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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
No Excuse for That Behavoir
Like a lot of sports fan, I followed the story of Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was beaten within an inch of his life after attending a Dodgers vs Giants game earlier this year.

Early on, the story made it seem like all Stow had done wrong was wear a Giants jersey to Dodger stadium. Now, new details are coming out about how Stow acted during the game.

Juan Banda told TMZ Monday that Bryan Stow was inciting Dodgers fans by screaming, "I [sic] rather eat my own feces than eat a Dodger dog."

Banda says he told Stow he was crossing the line with his comments.

"Told him (Stow) it was one thing to root for your team, but you are crossing the line. He didn't say much. Neither him or his buddies who were with him."

Banda told TMZ that Stow "did have a mouth."

"Maybe he said the wrong thing to the wrong guys."


First of all, let me say that it's still a tragedy that this guy was beaten within an inch of his life. I realize that sports fans can be pretty passionate about our teams, but when it crosses the line to where you want to beat up someone this badly for loving an opposing team, it's time to take a step back and reassess some things. I dearly love the Vols and while I can't see why a person would want to be a fan of Alabama or Florida or Georgia or any other SEC team for that matter, it still doesn't make me so mad, upset, or full of rage at those other fans that I want to go and beat them to a pulp....even if their team has just beat mine and I'm feeling pretty down about it.

Second of all, while I understand Stow wasn't exactly being a respectful visitor to Dodger Stadium, it's still no excuse to beat the hell out of him in the parking lot after the game. If that's what happened and there is a connection, that is. Obnoxious fans for the other team are a given and while it rub you the wrong way that they're insulting your team, venue, stadium, tradition, etc. that still doesn't give you the right to go all vigilante on them. Ask the ushers to remove them from the stadium, sure.

You can't help but wonder if there's going to be a shift in the sentiment for Stow from the victim to a guy who brought this on himself. Or that the person or people who beat him within an inch of his life were somehow "justified" in what they did.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/28/2011 11:58:00 AM | |
Monday, June 20, 2011
The Latest on the Big Orange

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2011 11:02:00 AM | |

Retro Movie Round-Up: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
I can still recall how excited I was to see Star Trek V: The Final Frontier when it opened in theaters 22 years ago. I'd been to a couple of local Star Trek conventions where the film was hyped up in every possible detail. I'd read the tie-in novelization for the film.

So it was that I eagerly lined up on opening day to see the film at a super-saver matinee price with a group of fellow Star Trek fans.

And ended up walking out of the theater the only one of us who semi-enjoyed the experience.

The merits of the film soon became something of great debate among us, with one friend using the logic that is the film "won" a Razzie award, it must be pretty terrible. And don't get me wrong here--there are a lot of flaws in Star Trek V. But close to 22 years later, I still don't think it's the worst movie ever made nor is it necessarily the weakest of all the Star Trek movie installments.

So, it was interesting to read recently that best-selling Trek author Keith R.A. DeCandido had taken a few moments to look at and reassess the film, making a couple of interesting points about the film. Chief among them was that the movie really felt like a third-season episode of classic Trek. After spending last summer re-watching season three on DVD, I have to admit I agree. While certain moments of the scenes around the campfire may be wince-inducing, there's still the sense of friendship and camaraderie between Kirk, Spock and McCoy that drove much of the original series. (OK, sure the whole marshmellon thing is absurd, but the novel explained it pretty well. McCoy basically pulled a Wikipedia edit on the Enterprise's computers to get Spock's goat...if they'd put a line of dialogue into the film along those lines it might not have been as terrible).

The film does have some fairly large ideas at its core, even if they're not all that well served (again, just like season three). Ever since The Motion Picture was enough of a hit to earn a second Trek film, Gene Roddenberry had wanted to explore the concept of the Enterprise crew going to find god. (It was either that or going back in time to the JFK assignation). However, other people were brought in and other plotlines pursued. So I can only imagine that when Gene heard that Shatner wanted to finally do his "let's go meet god" concept, he did backflips across the Paramount lot.

