Welcome to the third edition of the Doggy Bag! In March, we read and watched and listened to some pretty neat things! Read on below to find out what we took home with us after another month full of pop culture meals.
Eddie the Eagle
Fresh off the Pyeongchang Olympics last month, I finally sat down to watch this movie based on the true life story of the British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. At the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary, he became the first ski jumper to represent Great Britain in 60 years, and became an instant fan favourite with his last place finish jumps.
This was one of those movies where I immediately started rooting for the underdog main character, just like with ‘Rudy’ or that other 1988 Olympics movie, ‘Cool Runnings.’ Even in the little kid phase of this movie, I just felt sorry for him and wanted to see him succeed. But don’t get me started on the tired trope of the unsupportive father who doesn’t care about their kids’ dreams. This made me angry before I had a baby, but now it really infuriates me. I wish this lazily-written stereotype would just die already…
While watching almost any ‘based on true events’ movie from the comfort of our home, my wife will start googling on her phone to find out what really happened. And this viewing was no exception. She uncovered a little nugget of information that didn’t make it into the movie, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why because it would have been so perfect. While teaching himself how to ski pump, due to a lack of funds, apparently Eddie checked himself into a Finnish mental hospital to save on accommodation costs! This really would have strengthened the false perception held by his competitors and coaches that Eddie was not quite right in the head, and could have led to a few good laughs. Even though it wasn’t part of the movie, I can’t stop thinking about how smart/funny that would have been.
I didn’t really know too much about the Black Panther character going into this movie, but I left the theatre wanting for more. Director Ryan Coogler crafted an amazingly full and wonderfully distinct world with his portrayal of the African nation of Wakanda, and I almost felt short-changed because there was just so much amazingness packed into every little corner of the film that I wanted to explore.
What I appreciated the most about the film though was the quiet gracefulness of Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the titular character. It was such a refreshing change from the typical Marvel movie leading man – instead of being loud, brash and overly-confident, he instead is a strong, quiet leader who respects and values the opinions of his most trusted advisors. The kind of person that most real-world leaders should try to emulate.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
For some reason, growing up I had absolutely no contact with this property. I didn’t know the backstory, hadn’t heard of any of the characters, and didn’t have a clue what this movie would be about. It was a big gaping hole in my personal pop-culture history. But all that changed when I found an Ultra HD copy of the movie on sale recently. Normally I wouldn’t buy a movie I hadn’t already seen, but the price was decent and I’m a sucker for sci-fi.
So I popped the disc into my Blu-ray player, and sat down for the amazing ride that this movie would surely take me on…
…only that didn’t really happen. Even though the visual effects were top notch, and on the surface it seemed as though this futuristic cyberpunk world was ripe for some good adventures, it all fell flat. It was just so hollow. And derivative. I honestly couldn’t name one of the characters outside of Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Major’ - although at times I wondered if maybe that was actually just her title?
Nothing surprised me about the plot. Most of the actors seemed bored out of their minds. The only real take away for me was the visually-interesting scene with the robot geisha, who turned into a creepy spider-like monster and started crawling up the walls. That was neat. But not worth my purchase.
Can I interest anyone in a barely-used Ultra HD copy of this movie? Interesting trades accepted…
Will Ferrell movies will always make me laugh. That is just science. Add in the always wonderful Amy Poehler as a co-star, and you’re in for a good time! Don’t mind the online critical reviews – this is an easily digestible, fun popcorn comedy that will serve up some good laughs.
It’s the story of a suburban couple facing the daunting price tag of their daughter’s College education, who decide to start up an illegal casino in their friend’s house in order to make ends meet. That’s enough of a premise for me to go along for the ride.
Even though he isn’t a big name (yet), and his face isn’t on the theatrical poster, in my opinion Jason Mantzoukas steals the show. There’s just something about this guy – no matter what I see him in, as soon as he starts speaking, I start laughing. My doggy bag from this movie is – I want more Jason Mantzoukas in my life!
The Terror – Go For Broke (Episode 1)
Are you watching this show? You should be watching this show! After only one episode, I’m already hooked on this interesting little ‘based on true events’ AMC series about the doomed Franklin expedition, which set out to find the Northwest Passage across the Arctic Sea. But that’s not all! Because the show is based on a book of the same name written by Dan Simmons, it promises to include all sorts of weird paranormal twists to the true history story we know, which should help keep the audience on the edge of their seats!
Knowing what I know about some of the more recent discoveries surrounding the Franklin expedition (thanks in part to my wife’s frantic googling while we watched this episode), we are in for a heck of a creepy series. Cold, starvation, scurvy, pneumonia, lead poisoning and possible cannibalism – this is a true life story that is just perfect for a long TV series.
