Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two New Trailers...

Come on... You know The Losers looks much better than that A-Team baloney...

And then there's Scott Pilgrim versus The World...


Okay, you've all been warned that things can get a little weird around here.

So, I give you: Scarface The School Play!

"Take that you cockroaches!"

Better Living through Technology!

Technology like mini-ARC reactors and powered armor battlesuits, that is...

Visit the Stark Expo 2010 online, and you might catch a glimpse of the Ironettes!

Cap Cast?

Who the hell is Chris Evans, and what makes him qualified to be Captain America?

From my latest Entertainment Weekly:

"Former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Nicholas Brendan, 38, was arrested for felony vandalism March 17. The actor reportedly damaged property as he tried to flee LA police officers and was shot with a Taser gun. He was released on $20,000 bail."

Xander, WTF?

Or do you plan to blame this on your evil twin? And, BTW, this would never happen to Nick Fury.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Welcome new follower

I have a new follower: mynameisbenross. Greetings. I hope you know what you're getting into here. This place can get pretty weird.

Just make yourself comfortable. We'll be getting your white robe and sandals ready. Someone will show you to your bunk. Communal dinner is at six. Once a week or so, you may be asked to read from our book of scripture during the meal. Don't worry, the comet we're all waiting to hitch a ride on isn't due back for another 88 years. Of course, now that we all have federally mandated healthcare, your life expectancy is sure to go up...

In any event, we only tithe at 23%. You're still allowed to marry, although most of the guys find it hard to get dates wearing the robes. I thought they made a nice statement; but the ladies seem to be looking for something more "hip" or "with it."
Ok, seriously... I can see you have some interest in BJJ. I'm not sure how you found your way to my corner of the InterTubes, but I'm not the most orthodox martial arts guy in any sense. Also, I'm going through a real learning phase where I'm internalizing material. I don't know how often I'll be posting on martial arts for awhile. You're welcome to stick around, but don't expect grappling hints anytime soon. I'm not that good at it yet.
BTW, can I interest you in the Bullshido forum found in the left hand column?

Nature Points Out the Folly of Men


No, that's not the sound of fleeing citizens of Tokyo. That's the sound of monster movie buffs screaming in horror at the announcement that there will be another American made Godzilla movie.

No word on whether matthew Broderick will be in it. No word on whether or not the iguana-spawn Godzilla will be back. All that we need to know is that some Americans are going to try to make a Godzilla movie. The only thing worse would be Toho Studios making a Western in Japan with Japanese actors.

Yep. That how closely identified Godzilla is with the milieu. He can't be separated from it. You'd think "Giant Monster" would translate better. But it doesn't. He's as Japanese as samurai. I mean, you wouldn't make a samurai movie about a round-eye would you?

Oh, yeah. I keep forgetting Tom Cruise. But that just proves my point!

Some things don't travel well. Unlike Guinness, which travels fine, but definitely tastes better the closer you get to St. James Gate.

Look: attention American movie producers. You want to make a quintessentially American giant monster movie? Film The Call of Cthulhu. The fans are waiting for it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Clash!!! Ah-aaaa! He's a miracle.

The anticipated CGI remake of Clash of the Titans opens (in 3D no less) this Friday. The original Clash of the Titans was one of those movies that tided me over between Star Wars movies, back when they were good. It retold the ancient Greek myth of Perseus, and how he saved the beautiful princess Andromeda from a monstrous whale... Not quite. The movie spiffied it up a little, and imported the idea of the Kraken from the realm of Thor, and mutated the beast into a four limbed giant merman. Four tentacle-like arms? Why only four? Because this was the last gasp of quality stop-motion animation. Ray Harryhausen, the master of this special effect, was old, and tired. Four arms was all he could handle. There you have it. I've put it on the Internet, so it must be true...

The original movie is almost 30 years old, and it looks quaint today. But it was a stunner back in it's day. They lavished the budget on this thing, grabbing A-List stars to be the Greek Gods: Laurence Olivier as Zeus, and Ursula Andress reprising her role from Doctor No as Aphrodite (If you have to ask, you really need to brush up on you Classics, and your classic cinema...). I even remember the clockwork owl Bubo fondly. He was steampunk before it was cool. And it also showed a sly understanding of real history that I'm certain will be absent from the update.

Harry Hamlin became something of a Gay icon from this movie. Sure, the ladies loved him on TV's LA Law, but every gay man I've ever known has made at least one passing reference to Hamlin's turn as the demigod Perseus. And this isn't surprising, because it is a virile performance, and he manages to hold his own in the minimalist Greek wardrobe. I suspect Gerard Butler watched this movie as preparation for 300. (Again, I'm putting this on the Internet, so it must be true...)

