“Star Trek Into Darkness” Review, Part II

The beginning of “Star Trek Into Darkness” was a brilliant launch for this killer movie. (Click here for Part I of my review, including the terrifying true story of 13-year-old me facing down Capt. Picard’s greatest nemesis, Q.)

“Indiana Jones” flicks may be the best example of the opening-scene move “Star Trek” pulls off. You thrust the main characters into some exciting situation that’s intense, but fun enough for comedic beats. Remember Indy kicking the diamond around during a Shanghai night-club shootout in “Temple of Doom”?

There’s this awesome “Into Darkness” moment where Kirk is running through the red foliage on some planet populated by weird-looking primitive tribes. He comes up on a big monster and phasers it down immediately. Then Bones appears and says “That’s our ride! You just stunned our ride!”

Nibiru 2

Yada yada yada… things end with the Enterprise appearing above this primitive race – a cool visual that also violates the most important rule in Star Trek lore. The Prime Directive says Federation officers are not to make their existence known on planets that haven’t evolved to the point where meeting space travelers is appropriate.

This “Into Darkness” opening is fast and fun, with worrisome underlying politics and an excuse to bust the Enterprise through a bunch of clouds in the sky above a crazy-looking planet. The events also establishes a friendship blood oath between Kirk and Spock (since Kirk saves Spock’s life) that’ll lead to “KHAAAN!!!” screaming later, and sets up Kirk’s demotion in Star Fleet and ultimate redemption. Mmmmm…. Action-driven narratiiiiive…. That’s some sweet scripting.

Again, it’s gonna be awesome to see how J.J. Abrams has fun with the Star Wars franchise. The first scene of Episode VII will probably be insane.

And how about Scotty? He wisely warns Kirk about the dangers of bringing those missiles onto the ship, making the case against militarization with “We’re explorers.” Then he gets demoted and basically kicked off his ship, little alien buddy in tow. Then Kirk calls him for help like nothing happened and he has this great action-hero subplot that makes the other stuff in “Into Darkness” work. Spock and Kirk are so well-conceived and acted in these movies, but don’t forget about Scotty.

Coming up in “‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Review, Part III”: Alternate-universe Enterprise destruction. Stay tuned!

Fate of the State: The Governor Must Be Stopped

Two quick Flip Side editor’s notes before the feature presentation:

1. KRQE Channel 13 has disputed the Santa Fe Reporter story described below, going so far as to call it “not accurate.” They won’t say what’s not accurate, which makes their anchor’s statement utterly unethical. It is insane to do that. KRQE’s story was about a different FBI investigation. Channel 13 is helping The Governor by, firstly, smearing the reporters covering the Downs Deal and, secondly, changing the subject — from a corrupt state contract with campaign donors to the victimization of The Governor by someone who stole and leaked private emails about state business. KRQE is terrible. What they’re doing is not journalism.

2. Posts like the following are what happens when I’m constantly thinking about superheroes. Summer movie season will do that, I guess. Without further ado….

… Cellphones off, please …

Dear Linda Lopez, Gary King, or maybe Tim Keller….

You have a chance to do real good here, and also have some fun.

Don’t make your 2014 campaign for governor about policy. Make it about Susana Martinez — who she is and what she does. Gubernatorial hopefuls should absolutely love when you can slam an incumbent with actual, terrible stories being reported in the newspaper, pungent from the appearance of corruption.

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The Reporter actually covers corruption, God bless ’em

She’s ripe to go down like a Batman villain. The Santa Fe Reporter just broke the story this week that the FBI is (apparently) investigating players involved in the Down Deal, a fat contract to run the state fair that was awarded to The Governor’s campaign donors.

Years ago she came into office with a professional propagandist and campaign cash conjuring “top advisor,” Jay McCleskey. It appears McCleskey’s job is to run Susana PAC year-round, and start little mini PACs at election time for smearing and insulting political foes in any local races he chooses. His mailers, riddled with typos, accuse Dems of siding with “child murderers” and putting “the welfare of convicted murderers above keeping our families safe.”

