Captain America: Civil War proves Marvel really, really knows how to make a big comic book movie

By their nature, comic book movies are not supposed to be candidates to be epic, memorable films. They are meant to be in the toy and candy aisle of the movie theater supermarket, instantly filling or instantly fun, but ultimately something you put down when it’s time to get serious about nourishing your mind or serious about nourishing your body.

capOnly “Captain America: Civil War,” the year’s first satisfying “big” super hero film, succeeds as a melodrama; succeeds as major, big, over-the-top action movie; succeeds in setting up Marvel’s next wave of films in ways DC could only have hoped for — and,
ultimately, succeeds as the best superhero movie ever made, and maybe just maybe, one of the top 10 films of the year.

It’s really that good.

Marvel has finally found the right mix of action, acting, drama and combined them with a more believable plot this time. It’s not the megalomaniac trying to take over the world (a la Ultron) or trying to invade it (a la Loki in Avengers I). It does give fans a taste of the hero v. hero action they seem to long for, in ways that Batman Vs. Superman failed to deliver.

Marvel also makes certain to show the consequences of our heroes actions and show their remorse for them, and in as realistic terms as possible for “enhanced humans,” set up real life consequences and ultimately rules.

The world’s governments feel the Avengers are abusing their power and hurting innocents. They want to control when and who the Avengers fight. A group led by Iron Man decides to capitulate. A group led by Captain America does not.

Ultimately, the teams face off in an abandoned airplane hanger in the movie’s longest and best action sequence. Seeing Ant Man turn into Giant Man is, well, awesome.

Throughout the film, the action sequences are phenomenal and even though I felt like I was watching more of an Iron Man movie that a Cap movie at times — Robert Downey Jr is just that good — this film just shines. The plot builds, the tension grows and then Chadwick Boseman comes crashing through every scene as Black Panther with a presence and panache that is just begging for a Black Panther movie. But then, so does the new teen-age Peter Parker.

Spider Man’s scenes with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark are among the best of the movie and provide, in a very serious toned film, a bit of levity among the action. Spider Man’s familiar rambling-while-fighting is also welcome and his boy-like ambivalence and surprise at his co-horts abilities was fun to watch.

And did I say the acting was very believable? At least for a movie about a bunch of people who can fly, phase through solid objects, manipulate living energy and wear 500-pound iron suits that fit like tights and can levitate and project energy blasts.

But, by now you want to know the plot. I really don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say it’s built around a brilliantly schemed plan to divide the Avengers and get them to fight one another, brought about from events from past films, and it also involves Captain America’s long lost buddy, Bucky Brooks, a la Winter Soldier, and Cap’s seemingly never-ending battle to save his 100-year-old bud (if you don’t get the reference, just see the film).

The film does leave us with some questions, especially around Captain America’s clean-cut future, and yes, it does include not one, but two post-credit scenes, so be sure to stick around.

To not spoil them, I’ll say this: if you don’t get the point that Marvel is pointing to its future with Civil War, these will drive that point home.

And if this is Marvel’s future, we won’t be missing Cap and Iron Man and Thor too much when, and if, they’re gone.

The bullpen is stacked. And waiting.


CTS-V Kicks Caddy In Gear

Cadillac is an amazing company. It has transformed itself from a stodgy, luxury-leaning brand into something fresh and wonderful.
This 2016 Cadillac CTS-V sedan is something special – and I mean really special. It looks good, it drives well and it has very few things that wrong.
Let me start with the good stuff. Look at this beast. The architectural lines that dominate the body are enough to make your drool. I love rounded, swooshy cars but when you get the straight line thing right, well, you get something as handsome as this car. I love the aggressive big grille that state simply, yes, I’m a badass.

CTS interior is well done.
CTS interior is well done.