Into the search for god, we bring in a tie-in to one of the big three--namely Spock. The introduction of a Vulcan who embraces his emotional side and has the power to help people confront and release their inner pain who happens to be Spock's half brother is intriguing. And had the movie got their first choice of Sean Connery to play the role of Sybok, the film might have been more interesting. It's certainly possible that Connery could have come on board since this was the point of his career that he was accepting just about any role offered to him on the off chance that one out of every four projects might be good. I will say we ended up with Connery in a better role as Indy's dad in The Last Crusade, but I still can't help but wonder how me might have worked here as Sybok.

Instead, we get Laurence Luckinbill, who does a fairly good job with Sybok for most of the film. The story really glosses over exactly how Sybok has the power to connect with his patients and get them to release their pain. But given that Vulcans have semi-telepathic abilities, it's not hard to accept what happens. What is harder to accept is how easily everyone gives themselves over to Sybok and his leadership once said pain is released. Is part of the healing Sybok offers a mental command to follow him blindly and into the breach? Is it intended or it it unintended? And why does it seem to wear off so quickly in the last third of the film? And why are Spock and McCoy able to resist the lure to join the cause when so many of the Enterprise crew are not? (It also brings up the question of just how does Sybok convert the whole crew to his side? Surely there had to be someone besides Scotty who wasn't under his influence).

In many ways, the story is a standard Trek device of some leader comes along and tries to take over the ship coupled with Kirk debunking some myth of a god-like creature ruling over a society absolutely. Again, it fits in well with late second season Trek and all of season three. Kirk's question of "What does god need with a starship" fits in with his views on any number of other god-like creatures, beings or computers run amok that he encountered over the course of the original five year mission.

Of course, as a long time Trek fan I had to wonder if the Great Barrier we see in the film is the same one we saw twice in classic Trek or just something new. Somehow, I think it's more the latter.

Watching the movie again over the weekend, I was struck by how there was a lot of potential for the movie. And how the film falls short in a lot of places. Shatner has made no bones about the fact that Paramount slashed the film's budget and he was forced to heavily alter the final confrontation in Shak-a-ree. But I still don't see how having a half dozen rock monsters will help the final moments of the film, where it becomes little more than a rehash of "The Apple" with Kirk beating a god by using the ship's weapons on it. If this being was powerful enough that whoever imprisoned it there created the Great Barrier around it, surely it would take more than a photon torpedo or two to take it out. If the Enterprise had left the area, that might make more sense.

And then there's the whole Klingon subplot that does nothing to advance anything. It's all set-up to have a Warbird there for the final moments. There's a two-hour chase across space and yet no real battle. Again, if you don't need the Warbird there for the final moments, you could just drop all of this plotline and the movie wouldn't suffer much.

Also, I have to address the effects. ILM didn't do them and it shows. I recall sitting in the theater on opening day and thinking how terrible one particular shot of the Klingon ship at warp looked compared to previous Trek films and what was being down on TV with Next Generation. Blu-Ray and hi-def haven't made these flaws any less obvious.

I was reminded again of how good the Jerry Goldsmith score is, in spots. The music as Kirk climbs El Cap is a real highlight musically as is some of the music as the shuttle heads down to Sha-Ka-Ree. Unfortunately, at other moments it also recycles too much from other scores.

Star Trek V isn't a perfect movie. It's not the best of the Trek films. It wants to be something more than it is and it's a film that had potential. A lot of it goes unrealized and that's probably the most disappointing thing about the movie (well, beyond the special effects).

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2011 01:15:00 AM | |
Friday, June 17, 2011
New vs Old
When the news hit the Internet that George Lucas was planning to remaster the entire Star Wars saga into 3-D and re-release the films in theaters, some fans (this one included) were a bit concerned. Given the changes done to the original trilogy (esp. A New Hope) for the special editions, many of us wondered what else George might decide to insert into the film, all in the name of upgrading them once again.

Then came the news that instead of going in release order, Lucas would go in chronological order. That means that in order to get to A New Hope, we've got to sit through Jar Jar and the pod-races. A certain segment of the fandom flew into a tizzy over the news and it was only heightened this week when LucasFilm producer Rick McCallum told the LA Times that unless Phantom Menace makes enough money at theaters for its 3-D run, LucasFilm may not bother remastering the other five films into 3D.

