My Rejected Screenplay

I sent in a pitch of my new screenplay in 2018. I had one almost accepted by DreamWorks when that company first opened in the 1990s. I’ve written about that particular ordeal in one of my books.

The new one was going to be a big, whopping, costing countless millions that would attract a gigantic audience. I thought it would be a better seller than Jaws or Star Wars or Titanic.

I was meeting with two top executives, Paul J. and James C.

James started the meeting off. “Good afternoon Frank. What have you got for us?”

Frank: “It’s a big one. A grand one with so many elements in it that will attract people to watching it.”

Paul: “Shoot!”

Frank: “It’s about a pandemic that circles the globe killing about 10 million people, about a million in America. The thought is that the virus, called Viral-18, came from a Chinese laboratory and was accidentally release—or even released on purpose—into China and then was picked up and traveled the world on airplanes and boats, especially cruise ships.”

James: “That’s not much of a death toll.”

Frank: “Ah, but there is more. Whole countries close down because there is no real way to fight the disease.”

Paul: “Doesn’t sound like much.”

Frank: “But doctors recommend wearing masks and then society splits in two on the subject. In America and in Europe. Fights actually start in stores and on the street over whether to wear masks or not. The people who refuse to wear masks think wearing a mask is destroying their freedom.

“People are laid off work. The housing market skyrockets as city people start buying suburban and rural houses. The suburbanites aren’t happy to have these people.

“The President of the United States is a guy who used to do a reality show on television. He refuses to read and is involved in shady dealings. He has an orange face too. And strange hair.”

Paul: “Like John Boehner?”

Frank: “Even more. He won’t wear a mask and his followers do what he does. Many evangelical Christians think this guy was sent from God to destroy the evils of the government. Right wing movements are growing in European countries too. Including Germany.”

James: “So far it is ridiculous.”

Frank: “There is a lot more here. Militias start forming and they join each other all over the country. They talk to each other over social media sites and stockpile weapons. At a certain point these people attack Congress and try to kill the Vice President who is himself an evangelical, who won’t be with a woman in a restaurant unless his wife is with him.”

James: “This isn’t going to be some study of sick men, is it?”

Frank: “No, no, they are just the decorations on the tree of the story.”

Paul: “Continue.”

Frank: “As this is happening cities come under fire from the left-wing. Radicals wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Cops are targeted and there is also a big black/white confrontation about racism and the left hates the police and the right loves them except something goes screwy with them when they attack Congress.”

James: “Where’s the sex? We don’t want G or PG.”

Frank: “Plenty of sex. Not all normal either. The President has had many affairs and he has to buy all the women off. The news media plays this up too. He even says he grabs women by their private parts. We can show this too if we go R rated.

“Also, an idea is that whites are inherently racist. This takes place all over the country. Some cities have nightly riots! Stores are looted and burned. This group is often referred to as the ‘Awakes.’ They destroy statues of people they hate like Lincoln.

Paul: “Who the hell could hate Lincoln?”

Frank: “So, you have a new civil war becoming possible.”

James: “I don’t know. Sounds derivative. But weird sex is a good element. Does he have a wife?”

Frank: “A beauty with a great accent. She was a model, even did nudes before she married the President.

“There’s more. While all this is going on, the country and the world is faced with a UFO problem. The government now admits, even a former President admits, that UFOs are real and do things none of our aircraft can do. There are all sorts of tapes from the military showing these craft making our planes look silly. Are we being invaded from space? The world hangs in the balance.

Paul: “I don’t know, The UFOs are kind of old. There have been a lot of movies about UFOs.”

Frank: “Oh, I forgot, Asians are being attacked all over the country because people blame them for the Viral-18 virus. Other minorities are attacking Asians but only one channel shows this.”

James: “But Crazy Rich Asians is making a bundle.”

Frank: “Yeah, but now here is another one to add. The President of the United States runs for reelection and loses the popular vote and the electoral college to some old guy who keeps falling as he walks up the stairs to his plane. This old guy is accused of being a pawn of the Chinese. The ousted President, who is supported by the Russians, claims that the election was rigged. His followers start going berserk. That’s when they try to take over Congress too and even beat up and kill police. They even have a sign saying they are going to kill the Vice President.

“The states certify that the President lost. Scores of cases are brought to the courts and the President is defeated in all of them. Doesn’t matter, a religion has now grown up around this guy. It is called ‘U’ and the President is now looked upon as almost a god that the Christian God has groomed perfectly and, here is really the weird stuff, the opposition party is now believed to be controlled by Satanists who have sex with children and drink their blood. ‘U’ claims that all over the world these Satanists are destroying children and countries and fixing elections.”

James: “Do you really think movie audiences could believe all this?”

Frank: “There is one fake ballot found during the election. One man murdered his wife and then sent in her mail-in vote and the vote was for the President!

“All of this going on with UFOs and the pandemic and an upcoming civil war between the left and the right. People are refusing to be vaccinated too with a new vaccine that was quickly created. They are leaving themselves open to this world-wide disease and some of them are causing trouble on airplanes. They’ll wear seat belts but they won’t wear masks.”

James: “Frank, listen. A worldwide disease, people refusing to be vaccinated against it, a wacky orange President, religious fanatics who think this guy is a god, UFOs, Satanists, pedophiles, a rebellion on the left and the right, a right-wing attempt to take over Congress and a new President who trips up the stairs? Who could believe all of this going on at the same time? Nobody.”

Paul: “I have to agree with James. Nobody would believe this. The story is completely nutty. It’s all over the place. There is no way all this could be happening.”

Frank: “Oh, oh, and hackers are hacking into our oil lines and meat-packing plants. America is in a cyber war too. How’s that?”

Paul: Adding more isn’t helping. The answer is no.

They were right, I guess. These things were just too much for a movie. No one would believe it.

