Monday, December 28, 2009

Time to Celebrate!

I know that in a previous post, I acknowledged the Cincinnati Bengals' triumph in taking the AFC North. But perhaps I didn't let you know how I really feel. How about a video from Kool and the Gang called "Celebration." And by the way, you will see this video on this blog frequently because we are going to to celebrate many victories; Bengals, Reds, Indian Hill High School Mock Trial Red Team and personal, in the future.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bengals Win The AFC North!

Today the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-10. With that win, they are the AFC North Champs! In only the second time in nineteen years, the Bengals are in the playoffs.

The Bengals demonstrated their ineptness in the first half. But the second half, the Bengals went to their smashmouth style of football. RB Cedric Benson ran the ball for 133 yards. It took awhile for the Bengals to overcome and again they became the Cardiac Cats. Starting at their two yard line, the Bengals in the fourth quarter drove all ninety eight yards for the winning touchdown, eating up 7:18. The Chiefs tried to come back but CB Leon Hall, making up for a rough game last week, made a great interception to seal the victory.

It was a great turnaround from a 4-11-1 season. It's time to celebrate the Bengals making the playoffs. Here are the highlights for the game.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hilarious Take On Movie Bootlegs; "Avatar: The Making of the Bootleg"

Some clever satirists made this faux documentary on the making of an Avatar bootleg. It claims such new "technology" as the two camera technique, i.e. using two cameras to film the movie Avatar actually in the theater. It's a riot. Check it out below.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! How about a Christmas episode of the classic "Bob Newhart Show." Got to love that theme song, "Home to Emily" with gorgeous music and arrangements by Pat Williams.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bengals show heart

It was a bad week for the Bengals. It started with WR Chris Henry's death three days ago. The Bengals then lost today 27-24 to the San Diego Chargers. Look, it's tough to play football when a teammate dies. But this team was down by eleven points before the Bengals were able to storm back and tie it. The Chargers were able to win it in the last minute with a field goal. But who knows? If QB Carson Palmer didn't throw that pick in the third quarter, if Caldwell didn't fumble the ball maybe the Bengals win. Again, there were too many penalties. But the Bengals showed heart in spite of struggling with Henry's tragedy.

A salute to QB Carson Palmer. He threw for over three hundred yards. He threw a block for Ochocinco. He recovered a fumble to save the Bengals' chances and scored on a quarterback sneak. That's leadership.

Yes, my follow Bengals fans, you're worried about the ghosts of 2006. It's not 2006. One more game to win. The Bengals will win this division.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar Film Review

Oh boy, those Fox News right-wingers' heads are going to explode when they see sister 20th Century Fox's movie Avatar. Director and writer James Cameron has created a science fiction film that is an allegory to our destruction of the rain forests and the white man's treatment of Native Americans in the nineteenth century. If you think conservative objections to Wall-E (2008) as liberal propaganda were crazy, what are they going to think about Avatar's in your face environmentalism? If Glenn Beck wasn't on Fox News, he'd probably do a whole show on Avatar's green views as more liberal socialism. Then he'd connect it all to Obama.

James Cameron's film is set in the future, at a moon called Pandora, which orbits a gas giant light years away from Earth. A corporation has found an energy source on the moon. The company has employed scientists and marines for security to mine the planet. Unfortunately, humans cannot breathe the atmosphere. There are sentient, intelligent life forms. The moon is inhabited by a catlike humanoid race called the Na'vi. The Na'vi are ten feet tall,blue with elf like ears and tails. They have long hair which ends in a ponytail. The ends of that tail allow them to interface with the living creatures of Pandora.

Initially, the humans interaction with the Na'vi is peaceful. But it becomes more strident as the corporation moves ahead with more mining operations. A plan to negotiate with the Na'vi is hatched with scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) leading a program to mate human consciousness with a human-Na'vi cloned body, a physical avatar that looks like a Na'vi. Grace has already had contact with the Na'vi as an avatar, learning their language and teaching their children.

When one of the humans tasked to "drive" an avatar dies, the corporation asks his twin brother Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) to take his place. Jake is also ideal as he is a marine though one who is paralyzed from the waist. See, now marine Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) can order Jake to spy on the Na'vi while also working with Grace to seek peaceful cooperation with them. Jake's first foray in his avatar delights him since he can now run. But Quaritch offers Jake the real thing. He tells Jake if he spys on the Na'vi, he will get the operation to restore his legs since he can't afford the operation. Jake must be on the Republican health care plan. But I digress.

During a scouting mission, Jake in his avatar is separated from his group. He is forced to live in the jungle while waiting for rescue. It is here that he is saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) from a pack of dog like predators. Jake is taken to her tribe, the Omayticaya. They decide to educate him in the their ways. Jake is now living a dual life. When awake as a Na'vi, he experiences their world, the beautiful but strange life forms, and their ancient culture which emphasizes respect for all life. When he sleeps, he re-enters the grey and artificial world of humanity.

Okay, here is where Sarah Palin would want to get her shotgun and blow a hole in the film. The Omayticaya live in a giant tree. They are one with nature. They hunt with bows and arrows. Yes, they are tree huggers. Unfortunately, for them their tree is also on top of a very large deposit of the energy source that the humans want to mine. It becomes imperative for the corporation to move the Na'vi from the tree. If they don't move, the company will call in the Marines to force them out. Jake becomes conflicted when he starts to fall in love with Neytiri. With the impending battle coming, Jake must choose sides.

This should sound all too familiar. I can name four films that echo the same plot. Dances With Wolves (1990) Avatar even stars Wes Studi from that movie. The Emerald Forest (1985) FernGully (1992) Even Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) has ideas shared with Avatar. That's one of the problems with this movie. You know what is going to happen once Jake meets Neytiri. You'll be able to guess which side Jake is going to support. While this movie boasts its 3d technology, some of its characters lack depth. The bad guys like Quaritch have no motivation except that they are bad.

What about the effects? The CGI visuals are astounding. Pandora is a a strange new world with exotic life forms. The Na'vi are well depicted too. Though, it's difficult to animate humanoid life forms without some stiffness. Cameron would have done better if he used a mixture of human and CGI actors to portray them instead of relying primarily on computer animation. The flying sequences, and I mean the flying sequences with the giant dragon creatures are just gorgeous. But here's the twelve dollar question. Do you have to see this film in 3D? The answer is no. There's a cliche in 3D movies where the director will have a spear coming right at you, causing you to duck. Cheesy, but effective. Cameron avoids those money shots. While you get some depth, it's not worth the extra bucks to experience it. There's no moment where you feel part of the movie. Maybe, it will take 24th century technology like Star Trek: The Next Generation's holodecks to fully get you immersed in the story. But for right now, filmmakers should stick to two dimensions.

Avatar is a heartfelt, message driven science fiction film. Its weaknesses shouldn't keep you from seeing it. The grade is B.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Invictus Film Review

The first scene in director Clint Eastwood's Invictus shows Nelson Mandela being driven to freedom traveling down a road with whites playing rugby on one side and poor blacks playing soccer on the other. That physical separation was the metaphor for what Mandela was facing when he became President of South Africa. Invictus is the story of the extraordinary victory of the South African rugby team over the favored New Zealand team in the 1995 World Cup.

At the time of Mandela ascended to the presidency, South Africa was divided by race with resentment from the newly empowered black majority towards the white minority who previously ruled the country. It was divided by economic class. Poor blacks lived in shanty towns. A symbol of the old apartheid system was the Springboks, the South African Rugby team. Blacks would root against the team while the white Afikaners supported the sport and the team. So it comes as a surprise that in the film, Mandela personally fights to save the team's name and colors when the new national sports council moves to strip the team of its name.

The film depicts Mandela's political calculation. When the World Cup was held in South Africa, he would use the rugby team as a symbol of reconciliation. By supporting the Springboks, a team associated with white Afrikaners, he would lead his nation to unification. For if Nelson Mandela could support the Springboks then it would be alright for blacks to do so also.