The interior is almost as yummy. A lot of angles and straight lines dominate, especially on the center stack. It gets a little busy but Caddy stopped just when it should have. The leather seats are certainly comfortable, offering a lot of support which comes in handy when you are aggressively driving this thing. I’m not a fan of the color blue but teamed with the sparkling white exterior paint it looks as if Nautica came up this color choice. I like.
There are loads of things to occupy your time while sitting in the CTS-V. The Bose stereo system is astonishing with a CD, streaming or listening to Sirius/XM. You can hang out on the internet with the built-in WiFi or just flick switches and push buttons all day.
You could if you were not interested in driving. if that’s the case buy a lesser CTS. Nope, you’ve selected the twin-turbo V6 V, which means you want to drive.
Let’s drive. It’s had to put into words how much I love this engine and transmission. A proper six-speed stick would make me delirious but the automatic with paddle shifters does nicely. This car wants to be driven hard, really hard. The 420 horsepower V6 is willing, so willing you can hit 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds. Let’’s say the 430 pounds-feet of torque have a lot to do with that number.
Can you fling it around a corner? Check. Can you negotiate twisty roads with the agility of race car? Check. Can you stab the brakes to bail out a tricky situation and come away unscathed? Check. Steering handling and braking – this car is blessed if you are into that kind of aggressive driving.
Ok, OK, but can you live with it on the highway while taking a long trip? Yes. the cabin is tomb quite and you can you adjust the suspension for smooth cruising. Am I describing the perfect car? Hmmmmmmm. Perhaps.
Did I find stuff I didn’t like. Well, the back seat is a tad tight for the segment and truck space is good but not great. I’m thinking hard now. Ummm, well, yep, that’s all I didn’t like.
The CTS-V comes with a lot of stuff. There’s also lots of packages to choose from. My test car had upgraded suspension and brakes, lane mitigation, crash mitigation, smart cruise, head up display, adjustable suspension, upgrade stereo and premium leather seating with sport package. Curiously, when you can’t get a sunroof with a twin-turbo V6.
That put the as-tested price in the upper $60,000 range.
Oh, my.
Yet, the Cadillac CTS-V is a marvelous blend of brawn and beauty, of finesse and power. If this is not what you are looking for there are several other versions of CTSs available. There’s also a lot from BMW, Audi, Mercedes and so on and so forth. Yet, Caddy is being mentioned in those rarified circles. Good for you Cadillac. Good for you.

The NFL on Twitter? Coming this fall

The NFL is coming to Twitter this fall.

Twitter has beaten out Verizon and Amazon for $10 million global rights to stream 10 NFL Thursday night games to fans around the world. Twitter will be able to show games on its app on platforms like Xbox game consoles and the NFl said it’s working on ways to allow Twitter to stream games via syndicated partners like Google and Yahoo.


Twitter will also be able to stream the games via its apps on platforms like Xbox game consoles, and the NFL says it is exploring ways to let Twitter stream the games via its syndication partners, including Google and Yahoo.

And on one screen, you can watch and tweet at the same time.


Audi’s e-tron hot hatch hybrid

2016 Audi A3 sportback e-tron
2016 Audi A3 sportback e-tron

Despite cheeper gas prices car companies are still trying to build models that will squeeze every drop possible out a gallon of fuel. We all no gas will not be cheep forever so that is a good thing.
Audi enters the fray with the e-tron, a plug in hybrid that uses the A3 hatchback as it’s host.
It’s the only A3 hatchback available in this country. You can get a sedan but not a hybrid sedan.
Anyway, the e-tron is a nicely put together car. It is stylish, comfortable and gives you the best of both worlds, but not necessarily a lot of both of those worlds.

