Sunday, July 31, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Lakeview Terrace

Last week, I watched a movie that had Samuel L. Jackson in it, so I decided to continue with that theme and watch the 2008 movie Lakeview Terrace. Distributed by Screen Gems and co-produced by Will Smith, Lakeview Terrace was directed by Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man, Possession) and stars Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Jay Hernandez, Ron Glass, and Justin Chambers. In the movie, a young interracial couple, Lisa (Washington) and Chris (Wilson) Mattison, move into what they think is their dream house. Even better, Abel Turner, a 28-year veteran of the LAPD (Jackson) lives right next door, so they assume that this is a safe neighborhood. As it turns out, Abel is strongly against the Mattison's relationship, so he decides to terrorize them, leaving the Mattisons with few options because, well, he's a cop. Sure, I guess they could call the cops and hope for the best, but they never do.

As Abel Turner, Jackson plays a strong-willed veteran cop who is completely sure of his beliefs and totally unwilling to budge on his convictions. He's a man trying to do the right things, raising his kids in a nice neighborhood and teaching them morals and values. The problem is that Turner seems two seconds away from going berserk, and he is so inflexible that it affects his job and relationship with his kids. In Lakeview Terrace, Jackson walks a fine line between fine upstanding citizen and a man burning with rage towards the changes the world has made, and he does it quite well. Jackson's acting skill was the highlight of this film, and he was able to convey the role of Abel Turner with subtlety when needed while providing the necessary menace.

Meanwhile, Turner's foils in their neighborly feud are the Mattisons, a liberal and interracial couple who one could describe as 'yuppies'. As Chris Mattison, Wilson plays the part of a man that is unprepared to deal with the constant harassment of his cop neighbor. Whereas Turner is sure in his beliefs in actions, Chris isn't quite sure what to do, which gives the scenes between Jackson and Wilson a certain undertone. You can almost feel the unease between the two men whenever they're on screen together, which is a credit to both Jackson and Wilson. While Wilson is at least above average in his role, Washington, well, she was there. It wasn't like she was terrible or anything, but she seemed to be lost at times, especially when tensions were supposed to be high in her relationship with her husband.

However, Washington's flat acting wasn't the biggest problem the film had. Instead, it was the direction of Neil LaBute and screenplay of David Loughery and Howard Kohler. It didn't seem like they wanted this film to be a social commentary or a psychological thriller, so they just shot for something in between and hoped for the best. The first half of the movie was much superior to the second, as the relationship between Abel and the new neighbors was a lot more subtle and two-sided. Yes, Abel was a stick in the mud, but you could see why he would have problems with the new neighbors (what with there leaving cigarette butts in the yard and doing the horizontal boogy outside in full view of his kids, plus their friends were a bunch of liberal douchebags). After a while, the lines that were blurred are now completely black and white, as Turner just changes character and becomes the big evil cop going against the liberal suburbanites, helpless against the big blue machine. Then the film completely goes off the rails in the last 25 minutes or so, as there's a massive fire and a break-in and murder and a whole mess of other stuff.

At the end of the day (or film), Lakeview Terrace is a film with some decent performances from its top actors and raises a few social issues that will make you think. However, it had the potential to be a much more significant film instead of the ham-fisted thriller that it turned out to be. Overall, I'd give Lakeview Terrace a 4.85 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this film, or ideas for future posts, then feel free to leave a comment or to send me an e-mail at

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Earlier tonight, My brother and I went up to the theater and took in the latest offering from Marvel Studios, Captain America: The First Avenger. Directed by Joe Johnston (Hidalgo, The Rocketeer), Captain America stars Chris Evans as the titular character, and includes a supporting cast of Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Dominic Cooper. In Captain America, a young man named Steve Rogers wants nothing more than to enlist in the army and fight the Nazis in WWII. However, his small frame and a few medical problems cause the army to reject him, until he runs across a scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci). Erskine is looking for a man to become a 'super' soilder through a series of injections, and despite his small frame, he thinks Rogers is the perfect man for the job. Even though Colonel Chester Phillips (Jones) doesn't share Erskine's beliefs, Rogers is eventually chosen to receive the treatments, and he eventually becomes Captain America, the U.S.'s best hope against the evil Red Skull (Weaving).

Not surprisingly, the film is full of action sequences and CGI effects, the most impressive of which is the transforming of Evans into a little weakling. At the start of the movie, Rogers is all heart with hardly any muscle, and because of that he's a scrappy underdog that one can't help but to relate to. Once his transformation takes place, even though Rogers is the same guy, he just becomes a boring one-dimensional hero. I don't know if it was Evans or the screenwriters, but something was definitely lost in the transition of Rogers from zero to hero. It's not as if he's an arrogant jerk, but rather he's just dull. Rogers' main love interest in the film, a British solider named Peggy Carter (Atwell), looks the part, but I was never convinced that these two had any sort of sparks despite the fact that the story practically forces that down our throats. Actually, Peggy's also much more interesting in the first part of the film when she's a tough woman soilder in a man's world rather than the love stricken girl we see in the second part.

As for the rest of the cast, it's solid, but not spectacular. Tommy Lee Jones plays, well, himself as a no-nonsense army Colonel. I will say that some of his wisecracks were quite enjoyable. Weaving is also solid as the evil Johann Schmidt, who eventually becomes Red Skull, while Sebastian Stan was solid as Rogers' close friend, Bucky Barnes. I must say that I wasn't too impressed with Tucci's performance as Dr. Erskine, as his German accent was inconsistent at best. In the second half of the film, Rogers leads a team into various battles against Red Skull and his Hydra squad, which are full of action and explosions. The problem is, we never really learn anything about these guys and why they were chosen other than the fact that they just happened to be in the same unit as Rogers's buddy. Heck, they didn't even mention their names until the credits.

Director Joe Johnston does a nice job of recreating the 1940s in Captain America, from the 'World Fair' setting at the beginning of the film to the montage of Captain America shilling war bonds and starring in films. Although it may have seemed a little long and really didn't mean much to the overall story, it was a humorous look at the parading of Rogers as some sort of Uncle Sam type figure. The film looked great in some parts, although most of the action sequences kind of looked similar and featured so many explosions that they eventually lost all meaning. Plus, maybe it was because I was seated right next to the speakers, but I found the score of this film to be overwhelming and just plain annoying.

Overall, this is a decent flick that will provide entertainment for the time you're in the theater. However, it's not much more than that. The acting is decent at best, and the script could have used a little more in the way of character development. Plus you never really get the sense that Rogers is in any sort of peril in his battles, and they just rush through the second half of the film to get to the next action scene. Overall, I'd give Captain America: The First Avenger a 4.5 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this movie, then feel free to share them by leaving a comment.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Bolt

Here's a movie I decided to watch because, well I'm not sure exactly, the 2008 animated feature from Disney called Bolt. Directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams, Bolt features the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Susie Essman, and the late, great Macho Man Randy Savage. In Bolt, a dog named Bolt (Travolta) that stars in a fictional sci-fi show starts to believe that his powers are real, and he also believes that his co-star Penny (Cyrus) was kidnapped by the evil Dr. Calico (McDowell). Somehow, Bolt falls in a box and is shipped to New York City, where he meets a stray cat named Mittens (Essman) and a hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton), who just happens to be Bolt's biggest fan. The three of them journey back to Hollywood in hopes of 'rescuing' Penny.

Bolt starts out with a bang, as Bolt and Penny race through a giant city escaping from Dr. Calico's army (the army seems as big as the Canadian army, btw). Bolt displays a wide array of super powers, including heat vision, super strength (he can flip a moving car over his head), super leaping abilities and his go to move, a super bark that can wipe out every building in a mile radius. Yes, Bolt is perhaps the most powerful dog in the history of fiction, but the problem is, he thinks it's all real, as he's trapped in a "Truman Show" type reality because the director believes that is the best manner for Bolt to deliver his best performance. This seems like it would take a lot of money and effort to pull off, but considering the Michael Bay-type action scene in the TV show, apparently this is a production company with an unlimited overhead. Plus, this seems to be an unethical and possibly illegal way of handling a dog, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, Bolt gets lost and takes Mittens as his prisoner because he believes that all cats are servants of Dr. Calico. Even though Bolt is completely oblivious to the world outside of him, he is rather resourceful and adapts somewhat quickly to his new surroundings, despite not having superpowers. Bolt and Mittens travel across the country, and eventually meet Rhino, a hamster in a ball who believes everything he sees on television is real, in an RV Park. The three make for an interesting trio, with Mittens serving as the voice of reason for the delusional Bolt and Rhino. Each of them are actually quite likeable in their own ways, with Bolt always showing loyalty to both Penny and Mittens and doing whatever he can to save them, Mittens being a streetwise, snarky feline who has seen too much to get her hopes up, and Rhino just happy to be hanging out with one of his heroes. Remarkably, each of them weren't annoying at all, even Rhino, who at first I thought I wouldn't like, but his constant optimism and gung-ho attitude won me over.

