Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Review : Rise of the Guardians

Another week and another cartoon picture. This film intrigued me when the previews first came out as I love cartoons that have an edge and seeing Santa all tatted up got me hooked. My youngest niece also wanted to see this so I had every excuse to see it now.
The big characters that we all know and love, Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and the Sandman are represented but are not the focus of the movie as Jack Frost is the main character. That is also his problem as he has for his whole life felt neglected and is not believed to exist by children so he always has a chip on his shoulder. The bad guy here is the Bogey Man aka Pitch. He wants to control everything just like in the dark ages where there is no hope or happiness and wants to bring those times back. The Man in the Moon chooses a new guardian to join up with the other four to combat the upcoming battle with Pitch. Jack is that guardian and he doesn't understand why and neither does the other four guardians but everyone except for Easter accept that the Man in the Moon knows what he is doing. Easter and Jack have a long history and have irritated each other over the centuries and they have the best back and forth in the film. The dialogue is sharp but tasteful.
Pitch infects Sandman and all his nice dreams become nightmares for the world's children and they all start to believe that none to the guardians exist which starts to make them all weak and slowly lose their powers. Jack is the key to all this but Santa questions his motive and ask what his "center" is. What makes him tick. Jack has no answer as he doesn't remember who his was before he became Jack Frost.
Jack and the guardians battle Pitch a few times but they are losing and every kid in the world ends up not believing in their existence til there is only one kid left who always believed in the Easter Bunny and wants him to prove that he exists or he will give up all hope as well. Jack steps in helps him keep the faith. Now with renewed hope and the guardians on their last legs they join together to take on Pitch in one last battle to reclaim what they lost. In the end after Pitch is beaten and driven away Jack is accepted and believed by all and he officially becomes a guardian.

Verdict : In typical "mature" cartoon flicks nowadays this movie surrounds lessons that should be learned by fun talk and entertaining battles. All it takes is to have one person have faith and anything can be achieved and that there is a purpose for anyone in this world and you just have to find it. Though not as good as most Pixar films this holds up as a fun escape for a couple of hours for kids and adults alike. A THUMBS UP from me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Movie Review : Life Of Pi

I've heard a lot about this movie but considering that I expected to see a visually appealing movie with a story that would probably leave me wanting. In actuality the opposite happened. I saw the film in 3D as I expected to set hings pop out and enthrall me but other than the the whale scene which has been advertised on tv I saw nothing that ooh or awed me. Story on the other hand keep me interested.

The film starts our with a grown up Pi ( which means he survived his ordeal which is a good thing ) talking to a French Canadian who wants to write the story of the Life of Pi which has been described to make you believe in God. Pi tells him that he is a practicing Hindu Muslim Catholic. I wouldn't want that conflict within my head. Pi begins his story with trials and tribulations of growing up in India and how his full name sounds like "Pissing" which gave him much ridicule at school til he made himself a legend by writing out the "whole number" of the math equivalent of "Pi" and was never made fun of again and went by his new shorten name of Pi. His parents owned a zoo and he helped around and even had an close encounter with a Tiger named Richard Parker against his father's wishes. Later on his parents had to sell the zoo and his father decided he was going to move the family to Winnipeg, Canada to start anew which Pi did not want to go as India was his life and had just met a girl that stole his heart. Complaining did not helped and he and the family boarded a ship that would take them to their new lives.

After some time on the sea Pi was awoken by a terrible storm and he wanted to see it first hand so he ventured out to the deck while everyone else slept. Something went wrong and soon the ship sank and Pi was the only human survivor as he was forced onto a life boat by shipmates before it went down. We see Pi out at sea with a Zebra also on board the life boat and a Hyena also snuck aboard and shortly a Orangutan comes floating by a little raft made of parts of the sunken ship. After awhile Richard Parker shows himself to also have snuck on board. And after some conflicts among the animals Pi and Richard Parker are the only ones left on the boat. With Richard Parker being an untamed jungle animal Pi must learn to co exist with him as they are both starving and thirsty and the minimal supplies are still on the boat which the Tiger has proclaimed is his so Pi builds a satellite life boat from extra boards and attaches it the main life boat so he may be near but still a safe distance away. Days then weeks go by and Pi and the Tiger slowly realize that though they never will truely like or trust each other they must work together and Pi starts to fish for Richard Parker and Richard Parkers learns to allow Pi to stay on the main boat as they drift on the Pacific Ocean.

