June 26, 2010

Movie Review #39

Movie Review #39

The A-team (2010) Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper Directed by Joe Carnahan

This is going to be a bad summer. I actually wasn’t worried when I heard Joe Carnahan (Smokin Aces and Pride and Glory) was directing The A-team one of my all time favorite childhood TV shows after all the characters are over the top and easy to recreate, the stories are funny and full of action which is great for a summer movie, and the director of Smokin Aces 2 wouldn’t dare go way over the top and spoil the party right?…err right?

The A-team is a bit of prequel to the TV series of the 80’s. Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (played shakily by a usually better Liam Neeson) shows up at the very beginning of the film to save his buddy Lt “Face” Peck (played pretty badly by Bradley Cooper) from a hairy situation. Along the way they have a chance encounter (which is lazy writing btw) with Cpl. B.A. Baracus (played well by newcomer and UFC guy Rampage Jackson). After escaping that obstacle with the help of a crazy pilot (Murdock played fair by Sharlto Copley…who I thought would be better), the team forms together and conducts missions in Afghanistan. After a set up job by a weasely CIA guy (Lynch played annoyingly by Patrick Wilson) they are forced to go on the run and clear their names. Jessica Biel shows up along the way (though nobody seems to know what her job is and yet she can gain access into any building and summon vehicles and weapons at her whim???). The film has some nice moments…but I certainly hoped it would be better. It is too over the top for its own good, and I will say that if the chemistry of the cast was right I would go easier on the goofy story (which has Face showing up Hannibal at one point…that’s a no no)…but the cast didn’t quite work together. I thought it was a slam dunk and I ignored the bad trailers leading up to the film…but it did come up short for me. Worth watching but my thought is you will agree with me when it’s over.

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) It just didn’t quite work right…It warrants a 6.0 (adding the summer break I give action flicks) but probably wasn’t that good. My fear is a sequel is out since America didn’t exactly flock to the theaters to see (won’t break 100 million it looks like).

Food For Thought: Neeson has an interesting thriller coming out later this year called The Next Three Days which co stars Russell Crowe and is written and directed by Paul Haggis. Cooper has a thriller called The Dark Fields and of course The Hangover 2 both set for a 2011 release. Last but not least Jessica Biel has funny political comedy coming out later this year called Nailed…and it’s about a lady with a nail stuck in her head…yeah…political comedy…ok then.

DVD Review #40 (The catch up edition)

After some time away I try to catch up on a few 2010 titles.

Shutter Island (2010) Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley Directed By Martin Scorsese

I read mediocre to bad reviews of this odd Scorsese film, but that low expectation sort of saved it for me because I didn’t find it all that bad. The music was WAY too loud and the execution was a bit shaky, however all in all this murder/mystery with a twist ending is a solid watch. DiCaprio is fine, and the rest of the all star cast does the best it can with what it’s given. I thought Sir Ben Kingsley was the standout and Mark Ruffalo was the weak link.

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A decent surprise ending, some good creepy scenes, and a solid cast make for good 6.0 on the scale.

Edge of Darkness (2010) Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone Directed by Martin Campbell

Martin Campbell whose an ok action director (he was great with Goldeneye and Mask of Zorro, but bad with Vertical Limit, and Casino Royale), takes on a remake of an old TV show that he also helmed back in the 80’s. Mel Gibson plays Boston cop Thomas Craven whose activist daughter gets whacked by ruthless and corrupt business types. Ray Winstone acts as the moral guide (did I mention he’s a hitman?) along the way and Dennis O’Hare shows up to creep us out with his sociopathic-ness…that’s a word right? Anyway it’s not terrible and you will get through it, but the story which is interesting gets pushed aside so we can see Mel Gibson do his best Liam Neeson from Taken impression (a much better film)…oh yeah and as expected he butchers the accent…wicked bad.

