Wednesday, February 28, 2007

DVD Spending Tab II

Nice two-for-$10 deal at Best Buy today, with the added bonus of free tickets to see 300 (which I plan on doing opening weekend sometime). So for $21.62, I picked up:

Unforgiven (Two-disc Special Edition)
Amadeus (Director's Cut - Two-disc Special Edition)
Batman (Two-disc Special Edition)
Batman Returns (Two-disc Special Edition)

Yearly total: 5 movies, $26.06.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

TV Review: 24: 4:00pm - 5:00pm

You know that part of the day - you've been at your desk for seven or eight hours, that lunch afterglow has passed, it's hard to get going on something new but it's too early to leave....

Yeah, that's where we are now. Four o'clock.

Not a lot of Jack action here - it takes Jack about as long to get to Logan's compound as it does for him to get changed into a suit once he gets there (but how did he get a suit in his size at Logan's house? never mind, it's Jack Bauer). Unfortunately, the Morris-Chloe drunk storyline continues apace, refusing to die as I had hoped. So it's kind of sad that the best thing to come out of this episode is the likely replacement of DB Woodside's President Palmer with Powers Boothe's more sinister vice-president, for at least some period of time. Too bad it probably comes at the expense of Alexander Siddig, whose character hasn't officially bitten the dust in saving the President, but will probably be revealed next week to have been killed off and subsequently blamed for the bombing.

Next week: Jack gets busy with some clippers (ouch), and hopefully Chad Lowe's weasely deputy gets his loose end tied up - permanently.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Morning Constitutional III

Didn't stay for the whole interview, but this morning C-SPAN featured a segment with Mike Gravel. Never heard of him? That's because he is a candidate for president of the United States from the Democratic Party not named Hillary or Barack. He's apparently running mostly as a single-issue candidate - with the issue being the "national initiative", the ability of laws to be passed directly by popular vote, without having to go through representatives (i.e. Congress).

This kind of democracy is used in some states already, of course - witness the recent recall election in California - but it was explicitly rejected by the Framers as a model for the national government. It was seen (rightly, in my opinion) as too subject to the notion of mob rule and demagoguery; not that it doesn't exist now (Lord knows), but it would be on a huge scale if used nationally. It would be the "tyranny of the majority" writ large, where basically California and New York would run the entire country; Wyoming might as well pack it up and go home.

But where Gravel goes from being a man with a bad idea into idiocy is where he'd like to have the national initiative used. The interviewer asked him what measures he would have put up for a national vote first (weren't the measures supposed to arise from the public, not from the president?). His first choice: abolition of the Electoral College (which is another form of representative democracy).

Now, this guy was apparently a United States senator for twelve years, and was well-known for using parliamentary procedures (filibuster, entering into congressional record, etc.) to accomplish his goals. So this guy knows his way around the federal government.

And am I now supposed to believe that he is proposing amending the United States Constitution strictly on a popular vote? Because that is what abolition of the Electoral College would entail.

But that's not all. He also wants to use national initiative to change the federal tax system to a consumption tax, specifically the Fair Tax. As it happens, I right now tend to be in favor of such a change (don't know all the pluses or minuses, but so far the pluses outweigh the minuses in my view). However, this again requires a change to the Constitution to enact, and he plans on doing it by popular vote. Bad idea (which makes me all the sadder that the Fair Tax might come to be associated with this guy).

It's hard to get too much of a boost in the morning by listening to a marginal candidate like this, but it's better than nothing. Gravel, you are an idiot, the time you received on C-SPAN this morning is far more attention than you deserve. Go away, so we can get back to our Obamamania.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Movie Review: The Myth

I had reviewed Jackie Chan's most recent film, Rob-B-Hood, a little while ago. Last night I watched his previous Chinese-produced film, 2005's The Myth. This is kind of an odd film for Chan - it is partly a period piece, with Chan playing an Imperial general tasked with guarding his concubine-to-be, and then later falling in love with her. But while he's done lots of period pieces before, I don't really recall him doing this specific kind, with large armies, lots of archers, broad swords and so on. I'm recalling more colonial-era settings than imperial-era.

