How’s this for a starting rotation, in the National League no less; Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels. They could put a feces-throwing monkey out there on day 5 and not miss a beat. Is it too early to say I’m looking forward to the Red Sox-Phillies World Series? Cliff Lee left $30 million and 2 years on the table from the Yankees’ offer, and went to where he thought he would be happier (and perhaps where he knew there’d be easier opponents). 5 years, $120 million certainly isn’t a bargain (his $24 million average annual salary actually surpasses the AAV of the Rangers and Yankees’ deals), but I still give Lee a bravo for showing the Yankees they can’t get whoever they want just by spending. The Yankees are left with just an okay starting rotation, and they remain very old on the whole. On top of that, the Rays’ lineup has been decimated, having lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. If the Red Sox don’t win the AL East (and lead it throughout the year), they should be ashamed. Here are a few good reaction pieces to the Lee decision; [Yahoo] [ESPN NY] [Jayson Stark] [NY Post]
Also, I’d like to give Theo Epstein and the Sox brass kudos for putting in fake bids on both Lee and Mariano Rivera to help force the price up for the Yankees.
Pretty much a perfect opening titles sequence.
Now that season 1 is over, I just wanted to profess my love for AMC’s The Walking Dead. Aside from The West Wing, 24, and more recently Boardwalk Empire, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more consistently cinematic TV show. Under Frank Darabont‘s stewardship, the show is beautifully shot, expertly acted, and maturely written. I’m also thrilled that the show is carried by actors who haven’t previously headlined a TV show. Andrew Lincoln is a great discovery (he’s also British, if you didn’t know), and the rest of the cast is a breath of fresh air (though Laurie Holden worked with Darabont on his films The Mist and The Majestic, and the always wonderful Jeffrey DeMunn has been in all 4 of Darabont’s features, going all the way back to Shawshank). The season finale last week drew 6 million viewers, which is gargantuan for cable (and not bad even for an average network show these days). I’m happy that AMC took a chance on a show like this, and even moreso that they were justly rewarded in the ratings when it turned out to be so good. The upside is that the second season will be 13 episodes (as opposed to the debut season’s mere 6), but the downside is we have to wait until next October for it to return. HBO will also make an attempt at a genre series with next year’s debut of Game of Thrones, and I’m very much interested to see how that turns out. Either way, it’s a good trend. The fewer legal dramas, medical dramas, and police procedurals that get made going forward, the better. I’m thrilled that the cable networks now produce the best television, since they don’t have to make their shows PG-rated. The more R-rated, realistic, gritty TV we get, the happier I am.
-Next up on the docket, there were quite a few new trailers released this past week for some of 2011’s biggest movies. Here are the first clips for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor, The Beaver, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, with some reaction after each.
My first impression after watching this trailer was precisely my reaction to the announcement they were making a 4th Pirates movie…what’s the point? Other than the ability to print money of course, why is this necessary? Nevermind, there is no other reason. It looks entertaining, but it certainly doesn’t look like this was a story that was just BEGGING to be told. I was glad that Gore Verbinski, who directed the first 3, wisely stepped aside, and they’ve also dumped the Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley characters. The salaries for those 3, and the fact that they seem to have cut way back on the supernatural elements of the story, should have brought the budget down significantly for this 4th installment. That’s a good thing for Disney, as each of the previous sequels cost $250 million or more (the messy At World’s End was supposedly north of $275 million). Replacing Verbinski is Rob Marshall, best known for Chicago. I’m curious to see how he’ll handle a big adventure picture with lots of effects. All the reports I’ve read say Johnny Depp came back because he truly loves playing this character (he certainly made enough money on the others so that cash wasn’t his main concern), and I think that still comes across in his performance. I’m a big fan of Ian McShane playing the main villain, Blackbeard (though no one will top Bill Nighy‘s brilliant work as Davy Jones), but I’m not crazy about Penelope Cruz as the new female lead. Though she’s talented, I’m not crazy about her in general, and I could see her becoming very annoying in this movie. The two best aspects of this movie for me may end up being Hans Zimmer‘s score and the cinematography of Dariusz Wolski, who is nothing short of a genius.
I’ll admit I know next to nothing about the Thor comic book mythology. I know he carries an awesome hammer, and that’s about it. I loved the little snippet they gave us at the end of Iron Man 2, and I love how the Marvel movies are all tying together in anticipation of The Avengers in 2012. I like the scale they seem to be going for here, but at the same time if they don’t do this just right, the character could come across as silly existing in the same world as Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark. That’s the only thing that really concerns me. The most interesting thing about this project is the choice of Kenneth Branagh as director. What I’m hoping is that a guy known mostly for his performances of Shakespeare can bring a bit of that prestige to this fantasy world. At least that’s what I think they were going for when they hired him. I haven’t seen anything he’s previously directed, so I’m curious about his style, too. It should be fun seeing Anthony Hopkins ham it up, and I’ll never complain about seeing Natalie Portman on screen. Though isn’t it also interesting looking at Portman’s career choices (the Star Wars prequels, V for Vendetta, Thor, and she’s rumored to be up for a part in The Dark Knight Rises). Am I crazy, or is she a closeted geek? As if I couldn’t love her any more.
