Friday, February 28, 2014

Movie Review - Robocop

On the whole, I think I liked the original "Robocop" better. The two movies share the same basic plot structure. Young police officer, Alex Murphy, is badly wounded. Omnicorp, looking for a candidate for it's android technology, rescues Murphy from a probable life as a cripple in a wheelchair, and restores him to his life as a police officer.  But the stories diverge in ways detrimental to the remake.

In the original, Murphy is already Robocop. He doesn't remember his past life. In fact, it's been hidden from him. He has a sympathetic partner (Nancy Allen) who remembers who he was. Robocop is the perfect cop, able to distinguish criminals from honest citizens. But he's also troubled as memories of his past life, of a wife and child, start to intrude. Eventually he overcomes his programming, uncovers Omnicorp's corrupt heart and goes after them.

The following may be a bit of a spoiler, but, if you saw the trailers, you would know most of this. In the new movie, we first meet Alex Murphy as an honest cop in a system that doesn't exactly reward honesty. He makes powerful enemies in the underworld and they attempt to kill him. The attempt isn't quite successful, but he's left severely damaged.

Meanwhile, Omnicorp is a large corporation that makes robots for military use. They want to expand into the US police market but US law forbids it. Michael Keaton plays the cynical Omnicorp CEO. He conceives of a hybrid, half human, half machine that he thinks can skirt the law. Alex Murphy makes the perfect candidate. Murphy's wife signs the papers and Murphy wakes up as a nightmare version of himself. All his past memories are intact.

In the original, Murphy struggles against his programming to find his true self. It's the inner strength he finds in discovering who he was that gets him through the battle with Boddicker (the crime lord trying to kill him) and propels him to take on Omnicorp to thwart their plans to completely run Detroit.

In the new movie, Murphy has to struggle against the drugs they gave him to control him as he goes after the the gang that originally tried to kill him. Then he turns his attention on Omincorp for what they did to him. I thought the story in the original was better.

Another big difference. The original movie cost $13 million to make in 1987. The new movie cost $100 million. I didn't think the effects (Ropocop's armor, or the big two-legged robots) looked any better in the new movie. Since $13 million in 1987 is about $26 million today, they spent 4 times as much money on the new movie as the original. The original made about $54 million which means the new movie will have to make about $400 million to equal the original's success.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Repack Madness #2

A few more selections from the 290-card Fairfield repack.

2012 Topps #465 Michael Schwimer
Schwimer appeared in a handful of games for the Phillies in 2011 and 2012, before being traded to Toronto in early 2013 and then released. The important fact is that, besides various parallel cards, this is the only Schwimer Phillies card. For that matter, it's also his only major league card.

2012 Topps #502 Collin Cowgill
My first Collin Cowgill card was in the pack.

2012 Topps Opening Day #167 Orlando Hudson
My second card with Collin Cowgill.

2012 Topps #658 Juan Pierre
Juan played a single year with the Phillies, in 2012. Again, not counting numerous parallels, there are only 3 Juan Pierre Phillies cards, all from 2012. This, an Allen & Ginter card (which I have) and a high-number Topps Heritage (which I suspect will be hard to get).

2012 Topps
This looks like some sort of promo card. But a promo for what? I figured maybe I'd learn something if I tried the web site address,  What I got was the web site for Houston Community College. What?

2012 1987 Topps Minis #38 Chase Utley
There were two of these in the pack. I didn't have the Utley card.

2012 Topps Opening Day #7 Mickey Mantle
There were 4 packs of 2012 Topps Opening day. I'd say this was the 3rd best card in the box.

2012 Topps Opening Day Mascots #10 Pirate Parrot
According to Wikipedia, the Parrot was introduced in 1979, in response to the Phillie Phanatic. In the early days the Parrot featured more pirate-related items. The Parrot changed as a result of the Pittsburgh drug trials of 1985. The wearer of the costume, Kevin Koch, was revealed to be the 'middle-man" distributing cocaine from dealers to various Pirate players. Koch was fired and the mascot revamped.

