Thursday, April 14, 2011


Hey.  It's been a few months.  What's new?

First off, we've already had two weekends full of performances of The Odd Couple at Biola's Theater 21.  It's been going really well.  We've had a few flubs, a few missed lines, a few technical errors, a few mis-heard lines, but overall it's been really fun, and I've felt good about it.  Here's the Chimes review (the actual article in the paper featured some great full-color pictures of all of us on-set).

The best accident so far happened the first Friday night with a sold-out crowd (featuring some high-up admin types from Biola!).  Randall's character, Murray, is encouraging the newly single Felix to go out and enjoy the benefits of bachelorhood.  One of his lines is, "If you want to go out to the Playboy club and hunt bunnies, what's stopping you?"  Unfortunately, that night the entire audience heard "hump bunnies"; Forrest and Tracy said they could tell the audience sucked in their breath in horror.  The good news is, we didn't lose them completely, and got good laughs for the rest of the show.

Another night, when our poker group was rushing back to their seats after hearing Felix coming out of the bathroom, someone accidentally knocked over a "beer" on the table.  Jonathan (as Roy), without missing a beat, immediately started sucking the beer out of the felt tablecloth.  It destroyed the audience.

We've got one weekend left of performances: tonight, Friday, and Saturday.  As always, it will be both good and sad to be done with it.  There were times during the early rehearsal period where I wasn't feeling it and wasn't having a good time, but as we got closer and closer to the actual shows everything started clicking and it got really good, and now every night is a blast.  But it will be nice to have my evenings back.

In other news, I've been playing softball for the Pirate Monkeys again.  As has happened our last couple of years, we're starved for players again most mornings, and have had to forfeit over half our games.  There's also a shortage of teams in the "A" league this year: three total.  So we're playing the same two teams over and over again.  The Dark Knights (Talbot guys and gals) are their usual selves, and we're usually competitive with them.  The other team is stacked with 14 players, many of which are former baseball players and have arms as big as my thighs.  One guy in particular hit at least three home-runs into the trees closest to the library on McNally field.  He would have hit the library if the trees hadn't been there.  It's a bit ridiculous.  It used to be a rarity to have balls hit over the fence.  Now it's rare when they stay on the field.

I've been playing OK.  My pitching is adequate, and my hitting is getting better.  Last Saturday I had several good hits, and several more pop-ups and doinkers.  I also got nailed on the other side of my right shin again by a grounder while pitching, having received a matching blow a few weeks earlier.  Also, during one of our games against the Dark Knights I was scrambling to 2nd base to tag a runner out, but kept fumbling with the ball on the ground.  By the time I got it, I was right in the runner's path and she cleaned my clock.  I took what I think was her thigh right in the face.  It hit my sunglasses into my nose and gave me a good cut which I didn't discover until after the game.  I took off my sunglasses and there was a ton of blood all down the side of my nose which had been hidden by my frames.

What else, what else...

Well, despite the lack of reviews, I've been watching a lot of movies through Netflix lately.  I need to do a big round up again.  I've seen several really good ones, too.  Not much in the theaters, though.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Predators (2010)

Predators started out holding my interest, with our main character coming-to in free-fall over a jungle.  His parachute deploys and he lands with a weapon ready.  He shortly meets up with several other characters who have fallen from the sky as well.  Some of their dialogue is a little stupid, but otherwise I was "in" for the first 20 minutes or so.  Unfortunately, from there it starts going downhill.

The main problem with the movie is that it doesn't do what a sequel should.  Take Alien and Aliens, for example.  In Alien, we'd never seen the creature before, had no idea of what it was capable of, didn't know all it's mysteries and tricks.  By the end of the movie we've learned quite a bit.  When Aliens begins, it doesn't ignore this knowledge to have a whole new group of people make these discoveries all over again, it builds on past knowledge, ups the ante, and still has new reveals, moments, and aspects to the characters that make the movie engaging and tense.  While we knew what a face-hugger did from Alien, we'd never imagined being pursued around a room by one, and so that scene in Aliens is genuinely terrifying and novel.  We also had never seen a queen, so that reveal was a huge moment.  And we'd never faced multiple aliens, so that raised the stakes (while balancing them with a well-armed military force on the opposite side).

In Predator, you've got one predator and his capabilities and true nature are slowly but steadily revealed throughout the entire movie, and it's all new and scary.  Predators stumbles by not creating a new encounter while building off of the audience's already-obtained knowledge of the predators.  In this way, Predator 2 was a superior sequel because you had the government agency who knew about their abilities from the first film, even though overall it's not a great movie.  In Predators, we're learning again, along with the characters, what these things are, what they can do, and why they do it, but we're bored because we already know all of this.  These revelations are huge for the characters but boring for us.  It's not fun to be so far ahead of the characters' knowledge when the mystery is supposed to be interesting.  In Predator we're talking the journey with Arnold and crew, learning as he learns.  From the first frame of Predators we already know that each character has been dropped into a giant "game preserve" by the predators to be hunted.  FRAME ONE!  And instead of really upping the pressure, the addition of more predators doesn't seem to add an iota of tension or danger.  In fact, when they kill off two of them so they can have the final showdown it lessens the danger because we see that they're vulnerable and kill-able.  Your monster should always seem invincible or overwhelming (Alien, Aliens, Predator).  If the real soldiers of Predator died to the last man fighting ONE, showing a bunch of losers taking down THREE just makes me think these aren't the same species.

