Monday, March 31, 2008

Train Like A Cage Fighter

Train Like a Cage Fighter

Article By: Rich Knight

Want to be a mixed martial artist? You’re not alone, given the rise in popularity of the sport, lead by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) over the past few years.

But if the idea of getting punched and kicked in the head, ribs, legs and kidneys until you submit or get knocked out doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, then you might want to keep your day job. MMA fighters don’t pull any punches (or kicks) in the caged octagon.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t train like a UFC fighter like Jujitsu / Muay Thai fighter Kenny Florian, who has a few tips of his own to bring out the ultimate fighter in you. Much like Rocky Balboa had his Mickey, Florian, 31, has Kevin Kearns, who has a few words of advice of his own on how to turn your body into a wrecking machine.

Train like you mean it.

When it comes to training, Florian’s motto is, “There is no off season,” an idea instilled in him by Kearns, after Florian lost a match for the UFC lightweight championship to Sean Sherk.
“Kenny used to eat a lot and gain too many pounds after a fight,” says Kearns, “I told him we needed to start from the ground up and strengthen those basic muscles (abdominal, lower back, glutes, hips) that people often neglect. Because what’s a nice house with a good roof if there isn’t a strong base beneath it? It’s a house of cards!”

The Boston-born Florian agreed that his fitness regimen needed an overhaul, saying, “Ever since I lost that match to Sherk, I started training six days a week, two or three times a day.”
However, Florian doesn’t recommend that you train yourself to near exhaustion when you first get started. He doesn’t even think you necessarily have to join a gym.

“You really don’t need a hell of a lot of equipment,” says Florian, who makes frequent use of push-ups and squats. “People are always saying, ‘join a gym, join a gym,’ but a lot of it is just building up your muscles, and you can do that in a lot of ways.”

Kearns, creator of the fitness program and website, is famous among UFC fighters and other Mixed Martial artists for his various techniques using cables, a medicine ball, and a person’s own body weight to build strength and endurance. Previously, Kearns has trained MMA fighters, such Jorge Rivera and Kru Mark DellaGrotte, and has also worked with Dr. Michael Turnoff at Tufts Medical Center to help rehabilitate patients’ muscles.

“Body weight was all mankind had before dumbbells,” says Kearns, who believes that a fighter like Florian needs to maintain functional muscles all over his body, rather than in strictly isolated areas. “We don’t train like normal people. We train in an entirely functional way.”

It’s these functional exercises that have helped Florian rehab numerous battle injuries. “During our training, I’ll get Florian do twists with a medicine ball,” says Kearns. “My job is to make Florian stronger, more explosive, and give him more gas in the tank.”

Eat like you mean it, too.

You’d be surprised that a 155-pound man eats much more in a day than your typical 220-pound guy—Florian does this for two reasons. First, he wants to maintain an even blood sugar level so that he has a sufficient amount of energy for his training. And second, he trains anywhere between three and six hours a day and needs the caloric intake for energy and recovery. “I have about 6 to 7 meals a day,” says Florian.

According to Kearns, who closely monitors Florian’s diet, Kenny usually has a protein shake with frozen fruit for breakfast or five egg white omelets with veggies. His snacks are protein bars, and his lunch usually includes either chicken or fish with a lot of veggies. “On an average day, which includes lots of training, Kenny will consume about 2500-3000 calories,” says Kearns.That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an occasional cheat day or two, though. “His favorite cheat food is his wife's or my wife's oatmeal raisin cookies,” says Kearns. “Generally, after a fight when we’re back in Boston, we recap over a pizza at The Upper Crust.”

Kearns’ Key Exercises
One-legged squat thrusts
Overhead lifts, using a 50-pound spring water jug
Changing your footing mid-workout so you’re always off balance and have to adjust to whatever weight you happen to be handling at the time

Know your limitations.

Florian suggests being careful not to over train, because it cause damage to joints and muscles in your body which aren’t used to a stressful workout. “Kevin has something he calls prehab instead of rehab, as these are exercises to do before you get injured instead of afterwards, so you don’t get injured so often.”

Kearns maintains that balance training is the key to avoiding injury. “Most injuries happen rotationally or laterally, such as when you’re twisting or when someone cuts into you or you’re getting hit from the side, so I do something called stability limited training—you train in an unstable environment, you become much more balanced in a stable environment.”

Florian takes on submission fighter and fellow Massachusetts native Joe Lauzon on Spike TV, April 2nd, at 7PM EST.