The movie explores a few themes, such as the evils that exist in Hollywood, what with the slimy agents, overbearing network executives and all. This coming from one of the biggest movie companies in the world. I guess somebody as Disney really hates talent agents, because the agent character here (voiced by Greg Germann) is a slimy character who would sell his own kids out (and admits this) and seems to be callous to the personal feelings of his clients. Overall, I'd say that the movie's satire of Hollywood was a bit heavy handed, but since it is a kid's movie, perhaps they felt that was the only way to get the point across. Something else I found interesting was that Penny seemed to feel trapped by starring in her own TV show and the lifestyle that goes with it, a situation that was not too different from her voice actor's situation with her show (Hannah Montana). Kind of ironic, no? Another theme that Bolt explores is the issue of pet abandonment, particularly in a heart-tugging tale told by Mittens that explains her cynical view towards humans.

Overall, even though you could guess the ending about 15 minutes in, Bolt is an entertaining film that features solid animation and some good voice acting, particularly by Travolta and Essman. While the story isn't revolutionary or anything, and the soundtrack included John Travolta singing, it is a solid tale and there a few laughs mixed in. Overall, I'd give it a 7.25 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this movie, or ideas for future reviews, then share those thoughts either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top 10 Most Unlikely Playoff Heroes in MLB History

It seems that every year, a new postseason hero comes out of nowhere and shocks the baseball world with a timely performance to win a game or two for their team. Last year it was Cody Ross, a decent, but nondescript outfielder who exploded on the scene, hitting five home runs in the playoffs and winning the NLCS MVP. Alas, Ross didn't quite make this list, but here are ten guys that may not have had the best seasons or careers, but for one fleeting moment shined when the spotlight was the brightest.

10. Don Larsen

Since the start of the World Series, only one man has ever pitched a perfect game. That man was not an all-time great like Whitey Ford or Walter Johnson, but instead, it was accomplished by a man that put up a sterling win loss record of 3-21 just two seasons before. Despite a poor start in Game 2 of the 1956 World Series, the Yankees went with Larsen against the Brooklyn Dodgers with the series tied at two games apiece. Facing a lineup that included four future Hall of Famers and seven players who played in at least one All-Star game, Larsen went through them like a tank goes through tissue paper. Larsen was in the zone that day, running up only one count to three balls and striking out seven batters. The Dodgers of Jackie, Duke, Hodges, and Pee Wee were befuddled by a man who split time between the bullpen and the rotation during the 1956 season (although to be fair, Larsen wasn't too bad that year, going 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA). Even though Larsen finished his career with a losing record (81-91), he can lay claim to be the only man to be perfect in a World Series game.

9. Bobby Richardson

Even though Richardson played in eight All-Star games and led the AL in hits in 1962, he was never exactly an offensive star for the Yankees, as his solid glovework usually carried his lackluster bat. In 1960, Richardson hit for an uninspiring line of .252/.303/.298 during the regular season, but during the World Series, Richardson morphed into his generation's Rogers Hornsby. During the seven game series against the Pirates, Richardson racked up 11 hits, five for extra bases, and set a World Series record that still stands with 12 RBIs, nearly half the total he put up during the regular season (26 RBIs). Despite his team losing the World Series, Richardson was named the World Series MVP, the only player from a losing team to win that award. In 1961, Richardson wasn't great during the regular season (.261/.295/.316), but once again saved his best work for the World Series, collecting 9 hits during the five game series against the Reds. Richardson wasn't so great in the 1962 or 1963 World Series, but in 1964 Richardson set another Series record with 13 hits against the St. Louis Cardinals. For his World Series career, Richardson hit .305/.331/.405, well above his career averages of .266/.299/.335. 

8. Sterling Hitchcock

Hitchcock was a decent lefthanded starter whose career was ultimately derailed by arm injuries, but in the 1998 playoffs, Hitchcock pitched the best baseball of his career. During the 1998 season, Hitchcock was the Padres' fourth starter, pitching well (3.93 ERA, 158 SO) but he also had a propensity to give up the long ball (29 Homers allowed). In the playoffs, Bochy moved Hitchcock ahead of Joey Hamilton in the rotation, and the move paid off big. In the NLDS against the Houston Astros, Hitchcock held the Astors to three hits in six innings, struck out 11 batters, and the Padres would win the game and the series, 3-1. Against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, Hitchcock made the powerful Braves lineup look bad. In game 3, Hitchcock pitched five innings, and despite five walks, held the Braves to three hits and one run as the Padres won 4-1. In game 6, with a trip to the World Series on the line, Hitchcock again stymied the Braves, pitching five shutout innings with eight strikeouts as the Padres clinched the N.L. Pennant. Hitchcock was named the NLCS MVP, and even though his team lost in four games to the Yankees in the World Series, Hitchcock turned in another fine performance in game 3, allowing one earned run in six innings and leaving the game with a 3-1 lead. Overall, Hitchcock allowed three earned runs in 22 innings during the 1998 season, striking out 32 batters. Not bad for a guy with a career record of 74-76 and an ERA of 4.80.

7. Gene Tenace

Although Tenace would have a few solid seasons with the Oakland A's and the San Diego Padres, he was a little regarded backup catcher heading into the 1972 World Series. Even though he started all five game in the ALCS that year, Tenace's 1 hit in 17 at-bats hardly inspired fear in the hearts of the Cincinnati Reds or their fans. But in game 1, Tenace took center stage, hitting a home run in his first two World Series at bats and drove in all three runs in the A's Game 1 victory. In game 4, Tenace broke a scoreless tie with a solo homer in the fifth inning, and after a ninth inning single, would score the winning run in a 3-2 victory for Oakland. Tenace homered again in game 5, giving him four for the series, and in game 7, Tenace drove in 2 of Oakland's three runs in a 3-2 victory. For the series, Tenace hit .348, with four home runs and nine RBIs, and was named the most valuable player of the 1972 World Series.

6. Eddie Perez

Before the 1999 season, Perez was best known as Greg Maddux's personal catcher. But when Javy Lopez went down with an injury in late July, it was up to Perez to step in and assume the starting catching role. His numbers that season (.249/.299/.372) weren't great, but Perez was a solid defender and the Braves still made the postseason. In the 1999 NLCS against the New York Mets, Perez picked a great time to get hot. In game 1, Perez had two hits, including a homer that proved to be the winning run in a 4-2 victory. Perez followed with another home run, this time a two-run shot, that broke a 2-2 tie and propelled the Braves to a 4-3 victory. Perez had two more two hit games in games 3 and 5, and in game 6, Perez had another two hits, including a two run single, in the Braves eventual 10-9 victory. In 20 at bats during the NLCS, Perez had 10 hits, two homers, and five RBIs, making him the MVP of the NLCS. In the World Series, Perez and his Braves fell victim to a Yankees sweep, but that doesn't take away from Perez's magnificent performance in the NLCS. Today, Perez is a coach for the same team he once carried to the World Series.

5. Billy Hatcher

Hatcher was a speedy outfielder with some ability, although he was really an average player during his 12 year career. In the postseason, however, Hatcher seemed to come alive. In the 1986 NLCS against the New York Mets, Hatcher played well, hitting .280, stealing three bases, and hitting a game tying home run in the bottom of the 14th inning in game six, then driving in another run in the 16th before the Astros finally fell to the Mets. Before the 1990 season, Hatcher was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, and while his hitting wasn't great (.276/.321/.384), he did lead the team with 30 stolen bases. In the NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hatcher went 4-16 in the series, including a homer in game 2, as the Reds went on to beat the Pirates in 6. Hatcher saved his best for the World Series against the Oakland A's, where he went on a tear that has never been duplicated in the history of the World Series. In four games, Hatcher had nine hits in 12 at-bats, giving him a .750 average. Among those nine hits included a key triple in the bottom of the eighth inning of game 2, which resulted in Hatcher scoring the tying run in what would eventually be a 5-4 Reds victory. Hatcher also had four doubles, as the Reds swept the A's in four straight. Remarkably, despite setting a World Series record for highest batting average, Hatcher was not named the MVP, as Jose Rijo was given the award for two excellent performances in games 1 and 4 of the series. Today, Hatcher is back in the Reds organization, serving as their first base coach.