2012 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #9 Ryan Zimmerman
There are two interesting things in this photo. The guy with the Mohawk haircut and that there is a guy named Zimmerman and a guy named Zimmermann in the photo.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Repack Madness #1

I found a new Fairfield repack package at the local Target earlier in February. The box advertised "20 packs!" and "Now Includes One Hit Per Box". For only $19.99. Since there wasn't anything new (I'd already bought all the Series 1 Topps I was gonna buy). I picked this up.  There were 290 cards in the box, since several of the packs were jumbo rack packs.

2012 Topps World Series Medallion Mickey Mantle
Normally, I wouldn't get too excited about a manufactured relic like this but at least this one was reasonably hard to get. It came as an insert to the retail 2012 Topps Factory set. No way was I buying a set just to get one of these. There are three cards in the set, this being #3. Since I think there was only one of these in each factory set (at least it was displayed on the outside of the box so you knew which one you were getting), getting the set would be pointless.

1991 Score World Series Trivia
The oldest cards in the box were two 1991 packs of Score. Topps had gum, Fleer had stickers, Donruss had puzzle pieces and Score had "Magic Motion Cards".

2007 Fleer #169 Greg Maddux
This pitiful design was the last year of Fleer, after Upper Deck bought the company. I understand that Upper Deck will release a Fleer set this year. I hope it's better than this. The worst thing about this card is the back where the player number is huge and the card number is barely readable.

2007 Fleer Soaring Stars Alfonso Soriano
Soaring Stars was a 20-card insert set. The box had a jumbo rack pack which implied that these cards were exclusive to this packaging. Since you could get them in regular packs as well, perhaps there were just a few which were only available in the rack packs. This Fleer set was all about plain. No gloss, no foil, no nothing special.

2008 Upper Deck First Edition Update #420 Mariano Rivera
There were several packs of this, very likely the most worthless set from 2008.

2008 Upper Deck First Edition Update #447 Matt Capps
The pitcher equivalent of a card featuring a batter holding a bat extended in front of him.

2012 Topps #30a Joe DiMaggio
Everything else in the box was 2012 Topps products. This came from a jumbo rack pack. After the Mantle medallion, this may be the second best card in the box. This is a veteran variation card. I bought a lot of 2012 Topps and didn't get one of these. The regular #30 features Derek Jeter.

2012 Topps Ian Desmond
Here's Ian Desmond practically taking off Justin Heywood's head while trying to turn a double play.

2012 Topps #180 Mariano Rivera
Over the years I collected a number of players in binders. For some reason, I never collected Rivera. I may have to go through my boxes of commons and pull Mariano cards out. I'm retired, I've got plenty of time.

2012 Topps #231 Dexter Fowler
I love cards featuring plays like this. Is he safe or out? You make the call.

2012 Topps #443 B. J. Upton
OK, one more.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Random Cards from My Collection #56

OK, I've got to get some baseball card blogging done.

Card # 33619
2012 Topps #489 Andres Torres

Comments on the card: In 2013, Topps had the "Out of Bounds" gimmick, featuring players making a catch up against a wall. Maybe they got the idea from this 2012 card.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.23/card for 2 10-blasters of Topps Series 2 in June.

Card #37604
1989 Donruss Puzzle Warren Spahn
Comments on the card: Topps had gum, Fleer had stickers and Donruss had puzzles.
How/When acquired: I got this in a 14-pack Fairfield repack for $0.14/card in January 2013. Speaking of repacks, fellow blogger, The Night Owl, did a nice post on why he loves repacks here. I pretty much agree with him.

Card #33003
2012 Bowman Chrome Prospects #86 Gerrit Cole
Comments on the card: 2012 was the year when Topps made a substantial change in the design of their Bowman set. After untold years they abandoned the red/blue/or green and black motif.  At least the front. The backs are pretty much the same.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.31/card for 3 3-pack blister packs of Bowman in May 2012.

Card #5219
2004 Donruss Timelines Call to the Hall #24 Steve Carlton
Comments on the card: Did you guess that there are autographed and relic versions of this card? I hate it when the base card has a giant blank space where the relic or autograph goes.
How/When acquired: Paid $2.99 on eBay in March 2005.

