Category Archives: non-book

Game of Thrones: “Valar Morghulis”

Warning: If you haven’t seen the last few episodes of Game of Thrones, there are SPOILERS for all of them, including last night’s season finale, ahead!  If you don’t want to know what happens, turn back now!

The second season of Game of Thrones began with the show journeying from one end of Westeros to the other.   The second season finale served as an appropriate bookend to the season as it also journeyed far and wide across the universe of Westeros, wrapping up a few plot points and putting the pieces into play for the epic third season (that can’t get here soon enough!)

Over the course of season two, we’ve seen the epic power struggle unfolding across the landscape of Westeros.   And once again, power bases seemed to be shifting as season two draws to a close.

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Retro Review: Star Trek: Mudd’s Women

Note: I started the Retro Trek round-ups on another blog. If you want to read some of the others, you can check them out HERE.

It’s been a while since I delved into the world of classic Star Trek.  But now with most of the shows I keep up with winding down their seasons and a bit of a lull before the summer series really kick it into high gear, I thought it’d be a good time to revisit one of my favorite TV shows and it’s first season.  And next on the list is “Mudd’s Women.”

Classic Star Trek has often been described as “Wagon Train to the stars” and no where is that more evident than in “Mudd’s Women.”  Originally conceived as one of the three scripts for the second Trek pilot, “Mudd’s Women” is extremely close to an episode of Bonanza in outer space.  Just substitute the Enterprise for a caravan headed into the frontier.

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Movie Review: Men in Black 3

It’s been a decade since Agents J and K teamed up on the silver screen to protect Earth from the scum of the universe.  Part of that was due to the fact that Men in Black II wasn’t in the same league as the original and part of it was probably due to finding the right hole in everyone’s schedule to produce a third installment.

Thankfully, Men in Black 3 (opening in theaters, Friday May 25) is leaps and bounds better than  Men in Black II.   And while it’s not quite in the same comic stratosphere as the original Men in Black, it’s a solid, enjoyable and at times amusing summer action comedy.

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The Avengers Movie Thoughts

From the moment Marvel announced that Joss Whedon would write and direct the big-screen version of The Avengers, I knew I’d be there opening weekend.   I’ve been a fan of all things Whedon since the early days of Buffy, season two* and have eagerly given anything he’s involved with a chance.

*I still take pride that I jumped on board early and pushed so many friends to watch it.  I loved it every time someone would say, “You’re right about Buffy.”

And while I know that Whedon has been involved with some big-screen projects in the past, I couldn’t help but salivate at the idea of Joss finally having a virtually unlimited budget to bring his words to life on the silver screen . Needless to say, The Avengers finally gave me an idea of just what Joss could do and it didn’t disappoint me in the least.

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TV Thoughts: Game of Thrones, Eureka

Game of Thrones: Garden of Bones

If you can’t show every single battle on the show due to time constraints and budget limitations, at least you can make the lack of screen battles interesting.*  That’s how “Garden of Bones” starts out this week, showing us the lead-up to and the aftermath of Robb Stark’s attack on the Lannister camp.

*This doesn’t mean we don’t eventually need to show a battle or two on-screen.  But I have a feeling those will come later this season. 

At several points this week, the aftermath and impact the war is having are shown.  It was a week with a lot of flinch inducing moment, most notably the scene where Robb helps hold down an injured enemy soldier and he has to have his foot removed to prevent further infection.   Once again, this is one of those things you just wouldn’t necessarily get away with on broadcast television or basic cable.

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Movie Thoughts: The Five Year Engagement

While visiting a local cupcake store last week, I picked up passes for a sneak preview screening of The Five Year Engagement. 

Last evening, I attended the screening with my lovely wife.   I’ve been to a few sneak previews over the years, but not one in recent years when file sharing is as a rampant as it is.  Everyone going in was searched to make sure we didn’t have any filming equipment and we were repeatedly told not to use cell phones during the screening or else risk being removed from the movie (something I wish they’d do for EVERY screening of a movie, sneak preview or not!   Next, I will complain about young people getting on my lawn…)

So, without getting too spoilery, here are my thoughts on the movie….

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Game of Thrones: The Night Lands

Another week, another king laying claim to power in the kingdom of Westeros.  As Cersei points out, that makes at least five people trying to claim power in the kingdom.  And that doesn’t even take into account Dany with her dragons across the sea.

