Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Master of 3D Cinema and The Best 3D Movies Revised

Look out James Cameron. There's a new king of the world when it comes to making 3-D movies. It's director Martin Scorsese. His new movie Hugo which was shot in 3-D is a masterpiece. (Pictured above Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley) When you see Hugo in 3-D, it's clear that Scorsese kept the 3-D technique in mind with every shot. The result? You never forget that you are watching a film in 3-D. There's an occasional money shot where he throws things at you. But Scorsese elevates 3-D to an art form. Scenes pop. There's a magical feel to the movie. Gears, fish, boots, even animated drawings beg you to touch them. It's ethereal.

Previously, I've compiled a list of the top ten 3-D movies from the last ten years. It's time to revise the list in light of Martin Scorsese's Hugo. I've bumped James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep. (2005) The list already has two other Cameron moives, Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) and Avatar. (2009) So let's countdown from number ten to number one of the best 3-D movies in the last ten years.

10. Up (2009)
9. Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
8. Beowulf (2007)
7. Tron: Legacy (2010)
6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
5. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
4. Despicable Me (2010)
3. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
2. Avatar (2009)
1. Hugo (2011
Here's my review of this masterpiece. Check out the scene below where a box of sketches of the fantastic come alive.

Stephen Colbert On Mitt Romney's Misleading Ad

Last night Stephen Colbert took on Republican Mitt Romney's ad that has President Obama saying "If we keep talking about he economy, we're going to lose." One problem with Romney's ad, it was totally out of context since OBAMA WAS QUOTING JOHN McCAIN. Well, Stephen Colbert uses Romney's logic for great comic effect in his segment, "Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger."

Star Trek IV the best original series movie?

The official Star Trek website has announced that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) is the best original series movie. This comes on the twenty fifth anniversary of the film. I've already rated it as the best Star Trek movie of all and that includes Star Trek. (2009) Why? It had adventure, great comedy and had ideas. Save the whales, save the planet. It's the ecology, stupid. Anyway check out the trailer for the movie and go buy or rent it.

Maybe Woody Allen was right

Remember when Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1977) professes his love for the Evil Queen from Disney's Snow White? (1937) It was an animated scene and funny. (YouTube link to clip.) Well, I've seen the pilot for the TV show "Once Upon A Time." The show is kind of dumb. Fairy tale characters like Snow White, Prince Charming and the Evil Queen really exist in another time. They get transported to modern day Maine. That's kind of lazy since you don't have to create characters for a show just steal them from fairy tales. I wonder if the executives at ABC were on drugs when it was pitched to them.

Anyway, the Evil Queen is played by Lana Parilla. Well, she's certainly lovely. (Picture above.) As for the show, I consider her the fairest of them all. Now that I think of it, evil women can be attractive. The Evil Queen. Megyn Kelly (Fox News
Blonde) and Right-Wing author Ann Coulter.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cardiac Cats Win Again!

Today the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns, 23-20. If it's brown flush it down. Sorry for that. The Bengals have won five out of seven games trailing in the fourth quarter. Let's call them the Cardiac Cats! The Bengals were down to Cleveland, 17-7 at the half.

It was a tale of two halves. The Browns were pounding the Bengals. The Browns stopped the Bengals in a goal line stance. The Bengals had trouble tackling. Browns running back Peyton Hillis was breaking tackles. The Browns were playing football AFC North style. The Browns forced a fumble. Within one minute, the Browns turn that fumble into a touchdown. The Browns lead 17-7.

But the Bengals are used to being behind at half. The Browns went up again by ten points in the third quarter, leading 20-10. But rookie Bengals QB Andy Dalton hit tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 22 yard TD pass. Dalton has now broken the team's rookie touchdown pass record with 16 TD passes. It's 20-17 in the third quarter.

Before I get to the big play, let me just say it's team sport. The defense held when it had to. And what can I say about Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Bengals star defensive end Carlos Dunlap was down for the game. Folks, during the 2010 draft, the big stud at defensive tackle was Ndamukong Suh and seeing him wreck havoc with Detroit, you see why. But the Bengals drafted defensive tackle Geno Atkins with their fourth pick. And wow. He may not be as big as the top picks but he's quick and powerful. Geno sacked Browns QB Colt McCoy and pressured him into an interception. The Bengals now have two very good defensive tackles in Domata Peko and Geno Atkins. And don't forget about special teams. They held Browns returner Joshua Cribbs. That ain't easy. Bengals kicker Mike Nugent was clutch again.

But let's get to the fourth quarter. The Bengals tie. And when the Browns tried to go ahead with a field goal in less than two minutes to go, there was a bad snap. Missed it. If it's brown, flush it down. Um, sorry. With 58 seconds left, and the Bengals have the ball. It's third and six. QB Andy Dalton takes the snap and is getting pressure from the Browns. He throws a bomb to rookie Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green for 51 yards. Dalton goes down from a hit from a Browns player. Green catches it and takes it to the five. (Pictured above.) Watch how Green attacks the ball and pulls it down. Wow. Seconds later, the Bengals kick a field goal. They go ahead 23-20. The Bengals defense holds. Bengals win, 23-20 and sweep the Battle of Ohio.

Playoffs? Yes, Jim Mora. The Bengals have taken another step towards the postseason. Three more wins should do it. Four more wins and the Bengals are going to get in. Up next are the bums from Pittsburgh. Could we beat these bums in a laugher?

My fellow Bengals fans, here are the highlights to today's great victory.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Descendants Review

When you see the ads for Director Alexander Payne's The Descendants, you would think this movie is more of a comedy than a drama. Well, be prepared for more of a drama with small amounts of comic highlights. Does that mean you should stay away from this film. No. This movie is the "Ordinary People" for this twenty first century decade. And you would be missing one of the best films of the year.

