Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 1

In a little over a month, the final Harry Potter movie will be released world-wide.  With it comes the end of an era for most of us, though I was late joining the rush.  In a true confession, I resisted the urge to read any of the Harry Potter books because I never wanted to be in the position I was in with Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  That kind of anticipation is something I knew I needed to avoid in the future.

I have to also admit that the movie it was actually one of the movies that got me hooked, but I hid that for years before my sister and I challenged each other to read the other’s favourite series.  I bet that I could finish Harry Potter before she finished Lord of the Rings.  Needless to say, I finished Harry Potter before the 7th and final book came out, and Lord of the Rings is still sitting under her bed, because she reneged on the deal because that’s the kind of person she is.

I’ll be listing my top ten favourite/lease favourite characters in the coming weeks, going from the back of the list to the top of the list.  All the commentary for the characters will go off of the basis that you know something about the series.  Today, we’ll start with #10 from both lists:

# 10 Least Favourite Character: Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort

This was an easy one, really.  I had to place him somewhere on the list and although he isn’t my least favourite character, he is one of the characters I am not a huge fan of.

Voldemort’s character is unsympathetic from the beginning.  Being the main villain in a series is hard work, and JK Rowling does a great job making the fans dislike him.  I actually thought he was a tad misguided.  That’s something I loved about the later books, when Harry finally gets the memory from Slughorn in the sixth book and we realise, as readers, that Tom’s in need of industrial size therapy, but when that realisation occurs, it’s too late.

In retrospect, even though Voldemort was evil, he was good at being evil.  For the most part, he did his research, followed through with his plans, if anything he showed solid initiative, and I give him points for that.  He loses points for being evil, and for also killing the wrong Weasley brother.

# 10 Favourite Character: Harry Potter

It is only fitting that Harry would be opposite Voldemort on my list.  What to say about Harry.  He is the hero of the story, but his flaws make him less likable, to me.  From the beginning, Harry is forced onto you, and while I wouldn’t dare compare him to the insufferable Bella Swan, in many ways, he suffers from the same shortcomings.

Harry is inherently self-involved.  In so many instances, he isn’t thinking about anyone but himself.  Take for instance the fight between him and Draco Malfoy that almost costs Gryfinndor the House Cup in Quidditch.  His saving grace is the remorse he shows when he does these things, not something seen from a less likeable character, like someone who will be on the other list.

I like Harry enough to add him to this list, but he isn’t my favourite character by any stretch.  Harry does all the right things when it comes down to it, but is frustrating to deal with at times too, as all children are.  As a main character, and a role model, kids growing up reading these books could ask for better.  Harry ultimately puts his own life on the line to save the world from the greatest of evils, and comes out of it.

I still maintain that if both he and Voldemort had both died, that perhaps there would be more to the story.  But I can’t imagine JK Rowling killing off her protagonist.  This isn’t Lord of the Rings, it was written with children in mind.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Title-Town, not for Chicago or DC

I stayed up to watch the end of the Heat/Bulls game last night and it was well worth it.  Throughout the series, Derrick Rose, the MVP of the league and Chicago’s only actual player has had the weight on his shoulders.  He was no match for Dwayne Wade or Lebron James, sorry Chris Bosh, one good game does not a superstar make.  However, it seemed eerily familiar, like the Lightning/Capitals series, one good player, Ovechkin against a team that was stacked with stars.

Statistically, Ovechkin and Rose are very similar, great defence, better offence.  Also similar, they attract some talent, but since the team is ‘theirs’ what’s the likelihood another star would really want to come and play.  The Pittsburgh Penguins were lucky to get both Evegni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, already acquiring one championship; the same can be said, however prematurely, about the Miami Heat.  Bring in great players, who understand the compromise they must make, and the winning will come. 

Chicago has the same problem that Washington has, one great player, and no one to stand by that player.  As with Alex Ovechkin, the captain did all he could, but he wasn’t on the ice for a full 60 minutes, the same can be said about Derrick Rose.  He can only play so many minutes before the lack of talent and killer instinct of other players catches up to the team.

This is another reason that hockey, basketball and baseball are fairer in their playoffs than football.  If someone is having a bad day, in football, one game and you’re done.  In the other three, one bad game and you have at least three more games to fix the mistake.  But with both Rose and Oveckhin, even ten games wouldn’t be enough to help them.