A lot of time this week is spent examining how various factions within Westeros are trying to consolidate or hold onto their power. Tyrion exiles the Janos Slynt to the Wall for his role in the betrayal of Ned Stark and his role in carrying out Joffrey’s orders to have all of Robert’s bastards put to the sword.  As Tyrion points out early in the episode, he can be more ruthless in playing the power game than Ned Stark was, but he still has issues with killing innocent children in an attempt to hang onto the throne and power.  Clearly Cersei has less of a problem with this, confronting Tyrion on the point and challenging his ability and wits to play the game.   This could just be part of Cersei attempting to play the game herself and truly rule from behind the scenes, pulling the strings of Joffrey until he’s old enough.

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The Rock-A-Fire Explosion

Thanks the power of Netflix streaming, I was able to check out the documentary The Rock-afire Explosion over the weekend.   It was a  fascinating way to spend just under 75 minutes and I highly recommend it.

For those of you who may not have been children of the 80’s, the Rock-afire Explosion was the animatronic, in-house “band” at Showbiz Pizza restaurants.  A competitor to Chuck-E-Cheese,  Showbiz had a rapid rise and fall during the early 80’s, full of games (both video and otherwise), rides, pizza and the show.  I can recall the catchy commercials that aired during my Saturday morning and afternoon cartoon viewing with the catch phrase, “Where a kid can be a kid.”   Growing up, I visited a few of the restaurants either as a treat with my family or celebrating a friend’s birthday.

And while I’m sure I enjoyed it, Showbiz didn’t create all that huge an impression on me.   But to others, like those featured in this documentary, it had a huge impact.

The movie looks at some of the band’s biggest fans as well as the entrepreneur behind the robots, Aaron Fechter.   Fetcher’s company designed, built and sold the robots that made up the band that had such a huge impact on the people involved, including Chris Thrash, a guy from Alabama who I’d describe as the world’s biggest Rock-afire Band fan.  Thrash has purchased and maintains a working Rock-afire Band at his home and created renewed interest in the animatronic robots when he choreographed some popular songs by the band and put them up on YouTube a couple of years ago.

The story is a fascinating one for a couple of reasons.  The first is the passion that the fans have for the band.   The investment of time and money that Thrash has put into the group is staggering.  While the movie never comes out and tells us how much Thrash paid for the robots, a quick Google search indicates the last time a full band sold on E-Bay, the starting price was $14,000 (and that was in 2008!) .  And I’m not sure if that was a new or used set of the robots.

The other thing that fascinated me was a line from the movie where Showbiz was opening store after store and, on the surface, appeared to be wildly successful, but all the time was losing money at a rapid pace.   The aggressive roll-out of stores and expansion of the chain ultimately proved to be its own undoing, as did a move to buy out Chuck-E-Cheese when that particular chain was in trouble.

Of course, you can still go to Chuck-E-Cheese today.  Showbiz is a distant memory and the Rock-afire Band lives in the memory of fans as well as some boxes as Fetcher’s warehouse in Florida, where he’s waiting on just the right time to make the sale of the final full band produced.  (Though a couple of the shows were sold to restaurants in Jordan.  So maybe the show is big there…)  Fetcher’s belief that the band is about to make some kind of resurgence and be huge again is interesting.* While I agree that many of us out there may have some nostalgia and think it’s cool to see a YouTube video with the band singing the Black Eyed Peas, it’s not something I’m going to invest a lot of time or (more importantly) money in beyond that.

*One thing that I think wound up being the show’s undoing was Fetcher’s lofty goals.  Instead of having one or two shows that were rolled out and sold to the entire chain, he and his creative team were rolling out a couple of shows a quarter at the height of the Showbiz popularity.  I like the concept that you have fresh content being rolled out, but then again you have to look at the huge expenses that would come with creating and distributing the shows. 

But throughout the film, Fetcher and Trash both hold out hope that the revival is just around the corner.

On some level, I can feel for them both.   As a Doctor Who fan, I clearly recall the wilderness years when there were no new episodes being produced and the idea that the show would ever return to television looked fairly bleak.

The idea that there are other fans out there who get just as passionate about their own particular thing as I do about Doctor Who or UT sports, is compelling.  As is the story of the rise and fall of Showbiz and the band that sang there.

If you’re looking for something different to try on Netflix streaming, give this one a try.

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