Thursday, June 30, 2016

It Only Took 30 Months!

What do we have here?

  I don’t normally get money in the mail that I’m not expecting but I did get some twice a couple of weeks ago from unexpected sources. In late 2013 I wrote about how I agreed to spend an afternoon of my vacation Thanksgiving week getting a demonstration of FiltroPur air filtration products in return for a $100 gas card which turned out to be 10 $10 gas rebates that I had to send to the International Rebates company in Florida. That blog post (you can read it here) is the most read post I’ve written by a factor of two, well outpacing any beagle posts and my 2011 review of a Joe Namath biography (For the record, my chess posts are far down the list with the most widely read being my review of ‘ChessNetwork’’s YouTube channel and the Chessimo iPod app. It seems there is no shortage of people who want to know more about FiltroPur and their $100 ‘gas card offer’.

  I faithfully mailed a $10 rebate form every month for 10 months which cost $4.70 in postage. I wouldn’t get a rebate check for months until I would call International Rebates (the company I mailed the rebate forms to) and ask them if they had received my forms (they had) and when I would get my rebate (soon). This company would always tell me my rebate check should be mailed next week and I’d never get a rebate check.

  Eventually I just kept on calling International Rebates and instead of hanging up when they told me my rebate check should be mailed next week I would stay on the phone with them as long as I could and ask them what dates they got my rebate forms and when I was supposed to get my rebate check and start all over again since if the dates were right I should have received my rebate checks already. If they hung up I would call again and start from the beginning.

  I only talked to two representatives from International Rebates and I either elicited their sympathies or wore them down with my persistence since I received two checks for $20 and another check for $50 over the next year. I hope you noticed that I never received a $10 rebate and that the total of the rebates I received was $10 short of the promised $100 in rebates.

  I called International Rebates 5 separate times trying to get that last $10 dollars. Each time I was told the 12 month rebate period had expired. It didn’t matter how long I stayed on the phone or that I sent the rebate form in well before the 12 month period – I got the same answer every time. What almost bothered me as much as not getting the ten dollars was that the International Rebates representatives didn’t seem bothered in the slightest by how long I kept them on the phone asking the same questions over and over. Either they had taken some Zen classes or were on to my tricks or were just delighted to tell me that I wasn’t going to get my $10.

  So sometime in early 2015 I gave up and stopped calling International Rebates about getting my last $10 gas rebate check. I didn’t give it much thought and truth be told I was happy to be able to talk about my missing $10 anytime the subject of International Rebates of FiltroPur came up in casual conversation which I don’t recall it ever has.

  Last month I got a letter in the mail from a company called ‘Grand Incentives’ in Florida. I figured it was one of the many offers I get for car, house, or appliance warranties. I opened the letter to see what was inside before ripping it half and tossing it into the trash but instead of some money saving offer there was a $10 check from International Rebates! My last ten dollars had finally come home. I have no idea why after over a year I finally got my last $10 gas rebate check and I didn’t call to ask either. I did try to see if there had been some sort of class action lawsuit against the company but all I found were a bevy of Better Business Bureau complaints, most of which were resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction.

  I was happy to finally receive my last $10 dollars from International Rebates and close a 30 month saga that netted me $95.30 for sitting through a two hour demonstration and spending at least four hours on the phone. If I am ever again offered a $100 gas card for sitting through a demonstration I will need to have the card in my hand before any demonstration person sets foot in my door. As the late Ronald Reagan once said ‘Trust, but verify’.

I will treat the next company that offers me a $100 gas car to sit through a demo like Reagan treated Gorbachev...

   A few days after I got my $10 from International Rebates, I received a check from Wells Fargo for one dollar and zero cents. I stopped banking at Wells Fargo in the summer of 2014 (and wrote about it here) after they refused to let me deposit three of 14 checks for my chess camp that weren’t specifically made out to me. It took me a few months to untangle the web that Wells Fargo wove around my finances from direct deposit and online transfers to pay bills which I consider time well spent since I have had no issues with my new bank (United Bank and Trust of Marshalltown) either depositing or withdrawing money. As a bonus I haven’t gotten any calls from Wells Fargo trying to sell me Accidental Dismemberment Insurance (that I wrote about here), Life Insurance, Car Insurance, Homeowners Insurance, Bill Pay Insurance, Brokerage accounts, etc.., etc.., etc.

