MAY 2015, Part 1: Blockbuster Movie Time, and a Graduation…

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dead fish in hooper parkThe month of June is here once again. The Middle of the Year that is 2015. And May is over with. None too soon, as I marvel and wonder at how exactly I managed to survive the goings on of that month. It was jammed packed, the weekends were, the sacred days of when I’m not obligated to go to work and exchange my services for the currency needed to exchange for goods and services. A vicious cycle, that.

But, anyway, the point of all this is to share what the weekends of the last month was, complete with nifty pictures captured on my Android. Let’s reminisce along with your Uncle NecRo, shall we?

A couple of things before we begin: 1) that picture of a dead fish up there was an actual fish I found in the middle of the park in Hooper, Nebraska, when I was walking around one sunny Wednesday afternoon there, thinking about stuff to write about. It seemed random and odd. So obviously I had to get a picture. 2) I’m listening to the self-titled album by White Lighter, one of the bands Stavesacre/The Crucified vocalist Mark Solomon sings on, while I write this. Not too bad, for an indie rock record. You might want to pause right now, purchase the download on Amazon like I did, and listen along while you read this. You know, for the full effect. “Getting into the mind-frame of the writer” and all that. If that’s a thing. I don’t know if it is. Let’s pretend it is, for the sake of this blog.

Ready? Here we go, then:

Weekend 1 (May 2nd): Not too eventful, outside of finally getting to see a showing of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron along with members of the Exalted Geeks. Saturday was the day most of us could find the time to get together. Saw a bunch of the Geeks that I haven’t for a while, and we all went to the Aksarben Theater, which is one of those tragically hip modern type movie theaters that feature, among other things, an open bar and a Blue Bunny Ice Cream counter. I had to partake in a small dish of Peanut Butter Panic. Cost $5, but…I had no choice in the matter. Sorry. As to the movie itself, I expounded more upon that in my review here. Then I went back to the Victorian and called it a day.

Alisha n' Uncle NecRoWeekend 2 (May 9th): This was the weekend of my cousin’s second-oldest’s High School graduation. It was a bit of a mixed bag, as far as how I felt about this. I mean, on the one had, not only is it a Rite of Passage of sorts for Alyssa (the kid in question, here), an event to be celebrated happily, but it’s also a chance to finally see that side of the family this year (most of them, anyway) without having it be a funeral for once. And there was cake. That’s always a good thing. On the other hand, though, it also meant one more glaring indication that I am getting old. The passage of time stops for no man. Or woman, if you want to argue the point.

If you’ve never been to Palmer, Nebraska, I don’t blame you. It’s one of those middle-of-nowhere small towns that only the Midwest can produce. The kind of town that, if you’re not familiar with to begin with (like I was, despite having lived in a slightly bigger small town nearby at one point in my life), while driving there you begin to think that the town itself does not exist in reality, that it only appears in the light of a full moon, when the veil between this reality and the parallel one it lives in is finally lifted. But, I found it, and made it to the High School in time for the graduation ceremonies to begin.

I was struck by how small the graduating class was. This coming from someone whose own graduating class barely made it past the 50 mark. Alyssa’s own class was roughly half of mine, which says something. Well, not really. If you’ve seen the size of Palmer, then you could probably understand. That didn’t stop the gym itself to be packed with all sorts of people, presumably the family and friends of the graduates. I, of course, sat with my own family, which consisted of an entire row of chairs. The blood runs thick in our family. I was seated next to the two youngest members of their household, so I was more or less obligated to try and make them lose composure and giggle during the presentations. I’ll give those two credit—they were very well practiced at keeping their composure. Although, I they could have obliged with a grin or something, rather than those “who is this oddball, and why is he related to me?” kind of looks I got mostly. Eh, whatever. Made the older kids laugh, and that’s what is really important. I think.

Alisha's graduation

After the graduation ceremony, there was a kind of joint reception put on by the families of three of the graduates, Alyssa’s being one of them. There was the afore-mentioned cake, the requisite tables full of pictures and other memorabilia, streamers and balloons, and a nifty pot-luck style of buffet that was nice. I drank a lot of iced tea, snacked on a lot of fruit, chatted with the various members of the family from all of the age groups, and generally had a very good time just hanging out like that. Then the DJ showed up. They hired a DJ. Which makes sense, really. Problem is, I haven’t been hip to what it is the young’uns are listening too, as I mainly don’t care. For the most part, general pop music is something I don’t mind having to sit through, as I built up a decent brain filter to block the unpleasantness without having to turn into Mr. Music Elite Jerkwad. For the most part. The problem is, there seems to have emerged in the pop music world a mutated abomination that is known as “Hip-Hop Country.” Or is it “Country Hip-Hop”? It doesn’t matter, as this takes the two of my least-favorite genres—Country and Hip-Hop Rap—and creates something that is somehow worse than Dub Step. I never thought there would ever be a style of music that I would consider more unlistenable than Dub Step, but lo and behold, here we have it. And it’s not a situation where a Country artist collaborates with a Hip-Hop Rap artist, either; no, this is where an otherwise Modern Country song has the singer start rapping. And it’s the whitest and most horrible thing that will make your ears sad. So when the DJ broke out the rappin’ country dudes, that’s when I decided to give my final congrats and goodbyes to Alyssa, hopped inside the Aluminum Falcon and bid farewell to Palmer. Until the next one graduates. Here’s hoping nothing worse crops up in the music world by then.