But that's only half of the film. The other half is set in contemporary times, where Chan plays an archaeologist investigating a tribe that seems to have mastered anti-gravity. His character does just about as much archeology here as he did back in the Operation Condor films - that is to say, not much - but this film is played relatively straight, without the goofiness of the earlier works. The link between the two eras is that the modern character is haunted by dreams of the historical character, and the two storylines end up merging by the end of the film as the tribe turns out to have connections to the Imperial-era characters.

This was kind of a frustrating film, in retrospect. The film jumps back and forth between the two timelines, and those transitions are actually handled pretty well. But each individual storyline has problems. The imperial era story just wasn't very interesting - the soldier tasked with guarding the emporer's woman isn't exactly the most original plotline, and pales in comparison with the more complex relationships in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House Of Flying Daggers. Also, Chan's fight scenes in this timeline were either not very interesting (mostly involving wild broad sword swinging) or embarassingly bad (as described later).

Another problem with both timelines was their disjointedness. About two-thirds of the way through the film, each storyline decided to take a sudden jump. The imperial-era storyline decided to jump away from the romance angle to turn into a court-intrigue/betrayal plot. Meanwhile, the modern era storyline abandons the mystic-training plot it had been developing and decides to introduce a new bad guy out of nowhere. These plot jumps were not handled well in either case, and served to kind of throw out a lot of what came before.

Of course, one can argue that plotlines are not usually the strength of Jackie Chan films anyway - what about the action? Well, while I didn't get much out of the imperial-era fight scenes, the modern era scenes were mostly entertaining. In particular, an early fight set in a tomb between Jackie and two guards (and Jackie's bumbling companion William) showed lots of the little touches I really like - Jackie's almost casual disarming of his opponents spears and swords, his self-induced injuries with the swinging sword, William's alternately helping and hurting Jackie's efforts. Another fine scene occurs on a sticky surface, causing the competitors to gradually disrobe as their clothing gets stuck down to the mat.

This film also uses perhaps the most computer-generated and wire-assisted work I've seen in a Jackie Chan film. Some of it works very well - the concluding scenes, set in a floating temple and involving a zero-gravity fight, is generally well-done, looking good and providing interest, if not a lot of intricate fighting. But there are some CGI scenes early in the film, set in the imperial era, that are just embarrassingly bad. In particular, there are some horse kicks that are about the worst use of CGI and blue-screen I've seen since James Bond went surfing in Die Another Day. The fact that they show up almost immediately in the film gave the movie a lot to overcome during the rest of its run.

I know this review has sounded really negative, and it's probably more negative than I intend it to sound. As I said, the film got off to a mixed start with some dodgy effect work, but there are definitely more worthwhile action moments later on. I guess it's good to see Jackie try something different in terms of plot, but in this case, the story experimentation just didn't quite work out. I'm going to give this a middling three stars for the later action scenes, but I do wish they had worked out a little better how the whole thing was going to fit together.

And Sure Enough...

Just as soon as I post about the tendency of Democrats to obscure their legitimate arguments with wild hyperbole...

Senator Barack Obama appeared in Austin Friday in front of an estimated 15000 fans as part of a fund raiser/campaign speech. Our local news station covered the stop, and here is the photo they ran with the story:

It could have been a photo to show the large crowds that showed up or the fervor that he stirred up. Instead, the first thing that jumps out at me is the large "Investigate 9/11" sign, immediately beside Obama. It is really the intent of the left in this country to want to associate the man who is probably their best shot at getting a true left-wing candidate in the White House (Hillary sways in the wind too much between left-wing and center-left to really count) with the whackjobs that think that the evil Bush-Cheney-Rove-Halliburton-Isreal axis brought down the Twin Towers on purpose? Because that is exactly what this image does.