McCleskey was in on this Downs deal. He’s on many of the juicy emails that leaked out. The Governor’s campaign war chest is at $1.5 million, last we heard. You gotta say a lot of crazy stuff to get that much money from people who are not supposed to get anything back. Unless they do get something back….

So McCleskey’s The Governor’s Mad Hatter, trying to control our minds so he can rob us.

Keith Gardner, $135,000 taxpayer-funded Chief of Staff to The Governor, is Solomon Grundy: Huge, growly, grabby, and mean. (These are Batman bad-guy references, by the way. And “Batman Begins” was about taking down corruption.)

After Gardner told reporters he didn’t use private email for state business, his “friend” released a secret recording of Gardner saying exactly the opposite, and being vindictive and vulgar. “I’m about to fire that fucker,” he says, of the state-fair manager also involved in the Downs deal. “I’m so pissed. God they screwed up.” What’d they screw up, Gardner? And who’s “They?”

Put those questions to the big man and there is no way he will answer. Because, as he also says on this secret recording, “I don’t wanna go to court or jail.” No one asked if you did.

This screw-up was big-time, and it goes all the way to the top! The Santa Fe Reporter story, which says the FBI is specifically interested in Jay McCleskey’s Downs Deal connection, must have gone off like a bomb in The Governor’s lair. There have been many nervous huddles, you can bet, about how to get out of the trouble they might be in.08.22.12_COVER.widea

(And there’s so much we’ve left out here, like the publicly disgraced Downs political lawyer who called a reporter “dumb fuck,” and first gentleman Chuck Franco’s mystery trip to Louisiana, where the Downs owners reside. Or Tom Tinnin, a Republican who resigned the New Mexico Board of Finance over the Downs Deal and said “If I buy into this, I’m just as bad as the rest of them. … I will never be compromised to keep my position. A lot of people you meet will sell their soul to the devil for an appointed position, but I will not.”)

The Governor got a corporate tax cut passed in the closing minutes of the legislature this year. Other than that, it’s mostly been one go-nowhere political fight after another.

And traveling the country to raise money with McCleskey.

These things should be disqualifying. The Governor should not be allowed to get involved in a state contract with a campaign donor while New Mexico goes to shit outside her office window.

These money-focused favor-peddler politicians are making things everywhere worse, and you have a chance to fight back. Make this about her, and them. The Governor will say anything, so it’s what she does that should define her.

Be Batman.

Signed,

A huge fan of good government, the Santa Fe Reporter, and Joe Monahan’s political blog

“Man of Steel” Preview, Part II: Justice League Movie

Let’s go ahead and assume “Man of Steel” will be a big hit. Now, DC, if you’re gonna hang with “The Avengers” and its God-money world-wide box office haul, you gotta come out with a Justice League flick. The Justice League has Superman and Batman (and presumably Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern, which isn’t great but it’s OK).

One element is crucial. Heath Ledger obviously can’t come back from the dead to play Joker. There’s only one way you possibly do his classic “Dark Knight” performance justice. That’s right. . .

Daniel.

Day.

Lewis.

Day-Lewis plays Joker, and you know he could do it. Him or Joaquin Phoenix. Joker frees Doomsday (either entirely CGI or played by The Rock), distracting Superman and other Justice Leaguers while he, Joker, tries to blow up a stolen nuke in Gotham. Two great cities destroyed at once! Batman’s gotta stop Joker and the nuke while Superman has to defeat the unbeatable Doomsday in a straight-up brawl that causes insane destruction.

BOOM! EVERYONE’S seeing my Justice League movie, twice. You come out on the Thursday of a four-day weekend and we’re talking a record-shattering $600 million opening. All 24 screens at Century Rio. That movie makes a billion bucks in two weeks and kicks the ass of anything Marvel could ever try!*

This new guy stays as Superman. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Batman, since he found the Batcave at the end of “Rises.” Zac Efron plays Robin, who gets killed horribly by Joker in a mid-movie scene that’ll haunt viewers forever.** James Cameron gets first shot at this, but once he (regretfully) passes, the director’s chair goes to Guillermo Del Toro.

You’re welcome.

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Ethan Hawke as Flash. Daniels from “The Wire” plays that green alien guy. If we need a Lex Luthor: Viggo Mortensen.