And again...

  The letter I got from Wells Fargo stated that I had made a deposit but filled out the deposit slip incorrectly and as a result did not get credit for a dollar that I had deposited. I was happy to get the dollar but found it ironic that the same tellers that got all ‘deposit Nazi’ on my chess camp checks couldn’t be bothered to make sure a deposit slip was totaled correctly. I got a call from Wells Fargo a week later inquiring if they could help me with my ‘banking needs’ which made me think there was no mistake on any deposit slip and the dollar was an excuse to make a cold call. I told the Wells Fargo phone representative the same thing I told the representative that called me a year ago to see what they could do to get my business back which was to wait for every other bank in town to not let me make deposits and they would be next in line. If Wells Fargo is reading this I want to point out that if you can find a $1,000 mistake I made on a deposit I promise I will open a Wells Fargo account just to deposit it in.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Gambling Odessey

  The NBA season ended Sunday with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning Game 7 of the NBA Finals to cap a comeback from a 3-1 hole against the Golden State Warriors team that set the regular season record at 73-9. This was Cleveland’s first major sports championship since 1964 and the basketball podcasts I listen to have changed their discussions from whether the Warriors are a dynasty to whether LeBron James is the greatest player of all time given his supreme performance in the final three games of the Finals. While James is the greatest player of his generation I rate him behind Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Julius Erving on the greatest player of all time lists. If you are wondering why Erving is on this list I can only assume that you never saw him when he played for the Virginia Squires and New York Nets of the ABA.

  Does the Warriors’ failure to win the championship invalidate their record breaking regular season and remove them from the conversation as the greatest team of all time? To my mind it does. How can a team that didn't win the championship be considered an all-time great team? The Warriors’ season will take the place of the 1996 Chicago Bulls when NBA discussion turns to great regular seasons much like the Patriots 2007 season that saw an 18-0 regular season end in a Super Bowl defeat has supplanted the 1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated season that DID end in a Super Bowl victory as the comparison of choice when an NFL team threatens to go undefeated. I’m not sure that the Warriors weren’t a better team than the Cavaliers but I am sure that after the first two games of the series (both Warrior wins) the Cavaliers outworked the Warriors. The Warriors made lazy passes, half-hearted efforts to get rebounds, and slacked off getting back on defense. In the last few minutes of the final game while Kevin Love was bodying up on Stephen Curry and LeBron James was racing back 50 feet on a full sprint to block a layup, Curry made a crazy behind the back pass out of bounds and then couldn’t stay with Kyrie Irving on a go ahead three. Warriors center Draymond Green gave a great effort in Game 7 but cost the team dearly by getting suspended for game 5 when he slapped LeBron James in the groin in the last seconds of a won game. It looked like the Warriors 3 point shooting would bail them out but they went cold for long stretches in the series and when their shots aren’t falling they look like an undisciplined mess of a team. Stephen Curry will have to learn like all the great players do that when points are at a premium the star players have to head to the rim, get contact, and get to the free throw line. It will be interesting to see how the Warriors respond now that they have changed in the media’s perception from a group of whiz kids to a group of groin punching whiny players.

After a strong start, my basketball picks went south and left me scrambling to get into the black money wise while my winning percentage stayed between 50 and 52 percent.

  I had previously written about the process of updating my 30 year old basketball prediction program to the 21st century. I completed my programming over the summer and as the season started I assembled the scores and point spreads daily into my database. I used a starter formula that led to promising early results but as the season went on the formula’s performance deteriorated and despite my best efforts I could not find a reliable formula that would work for the three seasons of data I had.

