About geelw

Gamer, Writer, Artist, Idea Guy, Mild Curmudgeon With A Long List Of Hidden Talents

DVD Review: Odds Against Tomorrow

Every so often, the cable company here moves the channels around and it becomes a bit of a chore hunting for formerly favorite stations. What’s worse, is a few times, I’m waiting for the cable box to load the channel guide after a router reboot and I have to fly blind for a few minutes, which in this particular case, turned out to be a pleasant surprise indeed. I was looking to find where TCM went to and found it after some work, but the channel guide wasn’t loading and there was a film I’d never seen before playing. It turns out that it was a Robert Wise-directed film from 1959 called Odds Against Tomorrow and it had me on the edge of my seat until the somewhat explosive finale.

The film is a rather bleak noir with a heist plot, the crooked, disgraced crooked cop who devises the plan (Ed Begley) and the two desperate men he’s picked to assist him.There’s Robert Ryan as Slater, a rather hateful ex-soldier and convict and Harry Belafonte as Ingram, a handsome musician with bad luck with the horses. Both men meet with Burke separately and it’s quite an interesting study in contrasts. Slater insults a little girl, ignores a jovial elevator operator trying to make small talk and is in general, just has a pretty big chip on his shoulder about everything. Ingram rolls up in a flashy sports car a few minutes later, offers a few kids money for watching his car, makes that elevator operator laugh as he rides up, and is generally a pretty nice guy- minus his crushing gambling debt.

Both men have don’t meet until later in the film, but let’s just say, Slater is none too pleased that he’s going to be partnered with a black man and quits the job. Ingram also leaves the job, but his negative dealings with his bookie throw his life into danger and he’s back in on the job after a bit of a breakdown at the jazz club he plays at. Slater’s hiatus lasts until he decides he’s had it with his girlfriend (Shelly Winters!) and wants to get out from under her clutches. The heist goes, in true noir fashion, very awry, to say the least. No more will be said here, save for this is a film well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. There’s a great score, every actor here is superb, and the bleak ending is about as downbeat as it gets. In a way, this one’s like Raoul Walsh’s classic White Heat, and Kubrick’s The Killing, but this feels like more of a hidden gem. Go check it out on tcm.com or go find it for sale here.

-GW

Book-ish

Minus four or five books not shown, I was a bit busy reading to keep sane in 2020.

So, a few days late and no dollars short, here are most of the books that have shown up from a few small to large publishers last year when I was holed up and locked down. There are a few missing from this photo, as a friend needed some emergency reads and I was more than happy to oblige. I don’t think I’ve read this much fantasy and sci-fi in a row since high school, so it was a pretty interesting few months.

Then again, when you have two strokes, survive and need to teach yourself to read and write again, it’s definitely a good thing I was able to enjoy this lot of novels, albeit a bit slower than I used to. I was a bit of a speedy reader back in the day and when these books started showing up last year, it was a bit daunting at first. But the as the amount increased, I became quite determined to get through them all. So, yes – it helped with all these books showing up. Hooray for mailing lists, and sure, I may write a few short reviews on some of these down the road a piece.

-GW

Happy(?) Feat

Well, here we go again… so to speak. We’re still in recovery mode here, but I’ve been a bit occupied with a bunch of books plus a few too many movies and games. I’ll post a few photos in a day or two of the books – all oddball but interesting fantasy stuff that’s come in over the last year when I was in not much of a mood to read anything light, but eventually ended up doing so because one kind of has no choice but to successfully divert oneself during a long lockdown.

Game-wise, as I now have a tablet here, I’ve discovered a few “free to start” games I like on the format where I’ve not spent a dime on them despite both games flirting with me to do so. Fire Emblem Heroes and Dragon Quest Tact, both which are franchises I’m a longtime fan of but I’d avoided the mobile games until DQT tempted me a month ago. The gacha aspect in both titles is a bit easy to ignore if you simply play the waiting game and use only the free daily rewards both games generously give you for regularly checking in. I have about 40 characters in FEH and just reached 80 of them in DQT (which I’ve been playing a few weeks longer). I haven’t spent a dime and amusingly enough, just got a free $5.00 credit from the Google Play Store, which made me laugh for a good few minutes because I may have to break my no spending on those two games rule (well, it’ll be about .48 on the tax if I use that free credit).

Been slowly going through some bigger games on the PS5, but that’s a longer post for another time. One day at a time, and so it goes. I guess I’m “happy” today, but let’s not get carried away. Yet. You know what happens when you get too overconfident these days.

-GW

Crackers

Controversies big and small aside, Phineas Taylor Barnum was quite an interesting guy on a few fronts. “This way to the egress” made me laugh as a well-read kid in grade school who got that little joke and I think that I imagined an egress being some sort of catlike creature one could never quite get a good look at, but everyone would have a description of if asked. You know how that business tends to go, right? Someone asks if you saw the thing and without fail, a person will offer up a thin description that another person will agree with and add to until you have something that might look like a cat (maybe, sort of). No one can agree on the actual size, but sure, it looks like a cat.

