Monthly Archives: November 2007

Top Ten Christmas Movies List

Decided to make a top ten favourite Christmas movies list. I don’t necessarily think these are the “best” Christmas movies of all-time, they are just the ones I really enjoy and watch each year in December. So, here we go:

1. A Christmas Story – Yes, I watch it multiple times during TNT’s annual 24 hour merry-thon, and if you don’t the Terrorists have won.

2. Home Alone – I still cringe when Harry grabs the hot door knob and burns an ‘M’ into his hand, and when Marv slips on the ice leading to him falling down the steps to the basement.

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Chevy Chase right at the end of his funny years (Caddyshack in 1980 thru Nothing but Trouble in 1991, Christmas Vacation was 1989)

4. Scrooged – My favorite adaptation of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray is perfect for the Scrooge character.

5. Gremlins – Keep it out of daylight, never get it wet, and never ever feed it after midnight

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas – “Then he got an idea. An awful idea. The Grinch had a wonderful, awful idea.”

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas – I get all my holiday decorating ideas from Snoopy

8. Bad Santa – Billy Bob Thorton should ONLY play characters that are drunk and around children

9. Elf – They had me at ‘Will Ferrell in an elf suit’

10. Die Hard – Yes, its a Christmas movie. Also, it introduced my to Run DMC’s song Christmas in Hollis.

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Dan in Real Life

Review time again: Dan in Real Life – this 2007 movie is star Steve Carell as Dan. Dan’s wife died a while back and he is raising three girls alone. The story takes place over a weekend at his parent’s place during a family gathering. Dan meets a lady, but than an obstacle gets in their way. That leads to various funny, sad, and ackward moments. I enjoyed the story as to how they got Dan into certain situations, but it did get overly sappy at times.

The real reason to see this movie is for Carell’s performance. He is showing his range here. Dan is nothing like his characters in 40 Year Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, or The Office. In the span of a couple of years he has had four very good performances, while playing four very different characters.

The movie as a whole isn’t anything special. It’s basically a romantic comedy mixed with a family comedy. However, Carell is so good that he is able to take moments that would just be annoying or cliche in the hands of someone with less comedic talent and make them absolutely hilarious. For fans of Steve Carell, it’s a must see.

Rating: 7/10 (replace Carell with almost anyone else and it’s probably a 5/10)

Michael Clayton (movie review)

Review time: Michael Clayton– this 2007 movie was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the Bourne movies. Its about a lawfirm that is defending a chemical company in a large lawsuit. The firm’s lead lawyer starts acting crazy, so the firm’s fixer, Michael Clayton, played by George Clooney, is brought in to help with the situation. Tom Wilkinson, of Batman Begins and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, and Sydney Pollack play the other major roles to round out the more than solid acting.

As a forewarning the beginning is slightly confusing as to what is going on and how it pertains to the story, but within 20 minutes everything makes sense, and by the end everything is wrapped up nicely. There are some well done plot twists and turns, and I really enjoyed the logical ending.

 I especially enjoyed the cold, smooth way in which this movie was shot with the bluish tones. It makes you feel like you are part of the story but removes you emotionally from the story. That blended very well with the fact that to do Michael Clayton’s job you would have to remove yourself emotionally and be cold and calculating with your decisions.

Simply put, its a very good movie. I would highly recommend it, although it is two hours long and paced very slowly so definately bring your attention span.

Rating: 7.5/10

No Country for Old Men

Review time: No Country for Old Men – the new Coen brothers film that just hit theatres recently. Its their first major release since Ladykillers in 2004. First of all, as a Coen brothers film, it is visually amazing. They might capture landscapes better than any other directors currently going. If you have the Coen brothers and a story that involves wide open spaces, you are half way to a very very good movie (see: Fargo).

The acting is insanely good. Josh Brolin, of Goonies and Grindhouse Planet Terror fame, is your protagonist, and in classic Coen brother’s fashion his character’s name is Llewelyn Moss. To try and keep the spoilers to a minimum, Llewelyn discovers some money in the desert, and Anton Ghigurh is after him. Javier Bardem plays Anton Ghigurh in one of the breakout performances of the year, as he plays one of the coolest villians of recent years. I didn’t remember him in anything before this movie, and IMDB confirmed that with the only thing I had seen on his filmography being Collateral with him playing a role I don’t remember from the movie. He was nominated for an Oscar for some movie titled Before Night Falls, but No Country is the movie that will introduce his talents to a mass audience. The film also features a very good performances from Tommy Lee Jones, as a small town sheriff, and Kelly MacDonald as Llewelyn’s wife. As well as amazing bit parts from Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root, who is one of the more underappreciated character actors out there and played Milton in Office Space if his name doesn’t ring a bell.

