Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games Review

First there was Harry Potter. Then there was Twilight. Next comes The Hunger Games as the next book series to movie America becomes obsessed with. I have heard a lot of hype for this movie for quite some time now and even though there have been some that projected the movie to bomb like Percy Jackson and Eragon movies did, but I had this feeling that this was going to be huge. The strange thing is that for some reason I had never heard of this book series until last fall when people started raving about the movie coming out. Now I am not a huge reader and it takes quite a bit for me to get sucked into a series. So I did not immediately jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon, but the movie intrigued me and I wanted badly to go see it. So I did. And I went in to the movie without having read the book at all, so keep that in mind as you read this. I certainly had high expectations and was positive that this movie had a good chance of sucking me in to the Hunger Games craze. I am here to report that after seeing this, I am officially on board. I was expecting it to be good, but it blew me out of the water. There have been a few intriguing movies so far this year and certainly at least a small handful of good movies, but I am confident in saying that The Hunger Games is the first great movie of the year.

If you haven't yet been sucked into the series yet, let me briefly explain the premise of this story. It is set in the future where North America has collapsed and been replaced by Panem, which is a country that consists of the capitol and 12 districts. Each year, one boy and one girl ages 12 to 18 are selected from each district to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are quite the big thing in which I felt was comparable to the Olympics in our day. Its a televised event that has the whole country watching. What happens is that the 24 participants are placed in a giant arena type thing and they fight to the death. The last survivor is crowned the champion. With that as the background, this movie is about the 74th annual Hunger Games. When 16 year old Katniss Everdeen's 12 year old sister Primrose is selected to represent district 12, Katniss jumps in and volunteers to take her place. The movie is about Katniss trying to survive in this year's Hunger Games. Yes, there is a lot more depth and story to it, but that is all I am going to say right now.

Now there is not a lot of bad things I have to say about this movie. I did think it started out a bit slow and choppy. Also the concept of a bunch of teenagers hunting and killing each other is quite morbid and disturbing at times, but that's about it. The acting was quite stellar. Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead role of Katniss and does a marvelous job. The rest of the crew is also amazing with great performances all around, which includes but is not limited to Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherlund, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth.. The character development amongst the whole cast was great and believable. While I did say the beginning was kinda slow, at the same time the way it went about it was also very well done because there was sufficient time for you to get to know the characters and get attached to them before the main events of the movie take place. I enjoyed the story line and am excited to see where it takes us in the next part of the story and the great thing is is that I don't have to wait for the next movie to come out to see what happens. I plan on picking up and reading the books once the busy semester has come to an end. The music in this was also fantastic. There was a scene or two where I felt they could've done a tad bit more, but overall the soundtrack was very enjoyable. Now once again, I have not read the book series, but from what I gather, fans of the book are very pleased with it, so if you have read the books you can count on being impressed.

Now if you are coming into this movie with the idea of it being a brainless, high powered action movie, you have the wrong mindset because that is not what this movie is. If you want that type of movie, go rent Mission Impossible 4. The Hunger Games is a movie with a great story line that is quite intense and emotional with an interesting love triangle that is much better than Twilight's joke of a love triangle. Like I said, I have nothing but praise for this near perfect movie that has few flaws. I am giving it a strong 9 out of 10.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Glimpse Into the Future

This past weekend was a special weekend for me as a Jazz fan. There has been a lot of turmoil and a lot of controversy in the past couple of seasons as we all know. The Williams and Boozer era was a good one while it lasted and there was some hope that we could do great things with them, but needless to say it plateaued and something needed to change. The result was a train wreck. Boozer walked, D-Will was traded, and Jerry Sloan retired. That shoved us into a rebuilding mode. Rebuilding mode is very tough because its hard to be optimistic and easy to be pessimistic. We had a few solid pieces that had potential, but just that. Potential. Potential is a scary word because while it does mean that it could work out, it could also mean that it could crash to the floor. There have been many players who never made it past potential. Players like Greg Oden were destined to become future stars and had so much potential that Portland, when they got the first pick, decided it was a good idea to select Oden and in the meantime let the Sonics select the young kid out of Texas in Durant. So that was all that we were left with. Potential. We had a young kid out of Butler that kinda reminded people of a taller Hornacek. We traded our star point guard for this young and raw power forward out of G-Tech. Then we drafted a true young center out of Turkey at number 3 and a slashing SG out of Colorado. They all could work out. Or they could flop and leave the Jazz stuck in the lottery for eternity.