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) Well for the effort and the pleasant Boston scenery I’ll give it a 5.5 on the scale, but next time give me more of the story a la The Constant Gardner…that’s the meaty part!

Remember Me (2010) Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin Directed by Allen Coulter

Will Fetters thought process of writing this film must have gone a little something like this…”c’mon Fetters I can squeeze just a few more ounces of drama in…there…now it’s at max capacity…unless…” anyway he really lays it on here especially for the ending which is both arrogant and unnecessary. The two Brits in the film (Pattinson and Pierce Brosnan) really struggle with their New York (Queens no less) accents and the love story is shaky at best. Allen Coulter (director) who did a nice job with a film about George Reeves death called Hollywoodland should probably just stick with TV if this is what he is into making…try Lifetime…they would love this!

(The Shawhank Scale 1-10) I’m a bit harsh on this one, but see the ending and decide for yourself if it was central to the story, it gets a paltry 5.0 on the scale and if you really want to see people not catch breaks in their life (and I may never say this again), try Precious instead.

June 7, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Update #4: Now that steroid use is diminishing is it a pitchers league again? And “People can’t Handle the highs and Lows”…can you?

A quick side-note: If you haven’t seen it yet, check out ESPNs 30 for 30 series…it’s great, and a must see for all Fantasy Players is the recent episode called “Silly Little Game” about the creators of Fantasy Sports, it’s really good television.

55 games into 2010 what do we know? Well pitching is back and bloated batting numbers are down, Ken Griffey Jr. hung it up about a year too late, and the San Diego padres are in first place. Beyond that I still wouldn’t get too comfortable with what you see out there…baseball is long season and you have to ride the streaks. In the world of fantasy it is the dog days of summer where you can win your league (and I know this is going to sound goofy so bear with me) but outworking your other league members can put you back in it or win you your league. Now is the time where people fade off and don’t check stats every day, now is the time where Team Devil Dogs or Three Pujols and a Lady go on vacation and forget to set lineups, and now is the time where some kid comes up to fill in for a banged up veteran and gets hot. In one of my 100 favorite films of all time (and people if you read this blog you know my passion for movies) is Rounders and my favorite line from that film is “People Can’t Handle the Highs and Lows”, and although the line is about poker it applies to many things including fantasy…guys will wear down, get tired of daily lineup checks, and miss opportunities…and so will you and I…but if we minimize the lows…hey you might actually win the thing.

Stock Up: Jose Lopez might be getting his season back on track with a 333avg, 2 HR’s, and 7 RBI’s over the last 7 days; he has been dropped in many 10 team leagues and is a notorious 2nd half player. Another perennial fill in guy that seems to go back and forth on the available list is Marlon Byrd who is hitting 312 with 32 runs scored…he is an everyday guy and he won’t hurt you. Also it is time to go stock up again on Garrett Jones who has 3 HR’s and 5 extra base hits over his last 7 games (he is owned in 90% of standard leagues but should be owned in all leagues). You can probably safely try Javier Vazquez again if you dropped him or he was dropped in your league 16 K’s and 3 earned runs over his last 14 innings. Stock way up on a guy that is owned in all leagues-Clay Bucholz he and Jon Lester are keeping the Red Sox alive with their ACE like ways (they are now 8-3 and 7-2 respectively with ERA’s under 3.00). I obviously don’t need to mention Jimenez of the Rockies who is having a “Pedro in 1998” kind of year…he is ridiculous good and I believe that although he will slow a bit…a bit may mean a 1.65 ERA at the end of the year…(currently 0.93).

Deep Sleepers-My last month guy Jhoulys Chacin slowed up a bit and is probably a spot start guy in most leagues…but you may want to try Sam LeCure (Reds) as a pickup in deep leagues and a spot starter in 10 team mixed leagues…he has good stuff and I think may stay in the rotation for awhile…(this Cincinnati team has depth…look for them to be able to make a trade if they need to and find themselves in the playoffs…remember they still have A Chapman the Cuban fireballer waiting in the minors…little BTW for all you “futures” betters out there). Also if you haven’t noticed yet John Ely (Dodgers) and Gio Gonzalez (A’s) are two guys that can hold roster spots for you.