For many, the implied message was, "If you want New Hope, you'd better come out and see the new trilogy first."

And, of course, fans got upset.

And while I don't necessarily agree with the release strategy (I think they should do A New Hope first), I do see why McCallum says it. Like it or not, George Lucas and company are in the business of making money and if the films don't make a return on that investment, they'll stop remastering them and releasing them in 3-D. Oh sure, George has more money than Jabba the Hut, but then again he didn't get it by releasing flops at the box-office (Howard the Duck, not withstanding).

It's interesting to watch the debate and to hear the various sides each argue vehemently that their trilogy should be the one that goes first. It's almost a generational thing--there are some of us who grew up knowing Star Wars as episodes IV-VI and those who grew up with Star Wars as episodes I-III. I'm sure there are some younger fans who would call the movies I loved so much, slow, padded and a bit dated special effects wise. To them, I'd say, yes, but we don't have Jar-Jar.....

In many ways, the debate reminds me a bit of how fans are approaching Doctor Who these days. (You knew it was coming around to that eventually, didn't you?) As a longtime fan of Doctor Who, I like the new series but I love the original classic serials. (I believe the number of times I've purchased the serials is a testament to that).

I realize that while I can watch and enjoy the new series, I'm not the target audience any longer. But that still doesn't meant I can't watch and enjoy. It also means I'm allowed to be that grumpy old guy who occasionally gets annoyed cause the new kids are partying on my lawn and playing their music too loud. I can still get irritated at those fans who only want David Tennant as Doctor and cry when we get a gap year with only four new episodes. Wait fourteen years with only one backdoor, 90-minute pilot/TV movie and then tell me about enduring a long wait for new episodes....

In short, I was Doctor Who when Doctor Who wasn't cool.

But, I digress.

My hope is that those fans coming into the fold since 2005 will, at some point, want to wander back and see what all the fuss was about before the series started its successful run again and maybe at least see why some of us loved it so much. And the same thing with Star Wars...while I'm not a huge fan of Phantom Menace, I'd hope that those who came to the fold with it would go back and at least try to understand why the original trilogy was so special to some of us and why many of us have such fond memories associated with it.

Of course, all of this would be a bit easier to take if Lucas would realize that what the fans want most is for remastered versions of the original trilogy to be available on Blu-Ray and DVD. And, no I don't mean the ported over laserdisc release that was slapped on DVD a few years ago. Compare it to the remastered versions for picture and sound and it pales by comparison. To many of us, Han should always shoot first and Luke fall in silent defiance of Vader in the waning moments of Empire.

In this case, this is one area that Doctor Who gets it right. Yes ,we occasionally get upgraded effects or a new edit of a serial on the DVDs. But the BBC understands that fans want the originals as well and will give us both versions in the same release. And in both cases, the picture and sound are remastered for DVD release.

George should think about following the example....

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/17/2011 07:33:00 PM | |
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Hamilton Gone
The Mike Hamilton era at UT is over.

Hamilton resigned as athletic director at my Alma mater this morning, bringing to a close an era that's seen one bad decision after another. For those of you keeping track at home, Hamilton bungled the end of the Philip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl eras, inflicted the Lane Kiffin era on us, fired the baseball coach he hired and rushed to get a new men's basketball coach who may or may not be a good fit for the program. About the only athletic program left unscathed by Hamilton is the Lady Vols and that's probably because he was (rightly) afraid of messing Pat Summit. (I'd be afraid to face down the glare, myself...)

It's news that's been a long time coming. It still puts the athletic department in turmoil and facing an uncertain future thanks to NCAA sanctions that are coming for the Kiffin and Pearl eras. But maybe we can start with a a clean slate as we move out of the cloud that's been over us the past couple of years and return to the winning ways and tradition that make the Big Orange faithful so proud.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--the first call should be to Phil Fulmer. Whether he's a good fit or the right guy for this job, he should be one of the first calls to possibly interview for the job.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/07/2011 10:45:00 AM | |
Monday, June 06, 2011
TV Round-Up: Doctor Who -- A Good Man Goes To War

One of the problems with Internet rumors is that they can create false expectations for an episode. For example, last week I heard that as many as two other previous Doctors could turn up for a cameo in this week's mid-season finale. The story was backed up by the IMDB listing and while I didn't necessarily believe that it was the case (it was something too big to keep this far under wraps in the Internet age), I still held out some glimmer of hope the show might go and surprise me with that moment. I was ready for my inner Doctor Who fan boy to weep with delight.