They just can't help themselves. God help us all if they do get their hands on real power.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Seethe Too Far

UrbanGrounds has a post discussing the left's outrage over plans for a Democratic presidential candidate debate to be held on Fox News. Among all the usual seething, boycotts and "Important Action Items" (you know, like the kind that "saved" Amanda Marcotte and, umm, the other one) comes this interesting bit (emphasis mine):

Petition campaigns are under way, aimed at the Nevada Democrats and the DNC, applying serious heat to drop Fox’s control of the event because it is not a legitimate news organization.

I see this as a typical problem on both sides of the aisle, but since I am of the right, I obviously see it happening more on the left. They overreach. They just can't help themselves.

Look, the argument that a Democratic debate would not get a fair shake on Fox News is at least capable of being discussed. It fails, in my view - for example, Fox News held Democratic presidential debates in 2003 and in 2004 without any kind of noticeable adverse affect on the campaign. But it is at least a rational position.

The position that Fox News is not "a legitimate news organization", however, is irrational. Lots of people feel (with evidence) that Fox News generally has an editorial slant that is more conservative that most other news groups. I feel that there is an obvious editorial slant (to the left) for most other news outlets (CBS, ABC, MSNBC in particular). Having a slant is not the same as not being a legitimate news organization.

What makes a news outlet "illegitimate"? Alternet, which published the above charge, claims on its website that it is

an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism

What makes Alternet a "legitimate news source"? What makes them more legitimate than Fox News? Fox News is obviously a legitimate news organization, and claiming they aren't simply makes the more rational parts of the left's arguments look worse by association.

If you want to make an argument, make your best argument - don't start throwing around extremist claims, conspiracy theories and the like. They just water down your position. If your point has merit, it will be considered.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

TV Review: Lost: Stranger In A Strange Land

"...and then I suddenly lost interest."

Season 3 of Lost has been a real disappointment, and this episode is a good reason why. After what, 8 or 9 episodes, we've still learned nothing about the Others. For last season's big mystery, the scope of Dharma on the island, we didn't get a lot of answers, but at least we were getting more information. This season, the big mystery is the Others, and we are just standing still. For this episode, we get a new character, the "sheriff" Isabelle, and the return of a briefly-seen character, the stewardess. But we also get no new information about what they are doing. Alcatraz is just "where they work", but the only things we've seen them do is put Sawyer and Kate to work turning big rocks into little rocks, and holding mock trials. (And apparently, they've got a whole quasi-legal system set up amongst themselves?) Do they actually do anything?

They're still "the good guys", right Ben?

Frankly, this episode is the one where I switch sides - I'm still watching, but I'm ready for the show to end. They will have to sell me on a Season 4.

And for God's sake, bring on The Shield!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

TV Review: 24 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm

Sort of the opposite of some recent hours - some good action, but not really a lot of movement in the various plotlines. We've apparently switched to the next block of episode plotting, where we swap out what's left of the Bauer family for the Logan family (and maybe the return of the missing Aaron?). Some points:

  • When Jack Bauer says "I'm unarmed", that means he is down to 596 different ways to kill you.
  • On the other hand, how many times today has Jack said "I'm ready to die"? I'm actually beginning to wonder if Sutherland would be willing to have Jack be killed off this year, especially if the movie rumors have really begun to die down.
  • Big warning signs started flashing when Morris was asked if he wanted to talk to "his doctor, his sponsor, ...", and sure enough, we got the lapsed alcoholic plotline. I sincerely hope that was a fifteen-minute plotline, and that we don't have a further return to the Chloe-Morris-Milo triangle - I think we barely dodged a bullet the last time that came up.
  • Last year, we had Gregory Itzin doing his best Nixon impersonation - I guess this year it's going to be Saddam?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Movie Review: Beverly Hills Cop

Been too busy at work to think about posting much, but I need to put something up. I did watch Beverly Hills Cop over the weekend, although I hadn't intended to - it was still sitting on top of my pile from its purchase last month, and I just threw it in. (I had intended to watch Jackie Chan's The Myth; maybe next time.) This is quality early Murphy, the kind we haven't seen in a while (since about Mulan, I guess, which was his warm-up for Shrek).

