Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Day In The Life Of A Dog

It is time once again for the point of view of the dog and the cat. As is always the case, the dog gets the first say, before he gets distracted by squirrels or the sound of the cookie jar opening...

7:04 AM. Waking up at home. Slept exceedingly well. Dreamed of foiling the world domination plot of the squirrels and getting all sorts of commendations and bravos for it, including a belly rub from the Queen.

7:07 AM. Looking outside. Sunny skies. Nice clear weather. Oh, good. No rainy days that’ll cut short my excursions. Like we’ve had for the last week.

7:10 AM. Deciding how far afield I want to go on today’s run. Do I want to stop in and say hello to that cranky cat from down the road? Do I stop by Mrs. McIntyre and mooch some cookies off her? Do I go out and check out to see if there are any mud puddles around? There have to be mud puddles. We’ve had enough rain in the last six days to make more than a few.

7:16 AM. The human comes downstairs. Hello, human! Fine day, isn’t it? Not a cloud in the sky. I can’t speak for you, but I’ve got a real interest in getting out and about and having a run. But priorities first. After all, a good dog like me needs a good breakfast to start the day. And I am a good dog. Oh yes, I am…

7:18 AM. Thumping my tail in anticipation as the human starts filling my bowl with kibbles….

7:19 AM. Licking my lips after wolfing down the entire bowl. Five seconds off my fastest ever breakfast, but not bad if I do say so myself.

7:22 AM. Say, human? How about you let me out? That way you can have your breakfast in peace and quiet and I can go work off some energy and explore the woods and seek out mud puddles and… forget anything about the last part.

7:24 AM. Out the back door and off for a run. See you later, human!

7:37 AM. Running through the back fields, barking my head off, feeling as happy as I could possibly be.

7:43 AM. Coming across a sizeable mud puddle. Lots of mud and water and it looks like it’ll be fun to roll in, even if it means getting subjected to a bath afterwards. What to do, what to do…

7:45 AM. Rolling around in the mud, thoroughly pleased with myself.

7:56 AM. Okay, that’s enough, Loki. You’ve still got things to do, places to be, people to see, and all that. Departing from the mud puddle. Boy, was that fun.

8:03 AM. Passing by the house where that cranky cat lives. Musing on whether or not I should go on up and say hello, but in retrospect, I’m probably not presentable enough, caked in all this mud, and she doesn’t strike me as the sort who indulges a slob.

8:12 AM. Stopping in to see Spike the Magnificent, Tormentor of Squirrels. Hello, Spike!

8:13 AM. Spike asks if I’ve ever heard of the notion of not rolling around in every mud puddle I see. But what would be the point of that, Spike? Are mud puddles not put there so that we dogs can indulge ourselves in them?

8:15 AM. Spike suggests that my human’s pretty much going to have to give me a bath when I get home. Oh, come on, the mud’s drying up by now. I can go on in, take a nap, and give myself a good shake inside. Sure, she’ll need a broom to sweep up the dusty dirt, but is that such a bad thing?

8:21 AM. Parting ways with Spike. We agree to keep each other updated on any signs of the enemy squirrels, as well as the presence of the mailman. You never know when that vile fiend is going to do something unexpected like… changing his delivery time on us.

8:39 AM. Returning home. Barking to alert the human to my presence.

8:41 AM. Despite my attempts to sneak in past the human, she is faster than I could have compensated for. Thus it is that I am presently out on the lawn, being subjected to the attentions of the garden hose as she washes me up. And you just know there’s going to be follow-up from the Towel of Torment.

8:55 AM. Settling down in the living room for a nap. Will dream of mud puddles.

12:17 PM. Mooching a dinner roll from the human as she has her lunch. Yum yum yum!

1:32 PM. Barking up a storm at the mailman as he drops off today’s mail. Get lost, you monster!

3:44 PM. The human is having afternoon tea. I am busy using my patented mooching eyes to convince her into giving me an oatmeal cookie or two. Because after all, isn’t that what a good dog deserves? And I am a good dog. A very good dog.

