Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Defending Dunkirk: Rejecting Some Of The Critiscism

A movie that scores 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, takes over $200 million in the box office and is widely acclaimed as one of the best war movies ever made probably doesn't need that much defending. However, some of the criticism lazily lobbed at Dunkirk was so offensively inane that you just can't help yourself from mocking it. Mercilessly.

'There's no hiding from this, son'
Mild spoilers ahead, nothing too shocking, but, don't say I didn't warn you. Let's dive, Stuka like, right in.

Where are the French?

Tricky enough one to start, as personally I'm a little on the fence on this one. The fact of the matter is the French put up a rousing rearguard in and around the streets of Dunkirk itself, but most importantly the French First Army fought off a massive German assault at Lille for several days, without which not a single member of the BEF might have got off the beach of Dunkirk at all. The French covered themselves in glory in Lille in particular, a heroic rearguard that hasn't received its due in Western historical analysis.

In fairness to the critics on this point, the French don't really get much praise here either, depending how up in arms you are about the topic. Contextually I can understand a French historian being a little miffed to say the least at how little coverage the French get. However, a couple of points to ponder.

First of all, the French defense at Lille literally needs its own movie. It would have been silly for Christopher Nolan to try and amalgamate the French rearguard action, outside the city and at Lille, into his movie about the, largely, British escape. Dunkirk as a movie would have been diluted beyond recognition. Nolan wanted to make a taut escape movie, which is exactly what he did. He wasn't making a documentary, he wasn't making a mass ensemble piece similar to 'The Longest Day', he was making something different, and that's his choice as an artist.

One final point on this, Nolan did offer one slice of French admiration right at the start of Dunkirk. As our protagonist of the movie escapes from pursuing German infantry (Nolan's choice to never really reveal the enemy, ala Jaws, was genius), a grizzled, stoic French defender helps him over a barricade. As he does, he delivers one of the cooler lines in the movie; 'Allez Anglais, Bon Voyage!' as he turns to face the oncoming Wehrmacht. It's a splendid little moment, dripping with history and homage to the French soldiers that, backs to the beaches, held the Germans at bay.

Sure, it was a few seconds, but it was brilliantly delivered, and do you want a 3 hour 50 minute movie, or this slice of drama that Nolan unveiled in a svelte 1:45?

It wasn't gory enough.

This one, for me, is more of a comment on where we're at as a society right now than anything else. We're immune to violence, at this point. We've seen limbs blown off in Saving Private Ryan, we've seen all sorts of horror and macabre violent acts in Fury, Inglorious Bastards and Braveheart, to name but a few.

When people say to me 'It wasn't gory enough' I feel like slapping them in the face and asking; 'What is wrong with you, man?!' Dunkirk may not show the inner workings of the human body after a gunshot wound, but it has more than its fair share of tragedy and pain. If the thought of being crushed by a sinking ship as it slams up against a dock isn't scary or gory enough for you, well then you my friend are completely desensitized at this point. There were plenty of terrible deaths in Dunkirk, and Nolan makes it perfectly clear how terrifying it must have been for teenage Tommys to have been there, without throwing limbs around the place like Mel Gibson after a couple of pre-shoot drinks.

There wasn't enough stuff!

There are a few who think that more stuff equals quality. Erroneous. You can have all the CGI in the World and end up with garbage like Avatar or The Phantom Menace. Yes, Dunkirk, the historical event, was a sprawling mess, with ships sinking left, right and center, and thousands of soldiers pouring onto the beach, but Nolan made his choice, he wanted reality and he skipped CGI almost completely to achieve this. So, you can have your CGI if you want, I'll take the real people in their thousands lined on the beach, I'll take the real ships (actual French and British warships) and perhaps most of all, I'll take the real Spitfires and Messerschmidts they used in filming.

We may never see anything as cool as those Spitfires blazing across the screen again. From Nolan's genius use of sound, to the lovingly restored craft and the incredible cinematography, the ariel duels of Dunkirk may never be repeated again.

You want waves of CGI items crashing around the screen? Knock yourself out, go watch the Separatist army in Phantom Menace on loop for the rest of your life, whatever.

There weren't enough women in it.