Of course, Eddie rules whenever he is on scene, but I had forgotten how well Rosewood and Taggert worked as a comedy team when the action wasn't on Murphy. I wonder if that was a result of this film's genesis as a Stallone vehicle - obviously, Sly wasn't going to provide any (intentional) comedy relief. Taggert's silent takes to Rosewood's articles during their stakeout ("You eat a lot of red meat") fall right in line with those of Oliver Hardy or the Skipper.

I had also forgotten about the truck chase scene at the beginning. That could easily have been part of a Stallone film - it wasn't just a comedy bit with Murphy rolling around in the back as the semi careened along. There was some serious automotive destruction going on, the kind you don't always get to see today with CGI abounding.

All in all, a quality film. Four stars.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Followup: Give A Moron A Hug

Well I see that the morons did manage to get 2000 people out to form their little Circle Of Power this morning - not the 5000 they were hoping for but frankly better than I would've thought. The News 8 Austin article says they "tried to make a human chain around the perimeter", so I'm assuming that means they didn't quite make it, and a little bit of private property rights and capitalism managed to sneak through and infest the site. Oh well, better luck next time.

Movie Review: Infernal Affairs

Wow, what a great, twisty movie. A police superintendent is trying to take down a mob boss, but the boss has a mole in the police force. Fortunately, the police have a mole in the mob. Each side finds out about the other's mole, and assigns the mole to hunt down themselves. Lots of turns here as each side briefly gains the upper hand, and each mole has to decide on which side their loyalties lie. I haven't seen The Departed yet, which is an American version of this film, but it's on my list, and this film has only made me more interested. And thank goodnees they didn't go with the alternate ending found on the DVD - that would have been horrible. Five stars.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Movie Review: Five Fingers Of Death

Picked this one up blind at the library. This is apparently the film that launched the 70's kung fu craze in America, but it must have just been at the right place at the right time, because this film didn't do much for me. I'm not a huge student of old school martial arts films, but I've seen a few I enjoyed more than this one.

Of course, part of this may be since I'm more of a Jackie Chan fan, and this flick is not of the "goofy student becomes a stud" model that many of Jackie's early movies were. But neither does the lead character here, Chao Chih-hao, have the kind of coiled spring intensity of a Bruce Lee. He's just kind of there, not really showing much intensity anywhere, even in the poses where his fists glow red to show his inner strength. The plot is fairly standard - two schools, one good and one evil, plan to compete in an upcoming tournament, and the evil one tries various tricks to cause the best student for the good school to miss the contest. The good school wins, but at the cost of many of its students and its leader, and the final fight has the hero beat the evil school's champ.

It's all pretty standard and kind of slow in building, at least until the evil school brings in some Japanese assassins. Not much of the tournament itself is shown, which kind of makes the build up to it relatively meaningless. But the final fight, where Chih-hao takes on the evil school henchmen and then the Japanese big boss, is pretty well done. The style here is the old school "men-jumping-on-trampoline" type of fighting, with the sudden switches to bright blue sky in the middle of nighttime fights being the kind of continuity error that brings a smile to my face.

In the end, I suspect this film is more respected for its historical significance than for the film itself, but that may be my relative inexperience with the genre. It probably says something that I recognized the siren sound from Kill Bill here rather than the other way around. But as I said, I'd have to rate this film lower than other films of the same genre, so I'm going with two stars here.

Join Together Redux

There's been a sudden rash of musical reunions announced recently, some of which I'm more interested in than others:

The Who

This one has already occurred - what's left of the band has recently released a new album. I heard the first single from the album on the radio once, and it left such a big impression that I can't remember the name of the song, or even the name of the album. Hold on a minute.

/me checks All Music Guide

The album is called Endless Wire, and the song was apparently "It's Not Enough". I haven't heard anything else off of this album, but Daltrey did seem to be in pretty good voice during their Live 8 performance. On the other hand, the last few Townshend albums I listened to did absolutely nothing for me. It's been a while since his last solo release - maybe he's relocated some inspiration. I'll keep my ears open - my interest factor in this reunion is Mild.

