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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Country for Old Men

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With their latest release, No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel Coen made a film that possesses a stunning degree of convince power concerning the era, the scenery, and the mood it is depicting and tells its story from. As an extremely precise film adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy book by the same title, No Country for Old Men is a movie of rigorously realistic, and all the while, bizarrely beautiful directions and proportions.

If you ever believed or still believe in heroes, McCarthy and the Cohen brothers will ask you the very strict question of how firm and defendable your personal concept of a hero is, as the conditions and circumstances the film delivers do not stop at a stable statement of how these unfolding threats are beyond old men to take - they also generally claim men to be men, drawing clearly made points of how money that is found easily is both a dangerous friend to stumble upon, and, for some: a sweet fruit to be lethally tempted by.

No Country for Old Men disposes quite quickly of the mere concept of heroism at its very first moments, even better: events and statements the film delivers are relying on the simple notion of how the protagonists are lacking every single attributes you would associate to the average (huh?) hero character. The film's general mood and the very language its shown environment speaks in conforms with a Wild West image which either have forgotten all its glories, or seemingly has a very hard time to remember them. This latter option is more tenable in my consideration though, as the movie intentionally chooses to focus on behavioral extremities, using this Texan environment as a timeless space to behold goodness, neutrality and ultimate ignorance/evil unleashed. That is how I do not tend to regard No Country for Old Men to be a work of eternal pessimism, I would rather considerate this piece of art as a series of warning signs, shown right into our faces wherever we look at during the film's playtime.

Very common, thus highly believable humane motivations join their forces with superstable action-drama, resulting in a lethal hunter hunted game which this Wilder Than Ever West watches with us, silently. The film quickly offers a rendition of how strict the rules are standing for here, making prey of one of its main protagonists the moment he tries to exhibit even a very basic degree of human compassion. But there is NO compassion, as this is No Country for Old Men, and neither there is excuse to miss this one out, babe!

Let us start with a brief synopsis on the motivational factors of the story. Picture that you are a hunter, looking for deers to molest in the Texan desert, and picture you stumble upon a scenery of a deal that obviously went more sour than any deal that went sour ever before. Llewelyn Moss - Josh Brolin - finds himself in this very situation, discovering a heavy load of heroin in the cars, those being scattered on this normally vacant scene, and also he finds a lone survivor, struggling at the very end of his life, begging for water. Remember, this part of the desert recognizes no compassion, Llewelyn walks away with all the goods he could loot by his hands, and decides to follow the tracks surrounding the scene of the massacre. Suffice it to say that he soon finds himself in the quite arguably legit, yet factual possession of more than two million bucks, yet compassion finally kicks in in the night.

Llewelyn decides to re-approach the scenery during the moon's cover, armed with his handgun and a jug of water for the man he found in such an agony before. Parking his car in a safe distance, he approaches the scene, yet punishment for forbidden compassion clearly and ruthlessly emerges indeed, as an unknown car lines up to his vehicle, scanning the site with serious, seeerious spotlights.

From here on, the game of hunter and hunted begins, utilizing three major perspectives, the first of them being Llewelyn's of course, presenting his carefully planned agenda of both keeping his wife and himself alive, while his intention to keep and enjoy all the possible perspectives and benefits of the sum remains as solid as stone.

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As for the other two points of essential views, and, given that the deal went incorrigibly wrong and final, the interest(s) whom want to claim the sum back quickly reduce to but one main character, a person who methodically eliminates his previous associates so he could go after the money in a solo fashion, claiming the precious loot just for himself. This enigmatic, sort of an anti-superhero character of Anton Chigurh is rendered via masterful convincing power by Javier Bardem, and quite interestingly, his hilarious haircut makes more big of a psychopath of him then he already acts as. As we will see though, his character is definitely reigns beyond standard human qualities, he is ignorance and mercilessness rampant, personified. Though his presence is a key motivational factor for the fabric of the story, his character probably has the most to do with the questions and answers No Country For Old Men asks and offers, as well.

Finally, the third perspective goes for a usually and welcomely flawless Tommy Lee Jones. As an old timer Sheriff, being in the possession of quite sober, traditional values, he gives a massively strong and authentic performance based upon both pure skills and personal charisma this actor so undoubtedly and naturally owns.

This here is a good time to sink ourselves into the main driving factor of No Country for Old Men, mainly the relations of the characters, though we should priorly emphasize that all whom we see and hear during the film do deliver the quality of acting that you fail to regard as mere acting, so good they are indeed - in my consideration, this is one of the most evident attributes of a motion picture that poses immense chance of becoming an instant classic. It is certainly worth mentioning that the movie takes place in 1980, therefore clothing, cars, and the general atmosphere are all rendering this era with a great degree of devoted attention and precision.

The figures depicted in No Country for Old Men clearly pose strong relation to the mere idea and concept of American freedom and American style in general. Chigurh reigns at the definite negative of the spectrum of all acts and behaviors one could falsely identify as a tenable attitude America would tolerate or even hint at, yet this is the very key element to the character: his self-claimed TOTAL freedom to act knows no moral or compassionate limits and boundaries: what he needs, he takes. He is the ultimate, the new age villain, personified human monster variant of the most horrific antiheroes the old Wild West could ever come up with.
Chigurh walks and acts in this consensual reality as he would have happened to be just creating it. Taking someone's life poses little less of a bother for him than reheating coffee gone cold, and the character works, and works with a ruthless efficiency.

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Yet, he possesses a twisted, dare we say: hilarious sense of governing factor in the sense and form of a massively tainted, yet quite operational moral system, based on pure luck and his personal, sear enjoyment. A game he frequently plays, a game of heads or tails, deciding the fate of the caller he has his bizarre intellectual bliss with based upon the caller's succession or failure to tip the result correctly. These are the actual moments of fun he can attain, and also the ultimate self expression ability of the character, save his killings, when he speaks in the language of lethal, quick violence. It is not correct to regard Chigurh as someone who forgot how to feel and act compassionately though, as he is someone who simply is unaware of this very concepts, thus works and operates with equations that are naturally lacking these basic value factors.

Going on further on our imaginary scale of American freedom, we arrive at pure neutrality, personified by Llewelyn's character.
He is a hard, hard nut to crack, not someone you could scare or intimidate easily. As Vietnam veteran and thus experienced gunslinger himself, he needs not to knock on the neighbor's door to borrow courage and determination, yet even he is below the twisted, tainted efficiency of Chigurh. Llewyin is the stoic, basically peaceful individual who recognizes a dangerous, though a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the fate of his beloved and himself, thus his actions to preserve the sum he attained are evidently fueled off of everyday greed and probably a considerate degree of self-flattery, a firm belief that he is capable to pull this reckless act off even against Ignorance Personified.

Tommy Lee Jones's character of course reigns on the positive register of the scale of American freedom and style, with a keen and firm readyness to confront those whom are breaking the laws. Is he though a man to possess or maintain an idealistic belief that one day America will awake to an eternally peaceful day with no crimes and no villains running amok present? Definitely not. Though the question if the Sheriff's character finds a personal inner peace during the film or must he face a conclusion he spent a life fighting against, naturally shall be not eagerly touched upon in this here review for possible spoiling considerations, yet I mind you and mind you I, eagerly: this is a movie without heroes, and its only character with reminiscent values to the ones a hero should possess, lives in a region that holds but quite vague memories of exceptional good deeds, a region that tends to live its territorial and social life in a very steady, very calculable fashion.

The movie boosts hilarious, precise comic book pictures of individual existences, petrified into these authentic "desert roles". Very important grouchy lady behind very important desk, exhibiting her masterfully defined conviction of her excessive authority, coffee houses filled with stories everyone heard a million times before and still trying to summon the will to laugh at one of them. The role of the aforementioned, grouchy lady with excessive authority demands emphasis though, no doubt.

Notice one particular scene, in which a request made by Chigurh towards the lady is firmly dismissed by the cited side character. Her role is more important than we would think, and here is how: she, as Chigurh recognizes, exhibits proper, and pure power through rejecting him, therefore, she, as relentless representer and proprietor of such proper power, certainly should be respected. That is the logic of Chigurh, and that is the world, no doubt, that holds a timeless place for it. The New-Age Super-Villain leaves the territory of the grouchy lady as the firmly-, and thoroughly dismissed. Not because he couldn't splat the grouchy lady's head all over the establishment, no. This is because the lady utilizes the tools- and temper to resonate a power which is quite capable to firmly, thoroughly dismiss even an excessively dangerous evildoer. A tiny, but very important moment, in my opinion.

The character of Llewelyn is a child, and now, a man of this environment, and soon as the hunter hunted game begins, the movie maintains the quality action-drama that Chigurh's rampant presence quickly renders unto the usual still life peace of this Texan desert region and its surrounding establishments.

The most important aspect of the quite memorable chasearound No Country for Old Men delivers is that Llewelyn and Chigurh are both highly intelligent dudes as far as psychological and armed warfare goes, thus the author of the story and the directors all had the chance to present events via long image sequences without textual content present or being necessary, developing the story by sheer cunningness and crystal clear understanding of suspense and drama. The motel-sketches are superb examples and peek moments of both of this approach and the film in general, summoning special moments where the story develops on three separate layers, though the viewer is intentionally kept to one particular perspective, still being informed of co-occurring events via sane, suspenseful interaction between the shown perspective and the outer elements that are influencing it. All sketches, and little visual vibration adds something to the final experience as far as the story or the rendition of the atmosphere goes, while the climax portion and final conclusion of No Country of Old Men seemingly lefts us with the impression of no hope or the promise of a brighter day offered.

