Archive for January, 2011

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College Basketball Rankings: January 31st 2011

January 31, 2011

TOP 25:

1. Ohio State (22-0)
Last Week: #1

2. Kansas (20-1)
Last Week: #5

3. Pittsburgh (20-2)
Last Week: #2

4. Texas (18-3)
Last Week: #9

5. Duke (19-2)
Last Week: #3

6. San Diego State (21-1)
Last Week: #4

7. Connecticut (17-3)
Last Week: #6

8. BYU (20-2)
Last Week: #7

9. Notre Dame (17-4)
Last Week: #12

10. Villanova (17-4)
Last Week: #8

11. Kentucky (16-4)
Last Week: #15

12. Texas A&M (17-3)
Last Week: #11

13. Purdue (18-4)
Last Week: #14

14. Missouri (17-4)
Last Week: #13

15. Syracuse (18-4)
Last Week: #10

16. Georgetown (16-5)
Last Week: #20

17. Washington (15-5)
Last Week: #16

18. Louisville (17-4)
Last Week: #22

19. Wisconsin (15-5)
Last Week: #17

20. North Carolina (15-5)
Last Week: Unranked

21. Minnesota (16-5)
Last Week: #19

22. Xavier (15-5)
Last Week: Unranked

23. Florida (16-5)
Last Week: #18

24. Arizona (18-4)
Last Week: Unranked

25. West Virginia (14-6)
Last Week: #23

DROPPED OUT:

Illinois (14-7)
Last Week: #21

Vanderbilt (15-5)
Last Week: #24

Florida State (15-6)
Last Week: #25

Comments:

-Outside of OSU, Texas is the hottest team in the nation. They really look like a championship caliber team and you can definitely make an argument for them at #3.

-How awesome was that BYU-San Diego State showdown? I was more excited for that game than any non-UW game all year. The first half was spectacular with both teams trading leads each possession and neither team jumping ahead by more than three points at any time. And how great was Jimmer Fredette? In the twenty minutes that spanned the last ten minutes of the first half and the first ten of the second half, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better college basketball performance from a single player. BYU had top 5 potential, but the loss to New Mexico keeps them pretty much stagnant in my rankings.

-Washington vs Washington State was a let down. It seems like most of the Huskies didn’t even show up to play. Isaiah Thomas was 0-9 from the field late in the second half and I can’t remember Bryan-Amaning doing anything of significance the entire game. We had their two best players in foul trouble the whole second half and we didn’t even pretend like we were going to compete. Wack.

-Syracuse is really plummeting. I remember saying they seemed overrated through most of the non-conference schedule and now it looks like that’s starting to show. They got off to a great start in the Big East, but man, they are TANKING now… and when you look at their quality wins, the list doesn’t really stack up to the top teams: MSU (solid, but now unranked), NC State (pretty weak), Notre Dame (big win), and two wins over two of the weaker good Big East teams (SJU, Cincy). Exposed or in a funk?

-Louisville won’t go away. You expect them to lose to the better teams in the Big East and then they pull off two big wins this week and it looks like Peyton Siva (Seattle represent!) is really starting to blossom. Maybe this team really is top 25 good?

-UNC has been on the verge of being ranked for a while now but they always seem to take a loss at the end of the week. That didn’t happen this week. This is a team that beat Kentucky and four of their five losses were to top 25 teams… it’s not that bad for Roy Williams and co. this year.

-Xavier has asserted themselves as the best team in the Atlantic Conference and that’s saying something.

-I have Florida in the rankings still but I don’t feel good about it. I mean… does anyone think this team is really better than Tennessee? I doubt it.

-Two PAC-10 teams in the top 25? Did hell freeze over? Arizona is definitely taking advantage of the conference… but still, wins @WSU and over USC and UCLA are nothing to scoff at. However, quality wins outside the PAC-10? NC State. Yawn.

-I still can’t rank teams like Utah State, Coastal Carolina, or even Missouri State and Wichita State. I think they are all good teams, but come on, they aren’t playing in the same league as everyone else. Teams like Butler and Gonzaga are on the map Missouri State’s best win is against… Wichita State; and that’s the best win any of these teams has. Wichita State’s and Coastal Carolina’s best wins are both against LSU… but who hasn’t beat them? All solid teams, but come tournament time, these teams aren’t going to be your 4 or 5 seeds. Let’s be real. Lastly, Northern Iowa–last year’s Cinderella–has now beat both Missouri State and Wichita State on their home courts. Is the Missouri Valley Conference really going to be a multiple bid league? It’s looking likely right now.

