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At The Movies: Early Man

I don’t go to as many animated feature films as I used to. There seem to be so many of them these days, and most of them just don’t appeal to me.

But I will always make time for an animated feature by Nick Park.

The British animator has given us such delightful fare as “Chicken Run,” “Shaun the Sheep,” “Creature Comforts” and his masterpiece — the “Wallace and Gromit” series.

So yeah, I was looking forward to his latest, “Early Man.”

But alas, it seems even the great ones can have an off day.

fid17453It’s not that ‘Early Man” is a bad film. It’s cute. It has its charm. Kids will probably enjoy it. The animation is as sharp as anything else to come out of Aardman Animations.

It’s just not that funny. Or witty. Or clever. Or smart. These are the key ingredients of a Nick Park film, and they are sadly missing here.

“Early Man” is the story of a small band of cavemen led by  Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall). The tribe lives in a peaceful valley where they survive by hunting rabbits.

Their peaceful existence is disrupted when a highly advanced (by Neanderthal standards) army of Bronze Age types moves in and kicks Bobnar’s tribe out of the valley.

The hero of the tale,  Dug (Eddie Redmayne) wants the intruders out and goes to confront their leader, Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). If they want to win back their homeland, Dug and his friends must best Nooth’s champions in a game of football (or as we Americans call it, soccer).

Dug’s team doesn’t know the first thing about football, but since when has that ever been a detriment in a movie like this?

“Early Man” is, like I said, cute. It’s your typical underdog sports story that plays out just as predictably as you’d imagine. But I expect so much more from Nick Park. It does have a few brief moments of wit, but not enough to sustain an 89-minute movie.

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At The Movies: Black Panther

Remember when superheroes were primarily of interest only to nerdy white boys?

I do. I was there. Showing your love for Batman did not make you a popular kid in elementary or high school, I assure you.

But somewhere along the line, things changed. And now we live in a world where people throw online fits because “Wonder Woman” didn’t get any Academy Award nominations. A world where an actor playing a superhero in a new movie is currently on the cover of “Time” magazine. A world where that film — “Black Panther” — is poised to earn more than $150 million at the box office this weekend. In February.

Welcome, rest of the world. We knew you’d catch up with us nerdy white boys eventually.

So, “Black Panther.” Marvel Studio’s 18th movie in 10 years and its first with a black lead and a majority black cast. This makes it important, if you haven’t got the word. A lot of people have waited a long time for this moment. Good thing it lives up to expectations.

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Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, soon to be crowned king of the mysterious African nation of Wakanda. T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther, joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016 in “Captain America: Civil War,” where his father was killed in a bombing. Now, T’Challa has returned home to take his father’s place on the throne.

But first, a history lesson: Many years ago a large meteorite made of vibranium — the strongest metal in the world — crash landed in Wakanda. Over the decades the Wakandans used vibranium to create for themselves a technological utopia, far advanced and hidden away from the rest of the world. I’m not sure how a big hunk of rock can do all that, but hey kids, comics!

The only outsider to ever get into Wakanda, steal vibranium, and escape, is arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Klaue has formed an alliance with an American black-ops soldier named Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan). Klaue wants more vibranium to sell while Erik wants to get into Wakanda for more personal reasons.

T’Challa is surrounded by a complex ensemble of characters, all played superbly by the actors involved: Angela Bassett as the regal Royal Mother; Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister and the country’s chief scientist; Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, love interest and undercover operative; Danai Gurira as Okoye, head of security; Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, the king’s confidant and head of his border guards; and Forest Whitaker as Zuri, elder statesman and longtime family friend.

Rounding out the cast are Winston Duke as M’Batu, chief of a rival tribe; and Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, a CIA agent who serves as the outsider (aka white person) point of view.

“Black Panther” is another solid entry in the Marvel canon and one of the better-made comic book movies. The villains (Klaue and Killmonger) are, for a change, more rounded and charismatic. The story has more depth and bite than usual. The movie isn’t afraid to address tough and uncomfortable issues.

But like so many superhero movies, the final reel is an overdone orgy of fighting and explosions. I’m still not sure what was going down with the Black Panthers’ throw-down on the rail line.

But what truly makes “Black Panther” stand out is how black it is. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film revels in African landscapes (real and futuristic), costumes, music, attitude and style.

