Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ultimate fighting weight classes - for everyone!

My son is a big fan of boxing. And, being my son, his fandom includes absorbing every piece of information possible. Recently, I admitted that I had no idea what a "welterweight" was, and he began explaining the weight class system to me in detail. For the record, here are the core, traditional weight classes in professional boxing:

Maximum Weight – Boxing Weight Class
Up to 112 lbs. – Flyweight
Up to 118 lbs. – Bantamweight
Up to 126 lbs. – Featherweight
Up to 135 lbs. – Lightweight
Up to 147 lbs. – Welterweight
Up to 160 lbs. – Middleweight
Up to 175 lbs. – Light Heavyweight
Unlimited – Heavyweight

Being me, of course, I did some more research on my own and found that there were many more sports with weight classes – everything from judo to kick boxing, and from Greco-Roman wrestling to sumo wrestling. Mixed martial arts (MMA), also known as "ultimate fighting," is the hot fighting sport right now, and it has its own weight classes based on the traditional boxing classes, but simplified and updated to be more in line with the weights of today's fighters:

Maximum Weight – MMA Weight Class
Up to 125 lbs. – Flyweight
Up to 135 lbs. – Bantamweight
Up to 145 lbs. – Featherweight
Up to 155 lbs. – Lightweight
Up to 170 lbs. – Welterweight
Up to 185 lbs. – Middleweight
Up to 205 lbs. – Light Heavyweight
Up to 265 lbs. – Heavyweight
Unlimited – Super Heavyweight

However, after thinking about it, I realized that even the updated MMA weight classes still left an awful lot of fighters without a proper weight class of their own. Specifically, the MMA weight classes assume the combatants are all normal humans. The is the 21st century, though: is that really an assumption we're willing to make?

So I present to you an updated system of "Ultimate Fighting" weight classes, designed to cover everyone – human or otherwise!

Maximum Weight – Ultimate Fighting Weight Class
Up to 1 lb. – Pennyweight
Up to 5 lbs. – Teacupweight
Up to 10 lbs. – Toyweight
Up to 15 lbs. – Super Toyweight
Up to 20 lbs. – Paperweight
Up to 25 lbs. – Super Paperweight
Up to 30 lbs. – Zephyrweight
Up to 35 lbs. – Super Zephyrweight
Up to 40 lbs. – Boosterweight
Up to 45 lbs. – Super Boosterweight
Up to 50 lbs. – Pixieweight
Up to 55 lbs. – Super Pixieweight
Up to 65 lbs. – Mosquitoweight
Up to 75 lbs. – Miteweight
Up to 85 lbs. – Squirtweight
Up to 95 lbs. – Peeweeweight
Up to 105 lbs. – Atomweight
Up to 115 lbs. – Strawweight
Up to 125 lbs. – Flyweight
Up to 135 lbs. – Bantamweight
Up to 145 lbs. – Featherweight
Up to 155 lbs. – Lightweight
Up to 170 lbs. – Welterweight
Up to 185 lbs. – Middleweight
Up to 205 lbs. – Light Heavyweight
Up to 230 lbs. – Cruiserweight
Up to 265 lbs. – Heavyweight
Up to 350 lbs. – Super Heavyweight
Up to 500 lbs. – Sumoweight
Up to 750 lbs. – Super Sumoweight
Up to 1,250 lbs. – Hulkweight
Up to 2,000 lbs. (1 ton) – Super Hulkweight (the largest ever known moose was 1,800 lbs.)
Up to 1.5 tons – Giantweight
Up to 2.5 tons – Super Giantweight
Up to 4 tons – Kongweight
Up to 6.25 tons – Super Kongweight
Up to 10 tons – Mammothweight (Tyrannosaurus rex weighed up to 7.9 tons)
Up to 15 tons – Super Mammothweight (the largest known African elephant was 11 tons)
Up to 25 tons – Titanweight (Diplodocus longus, up to 17.6 tons)
Up to 40 tons – Super Titanweight (Giraffatitan brancai, up to 37 tons)
Up to 62.5 tons – Thunderweight (Brachiosaurus altithorax, up to 62 tons)
Up to 100 tons – Super Thunderweight (Dreadnoughtus schrani, 65 tons)
Up to 150 tons – Megaweight (megalodon, up to 114 tons)
Up to 250 tons – Super Megaweight (blue whale, up to 200 tons)
Up to 400 tons – Colossalweight
Up to 625 tons – Super Colossalweight
Up to 1,000 tons – Monsterweight
Up to 1,500 tons – Super Monsterweight
Up to 2,500 tons – Behemothweight
Up to 4,000 tons – Super Behemothweight
Up to 6,250 tons – Gargantuanweight
Up to 10,000 tons – Super Gargantuanweight
Up to 15,000 tons – Light Kaijuweight
Up to 25,000 tons – Kaijuweight
Up to 40,000 tons – Super Kaijuweight
Unlimited – Ultimate Kaijuweight

Finally, for the record, I am not fat – I am just fighting as a Super Heavyweight right now...


