Wednesday, May 30, 2007

One Sentence Movie Reviews: "Thank You for Smoking," "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," "Hiroshima mon amour"

Hiroshima mon amour (1959, NR)

A Japanese man and a French woman, damaged by life in different ways, struggle to find redemption in each other's arms in this lyrical nouvelle vague classic.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006, NR)

Interesting -- and sometimes devastating -- exposé of the arbitrary, unfair, and often downright goofy film-rating process in the USA.

Thank you for Smoking (2005, R)

Bitingly funny satire of the "merchants of death" who sell tobacco and of anti-tobacco political correctness.

What war really looks like

Yesterday, I posted a few scenes from some of my favorite "action" movies. I think those movies are a lot of fun, they can be exciting and entertaining and sometimes moving, but they're just fantasy. They have nothing to do with real life. Because here's what war -- what violence -- really looks like:

The photo is by Nina Berman. There are more photos of Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel here. Here's an interview with Nina Berman about the picture.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

YouTube favorites -- action movie special

I thought I'd post a few scenes form some of my favorite action movies. Hope you enjoy them.
(Some of these are pretty loud, and they may have violence (duh) and swearing and so on, so they may not be safe for work, small children, or prudes. Oh, and of course, there are MAJOR SPOILERS in all of these if you haven't seen the movies. Oh again, I'm saving the best -- or at least the most original -- for last, so if you only watch one of these, scroll down and watch the Oldboy clip.)

The first one is from Predator, which in my One-Sentence Movie Review I called "A conventional small-group combat movie that turns into an often riveting monster flick." It's a Schwarzenegger movie, but here the great Bill Duke steals the scene as he freaks out with his M134 minigun after the Predator blows a giant hole in Jesse Ventura's torso, and then the whole team rushes in and shoots the hell out of the jungle.

This one's from a French movie, Banlieue 13. ("Parkour and kung fu form a winning combination in this entertaining French action flick co-written by Luc Besson.") This is the opening scene, where the bad guys are trying to take Belle alive after he stole and destroyed their drugs. He does a bunch of crazy parkour stunts to get away. I can't quite figure out how the bad guys manage to stay about three steps behind him despite all the wild stuff he does, but why quibble? It's pretty cool (especially the head kick with about 2:03 left).

My favorite movie when I was a kid was the 1973 version of the Three Musketeers. Unlike a lot of old favorites from my youth that I've outgrown, I still enjoy it tremendously. It's one of the funniest adventure stories ever. In this scene, D'Artagnan has made appointments to duel with all three Musketeers. Before they can get started, they're confronted by the natural enemies of all true Musketeers, the Cardinal's Guards. (Unfortunately the audio is way out of sync with the video, but this was the only version I could find.)

Project A was the movie where Jackie Chan really came into his own as a writer and director as well as an actor. He shows in many scenes why he was the greatest athlete-comedian since Buster Keaton. In this final scene, though, he gets down to some serious fighting. Jackie and his pals Biao Yuen and Sammo Hung have infiltrated a gang of pirates led by the very cool Dick Wei, and all hell breaks loose. For a bit of cross-cultural comparison, notice how the heroes gang up (and kind of "cheat," even) to defeat the powerful villain. This is common in Asian action films, but it's quite different from American ones, where almost always the hero must take on and defeat his or her enemy one-on-one in a final confrontation. (Unfortunately, this version is dubbed, which makes it a good deal cheesier than it is in Chinese with subtitles. But it's still a great scene.)

Back to the guns again, here's Arnold wiping out a police station as he looks for Linda Hamilton in The Terminator. He was badass.

Hero is a beautiful movie. Here's the scene where Jet Li fights Donnie Yen. When film historians look back on our time 200 years from now, they might well consider this the greatest wuxia fight scene ever.

Finally, we come to Oldboy. This is the notorious "hammer fight" in a corridor. Min-sik Choi has just finished torturing a guy for information, and now he has to take on the guy's henchmen. I can't say enough about this scene: the music, the -- oh the hell with it, I won't try. Just watch it. You've never seen anything like it, I promise.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'm on

Well, sort of. Because Patrick Hruby wrote about "eight of the most irritating types of pickup [basketball] players," and, sad to say, one of them is definitely me. See if you can guess which one.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Me from A to Z

I haven't done one of these pass-around things for awhile, but this one seemed kind of interesting. No one "tagged" me, but I don't tag, so I don't wait for tags if I see one of these I like. I first saw this at Journey from Grrr to There.
A-Attached or Single? Attached

B-Best Friend: My wife. Then Xiumin and Mike.

