Monday, May 20, 2013

Iconned myself again

I made another trip to the dollar store (have I mentioned I do this for fre--oh, yeah, I did, several times. Forget I wrote anything about it) and, impulsive dreamer I am, I gambled another buck on another pack of Panini Americana Heroes & Icons cards. If you need a refresher, click HERE for what I found in the first pack several weeks ago.

After opening another quintet of these cards, I hereby suggest another moniker for this series: Panini Presidents, Swimmers, and Astronauts. There just ain't a lot of variety in this assortment of "heroes and icons," and I suggest the good folks at Panini expand their definition of those terms next time out. I would love to see a fireman, Matter-Eater Lad, even a hero sandwich--anything except another Olympic swimmer (though my Summer Sanders exception still applies).

Now, I can't complain about the best card I got this time: Abraham Lincoln. You could argue a George Washington card would too it, but that would be like arguing about a Reggie Jackson or a Shooty Babitt. I mean, they're both awesome, right? And this Abe card is pretty cool, though the text on the back doesn't even give George Washington a place at the table:

To the overwhelming majority of historians there is no debating that Lincoln was our greatest president."

Whoa! That's pretty definitive, Panini. I hope you'd keep a more open mind when choosing between Reggie and Shooty.

After ol' Honest Abe, anything might seem a letdown. President William McKinley suffers a little bit from being in the same pack with one of the all-time greats. Hey, I just noticed two assassinated chief execs in one group of cards--that's a little odd.

Next up, it's swimmer time, and today's athlete is Rowdy Gaines. He seems a decent enough guy, and I always have love for those '84 Olympians in particular,, yeah.

Then we get to the requisite astronaut portion of our pack, and this time out it's Charles Duke and Dick Gordon. Again, much respect to our moonwalkers, but two of them? I would rather have had a little more variety WITHIN the pack, let alone among the two I've bought.

So I think I'm done with the Heroes & Icons cards. I'm only gonna be disappointed by the presidents, swimmers, and astronauts from here on out. At 20 cents a card, these are kind of cool, but I still think my money would be better spent looking for 1982 Shooty Babbits.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Brooks on Books: The Great American Cereal Book by Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis

When my sister gave me this for Christmas, she almost apologized. She knew I was getting a lot of Kindle books, and I think maybe she feared I had moved on from regular, old books. But that is not the case, not at all, especially when those regular, old books are as well designed and as "The Great American Cereal Book."

It's a hefty and sturdy but easily browsed hardcover volume that is designed to look like a smaller version of a cereal box. The spine even has a white "Nutrition Facts" box listing serving size, ingredients, and percentage of daily value (like Sugar: 100%). We are informed that it "MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS." This is a nice touch that shows the care put into the book.

Once you open the book, you get something that's laid out much like an encyclopedia. The story of cereal begins with a brief origin, and then it's arranged by different eras (the last one is 1981-2010), with each chronological chapter beginning with a brief text history of that time period. Then there is an alphabetical listing of individual cereals from that era, with each concise entry detailing the manufacturer, the dates it started and ended (if it did), the ingredients, and fun facts like different variations that appeared and celebrities and fictional characters used to promote it. Occasional sidebars like "The Cap'n Crunch Story" take several pages to examine a given topic or a specific cereal in depth. Throughout the book, the text is crisp, and the overall layout makes a smooth, pleasurable reading experience.

But, hey, did I mention the illustrations?

Oh, are there illustrations in "The Great American Cereal Book." Not every entry has an accompanying picture, but there are tons of great shots of cereal boxes, many of them taking up a full page, all in glorious color. There are also examples of magazine and comic ads as well as promotional items and giveaways. The authors subtitled this "How Breakfast Got Its Crunch," and you do get a good overview of the history of this food item, but the main appeal here, and the reason why I didn't want a Kindle version of this, is all the fantastic pictures.

I don't know if the selection of cereals is comprehensive, but there sure are a lot of obscure ones included alongside the famous supermarket staples. As a test, I looked for one particular not so fondly remembered effort from back in the day. As soon as I held the book in my hands and saw how it was set up, I went to the back and leafed through its pages hoping to find this test item. Not only is it included, but it has a full-page illustration of a sample box, a typically bombastic example of how offensive this item and its source material was. I am talking about that short-lived phenomenon known as...


