Friday, February 26, 2010

Reaction to Canada's Sixth Hockey Game

For about 50 minutes of tonight's game, Canada did pretty much everything right. The forechecked well, they got shots through from the point, capitialized on the power play and got great goaltending from Roberto Luongo. Canada was up 3-0 with less than 10 minutes to go in the third period - and that's when the wheels fell off the wagon a little bit.

It's hard to blame Canada for letting up a little bit. They had a comfortable lead. The Slovakians had not been pressing them at all up until that point. The arena was rocking with the fans chanting "We want USA". It appeared that Canada had it in the bag. But that is when Lubomir Visofsky scored to make it 3-1. The goal is one Luongo should probably not have let in. He cheated a little bit, moving off the post anticipating a pass across the crease, and instead got a little bank shot off his leg. Things got worse from there, as the Slovakians came out flying, and Canada sat back a little bit. The second goal they allowed was because of a faceoff loss by Patrice Bergeron in their own zone. Trying to hard to make up for it, Bergeron fell around the ice, and ending up landing a hit - not only on the Slovakian player, but also on Drew Doughty. This left Michael Handzus alone in front, and he buried his chance. Not chance for Luongo on that one. The last five minutes were a flurry of activity around the net, where the Slovakians came close to putting in the tying goal, but Luongo stood tall, and shut the door, and Canada hung on for a 3-2 victory.

Still though, I am not that worried heading into the gold medal game on Sunday. Yes, Canada took their foot off the gas in the last 10 minutes of this game, but they won't make the same mistake against the Americans - believe me. I am little concerned that the Crosby-Staal-Iginla line hasn't scored in the last two games, but they are playing strong hockey regardless, so I don't think it matters much. Plus, since the Thornton-Heatley-Marleau and Getzlaf-Perry-Morrow line (who between them scored all three goals tonight) is firing on all cylinders, it really doesn't matter.

Even though American beat Canada last weekend, and handed Finland a convincing loss today, I still think Canada is in a good position to win on Sunday. For one thing, even though America won the last game, Canada outplayed them, and only got beat because of great goaltending by Ryan Miller. But now with a steady Luongo in net instead of a shakey Brodeur, I don't think that will be an issue. Also in last week's game, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and especially Dan Boyle had weak game on defense - all three, especially Boyle, have stepped up their game since then. Last week, Rick Nash was struggling and had yet to score. Now, he's scored two big goals, and is looking better out there. Last week Getzlaf and Perry were pretty awful - now they are two of Canada's best forwards. The weaknesses in Canada's game that existed last week have been fixed. Plus, Ryan Miller has played twice since then - and not really been tested in either game. Will he still be at the top of his game on Sunday?

Of course, this doesn't mean a gold medal is assured. In a one game scenario, anything can happen, and anyone can win. The Americans have played a very strong tournament up until this point - never losing a game. They came in as massive underdogs, but showed everyone what they can do. If Canada does lose, there will be no shame in that - no matter what the media says the next day.

But I don't think Canada will lose. That rink is going to be rocking on Sunday afternoon. This is what Canada has been playing for - a chance to win the gold medal on home soil. They have not made it easy on themselves - and faced a mountain of criticism throughout the entire tournament from "loyal" Canadian fans - many of whom are still bitching even though they have made the finals - but on Sunday everyone will be behind them. Do you really think there is not a player on Team Canada who will do whatever is necessary to prevent America from winning the gold medal in Canada? The Americans have pretty much breezed through this tournament. Canada has fought tooth and nail. And when all is said and done on Sunday, I think Canada will win.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reaction to Canada's Fifth Hockey Game

If Canada ends up winning the Gold Medal in Men’s Hockey at these Olympics, then it will be said that losing to the Americans and having to play that extra game against Germany was the best thing that happened to Team Canada. The extra game gave Canada another opportunity to play with their line combinations, and find ones that worked. It allowed the defense to get on track. And it allowed Roberto Luongo to get his feet under him before playing in more important games. In short, it helped Canada tremendously.

From the opening faceoff onwards last night, Canada was clearly the better team. The Russians never even came close to matching Canada’s energy, forechecking, defense or goaltending. They never got their supposedly explosive offense going – Canada never gave them a chance. This game was essentially won in the first period, when Canada completely and totally dominated the Russians – scoring four goals on Evengi Nabokov in one period, and only allowing one on the power play. The great thing about Canada’s offsense is how varied it was. In that first period Ryan Getzlaf, Brendon Morrow, Rick Nash and Dan Boyle all scored. In the second, it was Weber (from Toews) and two by Corey Perry. The line juggling down by Mike Babcock worked. Even if the Crosby or Thornton lines did not get a goal – they didn’t need to. The secondary scoring came through in a huge way.

The key to the victory though was that Canada really did play as a team. All four forward lines forechecked brilliantly, and kept the puck away from the high powered Russian forwards, and forced them to play in their own end. Every time Alexander Ovechkin touched the puck, he was hammered by the nearest Canadian. They never let him really become a factor in the game. At yet every time the Russians did get a chance to score, Roberto Luongo was there to make the stop. He had a great game, even if he did let in three goals – you could not fault him on any of them, and he made key saves when Canada needed him to. That is the mark of a great goaltender.

There is almost nothing bad to say about Canada is this game. Yes, it would have been nice if the two top lines had generated more actual offense – something they will need to do in the next two games. But this was a complete team effort. And a great one.

What this sets up is a matchup against the Slovakians in the semi final game. Canada caught a bit of a break there, as Slovakia is not generally considered to be as strong of a team as some others in this tournament. However, it would be a mistake to take Slovakia lightly. They beat the Russians in a shootout during the Round Robin, and yesterday outworked the Swedes – who had been on a roll having not surrendered a goal in the Round Robin – for a tight victory. Along the way, they also beat the Latvians, and in a nail biter Norway in their Qualifier. They have the exact same record as the Canadians in this tournament (and strangely enough, their only loss came against their arch rivals as well – the Czechs). While the Slovaks have not won as convincingly in the last two games as Canada has – that doesn’t matter. They have got the job done, and no one expected them to be here at this point. They have already guaranteed them their best finish ever in Olympic hockey (they placed fifth in 2006).

I do not think the Slovaks are as deep a team as others in this tournmanet. Jaroslav Halak, their goaltender, has played great so far, but as fans of the Montreal Canadians know, he can be inconsistent. Canada needs to get in his face early and often and generate a lot of shots. Slovakia is a solid team defensively, and Canada will need to be hard on their defensement like Zdeno Chara and Andrej Meszaros, and watch Lubomir Visofsky on the powerplay. They have a solid core of forwards, including Marion Hossa, Richard Zednick and Marion Gaborik. In short, while I do think that Canada should, and will, beat Slovakia, if they slack off then they won’t.

The other semi final should also be great. Finland is the only medal winner from 2006 still left in the competition (they won Silver that year –the Swedes gold, and the Czech bronze), and aside from the losing their round robin game to Sweden, have been great all tournament long. In particular, Mikka Kipprusoff has played very well in net for them. I watched most of their game against the Czechs last night, and what I was most impressed with was their ability to control the pace of the game. Although it was a tight game -2-0 with one of those being an empty net goal – Finland was clearly the superior team. For this aging team, you know they want Gold to go along with the Bronze they won in 1998 and the Silver in 2006 (I believe Teemu Selanne has been on all of those teams, and there maybe a couple of others as well). They are looking to become the only team to win medals in 3 of the last 4 Olympics (or since the NHL started to allow their players to go).

The Americans on the other hand have breezed through this tournament so far, really only having to defeat one great team – Canada – which they did. Other than that they have beaten Norway, and Switzerland twice (although the Swiss gave them all they could handle in both games). Their best player has clearly been Ryan Miller in net, although it must be said that other than the Canada game, he has not been tested all that much. They are going to have their hands full with the Fins however, who are hoping to stop the only undefeated team left in the tournament. It should be a great game. Looking ahead to a Gold Medal game, I’m not sure who would make for an easier opponent for Canada, but I do know which team Canada would rather beat – America.

