Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back where he belongs

Finally. Jim Thome can again be my favorite baseball player of all-time. It has been a while since I could say that but finally he has rejoined with the team he was meant to be with. The Cleveland Indians. Since he started his career as a third baseman (later moving to first base and now a designated hitter) for my favorite American League team back in 1991 (the year I was born) I have loved Jim Thome. And now after he left the team in 2003 he is back where he belongs, where he started, and where he can retire and enter the Hall of Fame.

If you haven't heard of the great Jim Thome, you must go do your research. He recently just joined the 600 home run club, becoming one of eight men to do so. But Jim Thome has a better reputation other than his records and stats; he is known as the nicest guy in baseball. He has a special place in my heart but left it for a while. For seven years he has not been my favorite baseball player. It was the day he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. There were many rumors he was going to join the Chicago Cubs, my favorite National League team and I was thrilled. At this point he had already been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, a team I don't completely hate because they had Thome. But then he went to play for the Sox. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate the White Sox. Anyone who knows me well knows I hate the White Sox more than any other sports team in the country. I would rather the Sox lose than the Cubs win (but that could be because the Cubs just always lose). So you can imagine my disappointment when I found out he was going to be wearing black and white instead of blue and red.

Those were tough years for me. I would see him doing well for the White Sox, hitting home runs and helping them win. Of course when he hit a home run I was excited for him and then realized who he earned that run for and remembered I could no longer like him. You may think this is silly, I can still like him even if he plays for a different team. No. Sorry, that is not the case, he betrayed me. It was similar to when Kenny Lofton was on the White Sox or now with Omar Vizquel. For some reason the White Sox always steal my Indians. So, since Thome was on the worst team in baseball, I reverted to another first baseman, Derrick Lee as my favorite player. Then he was traded from the Cubs and I was lost. I felt no real connection to any player because they were all playing for the wrong team. Thome was later traded to the Minnesota Twins, another bad team as they rival to the Indians. Thome had played for all my enemies.

Until my brother called me two days ago. I had not been paying attention to the sports world as much as I would like (you know I go to school and all) and he made me guess who was on the Indians again. I naturally thought of Kenny Lofton, who of course hasn't played baseball in some time, but knowing him he would return. But no, for the first time my brother had information I didn't, nonetheless on my favorite player. Jim Thome has returned to Cleveland. And I must say, he looks damn good in that Indians jersey. He is certainly back where he belongs and should stay where he belongs.

With that some sports side notes.
1. Last week I said I would blog about the Illinois football team's first game but as you can tell Thome was a little more important. But I will give you a little side note. Illinois is back on Saturday against Arkansas State and I am beyond ecstatic to see the amazing offense Zook (who I hate) puts on the field. I'm skeptical about the defense after losing some big hitters like Martez, but it should be interesting. Expect my overall thoughts on the performance next week.
2. The U.S. Open has started for tennis and I must say after an exciting Wimbledon, I'm very excited and can't believe the things that have already happened. Venus Williams has withdrawn from the tournament because a disease she has been diagnosed with which will make this tournament interesting. Looking (and hoping) to see Djokovic win two grand slams in a row.
3. The Bears have one more preseason game left tomorrow and stupid Lovie Smith said he does not expect the starters to get playing time. With the regular season starting Sept. 11., I think this is kind of stupid. I realize he wants to make sure they don't get hurt but this is going to be an interesting season.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A small sneak peek

To understand this blog you must watch this one minute video. You will not regret it.

So, if you couldn't tell this blog will be dedicated to the Hunger Games. Naturally it means me discussing the book but I would first like to talk to all of you who have not read these books. I hope this clip, as little as it showed, got you interested in reading the books because it is certainly worth pursuing. I do want to clear some things up for everyone, it is not just about hunting or in the woods. Essentially it is a story about survival, but the characters and the game being played is extremely interesting. I'll give you the ten second summary: In a depressed world, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is one of 24 forced to enter the annual Hunger Games - a contest that is fought till the death of children from the ages of 12 and 18. Clearly this sounds depressing but I assure you it is a great freaking story with mischievous characters and a fun plot to figure out.

Moving on to the trailer clip thing, I'd like to say that as sad as I was not to get more footage (or a glimpse at Peeta or Gale) it was still awesome. I said from the beginning I loved Jennifer Lawrence cast as the fearless Katniss ever since she was nominated for an Oscar this past year. This trailer, even though she doesn't talk or anything, only proved to me that Jennifer looks awesome. Also, after seeing the photos of Peeta and Gale I have good faith that both actors know what they're doing. Plus hearing Gale's voice over in the trailer gave me baby chills (baby chills are not actual chills but if it was a little longer real chills could be there).

Personally I think the trailer was meant, really, for the loyal fans. But I am going to make it for those who have yet to read the books. I realize that school has now started and it is difficult to read for recreation but realize this film does not come out until March 23. That gives everyone (including me to reread them) a chance to read this fantastic book. The main thing this clip did was get me way too freaking excited. There is no doubt in my mind right now that I am more excited for the Hunger Games than the first part of Breaking Dawn. I just want Hunger Games now. I don't think there has been a short clip that has got me so excited before (wait, sorry, I'm sure Harry has done it for me).

