Today, a few judgments about the alleged "judgment-free zone."
NOW IN THEATERS
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya Coleman,Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow
Poor Peter Parker, always getting the short end of the stick! Despite a few well-intentioned efforts, he and his wall-crawling alter ego, Spider-Man, never got the kind of game-changing movie the Distinguished Competition gave ITS three biggest superstars, (DAWN OF JUSTICE does NOT count!), but SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING may very well be that movie. Continuing where CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR leaves off, HOMECOMING cuts right to the chase and shows Spidey (Holland) not as a super hero who happens to be a teenager, but a teenager who happens to be a super hero. Not only does he have to deal with his persnickety mentor Tony Stark (Downey), his friend Michelle (Zendaya), his beloved Aunt May who, unfortunately, hates Spidey to pieces (an incredibly sexy for the character Tomei), and Adrian Toomes, a Stark employee who decides he's had enough and becomes that flying felon, the villainous Vulture ( Keaton, playing a different kind of Birdman). We don't just see Spidey in action, we BECOME him, and share his amazement that he is actually part of this weird and wonderful place called the Marvel Universe. Of course, he still has to find out that with great power there must also come great responsibility, but the movie doesn't hit you over the head with that message. Yes, all you Dukes of Doubt out there, (Google him!) there ARE truly great super hero movies, and HOMECOMING is unquestionably one of them.
NOW ON VIDEO
SABAN'S POWER RANGERS Featuring Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa and Bill Hader as Alpha
Other than cameos from former Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson and Green/White/Red/Black Ranger Jason David Frank, this Power-less Ranger reboot has little to recommend it. Rent the original Rangers movie, TURBO, and Seasons One (Mighty Morphin) and Twelve (Dino Thunder) instead. No-No, "POWER RANGERS!"
SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE With The Voice Talents Of Mandy Patinkin (Papa Smurf), Demi Lovato (Smurfette), Danny Pudi (Brainy), Jack McBrayer (Clumsy),Joe Mangienello (Hefty) Jake Johnson (Grouchy),Jeff Dunham (Farmer) ,Gordon Ramsay (Baker),Tituss Burgess (Vanity),Kelly Asbury (Nosey), Rainn Wilson (Gargamel), Frank Welker (Azrael), Julia Roberts (Willow) , Ariel Winter (Lily),Meghan Trainor (Melody),Michelle Rodriguez (Stormy), Ellie Kemper (Blossom), and Dee Bradley Baker (Gargy's pet "howlibird," Monty)
I was prepared to fold my arms and shout, "I HATE THE LOST VILLAGE!" like Grouchy Smurf after seeing what Jordan Kerner and company did to Pierre "Peyo" Culliford's lovable little blue "children" in the live-action movies THE SMURFS and THE SMURFS 2, but this is one reboot that respects the original mythology while updating it for a new generation. I've been a Smurfophile since I saw four Smurf figurines on the cover of jazz musician Chick Corea's "Friends" album, (I thought they were leprechauns since Chick had been called "The Leprechaun" after his jazz tone poem of the same name.) but it took me a long time to realize that Smurfette is the product of her male chauvinist Belgian environment of 1958, when she was created. The movie opens with Papa (Mandy Patinkin from EVITA, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, CHICAGO HOPE, and so many others, picking up where the late, great Jonathan Winters left off) reminding us that 99 of his dear little Smurfs are what their names say they are (Brainy, Jokey, Clumsy, Handy, Hefty, Grouchy), but we wonder what exactly, the real star of this movie, Smurfette, is. We know what a Smurf is, but what is an -ette? And,furthermore, or, should I say, smurfer-more, since she was made by Gargamel to lure the Smurfs in his direction, is she really a Smurf at all?
After a series of events, Smurfette discovers a lost village occupied by other Smurfs, and they turn out to be women. Julia Roberts proves more than the equal of Papa Smurf as the girls' leader, Smurf Willow, and smurf-tacular performances from the likes of Ariel Winter ("Modern Family" and "Sofia The First"), Michelle Rodriguez ("The Fast and the Furious"), "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt" castmates Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess, and Meghan Trainor ("It's All About The Bass") among others. I can understand why Peyo's daughter Veronique greenlit (or, should I say, "blue-lit"?) this super smurfy reboot. It's entertaining for the young and young at heart and empowering for girls and women who want to know who they really are. The Smurfs may be blue, but two hours in THE LOST VILLAGE, and YOU won't be.
Before I go any further, I MUST convey the sad news that June Foray,(June Lucille Forer) who played the voice of Jokey on the TV show as well as Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Peabody's "pet boy" Sherman, George of the Jungle's wife Ursula, Tweety's "Gwanny" and so many other iconic cartoon characters,passed away on July 28 of complications resulting from an automobile accident. She would have celebrated her 100th birthday (Ironically, the life expectancy of a Smurf) on September 18th of this year. I had the pleasure to meet her at the Creation comic convention in 1982, and she was more than happy to "turn into" Jokey for me and her other fans. To borrow a line from Rocky, hokey smokes, am I gonna miss June Foray! The characters will live on forever, but nobody can truly replace her.