Before a go, a word about Russia. This has got to be devastating for them. After winning the Silver in 1998, and the bronze in 2002, they will held off the podium for the second Olympics in a row. Perhaps the worst thing that happened to them was that the beat Czech Republic in the Round Robin, which meant they won their pool, and got a buy into the quarter finals. That works for teams like America, and the Fins, who had obviously already congealed as a team (and it should have worked for the Swedes as well), but Russia was more like Canada in the Round Robin – still struggling to find their A game. The extra game Canada played against Germany allowed them to grow more confident, find the proper line combinations and generally gel as a team. Russia didn’t have that, and it was evident last night. They got increasingly desperate as the game wore along, and the Russian coach kept juggling his lines – something you already want to have sorted out by the time you get the quarters. You better believe that every player on Russia wants the NHL to allow their players to play in the next Olympics in 2014 on Russian soil. Russia is a nation like Canada, who lives and breathes hockey, and losing to their arch rivals in such convincing fashion in the quarters will not sit well with them. Heads are going to roll. You could almost feel sorry for them – but then of course, you remember it’s Russia.

Anyway, bring on the Slovaks!

PS: I know that women's hockey is not as popular as men's, but if you are a hockey fan, you owe to yourself to watch the women tonight take on the Americans for the Gold Medal. The games are not as physical, but they are still fun to watch - especially when Canada and America take on each other.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Movie Review: The Most Dangerous Man in America

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers *** ½
Directed By:
Judith Ehrich & Rick Goldsmith.

Daniel Ellsberg believed that the Pentagon Papers would end the war in Vietnam. He saw thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands Vietnamese, dying in the war, and he could no longer look the other way. He had worked with the Pentagon for years, gathering the intelligence they needed to conduct their war in Vietnam. He had once been pro-war. But then as part of his job, he got access to this huge report that had been produced by the Pentagon, which detailed decades of lying on behalf of the Presidents – from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon – where it became clear that each and every one of them lied to the American people about the reasons, and necessity, for invading Vietnam. Ellsberg at first tried to convince some of the war’s most outspoken critics to review the documents, and while they did, none of them were prepared to go public with the information. So instead, Ellsberg took the papers to the New York Times, and the rest is history. All the government’s dirty little secrets came out, and while it did not have the impact Ellsberg expected to have, it remains an important moment in American history.

The new documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (the title comes from what Richard Nixon called Ellsberg in the White House tapes), tells Ellsberg’s story from the time when he was a pro-war guy who helped to draft the plans for the war in Vietnam in the first place, to his slow dawning of what the real story was – and his move to try and end the war by leaking the highly classified papers. It is a fascinating documentary about that time.

The story is probably already well known to the people who lived through the Vietnam war. After all, Ellsberg was front page news for a few years, first when the papers themselves leaked, and then when he finally came to trial (the case was dismissed, because the government had so badly handled it). But since then, this chapter in history had faded into the background. After all, the war did not end when the papers were leaked. In fact, a year after they were, Nixon won a landslide reelection. It is not the Pentagon papers scandal that doomed the Nixon administration, but rather Watergate – although according to John Dean, the roots of Nixon’s downfall began during the Pentagon papers scandal.

But the story is still relevant for a number of reasons. As one of the many talking heads says, the last legacy of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers maybe the landmark Supreme Court case it inspired. The Nixon administration tried to stop the papers from being published altogether – they got an injunction against the New York Times, and when other papers took up the cause, they got injunctions against them as well. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not do that – and that is one of the key First Amendment cases in American history.

But the documentary is not just fascinating because of all the politics involved in it. Don’t get me wrong, it is fascinating because of them, but only so. The film is also a fascinating portrait of both Ellsberg, and his wife, and how the scandal almost destroyed their marriage, but ended up bringing them closer together.

The Most Dangerous Man in America is not a groundbreaking documentary in any sense. All the information in it could be found somewhere else – including the book it’s based on. But it is a fascinating documentary all the same. For those interested in that time period – and it is one of the periods in American history that most interests me – it is a must see.

Reactions to Canada's Fourth Hockey Game

I find I don’t have much to say about Canada’s game against Germany last night. It was probably their best overall game. There was not a moment in the game when Canada did look dominant over Germany last night. From Joe Thornton’s first period goal to make it one nothing, all the way through the three goals in the second period (including two by Jarome Iginla, playing well on the top line again and a monster blast by Shea Weber), all the way through the four goals scored in the third – including Rick Nash finally breaking through, Canada looked like the vastly superior team to Germany that they are. Roberto Luongo was solid in net last night. The two goals that Germany scored were the result of two defensive breakdowns by Canada, and cannot be blamed on Luongo – especially the second goal where he made a tremendous first save.

The line combinations also worked last night. Putting Eric Staal on with Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla resulted in three goals, and dominant play all night from the line. Of course the San Jose line of Heatley, Marleau and Thornton kept going strong – getting the games first goal. I liked Rick Nash with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry who had their best game of the tournament so far, but also liked Nash with Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards – which is the line he was on with for his goal. It will be interesting to see if they keep him there, and put Morrow on with Getzlaf and Perry, who also played well with both pairs. Toews, who has been one of Canada’s best, most consistent forwards, continues to do great no matter who they put out with, and Richards and Morrow continue to impress as well.

In terms of defensemen, I thought that once again Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith were Canada’s best two defensemen – although Shea Weber with that wicked shot that literally tore through the net, and a solid game overall was not far behind. Brent Seabrook had more ice time last night, and continued to impress me – making me believe that the big, defensive defensemen will see more ice time tonight against Russia. Scott Niedermayer played better than he had all tournament – and got a goal for his efforts as a bonus. Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle continued to struggle a bit – and that is why they didn’t get the ice time they are used to. Whether this is a sign of things to come, or whether Babcock is just trying to piss them off a little bit so they’ll play better, we won’t know until tonight.

So, now we have the marquee matchup we have waited all tournament for. Everyone knew that if either of these teams were to win gold, they would have to go through the other – everyone just thought it wouldn’t be this early – but screw ups by both teams have put them in this situation. The key tonight for Canada will be to get a great performance out of Luongo in net, be solid defensively, not take many penalties, and to get traffic in front of Nabokov in the Russian zone. If they do all those things, then I think Canada can win. Russia can be an explosively offsensive team – and since they put Semin, Ovenchkin and Malkin out together against the Czech’s, they have become even better. Despite all the talk of a Crosby/Ovechkin showdown, I suspect that both teams will try and keep them away from each other and match the other team’s best with more a shutdown group. I know I cannot wait.

Looking at the other quarter final games, I cannot help but want to see some sort of upset. Despite the fact that the Slovaks beat Russia in a shootout, and the Swiss pushed Canada to a shootout in the Round Robin, neither can be seen as all that shocking. The Latvians gave the Czechs all they could handle last night, forcing overtime, but the Czechs ended up prevailing.

So today, I will be cheering for the Swiss against the Americans. The Swiss have already proven they can shock powerhouses, and stayed with the Americans in their Round Robin Game where they lost 3-1. The key for them will be their goalie, Jonas Hiller, outplaying America’s Ryan Miller, and keeping the score low. Then anything can happen. I would also love for the Slovaks – who are always just outside the top 6 hockey powerhouses – to knock off the Swedes. In the game between the Finns and the Czechs there will be no upset no matter who wins (the same thing can be said about the game between the Canadians and the Russians). But I’ll cheer for the Czechs.

But we can analyze all that after today. No matter what happens tonight between Canada and Russia, I believe we are going to see a great game. Both teams will have to be better than they have been in the tournament so far. I cannot wait.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shutter Island - The Spoiler Review

Yesterday, I wrote my review of Shutter Island, but wasn’t able to go as deep into the detail of the film as I wanted to. If I did, I would have given the whole movie away, and that isn’t fair to people who haven’t seen the movie. So, if that’s what you want go read that review. Then, after you have seen the film, come back and read this. This one has tons of spoilers. So now that we’ve got rid of everyone who HAS NOT seen the film, let’s discuss the movie with no reason to hold back the secrets of the film.

