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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Americans: Cricket World Cup Semi Final Game India VS Pakistan – It’s What The Rest Of The World Is Doing Today

I love America, for all it’s faults (and you’d be hard pressed to find a country without faults), and I love being an American, but we come up short in the international sports categories. Sure, we’ve made great strides in soccer (that’s football outside of the US, folks) in the last few years, but our overall cricket IQ is pretty low, as demonstrated here by Raphael.

Today is opening day for Major League Baseball here in the United States. Here in New York, the Mets are playing today and the Yankees are playing tomorrow, but in the rest of the world, it’s all about the Cricket World Cup Semi Final Game: India VS Pakistan! Two regional rivals, both nuclear powers, ready to do head-to-head battle on the cricket pitch. It’s estimated that over 1 billion people will watch today’s match, and it’s happening, right now! The problem is, you most likely won’t be able to find it on TV, which is why we don’t know anything about cricket in this country.

Still, it’s worth learning something about cricket, and if you ever get a chance to watch it AND you’re a baseball fan, I think you’ll interested. Here are some basics to get you started; the text (in parentheses) includes baseball styled translations.

  • The bowler (pitcher) must bounce the ball once before it gets to the batsman (hitter).
  • Each batsman gets thrown 6 pitches and he must swing every time
  • The batsman’s objective it to keep the ball from touching the wicket behind him
  • If the batsman hits the ball, he and the non-striker run between the wickets (positioned on either side of the pitch) to score runs

Uhm, yeah, something like that! I recommend watching yourself (when possible); it’s pretty self explanatory. Cricket matches last for a VERY LONG TIME, and that’s coming from a baseball fan, but I still recommend watching this game in particular, during which I assure you that the crowd will be as intense as the players.

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Battle: Los Angeles movie review

To summarize, Battle: Los Angeles stars Aaron Eckhart as Sgt. Michael Nantz, an aging veteran who lost all of the men under his command on his previous deployment and is about to retire, until he’s sent on one last assignment…  to fend off an alien invasion.

If you know me, right about now you have to be wondering why I would watch such a movie, never mind see it in the theater.  First of all, I love Aaron Eckhart; secondly, I recently had the 90s stinker Independence Day in my hands, and just the memory of this movie was enough to send shivers running down my spine, so what I really wanted to gauge by watching Battle: Los Angeles was my tolerance for bad action movies, and given that these were both movies about alien invasions, I thought this would be a fair test case.

I was in my early teens when Independence Day rocked the box office and destroyed vast quantities of brain cells all over the world.  Rather than rant about how bad the movie sucks, let’s just say it’s full of cliche one liners and you’ve seen better plots on Saved By The Bell reruns.  (“I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so [sobs] scared!”  Jessie on speed is AWESOME!)  I do like that shot during the first part of the invasion where the dog has that glory shot and jumps out of the way of the explosion.  That shot rocks, but Independence Day sucked then, and it sucks now, maybe even a little bit harder by contemporary standards.  Now as I dive into my thirties, I’m ready to take a look at an action movie you can tell is ridiculous just by watching the trailer.

spoiler alert

 

Besides the plot, my biggest irk with Independence Day is the dialogue.  People are making awful jokes throughout what seemingly is the end of the world, and they’re not trying to relieve tension, they’re going for laughs.  I can forgive Will Smith for a lot, but “Welcome to earth,” or “Now that’s what I call a close encounter,” are egregious sins.  (Besides, he owes me; I sat through Wild Wild West.)  Not that it’s entirely his fault; he didn’t write the dialogue, and you probably can’t deliver those lines any better than he did, but it still sucks.

Battle: Los Angeles did a good job of not including this style of dialogue.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s still cliche and poorly written (“Take this note to my wife!”), but it’s not as bad as a movie like Independence Day.  (Or Armageddon, because when it comes to making jokes about the end of the world, you can’t do any better – or worse – than Armageddon and Independence Day.)  When it’s the end of the world, there is something really unauthentic about yelling, “Hello, boys!  I’m baaaaaaaack!” right before you sacrifice yourself to save the world, despite whether or not you had ever been abducted by aliens before.

As opposed to Independence Day, Battle: Los Angeles  give us a very limited look at the invasion going on elsewhere on the globe.  True, Independence Day doesn’t really have much in the way of scenes outside of the United States beyond TV news programs, but Battle: Los Angeles is much more focused on its core characters, which is the primary reason it’s infinitely superior to it’s 1990s counter part.  The movie is really intimate; the entire film is photographed with hand held cameras, which was great for the action scenes and totally pointless for the first 20 minutes of the film.  Once the invasion begins and our Marine heroes are on the ground (heading toward a police station in already occupied territory – the aliens in this movie do NOT screw around) to rescue civilians hiding there.  From this point on, (dialogue aside) the movie is… well, it’s like watching a good movie, or at least a good action movie.  The soldiers are running around on the streets, finding themselves the victim of sniper fire from the aliens, who have wisely positioned themselves on the roofs – this, coupled with their superior fire power, makes the Marines easy targets.  This goes on for a while, and it’s almost like you’re playing a video game.  (This would have made a MUCH BETTER video game rather than a movie.)  They finally get to the police station, call for air support to get lifted out, and predictably, as soon as the chopper gets into the air with the wounded, it gets blown out of the sky, much to the chagrin of our heroes.

