I signed on for the big Disney package on day one, which is Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN. Then after a brief once over as I downloaded and set-up each service on my Roku, I ignored them.

I don’t know that I’ll watch much ESPN, being as the only sport I follow is NFL Football and then it’s pretty much just the Detroit Lions. So, maybe the occasional Monday Night Football. Pretty much, it’s useless to me.

Hulu is a thing I already had, only now I have my commercials back. So that’s not great. I found an article about how to keep the Hulu upgrade, but that was well after the fact and I don’t really care until The Handmaid’s Tale comes back. We don’t watch much Hulu around these parts, but there are a few things that I do watch on that service.

Disney+ seems like it has a lot to offer; the Herbie and Witch Mountain movies, National Geographic, and all those cartoons I watched 1,000 times as the boys were growing up. So with all the Star Wars and Marvel stuff available, what did I watch first?

Steamboat Willie? Nope. Don’t really care about where Mickey got his start. Did I binge Star Wars or jump into The Mandalorian? Rewatch the Avengers? Nope, no, and no. Too obvious. Also, Boba Fett has gotten progressively lamer with every appearance since the first.

No, what I watched, the thing I sat down and chose, was The Black Cauldron. Yep, I chose Disney’s animated film based on the first two books of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Perdain. It’s been a lot of years since I read the books, I don’t remember many of the particulars, but this series of books is my Chronicles of Narnia. So, I was happy to see it available on Disney+. It wasn’t great, and 50-year-old me is definitely not the target demographic, but I watched it all the way through and enjoyed it well enough. It was good. I can see where it might be scary for very young children, maybe 3-4 years, but I don’t understand why it was locked in the vault for so long. 

I don’t know what will be next, but those Witch Mountain movies are kinda calling to me. Also, where is The Rescuers? It’s very obvious that Disney isn’t putting all of their cards on the table right upfront. It will be interesting to see how this service develops.

The lovely and talented Lady Ronn is taking a video class this semester and has given me permission to share with you, her first two projects from class. Now, I will simply preface this presentation by saying that outside of capturing some home movies on our Super8 camcorder back in the day and some phone video of concerts and family, she has no background or experience with making films. So these are quite literally the first two things she has done in the medium. I may be biased, but I think they’re pretty impressive for a couple of early attempts.

Project #1 “Explore Grand Rapids” is a minute long walk around the city and stars our middle son, Zack. And since this is the first project, we’ll start with it. Enjoy.

Project #1

This second piece I’ve mentioned a few times here on the blog, because, well, I’m the star of this one. This is her take on a 5-minute documentary. It runs a bit long of the 5-minute mark, but that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with me. Here’s Project #2 Ronn McCarrick: Creative Investigator.

Project #2

The music gets a little loud in places and the logo montage I made for this is a mess, but I wouldn’t let her edit any more than she did for school. I’m a big ‘ol jerk like that. Besides, it’d be another 3-weeks before I could share it. Because, of course, she’s still in school and still working on other projects and reediting a thing she’s not getting regraded on would not be at the top of her priority list. So you’re getting to see the same thing her classmates did.

I think she did a great job with both of these and I am both proud to put them up here at arohen.com and happy that she’s willing to let me do that. Besides, if it were up to her this stuff would just sit on her harddrive and no one would ever see it. Which is unacceptable.

After another evening of watching Poledark with the lovely Lady Ronn, I was scrolling through Amazon Prime Video and came across something that I didn’t know existed. A documentary about the art of Dungeons & Dragons back in the old TSR days.

I immediately started watching it, which probably was not appreciated by everyone in the room, but whatever. It wasn’t great, but if you’re a longtime gamer like me and have lots of good memories about all that old D&D art, you’ll enjoy it. I know I did.

trailer

My favorite tidbit was that artist Jack Fred was a pseudonym used by the artists, when a particular piece of art was felt to be subpar and they didn’t want to be associated with it.

It was an interesting watch and it was interesting to see and hear from each of the artists, most of whom I only know from their art. Check it out if you’re into this sort of thing.

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons and Dragons
Documentary 2019 1h 31min
A documentary that explores the history & stories behind the art that helped create the world’s most popular role playing game. The movie profiles artists – both past & present – & features former company insiders, game designers, authors, & fans.