Okay, we're getting into stupid territory now. There were very few women at Dunkirk, in fact, probably only a handful on the bigger ships, and Nolan went out of his way not only to show those brave ladies, but to give them a few lines also. Nolan literally went above and beyond to ensure those handful of brave British ladies attached to the Navy were clearly defined as present and accounted for. If anything, he might have overdone it slightly, considering all proportions.

It wasn't emotional enough.

Sorry pal, can't help you here. If you didn't feel soaring emotions during several of the latter scenes of Dunkirk, well, you're dead inside and you may as well give up on movies at this point. Sorry, not sorry.

I honestly wouldn't know where to start with the number of incredibly emotional scenes. Sure, Nolan doesn't pander to the Peanut Gallery with false jingoism and nationalistic fervor, but he subtly delivers some of the best 'Phew' moments in modern cinema, including a couple that make you want to punch the air in jubilation.

If you thought it wasn't emotional, well, you shouldn't have had your head buried in your mobile, flicking through the social networks and lazily allowing your notifications to distract you. Yeah, there, I said it.

'You want emotion? I'll give you emotion!'

It wasn't real.

Okay, you got me, this wasn't something a movie critic said, but I did hear stories from a source I trust about someone coming out from Dunkirk and asking; 'So, was that real? Did it really happen?'

Oh boy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

John Wick 2: Marvel As Keanu Reeves Kills Lots Of People!

John Wick 2 has received much praise across the movie community, including a high aggregate score on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes too. It’s being called all sorts of nice things, and, great, that’s lovely.

Man kills many other men - but LOOK AT THOSE SUITS!!!

I had a chance to catch it last night, and, I am still pretty much in a daze.

Let me summarize John Wick 2 for you.

A handsome assassin wanders through various stages of something akin to a video game, sometimes in New York, sometimes in Rome, shooting dead bearded hench-men types, and almost always, without fail, utilizing a gruesome kill shot to the head. In 60-70% of his execution style killings you can see the blood spray outwards from the bullet impact. In fairness, the titular character does introduce a little variety, using car doors, knives and a pencil to kill those same, mostly bearded, hench-men types when a gun isn’t readily available.

Essentially, it’s 2 hours of Keanu Reeves killing people.

There’s also a cute dog, and lots of loud noises and music, and there are many lovely looking Italian suits.

That’s. It.

You can dress a dog up any way you want to, but, at the end of the day, it’s still a dog. Wick has some fantastic scenery, those beautiful Italian suits and an exciting, gritty soundtrack, but when all is said and done the movie is literally 2 hours of Keanu Reeves killing people,

Maybe that’s something that interests you. There was a guy sitting a few seats to my left who was certainly into it. He was about 400lbs and had purchased pretty much all of the food available. In between massive gulps of popcorn, he would guffaw loudly at the more ridiculous on-screen deaths. Particularly the one with the pencil, he loved that one. Almost choked laughing at that one.

So maybe you’re like that guy and you find head-shot, execution style death funny. Cool, maybe that explains the high scores this movie is getting.

Or, maybe it’s just the fancy Italian suits.

I just don’t know anymore.

''Have you seen my beautiful Italian cut suits?''

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Great NFL MVP Robbery Of 2016

Up until this weekend Tom Brady was the favorite for the NFL MVP with the polls and the bookies. Seemingly out of nowhere, Matt Ryan is now hot favorite with both, despite his five losses.

Matt Ryan v Tom Brady
Something doesn’t feel right about this.

As of last week Tom Brady was the hot favorite for the NFL MVP award. I want to punch myself in the face for using this word, but nevertheless here it is, mysteriously, and despite a terrific final, winning, interception free game against Miami, in Florida no less, Brady is all of a sudden placing second to five game losing Matt Ryan of the Falcons.

Um, what?

Yes, Matt Ryan, who lost FIVE NFL games in 2016, has taken over the polls and indeed the betting for the NFL MVP race.

Let’s get one thing straight first, I like Matt Ryan, I think he’s a terrific player, and should Brady ever retire, I would love nothing more than for the Patriots to trade for Ryan and have him steer the good ship New England onto its next dynasty. Pie in the sky, obviously, I am just illustrating that I’m a Ryan fan and have been since his Boston College days.