C-Cake or Pie: Cake

D-Drink of Choice: Milk. I'm cutting back, though.

E-Essential Item: Computer

F-Favorite Color: Blue

G-Gummi Bears or Worms? Swedish Fish

H-Hometown: San Diego

I-Indulgence: Performing standup comedy

J-January or February: January. Starts with a holiday, ends with my birthday.

K-Kids: Four.

L-Life is incomplete without: A family

M-Marriage Date: August 26, 1989

N-Number of Siblings: 1

O-Oranges or Apples? Tangerines

P-Phobias/Fears: Something happening to my kids

Q-Favorite Quote: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread." -- Anatole France
That, or "No woman can resist a man who looks good in a Speedo."

R-Reasons to smile: The way I look in a Speedo

S-Season: Summer

T-Tag Three: Anyone who wants to, go ahead

U-Unknown Fact About Me: I dropped out of high school during my junior year. (I went back and graduated with my class, though.)

W-Worst Habit: Wasting time on teh interwebs?

X-X-rays or Ultrasounds? Umm...

Y-Your Favorite Foods: Ice cream

Z-Zodiac: Aquarius/Ox

Monday, May 14, 2007

One Sentence Movie Reviews: District B13, Hellboy, Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa (2006, PG)
Stallone manages to give Rocky back his dignity in this wistful farewell.

Hellboy (2004, PG-13)
Director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman make this comic book adaptation surprisingly enjoyable.

District B13 (2004, R)
Parkour and kung fu form a winning combination in this entertaining French action flick co-written by Luc Besson.

There's nothing funny about people in pain

Over at Hizzenherz, Curmudgeonly Yours posted some Bill Dance bloopers. I have to say that I'm quite shocked. I can't believe that people still laugh at that sort of slapstick. Because, as Sigmund Freud said, laughing at another person's pain is a mainfestation of a deep-seated hostility.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Natural born carnies

My post on chess (and boxing, but not on chess boxing) is part of the Carnival of the Mundane, hosted this time by Mist1 at To Do: 1. Get Hobby, 2. Floss. It's the first blog carnival I've ever joined.


I am a brainiac. According to IQ tests I've taken (and these were "official" tests administered by psychologists, not on-line pop-psychology junk), I rank in the top one- or two-tenths of one percent of all people in brainiacness. This means two things. 1. There are probably no more than 14 million people in the world as smart as me. (And maybe as few as 7 million. Boy, does that make me feel special.) and 2. I should be good at chess.

I got off to a good start with chess, too. I used to be the best player in my class at school. Of course, I was the only player in my class at the time, because I learned to play when I was in kindergarten. I used to open cans of intellectual whoop-ass on those other kids, let me tell you. The knight was my favorite piece, because it always freaked out the other five-year-olds. "Wait! How come your horsie can move crooked like that? And it jumped right over my prawn! Mommy! Kuri's cheating!" "Ha-ha-ha! Checkmate, you poopie head!" Those were the days.

But it wasn't long before the other kids learned how to move their horsies, and it's been all downhill ever since. I suck at chess. And I figured out why. Being smart isn't enough. To be good at chess, you have to work at it. You have to study chess books, you have to play thousands of games, you have to lose and learn from losing. Well, the hell with that. I like games that I'm good at without trying.

That's why I like boxing. See, I've figured out the secret to being a good boxer. A lot of people involved with boxing talk about "weight classes." I'm about 6 feet 6 inches (197 cm) tall and weigh about 265 pounds (120 kg), so according to these weight classes, I'm a "heavyweight." That means I'm supposed to fight people who look like this:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Um, how can I put this? No. Just no. Guys my own size are too darn scary. Yikes. So I made up my own rule: I only box against guys who weigh less than 140 pounds. The hell with weight classes. I mean, who would you rather get hit by, this guy:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

or this guy:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I rest my case. And so far it's working pretty well for me. I'm undefeated against boxers who weigh less than 140 pounds. I think I'm likely to stay that way too.

Monday, May 07, 2007

One Sentence Movie Reviews: The Getaway, Miami Vice, Fiend without a Face

Fiend without a Face (1958, NR)
British actors play American military personnel on an airbase in Canada in this absurd yet oddly entertaining sci fi horror flick about thoughts that materialize as monsters that suck people's brains out of their heads.

