Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds. If you didn't like it, well, sucks to be you.

Inglourious Basterds. If you didn't like it, well, go watch Transformers or something.

So I saw Inglourious Basterds over the weekend. The quick review: it was awesome.

Seriously, don’t listen to the haters who slam on Quentin Tarantino just because it’s the cool thing to do. Don’t listen to the butt-hurt sci-fi nerds who think District 9 is the greatest movie ever made, and since Basterds dethroned it as box office champion, it must be inherently flawed (on a related note, I thought District 9 was decent, but flawed, especially in the way it abruptly ditched the documentary style two-thirds of the way through the film in favour of generic sci-fi nonsense).

Indeed, despite the mixed review from the professional critics, Basterds is the real deal, and definitely up there with Tarantino’s best. Of course, what exactly constitutes Tarantino’s best is a gargantuan topic all  by itself …  with the exception of Death Proof (which I’ve only seen once when it first came out), I like all of his films for a variety of different reasons — Jackie Brown has great performances, Kill Bill is just fun plain fun to watch, etc. To pick just one and declare it head and shoulders above the rest is no easy task.

But enough about Tarantino’s previous exploits — this review is all about his latest work, Inglourious Basterds. Well, it’s not really a review so much as it is a random series of thoughts pertaining to Basterds. No in-depth analysis here, kids — after all, I’ve only seen the movie once while in a packed theatre — just a few simple observations from the film.

(WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!)

  • Brad Pitt was awesome. Sure, it wasn’t the greatest “acting”, per se — in fact, it was campy and hammy as all hell — but every time he was on screen you were sure to be entertained (especially the scene in the theatre where he absolutely butchers the Italian language).
Rumour has it that he wants his scalps.

Rumour has it that he wants his scalps.

  • For the people complaining that it was “all talk and no action”, well, it’s a Tarantino flick — what the hell were you expecting? Okay, so the final act of Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an exception to the rule, but for the most part, Basterds follows the Tarantino model to perfection.

    Is there a lot of dialogue in Basterds? Sure, but if anything its dialogue serves a much greater narrative purpose than those of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. While those films featured bloated pop culture references that ultimately humanized the thugs and thieves — hey, Jules and Vincent are chatting about burgers, they seem like likable dudes — the conversations in Basterds creates palpable tension and a sense of dread that has you fearing for the characters’ safety, as the dialogue is usually just a cover for the subtext of hiding / uncovering true identities in life-or-death, make-or-break situations (Col. Landa in the farmhouse, the Gestapo officer in the pub’s basement, etc.).

  • Hitler finally gets what’s coming to him. Yes, I can understand why some people might be upset about Tarantino’s “alternate ending” to World War II, especially those who say it disrespects the actual soldiers that sacrificed so much marching into Berlin to end the war. But hey, this was never advertised as an historical re-enactment — it’s a work of fiction that just happens to be set in Nazi-occupied France and uses some “stock characters” from that time period (Hitler, Goebbels, etc.). It’s an alternate reality, an alluring “What If?” scenario — nothing more, nothing less.
    You gonna die.

    You gonna die.

    And besides, since when is killing Hitler a bad thing? In real life, he never really got his comeuppance. Sure, the Nazis lost the war, but nobody actually got the chance to shoot Hitler down, riddle his corpse with bullets, then blow up the corpse in a fiery inferno. The history books say that it didn’t go down in that manner, but we all wish it did. Although they do say that the winner writes the history books … so why not have a Jewish hit squad take down the Fuhrer? Hitler deserved to die, anyway, if only for that wheezy, inhaling laugh of his. What an annoying jerk!

  • Nice to see that Mike Myers still exists and that he didn’t hang himself after the failure of The Love Guru. Sure, he was basically playing an elderly Austin Powers, but still, maybe some of that Tarantino magic will rub off on him and he’ll get his career back on track.
  • Even if they despised the movie, all of the critics agreed that the acting of Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa absolutely stole the show. And I definitely concur, Landa was a superb villain. Of course, the question remains — when he served Shoshanna that glass of milk in the restaurant, did he know who she was? The logical answer is that he couldn’t possibly know, having never even seen her face before, and that it was all a coincidence carefully constructed to make the audience worry for Shoshanna’s safety. But you know … Landa did have the same menacing look in his eyes as when he was interrogating the French farmer and revealed that he knew all along that Shoshanna’s family was hiding under the floorboards …
Col. Hans Landa was a deliciously evil villain.

Col. Hans Landa was a deliciously evil villain.

  • If there was on area that Basterds fell short, it was with the soundtrack — it just wasn’t as memorable or catchy as the music found in Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. Perhaps a better appreciation of the soundtrack would come with multiple viewings, but at first glance nothing really stood out like Miserlou or Battle Without Honor or Humanity.

All in all, Inglourious Basterds is undoubtedly one of my favourite movies of the year and  I definitely recommend checking it out. Due to its 1940s setting there is a distinct lack of pretentious pop culture references, which should make the movie more palatable to even the harshest of Tarantino’s critics.

RATING: SUPER FANTASTIC COOL

The Jurassic Park III Dinosaur Killcount Showdown

Hey! If you missed the first two installments of the Dinosaur Killcount Showdown, you can find ‘em right here: Jurassic Park (won by the tyrannosaurus) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which saw the velociraptor claim victory).

The Scene: Isla Sorna, Costa Rica. We once again travel to the infamous InGen Site B, now a protected wildlife preserve administered by the Costa Rican government.

The Participants: A bunch of awesome dinosaurs and a few idiot humans who are seemingly impervious to destruction.

The Question: Which dinosaur from Jurassic Park III is truly the most effective prehistoric killing machine?

The Methodology: Each encounter (defined as “an edible foe being easily within reach”) will be scored as either a “KILL” or a “MISS” by our panel of judges. Half-points may be awarded for effort or merit, where applicable. Final scores for each prehistoric creature will be tabulated in a manner similar to a batting average in baseball, with additional adjudicator commentary as required.

Allez cuisine!

Tyrannosaurus

Come on, I'm tryin' to eat here!

Come on, I'm tryin' to eat here!

The mighty tyrannosaurus is always a threat to take home the title, and make no mistake, the former champ is looking to get back to the top of the mountain after a somewhat disappointing outing in the previous tournament.

Its brute strength has worked to its advantage in the past, and you certainly can’t ignore its massive serrated teeth and powerful crushing jaws. But will those weapons be enough to fend off a whole new batch of challengers in what is sure to be a highly competitive event?