Well, the season started and it has been kinda rough and up to this point this still remained uncertain. I have tried to be hopeful, but its hard at times when things never seem to work out. However, it all changed this weekend. I saw it. I saw a glimpse into the future. Due to the unfortunate circumstances that caused Al Jefferson to miss a few games, our young guys were given a shot to perform and boy did it make me happy. First off Derrick Favors has a career game with career high in both points and rebounds against Golden State with Hayward playing like an animal to help us get an overtime win against the Warriors. Then Burks and Kanter both played like crazy, having career games against the Lakers Sunday night. It is awesome. But adding that all together, it really hit me in the first half of the fourth quarter. We had Kanter, Favors, Hayward, and Burks all on the court with the veteran Tinsley leading them at the point during the fourth quarter. And not only were they on the court together at the end of the game, but they were holding the fort quite well as our young guys propelled us to victory against a good Lakers team in a place being Los Angeles that we historically play terrible in no matter who is dressed up. That right there ladies and gentlemen is our future. You saw it tonight. And it is awesome. We are going to be good. I am so happy right now!!

Now its not a finished product. We still have to figure out the point guard position. Harris isn't the answer and both Tinsley and Watson are getting up there in age. We need to work out a better bench and dump players like CJ Miles and Raja Bell. The logjam at power forward has to be worked out. With what we've seen from our big guys this past weekend, we can't afford to hold them back any longer by keeping both Jefferson and Millsap. After Al was absent this weekend, its easy to say get rid of him, but we'll see. I still don't know if Ty Corbin is the next Jerry Sloan. Now that doesn't mean I'm ready to get rid of him, he's done a great job and deserves to stay on board, but I don't think he is our savior. I've said for well over five years now that Jeff Hornacek would make a great head coach for us. And hey, he's now sitting on the bench as an assistant coach, so maybe that will be an option. We also have two draft picks in the upcoming draft if all works out and in a very deep, that could help a lot. Then there is the trade exception that we have to use before it expires at the end of the year. So there is some work to do, but I feel like this is starting to come together. The Utah Jazz are going to be a force to be reckoned with and I am stoked!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Top 10 Songs

A few weeks ago I did a blog post that was a top 30 Disney songs post. Now I am doing the same thing but with my top songs of all time. And I'm only doing 10 instead of 30. Now it may seem like I am copying my other blog post with this one, which is perfectly fine because I'm allowed to do that, but it's actually the other way around. The top 30 Disney Songs came second. A while back I did a facebook status where I posted my top 10 most played songs on my iPod. With this I am taking that idea and refining it and improving it to be my top 10 favorite songs of all time. Now keep in mind that this is my personal opinion. In other words it is MY favorite songs of all time. For some reason people missed that idea when I posted my Disney Songs list. I got a lot of crap from people in saying that I was wrong. Well that's not possible. It was MY favorite songs. So just keep that in mind as you read this. This is just for fun. With this list you will get a bit of a taste of the type of music that I like. Enjoy! I'm counting down from 10 to 1.

#10- People Are People - Depeche Mode- 
As you will quickly find, electronic and techno music are amongst my favorite genres of music and Depeche Mode is one of the greatest electronic bands in my opinion. There are a lot of great Depeche Mode songs, but this one is easily my favorite. The sounds they make in this one are certainly epic and entertaining. What they do with the corresponding music video is also well played. This happens to be the only 80's song on this list, but there were several others that almost made it, so don't feel that I am anti 80's at all. People are People also has a great message that is in essence an anti racism song so that is classy.

