Monthly Archives: July 2011

THE AVENGERS: SO LONG TO WAIT, YET I’M ALREADY SALIVATING

Okay, just to mess with my update schedule (it seems), the first Avengers trailer was released last night by Yahoo! Movies.  It’s not exactly a trailer though, it’s actually the clip that aired after the credits in Captain America: The First Avenger.  And even then, most of the clip is the final thirty seconds of Captain America and about ten seconds of the Avengers clip (which was originally about thirty seconds long).  Either way, the internet is abuzz and I promised myself that I’d write about the Avengers as soon as the first trailer was released. 

To start, here’s the clip:

I apologize to Yahoo! Movies for using a youtube version, but WordPress is picky about where I can embed video from.  If you’d like to view it in HD, which I thoroughly recommend (or if the youtube version has been flagged and removed), you can view it here.

So, what do we have in those…30 seconds?  Well, about ten seconds of actual footage and twenty seconds of a motion poster with a Samuel L. Jackson voiceover.  Narrowing this down,

WHAT DO WE SEE IN THE TEN SECONDS OF FOOTAGE? 

Well, there’s about three seconds of snapshots: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner [The Hulk] (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Then we have a brief shot of Thor with his arms folded.  Behind him, we have Captain America, Black Widow, and Bruce Banner standing around a table with what appears to be the S.H.I.E.L.D.(employer of Agent Coulson from Iron Man and Thor) emblem on the wall.

Followed by a very brief shot of Jackson before some neat looking Minority Report-esque computer screens.  And then we see Tony Stark making fun of Thor’s hammer toss (that’s a bright move).  Which brings about the final shot, Thor tossing his hammer (which actually rotates now, unlike in Thor).

Then we have twenty seconds of motion poster and Jackson talking about the Avengers. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Well, as the title specified, I’m already drooling over this film.  Which, I have to say, is kind of surprising.  I have never been a fan of the Hulk films, nor was I particularly impressed by Thor.  But I’m hopeful, neither of those two can have an overly large share of screen time in this film as there are a bunch of other main characters.  Furthermore, the budget for this film must be exorbitant as Marvel’s basically unleashing half of their heroes in one film.  

For those reasons, I will remain optimistic. 

 

 

The anticipated release date for The Avengers is May 4, 2012.

COWBOYS & ALIENS: AN INVASION ALMOST INCONSEQUENTIAL

Like every Thursday night, I went out last night to catch a midnight movie.  Unlike most weekends though, I had three choices: Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Smurfs, or Cowboys & Aliens.  While the first didn’t seem a bad choice, my companion didn’t feel like watching a Steve Carell picture.  The second, however, seemed terrible from the first trailer I viewed.  So, I’ll be boycotting the annoying film and its atrocious use of 3D graphics.  Ergo, my friend and I went to see Cowboys & Aliens last night.  (This seems like an awkward case of the game Clue.  It was Tom and his friend, at the AMC, with the Sci-Fi Western.)

THE GOOD

To start, this is an action film.  So we should expect a fair number of explosions, guns and knives aplenty, and enough jaw punches to pulp Jay Leno’s epic mandible.  In these respects, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and the aliens certainly deliver.  From the opening scene in which Craig kills three riding bandits/bounty hunters, to the first invasion sequence as the town explodes and its citizens are captured, and finally with the concluding battle against the invading aliens as the town’s forces war with the entire invasionary force in a canyon, the action scenes stand up to today’s standards.

As a fan of westerns, I enjoyed the historic elements present in this film.  I enjoyed the costuming, seeing that the characters were well dressed without coming off as pretentious, up until the end when everybody’s living off the new gold market.  Aside from the costumes, I also enjoyed the set design.  Classic western town elements were present, from the local saloon, to the town jail.  While I felt that a bit too little time was spent in these areas so as to recognize the detailing, it seemed well put together at first glance.

THE BAD

Like I said before, this is an action film.  So, while we’re expecting gratuitous violence and accompanying one-liners, we should not expect impressive character growth or any real depth to this film.  Like before, the film delivers here as well.  