  • MISS — Dr. Grant as he interrupts the T-Rex’s dinner. To be fair, the tyrannosaurus probably wasn’t expecting to be pestered in the middle of a big meal, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it simply let Grant and the others run away instead of doing what anybody would do when they’re bothered during dinner — chewing them out (in this case, literally). 0 for 1.
  • MISS — The spinosaurus. Enraged at the intruder coming into its territory, the T-Rex attacks the spinosaurus and nearly emerges victorious. Its powerful jaws were wrapped around the invader’s scrawny neck, but it appears that age has finally caught up to the T-Rex, as it was unable to finish the job. Has the former champ lost its edge, its fighting spirit? 0 for 2.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 2 (0.000 killing average).
Truly a sad fall from grace for the former king of all dinosaurs. With no kills to its name, the tyrannosaurus fared no better than many of the lame herbivores it once feasted on. Could retirement be in the cards for Big Rex?

Velociraptor

Do you like my new hat? I like my new hat.

Do you like my new hat? I like my new hat.

The defending champ from The Lost World, the velociraptor is back and it’s looking to register a much more decisive victory than last time, which saw it go to a tie-breaker against the diminutive compsognathus. Indeed, the raptor is determined to run away with this competition and prove to all the naysayers that last year’s title was not a fluke.

Everybody knows about its outstanding agility and razor sharp claws, but our panel of experts are saying that this edition of the raptor is smarter and more cunning than ever before. Can brains prevail over brawn once again?

  • MISS — Amanda in the laboratory. Perhaps wanting to demonstrate its intellect to the rest of the field, the raptor tries to play mindgames with the woman, “hiding” in plain sight by pretending to be a test tube speciment. Clever? Yes. Practical? No. I can understand wanting to give the woman a sporting chance, but come on, points are at stake! Just jump out and destroy her before she see you! 0 for 1.
  • KILL — Udesky in the forest. This guy stood no chance whatsoever and the raptors knew it, deciding to play with him for a while before putting him out of his misery. 1 for 2.
  • MISS — Amanda as she dangles precariously from a tree. Again, aren’t you guys supposed to be able to jump really high? And if you’re so smart, why didn’t one of the raptors simply use the other as a springboard to get to her? This lack of effort is not impressing the judges. 1 for 3.
  • 2x MISS — Dr. Grant, surrounded by four raptors. The very definition of “epic fail”, folks, as the raptors have Grant completely at their mercy. Do they attack as a pack from multiple angles, ensuring the kill? Of course not! Instead, they pose and taunt and hiss at him for about an hour until he’s saved by a little wiener boy with gas grenades. Multiple points are deducted for the sheer ineptitude of it all. 1 for 5.
  • 2x MISS — Dr. Grant and his posse, this time surrounded by five raptors. No, this isn’t an instant replay of the previous scenario (not that instant replay is allowed in this league, anyway) — but it is one more example of the lackadaisical attitude that is dooming the raptor’s chances of repeating as champion. 1 for 7.
  • MISS — Amanda as she hands over the eggs. The lead raptor gets right in her grill, face to face like two UFC fighters before the main event. Instead of chomping on her skull, however, the raptor gives her some sort of prehistoric eskimo kiss before running away into the forest. Seriously, are you idiots even trying any more? 1 for 8.

FINAL TALLY: 1 for 8 (0.125 killing average).
My, how the mighty have fallen. Once an unstoppable killing machine, it appears as though the velociraptor might not be able to defend its title after putting up some rather pathetic numbers this time around. But which dinosaur will takes its place at the top of the mountain?

Spinosaurus

Maybe if you had better posture you wouldn't have that hump.

Maybe if you had better posture you wouldn't have that hump.

A highly-touted prospect from the Jurassic Park Developmental League, this nasty up-and-comer is determined to make a name for itself in its big league debut. But does this behemoth have what it takes to compete with the big boys of Isla Sorna?

Without any professional experience, it’s hard to say what exactly the spinosaurus will bring to the table. We do know that it possesses some very different tools than the competition, including a long crocodilian snout, an insanely huge frame (up to 18 metres in length, making it larger than the T-Rex and perhaps even the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever walk the planet), and long, sharp claws on its forelimbs, which are considerably more dexterous than those found on the tyrannosaurus.

The question is, can it make the most out these impressive implements of destruction when the pressure is on?

  • KILL — Cooper as he is trying to catch the plane. Nice work on getting the blood to splatter on the plane’s windshield — a very good first impression for the rookie dinosaur. 1 for 1.
  • KILL — Nash, the plane’s pilot. Using its narrow snout to its advantage, the spinosaur is able to easily reach into the wrecked plane and pull the puny human to his doom. So far so good. 2 for 2.
  • MISS — The rest of the people trapped in the plane. Hey, all rookies are bound to get the jitters now and then. It’s understandable. Still, these points were practically gift-wrapped for the spinosaurus, as the people were trapped in the wrecked fuselage of the plane like a can of delicious sardines. 2 for 3.
  • KILL — The tyrannosaurus. The rising contender puts the former champ out to pasture with a thrilling come-from-behind knockout victory — except replace the word “knockout” with “neck snap” and “victory” with “mercy killing”. 3 for 4.
  • MISS — Dr. Grant and Eric, the little wiener kid. The spinosaur has Grant and the boy trapped with their backs literally against the wall, but it is unable to finish the job as they escape through an extraordinarily convenient human-sized hole in the fence. A disappointing turn of event, to be sure … 3 for 5.
  • MISS — … Until the spinosaurus smashes down the fence and continues to chase! Now that’s showing some heart! A true passion for the game! This kid could go places with this kind of attitude. Unfortunately, the humans escape into a building and lock the door, which apparently cannot be smashed down even with nine tonnes of accelerated mass on your side. Those are the breaks, though. 3 for 6.
  • MISS — The people on the boat. Sneaking up on the boat from under the water, and then rising up and causing it to capsize? An excellent plan, but the execution was severely lacking, especially in the “capsizing the boat” department. If you’re not going to use your size to your advantage, its working to your disadvantage. 3 for 7.
  • MISS — Amanda, trapped underwater inside a cage. Come on, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel here — all you have to do is reach inside the cage, wraps your claws around her, pull her out, place her in your mouth, and swallow. Unfortunately, the spinosaur suffered a severe brain cramp and stopped at step two, apparently forgetting the rest of the set play. Typical rookie mistake. 3 for 8.
  • MISS — Paul Kirby, dangling from a crane. It appears as though the scouts missed the spinosaur’s most glaring weakness — a lack of conditioning. Perhaps as it matures it’ll get into better shape, but there’s no excusing the rookie’s lack of effort during the late stages of the game. I mean, you’re inches away from the dude’s feet — suck it up and finish the job! 3 for 9.

FINAL TALLY: 3 for 9 (0.333 killing average).
The spinosaurus started the season on a very strong note, but at this stage of its career, it clearly lacks the mental aspect of the game that is the hallmark of a true champion. But with the previous winners choking harder than the Sens and the Sharks combined, the spinosaurus could still pull off an upset go deep into the tournament.

Pteranodon

Dramatic pteranodon.

Dramatic pteranodon.

