FILM: 5-Pound Heavyweight (2010)

For a couple months I've had the eye of the tiger for Stevie Tomato's Sports Page's eating challenge - the 5-Pound Heavyweight burger. Though generally I try to eat healthy and in moderation, I've always been able to eat hefty and greasy when I want to. On a typical night out I'll have no problem dusting off a few pints of whatever draught is on special, a giant appetizer of cheesy, bacon-  and jalepeƱo-smothered fries and a handful of a sandwich before still wanting anyone's leftovers. Got an extra-large, supreme-toppings pizza you don't want? Pass it my way, it'll be gone within the hour. In 2007 I waltzed into a Wendy's, stacked two 3/4-pounders on top of one another and successfully went to town. This Heavyweight was made for me.

Well, I thought it was made for me... for a while there I was under the impression it was 2 pounds of beef with 3 pounds of lettuce, tomato and bun. It's actually 3 pounds of beef with 2 pounds of the other stuff. After learning the truth of the extra meat, I began to get nervous. My goal became to at least eat 3/4s, but of course I was going in trying to finish no matter what. A discussion/betting thread for the event can be viewed here on The Corrierino.

Oddly (perhaps), where on many days leading up to the eventual night of the food fight I felt more than ready to tackle the mother in spite of a lack of preparation, after 36 hours of prep for the real deal I wasn't feeling as hungry (in multiple ways). I had been fasting those long 36 aside from a small bowl of Kashi GoLean to help out the ol' metabolism the day of and a small helping of a protein shake (homemade - the only way to go) to give me a kickstart about an hour and a half before showtime. All the while I was drinking tons of water to keep my stomach from shrinking (a tip from an 11 Points interview with Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti) and I did some decent working out in the afternoon to work up an appetite. Without that drive I had felt somewhat randomly on other days, though, I definitely had a battle ahead. Thankfully I had my very supportive girlfriend on my arm!

From here I'll let the videos speak for themselves. Enjoy!


QUICKIE: Surrogates (Jonathan Mostow, 2009)

"Human perfection. What could go wrong?" Perhaps a more apt tagline might have been, "This is why we can't have nice things." Jonathan Mostow's tight-like-a-tiger Surrogates, based on Robert Venditti's similarly titled comic book, is comfily nestled in Philip K. Dick turf, presenting convenient ideas for the future that only further subvert humanity. If you've read Dick or at least seen Ridley Scott's Blade Runner or Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, both based on Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", you'll likely agree. No matter anyone's opinions of those films (my own from the former to the latter run quite an ascending range), they were landmarks in motion picture science fiction. Surrogates continues the tradition, even if it doesn't quite reach equal heights due to occasional reliance on the same 'B-movie' convention Mostow displayed with Terminator 3.

Probing consideration is given to the futuristic society reliant on robotic versions of its members (the surrogates or "suris"). These almost transhumanist products exceed mere luxury, permeating the everyday to avoid travesties like murder and, more generally, improve everyone's self-image. A spattering of logical gaps do present themselves but are easily paved over by continuation of the great detail from which they rose. Along with the world's embellishment are a few doses of altogether thrilling action, but this action is prevented from encroaching upon the more lasting aspects, thereby preserving most of the film's integrity.

Surrogates functions as a metaphor for our current, penetrating relationship with the internet and, to a relatively lesser extent, the near impossible standards we hold ourselves to. It is involving, cautionary and all the while as attractive as a designer suri (the lovely Rosamund Pike's onscreen presence certainly assists in this area). Its few stray defects are compensated for threefold, making for an entirely gratifying time at the movies.


REVIEW: Catwoman (Pitof, 2004)

Here's an unpopular opinion if there ever was one. In fact, of my ever-growing stock of such opinions, this may take the cake... or at least the kibble. Here it comes: Catwoman is a good movie. Yes! Talk to me on July 22nd, 2004 and I would have no doubt been blasting the feline femme for further tainting Hollywood with what looked by all evidence to be a truly embarrassing flick. On release day July 23rd, however, out of what may have been simple boredom, masochistic curiosity, that persistent drive to be 'different' or simply an unflappable attraction to Halle's Berrys, I took the plunge and happily landed on all fours.

Thirty years prior, this stimulating take on the titular comic book character might have starred the luscious Pam Grier under Jack Hill's orchestration. The blaxploitation sub-genre sputtered out long ago but its remnants feel present and contemporary here. Bubbly, easy-on-the-eyes Berry begins against type as Patience Phillips, shy people pleaser turned smart-talking dynamo. Through baiting talent and looks just as smokin' as Grier's she seems to embrace the role and all the pussycat puns that come with it. Director Pitof colorfully and energetically captures her transformation with rarely fading moxie.

