Sunday, June 28, 2009

Away We Go

Of course I really wanted to see Transformers, but Tamar had different ideas. She didn't agree with me that seeing Transformers during her birthday week would be kick ass awesomeness wrapped in a little bow. She very strangely wanted to see some obscure indie flick directed by Sam Mendes, written by Dave Eggers and starring that lady from SNL whose Mother sang Loving You. To be honest I had wanted to see this one too, it's a funny trailer and I really enjoyed the odd casting choices here. In the end it was tough to turn down the Autobot/Decepticon destructo-fest, but a man can't be concerned with having to sleep with one eye open every night, I think I did the smart thing. It was an enjoyably quirky movie. It hinged totally on the likability of the two leads John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. And I thought they had a great chemistry, even if it went on a bit too long. I thought they made the ride very enjoyable.A young couple, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), decide to take a trek across the country in order to find the perfect place to raise their un-born child. They travel to Phoenix to see Verona's sister (Carmen Ejogo) and an old work friend, Lily (Allison Janney) and her family. It's always great to see Janney in anything even if she's chewing scenery. She's plays the kind of lady that cannot shut up no matter the circumstances. It's kind of like she's perpetually drunk all the time, just says whatever comes into her brain. Irritating, yes, but also very funny. Next stop was Burt's family friend LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her strange little hippie family. Where Lily was all about insulting her children in public. LN was more into smothering her kid to death with new age hippie love. Gyllenhaal was funny and way over the top. They head up to Canada to see some college friends and their family life, (They were the most normal family unit) and end up taking a special trip to see Burt's brother (Paul Schneider) in Miami. One of my gripes with the flick is that we mostly see the extremes of parenting on display. They make their point but sometimes they just go on a bit too long. But here's the question, is the film elitist as reviewer Tom McCarthy suggests? Personally I think he's just looking to beat up on the film. Some of the characters take their parenting ideas to, what may seem to be, an extreme level. But I didn't get the sense that they were trying to say that Verona and Burt were somehow better or above that kind of craziness. I think any sane person watching would probably relate more to the travelling couple than say LN and her dislike of the stroller because it pushes her babies away from her. (Total nutbar by the way.) It's a comedy Tom, a slower, less slapstick comedy, but a comedy just the same. So relax, man.Overall Tamar and I really related to the young couple. They had a similar dynamic to us and that really resonated. It's a solid little film with some great performances as I mentioned above and also from Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara and Jim Gaffigan. It was slow at times and some of the scenes, as they traveled from place to place, went on a bit longer than necessary. But it was a well written enjoyable ride and if you've had your fill of talking robots that smash then check out this little gem.

Grade 4 Buckets

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

John Calipari - Greatest Recruiter ever?

