Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sport Review: Rollerblading.

Apparently rollerblading has decreased in popularity recently because I bought these $200 K2-skates last weekend for $105.00 at Dick's Sporting Goods. (I'm betting that they are even cheaper in the Cold States right now.) Let me explain to you why this was such a bargain.

I have always loved K2 (ski) boots, so much in fact, that I named my cat after the brand. So when researching popular rollerblades last week, imagine my delight when I remembered that K2 also made blades! More importantly, every review that I read indicated that it was worth paying extra for these "lighter" and smoother "soft boot" blades over the other competitive brands. So I went in to our local Dick's and bought a pair, along with a set of knee/elbow/wrist pads because I knew I'd be falling...a lot. You see, it had been fifteen years since I'd bladed/roller skated and I was preparing for the worst. Add my bike helmet and I was ready to roll. The first time I went "out" to try them out, I drove back to my old apartment, 3 miles from our condo, where I knew there was beautiful new pavement on the bike path. This was a good choice for a first timer. I suited up slowly, figuring out the pads (yes, 2013 pads are much more comfortable and stylish than 1996 pads,) tying the laces, setting the velcro and ankle boot clips (which were a replica plastic version of my K2 metal winter ski boot clips, which made me happy, especially in January, knowing that I now live in Florida instead of Massachusetts) and rolled away testing out the right heel brake and doubting how that could stop me safely in a quick need to. (They can.) I rolled out about half a mile, and then came back to the car. The wheels rode as smoothly as anyone could dream of. I felt safe with my helmet and pads, and enjoyed with nervous giggling the speed I could pick up before coasting safely back to a slow glide. This is how long it took me to get comfortable adding mileage and speed.

Day 1: 1.0 miles.
Day 2: 1.2 miles.
Day 3: 4.2 miles.
Day 4: 6.0 miles.
(3 day break.)
Day 7: 1.8 miles.
Day 8: 4.0 miles. 

Which means that in a little over a week, I've logged 18.2 miles (with no wipeouts or falling) on these new blades. No blisters, or sore ankle spots. (I've been using mid-weight L.L.Bean day hiking wool socks.) I feel great. Rollerblading stimulates thighs, calves, shins, your core and arms (for balance) and is a cardio workout that is less of an impact on my knees (which were severely hurt on days 1 & 2 from running.) The first 12.4 miles on blades could probably have increased if I hadn't started this sport injured from the week of running before. 

One of my foreign exchange students bought a pair of these same blades this weekend after seeing me blade all week. She tried on a couple of brands and noticed, like I did, that these were the lightest with the K2 soft boot. I'm excited to have a blading partner for this new sport, which did I mention, is extremely fun? Since I can't ski, or mountain bike, or swim in a lake, I guess I'm sticking with blading for a while...and I'm so happy I found this sport! 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Winter Film Review.

This is not going to be a cheerful, rousing or exciting film review. In fact, I'm so disgusted at the movie industry right now I will say in no uncertain terms that the movies this past fall and early winter were abysmal. Let's begin with:

1. Breaking Dawn, pt. 2: This was possibly the worst movie I have ever seen. True Twi-hards who have stuck with the extremely overstretched series and are currently suffering through the detoxification of Edwardian Romance withdrawal have stubbornly insisted that it was a good ending. Let me be clear: it was not. I have never been so disappointed in Melissa Rosenberg (screenwriter of Dexter.) At least with Stephenie Meyer, we KNOW that she writes barely digestible, highly old fashioned quixotic idealistic bullcrap. Rosenberg, Meyer and their team sanctioned a completely original "twist" at the end of the movie which was so over the top it was laughable. I actually enjoyed purist's screeches of horror in the theater and appreciated that the director, (who was hopefully truly messing with us for kicks and a paycheck) had probably spent weeks filming this "twist." The end result? Pathetic. The actors showed up, put on their clothes and make up, repeated lines blandly, smirked, and trained for this epic fight which never really happened. Advice: Don't waste your money or your time.

2. Skyfall: I was so depressed by the BD2 review that I had to move on to the best film of the year. (Sorry, Avengers.) Skyfall was absolutely the best film of the year and I hope you were able to see it in theaters. (I did, twice.) I love good action movies and amazing stunts. This film had both. I appreciate strong female leads: this movie had three. I appreciate witty and believable banter: no one does that better than 'M' and 007. Add Ralph Fiennes into that caustic mix? Brilliant dialogue. Now, here's the level that most action films never touch: the emotional history and trauma of a world renowned hardened character, and the most important living relationship he might have with a mother figure. Skyfall does both again. Besides the fact that the locations were beautiful; especially the locations like the casino in Macao, Shanghai and the actual Skyfall property Scotland. Advice: See it in theaters, buy the DVD in the highest definition possible. 

