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Movie of the Week: Rise of The Planet of…

It has been a long Summer with many terrible movies, some good, but no great ones.  Until now.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes is absolutely fantastic.  And for any readers of this blog who are Tea Party members, no this is not a documentary about the 2008 Presidential Election.  And please stop visiting my website.

I will start with the one negative and that is in casting.  Everyone is good that is in the movie, but there were some missed opportunities.  Ron Perlman of Sons of Anarchy and Patrick Ewing, former NBA star, could have both been in the movie (perhaps in the next Ape movie about a white-black buddy cop film about ape cops).  But other than that there is really nothing bad to say about the film.

Ron Perlman's agent messed up.
He had a small role in The Exoricst III, but not here?

I don’t want to spoil anything in the movie, but it has a great pacing, the CGI work is incredible and the emotional work with the Apes, who are all CGI, is off the charts great.  The plot is great and the movie moves along with an entertaining confidence.  What I mean by that is the last 45 minutes of the movie are incredibly exciting and action packed, but the filmmakers and writers were not in any hurry to get there because they  were doing such a good job establishing the story.  It is two hours of steady and entertaining build up to an incredibly entertaining finish.

SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!

I will keep this review short because there is not much funny to say about it because it is so good.

Final Grade – A

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Atlanta Highlights – 1st 24 Hours

The first obvious pleasure of my trip to Atlanta was the 25 minutes of turbulence flying down from NYC that required the flight attendants to sit.  That is always a reassuring moment for someone who dislikes flying.  “We know you are nervous, but don’t worry – you are not alone because the trained professionals are uncomfortable as well.”

Arriving in Atlanta’s airport, which is apparently in the city next to Atlanta because it is a 4 hour journey to baggage claim, which looks like something organized by someone from the 3rd World afflicted with ADD. 

Sort of what Atlanta's 6 flights per baggage claim terminal looks like.

Got Wendy’s as my first meal in Atlanta’s airport and was asked by the woman if I would like a Coke to drink with my meal.  If Coca Cola were any more insecure they’d be Kobe Bryant’s daughters after Game 7 in front of the national media (one last shot before the off season).  Coca Cola – you are one of the most well known brands in the world and Atlanta is your home.  We get it.  You don’t have to force it on us like some athlete whose glory days were in high school, but still forces you to watch highlight tapes and look at his trophies fifteen years later.  Perhaps managers of restaurants in Atlanta are required to bitch slap employees who don’t properly pimp out Coca Cola.

I took the MARTA train, presumably named after the little blond girl in School of Rock and had only an 10 minute walk to the hotel.  Unfortunately Atlanta is very warm and that ten minute walk of dragging a suitcase in blue jeans transformed me into Patrick Ewing at the foul line by the time I arrived at check-in.

This is roughly what I looked like in terms of perspiration.

The first show at The Punchline was interesting. The emcee was half Jamaican, half white, from Canada.  Obviously, the crowd might have sensed some redundancy when a half-Haitian, half-white guy with a French name took the stage fifteen minutes later.  But I felt like I had a good set (B+), until the headliner Dale Jones got on stage and absolutely murdered.  So for the rest of the night I just kept repeating my mantra for Southern shows, “At least you are not getting booed at The Stardome, at least you are not getting booed at The Stardome.”

My favorite joke of the night, for the sole reason that it was the first time I’d told it was, “I’m 31 and HIV-negative, which means I have only a year left til I break Magic Johnson’s record.”

After the show was done I watched the rest of the Lakers-Celtics game a few people from the club, the result of which obviously pleased me to no end.

Aiming for two A performances tonight.  8 pm and 10 pm tonight.

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LeBron James Must Stay In Cleveland

I went to see LeBron James in person on Tuesday night at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.  It was awesome.  As I have joked with crowds all week, “I want to see him in Cleveland before he follows me back to NY.”  In all honesty I hope LeBron does not go to New York or any other city.  He belongs in Cleveland and as much as any athlete can, he belongs to Cleveland.