Brady and Ryan's season stats are very close. They are almost identical actually, particularly if you average out Brady’s over a full, 16 game season. For example, if Brady played 16 games he was on a pace to toss 37 touchdowns. Ryan’s stats are a couple of points higher and that speaks to a very consistent season, however you can’t but take notice of the 7 interceptions.

Sam Monson of PFF wrote a brilliant article about Ryan a couple of months ago and reading it (and indeed watching Ryan) you come away with the impression he’s a super talented gun slinger who sometimes is a bit loose with the rock. Hence 7 picks and extrapolated out further, hence 5 team losses for the Falcons in 2016.

Some in the Ryan camp are apologetically using Brady’s 4 game suspension as a reason Matty Ice should take the trophy. They’re suggesting that Brady lost out on yards and TDs via the gap in games, and technically they are correct. The problem with that argument is you have to use it both ways. Matt Ryan lost 5 (Five!) games, Brady lost 1 (and in that loss they had the ball at the 1 yard line and probably should have at least tied the game).

Call it both ways, as they say.

For me, a major part of the MVP award is the value that player brought to his team and their success story, ultimately measured by wins. Matt Ryan contributed a great deal to a good Atlanta team but lost five games. I would openly wonder has an NFL MPV team ever lost as many as five games before?

Tom Brady has just as good a season statistically as Ryan, better in some categories, and only lost once all year long.

Last I checked it was Most Valuable Player, not 'Guy with slightly better stats in some categories but lost FOUR more games).

The good news is Brady will take this insult and put it to good use. Plenty of football yet to be played, but we could very well see Brady v Ryan in the Superbowl. If that happens, unless you're a Falcons fan, I can bet I know where your money would be.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Amazing Bradley Lowery

Next time you’re sitting there worrying about something trivial, spare a thought for Bradley Lowery.

Bradley and the Sunderland mascot
Bradley, an incredible young man, is suffering from neuroblastoma, a cancer which attacks the nervous system. He has been fighting it for over 3 years now and has had some tough news from doctors recently, suggesting further treatment might be unsuccessful. Incredibly, Bradley, a huge Sunderland fan, has kept a warm smile on his face throughout the prolonged treatment. He’s a glowing young man, with an infectious grin, and he’s touching hearts and minds all over the football and extended World.

The outpouring of empathy for Bradley, from all corners, is a sight to behold, and hopefully something that keeps him and his family going, in their steep climb up a seemingly insurmountable hill.

Bradley meets Irish star Seamus Coleman

The support for Bradley’s fight kicked into a new gear in September, when Sunderland faced Everton in the Premier League. Sunderland had (and have continued to) done some great things with raising support for Bradley, and when Everton got involved, it seemed to really raise the levels of awareness around the UK and indeed globally. Everton deserve considerable praise for raising $200,000 towards the 5-year old’s cause.

Here’s Bradley on that matchday. If you’re a Dad, it gets hard to watch from the 50 second mark.

Maybe the thing about the footballing element is the way it has brought the absolute best out from our footballing idols. Sure, we love them, and our hopes and dreams rise and fall with them, but, try being a Sunderland fan, it’s tough work lately! However, Bradley’s fight has brought the best out of Sunderland’s players, and indeed from opposition players and teams. More than ‘the best’, it has brought empathy, humanity and touching shows of support on a grand scale.

Figures from across football have come to his support. There’s been terrific messages of support from Robbie Fowler, John Terry, Alan Shearer and many others. Check out some of the mentions on Bradley’s Twitter account.

I believe Bradley is getting all this attention from footballing icons and role models (and of course fans) because he himself is a role model. He’s a force of nature, remaining positive, happy and dignified despite the road blocks life has put in front of him.

He’s an amazing little man.

More about Bradley

Bradley’s family have a website which you can visit here, and you can find out more about the little guy there or indeed make donations towards his brave fight.

They also have a Facebook page here, where the brave family provide updates on the treatment he’s getting and also the support from around the World.

They are also on Twitter here.