(Part 2 Coming Later)

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: The AVENGERS: Age Of Ultron

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avengers age of ultronMarvel/Disney
2015
PG-13

“I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace…your extinction.”

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to the Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.

Okay, so three years and four additional Marvel Universe movies have passed since the first Avengers movie blew this fanboy back into his seat in the theater and made him believe that a big-scale ensemble sci-fi action movie based on a comic book that I was familiar with but never really read could not only be made into an entertaining and engaging action flick, but could do so competently and succeed in not making it suck harder than a rouge black hole. To say the anticipation leading up to the opening of the long-planned sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies was as epic as the movie itself would be no hyperbole. The stakes seemed bigger–they were bringing in one of their biggest enemies in Ultron, who was being voiced by James Spader, and the trailers promised a showdown between Iron Man and the Hulk that was making fanboys and fangirls everywhere squee with delight. So when I finally plopped down in my theater seat for a Saturday afternoon matinée with the rest of the Exalted Geeks, my expectations were pretty high. That was unavoidable, really. Did The Avengers: Age Of Ultron manage to give me that same fanboy joygasm like last time? Well…yes and no. More yes than no. I’ll explain in a bit.

Also, I’m going to try my darnedest to not feature spoilers in this review, but no promises. Here we go…

The story of Age Of Ultron starts off with the Avengers infiltrating what is said to be the final Hydra stronghold, where they recover Loki’s staff. Tony decides to take a look at it because SCIENCE!, and while doing so inadvertently creates Ultron, who skips over Childlike Wonderment and goes directly to Existential Quandry mode, and decides to wipe out all of humanity and repopulate the Earth with a bunch of Ultron robots. Or something like that. Meanwhile, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch show up sporting a massive hate-on for Tony Stark (who doesn’t, really?), and join up with Ultron to strike back at Tony and the gang. The Avengers get their collective butts handed to them, Ultron takes the remaining supply of Vibranium and heads out to the same fortress where they were holding Loki’s staff, then heads out to Korea to have a new suit tailor made for him by SCIENCE! The Avengers show up and interrupt before Ultron could finish, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch decide to side up with the Avengers when they realize finally that they were working with an INSANE ROBOT, JARVIS gets a new look, an entire city is taken on a joyride, things go boom, and the whole thing ends with some of the members going off to brood while Captain America and Black Widow are left to train a bunch of newbies for the sequel. The end.

Overall, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron was just as massively epic and entertaining as the first Avengers movie. Once again, the script was crafted nicely, with some great action sequences, fantastically witty dialogue (it’s Joss Whedon, what would you expect?), and some surprising character developments to a couple of supporting team members. Mind you, one such development between a couple of characters seemed to just come out of nowhere, and I still don’t think I can buy it completely. I’ll leave everyone to guess which one I’m talking about. The other one…well, it’s about bloody time that guy got some meaty development. And while the action scenes were great, the best parts of this movie, in my not-so-humble-opinion, were the ones where the team was just interacting with each other outside of the action. All of these larger-than-life characters, just sitting and chilling, chatting with each other. I could have watched an entire movie of just that, and I would have enjoyed it.

As a villain, Ultron could have been much more menacing than what he was. Mind you, when he first made his physical appearance, he was in the shadows and was genuinely creepy as all get-out. Then…*sigh* I think it was the decision to CGI animate his face that took a lot of the scary out of him. Like with Optimus Prime in the live action Transformers movies, seeing Ultron with a mouth that moved in a rather Uncanny Valley sort of way made me have to look past that to enjoy the movie. Ultron’s killbot army were designed much more effectively, and why they didn’t go with that for the face is a mystery to me. And speaking of CGI issues, the first ten or fifteen minutes or so of the movie, the big opening action sequence is kind of…I wouldn’t say sub-par, but it’s rather obvious with the animated heroes and such. But, it won’t kill the entire experience, trust me.

In the end, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron was a very good way to kick off the 2015 Summer Movie Season. It had its problems, yes, but so did the first Avengers movie, one could argue some of the same ones. But, I went in expecting a big, over-the-top action movie with a smart script, and emerged from the theater satisfied with the results. I highly recommend catching this on the big screen when you can.