The Descendants starts out by introducing us to Matt King. (George Clooney) He's a lawyer and a lifetime resident of Hawaii. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) was involved in a boating accident which has made her comatose. His problem is that he is now forced to raise his two daughters, ten year old Scottie (Amara Miller) and seventeen year old Alexandra. (Shailene Woodley) Raising them is a task that he is not equipped for. Unfortunately, a doctor informs him that Elizabeth will not awake and that she is basically brain dead. Since she had a living will, the hospital will soon stop all life preserving methods.

Complicating all of this is that while Elizabeth lies comatose, are two things. Matt must dispose of acres of land which has been in his family trust. It's probably the first time the rule against perpetuities has been used as a plot device in a movie. The descendants, i.e. all of Matt's cousins eagerly await for the sale since they will make millions. Second, Matt finds out from his estranged daughter, Alexandra, that Elizabeth had been having an affair with a realtor named Brian. (Matthew Lilard)

The screenplay was written by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash and Alexander Payne. It's based on a novel called "The Descendants" by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The screenplay does an excellent job with the dialogue. The characters all say things that sound real. Payne's direction focuses on the emotions in the faces of the characters. He adeptly balances drama one second and comedy the next. Payne also makes Hawaii an integral character in the film.

A movie such as this which is a character study, needs great performances by the actors for it to set sail. And the film has them. Shailene Woodley makes her teenage Alexandra rebellious, grief stricken and later adult strong. Amara Miller doesn't overact and her ten year old Scottie is perfect. Good to see Matthew Lilard as the other man. He's desperate and a bit shallow as Brian. But this film belongs to George Clooney. If you can read a person's emotion by looking at their face without the person saying anything, that's the epitome of fine acting. Every expression on Clooney's face tells a story. Hurt. Confusion. Love. It's a greater performance than what he did in Up In the Air. (2009) George Clooney should get an Oscar nomination for his performance.

The Descendants is a slice of life type of movie. It's the story of a family facing great tragic changes. It's an engrossing and heartfelt story. The grade is A.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hugo 3D Review

Director Martin Scorsese's Hugo starts out with virtuoso 3-D camera shots of a Paris train station as it follows a young boy named Hugo Cabret. (Asa Butterfield) We see Hugo watch life in the station from within the giant clocks. And the thing that overwhelms you is the majesty of the 3-D. (3D) You feel as if you can touch the gears on the clocks. Scorsese avoids much of the throwing stuff at you cliches of 3-D cinema but he does not disdain the medium. In fact, he embraces it. Yes, you get the occasional thing thrown at you. But it's as if he set every shot with the realization that he's making a 3D film CGI snow, statues, trains, shoes, gears all pop. You don't forget that you're watching a 3-D film. And this movie is the best 3-D film ever made. All of this is owed to Scorsese's prodigious talent and his wise decision to film in 3-D. This is one movie I recommend you pay the extra bucks to see in 3-D.

Hugo takes place in the early thirties. The place is Paris, France. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young orphan boy who lives in a train station. He has a skill in fixing mechanical things, a skill he got from his father. (Jude Law) Through flashbacks we learn that Hugo's father left him an automaton, a kind of gear driven robot. Unfortunately, his father cannot get the automaton to work. When the father dies, Hugo is taken to the train station by his uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) where he helps to take of the clocks. When Claude disappears, Hugo is left all alone.

Hugo's existence depends upon him stealing food from the shops in the station. He must hide from the local cop, (Sacha Baron Cohen) who likes to round up any orphan and ship them off to the orphanage. His entertainment is to watch life of the patrons from the clocks. But Hugo's goal is to get the automaton to work.

One day, Hugo tries to steal a toy from a small toy shop. He's caught by the owner, Georges. (Ben Kingsley) When the owner takes a book containing sketches of the automaton from Hugo, he follows him home. There he entices the owner's granddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) to help him recover the book. She indicates that she wants to help but also looks upon Hugo as her guide to adventure.

The performances are pitch perfect. Asa Butterfield is wonderful as Hugo, a boy searching for his meaning in life. Jude Law's performance as the loving father makes you cry when he dies. Sacha Baron Cohen is a bit cartoonish as buffonish cop but so what? I laughed at his comedy. Film legend Christopher Lee plays a kind librarian. Helen McCrory (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) is the dedicated and loyal wife of Georges. Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass?!) radiates light as the charming Isabelle. And what can I say about Ben Kingsley. He shows all the ranges for Georges. Broken. Hurt. Joyful.

Accompanying this film is the beautiful score by Howard Shore. It definitely transports you to Paris. It's lush and Impressionistic. And check out the Django Reinhardt jazz band playing in the cafe.

John Logan (Gladiator; Star Trek: Nemesis) based his screenplay on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Logan's work here is poetic. And director Martin Scorsese take that poetry and translates it to the screen. Scenes are more like paintings the way Stanley Kubrick did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. (1968) I don't know which sets are real or CGI but Scorsese's Paris made me fall in love with the city.

It's no secret that the character of legendary filmmaker Georges Méliès, makes an appearance in the movie. The film covers his pioneer work in making movies about fantastic places, and creatures. Yes, I consider some of it to be science fiction. We learn in the movie that Méliès was a magician before he became a filmmaker.

And it's the concept of storytelling is magic that Logan and Scorsese are conveying. You see Hugo is not just valentine to filmmaking. Part of it is. I watched in wonderment as Méliès made his movies even if by today's standards the worlds he created primitive. But in Hugo we also learn of Isabelle and Hugo's love of books. It's this unique human ability to transport one to another world with a story that is the magic. And that's what Hugo celebrates.

