Sunday!

One of the things that Back to the Future II got kinda wrong was how 80’s Nostalgia would manifest itself. The 80’s diner was a cute idea, itself a kind of reflection of the 50’s diner nostalgia thing, but since the 50’s diner was so prevalent in the 80’s, the nostalgia of 80’s diners is itself nostalgia for the 50’s. So you go to a diner that has a mélange of all sorts of “old stuff” on the walls (The 3 Stooges, Betty Grable’s famous pose, Marilyn Monroe, the Rat Pack) and waitpeople wearing poodle skirts and saucy pieces of “flair”. It’s not you missing these things, it’s remembering the people who missed these things and missing *THEM*.

I imagine that if you took a person from Eisenhower’s era and plopped him into Gunther Toody’s, s/he’d be some mixture of confused and amused (conmused? anfused?) at the circus going on around him/her and then baffled when told “yeah, we’re trying to recreate the diner down the street from you.”

And then arrest her or him when s/he tries to light up.

While on my overseas flight, I had the opportunity to watch the recent remake of The Karate Kid (itself a mashup/remix of the original The Karate Kid I & II) and wash in another version of this strange nostalgia.

While it’s possible to just watch and enjoy the movie as a movie about an underdog who moves to a new place, tries to make new friends, falls in love, gets beat up, gets trained to fight in a tournament, then (spoiler!) wins it (in pretty much the same way that it’s possible to go to a 50’s diner and merely order a burger and then eat it), it’s also a movie about how you watched the original Karate Kid back in 1984.

So remember watching this movie with one or more of your parents? Well, now you can watch the remake with your kids.

They’ve got all kinds of easter eggs for people who have seen both movies… they have a callback to the catching a fly with chopsticks, the meeting between “love interest” and “bully” was pretty close to identical, the “hey, a school that teaches self-defense!” scene, the bad call involving getting water on the bully followed by the handyman saving the day, the setup of the tournament, the big reveal that “wax on, wax off” is actually training, the reveal of the handyman’s grief, the tournament itself… all are variants that feel rewarding for people who saw the original but have been understandably updated for a new take on the story (but move the story along in a way transparent to kids who never saw the first ones).

But there is one serious departure from the original that really, really changes the film. Ralph Macchio was playing a senior in high school (he was 23ish at the time but looked about 17ish) and Jaden Smith was a 12 year old who was playing a 12 year old.

It’s one thing to see a 17 year old get in a fist fight and get his butt kicked. Hey, the guy is pretty much a man at that point (and doubly so when you know that the 17 year old is really a 23 year old). Jaden Smith was 12 getting his butt kicked good and hard. Prepubescent kids punching each other in the face is weird and creepy in a way that grownups getting beat up is not.

As such, the sequel doesn’t work. Not because the script isn’t tight (it’s pretty much just as tight as the original).

It’s because the kids hitting each other are 12.

It turns the nostalgia sour. I’m sure that the kids watching it wouldn’t be bothered by it… just the grownups who are going back to experience it on the different levels of movie watching available only to them.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

(Photo is “Movie Night“, taken by Ginny, used under a creative commons license.)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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84 thoughts on “Sunday!

    • I was a big fan of Buffy‘s tribute to that speech.

      Buffy: Everybody knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts, we all die. And I’ll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.

      Spike: Well, not exactly the St. Crispin’s Day speech, was it?

      Giles: “We few, we happy few . . .”

      Spike: “. . . we band of buggered.”

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      • That’s the b-word I mentioned some time back when commenting that US television fails to understand the strength of the swear word in Britain.

        Although, in this instance, given the whole imminent death thing, it’s not inappropriate. (Incorrect grammatical usage but I’ll even give that a pass as it is parodying the original).

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        • In our defense, there are so many b-words, and their varying meanings, according to context, are so confusing. For example:

          “Bollocks”: very bad; shite
          “The dog’s bollocks”: very, very good

          (Of course, in American English, we use “shit” in roughly the same way – “What a load of shit”, or “bullshit”, or just “shit!” are all negative and/or contemptuous.

