Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Just a quickie, as I'm still working (yeah, STILL) on tiling. But in between I found time to clear this movie off of the Tivo.

It's the least of the Bourne films, but still a decent action flick. I don't know that I remember Bourne actually issuing any ultimatums, though. This one largely dispenses with the intrigue aspects of the previous two, as it's pretty much Jason Bourne plowing his way through multiple assassins in a straight line to find out more info about himself. And when he gets there, we discover...well, we pretty much knew most of it anyway. Bourne also is a bit schizophrenic here - sometimes he's really clever, like how he manages to crack a safe. But sometimes he's really stupid, like immediately after when he taunts his pursuers too soon, giving them time to tighten their nets. So, really, this one ends up being all about the action sequences.

See what I did there - Bourne, schizophrenic...yeah, I guess you had to be there.

They mostly deliver. The biggest downside is the same one from the previous film - Paul Greengrass's Incredible ShakyCam. It's a shame, because I think most of the action sequences here were good enough in terms of fighting, tension, choreography, etc. to stand on their own without this failed attempt to add something more by having the cameraman run along side Matt Damon jiggling his camera back and forth. But you get good hand-to-hand clashes, urban (rooftop) foot chases, a car crash scene right out of The Blues Brothers, just one good sequence after another.

Too bad there wasn't a better film to go around them. Three stars.

Fantasy Football: Week 4 Recap

Well, we survived the bye week.

Week 4 was set up to be the week where my money league roster took the big hit from players on bye. Despite that, I still managed to pull out a narrow 124.22 - 117.30 victory. Fantasy football is strange - you don't expect to be watching Monday Night Football wondering if some guy named Le'Ron McClain is going to get 25 points to beat you. Since he only managed 17 (thanks to a dinged up Willis McGahee), I'm now up to 4-0, the only undefeated team.

The season-long trends continue. Jay Cutler continues to be The Man, posting 22 points despite losing and committing several turnovers. Marshawn Lynch continues to be a serviceable RB1, and Santana Moss continues his explosive ways. Darren Sproles once again proved to be a big WW pickup in this return yards league. However, Andre Johnson and Thomas Jones are now both officially on the "Oh Crap" list - both of their QBs had big days, but neither Johnson nor Jones were at all involved in the offense, and haven't been for a couple of weeks now. If they don't start getting the ball more, I'm going to be in big trouble down the stretch.

Meanwhile, a change of fortune for my other two teams. The ESPN team faltered, losing 102-82. Kurt Warner proved to be an anemic replacement for Eli Manning on his bye week, and Reggie Bush might as well have taken the week off, posting only 38 yards. They're now 3-1 and tied for first in the division.

My Fox Sports autodraft team managed to pick up a win, however, as LT finally showed up after a few weeks of lackluster performances. The Cutler-Marshall combo is also paying big dividends. Somehow this sorry lot has scraped up to 2-2 on the year, and they're still in contention.

I even managed to pull my way back up to the top of my Suicide League points league, as Buffalo grabbed a 17-point win over the Rams. All-in-all, not a bad week. Let's keep things rolling next week, guys.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XX

Another hole in my Jackie Chan collection filled:

Twin Dragons, $3.13 from eBay.

Yearly total: 19 movies, $66.03 total.

Movie Review: Live Free Or Die Hard

I needed to squint a bit to get full enjoyment out of this one for two reasons. First, since computers are a big part of the plot, I had to invoke the Cinematic Computer Rule: "Nothing you see a computer doing in the movies is possible." Being a computer guy myself, this does sometimes annoy me (such as the iPod in Transporter 2), but here, everything is at a fairly high-level - some guy taps on a computer for five seconds, and he's instantly tapped into a military communications circuit to a jet fighter. That kind of thing. Outlandish enough to just say "screw it" and move on.

Second, even though Die Hard is in the title, you kind of have to squint to make this into a Die Hard movie. Yeah, there's Bruce Willis running around, but he's not really acting much like John McClain here. He's relatively stoically running around, taking and giving out punishment. Not a lot of bantering, not a lot of improvisation, just moving from one set piece to the next. He really only comes close to letting loose in one scene, when he decides to "kill a helicopter with a car". And chief baddie Timothy Olyphant is certainly no Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons - he's not even William Sadler.