This is not the case though, in my opinion. The film shows us all conceivable extreme aspects of American style and human basic nature, I might even try and draw a cautious parallel with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly here, since as I see it, No Country for Old Men simply - and no doubt, wisely - just emphasizes and solidifies its statements by ending the way it DOES end, showing a world operating as it DOES operate. It firmly refuses to make a final verdict and decision, while stating clearly that ignorance is a sticky element to count with, yet through its very last, cleverly cynical sentence No Country for Old Men arrives to a quite cunning interpretation field, one which is more than enough to depress and thus justify the pessimist, and also it is one to offer a confirmation factor for the optimist, a confirmation that the seeking of the ability to coexist in harmony may not have came to a halt, after all. It is possible that it has just begun.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Fountain

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Though relative newcomer to the fields of motion picture entertainment, Darren Aronofsky quickly drew keen attention to himself even by his 1998 breakthrough installment Pi, a black and white delicacy hinting elegant connections between the established rigorousness of mathematics and the far more flexible image of spirituality. That superprivate, yet at the same time, enigmatically shared field that we could approach an infinite directions from, and still we are likely to end up at infinitely different places, as well.

, as an artistic effort, already possessed Aronofsky's steep visual awareness without inviting overkill and doubt to be element(s) of his powerful start-off delivery, a movie presenting magnificent patterns and operations of nature, letting them register both as nourishment- and sole subject matter of heavy duty humane observations. Patterns and workings we are surrounded by all the time, yet the constantly conditioned mind has a likelihood to fail to timelessly remember- or recognize their eternal fascination.

Not everyone dwells in- and resonates such craftily defined ignorance though, not at all. Awe is a particular Option, indeed, the obsession to decipher God's Final Equation of Operations: is a necessary tool for such an ambitious: Quest. What results such a Quest might yield to, Pi tells us in a memorable, properly thoughtful, albeit soberly limited manner, as Aronofsky was wise enough to refrain from the act of par excellence demagogy, that being serving an answer that should cover all you could think/all you should think about the casual existence we all are organic, pulsating part of, regardless of whether with opened, or closed eyes we drink it with. What I truly meant to say though is that we shall conclude risk freely and without further need to seek doubt out that Darren Aronofsky made a curious statement of intellectual- and artistic significance back in 1998.

Since the focal point of this review is the latest to date on the director's part though, we dismiss Pi herein by nodding our blobs in the most eager fashion, reckoning Aronofsky's early output as a definite must see, yet this time it served us as but an introductory point to justify the director's evident talent- and fascinating vision as a creator. This enthusiasm on my side is maintained firmly despite Aronofsky's previous effort to The Fountain, the movie called Requiem for a Dream, a work that seemed - and still seems, just for the record - as eager to affect its spectator tremendously that one eventually craves precious chance to remain steadily untouched by the cited celluloid abuse, thereby, as of today I hold an immensely limited significance to my personal memories concerning the seemingly scant, squared social verdicts Requiem for a Dream was so enthusiastically serving us with. The Fountain though: left me charged in pretty much all inner aspects I can currently think of, all this naturally shall be respected by the maximum onion rating that I can offer for it. Come, OH!, Dearest Visitor, and let us scrutinize together into:

The Fountain

Since I find tales to be among the ultimate building blocks of a culture's existent- and ever improving (?) wisdom, I am most happy to announce that Aronofsky surprises us with a pretty serious one. A serious tale, that is. A tale that is not serious doesn't worth to be called one, mind you.

Seeing his work going on from the Pi days, it is now safe to say that Aronofsky keeps a personal, quite welcomed fascination towards mere human nature, yet, what David Cronenberg tends to approach directly from the material plane of existence, is a "mere" - HAH! - spiritual affair for this particular storyteller. As of today, Aronofsky finds limited interest in glorious - HAHH! - flesh, instead offers a well developed and solidly presented crisis situation in which a couple of loving partners are struggling with imminent death. The young wife, Izzi, personified by Rachel Weisz suffers from a seemingly lethal brain tumor that is sadly anticipated to claim the lady's life very soon, while his loving husband, Tomas - offered by Wolveri... sorry, Hugh Jackman - soon finds himself in the race for what seems to be a quite attainable Miracle Cure, making serious progress as lead researcher on a scientific project to deal with such sorrowful diseases.

"Uhuh? Tumor. Miracle Cure. Now, was THAT the tale part?" - a cynical person should pose the question. A cynical person is one who tells you about your TRUE motivations. The neurotic person is one who, when you ask her/him how she/he is: will tell you. These latter were just the narrative borders of the territory that the entire buildup will develop on, as a quite swiftly and elegantly unraveling synopsis boosts a truly nice twist into the fate of the couple, a twist capable to render elements of massive emotion, even yet: fragile, yet quite precious Epic to this promising mix. Turns out Izzi writes a novel by the title The Fountain, yet she is unsure if she will have the time and chance to finish the work before the disease claims her life. She asks Tomas to write the final chapter of the book, though the husband of course is quite resistant to commit to this proposition, as this mere act certainly would solidify an implication that he himself have finally made peace with the imminent arrival of death - uninvited.

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The tale nature of The Fountain arouses as quickly as we are to accompany Tomas in his reading process, taking part in the tale the wife wrote and he lives through via the mere consumption of it. Witnessing as third person inspector, a curios perspective on how the two prior/parallel incarnations of the two lovers are struggling under the Age of Inquisition, both of them holding quite historic, though very desperate positions. While reading the book and working relentlessly on the cure to invent the means his wife could recover by, Tomas, not surprisingly, also undergoes deep spiritual dilemmas, - try to invent a shallow spiritual dilemma, great fun for the whole family - rendered via a strong symbolism system forged out of motion picture fine art, though Aronofsky is certainly aware of how this graphic rendition of innermost personal lamentation might exhibit a tendency to sink into mere spiritual masturbation, avoiding those extremely embarrassing categories by smartly implemented narrative spacemiles. One could argue if you still see those categorizes on the horizon nevertheless, yet the film reveals such a degree of integrity and masterful craftsmanship to it that I tend to lean to offer a negative answer to this inquiry. The main operation factor to connect these three parallel experience foams is a mystical, organic artifact called The Tree of Life, a decisive phenomena of Mayan mythology, which, as it turns out during The Fountain, might bear all the reality we could imagine to it.

Once a reviewer forgets to mention the performances on the acting, then there is a pretty good chance that the acting was pretty good, as well. This is a textbook example here, no doubt, as all personifiers herein do render their crystal clear figures through the very same, meritorious qualities these pure, sanely driven characters are forged from- and operating on. Hugh Jackman deserves exceptional credit, as he had a chance to deliver serious performance, succeeding via sheer charisma and acting ability. An actor sadly- and usually can get away with lacking one of these traits, yet if they don't possess both on the day they were born: they also never will.

Rachel Weisz is very good here, also. A nice, mellow voice register, honest feelings combined with all the clever dialogs the film presents personal relations and inner dilemmas through: one recognizes in awe that this is what movies with a serious tint of serious tale - ye, sorry 'bout that - are supposed to be about. A rational, supportive acting performance- and the mere human phenomena of Ellen Burstyn is a must-mention as well, as I guarantee that you won't have many chance to witness a person so composed and in peace with oneself by the life periods in which Ellen Burstyn is. Mark Margolis is an actor Aronofsky keenly relies on, this mature of a personificator now delivers the same, solid canvas presence and performance you could remember him of even back from the Pi days.

The Fountain is an output driven by inventively presented emotional channels, yet, ironically, it also is a quite rational narrative buildup at that, rendering its welcomed surprise elements and deliberate conclusion through its no less significant spiritual message. The film has a very tender, pulsating temper to it, this notion is emphasized both by the superbly chosen, unhurried image sequences and a highly effective musical score that remains absolutely original and very easy to grasp on to. Another quality work done here by Clint Mansell, author of the highly acclaimed Pi soundtrack, as well.