4. Dusty Rhodes

Rhodes may have been a one-year wonder, but it was quite a year. In 1954, Rhodes was a backup outfielder for the Giants, providing the team with left-handed pop off the bench. In his previous two seasons, Rhodes hit 21 home runs, but his average of .242 wasn't anything to write home about. In 1954, Rhodes had a season to write home and everyone else he knew about. In 186 plate appearances that year, Rhodes hit .341/.410/.695, with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs. His exploits continued in the World Series against the heavily favored Cleveland Indians. In game 1, Rhodes made history, becoming the first player to hit a walk-off home run in extra innings of a World Series game, doing so in the 10th innings off of Bob Lemon. In game 2, Rhodes came off the bench in fifth inning, drove in the tying run with a single, then added a home run in the seventh innings. In game 3, Rhodes went 2-3 with two RBIs. During the Giants four game sweep, Rhodes had six at bats, four hits, two home runs, and seven RBIs, not too bad for a player that didn't start a game in the Series.

3. Mark Lemke

As a hitter, Mark Lemke made Bobby Richardson look like Ryne Sandberg, posting a career batting line of .246/.317/.324. In the 1991 World Series though, Lemke's bat came alive. In game 3, Lemke went 2-5, with his second hit winning the game for the Braves in the bottom of the 12th inning. The next game, Lemke got three hits, including a double and a 9th inning triple. Lemke would score the winning run that night on a sacrifice fly from Jerry Williard. In game 5, Lemke went 2-4 with three RBIs in a 14-5 Braves rout. Even though the Braves would fall to the Twins in seven games that year, Lemke emerged as a hitting star, going 10-26 in the series for a .417 average.Among those 10 hits included three triples. Lemke hit .333 in the 1992 NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but didn't repeat his success in the 1991 World Series until the 1996 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. After four hits in the first four games, Lemke caught fire in game 5, going four for five in a 14-0 Braves rout. The next game, Lemke had two more hits and an RBI in a 3-0 Braves victory, and in game 7, Lemke added two more hits as the Braves pounded the Cardinals 15-0.  For the series, Lemke hit .444 (12-27) with four runs, a homer, and five RBIs. Alas, Lemke came back down to Earth in the World Series, as the Yankees beat the Braves in six games.

2. Buddy Biancalana

Biancalana was a good-field/no-hit shortstop whose sole claim to fame before the 1985 playoffs was the 'Biancalana hit-meter' on the David Letterman show, tracking Biancalana's "pursuit" of the all-time hit record. Despite a line of .188/.277/.261 during the 1985 season, Royals manager Dick Howser made Biancalana his starting shortstop throughout the 1985 postseason. In the ALCS, Biancalana hit a mere .222, but he did have a clutch double in game 6 and played errorless baseball at shortstop. In the World Series, the light hitting Biancalana became a thorn in the Cardinals' side. In game 3, Biancalana had two hits, scoring one run and driving in another as the Royals won 6-1. In game 5, Biancalana got another two hits and a walk, again scoring a run and driving in another as the Royals won 6-1. Biancalana added another hit in game 6, and once again played errorless defense for the Royals in their eventual series victory. Overall, Biancalana hit .278, with 5 walks and two RBIs. Not the best numbers ever, but considering the source, it was quite the achievement.

1. (tie) Brian Doyle/Bucky Dent

The 1978 Yankees were a team full of stars such as Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles, and Thurman Munson. So naturally, the key players of their World Series run would be a light hitting shortstop and a backup second baseman who finished his career hitting .161/.201/.191. It all started in Boston during the one game playoff to determine the winner of the AL East. With the Yankees down 2-0 in the seventh and two men on, Dent, who had hit only four home runs coming into this game, took a Mike Torrez fastball and slammed it over the Green Monster, giving the Yankees a lead that they wouldn't relinquish. While neither Dent or Doyle were key contributors in the ALCS, that would not be the case in the 1978 World Series. An injury to Willie Randolph forced the Yankees to play Doyle at second base and hope for the best. Well, they got the best ball of Doyle's career, as he hit .438 (7-16) in the Series, with six hits coming in the Yankees final two games. Doyle may have been the Series MVP were it not for Dent, who hit .417 with seven RBIs, including three in the clincher in game 6. In a lineup full of stars, it was the role players that became the heroes for the 1978 Yankees.

Well, that's the list. I'm sure I left somebody out, so if you're favorite unlikely playoff hero was not on the list, then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then send me an e-mail at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Detroit Pistons vs. Portland Trailblazers, Game 5, 1990 NBA Finals

With the NBA lockout proceeding with no end in sight, I once again found myself wanting to watch some old-school basketball action. So I did a quick search, and decided to watch Game 5 of the 1990 NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trailblazers. Detroit came into the game with a 3-1 lead, needing only one more win to win their second straight NBA Title. Which is what they did, as Detroit pulled out another close game in a series full of them, winning by the score of 92-90. A couple of interesting notes about this game. One is that this was the first finals since 1979 to not feature either the Lakers or Celtics, and two, this was the last NBA game broadcast by CBS, and unless CBS can somehow outbid ESPN/ABC anytime soon, it looks like that will continue to be the case for a while. A few notes about this game:

- The hero of this game turned out to be Vinnie Johnson, nicknamed "The Microwave" because of his ability to get hot quickly. Well, that's what he did here. After doing next to nothing for the first three quarters, Johnson suddenly started to catch fire in the fourth, hitting jumper after jumper Early in the fourth quarter, Johnson scored all the points in a Pistons 9-0 run that gave Detroit a one point lead. When Portland rallied to lead 90-83 with just over two minutes left. Johnson went to work again, scoring 7 of the last nine points for the Pistons, including the game winning jumper with just .7 seconds left on the clock. Johnson scored all 16 of his points in the fourth quarter, which just shows what kind of player he was, a clutch shooter who could carry the Pistons on offense for long stretches.

- Of course, Johnson wouldn't have been in the position to carry his team down the stretch without the play of Isiah Thomas. While the rest of the Pistons struggled in the first half, Thomas took the team on his back and dragged the Pistons to a four point lead at halftime, thanks to 20 first-half points, with 15 coming in the first quarter. Thomas struggled a bit in the second half and spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench while Johnson and Joe Dumars took over the backcourt duties, but he came through when the Pistons needed him, draining an 18 footer to tie the game at 90 with less than a minute remaining, then forcing a turnover by Portland's Terry Porter on the other end. Overall, Thomas scored 29 points, and after the game, he would be named the Finals MVP.

- The Trailblazers played on the Pistons' level for much of the ballgame, but just couldn't come through when they needed a basket the most. It didn't help when their big gun, Clyde Drexler, fouled out, leaving Portland with a backcourt of Porter and Danny Young. For the game, Drexler scored 20 points, though there were long stretches where he would seem to disappear, especially in the first half. Portland's leading scorers in the game were Kevin Duckworth and Terry Porter with 21 points apiece. Duckworth was especially impressive in the first half (14 points) and for a man that weighed 275 pounds, Duckworth had great feet and mobilitiy in the low post. Eventually, the Pistons would collapse on Duckworth and force him to take a bad shot, but for a while there Detroit had no answers for him. As for Porter, his 21 points included 4 three pointers, although the 89% free-throw shooter missed a few key free throws down the stretch and was just awful in the last two minutes, turning the ball over twice.

- The Pistons of this era were known for there rough and aggressive style of play, and they showcased that style in this game. However, the Trailblazers didn't exactly back down, and any team with Buck Williams and Jerome Kersey in their lineup would have to be considered tough. In fact, in this game it was the Pistons that came out the worst for the wear. Johnson had to leave the game for a period after banging knees with Jerome Kersey, James Edwards suffered a cut over his eye after a hard foul, Bill Laimbeer suffered various scratches and bruises, and Isiah Thomas had to leave the game after a Scott-Stevens like check from Cliff Robinson on a pick opened up a cut on Thomas's forehead (a play that somehow the refs didn't call a foul on). There were 35 fouls over all, and there could have been at least 20 more. As for Laimbeer, well, I can see why he was one of the most hated players in the NBA around this time. The guy would complain after every call as if the refs just stole his car, even it was obvious that he committed the foul. At least he didn't flop around like a fish in this game, and his 17 rebounds were a game high.