I am telling all of you right this second to read this book. It's no Harry Potter, but it certainly fills a part Harry left. It's a different, creative, fantastic, character-driven and overall an awesome book. If you have any need for it, I have all three on my Kindle. Any further questions, call me, text me, email me, send me a carrier pigeon. I want all my friends to read these books because they are extremely worth the time.

With my begging and pleading, which is just darn right embarrassing (actually it's typical Sammie), I'll give you some movie side notes.
1. Clearly people have been reading my blog because The Help was No. 1 again in the box office. I know you all went out and saw it after reading my last weeks blog. We are now getting in that time of year where movies stink, which might be why I saw Harry Potter again on Saturday (the fourth times a charm).
2. So, I actually heard of this movie a while ago (if you look on IMDB it says it was released in 2008 because it was at the Berlin Film Festival) but it is finally coming to theaters in the U.S. this fall and looks super interesting (even though it hasn't been picked up by many theaters). It's called Fireflies in the Garden and features Julia Roberts and Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin from Spider-Man) as Ryan Reynolds parents. Check out the trailer yourself and see if it's worth seeing. Personally anything with Reynolds should be seen.
3. So, it seems like it's happening. The Dirty Dancing remake has hired a writer (and already hired Kenny Ortega as director), this is so upsetting. I didn't even like the first one that much but it is not a movie you mess with. Although, if Melanie from So You Think You Can Dance is in it, I might just have to see it.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The shows close to my heart

So with the new season coming up I thought it would warn you all of the shows I currently watch and will most likely talk about all year. I apologize to all of you who are big fans of shows on TNT, CW and TBS but I do not watch any shows on either of those channels. I would also like to say I don't watch popular shows like Big Bang Theory, Chuck, House or any other shows you wish for me to talk about. Hopefully after all of these you will want to check all of these shows out. Today I'll start with the shows I watch on ABC and CBS.

Grey's Anatomy
Oh how much I love Grey's Anatomy. I have to say, it is probably the best show to watch reruns of, it never ever gets old. And as much as I love this show and with all the ups (the finale when Meredith is waiting for Derek with the candle house) and the downs (Izzie having sex with an imaginary Denny or dating George) I highly believe this should be the last season. With many of the casts contracts up at the end of the season and Patrick Dempsey saying he does not want to return, the show needs to end. Eight seasons is a very successful show and I believe all the stories have been told. Although, it would be very sad and upsetting if it would be the end. As bad as the bad episodes are I still very much enjoy Grey's. It makes me laugh, it makes my mom and sister cry and it makes me feel like I know medicine. As apparently unrealistic the show depicts doctor, there is no lack of entertainment in this show.

How I Met Your Mother
I love that I can say I watched this show from the very start. From the first time the show aired I have been addicted. Probably one of the funniest comedies I watch and has that old style of a Friends kind of show. NBC is addicted to this quick, sharp comedy like The Office, Parks and Rec and 30 Rock (all shows I watch and love). Which is why HIMYM is such a great change of pace. It has an awesome mix of characters, wacky stories and an overall plot that makes you want to keep watching. I will say though, having signed on for two more seasons, I am getting a little impatient of finding Ted's wife. It'd be great if we could get some real answers this season. Cross your fingers.

The Good Wife
If Mad Men wins the Emmy again for best drama I'll be very upset. Because there is no doubt in my mind that this show should totally win that accolade. This and Fringe are probably the best two television shows on right now. The court cases, the overall arch of her husbands indiscretions, the relationship with the other lawyers, there is no show better. By far the best law show on TV as well. Not even comparable to Law and Order because you could just watch one episode and understand but there are so many more interesting personal things happening that keeps you coming back. You care about the characters. Sometimes I don't feel that about the Law and Order shows. If you pick any drama show to watch, please check this out. It's absolutely brilliant.

I don't want to bore you too much, so with that I give you some lovely side notes.
1. Shout out to Boy Meets World who taught me the printing press was invented by Johannah Gutenberg in 1450. Isn't that always the thing. You learn the best from what is said in TV shows. Made me feel real smart in my history of journalism class.
2. Interesting new show in the works for Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey's and Private Practice). It's about the first ever luxurious hotel ever created in 1895. Following stories of the family that owns it, their employers and interesting guests. Sounds actually really interesting. Look for this one in the future. It's called Gilded Lilly's.
3. The last might interest you Glee fans. Looks like Santana and Brittany will be back on the Cheerios. Watch this promo to see them in uniform and all your other favorites. Surprise, surprise, Lea Michele heads the background music. Gosh, I just hope this season is better than last.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summitt can overcome her summit

I will say I’m not the greatest women’s basketball fan. I don’t follow it, I don’t watch and I just don’t really care for it. But I’m no fool. I know who Pat Summitt is, although I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know. She is the head coach for the women’s basketball team at Tennessee. The winningest coach in that sport’s history, so one could conclude she knows what she is doing. She has eight national championships, 1,021 career victories, and 37 seasons as Tennessee’s coach. Clearly, I have respect for this woman. It can sometimes be hard to coach a team that does not have a large following. I would watch her on SportsCenter and think I would not want to mess with her. So you can imagine that I was very saddened about the news I heard yesterday.

Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at age 59. It is extremely sad to hear about this because 1. She is a fantastic coach, clearly and 2. She is pretty young to be diagnosed with such an awful and depressing disease. The reason I decided to talk about this is because it makes athletes, coaches and celebrities in general feel like real people. They are going through the same problems as normal people; they just have to do it publically. It is also very cool how Summitt will continue to coach the Lady Vols until she feels unfit to do so. I would consider this very brave and I actually wouldn’t expect any less from a coach like Summitt. 

She has produced Candice Parker, somebody I have always taken interest in since she went to the same high school as my cousins. She has a gold and silver medal from the Olympics as a coach and a player. She has truly left her mark on college basketball in general and for women everywhere.Which is why I give her high praise and even give ESPN the necessary coverage to this big news. I still feel like women's sports do not get the attention it deserves unless it is the Olympics and they are covering gymnastics or something. Men's sports dominate this world, which I understand and sometimes agree with (for example I certainly prefer to watch men's bball than women's) but I have gained more respect for ESPN for covering Summitt's situation. Some may say, of course they covered this, but I'm not too sure. I also think it is credit to Summitt and her success which everyone in the sports world should acknowledge. 

So, I suppose what I'm saying is Pat Summitt is awesome. She had to make something very personal, public and seems to have a great attitude about it. It's going to be really hard, a battle and a struggle and any other difficult word you can think of. But for this coach, as successful as she is, still wants to coach. That is who she is and I feel like all those football, baseball, basketball professionals can learn a lot from her. She is going through something she can't control but still doing the thing she loves. Check out her video statement here.

With that some side notes for you all.
1. It's looking more and more like the Indians aren't gonna make the playoffs. This is extremely upsetting to me because if they don't get in I have no teams since there is no chance the Cubs are going. So, I guess it'll be me rooting for the underdog again. Granted there are still five weeks left.
2. Pathetic, pathetic performance by the Bears this past Monday. There is no reason to lose by 28 points in a preseason game. I'm not sure if I it is necessary for me to freak out about this season, but I am certainly worried.
3. Look forward to my blog next week as today marks a week and a half until college football starts!! Can you tell I'm a little excited? I have a lot of confidence that Illinois will be competitive with Scheelhaase having a year under his belt. Come back in a week to hear more on my take on Illini football. I-L-L ...

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Monday, August 22, 2011

That's what The Help is for

That’s right folks, I have returned from my hiatus. I would first like to apologize; last week was extremely hectic and did not have time to share my knowledge with you all. I know, you were extremely upset about it and were lost without me. But fear not, I have return. Since I never had a chance to talk about it, as I saw it in my last week of summer, it’s time to talk about The Help.

After I read this book at the beginning of this summer in pretty much two days, I was easily hooked. It had great characters, great story telling, three great voices and an overall very interesting story. The main reason I started reading the book was not because I heard the great reviews of it, or my mom kept telling me or I was bored. It was because I knew it was being made into a movie coming out at the end of the summer. Not only was it starring my girl crush Emma Stone, but also Viola Davis (the woman who was up for an Oscar for being in one scene in the movie Doubt) and Octavia Spencer (which may not seem exciting but she was the inspiration of the character she actually played). 

So after reading The Help I probably got roughly estimating around 130 percent more excited for the film. It even increased when I found out the director was a childhood friend of Kathryn Stockett (author of the book) and bought the rights to the book before it became a New York Times Best Seller. All of these occurrences made me pumped for the opening of the film, but also extremely nervous. I had very high expectations, the story is very sensitive and Emma Stone had yet to do an actual serious role even though Skeeter gives some comic relief in the book. So I went into the movie theater worried the film would actually just be average.

Luckily for me, the awesome people I saw the movie with, the rest of the world and the Oscars, the movie was fantastic. It lived up to mostly every expectation. Viola Davis was remarkable and will surely be in the run for an Oscar (maybe even Octavia Spencer but I doubt it). I would say she most likely stole every single scene she was in. That woman does great things with her eyes. Emma Stone hit out of the park making her 3-3 this summer in successful films. Essentially what I’m getting at is go see this before school gets busy and it leaves theaters. I was pleasantly surprised when it won the Box Office this weekend after it came out Aug. 10 and didn’t win that weekend. Clearly this is a word of mouth movie and from my mouth to your ear, I’m saying go see it. Actually if you can, read it and then go see it. I would even be so bold to say it is one of the best novel to film adaptations I’ve seen. For a book that was so popular there was a lot of pressure to make sure it turned out good. And for a pretty much unknown director I think people will be very pleased with this film. Not to mention Emma Stone is in it. That should just be reason enough for most people.

So since all of you have seen Harry Potter a couple times in theaters, checked out Crazy Stupid Love, seen enough super hero movies to last a lifetime, please go see The Help. Plus it's one you can see with your mom! That's a win right there. The only falter in it was casting Allison Janney (Skeeter's mom). Even though she is a phenomenal actress and very funny, she was just not right for the part, not to mention a few changes to her character. Other than that I honestly can't really complain much more about it. It's certainly not like the fifth Harry Potter or any of the Twilight's (which are not very good adaptations). It was a truly enjoyable film that I'm sure I'm bound to see again.

