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Expect some guest posts from our pop-culture liaison Leora Horowitz and sports and movie man Moshe Kolb.
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Great Hunger Games Article!!!


Why Guys Will Love Goon But Their Wives Will Not.

There is something thrilling about seeing a movie before others. I often try to attend movie screenings whenever I have a chance. For instance, being part of the first audience to ever see 127 Hours 4 months before it came out while sitting next to Aaron Ross himself was quite the thrill. Recently, I had the privilege to view the upcoming film Goon starring Sean William Scott. The film is based on the true story of Doug Smith, an amateur boxer who made a career for himself being a thug and a fighter in the American hockey leagues, eventually making the roster of an AHL team. The film is extremely violent and focuses and the brutally real world of Hockey fighting and violence. The film graphically depicts the punching, cuts, blood, and bruises associated with such a violent sport. Surprisingly, I thought the movie was actually quite entertaining and is receiving pretty good reviews from some of the harshest critics out there.
The movie focuses on Doug Glatt, a lifeless mid-American guy who has nothing going for him other than his hard head and lethal fists.  When given the chance to play for the local hockey team, Doug becomes a fan favorite as the team’s thug who is willing to go toe to toe with anybody to protect his team. But Dougie is not a violent or mean guy. Scott actually plays him as a sweet idiot who just tries to use the talents he was given for good. For such a violent film, Goon is rowdy yet humane and sweet.  The added plot line to the film is that as his team is trying to make the playoffs, Doug faces off against Ross “The Boss” Rhea(Liv Schrieber) the most legendary bruiser and thug in hockey history; think McSorey and Scott Stevens rolled into one. As Rhea is planning to retire, he hopes to prove his worth with one last showdown with the newest thug. The movie has a nice tempo to it, constantly moving without leaving the audience bored. Scott completely sells himself to the role and is excellent as the quite spoken yet deadly goon.
The film isn’t very deep other than the message of teamwork and self sacrifice but it adds some good comedy and touches upon some of the greatness of the classic film Slap Shot. One critic when as far as saying, “With apologies to The Mighty Ducks, we are, almost certainly, looking at the second-best ice hockey movie ever made. (Slap Shot retains the top spot)” The supporting cast is both funny and satisfying as they play their role and let the true stars of the film shine.
While I strongly recommend this movie any guy, especially those who love hockey and quote Slap Shot, this film is not for women. No I am not a sexist pig or anything like that; but I feel that there is little for women to enjoy here. There is of course a romantic twist to the film as Doug falls for a local hockey loving girl but for the most part, unless you find men with bloody noses, black eyes, and missing teeth attractive, you won’t enjoy the film.
Finally, I just want to emphasize the brutality of the film. The director focuses on and sometimes even slow motions the extreme violence in these fights. When someone is punched, we see the cut open and the blood spurt. When someone’s head gets smashed we feel the bone crunching hit. Cuts are opened, bones are broken, and faces are absolutely disfigured. If you don’t mind this then enjoy the film.

Sex: Very Brief Partial Nudity and some references to sex
Violence: As graphically violent as you can get
Language: non-stop vulgar language
Drugs: brief marijuana use
Rated: R
Run time: 90 minutes
Grade: 3 Stars

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why America is Getting it Wrong with the Hollywood Bracket.

I have followed Colin Cowherd’s Hollywood Bracket very carefully and noticed a trend, the oldies are winning out. I know that these top seeds are top seeds for a reason but I think we are getting this all wrong. In my eyes this bracket is about who is the best Hollywood star/actor. That means, an actor’s star status as well as their acting chops need to be analyzed in every vote. I have gotten the sense that people are just voting with all the top seeds or all the older actors when in fact some of the younger actors should get some more credit. But enough complaining let’s get to the Bracket.
Record: 52-4
Upset Picks: 7-4
Here we go, let’s make the Final Four Picks

Brando Region
·         If DiCaprio (2) got any other #1 he would have had a chance with his acting skills but Hanks (1) more than any other #1 seed has perhaps the greatest acting resume. Hanks is a once in a lifetime actor and a fan favorite. It hurts for me to knock out my boy Leo but my gutt is telling me that Hanks cruises to the Final Four.
o   Winner: Hanks
Wayne Region
·         In another 1-2 matchup Washington (1) takes on De Niro(2). This is a clash of the titans right here. Both are great actors and both have massive followings. In deciding this matchup I decided to put myself in the shoes of the voters. Deep down I think that this generation is more in touch with Denzel who is still starring in films than De Niro who is winding down his career. I am going to go with the masses in this close one and pick Denzel because “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me!!!”
o   Winner: Denzel
Newman Region
·         Can Red make an unbelievable run to the finals? I think so. Freeman (3) is in a nail biter with our favorite Jack (1). I think this will be a super close one as Jack has a strong acting resume and is quite the star. But my heart is telling me that Freeman has won over enough fans and has the resume to upset the #1 seed and clinch his spot in the final four. Who knows, maybe if he loses he will narrate the finals for us.
o   Winner: Freeman
Stewart Region
·         In our last matchup we have some oldies but goodies with Pacino (2) facing off against Eastwood(4). Both have amazing resumes, both are loved by all, and both have massive star status. I don’t know why but I have been riding Eastwood this entire tourney. I think Eastwood has a mystical aura about him that everyone respects. He is such a legend while Pacino has become a one dimensional actor late in his career. For this reason alone, I am going with another upset here.
o   Winner: Eastwood

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why There are 5 Reasons Tim Tebow is Excited but Jets Fans Shouldn’t Be.