As I said in my other review, I think Shutter Island is the type of film that works better when you know the secrets of the movie, then when you don’t. Having read the book, I knew what was coming, so I was able to let the movie wash over me. Instead of focusing on the plot – or what the movie is about – I was able to concentrate on Scorsese’s storytelling – or how the film is about what it is about. That is where Scorsese’s true talents as a filmmaker have always lied.

So, let’s just get this out of the way here and now, and come out with the movies big secret – Leonardo DiCaprio’s Teddy Daniels is not really a US Marshall sent to Shutter Island to investigate a missing patient. He is the patient, and everything that happens in the movie has been set up for his benefit. Unable to deal with his own guilt over what happened – that after the war, guilty about what happened over there, he came back a changed man, who was unable to see that his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) was a damaged woman. When she burned down their apartment building, he ignored the signs, and simply moved to his family to a lake house. One day after returning home from catching a criminal (he was, at that point, an actual US Marshall), he discovers that his wife has drowned their three kids in the lake behind their house. Mad with grief, Daniels kills his wife.

Daniels is unable to deal with these events in his life, so he has constructed an elaborate fantasy world while being imprisoned on Shutter Island. He is Teddy Daniels, US Marshall out to find the missing patient, Rachel Solondo, in the mental hospital where he is convinced they are playing the same sort of games, carrying out the same sort of experiments, as the Nazis did. His doctor, Mark Ruffalo, is his partner, and the head doctors, Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow, are evil men doing the experiments. In reality, Kingsley and Ruffalo are trying to help “Daniels”. If they cannot get him to accept reality, thus curbing his violent tendencies (he lashes out at anyone who refers to him by his real name, or confronts him with the truth), then von Sydow wants to give him a lobotomy. To give him a sense of peace and calm in his world.

In many ways, I thought that Teddy Daniels resembled another famous Martin Scorsese character – Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. Both have recently returned from the war, and although we never find out what happened to Travis in Vietnam, we do not that the experience has scarred him for life. With Daniels, we do find out what is haunting him. At Dachau, he saw the worst of what men can do to other men. The commander of the prison camp tried to kill himself when the Americans arrived, but messed up. Instead of having a quick death, he slowly bled to death for more than an hour. None of the Americans wanted to end his misery. The Americans then lined up all the guards at the camp, and in a mesmerizing tracking shot by Scorsese, we see them mow them all down. According to Daniels, this wasn’t warfare, it was murder. So when Daniels returned from the war, his guilt was already causing him trouble getting back to a normal life. When his wife started showing signs of mental illness – he ignored them, which led directly to her killing their children. He is no unable to forgive himself for that – he blames himself for the death of his children, and the death of his wife.

Like Bickle, Daniels lives in a world that is entirely of his own making. Bickle sees himself as some sort of avenging angel, taking out the trash on the streets of New York. He could avoid the areas he goes to, but then, his fantasy world wouldn’t be the same. He needs the filth, to help his fantasy world along. Both men are capable of bursts of extreme violence, that manifest itself in different ways. When Bickle shoots up the whorehouse at the end of Taxi Driver, and unwittingly becomes a hero – which will simply feed his fantasy life well after the movie ends – he doesn’t do it simply to save Jodie Foster, like he convinces himself he is. He is doing it because of all that pent up violence that he needs to get out – and his first attempt to assassinate the Presidential candidate was thwarted, meaning he had to look for another outlet. Bickle would have fit right in with the inmates in Shutter Island. The “men of violence” that Max von Sydow says are his specialty.

Watching Shutter Island, we become aware right from the beginning, that we are seeing all the proceedings from Teddy’s point of view, and yet we are unaware that we really cannot trust his point of view. There is something off about everything he sees though. Critics who were distracted by the booming soundtrack, and the strange point of view shots from inanimate objects, the matching shots that Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson litter the movie with, I don’t think every really thought about WHY Scorsese was shooting the movie in this way.

We sense something is off because of the way everyone treats DiCaprio’s character, and yet we can never really pinpoint what exactly it is. Why is Mark Ruffalo always so calm with Daniels, always so willing to agree with him, and try to soothe him? Why does Ruffalo, a supposed US Marshall, struggle with a task as simple as taking his gun out of its holster? Why does John Carol Lynch, the Assistant Warden who greets the Marshalls on their arrival, seem to be putting on an act of niceness, instead of actually being nice? Why is Ben Kingsley so willing to put up with all the questions, and insinuations, that Daniels makes, so willing to allow himself to indulge Daniels questions, whereas von Sydow is a little more strict? Why does Ted Levine, in his one scene of the warden, seem to regard Daniels with utter and complete contempt? Why do the inmates all seem to regard Daniels with confusion, as if they know who he is? Why, after all the lectures about how tightly controlled Ward C is, are DiCaprio and Ruffalo able to wander right in, and why does it seem like the orderly is talking down to DiCaprio when he discovers that he beat up an inmate?

Of course, when the secret of the movie is revealed, we know why all of these characters react they way they do, and more. What we don’t know, or at least aren’t 100% sure of, is what in the movie actually happens, and what is mere fantasy on the part of DiCaprio’s characters. Obviously, the visit with Rachel 2 (Patricia Clarkson) is complete fantasy, as is DiCaprio seeing Ruffalo’s lifeless body on the jagged rocks below. But how about the scene where Ruffalo seems to feed DiCaprio’s paranoia, by suggesting that he was lured there as a trap? Would Ruffalo, who is a doctor trying to cure DiCaprio, really feed him line? Or would Kingsley really just try and confuse DiCaprio more by telling him that he showed up on the island by himself with no partner? Or is this all part of the fantasy that DiCaprio has structured for himself?

Like Bickle, by the end of the movie Daniels has chosen the easier way out. Bickle fully intended to die in that whorehouse, as is evidenced by the shot of him putting him bloody hand to his temple like a gun and pulling the trigger. It is his own bad luck that he survives. Daniels on the other hand, has chosen a life of blissful ignorance. Knowing full well that he cannot go back to pretending – to living in his fantasy world where he is still a hero, and not a grief stricken man, haunted by his own feelings on guilt for not having saved his wife and kids, and what he did in the war, he chooses to become a zombie. He acts like he has reverted back into the fantasy – which he knows will result in him getting a lobotomy – but he lets Ruffalo in on his secret when he says “This place had made me wonder if it’s better to live as a monster, or die like a hero”. He knows what is coming, and he has chosen the ignorance to the reality.

The mark of an auteur, to me anyway, is that a filmmaker can take pretty much any film and make it their own. Put their own authoritative stamp on the film. Scorsese has always been able to do this. Of course, it has caused for some of less successful films like Boxcar Bertha, New York, New York and Cape Fear, where Scorsese’s sentiments were not really in line with the movie, and at times, actually seemed to fight the narrative (although, I will say I prefer that to Scorsese films like The Color of Money, or even Kundun, where Scorsese seems to take himself out of the movie completely). One of the wonderful things about Shutter Island is that Scorsese fools you into thinking that he simply making a genre film. That he has decided to simply make homage to Hitchcock and film noir. It’s not really until the final scenes in the movie – perhaps the very last one, when DiCaprio delivers his very last line – that you realize just what a complex movie this really is. The film falls right in line with the other films of Scorsese’s career, which often are about men who do not really like themselves, and construct different ways of dealing with that. Not only Bickle in Taxi Driver, but Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, who is driven to violence by his sexual jealously, Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy, who creates a world for himself where he is the celebrity he believes he is entitled to be, Henry Hill in GoodFellas, who hates himself for ratting on his friends, Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence, who denies himself what he wants most, Frank in Bringing Out the Dead, who thinks that if he just saves one person, he can save himself, Howard Hughes in The Aviator, who locks himself away from the world, and both Billy and Colin in The Departed, who move slowly toward their own doom. Hel, even Jesus Christ in The Last Temptation of Christ, fits here. It is not a stretch to say that many of these characters could, at some point after the movie ends (assuming they are alive of course), could end up in a mental hospital (in fact, in the Infernal Affairs trilogy, which The Departed was based on, the character that Damon is based on doesn’t get killed at the end of the film, and by the end of the trilogy, is in fact, in a mental hospital). Shutter Island, which has all the markings of a thriller, and works on that level as a great one, is not really about its thriller elements at all. It is about Teddy, and his slow dawning of realization of who he actually is – which is something he cannot deal with.



