Saturday, December 30, 2006

10-Second Film Reviews #20

As exciting as conference play in college basketball and as boring as mediocre bowl games in college football: it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Patton: George C. Scott portrays the arrogant, compassionate, brave and flawed WWII general. The battles in the war are secondary to the fighting between Patton and the American government. Newsreels convey the progress on the Allies in a swift and interesting matter. The film's story is secondary to the main character, which makes the three-plus hours somewhat of a laborious experience. (***)

The Manchurian Candidate: John Frankenheimer's politically-charged thriller holds up just as well as did during the Red Scare. Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra are something to behold as disillusioned soldiers who take different paths toward salvation. Yet it's Angela Lansbury as the cold-blooded matriarch who ends up stealing the show. The few blemishes in the plot did little to disrupt this classic. (*****)

The Girl Next Door: This movie nails most of the mediocre comedy-flick requirements. Ridiculous plot? Check. Gorgeous love interest? Big check. Lame-brained, undercooked characters? Check. A loud, overbearing soundtrack? Check. Excessive use of montage, slow-motion and close-ups? Huge check. Occasional laughs? Check. Mediocre experience? Checkmate. (**)

Strange Maintenance

So I updated the blog's template, which added the nifty "Labels" menu on the right-hand column. Unfortunately, it screwed with the "Links" section. Now links can no longer be arranged by subject (NBA, NFL, hip-hop, etc.). Also the text is kinda screwy now. Every time I quote something...
...it squeezes the spacing in between lines.
Just look at how wide the spacing is in the first paragraph.
And notice how constricted it is down here.
Weird isn't it?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Trojans Win 2-OT Thriller Against Huskies in Conference Opener

USC and Washington started Pac-10 play in style with an exciting double-overtime contest. The Trojans, led by Nick Young, Taj Gibson and Gabe Pruitt, out dueled the Huskies 86-79.

Gibson, the breakout star for the Trojans this season, recorded his 7th double-double of the year and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Young led all scorers with 25. Pruitt, playing in only his third game of the season due to academic ineligibility, contributed 18 points, 5 rebounds and two steals.

Spencer Hawes, the highly-hyped freshman phenom for Washington, didn't disappoint. The 6-11 center had 24 points, 5 rebounds and a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to a second overtime. Ryan Appleby was stellar from the outside, hitting six of nine attempts from downtown. The Huskies made half their shots from deep (13 for 26), keeping the game close throughout. Washington led 36-31 at the half.

The refs constantly blew their whistles, usually against Washington. The Huskies received 30 fouls, while the Trojans were called for 17 infractions. Questionable calls/non-calls affected the game late:

-- Young appeared to be fouled by a defender with less than five seconds left in the second half and the score tied at 64. He settled for a fadeaway and missed, sending the game to overtime.

-- Near the end of the first OT, with the score 73-70 in favor of the Trojans, the refs awarded Washington the ball with 1.4 seconds left. Replays seemed to indicate a Husky player last touched the ball before it went out of bounds. Nonetheless, Washington got the ball and made the most of it with Hawes' buzzer-beater.

-- Finally, in the second overtime Quincy Pondexter was called for a foul on what appeared to be a clean steal. The Trojans would never relinquish momentum or the lead again.

This was the first Pac-10 contest ever played in the Galen Center. Hopefully there'll be many more memorable games to come.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Damn the Mariners. Damn, Damn, Damn the Mariners!

Jason A. Churchill of Prospect Insider writes the quintessential Seattle-Mariners-fan-angst-piece (and also manages to take a dig at his local power company). There's simply so much here to absorb here, but I'll try to hit the key points:
They aren’t even good at maximizing their financial position, even though we all know that the cash is what’s most important to the ownership group as a whole. The Mariners had it all, lost it all, and have no idea how to repeat their glorious run to riches, wins and the proverbial cash-cow status that was Safeco Field.
The main reason for baseball fans in the Northwest to bemoan is the fact the folks running the Mariners have two concerns: 1) making money and 2) making as much of it as quickly as possible. When ownership is more concerned about raking in dollars than assembling a quality team, there tends to be dire consequences in the standings and on the pocketbook. Conversely, owners who make coming to the ballpark an enjoyable (winning) experience often enjoy success on and off the field (see Moreno, Arturo and the LA Angels). The sad truth is that the Seattle Mariners are not committed to winning. Victories just coincide with profits.
In Seattle, it’s not about baseball. It’s about Lincoln proving to his bosses that he can make them money. It’s about the owners making sure they don’t take any hits to their profits.
Once it got a whiff of fiscal success in the early 2000's (due to a combination of Ichiro, a new stadium and winning) ownership was determined to milk the cash cow as long as possible. Thus began the systematic process of overspending on not-good-but-good-enough squads season in and season out.
Instead of thinking like a baseball team, the suits chose to do whatever it took to keep 3 million asses glued to the seats at the Safe. When they should have been starting to retool (not rebuild), they went in the other direction, hanging on to veterans for longer than they were capable of producing and handing out contracts to aging talents that were clearly past their primes.
Scott Spiezio, Jeff Cirillo, Rich Aurilia, Fernando Vina and Carl Everett were some of the more memorable "contributors."
There was no eye toward 2006 or 2007. None at all. It was about how much money they could make right this freakin’ second. Today. Tomorrow. THIS homestand, THIS month, THIS season.
And the deluge is already well underway:

Year Record Attendance
2001
116-46 3,512,326
2002 93-69 3,540,482
2003 93-69 3,268,509
2004 63-99 2,940,731
2005 69-93 2,689,529
2006
78-84 2,480,717

Sadly the future doesn't look much better:
The M’s needed to come out of this calendar year with their balls dangling proudly and a payroll full of flexibility and bursting with room to add valuable talent.

Instead, they head toward a very critical future with their nuts in a sling, attendance dropping like a Matt Hasselbeck pass to Jeramy Stevens, and not an end to the foolishness in sight.

The Seattle Mariners are a colossal mess.
Yep.