Now the game is set for the NBA Finals: my Dallas Mavericks are playing the Miami Heat.  I’m sad to point out that the Mavs lost to the Heat in the 2006 Finals, so this is a rematch.  In the pivotal Game 3 of that series, Dwayne Wade was gifted 40 free throws (fouls against the Mavs) and this turned the series completely around.  I am hoping and praying that the Mavs can keep pace, but what I saw in the last week from the Heat is a little concerning.  I think this is a much more even game than people are giving them credit for, but only time will tell.  Tip-off is Tuesday night in Miami.  Tonight we have Game 7 between the Lightning and the Bruins, which I will try to watch, but have been playing LA Noire like crazy, and can see that getting distracting again.  We’ll see.  I’m predicting the Lightning to win in regulation. 

Next post, look for something I’ve been thinking about and should start putting pen to paper on about a popular series that is coming to a close.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It is Tough Being Right

I’ve been a long-time Supernatural fan, but now that I’ve seen the finale, lame.  I’m usually more verbose, I realise, but this was just pathetic.  The handful of you that might watch this may not want to be spoiled, but needless to say, the ending lacked any, well, any thing.

The basic premise so far was that there was a battle for heaven, and while that sounds like literary gold, it was played up like a teen slasher.  I was waiting for the screaming character to come out brandishing a knife.  The characters lost what little depth they had and any show that centres around Jared Padalecki. is destined to fail.  There, I said it.  That’s really my beef here – he plays the same tired role in each scene.

Jared Crapalecki
I love Misha Collin and Jensen Ackles, but the ending of this past season really left a sour taste in my mouth.  I have little to no motivation to watch it next year, though I fear I will out of habit.  I believe, barring any miracles (a pun considering the content), this next season will be the last one we see of Supernatural, and rightfully so.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jump the Shark

We’ve all heard the term; we all know what it means.  When a TV show jumps the shark, it means that it has passed its prime.  The best days are already on DVD and the coming ones will potentially be torturous.  Two shows I watch avidly are hitting the end of their 6th seasons: Bones and Supernatural.

I picked up on both late, watching Supernatural well after it debuted in its first season, but catching Bones in its fourth season.  Of the two, Bones is easier to follow; most of the stories are stand-alone events.  With Supernatural, once the series reached its fourth season, the mythology of the story was prevalent is almost every episode.

Of the two, I think Supernatural, and not Bones, has already jumped the shark.  I waited throughout this last year, on average, after about five years, most things get tired, including TV shows.  At the end of the fifth season for Supernatural, the viewers catch the older of the two brothers, Dean, attempting to lead a normal life.  At the end of the fifth season of Bones, the characters go their separate ways and are parted for a stipulated year, as is done in Supernatural as well if I’m not mistaken.

As both stories pick up, a brief overview is covered for what the characters are doing.  While Bones brings the characters back together in a seemingly logical manner, Supernatural continues to push the boundaries, reintroducing a couple characters and changing their behaviours.  While this behaviour is explained away as the season goes on, and it is a show that requires you to believe more than most, it is still too far.

The season finale is on tonight for Supernatural, so I’m curious, but have read some spoilers from Entertainment Weekly, so I have a vague idea, but with this show there’s really no certainty.

With the Bones finale from last night, not too give too much away, the viewers can a partial resolution to a question and then a base from which to work for the next season.  It was a great final episode.  The writing and characters are all realistic and not all likeable, there is something for everyone.

The smaller cast in Supernatural hamstrings it from having a wider appeal, but that makes sense give one is on the fledgling CW and the other on the often controversial Fox.

I’ll have to revisit this topic next week after I’ve seen the second finale.  I am hoping it packs a good punch.  Supernatural tends to lag in the middle of the season, but often ends strong.  Bones is pretty consistent throughout.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vacation Reflection

I think I have too many places I’m placing my thoughts, it is getting harder to keep the topics separate.  But I know I should shout out to my recent vacation.  I flew down to FL to spend some time with the fam.  I feel like I learned a lot about some of those members, as you often do when things go into crisis mode for one person.  And I am a firm believer, that when things get difficult, true character is revealed, and I was able to witness and learn from it, which is really all I can take away right now.

