Excessive Coca Cola Blamed in Woman’s Death

News of the bizarre, for sure:

Not too terribly surprisingly, Coca Cola issued a statement noting that the very excessive use/abuse of any food/drink product can produce serious health issues.

Still, very sad to read this, considering the woman’s relatively young age and the fact that she was a mother.  If one were to look for blame, I wouldn’t put it on Coca Cola the product, but rather on the family and friends of the woman in question.  They must have known that her health was in serious decline and should have done something to change her unhealthy habits.  Of course, the woman herself should have recognized her daily intake of Coca Cola was too much.  It certainly appears she developed an acute addiction to the product, something I didn’t think possible.

The full story is here:

http://www.aol.com/video/excessive-cocacola-blamed-in-womans-death/517340828/

Disney Chairman resigns after John Carter failure

Interesting (and fairly brief) article from CNN regarding Disney chairman Rich Ross resigning from his position as chairman at Walt Disney Studios after the film John Carter cost the studio a $200 million dollar loss:

http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/20/news/companies/rich-ross-john-carter/

I suppose someone’s head had to roll after the failure of that movie.

And yet…

The film’s score on RottenTomatoes.com was a very mediocre 51% among critics yet a decent enough 68% positive among audiences (read that here).  While these results may not be superb, one can’t help but wonder why the film seemed to keep people away in droves.

Looking over the comments in that article, there is much speculation about why the film failed.  Some felt that the movies massive $100 million marketing campaign was to blame, that they hadn’t even heard of the film until it was out and/or gone.  Others speculated that the film was hampered by using unknown actors instead of more recognizable faces.  Still others felt the fault lay in the very bland name of the film.

But the one thing I noted was that several posted comments, by people who appeared to have avoided the film entirely, noted that the whole thing looked silly and/or stupid.

The film’s failure can probably be attributed to all those things listed above, but I believe it is that last element that truly sealed the movie’s fate.  I recall rumors seeped out well before the film was released that Disney Studio heads were uneasy about the movie, even as they pumped massive amounts of money into its budget.  There was the feeling at least to me, that this film had the potential to be very bad.  When the promotional material finally came along, an already bad situation got worse.  Posters for the film were bland, plain and, frankly, underwhelming.  The theatrical trailers, likewise, were uninspired.  They didn’t give one much reason to think the final product was worth going to.

By that point, the early unease about John Carter became something much worse.  With the combination of rumors and at best mediocre advertisement, audiences now anticipated a bad film.  Not surprisingly, they were thus unwilling to spent their hard earned money on it, even in spite of early, generally positive audience reactions.  Nothing could convince many to give the movie a chance, something I still see reflected in some of the comments on that CNN article website.

I suppose the bottom line is this:  The studios need to try their best to keep any –any– negative early word from leaving their doors and making its way to the internet (I know, just about impossible to do).  And if you’re going to spent $100 million on advertising your product, then make sure the firm you hired and spent that much money on actually does this well.

I suppose all this is easier said than done, hindsight is 20/20, and all those other cliches.  Regardless, I still scratch my head at how colossal a failure this film proved to be, especially when, in the end, it doesn’t seem like it was all that terrible to begin with.

10 Movie Errors That Bug You…

Love the concept behind this list, from Entertainment Weekly:

http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20483133_20588281,00.html

There are a few movies with “errors” in them, both annoying and, at least to me, humorous/delightful.

The one I found very annoying?

In the 1995 sci-fi movie Twelve Monkeys, Bruce Willis plays a man who may be out of his mind…or possibly a time traveler sent from the future to save humanity from a devastating virus that is about to be released.  In the course of the movie (no big spoiler here), Willis’ character is very disoriented and the people he meet, naturally, don’t quite believe him when he says he is a time traveler.

In one sequence in the film, he is suddenly thrust in the middle of a battle in the Civil War.  He sustains a bullet wound to his leg before coming back to the movie’s “present”.  In the present, the bullet is removed and its examination proves very important to the movie’s plot.  For you see, when the bullet is examined, a character discovers it is “from the Civil War”.  This, in turn, convinces another character that Mr. Willis isn’t crazy after all, that he is telling the truth about his time traveling.