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Most anticipated splody movies of 2014

At the beginning of each year, I check to see what movies are coming out and try to informally rank which ones I think will be worth seeing. My formula for success is equal parts good character development and explosions. Here is what I think about the movies scheduled for 2014:

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
When: April 4. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because at this point Marvel Studios can do no wrong. The first trailer for this movie looked incredible, and those who saw early footage at Comic-Con raved about it. It promises to be a 1970s-style political thriller wrapped in a superhero action film, and it is clear that rookie directors Anthony and Joe Russo understand and care about their source material very much. In short, I can't freaking wait!

2. Godzilla
When: May 16. Why I’m looking forward to it: I've been a huge G-Fan from day one, ever since I caught my first "Godzilla Week" on The 4:00 Movie on Detroit's Channel 7 WXYZ after school in the mid-1970s. After the disaster that was the 1998 Sony version of Godzilla, it's nice to see that Legendary is doing the second American version right: the big guy actually looks like Godzilla, and will be an unstoppable force of destruction. Yes! Plus, this movie has Heisenberg himself: Bryan Cranston!

3. Guardians of the Galaxy
When: August 1. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because see Captain America, above. This film will be Marvel's most wacky and risky venture so far, but it could also be the most fun. It is about a ragtag group of lovable rogues in outer space, one of whom is a talking raccoon and another of whom is a sentient tree that can only say his own name. If that sounds like a kids' show, don't worry: this movie will have an edge. It will be Marvel Studios' first venture into their "cosmic" heroes, and if it succeeds it will open the door to an entirely new side of the Marvel Universe.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
When: May 2. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because the first film was a mixed bag, but had enormous potential. From everything I've seen so far, this could be the film that sees that potential come to fruition. Jamie Foxx's Electro looks like a much more well-rounded villain than the last film saw. And with the origin out of the way, we'll get an entire movie of Spider-Man being Spider-Man. Yeah!

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
When: May 23. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because Bryan Singer is back behind the camera and just might pull off this incredibly ambitious, time-hopping epic. The "Days of Future Past" story line is one of the moved beloved in X-Men lore, and Singer has already confirmed that they've changed quite a bit, so it is on shaky ground in that regard. Singer is also using the film to "correct" the mistakes of past movies (specifically the awful X-Men: The Last Stand) and reboot Fox's cinematic superhero universe. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it's so crazy it just might work. Plus, if the story is anything like the original, it is going to be sweet. (Oh, and I almost forgot: Jennifer Lawrence!)

6. The Hobbit: There and Back Again
When: December 17. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because this is it: the last Middle Earth film we're likely to ever see. This one will have the final confrontation with Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies, so it should be worth the ride.

7. Big Hero 6
When: November 7. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because this is the first animated Disney movie based on a Marvel Comics series - albeit an obscure one. The 30-second teaser footage of the fictional city "San Fransokyo" was beautiful. I'm not at all familiar with this, but I'm intrigued. If done right, this could be the next Incredibles and open the door for many more such collaborations.

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
When: November 21. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because I'm in love with this series, and Jennifer Lawrence rules.

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
When: July 11. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because the first of the new Planet of the Apes movies was a delightful surprise. This one takes place ten years later, in a changed world at its tipping point, and looks like it has a lot of potential. And it has Gary Oldman!

10. Interstellar
When: November 7. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because in Nolan we trust. Even his sub-par movies are worthwhile. This one has me slightly nervous, because it features perennial douchebag Matthew McConaughey. But his best role was probably Contact, which this reminds me of. So I think director Christopher Nolan can pull something worthwhile out of him. Plus, this film promises to continue the trend of movies that feature pure, old-school sci-fi, and that can only be a good thing.

11. Jupiter Ascending
When: July 18. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because sometimes you want pure, new-school sci-fi that defies all logic. Directors Lana and Andrew Warchowski (the siblings responsible for The Matrix, V for Vendetta and Speed Racer, among other films) have a decidedly mixed  track record, but can always be counted on for groundbreaking visuals and action effects. This movie sounds like it could be the next Fifth Element or the next Spacehunter. Actually, you know what? Either way that sounds awesome; I'm in.