The most famous backup QB of all time has come to NYC. With the trade of Tim Tebow to the NY Jets brings to light perhaps the stupidest move I have seen in quite some time. As smart as it was for the Broncos, it was that stupid for the Jets. I am not a Jets fan and I am not in love with Sanchez but I don’t understand why they would ruin someone’s career. I may not believe in Sanchez but I am also not writing him off; well I wasn’t until a few days ago. I believe Sanchez is a good QB and a tough player but he needs to improve to get to the next level. Having Tim Tebow breathing down his neck won’t help.  Here are my five reasons why Tim Tebow is excited but Jets fans shouldn’t be.
1)      This wasn’t a Football decision or PR decision, it was a stupid decisions.
The Jets have many areas of their team that need improvement but I wouldn’t put QB on top of the list. The Team has a new offensive coordinator and should give their team a chance before redoing an entire team’s identity with the Wildcat offense. Sanchez is improving and needs to be given a chance outside of Schottenheimer. Why would you throw a gorilla in the room by the name of Time Tebow. And for the Jets to deny that this was a PR move is ridiculous. You have an entire press conference for your backup QB while your starting QB is given an untelevised conference call. Mark Sanchez is developing and throwing the most popular American athlete since Tiger and Jordan into the locker room as his “backup” is just stupid. Also, don’t hold a press conference and then try to sell season tickets ten minutes later, that doesn’t sound like a pure football decision to me.
2)      If Sanchez was sensitive and fragile before, he is walking on ice now.
Sanchez is well documented to be a very sensitive and fragile personality. He gets offended when he is not supported and does better when instilled with confidence. By adding Tebow to their team, Jets management has decided to send Sanchez to therapy. With every incomplete pass and boo from the crowd, the call for The Chosen One will only increase and any chance of Sanchez emerging as a solid and reliable NFL QB will diminish. Tebow is an all encompassing athlete. Sanchez can even play well but how will he feel when 50 reporters are ignoring him while huddling around Tebow’s locker to discuss his 3 wildcat plays. The 4th year is the most crucial for any young QB, and I see Sanchez heading to therapy before he heads to a Super Bowl.
3)      Even the Jets don’t know what Tebow’s role will be.
It seems like every hour you hear a different term thrown out for Tebow’s role with the team. There is so much confusion it appears the Jets themselves don’t know what Tebow’s role will be. How can he be a backup QB when he is guaranteed plays every game? That is not a backup, that is a dual QB option and if these two compete, Tebow will always win. Who gets the ball within the 5 yard line? Who gets the ball when Tebow is running for an average of 5 yards but Sanchez is throwing for an average of 4? When Tebow fakes a few runs and throws some passes why would the Jets remove him for someone the defense knows will only throw? I just don’t understand how the Jets plan on utilizing Tebow. I don’t understand, Sanchez doesn’t understand and it appears neither do the Jets.
4)      Tebow is not a just another player, he surpasses sports.
Tim Tebow is not an athlete, he is not a leader, he is an Icon. Tebow’s popularity extends beyond sports. It extends to all people of all sexes and ages. Tim Tebow is not just a star, he is a rock star; such on a level not seen since Michael Jordan. Yes I am publically saying that the circus that follows every move and word of the “backup qb” is something we have not seen since Jordan. Tim Tebow’s fanbase is so large and illogical that it doesn’t matter if he is a good QB or not, people will want to see him play. Whether it is the focus on his faith, clean lifestyle or heroics on the field, everyone and anyone is fascinated with him. This is something that Sanchez just can’t compete with. Anything less than a Super Bowl just can’t compete former Gator.
5)      The Jets may have brought in a backup, but Tebow doesn’t plan on complying.
What seems to be missing from the minds of the Jets ownership and management is that while they have brought Tebow in as a “backup”, Tebow plans on starting. Tebow is a great athlete and a winner; and despite his below average throwing, Tebow has decided he is a QB and wants to play that position. He is here to “improve his role with the team”. Coming from a backup QB that means he wants to start. The Jets may not have thought they were bringing in someone to compete with Sanchez but Tebow sure thinks he is going to. This shows just how horrible of a “football” move this is. As Michael Kay as pointed out, “the Jets have traded themselves into a Quarterback Controversy.” 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why There is Nothing Better Than A Shocking TV Death.

I just wrapped up the second season of Walking Dead and if you have not seen it yet, either don’t read ahead, or sit down. After a weak start to Season 2, Walking Dead returned after a break to not only finish the season in style, they finished in blood. In the span of 3 episodes, 2 Major and 2 Minor characters were killed by the Zombie hoards.  With the deaths of both Dale and Shane in back to back episodes followed by the death of two of Hershel’s family, The Walking Dead was relentless in its pursuit to shock its audience and it succeeded in doing just that. The amazing thing about TV Deaths, especially ones you don’t see coming is that unlike a movie, TV shows don’t end at the episode. You have to come back for another episode or season and realize that character you loved so much is just gone. There were times where I saw some of these deaths coming and others where I was completely shocked (see the top of my list). The shocking end to the season had me thinking of the best and most shocking TV deaths. Here are my top 10 TV Most Shocking Deaths in order.