          But something that is very, very cool may be “the shit” or “good shit” or “hot shit”.)

          (Also, I recently used the b-word word in question when making a software debugging joke. Sorry!)

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        • The most interesting example of transatlantic differences in swearing is the C-word. When I lived in Japan, my British housemates would say the c-word like it was nothing. It seems to be like telling someone. “Don’t be an ass” and “Don’t be uptight.” In the United States, the c-word is probably one of the last great taboos.

          I would if any Brit ever got into serious trouble by casually dropping the c-word.

          Do British women not find the use of the c-word as horribly mysoginitic?

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          • I saw that on a webcomic. Brit uses a “somewhat mild” swearword, American audience flips over it. Because in America it’s not done, and the author hadn’t bothered to mention he was British.

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  1. Shows I’ve bailed on recently:
    The Strain
    The Walking Dead
    Narcos

    Getting ready to bail on:
    Last Man on Earth (Forte and Schaal are game performers, but this show seemingly doesn’t know what it wants or needs to be, and is settling for broad farce; over a short time frame that would be fine, but over a series long-haul, I’m just not feeling it. I will give it one more ep, but I am skeptical).

    Maybe I am just apocalypsed out.

    Bummed out that Yahoo! announced that their shows were huge money sinks for them; that probably means no more Other Space. Boo!

    Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is pretty unique. A little uneven, but at times as willing to take a hard swerve into weird as 30 Rock was. Still waiting to see where this one goes.

    iZombie has been fun so far this season. Mark my words, Blaine is going to end up the Spike (or Logan) of this show, a redeemed (or partially-redeemed) villain. And Stephen Weber’s character is just hilariously, unrepentantly douchey. And they threw in a Veronica Mars (or Dandy Warhols) shoutout in the dialogue last week!

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  2. I am continuing my sojourn in Person-of-Interest-land. I’m now maybe a half dozen or so episodes into the fourth season. My theory that the show’s “A near-fascist level of surveillance/control is okay if the Good Guys do it!” motif is both Conserve-porn and unintentionally creepy — which pretty much everyone promised me I would have ditched by this point — continues unabated.

    That being said, POI is one of the best multi-year TV shows I have seen in a long time — maybe since Breaking Bad. The writers for POI do an amazing job transitioning not only through various story arcs, but also through various cop and sic-fi genres — any one of which would have been the single re-hashed premise on almost any other show.

    POI starts out as a character drama/police procedural with a twist, then it becomes a show about tracking down an elusive, Moriarty-like crime boss, then it becomes a high-tech Serpico story, then it becomes an X-Files-ish series about government conspiracies, then it becomes a dystopian adventure story about plucky rebels fighting the system. All of these developments overlap in a way that is nimble and seamless, in a way that classic cult shows like LOST, X-Files, Fringe, BSG, and Twin Peaks were never quite able to pull off. The writing, if anything, gets more tight as the series goes on. And all of this is done as the show continues to revolve around it’s central theme: redemption. It’s really quite remarkable, what they’ve done.

    I’ve also been doing quite a bit of reading.

    I reread both John Bowe’s Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor.. and Chun Yu Wang’s Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan this week. Right now I’m in the middle of James Marrow’s The Madonna and the Starship, which I am liking, as well as my umpteenth journey into both The Moon and Sixpence and Razor’s Edge. (I always read those last two by Greene together. And I mean always. I’ve never read one without cracking the other. I’m not sure why this is.)

    But the most fun I’m having on the book front right now is Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. (Wong is the guy that wrote John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders.) It’s a great read, and it might be more Snow Crash-y than Snow Crash. It’s the book Neal Stephenson would have written after Snow Crash if he’d decided to pursue that book’s sense of absurdist and satirical fun rather than go the more ‘serious writer’ route.

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    • Okay. We can talk about this now. The first season, maybe the second, was unintentionally creepy. Right around the time that we met “Control” was when “hey, wait a second, this is kind of creepy” started creeping into the story.