Friday, March 28, 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus Review

Four and a half stars out of Five

Usually, the sight of a new PS2 God of War game is a time for a celebration. But a new God of War game on the PSP? There’s no way a game of GoW’s scope could ever translate well on a handheld, right? Right?!

That’s a big wrong, good buddy, as God of War: Chains of Olympus translates better than you would ever expect on Sony’s little handheld device. So well, in fact, that if I didn’t have to place my index fingers on the right and left shoulder buttons just to dodge attacks (More on that later), I’d swear that I was kicking up my feet on my ottoman and playing the game on my big screen TV in my living room—the game is really that beautifully designed and structured. Honestly, not since the original Tetris on my cumbersome, green screened, four battery powered Gameboy have I ever felt this submerged in a game on a handheld.

That said, it’s certainly not the best game in the revolutionary action series, as the story in this one seems even shorter than your typically short GoW game. It also feels immensely scaled down to fit the PSP’s screen, so the battles are nowhere near as epic and gratifying as they are in the big brother GoW’s, but that’s just small potatoes to an overall satisfying dish of mashed spuds.

This particular sequel in the GoW series is actually a prequel that predates the first game and fits well in the ongoing eviscerating adventures of the pasty Ghost of Sparta, Kratos. Here, Kratos has just received the Blades of Chaos from Ares (Who we sadly never actually get to see in this game), and is currently a loyal, albeit grumbling, servent to the gods, currently doing their dirty work/laundrey, to one day be rid of the horrific nightmares he’s been having as of late. But trouble is afoot when Morpheus, the god of dreams, lulls all the gods to slumber in an attempt to submerge the world in darkness and steal the light of the universe. There’s a twist near the end of the story that opens up even more to the Kratos mythology, but the last battle that follows the twist is far too short and easy for it to really be a satisfying closer, and that brings me to a huge complaint I have with the game: it’s a little slow in the beginning, and when it finally picks up, it’s already over.

A big reason for this slow pick-up is the controls, which, while good for what you’re given, are still a little shaky, even up to the very end of the game. Many a time, with all the new, exciting weapons I opened up (And for the first time in GoW history, I actually frequently used every single one of them), the controls, which aren’t really all that different from the PS2’s controller, got a little confusing, causing me to blow magic on burning everybody when all I really wanted to do was deflect projectiles with my sun shield. It made for some tight battles where I barely made it out alive. I suppose having the screen right in the middle of the buttons is the problem, but I don’t really know how that could have been fixed and I guess that Ready at Dawn did the best with what they had. Also, the evading technique, which was oh so fluent on the PS2 with the extra analog stick on the controller, is actually a little bothersome as you have to hold down the left and right trigger buttons as you move around with the single analog stick. This awkward set-up had me often dodging attacks by just running around in circles rather than by actually rolling in and out of combat, which lessened my high strung 100-hit ultra combos significantly, making it more like a battle of hit and run rather than a battle of hit and demolish.

Also, as mentioned earlier, the battles in this one are just not very epic at all. The final battle, which I didn’t even realize was the final battle until the end credits started rolling, is even easier than the Zeus fight at the end of the last game. And what also bothers me is the small range of mythological creatures that can be found in this one (A basilik? Really? Is that’s all you’ve really got for me?).

But with these glaring points aside, that still doesn’t hamper the game to the point where I didn’t find it enjoyable, and I think that’s clearly a sign of how amazing the whole package is. Not able to dodge attacks quickly enough? No problem, as I found other means to dispatch my foes, especially with my new weapons, most notably the Gauntlet of Zeus, which is pretty much a giant, Sock ‘em bopper, where you punch your way through throngs of baddies. It’s such a great weapon, in fact, that it almost made me forget about the coveted Blades of Chaos, and that’s no small feat as I always relied on them a bit too much in the PS2 versions. I even used the Gaunlet of Zeus against the final boss and don’t see any other way to beat her, as the blades failed me miserably for that last fight.

And let me tell you about the graphics in this game. They rival those in Tekken: Dark Reserrection as the best the PSP has to offer, which I didn’t think was even possible as Tekken for the PSP looks absolutely unbelievable. In GoW, flames flicker as they ought to, rocks shatter as they always have, and ghouls get rip to shreds as you think they should; truth be told, this game looks so good that it could probably be ported to the PS2 (Which it probably will be if the PSP GTA’s are any indication) and nobody would even know the difference.