10.          Omar Little (The Wire- 2008)
Omar little was the bad guy of all bad guys ruling the streets of Baltimore in this fan favorite show. The Wire is no stranger to killing of its characters in dramatic ways but having the ruthless street thug shot in the back of the head by none other than a young teenage boy was simply riveting and horrifying. It certainly earns a place on the list.

9.            Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire 2011)
Another HBO series is at work here with a climactic season 2 finale would give us one of the year’s most shocking deaths. After Jimmy (awesomely played by Michael Pitts) failed in his attempt to overthrow  Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), Jimmy saw his end at the hands of the Atlantic City Mob Boss. Many saw this coming but it was still quite awesome as Nucky established who was boss and Jimmy went swimming with the fishes.

8.            Terry Crowley (The Shield 2002)
The Shield is a show that not everyone has seen but should see. The show’s brutally honest and gritty portrayal of the cop world was quite entertaining. But the show set its tone at the very beginning with the murder of a young cop. Vic Mackey the polarizing star of the show killed his partner to cover up his tracks. With all the hype prior to the show, no one saw this coming, which made it all the more entertaining.

7.            Lucy Knight (ER 2000)
I am not the biggest of followers of the show ER but I did have my stint where I enjoyed and within that span I painfully watched the death of one of my favorite characters. Lucy Knight played by Kellie Martin was always a fan favorite but her being stabbed to death and subsequently bleeding out on the floor was a heart wrenching scene. ER was always good for some dramatic moments. This death may have been its best.

6.            Dee Dualla (Battlestar Galactica 2009)
If by now you don’t know it, I love this show and recommend it to everyone. The show was not amazing at everything but it sure understood drama and was very good at digging deep into its characters. Dee was always a solid character, a moral compass of sorts on the show has long struggled with her failed marriage with Lee Adama. Clearly troubled by all she had gone through, the crazy reversal of being happy was astonishing as Dee looked in a mirror, grinned, then shot herself in the head.  Sad, so very sad.

5.            John Locke (Lost 2009)
I have to admit I was not a crazy fan of the show. I enjoyed the drama but I didn’t like my writers making stuff up every season as if they didn’t expect there to be another one. One of the better moments was certainly the death of Mr. Lock at the hands of Ben Linus. Lock and Linus were awesome characters on the show and a death of such an important character is always shocking. Too bad he didn’t stay dead.

4.            Adriana La Cerva (The Sopranos 2004)
For a show about a Mob family you expect there to be some classic deaths and The Sopranos didn’t disappoint. One of their best has to be that of Adriana who was betrayed by her fiancĂ© Christopher who had made his choice and stuck by the family. As she was driven into the woods to meet her demise, we all knew what was coming, and it made it all the more shocking.

3.            Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones 2011)
Without a doubt the most discussed TV death of 2011 was that of the leader of the Stark Family. Once again, HBO Does a great job here and is merciless as the shows lead character and hero is slain, proving that there is no lead character and no hero in the Game of Thrones. Though copying the novels, the show’s fan base goes beyond the George R.R. Martin readers and this death still came as a shock to all watching. Additionally, the show’s creators deserve props for how agonizing and painful the death was.

2.            Teri Bauer (24 2002)
It’s a good thing the writers took such a drastic plot twist in the first season, I only watched two of them. Teri, wife to the one and only Jack Bauer shockingly saw her life come to an end right before her reunion with Jack after the family’s day from hell. Jack saved the world (the first time), Teri escaped her captures, and all was well, unfortunately the Mole didn’t get the memo.

1.            Rita (Dexter 2009)
In one of the greatest seasons in TV history, came the most shocking TV death of all time. The entire season of Dexter was perfectly done and could not have ended better. Dexter had just come back from killing Trinity (the award winning and awesome John Lithgow) and with his wife and kids away on vacation, Season 4 was poised for a calm and satisfying ending. Unfortunately for Dexter but fortunately for us TV loving people, the last few moments of the season were its best. Dexter arriving home, calling Rita’s cell only to realize her cell was in fact home threw a wrench in the perfect ending. Then as Dexter made his way to bathroom the reality for him and his viewers began to settle in. I was shocked and left with my mouth wide open as Dexter found his wife murdered and left in a bath of blood with his son left in the pool of blood all alone. The death angered me, thrilled me, and had me begging for more. Dexter, bravo, that’s how it’s done.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why 10 Moments had The Hunger Games Audience Going Wild.