Another new entrant to the tournament, the pteranodon is perhaps the most unusual dinosaur to ever compete in this event. First and foremost, it can fly, which gives it a rather distinct advantage over the rest of the field. In addition, its long beak is useful for delivering vicious rapid-fire strikes that, while not killing blows due to the lack of teeth, are still capable of dishing out incredible damage.

Some critics will say that its smaller size and relative lack of weaponry compared to some of the more established veterans will hurt the pteranodon’s chances — but this unique competitor is bound to turn some heads no matter what happens on the field.

  • KILL — The boat crew. Critics could debate this point, as the kill is never actually witnessed. However, the damage done to the boat, as well as the bones seen in the pteranodon nest, provide more than enough evidence in the eyes of the judges. 1 for 1.
  • MISS — Eric as he crosses the bridge. An opportunistic pteranodon clutches the kid in his talons and flies off into the sunset. But instead of soaring really high and dropping Eric on a bunch of pointy rocks, or even pecking his eyes out as a mid-flight snack, the pteranodon simply gives him a first-class flight back to its nest. While that would score points for customer service, a kill it most certainly is not. 1 for 2.
  • MISS — Eric in the nest. The baby pteranodons try their damnedest, but they prove incapable of bringing down a young boy. This is rather odd, considering that the much smaller compsognathus was capable of killing Peter Stormare in The Lost World. Clearly, the pteranodon’s youth and inexperience worked against it here. 1 for 3.
  • MISS — Grant, Amanda, and Paul on the walkway. With the humans trapped on the rickety walkway, the pteranodon slowly batwalks toward them … and then falls into the water when the whole thing collapses, proving that slow and steady doesn’t win this race. Pteranodon supporters will undoubtedly point that it had no room to fly, and while this may be true, you gotta be prepared to play the game under any conditions — and this pteranodon was not. 1 for 4.
  • MISS — Billy in the paraglider. In what should be an easy target, the pteranodon — which can, you know, actually fly — somehow fails to take down Billy, who is lazily gliding through the air on a dead guy’s parachute. While the pteranodon does manage to clip the paraglider, its unwillingness to go hard into the corners and grind out a victory could cost it in the long run. 1 for 5.
  • MISS — Billy in the river. With Billy flailing around in the water, a pteranodon swoops down and grabs him in its talons. Unfortunately, it lacks the explosive strength that is need to succeed in this type of situation. The pteranodon is unable to maintain its grip on its prey and Billy falls back into the river. 1 for 6.
  • 1/2 KILL — Billy in the river, part deux. With the clock winding down, the pteranodons smartly abandon the “grasp and fly” technique and simply start pecking the living hell out of Billy as he is swept downriver. It initially seems like the pteranodons emerge victorious in this encounter, but it is later revealed that Billy somehow, against all logical odds, escaped with his life. However, since he was covered in numerous bloody bandages, that will count for a partial kill in the eyes of the judges. 1.5 for 7.

FINAL TALLY: 1.5 for 7 (0.214 killing average).
In what is the year of the dark horse (or dark dino, if you will), another upstart newcomer has scored more points than both of the previous champions. While the pteranodon could not quite match the output of the spinosaurus, the “scourge of the skies” definitely made quite an impression on our panel, which looks forward to seeing what the pteranodon can do in future competitions.

Ceratosaurus

I promised not to use a "me so horny" joke here.

I promised not to use a "me so horny" joke here.

Yet another newcomer to the Jurassic Park roster, the ceratosaurus certainly has the tools to make a difference in this tournament. Utilizing the classic theropod look (large powerful jaws, razor sharp teeth, and pathetic little forelimbs), the ceratosaurus is very much like a T-Rex — albeit on a much smaller scale (at about 20 feet long, it would be half the size of the tyrannosaur). Still, emulating a former champ, regardless of scale, is never a bad idea.

The ceratosaurus does have one major distinction over its larger brethren — a blade-like horn on its snout, proving that nasal protrusions is not solely the domain of the herbivore. Whether it can use this horn to its advantage remains to be seen.

  • MISS — Grant, Amanda, and Paul as they dig through dino shit. In an unexpected turn of events, the ceratosaurus stumbles upon the group of humans while they are elbow-deep in spinosaur droppings, attempting to find a digested phone. In what should have been the perfect time to strike, the ceratosaurus refuses to get its nose dirty and take one for the team, instead opting to turn tail and run from the smelly, gross people. Question — if it doesn’t like the smell of shit, why was it lurking near the steaming piles in the first place? This blatant lack of heart won’t win over many fans, that’s for sure. 0 for 1.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 1 (0.000 killing average).
It coulda been a contender, but the ceratosaurs simply didn’t have the will to get the job done. You simply can’t teach heart, kids — you either got it or you don’t. Hey, maybe the ceratosaurus will learn from this experience and come out ready to compete next time … or maybe it won’t. Either way, the judges definitely did not see the full potential of the ceratosaurus during this event and are hoping for a much better showing next time.

Corythosaurus / Parasaurolophus

Running away is the only tactic these guys know.

Running away is the only tactic these guys know.

A tag team entrant, this herbivore duo (characterized by their distinct cranial decorations) is looking to reverse the overwhelming trend of grass-eater ineptitude and finally score some points for Team Green.

History, of course, is very much against the hopes of the corythosaurus and parasaurolophus. Will it continue the legacy of herbivorous letdowns? Probably, but the judges have to look at all the entrants equally, regardless of whether or not they actually have a chance to win the competition.

  • 2x MISS — The stampede sequence. Despite outweighing the puny humans by several tonnes, these herbivore suckjobs seemingly go out of their way to avoid running over any of the fleshy primates. Seriously, there are raptors behind you and people in front of you — why not just trample them and be done with it? Is that too much to ask? It’s survival of the fittest after all. Remarkably, one of the corythosaurs actually hits Udesky, but naturally it’s just a grazing blow that sends the man to the ground in comedic fashion. 0 for 2.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 2 (0.000 killing average).
The judges weren’t expecting much, but this was outright terrible. Despite having several very real, tangible possibilities to score points, the corythosaurus and parasaurolophus came up lame. Let it be known that the Costa Rican Athletic Commission is looking into the possible bannination of these numbskulls from future competitions — and not because its looking out for the safety of the humans.

Brachiosaurus

Durr ... we're dinosaurs!

Durr ... we're dinosaurs!

An absolute monster of a dinosaur (measuring in at 25 feet long, 43 feet tall, and weighing 78 tonnes), the brachiosaurus could probably clean up the competition if it could just put its minuscule brain to the task. Armed with a whip-like tail and staggering size, the brachiosaurus could undoubtedly do some damage — but alas, like some sort of prehistoric cow, it never does.

Hardly a favourite to win the competition (or even score any points, for the matter), the brachiosaurus is simply hoping to to embarrass itself too badly.