And so on.  The movie is predictable, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.  Sometimes, predictability is a curse, particularly in a movie like Avatar, where you can easily think ahead of the movie, and the longer the movie went on, the farther out in front of the story you could get, until there was 45 minutes left in the movie and you’d already figured out the ending.  Like Avatar, Battle: Los Angeles was about 20 minutes too long (the first 20 minutes could be cut down to 5 minutes easily – oh, and Avatar was more like 45 minutes too long), but it wasn’t killing me like Avatar was.  Stuff was blowing up; it was fun!  I might even say that the movie is, at times, thrilling – in a thriller sort of way.  For a movie with a far fetched premise and terrible dialogue, it had an element of realism (this is mostly tied to the visuals) that Independence Day was lacking.

A few characters aside, the cast was fairly interchangeable.  There was Mr. Eckhart, who is likable and a relatively well defined character, Ramon Rodriguez as the lieutenant that you knew was going to die after the first scene he was in during the first act cliche fest, there was the guy who didn’t like Mr. Eckhart’s character because his brother had died under his command, and rounding out the Marine characters you could tell apart, there was Michelle Rodriguez as the tech expert.  Otherwise… uhm, I don’t know, there were other marines:  a guy with glasses, a guy who was from someplace overseas, a guy who had PTSD, uhm… other guys in uniforms.  There were characters that made it through the entire movie, and I had no idea who they were (or if they were any of the three guys I just mentioned), nor could I keep track of who was who from one scene to the next… but, it didn’t matter, and it reminded me of commanding a squad of guys in a video game, where it doesn’t matter who they are, you just need them to do something, and that’s the purpose these guys served – to shoot things.

The civilians they went to save at the police station were decently drawn characters; Bridget Moynahan as the veterinarian, who helped with the wounded, but most notably Michael Peña as Joe and Bryce Cass as his son, Hector, who is a GENIUS!  (I mean this kid did a great job in the movie; I don’t know what his IQ is.)  Everybody we meet who’s not in a uniform during the first act of the movie is WORTHLESS.

Essentially, Battle: Los Angeles is a solid little action movie that is about 20 minutes too long.  The dialogue is atrocious, but the visuals (and sound effects) are compelling, and its easy to care about what happens to Mr. Eckhart’s character.   the action sequences are interesting and well paced.  Sometimes, stuff blows up and this flick is a case where it’s fun to watch that happen.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Friday song review

If you haven’t heard the song that’s tearing up YouTube entitled, “Friday” by Rebeca Black, then congratulations, you have a deeply fulfilling life.

The rest of us aren’t so lucky.  “Friday” is, in my mind, fairly standard in terms of the pop music that is targeted toward teens these days.  Yet it seems that the rest of the internet thinks this is the worst song in the history of recorded music. I don’t think it’s a good song, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it the damnation of mankind that others have.  I think its equally bad when compared with other songs that make me want to gouge out my eardrums with a q-tip, so lets get our comparison on.

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Batman: The Long Halloween review

 

Batman-the-long-halloween

Why'd they put Two-Face on the cover? Way to spoil the ending, guys.

Batman:  The Long Halloween is a graphic novel (trade paperback?) that compiles the thirteen issue limited series of the same name.  Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale worked in the continuity of Batman:  Year One, created by writer Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, colorist Richmond Lewis, and lettering by Todd Klein, although Long Halloween is superior to Year One in just about every way possible, although I would say Sale and Mazzucchelli’s artistic skills are fairly even.  It’s not enough to say that Long Halloween is better than Year One; I have to make it clear that Long Halloween is probably the best comic book limited series I’ve ever read, and even that’s not giving it enough credit, because these days, Marvel and DC push out zillions of awful limited series every year, to the point where I had to stop buying them all together – see Batman Odyssey and Siege for examples of this.

If you read Batman:  Year One, then you should be right at home with Long Halloween, but I wouldn’t call Year One required reading by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I don’t have much to say about Year One – at least, I don’t have much praise to heap on it.  I assumed it was going to be an origin story, but it really isn’t; essentially, we just see a young Batman who makes a lot more mistakes then we’re accustomed to seeing Batman make.  Details and character development are not delivered to the audience in abundance, and ultimately, the book damaged my opinion of Frank Miller.  Essentially, Long Halloween grabs the undeveloped mob characters from Year One and develops them.  (If you’re interested in an origin story for Batman, you may as well go watch Batman Begins again – which borrows from Year One, but fleshes out the characters (especially Batman) in ways that Year One never even attempted.