And the top 10 moments that had the audience going wild:
10. Biggest laugh: Between Elizabeth Banks’ Effie, Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch and Stanley Tucci’s Caesar, there was no shortage of comic relief – and the crowd made that wildly evident, as almost every line by these three fan favorites was delivered to raucous laughter and theater-wide hysterics. But oddly enough, the biggest laugh came not from Effie’s colorful musings or Caesar’s mugging to the camera, but rather, it was Haymitch’s written nudge — “You call that a kiss?” — that busted guts.
9. Most inappropriate entrance applause: Peeta’s selection at the reaping, with a crowd of relieved District 12 boys revealing the baker-slash-painter after his name is called, was the first sign of a booming crowd welcome (it’s clear which side of the love triangle the theater was rooting for). Amid the gravitas of the situation onscreen, one girl on Team Peeta even crassly called out for Capitol-caliber coitus.
8. Most appropriate entrance applause: The character to receive the warmest crowd welcome was Lenny Kravitz’s stylist Cinna, whose debut in the Remake Center drew an absolute eruption from the girls in the audience. I’d wager that if Team Cinna shirts were readily available, they’d far outsell any others.
7. Most polarizing moment: Katniss’ grand entrance in the tribute parade – where she earns the nickname “The Girl on Fire” – was the movie’s first big moment that franchise fans were dying to see interpreted. So how’d it go over? As the music swelled, the chariot rolled and the bright artificial flames engulfed Katniss and Peeta, the moment sent the audience into a frenzy of cheers… in one theater. In another, the hotly-anticipated effect fell totally flat, with some whispering that the big moment was utterly anti-climactic.
6. Biggest gross-out: The bloody Cornucopia battle got some quiet murmurs, but the  sharp intake of breath through gritted teeth during extreme close-ups of Katniss and Peeta’s gory leg wounds was unmistakable when 200 people did it at once.
5. Loudest cheer: Every franchise action movie has its share of saves-the-day scenes, andThe Hunger Games‘ best-received of such moments came when Thresh rescues an ailing Katniss, who was about to become deli meat at the knife-wielding hand of Clove. When he violently disposes of Clove and tells Katniss, “Just this time, Twelve, for Rue,” the flood of satisfaction was palpable, even at 2:00 a.m.
4. Best scare: The entire theater was waiting for those vicious mutts to burst through the woods and break the eerie silence of Katniss and Peeta wandering at night — and it was stillscary enough to catch the audience off guard, resulting in a chorus of shrikes and screams, and a few folks literally jumping out of their seats.
3. Biggest shock: Cato’s vengeance on an absent-minded tribute after he accidentally allows Katniss to blow up the alliance’s supplies was, in a word, horrific. With no other sound but the snapping of the tribute’s neck, Cato showed that his temper tantrums are something you don’t want to be on the receiving end of.
2. Loudest sobbing: From the first second that Rue appeared on screen, those in the audience who knew what would eventually befall her were preparing themselves for the worst. Though she earned cheers for her wit and for coming to the rescue of a tree-trapped Katniss, the most undisputedly touching moment in the entire film was her death, which sparked a range of reactions from quiet weeps to full-on wails of grief. In one theater, a girl distributed tissues to other sobbing moviegoers, and when Katniss finally breaks down, so, too, did the crowd.
1. And the moment everyone was talking about: Katniss and Peeta’s kiss in the cave was the climax of the film’s love storyline, and for Team Peeta fans, it was a gratifying moment. When the camera switches to a shot of Gale watching the romance unfold, though, the romantic tension had the audience making their “oh, snap!” face. That reaction said it all. A love triangle may be secondary to this franchise’s plot, but if anything was clear through bleary midnight eyes, it was that audiences are loving the entangled romance of Katniss, Peeta and Gale. We saw both theaters pick their sides, and it looks like fans are ready to throw down over their recommendation for Katniss’s heart. Since poor Gale doesn’t even get a shot with Katniss until Catching Fire, it’s very apparent that the love triangle will heat up until it catches fire, too. Things are going to get interesting, Hunger Games fans. Whose side are YOU on?

Why The Hunger Games Was Like Reading the Book All Over Again.

After arriving home at 330am this morning I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about how good The Hunger Games was. The Suzanne Collins adaptation is just that, an awesomely accurate and entertaining adaptation of the world-wide best seller.  I am not a big reader but fell in love with the famous trilogy about teenage kids forced to battle to the death in a live televised event. When novels are adapted to the big screen there are often complaints that material is left out and the novel doesn’t translate very well. I can honestly say that for the first time in my experience, a novel has been completely translated to film. The film was excellently casted and captured the true essence of the novel. The film for those of you who don’t know revolves around Katniss Everdeen, a strong independent young girl from District 12 who must face 23 other teens in a battle to the death called the Hunger Games. Included in the 23 competitors is her fellow District 12 citizen Peeta Mellark, the son of the baker who’s feelings for Katniss go much deeper than she expects. The novels and the film maintain a futuristic yet very brutal and gritty feel to them. There are times when the world Collins has created is whimsical and amusing and others when it is quite gruesome and heart-breaking. The film does an excellent job at balancing both. The Capital the filmmakers created brings out this whimsical and fun quality while the Games and views of the other Districts brings the brutality to life. Some may complain that the Capital is slightly over the top but that is what it is supposed to be.  The Capital is supposed to be a narcissistic society that is apathetic, indifferent and ignorantly unaware of the horrific lives in the 12 Districts. While the citizens of the Districts live dreary and hopeless lives, the people in the Capital satisfy themselves with any impulse they can imagine. So in my eyes, the over-the-top colors, costumes, and life styles portrayed in the film are quite accurate and portray Collins’ view of the Capital. In strong contrast, we have the dreadful Districts who’s existence is quite similar to that of slaves. They live as “free” people to work and survive on their own while giving in to every wish of the Capital. These citizens may live free but they live free and in fear of the Capital. This is the society that both the book and the novel present and the duality of these worlds existing at the same time is exactly why I loved the film. The scenes in the Capital  are both good fillers and provide some of the films humorous moments. Every film adaptation of a novel has those moments where things in the novel come to life and the audience is amazing and thrilled to see them;  the scenes in the Capital accomplish just that. Some of these moments included the interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), the awkward and funny interactions with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and the training sessions with Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). But one scene in particular stole the show. The fan favorite scene of the “Girl on Fire” dress at the Tribute Parade was perfect in both its execution and impact.

