How Badly Does a Movie Have to Suck for Sam Jackson to Say “No?”

Mr. Jackson lets his fingers tell you how many good movies hes been in this year.

Mr. Jackson lets his fingers tell you how many good movies he's been in this year.

What is the meaning of life?   Why are we here?  Is God real and if He is why doesn’t He stop Samuel L. Jackson from making so many lousy movies?

When Samuel Leroy Jackson grabbed the world by the short and curlies in a riveting, scene-stealing performance as the doomed addict, Gator in director Spike Lee’s 1991 Jungle Fever,  he had just completed drug rehabilitation two weeks earlier.  He played  a manipulative, charaming but borderline unhinged junkie so well because he wasn’t totally playing.  

Jackson as the addict, Gator Purify.

Jackson as the addict, Gator Purify.

That Sam Jackson is history.  The guy who has become the Baddest MoFo in Hollywood  is blessed with an abundance of talent, a long list of great performances and hands down the busiest man in movies today.    This year Jackson appeared in no less than six films of varying quality:  The Spirit, Soul Men, Lakeview Terrace, Star War:  The Clone Wars, Jumper and a cameo in Iron Man

No grass is going to grow under Jackson’s feet in 2009.  He already has four films in various stages of production which is staying constant to his history  of making no less than three or more movies a year.

The mystery is why does such an accomplished actor choose to appear in movies so far beneath his talents.  Marlon Brando waited until he got fat to churn out crud in exchange for a fat paycheck.   Jackson was 46 years old in 1994 when he burned up the screen as the philosophical  assassin, Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.     The brother waited a long time for his breakthrough part.  

My wife, who is not a psychologist or a drug counselor, believes Jackson makes so many movies because staying busy  serves as therapy.   I don’t have a explanation better than that (besides the millions of dollars he makes for dressing up like a Nazi drag queen in The Spirit).

John Travolta and Sam Jackson in a post-killing moment from Pulp Fiction.

John Travolta and Sam Jackson in a post-killing moment from "Pulp Fiction."

The thing is when you’re as prolific as Jackson it doesn’t mean you’re discriminating too.  You have to wonder did he read the scripts for The Man, Amos and Andrew,  Snakes on A Plane, Deep Blue Sea,  The Return of Superfly,  xXx: State of the Union and the straight-to-DVD, Cleaner?

Now with The Spirit, Jackson joins Hackman and Caine in career crippling celluloid crapfests like  Loose Cannons and  Jaws: The Revenge.

The reviews for The Spirit are the kind that guarantees the film a place on “Ten Worst” lists and Jackson’s performance (or lack of one)  is taking a lot of the incoming fire:

 Samuel L. Jackson embarrasses himself and everyone in the audience as the Octopus, portrayed here as a flamboyant windbag who spouts endless unfunny non sequiturs and parades around in dopey costumes. “Snakes on a Plane” notwithstanding, this is surely the worst performance of Jackson’s life, consisting of nothing but out-of-control scenery chewing.     ~ Tulsa World  


Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson plays the Octopus, a really cool villain from the Spirit comic. In the strip, readers never see more than his gloves, making him a mysterious and scary guy. In the movie, he’s simply Samuel L. Jackson. You know, the “Snakes on a Plane”/ “Lakeview Terrace”/And-you-will-know-my-name-is-the-Lord-when-I-lay-my-vengeance-upon-thee persona that is quickly becoming a joke. It’s time to rent “Jungle Fever” again to remember why we used to like this guy.     ~ San Francisco Chronicle

Jackson chews the scenery mercilessly, belting out his lines with lip-smacking gusto while flashing a smile that wouldn’t be out of place, if you’ll excuse the expression, in a minstrel show. (A sequence in which he dons a Nazi uniform to threaten the captured Spirit is, even in this context, a low point.) Octopus offs an underlying who’s failed him at one point by saying that he refuses to have “egg on his face.” In that Jackson definitely fails.   ~ One Guy’s Opinion

My personal favorite was one from Spill.com where the reviewer called The Spirit  “asstastic” and a “fecal waterslide.”

Wearing white AND blue eyeshadow after Labor Day?  Say it aint so.