Scobe’s Yay or Nay: Seaspiracy

 

I love documentaries, usually about anything. I have seen the greatest birds in the world on my television screen. I might not get to the top of a real mountain but I’ve been on many a televised mountain including Everest.

I’ve also been under the sea. And that, as of now, has done me in.

Do you love to eat fish? I did. When I was in Alaska, I ate King Salmon for three meals on many days! Now I won’t eat fish, of any kind, anymore. My wife, the Beautiful AP, ate so much fish in her life that she can stay submerged for seemingly hours. She won’t eat fish anymore either.

The documentary, seen on Netflix, titled Seaspiracy has done that to us. Actually, watching this documentary has led us to firmly conclude that our oceans are done in—and not just by plastic straws, plastic garbage bags and take-out containers. No, something bigger is happening. Much, much bigger.

Seaspiracy starts off rather relaxed, like a snowball at first rolling down the hill, and by the end you have a snowball bigger than Mt. Everest. The documentary maker never quit pursuing the topic layer by layer, even when his life was in danger. By the end my wife and I were saying, “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!” scene after scene. We looked at each other and nodded and said, “I will never eat fish again.”

I am not going to ruin this documentary for you—if ruin is the right word—but I must tell you that I think you might be saying “Oh, my God!” by the end too.

Seaspiracy is the most powerful documentary about the oceans that I have ever seen. It gets as many “yays” as I can give it.

Seaspiracy is currently playing on Netflix.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is wwwfrankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, libraries, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

 

 

Scobe’s Yay or Nay: The Zoo

This is my “review” section where I will publicly take a look at various things that I usually take a look at without telling anyone I have taken a look at them. These can be books, articles, documentaries, short stories, or films. Maybe even comments by politicians that are for the birds.

Today, most people have wider tastes than in the past. In fact, our tastes have become so wide that we, as a population, have become rather wide too, but that’s probably from addictive junk food.

Yay stands for good. Nay stands for not-so-good.

So today I wish to inform you of a television show titled Zoo based on a James Patterson novel titled Zoo. I like science fiction and even before our COVID-19 pandemic I would read novels and watch movies about pandemics. Of course, my intelligent and insightful self never thought any of that nonsense would actually happen in real life.

The premise of Zoo is terrific. The animals, including all the birds, decide to kill all the human beings on earth. Correct. Little Chihuahua from down the block wants to eat your face off. (Actually, I think all those barking, scratching annoyances want to do that anyway.) Hummingbirds would go for the eyes, of course.

The first season was a Yay. The leader of the human group was a pretty blonde French woman with a normal face. They killed her off quickly and introduced a new attractive woman in the second season. Then, as the show progressed, something really weird happened. The lips of all the women on the show went from normal, to puffy, to puffier, to puffiest. From normal to pouty to poutier, to poutiest. Just like that!

Those of you old enough might remember those huge red wax lips from long ago. Like that. Some producer or director or who knows who must have told the actresses that the men who watch the show really like puffiest, poutiest lips. And so puffiest and poutiest they became.

It got to the point where I was constantly shouting out to my wife, the Beautiful AP, “Oh, God, they puffed up the lips of another actress! Her lips look closer to the Blob than to a human!”

It got to the point where I lost track of the story line. Birds attacking people? Who knows? I couldn’t follow the story; I could only follow the lips.

Finally, my wife came into the room, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “This show is driving you crazy. Stop watching it. Read a book about a pandemic or something.”

I stopped watching it. Yet my sleep has now been disturbed by lip-mares.

The Zoo deserves a huge, lip-glossed Nay!

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. If you want to 

“Let There Be Light!”

The first paragraph of the Book of Genesis in the Bible is beautiful. Here’s how it goes: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth; the earth was without form and void with darkness over the face of the abyss and a mighty wind swept over the surface of the waters and God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light!”

I want to go outside on January 2nd and shout out the exact same words to achieve the almost the exact result. But the light I am talking about is the light of holiday decorations. Twinkle twinkle little stars.

I love the time of Thanksgiving to New Years. Most of that time is not even winter, but what makes those days magnificent are the people who light up their houses with Christmas lights.

I can take or leave the religious aspects of Christmas. The birth of Jesus did not occur anywhere near December 25th. We know that the early Christians borrowed days and events from the various pagan cultures and in doing so, slowly solidified their hold on the world.

Mithras, the sun god, would be proud, perhaps, to lend his December 25th birthday to Jesus. But, if you want to believe the birth of Christ was on December 25th, go ahead, have at it.

The world from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is a twinkling, sparkling wonderland. Every trip outdoors is a treat to the eyes.

I dread the dull months of January and February. Here in New York, January and February can be bleak and the occasional snow brings more annoyance than joy. Snow is best in photos and videos. In reality, snow cleverly conceals treacherous ice and is soon bathed in filthy car fumes.

But I digress.

January and February should be the Let-There-Be-Light months. Homeowners should continue to display blinking, twinkling outdoor lights and folks who do put up lights should be given a tax break by their local governments.

I would not associate the Let-There-Be-Light time period with any religion either. Every home should be adorned with holiday lights. (Okay, okay: I never put up holiday lights…but that’s from sheer laziness.)

I want winter to sparkle!

If you need some holiday at the end of the season of light, then let’s change Thanksgiving to the last week of February.

Perhaps if we all go outside on January 2nd and shout, “Let there be light!” my dream will become a sparkling reality. And if everyone accepts my idea, well then, I will put up lights too.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

Betty Bruiser and the Kiss from Hell

She was known as Betty Bruiser. I don’t remember her real name. I just know she was a fearsome presence in Our Lady of Angels Grammar School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the early 1960s.

We were in sixth grade then. The boys were in one school, having been separated from the girls at the start of that school year. The nuns knew that boys and girls shouldn’t be together once the boys were experiencing adolescence. So, the boys were now taught by the Franciscan brothers, a tough lot.

