Monthly Archives: June 2010

I love It When a Plan Comes Together.

By William Johnson

The 2010 film remake of the 1980’s action adventure  television series features an ensemble of stars direct by Joe Carnahan (Smoking Aces).

The film is about four Iraq War veterans and Special Forces servicemen who are attempting to prove their innocence after being framed for a crime they didn’t commit. After escaping from military prison, the men must chase down the real culprits in order to clear their names.

This film feels like Carnhan’s last movie, Smoking Ace, an adrenaline injected thrill ride with little attention to detail. This isn’t the type of film that will leave you pondering over cliffhangers or unexplained plot twists. The A Team is pretty frank in it’s delivery, as if offers no illusions of grandeur of deeper meaning. That being said, this is a classic summer action movie.

Liam Neeson (Taken) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) both offer their usual on screen personas. Cooper is, of course, cast as a smooth talking ladies man with a sense of humor, while Neeson retreats to his usual wise, father figure role. The two characters, John “Hannibal” Smith and Templeton “Face” Peck, are portrayed believably by the Neeson and Cooper.

The role of Mr. T’s character, B.A., was filled by UFC mixed martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (The Ultimate Fighter). Rampage took some time out of the ring to prepare and film this movie. He made headlines by losing his first fight after the movie to rival Rashad Evans. Jackson provides what seems to be a caricature of the original B.A. His actions sequences are well choreographed, and he provides the comic relief needed in such an action oriented movie. Where he seems to fall short on the screen is in dialogue. His lines felt rushed and jumbled at times when his character was actually required to speak.

South African Sharlto Copley (District 9) delivers an unremarkable performance as the team’s aviation specialist H.M. Murdock. His character normally serves as the get away driver and saving grace of the team with little involvement with action of the plan.

This film uses all of the original catchphrases from Hannibal’s “I love it when a plan comes together”, to Mr. T’s, “ I ain’t getting on no plane” and “You’re crazy fool!”.  B.A.’s fear of flying is used prominently, along with a nod to the classic GMC van he used to drive.

Those going to see this film should expect a montage of gunshots and things blowing up, along with a few laughs. The main problem isn’t with the movie, which achieved what it set out for. The vehicle on which the movie is based, the original series, is shallow. For those who are fans of the original series and are feeling a bit of nostalgia or just want an action oriented movie experience, I recommend the movie. However, in what feels like a two hour long episode of the classic, some viewers may get annoyed with seeing the team in the same type of predicaments, only to be saved in the same formulaic fashion.
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The Emerging of a Sport.

By William Johnson

The U.S. national soccer team disproved a number of preconceptions about them at the 2010 World Cup. The U.S. team led it’s group for the first time in 80 years, went undefeated during the group stage, and Landon Donovan broke the U.S. record for most goals scored in World Cup play. The most interesting fact, however, is that the American people cared enough to watch it all.

The broadcast of the U.S. team’s 1-0 win over Algeria broke ESPN ratings records as the largest audience for a soccer game in network history, reaching a reported 4,582,000 households and 6 million viewers. the online broadcast at espn.com became the highest watched online sporting event stream in the site’s history. logging over 1 million viewers. Two U.S. presidents voiced their support for the teams as President Barack Obama called the team to congratulate them after their win over Algeria and President Clinton could be seen in the stands of every U.S. game.

Even after the crushing loss to Ghana on Saturday, fans are supporting a petition to get a U.S. bid as the host of the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Landon Donovan is appearing on everything from Good Morning America to The Daily Show and Late night with David Letterman. Fans who had never watched a full soccer game before this World Cup are reciting player bios and fact, myself included. Facebook updates, news headlines, and television networks flooded with information about every goal and bad call. The nation became interested in soccer.

