Three Strikes: You’re In – Movie Trilogies Worth Sticking With

Today on Plans Mr. Orr posed this question:

Christopher Nolan, when asked if he would make a third Batman film, asked, “How many good third movies in a franchise can people name?

So I’m thinking: how many are there?

He listed a fair number of the most obvious:

  • Return of the Jedi
  • Return of the King
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Back to the Future III
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Goldfinger
  • The Search for Spock

I agree with all his choices.  I did a fair amount of research before coming up with what I thought was a comprehensive list.  Here are the other films I decided to include:

  • Die Hard with a Vengeance
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Chasing Amy
  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Then I came up with a few where the entire series is questionable, but the third movie is certainly no worse and probably better than many of the others:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
  • Police Academy 3: Back in Training
  • Ernest Saves Christmas
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla

Am I missing anything?

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They Got the Band Back Together

More Ben Folds News!

His band Ben Folds Five reunited recently for one show to pay tribute to their album The Autobiography of Reinhold Messner!

It must be good if I’m willing to link to Myspace!

I meet the Hodg-man

Tonight I went to a booksigning for John Hodgman‘s new book More Information Than You Require.  It was an excellent time.  I have not yet read the book but I intend to over the next several days.

I am, however, going to subject you to more puns.  The pumpkin names in the previous post was certainly not the end of these portents.  When I got up to the table to discource with John Hodgman as he signed my book, the exchange went something like this:

Me: Hi, I’m Greg.

The Hodge: I’m John.

Me: I have had this pun bouncing around in my head and I can’t help but let it out.  If you converted to Islam and visited Mecca during the high holy times, you would be entitled by tradition to change your name.  What could you change it to?

The Hodge: Er… Greg?

Me: No, Hajji Hodgman!

The Hodge: Ah ha!  And my wife’s middle name could be Sweet…  No, nevermind.

He then proceeded to call me a punster.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing. But his “Sweet” comment was impressive off the cuff. I’d had plenty of time waiting in line to construct my spiel.  I was very impressed.

My parents and I were talking recently about famous people we had met; I only had one on my list until tonight: Bill Nye.  So now I can say I’ve met The Science Guy AND The Resident Expert.

Pumpkin Naming Conventions

I went to the pumpkin patch today at Butler’s Orchard and picked up a full sized pumpkin for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long.  It might have been the first time ever.

The past few years we would get a small decorative gourd from the grocery store and name it.  The first one was named Gourdon.  The next one was named Beauregourd.  I thought those were both very clever names.  Now that I have a real pumpkin, I figure I should go with something a little bigger and more grandiose.  Here are the ones I’ve thought up as possibilities:

  • Michael Gourdan
  • George Plimpkin
  • Mikhail Gourdachev
  • Samwise Pumpkee

Anyone have any better ideas?

An Impressive (Double?) Ambigram

My friend Cole is getting this tattooed on his back:

I thought it was an amazingly cool design.

Health Care Solutions: The Retail Clinic Experience

When I discuss the issues of health care with people, I tend to take what I consider the most libertarian position: that many of the high costs associated with health care are due to the structure of licensing and certification and regulation that exists in our country.  In many places around the world, prescriptions for medications needed to treat common diseases are not necessary; a pharmacist can help you get the drugs you need when you need them.  In the U.S., however, we have a gatekeeper system.

There are attempts, however, to make things work a little better here.  Some CVS pharmacies in my area have set up “minute clinics” which are in-store clinics which employ technicians who are trained to diagnose many common ills and write the prescriptions people need for those illnesses.  The prices for diagnosing and treating various ailments are given up front and everything is taken care of right there in the pharmacy.

Since I politically approve of these types of setups, I decided to go to one of these clinics and get some treatment for a sore throat / infection that I’ve had on and off for the past two weeks.  I was pretty sure I would just need a course of antibiotics and I would be fine (this happens to me nearly every year).

The technician was very careful and did everything a doctor would normally do.  She seemed pretty sure (just like I was) that I just needed some antibiotics and I would be fine, but when she listened to my lungs she thought she heard something that might indicate pnuemonia or bronchitis, and said I would have to go to a doctor.  I was skeptical because I don’t really have a cough at all, but she said she wouldn’t be able to give me the antibiotics due to the fact that my diagnosis had to be treated by a doctor.

