This was a painful bout to watch.  From the opening bell it was obvious Bolt would win, if for no other reason than because TDESS’ technique was old and predictable, like a 50 year old Mike Tyson it was once solid in technique but the competition has grown wise.  TDESS is a story of Humanity’s judgment.  Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) is sent to Earth to make the final assessment about whether or not humans can be trusted with one of the few livable planets in the cosmos.  I first encountered this story in the pilot of Star Trek: Next generation.  Q remained unpersuaded so Picard introduced Q to beautiful artifacts.  John Cleese has a brief role in TDESS and goes through the same motions, finally deciding that only Dr. Benson (Jennifer Connelly), a hottie astrobiologist (say what?), can affect Klaatu enough to not exterminate the specie.  Yawn.

Bolt’s story is so much more compelling and was able to quickly subdue the left jab from TDESS turning it into a hip flip.  Bolt’s unique storyline as well as the empathy felt for the main character allowed the ground game to completely work through TDESS’ defenses.  Somehow TDESS managed to hang on until the end of the round, but it emerged clearly bloodied and shaken.

Cleese also made a non-singing guest appearanc...
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The second round saw almost a repeat of the first round.  TDESS approached quickly and immediately went for what the coaches though was its best move: a take down at the knees with special effects.  Unfortunately for the TDESS team, they received a bad draw.  Reviewing the tape of Bolt’s last fight would have showed them that the special effects ground game is Bolt’s strength and TDESS would be unable to compete.  As TDESS’ nose was receiving elbow after elbow from Bolt you could hear taunts from the audience, “Dumbasses, it’s an animated flick!”

TDESS did manage one nice move that caught Bolt off guard.  TDESS deployed a lemma as its force to destroy the humans.  This is a sophisticated move as even Lacan has devoted space to the lemma.  Think Crichton’s Prey, or a tornado or a Biblical locust swarm.  The lemma is not only destructive but also scary because it is depth-less, lacking discernable individual elements.  The lemma echoes back to us our very worst fears about ourselves.  However, Bolt was able to quickly recover.  It is too skilled an opponent to lose to a single innovative move.

The match ended quickly leaving Bolt an undefeated champion.  TDESS might have had better luck in other weeks, but an unfortunate draw is, after all, part of the game.

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Four Christmases

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Bolt is the easy winner here.  This cagematch is a bit more difficult since I never performed the play by play in Four Christmases’ previous match.  It is nice to see Vince Vaughn where he is best – in a heavy dialogued comedy.  While everyone now casts him correctly, I must caution that there was a time post-Swingers where he was lost (Psycho anyone?).  Although, I do prefer Vaughn in a role that allows him to be naughtier, where his character is single (Wedding Crashers) or at least in a knowingly-strained relationship (Old School).  The funniest part of this movie is in the beginning when he and Reese Witherspoon are acting as though they are single.

This movie is too contrived.  Weather causes a flight issue, a reporter just happens to interview them and their families just happen to be watching at that moment.  And!  All four divorced parents still live in the San Francisco area.  My parents divorced when we lived in San Francisco and now none of the three of us live there, but somehow all of these families all remained within driving distance of each other.

411Mania sums up the basic problem of the movie best: “More than anything, the biggest problem with Four Christmases is that it feels like a basic sitcom plot with a tremendous amount of filler to fill a barely feature length runtime.”

Bolt, however, does not feel contrived even though it is the epitome of contrived: animated, speaking dog, evil cats (maybe that is not so contrived) and a hamster in a ball.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  I did see it in 3D and if I had the chance to redo that decision I would.  The glasses are uncomfortable and the 3D features are few and far between.  I definitely would not pay extra money to see it in 3D, but it is nice the option is there.

When I first saw the trailer I remember thinking what a brilliant story idea it is: a dog is on a show where he has special powers, but when the actress goes on vacation he sets off after her not knowing that it was a TV show.  There is a wrinkle to that brief synopsis which I had not thought of and which is…brilliant.  Brilliant enough that I hope to tease you into seeing the movie.  I do think this movie will lose some in the translation onto DVD.

The characters are well done, particularly the surprisingly awesome hamster, Rhino.  The trailer let me in on the humor of this character but there are much funnier and little bits throughout the movie that make it superbly well done.

Even though the lesson of the movie is about humility and mediocrity it does not seem to be a lecture (Amadeus) and the movie leaves you with a sense of ease.  I am recommending this movie to everyone and I am also asking everyone how this movie can possibly be beat by a pack of teenage angsty vampires?

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