If this story came from a writer's computer it would be too saccharin to accept. But it's based on true events. Perhaps, that's why director Clint Eastwood keeps the story from becoming too maudlin or melodramatic. Eastwood has always had an eye for great stories and this film's tale is no less enthralling than his other films. Morgan Freeman as Mandela is so good that one forgets that he is not Mandela but acting. Matt Damon does a very good South African accent as Francois Pienaar, the team captain. We see his transformation from neutral to an empathetic supporter for the the new South Africa.

The one complaint I have is the music. Eastwood at times has written his own soundtracks and in this one he uses his son Kyle to help compose the music. This a film that needs an experienced composer to put the music to the film. Some of his choices for songs are a little over the top. Yet, he uses a modest theme for Mandela that would work for Mystic River but not this film. This film needs a big, inspirational sweeping score for the climatic game. Though I do appreciate the South African song sung during the game and Damon's dramatic words to his team.

Invictus is a good sports movie. It's an inspiring film of reconciliation and unity between races. The grade is B+.

Here's the scene during the game with Damon's inspiring words to his team.

Here's the trailer for the film.

Bengals self destruct

The Cincinnati Bengals lost today 30-10 to the Minnesota Vikings. The loss was made possible by the Bengals' penalties. You cannot beat a good team like the Vikings by committing several penalties. The Bengals struggled throwing the ball. The kicking game was bad with a kickoff that went out of bounds. There was a dropped interception.

Can the Bengals win it all? Teams in the playoffs are going to dare the Bengals throw the ball. That should be fine with franchise quarterback like Carson Palmer. But the Bengals will have to execute in the passing game. Just relax, my Bengals fans. Just remember the example of baseball's St. Louis Cardinals. In 2006, they crawled to the playoffs and won the World Series. So, you faithful in orange and black, we can still win the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bengals' Magic Number is One

A win by the Cincinnati Bengals against the Vikings this week or loses by both the Ravens and those bums in Pittsburgh will give the Bengals the AFC North title and advance them to the playoffs. The Bengals own all tiebreakers.

The scenario where Pittsburgh and Baltimore loses appears unlikely. The Steelers will be at Cleveland. The Ravens will host the Lions. Both the Browns and Lions are horrible. However, if the Bengals win, it's over. Hasta la vista, flying rats and you Pittsburgh bums. Bold predication. The Bengals win big against the Minnesota Vikings and beat those barbarians to a pulp.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bengals win again

The Cincinnati Bengals win again today, thumping the hapless Detroit Lions 23-13. They go to 9-3 and with those bums in Pittsburgh losing, we are now three games ahead of them. The Bengals' victory was workmanlike with a pounding running game.

The turning point in the game was a second quarter interception by Jonathan Fanene. The Bengals offense was lethargic and with Lions in possession of the ball, Lions QB Matthew Stafford went back to pass. Rookie DE Michael Johnson who has an extraordinary reach and leaping ability jumped up and deflected Stafford's pass. It fell into defensive lineman Fanene's hands. With no one in front of him Fanene returned it for a touchdown. That's a rarity for defensive linemen. The Bengals never looked back.

There were too many penalties by the our guys in orange and black but a win is a win. Here are the highlights.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Star Trek's New Timeline

I was listening to the commentary on the new Star Trek movie (2009)and there was a discussion of the new timeline created by Nero's foray into the past. The discussion was how the theory of quantum mechanics allows the new timeline. Okay, that explains a lot. I've always questioned that if Vulcan were destroyed, how can old Spock exist since he needed Vulcan to come back from the dead in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock? The answer is that the old timeline doesn't disappear. So your forty years of Star Trek still exist in its own universe. So, there is still Captain Picard, Captain Sisko and Captain Janeway in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager universe but it's Nero who has left.

That makes the movie's timeline, which I will call Abrams timeline after director J.J. Abrams, interesting and worrisome since now the writers can destroy canon with their word processors. Like I said, what stops them from tuning Jean Luc Picard into a vintner? We can only trust writer and major fan, Roberto Orci to safeguard the canon. It is intriguing to think of a remake of an episode with better effects, say "The Doomsday Machine." Action. Message. What do you say Bob?

I wished that writers would have done a better job on the movie in explaining the altered timeline. It took multiple views of the movie to get a grasp of it. Maybe, that was the idea! I found this excellent interview with Roberto Orci from Unfortunately, I'm not sure this article was well known before the movie came out. Anyway it explains the theory of Trek's new timeline. It's more like the Next Generation episode called "Parallels." (Pictured above. Pretty cool seeing hundreds of Enterprises appear.) The timeline is a parallel universe. Here's the Orci interview.

I wish someone would change my timeline. Make me rich. Have me married to Jennifer Aniston.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony Tips for Cage Fights and Air Hockey

Here are tips for winning at L.C. Cage Fighters and Air Hockey in "GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony." You must survive six rounds in cage fighting and win one game of air hockey for two requirements needed for 100% completion of the game. (List of requirements for 100% completion)

1. L.C. Cage Fighters. After you complete the mission "Momma's Boy" cage fighting becomes available. It's kind of GTA's version of Fight Club. There a six rounds for you to win to get the requirement and if you do, you also get the "Bear Fight" achievement. Each round contains three fighters. You must defeat all three fighters to win the round.

Some basic fighting techniques need to be mastered to prevail. First, target your opponent. You do that by pulling the left trigger and holding it. You'll notice a target on your opponent. Pressing the "B" button is a your basic punch. The "Y" button is an alternate punch. The "X" button is a kick. Now, kicks are not powerful but they keep your opponent at a distance. The "A" button is for dodging.

It's important to learn how to perform the "counter" move. It can be done whether your opponent is using his fist, bat or knife. First, you must have the opponent targeted with your left trigger. You cannot be too far away to do this move. Once he telegraphs his attack, press "A" and you will dodge. Then tap "B" or "Y." you get a cool punch combo that can finish him when you combine other attacks. If your opponent has a weapon, you disarm him and steal his weapon for you to use! So let's go over how to win six rounds.

In Rounds One and Two, it's pretty much button mashing. I don't recommend the trick of trying to hit your opponents as they reach the cage door to get to the ring because your punching leads you forward and if you step through the door, you will be disqualified.

The Health Trick. You'll notice after finishing a round that you get a small health bonus. It's not enough for the last three rounds. But there's a trick where you can have full health before each round. After you complete a round, you are given the option to continue fighting or to spectate. If you are low on health, choose spectate. Now you have to bet on a fight but after the fight is over, you are given the option of quitting or competing. If you choose to compete, you will start the next round where you left off with full health. With this tip, let's discuss the next four rounds where it gets more difficult.

In Round Three, you are introduced to guys with bats and knifes. Starting with the second fighter in this round, they wield weapons. The second fighter comes at you with a bat. The bat is powerful. You could try to punch your way out of this but that's difficult. Better to disarm him. As he is about to swing his bat, tap "A" and perform a counter move. Remember after you dodge to punch him. You get the bat from him. Now use the "B" and "Y" buttons to attack. The bat takes about two swings to down him. The third fighter in this Round has a knife. But the great thing about he bat is that you can attack him from a greater distance. Unfortunately, you lose the bat after each round.

Rounds Four and Five have the same pattern of opponents. The first guy you face has the bat. Disarm him with the counter move and take the bat to pummel him. The second guy is unarmed. With the bat, wail on him. The third fighter has a knife. Finish him off. Now, remember that after you finish a Round to use the above health trick, if you need to replenish your health.

The final and Sixth Round features three fighters with knifes. Perform a counter move and take the knife from the first fighter. Use the knife against him. You can use the knife against the other two. Remember, the "B" and "Y" buttons become attack buttons for the knife. Defeat these two and become the Liberty City Champion.