They make it to a small island where they are replinshed with some food and water in the nick of time as a little longer they probably and had already accepted the fact that were about to die at sea. Pi realizes they can not stay here and they must push forward and eventually they hit the Mexico coast after at least 100 days at sea and Pi is rescued by people noticing him laying on the beach passed out. Richard Parker walks into the wild and is never seen again. Pi makes a full recovery and Japanese insurance adjusters for the ship visit him in the hospital and after he tells his story he gives another story that makes you rethink a lot of things.

Back to the present the writer is amazed at the story and the many layers that it has and can't wait to get the book started. We see Pi has a wife and two kids and are living happly as Pi has moved on from his adventure and is doing quite well.

Verdict : If you are going for special effect driven movie then I believe you will be disappointed but if you are open to taken in a story of self discovery and an adventure that has to be viewed in different ways then you will enjoy yourself. A THUMBS UP from me to watching this. I didn't expect to overly enjoy this movie but it suprised me and I am glad I saw it. It shows that God is everywhere whether you "see" or "feel" him. This makes you have to believe that you must look at the whole picture and/or trip that you have taken after it is done to fully understand what happened and not just pick one thing and make a final decision on that one aspect as you could be missing something important.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Movie Review : Twilight : Breaking Dawn Part 2

The phenomenon of the Twilight saga finally comes to a close with this entry in the series. Part 1 came out last year which ended with Bella being turned into a vampire. I have gone to all these movies due to taking my niece to the very first one and even though these movies are not usually my cup of tea, since I saw the first I had to see them all as I have to see how the story would end as I had no intention to read the books.

The movie jumps right in with Bella getting used to being a vampire. Her blood lust though severe is kept in check which impresses Edward as newbies usually don't have that restraint. A relative mistakenly believes Edward's and Bella's child was turned by them and not born like which is a big no-no among the vampire higher ups. Edward and Bella then spend about a hour movie time trying to convince fellow vampires and have them as witnesses that their child is pure so that the higher ups do not come and kill them. Ultimately they come to see the child themselves and pass judgement on Edward and Bella. After some talking and tit for tat they part ways. Movie ends with Edward and Bella sharing their courtship of each other and now presumably live on happily.

Verdict : You are going to see it or you are not going to see it as if you have seen the other 3 in the series you will want to see the last one like me. If you haven't seen any of them then there is no reason to jump on now. The review is this short as there really is no action whatsoever in this flick. It is a lot talking and scheming. There is a 7-10 minute stretch of a battle. That's it. So for almost 2 hours there is just talking, more talking and then a truce at the end. Again, I am not giving away spoilers as almost everyone that will be watching probably already knows what to expect as they either read the books or know what is going to happen from friends and family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Movie Review : Wreck-It-Ralph

Ah, nostalgia, how I love remembering and reliving some of the good old days from back when I was a young child. Cartoon movies have gotten more sophisticated over the years with the high water mark being Toy Story and Up. Like those and others this movie is made to appeal to young kids for mindless fun and us older people who appreciate inside jokes and little things that kids will miss or are too young to understand.