Miami Vice (2006, R)
Although Colin Ferrell is, as always, completely unbelievable as a tough guy (Where have you gone, Steve McQueen?), the movie as a whole still works pretty well.

The Getaway (1972, PG)
Steve McQueen is the epitome of cool in this entertaining action thriller.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mr. Free-Love Religion meets the Law of Chastity

Back when I lived in Tokyo, very odd people would sometimes show up at my (LDS) church. One of the most unusual was a guy in his late 20s who was trying to start his own religion. For some reason, he apparently thought that an LDS church would be fertile ground for recruiting.

Since he wasn't a member of the church, it generally fell to the missionaries to talk with him. For example, one Sunday he showed up with an armful of books on theology and announced that he'd like to debate the bishop over the pulpit. The missionaries gently explained that that wasn't our custom. No one I talked to seemed really clear on the details of the guy's new religion, but apparently "free love" was a big part of it. That was the part all the missionaries seemed to remember, anyway.

On another Sunday, Mr. Free-Love Religion showed up, but he wasn't alone. He was accompanied by one of the most beautiful young women I've ever seen. She was absolutely gorgeous. (In fact, I only ever met one woman in Japan that I ever thought was a little better looking.) They waltzed into church just as the Sacrament Meeting (the main portion of LDS Sunday meetings) was about to begin and took a seat near the front. (Visitors are quite welcome at Mormon services; it's debating from the pulpit that's frowned on.)

Well, the theme for the talks (sermons) that week happened to be "The Law of Chastity." Remember now, the guy was sitting near the front, so he couldn't inconspicuously slip out. Nor was that really an option for him. It would have made him look bad, like he couldn't handle the heat of the preaching. So for the next hour and ten minutes or so, Mr. Free-Love Religion got to sit next to his drop-dead gorgeous recruit and squirm as speaker after speaker explained why sex outside of marriage is bad and an affront to God, society, and all decent-minded people.

As soon as the meeting ended, the missionaries, as is the wont of LDS missionaries everywhere, hurried over to speak with him and his beautiful companion and invite the two of them to stay for Sunday School as well. The young lady seemed quite interested; apparently she was all for finding out more about The Law of Chastity. But Mr. Free-Love Religion seemed a bit agitated. He said they had to leave right away because they had an urgent appointment. He ignored the puzzled look on the young woman's face and rushed her out of the building. Oddly enough, he never came back after that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The cult of... Barbaro?

I wrote once before about the death of Barbaro the racehorse and how some people seemed to lose all perspective regarding this animal. More than three months later, the strangeness continues.

Their zeal is both ridiculous and endearing. The truth is, the more time you spend around them, the less of the former and the more of the latter you feel, which could be because their goodness is contagious or because, after a steady diet of increasing wackiness, everything seems reasonable. But that still doesn't explain it. What makes so many people rearrange their entire lives for a horse they've never met? Why this horse? Why now?

More here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

YouTube favorites

Time for more YouTube favorites. *Like always, asterisks mean possibly not safe for work, small children, or prudes.

*K, this isn't actually on YouTube, since apparently the Jim Henson Co. and YouTube have never heard that parodies are "fair use." (Bastids. And now apparently MySpace took it down too.) Anyway, it's not easy being green. In fact, it's f***in' hard. Poor Kermit.

I don't know -- and I don't care -- if the rumors about Carl Lewis being gay are true, but I do know that it's impossible for anyone to look any gayer than he does in this video.

MaryAnne "ysabellabrave" is a "YouTube star." Mostly she just looks at the camera and sings. She has a nice voice and she obviously l-o-o-o-o-ves to be on camera; she's quite charming. I think this kind of song, up-tempo and a bit old-fashioned, is what she does best.

Who says baseball players aren't athletes?

*Our Dead Comedian of the Month is Richard Pryor, the G.O.A.T.

Besides Jimmy Cliff on "SNL," the only time I saw somebody play on TV and then immediately bought their record was when I saw the Stray Cats on "Fridays" in 1981. Guitar, stand-up acoustic bass, and like half a drum kit (played standing up!). I'd never seen anything like it. I went down to Tower the next day. Their album wasn't even out in America yet, so I bought the UK import. Good stuff.

*Speaking of looking gay, somebody combined "Star Trek" with Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" to make what is probably the greatest slash video of all time. (OK, it's actually the only slash video I've ever watched, but it's hella funny.)

Baseball pitcher hits batter, batter charges pitcher, fight ensues: it's a regrettable but commonplace occurrence in the sport. At least in America; the sequence may not always apply cross-culturally.