So, the movie mainly suffers from the fact that it is a sequel to one of the best action films of all time. But if you ignore it (or at least downplay it), what you end up with is a competent action movie. As I said, it's pretty much plot setup, then set piece, move to next scene, set piece, etc. to the end. Many action scenes are just McClain in a shoot-out with one or two bad guys in a confined space (the goofiest of which occurs towards the end, against some kind of gymnast guy whose acrobatics get the worst of him). But there are a couple of scenes that stand out - Willis and bad gal Maggie Q trapped in an SUV suspended in an elevator shaft, and the world's worst Harrier pilot trying and failing to hit McClain in a semi-trailer on a highway mixmaster.

Another basic, turn-off-your-mind, reasonably good action movie. (Oh, and Die Hard 4.0 would have been a better title.) Three stars.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 3 Recap

It's good not easy to be da king.

A tight week for the Money League team, as they held off a furious Monday night surge to barely win, 106.24 to 103.42. I, like many of my fellow fantasy players, were depending on the reports of Ladanian Tomlinson's demise to be correct, thus allowing Darren Sproles to run free. However, LT2 played most of the game and grabbed both goal-line attempts for the Chargers, giving my opponent 12 points. Add in the fact that Brett Fav-ruh decided to forget that he had a running back named Thomas Jones, and things were looking bleak. Fortunately, Sproles made the most of his few touches, getting good yards both as a receiver and a return man (although those on-sides kicks by the Jets didn't help). As a result, I'm now the only 3-0 team in my league.

However, trouble looms ahead. Andre Johnson and Tony Gonzalez continue to be victims of their anemic offenses in Houston and Kansas City, respectively. Justin Fargas and Justin Gage continue to be Justin Injured. And Week 4 is my bye week disaster, with Wes Welker, Ahmad Bradshaw and Kevin Smith all taking the week off. So this week is likely to break the streak. Hopefully, Matt Schaub will either get his act together or get benched, because I need Andre Johnson to hold up his end - I can't depend on Jay Cutler and Marshawn Lynch every week.

My other leagues continued according to form. My ESPN team was the highest scoring team for the third straight week, cruising to an all too easy 128-65 win. Subbing Julius Jones (20 points) for Earnest Graham (1 point) turned out to be a great decision, and Eli Manning, Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall continued their winning ways. 3-0 and pretty much on cruise control now.

The Fox autodraft team, on the other hand, is in some trouble. I believed the reports that LT2 would be sitting, and so I started Sproles in his place. Never again. Sproles got 7.7 points, while LT picked up 20 points for my bench. I lost by 2.5 points to fall to 1-2. Good thing this is the team I don't care about.

On to Week 4!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Terms Of Surrender

Well, following the tanking of the first two Seinfeld Microsoft commercials, Microsoft has announced that...well, that two commercials was really all they had planned for Jerry.

That was it. The whole thing. Ten million dollars. For that.


And now they're ready to unroll "phase two" which features...a copycat of Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" campaign. Only without the Mac, apparently.


Well, that ought to do it. Embrace the stereotype! Vista wins!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Movie Review: Shoot 'Em Up

Taking a break from the Jackie Chan Festival to clear this off my DVR. It's basically in the same vein as Crank - a video game film. There's the barest hint of a plot, and even the characters don't really bother much with it. Clive Owen's Man With No Name hero just sort of guesses at what's going on and is usually proven right. As the movie goes on, the plot gets goofier and goofier, to where it eventually becomes an annoyance.

Of course, I'm used to watching Jackie Chan movies, which aren't exactly known for their plotlines, either. So, how's the action. Well, as befits a video game movie, it's also goofy. Owen and Giamatti (two actors who really should be above this kind of thing) both take unbelievable amounts of punishment, fire off endless supplies of bullets, always manage to show up at just the right place with just the right weapons, and taunt each other from behind boxes, posts, whatever as they continue to fire at each other. It gets more than a little monotonous after a while (and this isn't even a very long movie). Sadly, the producers try to up the ante a bit at the end, with skydiving duels, broken fingers and blood spraying everywhere, but the effects budget must have run a bit low by then because things start going downhill visually by that point, as well.

In the end, not as much mindless fun as Crank. A valiant attempt, but just not quite there. Two stars.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 2 Recap

Well, the week isn't quite over yet, but I managed to pick up a ticket to tonight's Dallas-Philly game (road trip!), and all of my fantasy games are pretty much decided already. So...

