Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why "Hugo" should win Best Picture

I've written that "The Artist" should not get the Oscar for Best Picture. I like that movie but Hugo is the better film. And of the nine nominees for Best Picture, it deserves the prize.

Hugo is innovative. The brilliant Martin Scorsese has directed a masterpiece. His vision of this film in 3-D has catapulted the 3-D medium to high art. And Hugo is no empty exercise in filmmaking. The movie has humor and heart. It's a loving valentine to the magic of movies. So Academy members, I urge you to vote for Hugo.

Why "The Artist" should not be Best Picture

Three years ago, The Hurt Locker went up against Avatar for the Academy Award for Best Picture. And The Hurt Locker won. By the reaction of rabid Avatar fans, you would have thought Hurt Locker's director Kathryn Bigelow shot Avatar's director James Cameron. Yet, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the right decision.

So this year, why am I writing that, the nominated film, The Artist, should not win Best Picture? I mean I'll probably incur the wrath of The Artist fans just like the Avatar fans went after supporters of The Hurt Locker. First, I don't hate "The Artist." In fact, I rated it as one of the best films of 2011. Well, it's because the winner of the Best Picture Oscar must stand the test of time. While The Artist is passionate and entertaining, it's also conventional. We've seen the plot of this movie before with its story of the rise and fall of a silent film star. There's nothing new, bold or innovative about The Artist. So members of the Academy, please consider another film for Best Picture.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Newt Gingrich's debate attacks

Last week at a South Carolina debate, Newt Gingrich demolished CNN moderator John King over a question about the allegation that Gingrich wanted an open marriage with his second wife. Well, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show called out Gingrich's hypocrisy and Stephen Colbert also had fun with it. Check out the funny videos below.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog at the 2008 RNC

Hey, it's a Presidential election year. And now that Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina Republican Presidential primary, let's revisit Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog's report at the 2008 Republican National Convention. We run into some old friends such as Tim Pawlenty or TPAW and see Newt Gingrich. Plus get ready for some funny stuff from Anderson Cooper.

Part One

Link to Part One.

Part Two

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visits RNC by jgillardi

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Underworld: Awakening 3D Review

Let me begin with the question of whether you should see Underworld: Awakening in 3D. I'm going to thank the directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein and whoever else for shooting this movie in 3-D. If you are going to release a film in 3-D, shoot it in 3-D. The result of shooting Underworld: Awakening was that the directors and director of photography were able to adjust the lighting for many of the dark scenes. You won't hear me complaining about this 3D movie being too dark.

But that being said, Underworld: Awakening 3-D effects are pedestrian. Yeah, I'm spoiled by Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Marlind and Stein just don't take full advantage of the medium. There's no emphasis on foreground and background. The CGI effects work though. That's just to say it is barely special in 3D. If you're a fan of the series, see this in 3D. If you don't care about the series, don't sweat the 3D version; feel free to see it in 2D.

Months after the events in Underworld: Evolution (2006), vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) finds that humans are hunting down Vampires and Lycans in the "Purge." While trying to rescue her lover Michael, she gets captured and frozen in cryogenic suspension at a biological research company called Antigen. Selene escapes and sees the visions by a little girl named Eve (India Eisley) who also escaped Antigen. She tracks down Eve and they flee to to a coven of Vampires. Selene and Eve find themselves hunted by Antigen.

It took four writers to compose the screenplay. They were Len Wiseman, John Hlavin
J. Michael Straczynski, and Allison Burnett. Yet the movie is only 88 minutes long. There's nothing in the story to make you root for anyone. For example, you will figure out who Eve is, long before Selene does. And there was no compassion among characters anywhere. I only felt sorry for Eve because she was a little girl. There were silly moments too. Seriously, humans defeating vampires? Feel free to comment on this but really. I mean vampires have that whole undead thing working. Plus they have superhuman strength. Then there was a "nuke the fridge" moment. A Lycan throws a elevator down a shaft at Selene. She fires her guns at the bottom of the elevator so when it hits her, the bottom of the elevator has been destroyed. Yeah, like that can happen with today's physics.

Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein's direction is also blunt and colorless like Selene's pale complexion. Hold on. It took two guys to direct this movie? It's only 88 minutes. Anyway, there's an attack by Selene on the Antigen headquarters. I'm thinking this could be a Matrix like moment. Instead, it's bland and unlike The Matrix, it lacks grace. And the Lycans move like fifties stop motion animation. Still, the movie wasn't boring just pedestrian.

Underworld: Awakening will please fans of the series, Twilight and vampire lovers. But it's nothing special, it's just a pleasant time waster. The grade is B minus.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why Liberals Love Newt Gingrich

As Newt Gingrich is winning the South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary, it's being reported by MSNBC that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is celebrating. One wonders why a liberal Democrat would celebrate the victory of a conservative Republican. Here's why.

It's clear that the Republican Party has moved so far right that it no longer represents a large portion of the population. Yes, they kicked ass in 2010. But that's because students and minorities don't vote in midterm elections. Once the conservative Republicans tried to cram down their right-wing policies, the populace arose in mighty democratic wave. Just ask Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who may get recalled and Ohio governor John Kasich who had an anti-union law passed only to see it repudiated.

Watching the GOP debates, one gets one thing from them. The Republicans are an angry and mean bunch. They've cheered for the death of an uninsured man, jeered a gay soldier and Fox News' Juan Williams for asking Newt Gingrich a question over his controversial remarks he made about African Americans and food stamps. Later, at a Gingrich event, a woman congratulated Gingrich for "putting" Williams in his place. I've previously argued that conservative Republicans have become racist.

Which brings us back to Newt Gingrich and his controversial remarks. In New Hampshire, Gingrich let this bomb fly that he would go to the NAACP and talk about "why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps." Of course Gingrich doesn't let the facts get in the way, since most people on food stamps are white.

So why is Gingrich so popular among Republicans? I agree he excellent in debates if you like a guy who's mean and attacks his political opponent as the enemy of America. But he reflects the racial views of the Republican Party. For example, California Orange County Republican Central Committee member, Marilyn Davenport sent an email with a picture of Obama's head on a chimp. South Carolina GOP activist Rusty DePass said First Lady Michelle Obama to an ancestor of an escaped gorilla. Comparing African Americans to apes is another old racist theme. Then there is Gingrich himself bringing up the image of African Americans as welfare queens. Prior the food stamps comment, Gingrich said that President Obama may follow a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview. Forget the fact that Obama spent very little time in Kenya and that was to merely visit.

But it's not just the Republican racial views that may be repugnant to most Americans. Gingrich puts down GOP rival Mitt Romney as a "Massachusetts Moderate." This absolutely works in favor of getting the nomination. The party has got rid of its moderates. Gone are the Gerry Fords, Nelson Rockefellers and even Barry Goldwaters of the party. They are replaced by the fundamentalist Tea Party. While a majority want to see a progressive tax plan, the party refuses to budge on any tax increase on the extremely wealthy to cure the budget deficit. While most woman want to maintain the right to choose, there are now Republicans that demand no exceptions ot abortion along with their anti-abortion stand. And while thousands decry the greed of Wall Street, the Republican Party wants to go back to the deregulation of the George W. Bush years. And Newt Gingrich is the party's true believer.

So that's why liberals are loving the fact that Newt Gingrich may be the GOP Presidential nominee. The Republicans have a candidate who is as far right as they are. And farther right away from the great portion of the population that doesn't see life they way the Republicans do. Gingrich as the Republican candidate can only lead to the reelection of President Barack Obama.

Here is the most recent piece by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show on the GOP's Newt Gingrich.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sex, Christians and Colbert

Stephen Colbert did a very funny video on a Christian online dating service. And he also covered a story about a pastor who is urging his married flock to have sex for seven straight days. Check it out.