   After a handful of NBA predictions in this Broken Pawn Blog I moved my predictions to its own blog (nbapointspreadpredictions.blogspot.com). Since I has no reliable prediction formula, I just made the best picks I could and once my predictions were on its own blog I made predictions every day there were games on the schedule including making a pick for every single playoff game.

  My picks weren’t awful but they weren’t great either. All told my record was 168 wins, 158 losses, and 3 pushes which was enough to lose me $600 based on making a $100 bet on each game which means $110 per loss (the extra $10 being the 'vigorish' or betting cost. I has two bets of $200 that came through and I lost a $300 bet on the Warriors to win the Finals game 7 which would have pulled me to a $30 profit if Golden State had won and covered.

  My high point was a month into the season when I was up $960 on a 14-4 record. A month later I was down $480. A hot streak in January brought me to a plus $370 and a week later I had lost 5 straight and back in the red. My nadir was on April 18th when I was down $1260 but I rebounded to go 37-22 over the next month to get back to plus $20 on May 19th. After that I hit another down patch and spent the rest of the season in the minus column scrambling to get back to the plus side of the ledger.

  It would have been great to have won my last bet of the year to finish in the black but at least I put myself in a position to be on the plus side on the last game of the year. Making 153 blog posts from December 26th to June 19th every day was exhausting. It took a lot of self-control not to take my picks personally especially when I would lose because of a missed free throw or meaningless last second shot to let a team that I picked to lose by 10 points only lose by 9. Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on publishing NBA predictions for a full season I believe it is something I want to continue when the season starts up again in late October. I hit on 51.2% of my picks which is perilously close to blind luck and also just a 2.5% improvement away from the magical 52.4% break even mark.

  How can I get that 2.5% improvement? The easy solution would be to get my basketball prediction program working and I will be working on that possibly quixotic endeavor over the summer. But even if I can’t get a programmatic answer there are a few small changes I can make to improve my results. One change will be to not pick games every single day unless I see a game I want to pick. I was so fixated on providing content every day there were games on the schedule I would occasionally 'reach' for games. Another change will be to stop publishing my picks at 5am. Instead I will spend some time considering my picks and publish them in the afternoon or early evening. While I’m trying to fix my prediction program I will spend some time seeing what bets I was the most successful at. I like to pick favorites and I love to pick home favorites playing a teams that played the night before. I don’t know if I did better or worse with these bets compared to my overall bets. Finding out how good my instincts are has to be useful.

  The biggest change I have planned for next year has nothing to do with improving my results. I will pick an online betting service (as long as they are still legal in Iowa) and make bets with real money. I’m planning on betting $10 a game instead of a mythical $100 a game which would have given me a $60 loss for this year. I got a few donations from my NBA prediction blog – not $60 worth but if I am betting real money with real screen shots to prove it I would expect to get more donations even if it is from readers that profit from picking the opposite of my predictions. Making picks with play money gave entertainment value but afforded a certain lack of self discipline that led to me reaching for picks to break losing streaks and make a pick every day. Just like an overweight person doesn't suddenly lose weight by purchaseing smaller clothes I doubt think betting real money will suddenly give me more self-discipline in my betting but combined with the mindfulness of my other changes it is worth the gamble.

Friday, June 17, 2016

DGT960 Chess Clock Review

Thanks to it's folding nature, the DGT960 chess clock takes up a fifth of the storage space of the old reliable Excalibur Game Time II

  When I started my youth chess tournaments in West Des Moines in late 2010 I had enough chess sets for a hundred players but only a half dozen clocks in various states of repair and disrepair. Hardly any players brought their own clocks and I would hold off on using my few clocks until I could identify the slowest moving games in each round at which point I would give these slow moving games a clock with at least 10 minutes per side.

  This was my way of keeping the tournament moving but not especially satisfactory. I bought a few more clocks here and there and in the fall of 2010 bought 12 Excalibur Game Time II clocks from American Chess Equipment. I kept these clocks in as good condition as I could by only using them for tournaments and storing them in their boxes when not in use. I chose the Excalibur clock because they were inexpensive, easy to set and use, and seemed quite durable judging from how many players I knew that owned them for many years. In the succeeding tournaments I was able to have a clock on almost every board from the beginning of each round which made the tournaments a lot classier and made my job as a tournament director easier since I didn’t have to think about which boards were going to need a clock.

