Let’s discuss the latest activity in the world of sports, film, general thought and opinion in addition to the random arena of topics. There are certain men who preach, teach and simply throw their opinion onto others backs. I intend to unload my clotted mind onto this page in order for me to be able to keep moving and collect new material. The head weighs 8 pounds and it can fill up quick and notify you that a clearing is in order. The funny thing about writers is that we always have something to say or put down. Time is all I need and for an hour, I can uncoil a little. Let’s move…
The Blues rip apart the Islanders and Wild at home, 5-1 and 4-0 respectively, but are failing to beat their division rivals. The Blues lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Sunday afternoon in excruciating fashion. Carrying a 1-0 lead into the third period, the Blues collapsed offensively and gave up a couple heartbreak goals in route to their first loss of the season after leading going into the 3rd period. A tough way to spend a day in the Windy City. With the loss, the Blues are 0-6-1 against their own division. They have lost twice to Detroit, and fell to Nashville and Columbus this year as well. The Blues do have 36 wins and are 4th in the conference in points and only 5 behind the Red Wings, but you feel like they are getting knocked around by the divisional rivals. This needs to change. I could sit here and rant on and on about the recent prow of young studs like David Perron(6 goals in 9 games), Alex Pietrangelo(a point in 20 straight games) and the goaltenders(Halak and Elliot each have 6 shutouts, tied for the 1st spot in the league and most combined in the NHL). The Blues have 26 wins at home this season, a strength that will be golden if we acquire the advantage in the playoffs. David Backes continues to be a leader for the team, in the statistical columns and in persona as well. Andy McDonald returned this week and has 2 goals and an assist. Elliot notched his 6th shutout today and the Blues defense continues to keep teams off the scoreboard in the 3rd period. That is the single biggest turnaround in the Blues this season. Their defense doesn’t give the other team a lot of chances. The past 2 seasons were plagued by late game breakdowns and 3rd period giveaways, but this season, the Blues are stout in the final frame and are controlling the middle of the ice, in what I like to call the exchange zone. For now, the Blues are thriving. When they lose, its by a goal or in a shootout and the margin for error is so small it doesn’t feel like a loss. When they win, they are clobbering teams or outlasting the better ones with a tougher physical style of play. A defenseman like Kent Huskins returned this week and the man isn’t as fast as others but he brings a physicality to his job few can match. He hits guys, takes them down and moves them away from the play. A special brand of player. The skill players like Pietro, Perron, Oshie, Berglund and Backes are the soul of the team. Huskins, Ryan Reaves, Barrett Jackman are the rough and tough heart. One guy I am looking for something out of anytime soon is Chris Stewart. The same player who slammed onto the scene last February to score 13 goals with the team has maintained a stiff cold streak all season and has been demoted to the third and fourth line. Stewart is a free agent this offseason so his downfall carries an interesting twist. Did he hit his ceiling and rolling down or does he not care enough? Whatever the answer becomes, he needs to do more. This team is rolling but they must be able to take down their division rivals or else come playoff time, the end will be too near. The 2011-2012 Blues have provided fans with a whirlwind record and consistent style of play that leaves much to be desired and from here on out, a lot of expectations.
The Rams Hired former Atlanta Falcons GM Les Snead to be their new general manager and team up with Jeff Fisher to pull this football team out of the gutter. Les Snead will be Jeff Fisher’s “Doug” in Rams Land. The Hangover reference is well placed here if you think about it. Snead will be the answer to Fisher’s prayer because this team, this city and the future of Rams football needs REAL leadership and Stan Kroneke(heart in LA or not) is making as good of a play as he can. How will the actions of Snead/Fisher affect the future of the Rams in St. Louis? It’s hard to tell but the first thing that needs to happen is injecting life into this team.
The Cardinals are in Jupiter, Florida and prepping for a defense of their World Championship. Their 11th title felt the best because of the manner of which they acquired it. Going from a dead team on August 25th to a last second playoff team and surprising powerhouse teams like the Phillies, rival Brewers and the Rangers. The only way they can top that is by doing it again and collecting their 12th championship. The style can be less brutal and the deficit may stay away, but I expect this team to be back in the thick of the hunt for a few simple reasons.