Perhaps the greatest contributor to Long Halloween was Mark Waid, who did wonders for Captain America after Mark Gruenwald’s 10 year reign of terror ended with his untimely death.  Waid suggested that Loeb work with Two-Face’s origin, and the rest, as they say, is history. There is a ton of Long Halloween in The Dark Knight’s script, and frankly, The Dark Knight is one of the greatest action movies of all time.  But Long Halloween is more than a template for The Dark Knight; it’s very much its own story.

Although Long Halloween is said to focus on a younger Batman than we’re accustomed to seeing, it’s not really true, at least not in my mind.  Batman is presented as the character we all know and love, it’s just that certain events haven’t come to pass yet in the Batman time line:  Gordon is still Captain Gordon, not commissioner yet; Two-Face is still Harvey Dent, which is a major plot thread in the story; Dick Grayson is presumably on tour with his parents and the circus as he doesn’t make an appearance…  Yet, nearly every major Batman villain is already established and presented in the story without explanation:  the Joker, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Mad Hatter, The Scarecrow, Calendar Man and Catwoman are all in Long Halloween.  I don’t have any problem with this, and the use of the Rogue Gallery is brilliantly done here, but I wouldn’t say we’re anywhere near the beginning of the Batman story.

batman long halloween bruce wayne

"I believe in America - Gotham City. I meant Gotham."

One curious bit about Long Halloween is it’s over abundance of homages to The Godfather.  The very first page of Long Halloween is Bruce Wayne saying, “I believe in Gotham City,” to Carmine Falcone, just as we see Bonasera say to Vito in the first moments of The Godfather.  Falcone wears a similar suit to Vito Corleone, and his nephew is getting married, just like the first scene in The Godfather, except it’s Vito’s daughter who is getting married there.  Pages later, after a shootout in Flacone’s office, he says, “In my home.  On my nephew’s wedding day,” similar to Micheal’s reaction to his attempted assassination in Godfather II:  “In my home!  In my bedroom, where my wife sleeps!  Where my children come to play with their toys.”  The homages don’t really end there, but then, when you’re writing about gangsters and you choose to make allusions to the Godfather…  it’s kind of a joke, but its well done, but it might also be viewed as cheating character development; you just immediately associate these characters with the characters from The Godfather…  but it’s original enough to keep you interested.

For the most part, Long Halloween is a story about Batman, Gordon and Dent teaming up together to take down the mob, so you can easily see how the The Dark Knight they borrowed this angle.  The movie adapts a scene where Dent and Batman burn down a warehouse full of mob money as opposed to The Joker doing so in the film.  There are scenes up on the roof top with Batman, Gordon and Dent talking and planning (similar scenes appear in The Dark Knight), but their investigations and arrests provide little in the way of results.  A killer emerges who targets the mob, always committing it’s murder on a Holiday (and the press so names the killer ‘Holiday’) and leaving both the murder weapon and a token that represents the particular holiday, like the jack-o-lantern that is left with the first victim, who was killed on Halloween.  Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Yeah, the story is a bit repetitive, yet still engaging.  I’d say it was a mistake to force 13 issues (I did say force… why do 12 issues when you can do 13?  The Poison Ivy plot thread is as silly as the Scarecrow thread is useless) and given that I read the trade paper back (Graphic novel?  Can I use those terms interchangeably or what?) rather than the individual issues as they came out once a month, I had to deal with quite a bit of reintroduction that could have been easily edited out, but wasn’t.  I think I read that “Carmine Falcone is Gotham City’s

batman-longhalloween-gangster

The tux, and the moment, is very Godfather.

Untouchable Crime Lord” about 20 times.  Although they’ve packaged all 13 issues together, no effort was made to have it move seamlessly like a novel with chapters, and I guess that was intentional – they dropped in some cover art before each issue started, and I was glad to have it, but they could have stuck them all in the back and edited it together at least a little bit.

While I wouldn’t say that Batman:  The Long Halloween is perfect, there is no doubt that it’s great.  I loved it, and I look forward to reading it again – I guarantee you that by the end, you both WILL and WILL NOT have correctly identified the Holiday killer.  Riddle that out!  If you like The Godfather and Batman, Long Halloween is a no brainer, and even if you only like one of the two, I sitll recommend you pick it up.

NOTE: The girlfriend that gets you a graphic novel (trade paperback?) for Valentine’s Day really understands and accepts you!