The Christ-like worship of LeBron is a bit much in Cleveland, but only a bit.

The people in this city may have already crossed into disturbing hero worship, bordering on something out of the film The Man Who Would Be King (look it up), but it is clear that the Cleveland Cavalier fans have a unique and special relationship with LeBron James that has all but been lost in sports.  Derek Jeter has it with NY, but if he had merely performed well, without winning a title he would not have it.  LA Fans love Kobe, but more because of their star worship.  But LeBron is from Ohio. He has yet to win anything, but the Cleveland area loves him as if he is family.  They get angry when you suggest he may leave for NY because they don’t believe he will do that.  If he were never to win in Cleveland they’d be disappointed for him. If he were to never win a title in New York, the fans would feel bad for themselves.

Speaking of New York, LeBron should not go to NY because NY doesn’t deserve him.  Patrick Ewing was the last hoops superstar in NY (and he does not compare with LeBron’s star power), but many Knick fans (especially the corporate douchebags that flood the Garden during times of success as if they were having an auction of 20-something blond Midwestern transplants) consider Ewing a failure, a choke artist and do not recall the fact that he gave everything he had for 15 years to try and get a title to NY (literally millions of gallons of sweat) .  Utah does not treat Malone and Stockton as failures, but many Knick fans still consider Ewing a failure first, a great Knick second. 

In fact the Knicks this year have played above expectation (thanks in part to the exceptional play of David Lee – a rare white American star in the NBA – but who the Knicks have continued to portray as a scrappy hustler, in line with typical white stereotypes), but many Knick fans are waiting for next year to show their support when they get star power (seriously NY is starting to feel more like the stereotype that LA has owned for so long – the sporting event is not as important to people as the event surrounding the sport).  That is what the Yankees organization banked on when they started selling $2500 dollar tickets to Yankee Games: that New York, a city renowned for its grit and character was actually just becoming another Los Angeles (it is – if I see one more salad place open up with a one word name – “chop’t,” “toss’d,” “crisp” I am going to go postal.  These places may very well be in other cities, but they are starting to feel uncomfortably appropriate in NYC).  Well, thanks to the economy it turns out NY was not quite ready for $2500 tickets, but $1250 tickets were not so bad.  And the addition of LeBron will just further push out many Knick fans who can probably barely afford pre-LeBron ticket prices.

However, Cleveland is the real reason for LeBron to stay.  He is to Cleveland what General Motors is to Detroit.  If he starts to pack up I feel like it will devastate the city.  The pre-game theatrics at the Cavs game included incredible movies and pyrotechnics for God’s sake!  I have been to 6 NBA arenas (not yet to Mecca in Salt Lake City) and these were by far the best I have ever seen (though the Bulls’ intros in the 90s are untouchable, as far as I am concerned, for theatrical originality, culminating with the 6’6″ guard from Nooooorth Caaarolinaaa…” 

There have also been rumors that Nike, in light of Tiger Woods’ sexscapades, was encouraging LeBron to go to New York so that they could have Kobe and LeBron on the coasts and build up that campaign further to stem some of the losses that Tiger may/will incur.  It is bad enough that politicians are all owned by corporations, but now athletes are being dictated to by them as well?  I would love to have LeBron tell the owner of the Knicks and any other big market team a la Michael Corleone in Godfather Part II: “We are all part of the same hypocrisy Mr. Dolan, but don’t think that that extends to my family.”

Because Cleveland is like LeBron’s family.  In fact, Cleveland is like LeBron’s wife and children that have stood by him as he built his reputation and skills and career.  They have done everything to make him happy.  If he goes to New York it will be like he is leaving his family for the hottest of the many of the gold digging tramps that roam the clubs and high society functions of New York.  Although Bill Simmons, ESPN’s “The Sports Guy” likes to call Baron Davis Teen Wolf, for this discussion I would like to call LeBron Teen Wolf.  And he has a choice – he can date Boof, the cute, loyal and real person and be a success in life and as a person, or he can go for Pamela Wells, the blond who has emerged only after the onset of Teen Wolf’s new found success.  NYC has enough guys that would go for Pamela Wells – LeBron should do the right thing for everyone and stay with Boof.  But if he leaves, it falls on his doorstep and he will have killed one of the last real fairy tales in sports.