6:28 PM. The human has made dinner. She’s thoughtfully cut up some sausage for me. I don’t know why she insists on having hers with peas, but hey, humans can be a strange lot, can’t they?

9:28 PM. The human's watching the Weather Network. Something about active weather. I don't know, I'm really more caught up in the great mysteries of life- such as whether or not mailmen have souls.

11:50 PM. It has been twenty minutes since the human went upstairs for bed. In those twenty minutes, a thunderstorm has shown up outside, with lightning flashing and terrible loud booms and… oh the caninanity of it all. Which is why I’m cowering under the human’s bed at this moment, whimpering. Oh, sure, give me a mailman to bark at or the town mayor to chase up a tree, and I’m perfectly brave, but a little thunderstorm and I’m like it’s the end of the world. Human? If the lightning breaks in here, is it such a bad thing that it’ll hit you first?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Return Of A Demented Merc

“Move or die.” ~ Cable

“When’s the last time you saw a plus size superhero? Never.”  ~ Russell

“With training, you can be X-Men.” ~ Colossus

“Kiss me like you miss me, Red.” ~ Vanessa

“Tell me they got that in slow motion.” ~ Deadpool

After the success of the first Deadpool film in 2016, it was inevitable that the R-rated entry in the X-Men franchise would get a sequel and the Merc With A Mouth would return for more mayhem and breaking the fourth wall. And so Ryan Reynolds returns as the wisecracking, healing factor possessing lunatic in this follow up feature that finds him carrying on his romance with the woman in his life, forming a posse, and facing a time travelling soldier with a mission of his own in a violent but hilarious film that matches the tone of its predecessor.

Two years after the events of the last film, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a mercenary working his trade around the world as Deadpool, the masked man with a motor-mouth who simply can’t be killed. He has a good thing going with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) until things go awry. At loose ends, Wade finds himself drawn into the X-Men (courtesy of returning mutants Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) and a mission involving a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison) and a time traveling cybernetic mutant soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin).

Reynolds is part of the writing team (and in fact provides more than one character performance), providing input with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The script fits the demented tone of the character, weaving together the violence and the humour of in the right way. There’s a lot of in-jokes in the script that are both tied to the X-Men cinematic world and far beyond it, wrecking gleeful havoc with popular culture in the form of meta gags as it goes along. It incorporates themes and elements common to comic books- time travel, misunderstandings, enemies turned allies- with human elements like selflessness versus carelessness, doing right for the sake of doing right… and bantering with your buddies.

The story narrative does show growth in the characters- Deadpool’s responses to events suggest he’s moved past the self-absorbed buffoon we first met at the beginning of the first film, even while he has his moments of immaturity mixed in with his despair. Personal growth is also seen in Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who’s still got something of the punk we saw in the first film, but has grown and matured as well. The writing introduces new characters like Cable (whose entire history in the comics is the ultimate example of convoluted) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) in ways that feel true to their roots.

Director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) has already established a good reputation for the mayhem of action films, and he has the right touch for that here. He deftly paces the action as things go along, and yet amid all of the action, he maintains a hold on the foundation of the story- the characters, particularly the dynamic often seen in comics of two protagonists taking shots at each other and then settling their differences and working together. His style, coupled with CGI that meshes well with the physical, results in a film that has the gleefully anarchic energy it needs, with the right touches of humanity and even self-sacrifice. The meshing of CGI and the physical probably presents itself best in the Juggernaut- a combination of Ryan Reynolds doing stop motion capture and voice for the villain (another double duty for the actor) with the CGI enhancements; it works well for the Hulk over in the MCU and works for this behemoth far better than his previous X-Men cinematic universe appearance during X-Men The Last Stand. A lot of the action sequences, done in a way that is smooth even among all the chaos, is physical as opposed to CGI, and the director deftly films things in ways that don’t get the viewer lost in the chaos.

The cast are all well selected. Julian Dennison plays Russell, the boy mutant who appears as one thing initially- someone who must be protected- but goes off in a different direction as the story requires, becoming a threat in a distant future. The actor plays the role with different nuances- a typical teenager at first with the requisite attitude and snark that might make you want to strangle him just on principle, but he’s got grudges, deeply felt pain, and legitimate grievances- the sort of grudges that are meant to grow over time and make him problematic.