How a Super PAC can get around the no coordination rule

I questioned whether possible Presidential candidate Stephen Colbert was coordinating with his Super PAC. You see Colbert urged South Carolina primary voters to cast a vote for Herman Cain as a proxy for Colbert. Colbert's Super PAC ran an ad endorsing that idea. And no coordination is allowed under the law.

Well, I stand corrected. Colbert teaches another lesson. He says a Super PAC can notify the candidate of what it's going to do as long as the candidate doesn't endorse it. Check out Colbert's piece below.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Stephen Colbert coordinating with his Super PAC?

First, there's this Huffington Post column by Howard Fineman that proposes Jon Huntsman left the race because Stephen Colbert was beating him! Now Colbert can't run for the Republican nomination for President in South Carolina because he can't get on the ballot and there's no place for write ins. So, yesterday he suggested voters cast their choice for former candidate Herman Cain who's still on the ballot. But then today, his Super PAC or let me say now it's Jon Stewart's Super PAC has just produced an ad suggesting that. Coordination? Can't do that, it's illegal. Check out the Colbert's piece and the ad below. You got to love the civics lesson on possible Super PAC coordination with candidates.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Burger King has new french fries

Today, I got the chance to taste Burger King's new french fries. Back in April, I rated french fries of the big three. Burger King, Wendy's and McDonald's. I gave the nod to McDonald's. So how does the new Burger King french fry change things?

The new Burger King french fries are of a thicker cut. That means there's more potato per fry. But it seems to me the fry still has a potato based starch that covers the fry. It makes them stiff and overwhelms the potato taste. Now I'm not against coating a french fry. See Arby's curly fries. But this starch adds nothing to the taste and detracts from the potato. I will say that it's an improvement since you can taste more potato than the thin cut fries.

I can't recommend the new Burger King fry as so much better than Wendy's or McDonald's . In fact, the more I eat Wendy's natural cut fry, the more I like them. Some of you may prefer Wendy's french fry over McDonald's.

The Real Stephen Colbert

You don't get Stephen Colbert out of character that much. So within the last year, there were two news outlets that got to pull the curtain and expose the man behind it. In June of last year, NPR's Fresh Air did an interview with the real Stephen Colbert. Here's that piece. Just recently, the New York Times did a piece on Colbert. Here it is.

Jon Stewart's Super PAC releases commercial attacking Romney

Okay, Stephen Colbert's Super PAC, er, I mean Jon Stewart's Super PAC has just released this commercial attacking GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It's narrated by John Lithgow, who has played a serial killer in Dexter. That role is part of the gag for the commercial.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best Film of 2011

It's time for the third annual Basement Blog Best Film of the Year. Yes, it's the award that Hollywood looks forward to every year. I keeed. I keeed. Anyway, without further delay, the nominees are: The Artist, The Debt, The Descendants, Hugo and War Horse.

And the winner for the 2011 Basement Blog Best Film of the Year is:

HUGO. Director Martin Scorsese has created a 3-D masterpiece. He sets a new standard for 3-D cinema. But the movie is more than a special effects extravaganza. It's a loving valentine to the magic of movies. Hugo is a classic that will stand the test of time.

Best Science Fiction Film of 2011

It's time for the third annual Basement Blog Science Fiction Film of the Year. The nominees are Battle: Los Angeles, Paul, Real Steel, Source Code, and X-Men: First Class. And the winner of the 2011 Basement Blog Best Science Fiction Film is:

SOURCE CODE. It was intelligent and exciting. It felt like a big budget movie of a Twilight Zone episode. It's a classic.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Artist Review

There's a quote from Mark Twain. He allegedly said, "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times." The film "The Artist" opened in the United States on November 25, 2011. But it just opened here in Cincinnati yesterday on January 13, 2012. Maybe Mark Twain was right. I'll just say that I'm glad I made time for this film. Better late than never or at least I got to see it before the end of the world.

