July 28, 2014

Quantum Leap Comics

July 28, 2014  

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Dear Random Vendor at the Agawam Flea Market, I never would have known these exist without you. Thank you for putting them in the front of your box of series-based comics from the '90s that no one wants so that I spied them while passing by. I have no idea about the actual quality of the stories, but just I could not pass these up. Quantum Leap was one of the best shows of my childhood. It was the first I ever started watching on my own. Before that I loved MacGyver, Air Wolf, Knight Rider, Voltron, and so many more (always have been addicted to TV), but those were shows that I was plopped down in front of or those I got into because an adult was already watching. It's not too often a 10-year-old makes a great choice in television, but Quantum Leap was a fun, exciting, strange, sad, social commentating, dramatic, imaginative adventure with two wonderful leads full of warmth that holds up today...except for a laughably bad guest star here and there. Oh, my God, I was 10. That was 25 years ago. Quantum Leap is 25 years old!

So guess what I'm going to have to do now? Buy as many of the rest of these as I can. I see a few cheap ones on eBay...and I bought them. I now own 8. If you're a Leaper yourself and never knew of these comics, you can get copies right now on eBay. The three issues in the photo are also available in Amazon's marketplace: Quantum Leap #4 : The $50,000 Quest (Innovation Comics), Quantum Leap Comic Book #9, and Quantum Leap #11 For the Good of the Nation

July 25, 2014

I Declare This Day Firefly Day

July 25, 2014  

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It's a bunch of Firefly goodness today. Never seen it? Wonder what all the fuss is about? These shirts come around nearly as often as those for Doctor Who, another incredible series. That should tell you something about the quality of the show, its ideas, and the unwillingness of its fans to let go, for good reason. It lasted only 11 episodes (out of 14) on Fox, which hardly ever gives anything a second chance after the network actively screws their first chance completely. Yet it spawned a movie, Serenity, to wrap up a storyline with themes such as found family, freedom, and the consequences of government secrecy and control. That it takes place in the future aboard a rundown spaceship, hopping between worlds in a future frontier that looks a lot like the Wild West is just a glorious sci-fi tinted bonus.

Smuggler Rum, The Mighty Jayne, and 8-Bit Leaf on the Wind are available today for $10 each. Get them before they're gone. The fourth, another Leaf on the Wind, I have posted before, but it's worth noting that it's still available. By the way, the phrase "leaf on the wind" always makes me sad. Fans know why. And I think it's time for another rewatch. I wasted so much of my summer not doing that.

UPDATE
Smuggler Run is now at TeeKetch's Red Bubble store for $26.91.
 
8-Bit Leaf on the Wind is at KindaCreative's Red Bubble store for $25.52 and TeePublic for $14.

July 23, 2014

Bryan Cranston, the Savior of Godzilla

July 23, 2014  

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I have never known a movie I fell for at the start, then was gutted by, then was indifferent to, then had great fun with and eventually liked again, so I thought it was worth noting that Godzilla had this affect on me. But it took a long time to find the right words. After my plans to see it kept getting pushed back, six weeks in total, it took another three to write about. Life finds a way...to always be in my way. Every time I tried finishing this, minutes later I would be interrupted, and I was starting a new second job that I had to fit around my old one. I kept getting sidetracked, as I do nearly every time I think I have some free time to write (sorry Winter Soldier, you wonderfully epic thing), I wasn't sure how much I wanted to reveal, and often I changed whole paragraphs that I thought I was done editing. I found it very hard to commit. Praising a certain actor came easily, yet I had a bone to pick with a major plot point that had a negative effect I had to address. No matter how I tried I couldn't talk about anything that stemmed from that moment without spoiling it, and I couldn't talk about the movie without mentioning that moment, which caused it to stumble.

 

But with sparks of brilliance provided by the national treasure that is Bryan Cranston, I have a more complicated relationship with Godzilla than the average movie. There was disappointment when it couldn't live up to its early promise and it still managed to make me love it; not through and through, but from time to time. I had no idea it would be like this, because I tend to read reviews only to make up my mind or if a movie has been getting humorously bad ratings. I'd rather not see hints to turning points or the fate of someone I'll end up caring for the most. If I find out about something that fundamentally changes the way I'll see a movie before I even buy my ticket, then I'm less enthusiastic. Rather than enjoying it, I'll spend the whole time waiting for one scene. I was excited to see Godzilla, so all I wanted to know was if audiences were generally positive. They were, and almost half a billion dollars in theater receipts can attest to that.