The film starts off strongly with Ralph ( villain in ala Donkey Kong ) and Felix ( hero ala Mario ) finishing another battle which as always is pre determined for the bad guy to lose out to the good guy. Only problem is after almost 30 years Ralph is tired of being the bad guy and wants to flip to the other side. He even goes to a type of AA for villains which includes a lot of classic characters with my favorite being Zangief from Street Fighter fame. We do get Bowser from Mario Bros but we do not get the actual brothers in the film. A disappointment from this Mario Bros player. Ralph decides to venture out and be a hero and in his view acquiring a medal will achieve that goal. He ends up in a Call of Duty/Gears of War hybrid of a game where he, by using his wrecking power actually gets a medal. On his way back to his game he is detoured into a game called Sugar Land where everything is visually bright and loaded with sweets. The game is a racing game ala Mario Kart/Need for Speed etc. The land is ruled by King Candy with a firm hand except for a little young lady that happens to a be a glitch within the game and is the only thorn in the King's side. She runs into Ralph and ends up with Ralph's newly acquired medal which in turn uses to try to win her "freedom" from the game as you need a gold "coin" to enter a race. The premise is if you are one of the top 9 racers then you become a selectable character for people to play in the real world. Being a glitch she has been forced to stay away from the races and is alienated from everyone. The next 30-40 minutes involves soul searching for Ralph and what is and isn't important in life. Typical fare for a cartoon nowadays. In the end everyone has grown and learned from their experiences.

Verdict : A THUMBS UP from this long time gamer. Though the movie is a good one and the two supporting characters ( Felix and a field general from the war hybrid game ) bring the most enjoyable parts of the film unless you have a young one with you or enjoy games you might want to pass on this. Growing up playing all these games, it was fun seeing them interact on the big screen but unlike other "grown-up" cartoons the movie drags about 50 minutes into it and sort of limps home at the end. A fun movie but maybe not one you need to see in the theater.

Movie Review : Skyfall

Bond... James Bond, shaken and not stirred for the 24th time on the big screen and unlike the last entry in the series ( Quantum of Solace ) this one delivers on most fronts.

Film jumps right in with a grand chase scene that is one of the best I've seen in a long time. Many different types of modes of transportation are displayed here. It ends with Bond being forced into a faux death which as you can tell and just know does not suit him. Doesn't last long as he is drawn back into the fray by seeing his former employers being attacked. Once back he is forced to show he is ready to get back into the field as he shows wear and tear from all his adventures. Once cleared he follows all the leads to the villain of this story which is Mr. Silva portrayed by Javier Bardem. With yet another bad haircut, Javier delivers the best performance of the movie. Just like in "No Country For Old Men" ( which he a sports worse hair day than here ) when he is on the screen the movie is better for it. The connection between Bond and his nemesis that pushes the storyline along is plausible if not original. The chase is on which takes us on a ride from Bond's present to his possible future back to his past where we learn some things that make him tick. Once the final battle ensues between the two men all bets are off as the body trail is littered with people left and right. As it reaches its climax with Silva and a captive M ( Judy Dench again with a fine performance as Bond's handler ) by his side the battle from my point of view abruptly ends. I feel how Bond handles Silva was fine but the outcome of the battle could have been fleshed out a tad more.

Verdict : Whether you are a Bond fan, action fan, drama fan, etc this movie gets a firm THUMBS UP from me to view. This movie washes the bad taste of the previous film out your mouth and sets up at least two more movies featuring Daniel Craig in the role. Other than a few slow moments in the middle of the film and in my opinion the semi anti climatic ending this movie delivers. Not as good as Casino Royale but better than most action films, Bond or non Bond, out there.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Harang to Zimmermann to Kemp to Victorino to Me


Bottom of the 2nd :

Dodger Pitcher : Aaron Harang
National Hitter : Jordan Zimmerman

Fly out to Center Fielder Matt Kemp
Tossed by Matt Kemp to Left Fielder Shane Victorino
Tossed by Shane Victorino to Me in the stands

