Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday Fun with Hanson: The Next Generation

It's been a long time since I posted something for Friday Fun, so this better be good, right?  It is, and - heck! - even NPR thinks so!  Enjoy the MMMBop kids all grown up and sharing their music video with their adorable little ones:

Fun but terrifying factoid: That earworm "MMMBop" came out in 1997 ... 20 years ago.

(By the way, you may remember how a few summers ago I was not above deploying "MMMBop" in psychological warfare.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017) Dies at 61

Here is a writeup and an overview. China needs more like him. I'll leave you with the indelible image of his empty chair at the 2010 Nobel ceremony that China's leadership did not permit him to attend, for it had imprisoned him the year before. Oh, and do take a look at his lecture.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Fourth from Colonial Williamsburg

Movie Madness: Fun Films for the Fourth of July

The Cine-Sibling and I offer these options for your viewing pleasure if you're whiling away the hours before fireworks tonight!

In the interest of full disclosure: I vetoed with extreme prejudice his suggestion of the first Transformers movie. As for Saving Private Ryan ... Well, my list only has room for one movie rescuing Matt Damon, and I wanted something fun and less bloody for a summer holiday.

Here are our picks in alphabetical order:
  • 1776 (1972)
  • Air Force One (1997)
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Argo (2012)
  • Armageddon (1998)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Die Hard (1988)
  • Glory (1989)
  • The Hunt for Red October (1990)
  • Independence Day (1996)
  • The Martian (2015)
  • Miracle (2004)
  • The Patriot (2000)
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Meet Mary Katherine Goddard

She printed the Declaration and was the first female postmaster in the colonies in 1775 in Baltimore.

Thomas Jefferson's Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence

Remember, when we see the (glorious) finished product, we see only the final result of a long, arduous process of writing and editing and rewriting and re-editing and compromise and debate. Here is a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Movie Review: "Wonder Woman" (2017)

New Girl.

Maybe I should have subtitled this review "I believe in miracles since you came along" since - contrary to all past experience and every expectation - DC finally managed to make a superhero movie that isn't awful! In fact, the "miracles" part comes from the stunning realization that this movie not only doesn't make you hate yourself for watching it (à la predecessor 1 and 2 whose titles I shall not type again to defile my keyboard), but it is by any practical Hollywood mea$urement an unqualified $ucce$$ (currently sitting pretty on a global box office figure of $650 million and climbing still). Even more shocking given DC's track record, Wonder Woman works as an engaging story in itself: it is a masterful blend of action, character development, charm, and actual human connection directed by Patty Jenkins and anchored by Gal Gadot (Gisele from the Fast and Furious franchise) as Diana of Themyscira and by Chris Pine (Captain Kirk of the new Star Trek) in his supporting role as WWI pilot Steve Trevor.

London's "Little Pyongyang"

North Korean defectors make a home in a London suburb. Do take a look at some of their stories, such as that of the former North Korean army officer who now runs the Free NK newspaper.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hello Wonder!

I'm working on my movie review for Wonder Woman, so here is some related entertainment in the meanwhile: the official Japanese ad campaign for the film includes Hello Kitty. Well, of course it does.  Take a look at the official Japanese website after you click away from the trailer that pops up. Here's a closer look:

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

D-Day: June 6, 1944

73 years ago on this day the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy and changed the course of history for the better. It's a good day to spare a moment to be thoughtful and thankful.

Movie Madness: Title Drops

Ah, yes, that hit-you-over-the-head meta game from moviemakers who think they're more clever than they actually are!  Title-dropping happens far too often, and it always jolts me right out of the movie-watching experience.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Movie Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017)

Family Matters.

2014's Guardians of the Galaxy was a delightful surprise, and even though its inevitable sequel can't quite recapture that initial thrill of discovery, it still delivers plenty of the same kind of zany personality, irreverent zingers, nostalgic pop culture awareness, colorful CGI eye candy scenery, and retro soundtrack shenanigans that made the first Guardians so much fun. To be perfectly honest, I went to see this for 2 main reasons: Rocket and Baby Groot (still adorably tiny and twiggy but now out of his flowerpot and capable of locomotion), and on that front the movie delivers in spades.

The gang's all here again, along with some new characters, including an alien who looks like an Oscar statuette come to life, Chibs from Sons of Anarchy trading in his leather jacket for Ravager gear, a girl with antennae, and a figure named Ego who really, really, really lives up (or down) to his name.

The plot has its up and downs, and there is one detail arriving late in the film that is as unnecessary as it is horrifying and jarring. Still, the whole movie looks so darn pretty with bright, eye-popping fantasy CGI that its flaws are forgotten in a second. Besides, all it took was the next shot of Baby Groot to make me forget my complaints. Seriously, though, keep an eye on the film's overarching meditation on the meaning of family and loyalty.

As always, sit through all the credits.

Mad Minerva gives Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a grade of B+.

RottenTomatoes gives the movie the bona fide Fresh rating of 81%.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 runs 136 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence and some language.

Here's the trailer: 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Fun: "Star Wars" Theme on Accordion

Since the space opera celebrated its 40th birthday this week on May 25, here's something relevant: 

Food Fight: Who Gets to Cook Ethnic Dishes?

This is ridiculous. Give me a freaking break.

Syria: Its Breakup is a "Fait Accompli"

So says Foreign Policy.

Movie Madness: Ranking Tom Cruise Movies

I thought this was hilarious not only because ranking movies is always an exercise in amusing subjectivity but because the writer flat out announces with endearingly brutal honesty:
"Anyway, with news of a coming Top Gun sequel, it hit me that, although I’m not a particularly big fan of Cruise, from that day until this one, I’ve seen virtually every movie he’s appeared in. I’m sure I’m not alone. And because I will do virtually anything to avoid writing about Donald Trump or Russia or Congressional Budget Office scores, I correctly ranked them for you."
Since I too have been refusing to engage in political blogging because the quality of ostensibly professional journalistic coverage has been utterly absymal, I would much rather talk about movies!  Here's the (very entertaining) ranking of every Tom Cruise movie.

Let's point out a few recent personal favorites, shall we? Here are my grades with links to reviews.
  • Edge of Tomorrow (2014): A
  • Almost all the Mission: Impossible movies. I gave 2011's Ghost Protocol an A-. I didn't get around to writing a full review of 2015's Rogue Nation, but that's an A (with a huge shoutout to Rebecca Ferguson and a nod to Simon Pegg and the great Ving Rhames).
  • Tropic Thunder (2008). The flick itself gets a B overall, but Cruise's turn is amazing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

I usually post a favorite work of Easter art, but this year I've decided to do something a little different and post music instead. Enjoy!