*Unless Spider-Man teams up with the Avengers to help X-Men destroy federal Sentinel robots and Thanos. This imagined Marvel movie makes more money than “Justice League,” barely, but fans will still prefer “Justice League” because of Day-Lewis Joker.

**Or wait! How about this: Joker kills Gordon-Levitt, who I think was actually named Robin in “Rises,” right? So the craziest scene in the movie just got better. Then who comes back to avenge his protege and save Gotham? Christian Bale’s Batman. Don’t put him on the poster, though. Let it be a rumor, and market “Justice League” as though Gordon-Levitt is officially our new Batman.

Beyonce and the Troops

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is this very soulful, funny novel by Ben Fountain about a squad of Iraq War heroes attending a Thanksgiving-Day Dallas Cowboys game with a big-shot producer who’s trying to get their story made into a movie. The book builds to this halftime show featuring Destiny’s Child. Bravo Squad is part of their act.

By the time the show starts, performing with Beyonce is the meanest, scariest, most f*cked-up sh*t imaginable for these soldiers.

Upon being told what to do behind Beyonce, just before stepping out onto the loud, pyrotechnic field: “The Bravos nod. No one speaks. They’re all quietly freaking.”

Recently in real life, there was this blurb in The Week: “On her current world tour, Beyonce has a contract specifying that her dressing room be supplied with $1,000 titanium straws, says the Daily Star (U.K.). The contract specifies that each venue must supply Beyonce with hand-carved ice balls to suck on, and the titanium straws, which she uses to drink alkaline water chilled to exactly 69.8 degrees. Dressing rooms must have freshly painted white walls, a new toilet seat, and an ample supply of red toilet paper. Beyonce works hard, a source said, and ‘feels that her requests aren’t too much to ask.'”

So that‘s why.

Camo dressings for "Soldier"

Camo dressings for “Soldier”

Billy Lynn comes close to Beyonce in the book. She “towers with Rocky Mountain majesty. Her skin is the honeyed brown of apple butter, limned with a film of perspiration that holds the light.” Some of the Bravos go a little crazy while she and her sisters, or whatever, perform “Soldier.” But Billy holds up.

Beyonce is the great metaphor for how spoiled oblivious we are in this country, relative to the soldiers we send to fight in our wars. That little news blurb, if it’s true, tells us that real-life Beyonce is even worse than the terrible idea she represents.

Beyonce is more f*cked up and oblivious than anyone could even make up. So are we. Happy Memorial Day.

My Star Trek Story, and “Into Darkness” Review

Spoilers ahead. The following is based on true events.

I’m 13 years old, at a Star Trek convention by myself. Rode the light rail from near my home into Downtown San Jose. I have long, fat legs and big glasses fixed to my face by colorful Chums dangling like a ponytail between my shoulder blades.

Amid a pond of fat white people I found a single open plastic folding chair. I wedged myself in and my favorite Star Trek character came on-stage and told some jokes and some stories and then he started answering questions from the audience. Up went my hand.

And there it stayed, straining to stay straight. I would periodically use my other hand to push up my glasses and hold up the hopeful arm.

John de Lancie would go on to kill more people in Breaking Bad than any other character. Back then, though, he played Q on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Q has God power to do anything, so he transports around the universe. Sometimes he enjoys f*cking with Captain Picard.

And he’s not calling on me. WHY?!

A huge man whose gut is straining the fabric of his white T shirt is sitting almost directly behind me. He raised his meaty right arm up and cleared his throat. “Haahrmph!” Like an animal.

Me and Q both turn to look at him.

“Yes, sir?” Q called on the fat man.

“This boy here.” He keeps his arm raised, but his hand becomes fingers pointing right down onto me. “He’s had his hand up for a really long time.”

Q turns the spotlights of his eyes onto me, but I’m still looking at the fat man. My mouth drops open and all the blood in my body, all those pints, so much blood in my face I can feel the skin stretching with pressure.

My mouth stays open as I rotate 180 degrees toward Q. Why, fat man?

I’m panting. My glasses slide down so I push them back up and all the fat white people are looking at me.

“Yes.” He says it to me like a hissing snake, down from on high. “Yes, my lad?”