America isn’t known for being particularly keen on soccer. The lack of interest in U.S. soccer in the past is evident in the compensation the players receive. According to a chart recently released by a players union for Major League Soccer, Some players make as little as $20,000 a year to play the sport. Landon Donovan, who has been hailed as the greatest player in U.S. history, is paid $900,000. While this isn’t a meager amount by any means, in the NFL or NBA this would be considered completely unacceptable for any starting player, much less one of his caliber. Another example is the salary of the U.S. team’s head coach, Bob Bradley. Bradley receives $500,000 a year to coach the team, while Britain’s head coach, Fabio Capello makes a reported $7.3 million. With more national attention comes sponsorships and bigger advertisers. If this trend of increasing popularity continues, we may see a raise is pay and talent is U.S. game play.

Hopefully, the spike in U.S. support will carry over to the regular season. After a season long stint in Everton with national teammate Tim Howard, U.S. football poster boy Landon Donovan will be playing for the L.A. Galaxy this season. With any luck, he’ll bring his new found fans along with him.

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FSG: Six Tips to Survive the First Year of College.

By William Johnson

I loved the first year of college. It had it’s ups and down, but I enjoyed the ride. However, there are some things I wish I knew when I started and some mistakes I wish I hadn’t made. College should be a fun and eye opening experience for everyone involved. It comes with so much freedom that it takes awhile to get adjusted to not having to ask before going out. I don’t know how many times I almost said, “I’ll have to ask my mom”, when somebody asked me to hang out. There are some things to be remembered with this new freedom, however. Here are a few tips to help you survive freshman year.

1. Go to Class!

The most commonly used phrases by subject 101 professors on the first day of class is, “The reason most students fail my class is because attendance”. No, this doesn’t mean that every teacher has a strict attendance policy.In fact, most instructors could care less if you come to class, and that’s where students miss out. Go to every class if you can. There will be days when you just can’t make it. On those days, make sure to get a copy of the notes. You’ll have classes that you don’t have to go to every session, but don’t abuse them. Remember why you’re at college to begin with.

2. Study!

I can’t stress this enough. Studying is the most important thing you can do while at school, besides going to class. Studying doesn’t have to be boring, either. Make study groups with classmates and friends. Set goals for your study times. When I had study groups this year, we made sure to take a 5-15 minute break every hour. Study groups are great for people who can’t stare at a book for hours at a time. In this setting, students can talk about each subject  until it’s understood by everybody. That being said, pick your study group partners wisely. Wasting hours of time is just as bad as not studying. Actually, it’s the same thing.

3. Eat smart/ Get out and do something!

Studies show that students either lose or gain fifteen pounds within the first year of college. Now that parents aren’t around to tell you how to eat or when to eat, managing a healthy schedule can be difficult. This is where the fabled “Freshman Fifteen” comes in. Most universities also have a dining hall of some sort. Often times, this is an open buffet sort of establishment. All-you-can-eat does not mean you should eat all you can eat. Try to keep a regular eating schedule that works for you. also, try to get out and get some exercise. Walk around campus, and explore the city or town. Most likely, your college or university has a fitness center open for student use. Use it. You’ll find that there is a lot of free time when you first get to college. Use some of that time to stay fit.

4.Respect your Roommate!

Roommates can be the best (and worst) part of your college experience. The first thing you should do is sit down and have a conversation about boundaries. Some people like to sing and listen to music obnoxiously loud in the shower, while others may yell in their sleep. Discuss these things before getting settled in. Roommate agreements are a good way to establish house rules. Set times for visitors to come over, and rules for those who spend the night. If your roommate is completely unbearable, talk to your Resident Assistant for help on how to solve the situation. If everything falls in your favor, your roommate can end up being your best friend.

5.Get involved/meet people!

Make an effort to have at least one friend in every class you have. A major part of college is meeting people and networking. Join a student organization, or hang out around campus. College is stepping stone to a better job and living completely on your own. A good thing about it is that you get to start over from high school. Use it to find yourself and grow out of your shell. Or if you don’t have one, make great friends and help them come out of theirs. As freshmen, you’re all in this boat together. Organize trips to the grocery store or movies with that one friend who has a car. Pull study groups together from your friends in class and out of class. Besides, you can’t get invited to that party you want to go to, or talk the guy/girl you saw in History if you don’t have any friends.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

As mentioned earlier, college is a stepping stone. This means it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for help during this trial period of your life. Whether it be from your new friends, or a call back home to your parents, learning to ask for help is key to surviving through the first year. Remember that your parents are there to help you when you need it. There’s no shame in calling Mom and Dad. If you don’t have a car during your freshman year for a number of reasons, asking a friend for a ride is something you’ll end up doing at least once or twice. Going to a professor’s office hours if you don’t fully grasp a concept or definition is encouraged. Even if you want to just talk about your grade or how the class is going, professors will encourage you to stop by.