You can also send your best wishes to Bradley at the below address. The great lad himself has asked for as many Christmas cards as possible.
  • Bradley's fight C/O 5 Attlee Avenue Blackhall rocks Hartlepool TS27 4BY.
Bradley Lowery

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Make Facebook Great Again.

Facebook is under more scrutiny than usual, and rightly so. The social network behemoth found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time to some extent. As the incredible cascade of media noise around the US presidential election peaked, Facebook in turn became the single biggest media delivery source on the planet Earth. At a time when it could have done a World of good, Facebook instead was a major purveyor in the worst kind of misinformation seen perhaps ever in Human history.

These statements are made entirely apolitically, by the way. I am a left leaning centrist personally, however I am not solely alluding to the deluge of right wing, fake articles that did the rounds on Facebook in the run up to November 8th. I acknowledge fully there were also fake liberal articles designed clumsily to do the same as their right leaning counterparts. Independent reviews have found that as many as 38% of the news articles on Facebook were fake right wing articles, with 16% leaning left. 

The fact is, Facebook has a big problem. Whether it likes it or not it is a massive media giant, and with that should come some responsibility. Instead, the Facebook board is essentially running around watching the flames build, putting its hands over its ears and singing loudly ‘there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong!’.

What exactly is the problem? In short, various groups are hijacking Facebook with landslides of fake news articles, and vast swathes of Facebook’s community of users are falling for it hook, line and sinker. News stories such as ‘How Hillary Funded Assassination Of American Soldiers In Iraq’ have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares and interactions on Facebook. Months ago, well before the election, you might recall Facebook attempted to do something about this, and their editorial team started to remove some of the crazier articles. As noted, the majority of the crazy is right wing (shocker!) and therefore most of the deleted articles were right wing. Cue the uproar from the right wing community, ‘Facebook is preventing us from free speech!’

It’s important to keep in mind what we’re talking about here, these articles are absolute trash and many are being housed on fake newspapers such as the Denver Guardian, or the Boston Gazette, and being created in placed as far flung as Macedonia, where young college kids are building them to collect Google advertising money from stupid Americans clicking on their bait. That’s literally what’s happening.

The right made such a noise defending these trash ‘articles’ that Facebook panicked, and, seriously, fired their entire editorial team. Yes, fired them, security escorting them off the premises.

Why is all this happening? A clue to the motivation behind Facebook’s moves (or lack of) is the involvement in powerful billionaire Peter Thiel. You might remember him as the individual who had a personal vendetta against the Gawker media empire, and who financed Hulk Hogan’s ultimately successful legal battle against them. Thiel recently poured millions into the GOP presidential campaign, and has made no secret of this right wing leaning. In fact, he revels in it and is obviously starting to exert some serious pressure on the Facebook board to ensure it doesn’t become ‘too left’ leaning.

What are we left with? A stream of endless ‘Hillary killed my husband’ and ‘Hillary worships the devil’ articles lapped up by the less intelligent among us.

What can you, the average Facebook user, do?

The answer, as with most everything, is to look within and take accountability for your own space. We can whine and complain as long and as often as we like, but the fact of the matter is we are (generally) not helpless beings without the ability to enforce change in front of us. Quite the contrary. We can mold everything around us, including Facebook. You can complain all day long about the way Facebook does things, but, it’s a service, and it’s up to you to use it the way you want.

First things first, trim your Friends, no matter how painful. The election provided me insight into a couple of unsavory characters on my list. I have plenty of friends with right and center views that I respect immensely. Good people. I also had a couple of absolute clowns hiding in the weeds, thankfully the election reminded me, I don’t have to listen to certain people. Delete, delete, delete. You don’t owe a single person your Facebook space. Delete.

Secondly, curate your newsfeed appropriately. I spent some time a while ago ensuring I was, generally, following responsible and accountable journalistic sites. A tip; https:\\ImpeachClinton\ is probably not going to be accountable journalism, so you might want to go ahead and unfollow that. It’s quite simple to garden your Facebook weeds to the point where you are seeing a feed that’s at least close to what you’re looking for.

