Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two good shows in New York: True Legend and the Sox beat the Yankees

The last time I went to ballgames in New York City, it was to see the previous Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium before they met the wrecking ball. I was kind of surprised just how subdued Yankee Stadium was; sure, it was an interleague game against the Reds, but I always got the impression that New Yorkers were like us in Boston, baseball-mad east coasters who really got into the game; instead, it seemed like the crowd did nothing unless the jumbotron told them to.

So this time, I went to a Yankees-Sox game. I took precautions, of course. I got a seat 180 degrees away from the bleachers, where the rowdiest fans sit and where you generally see the clips of people being hauled out after altercations. I didn't wear a cap. My Sox t-shirt mostly stayed hidden under my fleece out of necessity - there was some wind, so it wound up a bit chilly - but if anyone had seen it, it would be for #9, and while they may get on you for the team you support, few mock Ted Williams. (Although the original plan, when Matsuzaka was pitching, was to wear the shirt with his name and "Red Sox" spelled out in kanji, all stealthy-like.)

Because I am who I am, and had plenty of time to kill in the afternoon, I opted to take in a movie, and it was mostly a happy coincidence that this was the week Indomina opened True Legend in New York. After all, something new is going to open up in New York that doesn't open elsewhere every week, and if I just happen to get a press release about the Yuen Woo-ping movie, well...

Unfortunately, Indomina's website doesn't state anything about plans to release it beyond its current four or five cities, and they as a company aren't quite secretive, but have occasionally seemed less than forthcoming - they spent much of last year acquiring US rights to movies without much talk about how they are being distributed. A look at Indomina's website indicates a few pretty interesting pickups, but everything other than True Legend has "TBD" in the information fields. There is, as yet, no word on whether it will come to Boston.

Which would make my spending a good chunk of an afternoon in NYC and $13.50 a little silly, but then again, I would have just used it on another movie otherwise. Although maybe with a less expensive movie ticket; that $13.50 for a show at 2pm in the afternoon that wasn't 3-D or large-format (sure, it was 4K digital and comfy seats, but that's not quite "premium" if you ask me). Apparently the Regal E-Walk on 42nd street just doesn't have matinee prices, the cost goes up from there if you want the 3-D, RPX, or, good lord, 3-D RPX (where you're basically looking at a $20 movie ticket).

It does, however, include the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, which I'm a bit split on. Yes, it was very cool that I got to mix my own soda out of a whole bunch of different options (I went for about 90% Raspberry Coke Zero and 10% Lime Coke Zero), but I can see this becoming a real bottleneck on a busy night; instead of the concession crew just putting your cup under a tap and letting it fill while they get the rest of your meal (several at once if you order different kinds of soda), you've now got every guy with a drink confronted by a touch screen interface that is not necessarily intuitive. I had a guy come up to explain it to me, which I appreciated but likely didn't need. Multiply this by a couple hundred, and it sounds like a potential mess.

(Note: I still want them in Boston theaters, even if it did overwhelm the bladder which shrunk to the size of a pea on Saturday. And if you don't care about sports, jump down past the baseball stuff and photos to the review.)

After that, I pondered spending some time in a museum or something, but wound up just heading to the Stadium. It absolutely should not have taken three trains for me to get there, but I looked at the map wrong and initially took the wrong one, and then when I was on a D train it switched to express and I had to get off and wait for the next.

New Yankee Stadium is weird. The Bronx neighborhood around it is sort of like the area around Fenway, in that you get off the train and you're surrounded by baseball, but even outside the park, all the vendors are official Yankee employees; there's nothing like the guys hawking Boston Baseball or the sausage guys aside from some people selling $1 bottled water. It's also enormous inside; the concourses are huge and each concession window seems to be twice as wide as its Fenway equivalent. As much as I'd like to describe it as an evil, horrible place to visit, it's not; there are guys with "How May I Help You?" signs everywhere, and if you arrive early enough, they'll let you get down close to the field to take pictures and look around.

Although I admit, I wish I'd brought a bag to hold my books and stuff in; I'd heard that the Stadium's policy on them was more draconian than it actually is. It's mostly weird - you have to demonstrate that your bag can fit in a receptacle like they use at the airport, and for some reason they don't let you bring a laptop, tablet computer, or e-reader in, which is just silly, and would annoy the heck out of me if I was trying to see a game after work there. Seriously, how's a Kindle worse that the big hardcover I had?

I didn't get much trouble from the fans, although, as I said, I made sure not to set myself up for it. The game helped; it wasn't the blowout it looks like from the final score until after Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer to that short porch in right, and I was pretty nervous up until then - even though the Red Sox had grabbed two runs, it seems like C.C. Sabathia was on his game but Josh Beckett couldn't seal the deal with individual hitters, even as he racked up six scoreless innings.