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Saw VII a.k.a. Saw 3D (2010)

January 27, 2011


Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flanery
Director: Kevin Greutert (Saw VI)
Quick Thoughts: I’ll give the Saw franchise credit for keeping the story somewhat interesting and layered over the course of seven different films. No one is going to say these films are spectacularly written, but considering how fast they churn these things out and how weak the genre usually is when it comes to the script, I’m at least mildly impressed. One problem: even with the films coming out every year, it’s hard to remember the characters if you don’t watch the movies repeatedly (which I don’t). So when a new Saw shows flashbacks or references past events or characters, I often find myself saying “Who the fuck is this? And why do I care?” This is a flaw that ultimately comes down to character development; which is to say, outside of Jigsaw and some of the other major players, that development is pretty weak. Watching Saw VII and seeing Cary Elwes again–one of the stars of the original–made me think of what it must have been like to be a film connoisseur in the mid-80’s, watching as great films like Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street turned into corny franchises that almost made you forget how good the originals were. Does anyone remember the first Saw? It was actually a pretty damn good film. Cheap, with mediocre acting at best, yes, but pretty original for the genre and that ending was fantastic. Well, seven chapters deep, the Saw franchise has followed the same path. I don’t hate these movies by any means, the franchise is pretty much unmatched when it comes to creative death sequences and as I said before, the “epic” story arc is an admirable effort… but you pretty much know what you’re getting by now. Saw VII isn’t any different: some new character finds himself in a maze of death traps and must overcome whatever personal defects landed him there in order to survive. New traps and cool death scenes… that’s why we watch these movies.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: In my childhood I was a horror film fanatic and probably would have had these movies on repeat, but I’ve never seen any Saw film more than once… and I can’t imagine myself attempting a marathon.
Sequel Potential: This was supposed to be the final chapter… you know who else had final chapters? Freddy Kruger in 1991 and Jason Vorhees in 1984… and again in 1993. Well, we had a Jason movie in 2009 and a new Freddy in 2010, so you see how reliable that is.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: None. A fatal flaw in the series.
Grade: 4/10 (Netflix It)
Recommendation: If you made it this far, you might as well go for the finish. With that said, this installment is nothing special… except maybe the 3D effects and I skipped this in theaters.

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Dinner For Schmucks (2010)

January 27, 2011


Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zack Galifianakis
Director: Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet The Parents)
Quick Thoughts: The premise of this movie is exactly what the title suggests: a group of businessmen make a game out of inviting morons to a dinner party and compete to see whose guest is the biggest idiot. Steve Carell really hams it up in this film… and not in a good way. It was a performance that reminded me of when Jim Carrey’s comedies started to suck. His character really has no redeeming qualities. Sure, he means well, but he’s a walking disaster and is constantly creating unforgivable catastrophes for Rudd’s character. So when the film ultimately boils down to a question of “is it okay to make fun of someone for public amusement?” the message seems to be no; but I’m saying: not only would I happily make a fool out of this dude, I’d have a hard time not kicking the shit out of him. Obviously this is supposed to be a mindless comedy, but it’s only mildly funny and the fact that it tries to send a moral message can’t be ignored. Fail.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ve heard a few people say they loved it… I’d never watch it again.
Sequel Potential: Hard to imagine… but stranger things have happened.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 3.5/10 (Skip It/Netflix It)
Recommendation: While Dinner For Schmucks wasn’t exactly a painful watch, I pretty much hated it. I’ve heard people say they liked it, so it obviously has a fan base, but look at it this way: when it comes to this movie, I’m hosting the dinner party and the people that enjoyed this film are my guests.

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College Basketball Rankings – 1/23/2011

January 24, 2011

TOP 25:

Winner Of The Week: Texas – It was a close call between UCONN and the Longhorns, but you can’t really top snapping a 69-game home winning-streak at Kansas. Plus, Texas beat a really tough Texas A&M team too and they did so easily.