The nuns thought of the girls as clean and sparkling Catholics. Heaven would be theirs. The boys, well, Hell probably knew our names.

Betty was a bruiser. In all ways. When she played basketball, she played the defensive end of the court. In those days girls’ basketball had three girls on one side of the court as defense and three girls on the other side of the court as offense. It was always three against three. Girls were considered frail and therefore they couldn’t play a full court game as did the boys.

Defense tried to stop the other team’s offense. Defense did not shoot the ball but tried to get the ball to their offense on the other side of the court.

Betty’s prowess came to the fore when she broke the nose of a girl from St. Thomas Aquinas. There was blood everywhere. It was Betty’s first game for our school. That one game sealed her as “the Bruiser.” Word got around the Catholic grammar schools in Brooklyn and girls were terrified of playing against her.

When she played dodge ball, that ball would knock opponents on their rear ends or cause them nose bleeds when it hit them in the face. Every player wanted Betty Bruiser on their team, not so much because she was cherished but because she was a horrifyingly relentless opponent.

Even though the girls had to wear gym uniforms that were styled like bloomers, Betty Bruiser was the only girl who seemed to fit into hers.

So, what did Betty Bruiser have to do with me?

She loved me. She loved me with all her heart and all the powerful muscles in her body. She would refer to me as “My Scobe.” She would wink at me in the schoolyard during recess. It was terrifying

Was she ugly? I don’t really know. Is the incredible Hulk ugly? You don’t hang around to form an opinion.

But it was a party at my friend Billy Benjamin’s apartment that caused the problem between her and me.

This would be my first unchaperoned party—meaning no parents. Stevie Labashio told me they would be playing a game I’d never heard of called “spin the bottle.”

So, as always, I went to my mother and asked her about the game. She explained it to me and added, “You can play it if you want.”

“I don’t want to play,” I said. I didn’t want to play the game because I didn’t want to waste my first kiss on just anyone; I wanted it to be with Mary Sassalo. Also, I didn’t exactly have the kiss down pat. (See my story of The Virgin Kiss and how I taught myself to be a great kisser.)

The night of the party and I was dressed to the nines, meaning I was wearing sneakers and a sweat shirt. Then Betty Bruiser entered.

She was invited to the party! Several of the boys asked Billy why he invited her. “I had to. Her mother is friends with my mother, so my mother forced me.”

“I’m not playing the kiss the bottle game,” I said.

Spin the bottle,” said Stevie.

“Not that one either,” I said.

The party was fine but Betty Bruiser kept trying to get me to talk to her privately. “Let’s go in another room, My Scobe,” she said.

I’d either pretend I didn’t hear her or start a quick conversation with someone else. I didn’t want to tell her that I wanted nothing to do with her. She might beat me up.

Now it was time for spin the bottle. I announced immediately that I wasn’t playing. I joked that I was too good a kisser and didn’t want to make anyone feel bad.

“Kissing the dog doesn’t count,” said Billy.

The first kid up was Stevie and he spun the bottle and it pointed to pretty Cathy O’Connor. Their kiss was quick and Stevie gave a thumbs up as if he had just hit a home run.

The game went around the room and finally Betty Bruiser was next. I sat behind Willie Williams, just near the bathroom. Since I wasn’t playing, I felt that this distance from the game was a good idea. I felt really sorry for the poor guy who had to kiss The Bruiser.

Betty took the bottle and looked around the room. I am not sure she could see the terror in the eyes of the boys and the hidden delight in the eyes of the girls. Some boy was doomed to kiss her.

The Bruiser saw me. She looked like a jungle cat eyeing her prey. Not a big deal for me because everyone knew I wasn’t playing, right?

Betty Bruiser picked up the bottle, looked right through Willie Williams, directly at me and smiled, mouthing the words “My Scobe.”

She then spun the bottle. Around it went, only once, and it landed on Willie Williams. There was a pause and then Willie Williams jumped up and ran out of the room, “No, no, no!”

“My Scobe!” And she ran at me. She landed on me, a powerful force of nature, and my chair tipped backwards and off we flew. I skidded into the bathroom, hitting my head on the toilet.

Betty Bruiser leapt on me—she was very heavy—and now she was kissing my face and—oh my God!—licking me trying to get her tongue into my mouth. I thought, what is wrong with this girl?

I fought as if my life depended on it—and maybe it did! I refused to let her kiss me on the lips but I just couldn’t muster enough strength to get her body off me.  My nose was wet with saliva now.

I was squirming like a worm but she was plastered on me.

Finally, I was saved as the rest of the boys showed pity on me and dragged her off me. It was like a brawl at a ball game as the boys stayed between her and me.

“My Scobe,” she repeated, charging at me. “My Scobe. My Scobe. My Scobe.” A few times she almost made it through the boys—she was so strong—but their lines held.

She finally calmed down and the girls led her to the bedroom. I hustled out of the apartment.

I swore off parties for the next two years. They were just too dangerous. Instead, I spent my leisure time practicing my kissing technique for Mary, the girl of my dreams.

Rating the Full Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

These films set the stage for the Avengers and interplay among all the great heroes.

By Frank Scoblete and Rob Meyerson

5 Stars: ***** Superb in every way

4 Stars: ****  Excellent — maybe some quibbles

3 Stars: ***   Good for a viewing

2 Stars: **     Won’t kill you to watch it with good pop corn

1 Star: *         Might bore you to death

0 Star: 0         Stick pins in your eyes; that is far more fun

So who is this guy Rob Meyerson? He is my guru of science fiction commentaries, comic book commentaries, and movies based on those and books and articles on those that only the elite in those fields can even understand. I thought I was somewhat smart but I am a bug created in a lab by mad scientists and bit by a rabid human to have a degree of intelligence. So we are both giving our opinions of these movies.

