Internet

Apollo Robbins Picks All Of The Pockets

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Something I’ve always been a bit dubious of in the movies is pickpocketing. We’ve all seen it: a scene where a guy bumps into someone and steals their wallet or keys while the person is distracted by being bumped. It’s just a little hard to accept that a simple jostle would be enough of a distraction to not notice someone reaching into your pocket and removing something.

After reading this fascinating profile of Apollo Robbins in the New Yorker, and watching videos of his work on YouTube, it’s a lot easier to accept. Granted, Robbins is a performer and magician, allowing him to engage in far more complicated distractions than simply bumping into someone on the street, but it’s still pretty jaw-dropping to see him work. Or to try to see him work. He removes people’s watches and puts them on his own wrist without them noticing. He lifts wallets and removes or adds things to them. In just a few seconds of work he can pilfer phones, keys, scarves, even, in one case, taking one woman’s eyeglasses off her face without her noticing.

Here’s some videos. It’s neat that even once he’s explained some of his tricks, and you can see them happening, it’s still extremely hard to see everything that’s happening.

On the Today Show, he gives items to Matt Lauer, Ryan Seacrest, and whoever the third guy is, then steals them back, while performing a magic trick with a $100 bill.

Starting about a minute in to this next video, Robbins performs some neat coin tricks while simultaneously stealing watches from a group of women.

Here he is demonstrating and explaining his talents on the author of the New Yorker piece.

And below is portion from a National Geographic show Test Your Brain (called Brain Games in the U.S.) where Robbins pilfers a number of items from one hapless participant, with some explanation on how and why your brain allows him to so mercilessly strip you of your belongings. Here’s the full episode of the U.S. version (includes a glimpse of him stealing glasses off a woman’s face.)

 

KNIGHT RIDER

Just My Bill

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Knight Rider: Season 1, Episode 6: “Just My Bill”

The thing about the early 1980′s is that they were still, essentially, the late 1970′s. So, when Michael Knight shows up to perform bodyguard duty for a United States senator, it’s completely appropriate for his shirt to be unbuttoned almost down to his navel.

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Hey, his EYES are UP THERE, ladies.

The senator in question is a friend of Devon’s, Maggie Flynn, who has been receiving death threats and has already had one attempt made on her life. Maggie is brash, opinionated, smart, capable, and friendly, but her most notable attribute, when you consider Knight Rider’s traditions, is that she’s friggin’ old. Her oldness is extremely confusing and upsetting to me, because this is Knight Rider and every episode must revolve in some way around a young, attractive woman for Michael to romance. I mean, what the hell? Is Michael going to travel back in time to hit on Maggie when she was young and sexy?

Wait! False alarm. Maggie has a young, attractive secretary named Jane.

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Whew. My Knight Rider worldview remains intact.

After an assassin tries to run Maggie over with a car, Maggie decides to attend a conference out of town, and Michael, being an excellent bodyguard, decides not to accompany her, because it’s easier to guard someone if they’re in another part of the state. Plus, he now has plenty of time to spend with young Jane.

Some detective work reveals there’s a bill in the senate over the construction of a power plant, and predictably, all the old white men in the senate want it to pass because they have a financial stake in the plant’s construction. Having briefly tried to discourage Maggie from voting against it, they’ve moved to stage two of every plot on this show: straight-up murder.

The evil government goons reschedule the vote to take place while Maggie is out of town, and armed thugs surround the remote retreat where Maggie’s conference is taking place to prevent her from leaving. Michael races to the retreat to collect Maggie, turbo-boosting over the goons’ cars, and already we suspect that the show’s budget might be under strain because KITT’s front end flops around and almost falls off during the jump.

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No ramps here. Just an innocent bush. Move along.

A helicopter is dispatched to destroy KITT with a grenade launcher, and after evading several blasts, Michael pops the sunroof and climbs onto the chopper. He pulls one goon out, and then punches and judo-chops the pilot in that part of the back where you can totally chop a guy to knock him out. You know the spot. Despite being unconscious from such powerful, expertly delivered blows, the pilot is nice enough to scoot over enough so Michel can “throw” him out of the chopper. I’ve uploaded this amazingly choreographed scene for you to be dazzled by:

Michael gets Maggie to the vote on time, and the evil power plant bill is defeated successfully, and the bad guys are all arrested, and everyone goes to dinner.