This list isn’t definitive or limited to. It’s a guide to make the transition to college easier. If you have any questions, or comments, feel free to email me or leave a comment below. Think I left something out or was too vague? Leave it below and I’ll answer your question.

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Apple’s iPhone 4 feels incomplete.

By William Johnson

On Monday June 7, Apple announced the arrival of the most anticipated device in the past year. While many speculated the name of the new device to be the iPhone 4G, Apple dropped the G and released the iPhone 4. Although it may not alarm most consumers, the lack of that one letter from Apple’s latest project is disturbing news for some tech enthusiasts.

Technically speaking, this phone is the leader in the smartphone pack. Well Almost. The HTC Evo 4G is the only phone close enough in specs to match Apple’s latest marvel. Both phones can brag about thier equally mind blowing features.  The Evo has a 4.3 inch screen as compared the the iPhone’s 3.5 inch display. HTC also loaded it’s creation with a ridiculously amazing 8 megapixel camera as compared to Apple’s 5 megapixel. The iPhone 4 boasts the highest resolution screen for a mobile phone with breathtaking 960 x 640 display, virtually eliminating  those rough pixels from the users eye. The new “retina display” achieves a quality above what the human eye can detect. The human eye can only see up to 320 pixel per inch, while Apple has included 326 per inch in it’s new phone. The new iPhone also advertises a long battery life (7 hours of 3G talk, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video playback, 300 hours of standby), something that has been a constant complaint of Evo users. Both support video calling and HD video recording, although Apple includes it’s patented media editing software in the phone, allowing for quick video and photo edits.

The defining difference between the two phones is the lack of 4G in the iPhone 4. While the use of 4G kills the battery life of the Evo, it’s HTC’s one major advantage over the Apple. Apple is in an exclusivity deal with AT&T until 2012. So, until the nations largest wireless provider can upgrade it’s coverage to 4G, Apple is limited to 3G.

Speculations as to when the phone will become 4G capable are flying around the net, but nobody can be sure until AT&T’s 4G LTE network is operational sometime in 2011, which has been confirmed.

Without 4G, this phone is severely hindered in it’s capabilities. For those of you who don’t know, AT&T is advertising that it’s LTE will be able to reach speeds of 140 Mega bits per second, 10 times the speed of the current HSDPA (3G) network. Imagine your iPhone ten times faster, atleast. 4G is necessary for this product to rech it’s full potential.

While I fully believe in the awesomeness of the iPhone, this incarnation isn’t for me. Although it is a great phone, Apple can and will do better. It seems like an attempt by Apple to keep the customers it had from leaving before they can achieve 4G. Like any tech savvy person, I’ll be waiting for Apple to add a G onto it’s latest product before I blow another $199.

For a comparison chart of the two phones, click here, compliments of Techtorial.

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First Impressions: Get Him to the Greek

by William Johnson

Russell Brand brings the insanity to this spin-off sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Since 2004, Apatow Productions (Knocked up,Anchorman) have been doling out comedic hits, and Get Him To The Greek is no exception. Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) Stars as Aldous Snow with Jonah Hill (Superbad) cast as Aaron Green, a bumbling intern responsible for getting Snow to The Greek Theatre. The two must travel through several hilarious situations in order to get Snow to perform.

In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Snow was a drug-free rock star vacationing in Hawaii with his then girlfriend, Sarah Marshall. This film opens with Snow performing his latest song, African Child, which turns out to be a flop. After the failure of his latest album, and dissolution of his relationship with singer Jackie Q, Snow decides to fall off of the wagon and fall back into a drug inhabited lifestyle.

