June 28, 2013

Eating with The Avengers

The Avengers made shawarma a household name. After they've risked their lives in a huge battle in/over New York City, they take a break with some shawarma. Tony Stark insisted. They almost look too exhausted to eat:

The scene was a last minute addition. Literally. Last second even. The cast was together for a press junket in Los Angeles less than a month before the The Avengers opening date of May 4th. Robert Downey, Jr. teased at the press conference that they were filming one last scene - except he wasn't teasing. I remember seeing journalists at the conference tweeting speculations that day. Someone even reported seeing Chris Hemsworth exiting an elevator in full Thor costume and battle-worn makeup.

It was all for the sake of shawarma.

When I realized the location of the infamous scene wasn't too far away, I made it a point to go. Elat Burger is tucked into a tiny strip mall in West LA. If you know the film, it's instantly recognizable as soon as you step inside. They made a few modifications for filming but not many. Mostly, the movie has a couple more signs than the actual diner.

I am incapable of hiding my enthusiasm, and the guy working the counter looked at me and my friend and instantly pegged us as fans of The Avengers. I practically squee'd all over the place. I did something sacrilegious and didn't order shawarma (I know) and while I was taking a seat, I overheard the employee talking to my pal about sometimes people show up dressed as Thor or Captain America. He laughed, but he thought it was a bit too much.

He indulged our flailing and gave us some cool pictures that he signed - I think as the "Avengers Chef." It's hard to make out. It now has a prime spot on my fridge.

Here's the address in case you want to check it out (the food was freaking delicious):
Elat Burger
9340 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

June 25, 2013

Thoughts about Star Trek and Man of Steel and whether I'm becoming a movie curmudgeon

We all have that friend who hates everything. That person who must critique every detail of each episode of every television show and any movie who he or she watches, and that person tends to never be happy. You don’t even bother asking them what they think about x, y, or z anymore because you don’t want to pretend to be interested while they rant, barely taking a breath, for 15 minutes. I don’t mind a good debate about pop culture, but what’s the point when someone’s opinion never changes regardless of the topic?

I feel sorry for haters - it takes so much energy to be grumpy – but after Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel I’m afraid I’m becoming one of them.

Spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel after the image.

"You think you world is safe? It is an illusion. A comforting lie told to protect you. Enjoy these final moments of peace. For I have returned to have my vengeance. So, shall we begin?" Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness

Shall we begin, indeed. The thing I dreaded about the new Star Trek movie came true – Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t John Harrison, he was Khan. Lest people yell at me for just hating all Star things that are not Wars, let me back up for a moment. I enjoyed The Wrath of Khan; the 2009 Star Trek was fantastic. I have room for love in my heart. I thought Into Darkness was a lazy story punctuated by cool “hey, this effect would look awesome” moments.

The whole time I was sitting in the movie theater trying to focus one thing kept running through my head: you rebooted the freaking timeline so you could tell new stories with beloved characters, free of the restraints of the established universe and you essentially re-tell a movie that’s already been done? Seriously.

I understand that Khan is important and his presence is intrinsic enough to Star Trek lore to earn him a fixed place in any timeline. I’d expect him to show up or be referenced and be okay with it. The obvious parallels and role reversals and poor facsimiles of classic moments were too much. Leonard Nimoy as older Spock making an appearance? Yes, please do that. Older Spock giving away all the secrets? Too forced and convenient.

Even though ships were crashing and stuff was being destroyed left and right, I felt bored and restless. Besides my issue with the Khan re-telling, too many points didn’t make sense to me. Bones and Chekov didn’t get to do much other than deliver funny lines. And why the heck does Bones have a dead tribble with him?!! Does he just keep it in his pocket? Finally, you have a great ensemble cast. Let them be ensemble-y instead of keeping them apart for most of the film.

I couldn’t wait for the movie to be over. I exited the theater and felt broken. Like a bad geek. There were parts I did dig. Cumberbatch was a wonderful Khan; he hit the right tone of imposing arrogance to sell it for me. I liked seeing Uhura show off her brains on Kronos. Simon Pegg’s portrayal of Scotty made me grin from ear to ear. Some of Kirk and Spock’s interactions were wonderful. But overall? It tried to shove its cleverness in my face, and it didn’t work. I don’t need to see it again.