The Artist starts out in the year 0f 1927. Silent film actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is what we would call today a superstar. He's adored by women from all over America. During a public interview, a young female fan literally stumbles into him. She's Peppy Miller, (Bérénice Bejo) an aspiring actress. A photograph of her kissing Valentin on the cheek is captured by Variety. That picture gets her noticed at Kinograph studios where she gets her first job as a dancing extra. The studio head Al Zimmer (John Goodman) wants to fire her because she has pushed Valentin's movie off the front page. But it's Valentin who insists she get a job on his movie. It's here during a dance scene that we see a romantic spark between Valentin and Miller.

But times are about to change. Kinograph decides to make movies with sound and dialogue. With the change to cinema, Zimmer tells Valentin that people will demand newer and younger stars. Valentin refuses to believe this. Meanwhile, Miller's career begins to rise. Valentin makes a silent movie that bombs and when the Great Depression occurs, he loses everything. Miller is now her own superstar.

Director and screenwriter Michael Hazanavicius has created a conventional show business movie. He makes up for this by bold, expressionistic visuals. But the big hook is that The Artist is a silent, black and white movie just like the movies made by its protagonist Valentin.

If you are going to make a silent movie in the twenty first century, there's got to be two areas that must be strong to keep the audience's interest. They are the music and the acting. First, let me talk about the music. Ludovic Bource wrote the score. As I write this, there's a controversy since Hazanavicius decided to use small portion of music from Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." One of the stars of "Vertigo", Kim Novak, claims it was akin to a rape. Kim, I love you but that argument is over the top. The use of "Vertigo" music was a homage to that movie. And unfortunately, it takes away from The Artist's composer's excellent work. Bource's score is impressionistic, sweeping and beautiful. It deserves an Oscar nomination.

As for the acting performances, both Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo exude charisma on the screen and with each other. There's real chemistry between the two. They make you want to watch them. You care about them. And Bejo's character whose first name is Peppy is aptly named. She has real energy as a singer and dancer.

The Artist is a valentine to the magic of Hollywood film making. It's delightful. The grade is A.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stephen Colbert's civics lesson

Last night, Stephen Colbert gave America a civics lesson. You see he has a Super PAC which he uses to satirize Super PACs and conservative politicians. Well, Colbert wants to run for President but he can't run the Super PAC. You see Super PACs can't coordinate with candidates. It's against the law. To demonstrate that that it's suspect that Super PACs don't coordinate with the candidates, he transfers his Super PAC to Jon Stewart. Folks, just look at the what's happening in the Republican Presidential nomination race. It's hard to believe that Super PACs don't coordinate with candidates, even if not directly. Anyway, check out his riotous video pieces.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stephen Colbert geeks out

Conservatives went nuts when they found out that President Obama had a Halloween party for children of the U.S. troops. The reason they went nuts? It had Hollywood connections, such as having Johnny Depp appear and dressed like the Mad Hatter to greet guests. When Stephen Colbert found out that Star Wars Chewbacca was there, he geeked out in a hilarious way.

Why Republicans are out of touch

Stephen Colbert used his regular segment "Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger" to go over Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's ludicrous thoughts on those who don't have health insurance. His stupid idea? He doesn't believe that there are people who die because they don't have health insurance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CNN's "What the ...." moment

I'm going to admit that I am a big Ashleigh Banfield fan. She did great news stories from Afghanistan right after the United States invaded. When she was in Cincinnati one year, I got to meet her. Got an autographed picture. Now she's with CNN doing a morning show called "Early Start." It tries to be light but they have a ridiculous segment where Ashleigh cold calls people from her Rolodex. Okay, she calls Kara Kennedy at five in the morning and asks about the sad memories of her father who was assassinated. What?! Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has some fun with it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stephen Colbert on Rick Santorum's black people comment

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is trying to get out of saying he meant "black" people when talking about welfare. But if you listen to the tape, he is saying "black." Anyway Stephen Colbert had some fun with it last night. Check out his funny piece.