Aaron Green is an intern at Pinnacle Records, whose CEO Sergio Roma ( Sean “Diddy” Combs) decides the company needs new ideas in order to survive in the current climate of the music industry. Green suggests the company have Aldous Snow perform at The Greek Theatre for a tenth anniversary concert. Sergio agrees and tasks Green with 72 hours to do this. The next hour and a half are spent with Green scrambling about with Snow through various situations on the way to the concert.

Jonah Hill gives an exceptional performance as the wide-eyed Aron Green. He plays foil to Brands outrageous Snow. As a team, these two actors play off of each other in any given situation. Brand shines as the seemingly intelligent and spoiled rock star. The lengths in which Aaron goes to keep Aldous happy are hilarious enough to keep viewers quoting lines from the film on Facebook status’s for the next few months. Sean Combs also gives a decent showing as the music executive obviously inspired from his own personality. For anyone who’s seen an episode of “Making The Band”, Combs performance should be no surprise.

Hill and Brand supply the laughs throughout the majority of the film as Green and Snow dash back and forth from slapstick to situational humor. Where the movie begins to falter is in the last twenty minutes of production. Behind the crazy rock star lifestyle story, lies a deeper tale of two men finding themselves. Green, who loves music,starts to discover that the life of a rock star may not be for him. Meanwhile, Snow attempts to realize how his actions effect others, and that he may want something besides drugs.

The problem with these two different story types, comedy roadtrip and  soul searching drama, is how the thread in which they are tied together begins to unravel. Until the last twenty minutes of the film, it works. However, the two separate and the film makes an abrupt dramatic change that may seem off putting to some audiences.

Despite the minor flaws, Get Him to the Greek is a superb comedy for those who are fans of the usual Apatow comedies. For the most part, the raunchy and sometimes silly humor will keep movie goers in stitches.

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First Impressions of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

By William Johnson
Jerry Bruckheimer fails to bring any magic to this time-traveling tale.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) stars in the Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean) produced and Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) directed adaptation of the popular Prince of Persia video game series. Named after the first installation, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is a high budget, fantasy-adventure featuring a time warping blade, capable of sending the wielder a full 60 seconds into the past at a time.

After King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) witnesses an act of courage in a young street urchin on the streets of a nameless Persian city, he takes the boy in to be a prince of Persia. It’s years later and Prince Dastan is leading a charge into a holy city, named Alamut, in search of weapons and finds nothing but a princess. In a series of twisted events, Dastan ends up with a time warping dagger capable of unleashing the fabled Sand of Time, which have the power to destroy the world. It is now up to Dastan and the princess of Alamut, Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to protect the dagger from those who would use it for evil.
This film suffers from poorly put together Computer Generated Imagery and ineffective dialog. Digitally generated back drops are apparently unrealistic and moments between the princess and the prince seem unbelievable. This movie attempts to use clichéd moments where the two main actors almost kiss, but are instead interrupted by some event.
The biggest oversight I noticed within the movie was the under use of it’s chief gimmick, the dagger. When placed in danger throughout the duration of the movie, the prince seems to forget that he is wielding a time bending dagger. In a film that overused CGI, hardly any of it was invested in the item placed in it’s namesake.
The film does , however, attempt to make political allusions by inserting Alfred Molina (The Da Vinci Code) as Sheik Amar, an ostrich racing entrepreneur who opposes taxes. Molina’s performance was the highlight of an otherwise unenergized cast. Another allusion takes places when Dastan is opposed to the idea of invading a land based on inconclusive evidence of the government trading weapons of mass destruction with their enemies. Although evident, these allusions don’t make this movie any wiser when said.
This films delivers exciting battle scenes reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Mummy trilogy and swift acrobatics similar to Spider-Man.
While the film has it’s flaws, it may be only the first is a new Jerry Bruckheimer series. Fans of the popular video game series may enjoy this adaptation
and others may pan it, but Prince of Persia brings forth exactly what it’s trailer promises: Action, Adventure, Romance, and Acrobatics.

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