Memorable images and pulsating flow of music form a coalition of rhythmic, evident beauty in this piece of art, better yet: this piece of art even tells us a tale to remember. The Fountain is a movie with a message weighing around 16 tons, yet it is also a film that sends you this message with such an elegant ease that you can't help but wonder how effectively it have given it to you. All capable of loving own themselves the agenda to check this one out. And those who are not: even more so.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Asbestos Mesothelioma

an anagram poem

I am the mess taboos lose
Loathsome, seamiest sob
Taboo slashes sometime
The taboo smiles as some

SOS! Obsolete hate maims
Obsolete shame to amiss
Ho! I'm baseless tomatoes
Is shameless taboo to me

So shameless, taboo time
Home as toilsome beasts
Emit so shameless taboo
Lobotomies, masses hate

Boo! Steamiest halo mess
I am hot as obsolete mess
Toilsome shames to base
I obsess loathsome mate

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Free Domain Registration

an anagram poem

Ignorant of merriest idea
Inferior modern agitates
Finer egomania distorter
Great inferior dominates

Refined meat originators
Grandiose, neat mortifier
Intimate of dire groaners
I am ironfisted generator

Agitated senior informer
Redefinition or megastar
Inferior, meatiest dragon
Migraine of oriented star

I am stingier or not feared
Merit rare if not agonised
Antagonise of direr merit
Greater domination fires

Good! Irritate fame sinner
Angriest of tidier moaner
Radiate of meriting snore
Aged fairies in tormentor

Deteriorate if ransoming
Fair disagreement on riot
Rare defeatism on rioting
Dominate greasier if torn

To aged, rainiest informer
Feminine agitator orders
Eager, direst information
Merited of rainiest groan.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shoot 'Em Up

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Movie reviews seem to have a tendency not to start off via a crappy joke, this is an unfortunate circumstance we shall ease up a little by accounting one, right here. Two cowboys are sitting in a saloon. One of them cautiously nods to a mean looking character while mumbling under his nose: "SEE that hombre there? Maaan, I SURE hate his GUTS!" "WHICH hombre?" - the other cowboy asks, scanning the crowd in a confused manner. "So many people around everyone, I truly can't figure out which one of them you mean." The first cowboy drinks his beer, then methodically guns down every single person in the establishment, leaving alive just the mean looking bloke he holds so much a dislike for. He turns to his pal, and, consecutively to blowing gunpowder off his colt, offers the following question: "See him NOW? Well, THAT'S the hombre I HATE so much!"

If you found yourself enjoying this quite crappy yet hopefully somewhat funny joke, then I would urge you to give Shoot 'Em Up the quite appropriate shot, as director Michael Davis latest delivery surely is well prepared to entertain all viewers whom happen to possess the average awareness level of a sedated sloth, thereby picking up on the delicate hint the movie's title quite cheerfully delivers. As an insane bulletride and respectful yet welcomely cocky tribute foam to the action movie genre, Shoot 'Em Up is your ideal choice for a film that does not take itself seriously, and also for a film being damn pretty enjoyable at not being serious.

Although it seems easy enough to regard Shoot 'Em Up as a comedy, it does deliver a quite decently developed narrative buildup of government level conspiracy and tiny, yet elegant hints of social commentary. Let's face it though: not many will likely remember or pose massive interest at the focal plot elements of the story itself, as the average bodycount per minute here is easily up to 10+, and that does not include wounded individuals. Suffice it to say that the film's organic buildup is a quite decent comic book script with a keen readyness to pull another card to 19, yet it's main agenda remains to deliver hilarious action sequences at every single focal element of the storyline. Sounds good, yes?

It certainly does sound good, and it is equivalently works good, too. The synopsis concerns a pregnant young lady chased by villains, and a weary looking bloke called Smith, who happens to be a witness to this mere atrocity, and decides to help out the lady who is about to give earthy life to her toddler. As it is unravels quickly, Smith is not particularly the most welcomed customer at prize shooting facilities, as he is easily capable to take out multiple packs of baddies via his tremendous gunslinging abilities and acrobatic skills. Personified by Clive Owen, the character of Smith is clearly and welcomely reminiscent of the early Mad Max, as Clive Owen himself looks quite similar to Mel Gibson in this film.

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The movie quickly makes a strict statement of what kind of further events we shall anticipate by boosting a shootout at the very start, introducing both the protagonist and the main baddie character, Hertz. Rendered by Paul Giamatti, we should delightfully reckon the archetypical Frustrated Main Meany via this funnily familiar sketchbook figure, formed by Giamatti with both in the possession of the necessary skill set and a precise understanding of what the character is all about.

This reference I tend to use here to sketchbook characters certainly does not intend to imply that sketchbook characters or the roles of Shoot 'Em Up are necessarily and inevitably shallow, rather, they are very easy to relate to and it is quite unproblematic to grasp a clear sense on their personal motivation factors, as well. That is the case with all the characters introduced in Shoot 'Em Up, except for Monica Bellucci who delivers quite decent of a performance as female sidekick to Clive Owen and also offers a tint of character presence that is out of the - nevertheless, certainly welcomed - sketch figure register.

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The others though are quite decently personified, well thought of and cared for sketch figures whom fortunately have none other functions and business than wage a war amongst each other with blazing guns and a mad environmental inventiveness on Smith's side. The main appeal of the film is it's urge and willingness to serve us action oriented surprises we never yet had the chance to witness, hence this mere intention welcomely reaches for and claims right to defy all laws that physics or common sense seemed to hold to this day. In this regard, it is absolutely safe to say that Shoot 'Em Up does try to elevate the idea of action-oriented visual entertainment to the highest possible peaks that Michael Davis's imagination could currently conceive.

And what he could come up with in this here effort, hardly ends up flat during that little less than 90 minutes the film rolls for, although there are definitely less peak moments present than everyday-movie-shootout-sequences, the latter though usually being spiced up by a clever usage of environment or some crazy-ass acrobatic special move you already had chance to see in video games like the Max Payne series or the Matrix movies. Sure, they are OK, yet they are the average, common dialect now that action-for-entertainment speaks in, and there is evident need to introduce development and fresh special moves to enrich the action genre. As we accounted this briefly earlier on, Shoot 'Em Up does deliver these surprises.

Q: Does it deliver GOOD surprises?
A: Hell, YES!

Q: Does it deliver ENOUGH surprises?
A: Hell, you CAN'T deliver ENOUGH surprises!

Nevertheless, there are a couple of - we should emphasize: couple of - truly inventive gunslinging and firefight tricks shown and utilized here as memorable eye-and action candy, yet we will have quite a dose of average shootout action as well, and believe me: when the fifth baddie gets simply shot and simply collapses, suddenly: you simply lose interest. Simply: simple as that. The genre needs surprises and needs lots of them, Michael Davis certainly knew it and introduces a neat pack of those. Not quite numerous to fill the roll time up without somewhat flat moments of delivered action left in, yet his effort definitely deserves major recognition as a work to point out how gratefully and enthusiastically the genre drinks in pretty much anything that consorts content to entertain the eye and all the other cognitive receptors. Be sure to give it a shot!

ONE thing is STILL bugging me, though:

Where. Were. The. Bloody. Shotguns.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

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Sidney Lumet
is one of the most accomplished contemporary American directors with an excessive cultural legacy made up of easily more than 50 movies to date, aaaand Ladies and Gentlemen it is: increasing. Featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, Lumet's latest effort, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead tells the tale of two brothers, prepared to commit the most terrible crime of their lives. A crime that will change them permanently, and let me tell you something to surprise you to the very core right away: this change is NOT necessarily for the better. Not at all.

One finds oneself in quite an interesting position if to deal with this movie, as there are series of massive questions emerge right from the very beginning of this piece of art, provoking the viewer to start an immediate pondering process on the unfolding startoff-assumptions. No, I do NOT refer to the opening sequence where we are subjected to explicit graphic intercourse, in days like these, probably takes a bit more than that to knock an audience off of their seats, especially since I tend to hold to an opinion that Lumet's intention is far from being eager to shock us with the opening sketch, I simply believe he was curious of how actress Marisa Tomei looks if naked and facing a camera, though via opposite direction, if you get my hopefully delicate meaning here.

Though Lumet's evident urge to explicitly account on every single aspect of female anatomy's enigma grows somewhat old after the 15th minute of the film, yet by the period in question we do have the exquisite occasion to wonder if Ethan Hawke is a magnificent or a terrrrible actor, the most significant recognition as far as this question goes pretty much being its mere, sheer seriousness, as I could come up with the defendable answer yet.

Ethan Hawke very well might be a terrible actor whose disturbingly misplaced and clumsy skill set suits the portrayal of this superweary, damaged and desperate character masterfully, or he might as well be a truly great actor, being able to intentionally deprive himself of all the tiny personal traits that signifies the charismatic touch and appeal of a man whom you would keenly drink some shots of beer with, would even use the same elevator. (At the same time of course.)

The character of Henry Hanson is NOT such a man. Sure, the beer thing is OK, but as far as the elevator thing goes, I would definitely be very cautious and hesitant. The synopsis of the movie goes like this, though I will be careful not to spoil your experience and will reveal only the elements that unfold in the very early segment of the film:

Two brothers arrive at a point in their lives where and when both could use a major boost on their financial positions, one of them, Henry - portrayed by Hawke - being a bitter and sorrowfully weak man, the other one basically being your everyday stock-charmer, though armed with a personal charisma that proves to be captivating enough to build himself a life experience that delivers a quite decent form and style of existence. His name is Andew, a rendition by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a similarly, though not as much controversial performance as we have a chance to witness on Ethan Hawke's part. A subject we will later elaborate on via a hopefully refined attention.

Andrew's problem is called: woman, and from that point on we can be sure it is bad, bad news. He simply needs more money to satisfy the ideals of the future the woman and he were contemplated and dreamed about. This particular performance gets more and more believable and convincing by the minute, with definite peak moments where the character faces serious crysis and dilemma. As long as there is not much else to do than socially shine/impress/exhibit personal traits of this stock-charmer figure though, the character tends to shallow down to a 0.5 dimensional balloon figurine without any capacity whatsoever beyond being captivating, and being 110% sure of how captivating he is.