  • MISS — The humans as they drift down the river. Intrigued by the potential to maybe score points and make their parents proud, a group of brachiosaurs come to the river’s edge to see what’s going on. Instead of crushing the people like the bugs they are, the dinos just lean over and make stupid faces at them. Idiots. 0 for 1.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 1 (0.000 killing average).
No comment. Well, apart from this: “Hey brachiosaurus, you suck!”

The results are in! The winner, and new heavyweight champion of the (lost) world …

Congratulations! You still look stupid, though.

Congratulations! You still look stupid, though.

The Spinosaurus!

While a 0.333 average might be really good in baseball, it’s actually the worst ever showing for a champion in Jurassic Park history. What does this say about the spinosaurus? And more importantly, what does it say about the level of competition? Our analysts see this as a transition year, where the older champions have clearly lost their touch, but the new breed of dinosaurs coming up to replace them haven’t quite mastered their skills yet. As a result, nobody really stands out and it only takes a couple of big points to rise above the rest of the mediocrity.

Still, newcomers such as the spinosaurus and pteranodon laid some interesting groundwork to build upon for future tournaments — if there are any, of course. Dinosaurs in New York? Dinosaurs in Space? Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.

Montage Overload: The Insanity of Rocky IV

The day is approaching to give it your best
You’ve got to reach your prime!
That’s when you need to put yourself to the test
And show us the passage of time.
We’re gonna need a montage! (Montage!)
A sports training montage! (Montage!)


Rocky ended the Cold War, you know.

Rocky ended the Cold War, you know.

When it comes to awful ’80s movies, my guilty pleasure is, without a shadow of a doubt, Rocky IV. It’s such a trainwreck on so many levels, yet I still feel compelled to watch it again and again, drawn to its terribleness like a moth to a flame.

My previous post comparing MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko to Ivan Drago has put me in somewhat of a Rocky mindset, so I’ve decided to finally tackle something about that movie that’s been bugging me for quite some time — just what is the ratio between actual narrative progression and montages / musical numbers in Rocky IV? I’ve always been aware of the unusually high number of montages in this flick, but the extent to which Stallone and the crew mailed it on this one has never been truly known — until now.

Montage #1: Exploding Gloves / The Rocky III Recap

Duration: 0:00 to 2:00 (2 minutes)
Song: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

I know, I know. It’s not exactly a true Rocky montage in the tradition of showing the passage of time and whatnot — it’s just the final fight scene from Rocky III with Eye of the Tiger playing over top of the action, with the occasional cut to Soviet and American boxing gloves that rotate, slam into each other, and explode for some bizarre reason. Still, it’s a pretty bad omen — the damn movie hasn’t even started yet and Stallone is already scouring the archives in order to kill time.

Well, it does encapsulate the entire movie fairly accurately.

Well, it does encapsulate the entire movie fairly accurately.

Montage #2: Apollo Creed and James Brown Get Funky

Duration: 23:15 to 26:05 (2 minutes and 50 seconds)
Song: Living in America by James Brown

Okay, so once again this isn’t a Rocky montage in the truest sense of the word. Still, it’s a three minute musical number that serves no other purpose but to have James Brown appear in the movie, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe if Apollo Creed hadn’t wasted so much energy dancing with The Godfather of Soul, he might still be alive today. On a related note, “The Count of Monte Fisto” is such an awesome nickname for a fighter.

"The Count of Monte Fisto" makes another spectacular entrance.

"The Count of Monte Fisto" makes another spectacular entrance.

Montage #3: Rocky’s Car / The Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III Recap

Duration: 41:20 — 45:45 (4 minutes and 25 seconds)
Song: No Easy Way Out by Robert Tepper

Apollo’s dead, Adrian’s pissed, and Rocky’s about to leave for Russia to fight Drago. Great, now that we have all that pesky plot out of the way, it’s time to strap in and take the express lane to Montage City, because we have just passed the point of no friggin’ return. In what is perhaps the greatest montage in the history of montages, Rocky starts his car, drives around at night, and reflects back on better times with Apollo and Adrian (by showing several clips from all three Rocky movie up to this point, of course). The film studies bullshit artist inside me could interpret this as Rocky seeing his life flash before eyes, knowing that he faces certain death at the hands of Ivan Drago. The realist inside me, however, would simply call this extremely lazy filmmaking on Stallone’s part.

The greatest montage sequence ever? Quite possibly.

The greatest montage sequence ever? Quite possibly.

Montage #4: Rocky Arrives in Russia

Duration: 48:25 — 51:05 (2 minutes and 40 seconds)
Song: Burning Heart by Survivor

Less than three minutes after the previous montage, we’re back at it once again. I mean, who needs dialogue when you’ve got the dulcet sounds of Survivor, am I right? This time, Rocky’s plane touches down in Russia, a bunch of snow-covered Commies look in his general direction, and he’s escorted to his cabin in the middle of nowhere. I always get a kick out of the guy pictured below who gives Rocky a subtle nod, as if to say “‘Sup, dawg?”, as he steps off the plane. Hey, in a rather uneventful montage, you really gotta step back and appreciate the little things.

Welcome to Russia, bitch.

Welcome to Russia, bitch.

Montage #5: Training Montage, Part I

Duration: 55:00 — 58:40 (3 minutes and 40 seconds)
Song: Training Montage by Vince DiCola

Less than four minutes later (which was mostly spent by Rocky’s trainer, Duke (aka, the black Mickey), telling Rocky that “he knows what he needs to do”), it’s time to get down to brass tacks and give the audience what they’ve been waiting so patiently for — the training montage!  Rocky, despite being heavyweight champion with unparallelled access to the latest training equipment and world-class sparring partners, decides to borrow from Fedor Emelianenko’s training program of cutting down trees, lifting rocks, and carrying logs over his shoulder prior to a big fight. Meanwhile, Drago (the cold, heartless Commie bastard that he is), uses science. Boo! Hiss! Down with modern athletics!

Okay, we get it. He's a Commie. But does he really have to train under harsh red lights?

Okay, we get it. He's a Commie. But does he really have to train under harsh red lights?

Montage #6: Training Montage, Part II

Duration: 59:55 — 1:04:10 (4 minutes and 15 seconds)
Song: Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty

Ivan Drago is a pretty bad dude … did you really think that a single training montage would be enough time for Rocky to get in shape to face the man nicknamed “Death From Above”? Hell no! Stallone refuses to take his foot off the gas pedal, bombarding us with a second epic training montage a mere 75 seconds after the first one wrapped up. Sure, it shows pretty much the exact same stuff as the previous montage, except this time Rocky has grown a badass beard, outruns a car, and climbs a fucking mountain.

Sorry, gonna have to call bullshit on this one.

Sorry, gonna have to call bullshit on this one.