This movie features the signature Coen brothers uniqueness from their earlier works (Raising Arizona, Fargo, Big Labowski), and is probably the best film they have done since Fargo, if not their best work so far. I loved it. The only complaints I have heard from anyone where about the ending, which doesn’t really show you everything that happens so I can see what might confuse some people, but it does imply everything that went on and I understood everything that happened. This is easily one of the best movies of the year. It transitioned from drama to comedy to suspense to action seemlessly. If you liked any of the previous Coen brothers work, go see this movie, right now.

Rating: 9/10

2007 Concert Series in Review

This would be a review of all the concerts I attended in 2007.

03/07/07 – Machine Head – The Venue in Fargo, ND: The headliner was actually Lamb of God, but let’s be real, I was there to see Machine Head. They are a thrash metal band that got famous in the 90s, then was dropped from their record label, Roadrunner, and immediately signed by Roadrunner International. Apparently, they are still huge over seas. Their guitar work is quite impressive live, and have one of the coolest crowd chants ever, “Machine-f*ckin-Head!” I now try to work all band names into a similar chant, for some reason it doesnt work as well with most other band names.

05/11/07 – Flaw – Ground Zero in Minneapolis, MN: This was a small club that I am nearly certain doubled as an S&M club on non-concert nights, or at least it looked like it did. Flaw is a metal group that had been broken up for several years before reforming and going on tour. It was quite easy to see why they broke up, as even on stage the lead singer and lead guitarist dont seem to be able to get along. That said, I still enjoyed them live, and since I can almost guarantee from watching them that they will break up again soon, this may have been the only chance I would ever have had to see them live. I really enjoyed that rather than play a “final” song, then go off stage and wait for a few minutes and comeback for an encore, they instead just said “we don’t like doing encores, so these are really our final two songs”.

05/24/07 – Static X – The Rave in Milwaukee, WI: Of note was one of the opening bands, Invitro. They are a band that consists of a former member of Snot, and their record label is part owned by crazy NFL lineman Kyle Turley (if you dont remember, he was the player that ripped the helmet off of one of his opponents and tossed it down the field). Also, they come out dressed in white lab coats and tinfoil masks that they make themselves. I predict Invitro will be HUGE in the near future. As for Static X, they are not too shabby live either, but the sound at The Rave is really awful and it was about 150 degrees in the building. Being in Wisconsin, they obviously closed with Wisconsin Death Trip.

06/11/07 – Chevelle – The Venue in Fargo, ND: One of the opening bands, Finger 11, has a guitarist that needs to be seen to be believed. He throws his guitar around so much that it comes unplugged several times each song and it was quite clear that either they had his sound turned waayyy down or completely off, as none of his antics seemed to affect how the band sounded. He was basically a homeless looking man who appeared to be on some form of cocainne. As for Chevelle, they have a suprising number of good songs. I have liked all of their albums, but until I saw them live it never dawned on me how many excellent songs they have. Also, it seemed like the crew turned everything up to 11 for the last few songs because it really wasnt that loud for most of the show, then all of a sudden during the last three songs it was deafening.

07/4/07 – Tool – Marcus Amphitheatre in Milwaukee, WI: The band that opened for them was named Big Business. I hated them. They sounded like Type O Negative, but without any good songs. The guy next to us really liked them for that reason, so I asked why didnt they just get Type O to open then because at least I would have enjoyed that. Later on we attempted to convince that fellow that we were a couple who had come from New Jersey to watch the show, because I had been watching a lot of Sopranos then. He asked what my job was, I said waste management. As for Tool, their lead singer, Maynard, doesnt stand front and center. He stands toward the bank on a riser next to the drummer. Everyone else in the band has a spotlight on them and he does not. He can only be seen because he was standing in front of a giant video screen that backlight him whilst it played what can best be described as windows media player visualizations (if windows media player visualizations were really cool, and featured stuff like pouring rain showers instead of those crazy green circles). They also played quite the weird set list, neglecting at least 4 of their biggest hits, including Sober, and instead playing multiple 13 minute long songs off the end of Lateralus and 10,000 Days. Also, there were A LOT of laser light display going on. Weird, but cool.