- After watching crowd after crowd covered in white T-shirts or blue T-shirts or whatever and showing very little enthusiasm throughout the 2011 playoffs, it was refreshing to see a crowd that was actually into the game from beginning to end without relying on gimmicks. The Portland crowd in this game was much like a college crowd, cheering feverishly after every basket and trying to rile the Pistons when they had the ball. Alas, it was all for naught, but much like the Trailblazers themselves, the crowd left it all out there.

After this series, the NBA moved on to NBC, and a six-minute video package of the greatest moments of the NBA on CBS played ending with Marvin Gaye's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. It was quite a video package, actually, featuring everything for Gar Heard's shot in the 1976 Finals to Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis. The Pistons' postgame celebration was also shown, and featured Mark Aguirre shouting "G** D***" four times in succession, and John Salley wrapping things by proclaiming it's Hammer Time. The next year, both clubs returned to their respective Conference Finals, only to fall to the Bulls and Lakers. The Trailblazers would make it back to the Finals in 1992, only to lose to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, while the Pistons wouldn't get back to the finals until 2004. In some ways, this was the end of the Detroit "Bad Boys" dynasty, as the team just wasn't the same the next year. But it was a nice run, as the Pistons became only the third team in NBA History to win back-to-back NBA Championships. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, or ideas for future posts, then share those thoughts with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Canon Review 2011 Baseball Preview Midseason Review

Since the baseball season has reached the All-Star break, I figured it's the proper time to review the picks that I made at the beginning of the 2011 MLB season. You can go back and review the preview here if you want. As it turns out, my picks weren't exactly spot on. For example, who would have thought that the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, and Arizona Diamondbacks would be in the thick of the playoff race at the All-Star break? Clearly not me. So without further adieu, here's a look at my picks and how they've held up so far.

Predictions (* = Wild Card)       Current Record:

American League

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox               1. Boston Red Sox (55-35)
2. New York Yankees*         2. New York Yankees (53-35)*
3. Toronto Blue Jays            3. Tampa Bay Rays (49-41)
4. Tampa Bay Rays              4. Toronto Blue Jays (45-47)
5. Baltimore Orioles             5. Baltimore Orioles (36-52)

Hey, remember when the Red Sox got off to an 0-6 start and everybody was panicking about the Sox? Well, since then they're 55-29 and now have the best record in the American League. While OF Carl Crawford has yet to live up to expectations for the Sox, the team's other big acquisition, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, has more than held up his end of the bargain, leading the A.L. in hits, RBIs, and batting average. The Yankees have had some injury trouble, but solid performances from 2B Robinson Cano, SP C.C. Sabathia, 1B Mark Teixeira, and CF Curtis Granderson have put the Bronx Bombers neck in neck with the Red Sox. The Rays are probably one of the four best teams in the AL, but only two teams can make it in the playoffs out of the A.L. East, and it looks like the Rays will be the team on the outside looking in. 3B/OF Jose Bautista has been the best hitter in baseball for the Blue Jays, leading the league in home runs and OPS. But the Jays pitching staff is too inconsistent for them to contend this year. The Orioles got off to a hot start, but the team's young pitching staff still has some growing up to do (last in the AL in ERA) before the Orioles can return to respectability.

AL Central
1. Chicago White Sox           1. Detroit Tigers (49-43)
2. Detroit Tigers                   2. Cleveland Indians (47-42)
3. Minnesota Twins              3. Chicago White Sox (44-48)
4. Kansas City Royals         4. Minnesota Twins (41-48)
5. Cleveland Indians            5. Kansas City Royals (37-54)

The Tigers have gotten little to no production from four different lineup spots (2B, 3B, LF, CF) and their pitching outside of ace Justin Verlander has been inconsistent, but they still enter the All-Star break leading the division and with players like Verlander, 1B Miguel Cabrera, and C/DH Victor Martinez leading the charge, Detroit should stay in the race the rest of the way. The Indians surprised the entire baseball world with their fast start, but a combination of injuries and starting pitching woes (especially from Fausto Carmona) have brought the Tribe back to earth. Still, they're only half a game back in the American League's most wide open division. The White Sox have not played up to expectations, but if some of those disappointing players (DH Adam Dunn, SP John Danks, 2B Gordan Beckham, CF Alex Rios) can round into form, then the White Sox have to be considered legit contenders. The Twins have had injuries to both C Joe Mauer and 1B Justin Morneau, their closer Joe Nathan never returned back to form, and ace SP Francisco Liriano has been a disappointment. Yet they remain only 6.5 games out of first, so a hot second half could push the Twins back into the playoffs. The Royals still seem to be a year away, although they have gotten good play out of rookies like 1B Eric Hosmer and set-up man Aaron Crow. Honestly, I think Cleveland drops out of it, and the Tigers and White Sox will duke it out down the stretch, with Chicago winning by a nose.

AL West
1. Texas Rangers                 1. Texas Rangers (51-41)
2. Oakland Athletics            2. L.A. Angels of Anaheim (50-42)
3. L.A. Angels of Anaheim  3. Seattle Mariners (43-48)
4. Seattle Mariners             4. Oakland Athletics (39-53)

The Rangers have had a few injury problems, but they're right on pace with last year's mark at the All-Star Break (50-38). If they can get better starting pitching, the Rangers should be able to hold off the Angels, who have great pitching but are offensively challenged. The Mariners have great pitching led by starters Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but their offense is just offensive to watch (.224/.290/.331). The Athletics are a lot like the Mariners, but just not as lucky. This is going to be a two-team race at the end, and as long as the Rangers' big bats can stay healthy, they should hold off the Angels.

National League

NL East
1. Philadelphia Phillies        1. Philadelphia Phillies (57-34)
2. Atlanta Braves*              2. Atlanta Braves (54-38)*
3. Florida Marlins               3. New York Mets (46-45)
4. Washington Nationals    4. Washington Nationals (46-46)
5. New York Mets              5. Florida Marlins (43-48)

The Phillies have relied on their excellent starting pitching led by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to carry an offense that has been average at best to the majors best record. Sure, the Phillies could use another bat and an arm in the bullpen, but as long as Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels take their scheduled turns and Roy Oswalt can get back in the swing of things, then the Phillies are the team to beat in the NL. The Braves have used a similar strategy to lay claim to the second best record in the NL, and the Wild-Card spot should be theirs to lose, especially if 2B Dan Uggla and RF Jason Heyward can come back from rough first halves. The Mets have suffered injuries to 3B David Wright, 1B Ike Davis and LF Jason Bay, but their biggest concern has to be the injury SS Jose Reyes suffered last week, as the free-agent to be has carried the Mets thus far. The Nationals have gone through injuries and a managerial change, yet they still find themselves at .500 despite a poor first half from free agent acquisition OF Jayson Werth (.215/.319/.362). The Marlins played well the first two months, then struggled mightily in June, which resulted in 80-year old Jack McKeon becoming the new manager. It's not likely that McKeon will drag his team over .500 with ace SP Josh Johnson out indefinitely and superstar SS Hanley Ramirez having his worst season to date. At the end of the day, expect the Phillies and Braves to grab playoff spots, and the Mets and Nats to fight it out for third.
NL Central
1. Cincinnati Reds              1. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43)
2. St. Louis Cardinals         1. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43)
3. Milwaukee Brewers       3. Pittsburgh Pirates (47-43)
4. Chicago Cubs                  4. Cincinnati Reds (45-47)
5. Houston Astros               5. Chicago Cubs (37-55)
6. Pittsburgh Pirates           6. Houston Astros (30-62)

Baseball's most wide-open race resides here in the NL Central, where four teams are within 4 1/2 games of each other. The Cardinals waived their opening day closer, Ryan Franklin, during the season, and have been without superstars 1B Albert Pujols and LF Matt Holliday for stretches of the season. But now both men are back, Fernando Salas has filled the closer role, and thanks to an offense led by OF Lance Berkman (.290/.402/606), the Cardinals are tied for first place. The Brew Crew has been carried by 1B Prince Fielder and OF Ryan Braun on offense to go with a strong starting rotation. If SP Zack Grienke improves on his 5.45 ERA in the second half, then watch out for the Brewers. The Pirates, a team without a winning season in 19 years, find themselves only a half a game out of first place. A lot of the credit for that goes to CF Andrew McCutheon and a pitching staff that ranks fifth in the NL in ERA. The Reds lead the league in runs scored, but their pitching staff (14th in ERA) has been a disappointment, particularly SP Edinson Volquez and RP Arlodis Chapman. The Cubs are still the Cubs, an overpaid mess of a team going nowhere fast, although SS Starlin Castro has been one of the best hitting shortstops in the game. The Astros are in rebuilding mode at this point, which is something the Cubs should consider. At the end of the day, I'll stick with the Reds pulling out another division title, if only because I'm not sold on any of these teams, so I might as well stick with my original pick.