The Police

This reunion has been announced, with the reformed band playing at the Grammys this weekend and a tour to follow. I don't know if they are releasing new music or just touring the old material. I like a lot of the old Police stuff, and I was also liking Sting's solo work until about Ten Summoners Tales. His more recent material though strays too far from the eclectic part of albums like Dream Of The Blue Turtles - they sound more like album-long copies of "Fields Of Gold". Andy Summers has mostly been doing jazz guitar work, some of which I find interesting, some of which drifts too much into the New Age genre. And I don't really know much about Stewart Copeland's solo work, except that he's done a lot of soundtrack work, so I've probably been hearing it without knowing it.

I hope there is new material coming out of this reunion - the last one only managed to produce that lame cover version of "Don't Stand So Close To Me". Hopefully, Andy and Stewart can pull Sting back away from the generic pop rut he's been in. Interest level = High.

Van Halen

Van Halen's decade-long search for a front-man to replace that guy from Van Halen III has led them to hire some ex-radio-talk-show host. Eddie's life has pretty much been a train-wreck, and I don't think anyone's interested in seeing Diamond Dave bring out the spandex. It's been a long time since these guys produced anything of relevance, and I'm not expecting much here. Interest level = Low.


This reunion tour has been announced, and apparently will only include Collins, Rutherford and Banks, with no new album. I might be interested if they include some stuff before Invisible Touch. I know everyone slags the Collins era, but I think there's some good stuff on the albums after Gabriel left, but before Invisible Touch, and I'd like to see some of those songs covered. Interest level = Medium.

Pink Floyd

I'm including this one just since the endless rumors about a reunion (with or without Roger Waters) have ramped up a bit since their Live 8 performance. It looks like the official word is still No, and I wouldn't really expect anything. Gilmour just released On An Island, which is a nice enough quiet listen, but not really very Pink Floyd. He doesn't seem to feel a need to return to that genre right now. As for Roger, I'm pretty sure I'm not that interested in anything he has to say anyway. Apparently, he thinks lyrics like "Oh George! Oh George! That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small" (from "Leaving Beirut") are clever, creative political commentary. He really thought that this song would affect the 2004 Presidential election? Sheesh.

Since this one ain't happening, my interest level is Irrelevant.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

TV Review: Lost: Not In Portland

Lost is one of three shows I consider "appointment TV" (along with 24 and The Shield). However, I have to say that the first part of season three dampened my enthusiasm for the show somewhat. I'm not sure that I've gotten a lot out of the adventures of Jack, Kate and Sawyer over on Island 2.0 - mostly a lot of weirdness and hints of internal politics (like I don't get enough of that over on 24), and that's eaten up most of the time so far. What little time we've had back on Island 1.0 has had some good bits (Locke's "spirit journey") and some bad bits (Eko's death, Desmond's precog abilities). But things seem to be in a kind of holding pattern while we wait to see what the inevitable Big Reveal About The Others will be.

So I have to say I'm happy with the first episode of the rest of the season, since if nothing else, we at least got two-thirds of our captives heading back to the first island. The Juliet flashback served to reinforce the reach of the Others, that some of the Others are also at least somewhat captives, and that there is still a tie-in back to the only baby we've seen so far. So do we have at least three factions among the Others now: the Others (Ben), ones working with the Others but not able to leave (Juliet), and those working against Ben (Alex)?

Plus some reasonable action scenes and several good Sawyer lines (the "Wookiee escape trick" - lol). So definitely an upturn for me - let's hope it keeps up.

Now if The Shield would get back online, we'd have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday covered...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Give A Moron A Hug

Well, everytime I think Austin has gone as stupid as it can go...