AND NOW, OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
In 1996, a youngster named Derek Sanderson Jeter brought a World Series victory back to New York and the legendary House That Ruth Built, Yankee Stadium. Until his retirement from the game in 2014, Derek led the New York Yankees, especially his team mates Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, and Robinson Cano, on an incredible winning streak that brought the Pinstripers' World Series record to 27 victories, the most since the competition began in 1903. Derek believed in giving back to the community, and one of those gifts was 24 Hour Fitness, the world's largest group of privately-ownedfitness centers. When Derek joined other such sports stars as Shaquille O'Neal (Miami)and Andre Agassi (Las Vegas) as the owner of the original three New York city clubs, (Madison Square Park, Midtown, and Soho), I jumped at the chance to come aboard, and I've had almost ten great years training with people who know their stuff and steered me away from my old junk-food junkie habits. (It took a long time, but, hey, they helped make it happen!)
Some 21 years after Derek became the Yankees' captain and eight years after I joined 24 (I've remained loyal despite a few flirtations.) I was watching a Rangers playoff telecast on Madison Square Garden Network, their co-owned home broadcaster (although James Dolan, their owner, is considering a sale) when I noticed a small version of the logo, usually a large purple-and-yellow mix of a yellow thumbs-up sticking out of a purple gear, of Planet Fitness, a franchised fitness chain that styles itself as "the judgement-free zone". I remembered that there was a Planet at the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel, the official hotel of the Garden's WNBA franchise, the New York Liberty, and I wondered if, since Derek turned his 24 centers into the latest New York "in" place and helped 24 become the Yanks' official fitness center (It still sponsors the Damon Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium although Orange Theory, which is known for one of the most rigorous training programs in the industry, has become an official Yankee sponsor and fitness center.) did Henrik Lundquist, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and my other favorite Rangers, make the Planet part of their training regimen? (I was thinking of using it too during an intended sleepover at the Ren because it was so close to work and I was thinking of going out to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ to see the Red Bulls play the San Jose Earthquakes, staying the whole match, and working out at the Planet after resting my happily tired bones, but you can score THAT match Nervous Jewish Mother-1, Red Bulls-0. As you are about to see, she had a point!) Since the Planet had used the Rangers to publicize their umpteenth $1-to-join-$10-a-month sale, I asked them, did the Rangers, Knicks, and Billy Joel (the Garden's first musical resident) use it regularly? The answer? (WAIT FOR IT, WAIT FOR IT...)
After a few workouts, I can understand why. The gym is awash in garish purples and empty platitudes, ("The world judges. We don't. Be free.") it gives out free food, (bagels,pizza and Tootsie Rolls) there are reports of gyms refusing to let their members cover their heads as their religions dictate, trainers who ARE very judgmental despite the "judgment-free" claim, homeless people using their restrooms, and while Derek, Shaq, Jon Bon Jovi, Meg Ryan,(I'll have what she's having!) and John Mellencamp are all known to be 24 fans, the biggest star to have had his name associated with the Planet is Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, a drug-dealer-turned-rapper who sold his fitness drink, Street King (You can't teach an old dog new tricks!) through the Planet, which also happens to be the official fitness sponsor of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. (THAT particular broadcast transmitted Mariah Carey's notorious NYE breakdown to an unsuspecting universe. You are known by the company you keep!) Sure, Donnie Wahlberg and one of New York's best DJ's, Brooklyn's Own Joe Causi, follow their Twitter feed, but I'm not convinced that it's for any reason other than personal financial gain.
Planet FITNESS? HA! My 24 trainer Julie calls it Planet F as in Planet Fail, as in EPIC Fail! After seeing those El Cheapo T-shirts available in your choice of black-on-white or white-on-black (How creative!) and not meeting anybody YUGE other than the occasional woman's basketball player, it has become apparent that this is, despite its well-intentioned attempts, NOT a good place for a total workout, one that truly shows concern for your physical (and even mental) well-being. Julie's fellow trainer Raechel calls it "the Purple Planet," which reminds me of another terrible place, Planet Purple, a planet discovered by the resident con artist of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, where all the men are named Paul and the women are Pauline and they do exactly the same thing (including speak in a monotone). Thank goodness I got out of THAT Planet Purple unscathed, but I worry for those who choose the Planet who think it's more for common people like them as opposed to Schwarzenegger-esque bodybuilders.
There are SOME good things about Planet Fitness: It has HDTV on the bikes, you get free Bic pens, they sponsored THE BIGGEST LOSER, (It just got cancelled by NBC. BIIIIIIG surprise!)and...and...and...I got nothing.
Bottom line is, if you want to lose a few LB's, try a more reputable gym like 24 or check your local BBB branch for a gym which is affordable AND truly committed to your success, not one that believes the best way to help you lose weight is to fatten you up and THEN open up a can of whoop-butt on your plump,out of shape, blubbery mass. If you want to join Planet F, I have just one question...
What planet are you from?