Wearing white AND blue eyeshadow after Labor Day? Say it ain't so.

 I  get the hint.   The Spirit stinks and one of the things about it  that stinks the most is Jackson overacting like nobody’s business.

Jackson once was quoted as saying, “A movie is just a movie to me.  They open.  They close.”

Got that right, playa.   With the exception of Iron Man, Jackson hasn’t been in a movie in 2008 that lasted longer than a fart in a tornado. 

Have you ever wondered how bad a script has to be for Sam Jackson to say “no” to?

Here’s a way to make a easy five dollars.   Bet a friend who has cable TV and premium movie channels that if they surf the evening listings of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime or Encore  they won’t find at least one flick with Jackson in it. 

The man has made close to 90 movies since 1972 with 59 of them coming since Pulp Fiction.   There’s a difference between being prolific and not particularly choosy what you do as long as the check clears.   Jackson is still one of the ten best actors in the business, but he has turned out more than enough crap that if someone else wanted to drop him from that standing,  I’d have a hard time arguing against it.

Maybe he needs to take a vacation.   A long one.   Maybe two.   It might not be a bad idea to let audiences ask, “When is the next Samuel L. Jackson movie coming out?” instead of  “Oh Lawd,  not him again.”

Post Season and Post Mortems.

Drop your trousers in front of your team and whats that worth?  Oh, about $10 million dollars.

Drop your trousers in front of your team and what's that worth? Oh, about $10 million dollars.

This isn’t a blog where sports play a big part, but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t play any part.

The regular season of the NFL came to a close this weekend, but before the playoffs start, I had a few thoughts on what I’ve learned over the last 17 weeks.

  • The Dallas Cowboys can now officially petition the league to change their nickname to the more appropriate Dallas Choking Dogs.
  • Brett Favre is not God, not the Son of God and not even a starting quarterback in the NFL any more.  He is a old man with a shot arm who teased the idiots in New York into believing he still had something left in the tank.   He sure did.   He threw as many interceptions (22) as he did touchdowns (22).    In what I pray will be the last time he drags his overrated ass on the field, in the game against the Miami Dolphins he tossed one TD pass to a teammate and three interceptions to the guys on the other side.   After a 8-3 start, the Jets flamed out by losing four of their last five and missed the playoffs.   The guy they got rid for Favre, Chad Pennington, returned to send the Jets home for the holidays, possibly cost the head coach his job and put an inglorious end to one arrogantly insufferable prick.   Not bad, Chad.
  • The Dallas Choking Dogs started the season looking like the team to beat in the NFC.   Too bad for them the league makes them play after Thanksgiving because once again they compiled a losing record in December and missed the playoffs.   Which is probably just as well since they haven’t won a playoff game in TWELVE years and lost their final game of the regular season for the NINTH straight year.    This isn’t “America’s Team.”  These are “America’s Bitches.”
  • The Detroit Lions became the first (allegedly) pro football team to lose EVERY ONEof their games.   How completely and totally do you have to suck to not win even one game among the many mediocre to bad teams in the NFL?    No word if they will petition the Obama Administration for a bailout or to be declared a disaster area.   The Lions don’t belong in the NFL.  Maybe FEMA will give them a shot.
  • The Cleveland Browns went six games and 24 quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown and were shut out in their final two games.  The Lions immediately petitioned the NFL to play the Browns 16 games next seasons. 
  • Any season where some of the biggest dicks in the NFL— Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots,  Brett Favre, Chad “Ocho Stinko” Johnson, Al Davis,  Brett “walks on water” Favre,  Jerry Jones’s Choking Dogs including Terrell Owens, Tony Romo, and Pacman Jones—all miss the playoffs, is a damn good season.

My own team, the San Francisco 49ers haven’t played in a Super Bowl since 1994 and haven’t had a winning record since 2000.   That’s a long drought for a franchise that was the first to slip on five Super Bowl victory rings, but for the first time in years there’s reasons to be hopeful that the 2009 season might herald a return to the post season.

The primary reason is in removing the “interim” from coach Mike Singletary, the Niners are recognizing that a strong defense is the best friend to a weak offense.  Singletary will have a chance to get rid of the “happy” guys on the roster–(happy they’re even in the NFL) and bring in some heartbreakers and lifetakers.  