Well finsihed interior is a plus
Well finsihed interior is a plus

If you go EV only you will get 17 miles before running out of juice. Doesn’t seem like a lot but there are lots of trips made a day that are less than a couple of miles. Pulling off in EV mode feels quite brisk. The 1.4-liter turbo-charged engine makes about 150 horsepower with 184 foot pounds of torque. The electric engine is powered by an 8.8 kWH lithium ion battery that puts out an additional 104 horsepower and 234 lbs.-ft. of torque. Combined the output is 202 horses with 254 lbs.-feet of torque. When in EV mode the car is whisper silent. I had to keep checking the gauges to see if the car was on. I didn’t go far because the car was nearly out of juice. It takes five hours to charge if you use a regular 120 volt outlet. Find something that puts out 240 volts and you are fully charged in two hours. You can also charge the battery in hybrid mode while highway driving.
To charge the car, twist a lever hidden in the rings on the front grille. That exposes the socket. The portable charger is in the trunk. Once finished, unplug the charger and slide the rings back in place. There are now thousands of spots across the country to charge an EV. Charlotte, NC, has lots, included designated spots in certain airport parking decks.
Most of my time was spent using the electric motor which was fine with me. I’ve met few Audi’s that I dislike and this wasn’t one of them. The e-tron posses the kind of handling you expect from an Audi. That is to say it handles crisply, with sharp turning and accurate steering. The e-tron can get to 60 miles per hour in 7.6 seconds, which is pretty good for a hybrid. (You’ll also be glad to hear that in EV mode it can get up to 80 miles per hour.)
I found the ride to be comfortable. The anti-lock brakes are wonderful. My test car was a Premium Plus, equipped with 17-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlamps and auto dimming mirrors. Extra equipment included all season tires, heated front seats, navigation, audi connect and high-gloss aluminum widow trim.
The interior is very comfortable and displays a great deal of style. The black leather trim was classy and all surfaces felt expensive. The back seat was smallish and there isn’t a lot of room for storage under the hatch.
The base price for the e-tron is $37,900. With options and destination my as-tested price was $46,100.
Well, now, that sounds a bit high but not when you compare it to other plugin EVs. You will get 39 miles per galloon combined as a hybrid. In EV mode it’s a staggering 86 MPGe.
If and when Audi figures out how to extend the EV range on the e-tron, that will be a wonderful thing. For now, the e-tron is still wonderful. You can’t get quattro (Audi’s all-wheel-drive system) yet, but it may be coming. So far, this is my favorite EV. Good job, Audi.

Like Trump, Bernie Sanders thinks Apple should make iPhones in US

In a recent  interview with the New York Daily News, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he wishes Apple would make its products in the United States.

He also said Apple is not paying its fair share of taxes here.

“No, Apple is not destroying the fabric of America,” Sanders is quoted as saying. “But I do wish they’d be manufacturing some of their devices, here, in the United States rather than in China. And I do wish that they would not be trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

Donald Trump said in January, that if he wins the election, he wanted to get Apple to start making its products in the U.S., creating jobs here.

Apple currently is making its new Mac Pro computers in Austin, TX, and some components used in Apple products, like the glass used for screens on phones and tablets, is made in Kentucky.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple pays all of the taxes if owes and also addressed the issue of stateside manufacturing in an interview with CBS in December. Cook said the U.S. doesn’t have enough workers with “vocational kind of skills.”

“I mean,” Cook said, “you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.”

This could represent an opportunity for Apple, however, to maybe create, say, an Apple University to train workers for these type jobs and bring some of those jobs back, or for politicians like Trump and Sanders to bring vocational training back to U.S. schools and created a new-gen skilled labor force to bring old-gen jobs back home.


Janet Jackson postpones tour again, planning family; good time to go public for explanation

Janet Jackson took to Twitter Wednesday morning to announce that she was postponing her critically acclaimed “Unbreakable” tour, again, this time to apparently have a baby with her husband, billionaire Wissam Al Mana.

It’s been a whirlwind 10 or so months for Jackson, who released one of the best albums of 2015, “Unbreakable,” in July and kicked off a tour a month later. The album, produced by longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, saw Jackson exploring themes of love and family and also eyeing some of her longtime detractors. It was one of the best albums of her career, producing a hit, “No Sleep,” with rapper J Cole that topped the urban charts for several months.

The tour that followed again showed why Jackson is one of the best entertainers of all time, even at 49, full of energy, precision dance moves and a thorough catalog of hits from a career that’s now into its fourth decade. But the tour was put on hold in December when Jackson announced she was undergoing a medical procedure.janet

Now, three months later — which has tended to be the period doctors advise you wait before you announce a pregnancy — Jackson has delivered this latest tour and personal news.

