Monday, May 26, 2008

Superhero Smackdown Tournament: Strength Round 1

(You can click on the bracket to enlarge)

Let's continue with Superhero Smackdown with the Strength Bracket.

1. Superman: The Movie Vs. 16. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

When the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came out I had such high hopes for it's success given how great the graphic novels by Alan Moore were. How wrong I was, not only was it one of the single worst comic-film adaptations ever it was also to be Sean Connery's last film before retirement. Superman (Christopher Reeve), after having to chase down and destroy two rockets sent by Lex Luthor to destroy California, is now tasked to best the older generation's superheroes. Supes wastes no time as he swoops down and splits Captain Nemo's (Naseeruddin Shah) sub in half, dumping the angry captain into the drink. He shows Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) his portrait shriveling the immortal into dust. He rips out Mina Harker's (Peta Wilson) fangs and hurls the vampire into the sun. Tom Sawyer (Shane West) tries to shoot down the man of steel with Quatermain's rifle. Supes just smiles as he uses his super breath to disarm the boy and in the process the force of the wind rips off Sawyer's steely eyebrows. The Man of Steel punches Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng) causing him to transform into Mr. Hyde. Supes battles the bobbleheaded creature with fury decapitating the head from Mr. Hyde's shoulders. Allan Quatermain tries to escape in his automobile--but you can't escape someone faster than a locomotive. Supes crushes the front of the car. Quatermain, because of extreme old age has a heart attack and dies of shock. Which leaves Invisible Man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran) who should learn from previous invisible people that you can't hide from X-ray vision. Supes cooks Skinner with his heat vision allowing scientists an interesting look at internal combustion.

Winner: Superman

8. The Fantastic Four Vs. 9. V For Vendetta

This could be an interesting match-up. I actually kind of liked the first Fantastic Four, it was goofy and poorly directed but it wasn't terrible. However V For Vendetta was a very good flick not quite on par with the graphic novel but a great film in it's own right. V (Hugo Weaving) and Evie Hammond (Natalie Portman) arrive at the Subway station with roses and a homemade fertilizer bomb ready to blow up the Baxter Building. I guess they think the Four are government stooges or something. Anyway the bomb goes off taking out Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba). V goes on the attack against The Thing, Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) chipping away at his rocky exterior with his throwing knives. The Thing in all of his anger punches V as he flies through the air smashing him against a neighboring building. The Human Torch (Chris Evans) hurls fireballs at Evie as she barely evades the flame and finds herself cornered. She smiles up at the Human Torch appealing to Johnny's more basic instincts. He drops his guard for a moment which is long enough for her to unleash the fire hydrant extinguishing Johnny's flame. Meanwhile... V battles The Thing to a standstill until Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) arrives shooting lightning bolts from his fingertips. V, being the ultimate munitions specialist, has prepared for his arrival by tossing a homemade liquid nitrogen bomb destroying Doctor Doom and knocking Ben unconcious. Yes there were a lot of bombs but what do you expect from an self avowed anarchist.

Winner: V For Vendetta

5. X-Men Vs. 12. Superman 4: The Quest For Peace

Ahh, so we finaly get to the first team that can possibly beat the Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve). After being bloody and bruised by the permtastic Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow) on the moon he now has to contend with Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his team of mutants. Cyclops (James Marsden) goes toe to toe with Supes in the battle of Heat Vision. Cyclops power definitely packs a wallop on Superman but it isn't enough as Supes get's close enough to flick Scott Summers with his pinky finger catapulting him back into a wall. Thankfully Professor X uses his mind powers to stop Scott from being squished to death. Jean Gray (Famke Janssen) uses her mind powers to manipulate the Man of Steel to continue in his Quest for Peace by ridding the world of Nuclear Weapons. He flies off to do his do goody-good service to mankind. Just when they thought they had it all wrapped up Jean discovers the crazy Nuclear Man headed toward her at lightning speed. He couldn't have Lacy (Mariel Hemingway) so now this horny genetic defect of Supes has set his sights on Jean. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) ain't pleased by this and decides to aire his grievences with this jackoff in tights. They trade blows Wolvie and his adamantium claws versus Nuclear Man and his girlie fingernails. Storm (Halle Berry) whips up a tornado to distract the Nuclear Man as Jean levitates Rogue (Anna Paquin) through the storm to steal Nuc's powers. She touches him and he falls to the ground dead.