12. RoboCop
When: February 12. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because this movie just might work. When I first heard they were remaking RoboCop, I thought it was a mistake. Some movies are so close to perfection that they should not be touched. Then I learned that Brazilian director José Padilha was attached, and my position softened. (His Elite Squad films are not to be missed.) Then I learned that Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson were all on board. And the trailer didn't didn't look half bad. Well, damn, I just might have to check it out. And while I still think it won't be as good as the original, maybe if it does OK at the box office, we'll at least finally get some more decent movies in the series. And you know what? ...



Finally, some other splody-looking movies that just might prove worthwhile in 2014 include...
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (January 17)
  • The Knights of Badassdom (January 21)
  • I, Frankenstein (January 24)
  • Pompeii (February 21)
  • Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 7)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (March 7)
  • Need For Speed (March 14)
  • Muppets Most Wanted (March 21)
  • Noah (March 28)
  • Under the Skin (April 4)
  • Transcendence (April 18)
  • The Quiet Ones (April 25)
  • Maleficent (May 30)
  • Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13)
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27)
  • Hercules (July 25)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8)
  • Lucy (August 8)
  • The Expendables 3 (August 15)
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22)
  • The Boxtrolls (September 26)
  • The Interview (October 10)
  • Home (November 26)
  • Ridley Scott's Exodus (December 12)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Most anticipated splody movies of 2013: recap

At the beginning of 2013, I made a list of what I thought would be the best movies of the year. (My formula for success: equal parts good character development and explosions.) Now that the year is over, as is my custom, here is my analysis of how those predictions went.

First, a note: 2013 was a weird year for splody films. On the one hand, there were no universally-loved blockbuster action movies this year like last year's The Avengers to anchor the box office. Sure, a number of films made a bank, but fanboys were bitterly divided over all of them. On the other hand, ten of my eleven picks for the year (the twelfth was delayed until 2014) were certified "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes (60% or greater critic score), so there weren't really any highly anticipated movies that "bombed" this year, either.

The upshot is that a lot of fans thought this was a down year for movies, but the box office numbers were strong, and there wasn't a single "EPIC FAIL" movie on my list, so I'm counting it as an overall WIN. (Note that since I didn't have any "FAIL" movies to replace this year, I stuck extra choices in where appropriate. Enjoy.)

1. Pacific Rim
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 72%). This was my most anticipated movie of the year. It didn't live up to the hype I created for it in my head, but it was still solid. (I mean, giant monsters vs. giant robots: how could it not be?) I think it would have been better if they had spent more time investing in the personalities of the kaiju, and giving us a single "big bad" kaiju that couldn't be killed and reappeared multiple times, instead of making them cool looking but disposable. That's what makes Godzilla work. On the other hand, I've watched this movie three times now, and it keeps getting better. I do love me some kaiju-on-mecha action!

2. Star Trek Into Darkness
Result: MIDDLING (Tomatometer 87%). This movie started out well, but the second half devolved into what tried to be an homage to Wrath of Khan but felt more like a parody of it. I was OK with the premise here: "Let's see what would have happened with a popular villain if things had gone radically different from the start." But if they were going to do that, they should have committed to it fully and avoided the painfully corny parallels to the original story line that they forced into the second half. This was a visually stunning movie, maybe even more gorgeous than the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek, and even at the end there was a lot to love, but I couldn't help feel that there were missed opportunities as well. What ELSE should have been on my listGravity (Tomatometer 97%). Simply put, this was the most stunning movie I saw in 2013. It was beautiful and intense.

3. Iron Man 3
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 78%). Longtime fans are divided on this one, mostly because Iron Man's most dangerous foe, "The Mandarin," is changed radically for the movie. To me, the bigger sin is that the final villain just isn't convincing enough. When you make a switch like that, you need a new antagonist to step forward and be even more terrifying than anything you could have possibly imagined up to that point. Oh well. Even with that flaw, it's still a fun ride and was the year's highest grossing film.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 76%). Without a doubt, Peter Jackson should have made The Hobbit into a single movie or at most two, because he's padding the trilogy with ridiculous things. However, I must say that they have been quite entertaining. This second film moves at a much faster pace than the first, which is both a blessing and a curse. There is not much room for character development this time around (hopefully you got your fill of that in part one), but the action comes so quickly that you never get bored. However, the difference between this series and The Lord of the Rings is that when you leave the theater after The Hobbit movies, there isn't a single moment that jumps out at you as the defining moment. There is no "You shall not pass!" moment. Jackson seems to be trying to make The Hobbit more epic, but I worry that he's cheapening it with parlor tricks. That won't stop me, however, from being first in line for part three.

