Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quality control

I'm a pretty big podcast listener, and that includes daily radio shows. One of my favourites to download is the Jeff Blair Show from the Fan 590. Of course, since they only offer each hour of the show for download, I check to see who is on the show to decide if I want to listen to that hour. Well, here's the description for the 9am hour on today (emphasis mine):
Head Coach of the Toronto Blue Jays John Farrell joins Jeff Blair to discuss last nights game, the status of Jose Bautista, Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel discuss aspirations for London 2012.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

JayRo Watches: Captain America

I'm really an easy person to please with movies - deliver on what I'm expecting, and I'm satisfied. In that sense, Captain America was satisfying. However, there were a few big things that ended up bugging me a lot.

(Warning - kinda spoilerish stuff ahoy.)

The first was Steve Rogers' development into Captain America. He starts out as a skinny guy who is nowhere close to as gifted as other soliders. But as soon as he receives the super-soldier serum, he not only becomes a gifted athlete, he apparently also learns elite fighting skills as he immediately demonstrates. What makes it even more unusual is that the filmmaker makes sure to show Rogers fall while running really fast in a chase, demonstrating that Rogers doesn't fully understand and control his new found gifts. So why can he immediately fight like and elite fighter?

The other major thing that bothered me was the plot that got us to Captain America fighting on the front lines. In short, he was told that he couldn't fight in the war because he was the only super soldier that was created, and was much too valuable to be risked on the front lines. Instead, he is used as a propaganda tool by the US Government. When he goes to meet the troops, he finds that they mock him for not actually fighting in the war, including by the very people who banned him from fighting. What exactly happened in between thich allowed him to start fighting in the war?

These are basic plot points that could have been addressed but were either ignored or not even noticed. Either way, they drag down what is otherwise a decent movie.

The ending also felt more like a comic book ending than an actual movie ending. The serialization is expected, since this is essentially a direct lead-in to next year's Avengers, ubt it felt somewhat out of place in an actual movie.

(End spoilers)

The action in the film is pretty enjoyable, and the 3D is decently done. I don't feel it was necessary, but it was enjoyable.

I'd recommend this for a rental, unless you absolutely need to see it in 3D or want to geek out to the after credits part.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Conrad Black Made Me Change My Tune on Hockey

I have to admit to paying a lot of attention to Conrad Black. His trial intrigued, fascinated and annoyed me. I do read his column every week; when he is on his game he is a ridiculously talented writer. And I found myself following the back and forth between John Moore and Mr. Black.

The one thing that sticks out with the end result of this trial is how much Mr. Black refuses to acknowledge the reality of the situation he's in.

When Black writes things like "In a mind-bending exercise of suppressing, distorting, and fabricating evidence, the Circuit Court revived two of the counts," he comes across as thinking he's still to be vindicated on these charges. When Black states that ...there is practically no chance that even an American court would have convicted on the two remaining counts if they had not been embedded in 15 other counts that eventually all failed at different stages of the proceedings, he comes across as a conspiracy theorist who has deluded himself into thinking that he is the victim in this situation.

It's frustrating to read Black when he continues on about his conviction. I found myself wishing him to continue to write about the U.S. penal system and its failures (in his view). On this he is just as passionate, but it seems much more productive use of his immeasurable writing skills. But it also got me to think about myself and my own railing on about the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup victory.

I have been frustrated by how the sports media has glossed over something that I found incredibly odd and discomforting - that the Bruins benefitted from favourable refereeing in each game 7 they played during the playoffs. While I realize that linking this to Colin Campbell (father of Bruins' player Gregory Campbell) is basically taking a giant leap into the crazy conspiracy theory area, it would be nice if somebody acknowledged that the refereeing actually changed in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals and game six to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals and it benefitted the Bruins, who were a much stronger team at even strength than on special teams. I've brought this up at times with friends to the point where I'm basically repeating myself. And that's not productive for anybody.

So here's my solemn vow: when I talk about the inconsistency of refereeing in the playoffs, I will not take any shots at the Boston Bruins benefitting multiple times from this. Further, I will only talk about the inconsistencies within the series, not in the greater terms of the playoffs.

I know I am not as skilled a writer as Conrad Black. I hope that someday I will have one-thousandth of his writing talent. But until that day arrives, I'll settle for having a skill he seems to lack: being able to move past things in order to work towards a greater good.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sleight of hand

I will never understand the Conservative government of Canada. I'd come to this conclusion a while ago, but every once in a while, I'm reminded of this. For example, this interview with James Moore.

