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Casual Saturdays: Where Things Stand June 28, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff.
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Well, the year’s (almost) half over, and seeing as how it’s been a few months since I did one of these posts, I thought I’d take the time to assess my current views on the Marvel Universe. Sometime this week (assuming I have time) I’m going to send an email to Marvel letting them know what I think, it will essentially say the same, or similar things in this post. (I will also ask for subscriptions to be available for Avengers: The Initiative!)

Secret Invasion: Three issues in, and we’ve had three big reveals: Spider-Woman, Yellowjacket, and Jarvis are all Skrulls! Bendis has been handling the story extremely well, and I can’t wait to see where he goes with it. Surprising to myself, I’ve also actually enjoyed Yu’s art in SI (though it still needs improvement). Who else might be a Skrull? Luke Cage, but I’m guessing he doesn’t know it, and will be heart broken when he finds out.

Fantastic Four: Millar/Hitch’s first arc was more than satisfying, and judging by the first issue of their second arc, it looks to be ten times more awesome! I love that Millar makes this series about the characters, not their adventures. And I love the way the Hitch draws Sue! What is there not to be happy about? 😉 Fantastic Four is one of favorite monthlies, and one of my three “must reads.” (In other words, if you’re not reading it, pick it up immediately!)

Silver Surfer/Nova: I’m reading the current arc of Nova, simply because is features ol’ Norrin Radd, and boy is it spectacular. (Reviews can be found here and here, the second review isn’t mine though.) I’m hoping what with the success of SS: Requiem and SS: In Thy Name, that if these three issues of Nova see a spike in readers, Marvel may consider giving Norrin his own ongoing again (finally!), or at least another mini-series (which could then lead to an ongoing). What with both Annihilation events, Nova, and Guardians of the Galaxy reinvigorating Marvel’s cosmic line, what better way to add to this corner of the MU by launching an ongoing for Marvel’s most famous Sentinel of the Spaceways?

Amazing Spider-Man: This is the most disappointing series that I am currently reading. Occasionally we get a glimpse of an issue that is wonderful, but it seems that the next is always a let down. Also, any regular readers know that I am very opposed to the dissolution of the marriage, and I still think that it can be reinstated, and we could still have spectacular Spidey stories. If Marvel has a greatest flaw right now, this is it. (Though I won’t lie, the upcoming “New Ways to Die” arc looks awesome.)

Mighty Avengers and New Avengers: This should be two groups, but seeing as how these two are simply telling back stories of Secret Invasion right now, these series serve the same purpose. While I enjoy the stories that have been presented thus far, I really wish Bendis would have made them a separate mini-series, like Secret Invasion: Origins, or something. One, that would let casual readers know that these stories are essential to Secret Invasion, and not “just another tie-in.” I mean, the Skrull queen posing as Spider-Woman was revealed in an issue of New Avengers, for goodness sake! These things are really too important to leave out of Secret Invasion. Likewise, I really want a good Avengers story fix. Mighty Avengers only gave us two quick arcs to meet the team, before diving straight into SI, and as enjoyable as SI is, I really want these series to get back to more adventures of their perspective teams ASAP.

Avengers: The Initiative: I think yesterday’s review of issue 14 sums up my feelings on this series. This is another one of my three must reads. Pick it up as soon as you get the chance (and ask Marvel to offer subscriptions to it!)

Captain America: Brubaker continues to weave a web of genius plot lines. With last month’s reveal of who the “Bad Cap” is and next month looking to have the “New Cap” vs. “Bad Cap” fight, along with the promise of a conclusion in September, this series continues to be an extremely entertaining read, and I can’t wait to see what Brubaker does with James after the conclusion of this monumental story line.

Thor: First, I have to admit to slight disappointment, as this series seems to have slipped onto a bimonthly schedule. Still, it is worth the wait. Thor is mythic stories infused with humor, and packed with a surprising amount of characterizations as only J. Michael Straczynski can do. Thor might just be Marvel’s best ongoing, and therefore is the final one of my three must reads. If you aren’t reading this, you are missing out, big time.

Invincible Iron Man: Two issues in, and I’m loving it! Matt Fraction is doing a brilliant job introducing new Iron Man fans to his current status quo, and keeping it plenty entertaining for regular comic book readers. My hope is that Fraction can reinvigorate this character like Brubaker with Cap or JMS with Thor, and if the first two issues are any indication, he just may succeed. If you loved the movie, you should probably be reading this.

Uncanny X-Men: Messiah Complex: Awesome. Divided We Stand: Mehh. Manifest Destiny: ??? While this last storyarc has been a bit underwhelming (note to future comic book writers: don’t use hippies), the dream team of Brubaker, Fraction, and Cary, along with the monumental issue 500 leaves me with high hopes for what is coming next.