Now, I assume you're reading this because you've seen Godzilla by now, since in about every case it should be out of theaters, and you just want to see what others thought of it. But if you're waiting for it to release on Blu-ray or hit iTunes then stop, unless you like spoilers. If you're close to a second-run theater that happens to be showing it, I highly recommend it for Bryan Cranston alone. My grandmother would always take us kids to one of those theaters. It was a single-screen so the selection was small, but they showed all the big movies we missed. Tickets were cheap and even the snacks were affordable. Best of all, as any movie outing still is, it was a great time spent with family. I wish I had the stubs from there.

 

Okay, that's enough rambling preamble, right? Let's get to it. All those who haven't seen this movie, please read something else for now. I have plenty of links at the top of the page that may keep you interested.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON // NOT KIDDING // SEE THE MOVIE FIRST
SO YOUR EYES DON'T SKIP DOWN, HERE'S A GREAT T-SHIRT FOR SALE.

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Godzilla started off terrifically with intense feeling following Cranston as Joe Brody. Though I do love impossibly gargantuan animals, Cranston was the main attraction. In fact, he was my whole reason for needing to write about the movie, and I can't do so effectively without revealing a major turning point. I'm glad I avoided reviews or I may have come across hints to his surprisingly early exit and may have decided to see something else. Cranston, though, is always worth watching because he brings an ingrained understanding of how to make a performance feel real and a presence that can't be ignored. Sadly, after the loss of Joe the movie stumbled in the impersonal scenes of disaster, in the muted emotion of the masses of extras milling about the numb and displaced. Joe had been far and away the most fully developed human being. Not surprisingly, Cranston brought a vital beating heart to the story, inarguably the strongest I've seen from the genre, without which the pulse of Godzilla weakened. Had he been given more screen time, he would have infused the entire movie with vulnerability and urgency rather than just the first act. 
Why can't you let her rest?
~ Ford Brody

Because I sent her down there.
~ Joe Brody

Joe, obsessed for 15 years with discovering the reason for his wife Sandra's (Juliette Binoche) death, having helplessly watched her last moments at the nuclear plant where they both worked, through a radiation-shielded door that he kept open as long as he could, was infinitely more interesting than anyone else. Cranston has amazing range and depth, draws you into his mindset, and makes you believe what he's going through. Even the quietest scene is imbued with a sadness that practically leaps off the screen: Joe in his old home in the quarantine zone gently holding the only picture of Sandra to his chest, looking for the first time at the 'Happy Birthday' sign his now grown and resentful son made for him the morning of the disaster. These are the remains of a life changed forever in a day.

Maybe you can understand my frustration that a fantastic character with a brilliant actor playing him didn't get more screen time. Cranston is flawless in giving life to a collection of words. The anger and the tremble in his voice while pleading for answers is so true it's like watching pure heartache. Doubtless what he extends to us is drawn from a real place. That's why he needed to be there longer, putting a face, a voice, a soul to the human toll. An opportunity was missed to have father and son work together and share the hero spotlight, to grow closer and connect with each other and the audience. An opportunity was missed to turn a good movie into a great one. Godzilla was obviously intended to have a very human center, so I wish the writers (Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham) had recognized that Joe was the true center and deserved more.

At least he deserved a decent ending. I'm not sure Joe was even mentioned again after the matter of fact condolences. I was sad for the loss because it meant I was no longer able to watch one of our current greatest actors, who never gives less than he's capable of and dives into a role completely. Yet Joe's death wasn't as wrenching as it would have been if he had come to the same fate nearer the end after having started to repair his relationship with his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), having had more time to be with each other, strengthening Ford's character with some much needed insight. Had he been given a proper goodbye, it would have been appropriately devastating, but it barely seemed to register with Ford that he had just lost his father. His younger self (CJ Adams) showed more emotion simply looking out his school window at the cooling towers collapsing with his parents underneath. As an adult, he was underdeveloped. He had a lot to do but not much to say.