Chains of Olympus is simply a great game that every PSP owner (above the age of 16, of course…that tacky sex minigame sadly returns) needs to buy right this instant. It will certainly make up for all the entirely lame games that have been piling up on the system for the past few years and will ultimately make you feel like you made the right decision on picking up the PSP over the Nintendo DS. God of War: Chains of Olympus, does not disappoint.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem Review

Rich Knight
94 minutes
No Rate
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, and John Ortiz
Directed by: Colin and Greg Strause
Produced by: John Davis and Wyck Godfrey
Written by: Shane Salerno
20th Century Fox

In comic book form, Aliens fighting Predators are a murderous match made in fanboy Heaven that ranks up there with Hulk fighting Superman and Spiderman tackling the Batman. In the movie realm, though, this AvP match-up doesn’t seem quite so heavenly, with this recent add on to the quickly tiring film franchise making you wish that these two sticky salivated monsters would just stick to duking it out in panel form rather than on your polished DVD player.

The movie—2 stars

In the continuing battle of Aliens vs. Predators, who will ultimately win? Well, that’s a question that I would have been thoroughly interested in back when I was like, 12, but as a full fledged adult paying bills and investing myself in artsy fartsy grown-up films, these monsters from other planets better be doing something other than screeching and shooting lasers and alien mouths at each other like they’ve been doing for the past couple of decades or so. Alas, that Shakespearean epic of King Lear proportions portrayed by both species that I’ve been pining for for all these years has yet to be fulfilled as this latest picture, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, gives us the same ‘ol song and dance of two famous monsters battling it out for the sake of exterminating each other and God knows what other reason.

The film takes place shortly after the last movie, which adds yet another head scratching tally to the already confusing timeline. We learn from the onset of the picture that the Predator/Alien crossbreed, or, Predalien if you will, from the orginal AvP has found itself on board a Predator mothership and wrecks havoc to all the dual mouthed creatures onboard, which causes the ship to crash land on Earth. A distress signal is sent back to the Predator home planet, which looks very pretty in a CG sort of way, and a lone Predator goes down to Earth to wrestle with the various Aliens that are now creeping about the Earth’s serface. Don’t even ask me why only a single Predator went down instead of about four or five, because I really can’t answer that question for you.

Anyway, long story short (even though at only 94 minutes long, it still feels like it’s over two hours and some change), the Predator finds the Aliens on Earth, blows them all to hell, and then, well, the closing credits come up and that’s the end of the movie. What’s in between all that mumbo jumbo, though, is an abysmal trip down a road we feel like we’ve been down over a hundred times before. That’s because there really isn’t any variety to this film other than the fact that this R-rated sequel is a bit more violent than the last PG-13 movie, which means, more guts, more gore, and more pregnant women bursting at the seams from alien babies.

That said, it shouldn’t be any surprise then to see women and children torn to shreds by these horrific creatures, but surprisingly, it still is. In the first few minutes of the movie, we see a father and son going hunting and sharing some bonding time, only to find that both die a grisly, blood splattering death from a flying facehugger. Seeing the father’s arm fall off isn’t so bad, really, but did the kid really have to buy the farm, too?

And speaking of harmless victims, the same goes for a later scene in the movie where bums in the sewer get torn to shreds just for having the misfortune of being bums in the sewer. These violent scenes aren’t so much awesome as they are shameworthy in the fact that the Strause Brothers who directed the film could find such gruesome thrills out of the destruction of the young and the poor. I’m a forgiving man though and would turn a blind eye to all this senseless violence if it went to some really amazing fight sequences, but even that doesn’t come into fruition as this film just drags, drags, drags all the way to the very end.

The action that takes place between the aliens and the predator isn’t even all that fun to watch, as the overwhelming darkness that pervades the film cloaks most of the slashes and chockholds that we came to see in the first place. I mean, for a horror movie like the original Alien, that works just fine as it builds suspense and mystery, but for a mindless brawl between two grotesque creatures meant to be seen, in full detail, mind you, nuh huh, that’s just not going to fly. So, when the crossbreed Predalien finally meets the Predator at the end of the movie, it doesn’t really feel like a stand-off between two great foes as it does a battle between two past their prime monsters, fighting in the darkness of a shoe closet, which leads to a very anti-climatic, just-get-it-over-with battle, that goes by as quickly as you would hope for.