The effective field of operation of the installment unfolds smoothly: Andrew convinces Harry to rob the jewelry shop of their parents, having supersafe insurances, the old folks will not be negatively influenced, in fact, they would financially benefit from the hit. Andrew figures: everyone will be happy, though he accounts the details of his plan only by the time that Harry decided to be committed to it. From that particular moment on - there is no return.

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Things go extrasour tough. Henry having no confidence of himself being able to pull off the robbery alone, he secretly joins up with an experienced evildoer and the hit itself turns into an encounter concerning gunshots, both the evildoer and, unfortunately, the mother of the two brothers die in the incident. A desperate series of events start to take place to cover up every possible trails of involvement on the part of the brothers, and Lumet utilizes a quite cunning timeline-mixture approach to present the events both leading to the robbery and for accounting on the consecutive events as well.

This narrative method is similar to the one utilized by Quentin Tarantino in his trademark delivery Pulp Fiction, only Lumet relies even more heavily yet without a doubt masterfully on this storytelling method, presenting whole series of intersecting setups, so at one time we have a chance to witness a particular focal sequence with a similarly curios background sequence occurring, then Lumet turns this buildup around later on, focusing on the prior background element, making a supportive background fabric of the sequence that was already presented as a focal point. This nice and interesting game serves the movie well, in fact, I find it to be the most integral and pretty much the very best aspect of this piece of art.

As far as the characters go, the role of Albert Finney, portraying the father is also of essential importance, as the conclusion of the film is built almost entirely on the moral functionality and the reactions to various key events of the character in question. Finney delivers a flawless performance, not something you could tell of the two protagonists, though in my opinion Philip Seymour Hoffman has a wide array of possibilities and character types open to be explored and utilized by him. Of Ethan Hawke, I am sorry to say I remain skeptic today, but would be grateful to disappoint keenly in the future.

Time has clearly arrived to justify the seemingly low Onion rating I verdict for the movie, and so I attempt to justify this act of mine, indeed. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead invites us to admire how believable, layered and complex characters it presents, yet the protagonists seem to boil down to quite hastily constructed, everyday social moral conflicts, only difference is that Sidney Lumet beheld all the relative shallowness of the drama and chose to utilize a gigantic magnifying glass to make conflicts seem bigger and thus, his film more full of content. Acting seems quite controversial to me, as well. Though at first it seems impossible to decide whether Lumet relied on these two actors because they project these semi-false / semi-convincing personalities with a similarly semi-convincing appeal, or did the director simply hope that the actors are strong enough to tell this story regardless of their current handicaps in the craftsmanship of acting?

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"You DON'T think I'm overacting here, DO ya?"

"See - I think you're WAAAY beyond that!"

A sense of stable, mostly everpresent controversy I feel during the movie, primarily originating from quite tiny, but extremely disturbing vibrations, ruthlessly exhibited on the acting side.
Some very little, yet, for me, quite significant moments and nuances that led me to excessive confusion: Hawke's character witnessing his daughter's performance at a school event. Children performing drama sequences for their parents, you know the drill. The most basic and most serious trauma that is likely to occur during such events is of course is to forget the lines to cite, and the danger of this seems to affect Henry's daughter for a moment, but fortunately she remembers at once, and continues on.

HAH! BEHOLD the face of Ethan Hawke with thy eager eyes! Behold! See? Is this for real?? No. No. No and no. This is false. Ethan Hawke TRIES to be fulfilled of honest bliss and eternal love, he is almost at the very last verge of sighing up helplessly of the unspeakable inner joys keenly and deeply experienced - only he just imagined. Imagined all that.

The feeling is NOT THERE.

But the pondering of it is present. At best. Well. This is unacceptable, even from an artistic or from a scientific (hah!) point of view. As a filmmaker with such a tremendous series of works already in his legacy, Lumet must have seen that the feeling is not there, yet the feeling definitely should have been there if he is to offer a "honest" movie in the oldschool sense of the word. The "real father", I suppose, would certainly possess the feeling that Hawke offers such a clumsy, quite frankly, laughable and desperate rendition of. Truly, a rendition I am ready to scratch my face off at when forced to witness again. Now, is it possible that Lumet personally and confidentially asked Hawke to fail tremendously at rendering the emotion? Probably not. They are lying to us, and this is but one occasion, a reoccurring sequence that tends to hurt my cognitive receptors as much as the aforementioned emotional counterfeiting, is: the robbery sketch.

I never ever seen such a vacant segment of a city before, not in real life and not in a movie, though never ever would have occur to me that the region was closed down for shooting a film. Yet another grouchy, unpleasant question to ask which does not release you once it made itself quite obvious and legit. Was Lumet unaware indeed that these sequences are shouting loudly how evidently staged they are? Just two cars in the background solves these problems superbly, yet the absence degrades the output tremendously. The movie seems to me as a secret host for a little, hidden symphony of such silly gimmicks, buggering the output even more with their subtle, yet unpleasant delicacy and relatively hard noticeability.

On the other hand, Lumet shows very beautiful and bizarrely peaceful pictures and moments as well. The weird, false calmness and the escapist comfort ensured by a secret drug den where Andrew finds bits of temporal, though tainted harmony and moments of total silence for hard cash are definite peak moments of the film, ironically, these are the moments as well without any significant character involvement.

Lumet stumbles upon this situation in a casual, easy manner, and accounts precisely upon the quite radical environmental situation, making the viewer notice how bizarrely fascinating qualities this place and mood possesses, welcomely drawing the attention of the audience to how painfully real and how sorrowfully beautiful an experience this secret place offers for Andrew. Yet again, from an escapist point of view, of course.

All in all, a deeply controversial film we witness in my opinion, with a strange and somewhat unnecessary, semi-clumsy urge to shock the viewer during the movie's conclusion period. The final moment is interesting though, and also is of special note. I personally think that the film would have been "better" or rather: more important with mercy not just spoken of, but presented. Those who have seen the film already do know what I am accounting on here. Doubts often seem to arise out of the mere fabric of this installment, doubts eager to degrade the ultimate quality of the film, yet it certainly made welcomely evident to me how I never ever doubted Robert DeNiro or Clint Eastwood or Nick Nolte just to name a few.

As a movie that presents you numerous moments to find yourself pondering if its occasional clumsiness is forged out of intention or of classic sloppiness, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead remains a piece of art that is quite easy and safe to recommend, yet I am afraid it is quite easy and safe to utterly forget about, as well.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

UFC 80 Rapid Fire review

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Mixed martial arts clearly became a significant form of both mass entertainment and - as Bruce Lee put it - an expression of the human body, the latter being, no doubt, the original field of operation of these ancient traditions, now living and breathing through competitive events around the world. Though many may consider men who enter the proving grounds little more than hired human pitbulls to rip each other apart for hard cash and radical amusement, I tend to utterly reject this rudimentary view, concluding that professional level mma is the combat of highly disciplined human spirits, opposing each other for the duration of the bout, probably ending up as unified in the process as we could conceive, simply through their magnificent shared experience of being in a cage where the damage one suffers is the wit one failed to exhibit. That is how, in my opinion, the mma fighter fights against herself/himself.

Japanese people compete to gain an insight of their own current abilities through the collision process of their skills with that of other's. To me, the ultimately glorious moments of mixed martial arts are not of those of KOs and submissions. They are of those of hugging the formal rival at the end of the bout, circulating the most honest, uncompromised, pure respect each fighter deserves simply by stating themselves on the proving grounds, regardless of the results. The ensuing peace between fighters after a good collision is such a palpable, legit sensation that it never got old so far - and won't ever will.

This here is a review of the UFC event UFC 80 Rapid Fire, time to punch that Read more button, baby!

Introductory thoughts about the more significant lineups

The main event of the evening features a lightweight championship bout for the division's belt that was held by Sean "the Muscle Shark" Sherk, but have been stripped of the now-former champion because of Sherk's involvement with steroids. Though the substance usage earned a suspension period for the Muscle Shark, during the evening of Rapid Fire he takes the position of premier challenger against the winner of the main event, now joining Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan at the commentator's booth.

The two contenders for the title are The Prodigy BJ Penn, and Joe Stevenson, winner of the second season of the Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. A talented, yet not necessarily as mature and complete of a fighter as BJ Penn is, the apparent intention of this line-up is to provoke the potentiality of a tremendous upset, as Stevenson's victory over the Little Buddha - that is who BJ reminds me of, you see - seems somewhat unlikely, especially considering that Penn is after the most rigorous and excessive training regime of his life.

Penn states that now his attitude and his determination are both of the professional quality, something you could not always tell of BJ's personal approach to mixed martial arts. His talents and his mere physical traits are so special indeed that he had a definite tendency to take these all for granted, not putting too much attention and time to improve via training, and funny thing is: he was very very good even with a somewhat slappy-lazy attitude he exhibited prior to his current, extremely integral stance both as a human being and as a fighter.

Remember UFC 63? He gave quite a hard time to Matt Hughes, reigning welterweight champion of the time in question, eventually getting overwhelmed by Hughes's massive physical strength and relentless ground and pound game. Still, BJ was pretty much outsmarting Matt in the first round through the stand up exchanges, eventually blowing his juice to near-zero levels though, posing little more treat to the staminamonster Matt than a semi-prepared nut against a very well prepared nutcracker. The defendant even offered some mockery comments for the audience and BJ, stating he was prepared to roll for five rounds here, and thought The Prodigy would also do the same.