I have been a little lazy giving you some awesome movies to look out for this coming fall so I would like to share three very exciting ones in my much needed movie side notes.
1. The first trailer is one I have been looking forward to its debut for a while now. It's called Carnage with Academy-Award Winners Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and Jodie Foster and Academy-Award Nominee John C. Reilly. The trailer looks really funny and it is based of a Tony Winning play. This is certainly an Oscar contender.
2. The second film is called 50/50 with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It looks funny, sad and an interesting take on cancer. The trailer looks like the film will be a good balance of drama and comedy. Not to mention both actors are hilarious, and Anna Kendrick is in it.
3. The last one, is probably a film I won't watch but I have been meaning to talk about, even though it doesn't come out until next year. It took me two tries to finally get through The Woman in Black trailer starring Daniel Radcliffe. It looks messed up, heart attack worthy and just really scary. I want to see it because of Dan, but feel like that might not happen. I much prefer the drama, rich storyline films like The Help than the scary, give you nightmare movies. Oh well, he had to get out his Harry Potterness somehow.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My summer is complete

And America's favorite dancer is...

What started as just something to watch to pass the time with a friend turned into a summer obsession. So You Think You Can Dance is one of the best reality shows ever on television, beating out Amazing Race and American Idol in my mind. All the contestants that were in the top 20 could have made it to the finale because they all are exceptional, knowledgeable dancers. But of course two dancers went home each week narrowing it down to easily the most consistent, most diverse and most likable dancer in the competition: Melanie was named America's favorite dancer. She (and Marko) were the only dancers to never be in the bottom three couples. And through out the entire summer I have talked about how amazing she is and how she was easily going to be the winner. I was the most nervous I have ever been watching a television show. I wanted her to win so badly. I suppose that is a testament to the actual dancer but also to the show and the quality of it. I have to give a huge shout out to J-Co for getting me invested in the show because it has kept my summer moving.

Despite the lack of awesome routines in the finale, most likely because the top-4 dancers were exhausted, the results show was extremely entertaining. There was only one routine (the Mr. Jailer one) that I was like, why did they pick this one? If you're bored and have never watched this show, it would be worth looking up this episode on hulu because it is just packed with all of the seasons best dances. Plus the judges picked my two favorite dances of the season: the Melanie/Marko Turn to Stone and the Melanie/Marko hip hop routine. Not to mention a bunch of others that I really enjoyed. I'll be keeping that DVR recording for a long time. Please check this episode out because it will make you want to watch season 9 next summer (which I totally plan on doing as well).

I have to toot my own horn a little in this blog as well because I totally called when each person was narrowed down to the last two. I also knew what the last dance was going to be when Sasha came out in that costume. I can prove it with my text messages, so I just wanted you all to know I'm extremely intelligent and can predict the future. Be jealous. But I will say I did not predict Melanie winning, even though I wished, hoped, knew it should be her, you never know; America can be really stupid. For example, why would you pick Reuben over Clay? At least they voted for Carrie Underwood, my favorite American Idol. Alas though, they chose the appropriate winner for season 8 of sytycd. And gosh I cannot get over how great Melanie is, she just catches my eye and I don't want to look away. The solo that she did last week was probably the first time I didn't want it to end. I wanted her to keep dancing. I feel like that is very rare to find, especially in a reality show (which I normally hate; Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Survivor, Bachelor, and way too many more are just stupid shows). To see how awesome she is as a person to, please read this interview after she won.

So, I will now declare So You Think You Can Dance the greatest reality show ever. And I will actually be upset if the Amazing Race wins the Emmy for best reality show now that Dance is nominated. Also I believe Cat Deely is the most entertaining, and most relaxed host I have ever seen (Ryan is just annoying). Not to mention I love her British accent. You can bet I'll be rooting for all of their nominations at this years Emmy's (airing Sept. 18 on Fox).

With that I give you some TV side notes after my only summer show is sadly over.
1. I have a very good feeling about Dexter this season. All the interviews I've read, all the trailers I've seen and this recently released poster looks awesome. I feel like and what the producers have been saying, is it will be very similar to the first season. Although, I am still not over you know who (it's the greatest twist and don't want to ruin it for those who have not watched season 4 yet).
2. Despite how worried I am about the new season of Glee with all this drama going on off the set and talk about adding all these new characters. I have to say I'm excited about the addition of Mercedes new boyfriend Friday Night Light's Tinker (who I wanted more of in FNL). So I'm pumped to see this storyline and to see Mercedes do more along with the two Asians. Hmm, maybe it will be a good season or at least better than the second.
3. More Grey's gossip there may be a new chief resident this season... again. It was first Richard and then Derek and then back to Richard. Now there may be another new one. In honor of not ruining it for people who want to find out (which will be revealed in the first episode of their eighth season), I will not say who it is. If you'd like to know please visit this link; an interesting new plot I must say.

With that I say (congrats Melanie!) and... Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No fields filled with dreams

"Did anyone ever tell you, you look like a penis with a little hat on." - Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

In my last blog I had mentioned writing about sports films but then was more inspired to write about something else. But I thought considering today was about sports I would rank my all-time top three sports films. These three films represent great emotion and barriers but demonstrate believable sports sequences. For example a movie like Rookie of the Year is an exceptionally horrible film to represent the sport of baseball (not to mention just an overall bad movie too). I personally feel like sports movies are a hit or miss for me, meaning they either suck or they are amazing. So let's just get to the list of my favorites (please don't yell at me for not having Field of Dreams in this list).