From time to time I like to read the college basketball scouting reports for the upcoming season. I was especially intrigued about this particular kid John Wall. He's a 6'3 point guard from North Carolina. He's a McDonald's All-American and he is considered the best of the crop for the upcoming 2009-2010 season. The reports all say that he is good enough to go pro now. He's what you would call a "One and Done." My brother, a walking sports Almanac, tells me that this kid is a die hard Tar Heels fan and it became public knowledge that his mother had pleaded with coach Roy Williams to take a look at him for recruitment to Chapel Hill. Roy took a look but then did not actively pursue him. Coach K from Duke and John Calipari, now from Kentucky, were relentlessly hounding this kid to come to their respective schools. In the end Calipari won out. With Calipari's switch over from Memphis to Kentucky and his upcoming recruiting class he has been dubbed the greatest recruiter ever by many of the talking heads. But is there any truth to this, is John Calipari the best college basketball recruiter ever?My brother, the sports almanac, and I both disagree with this sentiment. Calipari is a good coach no question, but he is far from the best recruiter. Any school worth it's salt can get a top pick from High School. It's finding a talented player that also has the personality and character that helps your team win. That is a special skill that only a few have, coaches like Roy Williams from UNC. No one will deny that Williams is an excellent recruiter. If this is true then why did he turn down John Wall a point guard who could run the Carolina offense possibly better than anyone? Not to mention he is from Carolina and, as I said above, his mother pleaded with Roy Williams to consider him. With all of these chances why would Roy Williams not really consider this wunderkind of Basketball? This kid who could take UNC to another National Championship probably in his Freshman year. Well it could be that John Wall, as good as he is, he might be a noose over the neck of any school he plays for. If you've read the news recently, John Wall was charged with breaking and entering. Kids do stupid things sometimes no question but this is trouble a top University does not need. Not to mention there are rumors circulating that John Wall has received cash incentives from colleges. This is even worse news. It appears as if this kid is selling his talent to the highest bidder. Calipari and Kentucky, I guess, don't care about this. Kentucky hasn't been a relevant team in a while and now that they have brought controversial coach John Calipari aboard I guess they figure as long as they win championships they can deal with the backlash.Here is something to consider about John Calipari and this is not to say that he is or was involved directly in these dealings, but it does cast a shadow on him and his basketball program. Calipari has only been to two Final Fours. Calipari was leaving Umass to coach the Nets when his first Final Four appearance was under question because of one of his players, Marcus Camby. Camby had received gifts from two agents while still at Umass. Calipari had a bit of a scarlet letter on him with College Basketball after that. So when Calipari decided to return to College Hoops he found the offers to be lacking. No one wanted to really touch him. So he ended up in Memphis for the 2000-2001 season. For nine years he built up the school at Memphis. And in the 2007-2008 season he took his Memphis Tigers to the final game of the Final Four only to lose to Kansas. Now as he takes over at Kentucky his former school is under investigation. Memphis player Derrick Rose is being targeted for cheating on his SATs in order to get into Memphis. If these allegations prove to be true, like Umass, Memphis will have it's Final Four record expunged from the record books. This could be pure bad luck or it could be a pattern of mis-conduct on Calipari's part. It is true he has never been fully investigated in all of these circumstances but if there are to be violations later regarding John Wall, who will be to blame? I think it's time the NCAA does it's job and truly investigate Calipari and his tactics. If the John Wall situation escalates and that it is discovered that he took money then Calipari deserves even tougher scrutiny.

*Updated note - Apparently the SAT situation has been resolved for Derrick Rose and he seems to be in the clear for that violation. Although he is now being scrutinized for unpaid trips his brother took on the Memphis players private plane. There are also new allegations against another Memphis player Robert Dozier and his entrance exams into college.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Hangover

I had my choice this weekend of two comedies. Top Comedian Will Farrell in Land of the Lost or his former Old School Director, Todd Phillips with the Hangover. I could have taken the safe bet with the angry man child Will Farrell but I just didn't think Land of the Lost would be very funny. In fact the trailer made me want to punch Will Farrell in the face. However the trailer for The Hangover seemed just like the kind of stupid yet funny flick I was looking for. And now looking at the weekend grosses apparently I and the American public have chosen wisely.Four friends take a trip to Vegas for a Bachelor Party and things go awry. They blank out after their fun and somehow lose the Groom. It's a race against time to find him and get him to the chapel on time.That's pretty much the plot. Simple, yes. Done before, absolutely. But there is something unique about this that I just enjoyed. We don't really get to see much or any of their drunken night of debauchery only the aftermath. Which I thought was a little different than the norm. No superstars here in this film although they may be after the weekend. After fawning after Jennifer Garner in Alias and psycho crazy on Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers. The Coop finally gets his due in a lead role. With great back up from Ed Helms, of the Office and Daily Show, respectively and Zach Galifianakis. Whom, as far as I am concerned came out of nowhere to steal the show. He plays his man-child very similar to Will Farrell but with less yelling and more heart. He plays the lovable loser who probably ate paint chips as a kid. Not to mention the great supporting cast of Mike Tyson who makes batshit crazy look like fun, and Ken Jeong as an uber feminine gangster. You get a hilarious musical number and some great WTF moments with the tiger the chicken and the baby.There isn't a whole lot to complain about the film but if I were to shout out about one particular thing it is that these are almost the same exact characters from Old School. Bradley Cooper's Phil is Vince Vaughn's Bernard, through and through. He is the ultimate swinger who tries to also appear as family man to his wife and kid. Ed Helms' Stu plays the pathetic push-over guy just like Luke Wilson's Mitch. I think that Zack Galifianakis' Alan plays slightly different from Will Farrell's Frank the Tank, but you can still connect the dots. But it's ok Todd we'll forgive you as long as the Hangover 2 is just as funny and absurd as the first one. If you haven't seen this one yet then you certainly should it is by far the best new thing out right now. I heard Pelham 123 blows and I think we all know by now what to think of Land of the Lost.

Grade 4 Buckets