#9- Diary of Jane - Breaking Benjamin-
Some might argue the choice of this specific song. I love the feel and style of Breaking Benjamin's music and I debated in my mind for several moments on whether to pick this one or So Cold, but in the end Dairy of Jane won out as my favorite Breaking Benjamin song and managed to crack my top 10 when I didn't initially think it would before I looked through my music. This song has a lot of emotion to it. You can feel the bitter anger in his tone and lyrics as he realizes that the girl he likes doesn't reciprocate the love. I think we have felt those feelings at one point in our life.

#8- Bring Me To Life - Evanescence- 
If you come to me and ask me who my favorite band is, the first thing I will do is tell you that there are a lot of bands that I like and its hard to pick just one. If you pursue the question and force me to pick one, Evanescence is my choice as is apparent with this being the first of two Evanescence songs. I really love Amy Lee's voice and style of music. This was my favorite song of hers for a while until I came across another one that topped it. You will see which one that is here in a bit.

#7- Blue (Da Ba Dee) - Eiffel 65-
Heck yes! If you didn't know me well enough to know that I am a huge Eiffel 65 fan, then its time you learn that I am. I loved this band since one of my old friends introduced them to me back in like 4th grade. Blue is the one song of theirs that everyone knows and edges out several others as my personal favorite. And once again, you see the theme occurring with me. Eiffel 65 is another electronic band. If you actually pay attention to the lyrics, this is a rather depressing song, but haven't we all felt that extremely lonely feeling where it seems no one cares or likes you?

#6- Viva La Vida - Coldplay-
This is my representation of Coldplay on this list. To be quite honest, I am not a huge Coldplay fan, but there are a few of their songs that just hit a chord with me and this is one of them. Now before I created this list, I didn't think this would be on there, but after coming across this on my iTunes, I just couldn't keep it off. It's just too catchy and awesome. The message of this is an interesting one as he is singing about how the mighty have fallen. Specifically you could say this is a song about Napolean as he is on the album cover, but it could apply to anyone really that has gone from being at the top to falling down to the very bottom.

#5- What I Want (Featuring Slash) - Daughtry-
I have really come to love Daughtry ever since he made his appearance on American Idol a few years back. He almost perfectly appeases the rocker part of me. This particular song is off of his debut album and for some reason never got big. It doesn't even have a music video for me to post here. I don't know why he never made it into one of his singles, because I think it could've been huge. But oh well, I bought the album and came to learn of this song and have reaped the rewards of that. Even if its not huge with everyone else, its huge with me. I think its the best song out of all three of his albums so far. And kudos to him for bringing in the Guns N' Roses guitarist to rock along with him.

#4- It's My Life - Bon Jovi-
Speaking of rockers, it has just been revealed to you who my favorite rocker of all time, the one and only John Bon Jovi! Now I know this isn't the Bon Jovi song that many people would've picked as his best one, but it is the one that I choose. I was introduced to this song when I was quite young and instantly fell in love with it. Its funny though, I knew Bon Jovi started his career in the 80's, but with this being my favorite Bon Jovi song, you would've thunk that I would've known that this song is actually fairly modern and not one of his older classics. Fail on my part. I didn't learn that until more recently.

#3- Sandstorm - Darude-
After seeing two electronic songs make my top 10, its about time the techno in me comes out. Everyone knows Sandstorm and if you don't think you do, then hit play real quick and you find that you have heard it as well. A lot of good techno songs have been written and I think that this one is the best techno song ever written. Darude really hit the jackpot when they released this song. Now in speaking of Darude, its quite sad that not many people know of their other songs that they have written, because they have some awesome songs besides this one. If you like techno, then you should go look them up. I'd recommend you start with my second favorite Darude song, My Game.