In a way, Alien vs. Predator: Requeim, with its macaroni and cheese love story, wooden characters, and lame battle scequences actually makes me wonder why I even fell in love with either series in the first place, but then I realize it’s because they were both genuinely good franchises. The first and second Alien movies are undenieable classics not because of the horrific aliens, though, they definitely play a part, but because of Officer Ripley, who made an entirely unbelievable story both believable and humanly terrifying. The same goes for the original Predator (Let’s not even mention the terrible Danny Glover sequel), which was more a story about Arnold fighting off an unbeatable creature and surviving than anything else—the prey becoming the eventual predator. But when it’s just the two monsters from their respective series blasting and biting each other to kingdom come, the story becomes just that—two monsters, with high tech slime, clawing at each other’s throats until you can’t take it anymore.

In short, the reason this movie, and the last one as well, are no equivalent to their own respective series, is because there’s no human heart in either of them, both literally or figuratively. Instead, it’s just a mish-mash of fists and phazers that never really seem to lock and load like you would expect them to. Pass on this clunker and watch both the Alien Quadrilogy and Predator separately to feel that grotesque feeling of overall dread that you’ve been hoping to feel for the past couple of decades now.

The Disc: 3 Stars

Featured on the Special features, are not one, but two commentaries, one by the directors of the film, and the other by co-designers, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis. The co-designer commentary is a complete waste of time, as talk about wet suits underneath the monster’s costumes and long johns worn underneath the wet suits are about as interesting as the commentary gets from the corny co-designers.

At least the Strause Brothers, who are discussing their directorial debut, and their producer, John Davis, provide some lightweight entertainment, as their knowledge of both series respective sagas is both impressive and kind of creepy with how much backstory they know.

Banter on why they enjoy seeing little kids get mauled by monsters and mother’s giving stomach ripping births to facehuggers is also a prime topic for discussion on the commentary, but sadly, they never once mention why some of the shots can’t be seen worth a damn because they’re so padded with intermittent darkness. We do learn, though, that the Predator and the Predalien both have names, which are Wolf and Chet, respectively, If that’s any consolation to you.

Also on this Unrated set is a footage marker that reveals brief scenes that weren’t actually in the theatrical release, and for good reason, too, if that’s all they really left out. Featurettes and stills round out the rest of the special features, all of which are boring and way too long to warrant actually watching them. One featurette in particular, though, was actually pretty interesting in that it referenced the far better older pictures in the series that these versus films are paying such close homage to. “Crossbreed: Creating a Predalien,” showcases how the original designs of the Alien would mesh with a Predator if the two actually breeded, and the feature on the Predator homeworld is also relavant in showcasing how much work had to go into creating a less than one minute scene. It just goes to show that no matter how bad a movie is, a good amount of time and effort still has to go into making every last scene come alive.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Don’t Like Jazz? Onaje Allan Gumbs thinks you’re listening too hard

Famed jazz musician and composer, Onaje Allan Gumbs, who has been making beautiful music on his piano for more than 30 years and has a new album out in stores called Sack Full of Dreams, doesn’t believe you don’t like jazz music. He can’t really imagine the possibility. In fact, if anything, he believes you don’t know much about the art form to make such a statement or even entertain the thought.

“Jazz is the closest condition we have to human existence,” say Gumbs, waxing philosophical over his praised passion, “People make generalizations.”

Strong words, but Gumbs doesn’t make such pronouncements out of malice to folks out there who feel jazz is dead. Trust, there are those who actually feel that way and believe the genre hasn’t grown and isn’t keeping pace or beat in the industry. For those folks, Gumbs is offering an open-handed invitation to brush off his or her initial impressions and give jazz a try. It’s a talented hand and a generous offer. But that is Gumbs, who is definitely all about unity and expressiveness.

If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be shaking hands with so many rappers at National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP) events, where he says, many young artists approach him wanting to be his friend, wanting to learn about the art form and wanting to learn how he makes music.

“They embrace jazz artists,” says Gumbs, of the many rappers he’s met in his travels, “They want to learn from jazz artists.”

But if some of today’s hottest musicians are digging the vibrant and passionate thing jazz has to offer, then why isn’t the market, or more precisely, the youth of today, gobbling it up and rushing out to stores in droves to pick up the latest jazz releases? Gumbs believes it’s because many people feel put off by jazz, they’re intimidated and think it’s some kind of big, musical complexity that must be deeply studied to be fully appreciated. Gumbs thinks that’s a whole lot of hogwash.