Will it work?  Who knows?  But as the Miami Dolphins proved after going 1-15 the previous season to winning their division the next after hiring Bill Parcells to tear the team apart and build it back up again, the right man with the right plan can make a difference. 

Except  in dead zones like Detroit.   Oh yeah, and Dallas.

Back from A Barack Break

You can do this without looking silly when you work out every day.

You can do this without looking silly when you work out every day.

Tuesday night Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election and I was in a state of euphoria until the wee hours of the morning.

Wednesday, I woke up from the few hours of sleep I had grabbed the night before with a big smile on my face and a sense of well-being in my heart.    I drove around alternating between laughing at a loser with a “McCain/Palin” sticker in the rear window of his SUV and the blustering rants of Rush Limbaugh who was obviously having a hard time dealing with the new reality.

Thursday, I pulled up the “Obama for President ’08” yard sign, put away in a drawer with my wristwatches and old matchbooks the three or four “Obama for President ’08”  buttons and peeled the “Obama for President ’08” bumper sticker off my car.

In 2006, I met Obama at a press conference and shook his hand.  I think from that moment on I knew if this man ever decided to run for the White House, I’d be supporting him.  In 2007, he announced he would be a candidate for the presidency.  In 2008, he won.

For two years I had read his books, educated myself on where he stood on the issues, studied his performance during the debates, and immersed myself in what others said about him and what he said about himself.

For two years, I made Barack Obama part of my daily routine.

After nearly two years, I needed a Barack Break.

I didn’t write about Obama’s Cabinet picks.  Didn’t write about his meeting with President Bush.  Didn’t write about his role in the banking and auto industry bailouts.   Didn’t write about the Rod Blagojevich scandal and how the President-elect was or wasn’t involved.

And if you think I’m going to write about him going shirtless while splashing around in Hawaii, you’re out of your tiny little mind. 

Look,  this guy is going to in charge for the next four years.  There’s going to be no shortage of intresting, fascinating and important things to write about regarding the Obama Administration.  

Certainly more important than what type of dog, Sasha and Malia  get once they move into the White House.

Jason Whitlock Talks Trash and Eats Donuts.

Jason Whitlock Tortures a Couch.

Jason Whitlock Tortures a Couch.

 

I love my brother dearly, but damn if he doesn’t know how to push my buttons!

He severely pissed me off the other day.  He did so by sending me a link to a writer whose work I hate like Fox News  hates the truth. 

This blight on the holy practice of journalism is a arrogant waste of air named Jason Whitlock.   He supposedly is a sportswriter for the Kansas City Star, but since nothing of any particular interest occurs in Kansas City sports, he bloviates online at Fox Sports.com.   Which when you consider both Fox and Whitlock are both bad jokes on journalism this is a marriage made in hell.

Just to get something started my brother send me a link to Whitlock’s lastest ravings and droolings.  Seems there are only four Black head coaches in the over 100 schools that are part of college football.  A lot of people have said that’s not right and something should be done about it. 

Whitlock, who is supposedly Black himself, is pretty much o.k. with the way things are.   Former NBA star Charles Barkley said his alma mater, Auburn University, should have hired Turner Gill,  the head coach of Buffalo who is taking his team to a bowl  game instead of the guy they did hire, Gene Chizik.   Chizik, a former defensive coordinator went 5-19 during two seasons at Iowa State including a 10-game losing streak.

Gill took Buffalo, a perennial loser,  to a 8-5 record this season and won the Mid-American Conference championship.

Just in case you doubt Whitlock is madly in love with himself, he jerks off the following bit of self-stroking in the sixth paragraph of the column.

“We’re going to travel deep into the college football-black coaches maze.  It’s an important topic, an issue that should be addressed with a level of sophistication and honesty that a Hall of Fame basketball player and rabble rouser can’t muster.”

Got that Charles Barkley?  Whitlock says you lack both ” sophistication and honesty.”    Like he knows anything about either virtue.

I’m not going to go as far as Barkley did and suggest this means Gill got screwed over by the good ol’ boys in Alabama.  Whitlock may well be right that Gill needs a little more seasoning before he takes on a job he may not be ready for.

