Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alexander Skarsgard Heats Up June

Summer just got that much hotter. True Blood hunk Alexander Skarsgård appears in not one, but two covers for their respective June 2011 issue. Yes, his show comes back on our TV screens at the end of June, but I'm sure these magazines didn't really need a reason to put him on their covers. I mean, they have eyes, like you and me, don't they? To see more pictures of him as well as the accompanying article/interview click the following, GQ/Interview.

Now for the tough question, which cover do you prefer?

French Open: Fourth Round Report

As I type this, the top five seeds are still alive in the draw. Of course 4th seed Andy Murray still has not officially moved on from the fourth round as he is currently 2-sets all with 15th seed Viktor Troicki and will play a one-man-takes-all set. Other top seeds such as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Robin Soderling notched straight-set and relatively drama-free wins. Nadal beat veteran Ivan Ljubicic while Federer took down countryman and 14th seed Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic and Soderling defeated a pair of Frenchmen, 13th seed Richard Gasquet and 18th seed Gilles Simon.

The only Frenchman left in the draw, 9th seed Gael Monfils, made it worthwhile for his country though as he pushed 7th seed David Ferrer to five sets and winning 8-6 in the dramatic final set after blowing three prior match points earlier on. Fabio Fognini also made a valiant effort against another Spaniard Albert Montanes winning 11-9 in the fifth set after sustaining a muscle injury late in the final set severely hampering his movement. Despite his win, he had to default on his next match giving his opponent, Djokovic, a free ride into the semifinals. Finally, Juan Ignacio Chela also won in five sets against Alejandro Falla.

Quarterfinal Preview
Rafael Nadal vs. Robin Soderling
Andy Murray or Viktor Troicki vs. Nicolas Almagro Juan Ignacio Chela
Roger Federer vs. David Ferrer Gael Monfils
Novak Djokovic d. Mikhail Youzhny Fabio Fognini

As you can see, my predictions were a bit off only getting the usual suspects correct. Now depending on the result of Murray-Troicki, there'll either be all top four seeds in the quarters or there'll be two Serbians. Either way, it's fascinating. Djokovic continues his unbeaten run this year, but it's Federer who probably has the more impressive record of making his 28th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. In the end scheme of things, I'm still predicting a Nadal-Djokovic final with the Spaniard winning.

Not even sure where to start with the women. How about the fact that the top three seeds are gone with 3rd seed Vera Zvonareva going down to 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova? Truly that was the one lone "upset" in terms of the lower ranked player beating a higher one. Perhaps 6th seed Li Na winning against 9th seed Petra Kvitova could be looked at as an upset based on the forms these ladies have shown the past few months, but give all credit to Li Na for gutting this one out. 15th seed Andrea Petkovic continues her meteoric rise reaching the quarters.

The rest of the field look at once expected and at the same time completely surprising. There's Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli who has never done so well here, but move on after Gisela Dulko retired from their match. There is the pair of former French Open champions in 5th seed Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova taking out 10th seed Jelena Jankovic and 28th seed Daniela Hantuchova. And finally, there's 7th seed Maria Sharapova outlasting 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

Quarterfinal Preview
Caroline Wozniacki Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Sam Stosur Marion Bartoli
Francescha Schiavone vs. Vera Zvonareva Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Victoria Azarenka vs. Petra Kvitova Na Li
Maria Sharapova vs. Kim Clijsters Andrea Petkovic

Clearly, I messed up in my predictions, so moving on. Who is the favorite now? I don't even know. I'd probably give the edge to the former slam champions especially as they've all looked pretty good the past week or so. If Sharapova does manage to win here though, she completes a Career Grand Slam. As for the others, they can most definitely win as well and crazier things have ALREADY happened so I wouldn't be surprised about ANYTHING. Right now, I'm rooting for Svetlana.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thor Gives Avengers Much-Needed Jolt

This Memorial Day, I took a trip to my local movie theater and finally saw Thor. All of the good reviews it has received are right on point with the film at once epic and still managing to ground itself with much-needed heart. Mostly though, it also satisfied my need for a great summer action film that even worthy movies I have seen recently like Midnight in Paris and Bridesmaid couldn't meet.