But it's just one movie? We all dislike stuff from time to time. 
Then I saw Man of Steel.

"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." Jor-El, Man of Steel

Superman is my favorite DC Comics character. When I finally started diving into cape-centric stories, I found myself firmly in the Marvel camp in no time. On the big scale, I like their stories better. Period. But Superman grabbed me. I like good guys. Captain America is my favorite superhero. Even among the winning team, there are those who are golden and Superman is in that camp. “Dark and gritty” is my least favorite type of comic book story, and Superman doesn’t go there. I’ve hit some highlights – Birthright, All Star Superman, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Kingdom Come, etc – and I’m always floored by how much Superman cares for our ridiculous race. I wept when he baked a giant cake for Smallville.

That’s the Superman I’ve gotten to know.

Times change and modern events shape modern stories. I get that. However, I didn’t find much to enjoy about Man of Steel. This was a Superman who distrusted humanity (can’t blame him) for 33 years. He’s been hiding his powers for 33 YEARS! Bejeezus. This Superman let Pa Kent tell him to let him die. What. This Superman didn’t take the fight off the streets in Smallville to one of many surrounding empty and void of humans cornfields. This Superman fought every which way through Metropolis. And this Superman killed and it didn’t seem to throw him off his game.

I can’t get over that. Even when you think he should kill to take out an enemy, he finds another way. It’s the smart and compassionate thing to do and Superman is a living, breathing example of compassion.

The level of disaster porn slayed me. Yes, the Avengers damaged New York City. I feel like Man of Steel tried to exponentially out-destroy that movie. The number of wrecked buildings and lost lives was insane. Even if the Avengers did it as much, it didn’t seem as blatant. Something was different because Man of Steel felt like a charred, ruin-filled slap in the face.

The more I think about it, the less I like about the movie. Lois Lane showed up conveniently and not in ways that made sense. I cared absolutely nothing about Perry White and company yet I felt like we were supposed to be relieved when they were spared. Superman’s actions and struggles lost impact because of the flashbacks, and both his fathers had moments of being real tools.

With all those criticisms said, I did like Russell Crowe as Jor-El. There was way too much of him in the movie for my taste, but he fit the role. The Kryptonian designs were gorgeous. I’d be cool with a whole movie focusing on Krypton. Michael Shannon nailed it as Zod, and I loved his line to Superman about  how he was just doing what he’d been born to do and has now lost his soul. Brilliant. As was any line and moment shown in the trailer. I cried at the trailer when Pa Kent told Clark he was still his son. I didn’t shed a tear while watching the movie.

Being negative is easy. Is the world truly a dark and gritty place? Sometimes and some places – sure, I won’t deny it. But how much of it is that way because of our perspective? If you have become a person who complains about every trivial thing, you’ve crossed to the Dark side. Being optimistic is the harder path. It can be exhausting to constantly look for the good in people, to always believe even when it’s perhaps time to give up. That’s what I love about Superman and his bright beacon of hope was lost in the rock’em sock’em building destruction that was Man of Steel.

I left the theater feeling less broken but definitely confused. Was I becoming one of those people? I don't want to be one. 

Perhaps I haven’t become a hater yet. I’ve seen three other movies since May and enjoyed them. I loved Iron Man 3 so much I saw it twice, I was enchanted by Much Ado About Nothing, and I felt like Monsters University was a nice and comforting hug. Three out of five isn’t so bad.

If you comment, please remember we all have different opinions and that is okay. I will not judge your feelings and ask that you don’t judge mine.

June 18, 2013

How To Train for San Diego Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con is exactly one month away. Are you ready for the endurance test? It's the craziest convention I've ever attended, and you have to approach it seriously. You have to prepare to get by on little sleep, small amounts of food, and you have to come prepared to battle crowds. I've written up a helpful guide to assist your preparation:
Click to Enlarge
Even with the accompanying level of insanity that goes with attending or working at Comic-Con, it always ends up being worth it. You can repeat that like a mantra when you start freaking out about not being ready.