07/22/07 – Korn, Atreyu, Flyleaf, Hellyeah, Trivium – Family Values Tour in Chicago, IL: Evanesence was also there, but I severely dislike them. Invitro played on a side stage, which was definitely a bonus. Flyleaf was impressive the first time I saw them live, but this time they werent nearly as good. That’s possibly due to our seats being MUCH further away than the first time I saw them, and they played several new songs that I hadnt heard and wasnt all that impressed with. Hellyeah was also disappointing. Considering they consist of Mudvayne’s lead singer and guitarist, and Pantera’s drummer, I had high hopes for them. Unfortunately, they play nothing more than standard rock and dont seem to utilize the fact that they have one of the world’s best drummer in their band. I enjoyed Trivium, and had previously seen that at the aforementioned Machine Head show. They played Master of Puppets, probably better than Metallica could at this point in time. Atreyu being one of my favorite bands really couldnt have done anything to disappoint. Korn, as always, was very solid live. Nicely they have reduced the number of people on stage from 55 to 7.

07/29/07 – Warped Tour – Metrodome parking lot in Minneapolis, MN: It was nearly 100 degree that day, so standing on concrete all day did get quite hot. In fact, I was convinced at one point my sandals were going to melt. However, shade was available in the Guitar Hero tent, and there was an inflated slip n slide (that alone may have been worth the price of admission). I was there for basically two bands Killswitch Engage and Coheed & Cambria. Killswitch puts on quite the show, being far more energentic then you would assume, and they dont take themselves that seriously (the lead singer was laughing throughout the set and couldnt stop laughing after the guitarist threatened to “kill all the emo kids”). Coheed’s lead singer/guitarist is insanely good. Also, I was encouraged to give Underoath a look. I did and they might have put forth more effort and energy into their set then I had seen out of any band ever. If they had played any longer, I am nearly positive their keyboardist (a pudgy, homeless looking fellow who was chugging Monster every moment he was doing something else and was screaming along with the vocals even though there was no microphone near him) would have had a heart attack. Also, their lead singer looks like a skinny Andrew W.K.

08/05/07 – silverchair – First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN: The opening band was mediocre at best, and kept trying to get the crowd to chant along with them, “Let’s start a fire, tonight”. That failed miserably. Silverchair, who had just released THE best album of the year (Seriously, go listen to Young Modern, you owe it to yourself), were very good live. Their lead singer, Daniel Johns, has a stage presence that most lack. Probably one of my top five favorite live shows. Also, they had a keyboardist who had a mullet, was always smiling, and kept jumping up and down.

08/24/07 – Rage Against the Machine – East Troy, WI: Best concert I have ever been to. I can’t imagine this being topped unless Kurt Cobain and John Bonham rise from their graves and we get a Nirvana opening for Led Zeppelin show. (Can we use technology and cloning to get to work on making that happen, by the way?) Zack de la Rocha brought the insane amount of energy and protest filled fervor to the stage that I assumed he would. Tom Morello is unreal with his guitar sounds and effects. Since tickets were so tough to get and pricey, everyone who was there was rapidly into the show. Also, it gave me the epic story of getting out of that parking lot. See the parking lot for the 50,000+ fans in attendance was just a grassy field. It was a downpour of rain the entire day and thru most of the concert as well. The grass turned to mud. Basically, EVERY vehicle that was trying to drive out of there was getting stuck in the mud. Every car was having to be pushed, and I mean every car – small cars, big cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, everything was getting stuck. I had mud on me when I got to my friend’s car, so I stripped down to just boxers to avoid getting mud inside his car. He ended up pushing his car whilst I drove in sitting in only boxers. It took nearly 3 hours before we got out of the parking lot, or mudpit, whatever you want to call it, then we had a solid 3 + hour drive to get back to his place. Didn’t matter, because we saw Rage Against the Machine. Rage Against the Machine. Oh, they played nearly their entire first album, the first two track of Evil Empire, and all the hits off Battle for Los Angeles, opend with Testify, and obviously closed with Killing in the Name.