Thor being a worthwhile film also made me feel a midge better about the much-anticipated Avengers film to be written and directed by Joss Whedon. When his involvement was announced officially at Comic Con last year, I really didn't know how to feel. Happy that he got this amazing opportunity, but extremely worried that it will fail miserably. The latter can still happen because they're just way too many variables with a film that big, but the relative success, critically and box-office-wise, of Thor at least assuaged my fears that maybe all will be good in the end.

The next film set in the Avengers universe will be Captain America due out at the end of July starring Chris Evans. I have actually been a bit more excited for that film than I had been for Thor with its period sensibilities and its cast looks just terrific on paper, so I'm hoping the film continues the momentum that Thor seems to have started especially after my (and more than a few people) ambivalent feelings regarding the Iron Man sequel last year.

And finally, I really wanted to focus on Thor/Captain America/Avengers in this post, but I just wanted to quickly say that Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, the other film I saw this holiday weekend, is just wonderful and highly, highly recommended. Tom Hiddleston coincidentally appeared in both films playing Loki in Thor and F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody's film.

What about you? Did you see any movies over the weekend? Are you excited and/or worried about The Avengers?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

French Open: Third Round Report

The most anticipated match of this round that everyone was looking forward to was Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Martin Del Potro and yet there was some drama. The mixture of being scheduled last in the main show court, the previous matches going the distance, and the weather being gloomy meant that both men had to wait a long time with the chance that their match might be postponed altogether and/or moved to another court. Both happened. They moved to the other show court, but only managed to play two sets (both men winning one each) before the match was suspended for darkness. Djokovic then went on to extend his win streak to 40 by winning the next two sets they played the next day.

In more shocking news, top seed Caroline Wozniacki falls to 28th seed Daniela Hantuchova managing to win only four games and thereby extending the question of her credibility as the "number one player of the world." While people question her status, people are also wondering what's up with the other top seed, Rafael Nadal. But despite being pushed in his first two rounds, it was vintage Nadal in the third round sweeping a qualifier (who still broke the Spaniard twice in the second set) in straight sets. And despite his earlier problems, one should not be surprised if Nadal makes it look easy the rest of the tournament.

No Americans make it to the second week of the tournament (again... or is that redundant?) with Mardy Fish, Vania King, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands all losing. It's another story for the French though as four French players (Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, and Marion Bartoli) make it to the second week. It could've been five, but Stanislas Wawrinka mounted an impressive five-set comeback against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (who was up two sets and a break). Other notable losses include last year's semifinalist Sam Stosur, Kaia Kanepi, Fernando Verdasco, and Mikhail Youzhny.

There was a slight scare for 4th seed Andy Murray as he sprained his ankle in the middle of his match. In obvious pain, he managed to power through to a relatively "easy" straight-set win, but one hopes that he can recover quickly from the injury especially with the cupcake draw that he has been offered. Other notable straight-set winners include Roger "Under the Radar" Federer, David Ferrer, Robin Soderling, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Francescha Schiavone, Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonareva, and Na Li.

Ten of the top 16 seeds are still alive in the men's draw, while 12 remain in the women's draw. Bring on the second week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Harry Potter In A Word

Not sure I would label myself a Potter-head. I've only read the first two books and I didn't even see the first two films until close to when the third came out. And while I've seen all of the other films, usually in theaters, I've never done the whole midnight-show experience. That will change this year as my friends and I have decided to brave the many hardcore fans for the midnight screening of the final Harry Potter flick.

And you could sense people (aka internet fandom) slowly gearing up, building excitement, for the big release in July. Case in fact, a new fanvid has been released, currently making the rounds in the usual places like twitter and tumblr, but also in Huffington Post!