But goddamn,  I hate to agree with Whitlock about anything.

Which is the point I atempted to get across to my little brother in my response to him:

Do me a favor, willya?  As long as your ass is brown and points to the ground NEVER AGAIN send me a link to the venal stupidity that is Jason Whitlock and his bullshit columns.
 
Seriously.  He makes me sick. 
 
Whitlock is a contranian.  He says stupid shit just to be saying stupid shit.  He is a flaming asshole, a lousy writer and if I ever had the misfortune to meet the fat fuck in person, I’m sure he’d be as a terrible human being in person as he is print. 
 
Anyone that wants to argue against more Black head coaches in college football is a fool.  You make me a fool by inflicting his bullshit upon me.
 
Heretofore, I thought the stupidiest thing I ever read uttered by a Black man was Uncle Thomas Sowell suggesting that slavery wasn’t so bad because at least the Black familiy unit was intact and there was full employment.  Whitlock’s brain fart isn’t quite that repugnant, but it’s pretty rank.
 
Maybe Whitlock doesn’t think it’s any big deal that Turner Gill got screwed by Auburn. He’s not too worried about the lack of Blacks getting opportunities coaching college football.  I’d be equally unworried should the Kansas City Star decide to fire his fat ass and there would be one less lawn jockey fucking up sports journalism.
 
 
— Jeff

In case I didn’t make it clear: I do not like Jason Whitlock.  Not even a little bit.

I dislike Whitlock for the same reason I dislike his Fox colleagues, Bill O’ Reilly and Sean Hannity;  They are arrogant big-mouths fools who do not inform and do not further intelligent discussion of important issues.   They pontificate and demonize and generate a lot of heat but damn little light.

The same day Fatlock puked up his rationalization for racism, another Black sportswriter, Cedric Golden of the Austin American Statesman was examining the same issue with a lot more sensibility and a lot less hyperbole.

Right now there are four African American head coaches in Division I-A football. Turner Gill (Buffalo), Randy Shannon (Miami), and Kevin Sumlin (Houston) led teams this past season. Add newly hired New Mexico head coach Michael Locksley to the list and you get four. Those men represent 3.3 percent of the 119 head coaches at the highest level of college football.

That’s an unacceptable number in a sport in which millions of dollars are made off the athletic exploits of young black men. Those young men comprise more than 70 percent of the players listed on the rosters of I-A programs. Sadly, there’s no Rooney Rule in college football to help minorities land head coaching jobs.

Want to know when progress will happen? Only when athletic directors and the millionaires who back their football programs accept the reality that the face of this game is changing — and that those changes apply to head coaches as well.

When athletic directors are handing out high-profile coaching jobs to men who cannot win a conference game at their schools, they should be called out.

Former Auburn Tiger Charles Barkley said race was the No. 1 factor in Chizik getting the job instead of Buffalo’s Gill. I don’t agree because Gill, who was 8-5 at Buffalo this season hasn’t proven himself over the long term. While it would have been nice to see Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong get a serious look, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boise State’s Chris Peterson were more deserving of the chance to coach Auburn than a Chizik because they have proven themselves over a period of years.

So while Jacobs grapples with critics who believe he is the new poster boy for the good ol’ boy network, college football is left with a problem that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

At this rate, it will take some time for a black coach to win a national championship in college football. That should not be a prerequisite for more men of color earning head coaching jobs.

See Jason?  This is how you do sportswriting without having to be an obnoxious know-it-all  jerk and a limp prick.   Put down that jelly donut and take notes.   You just might learn something.

Why are these women smiling?  Dont they know Whitlock is about to swallow them alive?

Why are these women smiling? Don't they know Whitlock is about to swallow them alive?

Whitlock became the World’s Worst Sportswriter around the time of the Don Imus vs. the Rutgers women’s basketball team and his remarks the predominantly Black players were “nappy-headed ho’s.”   Whitlock used  his  April 11, 2007 column to kneecap Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer and his other favorite whipping boys,  Black leaders he disagrees with and rappers.

Thank you, Don Imus. You’ve given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.

