Scorpion: Dominoes (Recap and Review)

Scorpion: Dominoes (Recap and Review)

While the jury is still out over at CBS on whether Scorpion will be brought back for at least one more season, Dominoes, the series’ Christmas episode pulls out all the stops and by the show’s end, there should not be a dry eye in the house. Viewers watching the installment over the Internet should probably cover their laptop or keyboard with waterproof material. There are a few chuckle worthy moments and as usual they center around Happy and Toby. Oddly, for a Christmas show, Ralph’s newly resurfaced father Drew does not make an appearance. Walter’s sister, Megan does figure in the holiday and family themed episode with enough presence that if the show is brought back for a second season, she will most likely come with.

Wreck-It Ralph (2013): 3Delightful Destruction

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After much deliberation this afternoon, it was decided that my daughter, her boyfriend and I would watch Walt Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph (the 3D version) at the cinema. It was close though, I was holding out for A Good Day to Die Hard but after a little discussion about how Ralph was really a film for gamers, which I am, I went with the mass consensus of two to one.

I’m glad I did.

I got so into the film that not even the kid’s feet behind me bashing into my seat could take me out of it. I did expect to see a few more characters from the “arcade-style” game world; there was mention of Super Mario, but no sign of him, but I was not bothered about the lack of what I expected to see.

Directed and co-written by Rich Moore (along with an amazing 6 other ‘credited’ writers, probably the first time I’ve not seen a “too many cooks spoil the broth” in films) Wreck-it Ralph follows the story of Ralph as he tries to change his very nature and standing in the game he’s a part of.

The game is actually called Fix-It Felix, Jr. and it has been a firm favourite at Litwak’s Arcade for 30 years. But Ralph is tired of being a ‘bad guy’ and he has joined a Bad Guy Support group that he’s talking to at the beginning of the film. He tells the group that he’s tired of Fix-it-Felix, Jr getting medals and pies and being loved by all the other characters in the game. When he returns after his ‘bad guy’ session he see’s that all the characters have thrown a party, without him.

Ralph's world and his cross to bear.
Ralph’s world and his cross to bear.

After “gate-crashing” Felix’s 30th anniversary party, he decides he’s going to get his own medal. He takes a character’s uniform from the first-person shooter game Hero’s Duty so he can win a medal. After discovering that this game is nothing like his, he learns where a medal is from the rough-tough Sgt Calhoun. Once he gets the medal, he’s attacked by a “Cy-Bug” and when he escapes, the Cy-Bug escapes with him to the racing game Sugar Rush.

When Ralph (and the bug) land in Sugar Rush the story takes off as he helps Vanellope win her race and finds out if he really is a good-guy in a bad-guy’s role.

John C. Reilly could have been born to voice Wreck-It Ralph. There is no other actor that I can think of who could have brought him so brilliantly to life. He has the right sort of pathos and misery to his voice to make you really pull for Ralph as he searches for his ‘real’ calling in the game world.

 Jane Lynch  as Sgt Calhoun from Hero’s Duty absolutely rocks it as the tougher than nails space trooper who has a sadder-than-sad back story.

The real joy of the film’s casting (besides Reilly) was Sarah Silverman  as Vanellope and  Alan Tudyk  (from Firefly/Serenity) as King Candy. Silverman enchants and amuses while she tugs at your heartstrings and Tudyk does the best Ed Winn impression in the world. Incidentally if you don’t know who (the late) Ed Winn was, just check out Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph. Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly.
Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph. Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly.

Considering that the main character’s name is Wreck-It Ralph, it will come as no surprise that there is a whole lot of destruction going on in this delightful film. And I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t tearing up with a huge lump in my throat as the film reached its climax.

Gamers will love the film and small children will enjoy it, but, not as much as the older gamer’s in the crowd. The 3D version was very good and you felt at times like you were right in the middle of the action. Great stuff that will appeal to the “big-kid” in us all.

If you see it in the cinema, you’ll also get a chance to see the award-winning animated short Paperman.

My final verdict is a full 5 out of 5 stars, mainly because the interaction between Vanellope and Ralph made me laugh and almost cry. Add Felix, Jr’s  (Jack McBrayer) total infatuation with Sgt Calhoun and you have a really funny bit of romance in the game-verse’s air as well.

If you love gaming, don’t miss this film.

Sgt Calhoun, Commander Shepard's  ethereal twin.
Sgt Calhoun, Commander Shepard’s ethereal twin.