10-Second Film Reviews #19

As violent as an NBA brawl but without the sucker punch: it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Fallen Angel: A film noir with plenty of mood and mystique to spare. The dialogue is quick, hard and tough. The middle of the story is the movie's crescendo. The interesting second act is sandwiched by a dull beginning and an absurd ending (***)

Accepted: Never mind the plot doesn't make much sense. In these sorts of sordid comedies the story isn't relegated to the backseat; it goes flying out the trunk. The character are lame when they're supposed to be funny and wooden in the dramatic moments (see protagonist's parents), although Jonah Hill delivers a few good laughs. (*)

Elevator to the Gallows: There's a bit too much reliance on chance and fortune to truly believe this murder drama, but it's an intriguing story nonetheless. Situations the characters endure (either through coincidence or their own volition) are tense, amusing and even a little wry. (****)

Laura: An excellent detective film. Dana Andrews, who also appears in Fallen Angel, gives a great performance as the persuasive cop. Gene Tierney is stunning and cryptic as the titular character everyone falls in love with. The entire cast is stellar. Directed by Otto Preminger, who crafts a stark world of slights and shadiness in this wonderful whodunit. (*****)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Michelle Wie: Asian First, Golfer Second

Michelle Wie intends to follow in the footsteps of another famous Asian golf, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, and attend Stanford University.

Unlike Tiger, however, Michelle will not play golf at the collegiate level as she is already a professional on the LPGA Tour. She doesn't know what her major will be, although she plans on leaving college as another snot-nosed, high-brow Korean. As if there weren't enough of those around...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Things That Make You Go "Huh?"

I was browsing NBADraft.net when I came across Anton Ponkrashov's profile:

NBA Comparison: Zoran Planinic (less athletic)

A less athletic version of Zoran Planinic? What's that? Regular folk?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Quick Hits

* The suspensions handed by out Commissioner Stern for Saturday's night brawl are fair for the most part. I don't see why Mardy Collins should sit six games for committing a really hard foul though.

* The Oakland Raiders are on the clock...

* Johnny Damon and Roy Oswalt are freakin' bargains compared to what free agents are earning this offseason.

* Florida v. Ohio State. Screw the BCS Championship Game. I'm watching Noah v. Oden on Saturday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Link of the Year

Someone on the sports forum I visit posted a link to a very awesome website that links to episodes of TV shows. I've been to sites like this one before, but Your TV Links actually works. I mean, I'm watching an episode of "Mythbusters" right now.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

10-Second Film Reviews #18

More indulgent than chocolate and with only twice the fat; it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Criss Cross: An adequate film noir. Burt Lancaster has some moments, but the plodding story and strange staging constantly kill momentum. The lighting and settings are adequate but not engrossing. Much of the time passes by with dialogue that's not particularly sharp or emotionally stirring. The last third of the story -- the action sequence -- is exhilarating, although it's mired by a somewhat dull ending. (***)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Seattle and Its Supreme Bogusness

It was bad enough that Seattle Mariners GM Bill "Bogus" Bavasi traded away Rafael Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez. Although the M's traded a great relief pitcher for an average starter with history of injuries -- basically getting 50 cents for a dollar -- at least the team made a move to improve its most glaring weakness: starting pitching.

Now Bogus Bavasi has made another transaction. This one, however, is indefensible by any standard. Seattle is on the verge of trading Chris Snelling (oft-injured yet very promising corner outfielder) and Emiliano Fruto (a live arm) to the Washington Nationals for Jose Vidro, a declining hitter with a suspect glove. Barring a botched physical exam, it appears this debacle of a deal will go down.

So the M's basically give away two young commodities for a decent second baseman who is owed $16 million for the next two years. It's bad enough Bogus Bavasi has agreed to pay $12 million of Jose's salary, but where exactly does Seattle expect Jose to pay? The Mariners already have 2006 All-Star second baseman Jose Lopez. Oh well, Seattle can plug Jose at first base. That's where the Nationals stashed Lopez when his glove started sucking. But wait! Seattle already has Richie Sexson, the definition of an expensive first baseman that can't play defense.

Not surprising, reaction has been swift and severe.

What's the over-under for the 2007 Seattle Mariners now: 75 wins and 2 million home fans?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

PETA Sore Over Fake Balls

TrueHoop reports the whackos folks at PETA aren't too happy about the NBA's decision to switch from the synthetic ball back to the leather one.

I'd still like to know how much influence they had with the new balls to begin with. It's not as if there was anything wrong with the old ball, except that it was made from a material that could be divisive to animal rights folks -- possibly affecting fan and advertising opportunities.

Whatever. The leather ball is back and order is restored to the universe... until it's splattered by a bucket of red paint.

As the Iverson Carousel Goes Round and Round

Question: where will the Answer end up? Most fans (myself included) would like to see AI teamed up with Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. However, as Chad Ford points out today in his Daily Dish podcast, Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale has pretty much adhered to a scorched-earth policy with his team. There's no payroll flexibility to acquire Allen and his huge contract straight up. Minnesota can't entice Philly with future prospects either since the Twolves have already traded the rights to their 2007 and 2009 first-round picks. The debacle that is the McHale era can be summed up by Marc Stein's witty remark on today's show: "A first-round pick and Sam Cassell for Marko Jaric. That wasn't a good deal?"

And now that Charlotte is out of the picture, it appears Boston, Sacramento and possibly Golden State may end up with Iverson's services (practice not included).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pac-10 Shines at Wooden Classic

#1 UCLA squeaked out a tough win against #6 Texas A&M in the opening game. Arron Afflalo showed why he's a candidate for Player of the Year. Despite not having his best game, he scored when it mattered most to seal the 63-60 win for the Bruins. Ben Howland's team, with Afflalo, Jordan Shipp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison, has the talent and depth to return to the Final Four. Joseph Jones played well for the Aggies, but an ill-advised three-point attempt near the end of the game killed any chance for a comeback. Great win for UCLA in front of the architect of Bruin basketball himself, John Wooden.

While the first contest was a nail-biter, the afternoon game appeared all but over by halftime. George Washington took advantage of USC's youth and jumped out to a 29-16 lead. The paltry 16 points at half was an all-time low for the Wooden Classic. However, if the Trojans were stagnant to start the game they were scintillating the rest of the way. Led by Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and Lodrick Stewart, USC tripled its production in the second half, scoring 58 points and emerging with a 74-65 victory. Gibson, the Trojans' most consistent (and perhaps only) low-post presence, finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds. He provided the stout defense and consistent offense necessary for Tim Floyd's squad to chip away at what was once a 20-point deficit.

10-Second Film Reviews #17

More anticipated than winter break and more devastating than food poisoning; it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

After Hours: A movie -- by the great Martin Scorsese, no less -- that I actively hated as it went on. About halfway through the film I wished -- just like the protagonist -- that the nightmare would end. There's not much plot to speak of. Rather, a series of very loosely-connected circumstances and coincidences comprise the story. Hours isn't a black comedy, it's just twisted. (*)

The Break-Up: The first comedy I've seen Vince Vaughn strain not only for laughs but also for emotional plausibility. The romantic, comedic and dramatic elements come and go in sporadic splashes; everything's half-baked. There's a lot of pretty things to look at: a nice apartment, the Chicago skyline, Jennifer Aniston. Unfortunately, it's not enough to mask the fallacies in the story and characters. (**)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

As I Lay Dying and Ode to the LA Times

This bout of food poisoning has hampered my life quite a bit. Anyway, while I have some free time before my final exam on Tuesday I thought I'd mention J.A. Adande's blog.