Winner: X-Men

4. Dick Tracy (1990) Vs. 13. Men in Black II

This is kind of a strange match-up. Cop and Colorful gangsters versus Cops and Colorful aliens. Dick Tracy had all sorts of problems but it has no equal when it comes to style and the look of the film. So even though the boys of Men in Black have all the best toys they unfortunately do not have the better sequel. Laura Flynn Boyle's anorexic bug baddie sure as hell didn't help. In a rare showing of camaraderie Tracy (Warren Beatty) enlists the help of a couple of goons he's put in the clink: Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman), Flattop (William Forsythe), Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) and the Blank (Madonna) to square off against K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) and their leader Zed (Rip Torn). The Men in Black try to Flashy thing Tracy but his coat is such a bright yellow that it deflects back against them--luckily they were smart enough to wear their RayBans but their flashy things are broken. Big Boy's constant appetite for walnuts have served him well as he hears the crunch of the Worm Guys attempting to sneak up on him from behind. He leaps around shouting Ha! and scaring the living bejesus out of them, they scamper away in fear. Mumbles confuses Zed with an incoherent recitation of Henry the V. Tracy takes advantage uppercutting Zed into the air knocking him unconscious. Flattop cackles as he opens fire on K and J. The Blank joins in with a barrage of her own filling J full of holes. Tracy jacks up his sleeves, only one left. He clamps the cuffs on a dazed and confused K and throws his ass in the slammer. Tracy does not recognize their authority as a top secret government organization. Or at least he's revoking their license after that terrible second film.

Winner: Dick Tracy

6. Blade Vs. 11. The Punisher (2004)

Oh, this one is gonna be bloody. Blade (Wesley Snipes) is not a happy guy and if your not a vampire he really doesn't have time to play games with you. The Punisher (Thomas Jane) thinks that Blade is just a thuggish bad guy and he just wants to fill him full of lead. Now if this were the upcoming Lexi Alexander film Punisher: War Zone I think Frank Castle would probably make it out alive. But as much as I enjoyed the Tom Jane Punisher, I liked Blade much better. Frank gets the upper hand and hits Blade (Wesley Snipes) with a barrage of machine gun fire. Unfortunately for Frank, Blade is partly a Vampire. Blade only hesitates for a moment. He leaps back up pulling his sword, "My Turn," he growls. Blade slices and dices leaving the Punisher a bloody mess on the floor.

Winner: Blade

3. Sin City Vs. 14. Barb Wire

This is interesting two dystopian towns and lots of cleavage to go around. This is Steel Harbor's Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson) versus Basin City's band of misfits: Dwight (Clive Owen), Marv (Mickey Rourke), Gail (Rosario Dawson), Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Miho (Devon Aoki), Kevin (Elijah Wood) and Roark Junior aka. The Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl). I think in order to make this even remotely fair to Boobs McGee we should just tie Miho's sword fighting hand behind her back and have her fight one on one against the Barbed one. Miho goes even one further and puts a blindfold on. Barb is able to use firearms as she tries to cut Miho down. She zigs and zags out of the way of Barb's fire. Miho does a back flip landing on Barb's shoulders. She squeezes as Barb goes down. Miho decides in an ironic twist of fate to use Barb's giant plastic boobs to suffocate her to death.

Winner: Sin City

7. Time Cop Vs. 10. Flash Gordon (1980)

It is amazing how dated Time Cop is now. The date is 2004 and we are so advanced in our time travel technology that we have cops to monitor it's use. Never the less this Van Damme flick is by far one of his best. This is going to be brutal and dirty because no one, and I mean no one can take a punch and walk it off better than Flash Gordon (Sam Jones). Max Walker (Van Damme) dazzles us with an array of kicks and punches to make anyone dizzy. He bloodies his adversary knocking Flash back to the wall. All of a sudden Queen's awesome score starts to build---Walker continues to pummel the former Quarterback with punishing blow after blow. I mean Flash is pretty cheezy. Will Flash be able to survive the onslaught of Van Damme! The score builds further until Freddie Mercury belts out FLASH OH OH! HE'S THE SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!! Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) cheerleads from the side with a GO Flash! Flash grins and uppercuts the Time Cop. Dale tosses him his silver football and he spikes it onto Walker's head knocking him out instantly. Flash is so excited he leaps into the air -- Freeze Frame!