For those keeping score at home, Stallone had the balls to include nearly nine straight minutes of training montage in Rocky IV, with the only break in the action being a minute of Adrian and Rocky talking outside of their cabin. It’s almost as if he knew that the movie would bring in a truckload of money no matter what, so why should he even bother with dumb things like character and story development? Been there, got the Oscar for it, so it’s time to make nothing but montages from here on out! Still, when the montages he gives us are of such awesome quality, who am I to complain?

I've seen videos of Fedor doing this. Seriously.

I've seen videos of Fedor doing this. Seriously.

Montage #7: The Final Battle

Duration: 1:15:50 — 1:20:25 (4 minutes and 35 seconds)
Song: War by Vince DiCola

While an amazing 10 whole minutes have passed since the last montage, don’t worry, nothing of substance has actually happened — those 10 minutes consisted solely of entrances, ring introductions, and the first two rounds of the fight between Rocky and Drago. Of course, even Stallone knows that he can’t show an entire 15-round boxing match, so you know what that means … it’s time for the fight montage! Both men absolutely destroy each other with a plethora of power shots, and I’m pretty sure Rocky actually loses the fight at one point, but I guess the Soviet system doesn’t use the three knockdown TKO rule. Their loss (literally).

When one montage isn't enough ... it's time for a split-screen montage!

When one montage isn't enough ... it's time for a split-screen montage!

As far as fight montages go, this one is probably my favourite in the entire Rocky series. According to IMDB, Stallone and Dolph Lundgren were actually hitting each other in order to make the footage look more real. Naturally, Stallone ended up in the hospital after taking too many body shots from the Siberian Bull. He wasn’t lying when he said he must break you! All in all, the music is great, the action looks decent, there’s a Gorbachev lookalike watching the fight, and even the bearded dude from the airport is in the crowd to check in on his homeboy. Awesome.

Get that water outta my face, sucka!

Get that water outta my face, sucka!

Montage #8: Victory / End Credits / The Rocky IV Recap

Duration: 1:26:35 — 1:31:20 (4 minutes and 45 seconds)
Song: Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty

The movie started with a montage recapping the previous film, so it’s only fitting that Rocky IV concludes with a montage recapping the previous film — that film being Rocky IV, of course. After Rocky Balboa singlehandedly ends the Cold War with his stirring speech (“If I can change, and you can change … everybody can change!”), the song Hearts on Fire kicks in once more. We see a few scenes of Rocky, draped in the American flag, celebrating his victory, and then the credits begin to scroll — overtop of rapid-fire, black and white still photos from every scene in the movie. Wait, what?

Come on, hardly anything actually happened during the past 90 minutes — do we really need to see it all over again in condensed format? Perhaps Stallone thought that the audience would be so emotionally drained after Rocky’s upset victory (and the fact that he just brought down the Berlin Wall all by himself) that they would be unable to remember anything that happened prior to the climactic showdown. And if this is the case, Stallone would be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

That being said, it’s better than plain ol’ credits over the black void of nothingness.

A montage about the movie we just watched? Drago's "WTF?" face expresses my opinion quite nicely.

A montage to recap the movie we just watched? Drago's "WTF?" look says it all.

TOTAL MONTAGE TIME: 29 minutes and 10 seconds

TOTAL MOVIE RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes and 20 seconds

PERCENTAGE OF ROCKY IV THAT IS MONTAGE: 31.9%

That’s right. Nearly one-third of the entire movie is montage / musical numbers. The numbers are even worse if you look at just the last 50 minutes of the movie (aka, the point in the movie where Stallone said “screw it, this movie stuff is too hard”). Starting from the No Easy Way Out sequence, there is a total of 24 minutes and 20 seconds of montage — which means that during the second half of the movie, Rocky IV is approximately 50% montage. Absolutely incredible.

Going back to the movie as a whole, we now know that one-third of the total running time is devoted to montage. Another third is taken up solely by the two boxing matches, which means that only one-third of Rocky IV actually involves the characters doing things other than training or fighting. And to top it all off, most of those scenes feature that friggin’ robot, which means they might as well not even exist since the robot was so mind-shatteringly retarded. Seriously, what the hell was the point of that thing? Damn you, ’80s!

Stallone, you insane bastard. How you managed to get away with this, we’ll never know. But I’m sure glad you did, because Rocky IV is, despite its flaws, nothing short of awesome.

This image was taken from a boxing movie. True story.

This image was taken from a boxing movie. True story.

I Fight for Me: What Fedor Can Learn from Ivan Drago

Despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world, UFC President Dana White announced today that although he has tried his damnedest, he has still not been able to sign free agent heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko to a UFC contract.

The baddest man on the planet? Or is he ducking Brock Lesnar?

The best of all-time? Or a coward?

If the reports are true, White’s offer to Fedor’s camp was apparently quite substantial (or as White himself put it, “insane”) — a guaranteed six fight / $30 million deal (including an immediate title shot against UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar), an agreement that would allow Fedor to also compete in Russian Sambo events when he’s not fighting in the Octagon, and perhaps most shocking of all, the UFC would even provide Fedor’s management team, M-1 Global, with a portion of all pay-per-view revenues.

But apparently that wasn’t good enough, because Vadim Finkelchtein, the head honcho of M-1 Global (a rinky-dink MMA league based in Russia), is demanding that any fight card featuring Fedor must be co-promoted under a joint UFC / M-1 banner. Finkelchtein obviously doesn’t care about what the fans or the fighters want (which is a Fedor vs. Lesnar superfight to determine who is truly the best heavyweight in the world). Instead, he only cares about leeching off of the UFC’s established brand in hope of gaining some sort of foothold in the North American market for M-1 Global. And as we all know, Dana White will never allow that to happen, which means Fedor will continue to fight freak shows and UFC castaways like Tim Sylvia until the day he retires.

If only Fedor would do the same to Vadim Finkelchtein ...

If only Fedor would do the same to M-1.

A lot of people have compared Fedor Emelianenko to the character Ivan Drago in Rocky IV — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that can murder people in the ring with his bare hands (although to be fair, former Pride fighter Sergei Kharitonov looked a lot more like Drago than Fedor ever did). Only now do we see even more parallels to that film — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that is constantly getting jerked around by a posse of managers and politicians, and the fact that Lesnar, in the Rocky Balboa role, would probably have to drop the UFC title and travel to Russia in order to make such a fight a reality.

In my opinion, Fedor should continue to emulate Ivan Drago’s character arc by standing up for himself and becoming his own man (savage beating of Apollo Creed is optional, of course). Much like how Drago got fed up of taking orders from the Commies and being used a pawn in his country’s Cold War ambitions, Fedor needs to nut up, grab Finkelchtein by the throat, and announce to the whole world, “I fight to win! For me! For me!”

Then, once he tosses the M-1 Global trash aside, he does the right thing and takes Dana White’s offer, battles Brock Lesnar in the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history, and finally proves once and for all that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts.