Most people recognize J.A. as a frequent guest on "Around the Horn" or as an occasional fill-in on "Pardon the Interruption." I had the benefit of reading Adande growing up. In fact the D section of the LA Times was my portal to the world of sports back when print media, cable television and the radio were the only sources of information. I was lucky enough to read the works of Adande, Tim Brown, Chris Dufrense, Mark Heisler Jim Murray, Ross Newhan, Bill Plaschke, Diane Pucin and T.J. Simers on a daily basis. A lot of my sports fanaticism can be attributed to the Times; without its fascinating stories and passionate writers -- who knows? I may be into Fabergé eggs or something *shudder*

J.A.'s blog is well-written, full of wit and insight. It's a bit more freestyle compared to his usual column, which gives him space to operate "Adande Lounge"-style. The blog's definitely worth a click.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rodriguez to Bama?

ESPN is reporting that Alabama will decide to offer West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez its vacant coaching spot within the next 72 hours.

I read somewhere that not only has the Crimson Tide already offered Rodriguez a 7-year, $26-million deal, but Rich would formally accept the job on Thursday. But that's just a rumor for now.

UPDATE 12/7/06: The offer is in. Sources say Rodriguez has a 6-year, $12-million deal on the table, which would double his current contract.

UPDATE 12/8/06: Thanks, but no thanks. Rich wants to stay in the Big East.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Things Colored Cardinal That Lay Eggs


I planned on posting my rant about USC football this morning, but I have too much to say and I'm way too tired. Unfortunately the semester's coming to an end, which means I have homework due. Since I'm a diligent Asian, I'll be putting off the rant post until the weekend so I can finish school assignments. Me so sowwy.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: End of the Regular Season

The epic upset of USC by crosstown-rival UCLA plummets the Trojans to tenth in the standings. It also dashes any hopes for the Men of Troy of having a chance at the national championship. Trust me, I'll have more words on the Trojans in the near future. Florida, despite winning the SEC Championship remains at third. Simply put, I believe Michigan is the second-best team in the country. If that means having a rematch between OSU/UM and possibly crowning a national title to a team that didn't even win its own conference, well so be it. West Virginia vaunts up to 7th after winning a thrilling triple-overtime contest against Rutgers. Not only did the Mountaineers deny the Scarlet Knights a BCS Bowl berth, but they did so with a redshirt freshman QB making his first collegiate start. The Sooners slot in at the 8 spot after winning the Big 12 Championship, knocking Notre Dame off the Top Ten. Arkansas drops out as well after being defeated by the Gators.

No change in the Heisman list. Those fellows deserve a trip to NYC, and Troy Smith had better be a unanimous pick for the award.


Top Ten Teams

College
Last Week
1) Ohio State 1
2) Michigan 2
3) Florida
4
4) Louisville
5
5) Wisconsin
6
6) LSU
7
7) West Virginia
-
8) Oklahoma
-
9) Boise State
10
10) USC
3

Dropped Out: #8 Notre Dame, #9 Arkansas


Heisman Hopefuls

Name College Position Year Last Week
1) Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 1
2) Brady Quinn Notre Dame QB Sr. 2
3) Michael Hart
Michigan
RB Jr. 3
4) Colt Brennan
Hawaii
QB Jr. 4
5) Steve Slaton
West Virginia
RB
So.
5

Dropped out: none

Friday, December 01, 2006

Before There Was Borat

I haven't seen the Borat mockumentary nor will I until it comes out on DVD. Heard great things about it, but that's just the life I live. Anyway, here's a hilarious roundtable with Sacha Cohen's first alter-ego from Da Ali G Show:

SoaS Road Trip

Road trip on the 10 and 405 freeways up to Pasadena anyway. Going to the Rose Bowl tomorrow to watch the USC-UCLA game. Blurry pictures and half-assed commentary will be provided.

10-Second Film Reviews #16

More intense than Rivalry Week and more revealing than a Britney crotch-shot; it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

The Wild Bunch: A violent and awesome Western. This movie has some of the most memorable and influential shootout scenes ever. Yet beyond all the betrayal and bloodshed is a captivating story about a fading era and eroding morals. William Holden, as the leader of the pack, delivers a strong performace as the most ferocious and fragmented cowboy. (*****)

Cool Hand Luke: Paul Newman stars as a prisoner who can't help getting into trouble. You really root for him as he fights against a crooked system and breaks for freedom. The film, clocking in at over two hours, has a bit more fat than it can chew. Weak ending. (****)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mike Shula Fired From Alabama

So I'm listening to vintage No Doubt ("Don't Speak" and "Spiderwebs" to be specific) and doing homework at two in the morning when I come across this shocker:
Mike Shula has been dismissed as head coach of the University of Alabama football team and will not be back for the 2007 season, according to a report Sunday night from Tuscaloosa News sports editor Cecil Hurt on its web site TideSports.com.
Wow. I guess a college head coach doesn't even get one bad year. I feel bad for Shula, who revived the historic Crimson Tide program with a 10-win season and a victory in the Cotton Bowl last year. But going 2-6 in conference and losing again to rival Auburn was too much to bear. Supposedly Alabama will have South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier at the top of its wish list.

Capgate Resolved

So a few weeks ago I wrote about how the Orlando Magic sent me the wrong freakin' hat. After I didn't get a response for a week I figured it was a lost cause and vowed never again to buy from OrlandoMagicShop.com.

A week later I got a voicemail from an OrlandoMagicShop.com customer rep. He said he would email me later about my incorrect mail order but never did. I figured it was some token gesture by a big business and didn't think much of it. Or the website for that matter.

Two weeks later I went returned home for an extended Thanksgiving break. Much to my surprise, awaiting on my desk was a large package from the Orlando Magic. I opened the box and there, in all its white and navy glory, was the hat I wanted all along. I immediately ripped the hat from its plastic cover and placed it on my head. As soon as I put the hat on it became my favorite. It's a Flex Fit, so it wears comfortably. It looks awesome as well. But best of all the hat was free, free, free!


Two hats for the price of one. Huzzah OrlandoMagicShop.com!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"I Don't Give a Shit."

A classic Shaq moment:



I miss having the Big (fill in the blank) in Los Angeles.