So who is Frank Scoblete? Dear reader, you are probably familiar with his genius as a writer-gaming guru with a wry sense of humor but he is so much more. He only thinks I am smart because I have an inkling of how brilliant he is. Also, a great friend.

Iron Man #1 (2008):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Robert Downey Jr. IS Iron Man. The essence of cool (and snark) and yet he has the little kid wonder at how much fun the iron man suit he created is to own and fly This is epitomized by the scene where he is testing the suits flight capabilities in his lab/supercar garage.  Director John Favreau has a vision of a superhero movie that is as realistic as such a thing could be and yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. I understand that Robert insisted on Gwyneth appearing in all three Iron man movies which makes him a good friend as well as a brilliant actor.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: This started the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a terrific script, direction, special effects and acting. Robert Downey Jr. established himself as Iron Man and his performance has become a standard of excellence in comic book movies. Acting throughout is excellent and Gwyneth Paltrow is a wonderful Pepper Potts.. Not a false step that I can see.

The Incredible Hulk (2008):

Rob: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: Five stars for the always fascinating to watch Ed Norton but he needed to be surrounded by a better movie. I don’t mind Liv Tyler but who can compete with the deep, complex and fascinating Jennifer Connolly of the original Hulk movie?

Scobe: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Ed Norton, the star of this movie and a terrific actor, made a big mistake in dumping this role after filming. Mark Ruffalo took over and the rest is Marvel history. This is an excellent movie with one slight flaw; I was not in love with Liv Tyler’s performance, a little too mechanical. It is extremely hard to make a film about the Hulk because it tends to fall into the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mode. Nice doctor goes nuts at times. Otherwise one great film.

Iron Man #2 (2010):

Rob: 4 stars ****

Comments: Robert Downey, Jr. is STILL Iron Man.  Another excellent performance from Mickey Rourke, back on screen after his boxing “career.” Cold and even colder when he lets slip how much fun he is having being evil.  Sam Rockwell should not be overlooked asw the ultra-sleazy self-loving billionaire who “thinks” he is in charge.

Scobe: 4 stars ****

Comments: Another strong film, another winner, just a cut below the first Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (in his small moments) give enjoyable performances. One person I should single out is Jon Favreau who has become the ultimate comic-book movie director. He also has small roles in many of the Marvel films. This film figured out how to be funny as well as spectacular thanks to writer Justin Theroux.

Thor (2011):

Rob: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Kenneth Branagh recognized the mythic Shakespearean Operatic aspects of Thor and assembles a film that delivers.  Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the villain who believes (maybe correctly) that he is the hero of the tale. Hiddleston gleefully tricks and pans his “brother” Thor. Chris Hemsworth suffers Loki’s torment as best he can and the square jaw-d hero type adds a wry sense of almost admiration about how good his “brother” Loki is at being bad.  The always exquisite Natalie Portman adds humor as the clearly brilliant scientist who is fascinated by being/in love with the god fell-to-earth Thor. More Thor!

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Kenneth Branagh was the best Hamlet I ever saw. Kenneth Branagh was the best director of that very same Hamlet. Thor, written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Natalie PortmanTom Hiddleston as his mischievous and sometimes evil brother Loki, Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgard. It was directed by Branagh and it is a masterpiece that takes place on Asgard, home of the Norse gods, and then on the planet of the Frost Giants. And when Thor is cast out of his sacred homeland and sent to Earth, we see him learn an important lesson; that leaders must be humble and not filled with hubris. Everything about this movie is superb.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011):

Rob:  4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Tough to bring the ultra-patriotic red, white, and blue suited Captain America to life for a jaded modern audience, but Chris Evans and the character and movie he brings to life and this film does it brilliantly. It creates a story about “the greatest generation” and fills it with vastly larger than life heroes (Bucky Barns and Peggy Carter) filled with the Red Skull and horde of Nazi scientists that just beg to be defeated.  The ending (Borrowed form Stairway to Heaven with David Niven) sets up the rest of the series with Cap crashing and freezing.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Another superb movie. Takes place during World War II with the creation of the first superhero. From the characters to the actors who play them I give full applause. It is a movie where you really do get into the heads of people who seem so real. Chris Evans takes the role of the Captain and is beautiful to behold. He is a young man who wants to fight against the Nazis but he is too weak and sickly to be accepted into the service. Then he gets a chance. Wow!

The Avengers (2012):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Five-star movie but I prefer single superhero tales. I can deal with one hero with powers but when the book (or, in this case, the movie) is filled with them I want to know when I am getting my own powers (and suit).  Always great to see Joss Whedon involvement but in the alternate universe I want to visit, instead of MCU movies he got to deliver at least five years of Firefly and the full five years of Dollhouse he was planning). Tom Hiddleston is less a prankster and more of the super-human evil foe that is more than a match for all of the avengers until they act like the team they need to be.  No offense to Eric Bana and Ed Norton but I prefer Mark Ruffalo’s embarrassed-more-than-afraid of his alter-persona Hulk.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Bring it on. Usually with so many heroes in a movie (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye) you’d think the execution would be cumbersome. Not so. This is an edge of your seat thriller where they fight a horrible alien threat initiated by the evil Loki. They also fight each other at times. Introduces Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. His performance surpasses Ed Norton’s in sensitivity and strength. A must see movie!

Iron Man #3 (2013):

Rob: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: No villain, no movie. Tony stark is in a struggle with himself but that is the Marvel superhero’s trademark. I had to google IMDB and Wikipedia to refresh my memory ow who the villain was and I’m still not sure.  I am planning to watch this movie again. Maybe.

Scobe: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: Somewhat depressing as Tony Stark is recovering from the war against Loki. Does set up the future angst of the character. Movie has some great moments but at times it seems a little forced.

Thor: The Dark World (2013):

Rob: 4 stars ****

Comments: Same great cast. So much movie, so many writers but the film falls a little short. Still, seeing Thor and Loki team up was thrilling.