      I think they were fully cognizant of its creepiness but they were more than happy enough to allow wiggle room for the whole “wouldn’t it be nice if we had people like this in charge of it?” question before jumping both feet first into “but you know that it wouldn’t really be like that in practice, right?” question.

      I am neck deep into “an AI making these calls is SERIOUSLY AND TOTALLY CREEPY” at this point.

      The whole “this person is a good/bad guy, no they’re a bad/good guy” thing is kind of funny (we make jokes about how EVERY EPISODE has them jumping to the conclusion that this person is the victim! NO WAIT THEY’RE THE MURDERER! (or vice versa) that you’d think that they’d have cottoned to how they’re always wrong about their initial intuitions for their numbers by now) but how they turned Fusco, Root, Hersh, Control, and, yes, Vigilance around was downright George R R Martinesque.

      I mean, Greer is making us miss Northern Lights. Part of me wonders if Season 5 is going to have us miss Greer.

      I tremble at the thought.

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      • I’ve noticed that they’re always wrong as well. I think it would have more punch if they were usually right, and then –BAM!!! HE’S THE PERP!! DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!! I think it gets away with it for the most part, though, because it’s usually a throwaway bit to the script, as opposed to something each episode’s plot hinges on.

        (Side note: Similar, to me anyway, is the way I always know who did it in the first ten minutes of Elementary, because they always cast an actor I recognize from TV and movies as the murderer and a whole bunch I have never seen before for all the other temporary characters.)

        One thing I’ve noticed by binge watching rather than viewing weekly: It appears that there are several characters that were clearly meant to come back in future episodes, and perhaps even to be either a Big Bad or a key figure in a Big Bad’s organization. But then they never show up again. For example, I would bet a good deal of money that the Julian Sands character was meant to be some other discarded version of what eventually developed into the Greer character. I wonder whenever this occurs on POI, what actually happened behind the scenes? Did the writers just decide to go another direction? Did the actor playing the potential Big Bad that got away in their only episode get cast in something that did not allow them to return? Was it a budgetary thing?

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        • For example, I would bet a good deal of money that the Julian Sands character was meant to be some other discarded version of what eventually developed into the Greer character.

          You’d almost certainly lose that bet. The episode with Alistair Wesley was 2×07, aired November 15, whereas the episode where we meet Greer is 2×13, only two and a half months later.

          I.e., those episodes were filmed and written within the same block. If they had wanted Sands back, they would contracted for him for more than one episode.

          Meanwhile, Kara Stanton (The story arc at the time) story doesn’t really make sense if Wesley is involved. She’s clearly working for someone (who isn’t the government) during that time, and that’s eventually revealed to be Decima and Greer.

          That story arc really doesn’t work with Wesley in the middle of it. Wesley and his team was hired to kill a doctor *at the same time* he’s running some sort of complicated plan using ex-CIA agents trying to kill someone else? Doesn’t he have his *own* ex-intelligent agents*?

          Wesley is really more of an amoral counterpart to *Reese*, not anything to do with Greer. Greer, of course, being the evil counterpart of *Finch*. If there’s anything this show does repeatedly, it’s make counterparts to various characters.

          Now, what I *can* buy is Wesley was sorta intended to eventually be Lambart. Wesley would have worked as someone that Greer hired as a paid gun.

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    • “The Moon and Sixpence and Razor’s Edge. (I always read those last two by Greene together. And I mean always. I’ve never read one without cracking the other. I’m not sure why this is.)”

      While they are both good books I don’t think the authors name has Greene anywhere in it…

      Also, I find it interesting how you went to Conservo-porn re: POI, in light of our current admins love of the NSA (I know, no politics.)

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      • Aaron,

        Just wanted to let you know I just found an Urth chat site (lists.urth I think) and it’s been amazing reading. Lots of very smart people who’ve literally studied the text. Have you heard of it/checked it out?

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        • What, no link?

          There is an old email list serve that I know about, but not sure if it is the same thing. I am very glad to see that you are enjoying the works, it makes it much more fun.