Quick Hits

* The ABC guys agreed that Brady Quinn is a no-brainer for the first pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. As a Raiders fan, I can attest to the fact that Oakland is terrible and a good bet to finish with the league's worst record. And although Oakland badly needs a quarterback and Quinn is an immensely talented and tough player, the Raiders would be damn fools to pass up on Adrian Peterson if he's available.

* The most exciting game on Saturday night was in college basketball, not football. #1 Florida and #12 Kansas had a classic overtime duel at the Las Vegas Invitational, with the Jawhawks upsetting the defending national champions by the score 82-80. Darrell Arthur, along with Texas' Kevin Durant, looks to be the impact freshman player of the year.

* Playing Skins in golf must be freakin' awesome. Playing golf for a living is probably sweet enough, but how cool is it to win money for each hole you win?

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: Week #13

USC's emphatic win over Notre Dame pushes the Men of Troy to #3 on the Top Ten. With everything on the line next week against UCLA -- their crosstown rival and only remaining obstacle on the road to Glendale -- the Trojans will jump to #2 if they win out. The Fighting Irish drop only one spot, mostly the result of a shakedown of the best teams in the land. West Virginia drops out of the poll after fumbling away today's game against South Florida. Arkansas fell three spots to #9 after losing a hard-fought SEC matchup against LSU, who returns to the Top Ten at #7. Texas A&M's upset over Texas knocked the defending national champions from BCS contention as well as the Top Ten.

Quinn had a great game statistically, but it wasn't memorable nor a winning effort. Troy Smith is this year's Heisman winner, and deservedly so. Colt Brennan had a typical day for him: 400+ yards passing and three TD throws in a come-from-behind victory over Purdue. He deserves a trip to New York for his record-breaking season. Steve Slaton's poor performance, coupled with WVU's home loss, knocks him down a notch. Other candidates for the fifth spot, such as USC QB John David Booty, Texas QB Colt McCoy, Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson and Arkansas RB Darren McFadden either didn't have stellar games and/or their respective teams lost this week.


Top Ten Teams

College Last Week
1) Ohio State 1
2) Michigan 2
3) USC
4
4) Florida
3
5) Louisville
8
6) Wisconsin
10
7) LSU
-
8) Notre Dame
7
9) Arkansas
6
10) Boise State
-

Dropped Out: #3 West Virginia, #9 Texas


Heisman Hopefuls

Name College Position Year Last Week
1) Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 1
2) Brady Quinn Notre Dame QB Sr. 2
3) Michael Hart
Michigan
RB Jr. 3
4) Colt Brennan
Hawaii
QB Jr. 5
5) Steve Slaton
West Virginia
RB
So.
4

Dropped out: none

Saturday, November 25, 2006

10-Second Film Reviews #15

More historic than USC-Notre Dame and more successful than the Utah Jazz; it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Midnight Cowboy: An odd love story about a male prostitute and a cripple. Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman give fine performances despite the rail-thin plot. The randomness of the story and style helps as well as hurts the movie. A very engaging and intriguing film if for no other reason than its sensational content: love-making, drug-induced fantasies, daydreams and nightmares are on display. (***)

Elf: Will Ferrell as a fish out of water, or rather an elf in New York City. Story's not a strong suit in this film and neither are the special effects. The humor is not much better. There's a lot of predictable gags. Some still end up working, mostly due to Ferrell's on-screen persona and physical comedy. The last few scenes are sentimental yet effective. (**)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Roasted Chicken, Missing Pictures and Baseball Video Gaming

Happy Turkey Day folks. My family is going to enjoy Costco Rostisserie Chicken for dinner Thursday night. No I am not kidding. Hopefully it'll be as good as the Thanksgiving when I had KFC and watched "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers." Once again, I am being completely serious.

I deleted my avatar. Crispy Hexagons gets the boot. I'll put up another pic in the near future.

Anyway, U.S.S. Mariner has a brilliant sendup of Mariners GM Bill Bavasi that channels the good ol' days of text-based adventure games.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Secret Santa Reveals His Identity

Came across this touching story and thought I would share it:
For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money. He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret Santa has been handing out $100 bills, sometimes two or three at a time, to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots. So far, he's anonymously given out about $1.3 million.

But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random kindness, Secret Santa has decided it's time to reveal his identity.

He is Larry Stewart, a 58-year-old businessman from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, Mo., who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

Now that's what the holiday season is all about.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: Week #12

The mega-showdown between #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan lived up to most of the hype. It was spectacular game filled with big plays and high emotions. The Wolverines stayed in the contest until the very end. Considering it lost by only three points at Columbus only one day after Bo Schembechler passed away, Michigan remains #2 in the rankings. In other news, Rutgers' Cinderella run ended tonight when they were upset by Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights drop out of the poll, replaced by Wisconsin. The Badgers make their first appearance in the Top Ten.

Troy Smith all but clinched the Heisman this afternoon with a memorable performance. With all of college football watching, Smith passed for 316 yards and threw four touchdowns in a marquee win that propels the Buckeyes into the National Championship game. Brady Quinn also played well in his final home game and remains at #2. Ray Rice strugged and his team loss. The double-whammy knocks him for the list. Rice is replaced by profilic passer Colt Brennan. Colt threw for 402 yards and 5 scores tonight, raising his season stats to a staggering 4,105 passing yards and 48 touchdown completions. Regardless, #3-#5 at this point are basically contending for a trip to NYC. The Heisman will come down to whether Quinn can put together a season-defining game against the Trojans a week from now and supplant Smith as the nation's best player.


Top Ten Teams

College Last Week
1) Ohio State 1
2) Michigan 2
3) West Virginia
3
4) Florida
4
5) USC
6
6) Arkansas
7
7) Notre Dame
8
8) Louisville
9
9) Texas
10
10) Wisconsin
-

Dropped out: #5 Rutgers


Heisman Hopefuls

Name College Position Year Last Week
1) Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 1
2) Brady Quinn Notre Dame QB Sr. 2
3) Michael Hart
Michigan
RB Jr. 4
4) Steve Slaton
West Virginia
RB So. 5
5) Colt Brennan
Hawaii
QB
Jr.
-

Dropped out: #3 Ray Rice

10-Second Film Reviews #14

More anticipated than Ohio State-Michigan and more devastating than an injury to Shaq; it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: A brilliant black comedy. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton masterfully play a dysfunctional couple. The dialogue is fast, sharp and biting. There are lines that'll make a viewer laugh, cringe and croak at the same time. The only weak link of the story is in the middle, where the frenetic pace crawls to a halt. (****)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Play of the Year in College Football

In case you need a little something to tide you over until tomorrow's big day, here's the amazing punt return from the Pittsburgh-West Virginia game last night. Wow.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

OJ Mayo Signs With Trojans

One of the most-followed recruits in recent years, high school senior PG OJ Mayo, has signed a letter of intent to play for USC in 2007.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Big round of applause, for Jackson Heights' own, Mister Randy Watson! Yes!"