Scobe: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: This movie seems a little strained at times but does have one of the greatest hero-versus-villain fights at the end.

Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014):

Rob: 4 stars ****

Comments: Bucky Barnes as a rescued amnesiac anti-hero with a robot arm is an excellent conceit. Chris Evans does a great job handling the conflict between  the need to defeat the villain with his piece with memory of his friendship with the young Bucky Barnes and guilt over Bucky’s death.  Cap’s difficulties dealing with the modern world and dealing with the Winter Soldier who is only Bucky in small part makes the story compelling.

Scobe: 4 stars ****

Comments: Bucky Barnes returns but he isn’t the hero of the first film. He has been ruined by Hydra. Captain America must try to save him. Things don’t go exactly to plan.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (2014):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments:  So much fun. You don’t have to bank on known heroes to make a great movie, apparently. Groot! We need more Vin Diesel in anything but Fast and Furious cars.  So much personality in one word.  Bradley Cooper’s anthropomorphized Rocket is a hoot.  So much fun to see the heroes get thrown together and function was a group despite widely varied and frequently combative personalities.  For me the Guardians are a team in ways that the Avenger in any of the three movies are not.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: My first thought was that this would be an idiotic movie. I was wrong. It is terrific. How can a talking racoon and a sentient tree be super heroes? Just watch this treasure and find out.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):

Rob: 2.5 stars **1/2*

Comments: Not my cup of tea. Starts too slow and then gets two frenetic. James Spader is an awesome actor elsewhere but this is a misstep with the cold computer/robot that is a no-personality being. A.I is logical but does not make a thrilling movie for me.  As noted above I am not a team-up fan.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Another great one! Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create an artificial intelligence being and, of course, it goes nuts, much like the computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We meet a couple of new Avengers. It’s rollicking and fun all the way from start to finish.

Ant-Man (2015):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Just a great action-adventure comedy.  Mark Rudd’s sometimes befuddled ex con-heroic-anti-hero-hero is flawless. Michael Douglas is wonderful as the mad-scientist. Evangeline Lilly is wonderful but under-used, which was remedied in the sequel Ant man and the Wasp. Michael Pena’s first-rate sidekick warranted an expanded role in the sequel which he was given.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: I had no idea this movie would be so amazingly good. Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and a host of great supporting actors and a script that just keeps on coming at you. Special effects with those ants blew me away. Total entrainment.

Captain America: Civil War (2016):

Rob: 2.5 stars **1/2*

Comments: Again, not my cup of tea.  As stated previously, I prefer individual superhero stories, not team-ups.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: This should actually be Avengers #3. It is the battle of the superheroes. Wow! We meet the Black Panther in this film and we learn that the government isn’t too happy with vigilantes, even the good ones. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Doctor Strange (2016):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Acting powerhouse Benedict Cumberbatch can carry a film on his more-than-capable shoulders but I am glad he doesn’t have to. (Make a point to see Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes with Martin Freemen as Dr. Watson in Sherlock).  Tilda Swinton’s ancient master of magic is the perfect teacher/hero/villain. Librarian Benedict Wong does great things with a “small” part (See The Martian” and Wong as headmaster of The Deadly Class). I remember the comic for its psychedelic artwork which was effectively replaced by a film with its own complex and cohesive style. Cumberbatch strides through this CGI magic-world like a fish swims in the ocean; it is his environment.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: What do you get when you hire one of the best actors in the world to play Doctor Strange? You get Benedict Cumberbatch and another superb Marvel movie. Dr. Strange is the master of the mystic arts but a fighter from beginning to end. The script is first rate as are the special effects. Each actor shines!

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 (2017):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: See original review above.

Scobe: 4 stars ****

Comments: Another winner! Join the Guardians as they introduce us to everything!

Spider-Man Homecoming (2017):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: No MCU without Toby McGuire’s angst-ridden super Spider-Man but Tom Holland is the sarcastic teen-aged superhero thrust into a superhero role against his will which is closer to Spidey from the comics.  Marisa Tomei is as great an Aunt May as Sally Fields was previously in The Amazing Spider-Man.  Batman/Birdman/villain Michael Keaton brings complexity and humanity to whatever hero/villain he plays. (how could the “fans” have been upset when he was cast as Batman?). This film is a standout.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Tobey Maguire was a great Spider-Man but Tom Holland has created an even better one. This actor has leavened Spider-Man with energy and drive, not just as Spider-Man but as Peter Parker. Aunt May is the beautiful Marisa Tomei. The humor of the movie adds to it greatness and Michael Keaton is a great villain. Even the teenage love works. Kudos on a wonderful movie. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man makes a visit or two and he is, as always, great in the role. This movie will hold up on numerous viewings. Strap yourself in!

Thor: Ragnarok (2017):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: This film is a standout!

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: This is a movie with everything. Great humor, great fighting, great story and a new version of the evolving Hulk. You’ll laugh and cringe and watch some interesting events that include Asgard’s destruction.

Black Panther (2018):

Rob:  5 stars *****

Comments: Great movie. We are given a complete, credible and cohesive world filled with complex fascinating characters to care about and a great story. When this world goes back to a semblance of normalcy, I would rather go to a movie theater to see this Black Panther movie again rather than anyone else in the role. The series of villains are each distinct and appropriately villainous and that is part of the fun.

Scobe: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: This is an excellent movie with one quibble; the villain at the end is just some street punk, albeit with great power, who tackles the Black Panther. Now, the Panther is an almost godlike king of an amazing civilization and he has to fight some guy who should be selling drugs on a street corner. Please, the Black Panther is a Thor-level character of great dimensions and should be opposed by someone of equal stature. The Black Panther needs a Loki! The film has strong roles for a variety of female characters. (The death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor who plays the Black Panther, is a serious blow to the Marvel Universe of fans; me included.)