.... and that is how I acquired one bucket list item and half of another. One bucket list for me is to attend a game at every baseball park and hopefully it happens to be a Dodger game. A secondary bucket list is to get a ball somehow ( not by buying one ) at the ballpark. The hard part of that is most of these parks I will only ever attend once. In Colorado this year I caught 5 during batting practice and then two tossed to me prior to the game. Kind of surprised it was that easy. Went to a game at Cii Field in New York and was lucky enough to catch a ball during batting practice as I was in the bleachers and it not being a Dodger game made it harder as I didn't have any sympathy from any Dodger players to toss me a ball. Well, the ultimate bucket list ball is to catch a home run ball and that may or may never happen for me as you have to be lucky and to be in the right place at the right time. Well "anyone" can get a foul ball during a game, which is funny since I never have gotten one, but there are only so many 3rd outs during a game and they don't always get thrown into the stands but I was lucky enough to get this ball and the lineage of the ball goes through Kemp which makes it all the more unique. I may never get a home run ball but this is the second closet thing you can get from a regulation game that isn't a foul ball. I hope to one day replace this in the case with a home run ball. Keeping my fingers crossed but not holding my breath.

Bobblehead of the Day : Andre Ethier ( Brooklyn Throwback / Signed )

Up next is a bobblehead that I won from one of the many contests that AngryAlbert runs during his trips to the city of sin, Las Vegas. Check out his blog for unfiltered commentary and said contests. This bobblehead of Andre was given out at Dodger Stadium back in 2011 when I wasn't collecting them at that time. One of my baseball buckets lists is to go to every park and catch a Dodger game and last year I got to go to Colorado and Washington. The trip out east was planned to see friends and go to New York City and of course catch the Boys in Blue. I thought earlier in the season that this series would be big for the two teams as they both would be trying to get into the playoffs. Sad to say the Dodgers were almost done at that time and you could read some of it with their body language. Nonetheless I was going to go and enjoy my time out there. I was only going to be in D.C. for a day and half so I bought tickets for the Tuesday the 18th game but it got rained out even though by game time there was no rain and none for the rest of the night. So I was given tickets for the next day which became a doubleheader but not the seats that I paid for originally because of some stupid rule but that is another rant for another day. Anyways, I headed down to the stadium for batting practice and was surprised that there were a lot of Dodger fans. Expected more in Colorado and there were minimal and expected less in D.C. but had a lot. Guess you never know. So I brought along the Ethier bobblehead in the hope that he would sign along the 3rd base side like he normally does and about 30 minutes prior to the game time he came towards the seats and started signing. I proceeded to walk over as I was finishing with a Kershaw signature which was also nice to acquire. Walked up to Ethier with bobblehead in hand and there were about 10 other people at the time trying to acquire a signature as well. What was funny/irritating was that he started signing everyone around me at occasionally would glance at me and my bobblehead like he didn't want to sign it. I figured he wasn't in the mood to sign figures and I was going to be out of luck but I stood patiently and started talking to him about his food blog and ASU days and I guess that helped and he finally took the bobblehead and signed on the brim of the cap. This is my first autograph on a bobble that was on the brim and I kind of prefer it there now but obviously you need to have a signature that would fit there as all are not as small as Ethier's can be. So mission accomplished. Saw a Dodger game in a different city, acquired an autograph and got a game ball which is another bucket list that I have going. Check the other post on that. Here are the pictures. Thank you again to Angry Albert and his contests and thank you to Andre for taking the time for signing for the fans.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Signed Ball(s) of the Day - Player Appearance Recap : Wally Moon and Charlie Hough ( ROMLB Sweet Spot )

This past Saturday Hall of Fame Sports was holding another one of their Dodgerfest events at Frank and Sons. As always it remains popular and has a fair amount of people attending. The big draw was Magic Johnson followed by the Dodger Infield ( Garvey, Cey, Lopes and Russell ) of yesteryear. But I was actually there Wally Moon and Charlie Hough who don't normally do public signings or at least I have never them do one in the past. Wally Moon made famous the homeruns called "Moon Shots" that went over the left field netting when the Dodgers played at the Coliseum. I knew he "wrote" a book about his career and I was actually hoping he had it there for purchase as most Dodgers that have written books always use these autograph appearances to help also promote their books. I wasn't disappointed as he in fact had it there so I ended up with two autographs and some reading material for another day. The one thing I usually love about the old timers are that they almost always are more cordial and talkative than current stars but that might because there is more demand for the present than the past. Wally was polite and talked to each person that came up and even posed for some pictures. Had my ball and book signed and shook his hand. Man still has a firm grip for his age. Good for him. I was pleased with my purchases and meeting of a early Los Angeles Dodger great.