#2- You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) - Josh Groban-
First order of business, Blogger for some reason wouldn't let me upload the official video for this song, so I posted this nice slideshow here to look fancy, but I really recommend you ignore that one and instead follow this link: That video is so awesome and sets quite the emotional scene for one of the best songs of all time. But anywho, Josh Groban is awesome. One of the most beautiful voices ever. I wish I had his singing voice. Now this specific song in addition to the powerful vocals has one of the best messages ever. If I am ever feeling down, this is the song I turn to. It's even made me cry a time or two when I'm by myself.

#1- My Immortal - Evanescence- 
This is the song you have been waiting for. I made the slight teaser that I had two Evanescence songs on this list when I mentioned the first one and I have decided to crown this song as my all time favorite song, which is fitting because I claim Evanescence as my favorite band when people force me to make that decision. My Immortal completely blew me away the first time I heard it. The emotion in this song is quite powerful and Amy Lee's vocals to go along with it makes this extremely beautiful. The specific emotion in this is her being rather devastated at the loss of one she loved, which is an emotion that most of us can relate to, realizing how hard it is to lose someone you love.

So there it is. It's rather hard to make a list like this, but I feel comfortable with my choices. And now you have gotten a sense of my style of music. If any of you are daring enough, I'd be interested to see your top 10 songs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Review

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a movie that came out back in December that I skipped out on when it first came out. I elected to go see movies like Sherlock Holmes 2, War Horse, Tintin, and We Bought a Zoo instead. Some of those were good decisions while others weren't. But that's not the important part. What is is that Mission: Impossible recently came out in the dollar theater and on a quiet weekend with nothing to do, I decided to go check it out with a friend. It was well worth my dollar. So if you are like me and you decided not to spend the $8 on it, now is the time to go check it out.

Mission: Impossible is what it is. If you go out to see it, what you will expect is a high powered action movie with lots of crazy intense scenes. The story line is a lot like the other Mission: Impossible movies. Tom Cruize and company get called on to complete some crazy mission that seems, well, impossible. And through a series of crazy events, the mission is completed. The story line isn't overly genius and is quite predictable, but that isn't the point of the movie. The point is to take the audience on a crazy journey that  includes a lot of crazy action. And with that it succeeds. It was quite the thrill ride. The action was some of the greatest action that I've seen in quite a while. Saying that it is one of the best action films of 2011 isn't a stretch at all. And some of the scenes, like Tom Cruize hanging off the side of the glass skyscraper  were quite intense and memorable. And speaking of journey, the many different locations it took us to throughout the film did make it quite the journey to say the least.

As far as the acting goes, Tom Cruize and company does a good job I thought. We haven't seen Tom Cruize much on the big screen recently and I'm sure he rather enjoyed making this movie. Jeremy Renner and others as the supporting cast did a decent job. There was no acting job that stuck out to me as being bad or annoying, so that is a plus. Being a fan of Lost, I enjoyed the slight Lost connection. JJ Abrams was one of the producers of the movie. Josh Holloway made an appearance towards the beginning and did a stunning job with the ten minutes they decided to give him. And of course there is Michael Giacchino that did a great job with the music. Yes, there is a minor complaint there if you didn't catch it. I hoped that they would've used Josh Holloway more. He would've added a great dimension to the movie, but they missed out.

Other complaints I had. The story line didn't captivate me. No, its not the important part of the movie, but I still would've liked something more captivating. A great action movie with a great story line is hard to beat. Also I think it dragged on a bit, like they tried to do a bit too much. 20 to 30 minutes shorter would've been better in this instance. And to be quite honest, its been quite a while since I've seen the other three movies and I don't remember them very well, so maybe I'm not the best judge on this, but there was a lot of buzz that this was the best Mission yet. I don't see that. I remember enjoying some of the other ones a lot more, but this one was still fun.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Not the best Mission: Impossible and it wouldn't have made my list for top 10 movies of 2011, but it was fun. I give it a 7 out of 10 for entertaining me but not blowing me away.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Movie Preview - March 2012

