Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Good Year

I have to put a plug in for this movie. It came out about a year and a half ago and everyone said it was terrible...and to be honest, it looked like the kind of thing that I just wouldn't enjoy. Sappy, slow-moving, bits of romance, no giant robots fighting each other, no space aliens, no complicated conspiracies....I wrote it off. Well, I was wrong...and so were a bunch of critics. I got the chance to watch this a few days ago and was blown away. Is it my favorite movie of all time? No, but it's a really, really good movie that I never would have given a chance had there been ANYTHING else on tv.

I won't spoil it, but the basic plot is that the main character (Russell Crowe) is an investment banker in London who just inherited a vineyard in France from his recently deceased uncle. An uncle that he used to be close to but hasn't spoken to in years. From there, the movie examines what is most relationships? freedom? wine? a pretty girl? I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. I took a look over at and it appears to have been universally panned by who knows? Maybe I'm way off base here, but I really enjoyed it and would recommend you check it out as well.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Last night, I watched this movie:

Yes, I had seen it before, but I had wanted to give it another look. Man, this movie ticks me right off. Okay, I'll buy Tom Hanks surviving the fiery plane crash, I'll buy him washing up on an island with everything he needs to survive, and I'll even buy that random loot washes up on shore periodically over his years of isolation. However, I just can't get past what his no-good fiance (played by Helen Hunt) does to the man. He's out there. Stranded. The only thing keeping him going is a picture of the love of his life in a in and day out he endures, strives to survive so he can see her again. Against all odds, he manages to drift in to a shipping lane and VOILA! rescue awaits only 4 short years after his ordeal began!
Will things be different? Sure! His family probably held a funeral for him, his social security has probably been closed down, he might not even have to pay taxes again because the man thinks he's dead! All his friends and loved ones will most undoubtably be so excited to see him that they'll sprain something...but oh no. The one person who he wants to see more than anyone, the one person that kept him going, doesn't even have the common courtesty to show up at his "Welcome Back!" party and instead sends a proxy. A proxy who just happens to be her homewrecking husband who took Tom's abscence as an excuse to move in on his lady. Not only that, they're married, have a house and ...wait for it...a freaking kid!!! All in four years. Unbelieveable. Did I mention it was only 4 years?
I tried to make up my own backstory as to what happened. I bet that lousy dentist (I think it's mentioned that the guy she married was her dentist) had been trying to work out an angle for years because he lusted after Helen Hunt's character. He probably heard through the grapevine that her fiance had been in a plane crash. Probably talked to some of his buddies about it on the golf course. I imagine it went like this:

Homewrecker: Hey, so remember that lady I was telling you guys about?
Friend: Yeah of course, the patient of yours that you want to slip a little extra gas to?
Homewrecker: No, not that one, the other one...the blonde.
Fiend: Oh yeah, what's up with her? Any news?
Homewrecker: Darndest thing actually, turns out, this jerk fiance of hers actually died in a plane crash! ha!
Friend: Seriously? What a wonka! You couldn't get me on a plane these days!
Homewrecker: I know! Loser, right? So this just happened a couple of weeks ago, how long do you think I need to wait?
Friend: Dude, she's probably waiting for YOU to call her, it's been what? A couple of weeks you said? I bet she's sitting by the phone!
Homewrecker: You're right, I bet she's lonely, I will call her..thanks for the talk Bob.

They didn't address it in the movie, but I bet that's pretty accurate. And after all this, after all the hardships Tom Hanks had to survive with only the memory of his fiance to keep him going, she doesn't even have the common courtesy to leave her husband and newborn child for him when he shows back up from the dead at the end of the movie. Talk about selfish. Oh, by the way, if you haven't seen the movie you probably shouldn't read this post.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Game Week!

It's game week in my house and I will be making the trek to Lincoln this weekend. Here are a few videos to get you ready.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympics Part Deux

I'm still watching the Olympics religiously...a few thoughts:

1. Michael Phelps is incredible, I don't think he's the "greatest athlete in the world" as some have dubbed him, but others have called him the greatest Olympian of all-time and that's probably correct. There's really nothing new to be said about Phelps.