  Last fall I was ready to get some new clocks so I went online looking to get more of the Excalibur Game Time II clocks but found out that the Excalibur clocks were not available. I have found some snippets of the company declaring bankruptcy in 2009 but nothing definitive except that ‘Yelp’ reports the company headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida as closed.

  With no Game Time II clocks available I was on the lookout for a different brand of clock. I wanted clocks that were durable, easy to set, and allowed for a delay. Eventually I settled on the DGT960 folding chess clock from digitalgametechnology.com. The clocks had the features I needed, were relatively inexpensive, and could be folded into a box which I assumed would help their durability.

  I ordered 10 of the DGT clocks earlier this year and finally used them in my April youth tournament. The 10 clocks took less room in my car than two Excalibur clocks. I was able to set the clocks from the instruction guide easy enough using the middle button of the clock to get into ‘clock set’ mode and the surrounding directional ring button to set the time, delay, and type of delay. Even though the DGT960 clock is a fifth of the mass of the Game Time II, when unfolded it take up a little more surface space.

When opened for use the DGT960 takes up slightly more real estate than the Game Time II but not nearly as much height which makes it perfect for long narrow caves...

  The clocks worked just fine for the tournament. The kids liked the black and red colors and I heard no complaints. As a tournament director I had a couple of quibbles. There was no move counter on the clock which meant that if the game was in a state where one player was checking the other over and over because they couldn’t execute a checkmate I had to hang around the game and count moves instead of relying on the Game Time II’s built in move counter. My other quibble was that the angle of the DGT960 made it difficult for me to see the board and the clock at the same time. These were minor issues and like I said the clocks were fine for using at my youth tournaments.

  When I headed up to Okoboji this year I put a few of the DGT960 clocks and some Game Time II clocks into my box of tournament directing stuff because there are always those few people that don’t have clocks so having some loaner clocks is a useful extra although I don’t think I’d lend anyone my clock at a tournament in New Jersey. As it happened I did need to loan someone a clock during the first round before the blitz tournament. Without thinking I pulled out a Game Time II from by box. This got me thinking about the features most players’ clocks possess and where the DGT960 stacked up.

  One area the DGT960 falls well short of most other clocks is the lack of a way for the player to see if it is their move from across the tournament room. The Game Time II has a white stripe under the button you press after your move and when it is your move the stripe can be seen from a long distance. I only stay away from my board during a tournament for two reasons. One reason is when I’m so disgusted with my play that I can’t stand looking at my position. The other reason is when my opponent drifts into some sort of trance like state and uses gobs of time. When that happens I try to get away from the board so as to not disturb my opponents reverie. If I was using the DGT960 I’d have to get close to the table to see if it was finally my move and risk reminding my opponent that he was in fact playing a timed game. Most clocks have a LED light or lever that can be seen at a distance but not the DGT960.

  A feature the DGT960 has that I haven’t seen before on other clocks is the source of the ‘960’ in the clock’s name. Chess 960 (aka Fisher random chess) allows the rearrangement of the back row of pieces in one of 960 different combinations). The DGT 960 uses the bottom row of its display to pick a random or selected 960 position, showing a bare bones LED display of the 8 pieces arranged on the back row as well as the ‘960’ numbered designation for the starting position. This is all nice but the display is distracting if you aren’t playing Chess 960. Luckily the display is turned off with a press of the 960 button on the clock’s control panel but when the clock is turned off and on (the preferred way of resetting the clock after the game), the ‘960’ piece display is back on the bottom row! The clock will remember the last clock settings and reset it for a new game but it won’t remember the setting of the 960 piece display’s visibility.

