December 21st, 2014


Mmm... Sushi....

Saturday night, we forgot all about going to see Chess downtown. Oh well, we were out quite late on Friday. And I forgot to tune in Western Michigan at the Famous Potato Bowl. I had hoped this morning that there'd be a Schroedinger's cat effect and by not watching, guarantee success. Alas, Air Force-38 WMU-24, leaving the Broncos 8-5 this season, after going 1-11 last year and 0-6 in bowl games. Still, congrats on the winning season, gentlemen.

So, Saturday night AND the holidays means one thing -- Netflix.

Except... when I turned on the Sony Blu-Ray player, I got a screen announcing a software update. Huh. First time. I tried to ignore it, but when I hit the Netflix button on the Sony remote, the announcement came back. Fine.

I don't know what it had to do, but with WiFi+DSL, the progress bar stayed at 1/9 FOREVER, with not even a moving graphic to let us know something. As usual with flashing firmware ROM, there are dire warnings to DO NOT TURN OFF OR YOU WILL NEVER SEE A MOVIE AGAIN AND YOUR NOSE WILL FALL OFF. But no signs of progress? Disturbing.

I even Googled Sony BDP-S390 update, found a page that basically said there's an update. And do it.

Eventually after 15-20 minutes the progress bar began to move and after several steps, the counter jumped from 1/9 to 2/9 to 3/9 to 9/9, as there are wont to do. Then it rebooted. Or rather, it shut down and after waiting a few minutes, I had to turn the BD player back on. Way to go with directions, Sony.

It occurred to us, though, that this security update may have been prompted by the hacking of Sony, ostensibly by North Korea in protest of the stupid excuse of a movie, The Interview. Fine. I don't need a Communist takeover of my TV.

Whew. On to the entertainment...

Jiro Dreams of Sushi [Documentary]
Netflix streaming

We almost watched a different movie last night, but then I stumbled upon this in our queue. It is a lovely film, equal parts gorgeous food, theory of great food and Japanese culture across generations.

Michelin awards three stars to a restaurant which it is worth it to travel to that country just to eat there. After eating there, Michelin said that three stars is the lowest number they could give Jiro -- and Jiro didn't even cook for them that day, his eldest son did. Wanna go? Reservations are backed up from a month to a year depending on the date. Jiro only has ten seats in his sushi restaurant. And prices start at 35 000 ¥ or about $300. There is no menu.

It's a movie about product and suppliers and ten-year apprenticeships. It is about perfection and striving to do better. It is about fathers and sons.

It is about beautiful steel and precision knife skills.

It is about translucent pieces of fish that look like glass and jelly.

It is about no appetizers, nothing but twenty pieces of sushi, served one at a time and eaten seconds after made and admired.



We'd had leftover Jimmy John's for supper. Not quite the same thing. (grin)

Dr. Phil

The Journey Ends and The Fight Begins

The weather forecast for Friday was overcast, with a chance of Sun peeking through. Instead, while doing some paperwork for the Aviation college the sun streaming in the window was annoying. By the time we were heading out in the afternoon, it was a brilliant blue sky day. Temp around 31°F. Perfect.

Not sure when the school kids got out, because the parking lot was packed in the front -- had to go use the handicapped parking in the back lot. Our theatre was at least half full -- hard to say because everyone was piled into the middle for IMAX 3D alignment.

Oh, and I think they renumbered Row A, because I'd figured out the dead center was 14-15. Now it's 12-13. I think that people were confused that the first seat wasn't number 1. On to the show!

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies IMAX 3D [PG-13]
Celebration North Theatre #18/IMAX 3:45pm 2x$17.25

So... the thin little volume of The Hobbit has finally spawned The Hobbit 3. No one fully agrees on this and I don't expect many to agree with this review, either.

But let's face it -- no one was going to give Peter Jackson money for The Hobbit out of the blue. Not after the Ralph Balkshi debacle. (We were watching and watching and I kept looking at my watch, wondering how they could finish or if this was a five hour movie -- no, it was half a movie and not only was the second half never done, we didn't even know it was going to be half a movie.) But having done LOTR, no one wanted a rushed anemic Hobbit either. Then there's the side issue that Tolkein's other stories cannot be filmed due to the family. Jackson stretched everything mentioned in The Hobbit and the LOTR appendices as far as he could go.