The usual moonbats have been up in arms for a while now over plans for a new Walmart to be located at a practically empty mall in North Austin. Even though the mall itself is largely empty (it biggest anchor is an old Sports Authority location, and most of it is taken up by a closed-down ice skating rink), and even though it is completely surrounded by retail establishments, the "nearby residents" (where "nearby" is defined as "anywhere within 25 miles") are complaining about the traffic and noise the Walmart would bring. What they are actually complaining about is the fact that it is a Walmart, which is of course one of the biggest lefty targets around, mostly for its anti-labor position. Oh, and for its success - another thing many on the left don't like.

So with all of the hemming and hawing, they've finally come up with their masterstroke protest:

Arms Around Northcross

Yep, they plan to get 5000 people to form a human chain around the entire mall on Saturday morning, which will "turn up the heat so much that we could save our neighborhoods, and become a part of Austin history".

Please - this level of moonbattery barely rates a footnote on the list of stupid Austin tricks.

Besides, if they couldn't manage to scare up 1000 people for an anti-war protest (oh, and "Free Mumia!") here in the 'Berzerkely of Texas", what makes them think 5000 will show up for this? Instead of forming circles around malls, they should just stick to forming drum circles in Pease Park.

TV Review: 24: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

So let me see if I understand the Bauer boys' plan here: Dad heads off to find McCarthy while Graem waits behind. Jack and Graem show up. Grame pretends to send Jack and Dad off to be killed. Dad now depends on Jack getting them free, stopping to kill one of his own men. They both head back, so that Jack can recapture Graem. Jack tortures Graem, who spills the fact he was in on Day 5's attacks.

All this was done to make it look like Graem was the bad guy, so that Dad could act unimpeded. But, now Dad realizes that Graem won't be able to hold out against extended interrogation, and so he kills Graem - but only after conveniently being left alone with him (once again, CTU's outstanding security comes through).

Frankly, this whole thing is a load. Was this supposed to be their contingency plan all along (since they didn't have any time that we saw to plan this out)? Would they have used the same plan if Jack hadn't been the one to come in - after all, the Bauers did not know Jack was back from China yet. And how could this plan end with anything other than the death of Graem?

Arrrrrrgh. Sure, there was a nice interrogation scene, and the new track with Morris could be O.K., but the convulsions this episode went through to hide and then reveal Dad's role in things was just stupid, even for 24.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Things and Stuff...and Things

  • OK, I'm a believer. The Horns put up 82 points, the most the Aggies have given up this year...and still lose by 18 points. After wins over Kansas and Texas, it's clear who the best team in the Big 12 is this year. I still can't believe A&M is higher ranked than Duke.
  • Gov. Perry wants to sell the Texas Lottery and live off the lump sum. OK, whatever - I don't really have any big opinion on the lottery either way - I don't care if we have gambling in Texas, it's just an idiot tax - but there are a couple of bad points here. First, Perry apparently wants to use part of the money to set up another welfare program.
    I'm against that in general, partly because I'm an eeeeeeee-vil conservative, but also because whenever money shows up in the coffers, the first thing politicians want to do is set up a new program. The problem is, the program then has to be funded in perpetuity, because no welfare program ever goes away.
    Second, Perry is apparently planning on getting a nine-percent return on investment of the proceeds, indefinitely. If that is truly available, why aren't we using it for all kinds of things? Why aren't we investing Social Security funds there? Hell, nine percent return is probably twelve percent better than I can expect to see on the money flushed down that black hole.
    Combine unreasonable expectations with a new funding mandate, and I can shenanigans on the whole thing. Here's an idea: sell the lottery and return the money to the taxpayers.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Movie Review: Smokin' Aces

Another day, another three-star rating. At least this one is slightly different from the others - I actually saw this one at a really-for-real movie theater, the Alamo Lake Creek. For some reason, they decided to warm me up with the Yatta! video, which I hadn't seen in whole before - I'm not sure how that trauma affected my opinion of the movie, though.

I didn't know a lot of details about Smokin' Aces going in. There had been a few Tarantino-lite references thrown about, but I didn't really see it myself. Not that I'm a big student or anything, but I don't really see Tarantino films as being full of weird characters - they're full of (usually vicious) characters engaged in unexpected conversations (in between killing each other). The characters in Smokin' Aces don't really have much to say; one of the killers only has two spoken lines in the whole film, and two of the others don't really have any lines I can remember outside of incoherent yelling. About the only characters of interest from a dialogue standpoint are the two female killers, one of which gets into a great but one-sided discussion of woman's rights with a receptionist who clearly couldn't care less.