Without spoiling much of the first episode for you, there is a scene where one of the crew is fitted into a deep-sea diving suit, and tasked with going underneath the ship to clear some ice from the propeller. The whole scene is like something from a bad nightmare – you know the creepy ones where you’re trapped somewhere dark and ominous, and seemingly moving in slow motion? I can’t get the shadowy image of what he discovered down there out of my mind…
The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl
The Decemberists have been one of my favourite bands for a long while now, and they have just released a brand new full-length album entitled “I’ll Be Your Girl.” When I first heard the lead single ‘Severed’ it suggested the band was moving in a new direction, seemingly leaving behind their typical folky roots and stepping more into synth-heavy sounds reminiscent of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
And they certainly do tread some new waters with this album, however, it was the more familiar-sounding epic tale sung on ‘Rusalka, Rusalka/The Wild Rushes’ that had me hitting the repeat button. Based on an Old World parable about a killer mermaid who seduces men and tricks them into deeper and deeper water until they ultimately drown, this song is just classic Decemberists storytelling at its finest. As much as I was excited about hearing their new sound, it ended up being the song rooted in the old familiar that I loved the most about this album.
I would not call Gotham the best TV show, but I would definitely call it one of my favorites. As a drama it is entirely unafraid of coming across as silly, and at times this actually works to enhance other elements of the show. The goofy appearance or comical behaviour of a villain can actually work to enhance the danger they present.
As a series, Gotham is essentially an investigation of the various tropes of both the Batman universe and dramas in general. Often the stories it is telling fulfill the exact requirements of a trope, but then push it beyond into the absurd. This functions similarly to the extreme nature of the characters involved, as discussed above, in how it ramps up the tension rather than falling entirely into just being a lazy trope.
Overall, I love this show because I can just let the absurdity wash over me and enjoy a bit of television, without feeling like I’m either wasting my time or that I have to fully engage with it to enjoy it.
One of my least favorite things about superhero movies - and especially the Marvel ones - is how the first movie tends to always be about the protagonist fighting a bad version of themselves. Iron Man vs Obadiah Stane, The Hulk vs Abomination, Ant Man vs Yellowjacket, and so on. Black Panther, on the surface, falls into this same style of origin film. However, I think the way in which it does so goes above and beyond this tired trope, and actually makes use of it to create a more impactful story.
Killmonger isn’t simply a “bad” version of T’Challa, but rather someone with a different lived experience and response to the trauma and pain they have seen. I think to simply cast Killmonger as the villain does this character a great disservice.
What Killmonger does is force T’Challa to reckon with his father - his entire system of beliefs, and understanding of the world.
What really stuck with me about this movie was the writing of the character Killmonger and Michael B. Jordan’s absolutely incredible on-screen performance, which solidified into a much more solid film than much of the Marvel films.
Ostensibly a collectible card game, Stormbound is actually more about tactics and the push and pull of battle lines. You build a deck of cards and are dealt out four at a time, and can make use of them with a slowly increasing pool of resources. When you play a card, your forces or abilities impact the grid-based battlefield before you.
At first you can place your units only in the grid-line just ahead of your base, but as your forces push forward you can place them on any open space up to where your furthest ahead unit lies. This becomes quite interesting once you realize the game is about destroying your enemy’s base, not whittling down their troops.
As compared to a game like Hearthstone (another collectible card game) I am finding that the addition of a tactical map which is so important to your overall strategy to bring a smidge of flexibility to Stormbound that allows me to have fun with it, but worry less about being the best player. Even if you deck isn’t as high-end as another player’s, you can take advantage of the tactical map and superior decision making to get a win.
Sea of Thieves
A game about pirates, that I’m enjoying in spite of me not actually wanting to play as a pirate. All of my joy in playing this game derives from sailing on its exquisitely rendered oceans. The way in which the boat feels as though it’s being bounced around by the waves, the looks of the sun shining off the ocean, the rumble of a distant storm all just feels so good.
Unfortunately, as I don’t personally have any interest in getting involved in the pirate mechanics, there’s not too much to do. You can work your way through the lackluster quest chains, but for the most part you can’t interact with the world in any meaningful way. And, when it comes to other characters, your interactions come either at the point of a sword, end of a gun, or under a torrent of vomit.
Playing solo, and being uninterested in fighting other humans, I’m left with avoiding them. Considering that there is nothing for other players to offer you but murder and a sunken ship, you’re best to assume that that is exactly what they will provide.
Which, in the end, is fine for me – sailing on the ocean, accidentally coming across the most spectacular view, and getting caught in the middle of a storm unexpectedly has lead to some of my most peaceful and relaxing moments this month.
Three Moves Ahead
A podcast about strategy games, with a (somewhat) rotating cast of hosts. I pick and choose episodes based on my own interests, but this past month have gone on a good run of episodes with some really great insights into game design and how different people approach playing the same game.
I’m really liking listening to this because it’s helping me enjoy playing games more, and encouraging me to really think about what I want from an experience. Also, there appears to be a resurgence of real-time strategy games, which happen to be my favourite genre, and I’ve become aware of several that I would like to try out from listening to Three Moves Ahead.