2. Air Hockey Tips. First, the XBOX controller is not made to play this type of mini-game. The sticks are awkward when trying to move your paddle. Often, you will knock the puck into your own goal.

So how do you win a game? Easy. Don't try to shoot the puck directly in your opponent's goal. Ricochet or bounce the puck off the sides of the arena into your opponent's goal. Use power shots to bounce them off. Your opponent is too slow to react to a ricochet shot.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bengals Run Over Browns

The Cincinnati Bengals pounded the Cleveland Browns today by running the ball down their throats. That led to a 16-7 win. Former Chiefs RB Larry Johnson had one hundred and seven yards rushing for the Bengals, making signing the controversial runner as a back up for the injured Cedric Benson, a good move. The Bengals other back Bernard Scott also had a good day running the ball. It was clear that the Bengals wanted to run and play smash mouth football AFC North style.

It wasn't the prettiest of victories. Bengals QB Carson Palmer was hurried many times. The passing game was off. Cleveland Browns QB Brady Quinn was simply awful. That doesn't take anything away from the excellent play by the Bengals defense. But a win is a win.

Today's victory makes a complete sweep of AFC North opponents. The Bengals are 8-3 with five games left to go. The battle of Ohio is ours. Here are the highlights.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's the classic Thanksgiving episode from "WKRP in Cincinnati." (Season One, 1978) In this show titled "Turkeys Away", bored station manager Arthur Carlson undertakes a crazy Thanksgiving promotion. Enjoy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Should Star Trek Return to Television?

With the successful release of the Star Trek film and DVD, should Star Trek return to television? Absolutely. Look if they can bring back Futurama, and Family Guy, why not Star Trek? There's already a built in audience of fans and the recent movie has generated new ones. It should be very successful.

But shouldn't Trekkers worry about what happened with Star Trek: Enterprise? After all it was cancelled after four seasons. No. Here's why. That show was on a network, UPN, that was not available nationwide or suffered from being preempted. The city I live in, had it on a low powered TV station and the cable company servicing us, initially did not carry it. (Wikipedia article on availability of UPN, effect on Enterprise) The solution is to put the show on an established cable network. Networks such as SyFy (I hate the change from SciFi), TNT, or AMC would be good matches.

The next question is which series to bring back. Obviously, the film series is now in the original TV series timeline, so you don't want to do anything here. Or do you? Perhaps a different crew in Kirk's timeline? Probably not a good idea, since you want to keep the film series unique. However, J.J. Abrams blew up the timeline in his film, it's probably apparent that you must bring back Star Trek: Enterprise. I mean who knows if The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager exist in the Abrams' timeline. For all we know, Captain Jean Luc Picard could turn out to be a vintner. On the other hand, the Star Trek: Enterprise timeline is unaffected. So, bring back Star Trek: Enterprise. (Crew pictured above.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bengals fumble away a victory

When the Bengals took a 14-0 lead against the woeful Oakland Raiders, you thought game over. Unfortunately, the Bengals went to sleep in the second half and the old adage "You don't let a bad team hang around" happened. Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowsski again beat the Bengals just like he did three years ago. When the Raiders scored the tying touchdown with less than two minutes to go, I thought we'll get the ball back and win it, "Cardiac Cats" style. Um, no. The old Bengals came back. Andre Caldwell took the kickoff and after running about twenty yards fumbled the ball. Raiders kick a field goal, 20-17. Game over. Still, the Bengals hold a one game lead as those Pittsburgh bums lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daivd Lloyd, 1934-2009

If you watched the Nov. 18, 2009 episode of "Modern Family", you saw at the end, an in memoriam card dedicated to comedy writer David Lloyd. The card read, "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants." If you're older than forty, you know where that line comes from.

David Lloyd passed away on Nov. 10, 2009. He was a prolific comedy writer. He wrote for The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Wings, Frasier and a little sitcom called, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." His comedy will stand the test of time.

It's not easy being a comedy writer. Humor is a subjective matter. Trying to find what is funny cannot be measured by objective means. So when you hear the plot to the season 6 episode of Mary Tyler Moore called "Chuckles Bites the Dust", written by Lloyd, it's not going to sound funny. But here it is. Chuckles the Clown, who is the children's entertainer at the TV station WJM, gets killed while marching in the parade. Not funny. But wait, there's more. He gets killed while dressed as one of his on air characters, Peter the Peanut. A rogue elephant in the parade tried to shell him. Okay, dark but funny. This leads the group at WJM consisting of Lou, Murray and Sue Ann to crack jokes. Mary is appalled because somebody has died. All of this comes to a riotous conclusion at the funeral. The episode won an Emmy for LLoyd.

So it's fitting for Christopher Lloyd, David's son, and co-creator of "Modern Family" to put a card on the air with that expression. Since it comes from
"Chuckles Bites the Dust." You see that was Chuckles the Clown's motto and at his funeral, the Reverend recites it. Somebody posted the entire episode on YouTube. Here it is.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rating the Star Trek Films

To celebrate the DVD release of Star Trek (2009), I'm going to rate the all eleven films, starting with the worst and finishing with the best. First, let's get some introductory issues out of the way. I grade all the Star Trek films from excellent (A) to average (C). There are no bombs in the Star Trek movie library. Second, here are some notes to Bad Robot, who is developing the next Star Trek film. Stop making Wrath of Khan. I'm sick of seeing a plot with a bad guy seeking revenge. See Star Trek: Insurrection, Nemesis and the new film. Don't let actors develop the screenplays. See Star Trek V and Star Trek: Nemesis. Finally, could we have some space exploration? I'm not talking about a lot here. But the opening monologue talks about exploring strange new worlds, and seeking new life and civilizations. Now let's boldly go and rate the Star Trek films.

11. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) Spock's half brother steals the Enterprise to find God. What?! Directed and partly written by William Shatner, this silly movie is the worse of all the Trek films. In it, you have Kirk, Spock and McCoy sitting around the campfire singing, "Row, row, row your boat." You've got Uhura doing a fan dance. Scotty knocks himself out walking into a support beam. Ha. Grade: C.

10. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) A massive alien cloud called V'ger heads to earth with possible harmful intentions. The Enterprise must stop it. It's the return of Star Trek after the classic series was cancelled. You had a film helmed by Robert Wise, of The Day the Earth Stood Still and the Sound of Music. What could go wrong? Well, the film is similar to the second season episode "The Changeling." There is also a lack of dramatic tension because the cloud is well, nebulous. The saving grace is Jerry Goldsmith's majestic score. The main theme is so good, it's used again as the theme for the Next Generation television show. Grade: B Minus.

9. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) must stop the Federation from exploiting a planet inhabited by a bunch of New Age aliens. We are introduced to F. Murray Abraham's Ru'afo who also wants to exploit the planet and also seek revenge on the planet. See Khan.

This movie feels like an elongated episode of the Star Trek: Next Generation. The aliens look like humans probably to allow for a romance between Picard and the lead female alien, Donna Murphy. Ru'afo also has a disgusting skin stretching procedure to keep feeling young. What's the point here? I'm sure Abraham was saying to himself, "Wasn't I in Amadeus?"Writers Rick Berman and Micheal Piller who come from the TV side of Star Trek put together a story that feels like an inside joke. Still, it's well made and somewhat entertaining. Grade: B Minus.

8. Star Trek: Generations (1994) Picard must stop an addicted scientist from destroying stars to move an energy ribbon which has trapped Captain James T. Kirk. (William Shatner) Look, rather than having Kirk stuck in an energy ribbon why didn't the writers just have a way for him to travel into the future? And how do you travel from the ribbon into the real universe? Tap your magic slippers? Additionally, there's no need to kill off Kirk. This movie is saved by great action set pieces, humor and Dennis McCarthy's dynamic score. Grade: B.

7. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) Picard's clone seeks to kill Picard and destroy life on earth. You see the clone was created as a replacement and spy for Romulus. Once the plan was abandoned, the clone was exiled on Remus, a planet of mines to die. If this sounds all like Khan, it should. There's even a heroic sacrifice and death. Data. Of course, the story allows for a resurrection of sorts like Star Trek 3 because at the end of the movie there exists a prototype of Data. Excellent action sequences but we've seen this before. There's a story assist by Brent Spiner. I hope the future producers of Star Trek will ignore story ideas by the stars because having Data sing "Blue Skies" is goofy. Okay, use them only if they're good and original Grade: B.

6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) Kirk and McCoy on a diplomatic mission are framed for the assassination of the Klingon leader. This film is the swan song for the original crew. It does them justice. There's action. Intrigue. Who framed Kirk and McCoy and why? There's humor. You got to give it to Shatner for some of the jokes at his expense. And there is a great message, about letting go of hate and changing for the better. Grade: B.

5. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) Remember Star Trek II where Spock dies? Well, they left a way to resurrect him. You see the Enterprise fired Spock's torpedo towards the Genesis planet which creates life from matter. Meanwhile McCoy has Spock's katra, his living soul inside of him. To save Spock, Kirk steals the Enterprise and goes to Genesis to find Spock. Then they must go to Vulcan so the soul and body can be united. Whew. Trust me you'll like it. Leonard Nimoy directs this solemn and enjoyable journey of the crew of the Enterprise. Grade: B.

4. Star Trek (2009) Romulan Nero goes through a black hole trying to enact revenge on Spock and goes back in time changing the timeline. The film then traces how the crew of the Enterprise got together. We see young Kirk and Spock before Starfleet Academy. But the timeline has been significantly changed as evidenced by the destruction of Vulcan, one of founding planets of the Federation. However, some of the forty years of Star Trek canon survive. Update: What has happened is that Nero's appearance in the past has caused a second or alternte reality. It is in essence a parallel universe. So, Trek canon has survived but now Bad Robot can alter old canon in this new universe.

The good. Director J. J. Abrams has crafted a well made and entertaining film. The special effects are spectacular. The cast does a great job. There's some very funny moments. The movie is going to get young people to look at Star Trek.

The bad. This is a shallow film. Kirk (Chris Pine) comes off as an insolent jerk. The humor at times comes at the expense of Star Trek canon. See Kirk munch on an apple while defeating the Kobayashi Maru test. There's some strange logic too. See Chekov run to the transporter room to teleport Kirk and Sulu as they are falling to their death. Okay, by the time he gets there, Kirk and Sulu should be road kill. And altering the timeline is a cheap way to reboot the series. There was no need to do this. There's a galaxy of stories that could be told within the existing timeline. Why destroy Vulcan? That leaves the Federation with the alien pig race Tellarites and Andorians to protect us from the Klingons and Romulans. Heaven help us.

(From "Journey to Babel" TOS, the alien pig race, Tellarites. These guys against the Klingons, I smell bacon.)

Abrams is more of a Star Wars fan. (Entertainment Weekly, Oct. 24, 2008, pg. 29) But Star Trek is not Star Wars. Star Trek stands for intelligent science fiction not fantasy. Heck, the series had science advisors. Yet, this movie at times felt more like Star Wars not Star Trek.

One quick note on the soundtrack. Micahel Giacchino is wonderful composer. But on this one, he struck out. The main theme is in a minor key. Now, I like minor key melodies too, but for Star Trek? The dour theme could be Spock's song but the main theme of any Star Trek movie must inspire. And by inspire, I mean make one yearn to explore the stars. Thankfully, he adds Alexander Courage's optimistic original TV theme for the end.

Does all that criticism mean I hate this film? No. It's still a lot of fun. I just want the next one to be smarter. Grade: B.

(Data and the Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact.)

3. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Bad ass Next Generation villains, the Borg, go back in time to stop man's first warp flight to alter the future so they can more easily assimilate mankind. The twist? It's Picard who has revenge issues since he was previously assimilated in the TV episode, "The Best of Both Worlds."

This is the best of the Next Generation films. What can I say about the Borg? They exist to assimilate you into their culture. They phyiscally change you into a hideous cyborg creature. You lose your individuality. And who can forget their line, "Resistance is futile." But as scary and evil as they seem, there's a twisted logic behind it. They seek perfection by absorbing other races. This is what I call a grade A villain. There's great acting by Patrick Stewart as he wrestles with his desire for revenge. Action sequences are tense as the Borg try to assimilate the Enterprise. There's also a great Star Trek moment as mankind makes first contact with an alien race. Grade: A.

2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) Khan (Ricardo Montalban), who was exiled on a planet in the original TV episode Space Seed, seeks revenge on Captain Kirk.

This movie revitalizes Star Trek. Ironically, it does so as it deals with the ideal of aging. Kirk laments that he is getting older. Montalban is a tour de force as Khan. His portrayal as a superhuman who loses his wife after being abandoned is sympathetic. Leonard Nimoy's performance as Spock brims with wisdom of a man who has learned much from life.

Produced and co-written by Harve Bennett, who undertook the job by watching the complete original series. He got it. He understood Star Trek. With direction by Nicholas Meyer, they made a great film. The battle in the Mutara Nebula is tense and exciting. There's Trek humor and sacrifice. The naval score by Jack Horner (who would write the score for Titianic) is inspiring. The grade is A.

1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) An alien probe wrecks havoc on earth while searching for extinct humpback whales forcing the crew of the Enterprise to go back to the year of 1986 to bring some whales into the future. Trust me, when you see this movie, you'll love it.

So, why is this film without space battles, number one? Here's why. After two very serious movies, they decided to do a little comedy. And it works. The movie is actually a fish out of water story. The crew of the Enterprise turn in funny performances as they try to adapt to twentieth century earth. It also has a message as does all great Star Trek stories do. Ecology. Save the whales to save the future. This is in harmony with the TV show's sixties roots and is in tune with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's vision. Of course, it's unknown if a giant alien probe will come to the planet in the twenty third century but the metaphor is what this film is about. Save the planet's ecology to save the future. A hilarious, and fun film. Grade is A+.

Bengals Replacements Step Up

Today, the Cincinnati Bengals swept those Pittsburgh bums. Yes, that's right. The Bengals win 18-12 over the Steelers. The team trusted the defense with less two minutes to go by running the ball up the gut on a third and long. They knew they weren't going to get the first down by that play but went for a field goal to go ahead by six points. Coach Lewis trusted the defense. And they came through stopping Benji Roethlisberger from pulling out another last minute victory. All day, the defense played fantastic. They had four sacks and the pressure was great. The Bengals coverage was also excellent.

But what about those replacements? Running back Bernard Scott replaced a hurt Cedric Benson and did a good job. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. (Pictured. AP) Linebacker Brandon Johnson was playing for a hurt Keith Rivers. HE WAS EVERYWHERE. Rookie Cornerback Morgan Trent was not playing like a rookie, he was playing like a veteran. This is a team with depth.

Now with this victory, the Bengals are 5-0 in the division. They have swept the Ravens and the Steelers! The Bengals now stand first atop the AFC North at 7-2. See you later, you Pittsburgh bums. Who Dey. Who Dey. Who Dey Think Gonna Beat Those Bengals! Nooooobody. Here are the highlights.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Maurice Purify of Hard Knocks fame is signed to the Bengals

Due to the placing of safety Roy Williams to the injured reserve, the Bengals have signed wide receiver Maurice Purify to the team from the practice squad. First, my Bengals fans, don't fret about the Williams loss since Chinedum Ndukwe has been playing pretty good. As for Purify, he'll fill the spot of WR Chris Henry who was placed on the injured reserve for breaking his forearm last week against the Ravens. When quarterback Carson Palmer was asked who replace Henry, Palmer endorsed Purify. Here's what Pro Football Weekly's Draft Guide 2008 says about Purify. "Knows how to use his body as a shield on underneath routes. Can win battles in the air." (Pg. 52) And if you didn't know, he was a highlight on Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cincinnati Bengals. In the Oklahoma drill, he destroys Roy Williams. Here's that clip.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jon Stewart reacts to Sean Hannity's Apology

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show shows his reaction while watching Sean Hannity's show to catch Hannity's apology for using old footage to pump a rally story. Here's his take from Hulu. Hilarious.