2. I'm struck by the differences in our athletes compared to almost all of the rest of the world(with a few exceptions). Team USA looks like it lifts weights and eats meat, many of the other athletes do not. Even in women's gymnastics, our athletes have thick, muscular thighs and hips and the Chinese (for one example) team's uniforms can barely stay on because they are so thin and willowy.

3. I don't follow track and field closely, but I've never seen anything like the Jamaican sprinter Bolt. It's almost as if he can go as fast as he wants, there doesn't appear to be a limit to his top speed. There's no way to know his actually time in the 100 because at varying points in the last few days he has shut down his run with between 15-40 meters to go...simply incredible.

4. The so-called "Redeem Team" should easily win the gold, it looks like Coach K has this program back on the rails, I can't imagine a team staying with 20 points of Team USA from here on out, barring a rash of injuries or a complete breakdown on the court.

5. I was thinking about women's athletics. There are many individual sports that the United State's doesn't seem to be able to compete in at the highest level, but in team sports, we are almost unmatched. I started thinking about this and I think it comes back to Title IX. Title IX is a law passed in 1972 that makes it illegal for people to be excluded from education based on sex. The most common application of this law is it's effect on high school and college athletics. In an ideal world, this would mean that boys, girls, men, and women would have access to any educational or extra-curricular program they would be interested in. In the real world, money is a consideration, and you can't offer everything under the sun for people to participate in. So, the compromise has been that there have to be an equal number of sports slots of men and for women (this is an entirely different column, but in my personal opinion they should just take football out of the equation for title IX, and match up the rest of the sports. There isn't an equivalent sport to match for women so it just ends up hurting student athletes...but I digress); unfortunately, this means that some men's sports have been cut in recent years. Men's swimming, diving, and wrestling are popular cuts for high schools and colleges to make; it's an unlucky, but necessary application of the law.
On the other hand, this has created many, many opportunities for girls and young women that other countries simply don't (or can't) provide. Women that are of Olympic age in 2008, have spent their entire lives competing intercollegiately, so they have a great understanding of the intricacies of sport and the team concept. It gives them a real advantage on the playing today, I say "Hurray!" to Title IX.

6. This brings me to my thoughts on China. First of all, I really want to visit. The country looks extraordinary, and so much of it was closed off to the west for so long, that there would be a lot of excitement in just setting foot in China.
I, like many others, were very curious to see what China would look like when peeled back for all the world to see. An article I've linked here: LINK
in a British online paper, is disturbing. According to the article, China has created a beautiful games for the world to enjoy, unfortunately most of their citizens are unable to enjoy it in the same manner. They apparently aren't allowed to assemble, have limited internet access which makes subjects such as Chinese history, Tibet, wikipedia, or any topics that the communist party might deem subversive(behind a firewall their government has cleverly named the Great Firewall), no true freedom of religion, speech, etc. Shamefully, some American companies such as Yahoo and Google appear to be complicite in this effort by altering their search engines and giving in to Chinese pressure. There is much about China that appears ready to "break out" and join the world stage. There also appears to be a ruling elite that is trying desperately to stay as the elite and not allow any visible signs of disention.
In totalitarian regimes I've always wondered what the point is to all the secrecy? If someone can read about Tiananmen Square, what's the big deal? Maybe's it's all just over my capitalist head, but it seems much ado about nothing. I'm fortunate, because no one in China will be able to read my critical thoughts on China...I checked, and is blocked by the Great Firewall!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Olympics

I love the Olympics. Love them. I don't understand people that don't want to watch the Olympics from start to finish. There is so much human drama, so many amazing moments, and thanks to cable television, now I can watch 3500 hours of uninterrupted coverage!

The United States has had a lot of great Olympic moments, and many of them came against Russia (or the Soviet Union), but this year it's different. In the coverage of the games I've seen so far, the Russians just don't look the same. They already seem defeated. Instead, China has risen to take the spot of arch-nemesis to the United States, sort of like Lex Luthor to our Superman.