What I truly loved most about the film was how it perfectly executed the Hunger Games. In my mind, the Games is a gritty and cruel event. The Games creates an environment in which there is no room for compassion; which makes Ms. Everdeen’s compassion all the more entertaining. We see her struggle with compassion for some of her fellow tributes including Peeta and Rue and hatred for the Career tributes (those who trained their entire lives to win the Games) like Cato (Alexander Ludwig) and Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman). What was most impressive of the films portrayal of the Games was that it really was vicious, gruesome and brutal when it needed to be. The film makers didn’t shy away from the gore, didn’t shy away from the scary reality of kids killing kids. I felt completely engrossed in the arena; I was there with Katniss as she struggles to survive. For these reasons I applaud the directors and producers, Bravo!

For those of you who have not read the books I don’t want to ruin anything for you but I highly recommend the books and the film. When reading, try to picture the characters and then check out the casting in the film because I thought it was quite excellent. The supporting roles held by Tucci, Banks and Harrelson were perfect. Both Haymich and Tucci really steal the show and bring the characters to life. The casting of the tributes is as accurate as I could have imagined; the Careers were large and in charge, with a vicious and arrogance about them and the remaining tributes were afraid yet ready to do what they needed to survive. 

But the real impressive accomplishment was the casting the films main stars; Peeta, Gale and Katniss. Gale who doesn’t play a large role in the first film is played by the strapping, strong but silent Liam Hemsworth. He doesn’t have enough face time to develop the character in this film but I can see the hatred and stubbornness in his face that Gale is well known for. Peeta is played by the understated Josh Hutcherson. Hutcherson plays the tribute with awkwardness, quietness, and strange confidence that I think Peeta exudes in the novels. In my eyes, Peeta comes off as extremely weak at times yet very confident at others. His strengths are understated and that is perhaps is greatest quality. Hutcherson accomplishes this to a tee.  I apologize if I am not describing my feelings well but I think that like the duality of the world Collins created, Peeta radiates the same duality. He seems strangely confident and at home in the Capital for the cameras yet seems so unsure of himself while trying to succeed in the arena and in his relationship with Katniss.

The real star and best casting was the fantastic lead role of Katniss played by Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss is not the most lovable and friendly girl you will meet but she is one of the most confident characters you will see.  She trusts in her skills and moral compass and believes she can survive anything.  As I read in one review of the film, “Lawrence reveals a physical and emotional grace that’s astonishing.” Lawrence’s acting was quite impressive and she delivers a real primal feeling to the film. I found myself imitating Katniss’ every emotion. When she cried, I felt sad; when she was angry; I wanted her to kill someone; and when she threw in a smile or two; I found myself smiling as well. Lawrence owns the film and portrays her character's unyielding beliefs until the very end. This is a career making performance.

The Hunger Games is a must see. The genius portrayal of the Dystopian world brings out every feeling of Collins’ original novel.  Combining “epic spectacle, yearning romance, and suspense”, the Hunger Games succeeds specifically because it attacks all these genres head on and does it taking names.
As the same review expresses, “My advice is to keep your eyes on Lawrence, who turns the movie into a victory by presenting a heroine propelled by principle instead of hooking up with the cutest boy. That's what makes Katniss revolutionary. May the odds be ever in her favor.”

Sex: Just some kissing
Violence: Very graphic violence, kids killing kids
Language: Nothing
Drugs: Nothing
Rated: PG-13
Run time: 142 minutes
Grade: 4.5 Stars

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why All the Favorites are Winning the Hollywood Bracket. (Elite 8 Picks)

If you are following the Hollywood Bracket you are surely aware that there is only 1 seed outside of the top 16 that have made the Sweet 16. As much as we all love upsets, sometimes the better man and star just wins. In this tournament, we are learning one thing. The movie stars that we all know and love are winning it out. If you are a front runner and filled out this bracket, chances are your bracket is looking very good right now. Samuel L. Jackson (6) defeated Dustin Hoffman (5) in the only upset if this was even an upset. We all love upsets. Who doesn’t watch March Madness and not root for an Ohio or Norfolk State. In sports we love underdogs but it would appear that when it comes to Hollywood, we simply love our stars. After two rounds here is where I stand.
Record: 45-3
Upset Picks: 6-3

Here are my picks to reach the Elite 8 picks.

Brando Region
·         Tom Hanks (1) has seen his career really slow down recently while Cruise (4) has had somewhat of resurgence lately. A piece of me would love to see an upset here because Cruise is just crazy enough to win the whole thing but I really see Hanks in the Elite 8. He is arguably one of the top 3 American actors of all time. Do you not remember watching just him and volleyball for 3 hours? Ask me to do the same with Tom Cruise and I may go crazy myself.
o   Winner: Hanks
·         The Leo (2) vs Jackson (6) is actually an interesting matchup. Both actors have fabulous careers, are huge Hollywood stars, and are well respected throughout the entire Hollywood world. There is no way this one will be a blow out. The only thing I have to lean on is that deep down I know Leo is a better actor and the truth is that every guy wants to be him. The one lower seed left will end his run here.
o   Winner: DiCaprio
Wayne Region
·         Washington (1) and Damon (4) are both big time movie stars in the same era. Obviously Denzel has an earlier start but Damon is a pretty big name out there. The issue for Damon here is that he has no distinct advantage over Washington. These two matchup almost too well and that doesn’t favor Mr. Bourne. If you think Mr. Bourne can kick some butt, go see Safe House.
o   Winner: Washington
·         De Niro (2) and Depp (3) is one of the most interesting matchups we have seen in the tourney. These actors are so different at this point in their careers. To be honest I can see the strange Depp in some of De Niro’s classics but recently De Niro has become quite classic, predictable and normal. Johnny Depp is not normal, though not in a bad way.  I love Depp and its possible he can pull off the upset here but I expect De Niro to pull it out. The truth is this one is a coin flip. I literally flipped a coin and it landed on the Taxi Driver.
o   Winner De Niro
Newman Region
·         I love Captain Jack (1) but I think I love Pitt (4) even more. I am going to go with my first major upset here. I know Jack is such a legend but Pitt is hot right now and seems to be just in favor with everyone you speak to. It’s a risky move but I like Pitt moving into the Elite 8.
o   Winner: Pitt
·          Before the tourney began you could have easily swapped both Freeman (3) and Clooney (2). Again, I think this is a bad matchup for Clooney. The only thing he has over Freeman is the looks and the Hollywood stud status. Other than that these two are dead even, and if anything it is Freeman who has the better and more accomplished career. Clooney is a star but not necessarily because of his movies. Freeman is a movie star.
o   Winner: Freeman
Stewart Region
·         If there was ever a legend that could take down the Queen of Hollywood (1), it would be the King of the Western (4). Eastwood has the acting and directing chops and is just tough enough to stand up to the Actress who can play anyone and do anything. I am feeling the upset bug and going to go with my gut on this one.  Do I feel lucky? Yes.
o   Winner: Eastwood
·         Pacino (2) and Ford (3) is a solid matchup and should come down to the wire. Both play each role with an old grittiness and a scratchy voice.  Ultimately when it came down to it I thought about both actors and all I could think about is a game of inches. So long Solo.
o   Winner: Pacino

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Tim Tebow Regrets Praying So Hard.

Why Peyton Manning Made a Mistake But the Denver Broncos Didn’t.

We have just witnessed the biggest Free Agent singing in NFL history and it will surely impact the entire NFL.  For two weeks now I have been thinking of doing a piece on the Peyton Manning situation. Now that he has finally made his decision I have decided to put fingers to keyboard and share my thoughts. In my opinion there are two major discussion points surrounding “The Decision” of 2012: Peyton’s decision and the genius play of the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos
I am an optimistic person so let us begin with the winners of the situation; the Denver Broncos. John Elway, John Fox and every executive involved in the acquiring of Peyton Manning should receive an award. This in my opinion has to be one of the greatest executive decisions in NFL history. Whatever it took for John Elway and the executives to convince Peyton to head to Mile-High Stadium, it was worth it. Despite a .500 record and a divisional round playoff win, the Broncos football team was in quite an extraordinary situation.  The team is young and talented but definitely has its holes. A fantastic, young, and energetic defensive line highlights a team that can run the football and attack the Quarterback. Young yet unproven receivers, a questionable secondary and the biggest question mark at Quarterback ever had Broncos fans excited, confused and worried at the same time. With the acquisition of Peyton Manning, the Broncos are instantly favorites to win the division and be a consistent playoff team for the next few years. It appears that there is no health questions surrounding Manning’s neck because it would appear these teams all wanted Manning, without any regard for health concerns. In my opinion, Manning is back and will play at an extremely high level. Manning brings a brilliant offensive mind to Denver where Fox can focus on making that good defense into a great defense. Whether it was the relationship with Elway or just the mutual respect, Manning was drawn to play in the same environment that the legend Elway was successful in. The Broncos are instantly better in so many ways. Erik Decker and Damarius Thomas are instant stars at wide receiver. Decker who is a good slot receiver, will thrive in the Manning short pass offense. The Denver running game is very good with Willis McGahee and that offensive line. The Broncos are sure to add another back in the offseason and with the threat of Manning at QB, as opposed to Tebow, the running game will be all the more dangerous. Broncos fans, just for a second imagine that defenses don’t expect the run every single play; yes, it will be that amazing. The defense was great at times last year but overall is a solid defense that is just overworked. With Tebow, the defense found itself on the field a majority of the game after more 3 and outs that I can count. Any defense with Manning at the helm is instantly better just because they are not as tired. Manning eats up clock, goes on long drives, and keeps his offense on the field. Broncos fans, close your eyes again and just imagine Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller chasing down opposing QB’s when they are not tired; yes, it will be that good. But all the aforementioned reasons why the move was amazing for the Broncos fail in comparison to one of the greatest moves ever performed on the management side in the NFL.  John Elway and the Broncos executives have miraculously found a way to get rid of and replace Tim Tebow without one word of complaint. For those of you who don’t understand how big this is understand one thing. Tim Tebow was a god, a savior in Denver. Tebow owned the city and was a sign of hope for all who lived there. Unable to complete simple passes, Tebow earned the love of the city which through complaints was able to boot their starting QB for the former Heisman winner. So here was the question Elway and his buddies were faced with. How do you get rid of and replace a heroic, mythical, and revered fan favorite without causing a riot and uproar? Oh, you simply acquire one of the greatest, top 5, most brilliant minded Quarterbacks of all time. Do you not understand how amazing this was. The Broncos were stuck, they had no way out of the Tebow situation and had no choice but to stick with the poor throwing yet heroic play of the run-happy QB.  If you told me a few months ago that you can replace Tebow and there would not be one complaint I would have thought you are crazy. But I was proven wrong; the Broncos have replaced the second-most beloved QB in the league today with the even most loved QB in the league. A city which booted its starting QB and suffered through record-low setting QB performances has been rewarded with the model of QB consistency. Though there are questions as to his post season record, Manning is undoubtedly the greatest regular season QB of all time (just check his regular season record) and will make the Broncos a 10 win team. Just for your records, Peyton Manning ranks 3rd all-time in completions (4,682, passing yards (54,828), passing TD’s (399), & passing yards per game (263.6). “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.” In this case, the greatest trick the Broncos ever pulled was convincing the Denver world that Tebow never existed. They did this all by adding #18.

In my eyes there is a second discussion point and that is whether Denver was the right fit for Manning. Does Manning suit the Broncos? Yes. Do the Broncos suit Manning? Maybe. I believe that Peyton chose the safe place to play. Denver is an amazing city but it’s a controlled environment, similar to that of Indianapolis. Manning will have full control over his offense, similar to Indianapolis. Manning now has an owner and team of executives who love him and will do everything to make him happy, similar to Indianapolis. Manning will have to take a team and a city on his shoulders and try to make good players great, similar to Indianapolis. The problem is that Denver is too similar to Indianapolis. I understand there is value to being in a place that is comfortable and that will allow one to feel at home. There is a huge benefit to only worrying about football while making other issues disappear. But in my humble opinion, given everything surrounding the situation and Manning’s age, I think Manning took an easy rode out. The place Manning should have landed was in the San Francisco bay. The 49ers are a very solid and deep team with amazing tools in every position. Without hating on Alex Smith too much, the team made it to within 2 punt fumbles of going to the Super Bowl with an average QB. The team is stacked with one of if not the best defense in football, solid running game with Gore, fantastic TE with Vernon Davis, and now a solid young to veteran receiving core of Crabtree, Moss, and Manningham. From a football perspective, the 49ers were the best choice for Manning while the Broncos were in fact the worst. Add in the fact that the 49ers play in one of the two worst divisions in football and Manning’s decision is a little puzzling. Obviously a major reason deterring Manning from the 49ers would be the pressure. The 49ers are ready to win it all here and now and the addition of Manning would have made them favorites to win it all, anything less would be a major disappointment. Manning has high expectations in Denver but not as high as they would have been on the California coast. Additionally, I understand Harbough is a tough nosed guy who likes to be involved in every facet of the game but I also think Harbough is a smart coach who will bow to Manning’s skill, knowledge and genius. Manning wants to be the man and I think the thought of having such a dominant personality at coach scared him away from making the smart football decision. I won’t go into the weather factor being that Manning played his entire career in a dome but just think about what San Fran is like in December and what Denver is like in December.
In conclusion, the NFL landscape drastically changed this week and out came but winners and losers. Seattle and Denver came out on top while teams like Miami, San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee were left wondering what could have been. I love Peyton Manning. You will never find a bigger Manning fan in the world. I have often said I think he is the greatest QB I have ever seen play but I do feel like he made the wrong choice. I have often heard others say John Elway was the best QB they have ever seen. While I don’t fully agree with that, I can tell you he may just be one of the best NFL executives I have ever seen. I hope Manning goes and wins three Super Bowls, quiets the conversations between him and his brother, wins another MVP or two, and breaks every one of Farve’s records; I just wish he would have done it in a San Francisco uniform. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why I Dominated Round One of the Hollywood Bracket.

Round One of the Colin Cowherd’s Hollywood Bracket is over and the results are in. Second round voting is now underway. Here is how I fared in the first round:
Record: 30-2
Upset Picks: 5-2
Best Picks:
·         Will Ferrell (11) over Jodi Foster (6)
·         Adam Sandler (12) over Glen Close (6)
·         Ed Norton (10) over Daniel Day Lewis (7)
Worst Picks:
·         Stallone (12) lost to Douglas (5)
·         Robbins (6) lost to Costner (11)

Here are my second round picks.