It's still good to be da king!

My money league team will have to settle for second-highest score this week. But since my opponent is only the third-highest scorer...well, you see where I'm going with this. Jay Freaking Cutler continues to dominate, getting four TDs and a yardage bonus for the second straight week. A last second pull of Andre Johnson due to Hurricane Ike meant starting Santana Moss, who only managed to put up 37 points of his own. The only down side was an injury to Justin Fargas. I don't know his status, but I've got plenty of backups (Kevin Smith, Ahmad Bradshaw, and the newly added Darren Sproles). So I'm looking pretty happy, although I may also need to pick up a QB backup at some point (currently have Vince Young). 2-0 and looking strong.

My ESPN team will likely have its second straight week as the league's high scorer, and I still have Jason Witten to play tonight. Big games from Reggie Bush, Brandon Marshall (and this isn't even a PPR league) and Eli Manning led the way. The Tom Brady injury is really downgrading Randy Moss, though - going to be hard to get first-round production out of him this year. Even Earnest Graham pulled his weight! Firing on all cylinders here - this team is the class of the league and it isn't close.

As for the much maligned Fox Sports autodraft team, they managed to pull through thanks to some stupidity on the part of one of my fellow owners. Somebody saw that pathetic Raiders performance last week and decided to drop....Darren McFadden? Yeah, I'm playing with a bunch of sharks here. I managed to win the waivers battle for him, and plugged him in place of Ricky Williams. 164 yards later and I've got the win, and thank God because I was counting on LaDanian to pull this team - now he's got one of those nagging toe injuries that will probably keep him in the starting lineup but playing poorly all year long. Oh, and I started both Cutler and Brandon Marshall - that combo worked out well. I don't know if it will last, but I'll take 1-1 for this squad.

So, a 3-0 week, the money league team keeps looking great, and I'll cap it off with a trip to Texas Stadium tonight.

Yep, life is good sometimes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bad To Worse

OK - now it's just plain embarrassing:

If they really wanted to just throw away $10 million, they could have just sent it to me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rock Bottom (I Hope)

Her [Sarah Palin] greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.

Wow, could have fooled me. I've seen some pretty amazingly hateful stuff over the last couple of weeks. But I really didn't think anything could top Bush Derangement Syndrome until I started seeing Palin Derangement Syndrome. The above sentence was written for a column not on politics but on religion and faith.

In case anyone out there thought the level of vitriol and hatred coming from the left in the U.S. might subside after Bush leaves office - think again. Even if Obama wins, this is the kind of reasoning and discourse we can expect to see. Only now, it'll be backed by the White House in addition to Congress and the media.

Any wonder why I will never again vote for a Democrat?

Via Hot Air.

Always Be Prepared

Well, since the UT football game this weekend has been postponed, I guess that means Ike is actually going to have some impact around Austin.

Wait - I haven't checked on my hurricane preparedness yet! Let me check my supplies:

Whew. Looks like I'm OK. Bring it on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Words No Titan Fan Wants To Hear

NFL Network's Adam Schefter reports the Titans will sign QB Chris Simms.

Yeah, Vince Young is having "issues" - yet another former Longhorn having a very public breakdown upon leaving the Austin cocoon (re: Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson). But signing Pretty Boy is just a sure path to disappointment. He's got some ability, but what he mostly has is his father's name, and that isn't going to take any team to the next level. He's a placekeeper at best, and the Titans are better off with Kerry Collins starting than this loser.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 1 Recap

It's good to be da king. At least for one week.

My Money League team managed to not only pull out a victory late Monday night, but also to get the league's high-point total for the week (alas, no bonus payout for that). In fact, it could have been better - GB kicker Mason Crosby had a short field-goal attempt blocked just before halftime, and Jay Cutler ended up with 299 yards passing, one short of picking up a five-point bonus for getting to 300 yards. So eight relatively easy points missed out, but I'm not complaining, since I didn't need 'em this week.

Really, the only negative on the roster this week was Wes Welker - not surprising after Tom Brady's sudden disappearance. I'll have to keep an eye on that situation - it may mean either bringing in Detroit RB Kevin Smith more often, or looking to pick up a good free agent WR somewhere.

But not Eddie Royal - he got snapped up by next week's opponent. Having the Cutler-to-Royal hookup would have been nice. But at least my starting Cutler will negate some of Royal's value, and of course, Brandon Marshall returns next week to leech some of Royal's opportunities.

