Friday, November 16, 2018

Superhero Trilogy

I tend not to like most movies that I see. I keep watching them, hoping for a good one. Because now and again I will watch a movie that pleases me. Yes, I do admit that I am sometimes very critical of the form, but there's nothing wrong with that. When I do see a decent film I celebrate it.

One filmmaker whose work I generally despise is M. Night Shyamalan. His movies are--to put it mildly--mostly stupid. I was first talked into going to see his movie "The Sixth Sense". I concluded that it was insipid and predictable. It wasn't without a good performance from Bruce Willis, and that was the only thing that kept me from walking out on it.

In addition, I have seen (or tried to watch) a host of his other films. Either out of boredom or at the request of friends who actually do enjoy his movies. They were pretty much all complete failures for me, except for one movie.

"Unbreakable". That was the only movie from Shyamalan that I have seen which I quite enjoyed. Yes, it is a silly superhero movie. But he plucked out most of the goofy ideas of the superhero theme and--as much as was possible--turned it all into something almost realistic. For the first time in my life I watched a filmmaker actually create a superhuman project that really was (to quote the silly meme from the 1980s) "not just for children anymore".

He removed the idea of spandex costumes. He dispensed with secret identities, headquarters, allies, and other such fantasies. One of the things I rather did like about the film is that the superhero in the movie doesn't even realize that he is such until someone tweaks it out of him. And then it becomes an inner conflict of whether the protagonist is, in fact, superhuman, or just mentally disturbed. In addition, the powers that the hero has are almost believable. Not quite, but just enough for me to be able to enjoy the movie as something approaching logic--tremendous strength, a high level of immunity from physical damage, and a measure of telepathy that is so vague it even confuses the hero. Yeah, I could dig it.

Also, it didn't hurt that it starred Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, two actors whose work I sometimes enjoy. Both of them tend to deliver questionable performances from time to time, but now and again they will also surprise me with particularly convincing portrayals.

It was because of "Unbreakable" that I relented and tried to watch a string of his other movies which were absolutely awful and made me wonder if the writer/director is a moron (and also how anyone would continue to give him the vast amounts of cash it requires to make a major film these days). These later movies were so awful that the very mention of his name ended up filling me with a sense of disgust.

I never did see "Split", his movie about a man who is besieged by multiple personalities. Because I had already seen or tried to watch "Signs", "The Village", "The Happening", and "After Earth". I turned all of those off because they were so horrid in every way I could mention. The man was, I had to admit, a manufacturer of shit.

Except for that one movie, "Unbreakable".

Later I read that he is doing a sequel to "Unbreakable", and that his previous movie "Split" is actually part of his superhero trilogy. Therefore, I will go to see "Glass", his new movie, the final film in his trilogy. I'll also rent "Split" to see if it's his usual awful material. Maybe he'll surprise me.

Or maybe I'll have been suckered again. I'll let you know.

Bruce Willis as the unbreakable superhero, here trying to use his confusing ability of extra-sensory powers.

James McAvoy as the monstrous "Beast". (I wonder what kind of a deal they had to work with Marvel Comics/Disney for the use of that hame.)

Samuel L. Jackson as the dapper evil genius, Mr. Glass.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Brief Review of Standing Indian Campground.

Standing Indian is among our favorite National Forest campgrounds. It's a Nantahala National Forest facility located near Franklin, North Carolina. It's located near the NC/GA/SC border. Within a short drive is the Highlands area (packed with more waterfalls than you can imagine), the Blue Wall plunging down into the South Carolina Piedmont, and the spine of high mountains leading up from Georgia toward the Great Smoky Mountains.

For natural beauty the area is very hard to match. The mountain slopes are clothed in dense hardwood forests. There are many summits that crack the 5,000-foot mark. Streams and waterfalls can be found very close to the campground, and the Appalachian Trail winds its way over Standing Indian Mountain which looms over the vicinity and lends its name to the campground.

Oh. And there are normally lots and lots of bears here. The bear population in this area is about as dense as it gets.

The campground itself is very large and consists of four loops. Our favorite loop (#1) hugs the main creek and offers a number of creekside campsites. Our favorite site (#13) was unavailable so we stayed at site #16. This proved to be a bit of a mistake when a front moved through (the remnants of a Gulf hurricane) and dumped extremely heavy rain on us ceaselessly for more than 48 hours. The creek swelled beyond its banks and part of our campsite was inundated with water.

This was after the rains let up a bit and the lake that formed beside our campsite (flooding the picnic table) subsided .

Much as with our last camping trip, this one had us sidelined due to the inclement weather. My favorite pastime when I go camping is to hike to mountain summits and to hidden waterfalls. This was denied me on this trip because of the storm. Well, the next time we go we know to avoid campsite #16 if heavy rain is in the forecast.

Each loop at Standing Indian provides a bathhouse with flush toilets, sinks, and separate hot showers. The bath facilities are quite nice and there seem to be enough of them to avoid having to stand in line to use the showers. Of course we weren't there in high season, so this might not be the case when every site is occupied by a family.

The creek just across from our campsite. Its rushing waters would have lulled us to sleep if the pounding rain on the roof of our trailer hadn't done the same. The day after I took this photo the creek (Kimsey Creek?) was a good four feet deeper than in this photo and the banks were underwater.

There are no water or electric hookups at the campsites, but this isn't a problem due to the campground bath facilities. And if you have a travel trailer (as we do), then you generally don't actually need water and electric at the site. We carried our generator along and ran that when we needed, and our onboard water tank was full.

Since I couldn't hike as I wished, we ended up taking some long drives to see nearby sites that didn't require clear skies. One day we drove the Wayah Road which is lined with waterfalls and cascades. We skipped the drive to the shoulder of Standing Indian Mountain where we could have had a short hike to the summit. There is also a road to the top of Wayah Bald (another nearby mile-high peak), but we passed that one up because of the pea soup we knew would greet us at the end of the road and the top of the mountain.

An impressive cascade along Wayah Road.

Another day we took the hour-long drive over to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While there we saw the restored elk herds and took advantage of that to take over one hundred photos of the enormous deer, returned to the South after about two hundred years absence.

Our trip was dampened a bit by the terrible weather, but as I like to say, even in crappy weather the forest beats the city any time. We relaxed a lot, sat and observed the trees, did some reading, and generally took it easy. Which is what a vacation is for.

Yay! The elk have returned to the Smokies!