The Tragic Case of James Bulger; Indecent Justice

On February 12 1993, 2-year-old James ‘Jamie’ Bulger was lead away by two 10-year-old lads while his mother paid for some chops for their tea. Two days later, his severed body was found on train tracks. He’d been savagely beaten and tortured and then as he was dying, he had been laid on the  tracks so that a train could hit his body.

The senseless and horrific death of a 2-year-old toddler shocked the nation and then the world. The police combed hours of CCTV footage and they spotted Jamie being led through the mall where his mum had purchased the chops. He was holding the hand of one of his killers.

The 2 boys responsible were arrested by the police and questioned after a neighbour of one of the lads had reported that Robert Thompson and his friend Jon Venables had skipped school on the day that Jamie was murdered and Robert had come home with blue paint on his jacket.

A tin of blue paint had been discovered near Jamie’s body.

The trial of Venables and Thompson began on 1 November 1993 and ended on 24 November 1993. The boys were given “life sentence” which in juvenile terms means that they would have to serve a minimum of 8 years of their sentence. Juveniles are sentenced differently from adults under English law. A “life sentence” means anything but.

Due to their young age (both lads were 10) the place of their “incarceration” was at a secure home or unit. Secure units are very different from a prison. Both lads “did well” and stayed at these units for their entire sentence.

In a move that stunned the public, in 2001 both lads were released from the secure units and given parole. They were given new identities; new passports, national insurance numbers and driving licenses, etc. The reports on both lads stressed that they were no longer a threat to the public.

It is interesting to note that both of the lad’s families were re-located and also given new identities while the trial was going on in order to protect them from the public’s outrage.

Despite the obvious indications that Jamie’s murder was sex related and that Thompson showed no remorse or culpability for Jamie’s murder either during the trial or later while he was incarcerated both boys were released with only one addition to their probationary licenses. That addition was that the parole officer should provide daily updates to their behaviour.

Not surprisingly Venables would be re-arrested in 2010 on charges of having indecent images of underage children on his computer and as that was a violation of his parole he was put back in prison. Proper prison this time and not the “nicey nicey” atmosphere of a secure unit.

Thompson has yet to re-offend. *At least as far as we know, he still has a protective anonymous cloak, courtesy of the courts.*

The aspect of this case that is so disgusting and that continues to shock and stun the general public is the amount of time and money the legal system has put toward guaranteeing the anonymity of these two offenders.

There was a worldwide injunction against the press that forbade any information about the two lads being published. Although this injunction was violated enough to tell the public that Venables was, in fact, back in prison and why.

But to the best of my knowledge, not one penny (or pence) was spent on aiding the family of James Bulger. The survivors of this horrific murder against a defenceless 2-year-old paid their own price. His parents Ralph and Denise both suffered from the strain of their ordeal and divorced.

The very idea of losing your child is too difficult to even imagine. The loss of your child by two other older children who were “coddled” by the system is even worse.

A few years back a couple of English “tabloid” newspapers featured a story on just how Juvenile prisoners are treated during their time of incarceration. A long list of “freebies” was listed (all of which is paid by the tax payer, and if you still don’t get it, that means by the victims and survivors of the crime committed) and that list included the use of PS3’s, PS2’s in the prisoners cells, Nintendo Wii‘s, televisions in their cells and day trips.

Incredibly this did not create an uproar. Instead the articles came out and after about three days, no one cared any longer. Despite the obvious message of “rewarding  bad behaviour instead of punishing it” the public’s reaction was not just disappointing, but puzzling.

It appears that more of the public have children incarcerated than children who are not. It appears that these parents are more than happy to have their criminal offspring set up with three square meals a day and all the benefits that the tax payer can afford.

If this is the case, it makes what happened to Jamie Bulger and his murderers obscene and indecent (and believe me there is a difference) and sadly, it does not appear that things are going to change any time soon.

Jamie’s father Ralph has finally broken his silence on his feelings about the whole thing. His book is on release and I can only hope that it provides some closure for the man and his ex-wife Denise. Hopefully the catharsis of writing this story will help him and anyone else in the predicament of seeing the criminals who’ve hurt their family living the proverbial “life of Riley.”

A big noise has been made by the government in this country about making prisons less enticing to criminals. But this is talking about the adult prisons. Juvenile prisons are governed by a different section of the Ministry of Justice and this section does not believe that juvenile offenders are anything more than misunderstood children.

Try telling that to Jamie Bulger’s family.