Well, those are my current opinions, we’ll check back with another “Where Things Stand” in a few months! See you on Monday with a Flashback!

-LOTRKing

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Casual Saturdays: I Lost the Game June 21, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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WARNING: Today’s post will either cause extreme amusement or extreme annoyance; if you do not wish to risk being extremely annoyed, do not read today’s post.

Right, today I thought I’d take the time out of my life to make you waste some time in your life by teaching you what its players refer to as “The Game.” What is the game, you ask. The game is extremely simply simple, even a child could understand it, and has only three rules which must never be broken (or else you would then be dubbed a “cheater” and cause other players to distrust you in aspects of life beyond the game). The rules are:

1) You are playing the game.
2) Whenever you think about the game, you lose the game.
3) Loss must be announced.

The point of the game is to forget that it exists. There are several variations of the game, and variations of your own may be created, but the three core rules may never be changed. The most popular variation includes a “grace period” in which you cannot lose the game. For example, if I were to think about the game right now, and then say aloud “I lost the game,” I may have a grace period of ten minutes (or five or fifteen, I’ve even once heard of a group of people that played with thirty, but that is too long in my opinion) before I have to announce that I lost the game. This allows me ten minutes to get the game out of my head and stop thinking about it. Grace periods are often employed to prevent infinite losing, simply because if you think about the game and say “I lost the game,” you will likely think about the game again as you are saying it, and will then have to say it again, etc., etc. Another popular variation includes you being “safe” during the grace period if you hear a loss announced. For example, if you are in a room with seven other people who play the game, and one of them says “I lost the game,” rather than then having a chorus of six “I lost the game”s, the other six people would not have to say “I lost the game” unless another one thought about it at the end of the grace period.

No one knows exactly who invented the game, but it is often acknowledged that it originated somewhere at a British university. To give the Brits their proper respect, some believe that the game can only be won if the British Prime Minister announces on national television that he/she has lost the game. This would cause the winning of everyone in the world, but only for their regularly practiced grace period. There are others who say that whenever you are not thinking about the game (and therefore not losing) you are winning. I think this is rubbish. Just because you aren’t losing a game, doesn’t mean that you are winning (whoever thought that up has clearly never played Risk).

Of course, those who have read on this far may find this to being the silliest and most annoying crap they have ever heard. But think of the prank capabilities that come when others know the game. You could give them a glass of water in a paper cup with the words “the game” written on the inside bottom. You could send an email with the words “lose the game” embedded within. You could play a game of hangman in which the message is “lose the game.” Perhaps the most fun part of playing the game is figuring out how to make other people lose. Of course, performing any of these pranks requires you to announce that you lost the game before the person is around, and then accomplish the prank within the grace period.

Well, now that you know about the game, you must always abide by the three rules. You now know about the game, so you are therefore always playing it. Whenever you think about it, you will lose and must announce ASAP that you lost the game, failure to do so will make you a cheater and dishonest in the eyes of other players. But to ensure your enjoyment, teach your friends about the game, they will be eternally grateful! (Or angry, these emotions are sometimes hard to tell apart. 😉 ) Further information about the game can be found at losethegame.com

I lost the game! (Image how many times I had to say that aloud while typing this.)

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Reader Feedback Day! June 14, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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This is an automatically posted message since I’m going to be out of town all day. Because of this, “Casual Saturdays” will return next week. But because you have been saved the time of reading a full length post, I want ALL of you, from first time readers to faithful readers, to take that time and tell me what you like and dislike about my blog. It can be two sentences if you want. I’ve been thinking of making changes around here (and I’ve already made a few as you can see), and if you want something to be spared from change or want something to be ensured change, now’s the time to speak up. This is operating on an honor code; I’m trusting you and asking ALL of you to give me advice. (That means YOU!)

As always, thanks for taking time to read my blog, you have no idea how humbling it is to know so many people actually care about what I have to say on a daily basis.

Leave your responses below.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: How to Ensure that a Movie Theatre Employee Will Hate You (Or, What Not to Do at a Movie Theatre) June 7, 2008

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Note: the following is supposed to sound like a documentary, so please imagine that you are hearing it in the stereotypical documentary narrator British accent voice.