Loser Of The Week: Syracuse – First, they let Pittsburgh jump off to a 19-0 run to start the game earlier this week, a game they wound up losing. Losing to Pitt on the road isn’t so bad, especially when your best player is injured. However, the Orange followed that up by losing to Villanova at home in front of 30,000+ fans and with Kris Joseph healthy again.

1. Ohio State (20-0)
Last Week: #1
Comments: The Buckeyes keep rolling and they’re doing it in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Are they a run away for the national title? Not even close. They’ve managed to win them all, but OSU plays a lot of close games and it’s only a matter of time before someone finally knocks them off.

2. Pittsburgh (19-1)
Last Week: #4
Comments: Pitt remains undefeated in the nation’s toughest conference and they’ve looked good doing it.

3. Duke (18-1)
Last Week: #4
Comments: The Blue Devils may no longer be a national title favorite with Kyrie Irving out of action, but Duke is still easily one of the five best teams in the nation.

4. San Diego State (20-0)
Last Week: #6
Comments: The Mountain West showdown we’ve all been waiting for (SDSU vs. BYU) finally happens this week and… it’s not on national TV. Amazing. SDSU is really good, but let’s be real, they’re not going to get a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament… are they?

5. Kansas (18-1)
Last Week: #2
Comments: The Jayhawks had their 69-game home winning streak snapped by Texas yesterday and even though they remain atop the RPI rankings, it’s hard to argue that Kansas has a better slate of quality wins than the teams ranked ahead of them. In fact, Arizona’s the only team they’ve beat that’s even sniffing a top 25 ranking right now.

6. Connecticut (16-2)
Last Week: #10
Comments: UCONN continues to get the job done against tough teams despite the fact that they often seem one-dimensional. Kemba Walker is having an outstanding season and I’ve already seen him hit two game-winners and several other clutch shots late in the game. His supporting cast comes and goes though, so it’s hard to imagine the Huskies making a deep run in March.

7. BYU (19-1)
Last Week: #8
Comments: Jimmer Fredette has announced himself as a Player Of The Year favorite with two 40 point games in the past two weeks. A win over SDSU this week would be huge for the Cougars.

8. Villanova (17-2)
Last Week: #7
Comments: Villanova holds steady in the top ten with a loss to UCONN and a big road win over Syracuse.

9. Texas (16-3)
Last Week: #12
Comments: I could understand an argument for Texas being ranked higher. They had a huge week and they’ve been playing pretty good basketball for the past couple months now and have elevated the program into a legitimate national title threat.

10. Syracuse (18-2)
Last Week: #3
Comments: Tough week for The Orange. They lost games to Pitt and Villanova. Maybe an unfair drop, but looking at their quality wins, they don’t stack up to the teams above them anymore.

11. Texas A&M (16-2)
Last Week: #9
Comments: The Aggies got spanked by Texas, but bounced back with a quality win over Kansas State.

12. Notre Dame (16-4)
Last Week: #13
Comments: Holding strong in the Big East, but two of their conference losses have come against two middle-of-the-pack teams. Don’t be surprised to see NDU dropping the next couple weeks.

13. Missouri (17-3)
Last Week: #14
Comments: Another team that beat up on Kansas State this week. Seriously, what happened to KSU?

14. Purdue (17-3)
Last Week: #15
Comments: Purdue bounced back from a terrible week last week to post wins over Penn St. and MSU. Seriously, what happened to MSU?

15. Kentucky (15-4)
Last Week: #11
Comments: Kentucky took a bad loss @Alabama, but managed a road win over South Carolina this week to save themselves from a terrible week.

16. Washington (15-4)
Last Week: #20
Comments: A huge win over Arizona for the Dawgs, but they played Arizona State way too close before blowing it open in the last couple minutes. Isaiah Thomas has elevated his game so much the past couple weeks that he’s starting to get some Player Of The Year talk. Matthew Bryan-Amaning has become a serious threat too after dropping 30 on ASU. Take away the loss @Stanford and Washington has looked like a top ten team all season long.

17. Wisconsin (15-4)
Last Week: #18
Comments: Looking strong in the Big Ten so far, but the haven’t played Purdue or Ohio State yet.

18. Florida (15-4)
Last Week: #19
Comments: Hard to call it with the Gators. They get an impressive win and follow it up with a bad loss. They might be top 25 good, but they won’t get past the second round in the NCAA tournament.

