Category Archives: pop culture

Story & Review: Dive Bar Shirt Club and The Giant Jackalope

The Giant Jackalope illustration by Henry Chamberlain

It is always a pleasure to review anything that falls within the category of attire or accessory in the geek lifestyle. So, Comics Grinder is very happy to share with you Dive Bar Shirt Club. As the name implies, this is a club devoted to shirts. Each month you get a quality shirt honoring a dive bar chosen for its distinction and originality. A new dive bar design is featured every month and, once that month is up, that shirt is retired forever.

We all seek distinction and originality. It’s another way of simply saying that we are attracted to things that are cool. I was on the road, during a carefree summer in my youth, when I spotted what had to be the best roadside attraction I’d ever seen. It was an homage to the jackalope, that staple of Americana, the cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. This sucker was huge and it was perched atop a glorious dive bar. It was a warm summer night that seemed to promise adventure. I had to walk in.

Inside the bar, I did a double-take. The place was immaculate. I was expecting it to be a well-worn, musty, and gaudy place. But, no, this place was classy. And there was no carryover of the jackalope theme. Instead, the red leather booths were nicely kept and all the brass piping was polished. There were a couple of gents in suits looking very retro. Again, I was expecting a far more casual vibe. The waitress was a beauty all done up in a vintage dress. All this seemed too formal for a place in the middle of nowhere. I was outside a little town in Texas, not a Vegas casino in the ’50s.

Her name was Sadie. “What will you have, stranger?” she asked with the longest lashes I’d ever had the pleasure to admire.

I’d had a good look at the list of mixed drinks. When I read it on the menu, I had to have it. “I’ll take The Jackalope.”

Sadie just stared at me. Her eyes grew wide. With a tremble in her voice, she asked, “You mean, The Jackalope, right?”

“Yes,” I said firmly, “I’m here for The Jackalope!”

I must have raised my voice because the two fugitives from “Mad Men” turned to have a good look at me. They proceeded to get up from their booth and walk over to me.

“You’re really here for The Jackalope?”

I think I lost it at that point. “I don’t know what you people mean!” I yelled and ran out the front door.

I was heading for my car when it dawned on me. I slowly turned around and looked up. There it was. It hissed and glared at me. Then, with a mighty leap, that monster flew up into the air like the most lucid nightmare. This was followed by a massive thud which was quickly followed by the lightening speed of a creature from hell. And, hell yes, it was distinctive and original!

If you’re like me, you desire that added spice, that distinction and originality. You too can find it in a unique t-shirt from Dive Bar Shirt Club. In the video below, I’m sporting just the ticket. This Dive Bar Shirt Club t-shirt celebrates Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, California. This is one awesome combination of style and comfort.

Visit Dive Bar Shirt Club right here.

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Filed under America, Americana, Beer, Fashion, pop culture, Style

Interview: Mark Gottlieb chats about project with George Clayton Johnson

Émile Zola illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Mark Gottlieb is a composer and a lucky person to have been a lifelong friend of screenwriter George Clayton Johnson. This friendship led to a collaboration between Gottlieb and Johnson on “Zola,” a compelling musical that features the Dreyfus affair, a scandal that rocked France at the end of the 19th century and reverberates to this very day. There are a number of things to unpack and discuss here. We begin with an overview of what the infamous Dreyfus affair was all about and go from there, with plenty of recollections about the great ole storyteller, the timeless, George Clayton Johnson.

The Dreyfus affair focuses upon a wrongly accused man who made the perfect scapegoat for the time. Considering how Rod Serling was such a steadfast advocate for human rights, it is quite fitting to find George Clayton Johnson, one of Serling’s fellow writers on The Twilight Zone, as co-creator of this musical. Johnson was always a person to side with the nonconformist. So, it was natural when Gottlieb, in search of a libretto, came calling on George. The two entered upon a partnership and worked, off and on, on the Zola musical for many years. Since the death of George Clayton Johnson in 2015, the impetus has been to get the musical out into the world. To that end, Gottlieb is contacting like-minded souls such as myself to help spread the word. As someone who also got to enjoy a special connection with George, it is my pleasure to present to you this conversation I had with Mark Gottlieb recently.

