“Seven Pounds” of Self Indulgence

Because I don’t see that many movies in theaters anymore, I’m much more selective about what I choose to see on the big screen.  Most of the time I’m confident that the movie I’m seeing deserves the big screen treatment or is something so good that I don’t want to wait for the dvd release.  I saw “Seven Pounds” last night at a theater, and left really disappointed.  Stop reading now if you’re concerned about spoilers — although I won’t give away specifics, I will give my reasons for not liking the film.

Before we go into why I didn’t like it, let’s talk about why I thought I might.  First of all, the cast — Will Smith is good in everything he does, including “Seven Pounds”Rosario Dawson is one of my favorite actresses and she does a fine job here — Woody Harrelson beautifully plays a small but important role — Barry Pepper also has a small role and although he does what is asked, closer examination would reveal that his character’s actions don’t ring true.  The second thing that the movie had going for it was that it was supposed to be a mystery that made the audience think as it slowly revealed why the events were unfolding in the manner shown.  This is where the movie fell apart for me.

Will Smith plays a character that we’re supposed to care about.  A man tortured by some past event who is now trying to make amends by granting life altering wishes to strangers.  It just didn’t work for me.  Instead of coming off as a sympathetic, hurting, kind-hearted person, Smith’s character was more of an egotistical, self-centered, short-sighted man who did things for his own benefit [although his actions did help some others] without thought to the feelings of those who knew and loved him most.  Every thing that his character did, was done in an effort to make himself feel better.  Sure, he helped others, but he did so more for himself than them.  And let’s think for a minute about those that he hurt through his efforts.  If you do, it would be more than his character did.

The tragic event that sets the stage for everything that is to come happens because of Smith’s character.  Then we are led to believe that his character is tortured by the destruction that he caused.  Is it because of the loss of his loved one?  Not really, he seems to have gotten over her pretty quickly [of course Rosario could have that effect].  Perhaps he is mourning for the others whose lives he destroyed.  If so, why doesn’t he do things to help their survivors?  No, he instead determines that he will help strangers.  He will determine if these strangers are worthy.  I guess his character believes that kindness should only be shown to those we believe deserve kindness.  The movie’s theme seems to be that stealing, lying, and hurting those closest to you, so you can provide the ultimate sacrifice to strangers is admirable.

I should have waited for the dvd.

Remembering Donald Westlake

It just came over the wires that Donald Westlake has died at the age of 75 from an apparent heart attack.  Mr. Westlake was one the most successful, popular and prolific authors of our time.  Not only did he write over 100 novels under various names [ Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt, Edwin West as well as his own], but he also won three Edgar awards and an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay for “The Grifters.”

My favorite Westlake stories were his crime novels written under his pen-name of Richard Stark.  I wasn’t alone in their enjoyment.  Not only were they fan favorites, but they were also  turned into movies several times with the likes of Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall and Mel Gibson playing the lead.  If you like crime stories, then you probably love the Parker novels.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Westlake’s family, friends and fans.

Hancock

The Overview: Hancock [Will Smith] is a super hero with a bad attitude. Of course you’d probably be a bit grumpy if you didn’t have any friends or relatives, didn’t know anything about your past, didn’t know how you got your powers and felt unappreciated for your good deeds. All of that changes when Hancock meets Ray [Jason Bateman] and his wife, Mary [Charlize Theron]. To say more would be to say too much.

The Good: Will Smith, isn’t he always? Jason Bateman. The story had some interesting plot twists — some which you can see coming and others that surprise.

The Bad: The advertising for “Hancock” — I had no desire to see this when it was at theaters, but heard some good things later from those who’d seen it on dvd. There is much more to this movie than the trailers would have you believe!

The Ugly: What happens to the two guys in prison who push Hancock just a bit too far. Yeech!

The Summary: “Hancock” isn’t a great film, but it’s much better than I thought it would be and there‘s a lot worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

Traditions

I love traditions. The family get-togethers on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.  Watching fireworks on the Fourth of JulyBears games in the fall.   Trips to see family members in the summer.  One of my oldest traditions is watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

That tradition started many years ago when I was a youngster.  I was spending the night with my grandparents — my Nanny and Happa as I called them.  We ended up watching Guy Lombardo’s orchestra [well, I mostly listened and played with my action figures].  Everything stopped as midnight and the New Year approached.  We all watched the ball drop with the countdown to the New Year.  That began a tradition that continues to this day.