Eye of the Beholder

Appearances by Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Clyde Caldwell, Erol Otus, Tony DiTerlizzi, Brom, Todd Lockwood, Tom Babbey, Peggy Cooper, Darlene, Jeff Dee, Randy Gallegos, Ralph Horsley, Jennell Jaquays, Tim Kask, Dana Knutson, Diesel LaForce, Brynn Metheney, Dawn Murin, Steve Prescott, Harry Quinn, Jon Schindehette, Chris Seaman, Matthew Stawicki, Margaret Weiss, Tom Wham, Ralph Horsley

In September of 1983 I was very excited about the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. It took all of one episode for me to recognize that it was not realizing my vision for a saturday morning cartoon based on my favorite game. I was disappointed and didn’t much care for the cartoon. But through the lense of nostalgia, I’ve become more forgiving and the cartoon has a fond place in my memory. Mostly, because it was a thing. A thing I would have never thought would be.

The D&D movie… yeah, that’s still garbage.

But this commercial is very cool and I’d be up for seeing more of this. I cannot believe how mainstream D&D is right now. It’s crazy. It’s cool. It’s crazy-cool.

so this is a thing that’s pretty cool

Also, those statues in the feature image, they’re real. I may be getting at least one of them. We’ll see.

the last of my grandparents has passed

I am very fortunate to have made it to 50-years-old and still had a living grandparent. But, sadly, my last grandparent has passed on. My mother let me know she had gone to the hospital on Thursday; on Friday morning she gave us the bad news. Grandma Betty had passed in the earliest hours of Friday morning.

It’s been a sad few days around here and I’m sure they will continue for many weeks to come. She lived a good long life and she lived it her way right up until the end. I haven’t quite gotten my thoughts wrapped up enough to expound on it much more than to say, she was loved and she will be missed. I’ll put something else together in the coming days.

Hey, I watched some movies and I want to tell you about them. None of these three movies made me happy that I watched them. Logan came closest, but that was more from a sense of being in the loop with regard to superhero movies and the end of an era. I think I would have enjoyed finishing up Penny Dreadful on Netflix more than I enjoyed any of these films.


LOGAN

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
First off, let me say that I have seen the first three x-men movies and that Wolverine origin movie, I missed the rest of them, and didn’t even realize there was a The Wolverine movie until I started this post. I was never a fan of Wolverine the character, or of the Jackman casting for Wolverine, but he’s done a good job and the fans seem to like him. So my initial reaction to this movie is; Alright, he’s old now, but what’s the big deal. After watching the movie my opinion is more like; eh, it was alright. It was a good send off for Jackman and Stewart. Probably we shouldn’t make any more movies about geriatric super heroes.
Logan is one of the few remaining mutants, and despite being the best at what he does, even though that isn’t very nice, he’s given it all up to drive for uber and be a nurse to Professor X. Oh, and he is married to some albino guy who is never explained and who I have no idea who he is or what he’s supposed to be. Then this kid and her mom show up and ask for a ride to the secret mutant sanctuary. Grumpy Logan says no, because he’s grumpy. Then the guys with prosthetic hands show up and start trying to kill everybody… seriously there are like 20 guys who are each missing a hand and have these stupid looking bionic arms. No explanation, just like here, check this out. Bionics. Pretty sweet, huh. I wasn’t impressed. Everybody that survives hops into the limo and they go on a road trip. They bring in the clones. Some more people die. They go to a cabin in the woods. Big epic super showdown. The bad guys die. The good guys die. The kid walks off to Canada to watch hockey and eat pancakes.
It was probably more emotional than that for most, but I guess I’m not most. It was a good movie, but not one I cared about or was impressed with. I was left thinking, what’s the big deal about this? Is it because Jackman is leaving the role? That must be it. How come nobody seems to make a big deal about Stewart being done?  Oh well, I saw it. I’m sure I’ll forget it was a thing soon enough. I’m going to give this movie one extra star, because I also watched Valerian and I don’t want to give that one two stars, and because these two movies shouldn’t get the same rating.