Meanwhile, my ESPN team coasted to an easy 100-72 victory - also high score for the week. Reggie Bush was the standout on this squad, and Eddie Royal was sitting on the bench - hey, I've got Royal and Marshall on this team. How'd that happen? My pickup of Maurice Morris seems to be a bust, but it does help his teammate, Julius Jones.

Finally, my joke autodraft team over on Fox limped home, as expected. I needed Tomlinson to have a big day, but 97 yards and no TDs does not count, and Ricky Williams also disappointed. I would have been better off with Jerious Norwood, but that's going to be the problem with this group - which of my three loser backup RBs to start along with Tomlinson each week? Oh, and a big bust from Ocho Cinco didn't help either.

So a 2-1 start on the year, with both wins holding promise for the future. A good start.

Monday, September 8, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XIX

A couple more DVDs to throw on the pile. From EBay, the recently-watched:

The Killer Meteors, starring Jackie Chan: $3.99

And from Fry's, an old favorite:

Running Scared, starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines (not the recent Paul Walker film): $4.31

Yearly total: 18 movies, $62.90 total (about $3.50 per).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Like Frickin' Frankenstein

I finally figured out what that lame Microsoft ad that has everyone buzzing in all the wrong ways reminds me of...

Dr. Evil trying to prove he's hip by doing the Macarena.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Numero Uno In Your Hearts...

I just noticed that Fox Sports has renamed Chad Johnson in their fantasy football site as "Chad Ocho Cinco".

He better hope he doesn't get traded to the Lions or the Rams - they've both retired the number 85.

And So It Begins

Just stuck down my first set of ceramic tiles in the bathroom. I can't tell if I mixed the mortar correctly, I don't know if I used too much or too little under the tiles, I don't know if the tiny misalignments between tiles will show up too much, and I don't know if that one tile sitting on a hump will wobble once everything is dry.

The pessimistic side of me is saying I'll be spending my 40th birthday ripping up these tiles and starting over.

But I think I'm not going to be paranoid about it. Tiling isn't exactly brain surgery.

Microsoft Surrenders

X million dollars to sign Jerry Seinfeld, and the result is this?

Oh, I'll bet Steve is just quaking right about now.

Or......maybe not.

Or maybe he's just getting ready for next week.

Non-Money League #2 Draft

And this is why I hate autodraft leagues.

In retrospect, I see what I did. The Fox Sports site lets you set up your draft preferences before starting the autodraft. Any players you don't rank explicitly are supposed to be left in the pool in rank order. But I had added a bunch of RBs to my draft list and then took them back off, thinking they would return to the list in original rank order. But I think they were all added to the end of the player pool order.

As a result, I got LaDanian Tomlinson with the first pick overall...and then didn't get another running back until the twelvth round.

So basically....I'm fucked. If I hadn't drawn the number one pick and gotten LT, I might as well have packed it in. As it is, I need him to be worth about 150% of an average running back just to keep up. That, and have Ronnie Brown get hurt so that Ricky Williams takes over the full load in Miami.

Don't laugh, but here's the roster:

QB: Cutler (6.12), Gerrard (8.12), Young (10.12)
RB: Tomlinson (1.01), Ricky Williams (12.12), Norwood (13.01), Betts (14.12)
WR: Marshall (3.01), Chad Johnson (4.12), Holmes (5.01), Roy Williams (7.01)
TE: Winslow (2.12), Daniels (9.01)
D: Dallas (11.01)
K: Kaeding (15.01)

So what went wrong? How about everything:

* Three backup or RBBC running backs. We start two, so I'm basically down a man every week.
* TE in the second round? And another in the ninth? Sheesh.
* Three quarterbacks? Don't need 'em.

What went right?

* Well, my WR corps is not too bad, and I'm gonna need a lot of production from them.
* Yeah, I overpaid for Winslow, but I think I got a good TE.
* I'm still fairly high on Cutler (but sixth round is also overpaid).
* Cowboys and Kaeding are good pickups for those slots.

Can I save this team? Depends on if I can swing a trade for an RB upgrade, or else hope that one of my backup guys suddenly becomes a starter.

So, in my three teams, I've got one mediocre one and two stinkers. Sigh - it's gonna be a long fantasy football season.

On the other hand....IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON, BABY!