As soon as I saw that, I figured the book was all right with me. Reading the whole thing did not disappoint. "The Great American Cereal Book" is a "regular, old book" from Abrams that looks gorgeous and is full of interesting information. It earns a strong recommendation for anyone with any interest in this kind of thing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Cloud Atlas: This is the most significant new movie on DVD this week, and it's also probably the most confusing. Not that I saw it. Or did I? Maybe this is the kind of ambiguity the movie gives you. Or maybe it isn't. Whatever this film is, it seems like the fact that Tom Hanks agreed to do it is yet another reason why he is the coolest Hollywood type around. And I think anything the Wachowski siblings (I finally remembered not to say brothers) is worth seeing. Unless it's "Speed Racer."

Liz and Dick: It's a sad week when this is arguably the SECOND most significant new movie on DVD. This the train wreck of a TV movie starring that train wreck of an actr--uh, movie sta--uh, celb--uh, that train wreck Lindsay Lohan. This video should come pre-packaged with an assortment of miniature vodka bottles.

Frankie Go Boom: I highlight this just because it stars Chris O'Dowd, and it gives me a reason to mention that his Britcom "The IT Crowd"  is coming back for a wrap-up special.

Back to 1942: An oddity here: A Chinese movie starring Adrian Brody and Tim Robbins. If this is who they're luring over there to headline their films, well, suddenly I'm not so worried about Chinese domination anymore.

3:10 to Yuma (Criterion): A few years ago, I saw the James Mangold remake, simply titled "Yuma," BEFORE I saw this Glenn Ford-starring original, and you know what? I actually preferred the remake. It was tough enough to say that in public, but now that Criterion has designated the original as worthy of its Collection...well, I feel like just about the most ignorant cuss out there. I was clearly wrong.

Jubal (Criterion): Well, I can--nay, I must--also now acknowledge that "Jubal" is an undisputed classic, as it, too, joins the Criterion Collection. I can only thank the heavens that a sharp remake of it didn't come out in the last decade and force me to look like a complete ass by praising it.

Wrestlemania XXIX: WWE's annual extravaganza was filled with public relations, music, public service announcements, tributes to corporate partnerships, and, oh, yeah, some wrestling. You'll get the wrestling on this DVD.

And in streaming...

I give Hulu credit for being much more reliable lately. Maybe I should curse it, actually, because its consistent performance allowed me to watch, against my better judgment, several episodes of the One Life to Live revamp. I've never been a soap guy--I prefer body wash--but I think these iconic programs, and relaly this genre, deserves a place somewhere. So I support the efforts of OLTL and All My Children, and I hope this experiment goes well.

Having said that, I have hundreds of titles in my Netflix queue, many of them entire TV series. I have a Hulu queue that is overstuffed, though to a lesser extent.  Do I really need another option? No. No, I do not.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On the Road: PNC Park (Part 3)

Still MORE stuff I learned while watching some baseball with my father in the 'Burgh...

*"Turn It On Again" by Genesis is a pretty cool song in the right circumstance: PNC Park played this Wednesday night to get the fans excited...then abandoned it. Hey, it's a pretty good "get pumped" song. I am all in favor of more Philbert Collins at the ballpark. I would support a campaign to make him Official MLB Ambassador of Getting Pumped.

*The National Anthem is also pretty stirring, even in a 'Burgh accent: Before Wednesday's game, the Steel City Enrico Caruso several rows behind us sang along to the "Star Spangled Banner" in full Pittsburgh voice. In fact, I was surprised the guy didn't sing, "O, say, can yinz see?"

After his spirited, entertaining, but not disrespectful rendition, the guy told his companions he was "fired up." Was it the game? Was it the song? Was it Phil Collins? I suspect it was the beer, as I heard him mention he had been drinking earlier. (Un)fortunately, he was pretty quiet once the game started.

*Pittsburghers, like fans everywhere, can have the dumbest arguments: And of course the level of discourse in the stands is inversely proportionate to the amount of beer flowing. The second night we were at the yard, Dad and I overheard some of the most inane chatter imaginable. A fan of that night's visitor, the Atlanta Braves, was in a heated running debate with some tanked hometown faithful about 10 rows down.