HOWEVER, what bugged me was this:  How did they know -and so quickly and convincingly- that the bullet was from the Civil War?  The movie implies the people examining the bullet dated it by, perhaps, using some kind of carbon dating.  But if you think about it, that makes no sense.  Willis’ character traveled back to the Civil War era, sustained the wound, and was then almost immediately transported back to the present.  The bullet within him, thus, might be an “older” model bullet, but it would be *brand new* to anyone examining it.

Now, this scene would have worked far more effectively if when the bullet was examined the examiner said: “Say, this model of bullet is of a type they used back in the Civil War!”  However, that was not what was said or implied.  It was clear that the examiner knew the bullet was from the Civil War.

I suppose its a small annoyance, but given the significance to the movie’s plot, that bit really bugged me.

Now, to the film with errors that, instead of bugging me, amused and delights me:

In the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever (Sean Connery’s last “official” outing as the super spy), one should watch very carefully some of the stunt work in and around Las Vegas.  For example, when James Bond is driving around in the moon buggy, toward the end of the chase if you look carefully on the left side of the screen, you’ll see that one of the moon buggy’s wheels came off just outside camera range when the final pursing car does its flip (this happens at the 2:33 second mark of the clip below):

A second amusing screw up occurs just a little later and also involves stunt work.  In this case, James Bond is being pursued by people while driving a screaming red Mustang.  He goes into a too tight alley and has to drive the car on two wheels.

Only problem?  He goes into the alley using the car’s right side wheels but comes out of the alley on the left side wheels!  This occurs in the following clip at the 3:45 second mark.

They tried to fix the above glitch with a little moving camera work, implying that somehow in the alley the car switched sides, but clearly this was a goof!

Mind you, I still absolutely LOVE Diamonds Are Forever.  I think these goof ups add to the movie’s charm and most certainly are not errors that “bug” me.  There are those who hate the film, but I happen to think its a great action/comedy.  Perhaps more of a comedy than the typical Sean Connery Bond films, but I love it nonetheless.

2012 Summer Movie Madness!

Haven’t been as frequently to the theaters as I used to be (or want to be!), but looking over this list of upcoming 2012 summer movie releases, this is what I thought:

Firstly, there are a lot of films being released, many of which I may be interested in…and many I either don’t know enough about or don’t really care to see (nothing new here!).

There are five I’m borderline interested in (ie I will give them a look, but most likely when they’re eventually released to video):  The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (provided the film is a comedy…the trailer seemed a little too serious given the outrageous title/concept), The Bourne Legacy (a Bourne film without Matt Damon and with Jeremy Renner?  Might it work?), Total Recall (despite all the booing and hissing from people who feel it sacrilege to remake director Paul Verhoeven’s original film, I thought that film was, at best, only OK, certainly not on the level of his much better Robocop.  The trailer to the remake has me intrigued, though I’m not a huge fan of director Len Wiseman), and, finally, The Expendables 2.

There are only a couple of films, at least so far, I know I will make a great deal of effort to see when they are eventually released:  Prometheus, far and away, has me the most intrigued, though I worry some of the movie’s trailers have given away a little too much plot.  Regardless, like many others, I’m seriously interested in seeing director Ridley Scott’s return not only to science fiction, but also to the alien “universe”.

The other film I will try hard to see is The Dark Knight Rises, the concluding film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  While Mr. Nolan’s works may not always completely knock me out, he’s clearly a man who puts a great deal of effort into each of his works and it shows.  I hope this one is on the level of the others.

Finally, the movie I’m finding it most difficult to build any big excitement about:  The Amazing Spider-Man.  A reboot of the Spider-Man franchise?  The last film in the previous Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man 3, was released in 2007.  A mere five years ago.  Do we really need another re-boot?  Based on the trailers released so far, I’m not very impressed by what I’ve seen.  It looks a lot like the previous Spider-Man films, only with younger actors.

We’ll see.