Barnum was quite the con man with many successes and failures and even more awful when it came to animal care, but he sure could pack in the crowds for better or worse. The whole egress stuff came about when the folks who came to see his exhibits were sticking around a wee bit too long and he wanted to free up space fast. Granted, it’s entirely possible that a few smarter attendees to his museum knew what an egress was and maybe didn’t fall for the ruse. But I’d like to think that given the rather non-clever state of today’s rubes, people back then were about as smart as they are now. But today, they own assorted computing devices that actually make them less smart because they take too much information they see online as some sort of fact and don’t even consider filtering out the more bizarre things they read.

On another note, I was in the supermarket last week and picking up a box of unsalted tops, I spied a familiar, smaller row of red boxes on a higher shelf. Yes, there were a bunch of Barnum’s Animals staring back at me, now free-roaming without the familiar cage bars. I’ll note that I didn’t like the new artwork, but saw the need for the change. Growing up so long ago, circuses and zoos were part of the childhood routine. But the last time I was at a circus, there were no animals in that big top, and as for zoos, the one up here in the Bronx has gotten a few new attendance rules since the pandemic started. By the way, while I liked those animal crackers as a kid, my preference changed to the Stauffer brand a bit later. That hint of mace and nutmeg did it for me. if you must know.

-GW

Now, Where Were We? (Or: Crazy Times, Indeed)

Hi there. So, where were we again? Oh, right. Some big things are cooking on the legal/financial front, so that’s been taking up a chunk of time (boo!). Nevertheless, I can’t say much after that other than I dislike having to do so much stuff nearly every day to get a relative what’s legally due because the process intentionally convoluted and some things needn’t be so damn irritating, but here we are.

Uh, subject change? Movies? Sure, okay.

(Thanks, Warner Bros Pictures!)

I saw JOKER a few times and the Birds of Prey flick twice last year. Both are quite interesting takes on characters with different complex mental challenges as unreliable narrators and yes, one comes off as far darker than the other with the latter film having a much higher body count while the former is pretty bleak on every front with initially a lower body count, but a longer damage reach. The main differences between the two being the direction and how the victims are treated. Birds of Prey has plenty of bad folks who get what’s coming to them and it’s presented as comically as possible though some energetically portrayed violence. But you also see a few innocents dispatched by villains who are somewhat worse than the main character. As the kids say, props to the main villains here for being so phenomenally twisted.

(Thanks, Warner Bros Pictures!)

On the other hand, JOKER is in a way, much like Harley’s loopy tale, but a lot less “fun” to watch. It also goes rather intentionally all over the map, but Arthur Fleck’s story along with its more realistic violent content reflects the reactions its main character has to his internal demons and not all of the victims here deserve what they get. The violence is more shocking and in a few cases, unexpected, especially a brutal scene later on where you get a sudden victim and a surprise survivor. In both films, the actors playing the leads do some fine work overall, although I have to give the edge to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance (I’m not into awards shows, but that Oscar win was well-deserved).

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Sports

SPORTS

Like it or not, we’re not quite ready…

When I was a kid, I was a sports fan of the moderate variety partly because it was background noise when I was growing up and almost every television one encountered on one’s daily travels was playing some sort of team or solo sport. I don’t recall being a huge fan of any particular team or teams, but I remember like/hating the Yankees because they seemed to win a lot whenever I saw a game on TV and most everyone I knew in the Bronx area not liking the Mets because they lost so much. Well, they did win big a few times, but I recall the old post-game show, Kiner’s Korner being renamed “Whiner’s Korner” by a school friend who did a spot-on impression of Ralph Kiner. One fine day in school, a teacher who was walking past us in a hallway as we headed to lunch overheard his impression, stopped dead in his tracks and asked him to do it again, laughing. He was a Mets fan, but he also found that impression pretty hilarious.

Other sports such as football, basketball, the occasional hockey match and many, many more were watched over time, we got a load of education on assorted sports around the world from ABC, and yes, I was a boxing fan for ages. A relative once met Muhammad Ali in an airport back in the early 70’s and got his autograph in a small slip of paper (which is still kept in a scrapbook here). Ali’s eventual decline from greatness was a sad thing to see as the 70’s turned into the 80’s, however. It’s one of the reasons I pretty much stopped watching the sport save for in the 2000’s when I assisted in a few game events for EA Sports where a few boxing video games were playable at a series of Golden Gloves matches here in NYC. Amusingly enough, sports games were a big thing here for a while, but as they got more visually impressive, I started to miss older games like Tecmo Bowl and a few titles up to the 32-bit era. As they became more monetized, now, I avoid most modern sports titles, although I’m a sucker for a good racing game, specifically a good rally game.