Penn accounts this loss as a very important station in his career, a point where he did realize that either he takes this mixed martial arts business quite seriously and puts the effort and dedication to build a significant legacy for his name, or he might just as well walk away from competing on the professional level. Fortunately, BJ Penn choose the first option, and there is no doubt that the Penn we witness during the evening of Rapid Fire is the most mature and composed Penn we ever saw to date. As far as the Little Buddha is concerned, it is interesting to note that his success would offer a historic event for the UFC, as he would be the second warrior to ever hold titles in two different weight classes, the other being Randy "The Natural" Couture.

The opponent, Joe "Daddy" Stevenson possesses good takedown ability and promising submission skills, with an increasing willingness to wrap confrontations up via stand up. Similarly to Penn, he is after a very serious training period and looks very determined to claim the belt, though there is little if any doubt that he is a definite underdog of the upcoming championship bout.

What about Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga against Fabricio Werdum? Gonzaga already earned himself quite a reputation in the UFC. A black belt of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and possessor of a physical buildup enough to intimidate the hell out of Chewbacca, he is looking for avenge a loss he suffered against Werdum back in the days when they both competed in the Pride organization.

Gonzaga's UFC career holds two significant peak moments to date, the first being his astonishing KO victory upon one of my personal favorites, Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic. You see, many claim that Mirko's punishment resistance is not particularly convincing, yet we are still free to say in my opinion that he deserves a fourth chance to prove himself in the octagon. Though without a doubt he had a rough transition, we should never forget that the Croatian Living Legend has as devastating power in his legs and in his fists as you could possibly get out of a homo sapiens, though his evident uninterest of training in the octagon environment before his UFC fights was a definite failure, yet also a failure he had to realize the hard way, we might suppose. I still remain a major fan of his nevertheless, and very much hope to see him shine in the octagon soon.

But now it is our time to credit the Gonzaga Monster big time herein for unleashing that blatant KO headkick on CroCop, earning him the right to compete against the heavyweight champion by the day, Randy " The Natural" Couture in UFC 74 - Respect.

Gonzaga was pretty good at that match, too. He landed quite massive bombs and elbows on Couture, whose skills to dodge attacks is second to none in my opinion, probably one of the most masterful persons on the planet to get out of the way of attacks unleashed, and this priceless skill set of him he demonstrates clearly in the match against Napao.

Eventually, an impressive takedown by Randy effectively crushed Gonzaga's nose via their head colliding in the process, in my opinion that was pretty much Randy's plan and intention, accomplished relentlessly and masterfully. The situation possesses somewhat of an irony, as well, since the English translation of Gonzaga's nickname, Napao, would read something like this: "Big Nose." Hm. Bleeding heavily, and forced to breath through the mouth due to both the crushed nose and the exhaustion, Couture eventually overwhelms Gonzaga and solidifies his position as champion with a convincing, successful title defense. Side note, in the form of one quite appealing notion of Matt Hughes:

To be a True Champion, you do not just EARN the title. You DEFEND it, too.

Nevertheless, Gonzaga remains a significant factor and a serious force to reckon with in the heavyweight division, on the other hand, Fabricio Werdum is a fresh addition to the UFC rankings, and as we mentioned earlier, he is also a fighter who owns a victory upon the Napao Monster.

Werdum's UFC debut was against Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski, they basically delivered a kickboxing match of a slightly above-average excitement factor, with a deserved decision going to The Pitbull. While it is understandable that Arlovski played a game of safety because of his two loss against Tim Sylvia, - of whom upon The Pitbull owns a victory as well, completing this particular trilogy - Werdum's debut was not as impressive as many anticipated it to be, even Fabricio himself offered a statement before the Gonzaga match that he was about 70% in the Arlovski fight, and now he is 100%, being totally prepared to deliver a superb performance for the fans. We are certainly looking forward to it, eager to see if Gonzaga is capable to avenge his loss, or if Werdum is able to emphasize his current superiority as a mixed martial arts fighter over the Napao.

Kendall Grove vs Jorge Rivera

Two faces that are probably most familiar these days via the Ultimate Fighter reality TV show, are confronting each other to start out the night. Kendall Grove is the winner of the third season of the show in question, while Jorge Rivera is a veteran of the sport who had his dramatic moments on both the bright and the dark side of the business, now both men looking for establish a more fruity position for themselves in the rankings. This match seems to boil down to second-nature experience, probably something one earns through years and years of professional level competition, and something that only Rivera possesses by the time of this particular bout. The result is a quite quick and quite impressive fence assault by Jorge, landing a left jab that is enough to offer a temporal timeout to Kendall, who definitely remains a fighter of promising perspectives, though tonight he suffers a defeat to build important, probably much needed conclusions and recognitions on. A nice, brief KO to Rivera to start the night up.

Jason Lambert vs Wilson Gouveia

Jason "The Punisher" Lambert offered quite an upset when he KO-d highly ranked fighter Renato "Babalu" Sobral in UFC 68 Uprising. Lambert is an excellent wrestler with brutal ground and pound potential, and his stand up game exhibits definite perspectives of further improvement, too. His confidence have been boosted big, big time via the destruction of such a skilled fighter as Babalu, who effectively ran into the crushing left hand of The Punisher.

Wilson Gouveia is a relatively new face in the UFC, first appearing in the organization's ranking as a contender in The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 Finale, where he produces a quite intense match with Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine, losing a decision. As Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt and promising striker, Gouveia is looking to make a statement by taking out a warrior of massively boosted confidence and a refined skill set, all these attributes possessed by The Punisher.

As this match clearly states, confidence can be everything: Lambert dominates pretty much every aspect of the fight from the first moment on: maintains initiative and remains evident agressor of the unfolding battle. Gouveia though is skilled and prepared enough to avoid serious punishment, intelligently and smartly stopping Lambert from delivering KO power or exploiting submission possibilities.

The Punisher comes out guns blazing in the second run, throwing bombs at Gouveia whom he forces quickly to the fence. As this match clearly states though, high-end confidence also might betray its possessor. Noticing and exploiting the holes unfolding in The Punisher's defense via the reckless attacks, Gouveia delivers a left hand that is truly built upon pure logic and common sense, thereby possessing power enough to put a quick end to The Punisher's rampant assault this time around. An impressive comeback, no doubt, better yet: we not necessarily need to regard it as comeback in the usual context of the word, as Gouveia wasn't really caught or hurt in the bout, he simply exhibited much less aggressiveness than his opponent, eventually leading Lambert to reckless attacks that Gouveia could form a countering opportunity of stopping power on. Quite memorable bout, looking forward to see these warriors again, I would definitely welcome a rematch between them, as well.

Jess Liaudin vs Marcus Davis

Now how about a match that ends by 1:04 in the first round due to an extremely weird and evidently very effective punch to the neck by Marcus "The Irish Handgrenade" Davis? This is all boiling down to anatomy in my opinion, if one tries to utilize even a slight pressure to the side of the neck, the effect is very discomforting. Imagine a huge hit to this region, or "better" yet, check out this match where Liaudin goes down superstiff, no doubt that the mere operational process of his nervous system was temporarily affected due to this punch. Fortunately, he recovers and walks out of the octagon on his own legs, yet the effect of this somewhat accidental hit - I don't think Marcus was aiming the side of the neck - is as dramatic as we ever saw this year to this point. (This is probably very safe to say by the end of January, you see.)

The match itself held potential to go to both interesting waters and to the distance though, Liaudin looking quite all right with his kicks to soften up The Irish Handgrenade, who is though reigns superior this time around via delivering one of the most crude punches in UFC history. Credit for him for a job done as effectively as one could imagine in this sport. Marcus Davis remains a fighter we want to see again, no doubt.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs Fabricio Werdum

In this here co-main event of the evening, the Napao Monster Gabriel Gonzaga was extremely convincing during a feeling out process quickly sent off to remembrance by furious legkicks landing on Fabricio's corresponding limbs. The power of impacts were such indeed that Werdum looked effectively helpless against these attacks, catching the floor on multiple occasions. What seemed as a weapon of destruction possessed by the Napao Monster, had to be dealt with by Werdum if to survive. In the second round, Fabricio wisely chooses not to offer the chance for Gonzaga to unleash those devastating legkicks again, instead he invites Gabriel to close combat, definitely gaining an upper hand this time around in the toe to toe stand up. Werdum eventually utilizes a Muay Thai Clinch tight enough to deliver brutal knees from, a quite impressive amount of those Napao eats in before being forced to the fence, and eventually getting taken down. By that time the knees claimed their tolls on the Napao Monster, and the bout comes to a conclusion with Werdum methodically punching out a well earned victory on an exhausted Gonzaga.

Werdum certainly was more convincing this time, though I have to admit it seemed to me that he was absolutely dominated by the legkicks Gonzaga delivered in the early period of the confrontation. The story of the match in my opinion boiled down to both fighters possessing a weapon the other one was helpless against, Werdum being the one to more relentlessly and effectively using his own by the night of the Rapid Fire. Though he deserves all credit for defeating Gonzaga once more, I have the impression that both fighters are ready to be even better warriors than they already are, and though the chances are quite scarce to see them compete against each other anytime soon, I hope to see them roll again while their both arrive to the next level I suspect they will soon achieve as mixed martial artists.