 

That’s one way to beat a traffic ticket…

…although I suspect its a rather unique way:

www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/dmitri-krioukov-physicist_n_1429545.html

This article, concerning the way physicist Dmitri Krioukov managed to convince a judge -via mathematics!- that his ticket for failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign was incorrect, has to be one of the more interesting ways to get out of a ticket.

It does bring up an interesting point:  I recall going to traffic school many years ago (I was cited for speeding…I was going five miles over the speed limit in a 30 mile per hour speed zone) and the police officer giving us the lecture asked something to the effect of: “How many of you have received your first traffic ticket?”

Along with my hand rising were several others.  One middle aged/elderly woman (she may have been in her late 50’s or early 60’s) not only raised her hand but noted with great indignity that in all her years of driving this was her first ticket.

“Why did you get the ticket?” the officer asked.

“They said I didn’t come to a full stop at a stop sign.”

The police officer shook his head and said the following:  “I don’t feel any sympathy for you.  Every day every driver on every street commits on average at least five traffic offenses.  You’ve been lucky that in all these years, this is the first time an officer caught you doing something illegal on the road.”

The statement, frankly, made my head spin.  Now, I can’t speak to the veracity (or lack there of) of the police officer’s statistics.  For all I know, he may well have made them up for effect or heard someone else say them and believed them to be true.  The opposite, of course, might be true as well:  Maybe we do break the traffic laws many times each day, maybe even more than five times.

Also, and to be fair to the officer, the quote presented above isn’t absolute verbatum.  Its been many years since I received that ticket and participated in the class and I don’t pretend to recall every single word the officer uttered.  Well, with the exception of that first line.  Yes, the man did say he felt no sympathy for the woman and her ticket.  And yes, he went on to quote that five time a day lawbreaking statistic and did pronounced her lucky for having only received one ticket in all these years.

But to my mind, the most important thing I came away with regarding his statement was questioning traffic laws in general.  If we are to assume those statistics cited by the officer were accurate and if the traffic laws are such that on average a driver breaks at least five rules each day, then the laws, I think it could be argued, are way, waaaay too tough and/or arbitrary.

I suppose that traffic laws, in the end, simply fall into much broader gray areas than other laws.  After all, in the eyes of the law if it is proven you steal, you’re a thief.  If it is proven you killed someone in cold blood, you’re a murderer.

If you’re traveling at 100 miles per hour in 30 mile per hour speed zone, you’re clearly a menace.  However, if you’re going 35 miles per hour in that same 30 mile per hour speed zone, you’re just as guilty of breaking the law.  While you may not be a “menace” to others and the nature of your “crime” isn’t quite as serious, you’re still breaking the law.

It’s an imperfect system but it is tough to think of good alternatives to it.  Though the police officer’s remarks to the woman might have been brusque, he may well have been right.  And yes, while traffic laws may be impossible to follow 100% of the time each and every day, should we get rid of them because of this?  And if we do, then what?

In the end, I guess we can swallow our collective pride and pay the fee for getting “silly” traffic tickets now and again, provided when we do drive we know that others on the road recognize there are laws on how we should follow, and those laws not only protect ourselves, they protect others on the road.

At least that way we don’t feel like anything goes.

Shuttle Exits and With It America’s Dreams?

Interesting article on CNN.com by Gene Seymour concerning the last flight, as it were, of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the back of a NASA jetliner as it makes its way to The National Air and Space Museum.  But the article, of course, isn’t just about the end of the Space Shuttle era.  It is a look back at the times that spawned the space race and the ideals of America.

The author wonders if America has, with the exit of the Space Shuttle and no apparent replacement in the wings, has to some extent lost its capacity to dream big, both in terms of space exploration and, possibly, the capacity to move forward in other ways as well:

www.cnn.com/2012/04/17/opinion/seymour-space/index.html

The article, to some degree, reminds me of the famous concept of the pendulum effect.  There appear to be times in history when we go in one direction, only to retreat and move in another direction a few years later.  In politics, this could be moving from liberal agendas to conservative ones.  In terms of scientific discovery, we may have moved from a period of exciting discovery to -maybe- a period of introspection.  It can be argued that following the Civil War (and perhaps even during the Civil War) exciting advances in science were initiated.  The Industrial Era also created a new and exciting move forward.  By the early part of the 20th Century we were on the cusp of having electricity in all households, which meant we were moving towards having television, refrigeration, air conditioning, and, yes, eventually computers.