Third, when you are clicking on a link that looks suspiciously slanted (either way, left or right), think twice. There’s a massive difference in reading a well-researched, accountable article with associated journalistic standards, and reading click bait crap that’s designed simply to outrage you. There’s a very good reason the GOP went to great lengths recently to throw insults at levels not heard since Pol Pot at the media. Trump and his cronies didn’t want their lemmings reading The Washington Post, the New York Times or The Guardian. They didn’t want their pawns reading journalists who paid due diligence to their reporting, who researched their articles and exhibited journalistic integrity when producing their content. They wanted a riled-up mob reading right wing gutter press, where facts are few and integrity is nonexistent.

You simply owe it to yourself to stick to proper journalism. Why waste your valuable time reading some garbage, presented to you with the sole aim of getting you all hot and bothered, and, not in a good way?

When you complain about Facebook the fact is you're really commenting on how you, yourself, use Facebook. Like everything in life, you can mold Facebook to be exactly what you want it to be. Just a little fine tuning (stop clicking dumb article links, and whatever you do, don't click on the ads!) and you can enjoy a simple, easy to use and free social network relatively hassle free.

Do it. Make Facebook great again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Would The Top Matt Damon Movies Be Better As DiCaprio Movies?

In May we hypothesized that the top box office hits for Leo DiCaprio would be better if they starred Matt Damon. This all came off the back of The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, comment that ''I believe every DiCaprio movie would be just a little better as a Matt Damon movie.''. At the time we ended up with a 5-5 tie between the two great actors but noted that;

In summary, does this 5-5 tie come anywhere close to proving Simmons’ somewhat outrageous comment? Not really, no. Not really, for two reasons. First, Damon only barely got the nod for most of his 5 wins. DiCaprio absolutely annihilated the suggestion with most of his 5 wins. For example, going back to The Wolf, there’s no way Damon improves on that performance, in any imaginary scenario possible. So, the 5-5 tie is at best a precarious position for Damon. The second reason? Simmons’ original hypothesis can only be fully fleshed out be visiting the same topic upon Damon’s movies. Could DiCaprio have made Damon’s top 10 movies ‘better’?

Well guess what, it's time to find out. It's time to put DiCaprio in ten of the most famous Matt Damon roles and ask, would Leo have done a better job than Matt?


10. Rounders.

Rounders shouldn't technically be on this list. It sits currently at joint 32nd on Matt Damon's all-time box office list. The fact is however, despite its slow start at the box office, Rounders has become a cult classic and an essential Matt Damon classic. That out of the way, would DiCaprio in the Damon role improve Rounders? Well, it would definitely have been a different movie. Better? There is a goofy likeability at the heart of Rounders. Whether it's the fun, quasi sleazy, late-night-drinks soundtrack, Edward Norton's boisterous 'Worm' or John Malkovich's over the top Teddy KGB, Rounders might not be technically the greatest movie of all time, but it's a very, very likeable movie. Adding DiCaprio, instead of Damon, might have brought a level of seriousness and perhaps a depth, but that wouldn't have fitted in the context in which Rounders works. So, no, Rounders would not have been better had DiCaprio played Damon's role.

Matt Damon 1-0.

9. The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Ripley did surprisingly well at the box office, taking in almost $90 million, which back in the 90s was decent. It's a terrific, well paced and stylish movie, and, perfectly cast with Damon in the lead role. I say that last part with authority primarily due to one line, delivered early on as Damon meets Law on the beach for the first time. ''Dickie Greenleaf? It's Tom, Tom Ripley, we were at Princeton together.'' Here's the thing, if that's DiCaprio, and he's standing there delivering that line, you just know, immediately, that something is afoot. The audience knows, Dickie Greenleaf knows, we all know immediately that something is not right and this dude is up to something, for sure. With Damon's Ripley, you don't know. He's too goofy in those little yellow shorts and with that foppish hair, way too goofy, to be up to anything, surely? Damon's early innocence and goof lends itself perfectly to the Ripley character. Pushing DiCaprio into that role might have brought some extra menace, but at the cost of the innocence and believability of the Damon Ripley, so essential to the story.

Matt Damon 2-0.