It's not that he's saying the CBC needs to expect to lose 5% of its funding from the government. That's the right of the government to determine, and if they feel that the CBC should be included in the parlimentary review, that is fair. Instead, it's that two months ago, after their majority victory Moore said that the government "will maintain or increase support for the CBC."

Why does the government feel a need to do this sort of stuff? All Moore had to do in May is point to the budget tabled in March, and say we're using this as our economic platform for this year, and we have our review of expenses going forward. While there might be complaining about the potential of cuts, it would passed over once the cuts did not appear in this budget. Instead, Moore chose to appear as though he wasn't telling the truth previously by blatantly going against what he said two months earlier.

As an added bonus, he claims his statements in May were based on the 2008 election platform which leads to the following questions:
  • 1. Did Moore know what was in the 2011 Conservative election platform in May?

  • 2. If Moore did know what was in the 2011 Conservative election platform, why did he respond to the CBC funding question by referring to the 2008 platform after the 2011 election?

  • 3. What possible relevance does the 2008 platform have to the results of the 2011 election and CBC funding?

I want to believe the Conservatives are competent managers. I truly do think that they are going to make changes based on their beliefs, but are not going to make extreme changes to the country. But these sorts of actions make me think that they aren't satisfied by just winning a majority - they want to screw around and humiliate the institutions that they do not like.

I can't say that's something that I want to see my government do.

(h/t: Tod Maffin)

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

JayRo Watches: Horrible Bosses

A common theme in many comedies is that of otherwise normal people deciding to commit a major crime. From Throw Mama From the Train to Very Bad Things, you get to see either the build to the crime or the after effects of the crime.

The key to these films is not necessarily the plot; while a believable plot could be helpful, you can also have an extraordinarily far-fetched plot if the humour associated with it is good. The key instead are the characters themselves. The main protagonists need to be likable to let you sympathize with them as they resort to their criminal activities to solve their problems. In some cases it works well, in others it's an abject failure. Horrible Bosses succeeds thanks to its characters.

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play the characters who are looking to kill their horrible bosses. The characters are likable and relatable; everybody can relate to how horrible bosses can you cause you discomfort and pain in the workplace. And the horrible bosses in this movie are truly horrible - walking cliches amped up to a point of absurdity. Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston play their roles well, though they are secondary to Kevin Spacey's main antagonist role. The interaction between boss and subordinate gives you a great sense of why these characters would so want to kill their boss that they actually are moved to action. The plot does help here, as while the bosses's actions seem to be well exaggerated, the twists in the movie make internal sense and move the movie along well.

While Bateman has the lead role, Sudeikis and Day do a lot of the heavy lifting in the comedy, leaving Bateman to be more the straight man. And Sudeikis and Day deliver, with Day being primed for a bit of a Zach Galifianakis like breakout performance (thanks in part to his role being the more zany.)

I recommend Horrible Bosses - it is a fine comedy that will likely have you laughing at many parts.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 07, 2011

And now CFNY is dead

Alan Cross is gone from Corus Radio

His last day was the 30th, and we find out (via a third party) a week later that's gone from the company. Given the Martin Streek fiasco, this shouldn't be surprising.

With any luck, Alan will come to an agreement to continue on with the Ongoing History of New Music. Or failing that he can talk to Brian Ibbott about how he is able to podcast using most any music he chooses, and make OHoNM a podcast.

I'll still listen to the Edge in the afternoon and evening when I'm around a radio, but it's not must listen to any more. I'm just as happy bouncing around from station to station to find something that I want to listen to.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 04, 2011

JayRo Watches - Transformers: Dark of the Moon

On Grantland last week, they ran a Chris Ryan piece where he defended Michael Bay. I probably appreciated it more than most, as I don't think that I have left a Michael Bay movie and thought "Wow, that was a waste of my time" or "Wow, that wasn't entertaining in any way." Maybe I just figured out the key to a Michael Bay movie earlier than most - you have to go in expecting a spectacle. Any sort of decent acting performance or three dimensional plot is a bonus. Even when a Bay film misses completely on the basics of filmmaking (ie plot and acting and proper framing of shots), it still works. (As a friend mentioned about Transformers Revenge of the Fallen: "Revenge of the Fallen was pretty bad, but hey, big robots and explodey. Can't fault that.")