The crowd was a lot more involved this game, although it's kind of interesting how, despite this palace of a park and a great team with a bunch of dedicated fans, the Yankees often seem to be trying too hard. There are trivia contests and promotions every half-inning that feel kind of minor league to me, and noise between practically every pitch. What really boggles the mind is the "Make Some Noise" things that go up on the scoreboard every once in a while; I'm used to Fenway, where the people running the show assume I know when to clap. Plus, it's almost like they're not sure when to place the emphasis; they'd flash "make some noise" when a Red Sox hitter was down 0-2, but also when the Yankees are in the same position. There are big, animated things on the scoreboard whenever someone got a hit, even if it's late and they're down 6-0. It's like a movie director who doesn't know what to emphasize, so he makes everything big and loud. Fortunately, the crowd didn't always respond robotically this time, for which you've got to give them a little credit - they could see the situation wasn't good and weren't pretending otherwise.

(Interestingly, at the Sox-Orioles game in Fenway that I just got back from, you could really see the difference. The music choices responded to the mood of the crowd and didn't get bombastic until the game was close and such things were earned. Plus, we never were told when to applaud.)

It was fun, though. There was a kid screaming behind me, and I had to smile whenever he got started. Sure, he was rooting against my team, but it's a kid excited about baseball; he's got no control over fate putting him in a situation where the local team is the Yankees. And I completely missed all the hoo-ha about Jorge Posada asking out after being insulted by being penciled into the ninth spot of the order until I was checking Twitter the next morning - I suspect Joe Buck and Tim McCarver beat it to bloody death.

After that, it was time to take the subway back to where Megabus picks up and wait out a couple hours until the 1:30am bus (mostly in a 24-hour diner; bless such things). I got into Boston at 6am, and was back a my house just in time for my brother to pick up up for a trip north to Maine for another brother's baby shower. I suspect I'm going to be tired all week, but the day was worth it.

And now, merely mediocre photography:

New Yankee Stadium
New Yankee Stadium, Gate 6. An imposing, monolithic thing, compared to the homey brick of Fenway Park. I must admit to a thrill of excitement, going into enemy territory, that I absolutely did not feel when going to see the Sox play at Camden Yards last year.

Batting practice
I got close enough to watch the Sox take some batting practice. Neat to get so close behind home plate with relatively few crowding the place at this point. I then started walking through the stadium to check out Monument Park, but it was apparently closed to visitors that day, thus depriving you of a picture captioned "bastards all".

My seat
My seat for the game; a $29 seat I paid rather more for, but it was in the front row of its section, so a pretty nice view.

Su Qi-er (True Legend)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 14 May 2011 in Regal E-Walk #7 (first-run)

As the English-language title suggests, True Legend is based upon an actual historical figure, although I strongly suspect that he is, as they say, being "used fictitiously". After all, you don't go to a Yuen Woo-ping movie for historical accuracy, but for martial-arts madness, and on that count, he delivers - perhaps more than the movie can handle.

A prince has been kidnapped, and it's up to the kingdom's bravest soldier, Su Can (Chiu Man-cheuk, credited as "Vincent Zhao"), to save him. This he does, with the help of friend Ma Quingfeng (Guo Xiaodong) and foster brother Yuan Lie (Andy On). He declines a promotion in order to return home to wife Ying (Zhou Xun) - also Yuan's sister - and start a family and teach wushu. Five years later, Yuan returns, not to see his nephew, but to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Su's. Body and spirit broken, Su will need the ministrations of the reclusive Dr. Yu (Michelle Yeoh) and the training of the mysterious "Old Sage" ("Gordon" Liu Chia Hui) and "God of Wushu" (Jay Chou) in order to return home and rescue little Feng from the clutches of his ever-more deranged uncle.

Many will recall Yuen Woo-ping for his work as action director for films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, and Kill Bill and expect gravity-defying wire-fu. And while he hasn't directed a movie in nearly fifteen years, longtime fans will remember some of Yuen's earlier Hong Kong work, which while not so elegant, have an over-the-top, anything-goes energy like little else. True Legend has a heaping helping of both, with the opening gambit amazing but too disrespectful of the laws of physics, but once Yuan returns, we're getting stuff like "Five Venom Fists" and "Black Gold Armor" that are even more outrageous than they sound.

Full review at EFC.

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This is the so STUPID but SOO FUNNY!!!!.. Two newfies in Canada lit, trying to catch a bird.
Is this really what goes on there?