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Snake Bytes, 9/7: A season worth fighting for?

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The D-backs started well enough on Sunday, but it was the same old ending.

CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS-CINEMA-ENTERTAINMENT Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

Recaps

[dbacks.com] Locastro's leadoff HR can't jolt D-backs' bats - It was the 15th loss in the past 17 games for Arizona, which will try to split the four-game series in Monday night’s finale. “Guys’ spirits are OK,” veteran catcher Stephen Vogt said. “They’re not great, they’re not horrible. I’d say we’re kind of in the middle. It’s been a tough week for us, mentally and physically. But we still feel like we can win a lot of games. We still feel like we can get this thing going, and it’s just a matter of us going out and doing it and catching that momentum. It’s about us getting hot all at the same time, that’s something we’ve been missing for the past month or so. We’ve got three, 3 1/2 weeks left to see if we can make a run at this thing and get that offense clicking.”

[Arizona Sports] Diamondbacks go cold with runners in scoring position in loss to Giants - Despite compiling eight hits, Arizona went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings. “Offensively, we just didn’t capitalize in innings two through nine with some opportunities that were left out there,” manager Torey Lovullo told media on a Zoom call after the game. “We got ourselves into some good hitting counts, but then in the most crucial part of the at-bat, we might have went out of the zone a little bit to attack the baseball. We had a chance to really blow that game open, there’s no doubt about that.”

[AZ Central] Diamondbacks miss chances, fall to Giants in 15th loss in past 17 games - The Diamondbacks had the bases full and the left-handed hitting Jon Jay at the plate when the Giants called upon lefty reliever Caleb Baragar. Among manager Torey Lovullo’s options on the bench were the right-handed hitting Christian Walker and the switch-hitting Ketel Marte, both of whom were getting the day off. Lovullo said he considered pinch-hitting, but decided to stick with Jay, who popped out to left to end the inning. His reasoning, he said, was two-fold: First, Jay “deserved an opportunity,” Lovullo said; Sunday was Jay’s first start in more than a week, and Lovullo said his veteran outfielder had been “working and grinding” behind the scenes.

And, elsewhere...

[SI] Fake crowd noise in MLB created from 30 iPads - The dozens of sounds that came loaded on the tablet for each team were originally made for the PlayStation game MLB: The Show. Each noise has three levels—small, medium, and large—and layering can create additional ones. (An extra-loud cheer can be done by playing all three levels at once.) And teams can choose to customize the program with noises of their own, too. The A’s, for instance, added a recording of their super-fan The Banjo Man. The Brewers remixed some of the sounds to fade in and out more gradually. It's little touches like that can make a difference. And, of course, nothing beats the simple act of paying attention.

[AZ Central] KBO's LG Twins to train at Indian School Park in Scottsdale - The Scottsdale City Council approved an agreement last week with the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization to host the team’s spring training workouts at Indian School Park for the next three years. The facility has been used by MLB’s San Francisco Giants as a player development site since 1982. But the Giants have long been planning to move that site to Papago Park, where a new facility is being built. When the Twins reached out in spring of 2018 looking for a new home, the city let them know Indian School Park would be available starting in 2021, and everything fell into place from there.

[ESPN] Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tossed from suite for yelling at umpires - After Chris Martin threw a pitch to Eric Thames with two outs, umpire Hunter Wendelstedt stepped away from the plate, turned to face the stands and yelled, "You're out" while cocking his thumb. Rizzo was standing outside the box, high above the plate at Truist Park, without a mask on and was barking toward the field. "He was saying, 'You're brutal' and other things," West said. "We're in a pandemic situation, you can hear everything."

Mulan

Rating: C+
Director: Niki Caro
Star: Yifei Liu, Jason Scott Lee, Donnie Yen, Li Gong

This is the first I've seen in Disney's live-action adaptations of their animated catalog. All the others seemed entirely redundant, but this one seemed to offer scope for a different, more serious take on the subject. It does deliver that, but I can't help feeling that, overall, more was lost here than gained.

The story is almost identical. When the Chinese empire is threatened by Mongolians, under Böri Khan (Lee), the Emperor requires each family to provide one man to the army. Rather than succumb to an arranged marriage, Mulan (Liu) takes the place of her father in the draft. Though her ruse is eventually discovered, Mulan proves key to the defeat of the invaders. This version, however, has no musical numbers and no comic relief sidekick dragon. Instead, it adds Xianniang (Li), a sorceress who assists Khan, but who sees in Mulan a younger version of herself, forced to repress her abilities in compliance with social norms.

I love the animated version: to me, it's the best of the "new wave" of Disney features which began with Beauty and the Beast. It has a huge emotional range, and can switch on a dime, going from cheerful song to grim destruction without jarring. The live-action version doesn't manage the same breadth. For example, there are moments which feel like they should be comic - except they're just not funny. It's a serious tale, almost to the point of solemn, with this Mulan a duty-driven automaton.

Yet, boy (or rather, girl), does it look nice. Outside of a couple of moments of slightly flaky CGI, this is a beautiful spectacle, clearly influenced by the likes of Hero in its use of color. The action is well-choreographed; having Yen as leader of the Imperial army doesn't exactly hurt there. [Also in supporting roles, Jet Li plays the Emperor, and the matchmaker is Cheng Pei Pei, who was one of the first Hong Kong action heroines, in 1966's Come Drink with Me] I'm definitely sorry we were robbed of the chance to see this on a big screen, as that's the scale it deserves.

However, there's a distinct lack of emotion. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon showed a martial arts film can still connect to the viewer's heart, and this never comes particularly close. The scenes between Mulan and Xianniang have some potential, but there just isn't enough screen time for their relationship to have much impact. Otherwise, the heroine here largely operates in a vacuum, as far as relationships go, even after her true identity is revealed. The presence of Eddie Murphy's Mushu in the animated version now makes a great deal of sense, providing that necessary outlet.

Overall, I can't say I felt like the two hours were wasted, and it’s perfectly adequate as a big-budget, epic bit of wire-fu. That said, this certainly isn't going to replace the 1998 film among my favorites, songs or no songs.