I was willing to go along with the movie if it did something interesting and new, but it was mostly just a retread of moments from the first movie.  We've got a large, well-armed team, in a jungle, some internal tension and in-fighting, and then one-by-one they're picked off by an unseen enemy.  We've got the "Billy on the bridge" moment in the yakuza character, a trip over a waterfall and into a lake, a mud-covered protagonist (which even directly references the first film in dialogue), an "over here" moment, a character staring at the trees where a predator is hiding while cloaked.  The survivors are once again the main character and a South American woman.  Even the music is lifted directly from the original film.

And yet, for a film that has no shame about duplicating moments, it lacks a single memorable line.  The first movie had quite a few memorable bits of dialogue and one-liners.  Predators features, at best, passable dialogue, and at worst laughable lines delivered all-too-seriously.

I don't know why someone thought Adrien Brody would make a good macho hero, but he doesn't add much and his character is beyond bland.  I like Brody in many other movies, too.  He uses a Christian-Bale-as-Batman voice the entire time, and little allusions are made about his dark past which nobody in the audience cares about and don't make him more interesting.

Larry Fishburne's character is almost interesting, but we get so little time with him that we don't care about him either.

The worst character might be Topher Grace's, because his little twisty "man is the real monster IS YOUR MIND BLOWN YET???" bit is just frustrating and stupid rather than shocking and entertaining.  I think there's even a horrible line that's exactly that: "You're worse than these monsters!"  DUMB.  STALE.  SEEN IT.  NOT EARNED.

Once again, Predator stands alone as the only good movie, even though we've seen two direct sequels and two lousy Aliens vs. Predator movies.  I think there is more mileage to be had out of the character, but it's going to take a good script and a director who knows how to find it.

Cowboy Shooting - Round 2

Remember last summer when I tried Cowboy Action Shooting for the first time?  I finally took the time out to go again yesterday.  And this time I took decent video.

I invited a bunch of friends to go, but most couldn't, so our group was five including me: Will (from Biola and Chestertonians), Randy (from Biola), Bob (family friend), and my brother Ben.

The class size for the New Shooters Clinic was much smaller than last time, which was nice because we all got to shoot more quickly, and we each got to shoot two timed matches.  Helping us out from The Cowboys was Little Sure Shot, her husband Wells Fargo, and Washoe Pete (who helped last time, too).  Adam Cartwright couldn't be there and B.T. Blade was competing this time.  Once again The Cowboys were gracious, generous, friendly and helpful.  They could have cut down on the technical details a bit for the class, because while I was interested I don't think everyone else was.

The gun variety was more limited this time.  The only pistols were Ruger Vaqueros and one Ruger Blackhawk, and they were all the same barrel size and caliber (.38).  The rifles were several Marlins, a Winchester 1892 replica (the classic Winchester in every Western in the 50s, no matter what the time period), and a Winchester 1873 replica.  The '73 was my favorite, but unfortunately it was having problems so we didn't get to shoot it.  The shotguns provided were two double-barrels, one with external hammers and one without, and two original Winchester 1897s (pump action -- as featured in No Country For Old Men, The Wild Bunch, and The Professionals).

Here are some videos of us doing our timed runs:

It was very fun and now I'm definitely committed to participating in this sport. I'm saving up for one of these at the moment:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

True Grit omission

Hey guys!  (Crickets.)

Yes, several months since posting.  Pretty bad.  But I've been awfully busy, too.  Perhaps I will share some of the exciting things later.  And a lot of movie reviews.

But for now, True Grit (2010).  Saw it, liked it very much, need to see again.  I didn't come out of the theater whooping for joy, but I did enjoy it.  (I hope to post a review, comparing it with the book and the 1969 movie later.)  Also, I got a Kindle.  And on this Kindle they finally released True Grit.  (But it is $13 for the Kindle, whereas the paperback is $8, and this seems like a lot of road apples, if you ask me.)  I was re-reading a passage this morning and found an interesting bit that was omitted from the movie.

If you'll recall the hanging scene at the beginning of the movie, there are three men sentenced to die.  The first two make little speeches, and the third, an Indian, has the hood placed over his head before he can say anything.  It's a Coen bit of black comedy that gets a good chuckle out of the audience.

In the book, however, the Indian speaks second in line (narrated by Mattie Ross):
The Indian was next and he said, "I am ready. I have repented my sins and soon I will be in heaven with Christ my savior. Now I must die like a man." If you are like me you probably think of Indians as heathens. But I will ask you to recall the thief on the cross. He was never baptised and never even heard of a catechism and yet Christ himself promised him a place in heaven.
I'll have to see the movie again, because I think it includes other bits from Mattie about Christianity (the book is full of asides like this), but it was curious to me that the Coens snipped that bit of dialogue completely. I thought the joke they put in its place was funny, but I wonder if having a condemned character speak about repentance and Christ (especially an Indian, whom a modern audience will assume had his Christianity forced upon him by hateful whites!) was just too unnerving for them to keep in.