So, I left, a little disappointed that the system didn’t work the way I thought, politically, it was supposed to.  I called my primary care doctor, but they were on lunch break so I left a message.  I drove up to their offices anyway and got lunch nearby and dilly-dallied until they called and told me to come in immediately.

I got into the doctor’s office relatively quickly after they got back from lunch and then I saw the doctor: she said my lungs sounded fine, my throat looked red, prescribed antibiotics and the whole thing was done in about 5 minutes.  She wasn’t even all that thorough, I think she just sees so many people in this situation that she diagnoses quickly and is done with it.  She seemed surprised that the clinic folks sent me to her at all.

So, I got the antibiotics I knew I needed from the start by taking up three hours of my time, burning a ton of gas, and having my insurance company pay a bunch of money.  The reform I was hoping would solve a lot of these problems apparently just made things worse, because it was so incomplete and tentative.  I still love the idea of retail clinics (and not requiring prescriptions for common drugs but letting the pharmacist be the gatekeeper) but in this case they didn’t go far enough, and for that reason I’m skeptical that the whole thing isn’t a boondoggle.

Oh well, at least I got to see a helicopter land at the hospital.

Morning recap: Diablo III

Guest author: Orlowski

Blizzcon is now over and I’m sad that I’ll have to wait probably 6 months to a year to play Diablo III again, but I’ve had a great weekend. I went to Medieval Times last night and, to my dismay, I kept thinking about my Diablo III experience.  MT was great fun. We got to cheer our hearts out for the Black and White knight (That green knight has serious issues). Maybe it was the high-impact sword fighting or the sparks from the zinc/magnesium-embossed polearms but my mind kept meandering back to the fights in D3. Maybe if I tell you guys more about it, I can get it out of my system.

Look and feel:

Much like the old Diablo games, you start by choosing a character and gender. I chose a male barbarian, much like the one in the demo video.  Hulking and strong, probably 6’8”, his frame towers over the npcs and the monsters. They have really gotten the feel of scale. The way he interacts with the environment is very satisfying; smashing tables, tearing down walls, doing a thunderclap type ability that knocks enemies back.  It all ‘feels’ right.

The pace of the game keeps up with the feel, too. The action doesnt really stop, and if it does, you know something is about to happen. There are lots of clues from the environment and music that further engross the player into the storyline. As usual with Blizzard, the attention to detail is outstanding in Diablo III. Zombies and ghouls climb like fleshy spiders from holes in the ground and you can find yourself quickly surrounded. In these cases, there is some decision-making to be made. Do you try to cut through one side of the encircling monsters or do you use an area of effect ability to destroy them all? The fun part is that there isn’t one answer.

Mechanics:


The mechanics of the barbarian are much like that of the rage mechanic in WoW. The longer you are in battle and the more consecutive kills you have the more your ‘rage’ bar fills up. certain abilities like the area knockback require a good amount of rage, so you have to time the positioning and rage generation right if you don’t want to take much damage. The abilites are as simple and as complex as they need to be. Granted, this was only a 20 minute demo, but the abilities have a good synergy, and there are many options for how to chain attacks and which combos are most effective. Attacking a bunch of sheild-weilding skeletons with a cleave probably won’t be as productive as knocking them off their balance so they put down their guard and THEN smashing them to bits.  One thing is that it’s easy to take damage in D3, but as you kill monsters, they drop health ‘orbs’ so you can re-fill during a fight.  I never really got in over my head in any of the encounters, but I’m sure I’ll get into plenty of trouble in the real game.

Monsters:

Attention to detail, attention to detail, attention to detail. One of the things that really added to the engrossing nature of D3 was the monsters. Not only did interacting with the environment feel solid and real, but the monsters did also. In Wow, there isn’t clipping with other monsters, so you were never really ‘surrounded’, but the throngs that can encircle you in D3 actually force you to smash your way out of a bad situation, using aforementioned tactics.  Some of the coolest monsters I saw were the big abomination-like giants and the vomit-wrenching zombies.

Last impressions:
This game has already grabbed a hold of some place in my subconscious.  Like Diablo and Diablo 2, this game has incredible potential for continuous solid and engrossing gameplay, and with the multiplayer options, it could be even worse as you are drafted by your friends to help out on even more missions and quests.  I can only hope that I don’t drive myself crazy waiting for this game to come out. I could definitely see Blizzard being their own worst enemy when people stop playing WoW and move to Diablo III.