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Archive for the month “December, 2015”

Movie Review: Ant-Man

I recently saw the movie Ant-Man and these are my thoughts about it (this review contains some spoilers).  It should be noted that I am a big fan of comic books, and Marvel Comics in particular, and have been so since I was at least five years old.  I am sure that fandom biases my review in some way.

By way of introduction for the uninitiated, Ant-Man is a movie based on Marvel comic books that falls at the end of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  This movie is the twelfth in the film series, which also includes nearly two-and-a-half seasons of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (a television series), one season of Agent Carter (also a television series), Daredevil and Jessica Jones (Netflix series), and five Marvel One-Shot films.  Needless to say, this film is deeply entrenched in a clearly established, long running, and sprawling interconnected media universe.

In the comic books, Ant-Man is among the first Marvel characters introduced in the 1960s (an era which included the introduction of most of “classic” Marvel characters everyone knows and loves), but in the movie universe he is somewhat late in the game.  As a result, the movie places Hank Pym, who is the original Ant-Man (played by Michael Douglas), into the Cinematic Universe’s past, and makes him a similarly aged contemporary with Agent Peggy Carter (who appears in the film in a flashback with Pym) and Howard Stark (who also appears in flashback).  As one may expect, the movie surrounds “Pym Particles” (the technology Pym invents to change his size) and the interests S.H.I.E.L.D. has in them.  Of course, things go south which causes Pym to discontinue using and developing his technology, which he then suppresses for fear of the danger that it could wreak.  Fast forward to the present day, and the man who becomes the villain Yellowjacket relentlessly pursues Pym’s shrinking technology seeking to weaponize it, which, once he perfects his own (albeit somewhat flawed) version, he does, and that creates the primary conflict of the film.  Pym, as an older man now, seeks out, and recruits, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd), a young guy with a chequered past but good heart who needs to redeem himself, who adopts the Ant-Man mantle to accomplish that.   Over the course of Pym and Lang’s relationship, he encounters Hope Van Dyne (Pym’s daughter) which, of course, goes down a romantic path, and the whereabouts of the Wasp (Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother) is explored.

As I stated above, this movie is the twelfth entry into a huge movie series which has proven itself capable of easily making fun, fast paced, well put together comic book movies, and Ant-Man is a worthy addition to that series.  This movie, obviously, is not a serious drama or artistic cinema.  Instead, it is fun action movie that holds up well with spunky dialogue, well choreographed action scenes, and surprisingly decent acting.

Unfortunately, Marvel has gotten into a routine with its movies where it presents a character’s origin, creates a conflict with a character with very similar powers (albeit with ill intent), and then resolves that conflict after it appears the hero is dead (or nearly dead), all the while meeting a love interest along the way.  Almost all of the Marvel movies play out in this way, and Ant-Man seems the most cookie cutter of them all, which does not bode well for the Phase Three slate of origin films.

Marvel appears to be cognizant of its tendency to be formulaic, so it has made each of its films a different genre into which its formula is placed to make for variety and interest.  So, for Ant-Man, the genre appears to be a funny heist type movie (as opposed to a straight up action movie) along the lines of Oceans Eleven, which, to my mind, works very well.  Other examples being the Captain America movies being political thrillers, the Thor movies being fantasy, the Hulk movie being a “monster movie,” and the upcoming Spider-Man movie being a movie in the style of John Hughes, and so on.  In addition to genre adaptation, Marvel also leverages the natural personality of its actors, which works very well for them as Marvel, so far, has had a real knack for really effective casting.  In this movie, Rudd is very much himself through this movie, and Douglas is too, and that sort of natural approach makes the characters both humorous but also very relatable.

As a comic book fan, this movie was very obviously self-referential to its placement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  For example, there is an entire scene of dialogue placed into the movie simply to engender anticipation for the introduction of Spider-Man into this universe (the entire scene was unnecessary for this movie).  The Falcon plays a brief role in the movie in order to solidly put Ant-Man onto the Avengers‘ radar.  I imagine that Marvel chose the Falcon as the Avenger to insert into the film because he is known and integrated, and not “new” to the team (e.g.: Vision and Scarlett Witch), but is not a character so big that he would steal the movie, and, quite honestly, is also played by an actor who is relatively inexpensive.  Ant-Man also explores “another dimension” when he becomes impossibly small, which must be setting the stage for the upcoming Doctor StrangeFinally, this movie has two post-credits scene, one which sets up the Ant-Man sequel and one which sets up the thirteenth movie in the Marvel movie franchise.

Finally, I have to mention the last climatic fight scene between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket.  First of all, it is mercifully short.  It eschews this tendency of late to make the climatic fight scene an endlessly long slug fest which, at some point, becomes boring and, ironically, anti-climactic as one wonders how the combatants could possibly take all that punishment instead of rooting for the good guy.  Instead, this scene in Ant-Man is fun and well choreographed and interesting due to the fact that the characters constantly shrink and enlarge in size throughout the fight, which is a new element to these scenes.  Marvel did a really good job making the scene fun and, in fact, funny.  Two insect-sized guys are duking it out and, from their perspective, it is all very intense and powerful but, with well placed comic timing, the scene would pan out to reveal them fighting on a Thomas-the-Tank-Engine table, and the apparently huge items being tossed and the carnage being wrought is really just some toys harmlessly being flung about.  I will not spoil it here, but the coup de grace on the bad guys – caused in one place by Lang and another by Pym – are pretty hilarious for comic book movie standards.