Winner: Flash Gordon

2. Spider-Man Vs. 15. Steel

Oh, Steel why oh why were you played by Shaquille O'Neil? Shaq is big, Shaq is imposing but in the Superhero world Shaq's metal suit is not going to be able to hold up against the webbed wonder Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire). John Henry Irons (Shaquille O'Neil) attempts to swing his mallet and pummel the wall-crawler. Unfortunately for him Spidey is yawning at the slow pace that he'd rather watch Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) try to act. He realizes that he won't be able to move forward unless he finishes this soon. John Henry's blow is about halfway to Spidey's face when Spidey just unleashes a barrage of fists banging up his suit. He rips off the helmet and flicks John Henry in the nose knocking him out instantly. Spidey sits on his unconscious frame as he watches Mary Jane struggle her way through Romeo and Juliet.

Winner: Spider-Man

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Superhero Smackdown - Agility pt. 2

Here is the lower half of the Agility Bracket in round one.

6. Darkman Vs. 11. Superman 3

The classic camp Darkman, aka. Doctor Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) versus the bad, Red Kryptonite, Superman (Christopher Reeve) from the third film. There is nothing tougher then an all powerful Superman gone bad--but Darkman uses his cunning intellect and his synthetic skin to impersonate bad guy billionaire Webster's (Robert Vaughn) ditsy psychic nutritionist Lorelei Ambrosia (Pam Stephenson). This, of course, distracts Supes from his peanut flicking long enough for Dr. Westlake to hit him between the eyes with his Kryptonite knuckles. Darkman knows that he can't give this Superhuman alien any room to maneuver as he pummels the dark man of steel into a greasy pulp lying on the bar room floor.

Winner: Darkman

3. The Rocketeer Vs. 14. Supergirl

Cliff Secord's Rocketeer (Bill Campbell) Vs. The Man of Steel's cousin Supergirl (Helen Slater). Now the Rocketeer is just minding his own business trying to rid the world of some nasty Nazi's when this naive woman with Superpowers drops in on the action. Cliff is just annoyed he's just trying to save his girl Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) and this silly chick with red spandex comes flying along claiming to help but causing Cliff to drop Jenny. Luckily for him his scientist buddy Peevy (Alan Arkin) got his hands on the Omegahedron from that ditzy witch played by Faye Dunaway. Cliff books it just in time to save Jenny and deftly activates the Omegahedron as Peevy chants the ritual sending the pretty Supergirl into the Phantom Zone.

Winner: The Rocketeer

7. Daredevil Vs. 10. Swamp Thing

The blind Vigilante Matt Murdock AKA. Daredevil (Ben Affleck) doesn't like the smell of Dr. Aleck Holland (Ray Wise) AKA. The Swamp Thing (Dick Durock). The Swamp Thing while aided by the very pretty Adrienne Barbeau attempts to fling parts of his swampy mass at DD in an attempt to slow him down. Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson's terrible Daredevil script is struggling against the cheesy prosthetics on Swamp Thing's face. Luckily the very hot and kick ass Elektra (Jennifer Garner) comes to save her blind boyfriend's bacon by taking out Barbeau and freeing DD from his slimy prison long enough for Daredevil to whip the Swamp Thing into a Peat Bog. Let's face it as bad as Daredevil is this first incarnation of the Swamp Thing was much worse.

Winner: Daredevil

2. Superman II Vs. 15. AVP Alien Vs. Predator

Superman (Christopher Reeve) has fought both Predator and Alien in the comic books but I think many fans would love to see him rock out fighting both of these creatures on the big screen. Superman just took out three of the toughest villains in the galaxy in General Zod (Terrence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran). But he's ready for more as he cracks his knuckles preparing for the tag team. Supes get's really angry when the Alien spits acid on his big S creating a hole in his uniform. He tosses the Alien up into space and explodes his ass in the atmosphere with his heat vision. The Predator uses his invisibility to shield himself from the Man of Steel but Supes has that pesky X-Ray vision and punches a hole right through his alien adversary. It's gonna take more than a crappy tie-in like AVP to defeat the Man of Steel when he's at the top of his game.

Winner: Superman II

Stay tuned in the next couple of days we will be showing you what happens in the next three brackets. We have Strength, Intellect and Endurance left to go in this first round.