Or he could continue to damage his legacy by hiding behind a two-bit, small-time MMA promoter until the end of his career. It’s his call.

Would Fedor love to fight in the UFC and challenge himself against the best of the best? Most likely, yes. He is a fighter and a warrior, after all. But until he can separate himself from Finkelchtein and get a manager that actually cares about the progress of his fighter’s career (and not the bottom line of his own company), that day will never come, despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world.

The question is, when will Fedor fight for himself?

The question is, when will Fedor fight for himself?

The Men With No Name: Yojimbo vs. A Fistful of Dollars

Known fact — Clint Eastwood is a badass. In fact, I never really understood why Chuck Norris got all of the attention, when everybody knows that Eastwood is superior in every way.

Forget about Chuck Norris. Eastwood is the true power.

Forget about Chuck Norris. Eastwood is the true power.

While Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan might be his most famous role, I much prefer the character that Eastwood used to propel himself into Hollywood superstardom — The Man With No Name. I recently rewatched all three movies in Sergio Leone’s fantastic Spaghetti Western trilogy starring this character (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), and while The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is clearly the best of the three movies (albeit a bit too long, in my opinion, clocking in at nearly three solid hours — I mean, was the “blowing up the bridge” sequence really that critical? Just get to the damn shootout at the cemetery already!), I must admit that I have a genuine soft spot for A Fistful of Dollars.

First, it’s because Fistful is Eastwood’s film and his film alone. No Lee Van Cleefs or Eli Wallachs to steal the spotlight here — it’s nothing but Eastwood being Eastwood, which is pure, unadulterated awesomeness. Second, the movie has a very solid cinematic and narrative foundation, mostly because it shamelessly rips off some very excellent source material — Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, starring the always exciting Toshiro Mifune as the Samurai With No Name. Now, it’s not quite a Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, but it’s damn near a scene for scene remake of the original jidaigeki samurai piece. Which definitely isn’t a bad thing, since Yojimbo is a hell of a fine flick.

Granted, since Kurosawa Yojimbo was more or less an homage to the Hollywood Western, it wasn’t much of a stretch to replace the Japanese actors with Americans and Italians and swap out the katanas for pistols. It’s still the same dusty town, the same shootouts on the desolate streets. Whether it’s cowboys or samurais, it all adds up to one excellent cinematic experience.

But the real question is … which film is superior? A Fistful of Dollars or the O.G., Yojimbo? Buckle up, kids, it’s time for some science!

The Heroes

When comparing these two films, it really only boils down to one question — Eastwood or Mifune? Which film god reigns supreme?

So he wears a housecoat. Are you gonna tell him not to?

So he wears a housecoat. Are you gonna tell him not to?

Man … is it actually possible to pick one over the other? I mean, Clint Eastwood is Clint Friggin’ Eastwood — quick on the draw, rocking an awesome poncho, and staring a hole through his opponents with his rock-hard glare. He’s not a very talkative character, but you know he’s gonna whoop some ass when the time comes.

Mifune’s Sanjuro Kuwabatake (a fake name, of course) is a bit more laid back that Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He likes his rice and sake, sports a pimpin’ kimono, and is more likely to pause and think things through before taking action. But like Eastwood, when the time come, he can carve suckas to shreds with the best of them.

However, it seems that Mifune’s lone ronin has a bit more character to him that Eastwood’s mysterious cowboy. He’s not just some guy out to make some easy cash — he’s at a crossroads in Japanese history and is attempting to make a new life for himself. Due to his samurai past, it’s clear that he has a sense of right and wrong and a strong code of honour. But hey, if he can make a few ryo while cleaning up the town’s scum and villainy, well, why not?

Don't you dare make fun of his mule.

Don't you dare make fun of his mule.

Still, can you argue with that look? It’s the squint that launched a thousand ships. A true movie icon. While Mifune’s character is more well-rounded, Eastwood is much more memorable.

So let’s call it a draw, shall we?

The Villains

Of course, no villain could ever hope to stand up to power of Clint Eastwood or Toshiro Mifune. But hey, somebody’s gotta try. Ramon Rojo and Unosuke are decent villains, I suppose, but aren’t all that special. They are both the brother of the gang leader and ultimately the meanest, cruelest, and smartest members of their respective gangs, but that’s about it.

However, there is one big difference between Ramon and Uno that tips the scales in Yojimbo‘s favour — weaponry. In A Fistful of Dollars, it’s supposed to be a big deal that Ramon is an excellent shot with a rifle, and he emphatically states that in a duel between a man with a pistol and a man with a rifle, the man with the rifle always wins. It must be one hell of a rifle then, because I’m pretty sure Eastwood mowed down four dudes in about half a second with his revolver when he first walked into town. Yet we’re supposed to believe that one guy with a rifle is gonna be pose a major threat? Sorry, but I ain’t buying it.

But when you bring a gun to a swordfight … well, that changes things considerably. It doesn’t matter how badass Mifune is with his katana — Unosuke has a gun, and that makes the audience truly reconsider Mifune’s strengths and advantages over his rival. After all, how can a sword beat a gun?

Always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Well, as Mifune proves, it’s rather easy, actually, as he uses a throwing knife to get the jump on Uno before rushing in and gutting him with his katana. As quickly as it ends, however, it’s a much better final battle than in Fistful, which requires a little too much from the suspension of disbelief department. To counter Ramon’s deadly accuracy when “shooting for the heart”, Eastwood wears a giant hunk of metal under his poncho and dares Ramon to blow him away. This is acceptable for the first couple of shots, but it gets rather silly as Eastwood shrugs off about a dozen shots and Ramon still foolishly aims for the chest instead of going for, I dunno, a headshot? Sure, Ramon may be proud, but in a life or death situation I doubt he’d act that stupidly.

His gun is bigger than your gun.

His gun is bigger than your gun. That makes him better than you, no matter how skilled your revolver is.

In the end, I have to give the edge to Yojimbo, simply because the lame gun versus gun dynamic in Fistful really, really bugs me.

The Goons

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that Yojimbo can be quite confusing at times (especially the first time you watch it), since all of the Japanese names sound the same, the two gang leaders sorta look the same, and it’s hard to keep track of which guys work for Seibei and which guys are part of Ushitora’s crew. Thankfully, A Fistful of Dollars doesn’t have this problem, as the gangs are easily marked and instantly identifiable — it’s the boring white guys versus the villainous Mexicans.

The face only a mother could love.

The face only a mother could love.

Unfortunately, the way Fistful draws such a definitive line between the two gangs goes against the very core of Kurosawa’s original. In Yojimbo, Mifune made several visits to both gangs and a good chunk of time is spent on the samurai playing both sides against each other. Both gangs are equally vile, and Mifune knows he will wipe them both out — but you never really know which gang will get the upper hand until actually happens. Fistful, on the other hand, has no such shades of grey (and not just because the movie is in colour). The Rojos are evil, and that’s that. In fact, the Baxters are practically irrelevant and hardly have any screentime at all, making it more “Clint Eastwood versus the Mexicans” than “lone cowboy versus a corrupt town”.