 

 

 

Gone: Pat DiNizio

I’ll say anything you want to hear
I’ll see everything through
I’ll do anything I have to do
Just to win the love of a girl like you

You told me, baby, you had time to kill
But then you tossed me out like an overdue bill
You left in a hurry with a guy from the band
On a one-way ride to the promised land
Top of the pops

Blue period, black comedy
Such a joke I’ve played on me
I let you go
And now I know a world of uncertainty

She held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band
And she stood just like Bill Wyman
Now I am her biggest fan
Now I know I’m one of many who would like to be your friend
And I’ve got to find a way to let you know I’m not like them

Now I lie in bed and think of her
Sometimes I even weep
Then I dream of her behind the wall of sleep

The blues before and after
I get the blues before and after I’m with you

71nf2Yg9y9L._SX355_This is the house we used to live in
This is the place I used to know
This is the house we used to live in
Where I felt I could always go

House that we used to live in
House where I left my heart
House that we used to live in falling apart

You won’t break my heart
No matter what you do
My love is especially for you

And then it starts all over again

Maybe I won’t be afraid to love somebody new
Maybe I can open up my heart
Then I won’t drown in my own tears
Drown in my own tears

I’ve been waiting for you all my life
And now that you are here I can’t believe
How wonderful it is to be here by your side
To see you in the light

In your evening dress tonight

See me walking with someone new
It makes no difference
‘Cause everything I have is blue

Too much passion is not enough

Smoked my last cigarette
Sat in bed for a while
Thought of your face, and it brought me a smile
Wanted another one
Fell back asleep, instead
Woke and found you sitting there on the bed

Cigarette, cigarette,
Burning up time
Cigarette, cigarette
Watch the smoke climb
Cigarette, cigarette
Wasting away
Just like this cigarette
Our time is running down
Only one hour til you’re leaving this town

Take me away when I’m done with my afternoon tea

Gone: Malcolm Young

Stand up and be counted for what you are about to receive
We are the dealers
We’ll give you everything you need
Hail hail to the good times
Cos rock has got the right of way
We ain’t no legends ain’t no cause
We’re just livin’ for today
For those about to rock, we salute you

‘Cause the walls were shaking
The earth was quaking
My mind was aching
And we were making it
And you
Shook me all night long
Rode down the highway
Broke the limit, we hit the town
Went through to Texas, yeah Texas, and we had some fun
We met some girls
Some dancers who gave a good time
Broke all the rules
Played all the fools
Yeah yeah they, they, they blew our minds
And I was shaking at the knees
Could I come again please
Yeah them ladies were too kind
You’ve been
Thunderstruck
If you’re havin’ trouble with the high school head
He’s givin’ you the blues
You wanna graduate but not in his bed
Here’s what you gotta do
Pick up the phone, I’m always home
Call me any time
Just ring 362 436 oh
I lead a life of crimeDirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
(Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap)
(Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap)

Ridin’ down the highway
Goin’ to a show
Stop in all the byways
Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll
Gettin’ robbed
Gettin’ stoned
Gettin’ beat up
Broken boned
Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looksIt’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll

I’m rolling thunder pouring rain
I’m coming on like a hurricane
My lightning’s flashing across the sky
You’re only young but you’re gonna die
I won’t take no prisoners won’t spare no lives
Nobody’s putting up a fight
I got my bell I’m gonna take you to hell
I’m gonna get ya satan get yaHells bells
Hells bells, you got me ringing
Hells bells, my temperature’s high
Hells bells

Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution
Yes I’m back in black
Back in the back of a Cadillac
Number one with a bullet I’m a power pack
Yes I am
In a bang with the gang
They’ve got to catch me if they want me to hang
Cause I’m back on the track and I’m beatin’ the flack
Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap
So look at me now I’m just makin’ my play
Don’t try to push your luck just get out of my way
Cause I’m back
Yes I’m back
Well I’m back
Yes I’m back
Well I’m back back
Well I’m back in black
Yes I’m back in black
0000826057
Livin’ easy
Livin’ free
Season ticket on a one way ride
Askin’ nothin’
Leave me be
Takin’ everythin’ in my stride
Don’t need reason
Don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothin’ that I’d rather do
Goin’ down
Party time
My friends are gonna be there tooI’m on the highway to hell

Gone: Len Wein

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Gone: Don Williams

I ain’t gonna marry in the fall
I ain’t gonna marry in the spring
‘Cause I’m in love with a pretty little girl
Who wears a diamond ring.