1.)The division around them didn’t get better at all. The Reds made some low key moves and upgraded the back end of their rotation. The Pirates just acquired an overrated AJ Burnett and did little else. The Brewers lost Prince Fielder to the Tigers in a mega deal and may lose Ryan Braun for 50 games due to steroid use. The Astros are going to be horrible for at least 2 seasons. The Cubs will always be a threat but their pitching staff/defense will never allow their light hitting to do any long term damage. Theo Epstein has a lot of work to do there. The Cardinals are easily the strongest team in the division.
2.)Adam Wainwright’s return to the rotation bolsters it and delivers instant credibility. Kyle McClellan won’t make a start this season and Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook will anchor the end of the rotation instead of the middle. Wainwright is a bulldog competitor and while his innings/pitch count load will be down early, I expect him to be in beast mode by June. Chris Carpenter is back to his comfy #2 spot after carrying the rotation the last 3 months of the season and into the playoffs. Everything is strong in the rotation, with or without Roy Oswalt.
3.)The lineup is solid. Losing Albert Pujols will hurt, but the presence of Lance Berkman, a hungry Matt Holliday, David Freese, and newcomer Carlos Beltran cover the patch up just fine. You can sit and cry about Pujols’ lacking presence and I see your point but refuse to linger on it. He’s a 25 million dollar man now and his blood was too rich for the Cardinals’ dollar. Move on and you have a well balanced machine made from on base percentage, power and speed. Jon Jay and Allen Craig will plug holes in the outfield and bench. Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene will give the defense a plus on the infield. Yadi Molina’s bat is always a plus in the 6th or 7th hole because he gets his bat on the ball and doesn’t strike out. The lineup will do damage if the majority can stay healthy.
4.)Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are gone but Derek Lilloquist and Jose Oquendo are here and the foundation isn’t gone. Lilloquist took over for Duncan for the final two months of the season and handled the staff well. This isn’t a young staff so the experienced Yoda with the pitching binder isn’t required for success. La Russa being out of the hot box will be a visually awkward thing to witness for the mere fact he has been here for 16 seasons but Matheny will do fine. Duncan leaving the team hurt but having an experienced player who has the respect of the entire team in Matheny fills two voids with one body. MM is a hands on teacher and won’t hide behind the vets in his first season. I expect Matheny to take control of this team.
5.)The Rest of the NL doesn’t look overpowering. The Phillies got weaker with the loss of Ryan Howard, Oswalt, and Raul Ilanez and advanced age of Chase Utley and the rest of their roster. The Marlins acquired Jose Reyes(hamstring pull guaranteed by start of May) and Heath Bell, but Ozzie Guillen will do little to instantly turn that team into a serious threat. The Nationals are a sleeper and the NL East will be a shootout but I don’t expect the Braves to blow another big lead and there are 2 Wild Card spots now which includes a playoff. The Giants, Rockies and Dodgers are all middle of the pack contenders depending on their moves. There isn’t a single team in the National League that stands as a legit threat. The Phillies have pitching but can’t score runs. The Marlins’ pitching staff is still average. The Brewers lost two sluggers. The Giants can’t score runs. The Braves’ pitching staff is strong but injury prone and we saw how their stability looked in September. Their closer caved after a couple blown saves. The Cardinals main need will be health in 2012. If they can stay healthy, their chances are as good as any of the other top NL contenders.
Spring training officially begins in two weeks and the obsessive fever pitch is about to begin. Can you feel it, Cardinal Nation? I sure can.
The Other Things In Sports-
The Jeremy Lin Story-Suck it up now because it’s all downhill from here. When teams start defending Lin, stepping up, cutting down his shooting space and pressure him, the real test begins. If it wasn’t happening in New York, this wouldn’t be a story. I was riding the Tebow train since college, so I had a good reason to stand behind and believe in that fight. That happened in the far end of the NFL world in Denver. In New York, in Knickerbocker land, Lin is becoming a sensation.
Lebron James wants to go back to Cleveland someday, but first he better win in Miami or he will have two cities calling for his head. The man is making enemies very fast after spending the first 7 years of his career sitting in a throne. My respect for him is decreasing because he is no longer that special player you HAVE to watch.