Today, we are going to examine a rather odd creature: Homo Sapiens Movie Fanicus (henceforth referred to HSMF), who sometimes go by the name of Average American Movie-Goer. The HSMF are a rather stupid lot, as we will see evidenced by their actions in their native habitat, the Average American Movie Cinema. Before arriving to this habitat, an HSMF will usually attempt to find out what time the movie they wish to see is playing. Assuming the HSMF is up to date on current technology, they will usually look it up online. However, more often then not, there will be two theatres of the same name in the town, such as Bill’s Cinema North, and Bill’s Cinema South. Those who live on the South side of town will click on the listings for the North theatre (since it is listed first alphabetically) and find out the incorrect times for their movie.

Before arriving at the theatre, the HSMF will stop by the local feeding area (sometimes referred to as McDonald’s) and buy themselves a meal to take to the show. Upon arrival (approximately 1:30 PM), the HSMF will approach the box office and request a ticket for their 1:45 show. The cashier will then inform that the last showing for that movie was at 1:15 and the next show is not until 4:15. The HSMF will argue that “their website” said 1:45 and blame the cashier, who has no control over the correct website anyway, for getting it wrong. When the cashier shows the HSMF the page, printed directly from the internet, showing them the correct times for the South Cinema and then shows them their show time was for the North Cinema, the HSMF will insist what they saw was right, and say that paper must have been printed after they looked at the site. The disgruntled HSMF will then purchase the 1:15 ticket, knowing they’ve missed the first minutes of the movie, but not before taking the time to stop and complain about how high the movie prices are to the cashier, who once again has no control over movie prices. What most HSMFs fail to realize is that the electric bill for one month alone at most cinemas is more than the entire year’s salary of the general manager of the cinema. This does not include the many salaries, bills, and royalties that each cinema has to pay. Cinemas do not “rip their customers off” with high prices, they need those prices to make an understandable profit.

Of course, some HSMFs will not even take the time to look up any movie information before arriving at the cinema, and will simply arrive hoping to find a good movie and a convenient time when they get there. Approaching the box office, they will then ask the cashier to tell which movies are good, and a brief description for each (often giving disregard for the long line of customers behind them). This is of course making the assumption that the cashier has seen every movie simply because they are allowed to see movies for free. In order to watch every movie, the cashier would have to watch two to four movies every week. Of course, the cashier is just as busy as the HSMF and therefore has probably only seen two or three of the movies currently playing. When and if these HSMFs are able to find a movie they want to see, they will also complain about prices and purchase a ticket.

Then, there are the third group who know the show time of their movie, but do not know it’s proper name. For example, if one were to examine a group of HSMFs at the cinema today, they would hear thing’s such as the following: “Two tickets to that one movie that was made by that really famous director.” “Can I get a ticket to Raiders of the Lost Ark?” “Three tickets for Prince Narnia” (or Chronicles of Caspian, or once yours truly even heard a rather old woman ask for two tickets to “Prince Lesbian” oddly enough) “One for the Zoltan movie” “Can I have four to Karate Bear?” “One ticket for Metal Man” And the potential list goes on and on.

Once the HSMF has successfully made it past the box office (always a rather amazing feat, giving their often high level of stupidity) they will approach the concession stand. Here, the will be even more shocked by the high prices but proceed to buy food anyway, but not before complaining, once again, to this cashier about the “incredibly high prices.” They will then proceed to leave their straw wrappers on the counter despite there being a trash can only ten feet away from them.

Approaching the ticket taker (or “the gate” in cinema lingo), the ticket taker will ask them to throw away their leftover milk shake from the aforementioned McDonald’s. Despite there being several obvious signs on the front doors of no outside food being allowed, the HSMF will be very upset by this and ask for an exception this one time. The ticket taker will remain resolute in their decision, the HSMF will throw the shake away, and be very angry at the ticket taker for doing what is necessary to maintain his or her job. The HSMF will then reapproach the gate, only to realize that their ticket is in their back pocket, place all of their concession snacks on the gate, pull out the ticket, have it torn, be told where to go, and finally pick all of their snacks back up.

The HSMF, who was so disgruntled that they were not paying attention, will go into the theatre for the correct show, but the wrong show time, instead proceeding into the theatre which is already halfway through the movie. The HSMF will sit and watch for about five minutes before realizing this, then proceed out of the theatre, back to the gate, yell at the ticket taker for directing them to the wrong theatre, after which the taker will look at their ticket and once again direct them to the correct theatre. The HSMF will then finally proceed to the correct theatre, find a seat, and attempt to enjoy their movie.

At the conclusion of the movie, the HSMF, who hated the movie (the HSMF was too inept to research and find our the movie got horrible reviews), is angered at the high prices, and, in their eyes, the idiotic workers at the cinema, who caused them to be late, sent them to the wrong show, and did not tell them that the movie sucked, and will leave all of their trash on the floor and in the cup holders, and occasionally even spill their remaining popcorn on the floor, just to punish the cleaners of theatres for all the wrong things they have done, and for causing the HSMF to have a horrible movie experience (when in reality it is actually the entire fault of the HSMF.)