To me, the Olympics are also a time to become an expert in a bunch of sports that I know nothing about. Sort of like horseracing when the Kentucky Derby is about to start. All of a sudden I start spouting all sorts of nonsense that I read on the internet and pass it off as my own. Normally, you couldn't pay me to watch gymnastics, but during the Olympics, I'm glued...glued I tell you! Same with syncronized diving, badminton, fencing, one-man dingy racing, and basketball...okay, I'm kidding about the basketball, I actually do know a thing or two about that sport.

So, if you can only watch one thing this August, make sure it's the Foxsports Net preview of Nebraska football, but if you can watch two things make sure the second one is the Olympics.

More to come on the Olympics...including my thoughts on China...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Movies I like but Probably Shouldn't

Ask anyone, and they'll tell you that the manliness scale goes something like this:

1. Lance Armstrong - for obvious reasons: he got cancer, said "piss off" then went ahead and won the toughest bike race in the world 7 times in a row with only one testicle. Hear that citizens of the world? Lance is doing more with one ball than the rest of you are doing with two.

2. Rambo - have you seen his movies? He singlehandedly took on a corrupt sheriff, the Vietnamese army, the Russian army, and the Burmese military! It's crazy!

3. Me - for obvious reasons

However, even I love some movies that I probably shouldn't. I see these movies on television and can't turn the channel. There's no logical reason for this, just that they really entertain me.

1. She's All That - what's not to love? A nerdy girl who all of a sudden has the attention of the most popular boy in school, but why would he like her? POW! She gets a haircut and a new dress (getting out of her "nerdy" overalls) and all of a sudden she's a 9.5 on a scale of 1-10. What else? A crazy bet that of course backfires (the plot hinges on this point, but as my friend Nick says: lack of communication between main characters is essential to the movie industry), Usher DJ'ing the students high school, and a coordinated dance number at the prom (how does everyone know what dance they are doing? Did the whole school get together the night before and make this up? I need backstory!).

2. Enough - Jennifer Lopez vehicle that sees her strike back at the husband that abuses her. She thought she had the perfect life, she met Mr. Right in a diner while working her dead-end waitress job (she plays the practically homeless server with a heart of gold) but surprise surprise! He turns out to be an adulterer with an anger problem! Luckily, her absentee father is actually a wealthy financier who is working on an internet startup company. Turns out he helps her with a little bit of cash while she hides from her crazy husband in the upper peninsula of Michigan and trains for the day she can engage him in physical combat and vanquish him! What a great message, fight fire with fire J-Lo!!!!

3. A Walk to Remember - up to this point, I might have been able to be forgiven for my choices. This one is indefensible, however. There is no logical reason for me to like this poorly constructed sob-story (does Nicholas Sparks write any other kind of story? Holy cow, this guy has the market cornered on getting you to care about the characters and then springing a uncureable illness on the unsuspecting reader). All the familiar elements are there. He's the bad boy from a broken home, she's the pretty yet plain daughter of a the town pastor who lost her mother years ago. They fall in love performing a school play and then one day finds out about her cancer. This prompts him to reconcile with his father who happens to be a wealthy doctor and can help arrange and pay for her medical care. He also learns to build telescopes because that's her favorite thing in the world. They end up getting married and enjoying a summer together before she dies leaving her husband to go to med school...apparently to learn the secrets of reincarnation so he can bring his wife back from the grave (I added the last part, but I'm pretty sure it was in the original script and hollywood chickened out).

Come to think of it, except for the death, She's All That and A Walk to Remember are basically the same movie....weird.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I am voting Republican!

Hahahahaha, this struck me as funny

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Movie Montages or How I Learned to Stop Caring about Plot and Just Embrace Music Videos...

You might not know this about me, but I LOVE movie montages. To me, there really isn't anything better than a training or gratutious arming sequence in a movie. To that end, I present, from 5-1, the top movie montages of all time.

5. The 'Falling' montage from Real Genius - Real Genius is an underrated movie, it was one of Val Kilmer's first roles and it stars that one guy who was never really in anything again but looks vaguely familiar to the viewer. Really a great montage about a smart kid at college trying to make it in a class full of other smart kids. Little known fact: Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite fame is in this movie.