“People say they don’t understand jazz, but what’s there to understand?” says Gumbs, rather matter of factly, as if he were talking about a warm of slice apple pie just out of the oven, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it does.”

And what it does, according Gumbs, is really quite essential to the human experience.

To understand more about how he feels jazz and the universe are intertwined, it’s probably best to hear more about his past and the music that he hopes to leave as his legacy.

First coming on the scene in 1974 with a special arrangement of “Stella by Starlight” for the New York Jazz Repertory Company to help celebrate the Miles Davis’ brilliance at Carnegie Hall–Gumbs calls Miles an undefined genius—Gumbs followed with appearances on other albums, such as Woody Shaw’s, Moontrane, Buster William’s, Pinnacle, Cecil McBee’s, Mutima, and Betty Carter’s self- titled album, Betty Carter.

This was all in the same year, which should dispel any stereotypical image people might have of 70s’ jazz musicians sitting in dungy locales, puffing on endless streams of cigarettes, wearing sunglasses and beating on bongos all day. Gumbs was simply about making music,

In 1976, Gumbs busted his butt to land his first solo record, Onaje. And that occurred after producer Nils Winter at Danish jazz label, SteepleChase, fell in love with the energy Gumbs had in between his fingers and the ivory keys. Whenever he would do his improvisations, Gumbs would create magic—believing all he was really doing was conversing with the audience. “Improvising is like talking,” says Gumbs, “and music has a way of communicating [in a way] that words can’t”

And it’s these words he uses, the words of jazz, that help him with his real goal of bringing harmony and peace to the world, which is something he was actually honored for in 1986 when he received the Min-On Art Award from the Nichiren Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai International. Both pop artist Tina Turner and the legendary Herbie Hancock also share this Buddhist honor.

From 1986 to now, it’s been a long, creative journey for Gumbs, interspersed by a string of peace inspired albums in the interim, 1991’s Dare to Dream and 2005’s Remember Their Innocence—which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Jazz category—are prime examples.

And then there is the nagging issue of jazz not being mainstream again.

But Gumbs doesn’t think it is such a nagging issue though. He actually feels jazz and current popular music, namely rap, has more in common than many people think, including the right to express and say what a person feels when they feel it is necessary to say it.

“Words like the ‘N’ word can be a very useful force,” says Gumbs, who enjoys rap music from artists like KRS-1, Mos Def and Will Smith, but doesn’t much care for gangster rap, which he calls misogynistic. Even so, Gumbs doesn’t hold a grudge over the controversial ‘N’ word, and even thinks it has its place in modern day society.

“We as a people have a history of turning words around—bad, dope, stupid, words like that,” he says. “And when they [Black people] say it, it’s a term of endearment.” And while the Rev. Al Sharpton and others may tend to differ with this analysis of the term, Gumbs is more concerned with the stark reality of the word, and also the stark reality of the music that accompanies it, both jazz and rap alike.

“What [gangster rappers] talk about happens in the street as a result of economics in the street,” Gumbs says, speaking on why the controversial words artists use might be perceived as a form of grief regarding poverty stricken standards and economic injustices.

And this is where jazz, the universal theme of music that can surge through the soul like an electric shock, comes in again. Gumbs feels that people have been listening to jazz since the moment they were resting inside their mother’s womb.

“Our existence is based on music, a heart beating, that’s jazz. With a subway passing, you got some of the best rhythm on Earth right there, man,” says Gumbs, who even goes on to make another bold statement: “without music, this planet would implode on itself.”

Strong words again indeed. But Gumbs is not saying it to challenge anybody or to argue. Rather, he is making a point about how central music, and jazz in particular, is to the world.

So in a way, music, like this article, are coming full circle, and Mr. Gumbs has a sack full of dreams that he would absolutely love to share with you. Are you ready to go for the ride? There is no height or age requirement. Jazz is universal, after all. But you decide.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I Am Legend Review

Rich Knight
100 minutes
No Rate
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, and Dash Mihok
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Produced by: Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, David Heyman, and Neal Moritz
Written by: Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman
Warner Bros. Pictures

For some people, Will Smith, no matter how many different genre defining roles he takes on, will always be the the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to them, and I Am Legend is no exception. However, with a story steeped in as much pathos, drama, and overall action as I Am Legend, this is definitely the most serious role the clown prince of comedy has ever been a part of in the entirety of his career.