Edit: In a feeble upgrade, I've dropped Owen Daniels to claim Maurice Morris, who has just been named starter in a weak RBBC situation in Seattle. Another half-timer for my roster.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Movie Review: Magnificent Bodyguards

After the last few Lo Wei/Jackie Chan movies on my festival listing (New Fist Of Fury and To Kill With Intrigue among them), I have to admit to having low expectations for the next one, Magnificent Bodyguards. Amazingly, this is a pretty good film. Yes, it's still full of low-budget wuxia effects - in this case, mostly reversed film of fighters leaping down from roofs, cliffs, etc. to simulate jumping up. And this one has the added bonus of having been originally released in 3-D (Wikipedia claims it is the first such Hong Kong film, and of course, Wikipedia is never wrong). So we also get lots of shots of spears, swords, staffs, feet and fist being thrust at the camera. I'm sure it was all very impressive to the contemporary audience; now, it's just charmingly cheesy.

Where we get improvement is in the plot and the fight staging. The plotline here is a fairly standard one. Jackie for a change plays neither a super-stud nor a naive braggard. His character here, while apparently having some renoun in the region, is basically a competent, level-headed fighter for hire, who is hired on here as (no points for guessing!) a bodyguard. He brings along some acquaintences, a deaf fighter who provides some of the comic relief, and a more angry, elder fighter to whom Jackie is actually relatively acquiesent. They are hired on to assist a lady in transporting her terminally-ill brother across a dangerous mountain pass known for being populated by robbers (The Scholar, The King, etc.) to physicians who can help him.

The passage over the mountain turns into a near constant stream of attacks, ambushes and traps. The script keeps things moving right along, only pausing to bring up the mystery of what exactly was up with the ill brother - was he really riding in the cab all along, and is he really ill or is there something else going on? The answer turns out to be a disappointingly bad surprise ending, which takes a little air out of the overall script quality. Overall though, it's still a reasonably well-done little "Saturday serial" type of script.

The fight scenes here are varied and usually interesting. For some of them, they decided to overly focus on showcasing the 3-D effect to the detriment of the fight, but they mainly kept that in check. There are one-on-one fights, group battles, various weapon attacks, hand-to-hand battles, some good footwork from the deaf fighter, the occasional (and usually not overdone) wuxia moves - quite a variety of types. Things get a little out of control in the final fight, with things going on a bit too long and too frantically (before yet another sudden "The End" pops up on the screen - what's up with all of the quick endings?). But all in all, the fight scenes here were a marked improvement over many previous films in the Chan filmography.

Which is not to say there isn't still a good cheese quotient present. The film has a vague kind of Western theme going on, and so the score occassionally breaks into a song that reminded me of a Morricone knock-off more than anything. That is, when they didn't decide to just splice in bits of the Star Wars soundtrack from time to time! It's amazing what they could get away with when nobody was looking.

So, a good solid three star performance here. And with this film, the festival starts to move into the true classic period for Jackie, when he started to take more control of the tenor of his films. Next up: Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin.

Morning Constitutional

Two moments over the weekend that caused my internal grammar Nazi to wince:

  • At the UT-FAU football game, there was a ceremony to retire Vince Young's jersey number (which wasn't actually much of a ceremony). They played a video on the Godzilla-tron highlighting some of his career accomplishments including:

    "In 2005, he led Texas to it's fifth national football championship."

    Yep - there, in probably twenty-foot tall letters on the largest scoreboard in the US, the University of Texas athletics department demonstrated that it doesn't know the difference between "its" and "it's". Sigh.

  • And then, some reporter-ette commented on Gustav's landfall:

    "The rain is literally coming down in buckets."

    Double sigh.
(The occasional Morning Constitutional series highlight episodes of public stupidity on the parts of others that make me feel smarter by comparison.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XVIII

The hits keep coming. More Chan, this time from Half-Price Books:

Shanghai Knights, $4.31.

Yearly total: 16 movies, $54.10.

DVD Spending Tab XVII

Another Ebay purchase, an anime that I've seen a few episodes of:

Cowboy Bebop Remix Complete Collection + Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, $16.50 for all 7 DVDs.

Now, how to count this in terms of movies. The show is twenty-six episodes, each one about a half-hour, let's make that about 4 movies worth. Plus the actual movie. So...

Yearly total: 15 movies, $49.71 total.