So, this movie is great for fans and very entertaining for non-fans.  Do not expect great cinema but do expect a well done comic book movie that both honors the formula but also tries to make it interesting in its setting and approach.  If you are invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you will want to see this film; if you are a comic book fan, you will enjoy and appreciate the film; and, if you are a non-comic-book-fan, while you will not find it necessary to specifically seek out and watch the movie, you will nonetheless enjoy it if you watch it when it happens to be on the television in your vicinity.

Making a Safe Bet When Playing Poker in Pa..

Many people play poker for fun with friends or competitively, but if one wishes to organize a league, tournament and/or a game that is more than simply a few hands of cards among friends, one must ensure he does not run afoul of the law. If one is interested in organizing a formal poker game, be sure to consider the below when doing so.


The Court has determined that poker is a “game of chance” (i.e.: gambling) as opposed to one of skill and/or strategy. As a result, Pennsylvania gambling laws apply to poker. The application of Pennsylvania laws takes any sort of licensing for poker games in the case of casinos and similar type places out of the hands of local municipalities and places it into the hands of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Unfortunately, as a result, the means in which a local organization, perhaps a private club of some sort, can organize a poker tournament or league without running afoul of the law is far less clear.


The lack of clarity on this issue comes from the fact that Pennsylvania law does not define precisely what “unlawful gambling” is, therefore it is not clear, at least from the point of view of current legislation, whether a private poker tournament, or poker league, is considered unlawful gambling. What can be said is that, pursuant to established case law, gambling requires three things: consideration, chance, and reward.


While the Pennsylvania courts have made some rulings on this subject, it would appear that the courts’ current view is that if the Commonwealth has not authorized it, one should presume it is unauthorized and, in fact, unlawful. One could try and squeak through the cracks, especially if it were only a one time, instead of an ongoing event. If, for example: (1) no money is actually bet during the games (relying instead, for example, on money donations to register for the event or league itself); (2) one plays with and wins/loses only chips (as opposed to money); and, (3) players win prizes based only on the number of chips won as opposed to money.


The above may be the safest manner in which to establish a poker league/tournament as it may not be considered gambling at all as money is not changing hands during the game. The set up is obvious. Each time one has a tournament, each player arrives and pays some sort of cover charge (or donation) in order to buy into the game. The cover charge cannot have any relationship to the number of chips allotted during the game. So, regardless of whether players paid the base cover charge to get in, felt generous and paid more to register, or didn’t have to pay anything, the players would all get the same number of chips at the start of the game. Therefore, the chips and money paid are separate and no one directly plays for the money, just chips. One could establish first, second, third, and/or other rankings/placings and associate prizes for each, but only according to chip totals (as opposed to money amounts).


In the scenario described above, the consideration (to qualify as gambling) is separated from the chance and reward in the game in order to ensure there is no nexus between the three (3) elements of gambling listed above.


The only fly in the ointment would be a court’s ruling that inserting a coin into a coin operated poker machine constitutes consideration to establish gambling. The coin does not have to bear any relationship to the amount wagered and traditional poker wagering is not possible in video poker, therefore great care must be taken in how one deals with the cover charge described above. If the poker game just happens to take place within a larger event where a cover charge is assessed for entrance, then it would seem to remove the money (i.e.: consideration) from any nexus with the chance and reward of the game. In addition, as long as people are playing only for chips and prizes, neither of which depends on, or is associated with, the money paid in, it would seem the nexus between the consideration and chance and reward is broken.


For more information, be sure to consider the statute and cases below:

  • 18 Pa.C.S.A. §5513;
  • Commonwealth v. Dent, 992 A.2d 190 (Pa.Super. 2010);
  • Commonwealth v. Two Electronic Poker Game Machines, 502 Pa. 186 (1983)

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on November 21, 2014 and can be seen here.

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – Please Remember Us in Your Charitable Giving for 2015

Hello folks and Merry Christmas!  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

Of course, like any charity organization, in order to help others we need your help to do it.  Please come out to one of our Clinic locations to see what we are doing first hand; our Clinic locations are described here.   If you can, help out by volunteering; also, we are always in need of money to fund our ministry.  If you feel led to donate, you can do so here.  If you cannot do these things, please pray for us and our ministry.

Finally, the Clinic exists to help people secure justice in the American legal system here in the Philadelphia area.  More importantly, however, the Clinic exists for people to be the face of Jesus to those who need it and to help people, not just through their legal issues, but through their spiritual ones as well, which so often are closely related to their legal issues.  Help us heed Christ’s call to help “the least of these” and pursue religion “that is pure and undefiled” by giving to our efforts.  Always remember that Jesus identified himself as among those called “least” as they, in the end, will be great.