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes, the Original Series, No. 1

The City on the Edge of Forever, from season one, is the best original series Star Trek episode. It is probably the best episode of all the multiple series that would follow. It is considered one of the greatest television shows. Winner of the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, it was written by science fiction writer Harlan Ellison.

In the episode, the Enterprise orbits a planet which is sending out temporal energy. Dr. McCoy suffers a hypospray accident and goes mad. He transports to the planet. Captain Kirk leads an away team to find him. What they find is the "Guardian of Forever" a living machine which is portal to any point in time. McCoy runs through the portal and changes the timeline. The time he runs to is the Great Depression. Kirk and Spock decide to go through the portal to stop McCoy from changing the timeline.

The episode features Joan Collins as Edith Keeler, a woman that Kirk falls in love with. Her performance is charming and will probably be her best known role. There is humor. There is tragedy and sacrifice. Thee are lines of Star Trek's great optimism. This is one of the finest television shows ever made.

Here is "The City on the Edge of Forever."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jon Stewart shows Sean Hannity to be a fraud

Last week Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had an anti-health insurance rally. Now Sean Hannity had her on his Fox show and both bragged there was about 20,000 to 45,000 people there. To demonstrate Hannity showed film of the rally.

There's just one problem as Jon Stewart of the Daily Show points out. Hannity uses footage from Glenn Beck's much larger rally in September in an attempt to make last week 's rally to look much bigger. Of course, Stewart mines this for comedy gold. Here's his take from Hulu.

Thank You Veterans

It's Veterans Day. I would like to thank our military, active and veterans for protecting our great nation.

Sell the Cincinnati Reds Now!

FanHouse is reporting that the Cincinnati Reds GM Walt Jocketty might have to move some players to make the 2010 payroll. (Here's the link.) "It just depends on how ticket sales go this offseason." WHAT?! If the Reds move second baseman Brandon Phillips, how can they win? Nine straight losing seasons. Why should I want to go to a Reds game if they shed payroll?

Reds owner Bob Castellini said when he bought the team in 2006, he would bring world championship baseball to Cincinnati. How does shedding payroll bring back championship baseball back to Cincinnati? Look, if he can't afford this team, sell it. Mark Cuban wants to buy a baseball team. How about George Soros? Baseball economics are a mess. If local ownership refuses to pay players, sell the team to an owner who wants to win. I don't care if he lives in Cincinnati or not.

Addendum to No. 2 of the Top Ten Star Trek Episodes, TOS

Following up on no. 2 of the top Star Trek episodes, The Trouble with Tribbles, I want to talk about a delightful homage from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine called, "Trials and Tribble-ations." Part of the thirtieth year anniversary of Star Trek, this show details the efforts of the Deep Space Nine crew to stop a particular Klingon from killing Kirk in the past. The rub is that crew is transported to the past to where the Enterprise has docked with the space station of Tribbles fame.

Using state of the art special effects, this episode of Deep Space Nine lovelingly recreates the ships and the space station of Trouble with Tribbles. Interiors of the Enterprise look like they did back in the sixties. And the mixture of the original show's episode footage with present day actors is seamless. If you don't want to buy the whole Deep Space Nine series to watch this on DVD, get the Star Trek: Time Travel Fan Collective which gathers classic time travel episodes from multiple Star Trek series.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes, the Original Series, No. 2

The Trouble with Tribbles shows that Star Trek could do comedy. This season two show about furballs called tribbles that overrun a space station and the Enterprise expanded the humor that the show often demonstrated into a full episode. You can't forget the scene where Kirk is inundated with tribbles. It's one hilarious show.

Here is no. 2, "The Trouble with Tribbles."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats Film Review

The Men Who Stare at Goats is a wild dark comedy about the excesses of military paranoia. The title comes from an exercise in which psychic soldiers stare at goats and attempt to kill them by stopping their hearts. The film is from a book of the same name by Jon Ronson which purports to be based on real events.

The film starts out with Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) interviewing what seems to be a crazy man (Stephen Root) who claims there was an army unit in the eighties designed to use paranormal powers. He claims the unit featured a powerful psychic named Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) who now runs a dance studio! Wilton dismisses the story until he runs off to Kuwait after a failed marriage during the 2003 Iraq war. While there he fortuitously runs into Cassady.

Cassady is there on a "secret" mission. After seeing a doodle that Wilton has drawn, Cassady believes that it is destiny for the two to come together. Cassady allows Wilton to accompany him into Iraq. While driving through the country, Cassady tells the story of the psychic army unit. It was formed after the Soviets started a similar unit when they thought the U.S. was trying to communicate with a submarine by paranormal means. The submarine story was false but the U.S. Army fearing to be left behind decided to start its own unit. Yes, that's right. The unit was formed from a bogus idea.

During the journey through Iraq, Cassady tells his story and through flashbacks we see the first commander of the psychic unit, Bill Django. (Jeff Bridges) The soldiers in the unit were part of the First Earth Battalion and called themselves Jedi Warriors. Django is seen as exploring all kinds of crazy New Age ideas to form a paranormal fighting force. These ideas include everything from dancing to yes, staring at goats to stop their hearts. Cassady reflects on his greatest feat. Using remote viewing, a way to psychically project yourself to another area of the universe, he finds the location of a kidnap victim. Unfortunately, another soldier, Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), in the unit becomes jealous and disagreeing with Django's views helps to dismantle the unit. But the journey through Iraq is the present part of the film. We find out that Cassady was directed into Iraq by remote viewing his mission. That mission is the goal of the story.

Written by Peter Straughan, the screenplay preserves the absurd ideas that Army was willing to waste time and money on. These goofy ideas, of course, make good jokes. You got to love the irony of Clooney's character talking about "Jedi Warriors" to Ewan McGregor's Bob when he played Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars movies. Grant Heslov's direction is crisp and he doesn't let some of the wild paranormal ideas take over the movie.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is an enjoyable and funny movie. It loses its way towards the end but it's still smart satire. The grade is B.

Bengals Pound Ravens

Today the Bengals pummeled the Ravens and won 17-7. The first half featured the offense running over the Ravens and getting a seventeen point lead. The offensive line blocked well and allowed lanes for running back Cedric Benson to run through.

What can I say about the defense. There was excellent pressure from the middle of the defensive line. Ravens QB Joe Flaccid, I mean Joe Flacco was running for his life many times. Bengals defensive cornerbacks Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph each had an interception. They shut down the Ravens receivers all day. The Bengals may not have blown out the Ravens but they pounded the Ravens, the way you have to in the AFC North. See you later, flying rats. Here are the highlights.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Jon Stewart Goes Glenn Beck

Fox News' Glenn Beck recently had his appendix removed. Jon Stewart uses the news to develop a crazy conspiracy theory like Glenn Beck usually does. He does it in Glenn Beck's mental furball style. Stewart even uses the blackboard just like Beck. Brilliantly funny. Here's his take on Hulu.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Bonds of Brotherhood

I was just watching Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. What a wonderful message at the end. The Fellowship which was to take the Ring to Mordor is breaking up. One member, Boromir, is dead. Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped. Frodo decides to take the Ring himself because the temptation to take the Ring is too great for the others. However, Sam, his friend refuses to leave his side. They travel without the others to Mordor. It's bleak. There's an air of defeat. Gimli tells Legolas and Aragorn, the Fellowship has failed. Aragorn disagrees, "Not if we hold true to each other." He tells them they will not abandon Merry and Pippin. He leads them on the journey to rescue them. This message of brotherhood formed in the face of adversity is relevant today. Groups of men may forsake each other when confronted with trouble but the right thing to do is to stay together and face the adversity together. That is honor. That is love.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes, the Original Series, No. 3

We're down to the top three episodes of Star Trek, the Original Series. At no. 3 is the second season show, "Journey to Babel." The Enterprise must transport delegates to Babel for a conference on the admission of the Coridan system to the Federation. During the trip, the ship is pursued by a hostile vessel and murder occurs on board.