James Patrick Bulger (16 March 1990 – 12 February 1993)

AN ARKANSAS RAZORBACK IN QUEEN ELIZABETH COUNTRY 7

After I’d lived in the shared house about six months, Ralph had a female friend who was flying in to visit him. He’d never been to Stansted Airport so I said I would help him navigate his way there. The night before we both hit the hay early because we would be leaving at about 0630 in the morning. I drifted right off after double checking my alarm clock to make sure that I had set it right.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! I fell out of bed as the last of the heavy ‘bangs‘ on my door faded. I leapt up and ran to my bedroom door trying to put my trousers on as I went. With one trouser leg on and the other limply dragging behind me, I flung open the door. I had overslept, I just knew it. The words of apology that were forming on my lips died before I could utter them.

The kitchen, which was outside my bedroom, was silent and dark. I paused for a split second to put my other leg in my trousers. I rushed through the house to find Ralph and tell him that I’d be ready in a quick minute. I went all the way upstairs and his bedroom door was shut and the light was off. Puzzled, I went back down to my room and looked at the alarm clock.

0300.

I was completely stumped. The ‘banging’ had been real, I’d heard it still resonating through the house while I trying to put my trousers on. I looked thoughtfully at my ‘outside’ bedroom door. I decided that perhaps a drunken idiot and kicked my door for a laugh.

I stood in front of the door and after I put my boots on I kicked the living hell out of it. Try as I might (and with several different implements as well) I could not get the loud BAM that had disrupted my slumber. The most I could get from the bolted shut door was a dull, heavy sounding thud. I knew I hadn’t imagined it I’d actually woken up after the first two bangs. I had been on a Rapid Deployment Team when I’d first joined the Air Force and I was used to waking up at the first noise.

I then remembered the ghostly footsteps and the rocking bit of leather on Ralph’s recliner and I got spooked. I turned on every light in my bedroom as a sort of talisman that would ward off any mischievous spirits. I finally drifted off to sleep in a blaze of light at about half-past five.

Ralph did come and knocked on my bedroom door around 0615 and I startled him by opening the door before his fist could connect with the door the second time. I told him about my experience in the wee hours of the night and he then helped me conduct a few experiments on banging the doors the wall and even smacking the hell out of the kitchen table.

Nothing we did could replicate those loud bangs that had resounded through the house at three in the morning.

Ralph confided in me later that he didn’t like walking through the house without having a light on. I’d noticed that he turned on every light in the house when he walked through each room. As he was hardly there, I thought it was because he couldn’t remember where the furniture was. No, it turned out that the house, “Give’s me the hinks.” Whatever that meant.

I had moved out and was living in Cambridge and when I went to work one day Ralph approached me excitedly. He had a new girlfriend. Her name was Sarah and I’d met her quite a few times.

“Dude! The house is haunted!”

“No shit.”

“Yeah man. We had a medium out and everything. After you left the shit got worse.”

“Maybe it missed me.”

He laughed, “Yeah that must be it.”

I asked him what had happened and over lunch he told me. It turned out that his new girl had something touch her on the neck while the two of them were watching telly in the sitting room. It also go to the point that when she went up the stairs something would brush past her as if someone was trying to go around her on the stairs. After a month things began to escalate. Every time Sarah would go down the stairs she could feel someone breathing on the back of her neck. She ignored it, thinking that after awhile it would stop.

It didn’t.

One night as she and Ralph hurried to get ready for a party she went down the stairs to touch up her make-up. Halfway down the stairs someone pushed her hard from behind. She fell down the last six steps and badly hurt her ankle. Furious, she hobbled back up the stairs to yell at Ralph only to find he wasn’t there. He’d been in the kitchen the whole time.

The straw that broke the camels back was when one week later and she was going down the same stairs. One of the hall lights had burnt out and Ralph had not replaced the bulb yet. This made the stairway gloomier than ever. As Sarah made her way cautiously down the stairs a face suddenly appeared in front of her and pushed right up into her face. Her shrieks brought Ralph running from his bedroom thinking that she had fallen down the stairs again.

Ralph told me that all he could see was a bit of ‘darker’ air in front of Sarah, but no face. Sarah then gave Ralph an ultimatum. Either get the house looked at by somebody who knew about these things or it would be a very cold day in Hell before she ever stepped foot in the house again.

Ralph called a medium the next day.