In case you'd rather just have the text:

Training for SDCC

Four weeks before
Get your shoulders and back ready.
  • Find the bag you're taking to Comic-Con.
  • Day one: put 1 bottle of water, 1 protein bar, and a magazine the size of the SDCC program in the bag. Walk around with the bag on your shoulder or back all day.
  • Add one book a day for a week, keep the bottled water, put in an iPad, and add more protein bars for the rest of the week.
  • If you're a reporter working the convention, add a laptop, recorder, camera, chargers, and replacement batteries.
  • If you don't have a purple and red bag rash, you're doing it wrong.
Three weeks before
Practice the walk.
  • Have friends set up an obstacle course where they push strollers at your ankles and hit you in the face with giant cosplay wings.
  • Practicing navigating aisles with your shoulder bag, a paper bag twice the width of your body stuffed with boxed exclusives, and an expensive print that the artist won't give you a plastic sleeve or cover for.
  • Get used to avoiding freebies. Mask your face with steely resolve and look forward no matter what kind of postcards or useless posters people shove in your face.* If you want to earn bonus points, go to Las Vegas to practice the technique.
    • *This does not apply if the freebie is a button. You must collect them all.
Two weeks before
  • Hone your standing-in-line skills. Develop coping mechanisms. You might have to talk to strangers. Even if there's not a line at the movie theater or the coffee shop, you must wait. Start the line.
    • You've been meaning to go to the DMV, no better time than just before Comic-Con.
    • Go to the grocery store on a weekend afternoon.
    • Go to a theme park and only go on the most popular rides. Try to wait in line for at least half of the day.
    • Get used to sitting on the floor in the tiniest possible place.
    • While you're at, go ahead an practice sleeping on the ground.
One week before
  • Day one: Cut back to two big meals a day with a snack of either a protein bar or a soft pretzel.
  • In the evenings, have at least two alcoholic beverages before consuming any food.
  • By day four: only eat one meal a day and random snacks you bum from friends and/or strangers. Forget about consuming any food after you start drinking.

June 17, 2013

This weekend I floated around in a Millennium Falcon

I drove north to visit some friends over the weekend. We had a delightful time catching up, crafting, watching Man of Steel (that part was just okay), and hanging out in or by the pool. I haven't put on a bathing suit in a few years, but I brought it just in case and once I saw they had a landspeeder raft and a Millennium Falcon floatie, I couldn't resist going into the warm water.

Yeah, they're awesome.

I made it across the pool in less than 12 parsecs.

There was also an X-wing that shoots water.

I think she said she got at least the Falcon at Target at some point, but your best bet is to shop on eBay for these.

June 11, 2013

Favorite quotes from Game of Thrones: Mhysa

Given the way seasons three and four cover one book, I wasn't sure what to expect for the season finale of Game of Thrones. Did anyone else feel like "Mhysa" was on the anti-climatic side? Not that I terribly mind having a break after the emotional roller coaster that was "The Rains of Castamere," but I would've liked a little more. As always though, there will still great moments and words.

Spoilers after the image.

"It's not easy being drunk all the time. Everyone would do it, if it were easy." - Tyrion

"The King is tired. See him to his chambers." - Tywin

“You have one name. As do I. Here only the family name matters.” - Varys

"Valar Morghulis." - Arya

"I'm going to sail up the Narrow Sea all the way to the Weeping Water. I'm going to march on the Dreadfort. I'm going to find my little brother. And I'm going to bring him home." - Yara Greyjoy

Sam: ...I'd be dead if it wasn't for Jon. If you're his brother, you're my brother too and anything I can do to help you, I will.
Bran: Take us north of the Wall.
Sam: ...Except that

"I shouldnt make jokes. My mother taught me not to throw stones at cripples. But my father taught me, aim for their head." - Ramsay Bolton

“Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.” - Tywin

"People learn to love their chains." - Dany

Random thoughts:
- Yara/Asha was awesome.
- Arya had one of my favorite moments of the whole season.
- The showdown between Joffrey and Tywin can best be described by this gif. We needed Joffrey to get a kick in the pants, and I'll take this dress down to start.
- Ugh Theon, dick in a box, etc. I didn't need to see more of his torture, but at least they revealed the torturer as Roose Bolton's bastard son.
- I'm glad to see Sam had a stash of dragon glass - I should have remembered that he found a bundle.
- Bran's Rat Cook story was nicely timed to emphasize the absolute horror of what Walder Frey did.
- I was really, really hoping they wouldn't show Grey-Robb. Just when you thought Arya got out of it without seeing her dead loved ones, she had to see that. No wonder she killed the Frey bannermen.
- Thank you Cersei, for acknowledging your son is such an evil little brat.
- Jaime's back in King's Landing and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau played the hell out of the return. The expression on his face when he was pushed aside by the man in the street and when Cersei didn't leap up and hug him. Man. Feelings.
- Though I'm not sure if I wanted to spend time with Varys and Shae, Varys' speech and gesture to her was lovely.
- Also, Shae loves Sansa?!
- Sansa joking with Tyrion was sweet.
- The exchanges between Davos and Gendry made me smile - just two peasants from King's Landing who ended up in the wrong place.
- The ending with Dany struck me as completely underwhelming.