Too bad Sexual Chocolate never took off. That would've been a helluva "Behind the Music" episode.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Label Me, If You Must

The new Blogger beta has a new Labels feature, which basically links posts that have a similar topic. For example, at the bottom of all my 10-Second Film Reviews there is the Label "film review." Click on that and you'll be whisked away to all my film reviews! Useful stuff.

I'm in the process of Labeling all of my posts, which will help streamline like this nickel-and-dime operation.

UPDATE 11/13/06: Finishing labeling, for now anyway. I also added The Big Lead and The Basketball Jones to the Links. Also there's a few more entries in the Not Worst of SoaS section.

There's already been 54 hits to SoaS today. This place doesn't get that much traffic in weeks let alone in one day. I'm not complaining, but where the hell is everyone coming from?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: Week #11

Wow. What a crazy three days in college football. Rutgers rockets into #5 after their historic win over Louisville on Thursday night. Bobby Petrino's team drops to #9. Texas' loss to Kansas State pummets them into the Top Ten cellar. West Virginia is the new #3 almost by default since it seems like no other team wants it. Florida survives another scare, yet move up to #4 thanks to the wild week of upsets. California and Auburn get the boot for biting the bullet against Arizona and Georgia respectively. LSU is kicked out of the Top Ten as well despite winning today. USC's emphatic win over Oregon has them pegged at #6. Arkansas won handily over Tennessee tonight. The Razorbacks debut at #7.

A minor shuffling in the race for the Heisman. Troy Smith and Brady Quinn both had stellar days in short stints. Ray Rice's outstanding play on national television has him leap-frogging Mike Hart. Steve Slaton stays put at #5. A darkhorse contender is Hawaii QB Colt Brennan, who has thrown for 3347 yards and 39 touchdowns already. The Warriors are 7-2 with their two defeats coming against Boise State and Alabama on the road.


Top Ten Teams

College Last Week
1) Ohio State 1
2) Michigan 2
3) West Virginia
6
4) Florida
7
5) Rutgers
-
6) USC
-
7) Arkansas
-
8) Notre Dame
8
9) Louisville
4
10) Texas
3

Dropped out: #5 Auburn, #9 California, #10 LSU


Heisman Hopefuls

Name College Position Year Last Week
1) Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 1
2) Brady Quinn Notre Dame QB Sr. 2
3) Ray Rice
Rutgers
RB So. 4
4) Michael Hart
Michigan
RB Jr. 3
5) Steve Slaton
West Virginia
RB So.
5

Dropped out: None

10-Second Film Reviews #13

More memorable than a Rutgers win and less unusual than a Knicks loss: it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

The Searchers: My favorite movie ever. John Wayne stars as an ex-Confederate soldier on a mission to find his niece. One of the most beautiful pictures ever to be photographed; the landscape, edits and shots are dazzling. That being said, this is not a perfect film by any means. The dialogue and acting are clunky at times, and the racial deceptions are controversial. Regardless, this John Ford classic has a blend of action, drama, romance and comedy that perhaps no other film can match. (*****)

Hello, Dolly!: An uneven musical starring Barbra Streisand. She carries the film with mixed results. Her voice is amazing, yet her character lacks soul. The singing and dance sequences frequently go on far too long; it's opulence that doesn't know when to quit. When the extravagance works, it's exhilirating. When it's not the film falls flat. The costumes, sets and choreography, however, are undoubtedly beautiful works of art. (***)

A Clockwork Orange: A vulgar, violent film that works most of the time. The humor is subverse and imaginative. The visuals are visceral. The story, however, lacks much emotional clout. It's difficult to like, understand or even follow a sadist living in a rather sadistic world. What compounds that problem is that the film goes on long after it should've ended, revolving around in unnecessary circles. (***)

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: An entertaining story involving, yes, dodgeball and underdogs. Vince Vaughn isn't as captivating or comedic here as he is in other movies (i.e. Wedding Crashers), but he still gives a good performance. Ben Stiller strains too hard for laughs. Most of the characters are underdeveloped. While the plot prods predictably along for the majority of the time, the last sequence is full of big surprises and bigger laughs. (***)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Really, Really Expensive Stocking Stuffer

The Christmas holiday season is just around the corner, which means it's time to start thinking about gift ideas. If you're like me and don't give or get gifts, the last two months of the year are solely devoted to massive amounts of football, homework, chocolate and spiritual angst. But most human beings, unlike me, are of the considerate variety. Hard to believe, but some folks actually enjoy giving presents and putting some thought into the process.

A lot of people like to give DVDs as gifts. I know from firsthand experience having worked at Circuit City one holiday season. Whatever the reason, people love giving other people plastic discs with encoded information. And folks especially love getting DVDs, usually to put them on a shelf and show off their collection to friends and relatives. DVDs are the new books I suppose.

Now when buying a DVD typically someone gets either a new blockbuster release (X-Men 3, anyone?) or a season from a TV show. Either would be a good choice and most people should be grateful to receive anything at all. However, if you want to go that extra mile -- the 11 on the amplifier if you will -- for that special someone in your life or that boss who needs a huge ass-kissing, there's a really sweet DVD box set available. I give you the Criterion Collection Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films.

The folks at Criterion make it their mission to create DVDs for great movies; everything from long lost classics to basketball documentaries. This collection is no exception. For a mere $850 (and right now it's only $650) you can give someone fifty of the most-acclaimed movies ever made. Sounds expensive, but that's only $17 a movie. Now I haven't seen most of the films in this 14-lb collection of classics, but the ones I have watched (The 400 Blows, M, Rashomon, The Rules of the Game, Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, The Third Man) are some of the best and most enjoyable flicks I've experienced.

This collection would make a great and unique gift for whomever you're thinking about this holiday season. Or hell, keep the movies. Sometimes you just gotta spoil yourself.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"I had the brew she had the chronic..."

Friday was a good day.
Lakers 118, SuperSonics 112

Sunday? Not so much.
SuperSonics 117, Lakers 101

Saturday, November 04, 2006

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: Week #10

Louisville moves up to #4 after defeating West Virginia on Thursday. The Mountaineers drop to the Cardinals' former spot at #7. Texas got back on track this week and easily handled Oklahoma State. As a result the Longhorns bumped up to third. LSU enters at #10 after its thrilling victory over then-#8 Tennessee, which is now on the outside looking in.

