After Borders closed at Santana Row and Oakridge Mall, and Micro Center closed at the Mercado, it seems unlikely that there would be any movie theaters left in Silicon Valley that had a decent hangout spot within reasonable driving distance from my home. Showing up to see only a movie is somewhat boring. There has to be a decent hangout spot to go to before or after the movie to prep yourself for what critics are panning as a bad movie or dissect a good movie that gone horribly wrong. Shopping is a nice bonus.
My friend and I went to see “Raiders of The Lost Ark” in IMAX at the AMC Cupertino Square 16 theater in Vallco Shopping Mall. The last time we visited this movie theater was when the U2 3D movie came out in 2008, when 3D movies were still new and not yet mainstream. Then and now, we came back to this mall to see a movie that was only available at this particular theater.
The mall has been in a state of decline for several decades. I used to live down the street in the late 1990’s when the mall was filled with stores from end to end. I remembered the ballyhoo back in 1999 when the mall planned to renovate by going upscale and getting rid of all the downscale stores, which started the trend of stores leaving the mall without being replaced. After the dot com bubble in 2000, the mall sat mostly empty, going through several ownership and names changes, for the last decade.
We scoped out the mall as a potential movie hangout spot. The lower level is blocked off by temporary walls, which, ironically, was an expansion to increase the size of the mall in the late 1980’s. The ground level is filled with stores that you would typically find in any strip mall in Silicon Valley. The renovated food court next to J.C. Penny’s was virtually empty of restaurants. If this mall was in revival, it still has both feet in the grave.
But we did find a couple of hangout spots.
Armor Geddon, a store that sells armor, swords and other medieval knick-knacks, is as thread-bare in selection as the mall is in stores. All the wonderful chess sets that I saw in the late 1990’s were reduced to a handful today. I did picked up a skull coin bank for my writing desk. If you’re a writer, you really need one for those “to be or not to be” Shakespearian moments.
Legends Comics & Games is actually located in two locations across from each other near Sears, with comics on one side and gaming on the other. Being hardcore comic fans, we gravitated over there. I love browsing through the indie comics to find trashy pulp ideas to incorporate into my own short stories. A comic shop is better than any bookstore.
Vallco Shopping Mall has become the new place to go see movies—for now.
MAD Magazine was notable for defying the Comics Code Authority that restricted the content that could appear in comic books by switching over to the larger magazine format. Although that was a risky move in itself, MAD survived and paved the way for the underground comics to flourish in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The only censor for controversial comic material today is your own taste—or, lack thereof.
My favorite MAD cover was the March 1984 cover, where Alfred E. Newman pissed “1984” into the snow. My friends and I had a running First Amendment battle with the vice principal at John Steinbeck Middle School in San Jose over this magazine cover. We made sure that he caught us reading the magazine in the school library before classes, he would come over to confiscate the magazine without explaining why it was inappropriate (of course, we all knew why but wanted him to tell us), and the librarian would put the magazine back out the following week. The magazine got worn out from this constant tug of war.
I was expecting to be disappointed with “The Amazing Spider-Man” as it was another reboot. If Sony haven’t made this movie, the rights would have reverted back to Marvel. That’s the problem with superhero movies these days. Hollywood wants to recycle the origin story more than once a generation—the Superman franchise is on its third reboot—to create a trilogy of movies that brings in boatloads of money. Worst, with the success of the Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the reboot has to be dark and gritty as the hero suffers from profound parental issues.
I never liked Tobey McGuire’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man since he came across as a likeable wimp in the throes of teenage angst. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a smart ass who is unafraid to walk into a situation and get his ass handed back to him. The first time we meet Peter, he’s taking pictures of Stacy Gwen (Emma Stone) from a safe distance. When he noticed that the class bully was tormenting a smaller student, he steps in and gets stomped on. As the movie progresses, the smart ass recedes into the background as a responsible young man emerges.
Previous incarnations of Spider-Man had never bothered to explain why he was raised by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). This movie introduces the backstory that sets up the requisite parental issues that all superheroes must face these days. Rather than being antsy about getting the girl, its about avenging absent parents on the criminal elements.
The movie opens with a very young Peter Parker playing hide and seek with his parents. Entering his father’s study after it was ransacked in an apparent burglary, he cries out for his parents and they come rushing in. His father removes scientific documents hidden inside the desk and stashes them into a briefcase. An hour later, he’s left at his aunt and uncle’s place as his parents disappear into the night. After discovering the briefcase years later in the basement, an older Peter searches for his father’s coworker at a scientific research lab and becomes bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him his superpowers.
The cameo by Marvel founder Stan Lee was quite charming. As a school librarian listening to classical music with oversized headphones and straightening up the music table, he’s oblivious to Spider-Man and Lizard trashing the school library behind him. The 3D was put to excellent use as objects were hurled from the background to be caught by Spider-Man at the last moment in the foreground.