Mind you, I build my assumption that they have potential to improve even further purely on a personal notion that both fighter had moments where they seemed effectively helpless against the conquering attack method utilized, see Gonzaga's brutal legkicks and Werdum's similarly lethal clinch. A nice match without a doubt, though also a match that could easily tolerate a second UFC bout, but chances are probably shallow for this with Werdum proving himself against Gonzaga the second time now. Looking forward to see both of these great fighters again, hopefully in the possession of fresh skill sets solidified upon the individual recognitions of this particular encounter.

BJ Penn vs Joe Stevenson

The Little Buddha was a monster this night, outclassing even a greatly prepared Stevenson by the exceptional degree of the trademark adaptability Penn is already famous and recognized of. Though Stevenson puts up one decent of a fight, the mere notion that as of today they are not playing the same game, crystallizes clearly. With ease, Penn takes the fight to the ground in the first round, and maintains upper position with an iron fist. An elbow then is unleashed on Stevenson, the impact is little, yet the effectiveness is as lethal as textbooks could possibly tell us of, opening a cut on Stevenson's head that bleeds very heavily, and probably would lead to a doctor stoppage if the round had not come to its conclusion.

That it did, though, giving the chance to Joe's corner to patch him up for the second round, and he comes out superaggressive, evidently afraid of the doctor stoppage that is lurking in the air, with an increasing chance of its very arrival by every shot that BJ lands on Joe. The Little Buddha accepts the invitation for a toe to toe period, then yet again decides to wage this war on the ground, and turns the encounter into a bloody ground and pound punishment feast that would probably catch the interest of Vampire Lestat, even. Once the viewer is in the hardest possible position to decide to feel sorry for Stevenson or admire his determination, BJ is eventually capable to soak an arm in and utilize a textbook Rear Naked Choke that would be more than enough to put everyone to sleep, forcing Joe to tapout.

BJ Penn claims the lightweight title, and makes pretty much evident that he has not much intention to lose it anytime soon, by stating:

"Sean Sherk - you're DEAD!"

Could one possibly wish for more intense of an instant introductory segment of the upcoming match between Sherk and Penn? I think not. This statement was as radical and "strict" as I ever heard from a fighter to this day, and certainly surprised me, especially from Penn who seems to be a very calm individual when not in the octagon, though I am aware that he had a massive affair after hitting a police officer of whom he did not know that was a police officer. I am hoping to assume correctly that he calmed down after the rigorous training regime, and heck, such a radical statement is the part of the business, part of the show. Was it rude? I think, yes. Was it a bad thing to do? I think it was the most effective sentence to offer to ensure that no mma fan will miss the encounter, so the Little Buddha definitely and ruthlessly established himself as the champion even from a marketing point of view.

Right after BJ left the octagon, Sean Sherk walked to the proving ground to state his thoughts, his words though accompanied by intense BOO!-ing by the Newcastle crowd. Well, as the hearsay tells: the Brits love a good fight. And I can't help but assume they don't like a fighter to rely on steroids. This is an understandable stance to represent, yet I think we will all come to peace eventually with Sherk's steroid usage, having his suspension time served, and definitely being THE fighter you want to see against BJ Penn. Sean stated he has no respect for BJ, - understandable, after what the champion just publicly addressed to him - but BJ walked back to the octagon and maturely offered a handshake to the former champion, a handshake that was accepted. The moment posed an interesting quality though, since one could see that Sherk was so pissed that he would have been ready to start a fight right there in casual outfit in case BJ would exhibit the extremely hostile social stance he offered quite a big glimpse of prior to Sherk's arrival. BJ tells something like "Hey, we'll have a cool fight, ok? See you!" and leaves, yet the mood and anticipation for the bout between the two is established by the strongest possible terms, though ink yet to be dried on Penn's official status as UFC Lightweight Champion. A very interesting battle we are looking forward to, Sean being a fighter with incredible stamina and a yet-to-be-matched readyness to overwhelm his opponents in the division, while the most frequently cited criticism of BJ Penn is his mere stamina. The Little Buddha definitely had a tendency to gas out, his match against The Muscle Shark might deliver answers whether he could improve significantly in this regard.

James Lee vs Alessio Sakara

This is the bout of the evening during you could go out to satisfy any of the needs that might have grown upon you, be that an urge for popcorn consumption or a visit to a place even Kings tend to just walk to. What you miss is this: Alessio Sakara punching a victory out of a quite convincing Telly Savalas-look-alike, though Kojak tends to handle dire situations like this in a way more effective manner. James Lee nevertheless relentlessly sticks to the left leg of the Legionarius, and does not mind being pulled all over the outline of the fence, like a rude puppy to the sleeve of the trouser, he remains stuck, and remains stuck. The Legionarius then realizes that if he would cease to jump around and would start landing punches on the back of the head of James Lee, then he could go home a winner. And so he does. And by the time he walks out of the octagon, you do have your fresh bucket of popcorn, as well. Nice, yes?

Antoni Hardonk vs Colin Robinson

A.K.A. The Revenge of The Legkicks. Gonzaga summoned the Spirit of All Legkicks to the octagon this night, so Antoni Hardonk unleashes them, disposing quickly of Colin Robinson, whose assaulted left leg temporarily loses all capacity to support this big man, falling from a jab that Hardonk delivers in a quite classy manner, rendering Robinson unable to re-assamble to stand up position due to the massively punished left leg. Referee Mario Yamasake swiftly puts an end to the contest, what at first might seem as a controversial decision is a decision on the strongest possible merits in my opinion, as Robinson was definitely out of the game, recovering helplessly for a looong, long, vital moment in which he could be easily assaulted and being finished off by Hardonk, granted Yamasake would chose not to interfere and put an end to the bout. He probably saved Robinson from excessive and unnecessary damage, as Goldberg and Rogan correctly agreed on. Hardonk is a heavyweight of impressive buildup and composure, it would be nice seeing his skills measured to prominent representatives of the division, like Tim Sylvia or Cheik Congo to name just two right away.

Paul Kelly vs Paul Taylor

The Brits love a good fight indeed, and they are damn pretty good at offering one, as well. Two English Gentlemen deliver the most intense startup period you could possibly imagine, a torrent of furious yet conscious punches we witness, even better, this exceptionally swift and intensive pace dictated and maintained by the two warriors consorts with continuous awareness of what exactly is happening, therefore they not just punch away senselessly with sear hopes of connecting, rather they wage a tactical war with relentless speed and intensity, a toe to toe fury that is seemingly has no intention whatsoever to stop.

Possibly one of the most impressive starting period of UFC history. The match concludes through Kelly's ground domination, as the takedowns and the upper position are both easily claimed by him in the latter portion of the bout, eventually grinding up pretty much all the resistance Taylor is yet does have a chance to offer. Taylor is a very good fighter who needs seeeerious, serious work on his ground skills if to remain in the sport, and we are damn better hope he will improve this particular aspect of his game, since his stand up is brilliant, even as of today. Kelly's readiness to go toe to toe with Taylor shows clearly that the Brits do pose forces you must count with in the UFC.


All in all, a great fight card and a great evening, delivering quite a few memorable moments. Hope you had a fine evening and found the review useful - thank you for reading it, and see you next time.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Squarepusher - Music Is Rotted One Note

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Warp Records, 1998

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The third installment in Squarepusher's career delivers a clever, haunting musical feeling that is sleek and subtle enough to conceal itself partly for time to time, though it's presence remains pretty much evident during the record, armed with the eventually fulfilled promise of particular peek moments where it's creator offers temporal free spaces for this everpresent sensation, a couple of more profound packs of insights unto the cunning "dark of it".

This delicate component hardly, if ever vanishes fully during the record, taking the coherent position of a mood-connection, elegantly, globally affecting the overall experience. As a massively yet cunningly haunted journey, Jenkinson's 1998 effort is an ideal choice to evoke a musical space that delivers integrity and organic connection throughout the tracks.

The record runs 50 minutes flat, with 14 tracks to create the whole buildup of the release. The opening song Chunk - S is the decoy here, a cute, easygoing jazz-funk piece to make you believe that you are into a relaxing joyride with all the happymood switches set all the way to the right.

Think again, baby, and Don't Go Plastic, as Squarepusher shows off his impressive analogue drum skills in this second track, simultaneously evoking the haunted component that pretty much chooses to stay for the rest of the audio time, sometimes dominating, though most of the time offering the delicate "metathreat" approach of:

Hey, I could come out to reign over stuff again at any time now, you know!

Quite many of shorter, longer atmospheric effect sequences emphasize this promising perspective, the compositions themselves flowing almost unnoticeably unto their actual fabric, though when they do, the trademark haunting feel of the record wisely chooses to melt into the background, eager though to delicately assault your ears soon 'nuff again.

One of my personal favorites on this record is the seventh track, called Circular Flexing. This is a total WOW! for me, generally it feels and hears out as a very decent motion picture music piece in which the haunting feel is free to reign in it's puzzling, fascinating totality for the whole of the track, but the top of it all is the feature presentation of who I call "The marine", a person speaking in your average "badass marine" register, though of his sentences, not a word you will make out, I assure you. Yet you hear the tonality and his calm, factual mood clearly, resulting in a special audible experience of mentally witnessing a marine to deliver his final report after ending up on this distant,(?) improbable (?) planet/place the musical fabric evokes. A truly nice piece. It is hard to tell if the marine is synth-generated or a real person, but I guess it will remain a secret between God and Tom Jenkison. Should add the synth or the real person yet to the latter two, no doubt.