The number one film will hands down be A League of Their Own. The story of this film is of course sensitive to woman but the characters between Madonna to Rosie to Geena Davis; this film is fantastic. It is both hilarious, dramatic and has quality women baseball. That's right baseball not softball. Not to mention you can't really go wrong with a film that Tom Hanks is in, let's be honest. The dynamic in this movie just works, from the actual winning games, to keeping the league around to just pure drama with men. I like to believe it is a sports movie that both sexes can enjoy because it has this baseball aspect but also these rich characters that really keep the film moving. Not to mention the final game always has me asking, did she do it on purpose? (this was the only way I could think of asking the question without giving the ending away). Please watch this film whether you like sports or not because it is completely worth it.

Number two is the cliche Remember the Titans which may seem a little silly but it is easily the best football movie ever made. Some of you may be thinking "Oh wait, what about Friday Night Lights or Jerry Maguire or We Are Marshall?" But no. Sorry folks, FNL (the movie not the show) is awful; I fell asleep. I literally hated this movie, I didn't like the vibe, the acting or there portrayal of football. Jerry Maguire is not a sports movie. I would never consider it a sports movie. There is only one play of football seen in the whole film, and although it's epic, it is still not a sports movie. We Are Marshall is depressing and as I've said in earlier blogs I don't like Matthew McConaughey which is the main reason I don't like it. Plus the story isn't the greatest. Hence why Remember the Titans has my vote. Denzel brings magic to the character and drama but it's just one of those feel good movies.

The last film, which I already know will be controversial and may be one you have not heard of. The film is called the Legend of Bagger Vance. It stars Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron and directed by Robert Redford. Already with those fine film contributors it is a great movie. Although this film did not get the greatest reviews, well actually it kind of got panned. I thought it was fantastic. It had the essence of what golf is and and characters I loved and hated at the same time. This film came and went pretty quickly not to mention is was released 11 years ago but I would totally rent it if you're looking for an enjoyable film. Will Smith does a great job as a guru (kind of like how he was in Hitch) and anything with Matt Damon is a win of course. It is truly a wonderful film that is very real to its core and fun in its plot.

With that I will give you some concentrated sports notes.
1. Oh the Cubs. They always do this to me. When you think it is the most painful team in the world they go and have a seven game winning streak. They always figure out how to win later in the season when it's too late. There is always next year.
2. Has anyone noticed that golf is just always about Tiger Woods? Like even when he's not there it's like a sin for him not to be mentioned at least once. And I have to say its not necessarily a bad thing, he is the poster boy for golf but it would be nice to have somebody new step up. My favorite is Steve Stricker (although I'm biased as he is a Illinois grad).
3. I can't think of baseball at a better time when it's in extra innings. The Indians recently won in 14 innings and it was an exciting game. I of course had to watch on the gametracker on ESPN but it was nonetheless an intense game. Please if you're a Cubs fan cheer on the Indians. I have lots of faith they're going all the way!

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The magic of music

 "Ah music. A magic far beyond all we do here!" - Albus Dumbledore

I had such a brilliant plan for this blog yesterday. After watching several movies over the weekend, I decided I would discuss sports movies; combining the two things I love most. I watched The Greatest Game Ever Played with Shia Labeouf, something I hadn't seen in a while and was going to give you wise people some great advice on sports films. Then I changed my mind because I watched Star Trek, and wanted to tell you why I love that brilliant movie so much. But something hit me last night as I was trying to go to sleep. On this occasion, I was finding it difficult for me to rest and decided to listen to some quiet, soothing music to rock me to sleep. While listening to the playlist I labeled "sleep music" about two years ago, I noticed just about every song was from a movie. The people who know me best know I love music, the people who know me even better, know I love soundtracks. I have a bunch of them (with the help of one specific friend) and am obsessed with a certain few. While listening to these great songs, things I haven't listened to in a very long time, I realized I could tell you every movie and the scene of that movie by just the song. Which then made me discover that music is probably one of the most important ingredients to a film.

Listening further to songs from soundtracks like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Blood Diamond, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, Revolutionary Road and most Pixar movies, I tried to imagine acting without knowing the music. A scene can drastically change without the music. Just think: pick a movie, any movie and think of a scene, now imagine it with no music just dialog. It changes a lot. Even the subtlety of a few notes in the background can mean a lot to a scene. But music has such an impact as well. Think of the film Jaws. John Williams creates two notes and you immediately think of a villain (watch this awesome scene from movie The Holiday, describing the magic of music - fast-forward to 4 minutes). Really anything that Williams creates you can imagine something: Darth Vader's theme, the E.T. theme, Hedwig's Theme; music can make characters seem more vicious, heroic, dangerous, admirable, scary, touching, caring. Yes, it has a lot to do with what the actor does with the character, the writing, directing, costumes; but music is how you relate it all together. I feel like sometimes the score of a film is easily over looked but after acquiring the soundtrack of Deathly Hallows - Part 2, I realized how significant that last song made me feel. Please, listen to it I swear it's totally worth it, plus it's only a minute long. You can just feel the emotion of the scene even with such simple notes.