I gather myself. Remembering to breathe helps.

“Is there anything a Q can’t do?” I ask him.

All the eyes, hundreds of eyes, motion off me to him. He’s staring down on me. He brings the microphone closer as he dips his head. He’s looking at me with his brow down, like a threat.

“No.” The word resonates, echoing off the vast room’s walls.

He still stares. The fat folk all around me rumble with a chuckle made as one, but I’m not in on this joke.

He moves to the next raised hand with a suddenly beaming smile.

Q was not in any of the Star Trek movies. No matter what anyone says, ever, Star Trek’s best medium was television.

Come back in time a little farther (further?), to a Star Trek convention in Pennsylvania. I’m 9. My lanky, handsome dad is sitting beside me. We’re on plastic folding chairs. He has big glasses too, and poofy hair.

There are fewer people here than there will be at the one with Q in the California future. (Moving sucked.) They are fat, though, and so is James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original. Before this night is through he will sign two little Scotty cardboard trading cards I have.

Scotty is telling my dad and me and everyone that he didn’t really like Star Trek 5. He didn’t like the bad guy who somehow turns into God at the end. Scotty says his favorite is “The one with the whales.”

You can tell watching Star Trek 4 (The Voyage Home) that the cast had fun making that one. It’s light and sweet. Kirk’s blonde marine biologist girlfriend is certainly spunky and cute.

No joke – just this last Friday, as we were leaving the office, a fellow nerd(ish) coworker and I happened to be discussing Star Trek bad guys. What came to her mind as the baddest was the Borg.

“Star Trek: First Contact” was the best, in hindsight, of the Next Generation movies. (Nemesis is good too.) First Contact’s bad guys is the Borg. Imagine a collective of cyborgs who all share the same brain; they travel galaxies in a scarily gigantic robot cube loaded with laser weapons. The Borg is a virus on a human-sized scale. Its singular objective was to assimilate whole races, and it wanted humans bad.

Jonathan Frakes, who played Capt. Picard’s trusty sidekick Commander Riker throughout all those great Next Generation years, was the director of “First Contact.” You think Riker’s gonna make a Star Trek movie with the Borg that isn’t a classic of the series? No way. “First Contact” wasn’t perfect (*cough*Data-and-the-Borg-Queen*cough*), but it was pretty great.

The new “Star Trek” movie, “Into Darkness,” is so good. This actor named Benedict Cumberbatch (I know!) plays the bad guy, Khan. He’s awesome in the role. Scary voice. Super-strong and pumped up to fight. Has a cool, villainous back story that makes him more interesting.

At one point Zachary Quinto as New Spock actually calls Leonard Nimoy as Old Spock, who confirms Khan is indeed the toughest foe William Shatner’s Kirk ever faced.

And then Kirk dies to save the Enterprise, preserving the chain of events that will lead one day to Captain Picard beating the Borg on the brink of Earth’s assimilation.

Spock, this time, is the one who screams “KHHAAAN!!!” And it is awesome. The questions raised about timeline continuity are fascinating, but it’s also just really cool to see these two great characters share this dramatic moment. “Wrath of Khan” had the same scene in an alternate universe, with Kirk and Spock reversed.

I really loved that the “Into Darkness” director J.J. Abrams put that scene in this movie. He may not have been a Trekkie, but Abrams understands, and must have a fondness for, the source material. His Star Wars movie, due soon, will be great.

(If I had one quibble with “Into Darkness” it’s this: I thought it should have ended when the Tribble twitched.)

Riker: “I don’t need your fantasy women!”

The summer sun was setting over San Jose’s gappy skyline as I left that Star Trek convention where Q told me he could do anything. The big stairway outside the convention center was flanked by one of those kinetic sculptures with the balls rolling around on tracks. I pushed up my glasses as I jogged down those stairs toward the light rail stop.  I rubbed my aching shoulder. It had physically, literally hurt to hold my arm up so long.

Stupid Q.

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Zenmaster’s Revenge

Phil Jackson is everywhere. NPR. Daily Show. Promoting his new book.