This is the episode that we meet Spock's parents, Sarek and Amanda. (Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt of Father Knows Best depicted) We learn about Spock's childhood, his pet sehlat, and the taunting he suffered from bullies who hated his half blood race. The bullying was well depicted in Star Trek, the 2009 film. Unfortunately, in J.J. Abrams' movie, he kills off Amanda in the altnernate timeline. Also, the movie destroys Vulcan, which leaves the pig like Tellarites also depicted in this TV show, as one of the main surviving races of the Federation. Yikes. These pig guys are going to protect us against the Romulans and the Klingons? But I digress. "Journey to Babel" is a great show that details Spock's early life, and his relationship with his parents which would later be fleshed out in the films, Star Trek III and IV. Plus, Dr. McCoy gets the best last line ever.

Here is no. 3, "Journey to Babel."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes, the Original Series, No. 4

The Doomsday Machine (season two) is no. 4. The Enterprise must fight a gigantic planet killing war machine. It is unknown who made the machine but it unleashed on the galaxy. Talk about arms control. Written by science fiction writer Norman Spinrad, it's intellegent, and exciting.

Here is the "Doomdsay Machine."

Jon Stewart explains Fox News

While discussing the Obama's administration war on Fox News, Jon Stewart explains what Fox News is really about.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Ballad of Gay Tony" references in GTA IV and The Lost and the Damned

The Ballad of Gay Tony, a new episode for Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA IV)comes out on the 29th for the XBOX 360. The cool thing about GTA IV is that there have been references to this new story in Niko Bellic's story and the last add on, The Lost and the Damned. (TLAD) Here are the appearances of Gay Tony or Luis Lozpez. two main characters in "The Ballad of Gay Tony."


In "Three Leaf Clover", during the bank robbery cutscene, a customer lying on the ground talks to the main protagonist Luis Lopez who is also prone. He tells Lopez of his stupid idea of taking on the robbers.

If you listen to WKTT, the talk radio station, there's an entertainment show called Fizz. Fellow club owner Larissa Slalom puts down Gay Tony (Tony Prince)

In "Musuem Piece" it's Lopez who interrupts the diamond-money exchange. He also gets the diamonds back. You get this scene again in TLAD's "Collectors Item." Completion of this mission gives you the Impossible Trinity Achievement signifying where all three main characters make an appearance in the same scene.

In "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" you exchange Gracie for the diamonds. It's Gay Tony and Luis Lopez who are the ones that pick her up.

The Lost and the Damned

In the mission, "Diamonds in the Rough", your character, Johnny Klebitz and other bikers steal the diamonds during an exchange between Luis Lopez, Gay Tony and the dealer. You chase down Gay Tony's associates to get the diamonds.

"Collector's Item" is the TLAD version of "Museum Piece." The cutscene is the same with Lopez getting the diamonds back.

There's an Internet story titled "Club Kid Death." It's about a young kid named Evan Moses who is found murdered. Well, according to the story, he's a buddy of Tony Prince.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes (TOS), no. 5.

Amok Time from season two is no. 5. Vulcan males must periodcally return to Vulcan to mate or die. This ritual is called Pon Farr. It hits Spock and Kirk diverts the Enterprise from a Federation diplomatic mission to save him. This begs the question once J.J. Abrams has destroyed Vulcan in his 2009 movie, what happens to Spock? I mean does he have to get busy with Uhura? But I digress. When Kirk, McCoy and Spock transport to Vulcan, the meet up with Spock's future bride. But she chooses a ceremonial challenge and picks Kirk as her champion, leading to a fight to the death. And it is Spock that Kirk must fight.

A fascinating look at ancient Vulcan rituals and emotions. This episode featured classic humor and action. Memorable iconic and atonal score by Gerald Fried. Written by sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon. This episode was parodied in Futurama's "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?" There's also a reference in the movie Cable Guy.

Here is no. 5, "Amok Time."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bengals Send Message

In their most complete game of the season, the Bengals thumped the Bears, 45-10. It starts with the lines on both sides. The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage giving QB Carson Palmer time to throw and lanes for RB Cedric Benson to run. Benson who was cast off by the Bears last year, ran like a man possessed. He ran for 189 yards and one touchdown. Palmer was just spectacular as his throws were right on target. With the loss of sacks leader Antwan Odom, the Bengals' defense answered the call. DE Frostee Rucker played very well and the defensive line pressured Bears QB Jay Cutler, causing him to throw three interceptions.

While those bums in Pittsburgh won, the Bengals stayed tied for the division lead with today's victory. More importantly, by crushing a good team, the Bengals sent a signal to the rest of the league. The Bengals are for real. Who Dey. Who Dey. Who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals! Nooooobody! Here are the highlights.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek (TOS) Episodes, No. 6.

Number six, Balance of Terror , from season one was perhaps my favorite episode as a kid. This tale of a Romulan raider with a cloaking device taking on the Enterprise in submarine duel in space satisfied my youthful need for action. It took a couple of years of maturity to enjoy the more cerebral Star Trek episodes more. But this is still a well written show. The Romulan captain and his senior advisor are portrayed with sophistication, so much so that they are sympathetic. This is the first time, humans actually see the Romulans who are an offshoot of the Vulcans. That cloaking device might make the Romulans invincible but that is before they run into Captain James T. Kirk, whose strategic brilliance overcomes all their technological advantages.

Here's no. 6, Balance of Terror.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes (TOS), no. 7.

Listen up J.J. Abrams, Captain Kirk was more than a shoot from the hip cowboy. He understood human error and his own shortcomings. So don't portray Kirk in your next movie as an immature jerk. Number Seven Arena from season one demonstrates this point.

In Arena, the Gorn attack a Federation outpost and flee. Kirk takes the Enterprise in hot pursuit to retaliate. Before the ships can battle, a superior alien being interventes and forces Kirk and the Gorn captain to fight mano-a-mano. Intelligent. Thoughtful dialogue written for the characters. Listen to the Spock-McCoy discussion on the question of who is right. It is still action packed. Kirk's response would not have been done by Arnold Schwarzenegger. There's no silly catchphrase, just civilized behaviour. Ignore the Gorn in a rubber suit, watch it for the story. Here is "Arena."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes (TOS), No. 8

At no. 8 is "Mirror, Mirror." (Season 2) Before Fringe's alternate reality and Sliders, there was this wild show about a parallel universe, that Kirk and the landing party discover after a transporter mishap. The Federation is now the Terran Empire, a totalitarian alliance of planets. It's imaginative and based on a physics theory.

Here is "Mirror, Mirror."

Bonus, here's South Park's funny parody of this episode. Love that goatee.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Top Ten Star Trek Episodes (TOS), no. 9

Coming in at number nine is the season one, two part show, "The Menagerie." It was originally titled "The Cage" and the pilot for the series but NBC felt that it was too cerebral and ordered a second pilot be made. Do you hear that J.J. Abrams? Star Trek is not Star Wars. But I digress. This is a Gene Roddenberry script and he ingeniously adds a framing story to the footage of "The Cage." In the episode, Spock hijacks the Enterprise, kidnaps his former captain, Christopher Pike and takes the ship to Talos IV. Going to Talos IV is so dangerous that it carries the death penalty. Spock is court martialed. When you watch this episode, you get the basic Star Trek conventions, intelligent science fiction and a need to understand other alien races.