I went back to Harry Potter World, but also went to the main Universal, thus getting my money’s worth from the annual pass.  It comes with free parking, so I’m on the fence about getting another one next year.  It was nice to just float from one park to the next.  I also got to meet the Penguins of Madagascar (I know, they’re not really real, but let me imagine) and I changed my profile pic on FB to reflect that, but still kept the Caps love with my Mike Green t-shirt.

I told Alex to get out of the picture, you should have seen the look on his face!

We also attended a rather extravagant wedding for a close family friend.  She did an amazing job and since it was a destination wedding, took care of a lot of the days that normally one would fend for on his/her own.  The time between events was filled, for us, mostly of driving too and from the time-share, which wasn’t quite in the city the wedding was in.

I have to say, I looked decent, but not great – I didn’t end up finding a hair salon, but since the events were all outside, the wind did murder on my hair anyway.

I spent some of the down time reading and playing games.  My 13-year old cousin let me boggart his XBOX360 for a couple days and I OD’d on the Gears of War 3 Beta.  I’d never played the game before, so it was a steep learning curve.  I also brought my PSP and played Metal Gear Solid PeaceWalker for the first time in almost a year.  That game is surprisingly fun and difficult.

More of note were the two books I read.  Whooper Goldberg’s dreadful ‘Is It Just Me? – which the answer is no, but don’t tell us about it and ‘Thirteen Reasons’ by Jay Asher.  The latter was really well done, though if you’re the depressed type, I wouldn’t read it.  The story follows a character who receives a series of tapes from a classmate who committed suicide.  A dark piece of content, but the nature of delivery really had me intrigued.  The author had the characters following a map and listening to the tapes.  It really peaked my interest in the sense that this would be an amazing interactive experience.  I’ll let the thought bubbles keep germinating on that one.  It isn’t a new idea, but it is doable in this day and age.

No time for anything more, but enjoy the day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Cost of Fandom

Another year and another early exit for my hometown Washington Capitals.  I sat horrified as they let the Tampa Bay Lightning manhandle them, as the Canadiens had done last year and the two PA teams had done the previous two years.  As a fan, you don’t think about odds, your team is always the best team.  That’s why you root for them, and this was no exception.

When the season started, I had just become a season ticket holder, and it was worth every penny, I won’t go back on that now.  I spent a good amount of time selling the tickets, making money off of more than two-thirds of the season and going to about fifteen games.  You might say that being a season ticket holder and having sold most of my tickets, that this is really more financial than not, and I can’t argue that point, but there was a great deal of motivation to see the team.  Throughout the year, whether they were playing at home or away, I found myself watching the games avidly, always hoping for a win.

Eight not so great

And having watched the team closely, and being a fan, I think I can say this succinctly: they were never good.  They never played well, they never played with any drive, they just went through the motions.  Alexander Ovechkin, after the game, said that everyone wanted the win, but I never saw it.  Throughout this four-game sweep (the Lightning sweeping the Caps), I knew that Tampa wanted it.  They brought their A-game day-in-day-out.  And this after they played a tough seven-game series with the Penguins, with two days of rest, they beat the stuffing out of a well-rested Capitals team, and just keep hitting them.

A lot can be said about how well the Lightning played, and that can’t be ignored, they were outstanding, but the Capitals lost this series, the Lightning didn’t win it.  If I were Ted Leonsis, I would look long and hard at how much you’re paying the players and how psychologically tough they are.  I saw a bunch of guys just feigning concern, but knowing they’re still going to get paid.  They have no drive and no passion.  If they did, they would never have been bumped out of the playoffs so quickly.

It makes me sad that they can’t find a reason to fight back.  I worry that the coach will take the fall for this, and I don’t think he’s to blame.  He does need to instil the urgency in the team that is clearly lacking.  There should be an understanding, there is no next year.  If you set the stage like that, I think the reactions will be very different.  I think the team is complacent and lazy.  I don’t know if I’ll bother with the rest of the NHL playoffs, call me a sore loser, I don’t care, but I just don’t know how much more I have to give to the NHL and get nothing in return.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fahrenheit 2011?

I have a tendency to liken real life events to literary or movie references, I guess I think of it like pop-up video, but in real life.  And I realise the topic I’m about to broach is a hot topic, to say the least.  This past week US forces found and killed known terrorist Osama Bin Laden.  His body was destroyed at sea, though there is DNA evidence provided to prove the identity.