Many critics will, and have already, dismissed the movie as little more than genre piffle – even some of the critics who liked it. There will be some who chose to see it as little more than a well made genre film with an M. Night Shyamalan type twist at the end. And if you want to see the film that way, fine. But Shutter Island is a movie that simply expands in your mind after you are done watching it. If it doesn’t quite rank among the very best films of Scorsese’s career, that’s because Scorsese has made more masterpieces than any living filmmaking. I have a feeling however, that over time, critics will recognize Shutter Island for the great movie it is.

Movie Review: Defendor

Defendor ** ½
Directed By:
Peter Stebbings.
Written By: Peter Stebbings.
Starring: Woody Harrelson (Arthur Poppington / Defendor), Kat Dennings (Kat), Elias Koteas (Chuck Dooney), Sandra Oh (Dr. Park), Michael Kelly (Paul Carter), Kristin Booth (Wendy Carter), Michael Cram (Blake), Dakota Goyo (Jack Carter).

If you are a regular movie goer, you have probably seen the preview for the upcoming movie Kick Ass, that opens with a guy dressed up like a super hero doing a swan dive off of a skyscraper, as the narrator informs us that the guy is not him, but some “with a history of mental problems”. Peter Stebbings Defendor is like a feature based on that guy.

Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) lives in a city that is obviously based on Hamilton, although they never really name it (they do however say that the nickname of the city is Hammerville, and the local paper is The Spectator). Arthur is a little slow in the head, and has been arrested for assaulting someone. He tells his story to the court appointed psychologist (Sandra Oh). He explains how he is Defendor, a superhero who protects the city. Because he misunderstood what his grandfather told him as a child, he believes that his mother died because someone named Captain Industry, gave her drugs. Now, he is out to stop the drugs on the streets. Defendor is not much of a superhero – of course he has no powers, and more often than not, he is the one who ends up getting beat up.

On his rounds, Arthur meets Kat (Kat Dennings), a young prostitute and crack addict, who befriends him. At first, she simply uses him for a place to stay, and a source for money. But gradually, she warms to him. No man has ever been nice to her before, without wanting something in return – certainly not her father, and not Chuck Dooney (Elias Koteas) either, who is the dirty cop that Arthur meets on his rounds. Through Kat, he starts to discover a corrupt ring of cops, bikers and gangsters who are responsible for the drugs, and Defendor is determined to bring them down.

Woody Harrelson is coming off a great year in 2009, where he delivered three strong performances – he was the best thing about the bad 2012, and was wonderful in Zombieland and The Messenger (for which he received an Oscar nomination). He carries Defendor, and makes the movie, which is at times poorly written and obvious, extremely watchable, and almost enjoyable. I was surprised how much I came to care about his character by the end of the movie. Kat Dennings, Elias Koteas (who continues his streak of performances as utter sleazebags) and Sandra Oh are all fine in support, but this really is Harrelson’s show. He embraces this role that is really far out there, and grounds it in some sort of reality. He is the reason to see the movie.


The movie that surrounds Harrelson is merely okay. It is obvious that Stebbings is much more interested in his character than in telling any sort of real story, and so the beats the story hits are rather perfunctory. If he had put Defendor and Arthur Poppington into a story that deserved him, then this could have been an excellent little movie. He didn’t – but Defendor remains an interesting movie.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island

Shutter Island ****
Directed By:
Martin Scorsese.
Written By: Laeta Kalogridis based on the novel by Dennis Lehane.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Teddy Daniels), Mark Ruffalo (Chuck Aule), Ben Kingsley (Dr. Cawley), Max von Sydow (Dr. Naehring), Michelle Williams (Dolores), Emily Mortimer (Rachel 1), Patricia Clarkson (Rachel 2), Jackie Earle Haley (George Noyce), Ted Levine (Warden), John Carroll Lynch (Deputy Warden McPherson), Elias Koteas (Laeddis).

Shutter Island maybe one of those rare movies that work better when you already know the surprises and twists of the story. Having read the book before seeing the movie, I knew what the twists of the plots were, so I was able to sit back and just let the movie wash over me. It is a grand, madhouse caper from Martin Scorsese, who love of Alfred Hitchcock and film noir are evident in every frame of this movie. As with the great movies by Hitchcock, you watch the movie once to get the story, and then watch it again to see what the master does, how he plays with the audience’s unease, and unsettles and disturbs us. The plot of the movie – the twists, the turns – is not really the point of the movie at all.

The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall in 1954 who is sent to mental institution on Shutter Island, off the coast of Maine, with his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) to investigate the disappearance of an inmate named Rachel (Emily Mortimer). No one can figure out what happened to her, as there is no way she should have been able to escape her room, and even if she did, she still had to get by many orderlies on her way out. She has to still be on the island – there is nothing there except for the mental institution, and the only way off is a ferry. This mental institution is for the criminally insane – everyone there is a murderer of some kind or another. Rachel herself drowned her three kids, and refuses to accept reality. She still believes that she is at home, and everyone around her are delivery men and neighbors.

For the moment that they arrive on Shutter Island, there is something not quite right about what is going on. Everyone regards Daniels in a strange way – a mixture of kindness, contempt and pity is in pretty much everyone’s eyes. As he and Chuck start investigating, they keep getting stonewalled by the kindly Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who is different from his peers in that he rejects the old way of doing things – which was essentially torture, followed by a lobotomy if that didn’t work – and the new way of giving the patients drugs. He prefers to talk to his patients, and treat them that way. Give them a sense of calm. Daniels is less sympathetic – screw their sense of calm he tells Cawley.

As with many of the movies of the era that Scorsese is referencing here, the war hangs over the entire film. It haunts Daniels memory, as we get flashbacks to his time in the war when he was among the people who liberated Dachau. And it haunts his memories of his wife (Michelle Williams), who died in a house fire. When he gets to Shutter Island, he starts to suspect the same sort of experiments are going on here, as what he fought against in the war.

Shutter Island may seem like a departure for Scorsese. He has rarely worked in the horror/thriller genre before. His previous effort, Cape Fear, while somewhat underrated, is still one of Scorsese’s lesser efforts. In that film, Scorsese had trouble melding his favorite themes of guilt and redemption to the thriller narrative. But no such problems exist in this movie. While the film has all the genre trappings of the a thriller – and Scorsese revels in them – at its heart it really is a film that touches on his favorite themes. Daniels is a man who is collapsing under the weight of the guilt he feels about his past. When he is asked if he believes in God, all he can do is smirk. Seeing what he has seen, how can he still believe in God?

I want to go into more detail about how Daniels – and DiCaprio’s remarkable performance in the role – really does fall in line with other Scorsese heroes, but I think in doing so, I would be giving too much of the plot away, and I do not want to do that. What I will say is that Shutter Island is one of the best made films of the year – and will likely remain so for all of 2010. Scorsese’s restless camera probes the grounds of Shutter Island, and corridors of the hospital. He gives the entire movie an mounting sense of doom and dread. Violence is just around the corner at every step of the movie. Scorsese does an excellent job at showing, not telling, us what is going on. He gives us visual clues throughout the movie as to what is going on, often with only the slightest movement telling us more than we think possible. He does an excellent job of getting great performances out of his cast – not just DiCaprio, who slowly unravels brilliantly – but the entire cast around him. Shutter Island has already been compared to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. And while I do not think that this film is that good – or even among the very best films of Scorsese’s career – it is still a great film. To a certain extent, Shutter Island is Scorsese playing around in one of his favorite genres. But he has found a story that still addresses his obsessions. I would rather see Scorsese play around, than I would most directors play something completely seriously.