This version gives us Sam Worthington, the Aussie sensation who has already had a more successful big screen career than Harry Hamlin. Liam Neeson does a turn as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes is Hades, a character I don't remember playing much of any role in the original. Was he there at all? Aphrodite is played by somebody named Agyness Deyn. Who? I had to google her, and the pictures I found were of some generically pretty goth waif. Come on; I'm sure Angelina was busy, but couldn't you find somebody with more "Sexual Napalm" credibility than this?

So, do I think they will "improve" on the original? Meh, maybe. I think it will be an eye-of-the-beholder situation. If it looks half as good as the trailers, it will please the key 18-to-30-year-old male demographic they crave. I'm sure the girls (maybe even some of the boys) will love to see Sam flex his muscles too. Whether or not it has the campy heart that sustained the original is yet to be seen. It makes me happy to see them trot out the "old stories" again for a new generation. The Greeks nailed storytelling while the rest of the West was just getting warmed up. These old tales are the fuel for the dreams that we make today. The next Star Wars, the next Pirates of the Caribbean, the next Harry Potter...
But not the next Lord of the Rings. For that, we need to cast our eyes northward to the land of ice and snow. See into the realm that gave birth to the kraken. Look past the arching rainbow to the Halls of Asgard. There in his hall sits Odin, attended by his chattering ravens, waiting Ragnarok with his army of dead heroes.
Now that would make a great movie.

My First Foray into 3D Movies

Okay, maybe not my first taste of 3d film. I did see a little gem called Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone back in 1983. And no, I did not break down and see Avatar. Instead, I took my daughter to see How to Train Your Dragon, based on the kid's book of the same title. It was my first experience with the modern 3D process in a mainstream theater.

I did not expect to like either the movie, or the technique very much. Boy, was I wrong. The plot ain't much, but it's clever enough, and sweeps the kids along. And, as is standard in animated kids films these days, there are a couple of jokes intended to sail right over the kids' heads.

But what really, really blew me away was the flying sequences. The hero and the dragon eventually make nice and learn to fly together. What can I say to do it justice? You will believe a dragon can fly. With the stunningly realized visuals enhanced by the 3D rendering, the only thing missing was the feel of wind in my hair to make it seem real. This was worth the price of admission for me.

The modern 3D technique really is an improvement over what they used back in the days of Jaws 3D. It fooled my daughter. Things have never popped off the screen for me at the 3D experiences. I don't know if that's my perception, or everyone's. Last Thanksgiving, I took in the 3D Muppets movie at Disney World, and there were some kids nearby reaching out to touch the imaginary objects onscreen. I did perceive the screen as a window into a 3D world. And thankfully, the colors aren't distorted the way they were with the red/green lens of yesteryear.

The only thing I could complain about, if 3D really is the future, is that the theater I visited tacked on a $3 surcharge for the 3d movie. I had to wonder: what am I really getting for those $3 extra? The glasses?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just when you thought it was safe...

Space Nazis!

I hate these guys... I want my Space Nazi scalps!

Uchi Mata

I'm really hoping this .gif file works... It's very impressive. Let me know if anyone thinks they can do what's shown here.
That's got to be hard on the knees though...

Stacy Keibler needs YOUR help.

Esquire magazine is running a March Madness bracket of the Sexiest Women Alive to decide who will come out on top. (Errr... so to speak...) Stacy Keibler, Baltimore girl, former Towson University student, former Ravens Cheerleader, former Nitro Girl, WWE Diva, Dancing with the Stars Phenom, and aspiring actress, is one of the contenders for the crown.

She's up against some stiff competition in her own bracket, including the Face of Women's MMA, Gina Carano. Outside her bracket, there are some serious heavyweights and likely upsets that have a few tricks up their sleeve. 63-year-old Helen Mirren is pasting Megan Fox -- talk about age and experience over youth and vigor! Meanwhile Olivia Munn of Cable network G4's Attack of the Show has racked up over a million votes in the first round! Apparently her geeky fanbase is enlisting the aid of internet bots to countinuously vote in her favor.

The website is at this LINK so go there and vote.

Vote Stacy Keibler -- and vote often!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Johns Hopkins University physicist William Edelstein has some bad news for us geeks:

Faster Than Light Travel will kill you.

Edelstein's new study looked at what would happen on a hypothetical starship traveling at 99% of c, the speed of light. At such velocity, the stray hydrogen atoms drifting in deep space would smash into the starship at such speed and in such numbers that protons would be stripped away from the atoms and pass through the metal and the bodies of the crewmen inside. This would create a radiation exposure for those crewmen fatal to human beings. (For the truly geeky, the fatal dose is "6 sieverts" but the crewmen would be exposed to about "10,000 sieverts per second." I have no idea what that means, but the math looks pretty bad.)