Now, a little history: The Dreyfus affair occurred during France’s Third Republic. It was sparked by the wrongful imprisonment of French army captain Alfred Dreyfus in 1894. The matter would officially drag on until 1906. Dreyfus was convicted of treason for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans in December 1894. At first the public supported the conviction; it was willing to believe in the guilt of Dreyfus, who was Jewish. Much of the early publicity surrounding the case came from anti-Semitic groups (especially the newspaper La Libre Parole, edited by Édouard Drumont), to whom Dreyfus symbolized the supposed disloyalty of French Jews.

The effort to reverse the sentence was at first limited to members of the Dreyfus family, but, as evidence pointing to the guilt of another French officer, Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, came to light from 1896, the pro-Dreyfus side slowly gained adherents (among them journalists Joseph Reinach and Georges Clemenceau—the future World War I premier—and a senator, Auguste Scheurer-Kestner). The accusations against Esterhazy resulted in a court-martial that acquitted him of treason (January 1898). To protest against the verdict, the novelist Émile Zola wrote a letter titled “J’accuse,” published in Clemenceau’s newspaper L’Aurore. In it he attacked the army for covering up its mistaken conviction of Dreyfus, an action for which Zola was found guilty of libel.

What follows is my interview with Mark Gottlieb. Here we begin with the Dreyfus affair and quickly dig deeper into the issues involved. Then we steadily see how Gottlieb and Johnson joined together as a creative team. In the process, we get a unique inside view into the world of George Clayton Johnson, a unique voice in storytelling. He is best known for iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone like “Kick the Can,” and “Nothing in the Dark.” Among his work, he is also known for writing “Man Trap,” the first episode broadcast of Star Trek, as well as being the co-writer, with William F. Nolan, of the landmark science fiction novel, “Logan’s Run.” Lastly, I have to say, I believe this interview will really hook you in. The proper warm up and set up is done and off we go:

For the interview, click the link right here.

Stay tuned for more news on the Zola musical.

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Filed under France, George Clayton Johnson, Mark Gottlieb, Music, Musicals, pop culture, Social Justice

Village Voice Moves From Print to Digital

A Village Voice newspaper stand lays on the ground next to garbage in New York City’s East Village on Tuesday. The Village Voice, one of the oldest and best-known alternative weeklies in the U.S., announced that it will no longer publish a print edition.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One of those youthful memories that drifts up for me at various times is seeing a pile of issues of The Village Voice at a friend’s apartment. He liked going through them. Like me, he loved reading and writing. And, if you were serious about writing, you kept up with such publications on a regular basis. Before the internet, The Village Voice was one of those portals that gave you a taste of certain literary trends and urban happenings. It was fun to pore over the pages and even to simply handle this object made of paper, this symbolic series of messages from that bright big city, New York City, the epicenter of all things media and culture. If you aimed to be hip, wanted a ticket to the subculture, you read (and can still read!) The Village Voice. This publication means a lot of things to many people. For me, it was primarily a writer’s magazine. But no longer can you read new print issues, only digital moving forward.

Now, the end has come to that particular experience. The Village Voice has ceased its free print version, a staple of New York City life and urban life beyond. Well, the end occurred a long while back but this is the definitive end: absolutely no more paper copies! Is this really news? I’m not sure that it is as this transition from print to digital has been steadily going on for years. Just like typewriters and phone booths became extinct, so too will all print newspapers bite the dust.

