Monday Morning Critic – 6.8

.On tap this week:
— Shufflin’ back to the ’80s
— The value of the theatrical experience
And slightly much more!

As some people know, I’m big fan of Mixed Martial Arts. Have been since UFC 1, but I was never a fan of Royce Gracie. Me, I thought Ken Shamrock was the man and followed him throughout his career after the UFC and into the WWF. I always thought he got a raw deal there; you think it’d be easy to have a guy who can legitimately hurt any pro wrestler as this monster who just destroys the roster like it’s fun. But then again what do I know about booking, or MMA for the matter. But something did intrigue me, in part because it got coverage on InsideFights, the MMA Torch and ESPN in the same day.

I thought it was interesting this week that the UFC signed Kimbo Slice (real name: Kevin Ferguson) as a contestant on their reality show The Ultimate Fighter. All the educated pundits have weighed in, so I think that my lack of expertise is needed to further muddle the waters of this controversy: I think this is going to be awesome no matter what happens.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

For all the hype, Kimbo has never shown himself to be a fighter worth reckoning. Yeah he can punch a guy really hard when he’s standing still, but he’s struggled against tomato cans in real, sanctioned fights. If he knocked Tank Abbott’s lights out when Tank was still in his prime, I’d give him some more credit for it. But Abbott left the UFC after losing to a top contender (Frank Mir) and a couple of stiffs (Cabbage Correira and Kimo) before continuing a massive losing streak by getting rolled by Slice. Ken Shamrock would’ve exposed him if he hadn’t gotten hurt before the fight and left a TUF reject to do the job in awesome fashion. So it’s not like Slice is a top heavyweight in any aspect; if anything at this point in his life he’s at a crossroads. He can continue to make a ton of cash to fight based on his name alone; Slice is perhaps the best known guy in MMA right now (at least in the mainstream) because of his recent history and can probably make some serious bank headlining shows.

For Slice I think is a great move because if anything he’ll become a better fighter, period, after six weeks or so on the show. It’s a gutsy move for him because he could be making more in the short term, but I think this is brilliant for his long term future. Dana White is known for his phrase “Do you want to be a [redacted] fighter” and this shows that yes, Kimbo wants to be a [redacted] fighter.

Slice is old enough to know this is a shot to be a real fighter, not a sideshow freak, and you can be sure as all hell he’s going to be working his ass off for guys who want to see him grow and develop. Maybe it can humanize him a bit too; all we see are him as a sideshow and maybe seeing him hang out with a group of guys, cracking jokes and talking about his kids, will give us Kevin Ferguson as opposed to merely the internet sensation Kimbo Slice. Instead of being made fun for being shoved down our throats, maybe a humbled and hard working Kimbo warms his way into the hearts of fans who love making fun of him on the message boards.

I think this is a phenomenal move by White as well because it makes the house infinitely more interesting by his mere presence alone. You can add at least one rating point to every episode of the upcoming season based on word of mouth alone. Even if Kimbo loses in the first fight on the first day, TUF is such a good show on a consistent basis that if anything it’ll boost the season’s long term ratings. But it also adds something else, something more fun even: someone is going to want to make a name by destroying the internet sensation. Kimbo is a marked man from the go.

You don’t think the other 15 guys involved aren’t going to want to beat Kimbo’s ass and make a name for themselves? Kimbo has a target on his back that everyone can see and everyone is going to want to fight him. Kimbo knows this, too, and it’ll be interesting to see how much better he can get with a good fight team training him. Both coaches should be salivating to work with the guy.

On the one hand, Rampage’s guys last time were wonderful in helping his team get better. The second time around I think Rampage will have a better idea what to do and his guys will benefit from it. A guy with the same sort of tools as Rampage, Slice is a bigger clumsier version of Jackson and I think it’ll be fun to see what he can do with him. If anything the interactions between the two are going to be hilarious.

On the other hand, Rashad trains with Greg Jackson in one of the best camps in MMA. This is the same camp that produced GSP, Keith Jardine and a handful of elite level MMA fighters. You don’t think that coaching staff would be aching to work with this guy, to show just how great they are? This could be an advertisement for the New Mexico training camp and how awesome they are.

Imagine if Kimbo transforms into a very good fighter because of how great the coaching is on the show. They get the sort of credibility that Team Quest or Randy Couture’s Vegas guys get but in the national eye with a bigger audience then when Ken Shamrock‘s team was the dominant one in the UFC. Right now most MMA aficionados know about them, but everyone would know about them with specials on ESPN and whatnot if Slice turns into the next big thing.

Heck, it’d be fun to see Kimbo come out of a great camp and be lined up against Brock Lesnar. He is a draw, if only as a freak show as it were, and it gives Dana White a PPV main event that’ll crush the buyrate numbers. Too huge freaks who get slammed a lot by fans brawling would earn my money and would get massive exposure. But imagine the sort of name you could make for yourself if you knocked out the famed Kimbo Slice in awesomely spectacular fashion? You’d be revered amongst MMA fans forever, of course, and TUF has that possibility too.

What if Marcus Jones (for example), a former NFL tight end turned MMA fighter who just also happens to be on this upcoming season, gives Kimbo a one way express trip to beat down city in such spectacular fashion that it winds up in footage looped into the UFC highlight reels? Marcus “The Kimbo Slicer” Jones has a ring to it. You don’t think the 14 other guys besides Jones who saw Kimbo step into the ring and thought the same thing? Hell, I bet there’s going to be a montage of guys clamoring to fight Kimbo just because they want to kick his ass and become famous for it. That knockout could LEAD on SportsCenter, for the love of Pete. Hell, if I could become famous for beating the crap out of Kimbo Slice I’d hop in the ring and take the guy on. If you don’t think a group of trained fighters hungry for their big break aren’t thinking that exact same thing then you really need to buy a clue.