All of this is build up to say that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the apex of Michael Bay's directing career. The plot is kind of nuanced (even if it can be boiled down to "Earth is being invaded by aliens"), the action scenes are incredible, and some of the visuals are amazing to behold. As well, you get Bay's music video-esque treatment of the female lead (in the first scene in present time, my friend suggested that it looked like a Victoria Secret's commercial, and he was right.) There are a lot of "humanizing" moments where a character delivers an inspirational speech to rally the troops and us to his side. You get many actors willing to mug for the camera, producing some memorable characters who you enjoy seeing on screen.. And yes, giant robots go explodey.

(I want to give the climax a shout out here - it gets set up earlier in the movie, but Bay allows you to forget it by putting about 30 minutes of pure action right after it.)

What was truly remarkable was how the 3D worked in this movie. While it didn't need the 3D (which really could be said for any movie, including Avatar) Transformers 3 uses 3D in the best way I have seen it used, except maybe Avatar. The difference between Avatar and Transformers 3 is tha Avatar used 3D to try to immerse the viewer in the planet's environment; Transformers 3 uses it seemlessly, so that it isn't a distraction but you know that it is there. It doesn't really use the cheesy "here comes an object flying at you" effect, instead it uses 3D to actually provide some physical depth to each scene which helps to provide some perspective on what is going on around the characters.

In all honesty, if there was ever going to be a film where Michael Bay received a best director nomination, this would be it. With that said, he isn't going to be nominated, but it is a remarkable achievment that he should be proud of.

I highly recommend Transformers: Dark of the Moon to those who can accept a movie that does not challenge them intellectually at all, or who like things that explode.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 03, 2011

UFC 132 Thoughts

One of the biggest themes going through today's card was redemption. Each of the three main fights had a fighter attempting to redeem themselves from a previous event in their career. In each case, the fighter achived redemption.

Going into his fight, Tito Ortiz had two options - win his fight, or be let go from the UFC. Given that he had not won a fight since 2006 and his most recent fights saw him look rather pedestrian (not too mention the various injuries/excuses Ortiz had offered to explain his poor performances,) the general consensus was that Ortiz would be looking for a new group to fight in after UFC 132 had finished.

Funny thing about that though. Ortiz ended up dropping Bader with a punch early in the first round, then securing a guillotine choke to record a victory. Not only was that Ortiz's first victory in 5 years, it was the first time in 10 years Ortiz had stopped a fighter who was not named Ken Shamrock. In mere minutes, Ortiz had managed to turn the fans into rabid fans supporting him, and set himself up for a greater run in the UFC.

Chris Leben was on top of the world on July 3rd, 2010. He had just won two fights in 2 weeks - an accomplishment that has very little precedence in modern MMA competitions. He was considered to be within a fight or two of a title shot in he middleweight division. But that was not to be. In October, Leben was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Two months later, he faced Brian Stann and was destroyed by the new up and comer. Leben's future prospects as an elite MMA fighter were in question.

Leben was paired with Wanderlei Silva for this card, and Leben was thrilled to be facing his idol. He took full advantage of his high profile opponent, and in 27 seconds, cemented himself as being in the upper tier of middleweight fighters. Leben weathered a brief flurry from Silva, then dropped him with multiple uppercuts before finishing with the fight on the ground with some frightening ground and pound. Leben was back, and accepted by the community as a great fighter.

Dominick Cruz has an unusual style, one that has helped him dominate the Bantamweight division as its champion. However, Cruz had one blemish on his record - a loss to Urijah Faber in 2007. It hung over his head for a long while, and only at UFC 132 did he have an opportunity to change this.

During the fight, Cruz used his manic unorthodox style to keep Faber off balance and prevent Faber from having any sustained success in attacking. As well, Cruz was able to attack and get some solid strikes in, along with some takedowns. This gave Cruz the victory and avenged his one loss in his career. He was redeemed in his eyes.

Sports, and specifically fighting sports, produce many opportunities for redemption stories to be told, so long as the fighter involved holds their part of the bargain. Tonight, we had three fighters tell their stories of redemption to us, and remind us how powerful a redemption story could be.
My predictions were 9-2, putting me at 53-32-2 for the year. I won four wagers at a profit of $63, making my profit for the year $79.80.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 02, 2011

UFC 132 Preview and Predictions

Some thoughts on this intersting PPV...

UFC 132 is going to be quite the litmus test. It originally was scheduled to be Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber in the main event, with BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch in the semi-main event. With Fitch pulling out due to injury, it left Faber and Cruz as the mian event, with no semi-main to help with the buy rate.