Time to take a closer look at: Mike & Mike…that is Mike Pelfrey and Mike Napoli...Mike Pelfrey is 8-1 with a 2.39 ERA, the guy has won 4 starts in a row and during that streak has given up a TOTAL of 4 runs…I am not the type to trust a Mets pitcher…but jeez it’s time to take a closer look at Mike Pelfrey (pick him up or trade for him I don’t think this is a fluke). There are not that many good catchers in fantasy, so if you are the team that doesn’t have McCann, V-Mart, or Mauer then you have to sort of pick your poison when it comes to catchers…for my team the choice is Mike Napoli (only 70% owned in most leagues!) he is 270, 9HR, and 25 RBI’s…he won’t hurt you with too many 0-4 days and is seriously good for 20-25 HR’s. The Angels will even him play him at first every now and again.

Some advice from the guy in 4th place-Keep a close eye on BVP (batter vs. pitcher) matchups and don’t be afraid to slot a guy in there who has a good thing going against a starting pitcher. If you slot in hot guys for a week or two you’d be surprised how much ground you can make up…trust me on this, in one of my leagues it was my only way back into semi-contention. Beware of transaction limits and roster rules before you try this strategy as all leagues are different…personally I’m an unlimited guy but I understand the thought process for limited transaction leagues as well. (Other League Status: 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and 7th in my all pitching league where I am having big troubles).

Alright so at last check my #1 (or at least my favorite of my five leagues) team (The Boston Lagers) was sitting in 6th place…with some slot in BVP guys and some solid pitching from my Ace’s I find myself in 4th and consistently staying in the 3rd through 5th range…progress but a lot of work left.

Boston Lagers (ESPN-Custom) 10 Team, Standard scoring (with XBH extra base hits and OBP on base percentage) as the two extra stats in hitting and (K/9 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched and BAA batting average against) as the two added pitching stats. Roster = C, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, SS, OF, OF, OF, UTIL, UTIL, UTIL. Current Place-4th

This league has mostly savvy fantasy players with a handful of baseball fan newcomers…the draft was competitive (see draft review in Fantasy Update #1) and the talent is spread out.


C-Mike Napoli-After losing Posada with too many D.L. guys it was great to fall back on Mike who has done a great job and provided me with some much needed power.

1st-Prince Fielder-I stopped offering him in trades but still waiting for the big power surge.

2nd-Dustin Pedroia-He has dipped to a 261 avg…very odd, but his recent speed has helped.

3rd-Jose Bautista-I picked up Bautista off the scrap heap two weeks ago and he is leading my team back into things…it is a crazy power surge (18 HR’s) and I only can hope he keeps it up.

SS-Rafael Furcal-I settled into Furcal as my everyday guy for now, I was getting tired of the A-ram, Scuturo, and Pennington SS carousal.

OF-Andre Either-Back from a D.L. stint and I hope he goes right back to knocking the cover off the ball.

OF-Carlos Lee-On the trade block and he has played better, I want to move him (because I have a hard time benching him) but not many takers as you can imagine.

OF-Vernon Wells-Continues to shock…broke up a no-hitter with a two run blast the other day against the Yanks…I’m still in shock that he is this good again.

UTIL-Josh Hamilton-I gave up a lot to get him earlier this year via trade and he has been great…301 avg, 11 HR’s, and 33 RBI’s.

UTIL-Lance Berkman-Another guy I would like to trade if I could get value for him, but for now his 6 game hit streak and his solid 372 OBP give me depth.

UTIL-Corey Hart-I fear his hot streak that took him to tops in the N.L. in homers (14) is about to end…but in fantasy you have to ride the streaks.