THE EMOJI MOVIE

Take an adventure in the secret world inside your smartphone to Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favorite emojis live. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression – except for Gene (T.J. Miller), who is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal”, Gene enlists the help of his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Together, these unlikely heroes embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone, each its own wild and fun world, to find the code that will fix Gene!
Wholly fuck, this movie is dumb. Who decided this should be a thing.
I put this on as a fluke, just to check it out while I was waiting for Lady Ronn, somehow it played through to the end. Is it the worst movie of all time? No. Is it a stupid idea with the sole intent to be a cash-grab? Oh, hell yes. I wouldn’t say it’s a disaster on every level. But I might say, nearly every level. Sure, it’s got decent animation and a recognizable cast of voice actors, but is that all that matters? What about plot and story? This thing is unoriginal, the plot is nearly nonexistent and filled with holes; big, dumb holes. As an added bonus, because this one is for the kids, it’s got one-note characters (they’re emoji, so I guess that makes it okay), cheap jokes, confusing and mostly dumb world-building,  lots of product placement, dated references, flat voice acting, and of course the message that every child in america needs… your phone is the most important thing in your life. Love your phone. It hits all the bases for a second tier animated kids flick’s it’s colorful, dull, over the top, joyless, ripe with toy possibilities, kind of crass, empty, and ridiculously boring experience. I’d like to say unimaginative, but somebody came up with enough stuff to fill 86 minutes of screen time about emoji, that takes some imagination. I don’t know why I watched this. I don’t think you should watch it. And most definately don’t share this with your children. Think of the children. Spare the children. I’ll give it a star, it might have earned two, but I’m not willing to give it that benefit of the doubt. 


VALERIAN

In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha–an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Bad characters. Uninteresting story. Bad pacing. Silly world building. No emotional involvement by the cast or the audience. Just not a good movie.
Dane DeHann as Major Valerian is terrible, unbelievable, unlikable, and has the charisma of a turd. Cara Delevingne as  Sergeant Laureline is better; better in every single scene. The two of them have a chemistry that can only be called, nonexistent. The idea that these two characters are in love and that they are going to get married is, well, it’s unbelievable. Rihanna is in this movie, that’s probably a thing for some of you. She sings and dances and changes clothes before becoming a gummy-blob and then dying. It’s dumb. This whole movie is dumb. Every scene in this movie goes on too long. And that is exactly what this movie is, a series of overlong scenes of things that they thought were cool. Cool space station turned intergalactic world city. Cool virtual reality market. Cool effects. Cool aliens. Cool spaceships. Cool disregard for rules and ranks. There is a lot of cool in this film. The problem being that I don’t think this film understands what is and what isn’t cool. Many of the things Valerian thinks are cool are lame, derivative, unoriginal, and poorly done.
I was just plain bored by this movie. Every part of it. Every single bit. I don’t think I had a single, “Wow, that was cool” moment throughout. It was like watching somebody mash up Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, and a couple other films I haven’t seen into one thing. And that thing was not very good. Cara Delevingne was pretty good, but the rest was typical, throw away Hollywood garbage that nobody will remember in two years.



