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Dude Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

When I was training to be a newspaper reporter, I learned never to bury the lead. Which meant, always start with the most important stuff right up front.

Not in the second paragraph.

And certainly never in the third.

I am, however, willing to state here, in the fourth paragraph, uncategorically, that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic, rip-roaring, rootin’-tootin’, bad-guy shooting, uplifting, side-splitting fantastically good movie.

I liked it, is what I’m trying to say.

I thought it would be difficult for any Marvel movie to surpass the wonder that is Marvel’s The Avengers, which I thought might have been one of the best movies of the decade at least. And, to be sure, CA: TWS, doesn’t surpass The Avengers, but it comes darn close.

Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, while Scarlett Johansson also is back as Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. They’re joined by Anthony Mackie, playing Sam Wilson, the Falcon, and a host of other folks, including Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. high-muckety-muck Alexander Pierce.

And they all — every single one of them — are fantastic in their role. The Black Widow, instead of being a girlfriend, or a pawn, or a sacrifice to make the male hero’s journey personal, is a formidable hero in her own right, facing down doubts and horrors from her past. She also benefits from the double-edged sword that is Captain America: She believes she can be better because Captain America believes she is better and she doesn’t want to let him down.

That’s only one of the things that makes Steve Rogers such a dangerous man.

Not only is the film well acted, but it’s filled with astonishing special effects, drastic fight scenes, Easter eggs too numerous to count (including the birth of at least two new villains, a certain tombstone near the end and namechecking the Sorcerer Supreme), and — believe it or not — an extended meditation on the idea of freedom versus security.

Following the events in New York, chronicled in Marvel’s The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. is all set to step out and take over world security. This eagerness is making Captain America a bit wary as it seems S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to start killing people before they actually commit a crime.

Should Americans and, by extension, the world give up their freedoms to become safer from a world that now contains super soldiers, aliens, gods and ten-foot-tall rampaging rage monsters?

Unfortunately, it’s not a question that will get answered in this movie, because it turns out that the entire operation has been compromised by Hydra, the bad guys from the first Cap film. Which means that the entire notion is, prima fascia, a bad idea. It sort of deflates the argument I was having in my head there, but I applaud the movie for at least bringing it up.

I’m also amazed by the actual change displayed in this movie. In most action series, there’s a set status quo and, once the movie is over, no matter what happened in the previous two hours, everything is back to the way it started. Not so in this movie.

Things change. Structures and organizations you thought were permanent fixtures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been completely transformed.

And all this before the Winter Soldier hits the scene, himself stalking out of Captain America’s past with a secret that could shatter him without a fight.

So, yeah. It’s a great movie, not just a great superhero movie.

What I loved the most about this movie can be summed up in one amazing elevator ride.

Captain America is trying to leave the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters after telling a powerful person no. He steps in the elevator. Two floors down, several men get on. Several floors after that, more rough and tough men come on. Eventually, the elevator is packed with roughboys and Captain America, who realizes what’s about to happen.

Instead of immediately smacking them all silly, Captain America first tries to settle the situation peacefully.

“Before we get started,” he says, “does anyone want to get out?”

The answer is no, so then he wipes the elevator floor with them in an amazing fight scene that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

Go pay said price of admission and enjoy yourself. This is a fantastic movie for the family or anyone else who enjoys action movies with fun, adventure, laughs and a couple of moments of genuine sadness and deep emotion.

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In Need Of Some Spirit Glue

Well, that was a spirit breaker.

I don’t know if you dudes have noticed, but I’m a bit of a writer. (Perhaps you’ve heard of a little thing called A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook?)

Having worked as a newspaper reporter for the first part of my professional career, I equate writing with getting paid. I’m also a bit old so I’m a bit of a traditionalist. That means I want to sell my stories and books to an actual publisher (like Barry and I did with A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook) and get paid for it that way. I’m not all that into self publishing, although I do see it as a perfectly valid form of expression. It’s just not for me right now.

Because of that, I can’t just write something and toss it out to the public. I have to sell my work to someone in a publishing house, which means I face a lot of rejection. Seriously, dudes, I’m talking a lot of rejection.