I know, I know. The USS Enterprise has "shields" to protect it. Edelstein doubts that an electromagnetic shield could be built to block the subatomic particles in the radiation.

He seems like such a kill-joy, given that an engine capable of producing 99% of c velocities is also considered impossible. Why is he assuming we can have the engine, but no "shield?" Me, I would assume that such technology would require some mysterious, near magical, understanding and control over Unified Force.

Edelstein posits that such extreme radiation doses also would be fatal to all forms of life, thus, no little green men from Alpha Centauri, or reptoids, are visiting us currently.

So, is this the end of our dream of FTL Travel?

We still have wormholes to consider. Star Wars ships utilized "hyperspace" for FTL travel, and while it was never clearly defined, it was supposedly another dimension. WH40K gives us the Warp or Empyrean sea -- also an alternate dimension, though considerably more dangerous. What about folding space?

Ultimately, the problem with all forms of Hard-Sci Fi or realistic FTL travel is the resource expenditure. Even the best theories require an almost inconceivable amount of energy to effect the travel.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Superman Rebooted

It's apparently more than idle rumor that Christopher "Batman Franchise Messiah" Nolan has taken on the job of rebooting Superman next. In a recent interview, he said the idea came while he and his writing partner were stuck with a particularly thorny problem in developing the third Batman movie. ("Gee Chris, you had such a great idea about the Joker busting out of Arkham for the third movie... what do we do now?")

The interview also quotes Nolan as saying the studios felt he "knew the milieu" for comic book superheroes.

Wait a minute, here. Just because Nolan had an uncanny understanding of how to update Batman doesn't mean he's going "to get" Supes. Superman is an entirely different creature. For one, he's an Optimist. Now, some may say Batman is an Optimist in a pessimistic world, I could see that, but the pessimism of that world view pervades everything. You want to understand Superman? All you need to do is watch the last few minutes of Superman II (let me specify the original cut). That image of Superman returning the flag to the White House and apologizing to the President has it down pat in terms of tone.

Batman apologizes to no one if he got the job done.

Nolan also said that he doesn't plan to connect the two series. While it's a safe choice, I think that's a big mistake in some ways. Superman and Batman are Yin and Yang for superheroes. They can be used to define each other. Frank Miller understood this perfectly. Go back and read The Dark Knight Returns to see what I mean. Connecting the films needn't be cutesy or forced, and doing it as a throwaway would be wrong too. But there are ways to make the connection work for the storyteller.

On the Batman III front, rumor abounds that the Riddler will be the next villain. I'm cautiously optimistic about this. While some see the Riddler as a downscale Joker, there is the potential to really open up the Batman's "world's greatest detective" angle working against the Riddler. I hope they don't overstuff the film with villains.

And now for something really super...

History Channel does Musashi Biography

No, that's not a modern, suave Miyamoto Musashi, but Mark "Twinkle Toes" Dacascos, the host of the History Channel's most recent deification of Miyamoto Musashi, a program simply titled, Samurai.
I sat down to watch the program this afternoon. As usual when cramming that much history into a single television program, there's good and bad. The bad can be summed up by saying that there are a handful of sweeping historical mistakes of facts, and -- of course -- they continue the deification of Musashi as the epitome of what it meant to be a samurai. Really, he wasn't. He was a great swordsman, but he was always equal parts unlucky and unwilling to take up the true essence of the samurai's life: service. While he remains a renowned and towering figure among the Japanese within the arena of martial arts, other contemporaries are more highly regarded for upholding Bushido. The West's love affair with his story has more to do with his parallels with the archetypes of the questing knight or cool gunslinger.
Let me focus on the good: They tell the entire story of Musashi's life. Generally, the American treatment of Musashi concludes with his duel on Ganryu Island, an event so overclouded by mythology that historical debate about what happened is usually cast aside in favor of the legend. I've given up trying to sort out fact from fiction about the event because the sources in English are all but useless. But one extreme view is that it was total propaganda, and Musashi's opponent, Sasaki Kojiro, never existed!
Anyway, this biography made a sincere effort to follow Musashi after he stepped off the island and onto his time among the Hosokawa clan, writing the Go Rin no Sho, and eventual death. Along the entire journey, we are treated to some spectacular scenery of Japan as we follow Dacascos following Musashi. It was a gorgeous production. We are also treated to some terrible anime dramatizing Musashi's duels. However, the anime sequences do allow the production to do something unusual for a work like this: showcase the brutality of single combat in Feudal Japan. The sequence showing Musashi's first duel at the age of 13 is particularly unflinching. Far from gratuitous, we can sense Musashi's initial callousness, and growing unease as he faces these violent encounters.
Given Mark Dacascos' experience in martial arts, I would've liked to see more on display. He visits a kenjutsu dojo in Miyamoto village and trains there briefly, a la Human Weapon or Fight Quest. In a wrap-up montage, we are tantalized by a snippet of him thanking a Westerner in a white gi and saying "I barely survived..." What was this dojo that he visited? How vigorous was the training? Even if Dacascos came off looking "bad" -- maybe especially if he found a session difficult -- I would've liked to see that. We are also treated to a brief (maybe 30 second) segment on the myriad of weapons used by samurai. Interestingly, it appears the found a ninjutsu school to demonstrate the shuriken, jutte, and other exotic tools.
If you're interested in Musashi, it's worth watching for the travelogue. If you're more interested in the martial arts aspect, it's a disappointment.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I didn't know they were updating this one...