The nasty late-night phone call he got last Nov. 11 from the Lakers comes up in a lot of his interviews. He thought he had till that Monday to decide to take the head coaching job or not, then they called Sunday night at midnight. Woke him up. Said they were hiring Mike D’Antoni. You can tell it made him mad.

“It was humorous to me when Mitch said that we think that Mike is a better coach for this group of guys,” Jackson said yesterday. (Mitch Kupchak is the Lakers’ general manager.)

Aawww

Aawww

Phil Jackson would have come back and coached this loaded team if they’d asked him. Instead he got a weird snub from the Lakers (or maybe it was a burn), and decided “Fine. I don’t feel like having to ride in an airplane all the time anyway.” He’s 6-foot-8, 67 years old. He played hard through his youth, so there’s a lot of wear and tear on that body. He moves slowly.

Jackson’s book is called “Eleven Rings.” As coach with the Bulls and Lakers he won 11 titles, success with no equal in modern pro sports. Without him this season the Lakers were terrible, despite all their all-stars, including brand-new high-priced superstar center Dwight Howard. They added the best banging, bull-powerful low post player in the NBA, then hired D’Antoni, a coach who’s all about fast-breaking and hates using players like that.

That’s Jackson’s specialty, morons. Think about it. Eleven rings. First he had Jordan and Pippen, who took care of the outside themselves. Kobe Bryant, same thing. Backcourt’s covered. Jackson used his at-peace Zen-nerd-philosopher-gym rat-genius mind to study and master coaching big men. When he got his hands on Shaquille O’Neal, he helped the Diesel become an unguardable mutant MVP/champion.

Coaching Kobe is stupid. Coach the bigs. The Lakers would be in the Western Conference Finals if they’d hired Phil Jackson. Remember also that the NBA inexplicably negated a trade that would have given top point guard Chris Paul to Los Angeles to play alongside Kobe. Those two together would not have needed any coaching.

We would have finally had an epic LeBron-Kobe finals battle.

Imagine the awesomness

Imagine the awesomness

So Jackson launches this book tour, and everyone likes how interesting he is so he does a lot of interviews. He hits the Lakers organization with these little disses after their expensive failure of a season, just as playoff NBA games are getting really good, with the finals around the corner. His Playboy-model fiance (always gotta mention she was in Playboy, because it’s awesome) is the sister of the Lakers executive vice president and part-owner, who surely had a hand in the decision not to bring back Jackson this season.

Basically, he’s fine without them while they’re missing him terribly. And he’s always around. It’s a good place to be, which is typical for the Zenmaster. Eleven rings, and awesome at life. Screw the Lakers.

LEBRON II: Alien vs. Predator [Cancelled]

A single Alien cannot beat Predator in a straight-up fight. The disparity in killing power is too great. The reason Aliens are dangerous, the reason Ripley was always so afraid of corporations smuggling an Alien onto Earth, was the potential for it to multiply into more Aliens. She could kill one Alien in her underwear, literally,* but a horde of Aliens might be unstoppable. A horde of Aliens might even take Predator down, in spite of his strength and weapons.

Kevin Durant looks and plays like an Alien:

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LeBron James looks and plays like Predator:

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Alien cannot beat Predator by himself, nor can Durant beat LeBron by himself. But it’s a fun battle to watch, and we don’t get to see it now because the Memphis Grizzlies are about to knock Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder out of the playoffs.

The Thunder were an Alien horde, though, until crazy point guard Russell Westbrook got knocked out of the playoffs with a blown-out knee, suffered when a player on the Rockets lunged a shoulder at his legs as he was calling timeout. Patrick Beverly’s dirty dive into Westbrook’s knee cost us “Aliens vs. Predator” in the NBA Finals.

Instead….

LeBron’s been looking a little different lately….

He’s not so much Predator….

He’s MORE LIKE CTHULHU!!!!:

thumbnails.phpRAAAAAHHHHHR!!!!!

That’s right. Just like you nightmared.

Oh you don’t think Russell Westrbook’s an alien? Just look at him:

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And it really was a horde. The Thunder have this other guy named Serge Ibaka, who’s seven feet tall and also a freak alien. This is him:

ibaka

But Ibaka is lame. He sucks without Westbrook. Durant is still insane, but, again, not good enough on his own.