No change in the race for the Heisman. The gap between #1 and #2 has narrowed, with Brady Quinn having a stellar game and Troy Smith giving his worse performance of the year. Mike Hart had another solid day, while Steve Slaton played well in a losing effort on Thursday. Ray Rice and Rutgers prepares to play Louisville later next week.


Top Ten Teams

College Last Week
1) Ohio State 1
2) Michigan 2
3) Texas
4
4) Louisville
7
5) Auburn 5
6) West Virginia
3
7) Florida
6
8) Notre Dame
9
9) California
10
10) LSU
-

Dropped out: #8 Tennessee


Heisman Hopefuls

Name College Position Year Last Week
1) Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 1
2) Brady Quinn Notre Dame QB Sr. 2
3) Mike Hart Michigan RB Jr. 3
4) Ray Rice
Rutgers
RB So. 4
5) Steve Slaton
West Virginia
RB So.
5

Dropped out: None

10-Second Film Reviews #12

Funnier than Borat, jollier than Santa Claus and nastier than sewer rats: it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Klute: Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda star in this detective story Fonda steals the show in an Oscar-winning role as a hooker who wants to escape from her destructive lifestyle. The story is all over the place; something it's engaging, at other moments the plot droops. There's a few great scenes of suspense, and the mystery is adequate. Unfortunately the ending tails off. (***)

Click: Adam Sandler in a high-concept, high-tech comedy about a universal remote that lives up to its name. Fairly amusing. The story has some logistical holes it never attempts to patch up, which hurts the film's believability. Kate Beckinsale, a very talented and beautiful actress, is given nothing to worth with as the cardboard wife. Christopher Walken is engaging as usual. Near the end it gets emotional, but not sappy. (***)

Bunny Lake Is Missing: A fantastic thriller about a young mother looking for her missing child -- if the child ever existed to begin with. Laurence Olivier and Carolyn Lynley give top-notch performances. Director Otto Preminger gives the film an intense look and pace. A few scenes are truly memorable, chilling relevations. (*****)

Sinbad: Afros and Bellbottoms: A hilarious stand-up performance that has been unfortunately forgotten. IMDB doesn't even have a page for this movie, and the DVD information is all wrong (the film was made in 1993, not 2006, and it runs less than an hour, not 90 minutes). Sinbad doesn't command the stage like Eddie Murphy, but the humor is consistenly laugh-out-loud good, as well as appropriate for all ages.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Save Sheed

Natalie over at Need4Sheed has started a petition asking the NBA to get rid of the new zero-tolerance rule that forbids players (like Rasheed Wallace) from arguing calls with the referees. Frankly, I think the new rule is horrendous and gladly signed. Hope you do the same.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Quick Hits

* Every game from here on out involving the Raiders should be a low-scoring affair. First of all, Oakland's offense is atrocious: QB Andrew Walter has thrown only 3 touchdown passes and RB LaMont Jordan has rushed for one score. Secondly, the Raider defense is really good. They've picked off 10 passes and forced 14 sacks already. And finally, special teams. Chris Carr is a dependable kick returner, but he's not a Dante Hall-type gamebreaker. And no one messes with K Shane Lechler and his 50-yard bombs kicks. Oakland will steal a win or two against better teams because it keeps the score low and close.

* After opening night, maybe it's not too late to revamp my NBA Preview. AAU teams could've walloped Miami last night.

* Hopefully my $5 will go a long way toward getting my favorite baseball blog up-and-running once again.

* Paul Rodriguez has got an awesome PowerSong.

* If USC loses to Stanford this Saturday the world will implode.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Clearly the Cap Does Not Fit


Even the late, great Johnnie Cochran could see I did not receive the hat I was supposed to. Due to the mishap, I have sent The Online Store of the Orlando Magic the following email:
Hello. I have a problem regarding my recent order _____ which was for a #1412 Varsity Fit Hat. [link to page]

I received my package today only to find the hat I received did not match the one advertised on the site. The invoice _____ and tag both indicate that the cap is what I ordered: a Varsity Fit Hat that is navy/wht in color. And the hat I received indeed matches the physical description.

However, the hat I received is not the one I ordered. I have included a picture that shows the two side-by-side. Clearly there was a mix-up, as the hat I received is not even available on the site. [see here]

I would like to return this hat and receive the one I originally ordered. I understand the #1412 is currently out of stock, but I hope this will be resolved soon. After all, I'd like to wear Magic gear as soon as possible! Any help is appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

-Kenny
Stay tuned folks. All five of you.


UPDATE: The Orlando Team Shop sent an automated message this morning saying they received my email and will respond ASAP. Still waiting for a reply from an actual humanoid.

"Inside the NBA" AKA The Greatest Show on Earth Returns

Tonight is the start of the NBA season, which means TNT's award-winning and finger-licking "Inside the NBA" returns to the airwaves. Familiar faces will be back in Atlanta's Studio J to break down the games and each other:


Ernie Johnson: the straight man that holds the show together. Ernie does all the heavy-lifting: dishing out stats, recapping news from around the league and, most importantly, mediating (intervening may be a better word) between the folks in the studio. EJ, however, has a sly sense of humor and will administer a well-timed jab at either Kenny or Chuck every once in a while. EJ underwent chemotherapy this summer to treat Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As a result he'll have a different look this season, as the cancer treatment made him bald. Far better to lose Ernie's hair than to lose him.


Kenny Smith: the punching bag for the studio and crew. The Chuckster loves to criticize Kenny, whether it's for talking about his brother Vince or for pitching one of his youth basketball camps on national TV. Smith is a regular victim of faked photos and videos (see above). Kenny is a great analyst and provides insight on how a team develops into a championship contender (and he would know, having played for UNC and Houston). Smith is very involved in the NBA (when not working for TNT Smith analyzes Knicks games) and has many amusing anecdotes about the league.


Charles Barkley: the jester of "Inside the NBA." The Round Mound isn't afraid to laugh or be laughed at. Topics that poke fun include his waistline, his golf swing and his gambling problem. What makes Barkley so lovable is that most of the time he brings the jokes onto himself, such as the time he referred to the Titantic as a "ball smoating accident." He has a tendency to ramble and is somewhat ignorant of what's going on in the league; Chuck always does miserably playing "Who He Play For?" Barkley, in many ways, is larger than life. His endearing personality and brutal honesty make him the stand-out star on the show.

