Monday, August 1, 2016

Jason Bourne Returns For Vengeance...and Just About with One

Hi friend! Today I am excited to bring you [I think] my first attempt at a movie review. And what better place to start than BOURNE! Let's do the thing!

Always striking a pose, even on the run

Our new adventure picks up after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum - the special ops programs are known, and those who ran them are in jail or dead. Meanwhile Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is trying to stay off the grid, living a simple life of street fighting.

Enter Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). An old ally from the program, she's on her own crusade against THE MAN and digging for information. The plan: to expose all the special ops programs to the public. She gets what she needs and torches her gear, and just like that, BOURNE is right back in it.


Before I go further, let me admit something (though longtime TMP fans already know): I love this franchise. I've seen the movies more than once. I've read the first three novels - though I consider them to be separate "universes." I have my compliments and my complaints on each one. But the bottom line is: it's been nine (9!) years since we've seen Bourne, and I've missed him. And you know what? His return didn't disappoint.

That's not to say this movie is perfect. It had a slow pace at times - it felt more "true" to the novels in that way. Some scenes at the CIA or when Parsons was hacking the system for example, could have been a bit shorter/quicker. But that's a complain I had with parts of The Bourne Legacy as well. Maybe we should ask Tony Gilroy about this.

It also would have been nice to see a reference, or even a passing mention, of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and the events of Legacy. I get that they were separate, but Outcome was a part of the black ops programs so it should have at least been named as to not make the movie seem irrelevant. And if it was at least shown on screen, I missed it and this paragraph should be cutting room floor material. See? This is just like the show!

And maybe the struggle between the CIA (Robert Dewey, played by Tommy Lee Jones) and a fancy tech startup, Deep Dream, (led by Aaron Kalloor, played by Riz Ahmed) is just Greengrass trying to stay "hip" to current trends and buzzwords, but I for one enjoy when art imitates life. And while we don't know what Deep Dream does, it shows how deep THE MAN is into the people (ha), and falls right in line with another power struggle within the CIA.

Lee and Dewey, deciding who gets lunch

A staple of the franchise, this film is not without the old guard pulling rank over the new blood. The new girl this time around is Head of Cyber Ops, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). To put it simply: Dewey wants Bourne taken out, Lee wants him brought in, and Bourne? He wants to tie up his loose ends and return TO THE STREETS.

He knows who he is, but now he needs to know who targeted him for the program, and why his dad keeps appearing in his flashbacks.

As a quick aside: I loved the flashbacks and that Bourne had little dialogue. These make sense, given the nature of the character. He's a broken man with nothing and no one left. He doesn't need to verbalize when he can punch-ilize. And the flashbacks gave us at least two big plot points, which I will not spoil here.

This journey for answers and ass-kickings takes him around the globe, to many familiar places:

  • Athens - the same room where Abbott (Brian Cox) tried to bring him in at the end of The Bourne Identity, after they'd taken Marie.
  • Berlin - the site of his first-ever Treadstone mission
  • London - a key setting in Ultimatum
  • Las Vegas - a new place, but they got to tear it up on the strip!

Of course, no Bourne movie is complete without THE ASSET (Vincent Cassel) and a car chase! One thing I was bummed about regarding the asset was that he didn't get to showcase enough badassery, though his role is shown to be more "involved" than the other assets. And he did get to shine in the car chase down the strip, and in the subsequent round of fisticuffs. That stuff was awesome.

170 cars were wrecked for this, Wooooooo!

So as slow as the pacing was in places, as disjointed as the story seemed at times, (almost like 3 parallel tales - Bourne's search, CIA/Deep Dream, the aforementioned political turmoil), and the lack of Renner/Outcome being mentioned, I really enjoyed this movie.

When the action picked up, it jumped and the visuals were amazing (the car chase might be the best one in the franchise. I'll do some research and report back).

Speaking of visuals, a favorite part of the series for me is the locations, like the ones I listed up there. Bourne travels the globe to get away from or get to his enemies, and the movies never disappoint in the presentation. A big reason why I think highly of all the installments, strange as it may seem.

In addition to enjoying the development of the Bourne character, I have to praise Alicia Vikander here. She was just fantastic in her role as the new CIA LAAAADYYYYY. The dynamics between her and Bourne/Dewey were great. The idea that she could go rogue with Bourne or turn on him to side with THE MAN at any point was intriguing and kept me hooked. 

And the music! As always it was perfect, setting the tone and complemening each scene very well. A high five to the man or woman in charge of that. Let's credit Moby for now.

