Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Expendables Trailer Hits


Look at that.  Just look at it!  If you have ever enjoyed a movie starring men known for grimaces, muscles, and explosions, then take a gander at the trailer for Sylvester Stallone’s newest film, The Expendables, which comes out in August.

I’ve been known to employ my fair share of hyperbole in the past and this film may end up being awful, but look at the lineup.  In this flick, you get Sly, that other Handsome Rob, Jason Statham, the supposedly “retired” Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and a wealth of burly dudes with awesome facial hair-growing abilities, as well as a plot about overthrowing an over-the-top island dictator, played by Dexter’s David Zayas.

Plus, oh yes, the first ever on-screen meeting of the three ’80s action heroes: Stallone, Arnold, and Bruce Willis.  That’s right.  Rambo, the Terminator, and John McClane are in the same room.  It’s just a cameo, but it’s so manly it makes me want to grill a steak and lift weights even more than I already do.

So, come August, I’ll be first in line to get my fill of brawn and bombs.

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Gorzelanny and Silva Make Cubs’ Rotation: Nail Biting Time?


I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little worried about the news that Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva were named to the final two spots of the Cubs’ rotation today.  But then, I could see it working out well, too.

Here's hoping Silva can be un-bad this year.

The bigger surprise here is probably Silva.  You can’t go 5-18 in a two-season span and not raise some red flags.  Hell, his ERA last year alone was 8.60.  He looked like his career was done, yet the Mariners found someone desperate enough to take him in the form of the Cubs (thanks, Milton Bradley!).

Yet, he has looked solid this spring, except for his first start when he was lit up for six runs in two innings, exactly the kind of output I was expecting from him, considering the player he was traded for. But then something clicked. His sinker now appears to be working, which will definitely come in handy pitching in a small ballpark like Wrigley Field.  Hopefully he can revive his career–he had double-digit win totals three times with Minnesota–and have a solid year.

Gorzelanny: a so-so bet for a good year.

Gorzelanny is a less nerve wracking rotation candidate.  While not having an ERA to write home about the last couple years, he was on his way to stardom with the Pirates in ’07 before getting injured the next year.  After getting traded to the Cubs at midseason last year he seemed to start putting it together again.  Having seen him pitch when I was in Vegas, I can attest that he looks poised on the mound and he could be primed for a big year, as far as fourth starters are concerned.  I could see him winning 10 games maybe.

The best thing about the current rotation is that it allows Jeff Samardzija to return to the eighth inning setup role he excelled in during the 2008 pennant race.  He may want to be a starter at some point in his career, but his secondary pitches still need some work.  Being in the bullpen allows him to rely on his fastball and slider while occasionally tinkering with a changeup here and there.  Once he gets a solid third pitch, then we’ll talk about him being a force in the Cubs’ rotation.

This decision makes it seem a little like the Cubs are throwing some stuff at the wall to see what will stick.  Or they could just be looking for a righty-lefty-righty flow to the rotation without really worrying about the quality of the lefty starter.  After all, the guy who’s been the ace the last couple years, Ted Lilly, should be back a couple weeks into the season, right?  Right?  Gulp.

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TV Themes, Twins, Other T-Word To Complete the Alliteration


I was on Ain’t It Cool News earlier and their TV guy, who goes by the name of Hercules, posted this video.  He complained (as most nerds–myself included–do) about these two brothers not including enough classic themes.  I, on the other hand, think these guys are very entertaining.  I’m a big fan of their takes on the Charles in Charge, Cheers, and The OC (played with a faux seriousness that made me grin) themes.

On top of that, this got me thinking.  If anyone out there reading this is a twin, why on earth would you have the same hair cut as your brother or sister?  It’s hard enough to tell you apart.  If I had a twin, I’d get a mohawk and put tattoos on my forehead and stuff.  I’d be the cool rebel one that, like, plays loud music, wears leather jackets, and doesn’t live up to his potential.  Wait, I’m already doing those.  Damn you, YouTube, providing me with a case of angsty, existential woe!

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Cold War Kids Behave Themselves and I Couldn’t Be Happier


I did a Band Pimping on the Cold War Kids not too long ago and I mentioned they recently released a new EP called Behave Yourself. I’d been looking all over for the damn CD for weeks and couldn’t find it in stores–probably because I’m the only person that still buys CDs–so I ordered it from good ol’ Amazon.com and haven’t stopped listening to it since it arrived earlier in the week.

Cold War Kids just keep getting better.