Air travel was in its infancy, but it would blossom quickly in the 20th Century, the technology becoming rapidly refined in part due to two World Wars and in part due to our desire to move both people and merchandise more and more quickly.

The space race was just that at the beginning.  We had a common foe in the dastardly communists, and a fear that they would beat us in a technological war.  Thanks to that impulse, we made it to the Moon.

And then we appeared to stop.

I suppose partly the fault lay in President Nixon, hardly one of John F. Kennedy’s biggest admirers.  One of President Kennedy’s most recognized speeches involved our objective of reaching the Moon.  Nixon, who had lost a very close race to Kennedy, slashed the budget of NASA following becoming President.  But to blame him for NASA’s woes isn’t entirely fair.  The fact is that President Kennedy set a goal and, once it was reached, the American public seemed to lose interest in the whole space exploration thing.  Sure, the Shuttle got us excited for a while, but the Shuttle was never meant to go all that far out into space.

So what to do?

Going beyond the Moon was -and remains!- a daunting challenger.  The rest of our Solar System if filled with hostile planets, and taking a manned mission beyond the Solar system is, at this point, simply impossible.  Reaching Mars alone, in theory, would require “six months there, six months back (read more about that here).  That’s a very, very long time to be outside the confines of planet Earth.  And what exactly would be accomplished?  We have robot probes looking at Mars and, frankly, they can do the exploration we need -at least at this point- without the risk of lost lives.

Sure, robot probes aren’t anywhere near as sexy as manned flights, but it appears to me that until we get better technology (ie, rockets that allow for much quicker travel) NASA may have to settle on the far safer use of these robot missions to explore our little corner of space.

Perhaps with overpopulation and dwindling resources on Earth, space exploration may experience a rebirth.  It was born, after all, in the harsh shadow of the Cold War and reached its greatest success due to that very real impulse.  Perhaps we need another spark to get things going once again.

 

The curious case of Madonna’s success/failure…

By now, the news of singer Madonna’s latest album, MDNA, is known to those who follow album sales. Briefly, the album debuted on Billboard at #1, suggesting she was still a force in the music business.

Then came week 2 of the sales, and a drop in sales so precipitous it was record-breaking…in a very dubious way:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/madonnas-mdna-fail-album-sales_n_1416094.html

Truth is, I feel for many “older” musical artists.  They are caught in a vicious cycle alluded to in the article:  Older fans of the artist(s) tend to want to hear their “best” or “classic” material and usually have little interest in the artist(s) “new” works.  On the other hand, young music followers may not really care about the older artist(s) and their works, new or “classic”.  If there’s one thing I’ve realized over time is that each subsequent generation embraces “their” music.  To many of them (though certainly not all), what came before is usually not as interesting as whatever “new” music is currently in fashion.  Thus, any “new” music from older artists may wind up being doubly unappealing.

I’ve noted, perhaps too often, my fondness for the music of David Bowie.  Yet I suspect, sadly, that as well known as he may be, I’m one of the few David Bowie fans that have followed -and greatly enjoyed- many of his post-Let’s Dance releases.  That album, which was released a lifetime ago in 1983, was a HUGE success.  In fact, and if memory serves, that album and Michael Jackson’s mega-hit Thriller were 1-2 on Billboard for weeks, with Mr. Bowie’s album at one point supplanting it for the top stop for a week or two.

However, following that album’s release, Mr. Bowie entered a, let’s be honest here, rough patch.  His following two albums, Tonight and especially Never Let Me Down, didn’t feel like grade A efforts on Mr. Bowie’s part, despite some good songs to be found in each album.  He would recover, in my mind, and subsequently release many great works, but I suspect he fell into the same problem that other older artists fell into and his age started to work against him.  Many of his fans, some even quite famous, openly opined that his best works were those that preceded Let’s Dance.  While I found several of his post-1983 albums pretty damn great (particularly his 1995 album 1. Outside), Mr. Bowie has not, to date, come close to replicating the success he had in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Similarly, I was pleasantly surprised by the last years release of Panic of Girls, the latest Blondie album.  I felt the album was on par with some of Blondie’s best works and have little doubt that if it had been released during the band’s “classic” years, it might have gone one to be considered a truly great work.  As it is, the album seems to have slipped away.