The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

Every year, I try to take in the Oscar Nominated Short Films. I am disappointed that the Documentary Shorts never release themselves into theaters, but I have a lot of fun watching the Animated Shorts, and the Live Action shorts often give you a glimpse at good filmmaker in the future. This past weekend, I checked out the Animated shorts – which consisted of the five nominees and three that were “Highly Commended”. I won’t go in the order they were shown, but rather I’ll cover the Highly Commended, before moving onto the actual nominees. Below are my thoughts on all eight shorts.

Highly Commended
The Kinematograph **
Directed By: Tomek Baginski.

This was undoubtedly my least favorite of all the film shown. It is a computer generated animated short (like they all are, save one), about a man in Poland who is working on the first movie camera. He spends so much time working on his invention, that he doesn’t notice the fact that his wife has TB – although we do because she coughs a few times, and that is never a good sign for a movie character. The film does have an impressive visual look to be sure, but I was just not very drawn into the story. In short film, the characters are often little more than cookie cutter creations – as the short running time pretty much demands – but this film tries to get to care too much about its characters in too short a period of time. It doesn’t work. At 12 minutes, the film drags a little bit here and there as well.

Partly Cloudy ***
Directed By: Peter Sohn.

Most people have probably already seen this short from Pixar, as it played at the beginning of Up earlier this year. This second viewing confirmed what I thought the first time – which this is a highly enjoyable little short that tugs at the heartstrings but it is not in the same league as Pixar’s best shorts. The story is about a cloud that creates babies, and the stork that delivers them for him. While all the other storks get to deliver puppies, and kittens and babies, this cloud creates more monstrous things like crocodiles, which really do a number on the poor stork. The film is enjoyable, and was with everything Pixar makes, brilliantly animated, but it does repeat itself a little bit. Even if I would have placed it in the final five over some of the actual nominees, I do understand why for the first time in a while, Pixar went without a nomination.

Runaway ** ½
Directed By: Cordell Baker.

As the only non-computer animated film, and one from Canada, as I was doubly rooting for Cordell Baker’s film to be something special. But aside from a wonderful score, this was one of the lesser efforts on display. The film is a about a train with three cars – the engine, the car right behind full of rich people, and the car behind them with poor people in it. I certainly understand what Baker is going for here – the rich get richer, exploit the poor, and don’t realize that right around the bend there is massive trouble. They are happy as long as just that minute is perfect. But for such a simple message, Baker takes a while getting there, and he starts to repeat himself. As well, he didn’t need the voices of any of the people to be here – it would have been far more effective had it left it out. Runaway is a mildly enjoyable little short, but like the other films in the “highly commended” section; I understand why it didn’t get picked to be an actual nominee.

The Nominees
French Roast ***
Directed By: Fabrice Joubert.

This film from France (surprise, surprise), is a charming, wordless little film that only lasts about 7 seven minutes, but is still quite enjoyable. In it, a rich man is sitting in a café having a coffee, when a homeless person comes in and begs for change – and the rich man ignores him. Then, it turns out that the rich guy forgot his wallet. Rather than admit his mistake, he orders coffee after coffee, to stretch out the time he’s there – and even toys with the idea of stealing money out of an old ladies’ purse. The computer animation is quite good, and the film has a fun, jaunty score. No, the film doesn’t really mean anything, and the denouement is exactly what I expected about 30 seconds into the short, but it is a fun little film nonetheless.

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty *** ½
Directed By: Nicky Phelan & Darragh O'Connell

The shortest film in competition is also one of the out and out funniest. It has an Irish grandmother telling her grandson the story of Sleeping Beauty, with her own demented take on it. The result is an hilarious little bedtime story that pretty much forgets about Sleeping Beauty, and instead focuses on the “young, pretty” fairies, all of whom ignored the old fairy, with the bad hip (who, of course, looks just like Granny O’Grimm), even though “she spent her life serving the community”. A great blend of computer animation, and hand drawn, this movie is hilarious from start to finish – yes even the song over the end credits is wonderful.

The Lady and the Reaper ** ½
Directed By: Javier Recio Gracia

This was my least favorite of the five nominees – and to be honest, I definitely would have nominated Partly Cloudy over this, and possibly Runaway as well. While this short gets off to a very promising start with its great use of the song “We’ll Meet Again”, as an old lady looks at a picture of her beloved dead husband. It looks promising as the Grim Reaper appears, and starts to lead her away. But right before they are going to pass through to the other side, she is brought back to life by a hunky doctor, thus setting off a madcap battle for the woman between the Reaper and the Doctor, complete with an unnecessarily long sequence where everyone pops in and out of draws. The film has a wonderful visual look, and some great comic moments. But when a short film starts to repeat itself at only 8 minutes, and cannot come up with something more original than a sequence straight out of Bugs Bunny, you know you’re in a little trouble.

Logorama ****
Directed By: Nicolas Schmerkin

For me, Logorama was far and away the highlight of the this short film package. This was a brilliant, 17 minute long comic, crime story where everyone and everything in the movie is a logo, or corporate symbol of some kind. The bad guy in Ronald McDonald, and the cops are all Michelin men. They chase McDonald through an environment of all where every building is a logo. A hostage crisis and shootout breaks out (poor Mr. Peanut). The film is smart, funny, original and daring. Brilliant usage of the logos in both ways we expect, and in ways we don’t (the cracks forming in the earth and looking like the X box logo was sheer brilliance), and the film does have a serious (albeit obvious) point about how corporate culture is destroying us. This is the only short here I would describe as a must see.

Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death *** ½
Directed By: Nick Park.

Finally we come to the final, and (at 30 minutes) by far, longest of the films in contention. Nick Park’s beloved Wallace and Gromit return for their 6th adventure in the last 20 years. As usual, the film is full of great cinematic references to classic Hollywood films – both obvious and subtle. The main thrust of the story this time is Wallace and Gromit are now bakers, and Wallace falls in love with the Bake O Lite girl, a spokeswoman for bread, who Gromit believes could be the serial killer who is killing bakers in their town. The film is delightfully, drolly British and fun throughout. I do not think it reaches the heights of some of the other Wallace and Gromit adventures (and is nowhere near as good as the feature The Curse of the Wererabbit), but it’s hard to complain about a film this much fun.

Reactions to Canada's Third Hockey Game

Canada lost to America last night for two reasons: Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur. To say that Miller out goal tended Brodeur last night would be an understatement. Miller was absolutely brilliant. Brodeur was average at best. Had Brodeur played half as well as Miller did in last night’s game, Canada probably would have won. But he didn’t. Not even close.

This isn’t to say that Brodeur is the only thing wrong with Team Canada right now. Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer both had off games last night, and once again the power play (despite Crosby’s late PP goal) was misfiring. Canada took too many penalties to start the third period – something they had to know was eventually going to cost them a goal, which it did. I remain unimpressed with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in this tournament as well. They have been Canada’s two weakest forwards to this point in the tournament. And Canada could have helped themselves out a little bit by shooting higher on Miller. Everything close to the ice, he pretty much had – those were where his truly brilliant saves came from.

But the fact of the matter is, when you are in a tournament like this, your goalie has to be your best player. Miller was last night for America, Brodeur wasn’t. It wasn’t just that he gave up some weak goals, it was when he gave them up that cost us.

The first goal of the game, coming 41 seconds in, hurt Canada. Yes, America was fore checking well on that opening shift, and the puck took a bounce off of Crosby’s stick to beat Brodeur, but still, it was not an overly hard shot, and had Brodeur’s positioning been better, he still could have had it. But Canada fought back, and dominated the game from that point on and eventually got the tying goal. And it’s then when I think Martin Brodeur made the stupidest play I have ever seen him make in net.