19. Minnesota (15-4)
Last Week: Unranked
Comments: Beat up on the weak Big Ten teams this week, but Minnesota has been tough this year, posting quality wins over North Carolina, West Virginia, and Purdue. Plus they barely lost to #1 Ohio State on the road. A tough, but not great team.

20. Georgetown (14-5)
Last Week: Unranked
Comments: The Big East has been brutal on the Hoyas; they’re yet to post a quality win in conference play. They’ve been solid against everyone else though.

21. Illinois (14-6)
Last Week: #21
Comments: Illinois might drop out of the national rankings, but they’re holding their own in the Big Ten and have a nice list of quality wins. Even with the six losses, I can’t justify putting them lower than this.

22. Louisville (15-4)
Last Week: #17
Comments: I still don’t think Louisville is going to last in these rankings, but they’ve shown me something by getting that gutsy win against Marquette last week and again by beating St. John’s. I just can’t see them hanging with the Big East powers when the conference schedule starts to get really tough.

23. West Virginia (13-5)
Last Week: #22
Comments: West Virginia nearly got embarrassed by Marshall (they did lose, but managed to avoid a blow out), but recent wins over Georgetown and Purdue suggest the Mountaineers aren’t to be trifled with.

24. Vanderbilt (14-4)
Last Week: Unranked
Comments: Vanderbilt and St. Mary’s were pretty much battling for a top 25 spot yesterday and Vanderbilt killed them.

25. Florida State (15-5)
Last Week: Unranked
Comments: Tied with Duke atop the ACC and responsible for Duke’s only loss? Yeah, they’re solid. The Seminoles play 5 of their next 6 ACC games against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Clemson. Anything less than 4-2 in that stretch would be a shocker.

DROPPED OUT:

Gonzaga (13-7)
Last Week: #23
Comments: Just when it looks like Gonzaga is turning their season around they take two losses against teams they should beat easily (San Francisco, Santa Clara)… This was really a horrible week for the Zags because they’re looking more and more like a team that’s going to need to win the conference to make the NCAA tournament.

Michigan State (12-7)
Last Week: #16
Comments: It’s not as bad as it looks for Michigan State. You could argue they’ve played the toughest schedule in the nation and they’ve posted a good amount of quality wins so far… but still, this was a consensus top two team heading into the season. What’s going on in Lansing?

Temple (13-5)
Last Week: #24
Comments: No longer the best team in the Atlantic Ten. That spot now belongs to Xavier.

UCF (14-4)
Last Week: #25
Comments: I have a feeling that UCF’s season is going to be remembered for being nationally ranked for a couple weeks… cause they are starting to bomb now. Four straight losses against some of the weaker teams in C-USA? Even with a national ranking as recently as last week and wins over Miami and Florida, it’s a steep uphill climb from here on.

Notes:

-I can’t bring myself to rank teams like Utah State or Coastal Carolina. Both teams have fantastic records, but neither of them have a quality win.

-Cincinnati @ 17-3 is starting to pick up steam. It’d be funny if they dropped out of the top 25 after picking up their best win of the year (over St. John’s)… I still think this team doesn’t make the NCAA tournament.

-Tennessee is the best team that won’t be ranked. They have a long list of quality wins that have already punched their ticket to The Dance… but they also have a lot of horrible losses. My guess is it will be a mistake to underestimate the Vols come tournament time. They’ve shown they can compete with anyone on any given night. They’ll probably get in as a 6 or 7 seed, but will play like a 3 or 4… assuming they can beat the less talented team they play in the first round.

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Buried (2010)