Superhero Smackdown Tournament

Who loves Super Heroes on the big screen? It's been a great thrill to see all of my childhood comic heroes being turned into celluloid. Now we here at the Bucket have been taking notice of the volume of Super Hero films coming out between now and December. You've got Iron Man, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, The Punisher: War Zone, The Spirit and you might even be able to add Hancock even though it wasn't a comic book, but it was obviously inspired by one. So we thought this would be a good time to have a Battle Royale between 62 Comic book films, NCAA Tourney style, winner take all!(Just click on the bracket to make it bigger)


So let's start with the first bracket called Agility: This is the first half of the bracket.

1. Spider-Man 2 VS 16. Catwoman

Pitof's Catwoman versus Sam Raimi's first sequel to Spider-Man. It is obvious that this kitty has no claws. As Spidey kicked Doc Oc's ass on the subway car so too would he, as a gentlemen, whip this Catwoman wannabe into a web of shame that she will never ever ever recover from. Let's face it when your arch villain is a cosmetic mogul who resembles Sharon Stone it's kind of hard to take you seriously as a super hero.

Winner: Spider-Man 2

8. Constantine
VS 9. Spawn
This is gonna be a battle for the ages the Hellspawn of Satan vs. the demon hunter John Constantine. The demon hunter has his work cut out for him as bad actor Keanu Reeves tries to talk his way out of having to go toe to toe with Todd McFarlane's dark creation Spawn. Spawn hits first with a nasty right while John Leguizamo's Clown cackles in the background. Burned and bruised John Constantine dusts himself off cracks a smile and hits Spawn with the Dragon's Breath Flame Thrower and finishes him off with a couple of blasts from his Holy Cross Shotgun. Constantine took a major hit but it wasn't enough--Spawn hit him like a PG-13 movie while Constantine bloodied his ass in true Rated R style. As John would say, "When a half-breed breaks the rules, I deport their sorry ass straight back to hell."

Winner: John Constantine

5. The Crow VS. 12. Howard the Duck
This would appear to be a quick and painless drubbing that Brandon Lee's Crow would inflict on George Lucas' very silly Howard the Duck---but not all is as it seems. Yes Howard the Duck is a bad movie but it is one of those that is so bad that it's good. The Crow, while a fun and enjoyable flick it just doesn't hold a candle to the stupid yet hilarious Ducky and his crew of misfits including Leah Thompson, Tim Robbins and Jeffrey Jones. So---Eric Draven returns to life as the Crow and finds he's got a hankering for some roast duck. He hits Howard with everything he's got--Howard wipes the blood from his bill and says, "My Turn birdbrain." The Duck humiliates the undead rocker with a barrage of Quack Fu attacks that frankly embarrases poor Eric so badly that he just has to walk away in shame. (This win is for you Cody and Jeff L.)

Winner: Howard the Duck

4. Superman Returns 13. Mystery Men

Brandon Routh's Superman has quite a task ahead of him. He has to take out not one but 7 superheroes before he can claim victory. The good news is that these goofball screw up heroes can't hold a candle to the man of steel. Mr. Furious(Ben Stiller) screams at Supes as he moves into attack position, but he waits too long. The Man of Steel crushes his ferociously large head with his bare hands. The Shoveler (William H. Macy) hits Supes from behind with his Shovel but the vibrations from the force of the blow shatters Mr. Shovel into a thousand pieces. The Spleen (Paul Reubens) tries to knock out Superman with his deathly and noxious flatulence but old blue boy is just too quick as he uses his super breath to force the deadly fumes back toward the Spleen, The Sphinx (Wes Studi) and the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) killing them instantly. Supes melts the Blue Raja's (Hank Azaria) throwing forks with heat vision and snaps his neck with his thumb and forefinger. Being the Gentleman that he is--Supes gives a wink to the Bowler (Jeneane Garafalo) exploding her magic bowling ball with a heat blast and a wry smile.

Winner: Superman Returns

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Sure, I haven’t written a column for a year or so. But when Indiana Jones returns to the screen, Captain Mike must return to Troy's Bucket!

So, is it as good as the old ones? No. Has George Lucas crapped on our childhood fantasies like he did with the Star Wars prequels? No, and I think we can all thank SeƱor Spielbergo for keeping Lucas’ worse impulses in check. “Indiana Jones and the Predictably Stilted Title” is a solid addition to the franchise. It ain’t perfect, though.