Brodeur is usually the best puck handling goalie in the NHL. So what made him come out of his net and bat the puck out of the air like a baseball is beyond me. He gave it right to the Americans, who beat Brodeur on a weak shot. Really, that play is two mistakes by Brodeur – one the batting of the puck out of the air, the other was his flailing around trying to stop a very weak shot because he was out of position. He had time to recover from his stupid first move, but didn’t.

From there on, Brodeur played okay. The third and fourth goal that America scored weren’t spectacular Bv any means, but they are goals that many goalies would have let in. And Brodeur settled down handling the puck after that and made smart plays with it. He made two breakaway saves that helped keep Canada in the game. But by then, Canada was stuck playing catch-up like they had all game. And the Americans, playing with the lead, where able to shut Canada down enough, limiting their really good scoring chances, and letting Miller take care of the rest.

No, Brodeur is not the only reason why Canada now faces a Qualifying game against Germany on Tuesday, and if they win, a Quarter Final Match-Up against Russia. No matter how hot a goalie is, Canada has enough high powered offense, that they should be able to score more goals. Brodeur has been solid, but not spectacular, in his two games so far. But when the big moments come, that is when Brodeur is struggling. He should have had the first goal the Swiss scored on him, and he should have had at least two of the goals America scored. Those goals were all momentum shifters. I think it’s pretty clear that Roberto Luongo should get the start against Germany, and should be given the reins for the rest of the tournament for Canada – however long that is. He played a perfect game against the Norwegians – true, it wasn’t that tough, but still, he can’t be faulted for that. He will have the Vancouver fans behind him, and I think he will respond well.

This is not the time to panic if you’re Canada. You can’t – because if you do, you will most definitely lose. It is also not the time to look past Germany and at the Russians. The Germans gave the Swedes all they could handle in their first game (Sweden’s first goal, in a 2-0 victory should not have counted, as it was clearly goaltender interference). You have to look at the positives. The game against Germany gives Canada a chance to regroup. Another game to get used to each other, and try out different line combinations. A further chance to work on the power play, and the penalty kill. And a game to get Luongo, or should they stick with him, Brodeur, a chance to get his legs under him and prepare for the tougher games ahead.

I also think though that it is time that Canada make some adjustments. You know Canada’s best defensemen were last night? Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty. Brent Seabrook was almost as good as they were, with far less ice time. Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer made costly mistakes. Dan Boyle and Shea Weber were for much of the game invisible out there – which at least means they were not making big mistakes. And you know what forward line I was most impressed with last night? Toews, Ignilia and Morrow. They were a high energy group who banged bodied, and created chances. Once again, I think that Getzlaf and Perry were not as strong as they could be, and while the third player on that line, Eric Staal, was good, he still took a stupid penalty. The San Jose line of Thornton, Marleau and Heatley were once again strong (although they need to get the puck to the net on the power play), and I think Richards worked out very well with Crosby and Nash – making that another high energy line (they need to actually score a little more though). It is time for Team Canada to reward the players doing good, and sit the players who are not performing up to their level.

Do I still believe that Canada can win Gold in this tournament? Yes. They sure didn’t make it easy on themselves though. Bring on the Germans! Then the Russians! Then the Swedes!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Movie Review: Fish Tank

Fish Tank ****
Directed By:
Andrea Arnold.
Written By: Andrea Arnold.
Starring: Katie Jarvis (Mia), Michael Fassbender (Connor), Harry Treadaway (Kyle), Kierston Wareing (Joanne), Jason Maza (Liam), Charlotte Collins (Sophie).

Mia is 15 years old, lives in the projects and dreams of being a dancer. But Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank is anything but yet another inspiring story of a young girl who comes from nothing to make something of herself. By the end of the movie, she is just as lost as she was at the beginning – perhaps more so given everything that happens to her during the course of the film.

Katie Jarvis plays Mia in an honest, moving performance. Her seemingly one friend has abandoned her at the start to hang out with a more popular group of girl dancers. So Mia is left by herself to practice – which is does in an abandoned apartment. I am far from a dance expert, but I have watched a lot of So You Think You Can Dance, and my advice to Mia would be to get some actual training, as while she’s good, she is hardly ready for a dance career. But Mia would probably just tell me to fuck off if I suggested that to her. That’s the kind of girl she is.

Or is it? Mia puts on a tough exterior, because she pretty much has to. Her mother Joanne (Kierston Warring) is a drunk and doesn’t pay her any attention whatsoever unless there are other people around. Mia has pretty much dropped out of school and spends her days practicing her dancing, and walking around. It’s on one of these walks that she comes across a horse chained up. She tries to free the horse, but is confronted by the owners – three brothers not much older than she is. The confrontation quickly turns scary, and Mia runs away, but eventually she goes back. The one brother there, Kyle (Harry Treadaway) isn’t as macho without his brothers around. He and Mia actually hit it off.

It is around this time that Connor (Michael Fassbender) enters Mia’s life. He is another in her mother’s seemingly never ending parade of boyfriends (Mia and Sophie’s father, or fathers, are never mentioned), but unlike any other adult in Mia’s life, he takes an interest in her. He is kind and nice to her – encouraging her to make a demo to send in for an ad for female dancers that she sees. We suspect, and I bet Connor does as well, that the ad is for strippers but Mia believes this could be her break. But although Connor is nice to her, he is perhaps too nice. He looks at her a little too long and although he doesn’t cross the line (at least not at first) physically with Mia, there is certainly a flirtation between the two of them, and a physical closeness.

I couldn’t help but think of another recent movie, An Education, while watching Fish Tank. Both films detail the relationship between a young girl and an older man, and although they are set nearly 50 years apart, they hit many similar notes. Both girls are too naïve to see what is really going on, and allow themselves to let their guard down and be hurt. Both girls see a way out in the man, who represents what they think they want. Whereas An Education ends on a happy note, Fish Tank leaves things uncertain. Is Mia going to be okay, or not? We are not sure.

The performances in the movie are wonderful. Jarvis is perfect as a young woman who wants to be an adult, but cannot quite figure out how. She is both tough and vulnerable, and no matter what direction the screenplay takes her in, she is wonderful. She is equally good at dialogue, and those quiet scenes where he expressive eyes do the talking for her. Michael Fassbender has quickly become one of my favorite actors (this is the fourth time I’ve seen him this year after Hunger, Eden Lake and Inglorious Basterds), and this is probably his best performance to date. Outwardly friendly, there is something about his eyes we do not entirely trust. In the scene where he finally does cross a line, he plays masterfully. In a just world, both of these actors would get Oscar nominations this year.

Andrea Arnold has quietly become one of the most interesting filmmakers around. With her short film, Wasp, she won an Oscar. In her two features, Red Road and now Fish Tank, she shows an easy command of the medium and delivers movies that have a mystery to them, and still remain heartfelt. There are few movies this year that feel more touchingly real than Fish Tank.

Reactions to Canada's Second Hockey Game

Canada can make all the excuses they want, but the bottom line is they should have been able to beat the Swiss, without going all the way to a shootout. This is not fatal for Canada - as long as they beat the Americans on Sunday, they will still win their pool, and get a buy into the quarter finals. But losing that one point will most likely mean they are ranked lower. What that means is a tougher quarter final matchup, and if they win that a tougher semi-final matchup. I think it is unlikely that the at least one of the Russia or Sweden will not win all three of their games - in regulation - meaning that at best, Canada will be ranked second or third. Of course, this assumes that they beat the Americans, which is by no means a given. If they lose to the Americans, they can still move on - but it most likely means that they will have to play another game to get to the quarter finals.

The first period of last night's game was a repeat of the first period against Norway - except this time, Canada scored a goal. They were trying to be too pretty with the puck, and the Swiss are a hard working team, and intercepted a lot of passes, and blocked a lot of shots. The goal Canada did score was a beauty though, and shows what Canada needs to do. Great forechecking by Jonathan Toews freed up the puck, a smart pass by Patrick Marleau gave Heatley an easy goal, after a nice move. In short, Canada outworked the Swiss, and were rewarded for it. This didn't happen as often as it should have in period 1.