She came out and did a “reading” of the house. She then informed Ralph that he did indeed have an unwanted guest in his house. She explained to him that the house had been a coach house in the early days and that one of the ‘footmen’ was still attached to the house. Ralph told her about the ghostly footsteps and the swinging leather throw. He also told her about the bangs in the night. She explained that because we hadn’t really reacted the spirit had calmed down.

Unfortunately when Sarah turned up, the spirit decided he quite fancied her. When she ‘rebuffed’ him he got angry. According to her he was still angry and very jealous of Ralph.

He got the house ‘cleansed’ the very next day and the romantic footman was never heard from again.

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 6

A new arrival in the unit asked me if I was interested in sharing a house with him in a small Suffolk village. He’d rented the house and it was large and had about four bedrooms in it. I went out to the village of Swaffham Prior and had a look at the place.

For starters it was excellently placed in the village as it was right across the street from the village Pub. Don’t get the wrong idea. I liked my drink as much as the next person, but that wasn’t why I was so pleased with the proximity of the Pub.

The Red Lion

Pub’s were, at that time anyway, a meeting place for the village. Through the Pub, you met people, found out what was happening around the area and who was who in the village. That and if the Pub was close enough, you could drink a skin-full of booze and just stagger home.

The house itself was old. It had been a coach house in the olden days. (I cannot for the life of me remember when the house was originally built, but the coach house bit is a dead give away for how old it actually was) It was long, much longer than than the Google earth picture above. And when I lived there with Ralph, it was white.

On the right hand side of the house as you faced it from the street was an agate gravel drive that branched off to the left and led you to the back door. The front door was used only once when I lived there and that was when the local vicar stopped by to welcome us to the village.

When you entered the back door you would find the back hall, bathroom, stairs to the first floor (that’s second floor to denizens of the US) and a smaller hall to the rest of the house.

Nestled in between the drive and the back door path was our ‘sitting’ room. It had a two seater settee, Ralph’s leather recliner, a fireplace and the television. The window faced the front of the Pub across the street.

When you walked out of the ‘sitting room’ you crossed the small hallway and walked past the front door to the huge dining room. If you continued you walked through the kitchen (a perfect square of a room) and on the other side of the kitchen was my massive bedroom. That plus a utility room that housed our washer and dryer made up the ground floor of the house.

My bedroom featured the only other door that opened onto the high street. I say opened, but that is a bit of a misnomer. The massive four inch wide door was sealed shut and could not be opened at all.

The first floor of the house was comprised entirely of bedrooms. The one opposite the Pub was our ‘cold’ store. In the winter we left a window cracked and it kept most of our perishable foodstuff nice and cool.

The first couple of months that Ralph and I lived there we would occasionally both watch the telly in the sitting room. When anyone walked up the gravel drive and the path to our door you could hear them as clearly as if the path were in the room with us. One night we sat there watching the news when, during a break between stories, the volume lowered enough for us to hear someone walking up the drive.

“Looks like we have a visitor.” Ralph said with a smile.

He turned down the volume on the TV. We both sat grinning like a couple of idiots as we listened to the footsteps progress from the side of the house to the back door. The gravelly steps stopped at our back door and waited we for the knock.

Silence permeated the air. No knock. Nothing. We sat there is silence and waited for the footsteps to start their journey back to the street. Still, nothing.

Finally, we couldn’t take the suspense any longer. We both got up and jogged to the back door. Ralph flung open the door with a loud and cheery, “Hi!”

There was no one there.

We had quite a giggle about this turn of events and made jokes about ghosts and possible pranksters having a laugh at the ‘new boys’ in the village. As we walked back into the sitting room we watched the fancy leather throw on the back of Ralph’s recliner start swinging back and forth.

Ralph looked at me with one eyebrow up and said, “The fireplace must be open. I’ll close the draft.” He walked over to the fireplace and knelt down to close the flue. He suddenly stopped and looked up the chimney. He looked back over his shoulder at me.

“Damn thing’s closed already.”

As he stood up, the throw began to sway again. Ralph walked over to it and held his hand by the throw. “Nothing.” He moved his hand fractionally. “Not a breath of air.” We both shrugged and sat back down to finish watching the news.

This occurrence would be a regular event at the house. We used to make jokes about our mysterious sitting room ghost and our invisible house guest who was too shy to knock on the back door.

It was only after we had lived there for about six months that the activity increased and soon shifted it’s focus on to Ralph’s new girlfriend. But that was after it decided to pick on me and after I had moved out of the house and  into  a flat with my new fiancée .

My bedroom and it’s inoperable door.