And one of the best parts about this movie was that it ended in a way that could either wrap the saga here or give us another thrilling adventure. My dream for the series? One more film with both Bourne and Cross to put a nice bow on it. Make it happen, big wigs!

Overall I give this a solid 8: a very enjoyable ride for Bourne fans. Is that biased? Of course it is, remember who wrote this. But I think this has a lot to offer despite its flaws. I had fun seeing it and I think you will, too. (Note: this was originally a 7 rating, but I reconsidered. Call it the Bourne Bias).

Before you can stop scrolling, allow me to present my OFFICIAL [updated] BOURNE RANKING:

The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Ultimatum
Jason Bourne
The Bourne Legacy
The Bourne Supremacy


Thanks for coming, my friends! I hope you enjoyed our time together, and the movie if you saw it. Let me know if you'd like me to do a half-assed review of any of your favorite movies or shows. Until next time: have fun, be safe, and don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

ARCHIVE POST: Criminal Justice: A Never-ending Story

Hi, friend!

I was reminded today about the documentary on the Duke lacrosse rape trial from years ago (Fantastic Lies, it's a 30 for 30 and it's on Netflix) and remembered that I wrote about it. I had this published on a news blog, and one of my college professors printed it and read it in class. She tried to get me to read it, but if you listen to the show you know how well that would have gone.

So without further rambling - and because I'm due for an update here - allow me to present this (unedited) piece written by 18-year-old me:

When O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in 1995, many begged the question, "What is wrong with our justice system?" Upon hearing of his book, If I Did It, the prosecutors of that case must have wondered how they didn't find him guilty. The same group of people begged the same question in 2005 when Michael Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges because the evidence "just wasn't there." Apparently the fact that he has sleepovers at his ranch wasn't a big enough clue. Reading of these two errors in judgment, one may believe that the justice system found a way to do things correctly for a change. Third time is the charm, right?

Fast forward to March of 2006: the Duke Lacrosse case. On March 13, members of the Duke lacrosse team threw a party off-campus and hired two exotic dancers. The next day, one of the dancers told police that she was forced into a bathroom and raped, beaten, and sodomized by three men. After all of the players underwent DNA testing, Duke suspended the team from play. The head coach, Mike Pressler, tendered his resignation a week later. This led to the eventual cancellation of the season by the president of the university. Although the accuser identified the attackers in a lineup, the DNA tests failed to connect any of the players to her. This should have ended the case right here. But of course, it was prolonged unnecessarily.

Despite having proof that none of the players raped the accuser, the Grand Jury indicted three team members: Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Co-captain David Evans. Evans, who was indicted a month after the DNA tests proved his innocence, called the allegations "fantastic lies." Six months after Evans' indictment, the director of a DNA lab testified that he omitted a key fact from a report: genetic material from several men (not team members) was found on the accuser's clothes and body. He omitted this discovery in an agreement with District Attorney, Mike Nifong, who called the team "a bunch of hooligans". Nifong also (somehow) won election to continue as D.A.

A week after this testimony, Nifong dropped the rape charges. He said that the woman was no longer certain whether or not she was penetrated. This didn't make much sense, but it shouldn't have mattered because the case should not have been going on at this point. However, the players still faced charges of kidnapping and sexual offense. If this girl can't decide whether or not she was raped, how can she claim to have been kidnapped (especially when she willingly attended the party)? And if the DNA tests proved the players' innocence, how can sexual offense charges still be present? Not surprisingly, these are questions remained unanswered.

A week after this event took place, the North Carolina Bar Association filed ethics charges against Nifong. Finally, a legal action that made sense. He was also accused of making inflammatory comments to the media regarding the athletes, withholding evidence, and lying to the court. Makes you wonder how he managed to win that election. In light of these accusations, Nifong asked to withdraw from the case. This left North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper, in charge. Two months later, Cooper dropped all charges against the players and accused Nifong of overreaching. Why he waited two months to close a case that lasted far too long is questionable (at least to someone who doesn't study law), but at least the debacle came to an end.

While the court didn't screw up the verdict like it did with O.J. and Jacko, it still made mistakes. A case that should have lasted less than a month ended up lasting thirteen. What's worse than the time and money that were wasted, is the reputations that were irrevocably damaged. Of course Duke will always be remembered for this scandal, despite the charges being dropped. But the one whose reputation was more seriously damaged is Nifong. He now faces ethics charges that could get him disbarred. He could have avoided this certain humiliation by dropping the case in April. Instead, his job is now on the line.

The happenings of this case simply demonstrate the aforementioned inefficiency of the American criminal justice system. The fact that this particular case lasted a year longer than it should have shows that someone isn't doing everything that he or she could (and should) be doing. Maybe Nifong isn't the only one whose job should be on the line.