BENCH- I have made a ton of moves since last check trading Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez…while acquiring Corey Hart, Mike Napoli, Aramis Ramirez (who I never play), and Jose Bautista. Those guys have helped me solidify my infield…and breaking news as I was writing this column I saw that some crazy person in my league dropped Jayson Werth…so I got a new toy it looks like. I have Ellsbury on my D.L. and with the trading of Figgins it is in my brain that steals may not be in the equation for my team…at least for now…(I rank 7th currently in steals).


Liriano has come back to earth a bit with 22 runs given up over his last 7 starts, but he is still a viable Ace or at least and Ace-b so I just pick my spots with him. With both Josh Johnson (2.10 ERA) and Jered Weaver (2.74 ERA) I am getting great quality and consistency. Matt Cain has also been good with a 2.36 ERA, now if his team could just score some runs. I try not to streamline too many guys because I have been on a bad streak lately (Bonderman my last one giving up 7 runs over 5+ yesterday)…so I am just hoping to stay steady and talk myself out of questionable guys for now…to make up for those streamline wins I took a shot with Javier Vazquez who is on the Yankees (who score a lot) to see if he can bring me some W’s…his leash is short though. My Relief core is back up to par because I picked up Heath Bell via trade (Figgins and Gutierrez) and grabbed Bobby Jenks again…so that gives me two more closers to go with my rocks Papelbon and Ryan Franklin. I have Josh Beckett sitting on the D.L. just hoping for something positive…but it doesn’t look good.

I hope to make more progress next time I post and wish all the best to you and fantasy teams…post comments or questions as always. Go Celtics!! in their quest to beat the Lakers…and why on earth does Rondo not have a nickname yet?

Good luck to all in Fantasy and Reality!

June 6, 2010

DVD Review #39

Dear John (2010) Amanda Seyfried, Channing Tatum Directed By Lasse Hallstrom

Lasse Hallstrom has directed some very solid films including What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, and The Hoax so I was surprised to find that he directed Dear John based on the Nicholas Sparks novel (he just oozes sappiness). But then I remembered his more sappy films like An Unfinished Life, Casanova, and Something to Talk About and it made sense. Hallstrom must have a soft spot in his heart for a good sappy tale (I can’t blame him…after all I am reviewing and watched Dear John…and I am a closet The Notebook fan so I I’m guilty here as well).

Dear John is the heartwarming story of John Tyree (played 50/50 by Channing Tatum) {what I mean by 50/50 is that he is at times horrible…roughly 50% let’s say and at times actually pretty good…the other 50%...he is the guy who destroyed my child hood hero DUKE playing him horribly in the 2009 G.I. Joe film, so it is hard for me to cut him some slack} who is in the Army Special Forces when he meets the love of his life…Savannah Curtis (played charmingly well by Amanda Seyfried). After a pretty cheesy first encounter these two love birds sort of grow on you. Unfortunately for John seeing as though he is in the Army he is forced to go away and serve his country, while away he receives letters from Savannah (hence the Dear John title) which keep them as close as they can be. The two grow apart and well for the rest you will just have to watch I suppose. The both redeeming and interesting part of this story actually doesn’t take place within the love story between John and Savannah, but instead it is between John and his father (played well by the brilliant actor Richard Jenkins). Because of that story line I actually think this movie turns out to be pretty guy friendly, there is enough military footage and male centered story here to carry a guy through the whole film. I ended up liking this film and would put it 3rd on my Cheesy Nicholas Sparks adapted films list right behind The Notebook (2004) and Message in a Bottle (1999). It is a workable date movie and a solid and easy watch.

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) Nicholas Sparks really lays it on here with a story that includes young love, autism, horses, military deployments, letter-writing, and father/son redemption…phew jeez dude anything else?…how freaking bad do you want us to cry? Dear John kind of makes it all work though for the most part…I didn’t cry but still think it is worthy of 6.0 on the Shawshank Scale.