Local boxing talent Devon Alexander fights at Scottrade Center next weekend against tough competitor power puncher Marcos Maidana. The featherweight East St. Louis brawler lost to Timothy Bradley in a headbutt/clinch filled 12 round decision that thrilled few and left Alexander with a huge welt on his head and career. This fight stands to determine what kind of “boxing threat” Devon can be. If he loses, his career starts to seriously crumble. If he takes the dangerous Maidana down, his career picks up. Huge fight for the little boxing kid.
While the Super Bowl provided the result I wanted, the commercials rather sucked. The only one I truly loved was the Chrysler spot featuring Clint Eastwood. The gruff, powerful seasoned tough guy compared a team’s halftime thought process to the recession and struggle faced in America and particularly in Detroit’s motor plants. Eastwood made the spot stick because he has been around for so long and served in multiple facets of the American struggle. He is an actor, director, Oscar winner, former politician and historian. He is also a no bullshit conversationalist and the words that come out of his mouth feel like his own and not some nerdy TV writer. The final few lines, “America can’t be knocked down with one punch. We get back up again and when we do, they will hear the roar of our engines….yeah.” Eastwood defines old school toughness and that commercial worked.
Safe House Review-Predictable entertainment. A good thriller with outrageously enjoyable action sequences, compelling “all in” performances and a quick pace. Daniel Espinosa isn’t changing the way movies are made or reinventing the wheel of film here. He is making a credible worthy action thrill ride with a destination we are familiar with but are game to follow through with anyway. Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are the two headed star power monster of this story and they handle the cat and mouse plot points well, playing two men playing on opposite sides in the beginning but slowly meeting in the middle as twists and turns present themselves. The result is a good movie and worth the ticket. Anyone who calls this throwaway material isn’t getting the point. This is an expectations film. Walking in with the right mindset in what to expect is important here. This isn’t a full feature silent film best picture nominee hopeful. It’s a rock ‘em sock ‘em action picture. Jump in or stay out.
The Vow is exactly what you expect from the poster and trailer. A Valentines Day sappy love story served up well by its two leading stars, especially Channing Tatum as a man dealing with the obstacle of all obstacles. Convincing your wife of 5 years to fall in love with you all over again after a horrific accident wipes out your memory. That’s all there is here. The result is effective if only for the execution from Tatum. Rachel McAdams is the stunned reeling wife and she plays it straight and ordinary. Tatum, in small gestures and dialogue deliveries and restraint, plays it better. He makes this film better than it deserved to be. A Nicholas Sparks contender that never steps out from its original gimmick. Take your girlfriend to see it men but don’t be afraid to check the sports scores outside the theater during the slower movements of unqualified storytelling.
Ghost Rider 2-Please don’t judge me. I saw this sequel drivel thinking I was going to get a guilty pleasure action packed ride and instead I got a stupid, empty hearted, rather boring rehash of the Johnny Blaze saga. Nic Cage looks to riding on fumes in his acting and I don’t know why. The man is immensely talented and has a resume to back it up. He is making horrible choices and needs to find a peach quickly. He isn’t even going through the motions here as the Rider, a man who sold his soul to the devil and now is an eternal flaming badass who gets hot and bothered when evil steps up. He is simply lost and smirking here. The film is horrible. Do not see it.
Star Wars, Episode 1 in 3D-The three dimensional value is tasteless and doesn’t make the film any better than years ago when the largely disappointing second chapter in George Lucas’ enterprise was released. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor star in this prequel to the original films, but the huge problem here is the dialogue. It’s just plain bad. There are annoying characters like Ja Ja Binks, a creature from a planet needing the Jedi’s help to survive. Jake Lloyd does little to stand out as the kid version of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. He is just a whiny kid with some powers. My biggest issue here is the question of the re-release of the film. Lucas is a greedy money whore who knew he ripped his Star Wars fanbase in half with the production and here he is reaching for more cash and it doesn’t look good.
Song of the Week-The Black Keys performing “Gold on the Ceiling”. Pure Musical gold, and through this music video you get the entire Keys persona. Their rise from low crooning blues rockers to lyrical giants of sold out stadiums. The old beat up mini van makes an appearance and you see two regular gifted musicians thrust into a limelight that burns their eyes yet sets their careers on fire.
