Deepest apologies for my absence. Unexpected, wonderful things happened. One day, out of the blue (pun intended), a police box appeared on my way home from work. Old, rustic, with an odd light on top, I took a second to stare at it. Lucky thing I did, because not a minute later a man in a tweed jacket and a bow tie came running towards me (well, not at me, but the police box). 'Oh, hello!' the stranger man said. Suddenly a laser blast passed right by us, startling me backward. I saw from a distance the thing the odd man was running from: a metal creature with two arms, one a sucker and the other a weapon. 'Yes, nasty beasts, those,' the stranger said, inclining the metal monstrosity heading our way. 'Best for you to come in!'
'What, in there?' I said incredulously. 'Won't it be a bit . . . tight?' I inclined my less than athletic physique.
'Don't worry. It's bigger on the inside.' The man winked. Even in the face of whatever bananas role playing scenario or crackpot insanity was happened before us, this man had a way about him - some charismatic certainty that everything would turn out okay.
'Exterminate!' the tin bucket annihilator exclaimed.
'Alright, what have I got to lose?' I said out loud, and ran into the police box with the stranger from another world, an enemy Dalek right on our tale. And that is how I met The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, and together, he and I - with a rotating pool of companions - traveled the past, present, and future, saving the universe from destruction more times I could count. Oh, the wondrous sights these eyes have seen! The creatures this galaxy contains! The secrets this universe is bursting to spill! A marvelous adventure, to be sure!
Alright, alright --
I was just a lazy sod.
Truth be told, after a while, life got the better of me, and I was blogging at a time where movie blogs were everywhere, and there was very little to differentiate one blog from another. What point was there reviewing a movie thirty other sites were reviewing? I pondered. I didn't yet have a notion how to approach things from a different perspective of other review sites - it was just more or less the same. Add some crazy life events, a job that exhausts the mind, body, and spirit, and a healthy sort of distancing from mass media as a lifestyle, and there you go, all the ingredients of abandoning the Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek.
But I think it's nice for a small little renaissance.
This is a blog, after all, innit? The purpose of The Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek won't specifically be to review every movie, book, and TV show I happen to watch - frankly, the responsibility of that is daunting and highly unappealing. Instead, this site will aim to be a little loose, perhaps a little more Andy-centric. Posts on life, adventures, collectibles, and any other fancy nuggets that I find irresistibly fun and fascinating, with the occasional movie and book review thrown in for good measure. I won't be updating on any sort of schedule or mandatory basis, just when whim hits me and I have something to say.
Speaking of which --
You know how, while growing up, folks pass on the wisdom of 'don't judge a book by its cover', which we nearly all ignore? Yeah, well, I very much do that. While scanning through the sci-fi/fantasy section at a bookstore, the two things I note first is the cover (does it have a cool cover? Artsy? Or something generated from 90's photoshop?) and then if the cover is appealing, next up is the title (some generic thing like THORNS OF BLOOD or THE KING'S WARRIOR?), something interesting, something captivating. And then if the title succeeds in peaking my interest, I turn to the sleeve and read the synopsis. Obviously, this process is not preferable, but when you have limited time and looking for something truly unique, you gotta be a little picky. And that leads me to . . .
THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss. My God, have you read this book?! I imagine a fair amount have, as I'm quite late to the party on this one. Easily one of the most insatiably engrossing fantasy novels I've read in quite some time (among them being the stunning debut novel THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT by Seth Dickinson, which is also highly recommended). I've seen this title in bookstores for years, familiar with its crowd-pleasing reputation but never biting the bullet. I was wrong. In two weeks, I devoured THE NAME OF THE WIND and its sequel, THE WISE MAN'S FEAR, and now I, like thousands of others, are impatiently waiting for the third and final installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy.
Each book follows two timelines: one with an older, weathered innkeeper named Kote who recalls his life story to a scribe named Chronicler, and the other, Kote's younger self, Kvothe, a teenager who had a family, and lost everything one evening when monstrous entities from faerie tales slaughters everyone he loves. Lost and penniless, Kvothe has one ambition: to enter the University and become an arcanist (for brevity's sake, a wizard, although Kvothe would be none too pleased to hear that word attributed to him) and master the name of the wind.
THE NAME OF THE WIND was a marginally slow build, but within the hundred page mark, I was sold. Rothfuss has this gift that makes these Kingkiller Chronicle books such a success and other fantasy books more of a chore - he's able to build the world around these characters, flesh them out, make them real, without hindering the flow of the story with excess world-building details. His characters come alive, the distance between towns and cities and the understanding of currency and calendar of days, all important details that make this world seem real and concrete, and presented in such a way it never detracts from the narrative. The characters are varied, smart and flawed. The history and mythology richly layered and creatively spun. And before you know it, you've arrived at the final chapter.
THE WISE MAN'S FEAR is even worse. I read that sucker in four days. I was even more annoyed than usual to leave for work because I had to stop reading. The sequel is longer in pages, as Kvothe's journey brings him outside the boundaries of the University, but the experience will feel like it's over in a blink. If you haven't yet read these titles but are gearing up to, my best advice is to savor each page, even though it's immensely intoxicating. WISE MAN'S FEAR is successful as a sequel insofar as it doesn't diverge too drastically from the tone and style of the first, while expanding the world, the characters, and the mythology.