Taylor-Johnson had to carry so much largely alone, a big task for an actor without the dialogue to hold it all up in the shadow of one that had started the movie off with such depth. Fortunately, Cranston's part was so densely packed and emotionally charged that it resonated through. ATJ (it's just easier to say) did a good enough job with what he was given, but there should have been more for him. Ford was separated from his family and volunteered for a dangerous mission that required his explosives expertise and would bring him closer to home. Conversations with strangers were kept to a minimum. Ford's wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) I almost believed, but usually it seemed that she wasn't scared enough. Her best moment was when she put her son Sam (Carson Bolde) on a school bus headed out of the city, a decision that almost cost his life. Her nervous smile and sad eyes belied her reassurances that everything would be okay. That's how it would be; she hopes he'll be safe, but she can't be there to protect him. Other than that, Olsen didn't have the material. (Hopefully, she and Taylor-Johnson will have that in Avengers: Age of Ultron.) And after the bridge, I don't recall Sam being anything other than an idea that Ford was trying to get home to. We're supposed to care about Joe's son, grandson, and daughter-in-law, so some more meat on the bones of those roles would have made all the difference.

The icing on the cake would have been to do the same with the secondaries and extras to make them feel real, so that the audience has some sort of reaction when they're stomped on or buried under rubble. The lives Ford floated through were basically fodder that I felt nothing for. The only exceptions were an adorable kid named Akio (Jake Cunanan), who was really a means to show us Ford's paternal instincts absent his family, and scientist Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), who was intelligent, very likeable, and contributed to the story. Hawkins did wonderfully in taking her part as seriously as Cranston and didn't just phone it in. She didn't have a fleshed out background, but she had personality and determination. Her counterpart, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), was not as impressive. Normally Watanabe is reliable, but sometimes a part isn't written as well as it should be. Serizawa sagely filled the audience in on what he believed to be the kaiju's place and pointed out man's hubris in trying to control nature. But in the absence of dialogue, both he and Ford had a tendency to stare wide-eyed and dumbstruck into some middle distance. It was an expected reaction to the situation not pulled off naturally by either actor and an unintentionally humorous parallel that had me analyzing the scenes rather than being absorbed by them. Last, and least, Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn) and Captain Hampton (Richard T. Jones) were both played by experienced, well-liked actors, but didn't have much to do at all besides give orders. I've known other sci-fi and disaster movies, such as Jurassic Park and Twister, that managed to give humanity to their humans. I still get emotional when Alan and Ellie look in awe upon their first dinosaur or sad when Aunt Meg gets trapped under her house. I cared about them. I would have loved to care about everyone here.

You may be wondering right about now if I'm ever going to get to the main attraction or if I loved anything besides Bryan Cranston. To that I say I'm sorry that I think performance should interest you just as much as a lizard with gigantism that we've all seen before, and I'm really writing this for me because my brain won't leave me alone until I finish this...but yes! Prehistoric super predators seeking out and chasing each other across ocean and earth was pretty spectacular. The sounds of the Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms brought me right into those moments, mesmerized by the rumble and click in their throats and a ramping up of radiation pulsing through their stealthy bodies. They were lifelike in their behavior, helping tremendously with the suspension of disbelief at their size, and had more personality than most of the people. I actually felt sorry for the MUTOs at one point, though they were incredibly destructive, because they were just animals who knew nothing of the tiny beings that were trying to hurt them.

As for the big guy, he arrived fashionably late and hell broke loose all over again. One of Godzilla's coolest, eeriest moments had an ominous silence as a group of HALO jumpers descending close by jagged, house-sized dorsal plates glimpsed through the smoke and dust of collapsed buildings, the setting sun obscured, the light through the ash looking like hellfire. Godzilla sounded as appropriately dangerous and enormous as he looked, and his tussle with the MUTOs was the end of the world under the footfalls of gods. Yet there was a delicate touch from the leviathan's entrance - ignoring the carriers and destroyers, diving under them, rising in front of the Golden Gate, seemingly trying to not destroy every last thing - in stark contrast to his previous enraged rampage of an outing. The blue-breath behemoth (Have I used up all the words meaning large yet?) was much more interesting than almost anyone on the bridge, except for the bus with little Sam on it. That was one of very few times I was concerned for someone. If they could kill off Ford's father so easily, why not his son? But as in most movies that put action above interaction, I didn't have much fear for those shooting at the skyscraper-sized lizard with the equivalent of spit balls and sparklers.