This film is controversial only in that it features Mel Gibson as its star. It was originally slated for release this year, but because of the controversy surrounding Gibson this summer (“You should just SMIIIIILE…AND BLOOOOOOOOOOOOWWW ME!”), it was put into exile. A lot of people (including me), were very much looking forward to seeing it, because a couple of years ago, Kyle Killen‘s original script was at the top of the annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. It’s certainly an original concept, and the pedigree of Jodi Foster directing Gibson has a lot of people excited. I think this trailer is a good payoff for the hype. I’m glad Summit put it out, because it indicates they do intend to release the film sooner than later. The realist in me doubts it’ll make much money, but I’m hoping it represents a comeback for Gibson with regards to his performance. Despite his antics, he remains one of our greatest actors, and he deserves a chance at redemption and forgiveness as much as anyone else. Mel Gibson is certainly not the first celebrity for whom we have to separate the performance from the man.
This is a great teaser, but then again, Michael Bay‘s movies always have solid first trailers. And then the films themselves end up being 150-minute teases. Bay claims to have learned his lessons from the second film, claiming there’ll be much less slapstick comedy. He’s saying this one will have a more serious, darker tone (where’d he get that idea from, *cough*Dark Knight *cough*, ahem). I love what they did with the Neil Armstrong lunar landing (just a really cool idea), and I love that Shockwave is the main villain this time, but I don’t know if that’s him you see at the end of the trailer. There’s a debate raging online as to whether or not it’s Unicron, apparently based only on the fact that he’s yellow-ish. However, Unicron is supposed to be planet-sized, so he better not have fit inside a ship that crashed on the moon. Just sayin. Then again, after how badly they fucked up Devastator in the last one, I wouldn’t be surprised if Unicron ended up being a school bus.
How could I not…
“You shall witness…it’s dismumbumunt!!!”
Also released just today (on Vin Diesel‘s Facebook page for some reason), is the teaser for Fast Five, aka the 5th (and supposedly final) Fast and the Furious movie. Also known as 5 Fast 5 Furious, The Fivest Fastest Mostest Furiousest, 5ast cars, Bald Heads, The Fastest Way Paul Walker Can Earn a Paycheck, and of course, the more direct…Give Us More of Your 5ucking Money! The trailer is not yet on Apple, Yahoo or the Tube, so there’ll be no linkage, but for now you can go to facebook.com/vindiesel if you really wanna see it. And you needn’t worry, there are several obligatory shots of a pair of girls wearing tiny skirts walking by random import cars. Cuz that apparently never gets old. It actually doesn’t look all that bad (even though it brings Tyrese and Ludacris back from the second movie, which was the worst of the bunch), but it’s just too easy to mock. Dwayne Johnson is in it, so we can look forward to the inevitable scene in the film where he and Diesel have a hardcore steel cage ladder match to find out who takes home Dominic Toretto‘s 6-pack of Corona.
(Is it strange that Johnson will followup up Faster with Fast Five?)
-Finally, switching gears (see what I did there?), I was glad to read today that the House is going to bring up a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a stand-alone piece of legislation. I fully support getting rid of this stupid rule in the military. If a gay person wants to serve their country, they have the same right to as anyone else. It really ought to be that simple. I’ve heard of no studies that show gay soldiers can’t integrate themselves into their units the same as anyone else, and I think it’s kind of ignorant to suggest they’d be some kind of sexual predators or that they’d spend an inordinate amount of time hitting on other soldiers of the same sex. It’s equally absurd to suggest that our hetero soldiers aren’t trained and disciplined enough to be mature about serving with gays. Any who aren’t should be relieved of their duties. A previous attempt to repeal the policy was voted down in the Senate recently, but mostly because it was earmarked to another massive spending bill. This time, lawmakers will have to be heard on where they stand on this one issue, which is exactly the way it should be. Lawmaking doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Bills don’t have to be thousands of pages long to have a positive, lasting impact. Credit here appears to go to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA). Don’t say I never gave the Democrats credit when they did something good, and I’ll be taking note of any major Republicans who openly oppose this. Congress will get a rare thumbs up from me if they get this done before they go home for the year. [Politico]