Doesn’t anyone think this is a little odd?  I understand that an operation of this sort isn’t something you post on the front page of the newspaper, but it stinks of contriving circumstances.  It just doesn’t add up.  I am the paranoid type, I’ll wholly admit that, but in this instance, it strikes me as strange.

I have to also admit that when the news broke, I wasn’t overwhelmed with relief, more of sadness.  I am not saying I knew anything that Osama Bin Laden did was good, in any way, but for people to be so joyous over someone else’s death, no matter his/her character, seems vulgar.  I almost felt like we were in a war environment, in which those circumstances would be normal.  But we weren’t, not with him, he wasn’t at the head of an army, leading the good fight. 

He was hiding in his house hoping not to get caught.  And when he was caught, why wasn’t he brought in?  Isn’t that what happened to Sadaam?  Bring him in and question him, have him stand trial for what he’s perpetrated?  Is due process totally gone?  I actually have a second pop culture shout-out, Star Wars.  I’m sure Osama falls into the same category as the emperor, and was ‘too dangerous to live’ – but that really wasn’t the end of the discussion.  And will he now be more powerful dead than alive?

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury paints a futuristic picture where the government regularly paints any dissident as a criminal.  Man hunts ensue and the hero of the story goes on the run.  He didn’t do anything.  The things he’s accused of doing are untrue, but he has no way to fight back, to defend himself.  In the book, he is able to go on the run.  In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, in the beginning of the movie, Anakin kills the emperor’s apprentice, using the excuse that he is too dangerous to live.  He knows he’s done something wrong, and when he hears the phrase again spoken by Jedi Master Wendu about Emperor Palpantine, he fights back.  In both cases, the truth is never able to come to the forefront.

I have more questions than answers in this scenario.  I am not saying I’m sad that the threat is gone, I’m sad that things have come to this.  That it was a unilateral decision made, and there was no place for someone to argue why he should be allowed to live.  To me, it reeks of something behind closed doors, something inappropriate and seething in deceit.  Our government shouldn’t make me feel like I need to take another shower.  I feel disgusted.  I can’t be proud of this.  It isn’t in me.  I believe in fairness, I believe in honour, I believe in due process.  None of these things were upheld.

But does it matter?  No, it doesn’t.  Someone who was perceived a threat is gone.  Was he ever really a threat?  We’ll never know.  Was this an entire ruse to direct attention one way, while doing something different?  Didn’t the stocks suddenly jump up, after falling dramatically since the earthquakes in Japan?  Will gas prices go up or down because of this?  If they do decrease, then I think that lays more credence to my argument, something stinks in the state of Denmark, or in this case, something stinks in the United States.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Double Movie Review

I had a busy weekend at the movie theatre, and am always happy to share my take on movies.

There is a reason this movie is being advertised the way it is, as in, all flash and no substance, and that is about right. I have to give due credit, it was a fun movie, but I think I saw what was coming pretty early on. Brandon Routh was hot stuff, the side-kick was fun too, but the rest of the cast was just meh. Taye Diggs is always easy on the eyes, but it is the same tired role for him.

without a heavy spoiler, here's your one-sentence synopsis - Van Helsing modernised with a very small twist, but same outcome.

Basically, Dylan used to be a monster hunter, gave it up after his girl got killed, gets pulled back in by a case. Friend gets killed and becomes undead partner, girl begs him for help. He helps, she ends up betraying them and unleashing some beastie, they kill it, she gets killed, he goes back to his old life.

It was fun, the effects were kinda crazy. For $6, it was kinda okay, but I think I shouldn't have been so keen to see something quite so pointless. I'd give it half a charmander thumb up.

Although there wasn't anything really new here, it was still a great ride that kept you guessing. The main characters are true to form, adding all the main stars from the previous movie made it that much better. The Rock was also a great addition and the ending was what you'd hope for from the movie. I'd say there aren't any spoilers to give away, but it was fantastic.

The basic premise is Paul Walker is with Jordanna Brewster and they bust Vin Diesel out of jail and then go on the run. They all end up in Rio, which is beautiful and decide to steal from a drug lord in the city. The Rock goes after them and spends most of the movie one step behind them.

The movie delivers what it promises and it is worth seeing. Surprisingly, the theatre was pretty empty. I'd say, of the two movies I saw, this would be the one to see. Plus, we all know I love fast cars ;)
I suppose I should pretend to be interested in work, but that comes and goes.