Faber drew a remarkable buyrate in the WEC with the relative lack of promotion given to the fight, but it was still only 175,000 PPV buys. Now he is being pegged to draw on PPV, but with the UFC name behind it fully. It will be a test to see how well the former WEC division draws on PPV, as well as how effective the UFC marketing machine truly is. They have an advantage in having Faber fight, easily the most recognizable and marketable face of the former WEC fights. But question remains as to how interested people are in these divisions.

There is a hint as to how this fight will do - on January 1st Frankie Edgar and Grey Maynard fought and the buyrate was only 270,000 buys. Maynard and Edgar were theoretically more well known than Faber and Cruz, however they were also hampered by fighting on New Year's Day, traditionally a day when people watch college football. This fight is on Independence Day weekend which has traditionally been a good weekend for UFC ppvs.

I'd expect this to do about 325,000 buys. For the UFC, I do hope it has more. These divisions need more exposure and success as they are the most exciting divisions for fights.


Preliminary card:
Jeff Hougland over Donny Walker
Anthony Njokuani over Andre Winner
Brad Tavares over Aaron Simpson
Brian Bowles over Takeya Mizugaki

Preliminary fights on Spike:
George Soitoropolous over Rafael dos Anjos

This will be an interesting fight to see the strategy that is employed by both fighters. Both are more skilled at submission fighting than at striking, so it might be beneficial for one to stay standing. The question is which of the two feels that their striking is superior to the other. My feeling is that Soitoropolous is the one who will be more confident in his striking skills, and he will use that to his advantage.

Melvin Guillard over Shane Roller

The biggest question mark in this fight is which Guillard will show up: the one that we saw who destroyed Evan Dunham and seemed likely to finally live up to his immense potential, or the one who plays it safe and just tries to grind out his win. I hope it is the first, though I don't believe it will matter which one shows up - Guillard is going to win.

Main card on the PPV:
Dennis Siver over Matt Wiman

A great opener between two fighters who are at about the same level. In one sense this is an important fight for both for future slotting, but in another, it really does not matter that much in the grand scheme of things. The winner is going to move up a bit, but is still at least 2 if not 3 title shots away from getting their title shot (unless they knock off another contender ahead of them.) I favour Siver in this fight, but it is an even fight which could truly go either way.

Carlos Condit over Dong Hyun Kim

Another even fight, but with more title implications than the previous fight. Condit could very well be one fight away from getting a title shot (which is more a reflection of the depth in the welterweight division than anything else.) Kim is likely a bit further away than Condit from getting a title shot, but with a great performance could very well vault himself to contendership. This will be a tough fight for both. Kim's fighting style is a bit unorthodox and could befuddle Condit, but I'm betting Condit will end up winning.

Tito Ortiz over Ryan Bader

In all honesty, this is hunch pick. Bader was humiliated by Jon Jones in February, but that's Jon Jones. I'm more concerned with Bader's performance against Little Nog in September. Bader controlled him with wrestling, but otherwise showed very little against an opponent who was on the back end of his career. Ortiz is a more accomplished wrestler, and hasn't looked terrible in his fights since his return. I can easily see him earning a decision over Bader. The safe pick is definitely Bader; I'm going the other way.

Chris Leben over Wanderlei Silva

Silva is returning to the octagon after a 16 month layoff from his previous fight. It's against Chris Leben, who was last seen getting destroyed by Brian Stann. If this isn't an exciting, standing slugfest then something has gone horrifically wrong and you should jump to Dana White's twitter feed for the spewing of explicatives. I'm going with the fighter who has fought in the past year, even if he probably hasn't recovered from his knockout yet.

Dominick Cruz over Urijah Faber

Let me make something clear - I want to see Faber win. I think he's a great ambassador for the sport, and quite honestly I think he's a more entertaining fighter than "The Decisionator". However, Cruz is the better fighter, and he's going to win this fight. The one advantage Faber has in this fight is his wrestling, but Cruz is a strong defender of takedowns as well. I believe Cruz will neutralize Faber's wrestling and win the striking battle.

Theortical Wagers:
(As always, these odds come from our friends at PartyBets)

$20 on Njokuani at 1.65 odds to win $33
$10 on Tavares at 2.65 odds to win $28.50
$10 on Ortiz at 4.40 odds to win $44
$10 on Leben at 2.30 odds to win $23
$20 on Cruz at 1.65 odds to win $33

Labels: , ,