Another problem is that while the Mexicans are easily identifiable, they are all rather generic (with the exception of Ramon). The Japanese gangs, however, had some truly memorable characters, such as the ugly monobrowed son and the giant thug with the mallet, which made the movie a bit more fun to watch.

Giant man with a giant hammer. I see nothing wrong here.

Giant man with a giant hammer. I see nothing wrong here.

Gotta give the edge to Yojimbo once again. While their appearances are perhaps played more for laughs (keeping with the overall lighter tone of the film when compared to Fistful), the goons are definitely more memorable in Kurosawa’s film. Plus, the equality of the two gangs actually works within the framework of the plot, which, you know, is a plus.

The Crowning Moment of Awesomeness

Apart from the final showdown, the big scene in each film occurs when the lone samurai / cowboy first arrives in town and wants to make a strong first impression on their potential employers. Naturally, he decides to slaughter a few local homeboys and proceeds to ask the undertaker for some coffins (“… better make it four.”). The Fistful version is ultra cool, simply because Eastwood is at his squinting, scowling, and growling best, delivering the classic lines about how it’s not wise to make fun of his mule before prematurely ending the day of four of Baxter’s toughs.

The equivalent scene in Yojimbo, on the other hand, directly influenced Star Wars:

"No blasters! No blasters!"

"No blasters! No blasters!"

That severed arm was, and still is, pretty hardcore. Still, Mifune’s lines aren’t quite as excellent as Eastwood’s (the samurai mocks the gangsters, saying that they look cute and probably couldn’t hurt a fly), and the low angle from behind The Man With No Name as he shoots up the Baxters allows the viewer to soak up all of the action as opposed to Kurosawa’s quick, frenetic swordplay.

Let’s call this one a draw, too, as both scenes are equally great.

And so, the winner is …

I guess the scorecards say Yojimbo, and I think in my heart I want to say that Yojimbo is clearly the better film due to its superior characters and narrative … but there’s just something about Clint Eastwood wearing that dirty brown poncho and smoking that cigar to the sweet, sweet sounds on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack that is the very essence of cinematic awesomeness. It just goes to show that film is an intensely audio-visual medium, and that certain images and characters can burrow their way into our brains and make us overlook the obvious flaws that a movie may contain (such as Fistful‘s absolutely atrocious dubbing and voicework).

Try as I might, I truly can’t pick one over the other. Hmmmm. How about I say that we all win for having the chance to witness two great version of the same story? Unless, of course, you haven’t seen either movie. In that case, you’re clearly the loser of this contest.

Game Developers on Acid: Megaman 2

Probably not the developers' fault. Still terrible, though.

Probably not the developers' fault. Still terrible, though.

Look, I’m not here to bash Megaman 2. Far from it. It’s one of my favourite games of all-time, and it is undoubtedly the crowning moment of awesomeness for the entire Megaman series (with Megaman 3 a close second, naturally).

While we’ve all heard the tale that Keiji Inafune and his team at Capcom somehow managed to produce this epic masterpiece during their spare time — a true labour of love, if you will — that doesn’t mean that the developers are completely infallible, however. In fact, some of the stuff in Megaman 2 is absolutely batshit insane, enough to make you scratch your head (although probably not literally, unless you have lice or something) and mutter to yourself, “just what in the blue hell were they thinking?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Subterranean Fire-Breathing Dogs

Woodman, wanting to stay close to his roots, lives in a forest. Okay, makes sense to me. Forests usually contain animals. Yup, I’m with you there. One of the animals featured in Woodman’s menagerie of arboreal terror is a wolf. Nothing out of the ordinary. Things start getting a little bit fuzzy, however, when you realize that these wolves can only be found in underground caves. Oh, and they spit fireballs, too.

There are many things wrong with this picture.

There are many things wrong with this picture.

Okay, the kickass dragon at the end of the first Wily Castle level, it makes perfect sense for that guy to shoot fireballs. You know why? Because it’s a freakin’ dragon. But a dog? That lives in a cave? And shoots fireballs in a perfect parabolic arc? That just makes my brain hurt.

Forest, Rainforest … What’s the Difference?

Wrong type of forest, jerk.

Wrong type of forest, jerk.

While we’re on the topic of retarded enemies found in Woodman’s stage, there’s one bad guy that just doesn’t seem to fit in with all of the others. I can imagine the conversion between Inafune and his crew going something along these lines:

Inafune: “Okay, so we’ve got bats, rabbits, subterranean fire-breathing dogs, and rampaging chickens … but we still need some more enemies in this level. What other animals live in a forest?”

Developer: “Gorillas?”

Inafune: “Yeah, sure, why the fuck not.”

Dr. Wily’s Greatest Creation — Flying Hamburgers

These guys didn’t make any sense when I was in the second grade, and they sure as hell don’t make any sense now. Yes, I’m talking about the ridiculous rotating robots that hover about the territories of Heatman and Crashman and can only be described as flying hamburgers.

Would you like fries with that?

Would you like fries with that?

Could Dr. Wily have created a patrol drone that was any less threatening? Well, probably. Maybe flying robo-kittens wrapped in pink ribbons, perhaps. But at least they would theoretically have claws and mouths with which to shoot fireballs at you. The flying hamburger, on the other hand, just spins and slow bumps into you. Truly terrifying.

The Fish That Shoots Shrimp

Not as bad as the robotic Richard Simmons, of course.

Not as bad as the robotic Richard Simmons, of course.

Bubbleman: “I suggest you leave immediately.”

Megaman: “Or what? You’ll release the fish, or the shrimp, or the fish with shrimp in their mouths so when they bark they shoot shrimp at you? Well go ahead, do your worst!”

Yes, it’s true. The Simpsons outright stole the idea of dogs with bees in their mouths from Keiji Inafune and Megaman 2.

Like any giant enemy in the Megamaniverse, the fish has to shoot something, but since it lives underwater, even the developers realized that fireballs were out of the question. But why rocket-propelled shrimp? I would have accepted other fish (in the same vein as the frogs that spit little tiny frogs at you), or bubbles, or even electricity from its hanging bulb. But shrimp? Really?

Suicide Crabs

I went to Bubbleman's stage and all I got was a bunch of crabs.

I went to Bubbleman's stage and all I got was a bunch of crabs.

Still in Bubbleman’s realm for a moment, at the very end of the level you encounter a rather odd enemy — the rare flying crab. At least, it’s possible that they’re flying crabs, descending from the heavens to destroy Megaman like a bunch of avenging crustacean angels.

