Saturday, April 30, 2011

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review I

Player Grades: The Strikers

Robin Van Persie: A-

V. Persie was easily our best striker this year; this is due to the disappointing play of the other strikers on the team, and due to his outstanding play during the second half of the season. With 29 appearances for the Gunners this year, RVP has scored 19 goals and has 6 assists (two more goals and he will break his season-high with the team). Had he played the entire season, I'm sure he would have won the golden boot. He really has become one of the best strikers in the world. On a side note, I purchased his jersey last summer and there was a point during the first half of the season when I was afraid I had wasted thirty dollars; now I have absolutely no regrets and wear it proudly.

Nicklas Bendtner: F

Bendtner must be sold in the summer! He's not consistent enough as a goal scorer and is simply not good enough to be wear the Arsenal uniform. Arsene Wenger has given him plenty of chances and he continually fails to live up to his own hype. I would love to see him replaced by a guy who's better at shooting than passing - perhaps Kevin Gameiro, Edinson Cavani, or Nilmar. We need an actual striker who can come off the bench or fill in for Van Persie if/when he's injured. Someone who would force Wenger to think about switching back to a 4-4-2.

Marouane Chamakh: C+

Chamakh did a decent job of filling the main striker role during the first half of the season. If you look at his return (41 appearances with 11 goals) you might say that he was a disappointment. listed Chamakh in their Top Ten Transfer Busts of the EPL (coming in at number 10) and I do feel that that's a bit harsh. First of all, he was a free transfer; second, I expected around fifteen goals from him this year. He's four off the mark with four games left. Now he probably won't make it to fifteen goals, but he did have a productive first half of the season. With the second half, Van Persie returned from injury and has played phenomenally, so that it tough for Chamakh to find playing time. It was also reported that Chamakh was extremely fatigued around around the start of the new year. That's a little disappointing and I hope that next year he'll be more acclimated to the Premier League. I love the aerial threat he provides and I think it would be wise to hang on to him for another season or two. The speed at which he plays at is a bit of a concern - a little too slow for the Premier League.

Theo Walcott: B

Another "tale of two halves" guy. For the first half of the season, Theo was dangerous and was a threat to score anytime he touched the ball. For a moment, I truly believed that Theo had found the missing piece to his game. Then he picked up an injury. Again. Since that, Theo has still looked dangerous, albeit not as much as the first few months of the campaign, and has produced both goals and assists. He has 12 goals on the year (his career high for a season) and I do hope that next season he'll be a 15-20 goal player. He just needs to improve his decision-making in the box and must become a more consistent threat in front of the net.

Carlos Vela: N/A

Vela didn't feature enough for me to give him a grade; he made 12 appearances with the first team this year and had a return of 3 goals. To be honest, I only remember one of those goals - that nice chip he had against Braga. Since the winter transfer window, Vela has been out on loan with West Bromwich Albion. From what I've seen, Carlos hasn't been given many opportunities to play over there. I'm not sure if that's due to Di Matteo and Roy Hodgson wanting to give their actual players a chance to improve and prove themselves, or if it's due to the fact that Vela is being outplayed by guys like Marc-Antoine Fortune. Either way, the recent success of Chicharito has put more scrutiny on Vela (in my opinion). United clearly have the best young Mexican striker on their team. I'm not ready to give up on Carlos yet, but he needs to show more. Next season could be a provide him with a huge opportunity if Bendtner leaves. I feel that Vela deserves more playing time, but I would keep him on a shorter leash than Bendtner. I would love it if Carlos could just flip a switch and become the lights-out striker opposite V. Persie that Arsenal so desperately needs, but I'm NOT very confident that will happen. We'll see.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Shows I'm Watching: Breaking Bad

I just finished the third season of Breaking Bad. Overall it was a great season, but I have to admit, I enjoyed the second season a lot more.


I feel the first half of the season was better than the second half - it loses some steam after Tuco's cousins are killed. In a way, their deaths were a shame because that story line was extremely interesting and those episodes were very easy to marathon. Also, the cousins reminded me a bit of Anton Chigurh - frightening and fucking crazy.

At the start of the season, I predicted that either Hank or Skyler would be killed off, and I was almost right with "One Minute." That was such a great episode and I loved the tension with Hank sitting in the parking lot and receiving the phone call. Great stuff.

Again, season three lost steam after that point. As soon as Walt's problems with the cartel disappeared, problems with the season began emerge. There was no real conflict; it was just a lot of Walt standing up to Gus, and Gus giving into his every demand because there is no show without Walt. Also, after the shootout in the parking lot, we don't see a lot of Hank or Marie. I'm not a big fan of those characters, but it seems that the writing staff is running out of things to do with them. Skyler also disappeared after she told Walt she wanted to run the car wash. It's a little understandable, because obviously they had a lot going on with the Jesse/Tomas story line...but still.