…..

Okay, so I realize this was a little harsh, but as I have mentioned before, I work at a movie theatre, and experiences mentioned here are things that I see happen every day. Please remember that cinema employees are given crappy pay already, and be considerate the next time you go to a movie (such as Incredible Hulk next weekend! 😉 ) And yes, I really did once hear an old woman ask for two tickets to “Prince Lesbian.” (I also heard “Spider-Man Chronicles” back when Spider-Wick Chronicles were out, and countless other hilarious incorrect names for movies.) So please, please, don’t be the stupid HSMF next time you see a movie.

Next week: something a lot less preachy!

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: John Locke – In Memoriam May 31, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, L O S T.
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If anyone hasn’t already had the LOST Season Four finale spoiled by reading yesterday’s post, then the title of today’s post gives it away. (That’s your fault for not watching the episode yet anyway, you untrue LOST fan. :p 😉 ) So yes, John Locke, my favorite LOST character, and one of my favorite fictional characters ever is now dead. There is some hope, assuming we see what happened to the Island after it vanished, we will likely get more of his story and learn just how he died. Likewise, there are rumors floating around that if Locke’s body returns to the Island, it will come back to life like Christian’s did. Then again, I think Christian seems more a phantom than alive, so who knows really? Personally, I’ve accepted that this awesome character is going to die, but at least we know he probably died happy. After his miserable existence before the Island, we see that Locke was finally able to learn the secrets of the Island and to lead a group of people who believed in it as strongly as he did.

So why all this fuss about a dead fictional character? No, I’m not traumatized at his death, nor will I be wearing black the next several days. But his character was awesome in so many ways, that I figured he deserved a little memorial post. (Don’t tell me Dumbledore wasn’t on your mind for several days after reading Harry Potter 6!) Locke, more than any other character in the show, “got” the Island. While everyone else was merely trying to survive and get rescued, Locke was surviving effortlessly and exploring this new world around him. It wasn’t long before he stumbled upon some of the secrets of the Island and spent his time trying to solve their mysteries.

Of course, what caused this intense curiosity is likely the healing that the Island brought to him. I’m not just referring to his paralyzed legs that were suddenly healed, he also got his life “healed.” Before the Island, Locke had had a traumatizing and tragic life. Everything that had brought him joy had been stolen away by a sad event, oftentimes involving his con artist father. On the Island, Locke finally had a chance to escape that. He had the opportunity to lead, to learn, and to have what he did actually matter. He began to realize in his explorations of the Island that “everything happens for a reason.” Locke was able to see things where other people did not want to see them. Truly, the Island chose him for a very special reason.

Here’s to the memory of the unforgettable character named John Locke.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Superhero Films Ranked May 24, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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Following yesterday’s trend of announcements, here is a new one for today: since next week will see the season finale of LOST, and therefore my weekly LOST comment column, I’m starting another new weekly column to replace it (in addition to the Flashback column already mentioned). It will take place on Saturdays starting this week and is entitled “Casual Saturdays.” Here I will make use of the “and Other Random Stuff” title of my blog to take off my comics reviewers gloves for a while and talk about, well, other random stuff. So yes, this blog may actually end up sounding like a blog! 😉

Today’s topic doesn’t stray too far from the world of comics, as it is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. You’ll recall that in my review of Iron Man I mentioned that it just may be the best superhero film I’ve yet seen, though I’d have to see it a few more times before I decided for sure. Well, now that I’ve seen it six times (long story short: I work at a movie theatre and get free movies if I accompany the guest, and I have several friends/relatives that wanted to see it) I think I can safely say that it is indeed my favorite superhero film yet, and just to give you a since of who it ranks with, I’ve decided to list my ten top favorite superhero films:

1. Iron Man
2. X2: X-Men United
3. Spider-Man 2
4. Spider-Man
5. Batman Begins
6. X-Men
7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (it counts!)
8. X-Men 3: The Last Stand
9. Hellboy
10. Doctor Strange (yes, the animated one!)
With honorable mentions Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Daredevil and the absolute worst being Elektra and Hulk.

Of course, with three awesome superhero films yet to come out this summer, as well as Marvel’s astounding recent announcement, this list will likely look radically different in a few years. And if you want to spark an interesting discussion, leave a comment on what your top ten hero flicks are.

Next week: something having nothing to do with comics! I promise!

-LOTRKing