Avengers Infinity War (2018):

Rob: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Time for a trip to the optometrist. There is just too much stuff to follow and it makes me dizzy. This is a fun movie and James Brolin gives us a single villain that stands up to the heroes. Fun movie and I’m glad the sequel came out relatively quickly.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: It’s on. Thanos intends to kill half the intelligent beings in the galaxy to save their civilizations. That’s genocide on an immeasurable scale. But he must first secure the five infinity stones to give him unlimited power. The Avengers in full throttle attempt to stop him. It will wreck your sleep because of the ending. Another superb Marvel movie.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: See Ant-Man above. The same excellent cast with an equally great story that successfully builds on the first movie. Looking forward to #3!

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: What five-star movie is better than another five-star movie? This one is even better than the last Ant-Man movie. Michael Douglas should have gotten a best supporting actor award for his wipe-out performance. Paul Rudd? Amazing. Evangeline Lilly? Wow! and kudos to his sidekicks too!

Captain Marvel (2019):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: The incomparable Brie Larson (The Room) makes this movie a stand out. We are used to seeing ripped and over-muscled male superheroes in every MCU film up to Captain Marvel. It is refreshing to see a lithe Olympic-class gymnast instead of all the beef. Captain Marvel brings constantly intriguing inventive problem-solving skills she learned as an ace fighter pilot to the confusing alternate-world she is thrust into.  Larson is not flashy and instead delves into the subtle complexity of her character. She is always fascinating to watch in every role, especially this one.

Scobe: 3 stars ***

Comments: The first part of the movie is (sorry to say this) quite dull. The lead actress, Brie Larson, does not have the energy of personality to pull off a character who will become the Superwoman of the Marvel Universe. Samuel L. Jackson is great as Nick Fury and the overall concept of the movie is quite compelling. It is a fun watch but not a top-notch Marvel thriller.

Avengers: Endgame (2019):

Rob: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Too much of everything for a theatre. The only way to get everything this movie is crammed with is to buy the dvd and spend a week watching it frame-by-frame. That may make economic sense from the producer’s point-of-view but I refuse to do that. Still it’s fun to see every hero in the MCU make an appearance. It’s also fun to the villain vanquished and the universe saved yet again.  The real question is whether killing off heroes will revitalize the MCU

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Can the Avengers come back from the dead? This movie has it all and a Hulk that you might like or hate. War is hell! Go get that Thanos.

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: great to see Tom Holland back as Spider-Man.  Watching Jake Gyllenhaal team up with Spider-Man as the co-hero Peter Parker needs is almost as much fun SPOILER ALERT-SPOILER ALERT  as it is to see Jake as the gleefully greedy super-villain that makes Spidey’s ultimate last-second triumph all the sweeter.  The best James Bond movies are the ones with complex and interesting villains and that holds true here.  Well written and well-acted.  Glad to see a bigger part for Happy Hogan; maybe he knows the director.  Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. Part of the fun of rock climbing (since I was 16) is getting as close to being Spider-Man as I can without being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Another superb movie. Spider-Man is in a class of his own and Tom Holland and a great script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers are the reasons for this. Spidey fights great villains and the contests are amazing. The usual cast returns and Spidey’s best friend, Ned Leeds (played beautifully by Jacob Batalon) is a terrific foil for Peter Parker. We want more Spider-Man movies!

 

Top 10 Favorite Athletes

One of my friends, a former teaching colleague posted his list of his 10 favorite athletes. I did so too. Here they are from me.

  1. Muhammad Ali: Sat next to him at a fight in Madison Square Garden. Nicest guy ever. Sad what happened to him. I remember when he met the great but ancient Joe Louis who was in a wheelchair, drooling, nodding and mentally out of it. Ali said, “I will never become like that.” God has a vicious sense of humor doesn’t he? Ali wound up far, far worse.
  2. Joe DiMaggio: Kind of a family tradition. Met him at Yankee Stadium in 1953. Despite what authors have written about his aloofness, he shook my hand and talked to me about my (MY!) playing baseball. I was six years old and I remember the meeting clearly. So I am a die hard Yankee fan because of that meeting.
  3. Jackie Robinson: He’s in heaven now (if there is a heaven). Took a lot of crap and performed athletically and intellectually at the highest level. Not many men could have done what he did and done it brilliantly. Met him once at Ebbets Field. I was also a Dodgers fan until they moved to California.
  4. Oscar Robertson: The best of all time. I know, I know everyone thinks it is Jordan but Oscar is and was the man. His nemesis, Jerry West, was another great one but no one was Oscar.
  5. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson: Entwined together in my mind. The greatest rivalry in basketball of all time. Two of the top 10 greats in the sport.
  6. Sugar Ray Leonard: Just a shade below Sugar Ray Robinson, the fighter who was truly the greatest of all time. Leonard fought the best of his generation in some spectacular matches.
  7. Jesse Owens: Fuck you Hitler! An American who showed the truth about himself and the freedom to compete in a free society (well, not quite as free for some Americans). Of course, it has taken almost a hundred years of struggle but we are (I hope) moving in the right direction. Jesse Owens showed us that we can win.
  8. Lou Gehrig: One of the five greatest baseball players of all time. Courage and class all the way.
  9. Babe Ruth: A serious abuser of food and booze and cigars. Those three things should now be banned from sports because look what they did for “the Babe.”  An amazing hitter, an amazing pitcher, an amazing guy. His statistics topped many entire teams in his day and they are still a high standard to live up to.
  10. Willie Mays: One of the five best baseball players of all time. Brought joy to the game and was great to watch even when he was older.

(There you go. I do have my “don’t like” list too. Maybe someday I’ll post that. There is no football or other sports on my list since those aren’t in my vision.)

My Everest of Annoyances

I am annoyed. Most of these annoyances are petty. I admit that. They itch like mosquito bites.