There are no new ideas in Hollywood it seems... Now they are remaking/rebooting/updating the Charles Bronson/Jan Michael Vincent movie, The Mechanic. Now we get Jason Statham as the grizzled assassin formerly played by Chuck Bronson.

I always found the original pretty slow. I do remember the fight scene I linked above. The opening is pretty legendary too.

But, somewhat perversely, my favorite Bronson movie is Red Sun! I wish all fights were as easy as movie fights.

"If it bleeds, we can kill it."

One of my great high school memories was the night I saw Predator. I had a free ticket, and a movie poster. I also had zero expectations. I walked into the movie cold.

I had no idea I was going to see one of the greatest B-movie homages ever made, and a worthy update to Beowulf and The Most Dangerous Game.

I sorta liked the sequel with Danny Glover. It had its moments, especially at the end, when you see the Alien xenomorph skull in the trophy case. And believe it or not, I was okay with the first Aliens vs. Predator movie. It wasn't as good as the Dark Horse comic books, but it was about what I expected. I didn't see Requiem, however...

So how excited am I to see Robert Rodriguez's take on Predators??? Very.

Here's the trailer.

Just for you mlk...

Bears more than a little resemblance to you, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What a Drag

I confronted Jay about my "issue" at a college party in 1994. After all, that's what dumb young guys do, they have a few drinks, and then go looking for trouble with other dumb young guys -- even if they do outweigh you with muscle.

Anyway, I said my piece. Jay reached out and committed assault and battery. Ok, he laid his right hand on the left side of my chest. But it was still an invasion of my personal space involving a touching of my body in a threatening manner. I was nervous, but held my ground.

As you might guess, I have no memory of what was said between us. I have no memory of how the incident ended, except that it didn't end in violence. That was fortunate for us both. I didn't need a trip to the hospital. He didn't need the vengeance that a couple of my other friends would've wrought. They had their own issues with Jay and were looking for a good excuse to turn him into a red pastey substance; something I had no doubts they were capable of doing.

But I do remember that feeling of helplessness while his hand rested on me. I'd done a few years of karate in my adolescence; and I'd stuck with the college's karate class a month or two before deciding it was a bother to get up so early on a Saturday morning. But I had no idea how to get Jay's hand off me. Or what to do if he closed that gap. I did know that if he was close enough to touch me like that, he could hit me.

I graduated in May of '94. I looked around at some options in my area and I signed up at a Bujinkan school. Yeah, yeah, I should've gone old school and joined the Judo school that was much closer. But remember, I was young and dumb, and throwing stars seemed really cool at the time. Over the years, I learned any number of ways to deal with lapel grabs. The harshest critics might scoff at wrist locks and other standing grappling manuevers, but they have their place. And any one of them probably would've served me just fine in an ego fight with Jay.

This year, I resolved to improve my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game. My personal training had been moving more and more in that direction anyway. So I find myself with a white belt wrapped around my waist. In one recent class, we were practicing the arm drag, a pretty standard wrestling technique I should've picked up in high school. From a loose clinch, your near hand sweeps away the opponent's wrist, while the far hand reaches behind the opponent's triceps on the same arm. You pull him toward you as you step past him so that you end up behind him with your arms around his waist. From there, you can trip or sweep the opponent to the ground.

The instructor ordered everyone in one line to rotate partners, on and on, until I found myself across from Mark. Mark's a sweetheart of a guy and very funny. But as he stood there and reached out to put his hand on my chest, he looked just like Jay did 16 or so years ago. And that's when I realized that this -- THIS! -- was what I really wanted to be able to do that night: sweep away Jay's hand, smash him to the ground, and then choke the life out of him!!!

Maybe not literally... but you get my point. It was a delayed catharsis, but it was a release just the same.