This is pretty dull episode, honestly, but it’s effective at highlighting what was so special about the 1980′s. It was a time when hairy chests could be exposed with pride, when halfhearted judo-chops were still an effective way to render someone unconscious, and when the senate actually functioned properly from time to time.

And, of course, it was a time when TV shows could end with everyone laughing at something, followed by a freeze-frame. Good times!

MICHAEL’S INCOMPETENCE: MEDIUM
Allows car-driving assassin to out-drive him, lets Maggie’s body leave town when he’s supposed to be guarding it.

MICHAEL’S ROMANCE: LOW
Michael has breakfast with Jane, but it’s just breakfast, not, you know… “breakfast.”

KITT’S POWERS:
Surveillance mode to detect movement, onscreen display of people being pursued, which looks like this:

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CASTING NOTES: Maggie is played by Carole Cook, who I remember from Sixteen Candles as the grandmother who felt up Molly Ringwald.

Stream Cuisine

Stuff I’ve Streamed on Netflix Lately

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Just some quick reviews for stuff I’ve recently watched on Netflix Streaming.

Sleepwalk With Me: Autobiographical film written, directed, and starring Mike Birbiglia, based on his stand-up comedy career, personal life, and his REM sleep behavior disorder, a dangerous and terrifying condition which makes him act out the dreams he’s having. If you follow Birbiglia’s comedy and writing, none of this material is new to you (especially some of the same jokes he’s been telling for, like, eight years now) but it’s still an enjoyable, funny, sad, and interesting film. If you don’t know Mike Birbiglia, this is an excellent place to start.

The Queen of Versailles: An excellent documentary about the ultra-rich Siegel family, owner of Westgate Resorts and proud builders of the largest home in America, an unfinished 85,000 square-foot monstrosity which cost $100 million dollars. An interesting and personal examination of how the U.S. economy tanking hit the wealthiest of Americans, though it’s hard to feel completely sorry for someone complaining about financial troubles while they’re in the midst of building a home with 30 bathrooms.

Headhunters: Norwegian thriller. I was reading the description and accidentally hit the play button and was like, Eh, guess I’ll watch it, otherwise I’ll have to press another button. Anyway, it starts out as the promising tale of a clever art thief living above his means until he goes for that one big heist that winds up being a lot more trouble than it’s worth. I was into this for a bit, but about halfway through it just descends into absurdity. Stars one of those guys who I think is in Game of Thrones. Yeah, I’m a good film reviewer!

Fire With Fire: 2012 action film starring Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, Josh Duhamel, and right about now you’re thinking “Why the hell did I not hear of this?” and the answer is because it went straight to DVD, because it’s a very, very bad film. Josh Duhamel is a firefighter who goes all vigilante on some gangsters after they try to kill him to prevent him from testifying against them. I’m pretty sure Bruce Willis was just doing someone a favor, and I’m pretty sure they only had him for one day because all of his scenes are of him talking while walking down the same hallway a bunch of times.

The Next Three Days: Russel Crowe’s wife goes to prison for a murder she may not have committed, and Russel Crowe comes up with a plan to spring her, and you will not be spared a single minute of his extensive, laborious, endless careful planning. This isn’t a terrible movie by any means, it’s just slow, and not particularly interesting. I don’t know. It was okay.

After Porn Ends: Former pornography performers are interviewed about how their careers began and how they adjusted to life after leaving the porn industry. An interesting subject, and as you might guess, fairly depressing in a number of instances, though at least a couple of the actors seem to have survived and remained well-adjusted. Mostly not, though. This will bum you out and make you not want to watch porn again for, like, almost a whole day.

Heckler: Jamie Kennedy’s documentary about people who heckle stand-up comedians starts well, probing the heckler’s motivations (sometimes– mindbogglingly– they actually think they are helping the comic). However, the film quickly turns into a counter-attack on what Kennedy seems to feel are the real hecklers: film critics. He has a fair point: critics and bloggers can be overly harsh and brutal in their reviews (I know I have been, probably on this page), but then again, he doesn’t seem to mind using positive blurbs from critics to cover the poster for Heckler. So, maybe you have take the bad with the good?