Please be sure to watch these great videos as they show a few of the personal stories of the people the Clinic has helped.  Thanks and God bless.

2015 video:

2014 video:

2013 video:

Achieving Distributism – Part II

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“Asserting the right to own private property is not the same as asserting the right to acquire unlimited amounts of it, nor is it the same as saying there are no other limitations in regard to that acquisition. This is one point where capitalists will raise a huge objection. We must keep in mind that the basis of the right to private property is the right to secure for oneself, and one’s family and heirs, the basic needs of life and the ability to achieve a good standard of living according to the social norms of the society at large. This is not merely a social right; it is a right based on our very existence as rational beings. Those who do not have this must be able to better their situation so that they do, and society must be structured so that anti-competitive forces cannot act to hinder them from being able to accomplish this for themselves.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Things We Like: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Was there ever any doubt?


Well, sure, OK, a little. We didn’t know for certain that JJ Abrams was going to deliver an extraordinary and beautiful cinematic experience. We thought he would. We hoped.


[insert Poe Dameron whoop of SHEER UNSTOPPABLE JOY]

… JJ gave us the Star Wars movie we wanted and needed. The Star Wars movie we dreamed of. The Star Wars movie that we deserved.

Yeah, JJ nailed it.

From the glistening Lucasfilm logo, to that gorgeous blue “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” to the BLAST of John Williams’ iconic theme as the crawl begins… JJ nailed it and then some.


Along with writers Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) and Lawrence Kasdan (the grand master behind The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi), Abrams has crafted something wonderful and exhilarating, moving and hilarious, devastating…

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7th Circuit Keeps RLUIPA Suit Against Chicago Alive

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In World Outreach Conference v. City of Chicago, (7th Cir., June 1, 2015), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals breathed new life into a RLUIPA case that has been in litigation for 9 years. The court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the city of Chicago as to claims against the city for damages because of delays in granting licenses to World Outreach so it could operate a former YMCA building for its religious purposes. World Outreach argued it lost some $591,000 that it could have made by housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the building. The court’s opinion by Judge Posner included comments about the power of aldermen in Chicago politics.  Judge Cudahy concurred with one of the shortest and most cryptic opinions ever:

Unfortunately; and I think the opinion must be stamped with a large “MAYBE.”

(See prior related posting.) RLUIPA Defense blog reports on the decision”

You can learn more about this issue here.

NEARFest Tickets: 2000 through 2012

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest), more about which you can find here and here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.

The Festival was first held in 1999 and the final one was held in 2012.  I had the great opportunity to attend all of the Festivals except for the first one.  I also bought tickets to NEARFest 2011 which was eventually, and unfortunately, cancelled.

I thought it would be fun to catalog my NEARFest tickets here on this blog.  I am admittedly someone who is a pack rat and, because I have OCPD tendencies, I like to think I am a very good, orderly, neat, and complete pack rat!  As a result, I have kept all of my NEARFest tickets.  I took photographs of them and have posted them below.  I hope to post my tickets to other shows soon.



NEARFest 2000


NEARFest 2001


NEARFest 2002


NEARFest 2003


NEARFest 2004


NEARFest 2005


NEARFest 2006


NEARFest 2007


NEARFest 2008


NEARFest 2009


NEARFest 2010


NEARFest 2011 (cancelled)


NEARFest 2012


Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!


I AM A SUPERLAWYER! What does that mean? Our society likes to assign labels. For example, young designers are labeled wunderkinds; financial analysts who work for large equity funds are labeled financial geniuses (at least until they are indicted); people who give certain amounts to charity are often labeled philanthropists (a much overused term unless we are talking about very large amounts of giving); and people who start businesses are labeled entrepreneurs.

So it goes with the law. But the reason I can call myself a Super Lawyer is because a company that provides services to lawyers engages in a process which labels 5% of the lawyers in each state with this title. This selection process apparently involves nominations made by peers, candidates independently researched, and evaluation by a panel of lawyers. Super Lawyers receive the opportunity to spend up to thousands of dollars advertising their selections to the general…

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December 2015: “The Evangelist” Newsletter from St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Abington, PA

The Evangelist is the monthly newsletter of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, Pennsylvania.  Below is the October 2015 issue of The Evangelist which you can also read here in .pdf format.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Connecticut Legislature Makes Religious Exemption From Vaccination Requirements Marginally More Difficult

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“On Tuesday, the Connecticut General Assembly gave final passage to HB 6949 (full text) and sent it to the governor for his signature.  The bill places additional procedural requirements on parents seeking to exempt their children on religious grounds from vaccination requirements.  As reported by WNPR:

Currently, [parents or guardians] must simply present a statement that the immunization would be contrary to the child’s religious beliefs. But under the bill which cleared the Senate Tuesday, such statements must be submitted annually and officially “acknowledged” by a notary public, attorney, judge, family support magistrate, court clerk, deputy clerk or justice of the peace.

However another bill pending in the legislature would, if enacted, require the notarized statements be submitted only when the child enters kindergarten and when he or she enters 7th grade.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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