The aforementioned track also serves as a pivot point of the record, since the consecutive, gentle chillout track My Sound makes a comfy room for a crazy-ass freejazz tune to follow up, a piece ready to relentlessly entertain our now-welcomed trademark guide and companion, the haunted feel, which this time can't help but join in the fray, making somewhat of a very interesting and welcomed audio-joke of himself, finding a temporal peace and a funny function in this rampant, yet caressing freejazz buildup.

The curios title to mark the track Theme From Vertical Hold signifies the beginning of this nice section, where Squarepusher skillfully assaults the hihats via either probably more than 3 arms or a crazy-ass effect processor, the drums are radical and cunning enough to catchy, re-ouccuring melodies to join in. After a while, the haunting feel seems to get fed up with all this, though, presenting itself in an astonishingly powerful manner in the painfully short follow-up track, Ruin. The tortured agony of a syntsound we witness here, along with the superdark, hypermassive background synths to join us in our scrutinizing process. The results are so massively weird and shocking on the audible registers that Squarepusher himself might have got somewhat frightened of it, so he chooses to briefly wrap this short effect showdown up, commanding the haunting feel to take quite a couple of steps backward off it's victim it was torturing. Genuinely original and significant moments, without doubts.

Shin Triad is of special note, as well, partly because of the synth signal Jenkinson tricks you with at 0:20. Try to sleep listening to the record, and watch what happens when you reach this particular portion, will be funny, Tom and I promise you that. Other reason one must account on this track is a short experimental sequence, where a dude - maybe Squarepusher himself? - signs/scats some funny/silly melodies away, yet the signal goes into some hyperradical effect processors, resulting in some similarly funny monstersound you hear, characterized by the supporting presence of an equally modified bass synth. The audible experience is such as you would have ended up between little funny monster creatures, having one of the biggest party of their lives with massive, clumsy, bigger monsters. Another short, yet very entertaining sound experiment by the Squarepusher Thing.

Music is Rotted One Note cleary remains a significant musical shipment of Jenkinson's career, blending his quite mature, subtly presented analogue drum skills with the experimental electronic warfare he is equally skilled and relentless at. Melodies on this record tend to comfort with the haunting feel that is dominating the release with either dainty fingers or an iron fist - a deliverance that is very easy and very interesting to listen to, and even easier to recommend for all with opened up ears.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

UFC 79 Nemesis review

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Mixed martial arts clearly became a significant form of both mass entertainment and - as Bruce Lee put it - an expression of the human body, the latter being, no doubt, the original field of operation of these ancient traditions, now living and breathing through competitive events around the world. Though many may consider men who enter the proving grounds little more than hired human pitbulls to rip each other apart for hard cash and radical amusement, I tend to utterly reject this rudimentary view, concluding that professional level mma is the combat of highly disciplined human spirits, opposing each other for the duration of the bout, probably ending up as unified in the process as we could conceive, simply through their magnificent shared experience of being in a cage where the damage one suffers is the wit one failed to exhibit. That is how, in my opinion, the mma fighter fights against herself/himself.

Japanese people compete to gain an insight of their own current abilities through the collision process of their skills with that of other's. To me, the ultimately glorious moments of mixed martial arts are not of those of KOs and submissions. They are of those of hugging the formal rival at the end of the bout, circulating the most honest, uncompromised, pure respect each fighter deserves simply by stating themselves on the proving grounds, regardless of the results. The ensuing peace between fighters after a good collision is such a palpable, legit sensation that it never got old so far - and won't ever will.

This here is a review of the UFC event UFC 79 Nemesis, time to punch that Read more button, baby!

Introductory thoughts about the more significant lineups

The US based Ultimate Fighting Championship makes continuous efforts to recruit warriors on an international scale whom are absolutely on the top of the mma food chain, Croatian living legend Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic and Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva of Brazilian origins being of those recent additions to the UFC's warrior palette - the latter returning to the octagon after seven years of dominating the rankings of the Japan based Pride organization.

Many claimed that Wanderlei Silva's reign in Pride was partly based upon the organization's possible strategy to build him up as the special pride of Pride, - sorry about that, truly - positioning him to deliver thorough lessons for the less experienced contestants entering the squared circle. A theory which might have some justification to it, as the Axe Murderer's latest two Pride fights against similarly illustrious characters resulted in defeats, one to Mirko CroCop and another one to Dan "Hollywood" Henderson. All of these three great warriors are competing now in the UFC, though CroCop, coming off of two UFC losses himself, definitely will have to shine and shine superbright when those mythic legs enter the octagon for the forth time.

Silva, coming back to the UFC after two defeats in the Pride rankings, faces one of the greatest challenge of his mixed martial arts career in the form of Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell, who is coming off of two defeats himself, as well - first losing his championship belt to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson via an unsuccessful vengeance match against the werewolf he got already beat by once, then losing a close decision against Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine, who performed superbly against a very dangerous, but evidently unmotivated Liddell. Question arose if the Chuck Thing is yet able and motivated enough to come back with the classic Iceman look in his eyes, frankly, the look and attitude he probably could access again only via these two losses, both of them being quite staggering.

Liddell and Silva, both thirsty to prove themselves and once again claim a solid position on the planes of martial arts excellence, no doubt were caught in the best of time to collide against each other as their backs are evidently up against the wall, and they are certainly aware that

the only way out is through

Once he enters the rings or the octagon, Wanderlei Silva, this seemingly calm (s'puse so, huh??) bloke certainly metamorphoses into a monster you won't likely want to play around with, a superaggressive warrior who throws vicious punches and elbows and hardly if ever gives a slowdown to the pace. Liddell, on the other hand, is quite fond of being assaulted, and exploits the holes manifesting during the attackfoams with ruthless efficiency. Among others, his second match against Renato "Babalu" Sobral was a perfect example of this style, Chuck quickly destroying the challenger who certainly deserves credit of being confident/reckless enough to engage The Iceman in such a blatant, furious series of exchanges.

Funny thing is that Wanderlei claimed in the pre-Nemesis interviews that he does not care if he wins or loses, he participates in the fight first and foremost to showcase HIS personal style of fighting, so an aggressive rush and series of rampant assaults he promised to execute against the Liddell Thing.

Liddell is one of my personal favorites, never seen such an easy going guy with nuclear bombs hidden in his fists, and the two defeats he suffered seemed to serve his career well, once again we could behold the eyes of the Iceman as he approached the octagon to face the Axe Murderer in a match that took no less than six years to pull off, according to the UFC.

The main event of the evening is an interim welterweight bout between Matt Hughes and George St. Pierre, with the victor earning the right and the chance to battle against reigning welterweight champion, Matt "The Terror" Serra, a very charismatic and superfunny dude with the personal, quite original touch of a MOB movie character.

Serra is premier causer of a tremendous upset of UFC 69 Shootout, where as Ultimate Fighter Season 4 winner he redeemed his right to compete against George St. Pierre to a belt around his waist, disposing in a surprisingly quick manner of the champion by the day, catching George with some serious punches and finishing him with effective stand up-to ground assaults. Matt Hughes earned himself a somewhat consensual reputation of an organ capable to urinate after explicitly meta(?) stating how he loved the destruction of St. Pierre at UFC 69, shouting an "I LUV IT!" from the audience loud enough to overhear from the neighboring states, even distant continents.

The rivalry between Matt and George might come to a very possible, convincing conclusion by the day of the Nemesis, it is remains a question if Hughes's excellent yet massively traditional wrestling style matches up to St. Pierre's seemingly ever-increasing versatility. The ongoing story of three welterweight topdogs we witness to develop by the time of this particular evening, so a night of memorable moments we should anticipate, and them, we anticipate, indeed.

Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva

A slugfest ye wanted? A slugfest they deliver, one of the most memorable event of all UFC history, have no doubt about that. The fight goes down in my opinion as a fight of supersolid dignity and ruthless determination, as both warriors are able to claim their great moments while an everpresent awareness of the opponent's superdangerous potential is clearly evident on both men's part.

This is mainly an intellectual, a mental fight, where the man with the greater confidence that his abilities might be capable to overcome the other's is getting the upper hand. After a keenly suspenseful feeling out process, Liddell takes and pretty much maintains the initiative, stalking and harrassing a very intelligently fighting, elusive Silva who represents constant danger with his well placed answers and exhibits cautious awareness of the Iceman's possible moves.

The second portion of the consecutive round is the period where things go quite wicked, an action packed swing feast where both fighters burn a considerable amount of energy, first throwing odd, cocky softening punches in weird yet in quite interesting angles and moments. Things are starting to heat up with The Iceman pushing the pace, - sorry for the metaphoric disturbance, folks - yet, what would certainly prove to be way too much for a fighter below Silva's exceptional attributes and skills, Chuck Liddell's massive trademark assault confronts with a furious debate-readyness on Wanderlei Silva's part.