Morena Baccarin appears less than she did in the first film, with something of a different capacity, let’s just put it at that, this time out. Vanessa’s chemistry with Wade feels real, and the two characters are likable together, even if one of them looks like they had their face sandpapered (hint: it’s not her). She acts as Wade’s conscience, aside from being his lover, and that plays itself out as the film goes along, and the actress plays to that, as well as investing the character with a dry sense of humour.

Stefan Kapicic returns to voice the X-Man Colossus once again, the mountain of organic steel from the first film. The character is more CGI than physical presence, but that CGI renders him fully meshed into the scene, and Kapicic’s vocal take gives the character a steady strength and more warmth than you expect out of the comics character. Colossus is an experienced member of his team who works to make Wade a better person, and the actor’s take gives him a sense of optimism. Brianna Hildebrand’s return as the weirdly codenamed mutant teen Negasonic Teenage Warhead (complete with her adorably perky girlfriend/ classmate Yukio) is fun- she still has the punk screw you attitude the actress gave her in the first film, but she’s matured, and the actress plays that quality too.

Domino is a character I like from the comics, and this happens to be the first time she’s ever appeared in the movies. The character’s mutant ability involves manipulating luck in her favour, and aside from that is a formidable fighter. Zazie Beetz gives the role a fun, snarky energy, and gets in more than her share of wisecracks. She also shows the character’s resourceful, tenacious side, and makes a serious impression in her debut of this character. I’m looking forward to more of what she can do with the character, and other roles.

Josh Brolin, who recently spent time as the villain Thanos in Avengers Infinity War, gets to play a very different character as Cable. The character, a partially cybernetic warrior from the future, is older and gruff, an experienced soldier with mutant abilities and next to no sense of humour. He has good reason to come back in time, not to mention target an unlikely subject like Russell for death, and the actor plays Cable as gritty, tough, and not terribly talkative. At first the character is a man of mystery and an antagonist, but when we see and understand his motives, there are more nuances to him, and so as the film develops, he goes from one capacity to another, and makes the character compelling to watch. Even if he can barely crack a smile.

Ryan Reynolds seems to be having a blast throughout the film (even when his character is in the midst of despair) as Wade, wisecracking and tweaking the conventions of the superhero genre once again. He’s still full of snark, despite the despair, and when he finds himself having a purpose, it gives him a sense of growth that we’d have never seen in the character as he originally appeared (even if he tempers that growth with endless amounts of being a wiseass). Wade takes a stand on both principle and bitter experience, even if it sets him against those he’s worked with before, and even if it puts him in the crosshairs of a very grumpy soldier from the future. The actor plays that mix of sympathetic and snark and despair, and runs wild with the meta gag quality of what makes Deadpool work, skewering everything from fanny packs to Disney to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes to even himself as an actor, and seems to be having a ball doing so. He makes Deadpool hilarious but human throughout, and a protagonist we can root for, even if he is a violent, foul mouthed lunatic at times.

Deadpool 2 serves up more of the mayhem, carnage, and laughs of the original film, building on and expanding the X-Men universe in a way that deserves its R-rating. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of language, and a lot of bloodshed. This is not a comic book film that you take a young child to. But it is a comic book adaptation that is uproariously funny (stay for the credits sequences and be mindful of some blink and you’ll miss it cameos) and emotionally human and even poignant. I want to see more of the Merc With A Mouth on the big screen- I just wouldn’t want to know him in real life.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Curse Of The Unwanted Relations

Royal Wedding Awaits; Bridal Family Members Fume

London (Reuters) The world awaits the wedding of Prince Harry, currently sixth in line to the throne, to American actress Meghan Markle this weekend. In what is being described as the wedding of the year, the couple, engaged since last fall, will exchange wedding vows at a ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Coverage of the event will be broadcast by worldwide media, as interest in the couple continues to build. Reporters- both of the actual sort and the paparazzi sort- have descended on the area in hordes. 