And Charles is the jester of "Inside the NBA" only because TNT already hired The Joker:


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Not Worst of Sports on a Schtick

I figured now is a good time to include a Best Not Worst of Sports on a Schtick section. It's under the About Me section and includes my complete NBA Preview.

NBA Preview 2006-2007: Awards and Playoffs

Click for each preview:
Atlantic
Central
Southeast
Southwest
Northwest
Pacific
Awards and Playoffs

Each team is scored on a 1-10 scale based on its projected starting lineup, bench, head coach and general manager. The maximum score possible is 80.

Overall scores, brief summaries and franchise outlooks will predict how a team performs this upcoming season.

A final preview article will predict regular-season awards, playoff results and the eventual NBA champion.



Awards

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
Voters will have Steve Nash fatigue after selecting him for back-to-back MVPs, but even if they didn't LBJ would get their votes. With the Cavs now being amongst the elite teams in the league, LeBron is in an perfect position to put up the individual numbers and have the team success to secure his first MVP trophy. The Lakers will not have enough wins for Kobe to contend, and voters feel Dwayne Wade's production is largely assisted by Shaq.

Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
Roy will likely supplant Martell Webster or Jarrett Jack early in the season. He was the best prospect in the draft and will prove it with his play. Randy Foye of Minnesota is also in contention for the ROY, as he should get significant tick.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Ron Artest
Artest is simply the best defender in the league. Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen and Andrei Kirilenko take a backseat to Tru Warier's tenacious guarding. As long as he stays on the court, Ron will dazzle people with his defensive skills. A dark horse contender is Gerald Wallace, who averaged a ridiculous two steals and two blocks per contest last season.

Sixth Man of the Year: Shaun Livingston
Livingston will continue his apprenticeship under Sam Cassell, but that doesn't mean he will have a limited role. Because of his size, Shaun can and will play multiple positions. He's a marvelous passer and good rebounder. As his jump shot continues to improve, so will Shaun's status as one of the league's best coming off the bench. Look for his numbers to take off.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Van Gundy
The much-maligned Van Gundy can lead the Rockets to 15 more wins than last season. A healthy Houston team stands to be the most-improved squad in the league, and Van Gundy will earn his share of credit, whether he deserves it or not. Other candidates include Chicago's Scott Skiles, Utah's Jerry Sloan and even New York's Isiah Thomas.

Most Improved Player: Darko Milicic
If Darko plays substantial minutes, the productivity will be there. He's already one of the best blockers in the league. Darko bulked up ten pounds over the summer, which bolds well for an emerging interior game to complement his perimeter play. Box scores of 12/8/3/3 should be a regular occurrence for Milicic.

Executive of the Year: Carroll Dawson
The Executive of the Year Award tends to go to the GM whose team improved the most from the previous year. Dawson should be the recipient in 2007, considering the Rockets will be that team (again, assuming they stay healthy). The decisions to acquire Shane Battier and draft Steve Novak will also pay immediate dividends.


Overall Scores
Eastern Conference Western Conference
1) Miami 71.5 1) San Antonio 71
2) Detroit 66.5 2) Phoenix 70
3) Cleveland 65.5 3) Dallas 70
4) Chicago 65.5 4) Houston 66.5
5) Indiana 65 5) LA Lakers 66.5
6) Orlando 63.5 6) LA Clippers 66.5
7) New Jersey 63 7) Utah 66
8) Milwaukee 62 8) Sacramento 66
9) Washington 61.5 9) Denver 63.5
10) Toronto 61.5 10) Seattle 63
11) Philadelphia 59.5 11) New Orleans 62
12) Boston 59 12) Memphis 62
13) Charlotte 59 13) Portland 61
14) New York 53.5 14) Golden State 60.5
15) Atlanta 53.5 15) Minnesota 60

Factors such as schedule difficulty, team chemistry and injury histories played a relatively minor role in determining the scores for each team. In reality, of course, those aforementioned factors are significant determinants as to whether Team X or Y will succeed in any given year (see Portland and Houston circa 2005). Frankly, I was more concerned about the talent and potential of every franchise; my scores are more preoccupied with predicting how a how well a team should perform as opposed to how well a team will actually play.

For example, I have the Miami Heat rated the highest team with a culmulative score of 71.5, which would suggest that they would finish with the league's best record. But anyone that follows the NBA knows that Miami isn't concerned with wins and losses in the regular-season, but rather simultaneously securing a high playoff-seed while keeping starters healthy come the postseason. Frankly, it's more than likely that Miami, once it clinches at least the #4 seed by winning the Atlantic Division, will rest its starters even if that means losing a game here or there -- a decision that could cost it the top seed.

A few injuries have popped up since this preview was posted. Some won't affect the NBA landscape, while others are more severe. Marvin William's broken hand won't have an impact on the playoff picture (Atlanta's postseason hopes go from zero to... less than zero?). Likewise, Robert Swift's season-ending knee injury will only change Seattle's chances in the Draft Lottery. Mike Bibby's thumb injury, however, may alter the Kings' postseason chances. He will be sidelined for the first few weeks of the season. Considering Sacramento is a bubble team to begin with, the Kings could be left out of the playoffs if they get off to a poor start without Bibby.


Playoffs
Eastern Conference First Round
#1 Miami vs. #8 Miwaukee
#2 Detroit vs. #7 Orlando
#3 Cleveland vs. #6 Indiana
#4 New Jersey vs. #5 Chicago


Western Conference First Round
#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Sacramento
#2 Phoenix vs. #7 LA Clippers
#3 Dallas vs. #6 LA Lakers
#4 Utah vs. #5 Houston


Eastern Conference Second Round
#1 Miami vs. #5 Chicago
#2 Detroit vs. #3 Cleveland


Western Conference Second Round
#1 San Antonio vs. #5 Houston
#2 Phoenix vs. #3 Dallas


Eastern Conference Finals
#1 Miami vs. #3 Cleveland


Western Conference Finals
#1 San Antonio vs. #2 Phoenix


NBA Finals
#1 Miami vs. #1 San Antonio

Saturday, October 28, 2006

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: Week #9

The Trojans' inevitable loss came earlier than expected at Oregon State this afternoon, knocking USC out of the Top Ten. Clemson was crushed at Blacksburg by Virginia Tech on Thursday; the Tigers are off the list as well. As a result the Fighting Irish and Golden Bears return to the nation's elite list. Tennessee had an adequate showing tonight; the Vols certainly didn't earn style points for their come-from-behind victory over South Carolina. Yet a win is a win. The Longhorns imposed their will in the second half against Texas Tech, limiting the vaunted Red Raiders offense to zero points.