And I’m just a country boy
Money have I none
But I’ve got silver in the stars
And gold in the mornin’ sun
Gold in the mornin’ sun

You’re my bread when I’m hungry
You’re my shelter from troubled winds
You’re my anchor in life’s ocean
But most of all you’re my best friend

I guess there’s not much I can do or say
Saw my baby with another guy today
Though I love her and I try to tell her so
It’s hello blues and down the road I go

Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife

MI0003714342Coffee black, cigarette
start this day, like all the rest
First thing every morning that I do
Is start missing you

Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never end
Some tears will never dry
My love for you will never die

Rendezvous in the night
A willing woman to hold me tight
But in the middle of love’s embrace
I see your face

Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never end
Some tears will never dry
My love for you will never die

My baby said, I’z crazy
My mama called me lazy
I was gonna show ’em all this time
‘Cause you know I ain’t no fool
And I don’t need no more schoolin’
I was born to just walk the line

‘Cause you know I’m a rake and a ramblin’ man
Free as an eagle flies
Well, look at me now and tell me true
Do I look like a daddy to you?
Oh, do I look like a daddy to you?

It must be love
It must be love
I fall like a sparrow
Fly like a dove
You must be the dream
I’ve been dreamin’ of
Oh, what a feelin’
It must be love

When I was a kid Uncle Remus would put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then Daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a bible in his hand
And he talked about honor and things I should know
Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door

I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And Those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be
So what do you do with good ol’ boys like me?

Lord, I hope this day is good
I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood
I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should
But Lord I hope this day is good

I have drifted up across the mountain 
And I have stumbled down the other side 
I’ve been tempted, tried and troubled 
Come early morning I’ll be home and satisfied 

A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2017: Lake Tahoe: Part III

Part III: Shakespeare By The Lake (but not really Shakespeare)

Day Four

So, I’m thumbing through the “What To Do In Lake Tahoe” magazine that is one of the few free complementary things in our hotel room when I made an observation.

“Are you aware there’s a Shakespeare Festival going on around here this week?”

“Yes. A group of people from the conference are going to it. I didn’t get tickets.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you always complain about the extra-event activities.”

“No I don’t. Are you still mad about Utah? For Pete’s sake, I don’t have a problem with extra-event activities unless they’re designed to kill me.”

“Exaggerate much?”

” ‘Oh, it will be a nice nature walk up to a lake.’ No, it was a mountain climbing expedition up to a lake. I wouldn’t climb a mountain to see a lake if it was filled with Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. And nowhere in the brochure did it say that riding a bobsled was dangerous. It wasn’t until we got there that the people were all, ‘take this very seriously and follow our directions to the letter or you could be seriously hurt.’ I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about Andrew. Shakespeare isn’t going to kill me… Unless it bores me to death.”

“So you’re saying we should go?”

“No. I’m saying you should go. Andrew and I will be at the pool. What show are they doing?”

“The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

“Excuse me? I’m no Shakespeare expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a Shakespeare play.”

“It’s not. At this festival they do one Shakespeare play and one by someone else. The night the group is going it’s someone else.”

“You still want to go?”

“Yes. They perform on a stage by the lake. It’s supposed to be very cool.”

“Treat Yo Self.”

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Day Five

Normally on Wednesday we check out the local comic book shop. Alas, there were no comic book shops in Lake Tahoe. So it was another day at the pool. At some point we did go walk around back down where the shops and restaurants were. Walked through a couple of art galleries. That was a nice break from hot tub, pool, hot tub, pool. Yes, there is a casino at Harvey’s but we’re not really casino people. We walked through it a few times to get from here to there. If there had been an Avengers slot machine I might have played it.

That night the extra-event activity was dinner and dancing at a mountain lodge. So we boarded a bus and rode to the tram, which took us up the mountain. I don’t mind going up mountains if I don’t have to walk.

tahoe16 The views were spectacular, the food was meh, as is the way of these things. They did have some decent mac and cheese which Andrew filled up on. They had a really nice ice cream bar. And COFFEE. The dance floor was small and the music was loud so we (or rather Laurie and Andrew) didn’t do any dancing this year.

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Day Six

The final day of conference Laurie got done early so we went for a drive around the lake. More spectacular views. That night Laurie had her closing banquet and the son and I had one last dip in the pool. All in all a pretty pleasant visit. Not one of my favorite LawyerCons but better than some. You lose major points if you don’t have a comic book shop or a dinosaur exhibit.

Tomorrow: The only thing worse than babies on a plane – toddlers on a plane