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.