8. Elysium.
At the heart of this exercise we're not judging a movie, we're judging whether one certain actor would do better if they replaced another in said movie. In this case, with Elysium, it's hard to argue DiCaprio wouldn't add a certain grit and tenacity to the Damon role. For whatever reason, Damon is oddly not given much humor, physical or verbal, to work with in Elysium, and that's kind of the point in bringing Damon into a role like this, see The Martian for a perfect example. In this role, with this script, in this movie, DiCaprio could do the robotic with aplomb, and might bring a little extra to the table while doing so.

Matt Damon 2-1.

7. The Departed.
When writing the flip side of this, putting Damon in the DiCaprio role, it was pretty clear that would work, and it's easy to recycle that sentiment and use it here. Damon would be great in the Billy Costigan role, and would bring a different kind of fresh vulnerability to it. On the flip side, DiCaprio would have made an excellent Colin Sullivan, and as we said previously, would have brought some serious extra menace to the role. I hate double guessing casting, particularly in a movie that's so good and which I enjoyed so much, but in this case, you have to suggest The Departed would have been even better had they flipped the lead roles.

We're at a tie, 2-2.

6. Good Will Hunting.
The temptation here is to say, 'No, nope, not even close.' However, you have to imagine DiCaprio in '97 to accurately asses if he could fill out this character better than Damon, and subsequently create a better movie. You think about that, and, you start thinking, 'well, maybe'. However, Good Will Hunting is built primarily on a couple of relationships, and in both of those, Damon excels. The movie succeeds not on the basis of this awful, awful trailer, not on the basis of the tongue in cheek humor or the love interest story line (at times pretty kitsch), but instead it succeeds on the interplay between Damon and Affleck and Damon and Williams. In both situations, Damon is superb. While DiCaprio might have done a fine job overall, Damon created something special in his relationships with Affleck and Williams. That almost father and son like bond that developed in front of us between Damon and Williams is a thing of beauty, and very hard, if not impossible, to recreate.

Matt Damon takes the lead again 3-2.

5. True Grit.
Grit is an unexpected gem. Jeff Bridges hammers home his credentials as an American Treasure, a truly brilliant performance, I'm going to go as far as saying the greatest modern Western performance to date. Damon's LaBoef flits in and out of the story at important junctures and provides some levity and a nice balance to Bridge's Rooster Cogburn. Introducing DiCaprio into this role could have upended that balance and changed the dynamic of the movie. Damon was understated, and I don't know if DiCaprio can do that, understated.

Matt Damon 4-2.

4. The Ocean's movies (all of them).
Bunching the Ocean's movies together makes sense as Damon plays the same character all the way through and those character traits solidify as he goes through the sequels. Damon brings his usual, affable, everyman goofiness to the role and by the time we get to the third part of the story, the movie is leaning heavily on Damon and sometimes squirmingly awkward situations. The fake nose thing for example, simply no way DiCaprio pulls that off without someone physically pointing a gun at him, or threating to melt a glacier or something. Damon's Ocean turn works because it's Damon, and because of his relationship to Clooney and Pitt. Stick DiCaprio and his somewhat lone-wolf persona in that mix and, who knows what you'd get. Whatever happens, no way you get him to do that nose gag. Just no way.

Matt Damon 5-2.
3. Saving Private Ryan.
A short but pivotal role, there's a certain vulnerability required to play Private Ryan. His scenes all involve Damon playing an Iowa farm boy type, complete with goofy laugh and a level of soft sentiment that not many could bring to that role. DiCaprio would have brought a steel and an edge, sure, but it might have been out of place here. Perhaps the easiest one to judge, no way DiCaprio improves upon the movie with his inclusion.

Matt Damon 6-2.

2. Bourne (All of them!).
Now we're getting to the good stuff. Let's ask it out loud, would the first three Bourne movies be 'better' with DiCaprio in the lead role? Thinking about what DiCaprio would have brought to the role, there definitely would have been an uptick in urgency and tension. DiCaprio walking swiftly down a Swiss street, or DiCaprio beating bad guys up in Waterloo station might have been edgier and somewhat tougher than the Damon version of same, but, it's not these scenes that set the tone for the opening Bourne trilogy. Instead, think of the elements that made Jason Bourne what he is. Think of Bourne waking up on a park bench in the snow, and discovering he could kick the crap out of Swiss Police officers. Think of Bourne and Marie outside the hotel, ad-libbing their way into a plan to obtain phone records (so simple, so human, so effective), Damon delivers a brilliant 'Oh, ok' moment when Marie gets the job done, I don't see DiCaprio getting that moment right. Think of Bourne in any of the more innocuous situations and it's hard to imagine DiCaprio duplicating the humanity in those parts. I contend it's those background building moments that make Bourne the success it is.