I mentioned Godzilla's late entrance because I have to address it. I saw someone complain that he didn't show up in his own movie until halfway through. I didn't realize it took that long, because for a while I was wrapped up in the drama and the superb performance of the person I've gushed over already. That's really how it should be if I'm going to truly love a movie. Without an investment in the people then what happens to them doesn't matter and it's all just hollow noise. I wasn't there to count the minutes of screen time the title monster got. Just because he's the star doesn't mean he has to steal every scene. And the MUTOs were enough of a handful, the set pieces and action top notch. Another commenter ignored the decades of history and decided they were so big they would be crushed under their own weight. Yes. And? I thought people went to movies like this to see something impossible, terrifying, and just plain awesome. There doesn't need to be plausibility to have a great story. If that was a requirement then a lot of sci-fi and all fantasy would be out, making for a sparse Imagination Land.

Having said all that, I really did love Godzilla. It may not be at the top of my list, but I wouldn't be writing about it all if I didn't care. Bryan Cranston was so superb for the short time he appeared. It was a misstep to lose him. It was surprising and refreshing, though, that the commercials just gave away glimpses. I only caught a commercial where Joe said, "They evacuated us so quickly..." The end of that sentence I never heard was, "I don't even have a picture of her." Joe seemed distressed, but I didn't know he lost someone so dear and would have to live with the guilt for so long. I didn't guess that Ford would be the sole focus of most of the movie. I didn't know about the MUTOs even though I saw that insectile leg come down. Remembering the Rexzilla from '98, I assumed they changed him again and gave him some Clover-like appendages. I hadn't searched for news or interviews. I didn't even seek out the trailer. I knew nothing about the movie other than the one man I wanted to see it for. It was refreshing to be in the dark. These days I usually know too much before going in.

Speaking of Cloverfield, that movie was more effective in getting right down and dirty there with people who were more convincingly terrified than anyone not named Joe in Godzilla. Being pursued by fast, flesh ripping parasites that fell off of the beast and constantly on the move, I was increasingly nervous for a situation was increasingly intense. But the main creature was indestructible, which was hard to swallow, and the fate of everyone was depressing. A perfect Godzilla movie would have had the tension of Cloverfield and had Bryan Cranston most or all of the way through, depressing ending for him or not.

Now I'm in love with this giant of cinema the way I never was before. While not perfect, Bryan Cranston and his ancient co-stars assured it was worth nearly every moment. If you didn't know him before Godzilla, pick up Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle. You get two extremes and he's spectacular at both. When he was cast in a dark drama about desperation and the corruption of power so soon after a rousingly funny dysfunctional family comedy, I was surprised but had no doubts that he would kill it. Some of the funniest people have the deepest understanding. He's unafraid to be blisteringly raw, and he was no different here. From now on, anytime I see anything that remotely reminds me of this movie, I will think first of the bruised heart he brought to the story. I'm still thinking about it weeks later, which means that it affected me in the best way. Godzilla was a great attempt to give substance to a genre with hardly any. It's a bit sad to think what it could have been, but I'm thankful for what I got.

Aside #1: I find it odd that in the same summer there were two blue-glowing, "fire" breathing lizards at the movies. I still have to finish my thoughts on How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Aside #2: Since this site is dedicated to TV (and movies) and t-shirts, here are some more of my favorites. All shirts are from RedBubble. Atomic Destruction and San Francisco are also available at TeePublic for $14 each.

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July 7, 2014

Goodnight Fury and Portal Balloon Tees

July 7, 2014  

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Wait a sec, I'm confused. What does a Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon have to do with Chell and a companion cube from Portal in the style of Banksy's Girl With a Balloon? When Ript pits shirts against each other, they usually are about similar subjects. Or at least they used to be. Or I just imagined it that way. Things were simpler when there was just one shirt per day. Oh well, doesn't matter. I love them both.

Goodnight Fury by RebelArt and Portal Balloon by Valentinaocchiblu (who also created Some Peanuts UP There), are available for $10 until the end of the day. Tomorrow they increase to $15. After that they may be available on the artist's websites, but there is no guarantee.

UPDATE
Goodnight Fury can now be found in RebelArt's TeePublic store.
Portal Balloon can be found in Valentinaocchiblu's NeatoShop.

