Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Maps to the Stars Movie Review

David Cronenberg’s films have always been a bit of an acquired taste. If you can bear sitting through stories about emotionally and (often) physically scarred people who continue to be tortured by and torture themselves over their trauma, and you like it all presented in the harsh cold of the distance the filmmaker puts between his audience and the film’s subjects, then you might keep returning to his work. His films are rarely short of intriguing and boundary-pushing. At least it was through his first two decades or so. It’s getting harder and harder to shock people. Once you’ve done exploding heads, nude bathhouse knife fights, and people whose sexual fetish involves car crashes, where is there room for turning stomachs? His recent spate of work resides in a heightened glossy reality. He had a mainstream renaissance with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Those two are among the most accessible pieces in his body of work, but they still require a suspension of conventional expectations.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

While We're Young Movie Review

Whatever stage in life he’s at, Noah Baumbach has not stopped writing characters who fret about their own lives, where they’ve been, and where they’re headed. I get the feeling he’s a man who is always in tune with some level of dissatisfaction with his life. One shouldn’t confuse that with unhappiness. I think it’s probably natural to wonder about what you’ve done, the choices you’ve made, and whether you could be doing something better or more important. What separates Baumbach from most other people is that he’s attuned to those feelings probably in everyone around him. That’s why he’s so good at writing dialogue and characters that so precisely and concisely sum up complex emotions.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Danny Collins Movie Review

There’s hardly a more heartbreaking story of a once great acting talent becoming a washed-up caricature of bombast and overacting than Al Pacino. He was such a marvel in the 70’s. He was good-looking with the most expressive eyes of any actor of his generation. His delivery was subtle and always perfect. When I look at him now, I don’t even see the same man. His sad hangdog face obscures the depths that used to reside within. Every now and then, as in Donnie Brasco, he has flashes of greatness once again. Some have been giving similar accolades for his latest, a heartfelt story of redemption called Danny Collins, written and directed by Dan Fogelman.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I Movie Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I has an unwieldy title thanks to the decision long ago to divide the third book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two movies. Let’s face it, this is a business decision much more than an artistic choice. It’s a means o doubling revenue for a single story. I feel no discussion of this series can be complete without considering that decision.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Judge Movie Review

The Judge, directed by David Dobkin from a screenplay by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, is a perfect example of soft, flat, non-challenging, placating material that is made to appeal to a demographic of people who watch movie as a means of sedation. Because it stars two very fine actors in Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr., and because it’s a courtroom drama, it is easily digestible to the broadest possible audience.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2018 World Cup Qualifying: Day 2

Today were the second legs of several home-and-away playoffs between the very lowest ranked teams in the Asian Confederation. The big news is that Bhutan, ranked lowest at 209th according to FIFA, defeated Sri Lanka to advance to Round 2.

India, Timor-Leste, Chinese Taipei, and Cambodia also advanced thus making Mongolia, Nepal, Macau, Brunei, and Sri Lanka the first teams officially eliminated from Russia 2018.

The second leg of the Yemen-Pakistan matchup has been postponed, to be played in a neutral location, following violence in Lahore where the match was to be played today. The first leg was also played in neutral territory due to security concerns in Yemen, who currently lead 3-1.

The six winners will be drawn into 8 groups of 5 teams each for home-and-away group play starting on 11 June.

Next up: CONCACAF begins first round play on 22 March with Barbados at home against U.S. Virgin Islands.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Qualifying for World Cup 2018 Started Today

Over in Asia, the 12 lowest ranked teams (according to the FIFA world rankings) played the first tie in a home-and-away playoff. The second legs will be played on the 17th, thus eliminating the first six teams from WC 2018.

The 12 matchups are:
India - Nepal
Yemen - Pakistan
Timor-Leste - Mongolia
Cambodia - Macau
Chinese Taipei - Brunei
Sri Lanka - Bhutan

Bhutan is the lowest-ranked team in the world at 209 and they defeated Sri Lanka away 1-0 in front of 3,500 stunned fans. 21-year old Tshering Dorji scored in the 84th minute to give his nation their first ever World Cup qualification win.

Macau and Mongolia will have challenging three-goal deficits to overcome in their second legs. The other teams are all still very much alive.

CONCACAF qualifying will begin on 23 March.