It’s funny, a friend of mine was saying the other day that “Memphis Grizzlies” is a stupid name, because there aren’t any Grizzlies in Memphis. There aren’t any Wizards in Washington D.C., either, but whatever. The Grizzlies actually play like huge grizzly bears. They’re thick and scruffy and they use their big butts to post up by the rim and rebound hard.

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MarcGasol_InsideOnly1   RAAAAHHHR!!!!!  zach-randolph-526-2-042911

It turns out a gang of Grizzlies can take out a single scary acid-for-blood Alien. Which is interesting, ethologically speaking.

It’s still fun watching Predator hunt down and brutally destroy grizzlies (obviously), but not as much fun as when Predator fights Aliens. Oh well. And if Dwyane Wade can get himself healthy it’s like the Heat have two Predators, and that’ll be a bloodbath.

Not gonna happen.

Not gonna happen.

* Wait. Ripley is wearing Ripley’s underwear, not the Alien.

Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” Hangover, and Boring Jerk Critics

Dude. The Holy Grail is, like, a chick.

Ha! “The Da Vinci Code” was awesome, but did we get a little carried away? It’s the most popular book I can remember whose title doesn’t start “Harry Potter and the-.” I worked at an airport bar when it came out in 2003, and it seemed like everyone who was alone was reading it. The fast-paced story and short chapters made it an easy pill, and it had some fascinating conspiratorial notions. The Vatican, for instance, invented the story that Mary Magdalene was a hooker to cover up the fact that she was Jesus’s wife who was pregnant when he died.

That’s no apostle sitting next to Jesus in The Last Supper, dude, that’s a chick! The Mona Lisa is male and female because Da Vinci understood, unlike organized religion, that women are great!

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Dan Brown’s book made a lot of headlines for its muddled conspiratorial history, and that stuff certainly helped make it interesting. But I like the bad guys. Silas was a traumatized albino Catholic monk who self-flagellated regularly as he hunted Langdon and the Grail. “The Lost Symbol” had crazy stories about George Washington’s Apotheosis (and Google “George Washington Zeus”), but it also had an obsessed psychotic steroid freak who covered every part of his body in tattoos.

I got Brown’s new book “Inferno” this morning and I’m really looking forward to it. Critics, though, are already letting rip. Just looking at the Google search results for “Inferno review” (because I don’t wanna actually read anything and find out what happens in the plot) reveals this: “Dan Brown’s take on Dante’s Inferno is the thriller-writer’s most ambitious novel yet – and his worst.” And this: “a page-turner that will not win any literary prizes.” And this: “A. N. Wilson can’t put down Dan Brown’s new novel – but still thinks it’s ‘twaddle’ with a plot written for the big screen.”

As someone who fancies himself a bit of a critic, I find this both interesting and obnoxious.

When I walked out of “Iron Man 3,” I didn’t really like it. I was thinking about what a dumb plot the bad guy had hatched the kill the president, and how much the story dragged in Tennessee, and… blah blah blah. It doesn’t matter. I thought about it for an hour and told my wife, who really dug the flick and was a little confused at my initial response, “Wait a minute. I’m an idiot. That movie was awesome! Fire-breathing Mandarin!” The Tennessee stuff didn’t drag at all. Why was my initial reaction negative?

I keep listening to these Slate podcasts where these writers are all highly critical. They bashed “Iron Man 3,” but they bash everything. There’s a whole culture. The internet is drowning in critics, and internet critics are prone to bash, perhaps because the internet is a vast black ocean of deluded narcissism. Do you know how many websites are reviewing every single episode of “Game of Thrones”? Guys, it’s a f*cking sexy fantasy TV show with dragons. Weekly criticism is unnecessary, and kind of insane.

I’m two chapters into “Inferno.” Some unnamed mysterious guy with an important historical secret kills himself. There’s a sexy doctor helping Langdon, who doesn’t know he’s being hunted by a buff woman on a motorcycle with her hair done out in spikes. If that doesn’t sound awesome to you, then you are not a fan of Dan Brown, and your opinion of his books is most likely boring or worthless or both.

But that’s just my opinion.