LeBron in NYC. The lesson from Teen Wolf - stay with Boof, stay in Cleveland.
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Jordan is still better than Kobe, but what is…

Before I start what I wanted to be the subject of this post I have received some e-mails of a most disturbing nature.  Some fringe element out there (I group this element just below radical islamists, white supremacist militia groups) is claiming that Kobe Bryant is the better player than Michael Jordan.  Here very quickly (or not so quickly) is why he is not:

Kobe Bryant

2009 Finals MVP – 30 pts per game, 43% shooting, 7.4 assists, 5 rebounds per game, great numbers, slightly less impressive than Dwayne Wade’s stats in 2006 when he played with Shaq at his low point in his career

3 Titles early in his career when he was playing with Shaq at his peak.  Kobe was Scottie Pippen-esque at this point in his career – already a great player, but not capable of winning any of those titles if not paired with the game’s most dominant big man at his peak.  Shaq on the other hand could have one those 3 titles with any of the top 30 players in the league as the Robin to his Batman.

My parents conversation about Kobe:

My Dad: That Kobe is amazing

My Mom: I don’t like him.

Michael Jordan

1991 Finals – 55% from the field, 31.2 pts per game, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds per game

1992 Finals – 52.8% from the field, 35.8 pts per game, 6.5 assists per game

1993 Finals – 50.8% from the field, 41.0 pts per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 6.3 assists per game

And then we won 3 more titles after retiring for two and a half years in his prime. 

If he had played with a Shaq caliber player during his most explosive time (mid 1980s) and had not retired he would have 8-12 titles. 

He scored 50 pts at the age of 39 and is the only 40 year old to ever score 40+ points in an NBA game (after his second retirement).

My parents conversation about MJ:

My Dad: Wow Michael Shordan (that is how pops pronounces it) is amazing!

My Mom: Shut the fu-k up!

Frustrating Hall of Famers and The Cauvin Family from 1984-1998
Frustrating Hall of Famers and The Cauvin Family from 1984-1998

I think the evidence is clear that based on stats, facts, our collective gut instinct and my Mom’s visceral reaction to the Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone killer that he is the superior player and actually appears likable compared to Kobe.  There is only one player on the horizon who may supplant MJ and that is LeBron James, simply because LeBron’s physicality is the the first to transcend NBA generational evolution since… Michael Jordan.

But I will give Kobe and the Lakers credit – they gave me something to watch.  Like Armand Assante said in the terrible HBO film Gotti, “They’ll miss John Gotti when I’m gone.”  That is how I feel about Kobe right now – I watched him hoping he’d lose, sort of like my own reality show, that was actual real, instead of manufactured for the consumption of dumb people.  I even caught some of the Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, which is right up there with Big Foot with regard to the frequency with which I have seen it. 

Was he known as the Kobe Bryant of The Underworld? ("Sure he's ruthless, but he's no Michael Corleone!")
Was he known as the Kobe Bryant of The Underworld? ("Sure he's ruthless, but he's no Michael Corleone!")

 But now we are in the Summer of 2009 – no Olympics, no World Cup, no more basketball, a month until Wimbledon, no more hockey.  So what are we left with – America’s corporate pastime, baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA.  I am even afraid to watch one of my favorite shows, Pardon The Interruption, because I feel like sports have nothing right now.   So if you have any sports ideas for the Summer let me know.  Although my entire Summer of road gigs will probably revolve around doing comedy in minor league baseball team towns so maybe I can learn to appreciate the feature acts of sports as I feature at clubs.