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          • Here’s the linky:

            Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun, actually. After the second read of all five books in the series the rough outlines of the plot structure (if that’s what you can call it) and the “reality” of the Urth-world Severian lives in and only obliquely reports to us started to make some sense. Not complete sense, of course!

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        • Been reading Greene this morning (letters, not fiction), and it got me wondering what his book about WWI would look like. It would have been a late Greene, and I assume it would be set in the Middle East, or perhaps even southern Africa. There would some sort of disaffected or at least culturally alienated aristocratic (but broke?) British colonial caught up in and unprepared for the scale and scope of the war machine, as well as the duplicity of pretty much every major actor. The action would probably involve a tryst, leading to intrigue, with a German woman, or perhaps if it’s set in southern Africa, with an Afrikaner woman. Spies would be involved, though the forces that move them would be difficult to discern. It’d be funny and sad and brutally mocking of the old world to which Britain still (in the 50s or 60s when he’d have written it, I assume) looks to to some extent, even 40 or 50 years after that war revealed it to be “an old Bitch gone in the teeth,” a “botched civilization,” but mostly it’d be an indictment of American imperialism.

          There’d be no Vedanta Hinduism, for sure; Greene was way too Catholic for all of that.

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    • David Wong (which is a pseudonym for a white writer) is a regular contributer at Cracked and to their podcast. He churns out great stuff. Never thought to check out his books but I’ll add them to the list.

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  3. I forgot the new fall season had begun so I caught up on “Modern Family” and “Blackish”. I can’t tell if both shows lost a bit or if comedies are really meant to be watched with others. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the newest season of “Orange…” which I’m enjoying so long as the ‘main’ character isn’t on screen.

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  4. Oh, and I’m reading Klosterman’s debut novel. It… I’m not sure what it is. It has far too many 70s and 80s music references for a book that isn’t about music. It was a bit of a panic grab at the library but, hey, at least my library card is working again and I can read!

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  5. Watched Dark Matter, quite good mostly because the main charactors start out as cardboard cutouts on purpose and through the season actually change as they start to find our more things about themselves (they all start with no memories, having lost them in a space accident.)

    Am reading Steinbecks The Long Valley, as I needed a nice break in the reading material lately. Short stories work well for that.

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  6. I’ll make this a separate comment but – I was a rare naysayer on last season of Fargo. I thought the story was completely shapeless, Billy Bob’s Malvo was too much, I didn’t care for Key and Peele, and generally, I just didn’t see the point of it.

    So nobody is more surprised than me that two episodes into this season, I am loving it. The cinematography has been great, and already I am much more invested in these characters than any of last season’s. Whether it’s the show or me that changed, I dunno, but I am looking forward to the next episode a lot.

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    • Liked FARGO S1. Am liking FARGO S2. The formula of very nice upper midwesterners vs sociopaths, black humor in the white snow, just works, as it has worked since the movie. Good period detail, too.

      By bailing on THE STRAIN rather than being an OG and accepting your punishment to the last, you missed out on, among other things, the satisfaction of seeing “Coco” unceremoniously blood-sucked to death by the Master after her and Eldritch’s (for the show typically) ridiculously ill-conceived power-play failed. Actually, the season finale was overall almost not completely terrible, unusually for the show.

      THE LAST KINGDOM continues qualifying as very good – despite the unseemly resemblance of lead actor Alexander Dreymond for John Rhys Meyers.

      Meyers:

      Dreymond:

      Got a good notice on Twitter from Alastair Reynolds, even though he misspelled it THE LOST KINGDOM.

      This season of TWD is fine. Don’t care if it’s no longer cool. Just as a technical exercise, it’s well-done, and is good maintenance for my Sunday night not another week! drunken bloodlust.

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      • NOOOOO NOT COCOOOOOOOO!!!! ;-)

        With TWD it’s not a matter of cool/not cool for me. It’s just that there are so many series I’d like to see, that I can’t give any more time to something that I just don’t see myself ever loving. I’m sure it will remain mostly-competent, and occasionally very good; but mainly, much like the other shows I mentioned bailing on, I realized I just don’t care if any of these characters live or die.