Here is "The Menagerie, Part One."

Here is "The Menagerie, Part Two."

Top Ten Star Trek Original Series' Episodes (TOS)

To celebrate the DVD release of the 2009 film of Star Trek on November 17, I am going to list the top ten episodes of the Star Trek television show, the original series. (TOS) I will start with number ten and countdown with new posts to the best episode of the original series. You'll also get a link to the episode so you can enjoy the show. Before we begin, here are the runner ups. Season One: The Corbomite Maneuver, The Galieo Seven, Errand of Mercy, The Devil in the Dark. Shore Leave. Season 3: The Empath.

Number 10 is The Enterprise Incident. Kirk takes the Enterprise into the Romulan Neutral Zone and the ship is promptly surrounded by Romulan warships. This was the best episode of the third season. The show kept you guessing as to why Kirk would do something so irresponsible. Here is the episode.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bengals drop the ball

The Bengals lost today to the Texans, 28-17. Bengals tight ends dropped the ball when passes were thrown to them. And twice the tight ends fumbled the ball. Both J.P. Foschi and Daniel Coats fumbled the ball. Rookie Chase Coffman cannot get on the field. Stud DE Antwan Odom seems to be lost for the season due to an Achilles tendon injury. Those Pittsburgh bums won and now are tied with our beloved Bengals. Buckle up your chin straps Bengals' fans. As Marvin Lewis likes to say, it's time to "Fight Back."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halo 3 ODST Video Game Review

Halo 3 ODST is the new first person shooter in the Halo universe from Bungie. It came out of the ashes of a cancelled game that was to be led by Peter Jackson, called, "Halo Chronicles." Two years after the Halo 3, Bungie takes you back to battle the Covenant.

You play Rookie, a nameless grunt in the ODST. (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) The story takes place during Halo 2 and the Prophet of Regret's assault on New Mombasa. If you remember Halo 2, the mission Delta Halo, ODST were elite infantry who came to their targets in rocket pods. In this mission you are to drop with Naval Intelligence Officer Dare (voiced by Tricia Helfer) and your squad led by Buck (voiced by Nathan Filion). As your squad drops, the Prophet of Regret's ship enters hyperspace, destroying parts of the city and scattering the squad over the city. You land and must find Barack Obama's birth certificate. Just kidding, you crazy birthers. You must find your other squad mates and discover what Dare's secret mission is.

Halo Media Bias

The city of New Mombasa serves as a hub similar to the city of Isenstadt in Wolfenstein. You wonder around the city and find artifacts of your squad mates, a helmet, or a bent sniper rifle that leads to missions playing as that squad mate told in flashback. Similar to Wolfenstein, you don't have to play the missions in any order. Now Wolfenstein was criticized for this approach as there was virtually nothing to do in the hub. The same problem exists in ODST In fact, it's worse. The city of New Mombasa is patrolled by Covenant forces. The problem is ammo is scarce and so is health. Try killing a hunter with a needler. It becomes frustrating because all this does is to delay you from finding an artifact to start the next mission. By the way, I've read critics complaints about this approach in Wolfenstein, I have yet to read a complaint about this in ODST. Must be that Halo media bias.

The graphics are gorgeous and detailed. New Mobasa at night is lonely. The night vision works well, allowing you to see in the dark. Remember in Halo 2, running into a trooper that looked and sounded like That Seventies Show's Laura Prepon. Well that's because it was. In ODST, Dare not only is voiced by the lovely Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) but looks like her. Same with Buck, who looks like Filion. (Firefly)

The sound is good. Gun effects are the same quality as Halo 3. Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori's music deserve praise. The lush, jazz influenced score reflects the emotions of the Rookie. The saxophone solos echoes the loneliness of being separated from one's friends. Well done.

Controls for the most part work. Head shots are still the best attacks. Unfortunately, the Warthog makes its appearance again. I don't understand why Bungie made this thing so hard to drive. I mean look at the driving mechanics of Grand Theft Auto IV. Why couldn't they make it as easy to drive as the cars in GTA IV? It's just sheer torture. The good thing is that the other vehicles are much easier to drive.

As far as game play, missions are exciting if a little hard. The lack of health packs make it difficult and the scarcity of ammo is annoying. Levels are interesting. Sticking a foe with a plasma grenade is still a blast. Pun intended. There also a nice emotional love story between Buck and Dare.

IF you like the Halo games, pick up this prequel to Halo 3. The grade is B. Here's a kick ass live action trailer to whet your appetite.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Myth of Baseball Parity, part 2.

Now that the Yankees have swept the Twins in the ALDS, let's take a look at this year's playoff teams and see if low payroll teams have fared any better. Previously, I looked at the numbers from 2002-2008. The top ten teams in payroll were compared to the bottom ten in payroll to see if there was any parity in playoff appearances. There wasn't any. Thirty five top ten teams made the playoffs in that period. Whereas, only ten of the bottom ten teams in payroll made the playoffs in the same period. The percentages are as follows: 62 percent for the top payroll teams versus 18 percent of the low payroll teams.

Of the eight playoff teams, five of them are in the top ten in payroll. They are the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies and Dodgers. The Cardinals and Rockies are seventeen and eighteen in payroll though it's likely with the trades that the Cardinals made during the season, their payroll is higher. Only one team made the playoffs from the bottom ten and that was the Twins. Again, the percentage for this year is 62 percent whereas the Twins represent 13 percent.

So when Commissioner Bud Selig or anyone makes the argument that there is more baseball parity than other sports based only upon World Series Champions, you tell them that is nonsense. You must use statistics of the teams that make the playoffs. Why? You cannot win the World Series without making the playoffs. I will concede that in short series, small payroll teams have a chance to win. See the 2003 Marlins World Series victory over the Yankees. But the measure of parity is the equality of whether smaller payroll teams can make the playoffs and advance to the World Series with big payroll teams. And the numbers overwhelmingly favor the big spenders.

A Yankee buddy of mine, says they are the best team that money can buy. No doubt. That is also why they suck. It's unfortunate that the owners and Selig refuse to do anything about this. It is also why the NFL has now surpassed baseball as the national pastime. (Team payrolls from 2002-2008; 2009 payrolls)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cardiac Cats Win Again

The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 17-14 in Baltimore. Congratulations to the line play on both sides of the ball. The offensive line blocked well, especially in the fourth quarter. The defense was inspired. They put pressure on Ravens' QB Joe Flacco and the secondary covered well. Cedric Benson ran for over 100 yards, breaking a 39 game streak by the Ravens in not letting a 100 yard running game.

But once again, it was Bengals QB Carson Palmer who led the team in a game winning drive in the last minute. Palmer hit Andre Caldwell with a twenty yard TD strike to give the Bengals the lead with 22 seconds to go. (Pictured above. AP) Bengals win 17-14. Bengals persevere again. Who Dey, Who Dey. Who Dey They Think gonna beat dem Bengals? Noooobody! See you later, flying rats. Here are the video highlights.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Zombieland movie reivew

In Zombieland, the main character Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has a set of rules on how to survive the post apocalyptic zombie infested planet. In that spirit, here are my rules in this review of Zombieland.

Rule #1: Don't buy concessions when you see Zombieland. In the first ten minutes you get scenes of zombies eating people, a zombie attacking a guy on the toilet, and a stripper zombie! How's that popcorn taste now?

Rule #2: In a zombie comedy, give your characters some wacky motivation. They teach you when you write a screenplay,it's good to give your characters a goal or motivation. In Zombieland, the characters are named after the places from where they are from. Jesse Eisenberg is Columbus and is trying to get back there to see if the family is still alive. Not so wacky. Woody Harrelson is Tallahassee and his goal is to find a twinkie. That's wacky. Emma Stone is Wichita. Abigail Breslin is Little Rock and Wichita's little sister. They are trying to get to Pacific Playland, to enjoy a day at the amusement park. That's probably not the smartest thing to do when the world is overrun with say, ... zombies! That makes this movie a mix of National Lampoon's Vacation mixed with Dawn of the Dead and Saturday Night Live.