  • I am an attractor of mosquitoes and these annoying creatures leave my skin burning in the aftermath of annoying bites.
  • Loud leaf blowers that break up the still of the day and overpower beautiful bird calls annoy me.
  • People driving around my neighborhood in annoyingly loud cars or on annoyingly loud dirt bikes annoy me.
  • The annoying jingle of the ice cream truck calling forth hordes of annoying children annoys me.

My petty annoyances have grown into an Everest of a mountain. But a mountain is still a mountain be it grown by pettiness or not.

  • I love baseball. I’ve been a Yankees fan since I was six years-old after meeting Joe DiMaggio. I even like this year’s shortened season, but what truly annoys me is the fact that they are now putting up commercials as the game progresses.

You are watching a tight moment and bam! on the now split-screen you have an annoying commercial and the ballgame simultaneously. This is ruining my viewing of the game.

I set my DVR to tape the first hour or so and then I watch it on tape, fast forwarding through the commercials as the DVR keeps recording. The fact that the game is an hour behind doesn’t matter. I have no idea of what happened, so it is as if I am watching it fresh. But now those annoying split screen commercials have brought my annoyance level sky high.

  • I do not like women, adult women, who pretend they are little girls. (“Oo, I’m a widdle gurl.”) The first one of these I met was in college. She was a big girl, cute, but large, big boned as they used to say, and she affected this widdle gurl She sat next to me in a writing class, taught by Rod Serling no less, and she’d drive me nuts when she asked her widdle gurl questions. I figured Serling would write a story where some monster killed her by chopping out her annoying vocal cords. Didn’t happen.

Then two days ago a widdle gurl with tufts of grey hair came by to talk to my neighbor. I couldn’t understand exactly what she was saying because she was wearing a mask, but she was saying it in annoying widdle-gurl talk. Ubie doobie wa wa wa. I secretly hoped the annoying ice cream truck making the rounds would run her over.

  • On Facebook, it annoys me when posters tell me to share this or that annoying post of theirs or one they had reposted. Some actually challenge you: “Repost this if you dare.” A lot of times it has to do with religion, “Jesus loves us. Share this if you agree.” “Heaven is real. Share this and God will save you.” “Mary has appeared in this tree stump or a potato chip. Share if you love our Virgin Mother.” I didn’t share any of these.

The political ones are truly annoying when someone commands you to share an annoying analogy, “So and so is Hitler! Share this to save America!” I didn’t share it.

“Dr. So-and-So stated that COVID-19 is not real, vaccines are unhealthy, and people should not wear masks. Share this to alert your friends!”

Well, I looked up Dr. So-and-So. She also believes that incubus and humans have sex during the night and that there are lizard-men in the Deep State. I didn’t share it.

Actually, I do not repost any of these. I have no problem sharing posts I like, but, let’s face it, these people are annoying.

  • How about those car commercials? Just about all of them, just about all the time run special sales or events. Does any car dealership not offer continuous discounts all year long? Does anyone actually pay full price for a car? Not according to these commercials. “It’s our get-ready-for-summer-time special offer!” “It’s our fall, winter sale!” I surmise that the real price of the car is the sale price, and the phony sale price is simply the basis for an annoying commercial.

If you are going to give a discount on any one of the 365 very special days of the year, then make it a discount of the discounted price. And please silence that annoying actress pitching your annoying product.

Like my annoying Everest, I must handle it. Why? Because it’s there!

Frank Scoblete’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Receive Frank’s articles in your email. Join up today!

The Icing on the Conspiracy Cake

 

They are out there. The folks who truly believe in unsubstantiated conspiracy theories of all types. They could be your friends, your neighbors, members of your family, and perhaps they could be… you.

And now a new conspiracy based on an old conspiracy, at least a current old conspiracy, is about to put icing on the cake for many conspiracy advocates.

Many conspiracy theorists believe that the COVID-19 crisis was manufactured to hurt Donald Trump. This conspiracy must be worldwide, as over 160 countries have had their own horrible taste of this pandemic. Of course, the Democrats must be in charge of this one with the whole world following their plan. Look, our enemies hate Trump and want him out; our friends don’t like him either. They are all conspiring to get him go away!

And the Democrats don’t actually control anything because they are being manipulated by the grand conspiracy masters.

Some theorists believe that Dr. Anthony Fauci heads the International Conspiracy along with his fellow conspirator Bill Gates. The duo is trying to take over the world with the help from, well, the whole world. The assumption is that Fauci and Gates want to inject us all with GPS-type systems, so they can follow our every move.

An amazing percentage of American theorists believe that wearing masks won’t help prevent the contagion. Of course, early on they didn’t believe there even was a contagion. Remember how Trump announced that there were only 15 sick people and the disease would disappear like a miracle? That led to the cry that being made to wear a mask was a violation of our inalienable rights. These theorists have sided with President Trump’s disdain for masks. In fact, there have been actual fights—of the physical kind!—in stores, buses, airplanes and streets between those who wear masks and those who refuse to wear masks.

Some conspiracy theorists point to the low percentage of people who die from the virus— somewhere around 0.5 to 1.5 percent. Those of you who know anything about card counting in blackjack, know that a 0.5 to 1.5 percent edge over the casino will get you the pit boss reading you the Trespassing Act. To casinos, such a small edge is considered highly dangerous and damaging.

Other conspiracy theorists will cite the number of people who die from just about everything else under the sun or in the shade to show that such things are far worse than COVID-19.

But it goes far further than the above. Indeed, some conspiracy theorists believe that all the conspiracies in history can be laid at the feet of the one great worldwide conspiracy created by some ultra-powerful group from the Illuminati to the Catholic Church to the Masons to the United Federation of Teachers.