5. Man of Steel
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 55%). There has never been a good Superman movie. Ever. Until now. This one had its flaws, and I'm not happy with certain needless changes to the mythology. But it finally did two things right. First, it showed Superman being a total badass and fighting like Superman would actually fight. (Caveat: the final battle scene in Metropolis was ridiculous disaster porn and went on way too long. But I digress.) Second, it didn't introduce a new ridiculous power just for the sake of the plot. (The 1978 film was ABSOLUTELY RUINED by giving Superman the ability to turn the entire freaking planet backwards in its orbit - and somehow have that reverse time instead of killing us all!) Yes, its flaws are numerous: continuity issues, confusing subplots, Jonathan Kent sacrificing himself for no reason, etc. But there is also a lot to love: Clark's discovery of his powers, Superman bursting into flight, high-speed Kryptonian fighting, etc. Superman is boss. For all its faults, at least this movie understands that.

6. Thor: The Dark World
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 66%). This was my favorite superhero movie of the year. Hard to believe that not long ago I thought Thor was the stupidest superhero there was and his movies would fail miserably. Thor's relationship with his crazy brother Loki continues to be fertile ground for Marvel Studios. This movie also had lots of cool scenery and aliens and gadgets and action sequences, not to mention unexpected twists and turns. I hope we keep getting more of the same for years to come.

7. The World’s End
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 89%). I actually haven't seen this one yet, but I'm giving it a WIN based on reviews and because I'm big fans of the previous work Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have done together. What ELSE should have been on my listThis Is the End (Tomatometer 83%). Speaking of apocalyptic comedies, this one caught me by surprise. Hilarious and highly recommended.

8. The Wolverine
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 69%). This movie didn't stick very closely to the original "Logan in Japan" story that inspired it, but it was still pretty solid. It was slower than a lot of superhero movies, but I enjoyed the introspection. The end got pretty bonkers, but all in all, it was a vast improvement over the first Wolverine film, and I think it was Hugh Jackman's best performance to date. (Even though he's still too tall for the role.)

9. Elysium
Result: MIDDLING (Tomatometer 68%). Elysium was this year's Prometheus - a movie that looked beautiful and ultimately left me confused as to whether or not I loved it. I did, but I also have to admit that it had its flaws, including the fact that it was weak on both character development and plot. But oh my, what incredible visuals and world-building. What ELSE should have been on my listOblivion (Tomatometer 53%). This is a gorgeous film with a great performance from Tom Cruise and an interesting twist. It isn't as splody as Elysium, relying somewhat more on drama and suspense, but it is old-school sci-fi done right.

10. Ender’s Game
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 61%). I rather enjoyed this. It was nice to see a sci-fi movie that offered something different, and Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford were both fantastic.

11. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 89%). Even better than the first, and Jennifer Lawrence rules.

12. I, Frankenstein
Result: INCOMPLETE (Tomatometer M.I.A.). Like last year with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, this film didn't come out when it was supposed to. Oh well, it sounded cool (I'm a big Frankenstein fan), but now that I've seen the trailer, it looks like garbage. Frankenstein's monster just looks like a regular dude with a few facial scars... WTF? What should have been on my list: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Tomatometer 28%) and Kick-Ass 2 (Tomatometer 29%). These two movies may not have gotten the critics' love, but they were fun, brainless, action-filled romps. My expectations for both of these were low, and they were more than exceeded. The second G.I. Joe film was surprisingly better than the first (which was a fun but shallow B-movie) and nicely balanced ridiculous plot points and cool action sequences. The second Kick-Ass movie wasn't as good as its predecessor, but it didn't have to be: its predecessor was a better film than most. And there was a lot to love in this sequel, including the fact that it got made at all. Is it too much to hope now that there is a third?

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Bonus Wins: There are a few other 2013 films that I think are worth mentioning, even if they aren't necessarily "splody." By all accounts, The Conjuring (Tomatometer 86%) was the scariest movie of the year. Despicable Me 2 (Tomatometer 74%) turned out to be a worthy sequel in the kid-friendly adventure movie category. The thrilling black comedy The Wolf of Wall Street was another masterpiece by director Martin Scorsese, with a career-defining performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. The low-budget, found-footage Europa Report (Tomatometer 79%) was a well-done mock-documentary sci-fi thriller. And Upstream Color (Tomatometer 85%) was a fascinating art-house head-trip sci-fi drama. The last two were both slow burns, but if you like sci-fi and don't mind a slower pace to your movies, you'll find them rewarding.

And of course it wasn't released theatrically, but who can deny the brilliance of...