Anyway, with this pandemic and its forcing sports to more resemble older video games with elements like crowds that look like cardboard cutouts replacing fans or teams playing to nearly empty stadiums complete with piped-in cheers, I took a curious look at a few games and nope, they weren’t the same. Sure, the visceral thrill part was there, but the overall picture was a tad lacking in that one needed to overlook the sparse or fake audiences (or mixtures of both oversized crowd cutouts and real spectators) and the sad fact that maybe a player might take I’ll if even the tiniest precaution wasn’t taken. But, folks need their entertainment, their bread and circuses if you like. So, here we are. An online friend whose wife is a nurse said to me last year that she thought maybe watching hospital staff treating pandemic patients might make a good spectator sport. She noted that while it won’t be as thrilling as a hard body check or a miracle three-pointer, the whole life or death thing on a daily basis might be a thing one won’t get from those other team sports.

-GW

Voodoo, Child (Slight Return)

By either direct connection or extension, I know (knew?) quite a few recently deceased people, but I’d like to think some to too many of us do these days. That sort of balancing act is quite the bitch, by the way. One wanting to free up the mind space to be otherwise occupied by more lighter and vastly more entertaining fare gets into quite a tumble with actual reality when a message arrives that someone else has unexpectedly left the building.

Of course, the unmasked killer is still inside the house making collect worldwide phone calls and pretty much having its merry way with the rest of the planet’s tenants. As we’re discovering from assorted news outlets, during last year, response from the recently departed government had been awful, at best. Too many holes in rules state to state meant no national plan despite, as Roddy McDowell in a great Twilight Zone episode once noted, “People Are Alike All Over”.

Of course, it’s just past 4am and I hit publish too soon, but I’d guess you get the point here. Eh, I’m going to go back to bed now. I may re-edit this post later, but there’s a better chance I’ll post something else. We shall see.

This Is Only A Test…

Well, sort of. I’m currently popping up for air and feeling as if I’ve been trapped in the worst ever remake of Groundhog Day (or perhaps, the worst choose your own adventure novel where whichever page you turn to means a character meets a messy end). What day is it, anyway? Or week, month and year, for that matter?

There’s actually a post before this one, but I decided on not running it as it’s a bit long and well, somewhat grim and depressing. Still, some (much) shorter version of it will get posted – just not the novella-length monster that took a few too-long months to assemble. Anyway, no cool images or videos this time, as I’m typing this on a fancy new tablet and it’s a thing I’m trying to wrap my head around. Uh, Happy New Year and all that. Back in a bit, but maybe on a PC, as it feels more… comfortable working on one.

-GW

Promises (Promises) and Holding Patterns

Thanks, exDrBob1

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… The brain is bubbling about the upcoming election and my poor concentration has been a bit, shall we say, scattered. Yeah, that’s led to a bit of moodiness and stuff like accidentally hitting the post button (a few minutes ago) when I was trying to compose a thought. And so it goes. I’m in a currently less 80’s mood, too. I originally chose another song with thew same name as the one above, but decided it was too good. Eh, whatever:

Thanks, IncubusTV

It’s so cheerless here that I may not be back at this until the election is done and sealed. Dead neighbors, friends and relatives do this sort of thing.and no amount of Lady Macbeth style hand washing or hand wringing for that matter will get one a mulligan for all that death. Current mood:

Thanks, Zok116

Eh, I’ll be back soon enough. Hell, it’ll be as if I never left and you’ll want to get rid of me like a bad habit. Maybe.

-GW

In A (Few) Weird Place(s) 1

Hi there. I’m in a weird place today, or more precisely, a few weird places. To wit:

  1. I’m currently typing this while standing and looking at my TV screen which is at an odd angle thanks to the new-ish LG Smart TV I inherited deciding not to work with my old-ish laptop. I kept my super aged Sony HDTV because it worked with the laptop flawlessly after I accidentally cracked the screen a while back and discovered I could connect the PS with a simple HDMI cable. I did locate a new screen, but it arrived damaged (I was refunded) and I’ve been staving off ordering a new one. Well, so much for that, as I kind of need a replacement. The old TV is BEHIND the new one, thus the need to stand, in case you’re curious.
  2. It’s impossible to write without mentioning the pandemic, particularly when one knows a few folks affected by it. Por ejemplo, that’s how I got a new-ish LG Smart TV that’s too smart for its own good.
  3. I do have a LOT of reviews and review requests to do, so yes, they will get done.
  4. Sony sent out a pre-order link for the PS5 and sure, I’ll try and do that when the site opens. I totally expect this to be a complete shiit-show this afternoon, but at least I won’t be annoyed by this, as it will fit in with every other bad thing that’s this year, but be of the very, VERY lesser variety. Eh I’ll get one eventually. -GW