The list of conspiracies is impressive, so I’ll just name a few:

JFK’s assassination

Hoax of a moon landing

Mass murders

Gun control

Obesity

Lizard overlords

Incubi

Chem trails in the sky

Recently conspiracy theorists have theorized that the “Deep State” is inflating the COVID-19 deaths by counting deaths from causes other than COVID-19 in their statistics including heart attacks and falling down the stairs.

Come the winter statistics (now remember this!), deaths from flu will be lower than in many years past; deaths from pneumonia will be lower as well because so many millions of Americans are wearing masks and social distancing and quarantining themselves; therefore, those other disease numbers must come down. They are not being added to the COVID-19 statistics.

COVID-19 has its own statistics; a reduction in the flu and pneumonia deaths will not impact the COVID -19 statistics at all.

However, the conspiracy theorists will take the reduction of other deaths to mean that these deaths are now being recorded as COVID -19 deaths. That will prove to them that this giant conspiracy exists.

Future reality will be created by the illusion of a grand conspiracy because reasonable analysis of statistics by reasonable people will be unreasonably interpreted by conspiracy theorists.

Come on, believing in a grand conspiracy makes you a powerless, hapless nobody. So, if you can’t take down the almighty conspirators, there can be no individual power in wearing a mask or keeping socially distant. However, if you look to science for your information, you are accountable for your actions—and in that case, wearing a mask and keeping socially distant are mighty personal statements indeed, despite what the United Federation of Teachers says.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Why not get Frank’s articles by email. Sign up today.

The Meaning of Marriage

My friend Tom is one hell of a guy. He is also the funniest person I know. In a totally weird way. When the Beautiful AP and I first met Tom and his lovely wife Martine in Cape May, I was thrown by some of the things he said. I couldn’t figure if he was being humorous or out of his mind.

Let me give you a recent example. The four of us were eating lunch at the Mad Batter Restaurant in Cape May. By this time our friendship was sealed tightly and I knew he was outrageously funny. I also knew that most people didn’t get his humor, especially at first, and they would look at him aslant.

The server was taking our order. My wife the Beautiful AP and I ordered our usual, the orange-almond French toast, Martine ordered a salad and Tom then put in his order: “Can I have the salad that she’s having but I want salmon as well. I’d like some toast with butter on the side.”

“Okay, sir,” said the server.

“Wait, wait,” said Tom. “Now it is very important that there is no salt put on anything.”

“No salt,” the server nodded.

“Maybe write it on the order form so the chef knows no salt. I have dangerously high blood pressure.”

The server nodded, “Okay,” she wrote down the “no salt” instructions. “There we go, sir!”

“And I’ll have some ice tea, no sugar,” said the Beautiful AP.

“I’ll have just plain water,” said Martine.

“Water is fine for me,” said Tom. “Make it two glasses, large ones.”

“Seltzer for me,” I said.

“Okay,” said the server. “Let me just repeat the orders.” And she did. She finished with, “And no salt for you sir.”

Later, the server placed the orders in front of us. Tom looked at her as she put his order down, “No salt in this right?”

“Yes, sir, no salt,” she smiled. She had served the four of us many times before and we were good tippers so she was happy to serve us again.

“Everything fine?” she asked happily.

We all nodded. Tom smiled then reached across the table, grabbed the salt shaker and poured salt over his entire meal! You could see salt crystals on top of salt crystals all over everything. “Ah, looks great,” he said and dug into his food.

During this pandemic Tom and I have a special day and a special time each week when we talk for about an hour on Zoom. Tom is the head of a giant non-profit Jewish organization that he nursed from an almost storefront level 40 years ago and made it a big player for seniors of every religion and race that employed people from every religion and race. The man is—in my opinion—admirable.

But he is not perfect.

On our last call, Tom said, “Scobe, I made a big mistake with Martine yesterday. I’m in trouble. I’ve been working seven days a week the last couple of months and she told me not to do any cleaning this weekend. I’m just to relax. But you know I like a clean house (he does) and I do some cleaning on the weekends. I’m not crazy about it (he’s not) but the upstairs bathroom needed to be clean; the shower, the floor, sinks, you get me (I got him).”

“So you told her you were going to clean?”

“No, that’s the problem. I told her I was going upstairs to take a shower. I snuck Mr. Clean and a roll of Bounty paper towels with me. So I took a shower and then I spritzed the shower with Mr. Clean and wiped everything down with the Bounty paper towels. I cleaned everything in the bathroom. Then I heard her outside the door.

“’You okay?’ she asked.  ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,’ I said. ‘I was just enjoying a nice hot shower’”

I jumped in. “You know Tom, you are a disgrace to the male sex. You should have trained Martine to let you do all the cleaning.”

“Very funny,” he said.

“We’re not talking about me, Tom. This is about you. If you want to clean, then she should let you clean. I mean you’re the man, Tom; act like a man. Demand that she let you clean.”

“I kept cleaning throughout the day, Scobe; here and there, when she was out gardening or cooking. I just want a clean house.”

“Doesn’t she do any cleaning?”

“Yeah, but she’s French and they use rags. It takes forever. She dips the rag, cleans a little, then cleans the rag and then dips the rag again and cleans a little more. It takes three times longer than it takes me. I just use Mr. Clean and Bounty and it is really fast. Spray and wipe. Spray and wipe. Spray and wipe. It’s over, just like that. Then I go read.”

(Tom and Martine do not have a television set. They read. Tom will read books and the newspapers online. Martine reads books in French.)

“You do realize that you are sneaking around Martine because you don’t want her to catch you,” I said.

“I know that,” he said.

“Your problem is that you are married. You have just explained the real definition of marriage. It’s not anything Shakespeare wrote or any of the flowery cards from Hallmark. No, it is you sneaking around in your own house wanting to clean but being afraid of your wife. That’s the true definition of marriage.”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said. Tom paused and took a deep breath and then he said: “Martine is putting salt in my wounds and, you know, I hate salt.”

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, and bookstores. Receive Frank’s articles in your email.