Saturday, June 04, 2016

HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, FATHER OF RAP, TAKER OF STANCES, MAN OF BELIEF

Muhammad Ali died today.

He wasn't the strongest fighter who ever lived, not physically.  Most  of Ali's knockouts came from an accumulation of punches.

You could argue he was the toughest fighter ever.  After having his jaw broken by Kenny Norton in the first round, Ali went eleven more rounds and lost the fight by unanimous decision.   Going eleven rounds with a broken jaw against a mauler like Norton, that alone could qualify you for the BA Hall of Fame, but Ali also went a round against Sonny Liston in which he was blind.

He wasn't the nicest fighter.  To this day, whenever I watch the "Thrilla in Manila," that fourteen-round colossus, I cheer for Frazier.  Ali wounded him more deeply before the fight than he ever did in the ring.

But Muhammad Ali was the greatest man who ever laced up a boxing glove.  His biggest fights weren't against other boxers, they were against prejudice and oppression.

I'll miss you, Champ.  The world isn't the same without you in it.



Muhammad Ali
SIMPLY THE GREATEST
January 17, 1942
June 3, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

STARTING TO LOOK A BIT LESS SUPER

I saw X-Men Apocalypse.  It wasn't bad.  A bit long.  A bit melodramatic.  Had it been the first superhero movie of the summer, I might have liked it.
The super villain of X-Men: Apocalypse is the eponymous Apocalypse, a refugee of ancient Egypt who ... now here's a big surprise, wants to conquer the world.  I bet you didn't see that coming.  To assist him in this endeavor, he enlists four "Mutants," humans with super powers, to be his new Horsemen of the Apocalypse.     One of his chosen horsemen is Magneto, who can control anything with metal in it, which in the past has included people with iron in their blood and, more recently, an entire baseball stadium.  He seems like a great choice for an apocalyptic horsemen.

He also chooses Storm for one of his horsemen--though she could be more accurately described as a "Horsewoman," Theoretically speaking, Storm can control the weather, though in this movie she's pretty much resigned herself to summoning lighting bolts.

Still, she's an pretty good choice from an apocalyptic point of view.
Apocalypse's two other horse are a guy with angel wings and a gal with a glowing sword--both of whom seem like minor leaguers when compared  to lightning and metallic mayhem, but hey, Apocalypse claims to be Yaweh, so his ways must be ineffable.  

And speaking of ineffability, Apocalypse could benefit from a visit with Toastmasters.  Oscar Isaac-the twice-surnamed actor who did such a good job as Poe in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, plays Apocalypse--a king-sized, world-destroying, self-aggrandizing blue guy who spends most of the movie brooding and mumbling religious psycho-babble.
Oops, not this guy, but the comparison is inevitable.
I won't give away more of the movie, but I will say the ending is cataclysmic, even, dare I say, Apocalyptic.  Sony says that over 10,000 people were involved in the making of this movie.  If you stay for the Easter Egg, you will see each and every one of their names scroll across the screen.  No joke.  It's like flipping through a Tolstoy novel.  

Okay, that's an exaggeration.  It's like reading the Dostoevsky Cliff Notes of a Tolstoy novel.

I do want to give a shout out to Evan Peters, who as Quick Silver, stole every scene from every actor.  The camera loves this guy.  So does the audience, and it's not just role.  It's what the actor makes of the role in this case.

Captain America: Civil War:

X-Men: Apocalypse's 150-minutes might not have seemed so long had I not just spent 150 minutes watching a vastly superior superhero movie called Captain America: Civil War.

True confession, I kinda sided with Iron Man in this film.  I can't really explain why without revealing spoilers, as if anybody hasn't actually seen the movie, but I sided with Stark.

Kudos to Sony for having the guts to release a B+ superhero movie on the heels of an A+-effort like Civil War.  Frankly, they might have done better to delay until August... August 2017.  I don't know about anybody else, but I'm feeling a bit of superhero fatigue having spent 150 minutes watching Civil War (Yup, I only watched it once) only to invest another 150 minutes watching Apocalypse.
I have to say, in the battle of the superheroes, Disney seems to do the best job of mixing humor and fun in with the action and pathos.  And who, you may ask, has got this formula the most mixed up.