I can only hint at the conversation because we unfortunately forgot to send a self-addressed stamped envelope and request a transcript before we left town. Basically the talk degenerated quickly into hockey boasting, with the Bucco booster asking, "Does your town have an NHL team?" He said it more like a statement than a question, as if it alone was the definitive end to the baseball argument they were having. This led, of course, to an attempt to compare Stanley Cups won and Super Bowl rings.

The oddest thing about this chat session, and the thing that made it one of the most absurd I've ever heard in my life, was the fact that the Atlanta representative was wearing a Pirates hat. This stimulated a natural question, namely, "Why are you wearing a Pirates hat?" The unhelpful but amusing (to us) reply? "I NEVER liked them!"

This whole scenario was a solid argument in favor of cutting off beer sales at a certain point in the game, but I will say that at no point did it become too obnoxious. It mostly ran throughout the evening as occasionally jarring but mostly entertaining background chatter. Dodger fans get to take a radio and listen to Vin Scully as they sit and enjoy a game; Pirate fans get to sit back, stretch out, and take in the sounds of intelligent conversation such as that.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stuff I Scrambled to See on Netflix Before It Expired Theater (Part 1)

The May 1 Massacre which decimated my queue ultimately had much less impact than I feared; within days most of my missing titles returned. But, oh, what fun I had in April scrambling to see a lot of the more interesting and/or rare movies while I still could (so I thought). Here then are capsule reviews of some of the stuff I saw:

High School Hellcats (1958): This teen exploitation flick isn't as lurid as it sounds (and might I say, "Damn!"), but it is an entertaining saga of a sweet girl who falls in with the bad crowd at her new school. Actually, though her parents seem like complete tools, it's hard to fathom why she would hang with the Hellcats gang at all. They don't have much going for them other than sass and matching jackets, and she herself doesn't need any social assistance. She finds a nice older soda jerk who clearly has no qualms about dating high school chicks and starts a relationship with him even while experiencing some misadventures. It all culminates in a tragedy and then a scene that's shot like a horror movie. It's worth watching for genre fans--teen exploitation, that is, not necessarily horror, unless you find bobby soxers as fearsome as mummies.

GORP (1980): Oh, this is a horrible film. It's poorly written, directed, acted, and it's cheap, derivative, and tasteless. Yet it's absolutely worth seeing. I believe this is a "so bad it's good" kind of movie, but I warn you that you might well disagree.

It's a raunchy teen comedy about hijinks among the staff at a summer camp. Only problem is it's not very funny. Oh, it strains for wackiness, but though it uses just about every teen sex comedy trope you can think of (I think all it's missing is the scene in which the guys drill a hole in the wall to watch the girls shower), none of it works.

It is worth watching in a weird way, though, to see how flat it is and also catch a glimpse of the stars of tomorrow (well, now they're the stars of yesterday) like Fran Drescher and Rosanna Arquette. Michael Lembeck has the "honor" of headlining this fiasco, but the one who steals the show (and you can tell they really intended him to be the breakout Bluto Blutarsky of this thing) is Dennis Quaid, who makes a complete ass of himself as Mad Bob Grossman. He snarls, he cackles, and he moons, and he's totally over the top all the way.

Canon City (1948): Somehow this prison breakout movie never connected with me the way I hoped, but I'm not gonna say I'm not recommending it. I strongly suspect the John Alton cinematography would have been more impressive had Netflix offered a better copy of the film; after all, John Alton cinematography rules the world. There are some tense moments, and the movie picks up once the convicts hit the road, but it just never hit that next level for me. Maybe I'll give it another shot the next time it's set to expire in two weeks.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On the Road: PNC Park (Part 2)

More things I learned while at PNC Park watching the Buccos with my dad a few weeks ago:

1) Baseball is not exactly huge in the 'Burgh right now: At least it wasn't in the middle of the week in April when the Penguins are still playing. I didn't expect sellouts for Wednesday and Thursday night games when school was still in, but I expected a bit more than we saw for the Cardinals and Braves. Oh, well. I was pleased to see that among those who WERE there, many of them were young--not just small children dragged by their folks, but teenagers and people in their 20s. Who says baseball is just an old person's sport?

Seriously, who? I wanted to quote them here, but I couldn't find them.

