Monday Morning Critic – 1.11

On tap this week:
— Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler are …. Funny?
— My problem with the Star Wars prequels
— No Mayweather/Pacquiao? No problem
And slightly much more!

The big news this week, to me at least, was that the Floyd Mayweather – Manny Pacquiao fight isn’t going to happen in March like expected. The blame game has started, as Manny has already lined up another fight and I wouldn’t be shocked if Floyd hasn’t begun negotiating to fight someone else as well, but the one thing that keeps bothering me as a boxing fan is this: No one cares or is really outraged that it happened.

I grew up watching boxing, as we got cable when I was younger because of the Tyson fights on HBO. This wasn’t back when cable was almost mandatory for television watching; it was a luxury that got you access to everything (as opposed to levels of programming, et al, that cable has evolved into). And outside of the ardent boxing fans, there isn’t a huge backlash from the mainstream sporting press about this.

It’s a shame, really, because it’s proof on how far the sweet science has fallen. It doesn’t really matter who you pin the blame on at this point, though what will happen is Mayweather will wind up being the fall guy in all of this. It’s not a matter of blood testing, et al; considering the same people promoting him also represent Shane Mosley, a known ‘roider, that issue is one in which Golden Boy Promotions probably could care less about.

And in the end, I think the Mayweather camp doesn’t care about either, but the mere mention of steroids in pro sports is akin to accusing someone of being a pedophile. It’s the automatic presumption of guilt before innocence that stings the most, and it’s something far worse then just a fighter wanting to make sure his opponent isn’t getting an illegal edge.

I don’t think Mayweather ever wanted to fight Manny and wanted to find any way possible out of it.

Mayweather’s perfect record is built on cherry-picking opponents and ducking the best fighters. “Pac-Man” probably knocks him out in the 9th, which is what I was wagering on, and Mayweather knows this. I may be wrong, and lord knows I’ve been many times, but when someone is this much a tool about what ought to be a non-issue then something is rotten. “Follow the money” may have been made famous by Deep Throat in All the President’s Men as his first instruction to Woodward and Bernstein, but this decision is all about the cash.

Mayweather may have pocketed north of $20 million for this fight, but if he takes the sort of beating that could happen the ability to pick up $10 million or more per fight isn’t happening. Getting his ass-kicked in a high profile fight would be horrible for his career and Mayweather knows it. Thus he can pull off the “high and mighty” route with a hot button issue, not take the fight, and resume taking lesser opponents to preserve his record.

I remember the days when boxing was about the champion taking on all who wanted a shot, when big fights were the norm and big fights like this not coming together was a shocker. Nowadays they don’t happen. The people wanted this fight, which would’ve been the biggest in boxing history and made everyone involved handfuls of cash. Instead we get two fights we don’t want and fingers pointing about who didn’t want the fight. It’s ridiculous and only makes boxing sink lower and lower as a major sport.

It’s just a shame that this sort of behavior is accepted amongst boxing fans, and sports fans in general, because boxing is now one of the few sports where the best rarely fight one another. Boxing fans may laugh when MMA enthusiasts point out that the former is dying the latter is thriving, but Dana White is harnessing something that boxing has seemingly forgotten.

To claim to be the best, you have to fight the best. Or, as Ric Flair famously put it, “To be the man you got to beat the man.” And brother, Manny Pacquiao is the man. But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

I was watching the Family Guy take on Empire Strikes Back the other day (Something, Something Dark Side for the uninitiated) when I was intrigued enough to reassess my views on the “new” Star Wars trilogy, i.e Episodes 1-3. I bashed all three of them mercilessly when they came out, labeling the last of the bunch one of the worst films I’d ever seen when I reviewed it way back when, so I opted to look back on George Lucas’s three film return to film-making to see if my opinion still held. I wasn’t expecting much and the films were just as bad as my memories had held them up to be. And one thing bothered me the most: the light saber duels. I think it’s the reason why the new trilogy isn’t held in nearly the same regard as the original one, despite similar reviews and massive box office receipts.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

One of the things that made the first three films released is that each of the laser sword duels had a purpose. There was meaning behind them. Star Wars featured the apprentice surpassing the master as Obi-Wan dies at Vader’s hands. Empire is about the master toying with the young apprentice of another, trying to get him to convert to his side. Vader just toys with Luke the entire time, soundly defeating him at every turn. That film ended with Luke rejecting him, down a hand, and leads perfectly into Return of the Jedi. Luke is now a master in his own right and able to hold his own with Darth Vader now, and the film’s climactic duel ends with Luke winning to harnessing the power of the anger to wail away on him until he reaches an epiphany.