Hugo is a family movie. But it's more than that. It's a movie that adults will also enjoy. Martin Scorsese has created a classic. You owe it to yourself to see this film in 3-D. The grade is A +.

Republicans want to bring back child labor

I used to think the Republicans wanted to take the country back to the fifties Boy, was I wrong. They want to go back to the freaking nineteenth century! Newt Gingrich, the leading Republican presidential candidate called child labor laws stupid and suggested that schools fire all the janitors save just one and have children as young as nine to do the work.

According to Rachel Maddow (video below) this is not just crazy Newt's idea. But other Republicans want to repeal certain child labor laws. She notes Republicans in the states of Maine, Wisconsin and Missouri as the ones that are targeting child labor laws.

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Flash Mob protests in front of Marcus Bachmann's clinic

Last July, Marcus Bachmann's Christian counseling clinic was caught trying to convince a gay man to basically "pray away the gay." Bachmann is the husband of conservative Republican Michele Bachmann who's running for president. Marcus Bachmann also called gays "barbarians." Well a clever group of protesters decided to form a flash mob outside Bachmann's clinic and perform Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" in barbarian garb. God bless 'em. Check it out. And as a bonus, I've got the hilarious Stephen Colbert piece on Bachmann.

Stephen Colbert's funny pieces on Marcus Bachmann from last July.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Best Harry Potter Movie

Now that the final Harry Potter movie is on Blu-Ray, it's time to countdown to the best of the complete film series. And as I have said before, there are no clunkers in the bunch. They're all good, with the top five of the series really getting their A grades.

8. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002) The problem with this one is first, Ruper Grint's over the top acting as Ron Weasley. His screaming and crying drove me nuts. Then there's the end in which Tom Riddle aka Voldemort literally describes how the basilisk is going to destroy Harry. Annoying, though I wish more description were available for "Half Blood Prince." Grade is B.

7. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005) The school called "Beauxbatons", the French all girl academy, in Triwizard competition sets back feminism two hundred years. If you have ever coached against an all girl school team, you would know in this century that the girls do not act in this frilly and demure manner. Grade is B.

6. "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" (2009) I love the pacing and the dialogue. It doesn't pound you in your seats with constant action. However, this movie is literally too dark. There's no need to drain the movie of color, at least from this Muggle's view. It would have helped during Harry and Dumbledore's mission in the cave to describe how they are going to get the Horcrux. Is that Harry shoving Kool-Aid down Dumbledore's mouth? Grade is B.

5. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part One"(2010) The dark forces of Lord Voldemort have taken over the world of magic. Harry and his friends are on the run and looking the remaining Horcruxes. It's tense and exciting. The grade is A-.

4. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007) Got to love that wonderfully filmed wizard fight between Voldemort and Dumbledore. It's organic and elegant and quite believable. The grade is A.

3. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) This film offers true magic. One believes that Hogwart's exists. Everything from Quiditich to John Williams' brilliant score to a small scene of Christmas at Hogwart's exudes wonderment. The grade is A.

2. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part Two" (2011) This is the final confrontation between Harry and Lord Voldemort. It's basically a war story. Riveting. One wishes it was longer. The grade is A.

1. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004) While this is the beginning towards a darker Harry Potter film, it's the most mature. There's real warmth between Harry, Prof. Lupin and Sirius Black. This is the best mixture of comedy, action and emotion.
The grade is A.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Red Rifle makes rookie mistakes

You knew this day was going to happen. Cincinnati Bengals QB rookie Andy Dalton aka "The Red Rifle" was going to have a rookie day. He threw three interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens. Bengals lose 31-24. Okay, it was more than Dalton. The defense gave up big plays. Bad call by referee on a touchdown by tight end Jermaine Gresham eliminated that TD. And in the final two plays, the offensive line gave into three defensive linemen for a grounding penalty and a sack.

At least you can say the Bengals showed they cold fight back. They were down by seventeen points. And Andy Dalton led the team back within the last minute right before the goal line. All this was done without Dalton's favorite weapon, wide receiver A.J. Green who was hurt.

Is there such a thing as moral victories? Hard to say at this point. But in the NFL, it's wins that count. Season is not over yet. But Bengals need help to make the playoffs. Next up, the Cleveland Browns at home. If its brown, flush it down.

The Best 3D Movies

Martin Scorsese has directed Hugo in 3-D (3D), so does that mean the technique will get respect from serious filmmakers? Will there be an Academy Award for Best Picture for a movie that was filmed in 3D in the future? Hard to say since a writer at Slate thinks 3-D is on the way out.

Yeah, I've complained about 3D movies as being too dark. But it's an interesting day in the history of film when you have a great and serious artist such as Martin Scorsese direct a movie in the medium of 3-D. So let's see if we can dig up the ten best 3-D movies for the last ten years. Note that there are no true conversions, i.e. movies filmed in 2D but converted to 3-D. That's because those movies are too dark since the director prepared his movie in 2D lighting without making up for the polarization. Also the effects suffer. In essence conversions stink. Also note that I like movies that really use the medium even if that means the director throws things at you. Use it or lose it. So let's countdown to the best 3D film.

10. Up (2009) A great CGI animated Pixar film without the 3-D. It only enhances the best movie of 2009.

9. Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) James Cameron in this documentary explores the real life Titanic, the subject of his 1998 blockbuster. It's a captivating look at the ship in IMAX 3D.