Craig plays the stereotypical western badass.  He is Jake Lonergan, an ex-bandit amnesiac who begins the film working only to repair his memories but eventually sides with the townsfolk to return their abducted kin.  Ford portrays the crotchety, old bastard bigot and corrupted cattle owner, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde.  Like all main cast seemingly misanthropes, he eventually comes to forget his racism and show compassion for his ignored son. 

On the other side of these awfully shallow or predictable characters, we have the confusing and unpredictable.  Most notably, Olivia Wilde portrays a young woman, Ella Swenson, who follows Craig throughout the first seventy-five percent of the film.  Her reasoning is that the aliens had abducted her people long before the film began and she believes that he can locate them.  Then she’s struck by one of the aliens, dies, is cremated, and then comes out of the fire.  She then informs everybody that she’s an alien who has taken a human form so as to work alongside Lonergan and the town to destroy the aliens that have no sanctity for life (caring only for the local gold).  She ends up sacrificing herself to destroy the alien ship in a large explosion before it can return to the alien home-world.

THE UGLY

The biggest issue of this film, aside from Wilde’s phoenix return and subsequent trans-species romance with Lonergan, was that deaths were almost completely ignored in this film.  The preacher’s death seemed to be the one to which the characters showed the most emotion for, but that took place in the first half of the film.  Wilde’s death was a brief, “He’s dead, Jim”, but she comes back, and then proceeds to die again, with the latter death being unspoken as all the characters simply disburse.  Lonergan’s wife/lady-friend from before the film’s beginning, who we later discover was disintegrated upon the alien ship, similarly was left without feeling.  Craig walks into their old house, sets down some flowers, sees a hummingbird, and then walks out smiling.  Even in the final moments of the film, when the quiet town is seen to be growing and changing because of the new gold, everyone is grinning without any lamentation over their fallen comrades and lovers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At this point, I’ve said it several times: this is an action film.  Therefore, it will be viewed by an audience who want action.  They’ll not be looking for character development or historical accuracy or any real emotion.  They’ll be looking for gun shots, haymakers, and explosions.  For that reason, this film will definitely satisfy them.  It does the western genre justice while simultaneously developing a new type of alien (large, green, neck-less beast things with superior technology and multiple sets of arms) for the general public to mull over. 

So, while I doubt that this movie will be a huge success (though I could be wrong with their advertising pushes), I’m sure it will be enjoyed by many.  And, if you ever wanted to see Daniel Craig ride off into the sunset atop a horse, this movie will not leave you disappointed.

THE HUNGER GAMES

This is a bit awkward for me.  There’s a film adaptation being made for a young adult novel that I haven’t read.  (In my defense, the series is on my list.)  That doesn’t happen very often.  Yet here we are.

So, after a bit of online research and quizzing my younger brother (who has read this series), I think I have a general idea of what takes place.  It’s a bit like The Running Man and Gamer and Battle Royale and a multitude of other novels and films and television programs with a premise of a selected group of people fighting for somebody’s entertainment whilst the lives of those engaged in combat are in jeopardy.  However, unlike its predecessors, The Hunger Games has been a huge success among North American young adults.

What takes place?  Well, if you’ve never heard of the examples listed above, here’s a brief synopsis.  The story takes place in a dystopian future (rather played out in modern young adult novels) called Panem (the ruins of modern-day North America).  There, an annual reality television program called the Hunger Games are held in which one boy and one girl are selected from each of the twelve districts (states in Panem) and are forced to fight to the death with the other competitors until only one is left standing.  Beyond the basic premise, we have some character action that bores me.  The lead protagonist is a female archer/huntress who’s entangled in a love triangle with two males, a hunter and a baker.  Ergo, my hyper-simplified mind has turned The Hunger Games into a dystopian Twilight.

Evidently, I’m not particularly excited about this film.  Well, not the story at least.  That said, there are a few good points.  The first is Danny Elfman.  I’m a fan of his work and have high expectations for this film’s score now that his name’s attached to it.  Aside from the magically musical ginger, I also took some enjoyment in the brief and pitifully vague trailer (called a “motion poster”).  With a motion poster instead of a trailer, I’ve no idea how impressive the cinematography may be, but I’m hopeful.  If the story doesn’t satisfy, perhaps the visuals and musical accompaniment will.