For some steadfast followers of pop culture, they would like to claim some greater significance to the death of the print version of The Village Voice. To be sure, it does seem to be heart-breaking. But, let’s get a grip. All content moving forward is now digital and that’s great. Digital archives are a breeze compared to microfiche or, God forbid, musty old stacks of actual crumbling newsprint. There’s a reason that newspapers have always been printed on the cheapest paper imaginable. They were only meant to be read on the day, or week, they were published and subsequently used for practical purposes like wrapping fish.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there are plenty of nerds among us, and I count myself within this group, that can’t help but want to get all sentimental about such things as newspapers. Well, resist that urge. Unless you have more than ample space, say an attic, you don’t want to have a bunch of old copies of this or that newspaper or magazine providing little more than clutter. When was the last time you cracked open that classic issue of Life magazine? Never, right? It’s hard not to be a packrat.

Final print issue of The Village Voice

The practical concern over the shift from print to digital is about the various features in the print version surviving the transition. What about the columnists? And what about the cartoonists? Well, what about them? If a content provider is creating compelling content, then that content is going to find an audience, and it will survive the great transition.

For those of you who did not grow up with newspapers, you’re probably wondering what the big fuss is over. Newspapers, just like magazines, used to be far more powerful and influential. People took far more notice of them and relied upon them. Eyes lingered longer on the text, the photographs, the illustrations, and the comic strips! To this day, I have a memory of a distinctive caricature on the front page of The New York Observer. It was 1976, and I was a precocious tween. The cover featured Sen. Hubert Humphrey. It may have been an illustration by Levine. And the headline asked, “Will He Run?”

The bittersweet fact is that we’re saying goodbye to another link with history. Even as a kid, looking at the cover illustration of Humphrey, I knew that it reeked of the past. Humphrey’s image was being rehabilitated. This was before my time but I knew he was part of the Vietnam War, part of a past that we were steadily coming to terms with. Humphrey was part of the discredited past. Jimmy Carter was part of the future. Seeing that newspaper, holding it, reading it, I could tell there was something slow and quaint about this whole format, acting as much as a portal to the present as to the past.

Village Voice, April 10-16, 2013 issue

The bittersweet fact is that we are currently experiencing the long goodbye to all print publications. And they won’t go without a fight. For some oddball reason, the print version of Newsweek rose from the dead. It will finally die off soon enough. The publications that are least financially stable will drop out of the print game even sooner. The alt-weeklies, which many of us cherished in our youth, will concede to only being digital. For example, here in Seattle, both The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly already behave very much as digital entities with their weekly print versions mostly serving as a place to highlight the features that appeared on their respective websites that previous week.

Getting back to the features that used to have a secure home in print: the creators of observation pieces and comics should follow their heart as best they can if they can’t follow their wallet. Start a blog. In the age of newspapers, you had to tap dance, beg, and plead to join the party. Those days are over! To all you heavy sentimentalists, don’t forget, we are well into a new century. Dry off those tears. The Village Voice is still alive in the format for a new age. The print version was your dad’s Village Voice. Sorry, but we can only move forward.

One last thing, be sure to actually read, and support, The Village Voice. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it can only survive on sentiment. Visit and support The Village Voice right here.

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Filed under Alt-Weeklies, Comics, Culture, Newspapers, pop culture, The Village Voice

Seattle Focus: Surviving THE HAZE

Kayakers paddle in view of downtown Seattle, cloaked in a haze of smoke that swept down into the Puget Sound region from fires in British Columbia. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Pacific Northwest is hazy, hot, and bothered. So reports The Washington Post. It has really thrown off the routine of us Seattle natives.

Here in Seattle, we are very low-key. Many of us can tolerate grey skies most of the year. Some of us, like myself, are far more tolerant. I accept grey skies as part of the package. When we reach a sweet spot sometime in autumn, all that grey can be the most satisfying backdrop for contemplation and creativity. But not the haze we are currently suffering through.

The Haze, as some of us have gotten to calling it, is something sinister, a harbinger of climate change things to come. Or, one can hope, just one big temporary pain in the ass. Either way, it has cut into us. This time around, we are dealing with Canadian wildfire smoke. What will we be dealing with next time, and the time after that? Many of us moved to Seattle just to avoid having to face those kind of questions. We thought we’d forever said goodbye to such things as hurricanes and heat waves.

