Friday, November 29, 2013

Comet ISON plays Icarus... and wins

Like I've tried to tell so many people who don't get Reddit, it's pretty useless if you don't sign up for it and subscribe to only the subs you like. Indeed, the first thing I saw on my personalized feed this morning was this post. Comet ISON, for a short time last night, was thought to have been burned up by the sun. 

gif courtesy bsteinfeld, compiled from NASA thumbnails

As you can see, at least some of the comet made it.

It made me wonder just how fast this sucker's moving. Phil Plait calculates it's moving 1500 times faster than a commercial jet or 0.1% the speed of light. He originally calculated it was moving twice that speed, but posted a correction with the following message:
"making mistakes are a part of life. The best thing to do is own up to them… and then use them as an excuse to talk about physics. Yeah, I think that’s for the best."
Words to live by. See this website for more on the comet's predicted trajectory.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Maybe the kids are alright (Teens React to Dr. Who)

Wait a minute. 

You mean to tell me that a show that's fifty years old is this popular among teenagers? I expected each and every one of these kids to roll their eyes and say, "This is gay." Then again, I watched less than half the video... you get the gist of it quickly and I can't imagine it filling out its ten-minute runtime. That and three minutes is about all I can stand to hear a teenager speak.


I wrote recently that I didn't like Amy Pond and therefor I wasn't caught up on Dr. Who. Well, I'm watching it again, starting with the Van Gogh episode. I dug it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Wolverine makes up for Origins


Early on in The Wolverine a group of guards wave a metal detector over Logan's body. His adamantium bones, of course, set the wand off. "Hip replacement," Logan explains.

This scene is about twenty minutes in. At that point we've already seen the atomic destruction of Nagasaki, an unexpected cameo from a former X-Man, a bar fight, and a sword that can cut through beer bottles. The violence is so graphic (and satisfying) you'll wonder how they got away with a PG-13 rating. So yeah, there's a lot happening in the first twenty minutes, but it works. With a darker tone and a more tasteful approach to casting (seriously, fuck Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool), this Logan pic quickly cleanses the palette after the horrifyingly awful Wolverine: Origins. The Wolverine isn't satisfied with only setting itself apart from that travesty; it looks nothing like a traditional X-Men movie either.

And that's good. The standard X-Men look that began with Bryan Singer's reign is thirteen years old; it's stained with the unique look of the double aughts, which is probably my least favorite era of movies. It was an awkward time when the R-rated Schwarzenegger vehicle was dying, CGI was relatively young if not downright laughable, and color treatment was being processed by a computer rather than a lab. The results of that decade were more miss than hit, presumably because all this digital stuff was so new. So The Wolverine's look is less about modernization and more about correcting a wrong. You might compare this film's look to The Dark Knight, but you'd be wrong. Wolverine has always been a dark character and a darker film just makes sense. It'd be like complaining about the lack of colors in a Holocaust picture.

So in the beginning Logan saves a Japanese soldier's life in World War II. Fast forward to the present and Logan's no longer with the X-Men he joined sometime in the interim. We find out he's living in the Canadian wilderness while being the self-loathing, brooding type. Shortly after avenging the death of a grizzly bear (straight from the pages of the Chris Claremond/Frank Miller comic book) Logan's invited to Japan. There, the man he saved so many years ago is on his death bed. He offers Logan the gift of mortality, which initially sounds shitty, but he explains, "You can get married, have a family, lead a normal life." Logan's tempted, but he refuses. The old man dies, yakuza attack and ninjas silently spring from the shadows like ghosts. Somewhere along the way Logan loses his healing abilities and the specifics aren't revealed until later. He's just a human, but his adamantium bones do shield his vitals from bullets.

Convoluted? Almost. Awesome? Entirely. We've seen many action sequences on top of a moving train before, but this one sets a new standard. And Logan's so determined and unflinchingly violent it seems more like the aforementioned Schwarzenegger flick than a modern action movie. I just love this shit. It's been too long since we've had a ripped action hero fist-fight his way through an army of armed bad guys. And Logan's method of lighting a cigar is unique to say the least.

To say it's my favorite film in the Marvel cinematic universe might not be too far from the truth. It's certainly my favorite X-Men movie to date. I do think the film's villain (Viper... if you don't know who she is it really doesn't matter) is maybe the weakest part of the whole movie, but there are so many bad guys it almost makes up for it. Sure, the plot teeters on the edge of preposterous, but isn't that the reason we read comics in the first place? I wasn't exactly expecting the sophistication of Shakespeare in Love when I purchased my ticket. I just want to be thrilled for a couple of hours and you know what? That's harder to do successfully than the stuff that traditionally wins best picture.

Slight spoiler ahead...

About the mid-credit sequence: we now have a link between this film and the much-anticipated Days of Future Past. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about it when it was announced (Professor X is no longer dead and Magneto has reclaimed the powers he was robbed of in The Last Stand), but seeing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen return to the characters was exciting. No, it doesn't explain their return, but the biggest question remains: Why the fuck would Wolverine even attempt to walk through airport security?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dr. Who's 50th Anniversary: The Day of the Doctor trailer is here!


Even though I haven't been watching many of the newer episodes I'm stoked. On the other hand I'm not sure how I feel about Rose returning. It seems to me that maybe they're toying with something that would be better left alone. Rose was RTD's thing and I'm not exactly thrilled with Moffat's lead. I know a lot of people would disagree with me, this guy being one of them, and that's fine, too. On the other hand, I do like Matt Smith as the doctor, but I hated Amy Pond. Can't explain it, just one of those things.

I've been thinking a lot about Doctor Who lately. I think the reason I actually like the reboot is American TV takes itself too seriously even when the special effects aren't that special (see: practically any of the prime time dramas on the core networks). Even though Who went CGI, it's still roughly as hokey as it was in the Tom Baker days. There's a purely British wink-wink-nudge-nudge that makes you laugh with it rather than at it. And I sure do love the Judoon.



Yeah. Writing this made me realize there really isn't any excuse... I should catch up on the Matt Smith episodes promptly. I'll suck it up and push my way through the Amy Pond episodes.