I will update as the studio releases information.  Anticipated release date is March 23, 2012.

THE FIRST AVENGER (CAPTAIN AMERICA FILM REVIEW)

I have to say, I really love midnight film showings.  Almost invariably, you’ll view the film in a theatre packed with the titular character’s greatest fans.  The amassment of viewers will undoubtedly cheer at every punched jaw, gasp when our protagonist is about to be executed, and cheer some more when they escape their doomed fate.  Somehow, however, I did not experience this last night.  Rather, I viewed Captain America: The First Avenger in a near empty theatre, no more than twenty-five people in attendance. 

Regardless, those who were present enjoyed the film.

THE GOOD

Where should a film revolving around World War II do it’s best?  In the war scenes.  Allow me the assuage your fears for another superhero film by saying that the cinematographers did an excellent job with the large-scale fight scenes.  Watching Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) invade enemy bases, punch out Hydra guards, and release four hundred prisoners from rows of jail cells was immensely satisfying.  The further Michael Bay-esque explosions in the background appropriately added to the atmosphere.

But beyond the action (in an action film), what did I like?  Well, I was appreciative of the film’s casting director whom I believe did an excellent job in this film.  All of the characters seemed appropriate for their roles from Chris Evans to Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter) to Hugo Weaving (Johann Schmidt/Red Skull).  My favorite cast member however, was Tommy Lee Jones.  I’m regularly enamored with his characters so this is nothing new and, like he does in virtually every film, he added comedic relief to this film with his gruff sarcasm. 

Though not out of place for a comic book hero, I was not expecting much from the dialogue in this film.  Unlike the stereotypical monologues found in the pulp pages, the dialogue in this film seemed balanced and logical, while still coming from virtually one-dimensional characters.  What I found the best was Evans final dialogue with Atwell just before he crashes the plane.  It wasn’t overly dramatic or a depressing goodbye, it was the emotionally fulfilling avoidance of saying goodbye that alluded to the underlying romance in the film while not allowing the traditional action film to be dragged down by it. 

Finally, like all of the Avenger hero films thus far, Captain America has a scene that shows after the credits.  Unlike the previous films that only alluded to the next hero in the series, this scene is essentially a full trailer for the Avengers film.  While I’ll, in turn, write a review on that trailer soon, all I have to say here is that the trailer is excellent and certainly worth waiting through the credits for.

THE BAD

While I greatly enjoyed this film (I suppose I’m a bit of a superhero geek at heart), it wasn’t perfect.  In fact, it made a fair number of mistakes with the first being that it suffers from some truly dreadful montage scenes. 

The first of these is when Steve Rogers is only Captain America on stage, selling war bonds to upper class Americans back at home.  It’s about five minutes of dancing girls, Evans selling bonds, and watching him poorly stage-punch a vaudevillian Hitler.  While it’s not particularly upsetting, it grows old as soon as Captain America learns his lines (in the beginning, he’s reading them off of his shield).

The other, considerably more dreadful montage takes place after Captain America becomes a battlefield hero.  Just after releasing the four hundred prisoners and returning to base, we have a two-to-three minute montage of Captain America kicking butt with his team, blowing up elephant-sized tanks, and having Red Skull show up after the slaughter and shaking his fist ruefully.  Scenes like these are what scare people about superhero films.  Moreso than completely one-dimensional characters, it’s the cheesy lines and illogical behavior of the villains.  Watching Red Skull shake his fist at the thought of Captain America makes the film’s villain seem almost comical which is completely destructive for the horrifying mystical Nazi. 

Beyond the montage scenes, I found the pacing of the film to be lacking.  My brother kept saying that the film could have been broken into three films and, while completely wrong (though they may have been three comic books), I understand what he was trying to get at.  The film has three major points of action: the initial invasion and prison break, a train-heist of sorts, and the final battle.  The issue is that, from the point when Steve Rogers is irradiated into Captain America, there’s little to no downtime.  It’s action, Action, ACTION!  It seems as if each of these action scenes is broken by a few minutes of dialogue about whatever just happened and a one-liner. 