After this entire score, I have declared its composer Alexandre Desplat my new favorite (surpassing Hans Zimmer who did Dark Knight, Pirates, The Holiday, Inception to name a few, and also Michael Giaachino who did Up, Ratatouille and Star Trek and many more). Desplat has done some terrific scores including the last two Harry Potter films and one of my favorites in Curious Case of Benjamin Button (if you need a soundtrack to sleep or to study to, this is it). He is quite fantastic. Although, there is one specific scene that is sticking out in my mind that truly moves me. It is from the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in one of the last scenes and probably my favorite. Please, even if you don't know what's going on watch it here because mixed with the actors faces, the people bowing down to these unexpected heroes and the music (composed by Howard Shore), is extraordinary. Just imagine how different that scene would be with a different score or no score. Every film has this identity of notes that defines it, sometimes not as important like in a chick flick, but sometimes the game changer in a scene.

I sometimes find myself frustrated with the lack of recognition film composers get, but it's understandable. I realize it is difficult for some people to recognize the music when a big battle scene is going on, or the big dramatic end is coming, the focus is on the story and the actors. But I challenge you to notice the music more. Notice the difference a note can make, or an instrument or the volume. A note played on the bass is extremely different than on the clarinet. Pay attention to the music and acknowledge the contribution it makes to a scene, even if it takes you a few times to watch it. Realize how magical and truly extraordinary a few musical notes are to films. 

With that a few movie side notes.
1. The Apes have taken over America again, claiming this weekend's box office with an astonishing $54.8 billion (not much came out this weekend apparently). Although, the film got great reviews and I do plan on seeing it. Also, I must say I'm a little bittersweet with Harry claiming the third all-time global spot in the box office with $1.3 billion, surpassing Return of the King. The only thing standing in Harry's way to be the top grossing film ever is a large ship called Titanic and some Na'vi. Avatar holds the top spot with $2.7 billion made globally.
2. Seems like they are wasting no time to see if the Hunger Games is a success by scheduling the movies sequel to come out Nov. 22, 2013. The first film will premiere March 23, 2012 and I must say a very highly anticipated movie on my list next year. So far with all the pictures and kind words by the director about the acting, I have some high expectations right now.
3. Man am I excited for Wednesday. A film I am extremely excited about, The Help, comes to theaters for the midweek opening and the expectations are growing (especially with currently ranking it at 75% fresh). Considering I loved the book and the fact that Emma Stone is one of the stars of this film, I'm sure I will enjoy it immensely no matter what they leave out.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Friday, August 5, 2011

If only I didn't have to sleep

This year is going to be hectic. Not only do I have eight shows I already watch and returning to this season's television schedule, the major networks (ABC, CBS, CW, NBC, and FOX) have a combined more than 30 new shows this year. And of course, there are about 15 I want to watch on a regular basis. Oh and I guess I have school, the paper, and some kind of social life (maybe). So, I thought for the remainder of this summer season (since there are no good shows except for So You Think You Can Dance but that ends next week) I would let you know the new shows I'm excited about and then in a few weeks I will talk about all the shows I already watch religiously.

I would first like to say and endorse because they have a great section on their website dedicated to all the new fall television shows, they should really hire me for all this publicity I'm giving them. Anyways, I suppose it would be easiest to tell you all the ones I'm excited about on each channel. Let's start alphabetically then.

So with all of ABC's stupid reality shows they've had in the past, they have ordered the most new shows out of all the networks and it seems the best (at least the ones that I'm interested in). Let us begin with the few I actually think I may watch weekly. The one I'm most excited for is Once Upon a Time. It is a fairy tale in the real world but like really cool. It seems like the new Lost, hence why I want to watch it (if you don't know Lost is my favorite show of all time). It seems like a relatively good cast, with an interesting and different plot. Certainly one I can see myself watching week after week. I also have hope for Pan Am, which is pretty much ABC's Mad Men (just like the Playboy Club is NBC's Mad Men) in that it is a period piece. Christina Ricci is at the helm of this show and I think it holds a lot of potential. Others that I plan to check out, mainly for their pilot are Charlie's Angels and Good Christian Belles (mainly because this show brings Kristen Chenoweth back to television). I'm interested to see their new comedy Suburgatory as well, which is about a girl from the city entering suburban life. The trailer is pretty funny.

I really don't like the majority of CBS's shows, but apparently they are the No. 1 network. I mean How I Met Your Mother and The Good Wife are great but all those NCIS's and CSI's are just annoying. There aren't too many of their shows that I look forward to but I am interested to see Person of Interest (starring Michael Emerson or better known as Ben from Lost). JJ Abrams is an executive producer, which always means to check it out because he's a genius. And I may check out A Gifted Man only because it has Julie Benz (who plays Rita in Dexter) which would be my only reason because I love her.

I have only ever watched two shows on the CW or WB whatever you want to call it: Charmed and Gilmore Girls. I have never been a big fan of their shows because they are very soap opera-y and kind of annoying (One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl). But Ringer which welcomes back Sarah Michelle Gellar back to TV seems like it has an interesting plot. I don't think I have enough time or space to tell you about it but it's extremely different. So instead, just watch the trailer here. CW doesn't have that many shows but this certainly looks like something worth looking into.