Stephen Colbert on crazy Republican legislation

Last night, Stephen Colbert covered Republican presidential candidates and commented on the GOP's Rick Perry who wants to get us back into Iraq. Colbert then makes a funny Star Trek joke. Later he covers the same crazy legislation previously mentioned in this blog, that New Hampshire is thinking about passing that would require all laws to cite the Magna Carta. Check out his funny pieces below.

Coincidence or Miracle?

If you don't know, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow led his team to a playoff victory 29-23 over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night. Tebow ended the game in overtime by throwing a perfect strike to Demaryius Thomas who ran for eighty yards to the endzone. That happened on the first play in overtime.

If that wasn't miraculous enough for you, how about this? Tebow is a devout Christian. During the 2009 BCS game against Oklahoma, Tebow had written in his eye black, John 3:16. That Bible verse is the basis for the Christian belief. So on Sunday, against the Steelers, Tebow threw for 316 yards. Want more? He averaged 31.6 yards per pass, which by the way is a NFL record. Here's the story. So, message from God? I don't know. But it's an interesting coincidence.

By the way, I'm a Christian. I'm not as devout as Tim Tebow. But John 3:16 is my favorite Bible verse. In case you haven't heard it, here is John 3:16.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hail Barry Larkin

Today, former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. For me, as a lifetime Cincinnati Reds fan, he was the player for my adulthood. As child, I fondly remember Reds greats like Pete Rose or Tony Perez but as an adult I can recall the details of what made Barry Larkin great. First, Barry Larkin could field his position. Tremendous range at shortstop. Cannon arm. Second, he could run. He could steal a base. Third, Larkin could hit. Larkin could hit for average. He could hit for power. If you needed a clutch hit, he was the one to deliver it. Barry Larkin was the prototype for the modern offensive shortstop. He was one of the leaders for the 1990 World Champs. (Pictured celebrating victory at the World Series; Cincinnati Enquirer.)

It's a joyful day for Reds fans. In these recession era times, the Reds fans can celebrate a player who played everyday of his baseball career in one uniform He wore the wishbone "C." He was and will be ever known as a Cincinnati Red. And now he will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as one of the greatest shortstops in baseball.

Here's the story from the Cincinnati Reds.

Here's Barry Larkin's numbers from Baseball-Reference.com

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Paramount's cash grab

In an interview with Collider, Star Trek 2013 director J.J. Abrams has indicated that the new Trek's conversion to 3-D was Paramount's idea. Abrams said,

"I did not fight for the 3D. It was something that the studio wanted to do, and I didn’t want to do it. And then, when I saw the first movie converted in sections, I thought that it actually looked really cool. So, I was okay with their doing it, as long as I could shoot the movie the way I wanted to, in anamorphic film, and then let them convert it. So, those who want to see it in 3D, which looked pretty cool, can do it, and those that want to see it in 2D can do that too."

So we have Paramount to blame for this fiasco. I've seen a bunch of 3D movies that have been converted from 2D and cannot recommend any of them. When it comes to 3D cinema, converted movies are inferior to those shot in 3D. See Brian Palmer's Slate article. The reason is that you can't duplicate the light, shadow and details that the 3D camera will pick up. A computer can only add so much information between the layers of a 2D film being converted.

Trekkers will pay a premium to see Star Trek (2013) in 3D. They won't get the best effort. They will get an inferior 3D product. It's just a cash grab.

Should you jump off the Bengals bandwagon?

After yesterday's crushing Wild Card defeat, do the Cincinnati Bengals have hope for the future or should you jump off the bandwagon? First, let's take a look at what the Bengals have in place. They have two offensive playmakers in wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. (Pictured.) Both will improve after a fine rookie season. They're solid at the tackle positions with Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. On defense, the defensive line is solid with defensive end Carlos Dunlap blossoming into a star.

The coaching was good. Yeah, you heard me. Head coach Marvin Lewis owns the three winning seasons that Bengals owner Mike Brown has had in 21 years. And this year, let's face it, the Bengals were projected by many to win two to three games. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has rebuilt the defense. Yeah, it gives up too many explosive plays but that's probably a sign he won't be a head coach candidate any time soon. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has reinvigorated a moribund offense.