The short song selection begins with “Audience”, which is already the leading contender for Rob’s Favorite Song of 2010, which is obviously much more important than a Grammy.  It’s a fantastic soul-inspired track about women and since I like me some ladies, it speaks to me.  Front man Nathan Willett’s voice, which can sometimes get a little falsetto-y, is in great form throughout the entire song.

“Coffee Spoon” is another soulful song with some good “woo-woo”‘s going on.  “Santa Ana Winds” is a bit of a return to form for the band, getting back to the Velvet Underground-meets-Dylan sound they had on their debut album, Robbers and Cowards.

Speaking of Robbers and Cowards, the ‘Kids reprise the hidden track from that album, entitled “Sermons vs. the Gospel”.  It’s a straight up gospel song and this version is a slower, fuller one than the original.  It’s haunting, it echoes, and it’s slightly political.  I’m a big, big fan of it.

The EP ends with a short hidden track called “Baby Boy” that seems to be the result of some studio jamming.

This minor album seems to be a bit of a shift in the band’s direction, but one I like a lot.  They’re smoothing out some of their edges, and guitarist Jonnie Russell, formerly the band’s weakest link, has improved tremendously since their early EPs.  His guitar is taking a larger role in their newer songs and is performing more than just a complementary role to the piano.  Drummer Matt Aveiro is very good and provides a CCR stomping backbone to the songs.  Matt Maust, the bassist, also does a great job.  Willett’s voice and piano work are again quite good and reminiscent of Jack White.  I hope this album is a glimpse of the future for the Cold War Kids and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.

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Post-Vegas Report; Cubs’ Vitters Looking Good


OK everyone, sorry about the late post here.  I wasn’t about to pay $14 for 24 hours of Internet at the hotel, and my apartment’s Internet has been wonky for the last couple days.

Anyway, Vegas.  Is.  Awesome.  Now, I’m not a big drinker, nor am I a gambler–I don’t even know how to play poker, actually–but both of those things were done by me.  A lot.  And since my sister is a speech pathologist, she is mega rich and paid for nearly everything. I even came out ahead, as the first slot I played–with a dollar, no less–payed out $52.40.

Number two prospect Josh Vitters is progessing well.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  What I set out to do was write about my beloved Cubs in their spring training exhibitions against the White Sox.  In short, it was a success, with the Cubs winning both games by one run each.

Since these were split squad games, the entire Cubs roster was not represented in Vegas.  I did not get a chance to see Starlin Castro, the team’s top prospect, but those players I did see impressed me, particularly third base prospect Josh Vitters, who was integral to winning both games.

In game one, Vitters went 1-2 with a triple that scored the go ahead runs.  In game two, he had an RBI on a fielder’s choice that put the team ahead for good.

Vitters, the Cubs’ top draft pick in 2007, is progressing very well.  His biggest knock as a prospect so far has been that he never takes walks, as displayed by his .319 on-base percentage in the minors thus far.  He is still a free swinger, no doubt, but he definitely took some close pitches that fooled more experienced hitters in the Cubs’ lineup.

All of this is coming from a kid who is 20, several months younger than me.  He will likely start in Double-A ball this year, meaning his ETA for the majors is approximately a year from now.  If he continues lacing the ball to all fields and improves his eye at the plate, he could be pushing the incumbant third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, out the door.

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Vegas Ain’t Cheap (And I Haven’t Even Left The Airport)


I just landed in Las Vegas at the McCarran International Airport.  I’m waiting for my sister to land and decided to go to a bar in the meantime.  I waited in line while the bartender was shouting last call, and he was gracious enough to serve me.  I glanced briefly at the menu just to see the selection and figured a Bud Light would be cheapest.  I was probably right, but $8.57 later, I am questioning my decision.  The plan is now to persuade some drunken Twilight Mom into thinking I’m Robert Pattinson and buying me free drinks.

High prices and possible fraud aside, the journey has started.  To quote infamous Vegas patron, Hunter S. Thompson, I have “gone in search of the American Dream.”  As I’ve said before, tomorrow and Saturday I’ll be watching the Cubs play the White Sox in spring training games, so expect some updates.  I’m especially looking forward to seeing any and all of the Cubs’ fifth starter candidates vying for their spots, as well as getting a look at the rehabilitating Alfonso Soriano.

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Justified: Count Me In


If you’re anything like me, you like to indulge in “what if?” scenarios.  Personally, I like to wonder what would happen if talented writers took the reigns of Walker, Texas Ranger. Most of the time it ends with me sitting in my underwear wearing a cowboy hat and playing Super Chuck Norris Bros.

Seth Bullock back in the hat.