Review: 3 stars

Will Smith is the kind of guy you would want to be the last remaining person on the face of the Earth with. He’s good looking, suave, and has the kind of personality that you think your mother would like if he was the only person you were left to spend the remainer of your days with. For that reason, it makes perfect sense why Will Smith was hand picked to portray Robert Neville, a brilliant virologist trapped in a world we’ve already seen twice before in The Last Man on Earth, and The Omega Man, which were the first two theatrical releases based on Richard Matheson’s masterful, 1954 novel, I Am Legend. Even so, that amicable personality that Will Smith so frequently portrays in all of his films, from Independence Day to The Pursuit of Happiness, just so happens to be the film’s greatest weakness, as we don’t so much feel like we’re running through the depths of Hell with Will, but rather, like we’re trailing the movie star’s coattails. His undeniable star power just makes him too much of an unbelievable character to really take seriously as the last living person on Earth.

In I Am Legend, Will Smith plays a lone survivor in a world stricken by a plague that has seemingly turned everybody and their mama into a mindless monster. But these aren’t just any mindless monsters, though, as these creatures, or, Dark Seekers as they’re called in the film, are quickly evolving into something much more than just flesh eating creatures of the night. It’s for that reason that Smith holes himself up in his house at night with his dog, Sam, and sneaks out in the early morning to capture these creatures for research, where he hasn’t been having much luck as of late.

The only problem is, from the very onset of the story, I found myself very disinterested in what was going on. Having read the book (and no, this isn’t just going to turn into a mindless diatribe comparing the book to the movie), I was a bit disappointed that the movie so loosely follows the intriguing narrative that Matheson laid out so well in his novel. For one, this current movie’s Dark Seekers are, if anything, ambiguous creatures (are they vampires? Ravenous zombies? What?), whereas the book stuck very closely to debunking some of the vampire’s most nagging and inconsistent myths. Also, Will Smith’s meandering walk to a video store throughout the film, where he sets up mannequins to talk to so he doesn’t go loony from lonlieness, seems kind of goofy when he starts questioning about whether today is going to be the day he’s going to ask one of the female mannequins out on a date. Honestly, it completely throws off the whole haunting mood that the film is trying so hard to portray.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t impress, as that’s far from the case. Being that this fairly quiet film was built to be a Blockbuster, besides a few patchy parts of overall cheesiness, expect to see monsters flying out of windows, Brooklyn bridges being destroyed, and a climax where literally hundreds of monsters are screaming for Neville’s head. It certainly makes for some pretty intense scenes that are sadly interspersed too few and far between moments of drama and horror, and that’s another problem I have with this picture—it doesn’t really seem to have its focus set on any particular genre.

Is it horror? Well, not really? How about drama? Well, sometimes, but it seems to merge into thriller territory a bit too often. Um, comedy? Honestly, sometimes, it actually is, making this Will Smith horror/drama/thriller/comedy/buddy (as in, his dog and him) film a movie in search of a genre. Luckily, Will Smith can blend all five genres together seamlessly, but at what cost? Apparently, at the cost of a movie that could have been a far more memorable experience if it just stuck to one of the aforementioned genres up above.

The Disc

Three and a half stars

The disc’s skimpy four animated comics (more on them in a minute) may seem like a rip-off at first, but a closer inspection on-line with the disc reveals a wealth of details and featurettes that would make any fan of the movie proud. The thing is, if you want to see that “controversial” alternate ending you’ve probably been hearing so much about in the commercial (And I’ll tell you this—I’ve seen it and it’s really not all that great), you’ll have to pick up the Special Edition, two disc set.

Even if you don’t pick up the two disc set, though, what you’ll find here in this Plain Jane 1 disc edition is nothing to scoff at. “Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend” is an intelligent look at the strains of actual, real-life viruses and how they sneak into their hosts and wreak havoc on them once they’ve made a home for themselves inside. Various medical doctors in the field are brought in to speak on their various areas of specialty, and it makes for some thoroughly entertaining facts that you kind of wish were presented more in the actual movie itself—but you can only expect so much from a Blockbuster costing so much money, I suppose.

In the “Creating I Am Legend” section of the special features, we’re treated to at least a whole hour’s worth of making of the film material, and how sections of New York like 5th Avenue were closed off completely to make such a visually arresting opening sequence in the movie. We’re also treated to a dissecting of the Robert Neville character, even though it didn’t really seem like there was much to dissect in the first place, as well as a seemingly decaying Richard Mattheson describing the differences between the movie and his seminal vampire novel.