Okay, there was more meat than I initially gave the episode credit for. I clearly need to watch it again.

What did you think of the season finale?

June 3, 2013

Favorite quotes from Game of Thrones: The Rains of Castamere

It was a rough television weekend. We learned Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who – he’s my Doctor. Then on Sunday I watched the season three finale of Downton Abbey and The Rains of Castamere. Talk about a punch to the gut. I’ve been curious about how the wedding would play out since HBO announced they were adapting A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve also been dreading it. Social media exploded in a way I’ve never seen before, and I was glad to have the support group. It was the wedding heard around the world.

Check out my favorite quotes and thoughts about the episode after the image.
Beware spoilers.

“All men should keep their word. Kings most of all.” – Robb Stark
“Some day I'm going to put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull.” – Arya Stark
“The gods love to reward a fool.” – Brynden Tully

Well, let's get ready. The wine will flow red. The music will play loud. And we'll put this mess behind us.” – Walder Frey

“You're very kind, someday it'll get you killed.” – The Hound

"The city is yours, my queen." - Daario Naharis

“I can always see what's going on beneath a dress. Been at this a long time. I bet when you take that dress off everything stays right where it is. Don't drop an inch.” – Walder Frey (ugh)

Random thoughts:
- This episode gutted me as much as I thought it would. Knowing it was coming didn’t make it any easier for me. Once I saw the title of the episode, I had a hunch it was the Red Wedding so I had knots in my stomach yesterday. I was practically biting off my fingers during the episode in anticipation and fear. I wanted to hide behind something when I heard the first strains of The Rains of Castamere.
- I wish they would have shown more of Catelyn feeling the wedding was off. I would have preferred there to be the complaints about the band being bad, etc. In the episode, she didn’t seem to have her guard up until the doors were closed.
- I'm surprised they didn't call out the bread and salt as a guest right. We saw them eating it and it may have been referenced in an earlier season but it's important because they felt safe since Walder Frey gave them bread and salt.
- I sincerely hope they do not show a certain horrific thing next week that involves putting a… thing on a thing (don’t want to spoil it for non-book readers
- I know it’s HBO and hello, shock factor, but did they really need to have Robb bring his wife to the wedding and then have the massacre begin with her being stabbed repeatedly in the stomach? Seven hells.
- Dammit Roose Bolton.
- Arya is the strongest Stark. She’s witnessed absolute hell more than once now. I say poor kid, but I doubt she’d want my pity.
- Speaking of her, the scenes between her and the Hound were fantastic. Those two play off each other well, and I like seeing the Hound as a sort of caretaker instead of just a monster at Joffrey’s beck and call.
- They illustrated Bran’s special skills well – I mean it was weird, because hello, that’s the nature of it – but I think they showed it as best as they could.
- Was this the most Rickon has ever spoken? I think so. It broke my heart. I just want to hug each of the remaining Stark children for a week.
- I liked that Bran used “hodoring” as a verb.
- I was trying to will Jon to notice the presence of the other direwolves, but he didn’t listen. Still, good fight scene and showing of loyalty to the Night’s Watch.
- The hurt look on Ser Jorah’s face when Dany asked about Daario after they returned from Yunkai. Poor dude.
- I adored the bit between Gilly and Samwell. Someone in my watch group made a comment about how nerds always win.
- Good call on the lack of music during the end credits.

Overall, even though it was traumatic, I thought it was a great episode. It followed the narrative of the books pretty closely… I don’t think an episode of television has ever had quite that effect on me.

I need a drink after typing about this. The images are still burned into my brain. Even though I re-watch stuff, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to The Rains of Castamere.

What did you guys think? I’m especially curious to hear from those of you who haven’t read the books.
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