The Seattle Haze t-shirt

So, yeah, we don’t do well with oppressive weather. We can barely handle any snow in winter. For us, The Haze is a really big deal. For those of you with a sense of humor, there’s a t-shirt just waiting for you. Find it right here and here. Cartoonist Jennifer Daydreamer and I created it just for you.

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Filed under Humor, Pacific Northwest, pop culture, Satire, Seattle, T-shirts

The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Adapted as Graphic Novel

“Beatles: Yellow Submarine,” an official illustrated adaptation published by Titan Comics

What could be sweeter than a graphic novel adaptation of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine? Yes, Titan Comics has announced a licensing agreement with Apple Corps Ltd to publish such a work! The fan base for The Beatles is in a league all its own so this is a huge deal. If no Blue Meanies get in the way, the book will coincide with the animated film’s 50th Anniversary!

“Beatles: Yellow Submarine,” an official illustrated adaptation published by Titan Comics

The comic adaptation will be written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, Bongo Comics co-founder and creative director, as well as recently announced Executive Editor for MAD Magazine. The Beatles: Yellow Submarine official illustrated adaptation will launch in stores in 2018, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the animated musical fantasy film released in July 1968.

“Beatles: Yellow Submarine,” an official illustrated adaptation published by Titan Comics

Directed by George Dunning, Yellow Submarine was an animated adventure inspired by the music of The Beatles. Band members Paul, John, George, and Ringo join Captain Fred in his Yellow Submarine to journey to Pepperland to help free the land from the music-hating Blue Meanies.

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Filed under Comics, graphic novels, pop culture, The Beatles, Titan Comics

Interview: Mike Capozzola and ‘Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters!’

Mike Capozzola and “Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters!”

Mike Capozzola is a unique hybrid, a cartoonist and a stand-up comedian. He’s a professional in both for over 20 years. In fact, the two passions are inextricably linked. I enjoyed his set this last Saturday at Seattle’s Comedy Underground. Mike is based out of San Francisco and maintains a busy schedule so it was a real treat to get to catch his act while he was in town. I asked him about his process, specifically about a bit where he describes weird yet appealing movie scenarios, ending each description with, “Yeah, I’d see that.” I came to find out that this movie routine originated as a drawn-out cartoon. The concept as a cartoon did not seem to work. But, when he performed the material on stage, Mike found what he was looking for.

Mike kicked off his first night at Comedy Underground with his ongoing pop culture extravaganza, Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters. This is a multimedia show featuring all the things that us geeks enjoy: sci-fi, superheroes, and monsters. As Mike said during our talk, geek culture is everywhere today but it was a hard-won identity for kids growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. It wasn’t so cool to be a geek back then. That said, we can all freely celebrate being a geek now, like we kids from yesteryear could only dream of.

Mike Capozzola at the Comedy Underground in Seattle

The last time I had one of these free-for-all chats with Mike, I offered up the topic of leaf blowers. He had no problem with them. I took the opposing view. Sure, it’s an honest job but, to my mind, the art of leaf blowing can be overdone. I contend that rakes make for a sensible and quiet alternative for much of these tasks. Anyway, I tried a different tack this time and brought to the table the intrinsic character of Seattle. Given that it’s my hometown, I felt it fair for me to say that there’s some truth to stereotypes regarding a certain coolness and reserve to the natives. Capozzola, based upon is observations, took the opposing view.

Is Seattle Sweet, Bitter, or Just Right? That’s what I’d call our lighthearted search for Seattle’s soul. Overall, I think that my friend here was picking up some strong frontier vibes. And I can’t deny him that joy. Seattle does offer the comforts of urban living in close proximity to an abundance of natural wonder. Mike wanted to take the more sunny view of things too. And it was challenging for me to pursue my case that Seattle is too prim and proper while we were chatting outside in Pioneer Square, hands down the rowdiest part of town. Ongoing hijinks near us just played into Mike’s hands.