There are weaknesses everywhere. That doesn't mean the team stinks. They just need more depth and playmakers. The Bengals must answer questions at offensive guard, cornerback and safety.

So what about the future? The Bengals in 2013 will have to spend more on player salary. That's because of the collective bargaining agreement which has salary floor. So owner Mike Brown can no longer be cheap. So, why not spend some money now? More importantly, the Bengals have two first round picks for 2012 due to the Carson Palmer trade. They also have an extra second round pick for 2013 from that trade. Those picks give the Bengals hope for the future. So, Bengals Nation get excited for 2012.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bengals season ends

Today, the Cincinnati Bengals lost their Wild Card playoff game to the Houston Texans, 31-10. Look this game was over at the end of the first half. With less than two minutes to play in the first half, Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw a pick to Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watts who took it in for a touchdown to make it 17-10. Why do I think the game ended there? Because the Bengals gave up in the second half. That was evident when Texans RB Arian Foster ran over the Bengals for a 41 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter making it 31-10. As the NBC color commentator pointed out, the Bengals have to tackle, and the Bengals let him run for a touchdown. Embarrassing.

If you're a Bengals fan, you expect this type of game. Or expect a heart breaking loss in the last minute. But what about the season? Let's face it, I expected a two to three win season. And it's hard to hate these Bengals. So my fellow Bengals fans, cry in your beer tonight, and we'll talk about whether we should have hope for the future of these Bengals tomorrow.

Oh, you crazy Republicans

As the GOP race to become the presidential nominee moves to New Hampshire, Rachel Maddow discovers some insane Republican actions. First, in her video piece, she points out that Ron Paul supporters run an ad implying Jon Huntsman as being literally a Manchurian candidate since he was ambassador to China and can speak Chinese. Second, we find out that the Republican state House members of New Hampshire want a crazy law that demands that the source of their laws be the Magna Carta. I'm not kidding.

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

Who does Mitt Romney represent?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney keeps complaining about the slow economy as if he cares about the unemployed. But who does Mitt Romney really represent? Here's a MoveOn.org ad. Note how it uses facts and Mitt's own words.

Friday, January 6, 2012

God tells Pat Robertson who will be the next President

Last night Stephen Colbert made a lot of fun of televangelist Pat Robertson who claims that God let him know who the next president will be and disclosed to him of an upcoming crisis. Folks, this crazy yutz (Roertson) ran for President in 1988. Guess which party's nomination he ran for? You got it. The Republican Party, which obviously has a long history of crazy candidates. See the recently departed Herman Cain.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dan Savage on Santorum

Dan Savage, the guy that gave Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum and runner up in the Iowa Caucus, his um, Google problem, talks about Santorum's far right views on Countdown last night.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog at the Tonys

Here's Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog at the Tonys in 2007. Got to applaud the stars for having being good sports as Triumph makes fun of them. Martha Plimpton, you rock. Check out this hilarious video.

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog in Chinatown

Here's Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog celebrating Chinese New Year during the Year of the Dog in Chinatown, New York. (2006)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Santorum rising

Is Rick Santorum catching up to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in the Republican Presidential Iowa Caucus? The Huffington Post is reporting a three way tie. Folks, you do know Rick Santorum has a Google problem. I just love replaying this story. Let my man Stephen Colbert tell you about Rick Santorum's Google problem.

Leonard Nimoy sings "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."

While I was watching "What's in Spock's Scanner, Part 2" I noticed a music video featured in it of a young Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) singing "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins." Thank God for YouTube. Somebody posted a version of it. And since "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" comes out this year, I thought you might enjoy this sixties piece of cheese. Love those groovy chicks.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bengals stumble into the playoffs

The Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Baltimore Ravens at home, 24-16. The stadium was full and loud. Kudos to you Bengals fans. The game came down to mistakes and two big explosive plays. The Bengals during one Ravens TD drive committed a group of penalties. Another mistake? Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham fumbled the ball. And then there were two big long TD runs by Ravens running back Ray Rice. Game over.