In the early 70’s, I started watching Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve.  I thought it was cool to see all the hot bands of the day kicking out their latest jams… and then the cut to Times Square in New York to watch the ball drop with the countdown to the New Year.   As the years passed Dick Clark continued to host his Rocking New Year’s Eve show.  I grew up… finished high school… went to college… got married and Dick Clark was still bringing in the New Year from Times Square.  I got a job teaching…. we had kids.. and Dick Clark continued to Rock in the New Year.   When the boys were younger we would have their cousins for a sleepover on New Year’s Eve.   We’d make a day of it and then as the night settled in ‘d set off fireworks.  We’d watch some good tv [Twilight Zone Marathon] or movies and then it’d be time for Dick Clark to take us to Times Square for the drop of the ball.

My kids are grown now and it’s been a few years since we’ve had the sleepovers with the cousins.  But all over us, no matter where we are still tune in to check out the ball dropping in Times SquareDick Clark suffered a stroke in 2004, and turned the main hosting job over to others — the first year it was Regis Philbin and since then Ryan Seacrest.   The stroke left Dick Clark with limited use of his right arm and some trouble speaking and yet he still appears on the show.  You have to admire that.  I guess Dick Clark loves traditions too.

UFC 92 Results

Last night’s UFC 92 had a few surprises.

Quentin “Rampage” Jackson (28-7) vs Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva (32-8). Because Rampage had met Silva twice before and lost both times, I thought that the third time would likely end with another win for Silva.  Boy, was I wrong, Rampage won via a devastating KO in the first round. Rampage is back and although you might think that he’d want a shot at getting his title again, he’s said that he’d rather get the chance to avenge his loss to Forrest Griffin. Now that’s a fighter talking!

Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira (31-4-1) vs Frank Mir (11-3). Mir had less experience and did not sound confident in pre-fight interviews. That, coupled with the fact that Big Nog gets stronger as a fight goes on [and Mir isn’t known for his conditioning] led me to belive that Big Nog would probably come out the winner. Boy, was I wrong again. Not only did Mir dominate the first round, he continued to dominate in the second and knocked Big Nog out before the 2 minute mark. Mir KO’d a man who had never been knocked out before and he made it look fairly easy.

Forrest Griffin (16-4) vs “Sugar” Rashad Evans (16-0-1). I picked Griffin to win, but was worried that Evans would once again find a way earn the victory.   He did.   Griffin had a great fight plan which kept the fight off the mat, and Evans at bay with solid leg kicks.  Griffin won both rounds one and two and appeared to be on his way to winning the third as well. That’s when Evans was able to catch Griffin’s leg and land a hard shot which put Griffin down.   Evans followed up with repeated head strikes until the ref was forced to call it.

So congratulations to Rampage, Mir and Evans.

Mr. Brooks – A Killer Good Time

The Overview: Mr. Brooks [Kevin Costner] has just been named Portland’s Man of the Year. He is a rich, successful business man with a beautiful wife and a lovely college aged daughter. Life would be perfect if he wasn’t overcome with urges to kill. You see, Mr. Brooks is a serial killer. After his last double-murder, his first in two years, the demon in him is loose again. But Mr. Brooks’ days may be numbered. He’s being blackmailed by a man [Dane Cook] who accidentally stumbled on to the truth and there’s that determined police detective [Demi Moore] hot on his trail.

The Good: The cast. The story. I especially enjoyed all the subplots. Dane Cook trying to control the situation in which he is out of his league. Demi Moore and the escaped killer after her. Mr. Brooks’ daughter’s terrible secret that was slowly unfolding. The way that Mr. Brooks was torn between his urge to kill and the knowledge that it was terribly, terribly wrong. The plot twists. How everything wraps up. And Mr. Brooks’ relationship with Marshall [William Hurt].

The Bad: What happens to those who fall into the path of Mr. Brooks.

The Ugly: The dreams of a serial killer.

The Summary: “Mr. Brooks” is definitely worth a look — you’ll have a killer good time.

Dead Celebrites Live

Have you seen the new ad that John Lennon did for charity? Yeah, you read that right. The new ad. Yes, I know that John Lennon was killed over 28 years ago. But through the wonders of modern technology here is John urging us to give a child a laptop.

I have mixed feelings about this type of thing. On one hand I love the possibilities the technology gives us. Think about how cool it would be to see Sly Stallone, young Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart and Lee Marvin acting alongside each other. The possibilities are endless.

On the other hand, we’ll probably end up with more of this and this.

UFC 92 Preview

Tomorrow night’s card for UFC 92 is stacked. Three fights headline the card and they should all prove to be interesting, competitive fights.