Of course, it could be that the crabs simply possess lemming-like qualities, causing them to leaping en masse over the edge of the waterfall that is prominently featured in the background of the level. They don’t even try to land on Megaman’s platform (but if they do, hey, whatever), instead choosing to blissfully plunge to their watery graves. If this is indeed the case, it would make the suicide crabs perhaps the stupidest AI Dr. Wily has ever programmed.

Yes, even dumber than the flying hamburgers. At least those make a conscious effort to annoy Megaman.

Hothead Gets Lost

Alright, let’s take a long, hard look at the following enemy:

Hey guys, I'm here for the party. Guys? Hello?

Hey guys, I'm here for the party. Guys? Hello?

He’s red. He’s got a big flame on his head. He throws angry little fireballs at you. His name is Hothead. So naturally he’s found in Heatman’s level, right?

Bahahaha! Keiji Inafune laughs at your pathetic logic!

Hothead, the enemy robot that perhaps fully captures the essence of heat and fire (yes, even moreso than Zippoman — er, I mean, Heatman), is actually only found in Quickman’s level. Buh? That would be like having the fat guys with fans in their stomachs appear not in Airman’s stage, but in Woodman’s. Was this a programming error? Deliberate mistake? Inside joke? Seriously, what’s the deal here?

Wily’s Not Even Trying Anymore

Wily intended to sell these in Australia.

Wily intended to sell these in Australia.

What is this thing? A boomerang dispenser? Sentient springs? Wobbly lasers? Come on, Dr. Wily, have a little pride in your work and at least construct something useful for a change.

Indeed, there’s a lot of crazy stuff in Megaman 2, and I’m fairly certain that not everything can be attributed to Japanese / North American cultural differences. But hey, the game turned out to be one of the greatest of all-time, so who am I to tell the developers at Capcom what to and what not to smoke while they create their masterpieces?

Virtual Sports Illustrated News Update, Vol. 2

Today’s top stories from the world of virtual sports:

NBA IN MOURNING AFTER TRAGIC DEATH OF SHAWN KEMP

The NBA and its fans are still in shock following yesterday’s sudden death of Seattle Supersonics power forward Shawn Kemp. During the third quarter of last night’s game versus Atlanta, Kemp spontaneously combusted in a ball of flames, writhing in agony on the court as the blaze engulfed his entire body. Paramedics at the scene extinguished the fire and attempted to resuscitate the fallen superstar, but his injuries were too severe. Kemp was pronounced dead en route to hospital.

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

Sources from inside the Seattle locker room claim that Kemp had spoken to trainers during halftime with complaints that he was “heating up”. It has been reported that the trainers brushed him off, however, believing that the “Reign Man” was instead referring to the elevated stature of his game that night, having registered an incredible 42 points at the half.

Understandably, Kemp’s teammates are devastated by the sudden passing of the team’s franchise player. “I still can’t believe he’s gone,” said a teary-eyed Detlef Schrempf. “I mean, he was playing so well. You always hear about a player being ‘on fire’, but I never thought in my wildest dreams that it could, you know, actually happen. I can’t even put into words how I feel at the moment.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued the following statement: “The National Basketball Association expresses its deepest condolences to the entire Kemp family, both legitimate and illegitimate. This is a very sad day for the remaining basketball fans across this great country. Please, MJ, with Kemp out of the picture we need you back more than ever. Come on, we both know this baseball thing isn’t gonna work out. Just come back home. Daddy needs you.”

DOPING SCANDAL ROCKS KARTING WORLD

Racing fans across the world were stunned by the news that fan favourite kart racer Yoshi has tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing steroids. As a result of the positive test, Yoshi will forfeit all points earned during this season’s Mario Kart Grand Prix and will be suspended for the entirety of next season. Yoshi had been in second place in the overall GP standings with 24 points, just behind Luigi, who had 36 points.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Mario Kart officials first became suspicious of Yoshi’s conduct following a string of unbelievable second place finishes, including last month’s race on Koopa Beach. At the time, the entire racing community was buzzing about its incredible finish, which saw Yoshi knocked into the last place with only a half-lap to go courtesy of a well-placed Luigi green shell, only to storm back and finish in second place — just milliseconds behind the winner, Luigi.

“I think we all knew, in the back of our minds, that something wasn’t right about the way Yoshi performed on the track”, said fellow kart racer Toad. “You always heard rumours of the rubber bands in his engine, but in the end, I guess his skills were too good to be true, I suppose.”

Others were less forgiving, including his chief rival, Luigi. “Yoshi is a dope fiend and should be banished from this great sport,” he said.

While Yoshi himself declined to comment, his representative issued the following statement on his behalf: “Yoshi! Yoshi yoshi yoshi! Bowowowowow! Yoshi! Brrrrrap! Dum dum dum dum. Yoshi!”

GRETZKY SETS NHL SCORING RECORD AS KINGS BURY HABS

It was a night to remember for #99, as “The Great One” scored 38 goals during the last night’s 61 – 0 romp over the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings got to Patrick Roy early and often, seemingly scoring at will against one of the league’s best netminders.

Los Angeles ran up the score by continuously lobbing the puck on goal from the middle of the ice just outside the Montreal blue line. Time and time again, the puck would sail in a perfect arc up and over Roy, who just stood there at the lip of the crease, seemingly frozen by the ridiculousness of the half-shot / half-dump.

“I don’t know what happened. I just can’t explain it,” said Roy following the game. “Maybe the lights got in my eyes or something. Yeah, that’s it. The lights.”

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Montreal coach Jacques Demers took some of the blame for the loss. “I should have recognized the situation and made adjustments on the fly,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was no option in the pause menu to configure my defensive strategy, so really, I was powerless to do anything to affect the outcome of the game.”

BOXING MATCH CANCELLED DUE TO UNRULY FANS

Irate boxing fans are asking for their money back after veteran WVBA referee Mario Mario called off yesterday’s main event at the Iowa State Fair between Glass Joe and Don Flamenco halfway through the second round.

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

The two boxers, both looking to avoid a loss that would send them tumbling down the WVBA rankings, both employed an extremely defensive strategy for the fight — in fact, the first punch wasn’t thrown until approximately 40 seconds into the opening round. Flamenco spent the majority of the round taunting his opponent and asking to be hit, while Glass Joe simply stood his ground, perhaps mesmerized by Flamenco’s world-famous hair. What punches were thrown during the first round were nothing but weak hooks and were few and far between, prompting the fans to boo the two pugilists mercilessly.

When the lack of action spilled into the second round, the fans soon started throwing debris into the ring. With the canvas littered with pop bottles and popcorn bags, Mario had no choice but to call the fight.

“It was-a for the safety of the fighters,” said Mario. “The fans, they were going-a crazy. They wanted blood.”

When reached for comment about the fight, Flamenco simply said: “People like my hair. Don’t mess my hair!”

WVBA officials have not yet decided if the fight will be rescheduled for a later date.

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