Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Over the Top

During either 1985 or 1986, real living people got together in a room and said out loud, "We really need to make a professional arm wrestling movie."

From there another person said, "I will write that script." And yet another said, "I will produce and provide many millions of dollars for it, in fact, I'll give you enough money to hire Sylvester Stallone to play the arm wrestling athlete/person man."

I want to take this opportunity to thank these visionaries for, without them, Over the Top would not exist and the world would be a sadder place.

Yes, the acting is pretty horrible. Yes, the plot involving a bratty boy and his estranged, truck driving, professional arm wrestling dad is incredibly weak. By the way, I just wrote estranged, truck driving, professional arm wrestling dad. How does this movie not have 100% on rotten tomatoes?

For everything going against it, for all the ridiculousness, the movie works for me. I was 10-years-old when the movie was released and it really fit nicely in The Karate Kid mold of movie. You know, movies that end with awesome tournaments set to music.

The arm wrestlers are like comic book characters come to life. Or, better yet, they were like a hidden brand of the WWF which ruled my life at that time. How could one forget the grizzled, cigar eating man-thing of a man wearing a FUBAR army shirt? This movie taught me what FUBAR meant. Thanks, Dad! Kids, go ask your dad too. It's hilarious.

There were so many great moments in the tournament. There was the guy who gets his arm broken. There was the strap that connected the wrists in the final battle. Finally, there was the crane kick technique of arm wrestling movies, Stallone's amazing, finger-adjusting over the top maneuver.

I just lifted my hands off the keyboard and did it right now. Wait....I just did it again. That's it, where's my official Over the Top arm wrestling table. I'm starting a league. It will have a soundtrack, right?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Voice (TV Review)

I can unequivocally say without embarrassment that I love NBC's The Voice. I get giddy with excitement when I realize that my DVR has a new episode ready for me to watch. It's a two hour show and I could easily watch another 2 hours each time it airs.

It's hard to nail down exactly what makes the show so great. The judges are the stars of the show but without the format of the competition, they'd simply be another bunch of celebrity singers without much to say. The judges have a real investment in picking the right singers for their teams. The singers are a direct reflection on the judges' personal tastes and the celebrities need to pump their huge egos and prove they are the best at finding and nurturing talent.

The Voice breaks the competition into three stages. There is the blind audition, the battle rounds, and then the live performances where America votes. It's really a reversal of how America Idol works. On The Voice, the opening blind audition is what really gives the show its uniqueness.

The initial open auditions for American Idol are all about "look at me" America. The contestants are screaming — look at how cute, beautiful, or unconventional I am. Also, there is the ever prominent and cringe-worthy, look at how big of a freak I am, America, and how I'm debasing myself to get on TV.

The Voice's opening rounds take the opposite approach. The judges (more on them in a bit) must turn their backs on the singers while they perform and the judges choose to turn their chairs based only on what they are hearing. When multiple judges turn for a singer, the power shifts into the contestant's hands and that's when the show really shines.

It shines because the judges are tremendous fun. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is the breakout star of the show. He's funny and charismatic. His female fan base has grown exponentially since the show started and it's not just because of the bad boy tattoos or being hot. The dude is simply cool. He fights hard for the singers he wants and it's usually a shock when a singer doesn't pick him.

The hugest name on the show is Christina Aguilera. She's a hell of a singer and she's got a big personality to go with it. She gets so frustrated by Adam's used car salesman pitches, as she calls them, that she often reverts to childish antics to get attention. These burst of immaturity aside, she knows her stuff and she's hell bent on finding the next powerhouse singer.

Blake Shelton on the surface appears to be the token country singer but he is so very much more. He equals, if not surpasses, Adam in the likability department. On the hunt for more than just country singers, Blake maneuvers and charms his way into singer's hearts. And, for a good ol' boy, he can get a little dirty at times.

Speaking of being a little dirty, there's Cee Lo Green. He's the R&B force on the show and also a major showman. Known for his colorful performances, he's actually very soft spoken and sincere. He gathers the most eclectic group of singers which shows he's up for anything as long as the sound moves him. It's a good thing he has to turn his back while they sing because based on his flirtations, his team of twelve would probably consist completely of supermodel singers.

There are faults to The Voice. Ever present in reality TV, the sappy contestant stories take up a lot of time and are fast forward material.

Also, since the judges have a limited number of slots on their teams, they are very picky with whom they'll turn their chairs. Really good singers and performers are passed over and the judges are left kicking themselves. It can be frustrating but there is plenty of talent on the show to make up for the ones that are left behind.

The talent is indeed very high. For the most part, these are not children in high school or local dive bar singers out for one last hurrah. The singers are professionals and the casting directors seek them out.

I think I'll leave it there for now. The battle rounds are just starting for season two and that brings a different dynamic to the show. At the moment, it's still all on the judges to put the best singers through for America to vote on. I hope another Dia Frampton (a season one standout) shoots to the top because as the show goes on, the talent gets highlighted more and more and the judges will be judged themselves on how they groomed their singers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Episode XII: Return of the Blog

The son is one, the Craig household is semi-sane, it must be time to blog again. The 80s aren't getting any younger — oh, hello there Voltron and He-Man in a Met-Life insurance advertisement.

I've certainly missed all five or six of you and I'm sure you've missed my ever timely reviews of movies and toys that, if they were humans (which would be weird), would be old enough to drink legally.

I'd like to thank the kind folks at for giving me a kick-start to writing again with the fear of them sending some of their readers my way and my potential new readers finding an abandoned mining town of a blog.

So, I'm back. Besides revisiting the 80s, I'll be reviewing movies, books, video games, comic books, and TV. My reviews will run the gamut from new releases to entertainment I'm just now discovering for myself.

Thanks for coming by and, hopefully, sticking around.