I am a huge fan of NBC (mainly for their comedy shows, I mean Tina Fey is NBC) and they are introducing a few new ones, but Up All Night is one I am really looking forward to. It stars Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph. First you can't get a better cast than that and second it has a great premise of the life of being new parents. Crossing my fingers it sticks around. There is Smash, a show I mentioned in an earlier blog. It is the first to give Glee some competition, being a musical show starring Debra Messing and American Idol's Katharine McPhee. I feel like those two are ones I could watch on a regular basis. I am interested in checking out the Playboy Club, only to see how well they do with the time period and acting. There is also Grimm, which is similar to Once Upon a Time taking the fairy tale baseline but a little different (although this is on Friday nights so I doubt it will last). Jason Isaac better known as Lucius Malfoy has a new show as well called Awake which is extremely intriguing but looks very depressing; so I'm not to sure on that one.

To round out all the networks, Fox actually offers two shows I am considering getting into and one I just want to check out since it has Steven Spielberg branded on it (he's an EP). First is one I'm sure some of you have heard about since the ads never end and that is The New Girl with Zooey Deschanel. It looks like a smart, funny comedy with a pretty good and successful actress at the helm (plus it's only 30 minutes and airs after Glee). Another JJ Abrams project is Alcatraz which looks awesome but doesn't come out until midseason but looks like another Fringe/Lost project. And lastly, which is getting a lot of talk, is Terra Nova. I may just want to watch the premiere of this show because honestly dinosaurs don't interest me that much.

Seems like a long list I know, and I even left some shows I kind of wanna watch out (like some on Showtime and HBO). The only wish I have right now is to have more time and that would only happen if I didn't have to sleep. Then I could watch all these shows along with the existing eight I already watch (I will discuss those shows in later blogs after next weeks So You Think You Can Dance finale blog). As you can see, I live a rough life.

With that I give you a few awesome television side notes.
1. Only one week left my friends until Melanie can be crowned America's favorite dancer, at least I hope so. There is no doubt in my mind that this girl is the best dancer on that show. She is so fantastic that I am always drawn to watch her instead of her partner. Not to mention her solo this past week that was unreal (if you watch anything this season please watch this video). I guess I wouldn't mind if Marko won, but really, for the season that she's had Melanie deserves it.
2. Although I don't watch, but I did, Desperate Housewives is entering its last season this year. It was announced today that the eighth season will be the last for this extremely popular show when it premiered. I have to say I think its time, as it is time for Grey's Anatomy to end this season.
3. Again I bring up, who had an exclusive interview with HIMYM's executive producers Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, and revealed some awesome stuff. The main thing being they will tell the audience who Barney will marry this season! Which means the season premiere set for Sept. 19 can get on its horse and get here already!

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The behind the scenes look

Today is a treat for all of you because I am going to get a little more personal in this week’s sports blog. Although, now that I think about it, maybe that will turn some of you away but I hope it won’t as I discuss the secrets behind the dugout. With my internship for the summer at the Daily Herald, I had the pleasure last Saturday of shadowing the White Sox reporter (the pleasure was following a professional sports reporter, not because of the White Sox, except that it was actually a lot easier reporting on a team I wasn’t a fan of.) Any who, I thought I would talk about my experiences and explain to you why I love and want to report on sports so badly.

So after the journey to the big city and surprisingly not getting lost, I walked into the media entrance at U.S. Cellular Field. There, I was able to see the 2005 World Series trophy and get my press pass. There I met the Daily Herald reporter and we quickly (and I was unprepared) walked into the clubhouse, then to the dugout where Ozzie Guillen was sitting comfortably talking to reporters. I was just awed at first with where I was, what I was doing and who was sitting right by me but then my curiosity reporting skills kicked and I was honestly interested in what they were talking about. After having the pleasure of talking to Ozzie on and off the record (he is a funny guy, something I was not expecting. One reason I love sports: reporters probably talked to Ozzie for 10 minutes off the record just about baseball. Love it) we made our way to the press box. This was exceptionally cool because it is filled with all these reporters, and despite everyone kind of being rivals (all searching for that breaking news story) everyone was very friendly, if not actually friends. I then followed the reporter down to the clubhouse (note: never call it a locker room, not that I did but players really don’t like it according to Mr. Reporter) and had the honor of interviewing Paul Konerko. Despite my hatred for the White Sox for more then one reason, Konerko was a very nice man who was extremely polite and surprisingly soft spoken.

That was it for my encounters with the players and coaches, which is another of the reasons why I love sports. Clearly most athletes play sports because they love the game, but they also respect and want to do well for their fans. Which, I think, is one of the reasons they put up with reporters, they have to, we are the direct outlet to the fans. Although professional athletes can be stuck up, snobby, rich, greedy, and just annoyingly awful, some are actual nice human beings and I think all of them want their story to be told. Which is great for any reporter, plus they really love the game they play (well most of them, sometimes I wonder if athletes really do it just do it for the money: cough, NBA, cough.) As I discussed with the other reporters, we decided hockey players are still the most down to earth, reporter friendly guys (although with their salaries raising that could change.)

Anyways, after my interviews, I made my way to the press box and wrote my story. I felt so professional, it was in that instant that I felt so comfortable with what I was doing, I knew it was what I want to do with the rest of my life. Now getting to this point of making this my actual career is another story, but knowing what you want is always a huge accomplishment. So essentially what I’m getting at is that this was a great experience but all the same, behind the scenes is actually not that exciting. Yes, it’s cool to be in the dugout and the clubhouse, but this taught me that athletes are just people and there is no need to be nervous around them (or maybe I just felt that because I am not a Sox fan so it didn’t matter to me that much who I was talking to.) So, even though not all of you can be cool reporters like me, all that really matters is making sure your team wins.