Canada started period two with a bang, with Patrick Marleau's power play goal less than a minute in. Again, smart playing here - a shot from the point through traffic (provided by Heatley), a rebound that Marleau roofed. This line is on fire for Canada. Unfortunately, this was the only power play goal Canada got - the Swiss killed penalaties very effectively all night long.

But a strange thing happened after Canada got the second goal. It seemed to energize the Swiss, who went on the attack, and dictated the play for the rest of the period. Canada sat back and let the Swiss do it as well. True, Drew Doughty screwed up on Switzerland's first goal - neither being able to hold the line, nor get back into the play (he was manhandled though), but Brodeur should have had that one. It was a nice shot, but Brodeur saw it all the way. The second Swiss goal, with just a few seconds left in the period was a fluke - bad luck for Canada, but those will happen.

Strangely enough, the best period Canada played was the third - and it was the only one where they didn't get a goal. They took the play to the Swiss for almost the entire period, and it was only the play of goalie Jonas Hiller that sent the game to overtime. Canada was finally moving the puck better, and getting more quality chances. Much the same could be said about the overtime, where Canada dictated the play, but could not get the puck by Hiller.

The shootout was where Canada was finally able to put the Swiss away, but even that took effort. Crosby tried to get too fancy on his first attempt, and it failed miserably. Toews had the right idea with his attempt, and was just beat by a superior save. I don't know what the hell Getzlaf was trying to do. On his second chance, Crosby made no mistake. Canada was lucky that Brodeur played well in the shootout, or else it wouldn't have even got there.

I have no idea why the Canadians were not able to beat the Swiss in regulation. Yes, the Swiss have improved greatly over the years. They are currently ranked 7th in the world, which puts them just behind the big six powerhouses. Yes, Hiller is a world class goalie, who was the only reason why the Swiss got to overtime in the first place. Yes, they play a boring trap style of hockey that frustrated Canada all night long, and they worked harder than any team I have seen in this tournament.

But the bottom line is that most of the Swiss team is made up of players in the AHL, the Swiss league or the Swedish elite league. Meaning, that most of their plays are not good enough to make the NHL. And considering that Canada's team is made up of NHL all stars, they should have won. You can put it all on a hot goaltender if you want to, but does Canada really expect that Nabokov, Voukon, Lundqvist, Kipprusoff or Miller are not going to be as good as Hiller? Canada needs to find a way to generate more offense, something they didn't have to worry about against Norway.

Things to Watch For

After Switzerland's first goal, Drew Doughty was benched for the rest of the second period. He's a young kid, at 20, and he's going to make mistakes out there. They put him back out quite a bit in the third, but it will be interesting to see how much ice time he gets in the bigger games.

Both Jarome Iginla and Brent Seabrook didn't play very much, if at all, in the third period. Are they hurt? I haven't heard much about it today, so I doubt it, but watch for them in the game against the Americans.

In Iginla's absence, Jonathan Toews moved up to the line with Crosby and Nash in the third period - and he fit right in. The didn't score, but they definitely generated more chances than they had up until that point. It will interesting to see if Iginla moves back to play with Crosby, or if they will keep him with Mike Richards and Brendan Morrow, to get a more physical line out there.

What this does the Canada's goaltending situation is unclear. I doubt much. Yes, Brodeur should have had that first goal, but he cannot be blamed for the second one - that was nothing more than a fluke. And for the rest of the game, Brodeur played strong - and made better saves than Luongo had to in his shut out. If I were the coaching staff of Canada, I would go with whatever goalie I was planning on anyway against America.

I hope that this is just a bump in the road for Canada. It should serve as a wake-up call that they are not going to just roll through this tournament. Bring on the Americans!

UPDATE:

I did not know when I wrote this that the Slovaks had upset Russia in a shootout last night. This is great news for Canada, and sets up a scenario where they can still finish 1 after the Round Robin. Let's just assume that the Czechs are able to beat Lativa today, and that the Swedes and Finns were also beat their teams as they should. This would set up the following scenario for this weekend's marquee matchups.

Pool A - Canada (5 points) vs. USA (6 points)
Pool B - (Russian 4 points) vs. Czech Repulic (6 points)
Pool C- Sweden (6 points) vs. Finaldn (6 points)

In the following scenario, Canada could still finish first. If they beat the USA in regulation, they'll have 8 points and win their pool. If Russian beats the Czechs in regulation, they'll win their pool with 7 points. If Sweden or Finland wins in Overtime or a Shoot-Out, they'll win their pool with 8 points, putting them into a tie with Canada, at which point it comes down to goal differential, which Canada has done well at because of the 8-0 win against Norway. Of course, if the Czechs win in overtime as well, they'll win their pool with 8 points, so it could be a three way tie on top.

Of course, this all presumes that Canada beats the USA in regulation. Even if they beat USA in overtime or a shootout, they'll still win the pool - but will likely finish 3rd. And if the Czechs win in regulation, and so does Sweden or Finland, then they'll still finish 3rd, but have a buy into the quarters.

The nightmare scenario would be Canada losing to the USA, either in regulation - in which they would definitely not get a buy into the quarters - or in overtime - in which case they probably will not get a buy into the quarters. Remember, only 4 teams get that buy into the quarter finals - meaning that at least two of the top 6 teams outlined above, will have to play an additional game to get to the quarters. Canada doesn't want to do that.

So there you have it. Canada could still come in 1st overall coming out of the round robin. But they could also finish as low as 6th. It all depends on what happenes this weekend.

Inglorious Basterds Artwork

I'm posting these for no real reason other than the fact that I love them. These are all original artwork that they are apparently auctioning off this week to support the Haiti relief effort. I love these posters, all from great artists. If only studios would have the balls to actually use posters like this. They are all great in their way (my favorite is the one with the eagle, my least favorite is probably the one with the drawing of the actual actors in the movie - but even that is great). Inglorious Basterds already had the best poster art of the year - this just makes it even better.



50 Most Anticipated Films of 2010: Part V

10. The Killer Inside Me
Directed By: Michael Winterbottom.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba.
Why? Jim Thompson’s novel of the same name is one of the darkest, most violent, most twisted looks at the mind of a psychopath that I have ever read. Casey Affleck is perfect for the role of a mild mannered Southern Sheriff in the 1950s who hides behind his outwardly dopey appearance a truly remorseless killer. Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba have not impressed me much so far in their careers – or at least not in a while – but I never miss a Winterbottom film – as he always makes such interesting diverse films.

9. Green Zone
Directed By: Paul Greengrass.
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnears, Jason Issacs, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan.
Why? Greengrass, the director of the second and third Bourne movies, along with United 93 and Bloody Sunday, is among the best action filmmakers in the world right now. His latest film, set in Iraq where a weapons inspector (Matt Damon) becomes increasingly curious as to why he isn’t finding any weapons, looks to be another intense, edge of your seat thriller. I cannot wait.

8. Rabbit Hole
Directed By: John Cameron Mitchell.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Sandra Oh, Dianne Wiest.
Why? John Cameron Mitchell is a complete original behind the camera. His first film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch was one of the great rock musicals of all time. His follow-up film, Shortbus, took the conventions of porn and turned them on its ear, making something playful and erotic, but not dirty – almost impossible to do when your actor are actually having sex. The film is based on the recent Pulitzer Prize winning play, and although it sounds more conventional, and certainly more star driven, than Mitchell’s previous work, I have faith that this one of kind director will make something great.

7. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Directed By: Oliver Stone.
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia Labeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella.
Why? Oliver Stone is one of my favorite directors of all time, and the original Wall Street was part of his great 10 year run from 1986 to 1995. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko is one of the most iconic characters of the 1980s, and he is still more than relevant today, given the current state of the economy, and Wall Street’s hand on bringing us there. With Brolin, Mulligan and Langella also on board, this is a great cast, and I cannot wait to see what Stone does this time out.