Google Play offered me a $1.99 rental and this weekend the wife and I watched the latest spider-man movie. I was a little surprised, after all the talk about it being “the greatest superhero movie of all time, ever. So good. Great, really.” Or whatever it is that Trump had to say about it. I was a little let down by the whole thing. I enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty good, but I’m not convinced it should have gotten so much rah-rah hype.
First, let’s establish where I’m at and where I’m coming from. The last spider-man film I saw was Spider-Man 2, back in 2004. I liked the first two Tobey Maguire quite a bit. I never saw the third movie in that series, and I never saw either of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies. So I cannot compare this to those three films. I did see the 1967 cartoon reruns throughout my childhood and watched 1977 live action TV series as a kid when it came out. Also, I looked forward to seeing Spider-Man on the Electric Company. So, I think it’s fair to say that, I’m not completely out of the Spider-Man loop.
Second, I was not one who was waiting for Spider-Man to come back into the Marvel fold. I didn’t care if Spider-Man, Ironman, the Hulk, Captain America, and Namor ever got together in some sort of live action Marvel cartoon class of ’66 reunion. I admit that Marvel has done well with their characters in their movies, and I think they should, what with all the “theirs” I’m throwing around in that sentence. But I don’t think Marvel has a monopoly on making super hero movies… despite the box office evidence to the contrary.
So, Spider-Man Homecoming. Let me say that I think the new costume is passable, but that I’m not a fan. I don’t like all the little black stripes on the costume, the eyes are neat (in an unnecessary way), and all the electric gizmos and gadgets built in make it feel more Iron-Spider (yes, I know that’s a real thing. Not what I mean, but I’m aware) than Spider-Man. I liked all the tie-ins with the previous movies and the way the villain was using those events to create his stuff. I get that this was a HUGE deal for Marvel to get to make a Spider-Man movie, and so they threw the bank at the movie. But I didn’t really need quite so much of the Ironman/Robert Downey Jr stuff, how many times can we check in with Happy, and even the Penny Potts ending added nothing. Perhaps they should have spent a little more money and made it into a buddy movie with our two heroes. It was a little bit like getting his iron chocolate in Spider-Man’s gooey, webby peanut butter. I guess that’s why it’s a universe of films, because you can’t find the boundaries for any one of them, they all blend together.
Michael Keaton was good. Nice take on the Vulture. The shocker… garbage. Both times. Garbage.
Peter Parker was good. The high school stuff was mostly good. The best friend was good. The girlfriend was kind of a throwaway, so we can get to MJ or Gwen in upcoming films. Was there really nothing between the red hoodie and goggles and the super tech Stark spider virtual pajamas. Hasn’t every version of Spider-Man ever made his own suit?
Nice tie-in with the title and I like the Vulture being a vulture. Good work there. So mostly good. Very good even. But in some ways it felt too Marvel, and not enough Spider, for my tastes and expectations. I don’t understand the fever of hype and all the raving about this movie, but I did enjoy it and I’m comfortable giving it four out of five stars.

It’s time for another round of movie reviews. I remind you that I, mostly, don’t enjoy watching movies or television. There are just things I’d rather be doing. With that prejudice explicitly stated, let’s move forward and talk about some movies. I watched all three of these on my couch, as I rarely make it to the cinema anymore, so I missed out on the giant screen, the too cramped seating, and the overly loud sound. I guess I’ve missed out on the whole movie going experience and I’m sure that will color my opinion, but it will probably be offset by not having had to pay the high ticket price to get in.
I’m going to talk about three movies today. If I were to take the time to go through all the things I’ve seen since I last wrote a review post, this would be considerably longer. Let me simply say that, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting better the further we get from season 1, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wasn’t nearly as good (or fun) as the first one, Star Wars: Rogue One wasn’t great, I enjoyed Wonder Woman, and Moana was not bad for an animated movie, but I’m not really into that sort of thing. Like I said, not really a fan of watching the screens…
Let’s get to the meat of this post.


Suicide Squad

2016 | PG-13 | 2 hr 5 m | They are the baddest of the bad–a band of supervillains assembled by a top-secret government agency. Led by Deadshot and Joker’s maniac lover Harley Quinn, this misfit and rather deranged ‘suicide squad’ is tasked with a do-or-die mission against a super-human enemy in this blockbuster comic mashup. Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman and Viola Davis star.

Oh cool, a Will Smith movie. I like Will Smith. Oh wait, this movie is a mess. First, let me state explicitly, for the record, and to expose my personal prejudices; I don’t like stories about villains, bad guys, or even most dark heroes. These are not the stories I want. Did I mention the Joker is crap in this? This is a movie about a group of convicted super villains, who are actually the most relatable group in this movie. And they are not relatable, they suck. There is also some government folks and some military folks and some other villains doing some stuff. Oh look, Harley Quinn’s ass in skin tight hot pants… not enough to save this movie. There are too many characters and we know nothing about them, we don’t learn anything about them, and we don’t care about them. Will smith plays himself with a beard, that sounds like a criticism, but that’s actually a good thing. People like Will Smith. There’s a couple different romance plot lines, but who cares and they’re mostly ignorable. Oh look, Ben Affleck’s Batman. How much did he get paid to show up and do nothing; but we can say he was there. Who cares? Lame! So despite all this, and this movie is a mess, I did make it through this one. DC has no idea how to do this whole movie universe thing. Their movies are not great. But there was enough in this movie for me to not say I didn’t like it. But it’s damn close. I’m giving it three stars out of five and I think it probably doesn’t deserve all those.

Doctor Strange

2016 | PG-13 | 1 hr 55 m | After a neurosurgeon loses the use of his hands he meets a mystical mentor who helps him harness magic to become the most powerful sorcerer on Earth.