My odd personal habits aside, FX may have answered my original question.  Graham Yost, writer of Speed (if you claim that’s not a great action movie, you are insane) and executive producer of my favorite cop show ever, Boomtown, is behind Justified, starring universally acknowledged stud Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. Marshal transferred from Miami to his hometown in Kentucky to do something…  upholding the law, I’m assuming.

Either way, it looks good based on the trailers I’ve seen.  Deadwood’s Olyphant rocks a cowboy hat like none other, spouts Elmore Leonard–the show is based on a novella of his–dialogue with skill, and the tone of the show seems to be Dexter meets the aforementioned Walker.

It starts on Tuesday, March 16 at 10 p.m./9 p.m. Central on FX.  I’ll be there, eating jerky and thinking manly thoughts.

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“My Tank’s Empty”: Nomar Retires


One of the most exciting baseball players of the last decade and a half has retired, as Nomar Garciaparra returned to the Red Sox with a one-day contract to formally announce he is walking away from the game.

Garciaparra retires.

Back in the day–oh yeah, 1999 was back in the day–Garciaparra, Boston’s shortstop, was one of the top players in the game.  I remember watching the FOX games of the week and all the playoff games the Red Sox played during his tenure and wished the Cubs could get a shortstop (hell, ANYONE) that could hit the ball for average and with as much authority as he did.

Then they did.  They got Nomar himself, actually.  Back in 2004, both the Cubs and Red Sox were in tight pennant races, but both needed to make changes.  Boston saw its main weakness as a lack of defensive ability, and made the controversial–and very complicated–deal to send Garciaparra the Cubs’ way and they recieved Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.  Of course, everyone knows how that deal turned out for the Red Sox in the end (for those of you who don’t, here’s a hint: they won the World Series).  As for the Cubs?  Let’s not talk about it.

That deal may have been the beginning of the end for Nomar as an elite player, as he got severely hurt early in the ’05 season with Chicago and was never the same.  However, what he accomplished in Boston was incredible.

In 1997, he was the American League rookie of the year, with a .306 batting average and 30 (that’s three-zero) home runs as a leadoff man playing shortstop.  That was unheard of.  Hell, it still is.  In 2000, he had the highest batting average for a Red Sox player since Ted Williams, when he batted .372.  Beyond that, he was a solid shortstop with a flair for the dramatic (.321 batting average in 32 postseason games). His career .313 average, .361 on-base percentage, 229 home runs, 936 RBI, and 95 stolen bases leave him as one of the best offensive shortstops ever, and should have him in Cooperstown before this decade is done.

Today is the end of his career as a player, but Mr. Garciaparra will be joining ESPN as an analyst.  Based on the eloquency he displayed in his press conference, I can’t wait to hear from him on Baseball Tonight and during games.  Also, I hope the reason he cited for his retirement, an unnamed medical condition, is not in any way harmful to him beyond not allowing him to continue playing.

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BRMC’s New Album Not Playing For Me


Today marks the release of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s newest album, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. While I would absolutely love to post a review of it here, having purchased it a few hours ago, I cannot get it to play on my Macbook (this is not product placement; I just want to know if this has anything to do with why it won’t work).  The disc drive just keeps spitting it out every time I put it in, and I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on why.  Anyone know if it’s one of those things where the record company doesn’t allow its albums to be played on computers due to piracy concerns?  I don’t know.  Whatever.  Here’s the new single, “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo”, to hold us all over until I can actually listen to the full album.

I am very pumped for this, as this song harkens back to the band’s third–and, in my opinion, their finest–album, Howl, with its rootsy and rustic sound.  Drummer Nick Jago’s replacment, Leah Shapiro, has a more minimal style, stomping around in the background, letting the gothic Christian imagery of the lyrics take center stage.  The rest of the song is filled with a barroom brawl flavor that fits the band like a glove.

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Congrats! Hurt Locker Wins Best Picture


The Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker

Wow, six Oscars in one night.  Way to go, Kathryn Bigelow and the rest of the team behind The Hurt Locker. You have taken on the behemoth that is Avatar (a good movie for different reasons, but certainly not the best movie of the year) and come out on top.

Unlike in past years when the wrong movies got picked–seriously, Shakespeare In Love?–the best film won.  If you have not seen The Hurt Locker, go rent it.  It’s a war movie about bomb diffusers in Iraq, sure, but the story could be about anyone in the line of duty, be it a cop, firefighter, or what-have-you.  It’s about trying to relate to those around you and struggling to transition into the next phase of your life after one is over.  Yep, I’m vague.  But that’s because I don’t want to ruin it.  Fantastic movie and extra congratulations to director Bigelow, who is now the first woman ever to win Best Director.

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