Coming next: my choices for splody movies most likely to please in 2014...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The bowl is half empty - part 5

Congratulations to the Florida State Seminoles, winner of Monday night's so-called "National Championship Bowl" and holder of this year's mythical NCAA football crown. I say "mythical" because, while I believe they have a good claim to the title, for some reason we still don't have a true playoff system to definitively settle the matter. So, as I have done for the past four years, I'd like to imagine a world in which we had been treated to a month of playoff-level excitement. A world where we had gotten to see 16 of the season's top-ranked college football teams battle for the ultimate, indisputable title.

Here is what it might have looked like. I have bracketed and seeded the teams according to their final regular-season BCS rankings, with some consideration given to tradition (e.g., SEC champion in the Sugar Bowl bracket) and geography. I also used the rule of no more than one team per conference in any given bracket.


Rose Bowl Bracket

1st seed Michigan State (12-1, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Oklahoma State (10-2, Big 12) -- winner: Michigan State

2nd seed Stanford (11-2, Pac-12) vs. 3rd seed South Carolina (10-2, SEC) -- winner: South Carolina

Rose Bowl: Michigan State over South Carolina. South Carolina played well, but Michigan State proved they belonged in the upper echelon of this year's teams.


Fiesta Bowl Bracket

1st seed Alabama (11-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed UCF (11-1, American) -- winner: UCF

2nd seed Baylor (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Oregon (10-2, Pac-12) -- winner: Oregon

Fiesta Bowl:  UCF over Oregon. Going into the playoffs, I thought Alabama was the team to beat. However, in real life, Alabama was upset by a team like UCF, while UCF upset a team like Alabama, so I think this is a fair result.


Sugar Bowl Bracket

1st seed Auburn (12-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Arizona State (10-3, Pac-12) -- winner: Auburn

2nd seed Ohio State (12-1, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Clemson (10-2, ACC) -- winner: Clemson. (This is what actually happened in this year's Orange Bowl.)

Sugar Bowl: Auburn over Clemson. Ohio State almost beat Clemson. I think Auburn would have sealed the deal.



Orange Bowl Bracket

1st seed Florida State (13-0, ACC) vs. 4th seed UCLA (9-3, Pac-12) -- winner: Florida State

2nd seed Missouri (11-2, SEC) vs. 3rd Oklahoma (10-2, Big 12) -- winner: Oklahoma

Orange Bowl: Florida State over Oklahoma. Oklahoma looked incredible in their bowl game, but Florida State looked unstoppable all season. It would have been close, but I think the Seminoles would have pulled it out.


Final Four

Eastern Semifinal: Florida State over Auburn

Western Semifinal: Michigan State over UCF

National Championship Bowl: Florida State over Michigan State. Then again, could Florida State have really beaten Oklahoma, Auburn and Michigan State all in a row? Or would another team have risen to the challenge? Unfortunately, for this year at least, we'll never know.



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BONUS: The "N.I.T." of College Football

As I did the past two years, I have also set up a second-tier 16-team tournament. I've included all of the conferences champions without a spot in the main tournament (C-USA, MAC and Sun Belt), as well as the next-best available teams according to the BCS rankings and AP poll.


EAST BRACKET

1st seed Louisville (11-1, American) vs. 4th seed Bowling Green (10-3, MAC) -- winner: Louisville

2nd seed Georgia (8-4, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Miami, Fla. (9-3, ACC) -- winner: Georgia

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Louisville over Georgia


SOUTHEAST BRACKET

1st seed LSU (9-3, SEC) vs. 4th seed Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4, Sun Belt) -- winner: LSU

2nd seed Duke (10-3, ACC) vs. 3rd seed Iowa (8-4, Big Ten) -- winner: Iowa

Gator Bowl: LSU over Iowa


MIDWEST BRACKET

1st seed Wisconsin (9-3, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Vanderbilt (8-4, SEC) -- winner: Wisconsin

2nd seed Northern Illinois (12-1, MAC) vs. 3rd seed Notre Dame (8-4, independent) -- winner: Notre Dame

Alamo Bowl: Notre Dame over Wisconsin


WEST BRACKET

1st seed Fresno State (11-1, Mountain West) vs. 4th seed Rice (10-3, C-USA) -- winner: Fresno State

2nd seed Texas A&M (8-4, SEC) vs. 3rd seed USC (9-4, Pac-12) -- winner: USC

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: USC over Fresno State


FINAL FOUR

Outback Bowl: Louisville over LSU

Cotton Bowl: USC over Notre Dame

Capital One National Invitational Championship Bowl: USC over Louisville