Finally, I felt the defeat of Red Skull lacked the fulfillment of being beaten by Captain America.  Instead, Red Skull essentially destroys himself in a manner strangely reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He’s destroyed by holding a Cosmic Cube (Marvel universe construct thingie) and transported into space or something.  The scene just looked as if it was channeling other films with the Indiana Jones death and alluding awfully heavily to Thor and Norse mythos. 

THE UGLY

There’s little else to say negative about this film aside from the external references it kept making.  After some reflection, I can accept the Thor references as they’ll be teaming up together in The Avengers

However, I cannot accept the Raiders of the Lost Ark death and a few others.  The first of these is a short series of Evel Knievel stunts that Captain America takes on a motorbike.  While I’ve nothing against the motorbike, feeling that it’s thoroughly American and a fitting means of transportation for a human superhero, this film messed it up. 

Then, after watching the Captain jump of ramps as things explode behind him, we’re forced to watch a chase scene with our protagonist and team of leather-garbed Hydra agents riding their choppers through a forest and fighting with laser weapons.  It screamed Mad Max and left me puzzled over why the film needed this thirty second scene.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Though my negative thoughts are often greater in number than the positive things I’ll say about a film, that’s simply the routine here.  Altogether, I greatly enjoyed watching this film.  It’s refreshing to have such a stereotypically “good” superhero take to the silver screen after every other studio has aimed for the antihero in the last decade.  While I would quickly lose favor with this if it became the standard, it was fun to watch and I greatly recommend this film to anybody who enjoys superhero or action films.  Also, with minimal graphic violence (save for one Hydra agent being instantly chopped up by a plane propeller towards the end of the film) it’s an excellent one for children.

THOUGHTS ON THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

While it’s a little early for me to write a review for The Amazing Spider-Man, I think the internet and it’s lack of time-consciousness (ex. Duke Nukem) has given me permission to start talking about movies and other things before they’ve become available to the public.  Let the rumor mill begin.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Well, I’ve been loosely following the development of The Amazing Spider-Man for about five months now and my opinions on the film have changed greatly over this time.  At first, I didn’t think much of the film, believing that the Spiderman market was oversaturated because of the last decade’s trilogy.  Then, after seeing leaked set pictures of Andrew Garfield in his suit, I grew upset with the casting.  All I could think was that the producers had actually managed to get the one actor in Hollywood who seems weaker than Toby McGuire.  Suffice it to say, I was not thinking much of this film.

VOLTA (RECENT DEVLOPMENTS)

So, my initial feelings for this film fall between indifference and passive indignance.  Then along comes the first trailer:

And now I have high hopes for this film.

Starting with the shot of Peter and his parents, I’m already enjoying the casting of this film.  Peter’s father is being played by Campbell Scott, whom I like for his work in Royal Pains and because he looks like Liam Neeson.  More than Scott though, I’m enjoying that they’ve cast Martin Sheen to play Ben Parker.  Though I’m sure that it will break my heart to watch Sheen die, I’m bound to enjoy every bit of dialogue he has in this film.  Finally, there’s Emma Stone playing Gwen Stacey.  After seeing her performance Easy A, I’m pretty sure that she’s my favorite young actress.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While I’m still unsure of how entertaining Andrew Garfield’s part will be, and by the last forty seconds of the trailer employing some painful CGI, I have fairly high hopes for The Amazing Spider-Man. 

I’ll be sure to write more on this as further information and trailers are released,

IT ALL ENDS

Well, it was supposed to.  So, I just got back from the theatre about fifteen minutes ago after viewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2 in 3D.  And, well, this is what I thought:

THE GOOD

I’ll try my best to do this chronologically, which has me start with Gringotts Wizarding Bank.  I thought the visuals in this scene were brilliant and exciting, coming in stark contrast to the scenes that had preceded it.  I was particularly fond of the rotating rail-car that Harry and the group used to access Bellatrix’s vault.  I thought the dark and wet cavern they travelled through was well designed.  Finally, I thought the vault looked good, as did the multiplying gold trinkets and cups.