8. Aliens of the Deep (2005) Director James Cameron in this documentary explores the deep ocean and films some strange creatures for IMAX 3D. A precursor to Avatar.

7. Beowulf (2007) After directing The Polar Express (2004) Robert Zemeckis made this CGI animated film of the old English epic poem. Best use of motion capture so far.

6. Tron: Legacy (2010) In IMAX 3D, the medium added to the coolness of the film.

5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) This bad movie is actually made better by the 3D. Add to that, it's a hybrid, i.e. part of it was filmed in 3D. Anyway the 3D effects were spectacular. It makes me wonder if they're considering filming the next Star Trek in 3D and what it will look like.

4. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) I was watching this movie the other day. What I find impressive is that director Eric Brevig skillfully stages almost every shot for the medium. For example, you'll notice he has the actors not standing next to each other but most of the time they're staggered. That enhances the 3D effect. Of course, there are many money shots where things are thrown at you and where it emphasizes depth.

3. Despicable Me (2010) A delightful CGI animated family comedy. With a wink of an eye, the movie pushes the 3D to absurd proportions. That makes it a lot of fun.

2. How to Train Your Dragon (2010) From the hair on the fur of the Vikings to the exciting flying sequences, this CGI animated feature is a beautiful in 3D. It's also a great movie.

1. Avatar (2009) The film that launched the craze. The move takes off when Jake undergoes his training with the Na'vi. Great sequences feature dragon flying, alien plant life and the final battle with the humans. The mixture between live action and CGI is seamless. It's Cameron's crowing achievement for his work in 3-D. If you get a chance, see this movie in IMAX 3D.

Addendum. With the release of Hugo, there's a new 3-D movie champ. Check out the revised list.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog takes on Occupy Wall Street

Hanging out at TrekMovie.com, sometimes you will get to chat with screenwriter Bob Orci. (Star Trek) You find out that Bob likes Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Well, I thank Bob for reminding about the comic stylings of Trimuph. You'll also note that I occasionally use one of Triumph's catchphrases. "I keeed. I keeed." Anyway, Triumph took on the Occupy Wall Street protesters. It's very funny. Check it out.

Why you should be watching Fringe.

I've complained about the movie Star Trek (2009) as being shallow especially when you look at the pedigree of the Trek TV series. Star Trek should be intelligent science fiction. Well, three of the people behind the movie, director J. J. Abrams, writers Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci created the television series Fringe three years ago. This series is smart and deep whereas Star Trek was shallow.

Tonight's episode "Wallflower" is why you should be watching Fringe. The Fringe team of the FBI must investigate the murders of men who lose all their pigmentation when they die. The force behind it is an invisible man that resembles the cloak you saw in Predator. (1987) It's reminiscent of The X Files. And for good reason. Fringe was inspired by that show.

But the reason why you should watch this show was demonstrated in this episode. Interesting science fiction. Emotional moments. Three dimensional characters. Great acting, especially by John Noble. (Walter) He's a one man acting class. The surprising denouement of this show will leave you with a warm feeling. The only problem with the show is the serial nature of the episode. While the mystery of the episode is resolved, the show ends with a cliff hanger. I know that today's modern television wants to hook you but the difficulties of serial television are that episodes don't end and if the plot arc stinks, it wrecks the separate episodes and maybe the whole series. See Lost. The good thing is that Bob Orci, and Alex Kurtzman didn't work on Lost.

But if you love good science fiction and are looking for it on television, check out Fringe. It's one of the best television series, science fiction or not.

Crazy, crazy Herman Cain, part 4

I should also label this story, "Republicans worship stupidity." Chris Matthews on Hardball did a segment of the Republican presidential candidates. One of the videos in his story shows Herman Cain embracing his stupidity on foreign policy. In fact he basically quotes a line from the Simpsons movie about being a leader not a reader. Folks, this is another reason why I'm not a Republican. The leaders of the party want to embrace ignorance, and pure unthinking emotion. Even Republican Ron Christie was amazed at this embrace of ignorance. By the way Herman Cain also mixed up Libya and Afghanistan, stating that the Taliban were Libya. Mediaite video below. Oy. That type of mistake gets Americans killed.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Newt Gingrich surges ahead in GOP race

Oy. It's time to announce the weekly Republican leader in the presidential race for the GOP nomination. According to recent polls, it's Newt Gingrich. What?! Didn't his staff quit when he went on a Greek vacation? When is Rick Santorum's turn? Anyway, here's my man Stephen Colbert's take. Bonus. Here's Colbert's piece about Gingrich's hilarious over the top press release blasting the media with a reading by John Lithgow.

Seattle cops pepper spray 84 year old woman

Dorli Rainey, an 84 year old woman and activist, went down to participate with the protests of Occupy Seattle. The Seattle police decided to pepper spray the civilians. She got nailed with the spray. You may have seen the picture of her suffering from the news. Last night, Keith Olbermann of Current TV, got an interview. She's a real voice for the people. She talks about her time in World War Germany and how the government controlled the media. She then relate that to how the our government and corporate forces control the media. God love her. She wants the voices of the people to be heard. Listen to her voice in the powerful video below. I love her motto, "Take one more step out of your comfort zone."

Political correctness runs out of control

Too often conservatives rail against political correctness because it prevents them from criticizing gays, Muslims or any other non-white Anglo Saxon Protestant. But political correctness also affects liberals too. I like to think that I'm a feminist but if I incorrectly compliment a woman then I'm a sexist.