(Note: Nifong was disbarred shortly after this case was dropped.)

And that's the kind of hard-hitting journalism I used to do. Thanks for stopping by, friends. I plan to watch the documentary soon, so I may post my thoughts. Also on the way: my top 25 N64 games (yes, I finally finished the list), so get excited!

Until next time, crap open a cold one!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Patpeeve: Applauding the Movies

Hey, friends! Today I have a quick patpeeve about people being weird at movies, somewhat related to my rant on the show this week.

I recently saw Captain America: Civil War. It was awesome. For my spoiler-free thoughts, and the aforementioned rant, check out Episode 35 of the podcast. What I'm going to focus on here though, is what happened after the movie ended:

A number of moviegoers applauded as the credits rolled.

I have seen this happen after several movies, mostly big budget releases (Avengers and Star Wars for example), but it still makes little sense to me. Who will see this reaction other than the people in the theater?

My best guess is that this is a throwback to THE OLD DAYS when all these crazy productions were live and in color. At least then the performers got to experience that reaction in the moment. They were able to know how much their work was appreciated. That made sense, and still does when seeing a live show.

But for a movie? Who sees that besides other patrons? Do studios track this and use the information somehow? Does the crew send scouts to each theater on opening weekends for big movies? And if they do, how can I become one? That sounds awesome.

Seriously though, this practice is silly. You're applauding for no one. If you liked the movie, tell your friends to buy tickets for it. Buy it on VHS or whatever fancy method you use to watch moving pictures. Your wallet makes these movies popular and turns them into sweet franchises, not your claps (and definitely not THE clap). Do it the American way! You know, before the Internet happened.

And if you don't like the movie? Don't throw rotten produce at the screen. Save that for the politicians.


(Sort of.)

Cheers until next time, friends! Crap open a cold one!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Public Transit Adventures. Part 3: The Oblivious Mom

Hi friend!

Today I will once again place you into the world of mental peril, otherwise known as the Philadelphia mass transit system. We've seen the panhandler and the two-seat jerk, and we'll be visiting the salesman soon. But this adventure focuses on maybe the worst offender in terms of sheer numbers: the oblivious mom.

She comes in many shapes and sizes, and may or may not have a needlessly giant stroller, but you can know one thing for certain: she is never in your way, you are always in hers. So take a deep breath and let's hop on the bus!

Monday morning, there you stand on the corner waiting for your first mode of transit of the day. You see it coming down the block and clutch your pass, hoping for the EXPRESS route since your destination is the end of the line. No such luck today. You see a few people standing near the front and start to worry. Relief takes over when a bunch of them get off, making room for you to at least not have to stand in the door for part of your ride.

You swipe your pass and look to the back of the bus to see her, sitting in the aisle seat with a fold-able stroller blocking the path (there's a good chance the window seat next to her is empty, also).

Determined to at least be out of the way, you glide toward her - hoping to squeeze by to get to the "upper deck." You reach her easily, but then she makes a surprise move: the old purse on the handle routine.

And this isn't any normal purse. Like the stroller, this is huge. at least twice the size she needs. But she doesn't care because she has lots of things she needs to lose in there. Unfortunately that was your window and she slammed it shut. But you try to make your way by contorting yourself to fit between the person in the seat on the left, and the purse/stroller on the right (a space high-school you could have easily navigated).

You get caught in the purse and try to shift it to one side. Of course this is the one time she looks up from her phone, and the look you get is...well something like this:

The "you're dead to me" look has other uses!

Again, she was not in your way. You got in her way and dared to get close to her stuff. She stares at you. Then looks at her phone again before hitting you with every four-letter word she knows, not caring that her kids are hanging on every one of them. The issue isn't her giant stroller, or that her kids are climbing all over other passengers. What matters is who she's texting and that you had the balls to get in her way. How could you?!

At this point you may be thinking these moms (they're everywhere around here) are teens, or in their early twenties at most. But you may be shocked to know that the most common offenders are those totally old enough to know better. Plus, they usually have multiple kids. So they should have realized by now that their behavior is immature and best and harmful at worst - kids are quite impressionable, after all.

Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do when faced with this person. You could confront her. But really, what does that do? The best case scenario there is you have a shouting match before shuffling back to the first open spot. At worst, she throws a kid at you. So at least you might be part of a show!

Since I can't offer advice, let me just say very plainly that this nonsense needs to stop. I know that your phone is important to you. But you have a responsibility to both your kids and your fellow passengers: to make sure the former stay safe, and the latter don't hate you. Most city bus rides aren't that long. You can live without your phone for a few minutes in exchange for - wait for it - talking to your kids!