3. Jack Reacher: Honestly? I was not impressed with this film. I'd seen all the stunts before, seen Tom Cruise play this part before (this time without the charm, humor and romance of Night and Day.) The story is from a long line of serial books with the same drifting character in his exploits at helping uncover the truth about military crimes. Was it entertaining? Yes, but the actual "case" evidence and unravelling was mediocre at best. Tom is also not at his best, I felt like he was just "cashing a paycheck." Is it worth seeing in theaters? Not really. Advice: Rent it. 

4. Les Miserables: (SPOILERS AHEAD). Okay, this is going to be a controversial post, because everyone else loved this movie, and there's a lot of "Oscar Nod" chitchat for the leads. Honestly? Most of the leads were sub par. Anne Hathaway (who looked nothing like the descriptions of Fantine in the book or Broadway show) did a heart wrenchingly good job singing "I Dreamed a Dream." Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean was...acceptable. The singing was good enough ("Who am I?") not to cringe (which I truly did for Russell Crowe's Javert on "Stars"- what were they thinking?) and there were some truly emotional moments where I empathized so deeply for his misfortune that I tossed aside any disbelief that he might carry a small child fifty feet in the air with a small rope. Another major miscasting was with Amanda Seyfried. She was terrible. The entirety of Cosette's songs were completely out of her range. She ended up squeaking in falsetto in a painfully unromantic way at poor Marius. Also disappointing was Samantha Barks, who had the easiest job ever: to play Eponine, the role women everywhere had coveted at some point in their lives, and she totally botched it. I didn't care when she whined about loving Marius, or gave up her safety to help him out, or when she died in his arms. She DIED IN HIS ARMS and I still didn't care. The death song duet was beautiful though. Thank you Marius. So Eddie Redmayne played Marius, another hard-to-accept casting, but when he sang it was understandable why he was cast. He was tolerable. His "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" was another of the three good song adaptations in the film. Also irritatingly over-typecasted were Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen: they were simply boring, pathetic and not humorous at all. However, this entire review aside, I am completely biased. I saw the 25th Anniversary National Broadway Tour of Les Miserables last February with performances so spectacular that I (as well as most of the crowd) literally sobbed THREE times during the course of the well known depressing show. It was a life changing experience. I'd seen over fifty such broadway show tours in my life time, thanks in kind to a decade of season tickets with mom at the Providence Performing Arts center, but this was clearly the best show I'd ever seen. (You can read my review of the Broadway Tour here.) Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Eponine, Enjolras (rebel leader) and Cosette were perfectly cast based on talent. This movie? Not so much. Leave the singing to the real stars and you'll attain Rent levels of appreciation. Advice: See it in theaters for the spectacular cinematography, not the singing, but take a Dramamine before you go because the close up shots are often out of focus and blurry.

5. The Hobbit: What the hell was Peter Jackson thinking when he decided to make this lone book into a trilogy to rival Lord of the Rings? (Insert "Old Toby" joke here.) First of all, I actually saw this movie twice, both in 3-D (unremarkable) and in 2-D. The first time I saw it, it was entertaining enough and quick-paced enough to be three hours long and I hardly noticed (even at 12-3am) the second time, the movie was so long and irritatingly overfilled with action that I wanted to die. There are only a few scenes that are worth watching more than once, such as the haunting "Misty Mountain" song that the dwarves sing in deep bass voices: something not commonly heard in mainstream movies. (Spoilers ahead.) Another enjoyable scene was Gollum's cave, and the final scene with the "flying bird" who travels from the group to the mountain and wakes the dragon by pecking on the cliff. Will I see the next two installments? Yes. Did it live up to my expectations? Yes. Was it pure to the original text of the book? Yes, with some additional wild imaginings. Advice: See it in theaters once. 

6. Django Unchained: If you like Inglorious Basterds, you will love this movie. I for one,  enjoyed Inglorious Basterds and all of its gory, history-changing, satisfying rewriting of Hitler's demise. In true Tarentino style, Django had a few moments of flinchingly brutal assault violence, not unlike 300 or Spartacus or any of Tarentino's other films. (Are we too desensitized to violence now?) Also like Inglorious Basterds, it stars Christoph Waltz as a humorous, morally questionable bounty hunter/murderer. More notable is Jamie Foxx's Django however, (spoiler alert) who triumphs over almost impossible odds. Dark, violent, disturbing and not for young adults under the age of 18. Advice: Rent it.