Sunday, October 26, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XXII

Another couple of holes in the Chan section of my library filled on the cheap:

Heart Of Dragon
+ My Lucky Stars + Pale Blue Balloons (I don't know what that last one is, it isn't a Jackie Chan film, it was just thrown in the lot): $3.99

Robin-B-Hood: $4.20

Yearly total: 24 movies, $82.71 total, $3.45/movie.

Doorknob Of Fate

Not sure what to make of this. I just got doorknobbed with a flier encouraging me to vote Democrat "not just at the top of the ticket".

Now I live in Austin. Obama is going to carry Travis County easily.

Austin is in Texas. McCain is going to carry Texas easily.

As a result, I largely get bypassed by most of the direct political crap, at least at the national level. So I'm not really sure what this flier implies about the state races.

Are the Dems feeling their oats, hoping to ride The Chosen One's coattails to some statewide gains here in Texas, a state that hasn't had a Democrat in statewide office for a long time now (probably since Ann Richards' time, and she's in the grave by now)? (BTW I don't think that will change this year either - Cornyn is a shoe-in to retain his seat, most other statewide seats don't change this year, and even the Austin Comicle thinks a change in the state legislature balance is a longshot.)

Or are the Obamalots worried about complacency setting in among the disciples, expecting a lower turnout than expected in an area he is going to win regardless? I wouldn't think they would need a good old, Chicago-style bus-in-the-ignorant-masses type GOTV effort here in The People's Republic of Texas.

As I said, it won't have any real effect here in Texas, but it's curious nonetheless.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie Review: Snake In The Eagle's Shadow

The Jackie Chan Film Festival continues its slow march towards the 1980's with the film largely regarded as starting the "classic" Jackie Chan period, where he went from a reliable lead or supporting actor to martial arts superstar. And it is a definite improvement over all of the previous films in the festival so far, at least in terms of action scenes. The plot is still one of the standards in the genre - one kung fu school looking to take out another one for some undisclosed reason. Here, each school is identified by the animal it mimics in its style, the Snake-Fist school and the Eagle Claw school. Since Jackie is fighting for the Snake-Fist side, you get a lot of poses like this:

I know nothing about martial arts styles, so I have no idea if any of this "snake fist", "cat's claw", "praying mantis" stuff is at all realistic. But it is at least overdone here, with hissing sound effects for each "strike" of the "snake" (and later, when Jackie incorporates "cat's claw" into his attack, we get yowling cat sound effects). Combined with the general acrobatic style of the fights here, you end up with a fairly light style of martial arts fighting, instead of a more bruising slug-fest or "ultimate bad-ass" type of fighting.

But it can't be denied that the fight scenes are well-choreographed and executed. This was the first film directed by Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix, etc.), and there's a clear step up in quality from the previous Lo Wei-dominated efforts. The fights are more inventive in their use of props (particularly early on, where an old man defeats a group of attackers with chopsticks and a rice bowl), and everything just moves faster and smoother. There also isn't so much of a reliance on quick cuts to hide things like trampolines and reversed film (although that does show up at the end once Jackie starts jumping around like a cat).

This film also brings back another genre staple - the strange old teacher training the young misfit. Here, we get the "return" of Sam the Seed, previously seen "alongside" Jackie in Master With Cracked Fingers through the magic of film editing. And so we get another training montage, with combinations of torture and odd tasks (grabbing eggs balance on top of poles?). Things sometimes progress a little too quickly (Jackie goes from bumbler to better-than-competent in record time), but it's all pretty standard stuff for the genre.

I'm going to give this one three stars, although we're now hitting more on the "high" three stars instead of "low" three stars. Things are definitely on an up-turn, and for our next films we get a variation of this film but replacing animal styles with wine - the classic Drunken Master.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 6 Recap

Back on top, baby.

Just as my Longhorns took over the #1 spot in the polls for the first time in a long time, so too did my money league team return to its early dominating ways. Jay Cutler had his second average week in a row, but Andre Johnson had his second big week in a row. But the MVP of the week goes to Thomas Jones of the Jets, who finally showed something in racking up 28 points with three touchdowns. Throw in a defensive TD by the Bucs, and I know I've got a good week going. All told, the Chads ran to a league-high 151 points, easily outpacing the 80 points put up by my opponent. Now 5-1 and with the highest point total in the league (which is the first tiebreaker).

My ESPN team, meanwhile, limped to a win, currently leading 81-70 with Eli Manning left to go tonight. I gave Julius Jones a shot this week, so of course he came up with only 44 yards, and Jason Witten had an uncharacteristic bad game. But still good enough to pick up the win, which takes them to 5-1 as well, tied for first place in the division.