2) If you want wings, show up early: One night, we decided, hey, we had a seat in the front row with a rail ahead of us, nobody was sitting in our row, we could stretch out and relax--why not share a bucket of wings? Oh, yeah! The wings were tasty and provided some of the best overall value in the entire place, but our options were limited because the concession stand had run out of 2 of the 4 sauces.

Who the hell operates a wing stand that runs out of wing sauce before game time in the middle of a homestand, with a weekend series coming up, no less? Apparently, the Best Ballpark in America!

I repeat, the wings were great, but still, that was odd. And speaking of bizarre...

3) The Pirates have some weird-ass scoreboard videos: The team rotates through a series of pre-produced videos showing each player and runs them on the big board as they come to the plate. The oddest assortment is comprised of the player doing a serious pose, then turning to the camera as we FREEZE FRAME.

That would be innocuous enough if not for the fact that the shot lingers on the giant scoreboard while the at-bat occurs, creating an awkward situation for everyone: The players because they are trying to hit 95-mile-an-hour fastballs while gargantuan mug shot of themselves loom high over the outfield, the fans because the effect is reminiscent of "Police Squad."

Remember how at the end of every episode, everyone, or almost everyone, would remain motionless as if they were in a cheesy freeze frame but they were really just staying still while the cameras rolled? Yeah, these scoreboard videos are kind of like that.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Jack Reacher: I know a lot of people still think of Tom Cruise as a big deal, and this novel series has its fans, but the name sounds too much like Arthur Treacher to me, and that just takes me out of it. Maybe if The Rock were playing him, I could take this seriously. Then again, "The Rock IS Jack Reacher" sounds like an altogether different kind of film, doesn't it?

Mama: It's not uncommon for an actress to win an Oscar, then find a trashy horror flick hit theaters months later. For Jessica Chastain, it's "Mama."

Safe Haven: I think it is time for two things to happen: 1) Nicholas Sparks' name should go before the title in all Nicholas Sparks movies, and subsequently 2) We can officially pre-judge and make fun of Nicholas Sparks movies the way we do Tyler Perry efforts.

In the Hive: I really know nothing about this movie except that it was directed by Robert Townsend, and I am somehow comforted and pleased by the fact that he's still getting films made. That's all I wanted to say.

Superman Unbound:  Get yourself ready for the big screen disappointment coming this summer with a direct to video animated feature. These things almost never let me down.

Have Gun Will Travel: The Final Season: Talk about "Slow and steady wins the race." It's ridiculous that it's in split season sets, but still, the whole series is finally out there, and that's a good thing.

In Streaming, the big news was the brouhaha produced by Netflix dropping thousands of titles from its Instant Watching roster, or letting them expire. A false report that Warner Brothers was poaching them for its Warner Archive Instant service spread quickly. There were a lot of big pronouncements about the future of Netflix. My own queue shrunk by over 30% overnight.

There wasn't nearly the same amount of noise when many of those titles reappeared a day or two later.

Me, I was overjoyed. Yeah, some of my mad watching spree of April was "wasted" in the sense that I scrambled to catch a lot of titles that didn't actually go away, but, hey, the expiration date gave me a deadline and prompted me to actually SEE a bunch of those movies sitting in my queue for so long.

And many of the returning movies are in fact the ones I most hated to see go: Monograms, Allied Artists, and other miscellaneous pre-1970 catalog titles. This is the stuff I wish Netflix carried MORE of, so when the great May 1 Massacre occurred and company reps were quoted mentioning exclusivity this and choosy this, I was worried. Many pundits saw this as an end to the "all you can eat" approach and a move to a more selective model Netflix would use, and we all know what happens when media entities change their focus: The older stuff is the first to go.

That's why I was so gratified to see a lot of those old movies come back. What irritated me most about this whole affair was not the loss of so many movies in the first place, annoying as it was, but rather the snide commentary in the media about the lackluster nature of the departed--a judgment seemingly based on nothing more than the fact that they were "OLD."  That kind of coverage doesn't bode well for the prospects of Netflix looking into more adventurous avenues of rare and obscure catalog programming instead of spending millions on original series.