        I’ve been with TWD from the beginning, if I’m not invested in any of these people by now…what am I doing?

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  7. Still rewatching Glee, although I’m pretty sure I won’t make it past the beginning of Season 4. Not enough time to watch POI with Jaybird last week, which makes us both sad. Caught up on iZombie and Jane the Virgin; the former is better than last season (as Glyph mentioned), the latter is so far not as good but I only have one episode on which to judge it, so we’ll see.

    Been listening to a library instruction podcast that started in 2009 or so, and ended in 2013, as well as my usual podcast suspects. Am friends with one of the podcasters plus it’s still pretty useful / interesting – most of the issues treated are pedagogical and thus age well.

    Read a lot of comics and children’s books this week. Skipped over the volumes of Buffy Season 9 that I hadn’t read & went straight to Season 10. So far feeling good about that choice since 10 seems MUCH more to my taste than 9 was (more banter and bad guys and age-appropriate angst, less cosmology-that-isn’t-part-of-the-story). Have started King Dork, Approximately, which is not quite so much to my taste as King Dork was. Not sure if it’s actually not as good or if I am just in a different headspace / less patient / no longer awed by the quite impressive feat of the voice (which is of course the same as in the first book). We shall see.

    Read Codex Born and have no idea why I had such a hard time getting into it the first time around. Recommend that series (by Jim Hines, first one is Libriomancer) to anyone who wants a fun, doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously-but-has-done-its-homework fantasy read, especially if you’ve read a lot of the classic sff books that the main character uses as magic sources in the books…

    Am on a bit of a streak with my bookposts, having posted 3 this week after not having posted any since July. Am now caught up to just under the 200-book mark, when I’ve actually read more than 300 books so far this year. Hoping I keep on it until I *am* caught up properly, as they are much easier to write (and thus both slightly longer and significantly better) when the books are fresh in my mind.

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    • Forgot to mention that I’m also almost done with ALL of Black Books, which is hilarious if you are a British humor type and extra-hilarious if you’ve done time working in bookshops. Worth the ridiculous 80 bucks I payed for 3 series (18 episodes all told), based on laughing fits alone.

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      • I was kind of “meh” on Black Books, BUT it has an extremely high rewatchability value. Sometimes I’m in the mood for it and I just go back and watch an episode. Any episode.

        (It’s really weird to see people smoking on a sitcom. It’s been… a while… since that was kosher.)

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        • I loved Black Books, but I spent many a year working in used book stores of one strip or another. And you are right about the smoking, although the first fewe seasons of Seinfeld it wasn’t uncommon to see a minor charactor smoking, and nary a word from the cast (except Elain.) And Kramer smoked cigars regularly…

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  8. Tod Kelly: But the most fun I’m having on the book front right now is Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. (Wong is the guy that wrote John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders.) It’s a great read, and it might be more Snow Crash-y than Snow Crash. It’s the book Neal Stephenson would have written after Snow Crash if he’d decided to pursue that book’s sense of absurdist and satirical fun rather than go the more ‘serious writer’ route.

    Well, I was already probably going to buy this book because I’m a giant David Wong fan, but the comparison to Snow Crash guaranteed it, because Snow Crash is my favorite book of all time.

    As for what I’m reading/watching? Still working my way through Use of Weapons and Portlandia, respectively, at 300 pages and four seasons in.

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  9. Although it’s amusing to think how people will watch BTTF2 and not understand why it’s funny that Ronald Reagan was crappy computer graphics on a TV. Like, they might not even get that it’s a reference, much less not get the reference.

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  10. For TV, my wife and I have been watching Mr. Robot. We are about halfway through the first season. For the most part it is pretty engaging, however I think I have gotten tired of the “evil, rich, powerful rivals making veiled threats one another and being smug” type of dialog. I think I have seen too much of it in shows, but it feels very forced to me now. However, just about every episode has left me wanting to find out what happens next.