6. The Social Network
Directed By: David Fincher.
Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, Max Minghella.
Why? Normally a movie about the founding of Facebook starring Justin Timberlake would be nowhere near a list like this. But it ranks this high for one reason: director David Fincher. His Zodiac was one of the very best films of the decade, and his last film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a dark stunner, that I felt was misunderstood by too many. I have complete faith that Fincher will make one of the more interesting films of the year with this one (the fact the Aaron Sorkin wrote it, also fills me with joy).

5. True Grit
Directed By: Joel & Ethan Coen.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin.
Why? I will admit to not being a huge fan of the Henry Hathaway original, which won John Wayne his only Oscar. It’s a solid Western, but nothing special. But this is the Coen’s after all, and it has been said that they will stick closer to Charles Portis’ well regarded novel – which is said to have a quirky, offbeat sense of humor – rather than remaking the original film. I have been accused of being a Coen Brothers fan boy, a charge that is hard to refute since I do generally love the brothers. This time, reteaming with Jeff Bridges (who will take over for John Wayne) and Josh Brolin (who will be the bad guy), and throwing in Matt Damon I cannot wait to see what happens. Still no word on who is playing Mattie, the little girl at the heart of the movie though.

4. Shutter Island
Directed By: Martin Scorsese.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffallo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Hayley.
Why? It’s frickin’ Martin Scorsese! It has now been four years since The Departed, and I have been anxiously awaiting the new feature by my favorite director of all time. I am not worried about the fact that the film was pushed back from the fall – as from what I understand it was a business decision and not an artistic one (the film apparently had great test screenings). Based on a atmospheric Dennis Lehane novel (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), this looks like it could be Scorsese returning to Cape Fear territory. I do hope it’s better than that film, but I do think that Cape Fear is an underrated thriller. A solid cast helps makes this one of my must sees from the first part of the year.

3. The Tree of Life
Directed By: Terence Malick.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastin, Fiona Shaw.
Why? Since ending his self imposed 20 year exile for moviemaking, director Malick has made two masterpieces – The Thin Red Line and The New World. His films are slow and methodical, and usually shrouded in secrecy (the only plot description I can find for this movie is rather cryptic. Penn has worked with Malick before, and Pitt delivered his best performance in Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which felt like a Malick movie, so I have no doubt both will be great. Every time Malick steps behind the camera, it is a major cinematic event.

2. Black Swan
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder
Why? Normally a psychological thriller about a ballerina, who’s rival may or may not be in her head, would not rank this high on my list – even with the presence of Natalie Portman, one of my favorite actresses, along with the solid supporting cast of Kunis, Cassell and Ryder. But considering this is by Darren Aronofsky, who I thought hit new heights with his last film, The Wrestler, this moved up the list quickly. He is always an ambitious, and brilliant filmmaker, so I cannot wait for this one.

1.Inception
Directed By: Christopher Nolan.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cottilard.
Why? I have no idea what this movie is about, but I hardly care. Christopher Nolan has made nothing but wonderful films – Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. That cast is amazing, and Nolan has proved himself to be an interesting filmmaker every time out. Shrouded in secrecy, this is about a CEO who gets involved in some sort of blackmail scandal – but that’s only the beginning of the film. I have no idea if this is going to be the best film of the year, but right now, it is the one I am most anxiously awaiting.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

50 Most Anticipated Films of 2010 Part IV

20. Greenberg
Directed By: Noah Baumbach.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Greta Gerwig.
Why? When writer/director Noah Baumbach is not helping Wes Anderson with his screenplays, he makes remarkably funny, insightful movies in his own right. His The Squid and the Whale is one of the best movies ever about divorce, and his Margot at the Wedding is very much underrated. His latest, with Ben Stiller as a middle aged slacker, may be a little too hipster to me, but I have to admit the preview makes me laugh every single time – and I have faith that Baumbach will make something truly intelligent.

19. Biutiful
Directed By: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu.
Starring: Javier Bardem, Bianca Portillo, Martina Garcia, Ruben Ochandiano
Why? Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu has three solid films behind him – Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, the first two I think are genuinely great. Here, he returns to his original language – Spanish – and casts one of the best actors in the world in Javier Bardem. The story is being kept under wraps, but with these two, it has to rank high on my list.

18. Never Let Me Go
Directed By: Mark Romanek.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins.
Why? I have heard about Kazuo Ishigiro’s novel for years (and it is next on my list of books to read), so I am looking forward to what sounds like an interesting mixture of English boarding school drama, and sci-fi dystopia. With Knightley and Mulligan heading the cast (and a great supporting cast to boot) and Romanek (One Hour Photo) at the helm, this looks like it could fill the void of intelligent sci-fi.

17. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/The Girl Who Played With Fire
Directed By: Niels Arden Oplev & Daniel Aflredson.
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber
Why? The first movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, already has a release date scheduled, and if it’s successful, I expect the second film (and perhaps even the third) to hit theaters this year as well. Based on Stieg Larsen’s excellent Millennium books (the third of which will be published in North America in May), these dark novels were amazing, and the reviews for the films in its native Sweden have been as well. Certainly two of the literary adaptations I am looking forward to most this year.

16. London Boulevard
Directed By: William Mongahan.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Stephen Graham.
Why? The screenwriter of The Departed, William Mongahan, makes his feature directing debut with this adaptation of the Ken Bruen novel, which appears to be a British spin on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd, with Farrell as an ex-con hiding out in the home of a fading movie star. But it is really the cast – Farrell who is underrated, Knightley who is radiant, Winstone who is merciless, Thewlis who can be great, and Friel who is adorable and Stephen Graham that makes me anxiously await this thriller.

15. The Ghost Writer
Directed By: Roman Polanski.
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson.
Why? Roman Polanski may be a creepy pervert and rapist, but the man is still a genius at directing. This movie is based on a fine thriller by Robert Harris in which a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired to help an ex British PM (Pierce Brosnan), obviously based on Tony Blair, write his memoirs – particularly on the subject of the Iraq war. But things get more and more complicated as they move along. The movie is apparently already ready, so I guess Polanski’s incarceration didn’t slow him down.

14. The Tempest
Directed By: Julie Taymor.
Starring: Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alfred Molia, Chris Cooper.
Why? Director Taymor has only made three films before – but all three of those films were visual stunners (Titus, Frieda and Across the Universe). Here she returns to Shakespeare, and has assembled a marvelous cast. Like with Titus, don’t expect a classical adaptation here – hell she switched the gender of the main character already! This is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, yet few have ever tried to turn it into a movie. If anyone can do, Taymor can.

13. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Directed By: Woody Allen.
Starring: Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Frieda Pinto.
Why? Every year Woody Allen makes a movie, and every year I put it on this list, even though his output has been erratic in recent years. However, with the exception of the horrid Scoop (perhaps the worst film of Allen’s career), I have quite enjoyed all of his recent films – Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Whatever Works. This one is set in London again, and features one hell of a cast. Comedy? Drama? Thriller? Science Fiction epic? I have no idea (okay, that last one seems unlikely) as per usual, Allen isn’t telling. And as per usual, I will be there opening weekend.

12. Alice in Wonderland
Directed By: Tim Burton.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter.
Why? Tim Burton can always be counted on to deliver something different, and visually interesting, and I love with when Johnny Depp goes off the deep end. The previews look great, and the rest of the cast, especially Helena Bonham Carter who looks by a riot as the evil queen is solid. I can’t wait to see what Burton does with this kids movie.

11. Somewhere
Directed By: Sofia Coppola.
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Benicio Del Toro.
Why? Sofia Coppola’s first two films – The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation – were great. Her third film, Marie Antoinette was not great, but was very much underrated. I am interested in seeing what she does this time out – casting Stephen Dorff (a good actor specializing in making terrible movies), as a bad boy actor who confronts his demons when his daughter (Fanning) shows up. I hope this film gets Coppola back on track.