After this scene…well, we skip like half the film, and I pick up enjoyable moments in the fortification of Hogwarts and the main battle scene. 

First, I enjoyed the reunion of Harry with McGonagall in the hall.  I felt that, like many characters in this film and throughout the entire series, she was underrepresented.  She’s one of my favorite characters and, while there was considerable emotional depth whenever she came onscreen, there could have been more had she more dialogue.  Listening to her welcome Harry back to school, telling off Filch, or explaining to Flitwick that Voldemort would kill him regardless of the name he used conveyed more emotion than most other characters throughout the entire film.

Second, I enjoyed McGonagall enchanting the statues of the castle to life.  While the CGI wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was certainly fun to see a stone soldier leap from a pedestal and land on one knee.  Furthermore, the visual of the soldiers standing at attention, guarding the bridge to Hogwarts was well done. 

Third, and likely the best scene from the film, was Molly Weasley’s battle against Bellatrix Lestrange.  Beginning with Molly’s best line (EVER) “Not my daughter, bitch!” at Bellatrix’s provocation, they duel upon a set of bleachers with Molly killing Bellatrix about fifteen seconds after the duel began.  Bellatrix’s death, however, was a bit off.  Instead of leaving a corpse like a normal dying creature, she explodes into a cloud of shards. 

Fourth, Neville Longbottom slicing apart Nagini the snake.  Simply an epic image, standing out in the minds of those who’d seen the previous films as being in stark contrast to the Neville who tripped over his own robes and was paralyzed by Hermione when trying to stand against her. 

After the main battle, there are two endings.  The main ending in which Harry destroys the Elder Wand and then the epilogue.  I enjoyed the main ending as it finally redeemed Harry’s character for me.  Often he would complain of his fate as the boy who lived and simultaneously steal attention from everyone else on Earth.  However, in this one moment, Harry destroys the Elder Wand, leaving behind a guarantee of greatness and/or excitement.  As for the epilogue, I felt that it was unnecessary both in the book and the film.  In the film though, it left the realm of unnecessary and entered that of confusing.  I’ll get to that in the next section, however.  What I liked in this scene, was the conversation between Harry and his son, probably the most understandable example of emotion throughout the film and certainly the most welcome in my mind.

In general, I felt that the actors did well.  I recognize that most, it not all, of my issues with this film lie in the writing.  So I applaud the actors on ending the series well.  I feel that they did excellently, save for a few whom I’ll point out in the next section.

THE BAD

As a fan of the novels, this could be quite long, but I’ll try to keep it short. 

My first issue was with the dragon guarding the vault at Gringotts.  While others have told me that this is the better rendering of a dragon done in any of the Potter films, the image left me feeling off.  I kept finding issues with the animation that may or may not have truly existed.  This left me with the thought that, at some points, I think the dragon had too much detail. 

Now, I’ve decided to depart from chronologically naming individual issues to sweeping generalities. 

The romance between Ron and Hermione was rushed and therefore comical.  After having ignored it for much of the first film, the second attempted to rush the romance between Hermione and Ron, creating and hour and a half of poorly timed kisses, much hand-holding, and lost screen time in hugs.  The most noticeable of these was the long kiss between Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets after a wave of water flows over them.  It just randomly occurs, then it cuts to Voldemort screaming over his just-destroyed horcrux.  The follow-up of screaming to the kiss just made the scene hilarious.

Next, major characters were either completely ignored or had single-line cameos in this film when they should have delivered pieces of instrumental or at least memorable dialogue.  Case in point, Lupin and Tonks.  I hardly remember seeing Tonks in the first Deathly Hollows film and, in this one, the only times I saw her were walking, stretching her hand to meet Lupin’s, and then as a corpse.  Now, this seems like a fan-based issue, but it also to do with the characters being alienating if one considers this a stand-alone film as well.   

Beyond ignored characters, many of the deaths were undervalued.  Now, in any major battle, the casualties will prevent much grief being spared to individuals.  That said, certain deaths should have stood out more.  Fred’s death was undervalued because it’s forgotten almost immediately after the eight seconds of wailing on-screen.  Lupin and Tonk’s deaths are undervalued because they’re not mourned by anybody, merely noticed by Harry.  In a strange twist of fate, the most notable deaths seemed to be Goyle’s and the head goblin of Gringotts, both of whom perished in large fires.

