Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie news, NFLers chasing chickens and Hurricane Sandy damage art

- The champion at the box office this weekend is no surprise. Hugh Jackman and "The Wolverine" slashed the rest of the field with a $55 million opening-weekend haul to earn back a large chunk of the film's $120 million budget. "The Conjuring" lost its top spot and finished second with $22.1 million, which is still more than its budget ($20 million) and elevates its cumulative domestic tally to $83.8 million. "Despicable Me 2" also dropped one spot and ranked third with $16 million and has brought in $306.4 million in one month of release. "Turbo" was the second animated movie with a top-five finish, placing fourth and adding $13.3 million to its overall total for a $55.7 million bank roll in two weeks. Somehow, people went to see "Grown Ups 2" for a third straight weekend and virtually ensured there will be an even crappier "Grown Ups 3" in a couple of years by padding the film's total earnings with $11.5 million for a three-week tally of $101.6 million. The geezer action heroes of "Red 2" made $9.4 million for the frame and have scored $35.1 million in the film's first two weeks. "Pacific Rim" snagged seventh place with $7.5 million and its run continues to fall short of the mark with $84 million in domestic earnings through three weeks against the backdrop of a $190 million budget. "The Heat" hung around the top 10 for another weekend, bringing in $6.8 million and upping its five-week total to $141.2 million. "R.I.P.D." was terrible once more, making a mere $5.8 million and stumbling to a two-week bank roll of $24.3 million with a $130 million budget hanging over its head. "Fruitvale Station" rode plenty of positive buzz to tenth place despite remaining in limited release. It made $4.6 million even though its showed in a mere 1,064 theaters and has earned $6.3 million in three weeks. "World War Z" (No. 12) and "Monsters University" tumbled out from last weekend's top 10

- So, how is that quest for tolerance and racial understanding going, world? Before answering that question, take a quick look at Italy, where the country's first black minister made a speech over the weekend and had an ass hat in the crowd show an immense amount of class by throwing bananas at her. Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge is originally from Democratic Republic of Congo and she spoke at a rally in Cervia in central Italy on Friday. The bananas came hurtling toward the stage but missed their target. It is a continuation of the bigotry Kyenge has faced since joining the government. She has faced almost daily racial slurs and threats and earlier this month, the anti-immigration Northern League party likened her to an orangutan. Oh, and there was the enlightened local Northern League councilor who said Kyenge should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel. That tool has received a suspended jail sentence and a temporary ban from public office. Prior to Friday's event, members of the far-right Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood near the site of the Democratic Party rally in protest against Kyenge's proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen. The group also distributed leaflets with the slogan "Immigration kills." Italian police are seeking the banana thrower, but Forza Nuova has denied responsibility. Kyenge tweeted about the thrown banana, calling it "sad" and a waste of food. "The courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions," she added. Several top government officials expressed support for Kyenge and condemnation of the incident on Saturday and Environment Minister Andrea Orlando tweeted that he felt "utmost indignation for this lowly act" against his fellow minister

- Every NFL player prepares for the season differently. Some find a warm climate and work out on the beach, others return to their hometown to train where they trained growing up and others seek out elite trainers and follow strict regimens designed to put them a step ahead of their peers when everyone reports for training camp. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris chose none of those options, yet he showed up at training camp in California weighing a svelte 199 pounds, down nine pounds from his playing weight last season. When Harris showed up shredded and in top shape, he was asked how he managed to improve his conditioning and odds are that no one around him would have guessed what he was about to say. Sure, he ate better and worked out a little more, but that's as far as the common part of his tale goes. For the rest of his weight loss, Harris gives credit to the inspiration of of "Rocky II" with Sylvester Stallone chasing chickens around. That's right, Harris chased animals around and while there aren't any cheesy montages scored with '80s music and him sprinting up the side of a mountain in Russia wearing a pair of boots, or of him assaulting a side of beef in a meat packing plant, there damn well could be footage of him trying to run down all manner of wildlife. "I'd just go out, man, and look for stuff to run after. All kinds of stuff. Rabbits. Cats. Everything," Harris said. "Especially when I was back at home with my mom [in Stone Mountain, Ga.]. We live in the woods, so there was a lot of stuff running out there." His also chased his dog, Polo, a pit bull. "I'd chase after him because he doesn't want to come home," Harris said. His dog has slowed down a bit at 6 years old, but he was fast enough to keep his owner chasing after him to get into top form for the NFL season.

- Ever wanted to hack into one of the most common cars found on America's roadways? Now is your chance. Two well-known computer hackers will drop some major knowledge on the world this week when they release a how-to guide for hijacking and driving a Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek plan to release the findings of their own informal study as part of the Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas. Their government-funded research unearthed a way to alternately force a Prius to brake at 80 mph, veer quickly and dramatically, or accelerate, all without the driver's prompting. The pair have also figured out a way to disable a Ford Escape's brakes while the vehicle is traveling at "very low speeds," regardless of how much the driver attempts to stop the vehicle. Sadly, a hacker would have to be inside the car in order to tamper with its computer in both instances, so taking control of some poor fool's vehicle from a computer hundreds or even thousands of miles away is still a pipe dream. "Imagine what would happen if you were near a crowd," Valasek said, adding that his and Miller's research exposes weaknesses in automobile security systems so patches can be applied and criminals' plots foiled. Their work produced a 100-page paper they hope will encourage other hackers to uncover additional automobile security flaws before they can be potentially exposed by malicious parties. "I trust the eyes of 100 security researchers more than the eyes that are in Ford and Toyota," Miller said. A Toyota spokesman confirmed that the company was reviewing Miller and Valasek's work, while Ford downplayed the study as unrealistic in a real-world scenario

- Turning tragedy into art is rarely easy, but one homeowner along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline is doing just that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Milford, Ct. resident Susan Ashelford lives in a neighborhood that was bludgeoned by the storm and like so many Americans all along the coast, she returned home to find debris strewn around her yard and neighborhood. The storm has not dampened her enthusiasm for living on the coast, but she is using its aftermath to crank out some very creative artwork that she hopes will expedite the healing process. "You live on the water because you love it," Ashelford said. "But, it can be so deadly and destructive at the same time." Her home emerged largely unscathed from the hurricane, but many of her neighbors had their domiciles devastated by its high winds and massive deluge of rain. Rebuilding has not been easy and with government aid and insurance money slow to roll in, residents of the neighborhood are struggling to get back on their feet. "It takes time, when you have to get the money yourselves," Ashelford said. Her backyard was hit heavily and remains in a state of chaos nine months after the storm, including a shed that was toppled and left on its side and a fence that is broken down and in need of major repair. After looking at this disheveled scene for weeks, Ashelford decided to take action. "I was looking at it and thought: what can I do?" she said. "Is there something I can make from all the debris, rather than sending it to the landfill?" She turned her fence posts into a picture frame for her nephew's wedding gift and the fence itself was converted into towel hooks, key chain holders and yard signs. Her art is sold at a downtown gift store called Given to Gauche and a portion of each sale goes to the Milford United Way Sandy Relief Fund
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