We had time to dissect a few other things too, namely Trump. Mike had this to say: “The day after the election, so many people felt defeated. Many thought they could turn to art. For comedians, this meant war. I remember Trump for the last thirty years as being treated as a punchline by the tri-state area media. To see it come to this is wild. It’s like the local screw-up, or Ronald McDonald, or a sled has suddenly become president. He’s given voice to a fringe element in the same way that you’d unlock a mystical box and unleash an ancient curse.” That, my friends, says it all. We chatted about how those of us in the Gen X demographic feel unfairly sandwiched between the mighty Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We were misfits to begin with so it figures. And we decried the overall lowering or lack of standards we live with today. Maybe America deserves a pro wrestler or Mark Wahlberg as their next president.

Contact Mike Capozzola with any questions, such as doing commissioned work or presenting his Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters show, at his website right here.

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Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Comedy Underground, Comics, Donald Trump, Geeks, Mike Capozzola, Monsters, pop culture, Seattle, Stand-up Comedy, Superheroes

7 Ways to Make Your Vaping Device Last Longer

Welcome to Vape Nation. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Editor’s Note: Comics Grinder strives to cover all aspects of our culture, including the rising trend in vaping. Well, we’ve come a long way in a few years. Here is a guest column by Collin DeSoto on some things to be mindful of regarding good care and maintenance of your vaping device.

Guest column by Collin DeSoto

Every vaper knows the hassle of their device breaking or not performing well, especially if they don’t have a spare at hand. But there are steps you can take to make your vaping device last longer, ensuring that it’s not only working correctly when you need it but saving you money too.

While vaping is cheaper than smoking traditional cigarettes, no one wants to be left out of pocket when their latest investment stops working before they’ve barely had a chance to enjoy it. With the cost of a single vaping device potentially being in the hundreds of dollars, it pays to take care of it, ensuring it continues to work for months or even years.

Try out these seven tips for making your vaping device last longer:

Avoid a burnt or dry hit

You’ll know if you’ve had a burnt or dry hit – it’ll cause a terrible taste. A burnt hit can lead to the coils heating the wicking material, which not only produces a taste you want to avoid but can damage your device too, severely reducing its lifespan.

A dry hit is usually caused by vaping when there’s either no juice or too little juice to heat. Make sure you keep an eye on the amount of e-juice that’s in your device before you switch it on and as you use it. A burnt hit can also happen if you hold down the power button for too long, causing the coil to overheat.

Regularly clean your coil

A coil that’s covered in gunk not only affects the flavor of the vape but how your device functions too. To really increase the lifespan of your device, take the time to keep it clean every few days, with a particular focus on the coil – you’ll get a consistently better taste too.

Most devices will come with cleaning instructions and you can even purchase a cleaning kit, ensuring your device remains fresh –as long as you remember to use it frequently.

User lower levels of VG

When you choose an e-liquid, the base will be a combination of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG). You can get varied combinations to suit exactly what you’re looking for. Liquids that have a higher content of VG will result in a vape that feels smoother and thicker and produces more vapor.

While some vapers prefer high levels of VG, it can damage your device, reducing its lifespan and clogging up coils quicker. If you really want your device to last longer, try e-liquids that have higher levels of PG. Or if you want to stick to your current combination increase how frequently you clean your coils and choose a device that has larger coils to prevent gunk gathering.

Vape in short bursts

Having your device constantly turned on will damage it and lead to it overheating. If your aim is to increase the length of time before you need to pay up for another device, short bursts are the way to go.

Inhaling deeply or several times close together means the coil gets too hot and doesn’t have enough time to cool between vapes. Try to give the device a chance to cool between hits and take your finger off the power button.

Store it correctly

If you’ve gone through a few devices and you don’t usually give a thought about how they’re stored, it could be time to change your habits. Ideally, your vaporizer should be stored within a dry case that’s kept out of direct sunlight. Through proper storage, you can increase how long your device will last for.

Recharge your battery

How often do you recharge the battery on your vaporizer? You shouldn’t let it drain completely but you also shouldn’t let it overcharge either, so you need to keep an eye on your battery power as you vape to boost how long the battery will last.