But it's Empire Magazine that seems to have initiated all of the fan love by dedicating its July issue to all things Harry Potter including a 36-page supplement with exclusive photos of and interviews with the cast. They also produced this short, but sweet video asking most of the cast to sum up their Harry Potter experience in one word. Watch it below.

Great, now I think I have something in my eye...

French Open: Second Round Report

The biggest news during the second round is the lost of 2nd seed Kim Clijsters who was a lot of people's pick, including mine, to win the tournament. A determined opponent, difficult conditions, possibly lingering health issues, and lots and lots of errors brought the 4-time major champion down making her the highest seed to leave the tournament. Another big upset is 8th seed Jurgen Melzer who joins fellow 2010 French Open semi-finalist Tomas Berdych in the sidelines. Other seeds to go down in the second round include Florian Mayer, Sam Querrey, Marcos Baghdatis, Alexandra Dulgheru, Nikolay Davydenko, Kevin Anderson, and Tsvetana Pironkova.

Top seed Rafael Nadal found himself once again in a tough and physical match against fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar. Andujar was up 5-1 in the third set, but wasted eight set points giving Nadal a straight-set win. Third seed Vera Zvonareva was down and out until her opponent Sabine Lisicki injured herself. Lisicki finished the match, but had to be taken out on a stretcher. Similarly Maria Sharapova was two points away from being upset early against French phenom Caroline Garcia. She reeled off 11 straight games through, bageling her young opponent in the final set. Speaking of the French though, they continue to have a strong presence with the top men and woman still around (Marion Bartoli, Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Richard Gasquet).

As for the Americans, three are left--Vania King, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Mardy Fish--all of them reaching the third round of Roland Garros for the first time. Other than Nadal, most of the men frontrunners are still around and doing well (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, and David Ferrer). Djokovic is set for a blockbuster match with Juan Martin Del Potro next round. With Clijsters out, the open women's draw opened up a lot more giving players such as Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur, Svetlana Kuznetsova, among others, their best chance to win. Hell, I think an injured Serena Williams or an un-retired Martina Hingis could've done a lot of damage with this draw!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Birthday Girl: Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham Carter celebrates her birthday today and if she looks back at just her past year, she'll realize what an awesome year it has been for her.

Not only did she get nominated for her second Academy Award (and won the BAFTA) for playing Queen Elizabeth in the Best Picture winner The King's Speech, but she also starred in two of the biggest blockbusters of the year. She played the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland and Bellatrix Lestrange in the first half of the final Harry Potter film. She reprises that role in less than two months when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows takes over the world.

Happy Birthday HBC!

TV Report: 5/23-5/25

The regular TV season ended yesterday and so this is probably going to be the last of my weekly TV Reports until the new season starts up again in the fall. With that said, let's run down some finales that aired this past week...

GLEE - Apart from a few scenes (Kurt and Rachel singing on the Wicked stage, Brittana's final scene, Blaine and Kurt saying I love you), it was a bloated crazy mess. I know believability is not one of the show's strongest suit, but the fact that they went into the competition without having anything prepared is ridiculous. And the songs they did end up singing for the competition? A bit uninspired so it made sense they loss. Don't get me started on the tediousness that is Rachel/Finn and her life-or-death decision of whether to be with Finn or to follow her dreams. Also wasn't Quinn supposed to do something evil? Guess that new haircut (which looked awesome BTW) did the trick. Frankly, I would've preferred Brittany singing about her cup for the entire hour. THAT SAID, I will be back next season. How could I not? Glee is pretty much like crack. The highs are highs and the lows make you suicidal. It's so bad for you and yet you're addicted.