Oh look, Marvel has taken us into the mystical side of their little superhero/space/comic book universe. Is that a big deal? I guess it is. All the reviews seem to think it is anyway. I’m sure that Doctor Strange is going to get a trilogy of movies (minimum), and maybe you’re excited by that. Maybe you’re a big fan of Doctor Strange. Personally, I think he came off as a less likeable, less charismatic Tony Stark, and I don’t know that he’s a character that I really care about. He has a cape that I enjoyed watching. I actually liked the cape more than any of the characters in the movie. Don’t miss understand me, I didn’t hate this movie or even dislike it. It was okay. Pretty typical fare for a Marvel movie. The origin story was a bit weak. The good doctor seemed to get his new skill set pretty easily, without much effort, or any real trials. I guess he’s just a natural. The villain was lame. I think I saw all this bending CGI in that movie where the guy from Titanic is obsessed with his spinner-thing… overdone. Oh, and why exactly is all that folding going on? Is that how magic works? Weird. I’m glad I’ve seen it. I mean, it makes me feel like I’m up to date on the whole Marvel Universe thing, but this ranks right up there with the Thor movies for me on the who cares spectrum. And having just watched Suicide Squad, this seems like a masterpiece of modern film making. Probably, it’s rating is benefitting from that comparison. Three stars out of five, I liked it, but I probably will never watch it again and will pretty quickly forget that it was a thing.

Kong: Skull Island

2017 | PG-13 | 2 hr | In a world where monsters exist, Kong is King! The second installment in the ‘MonsterVerse’ series of films that began with 2014’s ‘Godzilla,’ this kaiju-inspired epic is a rollicking adventure that follows an expedition to the mythical Skull Island–a place crawling with prehistoric dangers, led by the giant ape himself, King Kong.

MonsterVerse? Second installment? WTH? Okay. I get it. Everybody has to do a universe now. I think I shut off that Godzilla movie. That was the one with “Breaking Bad” in it, right? This is better. I don’t think I ever saw the “School of Rock” King Kong from 10-years back. Was that good? Kong is very large. Probably because  they’re setting up for Kong vs Godzilla, or some crap. Research tells me that Kong has ranged from 25-150 feet tall through something like a dozen movies. He’s closer to the top of the range in this one. He’s enormous. The cast is too big; why does Hollywood keep doing this. But it mostly worked for me. The island is suitably weird and full of weird creatures. But I’ve got to say that I absolutely hated the bone-headed, two-legged lizard-things. I thought they were dumb. There was enough talk about a “hollow earth” that I figure they’re setting up for another Journey to the Center of the Earth movie. There were some things, more than a few, but they’re pretty easy to overlook given that this is a movie about a 100-foot tall ape living on an island surrounded by a hurricane. I liked it. I’ll give this one four stars, but I imagine most people would give it three. I enjoyed it more than either of the other movies in this post. Oh… at the end, after the credits, yeah, there’s a Godzilla teaser.
Everybody wants a universe linking their films. I’ve spent time in three of those universes lately and it ain’t all great. Marvel has become a little predictable. DC has no clue what they’re doing. The idea of a MonsterVerse sounds cool, but it won’t be. There you have it, three movies rated. I know what my opinion is worth, but hopefully it was an entertaining read.
Later.

Grand Rapids did their fireworks on Saturday, July 2nd, and we were right on the water behind DeVos Place… where we were not supposed to be, I might add.

I had the idea that if we parked north of the city and watched the show from Riverside Park, Canal Park, or 6th Street Bridge Park we could see the show and avoid the worst of the crowds. But we just kept walking, past all the parks and we still couldn’t find a spot. 
Heidi had the idea that we could cut through the DeVos Place parking garage and come out on the other side, effectively circumventing the blocked sidewalk. That didn’t work when we realized the gates were down on the Lyon St exit. So she rerouted and went into the building, where we wandered around a bit until we found ourselves infiltrating the 2017 annual convention of the Church of the Brethren. We joined them on the back patio to watch the fireworks, but the trees blocked most of the view. So we slipped back into the building, down a bit and back out to the riverside walk. The closed section of the riverside walk, where only the convention attendees were allowed. And then we watched some fire works.

It wasn’t our intention, but it worked out pretty well.

Happy Independence Day. Have fun and stay safe.