I'll let that sink in as I leave you for now. Come back next time for another transit tale, or something completely different!

Crap open a cold one!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Curmudgeon Gamer Post: WWF No Mercy vs WWE 2k16

Hey friend! I realize I am terrible at updating this. I don't even have a good excuse for you, so I will just say MY BAD and do my best to post more stuff!

Today I want to do a little comparison between my favorite wrestling game and the newest one. Yes, I will show bias toward the former, but the title should have given that clue. The two games in question are WWF No Mercy on the N64:

And WWE 2k16 on current consoles, though I'll be focusing on the PS3 version:

Now I haven't played as much 2k16 as No Mercy, since the game hasn't been out nearly as long, but I've gone through all the modes enough to form a solid opinion. The first knock I have on the new guy isn't exactly a fault of the game, but gaming as a whole (kind of) which is why I want to address it first.

The fact that 2k16 is available on multiple platforms makes the previous generation (PS3/XB360) get the shaft on some features. In this case, they exclude career mode and creation suite - to upload your own images for use in the game - from the older generation. It seems like a blatant money grab, like the big wigs are saying: "Well, you might as well skip this one and upgrade your console!" This is nonsense. I understand the current consoles will be a higher priority, but it's not like the games on the previous generation are discounted to make up for the missing features (they should be if this is a normal practice). If this was exclusive to this game, I would mark this as a win for No Mercy - since it only appeared on one system. But since other games have done this I'll call it a wash and move forward.

Just before I jump into it, though, let me give a quick point to 2k16 solely because of the pre-order bonus: TERMINATOR. 100% worth it.

Sadly the commentators don't yell, "TERMINATED!" after his matches

The real first point for No Mercy is in the learning curve of the controls. It is immensely easier to pick up and play. In fact my sister, who doesn't play a lot of games, learned the controls in about 90 seconds. She even beat me the first time we played (then I stopped letting her play). There aren't really any "tricks" to learn, you can just pick it up as you go. The best example is kicking out of a pin: in 2k16, you have to land in a target zone - more than once if your rassler is really drained. In No Mercy, this is done by the ever reliable button-mashing. A wonderfully less frustrating method.

Before I get to the "campaign modes" for each game, I'd like to [probably] unfairly award another point to No Mercy. I want to focus on local multiplayer for a bit. I am aware that PS3 can support up to 7 players at a time with a fancy adapter. But just like the EyeToy camera on PS2, how many people actually have that? At the height of the N64's popularity, you could walk into any of your friends' houses and they would have four controllers ready for everyone to play. The most you're likely to see with a PS3 owner is two. If you go to play with a buddy who has this fancy gadget and can have a Stone Cold Stunner party with five other friends, consider yourself lucky. Logic would tell me to call this a wash, but my 90's bias will overrule. Point: No Mercy.

Everyone can have fun with friends!

Okay, let's get to the semi-main event: single player mode! Since (spoiler) No Mercy will take this in a landslide, let's start with 2k16. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the Austin Showcase a lot. The bonus matches and special objectives - essentially more matches with unlockables - were fun. The cut scenes were good, even if there was some odd censoring (World Wrestling Federation Champion - just a bit jarring). But it didn't really take that long to complete, and once it was over the only free option left in single player mode outside of exhibitions against the CPU is Universe. And while it's fun being able to play out storylines, the feuds and run-ins seem so random that the shine wears quickly. The other showcase option is the 2015 Hall of Fame one, which you have to buy separately. A gripe on modern gaming? Yes, but it still doesn't help 2k16 here. (I did buy it when it went on sale, by the way, and it was pretty good.)

You already know that No Mercy will win this, but the single-player is so fun I'm going to discuss it anyway.

Instead of taking one superstar to the top of the mountain or following one's career, No Mercy allowed you to challenge for every championship available - with anyone on the roster.

One gripe: no 2-player option for the Tag Team path

And just winning the championship wasn't enough. Multiple branches for each title - whether you were challenging for or defending - made this mode the most expansive, with many of the angles taken right from TV at the time. Yes, you did have to lose matches to complete each path, but that opened up even more story options. Was it tedious at times to go through certain scenes more than once? Sure, but the thrill of completing each championship path gave the game lots of replay value.

And winning certain matches unlocked secret characters, which in turn unlocked new outfits and moves for creating your own superstars (you could also get most of them by winning the super fun/frustrating Survival Mode - a massive Royal Rumble with pins, submissions, and knockouts).

Speaking of creating your own characters, less is more is a perfect way for me to sum up this comparison.