Try to get into the habit of charging your battery every time you store your device.

Disconnect your cartomizer and battery

If you’re not going to be using your e-cig for an extended period of time, such as when you’re asleep, disconnect your cartomizer, the section that contains the coil and e-liquid, from the battery. Even when not in use, it can continue to drain the battery a little and through disconnecting you can increase the time between necessary charge, helping to make your vaping device last longer.

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Filed under E-cigs, E-Liquid, Essays, Lifestyle, pop culture, Trends

IMAGE COMICS FOUNDERS REUNITE AT EMERALD CITY COMICON 2017 TO CELEBRATE 25TH ANNIVERSARY (March 3, 2017)

Emerald-City-Comicon-Seattle

Emerald City Comicon 2017, here in Seattle, is fast approaching. It is a four-day event starting Thursday, March 2nd, and running through Sunday, March 5th. It is certainly a big deal for us locals as well as the Pacific Northwest and all points beyond. Image Comics will make a significant showing this year with a rare gathering of its founders to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Image Comics. This special panel is scheduled for Friday, March 3rd. Be sure to come to ECCC to see Image Comics founders Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Comics, Emerald City Comicon, Image Comics, pop culture, Seattle, Superheroes

Movie Review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

I went to see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” at the Seattle Cinerama Theatre just to make things even more special. Any Star Wars movie is a special event and this latest installment is no different. The big draw for me is the winning performance by Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, daughter of a great rebel hero who must prove that her father did not fall in league with the Empire. Her journey becomes more complicated as she runs into conflict with her handler, Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna). Our story takes place in vintage Star Wars, just before 1977’s A New Hope. This movie opens the window further to show just what wonders still lie ahead with a Disney-owned Star Wars franchise.

I’m not a hardcore Star Wars fan but even I could appreciate Peter Cushing back on the screen, digitally re-created, in order to reprise his role as the villain Grand Moff Tarkin. Most of the other CGI trickery was all Wookiee to me. But I did catch the vintage vibe here and there with cantina characters popping up and X-Wing fighter pilots back in action. George Lucas must have decided early on that his Rebel Alliance fighters were going to look more like average folks than hardened warriors. Any minute, you could expect your own grandmother to pop on the screen. In fact, one of the pilots does look to be someone’s grandmother.

The plot is pretty straightforward: earnest and lovely Jyn Erso must press on, save her dad, and save the rebellion. There’s a bunch of doublespeak in the interim and good-natured talk of believing in the force within you. There’s nothing really here with the iconic quality of a Yoda but that’s okay. We’re already treading on iconic vintage soil so that’s plenty. But there is one compelling addition in the form of the robot K-2SO brilliantly voice by Alan Tudyk.

The gang is all here.

The gang is all here.

Let me tell you a few things about K-2SO. He’s a big guy, bigger and brasher than C-3PO. I had a little girl seated next to me and she perked up every time that K-2SO acted up. He’s none too refined at times. Where C-3PO relied upon cunning, K-2SO is just as likely to rely upon brawn. In one scene, when a gatekeeper asks if he requires any help, K-2SO simply nods, raises his fist, and pounds the guy to death. It’s a pretty odd scene but easy enough in context to pass over. There’s a war on, you know. In fact, for one quick scene, we close in on ground forces that may as well be in Syria. Then we zap back into space for a bit and, ultimately, we see that everything does not rely just upon brawn but on Jyn Erso guiding the rebels back to a new sense of hope.

One spoiler, perhaps. You probably already know this. It won’t hurt anything really if you don’t but Carrie Fisher appears at the very end. It is a CGI version of her 19-year-old self and she claims victory for the rebellion and welcomes a new hope. That really touched me. The whole experience of seeing a Star Wars movie and in such a regal movie house brought home to me the still enduring power of cinema. With people consuming content is every conceivable way possible, it is reassuring that we can all be drawn back to a more basic and communal activity as going to the movies, to go and sit together to see the big event on the screen. It is not nearly the same powerful experience as it was for moviegoers in the heyday of the box office but it’s still something. It comes pretty darn close.