You’ve given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.

You’ve given Vivian Stringer and Rutgers the chance to hold a nationally televised recruiting celebration expertly disguised as a news conference to respond to your poor attempt at humor.

Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas

What the hell does any of this have to do with sports? 

The answer of course is nothing at all.   Whitlock hates rap music.  He thinks the fall of Black people can be traced to the first kid who decided to rock a mic.  Like other Black cultural neo-cons, he finds it easier to name-check some insignificant and trivial rapper while ignoring the anonymous record company executives who pay them well to spread negative stereotypes and phony glorification of ignorance, irresponsibility and failure.

I don’t like 99.9 percent of what passes for rap music these days either, but I don’t think it’s the cause of Black-on-Black crime, a broken family system or kids that graduate from high school with diplomas they can’t read.   Whitlock, like most people who rant before they think, knows his symptoms, but is profoundly clueless as to what the disease is.

However, rather than irritate myself  by trying to find the few nuggets of good sense Whitlock occasionally stumbles upon as  he searches for another  Twinkie to stuff in his blowhole, I’d rather not punish myself by reading his drivel.

Jason Whitlock is blissfully unaware of my existence.  I am desperately trying to return the favor.

The Dues You Have to Pay.

What really happened to John Johnsons daughter, LaVena?

What really happened to John Johnson's daughter, LaVena?

A editor who knew me well once told me I was a good writer, but when I was passionate I was capable of being a great writer.

Maybe I need more passion in my life.

I am not heroic.   I don’t think I’m particularly brave.   However,  I do  have a finely tuned sense of injustice and it was kicked into high gear last August when I learned about the story of LaVena Johnson and the strange,  sordid way she died in Iraq.

This is what arouses my passions.   Young women aren’t supposed to die violent, ugly deaths under strange circumstances and nobody but the family and a handful of supporters give a damn.

Writing about LaVena Johnson on my blog wasn’t enough.  I wanted to tell her story and that of her family to a wider audience.   I pitched the story to the editor of The Root, a publication I’d written for previously.    The editor said she was interested  and urged me to pursue the story.

Which is exactly what I did.   I contacted and conducted interviews with Colonel Ann Wright, a retired officer who has written extensively and authoritatively about sexual assault and violence against women in the military.   I spoke with Philip Barron, a librarian in St. Louis who created the LaVena Johnson website that is part memorial and part clearinghouse for news and information about LaVena’s life and death.

I tracked down the former producer at CBS News who had worked on a story about LaVena, but ended up changing his  mind.   Most importantly, I spoke with LaVena’s father, John Johnson.   Mr. Johnson was very gracious and forthcoming.  He has no doubt that his daughter was a victim of foul play despite the insistence of the Army that she committed suicide.

I have notes.   I have tapes.    I have more than enough to put together a thorough and informative story.

For some reason I’ve been frozen in place.   The temptation is to chalk it up to a particularly bad, and inopportune  bout of “writer’s block.”    But that’s not it.   I know when I’m blocked.   This is different.

After several false starts and a lot of time spent staring blankly at a computer that is staring blankly back at me,  I had to own up to why I couldn’t push through to finish the story.

I was depressed.   Depressed like I’ve been only a  few times in my life.    And more than just depressed, I was intimidated.

Like LaVena I enlisted in the military.   Unlike her, I did not serve during wartime.   Viet Nam was winding down when I joined the Air Force.    But even a soldier that never hears a weapon fired in anger is aware that at any time  they  may be called upon to go off to fight and possibly die.   It’s one of the unfortunate things about joining a all-volunteer military.

I want to do right by the Johnson family.   I want this story not just to be told, but for it to actually matter.   I’ve written thousands of stories over the 16 years I’ve been a journalist.   I can count on both hands how many of them I thought really meant something.    That doesn’t mean most of what I’ve written is garbage.   I know when I put my heart and soul and talent into it, I can write and actually write well.

But I’m trying to not just tell a story about LaVena Johnson.   I’m trying to find some small measure of justice for her as well, and that is a objective that is as elusive as it is ambitious.