The good stuff:

The movie starts off great, as any Indiana Jones movie should. Such a delight to see Spielberg return to the sunny widescreen images of his younger, funner days! When Indy finds himself stuck in a desert town populated by mannequins one minute away from a nuclear meltdown, you are reminded instantly that you are in the hands of the maestro of Suburbia on the Edge of the Twilight Zone. Lucas sets up a big shiny ball of “American Graffiti” 1950s nostalgia, and then Spielberg spikes it with an H-bomb. Great stuff! And if seeing that giant warehouse full of mysterious crates doesn’t warm the cockles of your fanboy heart, nothing will.

Harrison Ford is terrific, of course. It’s been a long time since he’s been in a good movie. And sure, at 65 he and his stunt doubles can’t quite pull off the amazing action scenes like they could back in the 80s. But it’s still Indy, and we still love him and his crooked grin.

Cate Blanchett has a ball with her role as an evil psychic Rusky Irina Spalko. Expertly wielding a rapier and even sharper icy blue contact lenses, she’s the most dashing Indy villain thus far, if not the scariest. That title unquestionably goes to Amrish Puri’s unholy man from “Temple of Doom.” To this day, my nightmares are haunted by images of Mola Ram ripping people’s hearts out. That Mayan priest from “Apocalypto” has nothing on Puri’s stare, chant and cackle. He scares me. Irina doesn’t really scare me, but I wouldn’t want to piss her off.

The unfortunately named Shia LeBoeuf (seriously, do his parents hate him?) is better than I had expected. I was a bit apprehensive about Indy having a son, ahem, young adventurous sidekick to do some of the swashbuckling that Harrison Ford just can’t do anymore, but LeBoeuf more or less carries it off. He’s a good actor who obviously had a fantastic time playing this role (who wouldn’t?). Many of the best scenes are of Mutt and Indy verbally sparring in a way that never quite gets corny. If Lucas and Spielberg go on to give him is own franchise of Mutt Williams adventures, I wouldn’t object. He’s way more appealing than, say, Hayden Christensen, although I doubt that he’d ever have become an action hero in the pre-CGI era. He’s more Tom Hanks-ish than… well… Harrison Ford-ish.

The not-so-good stuff:

The other supporting roles have little of the resonance of their 1980s predecessors. When Karen Allen appears as Marion Ravenwood, Indy and the audience beam with affection. Too bad screenwriter David Koepp doesn’t give her much to do. She just kinda shows up, flashes that big smile and drives an amphibious vehicle while the boys do all the fighting. What happened to the Marion who could drink a Sherpa under the table, slug Indy in the jaw, and blast away pesky Nazis with a machine gun? If any character in Crystal Skull has the right to punch (or shoot) evil Irina in the face, it’s Marion. No such luck for her, or us. Ray Winstone’s character could have been completely written out of the movie with no major loss. John Hurt gets to do little more than babble incoherently. Where are Sallah and even Short Round when you need them?

All three of the previous Indy films have at least two brilliantly staged action sequences that linger long in the moviegoer’s imagination. You won’t find one here. Oh, they try. The motorcycle chase through 1950s America is fun, but I kept waiting for Marty McFly to ride by on his makeshift skateboard. Then there’s that big jungle vehicle chase. It’s pretty cool, but nowhere near as thrilling as the desert chase from Raiders, the mineshaft roller coaster ride from Temple of Doom, or the tank rescue from Last Crusade. A lot of the blame for that can be attributed to the schmutzy CGI used to create the jungle. Peter Jackson & Co. did this a lot better in “King Kong.”

And what’s with the toned-down violence? Part of what made the old Indy films so exciting was that they were bloodier and scarier than your typical summer popcorn flick. People got shot, impaled, burned, run over, chopped up, blown up, crushed, whipped, melted, ritualistically eviscerated, sacrificed into pits of lava, and completely decomposed in about 10 seconds flat… stuff to blow the mind of your typical 11-year-old. So bloodless is Crystal Skull that it probably could have gotten through with a PG rating with little complaint from parental watchdog groups. Temple of Doom almost single handedly brought about the PG-13 rating, for God’s sake. Call me a sadist, but I miss the old blood n’ guts.

Let’s face it, folks. The Crystal Skull just ain’t as cool a relic as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail. The Lost Ark unleashed malevolent spirts and melted Nazis. Pick the real Holy Grail and you get you eternal life. Pick the false one, you rot. Choose wisely. If memory serves, the Crystal Skull is a sort of super-duper hard drive that can fry your brain. As a prop, it looks like something you’d find at Spencer's right next to the lava lamps and black light posters. Still it’s not as lame as the Sankara Stones, which I think made fertilizer or something.