Meanwhile, the Heisman Hopefuls remain the same. Smith and Quinn are separating themselves from the pack. Texas QB Colt McCoy and his stellar 24-4 TD/INT ratio almost made the list, but the Longhorns have mostly feasted on inferior teams, and they don't have another marquee opponent for the remainder of the regular season.


Top Ten Teams

College Last Week
1) Ohio State 1
2) Michigan 2
3) West Virginia
3
4) Texas
4
5) Auburn 5
6) Florida
7
7) Louisville
8
8) Tennessee
10
9) Notre Dame
-
10) California
-

Dropped out: #6 USC, #9 Clemson


Heisman Hopefuls

Name College Position Year Last Week
1) Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 1
2) Brady Quinn Notre Dame QB Sr. 2
3) Mike Hart Michigan RB Jr. 3
4) Ray Rice
Rutgers
RB So. 4
5) Steve Slaton
West Virginia
RB So.
5

Dropped out: None

10-Second Film Reviews #11

Scarier than Halloween, sweeter than chocolate and nastier than black licorice: it's my 10-second film reviews!

Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings (out of five stars):

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: A zany comedy that has plot and action to boot. The funny stuff is hit-or-miss. Hits include the fight with the Black Knight and Lancelot slaying folks at a wedding reception; misses involve the witch trial and the various castle dialogues. The comedy undercuts the story too often. Terry Gilliam depicts a beautifulEnglish landscape and creates exceptional conflict with his cuts. (***)

Art School Confidential:
This dark comedy lampoons the world of, yep, art school. There's a few chuckles to be had at the expense of creative and tortured dorks. Unfortunately two-dimensional characters, weak acting, a muddled story (and equally muddled subplots) and some cringe-worthy dialogue make for an unsatisfactory experience. (**)

Five Easy Pieces: A road film starring Jack Nicholson. There's no story to speak of in this film; rather than a plot there's a series of loosely-connected incidents. The first half is a bore because the lack of a unifying force to tie all together besides Jack's character -- who's quite an unlikable fellow by the way. The second half is far more intriguing. The experimental narrative presented some great moments, such as when Nicholson plays the piano in the middle of a busy freeway. (***)

Friday, October 27, 2006

NBA Preview 2006-2007: Pacific Division

Click for each preview:
Atlantic
Central
Southeast
Southwest
Northwest
Pacific
Awards and Playoffs

Each team is scored on a 1-10 scale based on its projected starting lineup, bench, head coach and general manager. The maximum score possible is 80.

Overall scores, brief summaries and franchise outlooks will predict how a team performs this upcoming season.

A final preview article will predict regular-season awards, playoff results and the eventual NBA champion.



Golden State Warriors
C: Troy Murphy (7.5)
PF: Ike Diogu (7)
SF: Mike Dunleavy (7)
SG: Jason Richardson (8)
PG: Baron Davis (8.5)
Bench: Monta Ellis, Mickael Pietrus, Dajuan Wagner, Devin Brown, Adonal Foyle, Andris Biedrins (7.5)
Coach: Don Nelson (8)
GM: Chris Mullin (7)
Overall: 60.5
Summary: Nelson hopes to create a high-powered, fast-paced offense led by Davis and Richardson. This is a critical year for Dunleavy ; he must bring more to the table. Diogu is a good rebounder and Murphy has range. Ellis is an explosive scorer and Wagner may regain the game he had in high school. Pietrus may surprise people with his productivity.
Outlook: The Warriors will struggle in a brutal conference.


Los Angeles Clippers
C: Chris Kaman (8)
PF: Elton Brand (9.5)
SF: Tim Thomas (7.5)
SG: Cuttino Mobley (8)
PG: Sam Cassell (8.5)
Bench: Corey Maggette, Shaun Livingston, Quinton Ross, Daniel Ewing, Yaroslav Korolev, James Singleton, Zeljko Rebraca (9.5)
Coach: Mike Dunleavy (8)
GM: Elgin Baylor (7.5)
Overall: 66.5
Summary: Last year's surprise team won't sneak up on the league again, but they have the talent to accept the challenge. Brand elevated his game, becoming an elite franchise superstar. Kaman is a good center that'll only keep improving. Cassell is the saavy veteran that unifies the team. There may arise a controversy with Maggette being the odd-man out. Look for Livingston to get major minutes.
Outlook: The Western Conference Finals are a real possibility.


Los Angeles Lakers
C: Chris Mihm (7)
PF: Lamar Odom (8.5)
SF: Vladimir Radmanovic (7.5)
SG: Kobe Bryant (10)
PG: Smush Parker (7.5)
Bench: Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum, Brian Cook, Maurice Evans, Kwame Brown (8)
Coach: Phil Jackson (10)
GM: Mitch Kupchak (8)
Overall: 66.5
Summary: No other player on this planet can emulate Kobe's seemingly indomitable offensive skillset. His teammates hope he'll pass the ball more often. Parker or Farmar will run the triangle. There's no telling how the death of Odom's infant son will affect him this season. The bench is long on potential, short on production. Evans was a great pick-up.
Outlook: The second year should have less bumps in the road.


Phoenix Suns
C: Amare Stoudemire (9)
PF: Shawn Marion (9)
SF: Boris Diaw (8.5)
SG: Raja Bell (8.5)
PG: Steve Nash (10)
Bench: Leandrinho Barbosa, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Banks, James Jones (8)
Coach: Mike D’Antoni (9)
GM: Mike D’Antoni (8)
Overall: 70
Summary: With or without Amare, this team is dynamite. Nash is the preeminent point in the NBA, and Phoenix's fastbreak offense is the envy of the league. The Suns lack size, but they are the quickest and most versatile collection of players. Marion and Diaw can do it all, Bell is a defensive stopper and Barbosa is lightning quick. Banks must play well so Nash can rest himself and not wear down before the postseason.
Outlook: Phoenix will look to prove that offense wins championships.


Sacramento Kings
C: Brad Miller (9)
PF: Shareef-Abdur Rahim (8.5)
SF: Ron Artest (9.5)
SG: John Salmons (7)
PG: Mike Bibby (9)
Bench: Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Kenny Thomas, Quincy Dooby, Jason Hart (8)
Coach: Eric Musselman (7)
GM: Geoff Petrie (8)
Overall: 66
Summary: Although losing Bonzi Wells was a big blow, Martin's offensive production will soothe the transition. There’s lots of firepower on this team and very little defense outside of Miller and Artest. The bench lacks bigs. Two big questions will be how Musselman manages this group and if Artest will be part of that group.
Outlook: Whether Musselman can motivate this team will determine if it makes the playoffs or not.