Monday, May 6, 2013

On the road: PNC Park (part 1)

My dad and I enjoyed an outstanding road trip to see a few Pirates games at PNC Park a few weeks ago, and I learned a lot during our visit to the Best Ballpark in America. This week Here is some of the wisdom I can pass along to you:

1) PNC Park is the Best Ballpark in America: Don't believe me? Just ask anyone that works there. It's on banners, it's in their promotional videos...I suspect if we had gotten a speeding citation within earshot of the stadium, the cop would have scribbled it on the ticket. Hey, when your team hasn't had a winning season since 1992, this is the kind of thing you market.

2) Manny's there on the weekends: It seems like every major league stadium has a food stand area that is allegedly owned and operated by a former team standout. At PNC, Manny's BBQ sells...salads and low-fat smoothies. No, I'm kidding; it sells BBQ, and I suppose it sells the prestige of eating at former Bucco catcher Manny Sanguillen's place. In reality, the pulled pork was pretty good, but there wasn't an actual "place" with tables so much as a tent where you paid for and then left to go find somewhere to stand and eat, and the old backstop wasn't there. A guy came up as we were getting our grub and asked, "Where's the old catcher?" In fact he asked it several times before he grasped what the worker told him, that he only shows up on the weekends (this was Wednesday, and Manny must have been at home prepping another colossal batch of BBQ sauce). "Tell him his old golfing buddy ___ showed up to say hi," the guy said. I guess he wanted a little more of a connection that just a sandwich. The woman staffing the BBQ stand, to her credit, didn't roll her eyes.

3) Manny may not be there, but the camera is ALWAYS there: One evening, during one of those ubiquitous "let's show fans dancing while we blare rock music" segments between innings, the giant scoreboard showed men and women, young and old, all getting down to U2's "Vertigo." Then we suddenly got a shot of a girl about 7 or 8 who was finding a different kind of groove--a tunnel in her right nostril, one she was digging with her own finger. Not all Pirates fans like to search for buried treasure, but, yes, some of us do.

She realized right away she was on the big board and yanked that finger out, clearly mortified, but at that point it was too late. The segment was no longer about enjoying the music. My dad and I felt terrible for the poor little girl. Oh, we laughed our asses off, of course, but we felt terrible.

More to come this week. Stay tuned!

5Q Movie Review: Dredd (2012)

Yes, the 5Q Movie Review returns! I do see a movie that's less than 20 years old now and then, and I enjoy writing about it in this format. Recently I gambled a buck or so at a Redbox kiosk and went home with "Dredd."

Q: Is this a reboot of the Sly Stallone version?
A: Kind of, but it's been long enough that I say, let's not even mention that version, OK? Last year Cinemax was running it frequently, so I thought I'd revisit it despite the palpable disappointment my father and I felt seeing it in that original theatrical run.

I think I lasted about 10 minutes. I had forgotten just how much Rob Schneider there was in "Dredd." I mean, it's one thing to have a character be the audience's "entree into the setting," but I was seeing tons of Schneider and no Judge Dredd, so I bailed.

Uh, but, yeah, as I was saying, let's not even mention that one.

Q: Does it do justice (heh heh) to the comic books?
A: Unlike that previous version--oops, there I go mentioning it again--it does. I haven't read any Judge Dredd comics in years, but from what I remember, yeah, this is pretty good. Karl Urban does a great job as the titular lawman, a cop who also serves as judge, jury, and executioner in the dystopic Mega City One. Unlike in certain other adaptations, Urban doesn't take off his helmet so we can admire his movie star face. He stays true to his print identity.

Psychic female judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) is his partner in this story, and one clever move the filmmakers do is to make her a rookie so that SHE is her accessible point into the world...not Rob Schneider. And Judge Anderson kicks ass. Thirlby is physically credible in this dynamic action role but also pulls off a blend of toughness and relative innocence that creates a complex character who serves as a welcome contrast to the jaded, laconic Dredd.

Q: Didn't this bomb at the box office? Is it really worth seeing?
A: I've read that it has found new life on video. Perhaps people just didn't know much about the Judge Dredd character. After all, he's a British phenomenon, and casual comic book fans over here have no idea what he's about. I hope this is doing well on DVD because while I don't think it'll ever make a blockbuster summer popcorn event, it could easily sustain a franchise. This movie pretty much shows Dredd and Anderson dealing with a single city block, but there are many elements from the comics on which to draw.