Well, the Huffington Post is reporting that an Illinois high school teacher, Rhett Felix was suspended for showing clips from the Daily Show to his kids. The show in question is from October 31. And if you look at my story "Oops, Rick Perry" you'll get the segment at the bottom. A parent compared the situation to the Penn State sex scandal. Really? There's a big difference between some sexy jokes and actual rape. My guess is that the parent doesn't like Jon Stewart's liberal views. By the way the show is on basic cable. The kids probably watch it before they go to sleep or catch it on at 6:00 p.m. The cussing is bleeped out and there's no nudity. Oy vey.

Folks, I'm not going to censor my blog for political correctness. I'll keep the blog PG-13 but I believe in the First Amendment. Plus the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert provide me with plenty of content.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crazy, crazy Herman Cain, part 3

Wow, conservative Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain is not qualified to commander in chief. Asked to explain his position on President Obama's policy about Libya, Cain looked like a deer lost in the headlights. It was like he didn't know anything about what happened in Libya. Anyway, here's Jon Stewart of the Daily Show giving his funny take.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Great Colbert Report

Last night was a great Colbert Report. Now you can see why a lot of people get their news from The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. Yeah, Colbert is playing a fake conservative, just like Jon Stewart of the Daily Show isn't really a newsman. But they report on real news, they just add jokes.

Anyway, Colbert goes over Michele Bachmann's rage over the "liberal mainstream" media's snub over her campaign. Then he goes over a very important story regarding a proposed pipeline from Canadian tar sands to Texas. Called Keystone XL, this pipeline's increase to carbon gasses will mean "game over" for the climate. Of course, if you watch Fox News, they will tell you that it will create 20K, 50K, 120K to million jobs. Environmentalist Bill McKibben tells Colbert why the pipeline is bad. Then enjoy a very funny piece about vodka tampons. You heard that. And last there's an excellent interview with Thomas Thwaites, a guy who built his own toaster from scratch. Think about it. Within this one innocuous appliance, you can see modern civilized humanity. Funny and profound.

There's bad seafood?!

While I was surfing the web, I came across this article by David Zinczenko about five types of seafood I should not eat. Get it surf the web? Eh, sorry for that. Okay, this comes when where supposed to eat more seafood? Now I have to have a list of the type of fish that may have contanminents that outweigh the benefits Oy. Anyway here's the article.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"J. Edgar" Review

While I was watching Director Clint Eastwood's J.Edgar, a film about the life of J.Edgar Hoover, the FBI's first director, I was reminded of the phrase that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Did Hoover abuse his power? Yes. But while some of his actions crossed the constitutional line of legality, he was not a black and white villain. Some of his actions protected the United States and forced crime detection into the twentieth century.

J. Edgar starts out in the sixties with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) dictating his memoirs to young FBI agents. The movie then flashes back to Hoover when he was an investigator for the U.S. Attorney General where the government was fighting bomb planting Communists. The film then flashes forward and backwards multiple times. We see his involvement with the Lindbergh kidnapping case. We see him build up the FBI and bring modern science into the field of crime detection. There are moments dealing with Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. Then there are the personal moments. We see his relations with his mother Anna, (Judi Dench); his personal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his right hand man Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer)

What the film drives home is that Hoover initially starts out with good intentions that go bad. He's fighting Communists who want to violently overthrow the United States government. But while his desire to build a modern and professional crime fighting law enforcement agency is commendable, it conflicts with his totalitarian paranoia. It's that fear of what he perceives as un-American that causes him to plant lies about Martin Luther King, Jr., spy on personal enemies and keep dirt on presidents in his files.

The performances are all excellent. Naomi Watts' Helen is portrait of a twentieth century woman. Her Helen Gandy has an inner strength. Judi Dench is the greatest actress of our time. She doesn't get many scenes but in her short time on the screen she conveys her total loyalty to J. Edgar. Armie Hammer comes from a rich and elite background. He is the great grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer. But he now has earned applause for his portrayal as Tolson, first as a young FBI recruit who makes Hoover sweat then as the much older agent. Then there is Leonardo DiCaprio. His Hoover is sanctimonious, paranoid and ambitious.

While the performances are fine, J. Edgar has major flaws. You see Hoover's life was shrouded in mystery. For example, there were rumors of Hoover's cross dressing and alleged homosexuality with Tolson his alleged lover. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) can't commit to dramatic ideas like Hoover was gay. They strongly hint at it but there's no passion between Hoover and Tolson. Another problem with the film is that it dwells way too much time on the Lindbergh kidnapping. Yeah, that case helped to build the FBI with funding from Congress. But the FBI came into noteriety from its fight with Depression era bank robbers. More could have been done with Hoover's blackmailing ability to intimidate presidents.

Criticizing Clint Eastwood is one of the last things I want to do. After all the man is a legendary filmmaker. But his direction is colorless like this film. First, let me ask Eastwood to stop writing the musical scores for his movies. Don't get me wrong, the man can write music. But surprisingly his music doesn't match the movie. His score for this film is romantic with piano accompanied by strings. But his movie is not a love story. I meant it could have been a romance if it went all in on the idea that Hoover was gay and loved Tolson. The better score for a story about a man who was the nations' top cop and was at times corrupt would be one with American themes but at times with touches of clear sarcasm. Late composer Shostakovich comes to mind when throwing in sarcasm in music.

But back to Eastwood's direction of J. Edgar. To demonstrate how dry this movie is, there's a scene where Hoover is in Attorney General Bobby Kennedy's office. There's a discussion on who the FBI should be investigating. Hoover wants to investigate a personal enemy. Kennedy doesn't agree. Hoover quietly throws out that he has evidence that Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy had an affair. Basically, Hoover is blackmailing the President. The problem is that Hoover throws it out like he's talking about the weather. This scene required more dialogue with punch. It required emotion. Instead the scene fizzles.