DVD of the Week-50/50
The cancer comedy starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as Adam, a young man dealing with the obstacle of all obstacles. Cancer. His performance is the special ingredient in this film, a production that wisely stays away from melodrama and instead deals a straight hand about the most deadly disease in the medical world. Adam gets a rare form of cancer that attaches to his spine, and along with his friend(Seth Rogen) and a therapist(Anna Kendrick), he tries to keep a positive outlook amid his recovery. The film is all about the little things in life when it seems to be ending. Adam sitting all by himself at home listening to music. A moment where he kicks Rogen out of the car and has a period of rage before calling his therapist to calm down. His moments with Rogen, who created the idea with his real life friend, the director Will Asner. Asner had cancer early in his life and Rogen convinced him to make it into a movie. Levitt is a legit young talent and there’s a moment towards the end of the film that sets his acting skills apart from the rest. 50/50 is a good comedy drama about dealing with the beast of cancer and is worth a look.
Breaking Dawn in The Twilight Series isn’t worth a look unless you have already invested time in the franchise. Just stay away from this teen melodrama that never ceases to unload average cinema upon our heads. The battle of Jacob and Edward for Bella’s soul and the wolves/vamps quarrel continues here with the fourth chapter in a series thankfully nearing its end. There really isn’t a script here. Just a series of “you better not do that”, “Oh no you didn’t”, and “Don’t make me” challenges. The film is one big anti-climactic subplot to the real story. In other words, Bella gets pregnant and might die watch. Help me.
In Time carried an ambitious theme but lacked the follow through required to make it stand up over 2 hours. Andrew Niccol’s story about a futuristic society where time is actually money and the moment you hit the age of 25, your wrist includes a clock on your life. Justin Timberlake is Will Salas, and he tries to take matters into his own hands once a mysterious loner named Henry(Matt Bomer) gives him a lottery load of years. A Robin Hood theory that loses its weight in the end because the execution is lacking. Let’s put it this way. You are intrigued here but not enough to clearly call this a good film. The result produced a shrug of the shoulders here and a quick withdrawal without any special features investigation. I saw all I needed inside the running time and it wasn’t good. Cillian Murphy and Amanda Seyfried also star here but the acting isn’t the problem. The problem lies in the story and its finish. Insufficient.
I need another great movie to cleanse myself of the crap harvesting in the theaters recently.
Oscar Watch Preview-5 things I am Thinking
1.)Billy Crystal is a prick and retired actor but he is a great host who knows how to blend energy and comedy into a broadcast. He will do better than the sleep inducing combo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway from last year.
2.)I hope Brad Pitt wins Best Actor for a few reasons. Pitt took the role of real life A’s general manager Billy Beane and put his own spin on it. His virtuoso wise cracking and confident performance carried one of the best films of the year in Moneyball and he deserves to be rewarded for it. Pitt is a superstar and disappearing into roles only gets harder so he must do more acting to get the job done. He is also playing a still living person, a hard task taken lightly by few in Hollywood. Pitt knocked the role out and deserves the Oscar over his buddy, Clooney, who was very good in Descendants but not as memorable as Pitt.
3.)Don’t worry about the running time folks. People give so much of their time to stupid reality television all year and the Oscars happens once a year and they want to speed it up. Let the speeches run wild and the event stay loose. No one likes to be rushed when they just won an award.
4.)I have not seen the Artist yet and will probably not unless it does indeed win Best Picture. I have never watched a silent film and find the task to be not so inviting. When will the point come when you just scream at the TV….fucking SPEAK already???!!!
5.)I still hate the 9-10 Best Picture nominee idea. Why double the list? It takes away the credibility and pride of winning the award if more parties are allowed into the race. There were 5 Best Picture nominees for decades and all of a sudden the Academy wants to expand the list just to appease the whines of Hollywood. Ridiculous. It makes the award weaker in my opinion. I haven’t seen half the films nominated and that either makes me wish I found more gold, make better choices or plain not care as much. It would be like adding an extra Cy Young award or an extra MVP in the MLB race in each league. Players would love the opportunity to win but feel a little less inside knowing the path to winning was easier. Keep it at 5 next year folks.