The interest factor here comes about from having a strange assortment of characters all congregating in one place with a lot of weapons. Some of these characters seem to be strange just for the sake of being strange. It says something when you have three neo-Nazis running around with machetes and chainsaws - and they are only the second weirdest characters in the movie. The first is the inexplicable (and completely superfluous) karate kid one of the killers encounters after getting shot up. And while strange will get you by for a while, it's no substitute for a good plot and good execution.

Plot-wise, Smokin' Aces is OK but not great. Things build up and build up to the expected shoot-out, but frankly too many people seem to take too many times to get killed. There's no way anyone survived the duel in the elevator, and yet both participants end up surviving? A guy gets half of his hand shot off and dumped in Lake Tahoe, and is running around later killing folks? At least Ben Affleck had the good graces to die quickly and get off of the screen.

The big twist at the end wasn't much of a twist, as half of it (the identity of Sparazza) was telegraphed almost immediately and the other half (the identity of Isreal) came completely out of the blue (no clues for the audience at all) and wasn't really that important anyway. So in the end, the movie is primarily a wait for the inevitable shoot-out sequence, and hoping for good individual scenes along the way (like Isreal's final conversation with Ivey). As annoying as things like the karate kid were, there were enough good things to keep me going to the end (when the "twist" showed up), so I can't really drop this one down to two stars. But not nearly good enough for four. Sigh - maybe I should just switch to good/bad instead; everything seems to end up as a three this year.

Prop Bets Result

Well, considering I picked these pretty much at random from a list of prop bets, I did pretty darn well:

Coin Flip: Heads (-105) Won
First Team To Score: Bears (+110) Won
First Team To Record QB Sack: Colts (-140) Won
First Team To Record Interception: Bears (+130) Won
Team With Most Turnovers: Bears (-135) Won
Team With Longest Rush: Bears (-125) Won
Will There Be A Lead Change In The Second Half: No (-180) Won
Chicago Rush O/U 131.5: Over (-125) Lost
First Score Is: Any Other Bears TD (+1300) Won
Margin Of Victory: Colts by 11-13 (+825) Won
Total Sacks O/U 3.5: Over (-155) Lost

So out of 11 picks, I made 9 correct. I actually thought the first score might be a Chicago INT run back for a touchdown, but instead I got it the "Other Bears TD" and "First Interception by Bears" picks in two separate plays. And of course, getting the margin correct was another big pick.

If I had wagered $10 on each selection, for a total wager of $110, I would have taken home $364.12. What am I still doing in Austin? I'm heading to Vegas, baby!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Super Bowl Prop Bets

I'll take:

Coin Flip: Heads (-105)
First Team To Score: Bears (+110)
First Team To Record QB Sack: Colts (-140)
First Team To Record Interception: Bears (+130)
Team With Most Turnovers: Bears (-135)
Team With Longest Rush: Bears (-125)
Will There Be A Lead Change In The Second Half: No (-180)
Chicago Rush O/U 131.5: Over (-125)
First Score Is: Any Other Bears TD (+1300)
Margin Of Victory: Colts by 11-13 (+825)
Total Sacks O/U 3.5: Over (-155)

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Movie Review: Rob-B-Hood

I'm a big Jackie Chan fan. I've got most of his movies - seen and enjoyed most of the classics (the Police Storys, the Project As, the Drunken Masters) and have started in on the earlier stuff (The Young Master, Spiritual Kung Fu, etc.). After finally hitting it big in America with the Rush Hour and Shanghai films, though, he's hit a definite slump with his American films. The Medallion and Around the World in 80 Days had little to recommend, and the less said about The Tuxedo, the better.