The round reaches its memorable climax with Silva's back at the fence, a position where Liddell relentlessly and intelligently forces the Axe Murderer to both by utilizing his significant reach advantage and also by offering quite a few connecting bombs and vicious elbows to Wanderlei, opening a cut on the brow. Though Silva is the one to eat the more significant strikes in this intense period, the persistence and the chin of Wanderlei both prove to be exceptionally hard, letting the Axe Murder to exhibit a very mature defensive gameplay in a very dire position, and that is more than enough to wrap the second round up. Both fighters return to their corners from a massive war being worn, the native pace and intensity though is so excessively demanding that the majority of their juice is used up before the imminent final round.

What it is ultimately boiling down to is an action performed by Liddell in the concluding period, an action that is of an instant-highlight-reel quality, a blatant spinning backfist connecting on the Axe Murderer's head, and what a battle we then behold! I have absolutely no doubt that 99% of the entire planet's population would have instantly wrap the floor from that spinning backfist, Silva, being in the remaining 1% though, reacts with a temporary wobble then he is set to go on - but Chuck immediately connects with a very swift left-right combo, while instinctively dodging a dangerous axe swing offered by Silva - by a Silva who is still under the effect of eating in two heavy duty assaults, and still ready to execute such a vicious swing. This combination executed by the Liddell Thing here is certainly very hard to grasp with the unsuspecting eye, but if you watch really carefully or utilize slow motion you can see that he lands two punches in a super rapid succession indeed, the spectator can't help but admire the stamina of the Axe Murderer who remains on his feet, ready to wage this war further on.

They end up at the fence again, Liddell goes in for the kill, these are the moments where the Iceman usually and traditionally ends up triumphant, throwing bombs on an opponent who has no place whatsoever to withdraw to - Chuck's fights against Tito Ortiz are textbook examples of this approach, a method that requires both precision and relentlessness. And, as it became obvious now, after Nemesis: it requires a tremendous amount of energy, too.

These are the moments where Silva showcases a whole set of his skills, partly answering, partly evading, and partly surviving Liddell's trademark fence-assault, mind you, all these he performs in an exceptionally bitter situation where possibilities are extremely shallow and mainly characterized by the Iceman's relentless presence, summoned via the spinning backfist and the follow-up hit, bombs that took off much of Wanderlei, of whom we could now easily say that he is still a special force to reckon with, probably more than ever. A memorable showcase of two very mature and experienced fighters, with both of them running low on gas by the final round, such a vicious pace they dictate and keep up to.

The third round is somewhat of an unspoken, acknowledged "let's survive this together, whatyyasay?"-type of round therefore, we truly can't blame them though, both fighters blewing pretty much all the juice they had during the events of the second period. Chuck even goes for and successfully claims a takedown in the final round, something I can't recall ever see him doing before. A well deserved decision goes for the Chuck Thing, and all respect goes for the Axe Murderer, of whom Liddell admits having a way tougher chin he had thought he has. As for me, I was NEVER keener of nodding me blob, I'm giving you that. A definite classic, and though many claim a knockout would have had place the crown on this magnificent encounter, I tend to regard the event as being more special and glorifying this way, both legendary warriors standing in the end, with an evident, though unspoken possibility filling the octagon's air that they very well might meet again some day.

George St. Pierre vs Matt Hughes

The main event of the evening rendered a stubborn conclusion to a trilogy between two great fighters, a warrior of excessive routine and experience, and a warrior whose readiness and wide array of skill sets seem harder and harder to match up to with each passing day. Now, who is who, ye might ask.

When George St. Pierre scored a dominant victory over welterweight champion Matt Hughes in UFC 65 Bad Intentions, we certainly gave appreciation for an impressive performance on the challenger's part, and yet we were free to assume that Matt simply had an unsuccessful title defense attempt and might very well be back to reclaim the welterweight belt. By the time their second meeting was held, after all - Hughes already owned a victory over the French-Canadian GSP.

The two GSPs fighting Matt Hughes were not the same, though. St. Pierre thinks of their first meeting as he lost that bout even before the first round was started, Hughes being his idol and he, GSP being the clueless, puny contender who somehow managed to trick himself into the delusion that he actually could live up to the skill set of the reigning champion, a warrior who is but a step away from entering the UFC's Hall of Fame. Well, first the delusion turned out to be legit - St. Pierre lost to Hughes via a very effectively sold and also quite keenly purchased armbar, but, you see, St. Pierre really couldn't have won that fight and win the consecutive one, as THAT very loss at their first meeting starts to define the George St. Pierre we behold today, modern mixed martial artist personified, who possesses an ever-sophisticating and ever-widening tool set. Needless to say: the true delusion was that there was a need for inventing a delusion at the first place, when there was no such need, but the loss was needed, anyway, to solidify the belief that the delusion was but a delusion, and a delusion which is a delusion, is but a delusion, indeed, and need not to be dealt with. Makes perfect sense, yes?

UFC referee Big John McCarthy regards GSP as the best welterweight fighter alive. I think John McCarthy happened to see some welterweights in action - even in close action - before, and he does not seem to be one to throw opinions of such compliments easily around, heed those words. Heed those words, and behold if St. Pierre dominates again when a 110% Matt Hughes is unleashed upon him!

Following his upset-loss and belt deprivation to/and by Matt "The Terror" Serra at UFC 69 Shootout, GSP stated that this particular loss is the best thing that is ever happened to him in his mixed martial arts career, in fact, I liked how he accounted the situation, stating that there are thousands of possible grim states between losing the belt and accepting that the belt is lost for the moment, so he tries to avoid all those grim states and accept that the belt is lost, and will focus his attention to gain it back as soon as possible.

As of today, soon as possible seems to be April of 2008, when reigning welterweight champion Matt Serra emerges unto a title defense against the French-Canadian, and according to what we have seen in UFC 79 Nemesis on GSP's part, The Terror will have a lot, a whole lot to deal with if to keep the welterweight belt.

St. Pierre outclasses Hughes in this match, a complete, evident domination without a chance to reach into the third round, Matt is forced to tap out verbally due to an armbar. The trilogy, and ironically: the vengeance is complete. Submitting Matt Hughes still remains as hard as frenchkissing a cobra, mind you, not many - if any - can do that except George. The difference between the two fighter seemed surprisingly big, I'd say it is not correct to say that Hughes is the worse fighter, no. Hughes is obviously a very highly skilled martial artist with a historic UFC record of dreamlike qualities. The truth lies in another, and in a quite staggering dimension, indeed. Heed what Matt Hughes said after the fight.

"No excuses, I came here 110%, George is simply the better fighter."

Words of pure class and sportsmanship, words that reflect a rational yet understandably hurtful inner peace out of Hughes's soul, admitting the limits of his current game when compared to the versatility of the game St. Pierre can, and forces one to play when one is willing to engage him on the proving ground. It remains a definite question if we ever to see Matt Hughes again in the octagon, as GSP poses a tremendous force in the welterweight division, and the UFC's biggest concern for the time being probably is to line up contestants whom could pose a challenge against St. Pierre, a focal protagonist who's skills are clearly surpass the division's standards. Let us see how he performs when Matt "The Terror" Serra emerges to defend the welterweight title.

Lyoto Machida vs Sokoudjou

Lyoto Machida tactically and practically takes apart and submits Sokoudjou, The African Assassin: a charismatic, young fighter who holds two impressive defeats in Pride, but fails to come up with answers to Machida's elusive, unorthodox style and massively tactical gameplay. (Side note: me totally digs the Predator mask Sokoudjou wore when he came in.)

Many consider Machida a boring fighter, personally I think he is one of the most interesting warriors to witness perform, all his moves and maneuvers are well thought of and carefully planned, he may not have came up with the most action-packed bouts to this point, but he definitely personifies supersolid proving ground strategy, earning him a flawless record of 12-0 to date. Machida finally offered something extra as well in the form of the comments he made after the bout, stating:

"I beat the Alaskan Assassin. I beat the African Assassin. What other Assassin do I have to beat to earn the title shot?"

Must admit that I found this statement original and quite funny on Machida's part. Rumors can be heard about a possible match between Tito Ortiz and Machida, THAT would be something to witness. Machida being extremely close to earn himself a go for the belt, his next appearance is a definite must see, if that would be against Ortiz, it just means a significant increasement in the anticipation factor and the obvious need for an extra bucket of popcorn. Two, maybe.

Eddie Sanchez vs Soa Palelei

Total destruction demonstrated by Sanchez, with a referee stoppage when one had the chance of wondering how come Palelei still keeps his head on his neck, and had the chance to ponder this pretty much throughout the whole bout. Crude showdown with Sanchez keeping the upper hand all the while with an iron fist, more of a beatdown, really, than a balanced fight, as Sanchez clearly justifies his will in this fight, rendering a harshly effective performance after his only loss, a loss to Mirko CroCop.

Rich Clementi vs Melvin Guillard

These two duders are NOT liking each other, these two duders are NOT liking each other at all. A short showdown with a nice submission at the end by UFC veteran Clementi to teach promising, though cocky newcomer Guillard a lesson. Even some slight instant drama is delivered by them to open the night. An OK match to start off Nemesis, also an OK match to forget completely.


Of the remaining bouts I had not bear much interest, therefore I wrap this up, having the definite focal points of the night reviewed here. Hope you had a fine evening and found the review useful - thank you for reading it, and see you next time.

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