But the Bengals could still could get in the playoffs as the final Wild Card if the New York Jets lost and either the Denver Broncos or the Oakland Raiders lost. All those teams lost. The Bengals are in. At least the Bengals enter the playoffs with a winning record.

It will take a small miracle for the Bengals to get into the Super Bowl. It will take a bigger one for them to win it. Hey, let's use the baseball example here. The St. Louis Cardinals stumbled into the playoffs in 2006 and 2011. The result? They won the World Series twice. So, it's possible the Bengals could win it all.

The Best Mission: Impossible Film

Okay now that the last Mission: Impossible movie is out, it's time to rate them. We start with number four and countdown to the best of the series.

4. Mission: Impossible-2 (2000) First, let me praise star Tom Cruise for choosing different directors for each of the Mission: Impossible films. It gives each movie a freshness while the plots may be banal.

For the second outing, Hong Kong action master John Woo was hired to direct. This is clearly a direct opposite approach from Brian De Palma's more cerebral inaugural movie. And you would think with a story by Star Trek writers Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga and a screenplay by Robert Towne, you think you would get some brakes on Woo's over the top action sequences. But what you got was some silly dialogue. Ethan Hunt (Cruise), "We just rolled up a snowball and tossed it into hell. Now lets see what chance it has." Luther (Ving Rhames), "Hope he kills all the bugs, before the yellow dot gets to the red one." And you to some way over the top, loud action sequences and plenty of slow motion.

Still, it's entertaining. You just have to put your brain on pause. Just watch the movie okay. The grade is B.

3. Mission: Impossible: III. (2006) Alias creator J.J. Abrams is brought in to direct the third movie in the series. With the help of screenwriters Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Stat Trek 2009) they create a story where we find that the main character Ethan Hunt has a love life. Abrams brings a more realistic approach to the spy genre. There's plenty of handheld camera shots which can get annoying.

All the spy stuff involves the search for a weapon called "The Rabbit's Foot." But they don't explain it. Yes, it's a big MacGuffin. Another problem? There's a big mistake in casting of the villain. Philip Seymour Hoffman is cast as the big bad arms dealer. (Owen Davian) Hoffman is a great actor. But he can't give his bad guy the menace needed. He's more like a big geek than some powerful arms dealer. And doesn't Hunt's wife played by Michelle Monaghan look like real life wife of Cruise, Katie Holmes. Just thinking.

Yet, got to love the way they start the movie with a flash forward with Davian (Hoffman) threatening Hunt's wife at gunpoint. That keeps your interest. Cool action sequences with a helicopter chase and Cruise swinging from building to building in Shanghai. Excellent use of the old music from the TV series by Oscar winner Michael Giacchino. The grade is B +.

2. Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. (2011) Forget the plot that sounds like The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Madman wants to start World War III so a stronger human may arise. See this movie for Hunt's acrobatics outside of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. How much of this action sequence was actual, I don't know. But it looks all real. Your hands will sweat. Enjoy it for the comic relief of Simon Pegg as Benji. For that matter, I love this new IMF team with actors Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton. The grade is B +.

1. Mission: Impossible (1996) I like my action movies to have some intelligence. And while Director Brian De Palma is ofent accused of ripping off Alfred Hithcock, he and screenwriters Steven Zallian, David Koepp create a twisty spy movie.

But don't forget the action sequences. The break in at the CIA headquarters is one of the most unforgettable theft scenes in film history. And what about the action sequence on the TGV or high speed train. It's hard to tell how much of it was real. Speaking of Hitchcock, for some reason, the TGV scene reminds me of North by Northwest (1959) where Cary Grant is chased by a crop duster, perhaps it's because the heroes in both are wearing suits. Anyway, the TGV scene still has remarkable visuals. The grade is A.