09/13/07 – Atryeu – The Venue in Fargo, ND: As said before, they are one of the bands I am most into currently. Again, they didnt disappoint. This was right after the released of the newest album, so they mixed in some new material. It was the first time I had seem them as a headliner, and I quite liked that they still play a couple songs from the first album, even though their sound has changed a lot since then.

That’s the 10 concerts I went to in 07.

As always, comments encouraged.

More Yankees junk

So, now that the impossible has happened and ARod has decided to return to the Yanks. With Posada and Rivera also resigned, and the team basically waiting on a decision from Pettitte. My whole offseason plan thing is moot. I doubt any of my suggestions for Johan Santana trades will happen, as the Twins have let it be know they would want young hitters for him. The Yanks can only offer Robinson Cano, who they probably wouldnt part with. Not to mention, the Twins are shopping another pitcher Matt Garza, so they might be trying to make one last run with Santana and will probably keep trying to resign him.

Anyways, I am now one of the bloggers at a new Yankees site – MadeIn1903.com, Here is a link to my Yankees blogolumn there http://madein1903.com/?author=11

Hence, this will probably be my last baseball centeric post here.

As always, comments encouraged.

ANOTHER new plan for the Yanks offseason

As new rumors pop up, I once again had to adjust my “If I was Brian Cashman, here is what I would do with the Yankees this offseason” plan:

Resigning Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada is still the priority, which it sounds like they will be working on this week.

They already offered arbitration to ARod, so they will be getting a couple of draft picks for him, and he will be getting $35M per season from some team who doesnt care about postseason performance (I’m looking at you, SF Giants).

My new plan for 3B is to acquire one of these three players: Miguel Tejada, Scott Rolen, or Joe Crede. Tejada is already involved in a trade to the Yankees rumor. He has 2 years $26M remaining on his contract and the O’s really want to move him. Rolen has 3 years $36M remaining, and can no longer get along with the Cardinals manager. The White Sox want to start Josh Fields at 3B and its rumored they may nontender Joe Crede, making him a free agent. All of this means, the Yankees should be able to acquire one of them for almost nothing of value (aka B level type prospects that are similar to the nothing prospects that they gave up to get Bobby Abreu from the Phillies two years ago).

Since it has been announced by new manager Joe Girardi that the top of his lineup will be Damon playing LF, Jeter at SS, and Abreu in RF, many other questions have been answered. If Damon is in LF and Abreu is in RF, then Matsui will be primarily a DH next year, which means Giambi will be playing some 1B next season and probably splitting time with someone. They usually carry 4 players on the bench, not including whoever is considered the DH. One of those 4 will be a backup catcher, hopefully Molina is resigned for that. My preference would be that the other three are – Wilson Betemit, Shelley Duncan, and Alexei Ramirez (the Cuban defector). All three play multiple positions.

I’d continue to explore a trade for Johan Santana, but if the Twins insist on Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, or Robinson Cano be in the deal, then walk away from the deal and hope Santana makes it to free agency next offseason when there would be a 99% chance the Yankees win a bidding war for him.

I would avoid trading for Miguel Cabrera. The Marlins asking price is rumored to be insanely high and although he is only 24 years old, he will soon be a 26 year old DH due to his horrible lack of physical conditioning. Since there are too many players with the last name Cabrera (see: Cabrera, Melky; Cabrera, Orlando), I have dubbed Miguel – “Fat Cabrera”.

Everything else reamins the same from previous plans – a bullpen made up of youngsters from the farm, Mariano Rivera, and “Contract Year” Kyle Farnsworth (in normal years he is shaky at best, but I have a good feeling about him in a contract year putting up solid numbers to fleece another team on another big three year contract), although there are a couple Japanese relievers out there that might be worth at look at in hopes of catching ligthning in a bottle ala the Sox with Okijima; the rotation is looking like Wang, Hughes, Kennedy, Mussina, and a random guy until June when Joba gets called up, if Pettitte decides to return or they trade for Santana then becomes Mussina that random guy, if not then Jeff Karstens or Darrell Rasner might be that random guy; I still highly recommend trading Kei Igawa whilst he has value (not a lot of young lefty starters with high K/9 ratios who are locked into 4 year contracts at $4M per year are out on this market, especially when you consider Kyle Lohse, a not so young righty starter is asking for 4 years at $10M per year).