Writing, it is said, comes harder to a writer than anyone else.   That’s true.   Writers have to be a bit arrogant to suggest the world needs changing and cocky enough to say we’re the ones best qualified to do it.   We want our words to not just  matter;  We want our words to mean something.   We’d like to tell ourselves that the power of words can change things, right wrongs, speak truth and make a difference.   All too often, none of that happens, but it’s always an objective worth striving for.

Maybe the power of words can’t change the world, but sometimes it can give it a little push in the right direction.

I have a promise to keep.   I may not get justice for LaVena.   Justice is an abstract concept and one that may one where my ambitions have to concede to the cold reality that justice is something beyond my ability to dispense.   Reality, coupled with humility,  compel me to just write as strong and effective a story as I can and let whatever happens, happen.    It’s not my call.

I’m out of my fog or funk now.   Maybe it was a crisis of confidence or something.   Maybe I was relying on my finely attuned sense of outrage and passion to carry me through the difficult task of compiling the facts into a coherent narration and putting it together to create a compelling article.

Outrage  only takes you so far.   Passion fades.   Neither one is a replacement for the damn hard work involved in getting a story right and telling it straight.     When the heat passes, cool logic is necessary to put the words together and get the job done.

This is not how I thought this story would go when I took it upon myself to tell it.   I wanted to tell LaVena’s story so much I found myself unable to tell it at all.

I think I can do this the right way now.    I had to get lost for a while there, but I’m finding my way back.

The Doctor is down, but not out.

Get Well, Dr. Z.

Get Well, Dr. Z.

Every day that goes by seems to provide yet another reason why journalism would be one of the very last careers I would suggest to a young person.   Newspapers are either laying off,  filing for bankruptcy or going out of business.  Magazines are shrinking down in size, dumbing down in content or just disappearing entirely.   There never was any money in journalism, but at least there was a little security.   Now even that’s gone.  

What’s left?  No money.  Not a lot of respect.  Maybe not even much of a future.

What’s left are the reasons newspapers and magazines beat the hell out of cable news, the Internet and yes, blogs, dear readers.    The best writers aren’t bloggers or talking heads on CNN, MSNBC  or Faux News.   

The best writers are real journalists.  Trained  in journalism schools and born and bred on the inverted pyramid (Who, What, When, and Why) and The Elements of Style.

I feel sorry for anyone who loves sports and thinks sports journalism means ESPN or their dorky yak-fests like Mike and Mike in the Morning, Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.    That’s not journalism.   That’s The View with more testosterone and less bitchiness.

If you think the news has been overrun by amateurs and hacks who have no business being given a public outlet for their asinine opinions and observations (I’m looking at you, Sean Hannity and Faux News),  get a whiff of some of the crap that rolls out of the mouths of the “experts” that appear on  Sportscenter and other ESPN programming.

It takes a sportswriter to make sports journalism special and nobody writes about pro football with the passion, the humor and the total absence of bullshit as Paul “Dr. Z.” Zimmerman, a senior writer who covers the NFL for  Sports Illustrated.

You have to understand that for a media junkie, guys like Zimmerman are as vital to the enjoyment of pro football as the games themselves.   Any idiot can sit in front of a microphone and tell you who won and who lost.   It takes a real writer to make you care why and how they won or lost.

Zimmerman recently suffered two strokes and has lost the abilty to walk or speak.   He will be starting rehabilitation soon. 

There are a few writers who can make me laugh out loud and Zimmerman is among those few.   Like me, he’s a fan of the San Francisco 49ers during their non-sucking seasons when Joe Montana, Bill Walsh, Ronnie Lott and Eddie DeBartolo were the guidling lights to the team’s glory days. 

Unfortunately,  Sports Illustrated isn’t immune to the layoffs that are ravaging journalism.  As part of the TimeWarner media conglomerate, SI has had to take its share of cuts among the 600 staffers that have been slated to be dumped from the magazine division.   There are reports that Zimmerman, whose contributions to the magazine have been primarily limited for several years now to the online edition and NFL preview issue was scheduled to be forced into retirement or let go entirely. 

Peter King,  Zimmerman’s colleage at SI recently wrote a column hailing Dr. Z as “The Best Football Writer of Our Time”

Is a title like that  hype?  Not as far as I’m concerned.   Dr. Z doesn’t do basketball, baseball, boxing, golf or any of those other second-rater sports.   He’s a football guy all the way and a NFL football guy  no less.  