And it never happened.

I've heard it may happen for the series six finale, but I don't think I'm going to buy into the rumor again. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

Even not buying into the rumor, there were still a lot of things about the mid-season finale that disappointed me. After last week's installment worked toward redeeming an uneventful and tepid first half of the story, I was hoping the series would get back on track with the type of mid-season cliffhanger and finale that Steven Moffat has been out there talking about since news of the split season was first announced. And that's where I think a lot of the issues with this story arise--it's simply been oversold on the expectation meter since the closing moments of series five. Moffat has told us time and again that we're all going to be picking up our jaws off the floor when the mid-season finale hits and we finally get the revelation of who River Song really is.

The problem is you have to make good on that promise and, at least upon the first two viewings of "A Good Man Goes To War," the episode itself didn't really live up to the hype. Part of it was that I'd guessed River's identity long ago and was secretly hoping they wouldn't go in this direction. The other was that while I like the new series, I'm not a huge fan of episodes that make the Doctor out to be some kind of inter-galactic super hero. One of the hallmarks of the old show was that the Doctor came in, corrected a wrong and then left again in the TARDIS will very little fanfare or accolades. At most, it was a warm handshake and a quick goodbye, except maybe in the case of the Daleks. In that case, I understood why they feared the Doctor since he'd defeated so many of their more audacious schemes in the past and seemed to constantly show up at just the right time to throw a sonic screwdriver into their well-laid plans.

The first fifteen or so minutes of "Good Man" spend a lot of time playing on the Doctor's reputation and showing him calling in favors. And while it's nice to see a bit, it also felt a bit disconnected from a lot of the series as a whole. Oh look, we're bringing in Cybermen, Sontarans and Silurians it seems to say. Look at how clever these callbacks are. Problem is these are callbacks to characters we haven't met before and so they lack the punch they could or should have.

Then the Doctor shows up and easily defeats the forces of evil who had kidnapped Amy and her daughter. But it's too easy and turns out to be a trap for the Doctor. The revelation that Amy and Rory's daughter has become some kind of new breed of Time Lord due to extended exposure to the time and space continuum, I can sort of buy. (I keep reminding myself that a certain segment of fandom hated "The Deadly Assassin" when it first aired because it threw hiccups into the mythology....and I can see where Moffat is trying to do the same thing here).

A lot of the issues I have with this is that it's the first of a two-part story and we're only given so many answers. If we were given everything, there would be little reason to tune back in when the second half of the season kicks off later this year. But I still feel that the episode sold a lot of things really short. Again, a lot of this could be the hype, but I think a lot of it is the essential weakness of making the Doctor into some kind of inter-galactic hero.

That doesn't mean I don't hold out hope. Having River point out how far off course the Doctor has gone certainly feels like the show trying to pull back a bit. If the show is trying to get back to its roots, this is a good step in the right direction in my book.

And I still did like isolated moments in the story. Arthur Darvill is rapidly becoming this season's MVP and his performance here is another solid one. His barely constrained anger and determination to find his wife and child drove the first half of the episode and the reunion of the family on the station was one of the more effective moments in the story. In many ways, Rory has become far more compelling this year than Amy has.

In "A Good Man Goes To War" we have a lot interesting pieces and isolated moments. The problem is that they don't quite all add up in the same way Moffat stories have in the past. I think a lot of this is huge expectations placed on the story by Moffat in both where the storylines came together and in the hype surrounding the show. I'm still intrigued enough to come back in the fall when the show returns (oh, who am I kidding...I'd be back no matter what!), but I have to admit my enthusiasm is a bit tempered.

I'll probably be in the minority on thinking this way, but for now, color my a bit underwhelmed.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/06/2011 11:34:00 AM | |
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