Batman vs Superman:

As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I went to Batman vs Superman thinking Ben Affleck was a terrible choice for Batman only to be proven me absolutely incorrect.  Affleck was fine as Batman, good even.

I also went to BvS thinking Jesse Eisenberg might make an intriguing Lex Luther.  Again, I was proven wrong.  He was a dreadful Lex Luther, though I'm not sure it's entirely his fault. Luther is supposed to be strong and smart and ruthless.  Eisenberg's Luther came off more as feckless and irritating.

BvS isn't a bad movie.  I'll take it over any other non-Christopher Nolan Batman movie, which isn't saying much I suppose.

So here's the problem.  BvS was so not good that I walked away wondering if I was tired of superhero movies or put off by that particular edition.  Then Captain America: Civil War came out.  Like BvS, it was long, but, unlike BvS, it was charming and witty, and still I was relieved when it was over.  Now I have seen Apocalypse, which is better than BvS but a big comedown from Civil War, and I can safely say that, for me, superhero movies have lost their luster.

And now the true confession.  I feel the same way about Star Wars.  The three Lucas prequels were so bad that I couldn't tell how I felt about Star Wars.  I mean, I was so busy disliking the prequels that I didn't have time to think about the franchise as a whole.

Courtesy of Giphy.com
Then Disney and Abrams released a more than competent Episode 7--I liked it better than one of the original three movies--Return of the Jedi, and that gave me a measuring stick by which I could judge my interest in Star Wars as a whole.

It's gone.  I'm cured, and I'm starting to feel the same way about superhero movies.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM: WHERE THE PHRASES CAME FROM

Call them platitudes or cliches or conventional wisdoms, many of the the old sayings offer great advice.  After exhaustive research, I have discovered the origins of a few great chestnuts that I thought I might share.

Shooting Your Wad:

courtesy of votesprout.com
Courtesy of hunter-ed.com
The term "shooting your wad" refers to expending the material used to separate the projectile from the propellant in a bullet, shotgun shell or more particularly a black powder "load."

The saying dates back to the Revolutionary War when combatants needed to cram loads into rifles and flintlock pistols, but it is still apropos today--as shown in this diagram, modern bullets and shotgun shells contain "wads" to separate shot from propellant.

Back in the days when men dueled to defend their honor, nervous combatants were likely to fire their weapons quickly.  Those old pistols were anything but accurate, and a combatant who "shot his wad" hastily without aiming, would be forced to wait while his opponent took careful aim and returned fire.


Throwing Out the Baby With the Bathwater:

The phase "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" is connected to the old practice of entire households sharing a single tub of hot water.  In the days before modern plumbing, filling a bath with hot water was quite a task and the general public only bathed on a monthly basis.

When families filled their tubs with water, the male head of the household took the first turn, followed by other males, then females and finally babies would be bathed.  By the time the babies were placed in the tub, the water would be so filthy that that they could disappear in the murky depths--hence, people needed to make sure they didn't"throw out their babies with their bathwater."

According to Wikipedia, the first known usage of this phrase is in a German book called Appeal to Fools, published in 1512.

Pick Your Poison:

Rattlesnake Venom
This is a more modern phrase.  It refers to the U.S. presidential election of 2016.
Arsenic



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Words of wisdom from Amazon.com

Here is a page from Amazon.com's current list of bestsellers:





A certain sequence of events has taken place.  Have a closer look at numbers 84 and 85.










Wednesday, December 23, 2015

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS--WITH ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!

Just saw it.  LOVED IT!

I would rank this as my third favorite Star Wars movie.  (Yup, I'm placing it higher than the Ewok-infested Return of the Jedi.)

Great seeing the old gang and ALMOST all of the new characters left me impressed.

My favorite new addition is Oscar Isaac, though John Boyega totally won me over.

When I saw the credits at the end, I spotted an untouted return that, in my opinion, was the deciding factor--Lawrence Kasdan is back on the writing team!  Kasdan did the heavy lifting on The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and most importantly, was NOT involved in the writing of Episodes I, II, and III.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SUPERHERO LINE

I don't know if Deadpool is going to be a great movie, so this is not an endorsement.  I won't go see Deadpool because I generally avoid R-rated movies, and Deadpool is absolutely of the R-rated persuasion.