The next book in the series is said to be the last, and I'm frankly puzzled how that's possible with how much needs to be tied up for both the 'present' and the past narratives to sync up. Whenever that day may be, I'm heading to the bookstore day one and it will be mine.
what i've been watching
In this little thought bubble which I'll rename something much cleverer at a later point, I'll just do some quick write-ups of flicks and shows I've been consuming lately. Since it's the summer, why not start there, with the films being released since April?
I say April because I wanted to take a second and just gush about how much AVENGERS: ENDGAME was amazing and affected me in a real and powerful way and holy shit, kudos to writers Marcus and McFeely and the directorial duo of the Russo brothers. A movie like ENDGAME is unprecedented - wrapping up over twenty movies worth of storytelling, at least three major character arcs, resolving the monumentally earth-shattering conclusion to INFINITY WAR, and serving as its own distinctive and satisfying cinematic experience. I do not envy the writers or directors, but somehow, by and large, they met and exceeded expectations. As dark as ENDGAME gets, it's also ridiculously charming and, surprisingly, fun. The first two hours fly by with Paul Rudd's Scott Lang and Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner stealing the show with their comedic chops. Chris Hemsworth continues to show new and exciting layers to Thor, now an overweight drunk dealing with his failure at dispatching Thanos. While this is an ensemble movie, it's still fair to say this movie rests entirely on the shoulders of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, handled with razor sharp precision and skill by Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr., respectively.
I could go on and on about my love for ENDGAME in a very Kevin Smith-ian way, but as the movie has reached $2.7 billion, I'm fairly confident most everyone has seen it and formed their own opinions. In the end, I'll just say bravo, Marvel, bravo. One hell of a film. And that ending - my God, that defiant Last Man Against an Army shot, the Portals, the music, the "hey Pepp" - I was just an emotional wreck, no shame about it. Seen it four times in the theaters, and genuinely considering a fifth before it exits.
But how about some less talked about flicks? Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron's LONG SHOT is the surprise of the summer. What a clever script with two charming leads. Rogen can be faulted for frequently portraying the same pot smoking funnyman in nearly all of his movies, but here Rogen plays a character full of moral conviction and restraint, a far cry from other roles. His character always dances this thin line between being too headstrong for his own good and a respectable, reserved journalist and friend; it's a fascinating performance. Theron is great in pretty much everything she's been involved with (here's looking at you, PROMETHEUS), and LONG SHOT is no different: a character that, from a young age, knew who she was and what she wanted, but over the years, that through-line has been made murky by the political cesspool of shit she needs to trudge through on a daily basis. How the relationship forms between Rogen and Theron's character isn't just utterly compelling, but it makes sense why these two would hit it off, and that is most definitely not the case with a majority of romantic dramas or comedies. I don't want to oversell LONG SHOT, because there's a chance someones distaste for Rogen won't allow them to overcome skipping this flick, or the trailers didn't do it justice, or the godawful home video art will turn them off, but right here, right now, I'm begging you: don't skip it. Watch LONG SHOT. It's absolutely worth it.
In a similar vein, BOOKSMART, the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, is extraordinary and just so damn good. It's commonly described as "SUPERBAD but with girls", which is fair insofar as it follows the conventions and tropes that SUPERBAD itself followed: two introverted 'nerds' who never party go out and party in hopes of socializing or meeting their romantic interest. So, yeah, in that regard, sure. But by labeling that, you're also taking away from everything that makes this film work. The two teenage leads are played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. Dever blew my mind years ago by her stunningly nuanced and also powerful portrayal of young Loretta in FX's JUSTIFIED series, and continued to stun me in the Brie Larson-led flick SHORT TERM 12. Suffice to say, Dever is a powerhouse actor, and she will have one hell of a career. Feldstein came out of nowhere, and her character and performance compliments Dever's so well.
Even though I love this film dearly, I'm not going to lie and say it was love right out of the gate. The first half hour is a little sketchy, but makes sense - it's all establishing the characters and scenarios. By the time they get to the proper party, BOOKSMART is firing at its best. Everything comes together beautifully, the pieces of the narrative tapping along until it hits a crescendo and gives us this wonderful single take where everything goes awry and all that transpired that evening comes to a head. By the time the third act climax comes, and our characters make their triumphant debut at graduation, I was beaming. It was a wild night. These characters grew. They got out of their comfort zone, they confronted their feelings for their romantic interests and their feelings towards their own friendship. The reason BOOKSMART works so well is, I feel, because they got PEOPLE down so well. So often, like SUPERBAD, these teen comedies feel like their characters are avatars for the story they want to tell, not making the characters themselves fully realized people. And I guess that's the success of BOOKSMART, for me - a fun, hilarious flick that felt real, honest, and two crazy, scared, legitimate people trying to live life.
If you skipped either LONG SHOT or BOOKSMART, do yourself a favor and remedy that as soon as possible. I'm sure they're both hitting home video in the not-too-distant future . . .
|Kaitlyn Dever (left) and Reabnie Feldstein (right) in BOOKSMART|
For July, I'll have (spoilers) a glowing review of SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, the last Marvel release of 2019, and perhaps a book review or two. I'm heading to Chicago next week to participate in my fifth G-FEST! For those not in the nerd know, that's a Godzilla convention held in Rosemont, celebrating Godzilla and all other daikaiju eiga and tokusatsu shows. I'm bringing $300 cash with me for the dealer's room, and let's pray to Zilla I'll keep to that budget . . .
Until then, thanks for checking out the blog, and hope to see y'all soon!