At the end of the credits, there's a thanks to the FBI for their assistance in the making of J. Edgar. Interesting, since this film is an unflattering view of a deeply imperfect man. J. Edgar is also like its subject. Professional, but flawed. The grade is B -.

Steelers pound Bengals

Okay, today's Cincinnati Bengals loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was not as bad as my title suggests. The score was 24-17. But the Bengals on the Steelers first two drives were pounded by the Steelers offense. Those drives resulted in two touchdowns. The defense could not stop Benji Roethlisberger. And when the Bengals needed to stop the Steelers in the third quarter, the couldn't.

Rookie QB Andy Dalton had two picks. One bounced off Andre Caldwells' hands. We've seen that before. And the second which killed the Bengals came as they were driving in the fourth quarter. The receiver was supposed to be Jerome Simpson. Color man Dan Fouts suggested that Simpson may have given up on the route. Maybe the defensive back jumped the route. Either way, it was a pick. Game over.

A.J. Green was hurt on his spectacular TD catch. The radio interview after the game indicated that he was okay. But cornerback Leon Hall left the game with an achilles injury. He maybe done for the year. This is the NFL so injuries are part of the game. Next man up. The Bengals will need Pacman Jones aka Adam Jones next week.

I guess the positives are that the Bengals can play with the Steelers. There were five sacks without Carlos Dunlap. They did tie the score after all. That's also the assessment of head coach Marvin Lewis. Now, the Bengals need to learn how to beat them. But I hate losing to the Steelers. Next up, the division leading Baltimore Ravens.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

U.S. Troops invade Australia?

What in the wide world of empire building is going on? President Obama has announced that the United States is going to have a military presence in Australia. Really? Is this an exchange for their superior actors such as Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, John Noble and Anna Torv? Let Stephen Colbert make sense of it.

Oops, Rick Perry

Wow, conservative Republican Rick Perry has been having a goofy time of it lately. First there was speech he gave in New Hampshire where he seemed to be high. And now, at Wednesday's debate, he tried to tell the audience of three agencies, he would get rid of, only to keep forgetting the third. Then at the end of this brain fart, he said, "Sorry, oops." Can you see this guy as President? Aide rushes to President Perry. "Sir, you just nuked France." Perry says to the nation, "We just nuked France. Sorry, oops." Anyway, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert had great fun with this. Caution. Stewart's reporters are a "little" too happy. Hey, it's basic cable. And as a bonus, check out Stewart's piece on the New Hampshire speech.

Here's Jon's older commentary on Herman Cain and Perry's loopy New Hampshire speech. Perry in the speech also says, "Oops."

Hey, I find Perry's goofy speech, kind of endearing.

I stand with the students of Penn State

On November 9, the Board of Trustees fired Penn State University fired head coach Joe Paterno. For forty five years Joe Paterno was the head coach of the football team. He built a football program that would become a national powerhouse. He won two national championships, had over 400 victories and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

But Joe Paterno was more than football victories. Putting Penn State on the map meant positive publicity for the university. That translates to getting students to come to Penn State. According to Wikipedia, he and his wife have contributed more than 4 million dollars to Penn State. That's not just to football. He helped to raise over 13.5 million dollars to expand the University's library. He dedicated his life to educate the students and the young people of Penn State.

We've read the horrible allegations about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Allegedly graduate assistant Mike McQuery saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy in 2002. He told Paterno. Paterno reported the incident to his Athletic Director. We don't know what details of the alleged attack was relayed to Paterno.

The allegations are horrific. Yet, put yourself in Paterno's position. On one hand he has a report of an alleged sex attack between Sandusky and a boy. On the other hand he has to weigh that against his loyalty to a long time ally and trusted assistant coach. If we don't know what was relayed to Paterno, can we judge him? He did the minimal. He reported the allegation to his AD. If the report was of a rape, then Paterno should report the alleged attack to the police.

Based on no allegation that Joe Paterno aided or assisted Sandusky in his alleged crimes, the Board of Trustees fired Paterno. And if Joe Paterno helped Sandusky commit his alleged crimes, he should be brought to justice. But there are no facts that support this. And based on the board's actions, the students went out into the streets. They did what any American had any right to do. Not to get violent. But to protest. Certainly turning over a news van was wrong. But understand the anger. The media has been whipping this story to hurricane proportions. This hurricane has swept up Joe Paterno.

So, these young people went out and expressed their anger. They saw an 84 year old man unceremoniously get thrown under the bus. They saw a man who gave his life to their education get destroyed by the winds of unthinking emotion. I applaud the protesters. They stood for fairness. The students stood up for a man who stood up for them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Brilliance of Stephen Colbert

There's an insidious thing going on with Super PACs. They're forbidden to coordinate their activities with candidates. But under the guise of "issue advocacy" these groups are inserting candidates into their ads. Thus doing an end around campaign contribution laws.

Now Karl Rove wants to break down the barrier. He wants permission to use candidates in these Super PAC ads and basically coordinate with them. He has petitioned the FEC for the approval. So get this. Satirist Stephen Colbert has sent his own letter "supporting" Rove. He's attached a video ad to his letter. The video makes the argument against Rove. It's brilliant satire by Stephen Colbert. Check it out. Warning: Jokes about um, "birds and bees." Hey it's basic cable. And there's a lawyer joke.