No matter what happens, TUF 10 is going to be must see viewing. On Wednesday nights you can bet my ass will be glued to Spike TV this fall in anticipation.

Random Thoughts of the Week

I was reading Ain’t It Cool this week, as usual, and an article from local Chicagoan Capone struck me. As a caveat, I’ve actually seen movies with Capone and probably offended him. I cracked “That was the feel good movie of the year” in the pisser of the Lake Street Screening Room after The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which was right before City of Ember on the daily docket. But he has something interesting in repeated viewings giving you a different perspective.

I like to think that you can objectively watch a film and evaluate it on its merits, but part of watching a film is those around him. A great comedy is so much better when you’re in a theatre with people who get it and are laughing just as hard. It’s not quite as funny when no one else is laughing with you, and I get what Capone is saying. Sometimes the audience makes all the difference.

My best example would be Snakes on a Plane, scary enough. Seeing it at a midnight showing with a crowd so jacked up for it that people a) dressed up as characters from the film, including guy as a plane, b) were completely drunk (I admit I had a solid buzz after a half dozen beers that dissipated about 20 minutes before the film began), c) booed every trailer and every commercial (except for the one for Borat and d) smuggled in a ¼ barrel of beer into the theatre via the Emergency Exit. Funny thing was that a friend of mine, who was pretty drunk at the gathering, recognized his boss’s son aas one of the culprits behind the barrel smuggling.

Seeing that film with that crowd made for perhaps one of the best movie-watching experiences of my life. It was about 4am or so before I got back on the road home, as I had off work the next day, but it remains to this day one of the more enjoyable experiences of many I’ve had inside a movie theatre. And it’s something you can’t duplicate at home, no matter how good your system is.

People wonder why I still go to the movie theatre a lot when films don’t stay as long and the crowds are two to three times more obnoxious than ever before? It’s because there’s that one great film you see at just the right time with just the right people that make it all worth it.

A wise man once told me that life is about being at the right place at the right time. You never know when the right time will happen, so get in the right place and stay there. I add a caveat to it. A great movie experience comes from the right film at the right time with the right people in the right theatre. Since you can’t really know about the first three, find the right theatre and good things will happen.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – Hollywood Shuffle


What happened when Visa gave a massive credit line to Robert Townsend? One of the greatest riffs on Hollywood culture ever put to film. If you want to see where the Wayans style debuted, and then morphed into the much railed upon “[insert genre here] flick” motif, Hollywood Shuffle is where it all began. Watch this, then see Scary Movie 4 and wonder how it all fell apart.

Following the tale of Bobby Taylor (Townsend) and his quest to become a Hollywood star, the film is a huge riff on the culture of struggling black actors. The film follows Bobby as he tries to become a successful actor in Hollywood, with all the pratfalls and shenanigans that entails a black actor trying to make it as a headliner as opposed to the stereotypical roles presented.

A bit dated due to it being released more than 20 years ago, and we are in the “post racial” era with a black President of the United States, there’s tons of great bits to be found. “Black acting school” made me almost double over in laughter and Townsend is just so on the money, as well as a cast of people who would end up becoming more famous than him, in a combination of a great script, direction and acting.

The weird part is watching the film and seeing how much things have changed since the film’s initial release. Obama is the President, Tiger Woods is the world’s greatest golfer, Denzel Washington is perhaps the world’s best actor, et al. In 20 years we’ve come so far that a film like Hollywood Shuffle seems a bit out of touch with today’s racial climate. There may be things still to do, but the fact that a film like this is remarkably out of touch with today’s climate makes one feel good.

The interesting historical aspect is Townsend delivering a rapid fire, cutaway gag style that was perfected by Keenan Ivory Wayans in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and in the sketch comedy show In Living Color. Heck, you could even say Family Guy cribbed a lot from Hollywood Shuffle; throwaway gags and cutaways are its stable and this is perhaps a format Seth McFarlane latched onto because you can tell a coherent story with lots of “manatee” style jokes thrown in.

Strong Recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Harps and community college girls with low standards at The Alumni Club

Imagine That – Eddie Murphy is a heartless businessman who discovers his daughter knows business deals going down via some sort of psychic ability expressed in mind-numbing schlock.

Skip It – I just watched Eddie Murphy: Delirious and Beverly Hills Cop again for like the 20th time apiece and remembered when I LOVED LOVED LOVED Eddie Murphy. I could repeat his monologue about pooping in Eddie Murphy: Raw as a young child and still can. I still use the Ice Cream Man bit. Now, I’m saddened that my favorite foul-mouthed comedian of all time has disappeared. In his wake is a family friendly comic who makes a series of awful movies. I want ‘80s Eddie Murphy back, not this guy.

The Taking of Pelham 123 – John Travolta hijacks a New York subway train for money. Denzel Washington gets to save the day.

See It – The original is brilliant, but the last remake Denzel did with Tony Scott was Man on Fire. That was awesome, I totally expect this to rule as well. It has John Travolta as a villain, too, and that’s never a bad thing.

The Proposal – Sandra Bullock forces Ryan Reynolds to pose as her fiancée as she faces deportation.

See It – It’s sneak peeking this weekend, since it technically opens the week after this, and that’s always a good reason to see a film. I love press screenings for the same reason; you get a shot at seeing it early. Sandy Bullock is also probably the best gauge of quality for a romantic comedy; she’s in enough good ones that the ratio of hit to miss is good enough for me to pay to see the film.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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