It appears to do to do the same thing for superheroes that Ted did for Carebears.

Still, I like what I've seen.

"He's got the brown pants."
So here's this scene on the freeway in which Deadpool is in an overturned SUP surrounded by a gun-wielding horde.  He opens the window and shouts, "WAIT!  You may be wondering why the red suit.  Well, that's so bad guys can't see me bleed.  This guy has the right idea.  He wore the brown pants."

"That guy has the right idea..."
Juvenile!

Sophomoric.
And then the payoff

The kind of humor you'd expect from a middle schooler.

Damn I wish I'd come up with that line!




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I MUST HAVE GONE TO THE WRONG MOVIE

I meant to see Pixels last night, but I think I went to the wrong movie.

This morning, Rotten Tomatoes announced that Pixels was the third worst reviewed film of the summer.

The movie I saw wasn't "great," but it was better than Hot Pursuit, Aloha, Self/Less or Poltergeist.  That still means it could be the fifth worst movie of the summer, I suppose, but it probably isn't.  In fact, while it was mediocre from an artistic point of view, I found it diverting, even entertaining.  It carried me along.

Listen, I'm with the rest of you; Adam Sandler pisses me off.  First he gives us goofy fun schlock  like Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, then all of a sudden everything turns into Little Nicky.

Thw movie that sums up Sandler's career as far as I'm concerned.  It's from Click, a comedy/drama that could have been this generation's It's a Wonderful Life had Sandler not sacrificed a great premise for jokes about a stuffed animal-humping Lab.

Back to Pixels.

The story is pretty simple.  In 1982, NASA sends a satellite into space packed with good old wholesome 1980s culture.  Now, in a weird present day in which Kevin James is the president of the United States (as if Jeb and Hillary weren't scary enough), an alien culture attacks Earth using the "video game warriors" we sent to their planet thirty years earlier.

Hence, you get GalagaCentipede, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Arkanoid, Robotron 2084 and a host of other classic games attacking New York, London, Agra and Washington D.C.

One thing Pixels does right is throw classic games at you.  Watch closely and you'll see cameos by Mario and Dig Dug dragon, Burger Time and many arcade classics,

Faux Iwatani
Speaking of cameos, in an ironic twist, Pixels has an actor playing Toru Iwatani (creator of Pac-Man) and a quick shot of real Iwatani playing an arcade tech.

The real Toru Iwatani as he appears in the film
Okay, so the story is really a gratuitous pat on the back for veterans of the 1980s and retro-gamers.  Taken for what it is, it works.  Look, this is Adam Sandler, folks, he seldom makes make high-concept art.  This is a repackaging of Ghostbusters.  It's not supposed to be smart, just fun.

The cast of Pixels is good.  Checking the IMDB cast list, Pixels appears to be a bit of a family outing.  Along with Adam, four other Sandlers have small roles in this show.

The main Pixelbusters include Kevin James, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan and Peter Dinklage. Gad is always fun to watch and Monaghan is so likable.  Kevin James is a good comedian, but he's generally too far over the top when he pals around with Sandler.  He succumbs to that urge in Pixels.

Peter Dinkage channeling his inner Billy Mitchell
I want to say a word about Dinklage,; sadly his talents are wasted in this Pixels.  Dinklage is a good actor who refuses to be typecasted because of his short stature.  Unfortunately in this film, he is Sandler-ized and forced to play a miniature version of Billy Mitchell, the Donkey Kong  champion who was so vilified in King of Kong.
Arcade-legend Billy Mitchell

And Sandler's performance... well, on the Wedding Singer--Grown Ups 2 scale, this performance rates about a Waterboy.  I'd give Mr. Sandler a B- because he keeps the screaming to an acceptable level.  Like everything else about this movie, he's generally likable and entertaining.

So consider me among the 18 percent who liked Pixels... sort of.  I give it a solid C+, or a 78 percent for the back to the school crowd.