While Jackson doesn’t say she’s pregnant, she says she again is postponing her tour under doctors’ orders while she and Al Mana are planning for their family. She seems genuinely overjoyed.

Her longtime choreographer and close friend, Gil Duldulao, also posted some thoughts on Twitter. He said the tour would eventually continue and finish.


Jackson’s tour was set to resume May 23 in Tucson, Arizona.

Fans are one of the most popular Janet Jackson message forums were mostly elated for the singer, but a few wondered about getting refunds for tickets purchased for shows and while most speculated that she was pregnant, many wanted more clarity.

Now Jackson is notoriously private. We’re talking about an A list celebrity who managed to keep a previous marriage secret for years and one who wed Al Mana is relative obscurity four years ago. But now wouldn’t be a bad time to do one good sit-down interview. Jackson is close to and is fond of ABC’s Robin Roberts.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit down with Roberts right now. Given her penchant for privacy, which has gotten stronger over the past few years, we wouldn’t expect it, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to do.


Is ‘Batman Vs. Superman’ as bad as you’ve heard? Of course not, even if box office numbers continue to dip

By now you’ve probably heard the news: “Batman Vs. Superman” is not a very good movie. The plot is going in a thousand different directions; there’s too much “stuff” in the film; the trailer gave everything away.

Blah, blah, blah.

Batman vs. Superman logo from the Warner Bros. movie Batman vs. Superman
Batman vs. Superman logo from the Warner Bros. movie Batman vs. Superman

And the first time I saw the 2 hour and 30 minute epic, I thought director Zack Synder had taken some missteps in Batman’s long-standing code of honor and made Superman too dull.

But after a second viewing and time to digest it all, I think BvS is a solid film. It’s not “Avengers” or “Iron Man” or “Captain America” good, but it’s good. The plot is still a bit contrived but it makes sense, and make no mistake, Synder can really make a visual spectacle.

This is a big, big movie and the special effects — save for some very bad CGI in the final third — are stellar. There’s more character development going on than I gave it credit for the first time and more believability.

I’m fine with Synder marching on with Justice League now, and am looking forward, still, to Wonder Woman’s solo project more than anything. That said, it’s a little hokey how our two antagonists finally come to blows — hokey in the set-up and hokey how the actual fight happens when it could’ve easily been avoided.

But there’s a lot to like. I may be in the minority but I thought Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was spot on zany and on second take, this film is much better than it’s been getting credit for in many of the reviews.

And those reviews, and word of mouth, appear to be taking their toll. After a solid $166 million debut weekend, Bats/Supes dipped nearly 70 percent in its second weekend, raking in $51.8 million. Zootopia was a distant second at $20 million, but a movie as highly anticipated as this one probably should’ve done better.

Avengers: Age of Ultron opened with $191.2 million on its first weekend and did $77.7 in its second.

Warner Bros. put out a statement saying $51 million plus is a lot of cash and they’re focusing on the total haul and the global haul, which it says, “is huge.”

For, on Round 2, BvS was far better than Round 1. Unfortunately, it’s the first impression that counts most.

Initial rating: 2 out of 4 stars.

Second review rating: 3

out of 4 stars.



NAMM 2016: She Rocks Awards celebrates women in music

Chaka Khan accepts her Legend Award at the 2016 She Rocks Awards ceremony.
Chaka Khan accepts her Legend Award at the 2016 She Rocks Awards ceremony.

Friday, January 22, The NAMM Show celebrated outstanding women in music with dynamic performances and an array of honorees at the 2016 She Rocks Awards. The She Rocks Awards is held by the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN); WiMN Founder Laura B. Whitmore and guitar shredder Nita Strauss hosted this year’s festivities.

The evening’s list of artists and award winners was a broad one that comprised established and rising celebrities, music biz veterans and a host of their colleagues, family and friends. The night’s highest honors went to living legends Jennifer Batten and Chaka Khan. Guitarist Batten, renowned  for her work with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, grabbed a guitar and regaled the crowd with a sampling of her formidable chops immediately after accepting her Icon Award. Eminent R&B vocalist Khan received the evening’s top acknowledgement, the Legend Award. She gave a charmingly brief acceptance speech after which several vocalists took the stage to deliver a spirited medley of her greatest hits.