  The DGT960 seems to be perfect for the purpose I purchased it for - an inexpensive clock for my youth chess tournaments that doesn't take up a lot of room in my car. The only aspect I can't answer to is the clock's durability which will take a couple of years at least to determine. As a clock for personal use it falls far short of what I'd want in a chess clock with the exception of being small enough to fit in my pocket. Except for the Chess 960 starting position features that I don’t use I was having a lot of trouble finding an area where the DGT960 would be superior to the Game Time II or any other chess clock until I accidentally pressed the on/off button and the clock reset. The on-off button is located conveniently on the front of the clock right next to the button you press to end your move and start the opponent’s clock. It may seem like a detriment to have the clock reset during the game but what if you are in tough spot with seconds on your clock? Wouldn’t it be a shame if the clock accidentally reset…

This action-packed video shows how easy it is to open the DGT960 chess clock with one hand, how easy it is to accidentally reset the clock, and how the chess 960 starting position icons reappear after turning the clock off and on. Please send any 'hand modelling' inquiries via private email.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Software Process - A Retrospective

  In 1993 I was working at what was then called Wyatt Data Services (it was called Executive Compensation Services before that and called something else after that as the company was bought, sold, and rebranded even during the three years I worked there). I was given an assignment to work with marketing manager Bob Crane to allow his department to create custom invoices targeted to specific groups of customers. Bob was a bear of a man who was way ahead of his time in terms of using computers, mailing lists, and promotional materials. Bob would create mailing lists using different criteria and target the customers he wanted by running different lists of customers and merging or excluding one list against another as his purposes dictated to target the exact group he wanted. I stole that idea when I worked writing retail software and while other retail companies could export a list of customers meeting criteria, my customers could create lists of customers who bought shoes but never bought shoe laces or which customers purchased merchandise in the main retail store but never from the outlet center across town or even which customers bought both shoes and socks as well as any other conceivable combination. People thought my software’s customer management module was visionary which was pretty funny since Bob was the real visionary who had been using these concepts almost a decade earlier.

  I created a mechanism for Bob’s department to create custom invoices with offers for related products offered by our company. The custom invoices would be grouped to particular customer sets and mailed with specific promotional materials. Before and after printing each batch of invoices on the company laser printer (a rarity for 1993) a page with an ‘X’ from corner to corner was output to help the mailroom people separate the batches. Each batch also had a code that was printed on the invoice and a cover sheet showing the code, description, and counts for the batch.

  The software worked great and everyone was happy, even Bob who wasn’t especially easy to please. I had accepted a new job and had given my notice when Bob came to talk to me about the invoice program. He told me the mailroom was constantly mismatching the promotional materials with the groups of invoices and wondered if it was worth purchasing a laser printer with two trays so we could separate the batches with a different color paper that would be in the second tray. I told Bob that if the mailroom people couldn’t be bothered to look for the code on the invoice or the page with the giant ‘X’ they weren’t going to look for a different color paper. I said the answer wasn’t to get a new printer – the solution was to get new mailroom people. Bob laughed and said he was going to miss me when I left.

  Last year I wrote about the process of updating my centraliowachess.com website to allow for the parents whose children attend my youth tournaments the ability to register for the tournaments using a self-signup feature. In September the changes were put to the test and passed successfully although as with most software projects there were a few kinks to iron out. I ran seven tournaments through the school year and all but a handful of the players were signed up using the new method. This was great for me in that it cut down any misunderstandings about which session and sections someone was going to participate in and each entry didn't require my individual attention.

  I hoped that allowing players to see who had signed up would help boost attendance and also get more players to play in the rated section as opposed to the unrated section designed for the casual or beginning players. Neither of these things happened. My attendance was well within historical levels but that mostly due to a large number of players from one school club that came to three tournaments. I allowed players to play in the rated section for free for the first four tournaments and even then there were a few players who wanted to play in the beginner section even though they were well able to play in the rated section for more experienced players.

  Once I stopped allowing free entry to the rated section it was a 50-50 proposition as to whether I’d have enough players to have a rated section in the first place. I had been advertising for quite some time that if there weren’t at least four players I wouldn’t have a rated tournament so I was covered on that front. My last tournament of the year was in April. In the morning there were two players signed up for the rated section so I assumed I wasn’t going to have a rated tournament. There were two players that had played in previous rated tournaments but since their parents had signed them up for the unrated tournament I knew there wasn’t a misunderstanding.

  I had plenty of players for the unrated section and was checking them in when a player came to play in the rated section without pre-registering. Pre-registering is not a must for the tournament and I explained that I wasn’t going to have a rated tournament unless we had one more player sign up. The player and parent talked a bit and then left. A minute after they left another player came to play in the rated section also without pre-registering. Because the other player left I still didn’t have enough players for a rated tournament and just rolled the three players who wanted to play in the rated section into the unrated tournament.

  The tournament was great and everyone was good sports. I got more than a few questions about why I didn’t have a rated section to which I explained about needing four players to have a tournament. The parents whose children had played in previous rated tournaments said they would have had their kids sign up for the rated section but when they signed up for the tournament they saw there weren’t any players in the rated section so they signed up for the unrated tournament instead! Given the precedent of putting the rated players in the unrated section when there wasn’t enough players I think either the parents weren’t paying attention or maybe were trying to sound nice.

  My efforts to make it as easy as possible for parents to sign up for my youth tournaments and help boost participation in the rated tournaments by letting people see who had signed up didn’t get the bang for the buck I was hoping for because I forgot the point I was trying to make to Bob Crane nearly a quarter of a century ago. People are going to do what they are going to do and there isn’t much technology can do about it. Showing who is attending a tournament won’t include people who don’t sign up in advance and people who don’t want to play in the rated section aren’t going to do that either. Maybe Bob wasn’t the only visionary…

Friday, June 3, 2016

Movie Review - X-Men : Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse was THE best movie I've seen in a long time!

  The 6th movie in the Fox Studios X-Men series (9th if you count the two Wolverine and one Deadpool films) ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ hit the theater last weekend. I had been looking forward to this film since the 2014 ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ teased the super-villain Apocalypse, an ancient mutant whose powers include the ability to supercharge other mutants. I made it to the Fridley Theater in Marshalltown with the entire family and our neighbor Don into a sparse movie theater last Saturday night to see this film.

  The reviews for ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ haven’t been very good and the movie is not grossing anything near the levels of the Marvel studios recent ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (Fox owns the rights to the X-Men portion of the Marvel Universe). I don’t pay much attention to reviews and in this case I was glad of it – this movie was outstanding in every aspect.

  The six X-Men movies are divided into 2 sections, the first three with the original cast of Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, etc…) and the reboot with a new cast and a new origin. 'X-Men: First Class' was set in the 1960’s Cuban Missile Crisis while X-Men Days of Future Past brought the old and new casts together in a time travel saga set in the 1970’s. X-Men Apocalypse is set in the 1980’s but unlike the previous two movies there wasn’t a huge investment in making the movie a period piece, with the budget used instead for the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and the destruction of the world as we know it.

  The beginning of the movie is in ancient Egypt and shows an aged Apocalypse transferring his consciousness into a selected mutant’s body which is how he accumulates his powers. Some treachery leads to Apocalypse being buried under his pyramid in a stasis field until the 1980’s when he is uncovered. This took up a half hour of the movie which I didn’t mind because the pyramid implosion is tremendous and the stage needed to be set to see what Apocalypse was all about and how his followers were so devoted they would defend him to their last breath.

  Meanwhile in the present time of the 1980’s we catch up with some of the X-Men ten years after Magneto’s attack on Washington outlined in ‘Days of Future Past’. We see Mystique on a quest which leads her to meet mutants Angel and Nightcrawler in a fight club. The fight scene was excellently staged, showing Angel as a savage winged creature instead of just a flying mutant and Nightcrawler’s teleporting and tail work at close range in a ferocious battle. The fight club only takes a few minutes and then we catch up on Magneto who has forsaken his quest against humanity and is living a seemingly idyllic existence as a nondescript iron mill worker in Poland with his adoring wife and daughter.