NL West
1. Colorado Rockies           1. San Francisco Giants (52-40)
2. San Francisco Giants      2. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers     3. Colorado Rockies (43-48)
4. San Diego Padres           4. Los Angeles Dodgers (41-51)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks  5. San Diego Padres (40-52)

Giants baseball may be torture (15th in the NL in runs scored), but once again manager Bruce Bochy and a strong pitching staff have made it work, as the Giants are in first place at the All-Star break despite a season ending injury to C Buster Posey and getting next to nothing out of SS Miguel Tejada. The Diamondbacks have played with a new spark under manager Kirk Gibson, and to the surprise of many, find themselves right in the thick of the hunt, thanks in large part to OFs Chris Young and Justin Upton. The Rockies have a reputation of being a second half team, which is a good thing because they'll need a strong second half to make the postseason this year. Better pitching from ace Ubaldo Jimenez would help. The Dodgers are just a mess right now, and not even the talent of players such as CF Matt Kemp, RF Andre Ethier, and SP Clayton Kershaw will push the Dodgers into the pennant race. The Padres just can't score enough runs, and with the trade deadline approaching, the team is looking to trade star closer Heath Bell for a package of prospects. Where Bell ends up could make the difference for a contender, which is the only impact the Padres will have on the pennant race this season. I would like to stick with the Rockies, but I think they're too far behind the Giants to catch up, so the Giants are my choice.

World Series Predictions: Rangers over Rockies

One day, I'm going to learn not to expect huge things from the Rockies, as they seem to have the pieces for a great team but just can't put it together for whatever reason. So instead, I'm saying the Phillies will match up with the Rangers in the 2011 World Series, with the Rangers winning a close series in at least six games. Sure, it might be a gut feeling, but I think the Rangers have the talent to pull it off and win the first World Series in their franchise's history.

Awards Predictions:


1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox (.354 BA/.414 OBP/.591 SLG, 128 hits, 17 HR, 77 RBI)
2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (.301/.357/.542, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 54 games)
3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (.239/.321/.459, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
Dark Horse: Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (.225/.281/.338, 54 games, injured)

Midseaon Picks:
1. Gonzalez
2. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays (.334/.468/.702, 31 HR, 65 RBI)
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers (.311/.430/.549, 18 HR, 59 RBI)
4. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (.269/.361/.575, 25 HR, 63 RBI, 79 runs, 15 SB)

Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox could have ever hoped for and more when they traded for him in the offseason, carrying the Sox to the league's best record and leading the league in many major categories. Bautista's team may not be as successful as the Red Sox, but the Blue Jay has reinvented himself over the past two years and has become the most dangerous hitter in the game with the possible exception of Albert Pujols. Once again, Cabrera is putting together another solid season for the AL Central leading Tigers, but he's a little short of Bautista and Gonzalez thus far. On a team full of stars, Granderson has arguably been the best of the bunch for the Yankees, providing a devastating mixture of power and speed for opponents and leading the A.L in runs scored and triples to go along with his stellar numbers. As for my other preseason picks, well, they've all been hurt, and only Hamilton has really had a solid season thus far.


1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (.280/.357/.500, 18 HR, 50 RBI)
2. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (.268/.337/.468, 17 HR, 57 RBI)
3. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (.324/.438/.507, 13 HR, 55 RBI)
Dark Horse: Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (.226/.315/.404, 9 HR, 69 games)

Midseason Picks:
1. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (.291/.390/.505, 14 HR, 54 RBI, 15 SB)
2. Brian McCann, C, Braves (.310/.381/.514, 15 HR, 50 RBI)
3. Lance Berkman, OF, Cardinals (.290/.404/.602, 24 HR, 63 RBI)
4. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets, (.354/.398/.529, 124 hits, 15 3B, 30 SB)

Perhaps I may be overstating McCuthen's contributions this year, but on a team that's not exactly full of superstars, McCuthen's been the one consistent in the lineup and the biggest reason why the Pirates are within half a game of first place. McCann's been a very important part of the Braves success this season, as he's been the one shining light in an offense that has been inconsistent throughout the season. Berkman leads the NL in OPS and home runs, not bad for a guy that was considered finished after his disastrous stint with the Yankees last year. Reyes leads the NL in batting average and triples and is second in stolen bases, but he is currently on the DL with a leg injury, so that might hurt his MVP chances going forward. While Pujols isn't having a season up to his usual standards, he's still having a mighty fine season and could find himself in the discussion with a strong second half. Votto's no slouch either, as he leads the NL in on base percentage and is in the top 10 in many major offensive categories. Tulowitzki needs a big second half to get back in the discussion, while Jason Heyward has had the sophmore jinx thus far in 2011 and has no chance of an MVP Award this year.

AL Cy Young Award:
1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (8-7 win-loss record, 3.19 ERA, 140 strikeouts)
2. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox (10-4, 3.31, 110 SO)
3. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Yankees (13-4, 2.72 ERA, 126 SO)
Dark Horse: John Danks, SP, White Sox (3-8, 4.21 ERA, 65 SO)

Midseason Picks:
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers (12-4, 2.15 ERA, 147 SO)
2. Jared Weaver, SP, Angels (11-4, 1.86 ERA, 120 SO)
3. Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox (8-3, 2.27 ERA, 94 SO)
4. Sabathia

In a season where there are many great pitchers, it was hard to limit worthy choices to four. To me, Verlander's been the best of the best so far, showcasing overpowering stuff and giving the Tigers a chance to win every time out. Weaver's had his best season yet, leading the AL in ERA, Beckett has had perhaps his best season yet as well, giving the Red Sox the ace to go along with Jon Lester, who hasn't been too bad himself. Sabathia's going to get his wins playing for the Yankees, but make no mistake about it, he's still one of the best pitchers in the game. Hernandez hasn't been quite as dominant as he was last season, but he hasn't been bad either. As for John Danks, well sometimes you go off on a limb and it crumbles beneath you.

NL Cy Young Award:
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (11-3, 2.45 ERA, 138 SO, 6 Complete Games)
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants (7-7, 3.06 ERA, 132 SO)
3. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies (9-6, 2.82 ERA, 137 SO)
Dark Horse: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers (9-4, 3.03 ERA, 147 SO)

Midseason Picks:
1. Halladay
2. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves (12-3, 1.87 ERA, 65 SO)
3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies (11-4, 2.32 ERA, 121 SO)
4. Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves (10-4, 2.44 ERA, 109 SO)

Halladay, Lee, and Hamels are three of the top ten pitchers in baseball, and each man is going to be in the running for the Cy Young this year. Thus far, Halladay has just the slightest of edges. A strong case could be made for Jaur Jurrjens, as he leads the NL in ERA and batting average against. Hanson is second in the NL in WHIP (1.016), fourth in ERA, and in the top ten in most important pitching categories. Apparently, that's not enough to get into the All-Star game, but it should be. Kershaw's been pretty good himself, as has Lincecum, but they're a slight notch below the top contenders for this award.

AL Rookie of the Year Award:
1. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays (8-7, 3.21 ERA, 68 SO)
2. Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners (8-6, 3.03 ERA, 113 SO)
3. Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays (4-5, 5.70 ERA, demoted to minors)
Dark Horse: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (25 games .228/.294/.283)

Midseason Picks:
1. Pineda
2. Hellickson
3. Jordan Walden, CP, Angels (20 Saves, 2.84 ERA, 41 SO in 38 IP)
4. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels (.260/.305/.483, 17 HR, 41 RBI)

Pineda's been a revelation for the Mariners rotation this year, having a season that's right up there with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Hellickson's effectively replaced Matt Garza in the Rays rotation and given Tampa Bay another young arm to go with David Price and James Shields. The Angels entered the year with some questions in the bullpen, and Walden has been the answer saving 20 games, though he has also blown five. Trumbo's been a bit inconsistent, but he has provided the Angels with some much needed power, leading the team in home runs and total bases. Drabek hasn't exactly replaced Roy Halladay, the man he was traded for, while Moustakas spent the first part of the season in the minors and has yet to catch up to big league pitching.