Card #14081
2009 Topps 206 #86 Kurt Suzuki
Comments on the card: Topps 206 was, for me, the most anticipated set of 2009. I'm sad to say that I was disappointed. What I hated the most was the fake smudge on the back of the card to make it look old. It wasn't the smudge itself, but the fact that each card had the exact same fake smudge.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.44/card for a hobby box on eBay.

Card #7367
1973 Topps #486 Danny Ozark
Comments on the card: I love the design on this 1973 manager/coaches card. And I love that the coaches also appear. I made a trip to Florida spring training with a friend in 2005. We met Billy De Mars (who was the Phillies batting coach) in 1973. He told us all about how he had 'fixed' Mike Schmidt's swing.
How/When acquired: I don't know when I acquired this but it was probably in the early 1990s and probably at a flea market.

Card #11798
2006 Upper Deck #946 Cole Hamels
Comments on the card: One of the last good Upper Deck designs before they went in the toilet. Good photo of Cole in his rookie season.
How/When acquired: I got this as a gift from friend-of-the-blog Max.

Card #21846
2001 Upper Deck #236 Randy Wolf
Comments on the card: Another nice simple design from Upper Deck, although I don't quite like how the photos fade into a gray bar on the left. Reminds me of a camera I used to own that leaked light.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.18/card for an Upper Deck blaster box in November 2000. Remember when Topps and Upper Deck released their base sets in time for Christmas?

Card #26053
1992 Star Platinum #59 Jeff Bagwell
Comments on the card: Star International produced a lot of sets featuring individual players, teams and minor league players in the late 80s and early 90s. I have a bunch from repacks. Many of them are pretty hard to identify. They are pretty hard to look up on I believe this was a set featuring Bagwell. I also have #55 and 60 which feature Bagwell.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Card #40691
2013 Topps Chasing History Silver Holographic Foil #74 Stan Musial

Comments on the card: Speaking of confusing, I was never quite clear what is going on with this Topps insert set. I believe there are 4 versions of this card, silver, silver holographic, gold and gold holographic.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.16/card for a 36-card rack pack in June 2013.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movie Review - Monuments Men

Here I've been retired for almost 2 weeks and this is my first post. I'm finding that being retired is like starting a new job. You've got to figure out your new responsibilities, how to prioritize your time and learn how the coffee machine works. I'll be getting back to my baseball cards soon, but here's a movie review to fill some space.

I read the book this movie is based on a few years ago. It was an excellent book, outlining a piece of history I'd never heard of before. The story of how a US Army unit was dispatched to Europe, right on the heals of D-Day, to search out, protect and recover art from the Nazis as they fell back to Berlin. When I heard there was going to be movie I was excited.

Unfortunately, the early reviews were not good. I almost decided not to go, but I'm glad I did.

First off, it's kind of a mess of a movie. George Clooney is credited as the director and screenplay writer. One of the major complaints against the movie is it's sheer corniness. Clooney gives himself some of the worst lines as the movie tries to explain why it's important to recover the art. Things like, "Destroy a culture's history and it's like they never existed". Perhaps that's true but Clooney's delivery of pronouncements like this want to make you roll your eyes.

The first third of the movie is also very hard to follow. OK, we're in the fog of war, things are confused. But somehow, Clooney and his band of 7 (in actuality, the Monuments Men had about 400 men and women) somehow manage to be at the front, in Paris, and in Belgium with no apparent means of travel.

But despite all this, we (my wife, daughter and I) liked the movie. The Monuments Men managed to recover some 5 million pieces of art. The movie can only really attempt a small sample of this and it mainly concentrated on the alter piece from Ghent and the Michelangelo Madonna of Bruges statue. This at least (and finally) gave the movie some focus. Much of the movie is the personal stories of each of the characters (the book only went into some of that) rather than the detailed detective work (which the book explains in detail). The movie was "based on a true story" so much of this personal detail was made up for the movie but was mostly effective. It turns more into a World War II buddy movie.

Wikipedia has a good write up of the actual Monuments Men here.