Rule #3: If you're going to do a zombie comedy with a crazy hillbilly character, cast Woody Harrelson. I loved Harrelson's wild eyes and his mischievous grin, especially when he finds a Hummer full of guns. And boy, does he score major style points for killing zombies.

Rule #4: If you have a celebrity cameo in a zombie comedy, make sure he's funny. While in Hollywood, our band of survivors decide to take over a star's mansion. Tallahassee tells them to skip Tom Cruise's house and go to this supposed bigger star's house. The cameo by this celebrity is priceless and a riot. No, I'm not going to tell you who he is. And no looking at IMDB. Okay, here's a hint. People over thirty will love this cameo.

Rule #5: Stay through the final credits for a funny extra scene.

Rule #6: Nut up or shut up. (Tallahassee's battle cry.)

Rule #7: See Zombieland with mom and dad.

This is one of the funniest movies of the year. The grade is A.
Here's the trailer.

Conservatives Root Against America, part 2

When an American wins the Nobel Peace Prize, we should be proud. Not so with some conservatives. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. And yes, it was surprising since Obama has only been in office for about eight months. But conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh hate Obama so much that he says he is in agreement with the Taliban. That's patriotic, Rush. Here's MSNBC's Countdown report.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story film review

Capitalism: A Love Story starts out with scenes from bank robberies over the opening credits. Then we get one of those old time educational films about the fall of the Roman Empire with the narrator telling us that the fall was from corruption and the wide discrepancy between the rich and the poor. Director Michael Moore cuts scenes of the Roman Empire with modern shots, one featuring former Vice President Dick Cheney. It becomes obvious that Moore is making the point that our modern society is being corrupted by capitalism with today's bankers being the robbers. The irony is that Moore is going to make money from this film, so the system that he is criticizing is also feeding him. That being said, the question becomes is this film any good?

Capitalism: A Love Story comes out at a time of great economic upheaval. After last fall's near financial collapse, Moore now comes full circle from his "Roger and Me" documentary which depicted the closing of auto plants by GM that led to the devastation of his home town Flint, Michigan. Along with heartbreaking scenes of people getting thrown out of their homes, Moore in Capitalism, also details his personal journey when the American dream was alive and well. What happened to the American dream? Like most liberals, he blames Ronald Reagan. It was under President Reagan's regime that the forces of capitalism were unleashed on Wall Street. There's giddy happiness when you see scenes of businessmen with a chain saw over a stack of regulations. Of course, these regulations were designed to safeguard the system from depression like collapses. So it becomes prescient when in 2008 the system almost collapses. Moore tries to explain modern and risky financial instruments like derivatives that led to the crisis. That becomes hilarious when the experts have trouble defining it.

Moore also examines the moral view of capitalism. First, by asking his Catholic priests. It is surprising to find out after interviewing three priests, that their views are negative towards capitalism. Well, maybe not that surprising since Jesus spoke how difficult it was for a rich man to get into heaven. The surprising thing is when Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal says capitalism is more important than democracy. Boy, that's American. Michael Moore then hammers the point home though when his film shows that companies were taking out life insurance policies on their employees with the company being the beneficiary. It is the excess of capitalism that Moore has problems with, the maximize your profits that he argues is wrecking the nation.

Capitalism: A Love Story is fascinating, sad and funny. It at times suffers from a simplistic message. Last fall's financial crisis is too complicated to just say that the bailout or TARP was similar to bankers robbing the U.S. Treasury. I question if Moore would rather have the United States go down into the great depression, part II. On the other hand, critics of Moore who say he offers no solutions to the excess of capitalism are wrong. He does. It is democracy. In the film, there is an example of a company that is owed by the employees where the wealth is distributed evenly. It's still capitalism but not dominated by a tiny percentage that is only interested in their own wealth.

So, how does one judge this film? If you are on right side of the political spectrum, i.e. a conservative, you're going to hate this movie. As a conservative you want to blame the financial meltdown of 2008 on the poor who could not afford the homes that they received loans on. If you are a liberal, you're going to agree with Moore and scream "Amen." If you are in the center, you will look at this film as a riveting and entertaining essay on the excesses of capitalism. Well made, the grade for the movie is A.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bengals Are For Real

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks the 2009 Cincinnati Bengals are for real. Here's his video report.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fox News' Shepherd Smith Schools Republican Senator

To be fair and balanced, I will now present Fox News' Shepherd Smith's interview with Republican Senator John Barrasso (Wyoming) on health care reform. It is clear that Barrasso doens't understand the public option or just wants to argue against it to preserve the insurance companies' profits. Kudos to Shepherd Smith for not being the standard Fox News conduit for the right wing. Here's the video interview.

What is the Public Option in Health Care Reform?

There's been a lot of misinformation and confusion as to what is the public option in regards to health care reform. Rather than bore you to death with my explanation, here's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to tell you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Film review of Bright Star

Bright Star is the story of nineteenth century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his love affair with Fanny Brawne. (Abbie Cornish) It is one of the most beautiful films of the year. By that, I don't just mean the visual image but its portrayal of the spoken and written word.

The film takes place a few years before John Keats' death of tuberculosis. He is living next to the Brawne family, when he meets Fanny Brawne. For reasons, not defined in the film, Fanny and Keats fall in love. There are other short cuts in the movie, such as why Fanny has such deep sorrow for Keats' brother Tom who dies early in the story. But these are small complaints as the this film is about the art of poetry.

After Fanny reads Keats' Endymion, her love deepens for Keats. This leads to Fanny becoming his muse. This is where the movie becomes magnetic. Whishaw as Keats and Cornish as Fanny have a chemistry that is genuine. Even though the characters don't have sex, you can see that they love each other. Jane Campion's script and direction addresses the spirituality of love, and the beauty of it. Campion depicts great beauty whether it is Whishaw and Cornish reading poetry or filming the lovers walking hand in hand through the woods.

This being drama, there is conflict. But it is not conflict born of cruelty or malice. Keats wants to marry Fanny but feels restricted since he is a poor poet who cannot provide for her. Fanny's family echoes this and advise her to find someone else. Keats also struggles with tuberculosis, a disease that will eventually kill him. Yet, I took from this film not sadness but an unusual optimism. Fanny does love Keats and you believe that if he was able to recover from his disease, she would have married him, regardless of his financial condition. Keats and Fanny had true love. That is a thing of beauty. The grade is B+.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Carson Palmer Wills the Bengals to Victory

The Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns today 23-20 in overtime. The Bengals who led by as much as 14 points and dominated the first quarter went to sleep during the next three quarters. The Browns took advantage and led the Bengals 20-14 late in the fourth quarter. It was a game that the Bengals did not deserve to win. The Browns for the first half looked hapless. They dropped passes. There was a wide receiver playing in the defensive secondary. Yet, it was the Browns who dominated the second half.

Then the came the fourth quarter. Bengals QB Carson Palmer led a drive to tie score with 1:55 left in the game. On the go ahead extra point, long snapper Brad St. Louis again snapped the ball high, his second bad snap and following two prior bad snaps earlier this season. Kicker Shayne Graham's kick was blocked. Overtime. If this were the old Bengals, it's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But not today. With one minute remaining in overtime, Carson Palmer convinced Coach Marvin Lewis to go for the first down on a fourth and eleven from the Cleveland 41. After the snap, Palmer found all his receivers covered but saw an opening in the center of the field. He took the ball and ran. Now, no one is going to mistake Palmer for Michael Vick but he went fifteen yards to set up the game winning field goal. (Run pictured.) Bengals win in a game they should have lost, thanks to the sheer will of Carson Palmer. Here's the story. Here are the video highlights.