This movie wasn’t afraid to leave loose ends hanging in the wind. The disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents was still unresolved. The killer of Uncle Ben was never found despite Spider-Man’s best effort to round up the criminals for the police. Only one reference was made to the front page of The Daily Bugle, whom Peter Parker haven’t yet wandered over to get a job as a photographer. Overall, a very different Spider-Man movie.
One of the surprises that came out of the San Diego Comic Con this year was a unauthorized short film called #DIRTYLAUNDRY, staring Thomas Jane as Frank Castle (a.k.a., The Punisher) and Ron Perlman as a handicapped liquor store clerk. When a gang terrorizes the prostitutes in a ghetto neighborhood, Castle keeps a wary eye out but ignores them while doing his laundry. When the life of an innocent schoolboy is threaten, the Punisher dispenses justice with an indestructible bottle of Jack Daniels.
NOTE: This video contains strong language, brutal violence and copious blood spray.
Although Ray Stevenson in “The Punisher: War Zone” (2008) represents the pulp version of the Punisher with his chiseled face and steely glare that cuts like a wicked knife, I always prefer the humane version that Thomas Jane brings to the character. The humorous scene from “The Punisher” (2004), where Castle is searing a steak with a blowtorch while poking a Popsicle into the backside of a minor thug who thinks he’s being tortured, is a fine example. If Marvel Comics were ever to reboot the series (unlikely as the previous films never took off beyond its fan base), they should bring Thomas Jane back for the role.
Black Widow bears a remarkable resemblance to Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) from “The X-Files” with her bomber-red hairdo and intense eyes. Something I kept thinking about while watching the movie. Although Scully was never much of a physical ass kicker, she made that up with her brilliant application of scientific principles to unknown phenomena. I’m hoping that Black Widow will get her own movie now that “The Avengers” broke the box office records. Marvel fan boys need another intelligent woman to idolize.
He’s back! Entertainment Weekly reveals that California’s most beloved Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Stan Lee are teaming to create a new comic book and animated TV series called, “The Governator”. Based on early drawings, the series will revolved around an older, out-of-shape Ahnold hiding out and frequently exercising inside his elaborate Man Cave underneath his sprawling Southern California mansion, while a team of unpaid young people run around in rubber suits pretending to be a slimmer, younger version of the Ahnold to save the world from the G.I.R.L.I.E. Men.
The Governator needs to come back to Sacramento to twist the panties of the G.I.R.L.I.E. Men!
Note: Since the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly is being published today with The Governator on the cover, this may be an elaborate April Fools joke. However, the G.I.R.L.I.E. Men and their DJ overlords in Southern California are a serious threat to the fun-loving people of California.
A recent Penny Arcade webcomic strip featured a fan complimenting Tycho on his work while they’re both using the urinal inside the men restroom, which Tycho assumes the fan meant the fine work that was happening in the urinal bowl, and Gabe, when later told about the incident that there should be no talking at the urinal, replies that why he uses the women restroom. This has always been one of my pet peeves. When I’m using the urinal, I’m usually thinking about something very profound—the nature of God, what’s for lunch, five minutes and still counting—during that brief moment I’m relieving myself. I don’t expect people to strike up a conversation with me.
When I was doing a one-month contract at Sony in 2005 to test the English-language software on the Japanese hardware that would eventually become the Sony Reader in the United States, I was still talking to recruiters about my next contract job. One day I answered my cellphone while still standing in front of the urinal and stepped away when the woman recruiter was introducing herself. Naturally, the urinal automatically flush. The recruiter asked if this was a good time to talk and I told it her was as my voice echoed off the restroom walls. I ended up talking to three different recruiters about five open positions at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View.
For the remainder of that contract at Sony, I ducked into the men restroom to return phone calls to recruiters and have interviews with hiring managements, ignoring all the strange looks from the Indian engineers who shuffle in and out, the continuing auto-flush the toilets and urinals, and the water faucets turning on and off automatically. I didn’t get hired. Not because all our conversations took place inside a restroom. Microsoft requires five candidates to be interviewed for every position. If a hiring manager decides to hire his beer-drinking buddy, he still needs to do four interviews before he can make his final selection for the position. Each time the beer-drinking buddy got hired. Since then I loathed talking to Microsoft recruiters. I don’t like wasting my time on a position that is already filled.
When I was at the old San Jose building for Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises), the men outnumbered the women by four to one. From time to time, the men restroom would run out of supplies faster than expected. Management decreed that the downstairs women restroom would be a unisex restroom. No prudent man would step into the women restroom unannounced, management decree or not. But, this being a video game company, there were no shortage of little boys who haven’t grown up yet. Several guys would deliberately walk into the women restroom when they knew when one of the marketing girls was in there, hoping to catch a glimpse or maybe get a date. Management rescinded their decree after three girls with baseball bats sent the guys fleeing back to the urinals in the men restrooms.
For a more humous story about talking at the urinal, read “Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure” by Jerry Kaplan, where the management team for Go Corporation that created the first handheld computer had an impromptu team huddle before their company imploded. There’s a reason why one urinal is always set lower than the other urinals.