Monday, December 22, 2008

Fantasy Football: The Agony Of Defeat

I feel like the New England Patriots about now.

Not that I had an undefeated season going, but the Hanging Chads pretty much dominated all year. And even in the Super Bowl, they still put together a reasonable score of 126 after averaging 143 per week during the regular season. But they ran into a hotter opponent this week - the Flux Capacitors put up 137 points and still have Matt Forte to go. So unless Forte fumbles six'll be a second-place finish this year.

Sadly, I left a few points on the bench. I decided to sit first-round pick Marshawn Lynch, since he was a "game-time decision" for the late Sunday game. Bringing in Kevin Smith turned out to be a good move, but my usual stud Andre Johnson and my occasional stud Santana Moss both decided to disappear this week. I could have brought in Tashard Choice and still been in it (although it's not clear I would hold on after Forte).

Well, it just goes to show that fantasy football is still got a lot of luck to it. My draft ended up riding me through the season, as I had very few waiver wire players get any time at all - other than kickers and defenses, I pretty much ran with my seven of my top eight draft picks most weeks. And yet, one only slightly-off week is enough to lose it.

Just ask the Patriots.

Oh well - second ain't bad, and a $74 pot will help ease the pain. See you next season, guys.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Movie Review: Battle Creek Brawl

The Jackie Chan Film Festival slowly makes its way into the 1980s, and hops over to America for Jackie's first English film, Battle Creek Brawl (aka The Big Brawl). Although it's his first film specifically for American audiences, it still shares a lot of traits with his Chinese films at the time. Once again, it's a period piece in which he plays a young man interested in martial arts against the wishes of his father, who gets trained by a mischievous/sadistic older master (played this time by Japanese actor Mako), and who gets involved in a battle between two rival gangs. But this time, the period is the Depression-era Chicago instead of imperial China, and the gangs are mobsters instead of rival martial arts schools.

The mobsters are involved in underground fight tournaments and, er, underground roller-skate relay races (leading to a bizarre action sequence and the likely anachronistic dialog "no pain, no gain!"). Jackie's character is coerced into fighting in a Texas tournament when his brother's fiance is kidnapped - a plot point that seems to be largely forgotten by the end of the film. All of the other competitors are large, hulking brute types who fail to put up any kind of challenge to Jackie. So most of these fights are played for laughs, but are largely unimpressive. Only during one sequence where Jackie takes on a set of mobsters in a movie theater, including a knife-welding fighter, do things get at all interesting, and that's really only relative to the other fights.

There really isn't much to recommend here - Jackie tries to incorporate some touches from his Chinese efforts, such as using benches and chairs as shields and weapons. But many of these attempts seem overly posed and oddly paced here. I don't know if this is from using a different set of stuntmen or what, but after viewing the original versions of these stunts, these versions come off as a cheap knock-off.

This is barely a two-star effort, so it's no wonder it caused Jackie to fall back before mounting another attempt to enter the American market several years later. In the meantime, the festival moves back to China for the next entry, the Jackie Chan-directed Dragon Lord.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Really Really?

Hot Air features a clip from CNN where a reporter takes a leap from one nutbag "journalist" to the U.S. being "loathed" throughout the Arab world during an interview with Condi Rice.

Frankly, Captain Ed got a lot further in that interview than I did when I came across it this morning. I only got as far as the first two questions I saw:

QUESTION: Do you regret your role in the Iraq war?

SECRETARY RICE: I absolutely am so proud that we liberated Iraq.


No, not really, you freaking idiot - obviously, she was just putting you on with that first response, and under the intensity of your insightful line of questioning, she was going to break down and admit that she really does regret everything.

Is it any wonder that CNN is rarely accessed at my house anymore?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fantasy Football: Super Bowl Week

Wow, I'm really limping across the yearly finish line in terms of posting. Far too busy to do much, but I have at least started watching Battle Creek Brawl, my next Jackie Chan film. And of course, I've got the Super Bowl to prepare for!

The Money League Super Bowl, that is - where the difference between victory and defeat can be just a few yards - and $72. Which is the difference in the payout to 1st and 2nd place.

I did actually win this thing my first year playing, and have come close a couple of times since then. But this year, this team has been so dominant all season, if they don't close it out with a win, I'll be very disappointed.

Last week's semis were just another example - another 170-point-plus performance (I think we've only had two or three scores that high the whole season, and I had two of them). Just as Jay Cutler was the man on this team at the start of the season, so has Andre Johnson been the man at the end. 207 yards receiving, 1 TD, and 42 fantasy points. He's the number one receiver (although Larry Fitzgerald isn't far behind), but I also have Wes Welker (WR #9) and Santana Moss (WR #12). Not bad for a 12-team PPR league.