Quentin “Rampage” Jackson (28-7) takes on Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva (32-8). Jackson is the former light heavyweight champ, with the emphasis is on former. It’s still fresh in most folks’ minds about Jackson’s erratic behavior following the loss of his title. Many are saying that the shake-ups that followed Jackson’s run-ins with the law led to good things. He started training seriously, he got rid of those around him who were not the best influences and will come into this fight a changed man. He will need to be. Rampage has met Silva twice before and lost both times. I like Rampage, but plan to give the nod to Silva.

Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira (31-4-1) matches up against Frank Mir (11-3). Again, I like both fighters. Mir has less experience. Plus, if you’ve heard him speaking about Big Nog in interviews, you know that Mir is concerned with the fact that Big Nog gets stronger as the fight goes on… and Mir isn’t known for his conditioning. I think that Big Nog has the advantage going in and unless Mir makes something happen fast, it could be a long night in the octogon with Nogueira coming out a winner.

Forrest Griffin (16-4) puts his title on the line when he squares off against “Sugar” Rashad Evans (16-0-1). Both of these guys are former winners of The Ultimate Fighter show tourneys. Although Griffin is a slight favorite, mainly due to his popularity, Evans is the more technical fighter due to his extensive college wrestling career. I’m leaning towards Griffin finding a way to win, but am concerned that Evans has ALWAYS been able to do just that.

Free Look @ The Goon

I‘ve been following Eric Powell’s “The Goon” since his self-publishing days. Although it’s been eight years and Eric has moved into the big leagues with Dark Horse publishing “The Goon,” it’s as good as ever. And I’m not the only one who feels that way. This year Eric picked up two Eisner Awards [Best Painter and Best Humor Writer/Artist].

f you’re already a Goon fan, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not a fan, then you should check out CBR.com’s preview of “The Goon #31.” Who knows, maybe you’ll become one.

Remembering Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt, the multi-talented, singer, actress and author has died at the age of 81 from colon cancer. Her career spanned sixty years and made her an international star.

Born to poor parents [a mother of African-American/Cherokee heritage and a white father] in 1927, Eartha was sent to live with relatives when her mother’s new husband refused to have a mixed child in the house. Eartha’s big break came in 1946 when she auditioned and won a spot as a dancer with the Dunham dance group. This in turn led to work on Broadway and later a Paris nightclub where she was spotted by Orson Welles who called her the “most exciting woman in the world” and cast her in his Paris stage production of “Faust.”

From there her career really took off with a recording contract [Eartha could sing in several languages] and songs such as “I Want to be Evil” and the classic “Santa, Baby.” At a time when women of color were often seen on television as maids and secretaries, Ms. Kitt had a reoccurring role as the sexy Catwoman on the popular tv series Batman.

In 1968, her career in the US came to a screeching halt. Ms. Kitt, along with several other important ladies of the time had been invited to a luncheon at the White House hosted by President Johnson’s wife. They were there to discuss youth crime. Ms. Kitt brought up the Viet Nam war and the unrest it was causing among young people, and Mrs. Johnson took offense. The incident made the papers and suddenly Ms. Kitt found herself blacklisted. So she went overseas where she continued to perform until her return to Broadway in 1974. Jimmy Carter invited her back to the White House in 1978. In 2006, President Bush had her back once again, this time to light the National Christmas tree. Ms. Kitt never retired. She is one of the few entertainers to earn nominations for Emmy, [she won two and was nominated for three], Grammy [nominated twice] and Tony [nominatied twice] awards.

Ms. Kitt leaves behind a daughter and two grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends and fans.

Talented Christmas Greetings

Believe it or not, no one is up in our house yet, but me. The kids, the wife, the dogs — everyone is still fast asleep. That’s okay though. I’m enjoying the quiet before the storm of Christmas morning.

There are so many things I love about Christmas. One of them is when folks make their own Christmas cards. The one at the top of this piece is by the uber-talented Dave Johnson. It’s just one of the many posted over at Newsarama.com. Oh, and be sure and check out this really cool one by Rick Burchett and Chris Mills.

Oh-oh. Sounds like everyone is starting to wake up. Have a great day!

Happy Celebration!

It’s Christmas Eve. That means tonight we’ll have the traditional gathering of the Zablo clan. Despite what you may have heard, when we all get together for Christmas Eve it’s pretty traditional. There will be plenty of presents for the kids, tons of laughs, good food and hopefully the creation of one or two great memories. And while nephew Bartle-Doo Corbett and Uncle Brent may have to be reined in a few times, it should be a fun night with no one going to jail or the hospital.

Here’s hoping that whatever you celebrate is the best ever… and no matter what you believe, Santa still swings by.

[And a tip o’ the Santa cap to Eric Powell who created the art used in today’s header – Craig]