The movie doesn’t really make good on Irina’s psychic powers. In point of fact, the Soviets (and Americans) did train psychic soldiers. The filmmakers could have had a lot more fun with this concept. Sadly, it remains an underutilized idea that could have been really cool, particularly with Cate Blanchett playing the role.

And don’t get me started on those goddamn prairie dogs…

The final verdict:

It’s still a good movie to go see on a summer afternoon. Unlike the Star Wars prequels, it feels like a genuine entry into the Indiana Jones series rather than just a massive fundraiser for Lucasfilm Ltd. and its affiliates (not that it isn’t that, though). The story is good enough, the actors are a pleasure to watch, and its energetic fun. It’s an Indiana Jones movie. And that’s a good thing.

See you next year.

3.5 Buckets

Friday, May 09, 2008

My First Game at Yankee Stadium 2008 - Countdown to the end

Ahh, Yankee Stadium. It was great to be back in the House that Ruth built for the final season before they move into their new digs across the street. The Yankees as you may or may not know haven't been playing the best baseball in the past few years and unfortunately this year has been no exception. Thankfully with Moose on the mound the Yanks were able to hold onto the win against Cleveland 6-3. The Yanks at this point are about 2 games from 500. which ironically is still better than how they were at this time last year. So instead of droning on how bad the Yanks are and bitching about whether or not they are gonna make the Playoffs. I think I'll just stick to talking about this remarkable ballpark where I have seen many an incredible thing in my 31 years of life.

I was at Yankee Stadium two years ago in May of 2006 where the Yankees were down nine runs to the Rangers and Jorge Posada hit the 2 run home run to end the game in the 9th inning. My friend Meshesha was with me and he was convinced the Yanks were done after Texas scored 7 runs in the second but I refused to leave. Somehow I got him to stay through the gradual comeback. Meshesha had already bolted through the archway debating whether or not he should wait for me. There were two outs, he was so convinced that it was over but I wasn't swayed. It only took a few seconds for Jorge to crush a two run home run and seal the victory. Man that was a rush, I had seen the Yanks come back from deficits before but that had to be one of the greatest comebacks ever.

I was here at Yankee stadium during the Playoffs of that year to watch the first game against Detroit. Derek Jeter was at the top of his game hitting five for five in the game with two doubles and a homerun. It was magnificent! The Yanks won the game 8-4. I was there with my friend Ori and the playoff atmosphere in Yankee stadium was electric. They had the 2006 playoff logos on the field--it was spectacular. The place was packed to the brim, I swear I must have waited at least an hour to get my big ass Foster's brew cup--a staple at Yankee Stadium, as Cody can attest. I had my Australian ale and my hot dog and enjoyed the one and only game the Yanks would win in the series. Well I guess you can't always get everything you want.

I was also here in 1996 when the Yankees won the World Series for the first time in 18 years against the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately I got to witness the only two games of the series that we lost. But it was my first world series and it was pretty cool. Except of course for losing the two games, especially the one on Mickey Mantle's birthday, where Andruw "Jackass" Jones broke his playoff record for hits in a game. But I've seen some great home runs from the soon to be greats like Jeter, A-Rod and Posada. I was able to see new Yankee skipper Joe Girardi back when he was a catcher for us at the aforementioned 96 series, he played with power and passion. I've seen pitcher Chin Ming Wang go 9 innings without giving up a run and only a couple of hits.

But I think the thing that sticks out for me as the most memorable thing I have seen or done at Yankee stadium is walking through Memorial Park, passing by the plaques of former greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. A few days earlier my Grandfather passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He was born in New Jersey but as a kid he got to live right across the street from Yankee Stadium. He would tell my brother and me all of his stories about watching Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play ball. So of course I grew up to love the Yankees, after those stories who wouldn't. As Grandpa got older and his memory began to fade he still remembered the team he loved as a kid. There were times I swear he couldn't remember my name but he could tell me who Paul O'Neil was and what position he played. So after he died, my dad and my cousin Steven went to the first game we could get our paws on-- which puts us back in Memorial Park where I scattered his ashes on the grass next to some of his favorite players. As in true Yankee fashion the Yanks lost that game but two days later, July 18, 1999, David Cone had his perfect game against the Expos. Dad and I were convinced after that it was Grandpa's doing and it could only have been possible in Yankee Stadium.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Iron Man