Compare that to any of the light saber duels in the new trilogy…..they are mainly dances with swords, for lack of a better phrase. Sure they look pretty, but they are insanely over-choreographed and the moments that should involve more emotion (and less gimmickry) end up turning into more of the same. There’s no depth, no story behind them, just guys who really know how to use sticks and great animators behind them to make it look cool.

And that was the problem, mainly. They go for looking cool, as opposed to looking cool and telling a story. In the two hours or so it takes Annakin and Obi-Wan to fight in the third film there’s no real story to be had; it’s just a pair of mediocre actors showing off how hard they trained between films to pull off most of their own stunts. There’s more drama and more story being told in Star Wars, which is the same characters 20-30 years later, despite it being a guy in a costume he can’t see out of and senior citizen Alec Guinness trying to not embarrass himself in an extended action sequence.

Watching the new trilogy is such a disappointment because I remember being so excited for the release of Phantom Penis or whatever it was called. And for it to have no heart was disappointing at the time and maybe moreso now, with a decade or so later of retrospection.

As my father famously said after the first one, “George Lucas can suck it.”

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

funny people

This Week’s DVD – Funny People

Ninety minutes of insane comedy bliss, 60 minutes of subpar family drama wrapped up under the Judd Apatow bow. To say this was the most disappointing film of the decade was a bit of an understatement, as the film I was hoping for (and the film it turned out to be) were such different levels of quality it was disappointing.

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is dying of a rare blood disease. With his mortality facing him much closer then he had ever expected, he hires aspiring comic writer Ira (Seth Rogen) to be his assistant and help him out. When an experimental treatment ends up working, and he has beaten the disease, Simmons has to come to terms with the fact that he’s going to live. And along the way, deal with the woman (Leslie Mann) who got away and her new family.

This is really two films trying to mesh into one, especially considering the near three hour running time. The first is deliciously funny, as we get to see how a character who Apatow modeled after a meeting with Steve Martin (and suspiciously close to Sandler’s own career) deals with the end of his life. As Simmons gets things squared away, we get to see into his world and into that of Ira and his roommates (Jonah Hill and Adam Schwartzman). You can see where Apatow is going with the film, as he’s trying to balance out the part of him that’s still the hungry young writer with the part that is now the older, successful writer/producer/director. It’s tricky but it works, giving us insights into both worlds. And if he’d stopped there, and made the film about the power and nature of success, you have a brilliant movie about stand-up comics that works on a number of levels.

That is until you hit the second half of the film, with Mann & Eric Bana making up two parts of a love triangle with Sandler. Shunting everything to the side to focus on this, the film just collapses on the weight of it trying to be a grand film about life and death as opposed to a smaller, hilarious comedy about a bunch of people on opposite sides of the success equation.

I think Apatow had an epic, 3 1/2 hour version of the film that cleaned up all of the gigantic story-telling aspects that was cut down to 2 1/2 so it could be released. And that film would be interesting to watch. This film, on the other hand, can only get a tepid recommendation. I love everyone involved in the film, and a cameo by Eminem just nails every point about the drawbacks of fame, but the last hour of the film just can’t make the grade.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Book of Eli – It’s the end of the world and Denzel has a machete. You’ve been warned.

See It – Denzel Washington takes his turn at the end of the world. No way this film is bad. NO WAY.

The Spy Next Door – Jackie Chan is a spy sent to live with some kids and stuff.

Skip It – Because Kindergarten Cop was a good action film that involved kids, apparently every action star has to take their turn in the genre. I imagine 2011 will feature Matt Damon in Day Care Warrior about an FBI agent who is undercover as a day care worker to stop a nuclear weapon or something.

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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