June 27, 2014

Redshirt Tee Time at TeeFury

June 27, 2014  

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I think you figured it out quite quickly, but I have to say something. Here comes the old yet still funny joke about sending in the Red Shirts. They get a couple minutes of screen time and then go on an away mission and are never seen again. Their families must be devastated. You'd think after all this time that it would be very played out. But once in a while someone comes along and makes you shoot milk out of your nose thinking about those poor, insignificant extras who get killed by some monster five minutes after they land on the planet. Boy, am I happy Guy Fleegman (Galaxy Quest [Blu-ray] ) wasn't wearing the dreaded color. And this one is simple and clever: a Trek engineering insignia for the nasal aperture, the Enterprise designation branded on the forehead, and it's red, of course. I love it when t-shirt designers are also comedians. The only thing that would have made this better would have been if it were a TwoFury with a competing shirt about Stormtrooper hand-eye coordination.

There are 15 hours left to get Redshirt for $11. Tomorrow it will be more expensive and available until noon. After that you'll have to hope that the artist puts it up for sale elsewhere. If you miss it, maybe you'll be happy with the equally funny Enlist!

UPDATE
Redshirt is now available for $25.48 in iWilding's RedBubble store.

June 23, 2014

Doctor, Doctor and the Stargate

June 23, 2014  

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Two great sci-fi shows that taste great together. You can't go wrong with today's picks at Ript Apparel that combine Stargate with Doctor Who. Well, you can if you only get one. Don't know how I could choose. I love both Ten, the delightful David Tennant, and Eleven, the marvelous Matt Smith.

I apologize for posting these so late today. I got a late start because How to Train Your Dragon 2 running in my head and a warm room and unconfortable pillows wouldn't let me sleep. Then I was anxiously awaiting something and forgot about the shirts. But don't worry, you can still get Stargate DR-10 and Stargate DR-11 for $10 each plus $2.98 shipping until the end of the day.

UPDATE
These shirts aren't available anymore, but you can watch Lines of Fury's Red Bubble store and hope they show up some day, or try to get the ball rolling by asking politely.

June 22, 2014

Night Fury Folklore Vs Some Peanuts Up There

June 22, 2014  

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Two of my favorite animated movies are up against each other today. If I were buying anything right now, this would be a hard decision. Night Fury Folklore features Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, adorable as always, in a beautiful design. Just look at that face. And Some Peanuts Up There features Russell, Mr. Fredricksen, Dug, and Kevin from Up. I never really cared for Peanuts, but the heart-warming effects of Pixar absolutely makes up for that. I would probably have to get both.

These two wonderful shirts are available until the end of the day. They're $11 each, $12 for 2XL, and $13 for 3XL.

UPDATE
NIGHT FURY FOLKLORE is available in Bamboota's RedBubble store for $28.08.
SOME PEANUTS UP THERE is available in Valeocchiblu's RedBubble store for $25.52.

June 16, 2014

Trio of Toothless Tees

June 16, 2014  

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Don't worry, this blog hasn't become all about t-shirts. But, come on, you know it's at least half about them. T-shirts and TV: I really should indicate that somewhere. Admittedly, for the last month there have been only posts about torso coverings. I've been super busy helping to plan and pull off my parents' 40th anniversary, finally spending serious time learning more about domaining than I have in the last decade, and applying for another job. So, sadly, TV and drawing knives have been pushed to the side for the moment. I really need to finish my posts about the finales of The Blacklist and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

But first I have these great tees to tell you about. Well, you can see them, so I don't really need to tell you about them, do I? I already passed on a How to Train Your Dragon shirt a little while ago because I'm trying to save. It was a hard decision, because it's one of my favorite movies and Toothless is one of the most adorable characters ever. And today he's on not just one or two shirts, but three! How can I not get one? While Gotta Train Them All and How to Train Your Experiment 626 both make me smile, I think it'll have to be How Not to Train. The six different scenarios keep making me giggle.

You can get one, too, at RiptApparel. Hurry, though, because this is a 24-hour+ site. The design is available for a day at $10 and the next day it's $15 until noon. After that they are laid to rest in the graveyard.

UPDATE
HOW NOT TO TRAIN now available for $25.52 at Doomcat's Red Bubble store.
GOTTA TRAIN THEM ALL (A.K.A. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR MONSTER), a collaboration between Harantula and Naolito, is available for $19.95 at Naolito.com.