Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reviews: Dark Shadows, That's My Boy, Outlaw Platoon

Two recent bits of fascinating trivia from a copy of Archaeology (Sept/Oct ’12) magazine that arrived in the mail Saturday:

As much of 4% of the sand currently on the beaches of Normandy isn’t sand at all. It’s actually tiny bits of shrapnel leftover from the D-Day invasion, along with iron and glass beads formed by the intense heat of explosions that June morning. 4% of all the sand on the beach, even after 68 years of weather and waves. Wow.

Behind a pub in Shoreditch in the UK archaeologists have uncovered what remains of the Curtain Theatre. The predecessor to Shakespeare’s more famous Globe Theater, the playhouse in all likelihood hosted the very first performances of Henry V and Romeo and Juliet.


Animal Practice has been cancelled by NBC. Three remaining episodes will air before being replaced by the much-maligned Whitney – which means that yes, the ratings were THAT bad. As luck would have it this week’s episode [Who’s Afraid of Virginia Coleman?] was the first that I felt really captured the characters and provided solid comedy. Sayonara.


Lisa and I watched the Johnny Depp film version of Dark Shadows. I know it was generally scorned by diehard fans of the show, and one ‘super fan’ I know refused to even see it. But I think if you approach the movie without preconceived notions about how it should interpret the storyline (and I had none, having seen one episode at most) then I don’t see how you walk away without liking the flick. The acting was top-notch, the story was more than up to par, and the laughs were genuine, not at the expense of the characters or plot. It’s safe to say Lisa and I both grade this an unexpected A.

On the other hand, on Lisa’s birthday we watched Adam Sandler in That’s My Boy, which should be more accurately re-titled The Epitome of a Bad Movie. Lisa claims to have enjoyed it, and called me out for laughing a few times. It’s true, there were a few laughs. I loved Vanilla Ice’s role, I want the full back New Kids on the Block tattoo, and a few odds and ends were amusing. Big wup. I don’t understand why Sandler thinks talking like a speech-impaired whino for 90 minutes is supposed to be funny in movie after movie. Plus, every joke could have been written by a middle school kid with a C average, and, oh, yeah, there’s the whole “this movie glorifies and excuses statutory rape and pedophilia” thing. I grade this a miserable F

I’ve finished reading Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell (with John Bruning). It’s a memoir of Parnell’s time as a motorized infantry platoon leader in eastern Afghanistan.

 It’s the first book of any kind I’ve read on either the Iraqi or Afghan war, and found it informative and enjoyable. Parnell (well, Bruning) has a good flair for putting you right there in the heat of the battle. Still, at times the ‘warrior’ mystique is shoved down your throat with all the finesse of a B movie WWII flick. That’s fine I guess, but even taking that into account there’s the occasional hyperbole that makes you roll your eyes.

All things are relative, to be sure; for instance, if someone throws a punch at me today it will be enough of an affront to my world to inspire a blog post or two. Likewise, the skirmishes and ambushes Parnell encounters are awful, certainly by the standards of my life and probably yours as well. But having been groomed on tales of WWII and Vietnam. . . another platoon is attacked and the horror of it shatters their moral; in the attack a single American is wounded, shot in the foot. Chapters are devoted to horrific attacks that spawn not a single American killed or wounded. Wave after wave of the enemy are wiped out for literally hours – resulting in about 40 enemy dead. The back of the book compares the number of men wounded in Parnell’s platoon in a year to “a [casualty] rate not seen since Gettysburg”.

All love to the Parnell and the platoon, but you are 30 men. Should you stumble into your own Alamo, it still won’t come remotely close to being worthy of comparison to Gettysburg.

Like I said tho’, it is informative and entertaining. I grade it a B+/A-

Book #81 of the year

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