MORE IMAGES FROM LONG HALLOWEEN:

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More Batman at creativejamie.com/category/comic-book-reviews/batman-comic-book-reviews/

Wind Storm of March 2010

It was just about a year ago that we got a nasty wind storm here in the greater New York City area.  As far as I know, it wasn’t a hurricane or anything like that; we just got a ton of rain and high speed wind, and it lasted for a long time.  Between the soggy ground and the wind, the trees blew right out of the ground.  It looked crazy.

tree with broken limb

tree basketball court

the basketball court got its ass kicked

tree basketball hoop

see what I mean?

tree snapped

this tree just snapped

tree ripped out by the roots

tree ripped out by the roots

tree by the slide

oh, the humanity!

snapped tree

tree dunks shatters backboard

the tree dunked and shattered the backboard; click the image and zoom in on this

Snow Falling At Night

snow falling at night

click the image to enlarge - you can really see the snow at full resolution

 

 

Snow falling at night… yep, that’s what it is, all right.  It took a while, but I finally found the right settings (which were…  uhm…  OK, I forget and I didn’t bother to write it down) and got the snow to reflect the flash nightly, which lit up the entire yard – the dogs are battling in the background.  Capturing snow falling in a still image seemed like a really good idea at the time, but now, I can’t remember what I was so excited about.

Took this photo with a Canon Digital Rebel…  I think I have the Canon EOS Rebel XS Digital SLR, and I used the 18-55mm lens it came with.  I have the silver one, which is an older, heavier model, but it takes great pictures – don’t let my lack of skill sell the camera short.

A Perfect Murder movie review

Yep, I’m digging into the archives and taking a look at 1998’s A Perfect Murder, which is a remake of Dial M for Murder, which is an adaptation of the play of the same name.

I’m just going to assume you’ve already seen this movie, so I’m not going to hold any details back – so if you read on, I’m not only going to ruin A Perfect Murder for you (well, probably not anymore than the trailer already does), but also Dial M for Murder.

spoiler alert

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Things That Are Hilarious About Students For Concealed Carry on Campus

I love many things in this life, two of which are the internet and guns.  I freely admit to loving both of these things; there is nothing as satisfying as finding out exactly what you need to know exactly when you need to know it, nor is there anything as thrilling as blowing holes in inanimate objects.  (Wikipedia and soda cans, be warned:  I’m coming for you!  OK, Wikipedia doesn’t need to be afraid of me, but soda cans are either getting recycled or sent directly to HELL!)  Read the rest of this entry

Republican Governors Association Using Scott Walker’s Union Busting To Raise Money

The Republican Governors Association is running this ad:

republican-governors-association-scott-walker-ad

If you clicked on this ad (well, you cannot click on this ad on this site, but I saw it on YouTube – there is a corresponding commercial, too), it takes you to a page where you can donate money to the RGA.

Before I say anything about the situation in Wisconsin, I have a question about the format of this ad:  why are the words ‘the,’ ‘as’ and ‘we’ italicized?  Why is ‘Scott Walker’ in a different font than ‘Support’ and ‘defend,’ and maybe the rest of the ad?  I would also argue against using the word ‘defend’ in an ad – although not from a legal standpoint, the word ‘defend’ tends to imply that somebody did something wrong, and that’s not the sort of message I would want to convey in my ad.  If anybody wants a quick lesson in photoshop (or the basic logic that is employed when creating an ad) , I’m happy to oblige.

I just don’t understand why Governor Walker wants to take away the union’s rights to collectively bargain.  In my view, that pretty much dissolves the union, and just because you’re wearing a suit and not brandishing a baseball bat doesn’t make you any better than your union busting predecessors.  I’ve heard the argument that unions have outlived their usefulness, but I tend to disagree – of course, the people I’ve heard make that argument are rich people who don’t need a union’s protection.

It’s a matter of record that the Republican National Committee has over $20 million dollars of debt, and I don’t know if that figure includes any debt owed by the RGA or if this ad is how they’re trying to raise money, but I certainly hope not.  I don’t understand how Republicans (in general, not specifically Gov. Walker) can make the argument that they favor fiscal responsibility when the most recent Republican president outspent every other administration in history (including President Reagan, and that’s impressive) and their National Committee spent over $20 million they didn’t have on election expenses.  $20 million dollars is a lot; it’s like they over spent by $20 bucks or $20,000. – and that’s what taking away collective bargaining is all about, right?  Saving money?  Or at least, that’s the argument I’ve been hearing, but not understanding.

It’s OK to ask people to donate money to your cause, but when it’s busting a union, that’s a tough sell, not to mention that it feels inappropriate in a, “we-need-money-to-keep-from-paying-people-a-negotiated-wage” sort of way.  Depriving people of the right to assemble and reason out their differences seems to go against the American way – isn’t that what we’re all about?

I welcome debate on this!  Drop some comments!

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