To my few qualms with the acting, it mostly comes up with Voldemort.  I’m not sure if the blame lies with the actor or the writers, but virtually all of the actions that took place in this film felt awkward.  Everything from witticisms to movements felt forced and out of character for what is supposed to be The Dark Lord.

Finally, the epilogue.  I remember having issues with this when I first read the book and thinking, before the movie had began, that I’d detest it here as well.  Yet, as I wrote above, it contained one of my favorite moments.  That said, it had more than it’s fair share of issues.  First, if this had been a single film, the epilogue would have been completely pointless, extending simple characters far beyond that which they should go.  Taken as a series, it makes a bit more sense.  However, it was largely unexplained as to whom the children were, Teddy Lupin being left up to the novel fan to recognize at all.  Beyond that, whether you’ve read the novel or not, the scene feels forced, like the film could have ended just before the scene began.

THE UGLY

(This is where the fan of the novels notes the inconsistencies in a calm and eloquent manner.)

WHAT HAPPENED TO NEVILLE MCBADASS?!?!  In the final novel, Neville Longbottom is supposed to assume leadership of Dumbledore’s Army, basically become the unsung hero defender of Hogwarts, and essentially look like a young Mad-Eye Moody by the end.  Instead, we have a slightly taller version of the bumbling Neville we’ve always known, who has really only taken the helm of leadership because nobody else would.  It was less the alternate boy who lived and more of a temporary stand-in for Harry while he was out.

I’m still pissed about the crummy death sequences.  Lupin and Tonks, Fred, even the Creevey kid were more or less ignored.  I recognize that a lot of people died in the seventh book, but Hedwig and Dobby were mourned for minutes, not seconds.  I feel that the other major and minor characters deserve at least some semblance of this.

The epilogue.  Like I said before, it was bad in the book because it left you too happy.  Or it tried to do so.  Here, it left you with a bunch of faces you wouldn’t recognize if you weren’t looking for them, and portrayed the adult original cast rather cheaply.  After almost two decades, the only real changes are that Ginny has a terrible haircut and that Ron is fat. 

Now, the point I’ve been waiting for, creative license.  Specifically, Harry jumping off the bridge while hugging Voldemort.  Everybody who has seen any of the trailers knows exactly what I’m talking about.  What the hell was that?  “Let’s finish this like we started it, together.”  It’s a great action line, but seriously, if the movie ended with them both falling to their deaths, I’d have laughed my way out of the theatre.  Instead however, Voldemort flies around a bit, their faces become one, and they land to finish the fight.  It was a pointlessly added scene that upset me the first time I saw it in the trailers and it upsets me now because it was funny when it shouldn’t have been.

There are countless other inconsistencies I could be upset about, but I’ll try to end it here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As a film, and only as a film, it was pretty good.  In fact, while this is news to nobody, it’s a must-see of the summer.  But then again, people often don’t have good taste.  However, taste is a nonissue here.  The movie is a spectacle worth viewing and is likely to entertain many.

Stricter fans of the novels will obviously have their qualms with this film as they had with its predecessors.  Beyond the norm though, they may have more issues with this one than some of the others. 

In the end, the very end, as this is where it all ends, it ended well.  I think they (the actors, writers, producers, etc.) did a good job and left me satisfied with the way this eight-part series concluded.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

Well, I seem to be dying more than I should…

If I remember correctly, it’s been something like two and a half weeks since my Transformers post.  While poor for my posting schedule, it was a non-issue as no major movies were released until three days ago and the books I read weren’t bestsellers of any sort.  So, what have I been doing with this incredible amount of free time?

First major event was the Bataan Death March.  (Immediately upon writing this, it seems necessary to disclose that I’m not trying to offend any cultures.  It’s a saying in my family that, whenever somebody recreationally hurts themself in an activity, they’re reenacting the Bataan Death March.) 