Matt Damon 7-2.

1. The Martian.
Good golly The Martian was a massive success. Over $230 million gross, $54 million on its opening weekend alone. They couldn't have thought it would be this successful. Sometimes a good movie just happens, kind of out of the blue. A large slice of that success is of course Damon's every-man, delivered so easily, with just the right level of humor at the right time. Damon is laugh-out-loud funny in several parts, and brings a great humanity to the role. I think we can all see where this is going.

Matt Damon wins, with a stunning, landslide 8-2 win over DiCaprio. The simple truth is that, no, the top Matt Damon movies would not be better with DiCaprio in the leading role. This doesn't mean either actor is necessarily 'better' than the other. In this case it just means that I believe Damon was very well cast in his top movies.
When we looked at the reverse a couple of months ago, we decided that a 5-5 tie was apt for the top 10 DiCaprio movies. This suggests Damon might be a slightly more flexible actor than DiCaprio, but remember the caveat, in the 5 that DiCaprio won, I suggested he won handily, easily proving the better cast actor in those cases.

What have we learnt? DiCaprio is well cast in over half of his movies, Damon perhaps even better cast in the majority of his. DiCaprio brings a seriousness, depth and edge to his roles, while Damon's everyman act is used to perfection in his top movies. Most of all, that's twenty seriously good movies and movie sets we're talking about, and the common denominators are Damon and DiCaprio.

Maybe that's all we need to know.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Red Sox And Coming Back From Post Season Deficits

The Boston Red Sox are 0-2 down to the Cleveland Indians and you might be thinking to yourself 'Haven't we been here before?' Well, pat yourself on the back, you are correct. Recent Red Sox playoff history is littered with dramatic comebacks. Four in fact, three of which culminated in the World Series title.

The Red Sox don't really start their postseason title chase until they're in a hole

We might be stretching a little, but, you could reasonably conclude that the modern era Red Sox team has to be in a serious hole before it decides to start playing and go win the big one.

Here are the most recent examples of this.

2013 ALCS - down 1-0 to Detroit, won 4-3.
2007 ALCS - down 3-1 to Cleveland, won 4-3
2004 ALCS - down 3-0 to New York, won 4-3
2003 ALDS - down 2-0 to Oakland, won 3-2

The 2013 ALCS looked grim after game one. The big concern going into the series was the Tiger's excellent pitching. They shut us down in game one and had a big lead going into the eighth inning of game two.

Then this happened.

It's safe to say Boston's hopes were very low going into game five of the 2007 ALCS. Down 3-1 and looking dead and buried, the Red Sox turned it around completely and absolutely destroyed Cleveland 30 runs to 5 the next three games. Amazing turnaround, the size of which shouldn't diminish the scale of the comeback, from 1-3 down to 4-3 series winners.

What can you say about the 2004 ALCS, other than it was a great time to be alive. Not so much after game three, when things looked pretty gloomy, but the astonishing Red Sox comeback was a defining moment for the entire franchise, a beautiful gift to its lovelorn fan base. One we'll never forget.

The 2003 ALDS comeback over a good Oakland team is often overlooked as the Sox failed to finish the job and win the series. However, down 2-0 to a very talented, young, Oakland side, Boston dug in and came back with a 3-2 series win, catapulting them on to a historic showdown with the Yankees. New York took the '03 meeting, but perhaps Boston started to learn against Oakland that no deficit is insurmountable, and goodness did they put that to good use the following year.

Hey, things look bleak going into game three tonight, but as a great man once said..

''Don't let us win today''.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The NY Giants Are 'Comfortable' Hiring A Man Who Hits Women And Children.