Cool Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Ad

Check out this cool and funny ad for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 called "The Vet and The n00b." It features Sam Worthington (Avatar), Jonah Hill (Moneyball) and basketball player Dwight Howard.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bengals schedule works in their favor

You'll hear a lot of football pundits saying that the Cincinnati Bengals 6-2 record is a product of their easy schedule. First, you want to know something? This is the NFL. Perhaps with the exception of beating the Green Bay Packers, any team can beat another. Second, if you're a good team, you must beat the bad ones. It's not easy to run off five straight victories in this league.

But more importantly, the easier part of the schedule coming first for the Bengals has been an advantage. It's given more time for rookies QB Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to get more experience. That experience will bode well for the Bengals upcoming matches with the tough Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Green and Dalton are learning quickly from game to game. Last week against Seattle, Green did fight for a ball which led to an interception. This week against the Tennessee Titans, he fought for a long ball. The defender was forced to interfere with Green. Result? Forty five yard pass interference call. Dalton is learning about the speed of the game. He's seeing exotic defenses thrown at him. And he's flourishing as the season wears on. He's got poise, accuracy and leadership. The team knows he can lead them on winning touchdown drives.

It's Steelers week folks. Time to batten down the hatches. Bengals Nation, I'm confident in our kids, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cincinnati Bengals at the halfway point of the season

It's time to eat crow. Yeah, I'm going to admit that I was wrong about a lot of things about the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals. Let's go over the Bengals after eight games.

1. The Offense.

I said that if the Cincinnati Bengals were to win the Super Bowl, rookie QB Andy Dalton would have to be the Mozart of quarterbacks. It's obvious, he's the Mozart and Bach of quarterbacks. He's accurate. He's got moxie. He's a leader.

I've said the Bengals should not draft A.J. Green. Time for me to eat crow. Green's offensive production as a rookie has led to more victories than a defensive tackle. The Dalton-Green combination will be one of the most potent attacks in the NFL for years to come.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has shown more imagination than his predecessor. The result? Defenses can no longer predict whether Gruden will pass or run in his West Coast offense. While I want to see a better running attack, Gruden can be excused because teams are putting eight in the box to stop the run. When that happens, Gruden and Dalton have been able to adjust and throw the ball.

2. Special Teams.

Special teams are solid. Brandon Tate is a good kick returner. He's got a punt return for a touchdown. And with Pacman Jones coming back, the Bengals have a dangerous kick returning tandem. Punter Kevin Huber is good again. Kicker Mike Nugent has range and accuracy.

3. Defense.

Free agent linebackers Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson are playing like Pro Bowlers. The cornerbacks are solid. Corner Nate Clements may be over thirty but he's playing like he's been rejuvenated. Leon Hall covers as well as anyone in the league. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are everywhere.

But it's the defensive line that is spectacular. The Bengals have a rotation that is fast, tall and big. This no name line includes Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko and soon to be Superstar Carlos Dunlap. (Pictured.) What they do is provide tremendous pressure on the quarterback.

4. The Coaches and management.

Both head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are marvelous motivators of men. It's clear the Bengal players are listening to the coaches. And the players love playing for Marvin and Mike.

Oy Vey. Here comes a painful tip of my Bengals cap to Bengals owner Mike Brown. Yeah, he exercises some of the worst judgment in the history of professional sports. So it's hard for me to praise him. But he's had some good drafts over the last four years. This year, he listened to his offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and drafted Andy Dalton over Ryan Mallet. Brown wanted Mallet but thankfully he listened to Gruden. Brown set aside pride and jumped at the offer of a first round and second round pick for disgruntled Carson Palmer. I'll admit this is a good year for Mike Brown.

5. Conclusion.

I projected three victories this year. The Bengals are now 6-2. They've just won five games. They could easily have been 8-0. So my projection is more crow for me to eat.

Can the Bengals get in the playoffs? Yes. Can they win the Super Bowl? Yes. Just remember that defense wins championships. And the Bengals have an excellent defense. Rookie QB Andy Dalton plays like a veteran who's been around the league for years. This season and the future looks bright for the Bengals.

My love and hate affair with Carson Palmer, Part 2

Shannon Sharpe of CBS NFL Today asked Oakland Raiders QB Carson Palmer if he quit on the Cincinnati Bengals and the city by demanding a trade. And to his credit, Palmer was honest. Palmer answered,

"It was a selfish decision. I knew what I was doing. I knew the ramifications. I knew that it was what was best for me and what was best for them."

I wrote about this before. But hearing him admit that he abandoned us, hurts even more. So now we know Carson Palmer doesn't have scruples. He didn't care about his Bengal teammates or the fans that loved him. Yeah, the Bengals are a dysfunctional professional sports team. But instead of facing the adversity, he ran from it. He left his teammates and fans behind. Well, this Bengals fan says, "Good riddance."

Bengals Beat Titans

Today the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Tennessee Titans, 24-17. It didn't look good in the first half as the Titans moved the ball up and down the field. The Titans were leading 17-7.

But football games are composed of four quarters. Last year the Cincinnati Bengals would crumble like a cookie in the second half. This year, the Bengals play the all four quarters. They fight in the second half. The Bengals defense woke up. The defensive line were in Titans QB Matt Hasselback all day. And what can I say about Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap? The guys is going to be a star. Two sacks. He did tweak his hamstring, so let's hope he's okay. (Post game interview indicates a muscle knot.) But the result of the defense's effort? Shut out the Titans.

And what about Bengals rookies QB Andy Dalton and A.J. Green? Dalton runs the offense like he's been around for three years. There's ice water in his veins. Green caught some clutch passes. One was for a first down after the Bengals were set back for a holding call. Dalton led the Bengals for two drives of 65 and 75 yards. Three touchdown passes. Wow. Bengals win 24-17 GOING AWAY. Five in a row. Bengals are now 6-2.