The She Rocks Awards shone refreshing light on the depth and breadth of women making profound impacts across all facets of the music industry. An all-female house band laid down powerful grooves and the grrrl-power love in the room was palpable. There was no shortage of impressive stage presence and charisma during arresting performances delivered most notably by Amy Heidmann, who performed with her duo Karmin and Mona Tavakoli, who performed with Raining Jane.

Below is the complete list of 2016 She Rocks Awards Honorees:

Amy Heidemann of Karmin – Mad Skills Award
Jennifer Batten – Icon Award
Pamela Cole & Leigh Maples of Fanny’s House of Music – Motivator Award
Crystal Morris of Gator Cases – Enterprise Award
Cathy Carter Duncan of Seymour Duncan – Trailblazer Award
Mary Luehrsen of NAMM and the NAMM Foundation – Champion Award
Mindy Seegal Abovitz of Tom Tom Magazine – Dreaming Out Loud Award
Chalise Zolezzi of Taylor Guitars – Excellence Award
Mona Tavakoli and Becky Gebhardt of the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls L.A. and Raining Jane – Inspire Award
Sujata Murthy of Universal Music Enterprises – Vision Award
Leslie Ann Jones of Skywalker Sound – Powerhouse Award
Chaka Khan – Legend Award
Tom Gilbert – Real Deal Award

For more information on The She Rocks Awards and WiMN:

NAMM 2016: The ONE Smart Piano teaches how to play

Stevie Wonder at the Smart Piano booth.
Stevie Wonder at the Smart Piano booth.

Times, they are a’changing. Music education evolves right along with them. When we learned to play piano in an era long gone the best teachers granted lessons only to those of us fortunate enough to enjoy homes furnished with spendy upright acoustic pianos. Holy grail grand pianos were so out of reach for the average working parent they barely merit mention. The evolution of keyboards and synthesizers in the MTV ’80s heralded a slew of affordable consumer models that inspired a new wave of kids eager to learn to play. Unweighted, shortened, affordable keyboards flooded the market and hopeful parents bought them as gifts to their eager children for Christmas–only to be rejected. The purist piano teacher said no to any child who did not have an acoustic piano at home. Acoustic piano and electric keyboards were not remotely the same animal and a proper pianistic foundation was impossible to establish on anything electronic.

Pan forward 30 years. Technology is a marvel and the teaching tools available today are unlike anything previously imaginable. Enter The ONE Smart Piano, “The piano that teaches you how to play.”

Their display on the 3rd floor at NAMM was inconspicious, as NAMM goes. We wandered past several times on our hurried way elsewhere before stopping to give it a real gander.

The One Smart Piano is designed to make learning to play piano easy and fun  through its innovative e-learning model. The instrument itself is the teacher; the student plugs in an 6.0 IOS+ iPhones and iPads devices  Android 4.0+ device and follows along with Smart Piano’s downloadable sheet music as light-up keys guide finger placement. Video lessons and even piano games are available online.

TheOne is available in two models: the 61-key digital Light Keyboard and the 88-key digital upright Smart Piano. The Light Keyboard retails for $299 and features backlit, touch-responsive keys, 64-note polyphony, sustain, 128+ tones and 20 presets, folding stand and integrated app. The Smart Piano is a full-sized upright digital piano that retails for $1499.00 and features 88 weighted keys, 3 foot pedals, 64-note max polyphony, 128 tones and six drum sounds, a bidirectional USB MIDI port and integrated speakers.

The premise was so compelling Stevie Wonder stopped by Sunday afternoon to take it for a spin before a crowd of admirers. We were at their booth checking out their boards when everything became this:

“Stevie Wonder chose to play The ONE Smart Piano, out of all of the pianos in the entire piano hallway. He sat down, played through a few scales and rifts, and declared that the piano was something he would be interested in getting for his daughter. We were blown away!”

For more information: