Archive for December, 2010

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2010 Movie Reviews

December 27, 2010

Black Swan (2010)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Director: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain)
Quick Thoughts: This movie plays like the sister film of Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. Much like that film, we get a tour-de-force performance from the film’s star and an intense look at what it’s like to be insanely passionate about something. In this case, Natalie Portman’s Nina Sayers is a technically perfect ballet dancer that lacks the free spirit and dark side required to play the dual role of The Swan Queen in Swan Lake. Mila Kunis plays a rival ballet dancer and acts as the catalyst that slowly unravels Nina’s dark side. Or does she? It’s hard to tell what’s real and imagined in this film, but the transformation of Portman’s character is clear. What were left with is a ridiculously dark and horrifying film about how far some people will go to achieve their dreams.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Hard to say… it’s a tough watch, but it’s something you’ll need to see more than once. I think it has potential to grow on me over time.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Portman is a front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar and gave the best performance I’ve seen this year. The film is a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination as well… and Aronofsky could get an overdo directing nomination.
Nudity: Some masturbation, some girl-on-girl action, but no nudity that I remember.
Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)
Recommendation: Film snobs are going to love this movie, but casual moviegoers are likely to hate it. It’s unlikely anyone watches this and says “it was okay.” I’d say it’s a must see for Natalie Portman’s performance alone, but it’s definitely not an easy film. I’d say go see it, but it’s super dark and features an unreliable narration, so be warned.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Starring: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong
Director: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun Of The Dead)
Quick Thoughts: No movie has surprised me more this year than Scott Pilgrim. What an amazingly innovative film. While the plot about a boy (man?) that must battle his girlfriend’s evil exes to the death may sound trivial, the execution is outstanding. Edgar Wright’s team brings this story to life in such a way that boredom is out of the question. The filmmaker combines comic book flair with video game stylization and a hilarious script to create one of the year’s most fun theatrical experiences. Michael Cera has been typecast ever since Superbad and this was the first performance since then where I felt he brought something new to the table. The script is sharp and funny, and the cast does a stellar job bringing that humor to life. I was using the rewind button on my remote extensively. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is one of the best films of the year and one of the most unique movies I’ve seen in quite some time.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: A must own. I could watch this repeatedly.
Sequel Potential: Unsure… it’s based on a comic or a graphic novel, but I’m not sure if there’s a series.
Oscar Potential: I’d nominate this for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and a ton of technical categories, but early buzz has it getting mostly snubbed by the Academy. Sad.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 8.5/10 (Excellent/Potential Classic)
Recommendation: One of my favorite movies of the year, but it’s kind of “out there,” so I can see some people not liking it. Personally, I’d consider those people uptight… or stupid. Sorry.

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon)
Quick Thoughts: An interesting story about a sperm donor who comes into contact with his teenage children and their lesbian mothers combines with great acting from Bening and Moore to make a quick-paced, intriguing movie that focuses on its characters. I was slightly unsatisfied with the ending, but definitely enjoyed the movie as a whole.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d watch it again, but probably won’t add it to my DVD collection.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Bening and Moore are locks for acting nominations. The film should get a Best Picture nom; it easily cracks my top ten of the year. Outside shots at directing and writing nominations.
Nudity: Is Julianne Moore in it? Is it rated R? Then she probably gets naked.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
Recommendation: One of the better movies of 2010, but it focuses more on characters and acting than anything else. I don’t think the story is universally appealing, but it’s worth telling. Action junkies shouldn’t bother, but fans of good dramas will like this movie.

The Karate Kid (2010)

Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson
Director: Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2, Agent Cody Banks)
Quick Thoughts: A surprisingly solid remake of the 1984 cult classic. I never would have watched this if the word-of-mouth wasn’t so good. Jaden Smith is solid as the title character and Jackie Chan makes for a decent Mr. Miyagi substitute. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the original… I can barely remember it, so I was able to enjoy this update without any bias based on the source material. An enjoyable family movie that had me rooting for the underdog.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d be happy to watch it again… and maybe even buy it when it hits the bargain bins.
Sequel Potential: The first film spawned three sequels and this remake grossed over $175 million in the U.S., so a sequel seems likely, but the story was completely resolved and nothing has been announced so far.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
Recommendation: A solid family film and surprisingly good remake. Great for kids and more than watchable for adults.

Jackass 3D (2010)

Starring: The Jackass Crew
Director: Jeff Tremaine (Jackass: The Movie, Jackass Number Two)
Quick Thoughts: You pretty much know what you’re getting from a Jackass movie: crazy stunts and some serious gross-out bits. It’s more of the same here… but in 3D! With the exception of Avatar this was actually the best 3D experience I’ve had, so the novelty actually makes the movie more enjoyable. This entry is just as funny as the previous films and a couple of the scenes literally made me gag; consider that fair warning on The Sweat Suit.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ve never watched a Jackass movie more than once, but I could understand the appeal.
Sequel Potential: These guys are all getting older, but they all still seem pretty willing to take a beating.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: Lots of penis.
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth Watching/Recommended)
Recommendation: Fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed and anyone that hasn’t already been initiated into the Jackass world should probably continue to stay away.

Machete (2010)

Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan
Director: Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Planet Terror, Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn)
Quick Thoughts: A rugged revenge film with the feel of a B-movie. Danny Trejo plays a bad ass ex-federale on a mission to kill those that betrayed him and anyone stepping in his way. This is a pure action film and doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s still impressive that Robert Rodriguez was able to piece together a decent feature film from what originated as a two-minute trailer for the Grindhouse movies (I’d rather see Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving myself). The acting is mediocre, but no one is trying too hard and there is something hilarious about Steven Seagal playing Mexicano. I liked it, but at 105 minutes, it does run a little long for something that lacks any substance.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ll definitely watch it again.
Sequel Potential: $27 million U.S. gross? I’d say no.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: Tons of nudity. Lindsay Lohan’s character gets very naked, but the use of a body double is debatable. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez look sexy as fuck. Great movie for exploiting gorgeous women!
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth Watching/Recommended)
Recommendation: A great movie for action junkies, but there’s little else to be seen here.

The Expendables (2010)

Starring: Every action star ever
Director: Sylvester Stallone (Rambo, Rocky Balboa)
Quick Thoughts: This movie would have been a lot cooler if it was made about 15 years ago. Basically, what’s happening here is you have every iconic action star from the 80s teaming up with a few of the past decade’s top action stars and forming a top secret tactical unit set out to take on someone somewhere for whatever reason. Honestly, who cares about a plot when you have this kind of cast? Apparently Sylvester Stallone does and that’s where this movie fails. Unlike Machete, this movie takes itself way too seriously. There’s too much down time and “plot development” in a movie that should be 98% kicking ass. The Expendables had some good scenes, but I spent a lot of time thinking about other things when I was watching this movie.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: If I could edit this down to about 30 minutes of pure action, I’d watch it again.
Sequel Potential: The Expendables 2 has already been announced and has a tentative 2012 release date.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: I can’t remember.
Grade: 4/10 (Netflix It)
Recommendation: Another action movie that lacks substance. I’d recommend it for nostalgia purposes, but even with low expectations, I was disappointed.

Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John Di Maggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs
Director: Brandon Vietti (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, The Batman)
Quick Thoughts: A great take on the Batman/Red Hood story line that finds Batman pitted against a formidable and resourceful Red Hood, an enemy that seems to know more about Batman than he should. While Batman stalwarts Kevin Conroy (as Batman) and Mark Hammil (as The Joker) are both absent, the new voice cast does a respectable job… but it’s the story that makes this a great Batman movie. Considering it was a straight-to-DVD release, it’s still one of the better movies I’ve seen this year and probably the best Batman animated film since Mask Of The Phantasm all the way back in 1993.
Viewings: 3
Replay Value: I rented it and watched it three times before I sent it back. I’ll buy it soon enough and it’s a must have for any Batman fan.
Sequel Potential: There will always be more animated Batman movies, but this story had a pretty solid conclusion.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: N/A.
Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)
Recommendation: A clear must own for fans of Batman and comic book films, but I’d also recommend this to just about anyone. Very good.

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Weekly College Basketball Rankings 12/27

December 27, 2010

I’ve been sick this past holiday weekend, so I’m just doing a fast update today. No team-by-team analysis. I copied and pasted the rankings from my Word document, so I have every team’s important wins and losses listed as well. Last Week’s Ranking in brackets:

Top 25

1. Duke (11-0)
[1]
Key Wins: Marquette, Kansas State, MSU, Butler
Key Losses:

2. Ohio State (12-0) [2]
Key Wins: Florida, FSU, South Carolina, Oakland
Key Losses:

3. Kansas (11-0) [3]
Key Wins: Arizona, UCLA, Memphis, USC, Cal
Key Losses:

4. Connecticut (10-0) [4]
Key Wins: Wichita State, MSU, Kentucky
Key Losses:

5. Syracuse (13-0) [5]
Key Wins: MSU, NC State
Key Losses:

6. Georgetown (10-1) [6]
Key Wins: NC State, ODU, Missouri, Utah State, Memphis
Key Losses: Temple

7. Pittsburgh (12-1) [7]
Key Wins: Maryland, Texas
Key Losses: Tennessee

8. San Diego State (14-0) [9]
Key Wins: Gonzaga, St. Mary’s,Wichita St., Cal
Key Losses:

9. Villanova (10-1) [10]
Key Wins: UCLA
Key Losses: Tennessee

10. Kentucky (9-2) [11]
Key Wins: Washington, Notre Dame
Key Losses: UCONN, UNC

11. Minnesota (11-1) [14]
Key Wins: Siena, W.Kentucky, UNC, West Virginia
Key Losses: Virginia

12. Missouri (11-1) [15]
Key Wins: Vanderbilt, Illinois
Key Losses: Georgetown

13. BYU (12-1) [18]
Key Wins: Utah St., St. Mary’s, Arizona, UTEP
Key Losses: UCLA

14. Purdue (11-1) [13]
Key Wins: Oakland, Virginia Tech
Key Losses: Richmond

15. Texas (10-2) [22]
Key Wins: Illinois, UNC, MSU
Key Losses: Pitt, USC

16. Notre Dame (11-1)
[21]
Key Wins: Cal, Georgia, Wisconsin, Gonzaga
Key Loses: Kentucky

17. Texas A&M (11-1) [23]
Key Wins: Temple, Washington, Arkansas
Key Losses: BCU

18. Kansas State (10-3) [8]
Key Wins: Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, WSU
Key Losses: Duke, Florida, UNLV

19. West Virginia (8-2) [25]
Key Wins: Oakland, Vanderbilt, VMI, Cleveland St.
Key Losses: Minnesota, Miami

20. Memphis (9-2) [12]
Key Wins: Miami, LSU
Key Losses: Kansas, Georgetown

21. Illinois (10-3) [16]
Key Wins: Maryland, UNC, Gonzaga
Key Losses: Texas, Ill.Chicago, Missouri

22. Louisville (10-1) [unranked]
Key Wins: Butler, UNLV, W.Kentucky
Key Losses: Drexel

23. UCF (11-0) [unranked]
Key Wins: Florida, Miami
Key Losses:

24. UNLV (11-2)
[unranked]
Key Wins: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, KSU
Key Losses: Louisville, UCSB

25. Tennessee (8-3) [17]
Key Wins: VCU, Villanova, Pittsburgh
Key Losses: Oakland, Charlotte, USC

Dropped Out:

19. Baylor (8-3)
Key Wins: ASU
Key Losses: Gonzaga, WSU, FSU

20. Michigan State (8-4)
Key Wins: Washington, Oakland
Key Losses: UCONN, Duke, Syracuse, Texas

24. Florida (9-3)
Key Wins: FSU, KSU
Key Losses: OSU, UCF, Jacksonville

Bubble:

Boston College (10-2)
Key Wins: Texas A&M, Cal, Maryland
Key Losses: Wisconsin

Butler (9-4)
Key Wins: Siena, Stanford, FSU, WSU
Key Losses: Louisville, Evansville, Duke, Xavier

Old Dominion (9-2)
Key Wins: Xavier, Clemson, Richmond, Dayton
Key Losses: Georgetown, Delaware

Temple (9-2)
Key Wins: Georgetown, Georgia, Maryland
Key Losses: Cal, Texas A&M

Washington (8-3)
Key Wins: Texas Tech, Portland
Key Losses: MSU, Kentucky, Texas A&M

Washington State (10-2)
Key Wins: Gonzaga, Miss. St., Baylor
Key Losses: Kansas State, Butler

Notes:

-College basketball was mostly dormant this weekend, but the first half of the week saw a lot of top 25 teams taking losses, which lead to major shuffling in the rankings.

-What’s it going to take for Michigan State to fall out of the national rankings? They were #12 last week with 3 losses… what does 4 losses get you?

-Biggest losers of the week were Tennessee, Kansas State, and Baylor. Who knows what’s going on with the Volunteers, but at least KSU can point to the absence of their top two scorers. They are both on the verge of falling out of the rankings, but these are both teams I’d have a hard time betting against in March. Same goes for MSU. Baylor was a team I’ve had question marks about all season. Heading into this past week, they were ranked #15 in the national polls, but didn’t even crack the top 100 of the RPI. They’ve played three good teams and taken three losses. Consider them exposed.

-Biggest winners of the week were Texas and Butler. Texas knocked off Michigan State and Butler won the tournament in Hawaii, taking down Florida State and Washington State in the process. Texas could be as high as #12 in the national rankings and I wouldn’t be surprised if Butler found itself ranked again. Butler cracks the top 10 of the RPI and rank #3 in strength of schedule; not bad for a team that was having columns written about its dismal tournament chances a couple weeks ago. For now, Butler is good enough to be at the top of my bubble.

-When I updated my rankings in the middle of the week, I had Washington State @ #19. They’ve been impressive lately, but they got smoked by Butler on Christmas and cost themselves a top 25 spot. If they win that game, they probably get a national ranking.

-With Baylor, Tennessee, Illinois, and Florida all possibly exiting the top 25, there’s a chance Washington cracks the national rankings today. They were 27th in votes last week, and if four teams drop out, it’s likely they take a spot. Personally–even as a homer–I don’t think they deserve it. Much like Baylor, Washington has played against three good teams and lost all three games. One difference, Washington was in all three of those games until the last couple minutes. I still think UW is a top 15 team when it comes to talent and depth, but I’m basing my rankings on performance, not potential, and Washington has been disappointing so far.

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College Basketball Rankings (12-20)

December 19, 2010

Last week’s rankings in brackets:

TOP 25

1. Duke (10-0): Duke took the week off, but is still unanimously the best team in the country. [1]

2. Ohio State (10-0): Freshman Jared Sullinger has asserted himself as possibly the best player in the nation, going off for 30 points and 19 rebounds on Saturday. [2]

3. Kansas (10-0): Great debut for Josh Selby: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 3-pointers… but Kansas nearly got upset by an unpredictable USC team. [3]

4. Connecticut (8-0): UCONN took the week off as well and should have two blowout wins before Big East play begins on Dec. 27th. [5]

5. Syracuse (11-0): Is this team really a borderline #1 seed in the NCAA tournament? I’m leaning towards no. [6]

6. Georgetown (11-1): Georgetown plummeted in the national rankings (to #15) last week because of a loss to Temple. I held them strong at #9 because a) Temple is tough and b) they’ve already secured four wins over teams likely to make the NCAA tournament. It’ll be interesting to see where the Hoyas end up on Monday after a week of upsets for a lot of ranked teams. They won’t be this high, but they are #1 in RPI and #3 in strength of schedule. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this team is slightly underrated right now. [9]

7. Pittsburgh (10-1): Pitt jumps slightly up the rankings. [8]

8. Kansas State (9-2): I still think KSU is one of the better teams in the country but that loss to Florida on Saturday was pretty brutal. 44 points? Really? If anyone’s wondering, that’s over 30 points less than they’ve been averaging a game. [4]

9. San Diego State (12-0): Consider me impressed. SDSU cracks the top ten and it’s not like they’ve played a cheese schedule. I think it’s safe to say they’ve claimed the title of best team on the west coast. [12]

10. Villanova (9-1): Villanova hasn’t exactly played the toughest schedule (118th in SoS), but here they are, the 5th team from the Big East to crack my top 10. [13]

11. Kentucky (8-2): The Wildcats take advantage of major shuffles in the middle of the rankings. It’s worth nothing KU is #7 in both the RPI and strength of schedule. [14]

12. Memphis (8-1): Last week I say Memphis could be unranked within four weeks, this week they jump up three spots. Go figure. I still think they’re slightly unproven and I see trouble in the future. [15]

13. Purdue (10-1): We still don’t really know what this team is made of. They rank 48th in the RPI and 176 in SoS. [16]

14. Minnesota (10-1): After Kentucky, I had a real tough time deciding where to put teams 12 through 19. Minnesota is still one of the few teams that has four wins over possible tournament teams. [17]

15. Missouri (10-1): Missouri will probably crack the top ten in most of the national polls, but I wasn’t huge on them in the preseason, so they’re having a harder time climbing up these rankings. I think they’re better than I anticipated, but they’ve still played a relatively easy schedule (157th in SoS). Dropping 116 points on anyone is impressive though. [19]

16. Illinois (10-2): The Illini played one game this week and took a bad loss to… Illinois Chicago? Yuck. I didn’t see the game, but Illinois shot .327 from the field and any team is going to have a hard time winning when they shoot that bad. [10]

17. Tennessee (7-2): Wow, what a difference a week makes. Last week, Tennessee soared up the rankings to #7 and looked like one of toughest teams in the nation after destroying Pittsburgh on the road. This week they took the two worst losses any ranked team has compiled so far. They’re still one of the more impressive teams as far as RPI is concerned, however, losing to Oakland was bad and losing to Charlotte was brutal. [7]

18. BYU (10-1): BYU lost to UCLA badly yesterday, but hold at #18 in my rankings because it’s hard to say anyone below them has been more impressive. [18]

19. Baylor (7-1): When a team has serious questions surrounding their ranking because of a weak schedule and lack of games played and then lose to the first halfway decent team they play (Gonzaga), it raises an eyebrow; a struggling Gonzaga team that had Stephen Gray on their bench for the entire second half no less. [11]

20. Michigan State (8-3): MSU will continue to add fuel to the fire that there’s an east coast bias by climbing to #11 in the national polls on Monday. Look at it from the perspective of a Washington Huskies fan: MSU is 8-3 and rank 66th in the RPI and 66th in SoS, while Washington is 7-3 and ranked 51st in the RPI and 37th in SoS. No way a team with three losses deserves to be that high… I don’t care how good they really are. [20]

21. Notre Dame (9-1): I’m sure The Fighting Irish will hold off Stony Brook today and climb slightly in the rankings. Notre Dame opens Big East play next week with a brutal stretch: their first three games are against Georgetown, Syracuse, and Connecticut. [22]

22. Texas (9-2): Texas held off UNC yesterday and climb up the rankings. [25]

23. Texas A&M (10-1): The Aggies add another decent win to their resume by holding off Arkansas. [24]

24. Florida (8-2): I had a real hard time deciding who to put in my last two spots. Florida has to get some serious credit for what they did to Kansas State yesterday. Plus, they were highly touted in the preseason and have a solid record. [Unranked]

23. West Virginia (8-2): This spot was even harder to fill. I’m giving WVU the edge over some of the teams below simply because I like their resume the most so far. They have a win over Vanderbilt, were the first team to knock off Cleveland State, and also beat decent Oakland and VMI teams. It’s a tough call though and I think there’s a legitimate argument for about five other teams that could be ranked here. [Unranked]

DROPPED OUT

21. Louisville (9-1): A loss to Drexel might not drop Louisville out of the rankings, but I thought they were the least talented ranked team last week, so that loss was enough for me to drop them.

23. UNLV (10-2): I really like UNLV and they’ll have a chance to get back into the top 25 soon enough.

BUBBLE

Boston College (8-2)
Old Dominion (8-2)
Temple (8-2)

On The Radar

Arizona (9-2)
Cincinnati (10-0)
Cleveland State (12-1)
Florida State (9-2)
North Carolina (7-4)
Northwestern (7-0)
Oklahoma State (10-1)
Richmond (8-3)
St. Mary’s (9-2)
UCF (10-0)
Vanderbilt (8-2)
Washington (7-3)
Washington State (7-1)
Wisconsin (9-2)

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College Basketball Rankings 12/13

December 13, 2010

Last week’s rankings in brackets:

Will finish updating throughout Monday.

TOP 25

1. Duke (10-0): Duke lost Kyrie Irving indefinitely this past week–a big blow–but Duke’s one of the few teams in the nation that can suffer such a loss and still be okay. Their chances of ending the regular season undefeated have been diminished, but I still don’t see anyone challenging them as the top team in the country. [1]

2. Ohio State (8-0): I believe in OSU as a top five team, but their resume isn’t incredibly impressive so far: none of the teams they’ve played are currently ranked. I can’t wait for Big 10 play to start and see what these guys are really made of. Jared Sullinger made a statement concerning the question of who the best freshmen in the country is by dropping 40 points in a game last week. [2]

3. Kansas (9-0): The Jayhawks had a big week with wins over Memphis and Arizona and Josh Selby is eligible for their next game. I expect them to be the #2 team in the country before long. [4]

4. Kansas State (9-1): [5]

5. Connecticut (8-0): [6]

6. Syracuse (10-0): After watching The Orange demoralize MSU last week, my doubts about this team have been erased. They are legit. [7]

7. Tennessee (7-0): For the first time this year, I made a change in my rankings after the national polls came out by switching Tennessee and Pittsburgh around. When my dad is calling me out and saying “you’re going to rank Tennessee behind Pittsburgh after they crushed them?” I know I made a mistake. [10]

8. Pittsburgh (10-1): The loss to Tennessee is worse than it looks. Not only did they lose decisively, they got beat that bad on a “neutral” court in Pittsburgh. [3]

9. Georgetown (9-1): The Hoyas lost to Temple and took a drop in the national polls, but it’s hard to overlook what Georgetown has accomplished so far and say Illinois or Baylor deserve to be ahead of them. Georgetown has four wins over top 50 teams and rank #2 in the RPI, plus Temple’s stock is starting to rise again. [9]

10. Illinois (10-1): [11]

11. Baylor (6-0): I really think Baylor is a good team–maybe even top 10 good–but the lack of games played and a weak schedule makes me wince to have them so high. [12]

12. San Diego State (10-0): SDSU will likely be 17-0 by the time they face off with UNLV on January 12th. [14]

13. Villanova (8-1): [15]

14. Kentucky (7-2): [16]

15. Memphis (7-1): Memphis dropped to Kansas and lost Wesley Witherspoon for five weeks. With some surprisingly good teams in Conference USA, Memphis could find themselves unranked by the time their leading scorer returns. [9]

16. Purdue (9-1): [17]

17. Minnesota (9-1): [19]

18. BYU (10-0): I thought Arizona was going to beat BYU, or at least challenge them, but it looks like Jimmer and Co. are a national force. [22]

19. Missouri (8-1): [20]

20. Michigan State (7-3): MSU still has top 5 talent and experience, but they’ve struggled against top level teams, posting three losses against teams currently in the top 6 and narrow victories over now unranked Washington and a small, but talented school from Oakland. The Spartans are ranked #14 in today’s AP Poll, a ranking that’s clearly based more on potential than recent history. [13]

21. Louisville (8-0): I had Louisville near the top of my bubble last week and a win over ranked UNLV proved they belong here now. [Unranked]

22. Notre Dame (9-1): Losing to Kentucky, but beating Gonzaga is about a break even week for The Fighting Irish. [24]

23. UNLV (9-1): UNLV lost to Louisville, but maintain their spot in the top 25 because no one below them has accomplished as much. [23]

24. Texas A&M (9-1): Not only did A&M knock off Washington, but their win over Temple earlier this season is starting to look better and better. [Unranked]

25. Texas (7-2): Texas holds on to their top 25 spot, but all they’ve done since the an impressive run in the 2K Sports Classic is beat mediocre teams and lose to a middling USC team. Their ranking will be in jeopardy on Saturday when they face off against a resurgent North Carolina. [25]

DROPPED OUT

Washington (6-3): It’s painful for me to drop the Huskies out of my rankings, but it’s also painful to watch them lose to every good team they play. I still think we have top 10 level talent and depth, but it’s going to be hard to fight our way back into the national rankings now that the PAC-10 doesn’t have a single ranked team. Embarrassing. [18]

Florida (7-2): Florida didn’t lose any games this week, but their resume isn’t nearly as impressive as the teams that are currently ranked. [21]

BUBBLE

Arizona (8-2)
Boston College (8-2)
Cincinnati (8-0)
Cleveland State (12-0)
North Carolina (7-3)
Old Dominion (8-2)
Oklahoma State (9-1)
Temple (7-2)
UCF (8-0)
Washington State (7-1)
West Virginia (7-2)
Wisconsin (8-2)

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2010 Movie Reviews: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Toy Story 3, more

December 7, 2010

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

”I’m a what?”
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Quick Thoughts: The short from Fantasia is adapted into a full length live action feature film. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the trailers for this movie actually made it seem like it might be okay. I was expecting this to be some sort of sleeper hit for 2010, but I wound up feeling disappointed. Jay Baruchel has a certain level of charm to his naivety, but this movie was more over-the-top ridiculous than I was expecting it to be. This is no Harry Potter and if you’re looking for your magic fix, keep it in the J.K. Rowling world.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: This is more kiddie fare than Harry Potter is… as an adult, I’ll pass.
Sequel Potential: It performed well at the box office which usually a recipe for a franchise.
Oscar Potential: Maybe some visual effects nominations.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 4.5/10 (Netflix It/Worth Watching)

Batman/Superman: Apocalypse (2010)

”Your cousin just torched $50,000 worth of custom hardware.”
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Andre Braugher, Summer Glau
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Quick Thoughts: A solid adaptation from the Superman/Batman series of graphic novels. This entry introduces Supergirl into the mythos and highlights our two main heroes’ personalities: Superman welcomes her with open arms, excited and optimistic about his fellow Kryptonian, while Batman is forever suspicious and always prepared for the worst. Appearances from Darkseid and Wonder Woman add to the fun. Nothing spectacular here, but worth watching for fans of DC Comics.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Worth buying for die hard DC fans like myself.
Sequel Potential: I’ve read the whole Superman/Batman series, so there’s more where this came from.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 6/10 (Worth Watching)

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
”Remember me?”
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara
Director: Samuel Bayer
Quick Thoughts: Who is this Freddy Krueger? He looks more like Lord Voldemort dressed up in a Krueger Halloween costume. Jackie Earle Haley does an okay job, but he’s no Robert Englund. The movie itself tries to bring the franchise back to its scary roots, but forgets to bring a plot or characters we care about along with it. The script bounces around focusing on victim to victim before finally revealing its heroes in the closing act. Yawn. Yeah, I’m getting a little sleepy and this movie isn’t going to keep me awake at night.
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: Thought it was solid the first time I saw it… all its flaws became unforgivable the second time through.
Sequel Potential: I would imagine there will be more sequels and I’d be happy about it, but there’s a ton of room for improvement.
Oscar Potential: None
Nudity: I can’t remember any… not a good look for a Freddy movie.
Grade: 4/10 (Netflix It)

Toy Story 3 (2010)

”If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.”
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty
Director: Lee Unkrich
Quick Thoughts: This is probably my second favorite film of 2010 (after Inception). As usual, the Pixar team comes through with a genius and hilarious script that finds our beloved toys from a decade ago dealing with the emotional trauma of Andy moving on to college without them. After Andy’s mom nearly sends the garbage bag full of toys to the dump, they find themselves hostage at a local daycare center run by a plush, purple teddy bear named Lotso. What ensues is one of the best escape movies of recent memory and a film that brought tears to my eyes on a couple different occasions. Definitely a movie that tugs at your heart strings and reminds you what it was like to be a kid and how much it sucks to grow up.
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: Definitely the kind of movie I could watch several times a year and probably the best Pixar movie ever.
Sequel Potential: Even though this is a great close to a fantastic trilogy of films, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Woody and Buzz facing new adventures in the future.
Oscar Potential: I’d be shocked if it doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination. It’d be highway robbery for it to lose in the Best Animated Feature category. Toy Story movies are always good for some of the sound categories too, especially Best Original Song.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 10/10 (Instant Classic)

Greenberg (2010)

”You like me so much more than you think you do.”
Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans
Director: Noah Baumbach
Quick Thoughts: Ben Stiller does something a little different in this movie. Instead of his usually high energy comic self, we get a somewhat reserved and introverted version. The movie is about a 40-something loner that kind of lives life to his own beat. He befriends his brother’s housesitter and develops an awkward, maybe harmful sexual relationship with each other. It’s cool to see Ben Stiller switching things up in this movie, and it does provide for some laughs we’re not used to getting from him, but the movie as a whole, is just a step above forgettable.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d probably watch this movie two times, maximum.
Sequel Potential: None
Oscar Potential: Ben Stiller probably thinks he has a shot an acting nomination, but it’s not going to happen.
Nudity: Greta Gerwig has a lot of sex in this movie.
Grade: 5/10 (Worth Watching)

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Weekly College Basketball Rankings

December 6, 2010

Last week’s rankings in brackets:

TOP 25

1. Duke (8-0): Writers are already starting to make “Will Duke go undefeated posts?” Seems overboard to me, but this is clearly the best team in the country. They could arguably lose a game and still be ranked #1. They were a near consensus preseason favorite, they’re undefeated, and they’ve already beat four teams that are almost certainly tournament bound. No one else in the country can say that. [1]

2. Ohio State (6-0): Well, at least the Buckeyes have been up on a couple solid teams from Florida. [2]

3. Pittsburgh (9-0): Pitt has been untested since a tough early schedule and I’m not even sure they’re the best team in the Big East anymore. [3]

4. Kansas (7-0): Josh Selby is eligible next week, an addition that could arguably make Kansas the #2 team in the country. [4]

5. Kansas State (7-1): Washington State tested them, but KSU is a gritty, grind-it-out squad. [5]

6. Connecticut (7-0): Well, UCONN didn’t shock the world this past week but they did add two more wins to their resume and Kemba Walker continued to display his brilliance with a triple-double. [6]

7. Syracuse (8-0): Maybe this will end up being a great team because of all the wins they picked up in close games against mediocre teams. Their signature win so far this season is vs. North Carolina State–a fringe tournament team–and they were getting beat almost the entire game. I was shocked to see them get the win. I just doubt The Orange are even a top 15 team after they get through the Big East schedule. [8]

8. Georgetown (8-0): The Hoyas went surging up my rankings this week with wins over ranked Missouri (pulling off the upset based on national polls) and a Utah State team that’s heavily favored to win their conference. With Old Dominion and NC State already falling to Georgetown, the Hoyas have one of the more impressive early season resumes. [14]

9. Memphis (7-0): Memphis is cruising right now, but Conference USA could be more of a challenge for them than expected: UTEP, Southern Miss, and UCF could all be solid. [10]

10. Tennessee (6-0): It’s arguable that the Vols could be at #9, but if I didn’t rank them above Memphis last week, I don’t have any reason to now. [15]

11. Illinois (8-1): For whatever reason, the Illini have been unfairly ranked by the national polls the past couple weeks, but after posting wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga this past week, their national standing should improve immensely. [13]

12. Baylor (6-0): Arizona State is the best team they’ve beat. They have the talent to be top ten good, they just haven’t really proved much yet. [12]

13. Michigan State (6-2): The widely picked preseason #2 team in the country was easily handled by #1 Duke. [7]

14. San Diego State (8-0): Can’t wait to see how the Aztecs hold up against the good Mountain West teams. So far they have shown dominance as the best non-Big 6 Conference team in the nation with wins over St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, and Wichita State. [21]

15. Villanova (6-1): Wildcats improve their ranking with an uneventful week. [17]

16. Kentucky (6-2): Kentucky takes another loss, this time to North Carolina. This is a talented team, but clearly not as good as last year’s squad. [11]

17. Purdue (7-1): Purdue rebounded from last week’s loss to Richmond with a win over Virginia Tech. [18]

18. Washington (5-2): Washington continued to display its dominance over teams that aren’t nationally ranked with blowouts over Long Beach State and a Texas Tech team that beat them last year. I think it’s a question of confidence with this team… they destroy the teams they should beat and find a way to lose against teams that are supposed to beat them. [20]

19. Minnesota (7-1): After a surprisingly strong start, the Golden Gophers lose to a Virginia team that is picked to finish last in the ACC. [16]

20. Missouri (5-1): Missouri lost their first game of the year and still moved up in my rankings. Why? Because they showed they can play against good teams taking Georgetown to the buzzer. [22]

21. Florida (6-2): Florida took one of the more embarrassing losses of the year in a game against UCF, which sends them tumbling down my rankings and possibly out of the national polls. [9]

22. BYU (8-0): Jimmer Friddette and BYU continue to dominate the non-conference schedule. [24]

23. UNLV (8-0): Yes… that’s three teams from the Mountain West that remain undefeated and ranked in the top 25. Anyone think the PAC-10 is still the better conference this year? [25]

24. Notre Dame (8-0): The Fighting Irish nearly made my top 25 last week and find a spot now thanks to Gonzaga’s early struggles. [Unranked]

25. Texas (6-2): Texas can be pretty inconsistent. Remember how they were ranked #1 at one point last year and had to fight for a spot in the NCAA tournament? Well, they started this season playing solid against ranked Illinois and Pittsburgh, but lose to a subpar USC team last night. Could be more of the same for the Longhorns in 2010-11. [23]

DROPPED OUT

Gonzaga (4-3): Credit the Bulldogs for playing a tough schedule, but they need to beat some of these teams to stay in the top 25 and that’s not happening so far. It could be March before these guys find themselves ranked again.

NOTES

*It was tempting to drop Texas out of the top 25, but the teams I have on the bubble aren’t really screaming at me to crack the rankings. Oklahoma State (7-1), Vanderbilt (7-1), Cleveland State (10-0), Louisville (6-0), and Cincinnati (7-0) all have impressive records, but none of them have faced a tough schedule. Cleveland State hasn’t even played a team from a Big 6 Conference, let alone a ranked team. Louisville has beaten Butler and Vanderbilt took out North Carolina, but neither of those teams are as good as originally thought. I still like Texas’ performance a bit better so far.

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Movie Reviews: How To Train Your Dragon, Harry Potter, The Social Network

December 5, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

”We’re Vikings. It’s an occupational hazard.”
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera
Director: Dean Deblois, Chris Sanders
Quick Thoughts: A solid, underdog-becomes-a-hero family film that might be a little bit overrated. It’s very good, but its current standing amongst the top 250 films of all-time is probably being a bit absurd.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Great Christmas present for kids and I wouldn’t be mad about owning this film either, but I’m not rushing out to buy it.
Sequel Potential: I just read a release from Dreamworks saying there are going to be at least two more movies in this franchise and maybe as many as eight. Yikes.
Oscar Potential: Toy Story 3, Tangled, and this movie should be battling it out for Best Animated Movie. Unlike TS3, however, I don’t see Dragons getting a Best Picture nom.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Pt. 1 (2010)

”I must be the one to kill Harry Potter.”
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
Director: David Yates
Quick Thoughts: There are pros and cons to breaking HP7 into two parts. It’s good because the source material will be valiantly represented and kids won’t have to sit through a four or five hour movie. It’s bad because the first film doesn’t work that well as a stand alone project. The first half of J.K. Rowling’s book finds Harry, Ron, and Hermione doing a lot of walking around and minimal action. Almost everything exciting in the last book is going to happen in the second part. It is a very faithful adaptation, however, and I’m sure when the two movies can be viewed back-to-back the first film won’t seem so incomplete and boring. HP&TDHP1 doesn’t suck; it’s a beautiful film and a solid build up for the next movie, it’s just a little underwhelming. However you want to put it, the finale–coming next summer–is going to be EPIC and second part should garner the Harry Potter franchise its first Best Picture nomination. I’m just guessing.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d like to see it again before it leaves theaters and then I’m reading books 6 and 7 again before watching the finale.
Sequel Potential: Part 2 comes out July 2011… and for those that don’t know already, Rowling is toying with the idea of more Harry Potter books.
Oscar Potential: I don’t see HP getting any major nominations, but it should pick up some nods in some of the technical departments (art direction, costumes, score, etc.).
Nudity: We actually get dangerously close to seeing a topless Emma Watson. Crazy.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)

The Social Network (2010)

”If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.”
Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Director: David Fincher
Quick Thoughts: A movie about the creation of a social networking website sounds dull as hell, but the great script from Aaron Sorkin, great performances from the surprisingly talented cast, and David Fincher’s usually solid direction makes this one of the best movies of 2010. Also, Andrew Garfield showed he has serious acting chops and should have everyone excited about the Spider-Man reboot.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: This movie was great the first time and I’ll definitely watch it again when it releases on DVD, but I’m guessing it’s replay value doesn’t extend much beyond that.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Should be a cinch for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations and my current favorite to win the Oscar the for the screenplay. This isn’t Fincher’s best directing job, but he always has an outside shot at an nomination. Jessie Eisenberg and maybe Andrew Garfield deserve mention as longshots for acting nominations.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 8/10 (Must See)