Additional thoughts: I hope the show continues to feature a lot of Bob Odenkirk in season 4. He's hilarious and plays Saul Goodman very well. Also, I really enjoy Johnathan Banks as Mike. Obviously they make his character very badass, but I enjoy the scenes in which he has a long monologue a lot more. Great performances from him. Overall, I am loving the series. It's so much more realistic and enjoyable than Weeds (this is like comparing apples and oranges, but they are shows with a similar premise).

The fourth season of Breaking Bad will premier on July 17th, 2011 on AMC.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie Review: Your Highness

Rating: * (1 out of 5 stars)

Starring: James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux
Director: David Gordon Green

First off, I thought I would list the director and actors of the film to make this review look more professional while simultaneously reminding myself why I went to see this movie. Yes, it's from the people who brought you Pineapple Express (minus Rogen, Goldberg, and Apatow), but don't be fooled - this film is nowhere near as entertaining. I realize that the trio of McBride, Green, and Ben Best (co-writer with McBride) didn't set out to make an award winning film, but they did set out to make a comedy and they ultimately failed. Despite that, I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the film. Following McBride and Best's previous work, I expected something similar to East Bound and Down (which I hated) or The Foot Fist Way (which I loved). I expected Danny's character to be a cocky asshole who's pissed off ninety-nine percent of the time. I guess if Jody Hill wrote the script that probably would've been the case. I'd hate to see Danny typecast that way because I do feel he has more range. He was hilarious as Red in Pineapple Express and didn't remotely remind me of Kenny Powers. So in that regard, I was pleasantly surprised with this film.

But that's as positive as this review gets. The writing was terrible and the jokes were stale. Many critics note the fact that all of the jokes in the film rely on the use of modern curse words in a medieval setting...and they're not wrong - 98% of the punchlines involve the words "shit," and "fuck." That's just lazy writing and it shows throughout the film. It's not as if I was shocked to discover all of this, though. The reason I saw the film was because some of my favorite people are in it. James Franco is cool as hell and I love his work - same with Justin Theroux. Zooey Deschanel is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen and I love her music. So with that in mind, watching this film was like watching a bad movie that all of your friends are in. You feel a little bad for hating it so much, but at the same time, it's no big thing and we'll all just move on. So that's what I'll do in this case. I'll let this one slide and just wait for the next project that any of these people are in (Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes might put that to the test). We'll see.

Oh, and a bit of a shout out to Rasmus Hardiker, who plays Courtney (Danny McBride's lackey). Had this been a better movie, he probably would be talked about as having a break-out performance. He just seems like he has some real comedic chops.

Top Ten Films of 2009

I would have posted my top ten for 2010 but I have yet to see Blue Valentine, which would most likely alter my list.

1. A Single Man
It had everything I look for in a film: beautiful cinematography, powerful performances, and a thought-provoking script. Colin Firth may have won an Academy Award for The King's Speech, but he's even better in this film. I hadn't really seen him in anything before, but I instantly became a fan after watching this. Tom Ford made one hell of a debut film - the beauty of the script was matched perfectly with the beauty of the style and cinematography. As soon as the credits rolled, I was speechless and I hadn't had a reaction like that since seeing Synecdoche, New York...which is a very positive thing.

2. Inglourious Basterds
There are certain days when I convince myself that this is my favorite Tarantino film. The ensemble cast is remarkable. Christoph Waltz was fully deserving of every reward he received for this film. Michael Fassbender, Melanie Laurent, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Diane Kruger, and Brad Pitt are equally brilliant in it. I love the fact that everyone in the film didn't just speak English the entire time. The tension was so palpable in many of the scenes. I especially love the opening scene, the scene where Shosanna has tea with Col. Landa, and the bar scene where the Basterds meet with Bridget von Hammersmark. Great stuff. Great movie.

3. Das Weisse Band
This was my first Michael Heneke film. I enjoyed this film because it's hard to put a genre on it. It's beautifully shot in black and white and it features very real performances. It's a mystery like Moon, but the difference here is that there is no clear-cut resolution...which I can dig when it's done the right way. I really loved the narration by Ernst Jacobi as well. The script is brilliant and the undertones of fascism are nicely layered.

4. Moon
It must be difficult to carry a film by yourself - James Franco pulls it off in 127 Hours and Sam Rockwell pulls it off here. Duncan Jones' sci-fi mystery is definitely intriguing and worth seeing more than once. I love the concept and the mystery behind it. It's definitely a film that requires your full attention and thought, which I love.