February of 2012 has come and gone. Last year at this point things were looking fairly dreary. Most movies were under-performing, yet the outlook for March was good. However, things didn't quite work out. Rango was a hit at $123M and Battle: Los Angeles performed decently with $83M, but that was about it. This year is looking a lot better. This February was much improved February. In fact, historically it ended up being one of the best Februarys. Last February, there were only four movies that opened north of 20M, three of them coming in one weekend. This February doubled that with eight movies opening up north of 20M, which was at least one per weekend, with Valentines Day weekend seeing a historic four movies pulling that off, which is only the second time in history that has happened. Those eight movies from last month include The Woman in Black, Chronicle, The Vow, Safe House, Star Wars Episode I (3D re-release), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and Act of Valor. Out of those movies, The Vow has already topped 100M, Safe House will do so before the weekend hits, and before March ends, Journey 2 will have joined the club, making three movies from this February in the 100M club. Adam Sandler's Just Go With It was the only movie to do so last year, barely clearing the mark with 103M. With that review of this past month in mind, it provides a great omen for this upcoming month that will see several potential blockbusters. In fact, a few of the smaller movies seem to have forecasted this already and shied away to April where there is less competition. So now lets jump into this month and see what movie goers have to look forward to!

March 2-
Much like last year, this March will start off with a bang. Last year had the animated hit Rango released in the first weekend of March which went on to win Best Animated Film in the Oscars. This year in the first weekend has another animated film in Dr. Suess' The Lorax start March off and it is sure to be a hit as well. The reason I am sure of that is that history is on it's side. First off, it is the fourth Dr. Suess book to be turned into a movie since the year 2000. The three previous Dr Suess movies were all able to have Box Office success. Even Cat in the Hat, which was a terrible movie, wound up with decent success at 101M. The Lorax shouldn't be any different. Secondly, it is the third animated movie that Illumination Entertainment has put out and both movies they have done so far have had success. If you are unfamiliar with Illumination Entertainment, they are the company that did Despicable Me. That make you excited for The Lorax? Illumination also did the less popular but still successful Hop. Now I doubt that The Lorax will reach the level of The Grinch and Despicable Me (both of which reached $250M), but it should reach the level of Rango ($123M) or Horton Hears a Who ($154M) without a whole lot of trouble. The last note I will give on The Lorax is that it has a rather interesting cast. It brings together long time famous movie stars Danny DeVito and Betty White with the younger rising star in Zac Efron, singer Taylor Swift, and The Office star Ed Helms the as the main voices in the movie. Competing with The Lorax this weekend will be Project X. The Lorax shouldn't have much of a problem taking the top spot on the week, but nonetheless this is probably the best weekend in March for Project X to come out since The Lorax and Project X will have targeted audiences that are polar opposite. Project X is an R rated comedy about a group of high school seniors that throw a birthday party that spirals out of control when the word of the party spreads. It is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem - all involving teens. So add that to the storyline that is based around a crazy party and you can pretty much guess what this movie will be like. R rated comedies were quite successful towards the beginning of last year and so Project X seeks to start that trend again this year, but there is the fact that another R rated comedy in Wanderlust completely fell on its face last week, so it could go either way.

March 9- 
This week the story of John Carter will begin to unfold. This project has started to raise a lot of eyebrows and for good reason. Now John Carter is a movie that is based on a book series written back in the early 1900's and it was almost the first ever animated movie ever made. Now that obviously didn't go through but now many years later it has, but as a live action film. Now this seems like an innocent project that wouldn't cause people to question Disney. The issue arises with the fact that Disney spent $250M to make this movie. So in order for this to be a worthwhile project, it will have to be a huge box office hit. I personally think it will do well enough to attract a good audience, but I doubt that it will make as much as it needs to make for Disney to wind up with a profit on it. My guess is that it ends up around $150M - 200M and will have to rely on international grosses to make a profit. John Carter does have some competition, but not a lot. Silent House is a horror movie that is randomly placed in March. A lot of horror films have a similar premise so not a lot needs to be said here. This one is about a woman who is trapped in her family's lakeside retreat. The most interesting thing in my opinion is that it stars Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. So if you want to go get scared or you are feeling sadistic and want to see an Olsen twin get terrorized, then this movie is for you. The second movie competing with John Carter is A Thousand Words. A Thousand Words stars Eddie Murphy. I'm not convinced that this will be a huge hit, but it could be a fun smaller film that tries to portray good message about being careful and smart about what you say. Eddie Murphy is a great actor, but that doesn't always translate to Box Office success. This movie could meet a similar fate to Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson's The Big Year film that got 7.2M total last year.