January 21, 2011

Buried (2010)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Quick Thoughts: Think Phone Booth in a coffin under the dirt. Ryan Reynolds plays an American contractor driving trucks in Iraq that finds himself tied up and buried in a coffin when the movie opens. Initially, all he has with him is a Zippo and a cell phone that’s in a European language. Honestly, in a lot of ways this was the scariest film I saw from last year. I’m claustrophobic, for one, and I really had to detach myself from the situation to keep watching. There’s a lot of horrible ways to go, but being buried alive has to rank amongst the worst. Add to that the feeling of falling asleep, which is really the only escape to bliss from your current nightmare, only to wake up again and realize you’re still there. I’ve had that experience in jail. The gadgets are the kicker though. They give Reynolds’ character a sense of hope that he wouldn’t have otherwise and turns inanimate objects into legitimate villains; it’s a race against his battery life and the gas left in the lighter. It’s remarkable that director Cortes and Reynolds make a riveting film out of something that takes place entirely in a coffin under the ground. It says a lot about Reynolds’ performance and he certainly carries this movie; no one else does anything more than voice acting. It’s 100% Ryan Reynolds. Buried is a great, unique, and scary thriller. Oh, and that poster concept kicks all sorts of ass.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: No buzz at all, but Reynolds is great in it.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
Recommendation: This film has been critically praised, but mostly overlooked. It’s unsettling, but definitely worth checking out.

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2009 Movies: A Serious Man & The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

January 20, 2011

A Serious Man (2009)

Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind
Director: The Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo)
Quick Thoughts: You gotta give the Coen Brothers credit for branching out and taking chances. They follow up 2008’s highly acclaimed and popular No Country For Old Men with a film set in the 1960s with a focus on the Jewish religion and featuring a mostly unknown cast. Stuhlbarg stars as Larry Gopnik, a Jewish college professor whose life suddenly unravels: his kids don’t appreciate him, his brother is unemployed and leeching off him, and his wife announces she wants to be with another man. Larry seeks the advice of various rabbis in order to help him through the hard times, but finds that there’s no sage advice to combat God’s will. Stuhlburg is great as Larry and the supporting cast is solid. The story is relatively confusing at times (I still don’t understand the role of the prologue), but the script is still interesting and funny. A solid, but unspectacular film.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Might have some… but I’ll probably never watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None
Oscar Potential: Nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Nudity: Larry’s hot neighbor is sunbathing naked at one point, but it’s a long distance shot.
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth A Watch/Recommended)
Recommendation: This is a tough call… I’m positive this film is not for everyone, but it’s definitely enjoyable and worth watching. If you’re a fan of the Coen brothers, then yeah, I think this is a safe bet.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Quick Thoughts: Based on the popular Millennium series of novels by the late Stieg Larsson, this film was originally shot as part of a TV mini-series in Sweden. I read the book right before watching this movie, so any liberties taken in the adaptation process didn’t go unnoticed. For the most part, it was a fairly faithful adaptation, but I found some of the changes to be annoying and detrimental to the original story. As is usually the case when adapting the novels, some of the character development is left behind, in this case the character of Mikael Blomkvist really takes the short end of the stick. Seen as a confident, smart, and charming ladies man in the novels, Blomkvist is kind of played as a fool in this movie. That didn’t set well with me and it makes his eventual hook up with Salander much harder to believe. Speaking of Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace kills the role, in a good way. So good, she’s getting some long shot Oscar attention for Best Actress this year (how? when this movie was released in early 2009 in Sweden…) and Roger Ebert even went as far as to lobby for her to be cast in the same role for the Hollywood version of the film. As is, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a dark, solid mystery thriller with a great performance from Noomi Rapace, but with a script that could have easily been better.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ll pass for now.
Sequel Potential: Swedish versions of the next two novels are already out. The Hollywood version of this film directed by the excellent David Fincher is due out in late 2011.
Oscar Potential: Apparently this film is eligible for this year’s Oscars and Noomi Rapace is getting buzz for her performance. I consider that a deep long shot… but if Sweden submits it as such, this has a shot at getting a Best Foreign Film nom.
Nudity: Noomi Rapace is naked a lot. I wonder if Hollywood’s Salander will be doing the same:
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
Recommendation: A good starting point if you’ve read the novels, but personally, I think the Hollywood version is going to be better. David Fincher has been one of the most consistent directors over the past 15 years or so.

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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

January 20, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Director: David Slade (Hard Candy)
Quick Thoughts: This series sucks… I don’t know why I keep watching it. The story isn’t interesting, the characters aren’t likable, the action is mediocre, the writing is bad, and the romances are nauseating. The only thing that could save this franchise for me is if Jacob got rabies and murdered everyone else.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: None
Sequel Potential: One more movie… hopefully that’s it.
Oscar Potential: No.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)
Recommendation: Fans of the franchise are obviously still going to like this movie. If you’re not on board yet, Eclipse isn’t going to change your mind.