The New York Giants are reinstating kicker Josh Brown after his one game NFL suspension. Normally this would not be big news to those of us who aren't Giants fans, however in this instance this is very interesting. Sadly it's interesting for all the wrong reasons.

Brown is in the news because he was arrested for being abusive towards his now ex-wife. She has accused him of violence against her, her daughter and her two sons from another marriage on no less than 20 occasions. He has violated a protective order placed by a court of law on him several times, including once where he was arrested for this act. Among the more harrowing details, documented diligently by this Deadspin article, are repeated emotional abuses, verbal and physical assault on her sons and, most chillingly of all, attacking her physically while she was pregnant with their daughter.

Josh Brown can stand in front of reporters and act brave and sum his abusive behavior up by calling it 'Just a moment' (literally how he has defined 20 plus assault allegations, restraining orders and his own admission that he was at fault), but all that does is show he is not repentant for his actions and should not be of gainful employ in the NFL, in a league that allegedly champions integrity above everything.

If you bother to read through the quotes and details Brown is clearly a broken idiot, a dangerous coward, and doesn't really deserve column inches. What's really saddening and disappointing is the actions, or lack of same, of the NFL and the New York Giants, and, to a lesser extent, some of the press.

First to the latter. Mostly the media are busy reporting this from a football perspective, with little or often no reference to Molly Brown, Josh's ex wife, the lady who he abused emotionally and physically over a number of years, by his own admission.

One article, on something called 'Giants Wire' goes as far to implicitly blame Molly Brown for the situation, saying;

''As more and more information on the Brown’s strained relationship came out, it was eventually revealed that Josh had been on the receiving end of domestic violence himself, with Molly having allegedly kicked him in the ribs during one particular dispute.''

Molly Brown defended herself on one occasion and the idiot who wrote the above deems that fit to print in the context that Brown himself has admitted to attacking, emotionally and physically, his smaller, more fragile wife on multiple occasions? Pretty pathetic stuff.

Thankfully some of the media, not just Deadspin, are taking this seriously. Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News writes;

''The NFL suspended Brown for one game, a pathetic slap on the wrist but nonetheless an acknowledgment of his wrongdoing.''

That's of key importance to note. The NFL wouldn't have suspended Brown had they not thought he was guilty. The suspension is a clear message that yes, he was an abusive coward who attacked his ex wife.

That's where the real issues start. If someone is guilty of physical abuse of their spouse, is the NFL really saying that all that is worth is a one game ban? This is a league that pontificates about integrity at every given opportunity, a league that famously bans players four games for being 'generally aware' of tampering with footballs.

Finally, the Giants.

The Giants claim they have conducted their own investigation and with that in mind they say they are comfortable with their decision to sign Brown to a two-year, $4 million contract this spring. They are comfortable with hiring a man who has beaten emotionally and physically his then-pregnant wife? That's an unusual thing to be 'comfortable' with.

I don't know why they think it's important to justify this ugly lack of judgement on their part with a glib throwaway comment about their 'own investigation', perhaps the Giants need to be reminded that the court of law and indeed even the NFL are superior to them in handing down judgements and in both of these situations Brown has been deemed guilty of his actions.

I suppose we shouldn't be shocked that Eli Manning has come steaming out, full speed, in defense of Brown, this is a Manning we're talking about here;

“I’m glad to have Josh back. Support him and support your teammates through everything that goes on. Good to have him back on the team and kicking for us this week,”

You're glad, are you Eli? You're glad to have a man back who kicked and punched his pregnant wife? You're glad to have a man back who intimidated a small family over the course of years with threats of violence? That's something you're glad about?

Overall, where are we on this one? Well, the Giants and the NFL have basically taken a look at the Josh Brown situation, where he has repeatedly, over a number of years, emotionally and physically abused his ex wife and her children, and said they are 'comfortable' with that. Eli Manning has gone on record saying he supports this abusive, cowardly thug. Some publications are looking to place the blame on a frail, tiny woman who suffered for years at the hands of this cretin.

Where are we? We're probably exactly where you would expect us to be, in a society that's okay with this abusive, cowardly Neanderthal being rolled out on a weekly basis to play football.

We're exactly where you would fully expect, in this World.

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports


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