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Filed under Carrie Fisher, Movie Reviews, movies, pop culture, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Seattle, Seattle Cinerama, Star Wars

DVD Review: STAR TREK BEYOND

“STAR TREK BEYOND” (2016) PARAMOUNT PICTURES

“STAR TREK: BEYOND” (2016) PARAMOUNT PICTURES

The latest Star Trek movie pulls us in with great ferocity and it never lets go. “Star Trek Beyond” makes an excellent case for the franchise as it celebrates its 50th anniversary going back to the original television program. With the third in the new Star Trek movies, first launched by director J.J. Abrams, we have reached a point where we can afford a touch more subtlety. And, having explored the Kirk/Spock dynamic rather thoroughly, it’s a good change of pace to turn a bit more focus this time around to Scotty. Yes, Simon Pegg, as Scotty, comes away one of the big winners this time around. Pegg co-wrote the script and, it may come as no surprise, he found a lot of new wrinkles in which to place his character.

By and large, this latest Star Trek film continues with an action-heavy plot. What it tries to do is deliver on some of the less flashy aspects to the franchise and it does a fairly good job of that. You do get a generous amount of banter between the characters. You do get thrills and plot twists. But, even more than action, what a movie franchise of this caliber can always use, considering its stellar cast and resources, is more compelling content. Ease up on the warp drive, breathe in and out, and allow the story and the characters to engage with the audience. But, hold on, I do think this movie is quite engaging and it is not without its thoughtful moments.

Now, this is what is going on right. First, you’ll have a good time with Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. He’s grown with the character. He remains very credible, the guy you want to follow and root for. You get every bit of gravitas you’d expect as Kirk rallies his crew: “We’ve come to understand there is no such thing as the unknown, only the temporarily hidden.” Early in, we follow Kirk down a corridor during a quiet moment. He ponders to himself, “The more time we spend out here, the harder it is to tell when one day ends and the next one begins. It can be a challenge to feel grounded even when gravity is artificial.” Ah, those are the type of nuanced moments of reflection we want. Actually, a little more in and we have a marvelous exchange between Kirk and Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) over some bourbon they found in Chekov’s locker.

What J.J. Abrams aimed for all along was a high wow factor. And that is definitely in place here. It’s very useful to critique a movie within context. That said, as far a providing an all-ages wow factor, this movie is off the charts. Honestly, a lot of what we want is an ultimate razzle dazzle contemporary version of the original show. This is exactly the sort of thing that a big studio is designed to do. The opening sequence, for example, is the gold standard. Kirk walks into an exotic looking chamber. High above is a council of elders made up of imposing gargoyles. Kirk thinks he’s there for a simple ceremony until he’s subjected to harsh questioning by the tribal leader. Things turn ugly and CGI mayhem ensues. It has just the right touch of humor, Kirk swagger, and element of surprise.

This movie is definitely not to be taken for granted. At the end of the day, yes, this is an adventure with an imposing villain, Krall (Idris Elba), and his legion of deadly fighters. You can count on the original show on steroids in that regard. But there’s more to it as well. Running throughout all three latest installments is a grounded storyline: Spock (Zachary Quinto) struggles with survivor’s guilt after his home planet of Vulcan was destroyed. And he finds in Lt. Urhua (Zoe Saldana) a compelling human connection. Perhaps more powerful than his connection to Kirk. We seek a good balance in these kind of movies and, overall, this Star Trek movie delivers. And, if we keep asking for more, that’s alright. This is Star Trek we’re talking about after all.

“Star Trek Beyond” is available on DVD and Blu-ray as of November 1st. And, if you’re a Seattle local, you can always stop by Video Isle and pick up a DVD or Blu-ray rental at Seattle’s best video rental store. Visit them right HERE. And visit them on Facebook right HERE.

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Filed under pop culture, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Trek, Video Isle