Charlie Hough was up next. As with Wally he had a great personality and greeted me and others with a smile and hello. The one quirk with me is eye contact. I hate when you go to a signing and especially a paid one and they don't even look at you. Looking at you Tim Salmon. Both Charlie and Wally made the effort and it is appreciated by this autograph collector. Charlie signed the ball and I said my thank yous and shock his hand and I was on my way.

Yet another great Saturday at Frank and Sons for some autographs and hobby shopping. Thank you again for Hall of Fame Sports for putting on the show. The only thing they need to work on is its will call. It sucks and can't get much worse. Hour and half for tickets that were pre purchased and with literally only 25 people in front of me is unacceptable. I think I might put up a picture next time of the "man" that runs the register for a fair warning to others to make sure you are not in his line. I personally seem to be unlucky every time and get him. And no I couldn't chose which line I wanted. Anyways, other than that it was another productive day.

Movie Review : Flight

This movie is about a man that is the pilot on a plane that is traveling somewhere that has a bit of mechanical trouble as the title and previews imply right? A little yes but a lot more no. We are introduced to Whip ( Denzel Washington ) waking up from an all night bender in a hotel room still drunk. He has to head out to the airport for his schedule flight but before doing that he needs to do a line of coke to "level" himself so he can be the functionally addict that he is. His scheduled flight is only about an hour from Florida to Georgia and everything is fine even though there is severe turbulence. About to begin the plane's descent is when everything goes wrong. What follows is a harrowing ten minutes of Whip trying with all his know how to get the plane down without killing everyone on board. He ends up flipping the plane ( no spoiler as its been shown on tv previews ) and levels it off before crash landing in a remote area. Instead of 102 people dead only 6 perish. All things considered he did a miraculous job.

The movie moves from being a special effect/action flick to a human story about addiction and how it effects the person and everyone else around you. Whip ends up meeting a fellow addict named Nicole who is trying to get back on the straight and narrow. Whip tries to avoid all people and for a short time cleans himself up. But like most addicts he falls of the wagon hard and takes everyone down with him. The pilots union led by Charlie tries to get him cleaned up and covers all his mishaps as he has being doing for most of their friendship as they both flew in the war. The union's lawyer, Hugh, played by Don Cheadle is great in "killing" off reports and redirecting Whip's shortcomings to saying everything was either mechanical error or an act of God.

We see that Whip with his addiction has caused his divorce and the distancing of him and his son. Even Nicole who is a recovering addict sees that all Whip is doing is killing himself slowly and anyone that has if not love compassion for him leave. The story finally makes its way to a hearing where it has been arranged due to technicalities that all Whip needs to do is give some vanilla answers to a panel and he should walk away with no harm. His decision and answers will shape a lot of lives and more importantly his. Does he lie like he has his whole life and just live day to day or does he finally figure out enough is enough and he owns what he has done and deals with the repercussions of his actions? Either way is going to hurt a lot of people.

Verdict : Addiction and redemption, trials and tribulations of the actions of people are what the themes are of this movie and it delivers on all levels. Denzel does a great job of being an addict and killing off all love from people. I have and do see a lot of people suffering with alcohol and drug addictions and he comes up with a realistic portrayal of this struggles. The supporting cast is top notch and fleshes out the journey. This movie can be hard for some people to watch due to what is about. Addiction does hurt and possible kill the person doing it but the people around the loved one watching and seeing the decline of their loved ones are the ones that suffer the most and are left with the most heartache at the end of the day. Maybe an addict will watch this movie and have a vision and realize that their life needs to change. I give this movie a strong THUMBS UP. Denzel will probably be up for the Oscar for Best Actor and it would be deserving.