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to go on a backpacking trip and persuaded Ed that he did as well.  So, we planned to go on the Wednesday that I last posted.  However, Ed was ill and we didn’t get back from the movie until about three in the morning.  Backpacking on three or four hours of sleep would have been murder, so we postponed it a day.  Thursday morning, I picked up Ed at seven twenty that morning.  We stopped at Winchell’s for coffee and donuts, and then drove to Will Rogers State Park.  We began the Backbone Trail with heavy packs and high spirits.  Sadly, the high spirits would not last.  Within a few miles, Ed was stumbling on the steep inclines.  His legs would cramp and we’d pause for a few minutes until the heat forced us to press on.  Despite the pauses, I have to applaud Ed’s persistence.  On multiple occasions, I offered to turn around and end the hike, but Ed never opted to return. 

About six hours after we began our hike, we made it to Musch Camp, where we’d be spending the night.  After unrolling the bed rolls, we just napped for a few hours before actually setting up camp.  We’d have probably spent the night on the ground had it not been for the annoying insects.  So, we set up the tents, ate spam sandwiches, and went to bed around eight.  Sadly, I grew paranoid and stayed up for another three hours listening to a myriad of frightening sounds. 

I woke around eight, washed up, and drank some water.  I asked Ed how he was feeling and whether he thought he’d be able to do the ten-mile hike back.  He told me that he probably couldn’t, so I told him to sit tight and I’d bring the car.  I grabbed a bottle of water (big mistake) and a Power Bar, and began the hike back.  In twenty minutes, I passed the group of women that had walked through our camp ten minutes before I left.  Within an hour, I’d covered about three miles, For day two, it was great time, but I was beginning to feel the wear I’d done to my body the day earlier.  By the end of the second hour, I was more than halfway through the hike, but I was drinking too quickly for the single bottle to sustain me and I was beginning to limp.  Three hours after I started, the limp was pronounced, my sunburns were setting in painfully, and I was nearly out of water. 

Thankfully, after three hours and ten minutes, I hobbled through the Will Rogers parking lot to a drinking fountain and hung my head in the stream for what seemed like ages.  Eventually though, I pulled away, filled my bottle, and hobbled to the car.  I put in drive and rolled down the hill to the Pacific Coast Highway.  After about a half hour, I turned off the highway and began driving up a winding canyon road.  This road shrunk into nearly one lane before I entered the Trippet Ranch parking lot.  But I parked my car there, hobbled out, and hiked the mile to Musch camp.  I met up with Ed, we grabbed our bags, and hiked back to the car.  When we got there, I tossed him the car keys, and he drove us back home.  We parted at his house, after a brief lunch at Subway’s, and I drove back to my house alone. 

I got out of the car and limped inside to find my dad.  We assessed my injuries and I got a stern talking to regarding skin cancer.  In the end, my ears had blistered and hardened from the burns, the back of my neck had literally charred from the burns, and my feet were bleeding from torn blisters.  Despite this, I felt victorious.  After a shower, I fell back on my couch and consciousness left me.

The second major event, which I’ll only briefly describe, was a family trip to Cancun, Mexico.  I left the night of Frday, July 8, and arrived the next morning.  For the first two days, we just relaxed around the pool or on the beach and ate at local restaurants.  Monday and Tuesday were spent earning our SCUBA dive certifications after four dives and a bit of skills work.  On Wednesday, we rested and celebrated my father’s birthday.  Thursday, we visited to ruins at Tulum, and played at a park called Xel Ha.  That night, we received our PADI SCUBA certification papers and temporary cards.  (Sometime soon, I’ll mail in the paperwork and receive a lifetime certification card with my picture on it.)  On Friday, we went souvenir shopping at the local bazaar (open market), where I purchased a cast Mayan calendar and, to keep up with my tradition, a litre of Xtabentun.  Saturday morning, we left Cancun and, after about twenty hours of travelling, returned home.

I plan on posting a late review of the latest Harry Potter film, later on this evening.  As a huge fan of the books a decade ago, I know that I’ll have qualms with the film.  To be fair, I’ll probably write the review in two parts, one being an objective assessment of the film, and the other as a fan of the novels.

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