So think three movies was overblown? Remember, a lot of successful movies come from short stories. We aren't going to see a Game of Thrones movie. And the last Hobbit was the front end of a duet that was never finished. (Actually, the last Hobbit may have been a different even more dreadful animated work. The less said of that, the better.) We know Peter Jackson can produce a trilogy.

Okay. The Hobbit 1 introduced us to the large party of dwarves -- a lesser series would have trimmed them down, consolidating the characters they would say -- and starting them on their way. The Hobbit 2 brought us to the Lonely Mountain, the old halls of the Dwarf King and that interloper Smaug literally squatting there, and on the pile of treasure. And Smaug Smash at the end of that movie. The Hobbit 3 makes no attempt to get us up to speed, but just jumps right where we were left off. We're watching Lake Town burn with dragonfire. If you aren't up on the story, of course, why are you watching this movie?

At times, Bilbo gets lost in the movie. There's a lot of things going on. And even if you hate the stretch or are bored by the endless battles, I do think you have to concede there are some gorgeous visuals. Special effects critters? You bet. I will say that had I not seen some European mountain goats at the Helsinki Zoo, I might not have bought the battle goats, but damn in real life they could do the surefooted thing like you would not believe.

But this movie is about battles. And five, count 'em five, armies. Elf, human, dwarf, orc, orc. And other players. Lots of cameos which point to the epic which is The Lord of the Rings. In that sense, it holds its own. And while LOTR, even the Extended Editions, had to cut some favored characters AND crucial scenes, the movie ends pretty much where it should.

And yet...

The Hobbit is viewed either as a children's story or LOTR Lite. Today, of course, The Hobbit WOULD be written as a YA trilogy. Sure, the series is rated PG-13, but it's a long war movie. Is the childlike core ruined in The Hobbit 3? Maybe. Maybe not. Kids today are not insulated from war, battle, killing. And to be fair, wars are not short five minute diversions. This battle takes time, tides change, plans fail -- and characters die.

Overblown and unnecessary complications, love stories and family squabbles? Sure. I'd have to see all three in a row to make a final ruling on those. We did not do a The Hobbit 2 pre-lab before watching The Hobbit 3. But I can forgive a lot getting to see Galadrial one last time -- sigh -- and Battle Galadrial is bonus.

As far as running time, The Hobbit 3 isn't nearly as bloated as you might think at 144 minutes. Sure, over two hours is more than many people can comfortably squirm through anymore. But The Hobbit 2 was 161 and The Hobbit 1 was 169 minutes.

Billy Boyd -- Pippin in LOTR -- does the Annie Lennox to wind up the credits.

So yes, I had objections to some of cartoon or video games aspects of An Unexpected Journey, felt The Desolation of Smaug was better as a story, and The Battle of the Five Armies was certainly better than adequate. Doesn't hold a candle to LOTR, but then neither did the book. I once made the mistake of wanting to regain the wonder of Middle Earth that I went straight from the end of The Return of the King back to The Hobbit. Could not take the whiplash of the cognitive dissonance.

And given that order of movie release ends up same as Star Wars -- renumbering as IV, V, VI, I, II, III -- I have to say The Hobbit 3 ends the series far better than Star Wars 3 did. And it sets up LOTR much better than Episode III set up Luke Skywalker. In fact, it actually sets up the start of LOTR. George Lucas -- too bad you couldn't take notes from Peter Jackson.

Recommended -- if you've kept up with the series.

Trailers: I just saw the trailer for Terminator Genesis on my Kindle Fire HD the other day. Looks even better on IMAX. It's not so much a reboot as the timelines have gotten compromised over the movies and the TV series. Me like. Even includes Arnold. (grin) In The Heart of the Sea, the Ron Howard story of the 1820 whaling ship Essex, which helped spawn the novel Moby Dick. Jupiter Ascending is generating some buzz, this is the first trailer I've seen. Looks terrific. I was thinking the buzz was from another YA novel, but no, it's the Wachowskis in their first big post-Matrix endeavor. Big space opera. I'll be there.

There were four trailers, I think that Into The Woods was the fourth. If it was, UPDATE: Now I remember, it was another trailer that I'd seen on the Kindle Fire HD. Jurassic World looks spectacular. Steven Spielberg has always had an eye for detail and merchandising the dinos like a Sea World or a safari park or dog racing track is excellent. Making souped up dinosaurs? Ironic considering I watching street racers on Street Outlaws on Discovery Channel. NOW we're 4 for 4 on movies we'll see. And maybe in IMAX, too.

Dr. Phil