4. The preseason practice montage from The Program - I think a key element to a great montage is the music, with Guns and Roses Welcome to the Jungle blarring in the background, we get to see vicious hit after vicious hit as the ESU football team prepares for the upcoming season. This movie actually got pretty close to what college athletics is like...they made some characters a parody, but there are more similarities here than in something like Blue Chips(sorry, couldn't find a video of the scene).

3. Hoosiers "starting to come together" montage - Hoosiers is one of my alltime favorite movies, and if you're a sports fan, it better be one of yours too. Coach Dale was on the verge of being let go midseason, a move UNHEARD OF in high school athletics. That is, until the wunderkind Jimmy Chitwood saves the day. Once he joins the team, there's really no stopping the Hickory basketball team from winning the state title. This montage features the iconic song from that movie.

2. "Hearts on Fire" from Rocky IV - Let's face it, almost all modern movie montages take their cue from the ultimate montages in history: the Rocky montages. In fact, any "best of" list, could simply include montages from each Rocky movie. I felt this was a cop out, and a bit of disrespect to other great movie montages so I picked the best one: Rocky IV. It's almost like they took all of their knowledge from the previous Rocky movies and pooled it together to make the ultimate montage. Rocky training old school juxteposed with Ivan Drago training new school complete with steroids (of which Rocky would NEVER use) CHECK, concerned looks from Adrian CHECK, a shirtless Stalone CHECK, a bearded Stalone DOUBLE CHECK, Rocky reaching the top of the mountain while Drago gives out CHECK and CHECK, a broken down russian plow that Rocky has to drag out of the snow CHECK. I've said enough, I'll let the video speak for itself.

1. We've reached number one, it should be no doubt to some but barely edging Rocky IV, is The Karate Kid "You're the Best" montage. It starts off with Elizabeth Shue screaming 'you're the best' and it culminates with Daniel kicking Cobra Kai tail. No one who grew up in the 80's didn't want to be the karate kid after this classic. No one.

Well, that's the top 5, this list is complete and needs no editing, but I wanted to point out a couple of "honorable mention" montages. The montage from Team America: World Police that is making fun of movie montages is classic. Also, the Michael J. Fox movie Teen Wolf had not one but two montages, which I like to call the jackpot. The basketball was some of the worst ever put to film, but these montages are classic. One is in full on wolf mode and in one Scott is trying to prove he can be great without the wolf. Extra points to this movie for the constant background Nebraska Cornhusker references and the great coach Bobby Finstock. You can see both of them below.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I've always loved Batman. My favorite part is I've always imagined myself as a potential Batman (If only I had more money and more motivation). He's just a a regular guy who finally got fed up with all the shenanigans and decided to do something about it. There's the little matter of his parents being killed, but ....Anyway, I've loved some of the previous Batman movies and hated some of them. Let's take it movie by movie:

Batman - the first foray onto the big screen. This movie had a lot of build-up because people had been waiting decades for the chance to see the caped crusader come to life. On initial viewing (more on this later) this movie was fantastic. Keaton was a great Batman and, IMO, a very good Bruce Wayne. The Joker character was played with some "camp" and they took some liberties with Batman's history (Joker killed Bruce Wayne's parents? come on) but it was solid at the time. I hate to say it, but on recent viewings for me I haven't liked it very much. B

Batman Returns - sequel to the first movie and Tim Burton's final fore' in the series. They added Catwoman and The Penguin as villians. I particularly liked Danny DeVito's portrayal of Penguin, he was creepy, vile, and interesting. I also liked the use of real penguins in his penguin army. This movie had the same feel as the first Batman (no surprise because it's the same director) but expanded on the Bruce Wayne as Batman character, I didn't like that people found out who Batman was. It was a little too neat and tidy, but all in all, I actually enjoyed this movie better than the first. I also feel it held up well over the last 15 years. B+