NL Rookie of the Year Award:
1. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (.274/.347/.459, 13 HR, 43 RBI)
2. Arlodis Chapman, SP, Reds (4.57 ERA, 22 walks in 21.2 IP)
3. Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (19 games, .211/.328/.281)
Dark Horse: Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves (2.35 ERA, 28 Saves, 70 SO in 46 IP)

1. Kimbrel
2. Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals (.242/.332/.460, 16 HR, 52 RBI) 
3. Freeman
4. Dillon Gee, SP, Mets (8-3, 3.76 ERA, 60 SO)

Kimbrel has had some rough patches, but when he's on, he's unhittable, striking out 13.7 batters per nine innings. What Espinosa lacks in batting average, he makes up for in power, leading the Nationals in home runs and RBIs. Freeman has been one of the few solid bats in the Atlanta lineup while playing great defense at first. Gee got off to a 7-0 start, but has cooled off a little since then. Still, an 8-3 record isn't too shabby. Both Chapman and Bolt struggled early on and were sent down to the minors, so it's unlikely they'll get any ROY votes.

Well, thanks for reading the 2011 Canon Review Baseball Preview Midseason Review. Yes, it is a long title. If you have any thoughts about this topic or other posts, then feel free to share those thoughts either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at


Friday, July 8, 2011

Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks, Game 5, 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals

With the NBA season over and the lockout blocking any offseason activity, I find myself jonesing for some NBA Action, and watching old drafts on NBA TV just isn't enough. So today, I watched Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. Even though Michael Jordan retired before the season, coach Phil Jackson's squad rallied around star Scottie Pippen and won 55 games during the regular season. Meanwhile in New York, the Knicks had the second best record in the Eastern Conference at 57-25, and were considered the favorites to come out of the East. The Knicks took the first two games of the series in New York, while the Bulls took the next two in Chicago. In game 5, the home team would hold serve, as the Knicks won 87-86 thanks to a controversial foul by Scottie Pippen with 2.1 seconds remaining. After the foul, Hubert Davis hit two free throws to give the Knicks the winning points. A few notes about this game:

- Even before the foul on Davis, the officiating for this game was less than stellar. The Knicks shot 25 free throws to the Bulls 11, and it wasn't like they were attacking the basket, as most of the time they would settle for jump shots. Patrick Ewing took two charges directly underneath the basket, a point which the Bulls argued since most of the time, a call like that would go against the defender. In fact, in today's NBA it would. B.J. Armstrong nearly got knocked out by a moving screen from Ewing, but the refs let them play. To be fair, there were a couple foul calls on Pippen that were questionable at best, so at least the refs were consistently poor. Then there was the play at the end. Was there contact by Pippen on Davis? A little, but it happened well after the shot was in the air and didn't look as if it affected the shot in any way. There was probably 5 or 6 similar plays by defenders on jump shots that didn't get called, but ref Hue Hollins saw enough in his mind to call the foul. Good thing for the Knicks too, as Davis missed an open three there with Pippen getting there late.

- If you like your NBA superstars to come through in the clutch, well, this game wasn't for you. On the one hand we have Ewing, who started out on fire in the first quarter, scoring 12 points and hitting his first four shots from the field. Then he went scoreless during the next two periods, mainly because he and the rest of the Knicks fell in love with the jump shot to mixed results. In the fourth, Ewing started to come around a little, but with 31.4 seconds left and the Knicks down one, Ewing went to the free-throw line and clanked two free throws. Overall, Ewing scored 20 points and pulled down 13 boards, but he also went 2-7 from the free throw line and would have been the goat if Davis hadn't bailed him out. On the other side, there was Pippen. For the first three quarters, Pippen was the best player on the court, leading the Bulls back after the Knicks started the game on a huge run, sinking three 3-pointers and playing great defense. Then the fourth quarter came around and Pippen wasn't on the court for the first five and a half minutes as coach Phil Jackson played a hunch and left his reserves in. The bench played well and kept the Bulls ahead, but when Pippen came back in, he didn't look like the same player and was a non-factor in the final minutes of the game. He made two free throws, committed a couple of fouls, and that was it.

- You know, I forgot how good B.J. Armstrong was. The Bulls point guard was on fire in this game, scoring 21 points on 9-12 shooting from the field. Whether he was wide open or heavily guarded, Armstrong was knocking shots down, and many times announcer Hubie Brown was wondering why the Bulls weren't getting the ball to Armstrong more. Honestly, I found myself wondering the same thing, especially with guys like Pete Myers and Bill Cartwright on the court. Speaking of Hubie, I kind of felt bad for his partner Ron Tholin, because Hubie loves to talk on and on and on. I mean, I like Hubie Brown as an announcer, but the guys does like to talk.

- The Knicks were a little shorthanded in the game, as starting point guard Derek Harper was suspended for an altercation earlier in the series and Doc Rivers was injured, leaving Greg Anthony and the little-known Corey Gaines as the only two point guards on the Knicks roster. After a rough game 4, Anthony played well in this game, dishing out eight assists while only turning the ball over once. Also, small forward Charles Smith had his moments, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the second quarter, although he didn't play particularly well in the fourth quarter.

- Earlier in the series, a controversy developed after the Bulls Toni Kukoc took the game ending shot in game 3, while Pippen decided it'd be best for him to sit on the bench after learning the play wasn't called for him. Well, after Davis made the free throw and the Bulls called timeout, the camera was focused on Pippen the entire time, while the announcers ignored the elephant in the room and Hubie talked about what the Bulls should do in the situation. In this case, the play was called for Pippen, so it was a good thing he decided to remain out there this time, but it was all for naught as Anthony Mason blocked the inbound pass.

After this game, the Bulls would come back to Chicago and win game six, but the Knicks prevailed in Game 7, and would eventually go all the way to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Houston Rockets. Meanwhile, Hubert Davis would become a sports hero in New York, if just for a moment or two, while Hue Hollins would become the least favorite referee in Chicago. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have a comment relating to this post, or an idea for a future post, then feel free to share by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Canon Movie Review: The Amityville Horror (1979)

Since I already watched the so-called remake of this movie, I figured that I would go ahead and watch the original, the 1979 horror film The Amityville Horror. This in spite of the fact that I was told it was actually worse than the 2005 version, which I would think would be hard to accomplish. Based on the 'true' story of the Lutz family as written by author Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror was distributed by American International Pictures and directed by Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker). The film stars James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton, and Helen Shaver. In The Amityville Horror, the Lutz family, including George (Brolin) and Kathy (Kidder), move into to a house on Long Island with a dark history. Hoping that they've found their dream home, the Lutzes soon realize that this is the house that nightmares are made of, and so they consult Father Delaney (Steiger) to get rid of the spirits. But can he get rid of the spirits, or have he and the Lutz family gotten more than what they bargained for? A few notes about this film:

- Because I watched the remake before the original, I couldn't help but think back to the similarities and differences of the two movies. In the original, Amy's (the daughter) imaginary friend was Jodi, some sort of demonic pig (yep, a demonic pig). In the remake, Jodi was the ghost of one of the victims in the DeLeo murders. I honestly can't decide which one was worse. Just like the remake, George is always complaining about being cold and has an obsession with chopping fire wood. In the remake, the audience gets a lot of shots of a shirtless Ryan Reynolds, which does nothing for me, while in the original, you get a sequence of James Brolin walking around in his briefs. Gee, thanks a lot. In the original, the priest and the religious aspect of the story play a much bigger role, as does Kathy Lutz, who was little more than an unwilling victim in the remake.

- You know, I might not be an expert on horror movies, but I think that one of the things its supposed to do is to provide a sense of terror and fear throughout the viewing audience. Maybe it's just me, but there's not a lot here that I would consider particularly scary. Yes, I suppose that a giant gathering a flies is kind of odd, but more annoying than scary. There's some black ink coming out of the toilet, a window closes on a kid's hand (yet doesn't break any bones), 1,500 dollars goes missing for no reason, and oh yeah, the house has a portal to hell. Plus it seems to attract lightning and it's phone keeps messing up when talking to priests. To me, all of the effects and events seem kind of dull, actually, and didn't really add any suspense to the film. Then again, maybe I'm just jaded by the whole horror film genre.

- As George Lutz, James Brolin makes a more convincing crazed lunatic than Reynolds did. Then again, Brolin started the film as an aloof guy with the look of a man that has hidden a few bodies in the basement before, so it's not that much of a stretch. At least in this version, George kind of realizes what is happening and doesn't go completely psychotic. He even tries to find out the root behind this problem by stealing a library book. Why he didn't just check the book out is a mystery. Plus, in this version, George begins to look like the killer of the Amityville murders, although what significance this has is never really explained. Overall, I'd say Brolin did an average job, although the scene where he shouts "I'm Coming Apart" somewhat reminded me of Tommy Wiseau's acting in The Room, and no, that is not a compliment.