But then, there are those boring as rocks animated comics. Out of the four that are avaialbe, only one of them is actually worth watching. The purpose of them is to chronicle the overall decay of society and how it all came crashing down when the virus fully went around the world, but comics like “”Death as a Gift,” “Isolation,” and “Sacrificing the Few,” never really reach their mark of the true horror that has become of just being alive. “Shelter,” however, a tale of a father locking out his daughter from the rest of his family in a vault, is a truly terrifying tale of what would happen if one of your own has been infected by an incurable pathogen. It tragically ends as you’d expect, with nobody coming out the victor, and everybody ending up corpses. It makes you kind of wish the family in this single tale were the real characters in the eventual movie, as their story is much more heart rending and real than anything Will Smith could ever pull off on his lonesome.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Just for fun: 10,000 BC Review

From what I stayed awake for, 10,000 BC is a vapid, goes nowhere mess from the same mensch who brought us Independence Day and the actually pretty good, The Day After Tomorrow. Unfortunately, this dud from director, Roland Emmerich, doesn’t have the spark of talent of Will Smith from the former, or the catastrophic topicality of the latter. Instead, we’re left with a dull and dragging movie about cavemen who speak perfectly good English corralling Wully Mammoth’s and fighting atop of huge pyramids, which makes this movie not only entirely anachronistic but entirely stupid, too.

But how about I actually tell you what it’s about, shall I? D’Leh (I’m not making up that name) is a caveman who, for some reason or another, ends up leading a group of cavemen against an evil (Evil, as in, he speaks another language and wears a silly wig), power hungry warlord of sorts, all for the love of his lovely, blue eyed, Evolet. Evolet, by the way, is played by the beautiful Camilla Belle, who apparently starred in a movie called The Chumscrubber according to imdb, which is really a useless fact, but then again, 10,000 BC is a useless movie, so I guess it all adds up in the end. Anyway, why D’Leh goes on this quest for Evolet, who’s been captured, is actually pretty hard to describe since I fell asleep at the part where the cavemen were fighting off enormous ostriches and woke up when a blind clairvoyant was talking in baby prattle and having his words translated by a slave wearing a leotard. Honestly, that’s what was going on when my eyes opened at the 90 minute mark.

My friend who did stay awake told me there was something in between about a wragged old mystic who had something to do with Evolet, but he told me that I didn’t miss much. In fact, he told me he wished he had fallen asleep, too.

10,000 BC is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and a waste of $10. Leave and sneak into There Will Be Blood for better results.
Find the review with a prettier backdrop here:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rotary Couple Loves What They Do

Between them, Peggy and Maurie Mader have 46 years in service with the Rotary Club, but that’s not why they were named the Parsippany Rotary Club’s Outstanding Rotarians of the year. It’s more because of the services they’ve done since they first became members, with just one of their past deeds being the taking in of a French foreign exchange student for the 2007/2008 school year in Parsippany.
“I just thought it would be good for business,” Maurie says on why he originally joined the club in the first place in 1982, “But I just got caught up in it.”
Ditto for his wife, Peggy, who wanted to boost her banking job at the time in 1988 and is currently the treasurer of the organization today.
“It’s just a good organization to know people,” Peggy says.
The two of them have done their fair share to live up to the Four Way Test of the Rotary creed, which involves finding truth, being fair to all concerned, building goodwill and better friendships, and being beneficial to all concerned. They’ve even done it all over the world.
“I’ve been to Rotary meetings in Idaho, Alaska, and even Yukon,” says Maurie, “And Peggy’s even been to Budapest!”
But it’s what they’ve actually done as members in the group that has given them such prestige in the community. Maurie, who is currently the assistant governor, works with five different committees, works on the district newspaper with his wife, and is even in the Gift of Life Committee that brings kids in from all over the world so that trained surgeons can do heart surgery on them.
“It’s just spine tingling when you can bring them in and they’re turning blue, and a few weeks later, they’re absolutely fine.”
Peggy also aids in the duties, and besides being the treasurer, also works diligently in the Dictionary Project, which gets dictionaries to every single third grader in the Parsippany area.
“That’s over 700 kids every year,” Peggy says.
“So, as you can see,” Maurie jokes, “We don’t do much for the group.”
Modesty is obviously another one of the couple’s wonderful qualities.