Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Zephyr Experience

It’s strange seeing how much I like baseball that I’ve never been to a New Orleans Zephyrs game before. Ten years later, free tickets fell into my lap, and I find myself in the middle of over-commercialized, nonchalant AAA baseball. The atmosphere at Zephyr Field is unlike any other sporting event I’ve attended. I’ve never been to a game where over 95 percent of the audience could care less about what was happening on the field. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that majority of the “fans” couldn’t tell you how baseball is played. Of course when it’s “one dollar beer night” in Metairie, it’s hard to care about anything. I too found myself lost in the humid buzz that only Louisiana weather mixed with lukewarm Bud Light can create. Good thing there was a scoreboard or no one would have known when to leave. Our seats were great; only four rows from the Zephyrs’ dugout. I’ve never actually been that close to the field since I’ve watched a high school game. Sitting that close to the action opened new experiences to game for me such as hearing the coach scream at the umpire and actually being able to understand what he’s saying. It was a relief to know someone at the ballpark cared who won. I also discovered what a buzz-kill a foul ball flying at your face can be. It was great to see that Minor League baseball still has the charm and aura that Bull Durham revealed to us. There’s nothing in a AAA ballpark that isn’t for sale to the highest bidding sponsor. It would be sad to see baseball whored out this way if it weren’t so amusing. Who can’t smile at the “Hamburger Helper Skillet Challenge” and the like in between innings? I can’t blame them; if the audience isn’t interested in the game, you’ve got to come up with something. Nothing compliments dollar beer night better than “Jewish Heritage Night” complete with Jewish baseball trivia (of course Shawn Green was an answer) and kosher food in the Coors Light pavilion. It’s wasn’t the Wailing Wall, but I’m sure it was the next best thing. And that’s the unpredictable gimmicky nature of Minor League baseball that keeps Americans and me coming back for more.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Huge improvement. Rise of the Silver Surfer continues Marvel’s streak of making sequels that surpass the original. Unfortunately, it also continues another streak: putting silly dance numbers in Marvel superhero movies. That streak now stands at an obnoxious two in a row (see my review of Spiderman 3). When comparing this film to the first, there is hardly a comparison. The humor is funnier, the writing more coherent, and the subplots more relevant and integral. However, when comparing this movie to any other movie, I can see why many critics will pan it. The movie’s themes are cliché and progress in a formulaic fashion that leaves their conclusions predictable and boring. Rise of the Silver Surfer is slow to start which is detrimental to a movie that is only an hour and a half to begin with. I’m pretty sure the average Fantastic Four audience is not interested in how difficult it is for Reed and Susan to plan a wedding. The exposition kick-starts the age old theme can also be found in every other comic book movie ever made: “Can we ever live a normal life?” And the character development does not get any more ground breaking than that. Fantastic Four shows its audience nothing new or innovative in the way of plot or special effects. The movie’s bright spot is its humor. Director Tim Story’s experience with comedy films (Barbershop, Taxi) shines through in his approach to Fantastic Four. At least Fantastic Four never takes itself seriously, and it doesn’t expect you to either. At every point in the plot where the action or drama seems too tense, a wise crack shows up just in time to bring the mood back to where it should be. However, sometimes the humor can seem to be forced and out of place. Fantastic Four never pretends to be anything other than a mindless special effects display so keep that in mind when buying your tickets. By the way, I have to say that casting Laurence Fishburne as the voice of the Silver Surfer was a brilliant move.