- Meanwhile, Academy Award winner (but not for this film) Rod Steiger tries to steal the show as Father Delaney. To say the Steiger was hamming it up is a bit of an understatement, as he practically shouts every line and has two extremes, either quiet and still, or raving like a lunatic. Steiger's acting was almost comical in this film. Plus, even though he was only in that house one time, Father Delaney kept suffering misfortune after misfortune thanks to his one visit. The poor guy even went blind. I'm not sure how a house can posses a person from 20 miles away, but by golly that's what it did here. As for Kiddor, well, let's just say she acted with all the intensity that LeBron James showed in the fourth quarter of NBA Finals games.

- The script of The Amityville Horror has quite a few loose ends that just go dangling. For one, what the heck happened to that police officer that surveyed the Lutz house for two days or so, tried to talk to Delaney, then disappeared into thin air. There's also the drunk with a six pack of beer that shows up at Kathy's door, then disappears a minute later without explanation. What happened to the 1,500 dollars that disappeared? And what would a house do with 1,500 dollars anyway? What happened to George's friend's wife after she got possessed? I guess the answers to these questions were just left to twist in the wind.

Overall, I will say that this was better than the remake, but just barely. The script was better paced, but still had a lot of loose ends. There was slightly more character development in this film, but not enough to make any of the Lutz family characters you really care about. Some people consider this one of the great horror movies of its era, but I'm not seeing how that's possible. The acting was sometimes way too over-the-top, the effects were more silly than scary, and the ending was rather anticlimactic. Overall, I'd give this Amityville Horror a 3.2 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments about this review or film, or ideas for future reviews, then feel free to share by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

For the trailer, watch here:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Canon Game Review: Suikoden I

After playing Suikoden 2 last month (and reviewing it right here), I decided to go back and play the original, Suikoden 1. Released in 1995 and developed and produced by Konami. Suikoden I follows the story of the son of the great general Teo McDohl. After Teo leaves to take care of a rebellion against Emperor Barbarossa, who is under the spell of an evil sorceress named Windy.  Tir and his friends begin performing tasks for the empire, and what a group of friends they are. Most of them are servants hired to serve the hero, including Gremio, who looks at the hero as his own son, Cleo, and Pahn, who likes to complain about how hungry he is. The hero has also befriended a mischievous kid named Ted, but there's more to Ted than meets the eye. After a few incidents went against the hero and his friend, they eventually find themselves fighting for the rebellion against the empire, the one the hero's father fights to protect. Obviously, this will cause problems for the family down the road.

Image courtesy of

Although Suikoden has a lot of similarities to Suikoden 2, there are a few differences that make Suikoden an inferior game. Probably the most infuriating difference is that you don't have an option to put items aside for the group. Instead of a 'community' bag, so to speak, to put items in, you have to give it to someone in your party. Each person gets 10 slots, but since armor takes up four or five slots, you don't have a whole lot of room for medicine and hidden objects and such. There were many times throughout the game that I'd have to drop something valuable in order to get something else, something that didn't happen too much in Suikoden 2. Yes, it's a minor difference, but it is still quite annoying. Also, each player only gets one rune slot in Suikoden 1 instead of the multiple rune slots available for characters on Suikoden 2. This makes assigning runes critical, as you don't want to waste a super powerful rune on someone with low magic skill.

Like every other Suikoden game, you must collect the 108 stars of destiny to get the super duper happy ending. Most of the 108 stars also can help you in battle, with each ones having different strengths and weaknesses. Some are just there to provide support during war battles against the Imperial Army, and some are there so they can open shops in your castle and provide you with a one stop shop for all your wartime needs. Some of the characters you have to go out on your own and search for, while others are forced upon you whether you like it or not. In the case of Krin, I didn't like it all, but that's another story. Anyway, like Suikoden 2, characters are group in three fighting ranges, short range (S), mid range (M) and long range (L). Short range fighters can only fight in the front row of your six man party, while the other two can fight wherever they darn well please. Since nearly half the characters seem to be short range fighters, this somewhat limits the use of a lot of quality fighters. Plus, since the front row is attacked constantly, you'd better make sure that whoever's up front has strong defense skills. Also, there will be times where you (the hero) must duel one on one with another character, and there are also a few Advance Wars style battles here as well. These basically work as a rock-paper-scissors game, where charge beats bow, bow beats magic, and magic beats charge. As long as you know which attack is coming (and with the Ninja ability, you can find out what the enemy is going to do), these are rather easy battles to win.

The graphics and the artwork in Suikoden have some strong and weak points. The strong points being that, despite being in 2-D, the towns and other areas are drawn with great detail, and the animations of the characters in battle are rather smooth. However, the drawings of most of the characters aren't always well done. For example, Mathiu has his eyes closed at all times, and Marco just looks plain goofy. But, graphics aren't everything, and the compelling story more than makes up for what shortcomings the graphics may of had. Also, the audio is nicely done on this game, with a score that is both catchy and adds an 'epic' feel to many of the proceedings. Although Suikoden has a lot of dialogue and a enthralling script, there are some points where it gets repetitive, as most characters will just say the same thing over and over again once they join your army and enter the castle. In Suikoden 2, at least that was some variety in the characters' and townspeople's dialogue depending on the situation.

Overall, Suikoden is a rather enjoyable game that has something to offer for every RPG fan out there. Yes, the game has a few flaws, and there are Super Nintendo games that have superior graphics, but overall the story, the variety of characters, and all the different twists and turns should keep the average gamer entertained from beginning to end. Overall, I'd give it an 8 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about Suikoden or this review in general, then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then send me an e-mail at

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let's Talk About Lance Storm

Well, it's been a while since I've done a wrestling review (or any review, for that matter), so I decided that today I'd watch a few matches and review them right here. So, here's a post about the pride and joy of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, none other than Lance Storm. Lance Storm is a wrestler that I always thought was better in theory than in execution. By that I mean Storm was a guy that knew all the holds, was very athletic, could cut a decent promo and was versatile in many different styles. But for whatever reason, when I watched Lance Storm, he didn't come across as a guy that was a top-notch talent, despite what his reputation on the internet might have been. I mean, it wasn't like he was terrible or anything, but he was rather forgettable. But maybe I'm wrong and I should have been on the Lance Storm bandwagon years ago, so let's begin this review with Storm getting a shot at the WCW Title.

Match 1: Lance Storm vs. The Rock, Monday Night Raw, August 20, 2001

This match took place the night after Summerslam and is the first WCW Title defense for The Rock, who had won the title the previous night. Earlier this episode, Lance Storm interrupted a Rock interview and kicked a little person impersonating Booker T in the face. Lance tries to attack early, but that doesn't work and Rock gets a two count after a Samoan Drop. The two do an exchange of missed clotheslines, then Storm hits a superkick that sends The Rock flying out of the ring. Storm moves quickly to roll The Rock back in and goes for the cover, but Rock kicks out at two. They exchange some blows, then Storm comes off the top with a clothesline that gets another two count. Storm stomps away on The Rock, then foolishly charges into a Rock spinebuster. Man, this match feels rushed. Rock hits his trademark punch combination, then follows with a DDT for a two count. The two brawl in the corner for a few seconds, then Rock hits the Rock Bottom for the three count. Post match, Rock brings the little Booker T impersonator out, who can barely climb up the stairs. Little Booker tries a People's Elbow, but he trips over Storm. So Storm gets back up, Rock spinebusts him back down, and on the second try Booker gets it as right as he was going to get it, which is still subpar even for a midget. Then Little Booker does a Spinarooni and everyone is happy. Well, not me. Match was way too short and the post-match stuff was embarrassing. I'd give it a 0.8 out of 5.  