  Unfortunately tragedy continues to follow holocaust survivor Magneto as his true identity is discovered when he saves his fellow worker from being doused with molten iron. Magneto is confronted by a police unit in the woods far away from any metal. The police unit kills Magneto’s wife and daughter which treats us to a typical awesome Magneto moment as he uses his daughter’s metal necklace to slit the throats of the entire police unit in seconds.

  Meanwhile Apocalypse is released from his statis field under his pyramid and again walks the earth. He touches a television and assimilates the entirety of world history from the airwaves. Apocalypse is aghast to discover humans rule the world instead of mutants and sets about making things the way they used to be. His first step is to assemble his four horsemen which includes Storm, an improved Angel retrofitted with razor sharp metal feathers, and Magneto himself. We get a taste of Apocalypse’s power when he kills the iron workers that reported Magneto to the authorities by merely waving his hand and dissolving them into ashes.

  While all this is going on we are treated to plenty of the X-Men. The featured characters of the band in this movie are newly arrived Cyclops and Jean Grey. A short amount of time is spent hinting at their future romance but the movie is mostly focused on action as Professor X is made aware of Apocalypse when searching for him with the powerful ‘Cerebro’ device that can scan every mind on the planet. Apocalypse instead takes over Cerebro and uses it to control the soldiers that hold the keys to all the nuclear weapons on earth, shooting them into outer space and detonating them. Apocalypse then convinces Magneto to use his amplified control over metal to destroy the planet while he selects Professor X’s body and powers for his new incarnation so he will be able to control every mind on the planet.

  My favorite part of the movie was pretty much the same as my favorite from ‘X-Men:Days of Future Past’ which is the portrayal of Quicksilver’s super speed powers. In this film the speedster saves almost all the residents of Xavier’s School for Gifted Children from a massive explosion with the camera stopping everything except Quicksilver who seems to be moving at normal speed in a slow motion world. It is a unique take on super speed which is almost always shown as a super-fast person in a normal speed world. My favorite part of the movie was when Quicksilver saves some goldfish by using their goldfish bowl to catch their water and then the fish all in midair! I can see a Quicksilver movie being as big a hit as Deadpool with the adventures of the 30-something speedster that lives in his mother's basement resonating with every geek in the world.

  I don’t want to give away too much of the movie but I will say that it was action-packed and even at a running time of 144 minutes I never thought it was too long. The mutant powers were all excellently done and the special effects of major cities slowly crumbling was as realistic as any I’ve seen. Apocalypse was a worthy villain and one that both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios should take note of for the big screen debuts of Darkseid and Thanos. Apocalypse’s world view that the most powerful should rule the world with no regard for the fate of the less powerful combined with the seeming compassion he shows towards his ‘four horsemen’ made his character pop in a way that rivals the Joker’s unique brand of insanity for easily understood villany.

  There were only a few things I didn’t like about the movie. Apocalypse was far too powerful to be bothered by run of the mill X-Men like the Beast and even Quicksilver. I doubt a being that can turn people to dust with a wave of his hand would be bothered to do more than wave that hand to dispense with any but the most powerful mutants. The glaring character weakness I was disappointed in was the mighty Magneto. His rage at having his family murdered was great but his being willing to turn his back on Apocalypse came out of left field in my eyes. There are just small quibbles in an otherwise excellent movie.

  ‘X-Men Apocalypse’ was the top-grossing movie of the weekend but has not attained the numbers of previous X-Men movies and doesn’t appear to be coming close to Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman, or Captain America: Civil War. This is a shame since I consider this movie to be the best comic book movie so far this year. I think part of the problem is the reboot of the X-Men movie franchise while still attempting to retain the continuity to past movies by being set in the past has confused many movie goers. DC seems content to restart their franchises from scratch and it will be interesting to see how Marvel handles the eventual need to replace their Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America actors. With this movie I consider the X-Men franchise successfully rebooted and it only remains to see whether the group can be brought to the modern day time before yet another reboot is required.