Sure, certain aspects can be construed as missteps. Early on an obvious establishing shot is lazily recycled, some computer effects leave additional renders to be desired and the villains (makeup company honchos - bring on the cat-versus-animal-testing subtext) don't hesitate to ham it up on a stage only slightly above SyFy movies-of-the-week. Interestingly, as the case can be with blaxploitation and other 'B' fare, these blemishes only serve my enjoyment factor. Some people like popcorn at the movies. I happen to prefer Twizzlers. Sometimes, though, I want a big, sugar-bombed baggie of bright pink and green Sour Patch Watermelon, and Catwoman is absolutely Sour Patch Watermelon.

From a base level, we are dealing with anti-superhero material. On one paw the proceedings are not tailored toward Spider-Man's demographic. On the other, our 'hero' in question mostly uses her newfound abilities for selfish purposes before catching a streak of nobility. Perhaps most intriguing is that, yeah, we're seeing super agility and the heightened sense of a cat, but the main 'power' is that of confidence. Once instilled with this new confidence, Patience Phillips is able to break free of society's remorseless chokehold and play by her own rules - a free and empowered woman.

I won't brave the ends of the earth to defend Catwoman, but I wonder how much of its notoriously poor reputation (which won it a wildcat's share of Razzie awards, one of which Berry herself was on hand to accept) is based on negative pre-release buzz - the very buzz I contributed to before actually giving the movie a chance. It may not be purrfect, but from where I'm sitting it gets the job done nicely.


FILM: Prep Ball (2007)

UPDATE: Former '07-'08 Patterson baller Kurt Fenderbosch edited footage of and surrounding that season's Oak Hill game to create the video embedded at the bottom of this post.

Immediately following the Orlando-based production of Dark Departure in the fall and winter of 2007, I was employed at the Patterson School in Lenoir, North Carolina as the Director of Media Resources. Along with more generic tasks like parenting the dorm, maintaining the canteen and polishing the website, the ambiguous title had me carting about a Sony DV camera - gifted by my cousin Doug Stoup of IceAxe Expeditions - documenting various aspects of life in the century-old school. It was a job I landed thanks to my work on The Making of American Spirit earlier in the year.

Primarily I followed The Bulldogs, prep basketball team ranked number two in their division. The Bulldogs were led by highly reputable head coach Chris Chaney and assistant coach Ryan Freeburg. J.V. coach Momir Gajic occasionally ran drills and undertook general management charges. The team included Courtney Fortson (pictured in Arkansas jersey), Varez Ward, Nate Miles, Kurt Fenderbosch, Freddy Asprilla and Victor Ojeleye, among others.

From pre-sunrise practices in a court barely more than four walls and weather-worn flooring to interstate trips in rickety, rusting vans, I was there. I lensed intense locker room speeches, feuds between players and even a weekend in the spellbinding city of Boston for a showcase tournament. The key challenges were anticipating action and, well, being the sole force behind the entire piece. If I missed something, it was gone - no alternative camera angles, no retakes. Thankfully there were opportunities aplenty to capture good footage and I feel I succeeded. With the help of stylistic b-roll, a '70s rock song or two and interviews with players, coaches and recruiters, I had what I needed to assemble a serviceable, short documentary.

In an unfortunate turn, when I returned to Orlando in '08 the post-production plans were foiled by technical difficulty and a lack of funding to rectify it. I still have a bright-pink shoebox full of DV tapes on a shelf in a closet, just waiting to be opened and imported by proper hardware... but with Patterson currently down the tubes and its former coaches off to new schools, I'm not sure the project will ever see completion. The experience is not one I regret, though, and at least the sounds and images exist in my head... I suppose.


REVIEW: Eclipse (David Slade, 2010)

Initially, "The Twilight Saga" handled as a mere framework of relationships between ambiguous characters painted thinner than their own pale skin. Recognizing sudden popularity, it soon became a fan-service machine of angst and abs. Somewhere between then and now, someone must have decided it was time for substance. This latest installment opens strong with validation for its questionable promotion at the Academy Awards where it was billed as horror. Within minutes, the ground meandered over by two hours of "New Moon" is competently tackled, practically negating that predecessor's existence. The quality maintains throughout, building excitement before a tense climax. It is as if director David Slade is boasting to his producers, "This is how it's really done!"

And thank goodness for humor! Not only is "Eclipse" peppered with much needed comic relief, it's confident enough to poke fun at its more ludicrous qualities. Plenty of fan-service is present, but here it is accomplished with a wink and a nudge as opposed to shameless exploitation. We aren't nearly as spoon-fed as before, our brains now being held in higher regard than our loins. Sure, there may be little water to tread beyond what is present on screen, but what is there is honorably conceived and well-rounded. Besides, depth isn't exactly the point.