Oh, and Andre is playing against Oakland this week, a below-average defense. The only problem I may have here is Houston getting out to too big of a lead, and switching over to the run.

Somewhat amazingly, Thomas Jones is currently RB #2 in the league, with Marshawn Lynch a slight disappointment at RB #13. Tony Gonzalez is TE #1 and it's not even close - he's averaging 4 points per game better than the next closest TE, Dallas Clark. And even if it was mostly front-loaded, Jay Cutler is still QB #4 - not bad for a seventh-rounder.

My opponent comes in on the strength of running backs Matt Forte (RB #1), Michael Turner (RB #7) and Clinton Portis (RB #12), and Antonio Gates (TE #) and Roddy White (WR #4) are respectable. But depth is a problem, with Vincent Jackson (WR #22) and Tyler Thigpen (QB #15) rounding out his main starters.

So I'm pretty optimistic heading into the Super Bowl. Yeah, it's only $124 profit if I win it all, but of course the main goal is the coveted virtual trophy and the bragging rights.

No wait - it's the money.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

....Just Wait A While

Yesterday - mid 70's, windy and cloudy

This morning - mid 60's, unsettled with showers

This afternoon - mid 70's, sunny and windy

Tonight - low 30's, rain, thunder and sleet

If you don't like the weather in Austin....

Friday, December 5, 2008

Movie Review: The Fearless Hyena and Spiritual Kung Fu

Wow, it's been a while since I've been able to get back to my Jackie Chan Film Festival. But now that The Shield and Sons Of Anarchy are over and 24 and Lost have yet to resume, maybe I'll have a bit more time available.

Before the main feature, a brief mention of a movie in Jackie's filmography that I'm skipping past: Spiritual Kung Fu. Although released after Drunken Master, it was filmed somewhat earlier, and with the same Lo Wei-led production team that gave us such non-classics as Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu. Very broad comedy, cheap (real cheap) special effects, an overly convoluted plot, and fight scenes that range from OK to bad. One star.

But the main feature here is The Fearless Hyena, which sees Jackie taking over the writing, fight choreography and (for the first time) direction. It's pretty much just an amalgam of elements from the films immediately preceding it. You've got:

  • Jackie playing a troublemaking youth with some (but not enough) kung-fu knowledge
  • Jackie getting into trouble at a market
  • Jackie helping out a kung-fu school run by talentless teachers
  • Jackie being tortured, err, trained by a mysterious old man (although not "Sam The Seed" from the two previous movies)
  • Jackie fighting the old man with chopsticks
  • rival clans looking to wipe each other out (for some unknown reason), with Jackie on one side of the battle
  • Jackie suddenly learning a new kung-fu style near the end of the movie
  • Jackie defeats the big boss - The End.

Kind of a recap version of Snake And Crane Arts of Shaolin, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master rolled into one. Maybe it's better when seen in isolation, but after seeing the other three movies recently, this one just seemed like more of the same, and lost a lot of impact in the process.

The movie also isn't very well organized. We start off watching a fight scene between the eventual Big Boss and, well, someone we don't know. Then they disappear for a long time while we follow Jackie and his time spent in a kung-fu school. Then they disappear (never to return) while Jackie switches over to training mode. Finally, the evil henchmen reappear at the very end. There's almost three entirely separate plot-lines going on. Furthermore, Jackie's character seems to veer between an expert fighter and a lousy one. Whenever he is fighting his grandfather, in particular, he becomes a bumbling fool, while outside his house, he easily defeats everyone he encounters.

Finally, the big new skill Jackie learns at the end is "emotional kung fu", where he gets to fight while giggling like an idiot, sobbing like a baby, growling like the Incredible Hulk, and generally annoying me. It's not the most annoying secret martial arts skill I've seen on film (that would be the "wildcat" from, I think, Master Of The Flying Guillotine?), but it's right up the list.

There is some good news. There are several good fight scenes (not the last one, sadly, where the giggling and sobbing begin). Particularly well done are several fights with staffs and swords; Jackie usually does well in choreographing those weapons. A 3-on-1 battle near the end of the flick is a definite highlight. And I don't think I've seen Jackie quite as ripped as he looks here, giving Stallone and Schwarzenegger a run for their money for once.

But in the end, the comedy attempts fall flat, and most of what you get here is better shown in the films just before it. Two stars is all I can manage for this one. Next up: I'll be skipping over Dragon Fist to get to Jackie's first attempt at taking the American market - The Big Brawl.

Still Alive...

...just far too busy to post.

But I did spot gas for $1.57 for regular, $1.81 for premium yesterday. It's been a while since it was that low - my fuel log book shows I paid $1.56 for premium back in February 2004, and that's the cheapest I've bought gas for my POS Cruiser (god, how I hate my car now).