Heck, compared to the writing career, my success with the ladies in high school and college was legen. . . . dary. That’s the level of rejection I and most writers tend to get from the traditional publishers.

Lately, however, I’ve been feeling pretty good. My critique group seems to like the book I’m working on with them. I managed to crank out a good-sized YA book in a couple of weeks and actually liked the result. I’m halfway through a middle grades book and also feeling good about it.

However, on Tuesday evening, I received an email from one of the larger publishers telling me, in essence, thanks but no thanks. What’s different about this one is that I was able to get my book directly into the hands of someone who works there, who, in turn, gave it to an editor.

Being rejected this time feels a bit more . . . solid.

In my brain, I understand this rejection is no different from any other. I know in my brain that not every story is for every person and I only need to find the right agent or publisher and they’ll love my work.

But, just for now, I’m feeling a bit like I’ve been wasting my time trying to write. That what I’ve just produced won’t be read by anyone but me. That I’m not going to succeed, by any definition of success that means anything.

Please, understand I’m not looking for sympathy. I’ll probably get over it.

My issue right now is that I’m pretty open with my young dudes. They knew that I was submitting a book to this big publisher. I’m going to tell them I got rejected, but I also want them to see me taking it in stride.

I have to set the right kind of example. I need them to internalize the idea that one setback (or 12 setbacks) isn’t enough to make them quit. Will never make them quit. I need them to know that the only thing that can make them quit is inside them already and they have control over that.

But, right now. . . It’s hard to set that sort of example. Knowing you’re good enough to succeed is a bit easier than finding the folks who will agree with you and can help you achieve that.

So I think I’m going to take a bit of a breather, get myself together before telling them about this rejection. I need to get my head in the right place so they can see I remain hard at work, that I’m not going to let this minor roadblock stop me. That I fell, but only so that I could learn to get back up.

After all, Tempus sanat omnia vulnera.

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A New Low For Interns

Just how bad does an intern have to mess up to make an entire US government department issue a press release disavowing the intern’s actions?

Apparently this bad.

San Francisco’s KTVU news was running a story on the crash of the Asiana Flight 214, which ended up in at least three deaths and many more injured when it crash landed at San Francisco’s airport.

To make sure that its graphics and newscasters had the correct spelling of the names of the crew on the flight, KTVU contacted the National Transportation and Safety Board, which has jurisdiction over plane crashes.NewImage75

They got hold of an intern, who, apparently, had given his brain away for the afternoon and was running on — well, I’d say autopilot, but that’s almost as bad as what the intern did — pure bodily functioning, with no brain work at all.

Yep, the intern said, these are the names.

Read them carefully. Sound them out in your head.

Yeah, not only did someone think this was funny, but multiple people at the news station saw these names and said, basically, “Looks good to me. Let’s run it.”

Firstly, do I have to even suggest just how insensitive it is to make fun of the crew in this instance. We still don’t know exactly what happened, but even crew that might have been negligent don’t deserve this sort of thing to happen to them.

Secondly, I think the racism thing is pretty blatant here and not something I need to go into.

The thing I can’t believe is that the KTVU reporters, graphics folks and anybody who happened to be at the station that day didn’t take a look at these names and think that — maybe — something might not be quite right. Possibly they should suggest another call to someone else to — you know — double check the names.

The NTSB has issued a press release stating that “a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.”

The NTSB later issued another press release saying that, although the intern erroneously confirmed the names, they actually originated at the television station. Which means, they’re saying the news crew came to the NTSB and said, are these names — Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow — the actual, real names of the plane crew?

And the intern thought nothing of it? And the news crew actually went to the NTSB with that?

I really don’t think the full story has been released on this one yet, nor do I think it ever will be. The intern will be running for cover, the NTSB will stonewall until the whole thing goes away and the KTVU will start hitting extra hard on all those prostitutes walking the streets so they can stir something salacious into the pot to make people move on from their perfidy.

Not just a new low for interns, dudes, but a new low for television news (which I honestly didn’t think was possible) and for people in general.

 

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