The sad Fox autodraft team continued its mediocre ways, as well, currently losing 115 to 75, with more opponent scoring possible tonight. Tomlinson continued to be just OK, and he has no support in the other RB spot, this week with Jerious Norwood (37 yards, 1 fumble) acting as the black hole in my lineup this week. This group falls to 3-3 on the year, still in the running for the playoffs, but really not competing for the title.

Finally, my suicide points league barely squeaked into the positive, picking up 2 points on Minnesota over Detroit. However, my two closest competitors got -2 points with the Redskins losing to the Rams, so it's still a net positive week. My 45 point lead is still looking strong.

We're just coming up to the half-way point of the season, so if my money league team can pick up a few more wins, we can start thinking about clinching a playoff spot soon. Hopefully.

DVD Spending Tab XXI

Bought a couple more movies off of eBay:

I had to get another copy of The Protector (the Tony Jaa film), since my first eBay purchase turned out to be a dud. So even though this one only cost $5.31, I've ended up spending $9.32 total on this movie - way more than usual.

And a copy of an admittedly lackluster Jackie Chan film, The Tuxedo - yeah, really just because I'm a completist. At least it was only $3.18.

That makes 20 movies on the year, $74.52 spent total, for a $3.73/movie average.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Movie Review: Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin

Well, not quite as good as I was expecting. The latest entry in my briefly-interrupted Jackie Chan Film Festival is Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin. I think I was confusing this one with Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, which is the film that kicks off the "classic" Jackie Chan period. This one still belongs back in the "early" era, with a more restrained performance from Chan in the lead role of Hsu Yiu Fong. After a prologue describing the creation and disappearance of the Ultimate Kung Fu Book ("The Eight Steps Of The Snake And Crane"), Hsu shows up, dropping lots of hints that he possesses the book. This, of course, draws attention from pretty much every gang around - the Black Dragons, the Flying Tigers, the Nittany Lions - and Jackie easily beats back every attempt at theft. His persona here isn't the goofball from Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu nor the badass from New Fist Of Fury. He doesn't really boast a lot, but he isn't going for the humble newcomer approach, either. He's kind of "casually dominant".

Along the way, he drops hints that he will reveal the book and what he is looking for "later", which is good for us since for most of the movie, he's just walking around getting attacked to no effect. But eventually he reveals that he is setting a trap for someone (although no points for guessing which character it is - he all but twirls his mustache the few early times we see him). And sure enough, the movie ends with a fight between Jackie and the revealed Big Boss that ends rather suddenly - and then "The End" pops up on the screen.

Not much into long denouements at this point in his career.

Fight scenes here are passable, but nothing special. This one doesn't have the "magical" wuxia-type moves - everyone pretty much stays on the ground - and there isn't a lot in the way of weapons or environment incorporated into any of the fights. Just basic, standard stuff. A late fight with Jackie against three staff-wielders holds early promise, but it too ultimately fails to deliver. And the final fight didn't do much for me either.

Given that there really wasn't much plotline either (even compared to other Jackie Chan movies), I can't really give this one more than two stars - a really mediocre effort. Up next, the movie I thought I was going to be seeing - Snake In The Eagle's Shadow.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 5 Recap

The dream is over.

Much like last year's New England Patriots (except 14 weeks earlier), my money league team has finally tasted defeat. It was a team effort, as Jay Cutler finally came back down to earth, joining his continually-grounded teammate Tony Gonzalez. The only real bright spot was that Andre Johnson decided to join us here in the 2008 season, racking up 28 points and his first touchdown of the year. But my previously-winless opponent got off one of those freaky weeks, as DeAngelo Williams and Kyle Orton combined for six touchdowns, more than enough to blow me out of the water, 149 to 112. This drops me to 4-1, in a four-way tie for first place but still just barely ahead on points for the tiebreak.

My ESPN team got back on the winning track, 106 to 81. Firing on all cylinders here, as Eli Manning, Reggie Bush, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss all posted big numbers, more than enough to overcome a rare off-week for Brandon Marshall. They are 4-1, tied for first in the division.

My Fox autodraft team squeaked out a victory, but just because my opponent forgot to switch out a bye player. Anyone in that spot would have helped him overcome a 60-56 deficit. Sixty points for a win is horrible - it was the third-lowest total for the week in the league, but it was still good enough for a win. Somehow this week has crept up to 3-2, and could still even make the playoffs.

Finally, my Suicide League points team came through big, taking Carolina with a 35-point victory over the hapless Chefs. This extends my lead to a whopping 42 points - truly a butt-whooping in progress here.