If I can have a career in journalism half as prolific, talented and memorable as Paul Zimmerman’s it will have been a wildly successful one. 

Get well, Dr. Z.    A NFL season without your thoughts about it isn’t much of a season at all.     I know what we’re missing.   It’s a damn shame more sports fans don’t.

“The Punisher War Zone”: Welcome Back, Frank

Dark? Yes.  A Knight?  Not so much.

Dark? Yes. A Knight? Not so much.

Now this is how you’re supposed to do The Punisher. 

Brutality?  Check.  Splattered brains and bashed in faces?  Check.   Big freakin’ guns and a totally badass Frank Castle literally stomping the hell out of criminals.  CHECK!

It would be stretching the boundries of what’s good to call The Punisher War Zone a good movie.  It’s not.  Certainly not Iron Man or The Dark Knight good.    The Dark Knight was a great movie, but it wasn’t any fun.  This movie is fun.    Big, dumb and stupid, but sometimes that’s just how I want my entertainment. 

It’s also waaaaay over the top.  But we’re talking about a guy who goes around slaughering Mafiaos, street thugs, gang bangers and pretty much anyone that bugs him.    Any time you’ve got a “hero” who says stuff like, “Sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God,” you’re talking about a guy who spends the majority of his time in a permanent state of pissed off.

It took three times before someone finally made a movie that  “got” the character of The Punisher and what makes him so damn cool.    In 1989 Marvel made it on the cheap with a budget of about $100 in Australia starring the then-hot Dolph Lundgren.    It’s a unwatchable mess so don’t punish yourself watching it.  It’s bad and not so bad it’s good.  Marvel tried a second time with a bigger budget, but a even worse script as it hired a male model (Thomas Jane) and relocated a  character who basically smells like New York City to Tampa.  WTF???   Throw in a bloated and bored John Travolta going through the motions as a bad guy and voila!  Instant stink bomb!

I don’t have HBO so I’ve never seen Ray Stevenson in Rome,  but he makes a pretty cool Frank Castle.  He’s old enough, big enough and more importantly he’s mean enough to be The Punisher.   Major props to director Lexi Alexander and the screenwriters who didn’t disrespect the source material. 

This is the kind of movie critics hate.  They sharpen their knives and just rip these kind of movies to hell.   Screw ’em!   Let ’em wait for whatever Woody Allen whacks off next or Meryl Streep’s lastest accent.  I won’t begrude them for enjoying high art.   I like art too.  Sometimes though I just want something that makes no pretense to being anything more than what it is.   PWZ is a ultraviolent throwback to big, dumb action flicks.  It’s a body counter, not a brain twister.   

I had high expectations for Quantum of Solace and walked out disappointed.  I had no expectations for Punisher War Zone and came out with a smile on my face.   It won’t break any records at the box office, but so what?    The bullets and splatter are completely ridiculous.   The plot is ridiculous.   The Punisher IS a ridiculous character.

I don’t care what the New York Times or anybody else thinks  about this movie.   I totally dug the hell out Punisher War Zone.  It’s “R” rating is well-deserved.    It’s not for the kiddies—AT ALL.   Send them over to watch Bolt or something. 

Punisher War Zone is a movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything expect what it is:  a totally violent and over the top,  in your face and smash your head against the wall splatterfest.   When it goes to DVD with  the extra “director’s cut” bells and whistles, I can’t wait to hear Alexander explain why she went totally nuts with this concept.  

Is PWZ a guilty pleasure?  Oh hell yes!  There’s so much inside information that only Punisher comic book fans will get (paging Detective Budansky), but that’s what makes it work so well for me.  I AM a Punisher comic book fan and I was totally disgusted with the cheap and lame previous stabs at the character.  This is not a complicated guy.   He kills criminals by filling them with bullet holes.  That’s it!

Sometimes I want a junk food movie that doesn’t set out to do anything but entertain.  This movie does that.  That’s all I wanted and that’s what I got.    This is junk food for the head and I just might go back for seconds.