5. A Serious Man

Not one of the Cohen Brothers' best films, but still very well done. I really love Michael Stuhlbarg in this one (he's followed this up with some brilliant performances on Broadwalk Empire). I was also a big fan of the theme/concept. The idea of bad things happening to good people is a theme that should hit home to most of us. It speaks to the randomness of the world and that's what I love about the film - it feels real.

6. Up
I'm not really a big Pixar fan...mainly because they seem to recycle a lot of the same characters and plot. I will say that I am a bigger fan of the films like Up, WALL-E, and Ratatouille than I am of Cars, Finding Nemo, or the Incredibles. I know that when this film came out, critics worried whether or not children could identify with a character who's collecting social security, but I suppose that's why they threw in characters like Russell and Dug. Not that Russell is without his charms. I did enjoy the dynamic between he and Carl. Also, I think it's impossible to talk about this movie without mentioning the opening sequence. Pretty heavy stuff for a Disney film, but it was very beautifully done.

7. Bronson
Tom Hardy is extremely badass and I can't wait to see him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. I would also say that you can probably get a sense of how Hardy is going to play Batman's nemesis from Bronson. The story of Charlie Bronson is a fairly interesting one, but Hardy just embodies the role. He's completely psychotic and the movie is very entertaining in a twisted kind of way.

8. Sugar
This film feels like a documentary. It's flawlessly executed. Those who know me, know that I hate baseball. The great thing about this movie is that it isn't really about baseball. It portrays a realistic account of how difficult it is to achieve a dream and the performances are very real.

9. Whatever Works
Larry David and Woody Allen?! Need I say more? Yes? Okay, I love this film not only because of the aforementioned New York comedians, but because I find it to be Woody's funniest movie in about twenty years or so. It's also an optimistic film with a theme I agree with. I like the NYC/Mississippi dynamic between LD and Evan Rachel Wood; very amusing and enjoyable. Much of the dialogue is hilarious and witty - mostly due to the fact that a majority of the script was written in the 70s. I don't know, I've always wanted Larry and Woody to work together, and I wasn't disappointed at all with the result.

10. An Education
I missed the first five minutes of this film, and honestly, I have yet to see it. Despite that, this movie still cracks my top ten. I love the performances by Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan. They have great on-screen chemistry; the interesting script and story compliments them well. I enjoy the doomed romance and the theme of education vs. life experience.

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Away We Go, The Brothers Bloom, (500) Days of Summer

Shite Films: Angels & Demons, Year One, The Hangover, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Land of the Lost, Slammin' Salmon (do not see'll want beat yourself to death with a brick).

The Simpsons Episode Rankings: Season 2

The second season was a great improvement on the first. The additions of George Meyer, Jon Vitti, and John Schwartzwelder to the writing staff provided an incredible boon to the show. In my younger days, I didn't fully appreciate this season because I never really laughed while watching it.

Upon re-watching now, I laughed multiple times during each episode and I fully appreciate the charm and maturity of the emotional episodes. "Lisa's Substitute" and "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" are beautifully written. Overall, a great season that I love almost as much as season 3.

1. The War of the Simpsons
2. Bart the Daredevil
3. Lisa's Substitute
4. Bart vs. Thanksgiving
5. One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish
6. Dead Putting Society
7. Bart Gets an F
8. Itchy & Scratchy & Marge
9. Treehouse of Horror
10. Brush with Greatness
11. Simpson and Delilah
12. Three Men and a Comic Book
13. Blood Feud
14. The Way We Was
15. Bart's Dog Gets an F
16. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
17. Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish
18. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
19. Bart Gets Hit By a Car
20. Dancin' Homer
21. Old Money
22. Principal Charming

The Simpsons Episode Rankings: Season 1

Overall, the 1st season is reasonably enjoyable. It's the foundation for what would become of the greatest television shows ever made (although Matt Groening and Al Jean seem to be doing everything in their power to damage that reputation). It's fun to see the early character designs from this season, as well as to hear how different the characters' voices are--I'm glad Dan Castellenata eventually got away from doing a Walter Matthau impression for Homer.

But even though the animation is a little crude and the season isn't as funny as 3 or 4, it's still very fun to watch.

1. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
2. The Telltale Head
3. Bart the Genius
4. Moaning Lisa
5. There's No Disgrace Like Home
6. Homer's Night Out
7. The Call of the Simpsons
8. Krusty Gets Busted
9. Some Enchanted Evening
10. The Crepes of Wrath
11. Life on the Fast Lane
12. Homer's Odyssey
13. Bart the General