Q: Is it as dark as other recent comic book movies?
A: It has literal darkness, and Mega City One is a pretty depressing sight. The story shows criminality, gang activity, and drug use run amok, and the fascist approach to law enforcement may be quite grim indeed even to viewers who acknowledge that it looks...well, necessary. Yet the movie has a sense of humor, not in the sense of loading up the dialogue with forced wisecracks, but in the sense of being a fun ride.

The villain, gang leader/drug dealer, Ma-Ma, is played with a smile (literally, and it's a wicked one) by Lena Headey. She has enough charisma to pull it off, and she is pretty damn evil, but...come on, she's named Ma-Ma.

Q: Was it worth your buck?
A: I must confess it's actually more like $1.20, but I had a coupon code that made it closer to 70 cents. Hell, yeah, it was worth that. I may not have felt I got bang for my buck had I paid to see "Dredd" at a cineplex on a Saturday night, but as a video rental, it was a fantastic viewing experience. It's really a cool B-movie, and I don't mean that in a bad way. It's filled with action, and while there are character moments, no time is wasted on explaining the back story of Dredd. There are hints of deeper elements to his character, but there isn't a flashback scene to explain his origin and "fill us in." And we don't need it. We learn quickly who he is and what we need to know. Anderson's back story is more explicit, but it is revealed in layers that tie into the story and her situation.

"Dredd" is a lot of fun, and I hope there is a sequel or two. As long as they can keep Urban, and maybe keep the budget down, maybe they can crank these out and make enough money to keep everyone happy while drawing on the long tradition of the British comics that spawned this character. Future installments could explore the sociopolitical elements of the Dredd universe, but I was fine with this action-centered, no frills flick.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Something weird is going on at ESPN

ESPN, which could credibly be called ESPNFL, used to run a "Football Today" podcast--not nearly often enough to satisfy its loyal listeners (I was one of them), but it was a regular part of the network's web presence even during the offseason.

A few months ago, host Ross Tucker's contract expired, and he left the network and the show. A similar thing happened last year, with Tucker in limbo as negotiations went on, but he then returned. Not so this time, however; in fact, ex-OL Tucker, a sharp guy who takes the sport seriously but keeps it in perspective, while never taking HIMSELF too seriously,  has started the aptly named "Ross Tucker Football Podcast," with a similar tone, similar features, even some of the same sponsors. Furthermore, he's doing his show 3 times a week, in stark contrast to ESPN's former once-a-week offseason schedule.

Of course, Tucker's show (which has already proved to be an excellent source of insight for the serious football fan) stands in even starker contrast to "Football Today's" current ZERO times a week schedule. After Tucker's departure, longtime show guest and co-host Matt Williamson, a former scout, took over hosting duties for several episodes until suddenly it was announced he was leaving and the show was on hiatus. I'm not sure what happened here, but who knows what ESPN is thinking? It revamped its baseball podcast this year, too, handing it over to Buster Olney, and perhaps it wanted on-air talent to be on the podcast that covered its signature sport. That makes sense. Not having any kind of NFL podcast during the draft season makes zero sense.

Does anybody know what's going on here? Why would a sports media empire that loves to push all things NFL all the time go silent with one of its flagship podcasts? Surely it has some kind of  plan, but then again, I can't imagine any kind of solid plan would allow the show to go dark for several weeks during such a high-profile stretch for the league.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My pack of Americana Heroes & Legends cards

After the fun I had opening some 2013 baseball cards a few weeks back, I may have stretched my luck by trying it with the "Panini Americana Heroes & Legends" pack I got at the dollar store (Have I mentioned that I do this blog for free?). Sure, it was only a buck, but there were only 5 cards, and I didn't really get the equivalent of a Buster Posey. Here's what I DID get:

George H.W. Bush: OK, so the former Prez is a Big Deal, and he is clearly the most prestigious card I got. You can argue about whether he's more a hero or a legend (got to at least give him props for all those combat missions in WWII, I say), you can argue his politics and globoecomomic connections, you can argue what the hell he was up to on November 22, 1963 (that's a topic for another blog, and even mentioning it probably just marked me as both a conspiracy nut and a CIA front), but he IS an ex-president.

Unfortunately, he's Ex-President George H.W. Bush. I now know what it must have felt like to be a kid tearing open a pack of Topps in the sixties and seeing a Yankee card, only to discover it was Tom Tresh.

