when Palpatine says that Rey is alone and she emphatically replies "I am NOT alone", it really hits hard. 

May the force be with you all as you enjoy some joyous joy this Life Day!


And if you need some glorious Life Day trash, check out the original 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special!


Friday, January 1, 2021

Dunder Mifflin's Curtain Call


 As Netflix bids farewell to The Office this year and migrates to Peacock, I finished up my first full watch of the series. I can’t say it’s my favorite series unlike many of my friends (Michael is just so hard to watch) but I grew to love the series. The series finale particularly warmed my heart; it was among the few perfect finales on television. As such I want to highlight a few of my favorite moments from the finale and the worst moment too. 


Jim and Dwight had the strangest relationship over the years. They were antagonistic from day one. But as they teamed up and unteamed up over the years, they grew to understand each other. And eventually, they even became friends. When watching the pilot episode, who’d have thought Jim would be an almost-best man at Dwight’s wedding (which brings me to my next point). 


I knew from memes over the years that Michael returned for Dwight’s wedding. But to see the context in which he returned to be Dwight’s best man. Wow! And with his return we learned that he and Holly had a family together. I couldn’t contain my joy. I wish they had brought Holly back, along with their family. But even just knowing that Michael got a happy ending to his awkward, cringey story… it makes me happy.


Erin’s story was always on the backburner, especially her background. Other than a reference to Phyllis possibly being her mother in one episode, I don’t recall her birth parents being a plot point that stuck around. That being said, when her parents showed up at the press conference, I was freaking out. Her naivety made the reveal even cuter than it would have been. But once she met her mom and dad, it was amazing. I loved that they were brought into the story’s end.


Now for the worst part… Ryan. Ryan and Kelly. She had a good life with a good man, but threw it away for Ryan. I’m not going to pretend that it’s that easy for a woman to escape an abusive relationship (which it was) so I don’t fault Kelly nearly as much as Ryan. And Ryan left his child behind! As a father, I wanted to slap him. … At least Nellie finally got to be a mom I guess. Grr.


Despite my reservations about The Office over the years, I enjoyed watching it before it left Netflix. Only thing I really can’t stand is Ryan. And the Senator. But those are topics for another time.

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