Batman Forever - Joel Schumacher steps in to the directors shoes and Val Kilmer takes over the batsuit in this 2nd sequel. Schumacher decided he wanted to make viewers vomit with his use of psychadelic colors and ridiculous settings. We also see the development of a movie-making theory I've spend the better part of two decades formulating. It is simply called "character creep". What this means, is that in successive sequels the film creators continually try to top themselves by stuffing more and more in to the script. By more, I mean more characters. This movie saw Batman, the introduction of Robin, Two Face, the Riddler, an Italian crime boss (Moroni), yet another new love interest for Bruce, along with various assorted female characters. It's too much, but I guess the director was trying to take our minds off the horrible script and terrible criminal plot to steal peoples thoughts. C-

Batman and Robin - Whew doggies, yet another new Batman and tons more crap flung on the silver screen in hopes it would stick. This movie is simply in the top 5 worst movies ever made. It takes character creep to a whole new stratosphere. We have Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Mr. Freeze (one of the worst roles I've ever seen onscreen, memorable lines include 'everybody chill'), Poison Ivy, Bane (who they completely ruined by making him a walking automaton instead of the prison-raised genius he was in the comics), yet another new love interest, and more assorted girl characters that have no place. They also put nipples on the batsuit. And since when can diamonds power machines that save peoples lives? The whole story is terrible, and I wonder at what point did George Clooney realize he was in a giant turd of a movie? I remember when I realized it was going to be a long day in the theater, about 5 minutes in Batman and Robin clicked there heals and ice skates came out....just terrible in every way. F-

At this point, since Batman and his reputation was obviously destroyed by the Schumacher-bomb that managed to ruin a very profitable franchise, they shut down and retooled. They had to wait for a talented director to come along with just the right motif. Luckily, a kick-butt filmmaker named Christopher Nolan showed up to save the day. His body of work in such a young career is already impressive: Momento, Batman Begins and the Dark Knight, the Prestige, and the smaller films he started out with. Let's start back up:

Batman Begins - the filmmakers decided to restart the franchise, which was a wise decision given that it would have been impossible to continue after the mess left behind by Schumacher. This movie stays much more true to the comics (BTW, why are comic book movie script writers even bothering with new stories? There are literally thousands of great story lines from the last century of comic books that could be turned in to films...but I digress) and features Christian Bale (one of my favorite actors) as Batman and the villain that trained him Ra's Al Ghul. Great origin movie, great training montage, great atmosphere of the film. The only weak points are the Rachel Dawson played by the anti-charismatic Katie Holmes and the stupid scheme planned by the films main bad guy (in fact, it's almost a repeat of the first Batman movie where Joker tried to poison Gotham by sabotaging their consumer products. In this one, they try to poison Gotham with an evaporated water supply and hallucinogens). Great performances by Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are also a huge plus. Batman Begins almost feels "real" as opposed to a comic book movie, a real tribute to the cast and crew. As a whole, this movie is a great restart to the once proud franchise. A

The Dark Knight - what a fantastic sequel. Everyone is back, with the exception of a recasted Rachel Dawes who is now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (which is actually my biggest complaint of the movie. Rachel is supposed to be torn between two men: the new AD Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne/Batman. She isn't nearly pretty enough for these two guys to both want her. I'm not sure who you'd put here instead, but Rachel Dawes continues to be a scar on this set of movies). What can be said that hasn't already been said? This movie hits on all cylinders, it is probably as close to perfection as you can get for such a complicated script. The performance by Heath Ledger is nothing short of extraordinary and ranks, for me, up there with Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York as the best onscreen performance of the last 20 years. It's too bad that we won't get to see more from Ledger given his untimely passing. This movie provides an interesting look at Batman because Wayne Manor burned down at the end of the Batman Begins. Due to that, Batman looks like he is renting an apartment, so we get to see a different take on the home life of Bruce Wayne. If you get the chance, I'd recommend seeing this in Imax, a film this good deserves the big screen treatment. A

So those are my thoughts on Batman, stay tuned to 'I am right...." for more of my thoughts on a wide range of topics. College football season is almost upon us, and so are the Olympics, so there should be plenty of sports columns in the coming weeks and months.