As many of you may or may not know I work for Paramount Vantage--the indy wing of Paramount Pictures. If you have read the blog in the past you probably have noticed that I don't do many, or really any reviews for Vantage or for our parent company Paramount. Mostly because I do take these reviews seriously, and I don't want there to be a suspicion of bias for films distributed through Paramount. I do this mostly because there may be a film that I don't like and--you know you have to be fair if you only review the ones from your company that you like -- well it's like Fox News, not really fair and balanced. But I really wanted to comment on this film so I'm just going to say right off the bat. I work at Paramount Pictures and I loved Iron Man. There, I said it. You can call me a plant if you want--but if you'll notice I waited a few days after it made over 100 million at the box office over the weekend so really at this point what does it matter?
Yes I loved Iron Man as a big summer blockbuster and I especially enjoyed the pacing and character development. As much as I love Spider-Man and the subsequent films, I have to say that Director John Favreau has surpassed Raimi in the ability to successfully transfer from comics to the screen. As I have viewed the Spidey flicks again on DVD I have noticed that they are not nearly as fun and exciting as they were when I first saw them--they have great moments, especially the second Spidey, but overall they just feel hokey and goofy. And therein lies the problem. Now that I have seen Iron Man I see what could have been with Spidey. Iron Man is not goofy or hokey. The relationships with his assistant Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) his best friend Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and even with his mentor/rival Obediah Stane (Jeff Bridges) are very strong and great to watch. And it brings the funny too, the film never takes itself too seriously. They also were able to show a bit more of the larger Marvel universe in this film with the appearance of opperatives of Shield and including a cameo from a certain one-eyed Shield commander after the credit sequence at the end of the film. They also had a great reference in the film to the possibility of Rhodes becoming War Machine--awesome!
Who is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)? I'm sure that when Favreau was making this film he knew he was going to have to give some deeper character background. Most of the world knows about Spidey, Batman and Superman, but Tony Stark/Iron Man had roughly the same problem that Daredevil had when it came out. Outside of the comic world the average Joe had never heard of Iron Man or Tony Stark. So they open with a fantastic scene with Tony hammering the booze and laughing it up with soldiers before he's almost blown up by terrorists. They flash back hours earlier and they get a great quick intro back story on Tony Stark as he receives a humanitarian award. He's shown to be a genius and the head of a Fortune 500 Weapons Manufacturing Company. Of course Stark isn't there he's playing the tables in Vegas as he plays up the billionaire playboy without a care in the world. He beds the hot reporter played by the very sexy Leslie Bibb and we get to see his cliffside bachelor pad. Howard Hughes would have been proud. Favreau adapts the capture of Tony Stark from the comics. The location has changed but the situation remains the same. In the Comics Tony is captured by the Vietcong in the film Tony is captured by Afghani Terrorists called the Ten Rings. As in the comics Tony has a life threatning injury and he is forced to build a device to protect his heart. Now we were told before the film was made that the Mandarin would be the main bad guy. I didn't hear them mention him in the film but the Ten Rings is most definitely a reference to the Mandarin and I would assume that the character of Raza could someday become the Mandarin? Maybe?

Anyway Tony is forced to build a missile for the terrorists and instead he builds the Mark I, the first Iron Man outfit. When he escapes and returns home he realizes that his weapons have not benefited mankind and he is now determined to use his wealth for good instead of destruction. Thusly he builds the second Iron Man suit the Mark II. Which was built entirely by Stan Winston and his ILM team and it is amazing to watch. I really enjoyed the workshop sequences where Tony tinkers with his Iron Man suit always trying to perfect it. When Iron Man beats the shit out of terrorists and then takes off for the skies to duel with a pair of fighter jets I swear I couldn't always tell when something was complete CGI or when it was a guy in the suit. I think Marvel needs to continue their relationship with ILM with every film they make because you can just see the leaps and bounds in technology from Spider-Man to Iron Man. It really is incredible. Oh, and I didn't even mention the bad ass fight sequence between Iron Man and Iron Monger. It was far too short but it was amazing to see, again it was as if it was ripped right from the comic book. The bar has been re-set and every Marvel film, every comic film, from now on has to try and measure up to Iron Man's success. It is a great cast, they all had excellent chemistry and I'm really excited to see what they can do with Iron Man 2 in 2010.

Grade 4 1/2 Buckets