Match 2: The Unamericans (Lance Storm and Christian) vs. Booker T and Goldust, WWE Tag Team Title Match, Summerslam 2002

Storm and Christian are the champions at the time. Booker comes out to a huge reaction, while the Unamericans come out with the American flag upside down because, you see, they're Unamerican. Goldust and Christian start, and Goldust goes to work early, hitting a butt bump and then an uppercut from the ground to get a two count. Storm is tagged in, but takes an arm drag and atomic drop for his efforts, then Goldust tags in Booker T. Booker continues to run roughshod over Lance, with a sideslam and a knee drop that gets a two count. That great American patriot Goldust is tagged back in, but a cheapshot from Christian and a thumb to the eye by Storm gives the Unamericans the advantage. Storm throws Goldust over the top rope, which would have been a disqualification in the NWA. After Christian works him over, he rolls Goldust back in and Storm gets a two count. The crowd chants 'USA' to try and Goldust back into the match, but the Unamericans use quick tags and underhanded tactics to keep Goldust isolated. Storm misses a dropkick though, and Goldust gets a quick two count. He tries to get to Booker, but Christian cuts that off. Front facelock by Christian, but Goldust forces his away into the corner and backdrops Christian. Tag to Booker, but the ref didn't see it so it's not allowed. Meanwhile, he doesn't see the other team make a tag but allows it anyway. I don't know about you, but I hate that spot as it makes no sense and makes the ref look like an idiot.

Anyway, a clothesline gets two for Storm, and the Unamericans continue their isolationist tactics. But Goldust fights back, catapults Christian into Storm on the outside and then rolls Christian up for a two count. Double clothesline, and Goldust and Christian are down. Before Goldust can get over to tag Booker, Storm goes over and trips Booker off the apron, forcing Booker to lose his cool and give chase. That's the same tactic I would use while playing a tag match in any Smackdown game. Christian is able to get Goldust away from his corner, and Storm sneaks in a chair. Actually, two chairs, and Storm and Christian attempt a Conchairto on Goldust, but luckily the big golden patriot ducks, and follows with a double clothesline. Finally, Booker gets the tag, and he starts wailing away at The Unamericans. A missle dropkick on Christian almost gets a three count. Booker and Christian each try their finishers to no avail, and Booker ends up delivering a flapjack to Christian. Storm tries a leaping heel kick, but Booker ducks and the ref ends up taking the blow. Booker gets both Unamericans with the Scissors kick, then follows up with a Spinarooni and a Harlem Sidekick to Christian. But the ref is down so that's all for naught. Storm comes in with a belt, but he's quickly taken care of by Booker T and Goldust. With the ref still down, fellow Unamerican Test (and a former Tag Team champion with Booker T), comes in and flattens Booker with a big boot. Christian covers, and the ref recovers to administer the three count. Wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either, so I'll give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Match 3: Lance Storm w/Tammy Lynn Bytch vs. Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso, ECW Television Title Match, Guilty as Charged 1999

Before the match begins, Storm says something about not having to compete in a previously scheduled match with Spike Dudley and Jerry Lynn, so he challenges RVD to a match for Van Dam's TV Title Out comes Van Dam, and after a two minute entrance, he's ready to go. The bell rings, and nobody does anything for a minute and a half before the two do a basic exchange of holds that ends with both men at a standstill. Storm backs Van Dam into the corner, firing away with shoulder blocks and chops, before whipping him into another corner. But Van Dam reverses it and eventually monkey flips Storm to the other side of the ring. Storm backs into the corner while Alfonso keeps Van Dam hydrated by handing him a water bottle. Quality managing there, Fonzie. A thumb to the eye by Storm, but after a few blows, Van Dam gets the advantage back with a dropkick and a two count, followed by a snap mare which also draws a two count. Storm reverses an Irish whip and rolls Van Dam up into a single leg crab. So Alfonso goes over to the other side of the ring and starts messing with Bytch (yes, that's what she was known as at the time, so that's what I'll call her here). That distracts Storm, who grabs at Alfonso. However, he's in perfect position to take an apron leg drop from Van Dam. RVD gets thrown into the guardrail, but rebounds and then sets Storm over the guardrail to deliver a corkscrew legdrop from the apron, which RVD connects on. Back in the ring, RVD hits a double-underhook lifting facebuster for a two count. He whips Storm to the ropes, but Storm does a leapfrog and then lands a superkick to Van Dam for two. Storm traps Van Dam in a corner and delivers a series of strikes, including a dropkick to a seated RVD. Out of the corner, Van Dam tries a springboard manuever, but gets dropkicked out of the ring into the guardrail. Van Dam oversells a baseball slide by flying over the guardrail and landing eight rows back. In the crowd, Storm is whipped into the guardrail, backdrops Van Dam over, but Van Dam catches himself and does a somersault dive off the railing onto Storm. Van Dam tries to slam Storm on the floor, but Storm counters with a inverted DDT, which is a stupid move to do on the floor since you land on your back before your opponent, causing both participants to take damage. But Storm ignores that, and while RVD attempts a springboard off the guardrail, he gets dropkicked back into the crowd by Storm. Storm then follows with a dive from the top rope, over the guardrail, and onto Van Dam. While Joey Styles tries to sell the notion that Storm is in control, Van Dam does his own brand of selling by joking with the crowd. Ok then.

Back in, RVD tries for a springboard move out of the corner, but Storm catches him again and crotches Van Dam. Back Suplex is attempted, but Van Dam flips over on his feet and catches Storm with a leg drop before he can get up. Van Dam follows up with a drop toe hold and a Surfboard. Instead of holding him up, Van Dam kicks him off and catches Storm with a rolling senton for a two count. Storm is whipped into the corner, but he catches Van Dam with a springboard back elbow and gets a two count. Storm then does a cartwheel clothesline which Van Dam just shrugs off to catch a chair tossed by Fonzie. RVD tries for the Van Daminator, but Storm dodges the blow and ends up tapping RVD in the head with it. Unfortunately, Storm picks the chair back up, and gets caught with a Vandaminator. Storm sells the heck out of the move, but he was playing possum as he caught Van Dam with a low blow and nearly got a three count from a small package. Van Dam catches Storm with a spinning heel kick which "almost cut Lance Storm clean in half", according to Joey Styles. Like hell it did. Van Dam goes for another Van Daminator, but Storm ducks and the chair goes into the ref's face. Storm follows with a Van Daminator of his own, but the ref is out. Fonzie brings in a chair, which Storm takes away, but all that does is allow Van Dam to come off the top for a Van Daminator into Storm's face. Storm kicks out at two. Back up, RVD hits a crappy looking clothesline and goes for the Five Star Frog Splash, but Storm moves. Storm goes for a powerbomb, but RVD reverses into a rollup. The two men do a nice exchange of holds before Van Dam hits a German Suplex with a bridge, which is enough to get the three count. Ten years ago, I probably would have told you that this was a great match and these two men are what wrestling is all about or whatever. However, while there were a few solid spots, the match was hurt by RVD's indifferent selling and Storm's weak chair shots. Still, it was rather decent, so I'll give it a 2.35 out of 5.

Match 4: Lance Storm vs. Triple H, WWE Smackdown, May 21, 2002

Before the match, Storm gets on the mic and says that, despite Triple-H's victory over Chris Jericho in Hell in a Cell, he's nothing but a barbaric animal, and Storm will teach him a lesson like only a true technical wizard can do. Storm sets out to teach Triple-H a lesson by taking two hard clothesline and a high knee lift. But Triple-H's knee is all bandaged up from his last match, so the big dummy ended up hurting it after the move. Storm hits a jawjacker and some punches, but Triple-H follows up with a driving knee to the face, this time using his good leg. Storm reverses an Irish whip and dropkicks HHH down to the mat. Storm shows off his technical wizardry by attacking Triple-H with a series of punches, kicks, and other various blows. Even Tazz, on commentary, notices how Storm's actions differ from his words and calls him a hypocrite. It's effective, though, as Storm has re-opened Triple-H's headwound and nearly gets a three count. Storm lands a clothesline from the top and gets another two count. Storm continues to pound away, but Triple-H has had all he can take so he starts firing back with blows of his own. Storm misses a Stinger Splash, and HHH then lands a neckbreaker, followed by a spinebuster that gets a two count. Storm ducks a clothesline and lands a superkick, following up with a Canadian Mapleleaf on Triple-H's bum leg. But Triple-H gets to the ropes. Storm hits another superkick, and climbs to the top rope while the ref checks on Triple-H. HHH, ever the ring general, pushes the ref into the ropes, knocking Storm off. A Pedigree follows, and Triple-H holds Storm down for the three count. All in all, not a bad TV match and probably my favorite of the four. I'll give it a three out of 5.

So, what did I learn from all this Storm watching. That Lance Storm should never pick up a chair in a wrestling ring again. Other than that, I stand by my previous statement, Storm's a decent to good wrestler who got about as far in wrestling as he should have been. He had a nice career of producing matches that were neither bad nor great, just in the middle. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post or about Lance Storm in general, or you have ideas for future post, then please feel free to send them to me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at