There have been some bumps in the road. Father of the bride Thomas Markle will not be attending after the news came out of arrangements with tabloids, now claiming he’s missing the event due to an upcoming heart surgery. Half-siblings have been noted in recent days to be fuming over being not invited to the ceremony, and have been mixing together lashing out and talking to anyone who will listen. The ceremony itself, happening on the same day of the FA Cup final (an event that would normally be attended by best man Prince William in his capacity as President of the Football Association, may compete for attention in the British isles with that game.

Royal watchers have been keen on the drama of Miss Markle’s family, particularly the estrangements that seem in place amongst some of them. “Well, it’s very simple,” Professor Clementine Harrington, an Oxford lecturer on British royalty, told this reporter this week. “If any of them happen to act out or crash the wedding, the Queen has the Tower of London at her disposal, and can feel free to have them put in the stocks for a few days until they learn to mind their manners.”

Americans, who founded their entire way of life on getting royalty out of their lives with the Revolution, seem particularly drawn to the event. “It’s fascinating, isn’t it?” Boston socialite Esmeralda LaCoeur noted this week. “All this history of liberty and being independent and booting the redcoats out, and here we are, salivating over heredity aristocracy and a wedding. I suppose you might wonder if it has to do with our current situation. You don’t suppose the Queen would let us back in, if we apologized and said we were really sorry?”

One American is profoundly disappointed by not being allowed to participate in the entire affair. Director Michael Bay, the explosion prone lunatic behind demented deafening films such as the Transformers franchise and Armageddon, was unhappy in a video rant made on the website for his company Digital Domain. “I had this big idea! Pyrotechnics and explosions and having Aerosmith do the theme song for the wedding- they even wrote it! It was called Royal Beheadings! Isn’t that a great name for a song? But no! I hear back from the Brits that I don’t have permission to set off explosions around Windsor Castle! What’s a wedding without explosions? Bottom line is, that cranky old bat Lizzie, or whoever actually wrote that message, told me to go **** myself and warned me that if I ever step on British soil again, I’ll be arrested and sent to the Tower where those ridiculous looking Beefeaters would knock my teeth out before deporting me. I thought these people were hospitable. I thought the Brits were polite.”

In Canada, the wedding is of great interest to the population. One Canadian is pleased for a different reason. Legendary RCMP Inspector and thorough grouch Lars Ulrich, known for saving the world on multiple occasions and kicking around entertainment reporters for sport, was found at his detachment in the Alberta foothills. Reassured by reporters that they knew he was not the drummer from Metallica, the Mountie was willing to speak and in fact quite cordial. “As far as I know, every single verminous dirtbag idiotic entertainment reporter on the planet is camped out in Britain right now. I’ve got an ocean between me and them. The British police can deal with their stupidity, as long as they want. I won’t complain if none of them come back.”

The last word belongs to a certain Scotland Yard inspector who shares two things in common with his Mountie counterpart: crankiness and a name in common with a musician. Chief Inspector Paul McCartney was reached by real reporters at the legendary police agency. The Inspector is in his mid thirties, half the age of the former Beatle, and in fact looks nothing like his famous namesake. He seemed exasperated while speaking with reporters. “How stupid are people? I’ve had reporters with Access Hollywood asking me if I’d be working with Ringo on something for the wedding! Damn it all, I had to give them a thorough thrashing and sent them to hospital. Well, a few less entertainment reporters at the wedding, who’s going to complain? Except of course for any of the bride’s estranged family.”

A paparazzi reporter had somehow infiltrated our ranks, and spoke up at that point. “Paul! Paul! Is it true that you and Ringo are going to work with Elton John and sing Twist And Shout at the wedding?”

McCartney glared at the man. “I am not that Paul McCartney.”

The paparazzi reporter seemed confused. “Are you sure?”

With that, McCartney broke through the ranks of reporters and started chasing the hapless reporter. When last heard from, the paparazzi reporter, working for the National Enquirer, was fished out of the Thames after McCartney threw him off Tower Bridge. He is reported to be in stable but stupid condition at a local hospital, blathering on about what John Lennon would have thought of a fellow Beatle resorting to violence.