Bonus Ultimatum-If Whitney Houston gets an honoree moment, I will shoot someone. She starred in 5 films and only one of them was any good. This will be a sign of the downfall in America. Houston had a great voice, was good in The Bodyguard but made a lot of mistakes and drowned her talent in drugs. Stop holding court for Whitney Houston, people. She wrecked her own talent with drugs, booze and alcohol. Shovel was in her hand. I’m tired of hearing sympathy notes for her.
Moving on towards the finish line here…what else is there to talk about? Random fire time now.
Band of Skulls’ Sweet Sour and Heartless Bastards’ Arrow are the new purchases in my CD player right now. Once in a while you have to get out there and buy an album and own the actual disc. By the end of the weekend, I bought Mumford and Sons live and a few other songs on Itunes so I dipped my beak in both waters. However, after giving a listen to the discs, I like my choices. Band of Skulls is all punk rock soul, reaching for the heavens with its dirty and free rock spirit and cooling down with the smooth power punk slow tunes. The Band of Skulls can speed things up with a hard moving song like Sweet Sour(Sour by the minute/sweeter by the hour) but cool things off with Bruises, an addictive track featuring a lovely female lead vocal. There’s a lot to love here. Heartless Bastards carry a very distinct hard to label folk rock pulse that’s easy to follow. Their 10 song dish mixes up folk, rock, slow ballads and powerful finishes with a deadly strong female lead vocal and sweeping guitars and a light touch of the blues. Both bands prove that the abstract brand and combination of music they use is legit and they do it very well.
The Cardinals and Yadi Molina calling off negotiations right before spring training carries deadly recall from the Pujols talks that led to his departure in December. What are the Cards worried about with Yadi? His relationship with Matheny was meant to be a deal sealer but apparently the two sides have distance. It could be the Molina party. How many years does he want? My terms would be a 5 year deal worth 10 million. His last contract was a bargain for the infinite talent Molina hands this team(4 years for 16 million). He wants to get paid but for how much and how long? He has to understand the team’s needs and goals. I only wonder how far off the two sides are and why they can’t produce an extension. After the loss of Duncan, Molina is too important to Matheny to depart. A friend of mine has kidded for weeks that Molina will join Albert in LA but I don’t want to believe that. Molina means a lot to the Cards but we all know no fates are sealed in professional sports. Money comes into play sooner or later. Will he stay or will he go? He has stated the door isn’t closed until October.
Another powerful episode of Freddie Roach on HBO this weekend. A look at the prep and drama surrounding the Pacquiao-Marquez fight in November is covered in the 5th episode. The breakaway of this series is the inside access we get into Roach’s everyday life and dealings. A meeting outside his gym with a former boxer/trainer and the missing payments and abuse of a female client. The drama pertaining to Pacquaio and his personal trainer the night before the fight. Roach’s medical needs for his Parkinson’s disease every day. Injected into the massively alert proceedings are Roach’s insight into the history of his own life. Talking about his early fighting days and personal losses comes close and brutally accurate to the emotional power of Peter Berg’s storytelling here. He lets the subject and his tales dictate the camera and its path and that is the genius of this show.
Part of the skill of being a dad is knowing when to let your kid cry or choose to help him. Fuck its hard! For instance, during the middle of the night, when he all of a sudden lets out a powerful strings of cries that really deal a blow to your conscience. Think of it as a poker player staring you down at a table after making a huge bet and begging you to match it. Instead, a parent can call his bluff and let him cry it out, go back to sleep and continue on with their own few hours of freedom. It’s an ongoing battle that never ends until they leave your house and even then, he will play on your emotions and see how far he can walk before you take away his crutches. Its the game of life and its grand. Vinny wakes up suddenly and wants to know if he can get attention and as my wife warns me, this is where the gritty get tough and the weak fall. Its cute to sit outside his door and listen to the desperate screams and cries and its tough to let it go on. A first time parent can think he or she is the coolest and cutest person in the world by rescuing the kid from temporary hell. It’s not until the kid is older that you know the kid was playing you the entire time. Parenting isn’t just about care, joy and happiness mixed with consistent torture. It’s all just another game within a game.