DiCaprio Kills It as Tarantino-Brand Villain

There is no more awesome movie star that Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s made flicks with Spielberg, Scorsese, Eastwood, James Cameron and Ridley Scott, and it was DiCaprio whom Christopher Nolan called on for an “Inception” break from Batman movies. DiCaprio has faced off against Russell Crowe, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, and Daniel Day-Lewis. You can’t make up a guy as cool as DiCaprio – HBO tried it with “Entourage” and wasn’t even close.

But it was Quentin Tarantino who let him be bad, and he plays the hell out of Calvin Candie, the smirking, scowling man-child plantation owner who cuts his hand and rubs the blood into Django’s wife’s face in “Django Unchained.”

Polynesian Pearl Diver Leonardo DiCaprio

Tarantino is creating classic movie villains consistently now, and we should consider how he’s doing it. His writing decisions are interesting and incredibly brave. Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds” happily touted himself as “The Jew Hunter.” “If a rat were to walk in here as I’m talking,” he asks a man stashing Jews beneath the floor boards, “would you greet it with a saucer of your delicious milk?” His rant is epic, and chilling, and concludes with cold-blooded machine gun death for the family in the floor.

Christoph Waltz is brilliant in that role. He is a charming, chatty, slithery member of the Nazi party, perpetrators of some of the worst crimes in human history. Naziism is the soil from which Tarantino grew Hans Landa, and “Inglourious Basterds” is a revenge fantasy where Jews blast and explode Adolph Hitler.

That’s a good place to go for revenge plot, if you’ve got the granite nuts of Tarantino.

Of course he went from the Holocaust to slavery. And of course, once again, he grew a perfect bad guy. Calvin Candie’s cotton plantation is called Candyland. Before we meet Candie, the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz tells Django the German fairy tail about a princess named Broomhilda, placed atop a mountain surrounded by hellfire, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. When they finally get to Candyland, fire is everywhere. The first time we meet Calvin Candie, he’s watching a bloody mandingo fight happening right in front of a fire burning in a fireplace. He’s into it, yelling and cheering as the slaves scream and gouge eyes.

As the characters interact in this scene, Candie keeps alternating between steely stares and near giggles. He’s slyly charming, and because he’s written by Tarantino he gets to say things like “Roscoe, a beer for the man with the beard and I will have a Polynesian pearl diver, do not spare the rum.” Later, he sweet talks a runaway slave before letting dogs tear that slave to pieces.

And then there’s the dinner scene. “Django Unchained” is going to be remembered for this amazing dinner scene, when so much tension builds as motivations on all sides are unveiled. Imagine being DiCaprio, playing your first bad guy after all these years in film, and you get Samuel L. Jackson standing right beside you as your goofy sidekick, laughing at all your jokes and backing you up the whole way. It looks like so much fun.

The tension piles highest when Candie realizes what Django and Schultz are up to. He brings out a skull, which used to be a slave named Ben. Ben shaved his dad with a straight razor every day. “Why don’t they kill us?” he asks the room. Then he violently saws the skull apart and explains the physical aspects of black people’s brains that makes them submissive.

Then he says to Django, and this when all the truths come out, “Now Brightboy, I will admit you are pretty clever. But if I took this hammer here, and I bashed in your skull with it, you would have the same three dimples, in the same place, as old Ben here.” Then his henchman bursts through the door with a shotgun, and Calvin lets out a furious, sustained scream aimed directly at Schultz and Django. During the ensuing dialogue, Candie grabs Django’s wife, slams her head onto the table, and threatens to smash it with the hammer.

This man is so bad. But then, that’s slavery.

Of course the end is where everything explodes in grand style. Schultz can’t get over watching dogs tear that poor man apart, so even though he ultimately gets what he wants (Django’s wife freed), he kills Candie because, he says, “I couldn’t resist.” F*ck that guy. Glorious shootouts and explosions commence, but Schultz shooting Candie is the catharsis. DiCaprio is so good in the role that it’s thrilling to watch him, and richly satisfying to see him gunned down in his own parlor.