Brando Region
·         While we all like a great villain (as is the case with Hannibal Lecter), we love our heroes more and Tom Hanks is one of our heroes. The all American actor is simply too good to lose this early. The 8th seeded Hopkins just doesn’t have the resume or the grandeur that Hanks has. Wilson and his buddy move into the sweet 16.
o   Winner: Hanks
·         This 4-5 matchup is a close one. Douglas (5) dominated the 80-90s and still has a strong name out there (the recent Wall Street revival helps). But Cruise(4) is Cruise and has helped himself in the last few years. Let’s be honest, we all kind of want to be Ethan Hunt a little bit. Cruise has won over enough men recently to earn the win but I expect a close one.
o   Winner: Cruise
·         This 3-6 matchup feels like it should be reversed. Hoffman (3) is a classic and will go down as a great but he is way past his prime. How many of us were alive when Tootsie and Rain Man came out? Though the lower seed, Samuel L. Jackson (6) is one of the most recognizable actors in the world and especially popular in the groups voting on this bracket. With the Avengers coming out this summer, Jackson is sure to win at the box office and I’m going to predict he wins with an upset here as well; albeit a close one.
o   Winner: Jackson
·         After his nice victory in the first round Smith (7) ran into a bad draw here. Leo as we know is “king of the world” and I think he will make the Sweet 16. Smith seems to have lost his focus over the last few years while paying some attention to his childrens’ career. No one without a strong resume and current career is going to knock off King Leo.
o   Winner: DiCaprio
Wayne Region
·         This is a matchup of two blockbuster actors. Washington (1) and Willis (8) have dominated the box office over the last few decades. The two are legitimate stars who will no doubt get a ton of support. In the end, I think that Denzel has too many fans and Willis has become more of a Cameo guy while Washington still headlines. Washington is not Fallen yet.
o   Winner: Washington
·         This 4 (Damon) vs 12 (Sandler) matchup is a tough one for me. Part of me expects Sandler to go deep in this tourney despite his low seeding because you simply Don’t Mess with the Zohan but Damon has an incredible following and has become a true franchise actor. Though Sandler is one of the funniest ever, his movies have bombed in recent years. Just like Damon may have been destined to become President, he is destined to make the Sweet 16.
o   Winner: Damon
·         The 3 (Depp) vs 6 (Spacey) should be a close one. Spacey has some major iconic roles under his belt but really has not starred in anything in years. Depp is strange yet incredibly entertaining and with the Pirates Franchise as well as many cult classics, Depp is the here and now. He will win this round, here and now.
o   Winner: Depp
·         To round out this part of the bracket, we have a slaughter on our hands. De Niro could have easily been a #1 seed and Malkovich (10) is no match for the Deer Hunter. Malkovich is very talented but even KGB lost. I would be shocked if KGB got 10% of votes.
o   Winner: De Niro
Newman Region
·         I was surprised that Bacon (9) was even in the tournament but a matchup with Jack (1) should not even voted on. This will be an absolute blowout.  I just watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and I would have to be crazy to pick Bacon.
o   Winner: Nicholson.
·         A few years ago this Pitt(4) vs Roberts (5) would have been a lot closer but Pitt is still a star and Roberts is more of a legend. Pitt will come on top in this battle. Additionally, this has not been the year of women in the bracket. Pitt may even be prettier. I’m going with Moneyball.
o   Winner: Pitt
·         Given the right matchup, Costner (11) could have pulled out a few upsets given his sports movies credits if not for his matchup against Freeman (3). Freeman ranked #3 could eventually make the final four with such a strong resume. The greatest Narrator of all time may lose eventually but not yet, not yet.
o   Winner: Freeman
Stewart Region
·         I actually think the following matchup will be closer than it appears on paper. I think that Norton (10) is the black horse of the tourney and does stand a chance against Clooney (2). Though in the end of the day I do think the award winning Clooney will win out; but don’t be shocked if there is an upset here.
o   Winner: Clooney
·         Wahlberg (8) may be able to kick my tush, but he stands no chance against Streep. The queen of film can even take on the biggest and baddest tough guy in Hollywood. We could see our first #1 seed go down here in an upset but Streep is still pounding out films and yes they are usually higher quality than Wahlbergs.
o   Winner: Streep
·         Gladiator is one of my favorite films of all time and I always love Russell Crowe (5) but here he faces The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Eastwood may have ended one of the greatest acting careers ever but he is still one of the best directors out there. Eastwood is a beast and a fan favorite among our voters. Eastwood wins this.
o   Winner: Eastwood
·         It’s tough to go against Indiana Jones (3) in any matchup but just looking at Ferrell (11) makes me laugh and I have to go with the funny man. Ferrell’s gags sometimes get old but for some reason I still laugh every time. I am going with the upset in this one.
o   Winner: Ferrell
·         Gene Hackman (7) has never been my favorite actor and I am happy to see his run come to an end. Pacino is an icon and should have an easy run into the Sweet 16.  Pacino is one of the best actors of our generation and should not have any problems with Hackman, despite his Hoosiers fame.
o   Winner: Pacino