Kevin Durant is the real deal. Unlike Lebron, he can make the choice to stay in Oklahoma and bring a championship there. Russell Westbrook will have to decide if he wants to be The Pippen to Durant’s Jordan, but KD can stick around and make it happen. Durant dropped 51 points on the Nuggets in a comeback win for the Thunder and the kid constantly reminds you he is a special talent. Durant sank a 3 pointer and drove the lane for another 2 to tie the game and finished off Denver in OT. When he hit the 3 pointer, he sat next to his mom on the sideline and gave her a hug and kiss. Durant has the skills to bring a city a championship and the partner in Westbrook to see it through IF he decides to stick around for a few years. James stayed in Cleveland until after his 7th season and he bolted and is running into a wall of hate so his falter will serve a lesson to players like Durant. Stay in your rookie town and change the game by winning it all. That’s legendary.
What if Lin is the real deal? Adding a small dessert to my first section on the new found here comes after Lin drops 28 points and 14 rebounds on the champion Dallas Mavericks in a thrilling win in New York. Teams are starting to know about Lin and his skill set, and the road only gets tougher for the guy. He waited a long time for his opportunity and now he is doing everything he can to seize it. It’s not like I don’t want him to succeed. I love a comeback story out of nowhere as much as the next guy. I also know how hard it is to overcome high expectations. Lin has his work cut out for him. Can he carve up the competition or not?
My personal prediction is that Albert Pujols will have another decent yet not a “Pujols type year” in 2012 in his first year with Angels before breaking out of the cage in 2013 and 2014. There will be an adjustment period for the Machine once known as a Cardinal, but he will need time to get set in the AL. The Angels will contend for a playoff spot and teams will be careful with Pujols and he will continue to hack away and reach at the outside breaking pitches many managers have labeled as his kryptonite. However, by 2013, Albert will be locked in and ready to destroy the weaker AL pitching and do damage. Prince Fielder will do well because he is 5 years younger than Albert but his challenge will be consistency as he approaches 30 years old, age, health and Comerica Park. Albert Pujols will continue to do his thing. I’m only stating the dominance won’t start until 2013.
Dereck Chisora and David Haye both have failed to beat either of the Klitschko brothers, but they must step into a ring to face each other. The two Brits got seriously hot and heavy after Chisora’s loss to Vitali Klitschko on Saturday night, and the post fight conference brawl included punches, cuts and tempers that can only call for the two men to settle things inside a box. Get it done. Both have made headlines for their words and not their actions so far in their career. Haye wanted to rip the heads off the Klitschko brothers before his loss to Wladamir. Chisora spat in Vitali’s face and slapped him at the prefight weigh in this past week. A lot of dirty play and words and far less punching going on. The difference is Chisora gave the Russian champ a decent fight and Haye didn’t even make Wladamir break sweat. After the public fight, there must be a real one. Old school law calls for two boxers to settle their biggest quarrels in the ring of fire.
On Saturday, I took my wife out for an anniversary dinner. We have been married for 7 years and on May 6th, together for 10 years. It’s a promising milestone for any couple to cross those finish lines when they started young and still love each other years later. We live in a cynical world and one where the divorce rate easily defeats the happily ever after rate. It’s the world we live in and its something I still in believe in. Everlasting love. Strong tough love. The kind that outlives fights, differences, rough patches and human emotion. We’ve made it this far and I can tell you I am in for another 7 years. The road is worth the occasional and sometimes everyday pain. That’s marriage. A choice to stay in the fight and see it to the very end because you love someone enough to make it work no matter what.
There are reasons I don’t believe in GOD. It starts with logic and ends with personal opinion. Mainly, I don’t believe in him because there is no real proof to his existence. That helps the credibility factor. I believe in things I have seen and know very well. Cold air, the sun, bills, a baby’s smile, the smell of coffee, the taste of a woman’s lips and the aches and pains of the human body. I believe in those things because they exist in real life and GOD does not. Who wants to believe in a spooky, weird, flawed father figure who supposedly created this world and did a pretty poor job if you look around at the poverty, greed, death, and general animalistic look of our race? I believe in people, actions, reactions and the next struggle. I believe in what I can see and all I see in GOD is a crass, unfair and entirely fictional tale.
With that final take, here is an extra dose of belief talk from the legend himself, George Carlin. Something to add on to the end of another furious rant.
That’s all for now. My work here is done and it’s time to get some rest before another work week begins.
Thanks for reading,