With that I give you some side notes.
1. So sad about Olin Kreutz and Brad Maynard of the Bears who did not get picked up for another season. I could care less about Greg Olsen. I’m really just super sad about Maynard considering he played for the Bears for 10 seasons, plus he was good! Stupid front office, obsessed with money.
2. Baseball is getting really awesome right now, the prime time baseball season. Like games at this point are even more crucial, while players are fighting for those last stats (I vote Sabathia for the Cy Young award mainly because he’s an ex-Indian) and I’m crossing my fingers Cleveland can trump Detroit and make the playoffs. I’m over the Cubs, just done caring (although they have won 3 in a row so far which is a hug accomplishment for them). I am totally in Indian mode now!
3.  Big Ten Media Day was last Thursday and Friday and all I can say is I am so ready for tailgating and football. Looking forward to this season and what it has to offer for the Illini (please let us just be contenders!) It’s always a mystery with these guys, why is a fabulous question.

With that I say… Live long and prosper.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Being better than the Gap

Finding a successful romantic comedy is sometimes very difficult. You have cheesy ones that are actually just bad or guilty pleasures for some people. Movies like, The Wedding Date, Fool’s Gold, The Ugly Truth and Because I Said So, are so unbelievably predictable it becomes a little less fun. It is exciting when you see a movie like Juno, Love Actually, (for me) The Holiday, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Date Night (although I’m biased on that one) because they have good actors, interesting characters and are actually funny. On Friday night I was able to watch one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in a very long in Crazy, Stupid, Love. I actually didn’t know where the film was going after Steve Carell got his makeover, which is shown in the trailer, and is always refreshing. Speaking of the trailer, and the critics in general, I must say I was pleasantly surprised neither ruined the movie (if you see it, you’ll understand what I’m talking about, you can maybe guess it but it’s still awesome). The acting was great, I laughed, there were awkward moments, there were cute moments and it actually had a relatively realistic storyline.

I would also like to just talk about two of the many stars in this film and highlight how much I love them. To begin, all I have to say is Ryan Gosling. This good-looking man is talented and also surprisingly funny. He had good comedic timing, wasn’t over the top in dramatic stuff and was believable in the change his character makes. The other is Emma Stone, who after I saw Easy A, have been kind of obsessed with because that movie is awesome. Not to mention she is starring in two films I’m looking forward to: The Help (a book I absolutely loved) and the new Spider-Man movie. She was also fantastic in this film as her goofy but realistic self. She is pretty easy to relate to but she also has this kind of delivery that reminds me of Tina Fey but in her own quirky way. There is no question I will see every movie she makes (her first movie was Superbad, a movie I’m not a fan of but I now look to watch again and reconsider).

This weekend I also had the honor to watch a movie, for the first time in I can’t even remember, with my entire family. We chose the recently released on DVD, the Lincoln Lawyer. I first must say I’m not a huge fan of Matthew McConaughey (probably like the only one). I haven’t been a big fan of his comedy movies and I’m not sure if he can act in the drama ones he makes. I have to say, though, this movie was very entertaining and well acted. It is not necessarily an award winning film but had a good plot that kept me interested. If you enjoy watching shows like Law and Order or reading books by Michael Connelly or John Grisham (this movie is actually based off a book by Michael Connelly and both are known for their court room drams) then you will like this movie.

Another movie I’d like to mention that I watched a few weeks ago was what I like to call this year’s Inception: Source Code. It was extremely awesome with a very odd plot as in “how do these people come up with these ideas” but really interesting and fun. Personally, you can’t go wrong with a Jake Gyllenhaal movie either, which is another reason why this film wins; October Sky is still one of my favorite movies. I would certainly recommend Source Code over Lincoln Lawyer but both were very entertaining and thought provoking. If you want something less intense, please go out and see Crazy, Stupid, Love. Gosling’s character tells Carell’s to be “better than the gap” and this movie certainly does that.

With that I give you some much needed movie side notes.
1. A milestone for Harry Potter, as Deathly Hallows Part 2 becomes the first boy-wizard film that has ever reached $1 billion. So a very excited congrats to them. As for the rest of the movies, it was announced Monday that Cowboys & Aliens only narrowly beat out The Smurfs after they were tied on Sunday. Both movies received pretty bad reviews (The Smurfs had worse) but congrats to them for entertaining us more then making a good film.
2. Can we agree that this is one of the coolest posters? Not necessarily the coolest ever, but certainly something that catches your eye. It’s not just because it has two of Hollywood’s good-looking guys but also because it is just so creative and perfectly photographed. Well done. Oh and the movie doesn’t look that bad either, not to mention the great cast (George Clooney and Ryan Gosling).
3. These photos were taken on the set of the Dark Knight Rises and even though it’s not much, it only makes me more excited. I have to say though, I’m kind of nervous. No matter how awesome Christopher Nolan is, and he is pretty awesome, he has some high expectations to live up to. Cross your fingers friends!

With that I say… Live long and prosper.