    For reading, I started on Ready Player One, which I got in a Loot Crate a few months back. I am not far enough into it to have much of an opinion though.

    Also, yesterday was a double header. In the afternoon, we went to go see Tosca. When we got back, it was time for Hell in a Cell, which was a marked improvement over the previous PPV.

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    • I don’t know if you are watching Mr. Robot on-demand, but on my cable system, the VOD episodes are edited a bit.

      Which was weird rewatching it with the wife, because certain scenes just weren’t there. I have no idea why they would bother to edit them, since schedule/commercial time isn’t an issue for VOD – at least one of the cut scenes was fairly sexually-explicit, but if they broadcast it, why cut that from the on-demand version?

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  11. Watched the first ep of Red Oaks last night. It was pretty good. I liked it way more than Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, which I also kind of gave up on. That thing just dragged.

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  12. It’s one thing to see a 17 year old get in a fist fight and get his butt kicked. Hey, the guy is pretty much a man at that point (and doubly so when you know that the 17 year old is really a 23 year old). Jaden Smith was 12 getting his butt kicked good and hard. Prepubescent kids punching each other in the face is weird and creepy in a way that grownups getting beat up is not.

    The real disconnect is with Mr. Han’s “fight” with the bullies. It was completely contrived. In the original, Mr. Miyagi first saves Daniel by knocking him out of the way. Johnny and friends wouldn’t have had any idea what he was capable of, and given that they were bigger, stronger, more aggressive and a bit unhinged, it’s somewhat plausible to expect them to try to harm Mr. Miyagi (even though the outcome was predictable). Mr. Miyagi responded appropriately, and the fight was very short.

    In the remake, by the time the kids decide to attack Mr. Han, he already proved that the “alpha” kid was no match him both physically and ability-wise. Mr. Han blocks a punch and then a kick while he wasn’t looking, throws the young kid back several feet with no effort and I’m supposed to believe that the natural response from the other kids, kids that just watched the toughest of the bunch get manhandled, is “hey, let’s attack him and continue to attack him long after he shows that we’re nothing but a nuisance to him?”

    A key plot point in the original, as corny as it may have been, was transformed into a spectacle in the remake. The Karate Kid meets Rumble in the Bronx.

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    • I am willing to defend that if only because I would not have paid 8 bucks for a ticket plus 10 bucks for popcorn and a drink to *NOT* watch Jackie Chan get in a contrived fight for 3 1/2 minutes at some point in the film.

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    • Reacting to that same quote, I’m reminded to some of the discomfort I felt watching “Kick Ass”. The actress who played Hit Girl was 13 at the time and looked considerably younger. I also believe her character was supposed to be younger as well. And I believe this was part of the “point” (though I’m not familiar with the comic it is based on). I didn’t find it objectionable… I believe there were calls for censoring some of her scenes, especially whens he gets pummeled by an adult man… but it was viscerally unsettling. And I say that as someone who really enjoyed that movie.

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  13. Talking about ’80’s nostalgia, I’ve been watching the original A-Team series on Netflix. BA Baracus makes my treadmilll walks infinitely more entertaining.

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    • Has it aged well?

      I’m almost certain that it must not have aged well at all.

      Above and beyond the whole bad guys laughing that “they’re locked in room with nothing but tools, PVC pipe, a car engine, tires, and quarter sticks of dynamite” thing that I remember showing up more than once.

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      • Often the A-Team didn’t hold up at the time it was aired. I remember one episode in particular where the team was helping migrant workers, and in the end they defeated the bad guys by making some kind of machine the hurled heads of lettuce at people on the fly.

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    • I rewatched some of the original A-Team first season when, after the analog-to-digital transition, one of the local stations added Retro TV to its signal (if you don’t have cable, you will understand what I am talking about). I first watched the show when I was 7 or 8 and loved it, but figured it would be awful in the 21st century. I must say that aside from some of the terrible acting, it was entertaining, and basically like an 80s time capsule.

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