But in between these stinkers, Jackie has continued to make films overseas. I've had a few of them waiting on my shelf for a while now, and I'm finally getting around to some of them. New Police Story (2004) and The Myth (2005) will get their turn, but tonight's film is 2006's Rob-B-Hood.

This isn't really a typical Jackie Chan action film, but it's probably the type of film we're likely to get from him in the future. It's not really an action film - it's more of comedy/drama film with a few action sequences. Here, Jackie plays a member of a three-man robbery gang. They seem to be pretty successful at their trade, but all three of them have problems. Thongs (Jackie) is a cumpulsive gambler with an estranged family. Octopus is a womanizer whose just learned his wife is pregnant. And Landlord has a delusional wife who never got over the death of their son years ago. They all need money, and so Landlord grabs a shady deal that turns into a babynapping-gone-awry. At this point, the movie turns into "Two Thieves And A Baby", as Thongs and Octopus have to look after the baby until Landlord can extract himself from jail and get the deal back on track. The usual baby-related hijinks ensue, and so does the usual baby-related lessons in life.

The movie has a couple of short but impressive fight scenes, and a couple of longer stunt sequences, before reaching the big fight at the end. There is a fairly nice car chase sequence with a great and funny ending, and an odd little chase for Jackie set on a roller coaster. There's also a classic Chan fight scene set in a small apartment where everyone seems to converge at the same time - the thieves, the loan sharks, the kidnappers, the police and the unknowing girlfriends. It shows Chan's usual great use of environment in staging his fights.

However, the movie is less successful outside of the action parts. There are just too many odd subplots going on, each of which sets up some payoff later on - but most of the payoffs are fairly lame. The whole thing just takes too long (the movie itself is about 2:15), and this extends to the end; after the final big fight, there are two more drama sequences left, neither of which works for me (especially the "execution" at the end).

Jackie has done this kind of film well in the past (I'm thinking especially of Dragons Forever here - and this movie was at one point supposed to star the Three Dragons as well), but this one just didn't work outside of the action parts. Not actively bad, but I don't know that I'll be revisiting this one much. Three stars.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Kids In The Decline

I had heard some rumors about the latest Uwe Boll disasterpiece, Postal (based on the infamous third-person shooter video game), but I hadn't heard just how low he was aiming:
But wait… there's more! Foley's character in the production, called Uncle Dave, is a twisted cult leader who uses his religious doctrine to keep his subjects in a constant state of servitude. He exploits this by luring them into protracted orgies and other debauchery. In the scenes we saw, Foley was dressed in an open robe (and we mean open), wandering around the room barking orders. At the end of the scene, he takes a crap on camera.

That's leaving aside the character of Osama Bin Laden, or the Columbine jokes. Ugh.

I had thought at one point that "Foley" referred to wrestler Mick Foley, who did have a few non-wrestling acting roles on his resume. But no, sadly it refers to former Kids In The Hall member Dave Foley. I guess having It's Pat as the low point in one's filmography just wasn't sufficient.

Between this and fellow Kid Kevin McDonald's recent appearance in the critical and creative bomb (but box office success) Epic Movie (3% at Rotten Tomatoes), I think we better watch out for an appearance by Bruce McCulloch on Armed & Famous 2 sometime in the future.

Stuff and Things...and Stuff

  • Kevin Durant is a machine. He's actually giving me some hope...that we might make it past the second round this year.
  • I normally roll my eyes at the folks that get all hyperventilated whenever they see anything vaguely related to religion near a government office, but even I think putting "In God We Trust" in the state senate chamber is a stupid idea. Let me get this straight - whenever Senators get stuck on something, or things get too contentious, they can just look up on the wall and realize everything will be alright, because "In God We Trust"? Please.
  • Molly Ivins is dead. Since we should not speak ill of the dead, here is my eulogy for her: " "
  • I can't believe that the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie will appeal to anybody outside of the already narrow fanbase, but aside from the stupidity of planting electric signs on the undersides of overpasses and causing security alerts in Boston - did anyone at Adult Swim really think this would increase the ticket sales? That is, without something like this happening?