Television

Justified Returns!

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Justified returns tonight on FX to begin its fourth season, and to this I say: Hoo. Ray. TV critics can fight one another all year long to prove who loves Breaking Bad or Homeland more, but for me, Justified is the best-written and most enjoyable show on TV. There’s a number of reasons why Justified is so great: the casting is top notch, the performances are routinely excellent, both the season-long arcs and the case-of-the-week stories are interesting, fun, and surprising, but most of all, the writing is just thoroughly fantastic.

Here’s one example of a single scene that, to me, sums up what is so special about the way Justified is written.

In a Season Three episode, Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) had paid a visit to a recurring bad guy, Wynn Duffy (played by the enjoyable Jere Burns). They’d clashed before, and Raylan had run him out of town with a warning to never come back. At this latest meeting, Raylan knocked Duffy down, ejected a bullet from his gun, and dropped it on Duffy’s chest. As a threat, Raylan said: “The next one’s coming faster.”

Now, that’s a cool thing to do and say, but doing a cool thing and saying a cool thing is hardly groundbreaking for a hero cop on TV. The creators of Justified, however, don’t just leave it at that.

Several episodes later, Wynn Duffy and his boss, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) try to frame Raylan by leaving the shell casing from Raylan’s bullet, with his fingerprints on it, at the scene of a murder. A homicide detective, an FBI agent, and Raylan’s boss, Art (Tom Searcy) question Raylan about this shell casing and how it wound up with his fingerprints on it. Let’s watch!

In case that video has been removed by FOX or Vimeo, here’s a transcript of the scene:

FBI Agent: “You’re in the motor coach, with Robert Quarles and Winn Duffy, there’s a bodyguard out front, but that still doesn’t explain to me how you got your fingerprints on a bullet casing.”

Raylan: “I threw a bullet at him.”

Homicide Detective: “You threw a bullet at him.”

Raylan: “Yeah.”

FBI Agent: “Wait. You… threw a bullet at him?”

Raylan: “No-no, I, like… dropped it.”

FBI Agent: “On the floor?”

Raylan: “On Duffy.”

FBI Agent: “So, Duffy was on the floor.”

Raylan: “Yes.”

Homicide Detective: “You failed to mention that, Deputy.”

Raylan: “Well, I’m… mentioning it now.”

Homicide Detective: “How’d he get on the floor, I wonder?”

Raylan: “Look, you wanted to know how my prints got on the casing, now you know. Okay?”

FBI Agent: “Wait, why-why did you throw a bullet at him?”

Raylan: “I was trying to make a point.”

Homicide Detective: “Which was?”

Raylan: “Get the hell out of Kentucky, and don’t come back.”

FBI Agent: “How was throwing a bullet at him going to accomplish that?”

Raylan: “Told him the next one might be coming a little faster.”

FBI Agent: *Long pause* “Deputy. That might just be the coolest thing I’ve ever laid ears on.” *Laughs*

Art: “Did you come up with that all on your own?”

Raylan: “Heard it on the Johnny Carson show once. He was telling some old gangster story, I always thought it was kinda cool.”

FBI Agent: “Well, that just gets better and better, huh?”

Homicide Detective: “It’d be a lot better and a lot cooler if it had actually worked.”

FBI Agent: *Laughs* “But still!” *Pauses* “It’s a shame we have to lock you up.”

To me, that’s just brilliance. There’s no shortage of cop shows on TV, and no shortage of cops doing and saying cool things. But now we have a cop doing something cool and saying something cool, and then later having to explain it, step-by-step, almost deflating the coolness of the act for the audience, who witnessed it the first time. Then, another cop sits back and admits how cool he thinks it is. Which is rare: again, people are always saying and doing cool things on TV, but how often does anyone actually point out how cool the cool things are? And finally, Raylan somewhat sheepishly has to admit that he’s not cool enough to have thought up the cool thing by himself, but that he heard it on an old episode of Carson.

Coolness. Deconstruction of coolness. Acknowledgement of coolness. Admitting coolness isn’t quite as cool as it seemed. I love it. To me, that scene is the best bit of writing to come out of TV last year, and that kind of writing is what makes Justified the best show on TV.