March 16-
There is only one movie that is daring enough to open up right in between John Carter and The Hunger Games. Most movies are wise to avoid that weekend because lots of people just payed for John Carter and/or are saving up to go to the Hunger Games and less interested in what comes between those. 21 Jump Street is the daring one and its banking on reaching an audience that is slightly different than the audiences of John Carter and The Hunger Games, otherwise it may be in trouble. 21 Jump Street is a movie that is based on the TV series in the late 80's of the same name. 21 Jump Street was the TV series that made Johnny Depp famous and he makes a cameo appearance in this movie version. 21 Jump Street sees Channing Tatum make yet another appearance on the big screen this year and co-stars Jonah Hill.

March 23-
This is the weekend that many people have been anticipating for quite some time now as The Hunger Games officially comes to theaters. Now attempting to make a book series into a movie series is always a high risk, high reward. People love their book series' and if you make a movie that screws it up, they will call for your head for the rest of eternity. However, if you are successful enough, that same crowd will love you forever. The Hunger Games will try to take the path of Harry Potter and Twilight while attempting to avoid the fate of Percy Jackson and Eragon. Personally, I think The Hunger Games will do well and take the path of the former. I don't know if it will make quite as much money as the Harry Potter and Twilight movies, but it has potential to if it does really well in this first movie. As far as Box Office success goes, I think Twilight is a good comparison. The original Twilight  made $190M and fans of the Twilight books liked it so much that the ensuing movies all made around $300M. I know lots of people that already have their Hunger Games tickets purchased. In fact, early ticket sales numbers indicate an opening that will beat out the original Twilight's $70M dollar opening in its first three days. It set a new record on Fandango for first day ticket sales, beating Twilight: Eclipse.

March 30- 
With The Hunger Games set for one of the biggest March openings ever the previous weekend (Alice in Wonderland's $116M opening isn't out of reach and anything above $70M will give it second place), this weekend isn't looking good for the two new releases opening up in Hunger Games's shadow if they are wanting to open up on top. The movie that will come closest is The Wrath of the Titans. It's predecessor, The Clash of the Titans, opened up to $61M on its way to its way to $163M almost exactly two years ago. If Wrath were to open with those exact numbers or higher, it would probably take the weekend, but keep in mind that star Sam Worthington was just coming off Avatar and the 3D craze was just underway and so those two aspects helped boost Clash.  The reviews on clash were mixed, with many people not looking too highly on it. After that take, the success of the sequel domestically trends down. Think of Ghost Rider 2 this past month . The first one was successful in the Box Office but got poor reviews which caused the second one to open up with a mere $24M. I don't know if it will be that bad for Wrath, but I don't expect an opening for Wrath of the Titans above $35M - $40M which will most likely not be enough to takeover the weekend. Now internationally, its a different story. Clash earned $300M overseas and the recent trend is that sequels do really good, so Wrath of the Titans is almost certain to make most of its money from the international box office. The other new release for this month kicks off an odd Snow White fetish. Mirror Mirror is the first of two Snow White movies to come out this year, both of them separate franchises and both of them quite different. Snow White and the Huntsman will come out in June and is more Lord of the Rings esque. Mirror Mirror is a more lighthearted Snow White that stars Julia Roberts and is geared for the younger crowd. Judging from the trailer, I think that Snow White and the Huntsman will be the much better Snow White movie, but maybe Mirror Mirror will surprise. I doubt it though.