In 2k16, you do have a lot of options. You can get more specific with facial features and body definition, as well as attire, and that does add a nice layer to the process. But the drawback is that it takes up a lot of time. Some people enjoy making their character's eyes and leg definition "just right," but I'd rather get my boots on and hit the ring.

No Mercy does limit you, but it is quicker and you can still customize your guy or girl quite well.

One screen, easily move between options

The move system is less complicated, which means creating your moveset takes a lot less time. And there are plenty of options available, with more in the Smackdown Mall Shop - bought with in-game currency. You can also set your fighting style (speed, ring entry, endurance, etc.), damage parameters (how certain body parts take and receive damage), and your allies/enemies (who interferes in matches to attack/save you).

While you can't create your own entrance in No Mercy, or upload your own music, there are plenty of themes and taunts to personalize it. I have to say, though, that it is neat to both add fireworks at different points and hear your own music lead "you" to the ring.

In hindsight I probably should have replaced that "vs" with a greater than sign in the title, since that's what I ended up doing. But in no way am I saying that 2k16 is not fun. I have just found more positives in No Mercy - super bias in play here - even after all this time. In short: wrestling video games, for the most part, are awesome and we should play some time.

Let me know if you agree or disagree, or what else you would like me to ramble about here. Thanks for stopping by, don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Better Drivers: City Bus or Taxi?

Hey, friend!

Today I want to bring you a quick post FROM THE ARCHIVE. Could I spend this time sleeping or writing new material? Sure! But this is a topic I thought about recently and wanted to present it again for new readers. I am a man of the people, after all. So enjoy the quick trip and I'll return soon to talk wedding stuff!
Something I was thinking about on my way home from work earlier: I take the bus, and have a firm belief that these drivers are among the best in dealing with and adapting to their surroundings and situations (even though the surroundings are often the same).

I was having a conversation with a fellow regular about this who used to live in New York. He said while the bus drivers there - and here in the Philadelphia area - are very good at adapting, they don't hold a candle to cab drivers in that department.

I have taken a taxi a few times (certainly less often than the bus) and almost agree. Right now though, I'm going with bus drivers, mainly because I've never been worried about getting into an accident while riding the bus.

I get that cab drivers need to know more of their areas, but bus drivers handle bigger vehicles with way more passengers at a time. Both deal in high-pressure environments, but the wildcard factor of many passengers at once - and some crazy characters to boot - keeps the scale tipped to bus drivers.
What do you think, friend? Is this a fair comparison to make? Should I stop talking to random people 
on the bus? Does anyone even use taxis or buses?

I may turn this into a topic for the show if I get some good feedback. I will definitely give you a shoutout, so let me have it!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Question on Snow Food

Hi, friend!

See? I told you I would update this eventually! I do have several topics "in the can" (i.e. drafts that are unfinished) that I will get to, as well as a few others. But today, since I am snowed in, I want to ponder about something I've been seeing on the news this week.

Newscasters have been ON THE STREETS interviewing random people about how they are preparing for the storm, and one of the main questions has been: "Did you get your bread and milk?"

A high number of people came out with handfuls of both, which puzzled me. Maybe it's because I don't regularly buy either, but I can't fathom why those are the "go-to" foods for a snowstorm. What can you make with just those two items?

Bread cereal? Milk sandwiches? Weak-ass french toast? I don't get it.

If french toast is the goal - which it should be, as french toast is delicious - then why aren't eggs on that must-have list? This I would understand, and even appreciate. But to have people running out to grab those two above all else (even toilet paper!) seems silly. I don't know if THE MAN perpetuated this mad dash, or if some shop owner spread the story to drum up business, but it makes little sense.

Because everyone loves french toast!

A concern in snowstorms, or any storm, is power loss. If this happens, that milk you "had to have" is useless. The bread will last if you happen to be stuck for a while, but as some smart person said forever ago: you can't live on bread without bacon (or something like that). So shouldn't we be telling people to stock up on canned goods and peanut butter to go with that bread? Or are canned goods not cool with these crazy kids?

In any case, I find it odd that at the top of the national "get this or you won't survive the storm" list is a product that can't last in a power outage (and that some people can't even have - damn their allergies!). If we're going that route, at least make it pork roll or something delicious. Buy Gatorade if you get thirsty - bonus: it tastes better!

If you can figure out why milk is number one, let me know in the comments. Or, even better, suggest better food/drink options for potential shut-ins during storms. Also feel free to suggest future topics, for this or for my podcast. High fives and shoutouts will be given!

Thanks for stopping by, my friend! I hope you are staying safe and having fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!