Waltz, jumping from the Jew Killer to dentist/bounty hunter, won his second Oscar in a row for a Tarantino movie. Hard to argue, because of his bright-eyed humor and complicated humanity as Dr. Schultz. But even if he gives the best performance in the movie, it isn’t the most interesting. DiCaprio must have been so grateful to play this psycho bad guy. Tarantino gives movie stars such sweet material to chew on.

Time to call Day-Lewis.

(From “Pulp Fiction’s” IMDB page: Daniel Day-Lewis … wanted the role of Vincent Vega, but Quentin Tarantino turned him down in favor of John Travolta. They just need the right part. It’ll come.)

Why Won’t the Dragonslayer Stop Watching “Die Hard” and Fight? D-Rose is Hard to Understand

“I talked to Derrick just before tipoff. He said a decision is still up in the air. Equipment manager John (Lastname) says he’s been carrying Rose’s jersey throughout the playoffs, just in case he’s ready, wakes up one day and says ‘I’m playing.'” That was from a sideline reporter during Wednesday night’s Chicago-Miami NBA playoff game. Cut to a shot of Rose on the bench, in a gray suit with a light-pink shirt. Suits look big on him.

So the Bulls are ready if Derrick Rose wakes up one day and decides to play. That report was followed on TV last night by the revelation, from game announcer Marv Albert, that “Derrick has been watching the movie ‘A Good Day To Die Hard,’ starring Bruce Willis, every day since he’s been here in Miami. And he watched it twice on Sunday.”

Derrick_BenchSteve Kerr, his co-commentator, then said “I don’t know, is there a hidden  meaning in there? I didn’t see the movie. That’s, like, ‘Die Hard 9’ or something like that.” And then, as soon as he was done saying that, LeBron James threw down a huge alley-oop off a near-half-the-court-length pass from Dwyane Wade.

No one saw that movie! Right? I worship “Die Hard,” (click here) and even I didn’t think about seeing “Live Free or Die Hard.” Why is Derrick Rose watching that movie so much? Why won’t he play?

“Undefeated,” which just won the Best Documentary Oscar, is about a few players on a Memphis high-school football team. One of those players, Money, blows out his knee. He keeps visiting the doctor and he keeps crying as the doctor regretfully informs him his knee isn’t strong enough to let him play. We’ve seen this in “Friday Night Lights” (the nonfiction book) and in “Hoop Dreams.” High school kids are totally desperate for their doctors to give them permission to play, so they can rejoin their teammates. When they can’t play they cry. The first day they’re allowed, they’re in.

Why do high school players go back as soon as they’re allowed but an NBA superstar doesn’t?

Derrick Rose blew out his knee last year and had surgery. Doctors cleared him to play two months ago, according to ESPN. He’s 24, was MVP, has an endearingly soft-spoken and humble personality. D-Rose is beloved – a fast, powerful point guard on the Chicago Bulls. And before this season started, Adidas (his shoe sponsor) ran an ad campaign that re-showed us the game he got injured and dramatized the entire city of Chicago suddenly stuck in slow motion because everyone there was so devastated. Then the commercial showed Rose working his ass off to rehab, and getting back on the court.

He’s cleared to play. He’s been scrimmaging against teammates. His dunks in pregame warmups are impressing. His team has already taken a game from LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Heat is perhaps one of the best teams ever, looking to win LeBron’s second championship. LeBron just won the NBA MVP award for the fourth time in five years. Rose is the reason it wasn’t his fifth in a row.

Nate Robinson, who is 5-foot-7 and playing out of his crazy-ass mind, was talking so much trash in guys’ faces Wednesday night he got a technical foul. The Heat’s tattooed power forward Bird Man was, likewise, assessed a technical foul for acting like he wanted to beat Bulls players up. Fights keep almost breaking out. These are scrappy rivalry games, and they’re awesome.

LeBron dominated Wednesday night (such beautiful passing) in a blowout Heat win, but this series is just getting started. It’s best-of-7, and the teams are tied 1-1. Rose could do something amazing here. Why doesn’t he?

He’ll be back Friday. It’s set up like the commercial. Legend time

Derrick-Rose-crossover-highlights-Andre-Miller

The good old days. TNT’s announcers wondered if it would be too difficult to integrate Rose back into the lineup, but he could probably take some of Marco Belinelli’s minutes.

 

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