And thus we return to the plight of Madonna’s MDNA, an album that “sold” quite well during its first week , though given the second week sales figures and the gimmicky nature those first week sales were made this success appears to be more mirage than reality.  I was never a huge fan of Madonna, even during her golden years, but the story behind Madonna, and all “older” musicians, is an intriguing one.

At least to me.

The real Black Dahlia

Count me among the many who is fascinated with crime in the city of Angels, circa 1920-60.  Why that particular time frame?  I suppose much of the interest arises from the works of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.  Then there’s the wonderful era of the film noir crime movies, many of which were set in the Hollywood area.

But in terms of “real  life” crime drama, none are as paradoxically repellent and fascinating as the case of Elizabeth Short, a 23 year old woman whose mutilated body was found in a park back in 1947.  The case, whom the papers dubbed “The Black Dahlia” murder, was never solved.

The article linked to below is from Salon.com and focuses on Joan Renner.  She has an exhibit featuring historic crime in the L.A. area, including, of course, the notorious Black Dahlia case.  For those interested, its a good read:

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/09/the_real_black_dahlia/singleton/

Priest (2011) a (mildly) belated review

So I had a few minutes to spare and looked around some of the DVR recordings I made over the last month or two and found, among them, a recording of the 2011 film Priest.

Why was it there?  I admit, I was mildly curious about the film and was vaguely aware that it was based on a Korean Manga of some note.  Was also aware the film came and went pretty abruptly from theaters.

Wasn’t aware that the film featured Karl Urban in the bad guy role and (really surprising) veteran actor Christopher Plummer in a smaller role as a head priest.

The plot?  Post apocalyptic sideways world where vampire creatures and humans have battled for years.  The Priests are essentially the Church’s badasses, devout vampire killers who, as the story begins, are considered past their prime.  It is believed the vampire menace is over.

It isn’t.

For the first hour or so of the film, I enjoyed the film quite a bit.  The visuals were outstanding and the story presented was a decent “B” movie adventure.  After that first hour, I began wondering why this film was ranked so low on Rottentomatoes.com, where it earned an extremely low 17% approval from critics and an equally poor 36% from audiences (you can read the rankings here).  Could the critics and audiences have been wrong?  Was my taste in movies taking a serious nosedive?

Then came the movie’s second half and those poor ratings were explained away rather well.

For you see, if Priest were a novel, everything presented within the movie would have been a prologue to a (potentially) far more interesting story.  What story we have is, in the end, woefully undernourished, a tale of a one-time Priest turned vampire attempting to assault the “big city”.  His plan is to steal our protagonist’s daughter and force him to chase after him for no real reason at all.  Revenge I suppose, but really…

It all makes little sense in the end.  Karl Urban is wasted as the villain.  He’s by far the most interesting character in the film but when all is said and done is given so little time to do his villain thing that you wonder why they bothered.  Worst example of this?  The bad guy’s face off against three Priests, a sequence that should have been shown in its full glory (Priest is an action film, right?!) and is instead absurdly abbreviated.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this potentially explosive “action sequence” goes like this:  The three Priests meet up with Karl Urban’s bad guy.  One of them runs at him and is killed by  bad guy in literally one second.  We cut away from the fight and, a few minutes later, our protagonist arrives in the town where this fight occurred and sees the fight’s aftermath and the three dead Priests.  What happened to the other two Priests we have to fill in the blanks with our imagination.

Again, this is an action film, right?

Watching Priest, I had the feeling the director felt uncomfortable with showing too much action.

Anyway, by film’s end we are informed that there is some vampire queen out there and that the battle has “just begun”, ie, the real story is coming in the movie’s sequel.

Given the movie’s performance at the box office, you’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that sequel to materialize.

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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