Here are the highlights Bengals Nation. I listened to the post game interviews. And the players are talking about next week's game. Next week, we play those bums from Pittsburgh at sold out Paul Brown Stadium. Bring on the Steelers. But by thinking about next week's game, that shows this team is concerned about a goal. The goal? Win the Super Bowl.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Crazy, crazy Herman Cain, part 2

Holy cow! Herman Cain is crazy. Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow points out that conservative Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain gets his ideas from video games. He quotes from Pokemon and claims that it came from a poet. His 999 plan comes from Sim City. And of course, there are the ads, with the new one being a western about cowboy beating up liberals and a chicken. Check out Rachel's brilliant piece.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

House Republicans waste time while country suffers

Instead of working on the economy and jobs, House Republicans debated on reaffirming America's motto, "In God We Trust." Oh no, was the motto under attack by some atheists? No. They merely wanted to embarrass President Obama because he got the motto wrong by saying it was "E pluribus unum." Another reason why I'm not a Republican. The country suffers under a recession, and the Republicans waste time by debating a motto not under attack. Anyway, Jon Stewart makes sense of it on the Daily Show.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" Review

I'll admit it. I did not see the first two Harold & Kumar movies. Hey, Netflix ain't streaming them. Yeah, I know that they were stoner comedies. Kind of this decade's Cheech and Chong. But frankly, if you're like me you don't really need to see the first two to get the jokes in the third installment, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

The movie starts out with Kumar (Kai Penn) still trying to score marijuana and postponing his medical career. Meanwhile, Harold (Jon Cho) is now a successful Wall Street businessman. Harold has long left his life of partying and no longer hangs out with Kumar. Harold hopes to marry Maria. (Paula Garces) During the Christmas holidays, Maria's father, Mr. Perez played by a menacing Danny Trejo and his family visit the couple at their home. They bring with them an eight foot Christmas tree that has sentimental value. Kumar receives a package addressed to Harold. He delivers it to the home of Harold. The package contains a large marijuana cigarette. Kumar lights the cigarette up and accidentally sets the tree on fire. This forces Harold and Kumar to find a replacement tree before the Perez family returns from midnight Mass.

Folks, this is the greatest 3D marijuana movie ever made. Okay, it's the only 3D marijuana movie ever made. According to Is It Real of Fake 3D?, A Very Harold & Kumar 3d Christmas was filmed in 3D. Some of the live action doesn't show the 3D all that well. But it's the CGI effects that stand out in 3D. Um, sorry for that. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson maximizes the 3D to both emphasize it and to knowingly wink at you when you see a gigantic 3D joint move across the screen.

A great comedy comes in two varieties. Big belly laughs. See Airplane! (1980) Sleeper. (1973) Animal House. (1978) Or a it can make one feel happy about experiencing it. Arthur. (1981) Based on its pedigree, one would expect the R rated Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas to over the top funny. Surprisingly, it's not. The problem lies with writers Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg's script. It's not terrible but the movie too often is a bunch of punch lines in search of a joke. For example, Kumar fantasizes a plan to steal a Christmas tree from a Catholic church. The montage features some topless nuns. Shocking but there's no joke to the punch line. Other times the screenplay becomes a standard redemptive Christmas story. There were times I yearned for more wild comedy.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is a pleasant and sometimes funny movie. If you're looking for something to make you smile, it will do the trick. The grade is B-.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips

First, let me congratulate Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto. He won the Gold Glove for his position. Trust me baseball fans, he deserved it. Not only can the man hit but he can field his position. And according to a Lance McAlister interview with Reds GM Walt Jocketty, the Reds want to keep him here for next year and hints that the Reds would like to extend his contract. Can we end the trade Joey Votto talk now? By the way, if you haven't read it, here are my articles on the silliness of trading Joey Votto. 1)Reds GM Walt Jocketty Puts Stop to Trade Joey Votto Talk ; 2) Should the Reds trade Joey Votto?; and 3) Trading Joey Vottto This Year Would Be A Mistake.

Second, a big tip of the Cincinnati Reds cap to their second baseman, Brandon Phillips. First, he won the Gold Glove. Now, I've watched baseball for decades. Let me tell you, I have not seen a second baseman with greater range than Brandon. Yeah, I've seen Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. Morgan has better offensive numbers and was a good fielder. But Phillips will make a mouth dropping play almost every night. Throwing guys out from right field. Diving catches. Throws between his legs. He's an entertainment all by himself. And Brandon has also just won the Silver Slugger award. That award is voted by the managers and coaches of baseball and given to the top offensive player for his position. He can hit for power, and average. He also has speed on the base paths. Congratulations Brandon Phillips! Check out this BP tribute video from ewadewest05.

Are conservative blacks better than other blacks?

Ah, expect conservative author and pundit, Ann Coulter, to say something stupid. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and his correspondents take on Ann Coulter's comment, "That's why our blacks are so much better than their blacks." Oy vey. Anyway, check out satire at its best.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stephen Colbert tries to occupy Occupy Wall Street, Part 2

Here's the second part of Stephen Colbert's attempt to occupy "Occupy Wall Street." Will Colbert be able to convince these loopy leftists to take money from his Super PAC? Check out the funny video below.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stephen Colbert attempts to Occupy Wall Street

If you don't know, Stephen Colbert plays a conservative pundit who usually doesn't have a clue. The act actually makes fun of right-wingers. Well, last night, he went down to the protest "Occupy Wall Street." Then he was given a couple of representatives of the movement. They didn't come off too well as Colbert was able to tease their bizzare hand signal languages. So there. Colbert is equal opportunity when it comes to make fun of both sides. Check out the video.