Sally Ride: Is it wrong that I can't look at this woman's name without singing "Mustang Sally"? Yes, it is, if for no other reason than I am a terrible singer of "Mustang Sally." (But you should hear me tear it up on "In the Midnight Hour!") She was the first woman in space, and that's pretty cool, but...I don't know, she's not even wearing a spacesuit on the card's photo. It looks like NASA went to the mall and got everybody's picture taken.

Gary Hall Jr.:This great American swimmer won 10 Olympic medals, according to the text on the card back, including 4 in Sydney in 2000.Ultimately, though, this is a dude in a swimsuit. No disrespect to this world-class athlete, but I would sure rather have had Summer Sanders.

Edgar Mitchell: Now, HERE's an astronaut with an actual spacesuit on! it's a grainy photo, but that somehow makes it cooler. It looks as if it was taken right after he was on the moon--or maybe WHILE he was on the moon (There's actual no portrait gallery on the moon, but there's probably a Sbarro's)! This shows you how nonchalant we are in this country about the space program these days, though: Instead of marveling at getting a trading card of an Apollo 14 astronaut, I actually kind of winced, thinking, "Aw, TWO astronauts in the same pack? Come on!"

Alex Morgan: I must admit I yawned when I saw the card of this women's soccer player. I assure you folks that I would have been just as bored if it were a men's soccer player.

Those are the 5 Heroes & Legends I received for my buck. Personally I think the George Washington I exchanged for the pack was the biggest icon in the bunch, and I wish there were more variety with less contemporary selections. I can't say I won't be tempted to try again, though, next time I'm at the dollar store.(Have I mentioned that I do this blog for free?)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Silver Linings Playbook: I may be oversimplifying the premise of this hit/Oscar contender somewhat, but as I understand it, David O. Russell's film equates mental illness with rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a major cinematic breakthrough that I think we all slept on last year. It's about time we got that kind of truth telling in American cinema again. You know, like Rudy Ray Moore used to give us.

Broken City: A guy deals with a corrupt system in a "broken city." How can a city be broken unless, say, Godzilla, is smashing it? Well, we can all agree that somehow Detroit would qualify as a broken city, but otherwse...give me Godzilla! The fact is seen this kind movie dozens of times before, but I'll always be willing to give this movie a shot. Interesting cast in this version, too--Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was off the radar for a while and now seems to turn up on this list every week.  I'd love to see this cast interact with Godzilla.

Not Fade Away: David Chase tells a highly personal tale about rock and roll in the 1960s. We know the title is authentic because Chase, of course, doesn't fade away; he just cuts right to a black screen.

The Guilt Trip: No, no, no, NO! This is one of those movies that offends just by virtue of--of being. I give Seth Rogen credit for trying to sell this one. Actually, I don't. He was probably high the whole time.

Ben Hur: I hardly KNEW her! (Sorry, I have a cold this week, and I blame it for shorting my brain) Not the Chuck Heston classic, but rather the version that aired on Ovation. This one looked surprisingly credible, and so did Kristin Kruek. Lovely lass, but I wouldn't have thought of her for a period epic.

WWE Best of In Your House: Ah, travel back to the days when the WWF (as it was then) expanded its PPV lineup with a foray into monthly, lower-cost events. Of course now the thing that seems quaint is "the "lower-cost" part.

In Streaming...

The big news is thousands of catalog titles expiring from Netflix today, but, hey, titles are, uh, trickling in all the time...or at least most of the time. Wouldja believe...every now and then? Here are a few added Instant Watch titles this past week:

What to Exect When You're Expecting: Well, I think the idea of adapting the perennial bestseller is a bit silly, but I'll bet this film is a hell of a lot more entertaining than the one I saw in junior high Health.

Small Town Security Season 1: There are some shows that arrive on Netflix and make you feel good about being a subscriber. Then there are shows that arrive on Netflix and make you feel sorry you own a television. Fortunately I got most of my "Small Town Security" angst out of my system when in aired on AMC as a spectacularly ill-suited companion for "Breaking Bad."

Hoodwinked Too: I thought the first one was terrible, and somehow the use of "Too" to delineate the sequel doesn't fill me with hope of improvement.