Bobblehead of the Day : Sandy Koufax ( Season Ticket Holder Limited Edition )

On to the next bobblehead in my series of signed and/or variant bobbleheads. Of all the variants I have gotten so far this is my second favorite of them all for various reasons. For one, at this moment he is arguably the best pitcher the Dodgers have ever produced ( Kershaw should exceed him if he stays at his pace ) to this day. He played his entire career in the Dodger uniform and I always love seeing a player stick with the team that he came up with. This is a dying tradition that I sorely miss. After Chipper Jones retired this past year there are not many players signed long term into their mid to late thirties that should stick with their team to the end. Kemp is one but I can't think of another.

It was announced at the beginning of the year that Koufax would finally get his own bobblehead and Dodger Nation was more than ecstatic and ready to get their hands on it and I was part of the crowd. Release date was August 7th and I marked it on my calendar to attend the game. Now the bobblehead that finally came out was nothing really special but it was great to add to the collection. It shows him getting ready to throw the ball to the plate. A pose we have seen on other player's bobbles. Pictures below.

The Dodgers decided to reward a limited amount of season ticket holders ( first come first serve ) as they announced in April that if a person was to order one pair of Baseline All You Can Eat seats to one game you can pick a bobblehead of either Sandy Koufax or Vin Scully of if you bought two pairs you could have both. It was revealed that the Vin Scully bobblehead would be the same that they would release in August as being visually the same but with a button that would play his famous Kirk Gibson walk off home run from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. More on that bobble another day. The one I really wanted was the Sandy Koufax. We were informed that it would be a totally different pose than the SGA in August. First it would be numbered out of 1,955 which is a relatively small number. Second it would picture him with him standing with four balls in his hands representing his four no-hitters he tossed. It is a famous picture that all Dodger fans are well acquainted with. I've included the picture to show the reference. Well I decided to acquire these so I bought four tickets and resold them so there basically was no cost for me to acquire these two great variants. Finally got the bobbleheads in late July and this Koufax one is great. Not only does it show him in the picture pose with the four balls in his hands but it also has a locker next to him. The locker is a great place to get Mr. Koufax to sign if I am ever lucky enough to bump into him. He is very hard to catch in Spring Training and he doesn't do many public appearances anymore so this might be a long time coming if I am ever to get this signed. Signed or not this is a great looking variant bobblehead and unlike the Fernando blue base or Scully adding a button or some others this one is totally different from the SGA. A great item that I was lucky enough to add to my collection. Enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bobblehead of the Day : Don Newcombe ( Signed )

Don Newcombe made an appearance once again at Frank and Sons in which he was part of another Dodger Day that they hold at least four times a year. I have met Mr. Newcombe before here and received his autograph on a ball but at that time I was not collecting bobbleheads. Since I do now I had to go look for the bobblehead and I am going to assume since it from 8 years ago that is why it is a tad pricer than other ones to acquire. I usually see them on eBay for at least $25 and sometimes ventures into the $30+ territory and this is before you include shipping. Well I kept my eye out and found this auction where it was not the featured item and I seller was nice enough to allow me to do a local pickup which eliminated the shipping charge. I ended up getting this bobble for just $12.50. Not too shabby if I do so say myself.

So off I went to Frank and Sons for Newcombe's autograph on the bobble and also was going to see Wally Moon and Charlie Hough for autographs on some balls ( see other post ).


Mr. Newcombe was cordial as always and shook my hand prior and post autograph. Love that he is still part of the Dodger family. Autograph came out pretty good. His "N" was a tad sloppy but it still looks great to me. Onto the next autograph....