MODERN FAMILY - Just like Claire and Mitchell wanted to callback to their own past as a gift for Jay's birthday so to was this episode full of callbacks from this season. The most obvious was the birthday video montage that contained new scenes from episodes past, but even Manny bringing the boat into the pool and Luke asking for extra salt in his hot chocolate were small, but lovely callbacks. Also loved how much overlap each stories had even if for most of the episode they were all separate. Was this season as strong as last season? Maybe not, but we got to learn more about them, and I'm looking forward to doing more of that next season.

COUGAR TOWN - Sometimes when shows leave their normal setting to go off to another location, it can feel gimmicky and just tonally different. And yet this special outing to Hawaii to rescue Travis from a life of bumming around the beach felt like vintage Cougar Town. The episode brought lots of funny as expected, but it was the deeper character moments that I really fell for. Laurie using her crush on Travis to convince him to move back was heartbreaking especially since she knows how that'd impact their relationship. Laurie and Grayson dealing with their issues about their future was nicely done. But it was Bobby's loneliness, which has been an ongoing thread this season, that really resonated. Sad we have to wait a long time until the next new episode. I bet Abed also hates that (Community cameo FTW!). In the meantime, I guess I'll drink some wine and play some Penny Can (or is it Coco Rocks?).

HAPPY ENDINGS - Very glad to have this show back next season, because I really love these characters and I can't wait to see what they do over the summer as they tinker the show to keep doing what they've been doing right and perhaps also learn from what they did wrong. At the very least I'm looking forward to a season where the episodes are aired in the right order. But in any case, the finale hearkened back to the pilot with another wedding, and it had quite a few moments that were laugh out loud for me.

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW - Okay, I don't really watch Oprah, at least with any regularity, but since she's pretty much a TV institution, the end of her Oprah Winfrey Show deserves a few words. First of all, I actually appreciated the fact that for her very final episode, she chose to strip it all down and pretty much deliver a sort of sermon to her millions of fans. It didn't make for gripping television, but it didn't need to be. The two episodes prior to this though was all about the glitz and spectacle with a huge stadium tribute to Oprah full of honorary guests, celebrities, and lots of musical performances. Wish her nothing but happiness on her own cable network.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Looking Forward To...

The Tree of Life
Release: May 27, 2011
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, and Fiona Shaw

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

French Open: First Round Report

The first round is done and dusted and most of the favorites moved safely through to the second. Some though didn't make it look easy. Defending champion and 5-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal was forced to play a fifth set for the first time in Roland Garros in his brutal match with John Isner. The American won the 2nd and 3rd set in tiebreaks, but Nadal took control as Isner ran out of juice by the end. The other French Open defending champion, Francesca Schiavone, had a much easier time against another American youngsters as she absolutely demolished Melanie Oudin. But the news wasn't all bad for Americans. In fact even with some notable absences, Americans did well on the red clay. Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey, Jill Craybas, Bethany Mattek-Sands, Vania King, and Varvara Lepcheko all moved on to the next round. The latter two women took down seeded players. And while Lucky Loser Ryan Harrison was beaten by last year's finalist Robin Soderling, he still managed to win a set.

Sixth seed and last year's semifinalist Tomas Berdych gets the dishonor of being the highest seed in either draw to get booted in the first round; 18th seed Flavia Pennetta was the highest seed in the women's side to get upset. 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic also fell in the first round, a discouraging result for her especially in light of some of her gains in smaller tournaments. Other seeds to get upset include Nicolas Almagro, Marin Cilic, Shahar Peer, Dominika Cibulkova, Milos Raonic, Nadia Petrova, and Klara Zakapalova. And though not seeded, sad to see Tommy Haas exit early as well as Lleyton Hewitt withdraw at the last-minute. Finally, former top ten player Patty Schnyder called it a career after her first round lost here.

Novak Djokovic continued his unbeatable form, winning his 38th straight match. Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, and Juan Martin Del Potro all showed excellent form. Coming back to Roland Garros for the first time in five years, Kim Clijsters extends her unbeaten Grand Slam match win to 15 matches. Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka, Sam Stosur, and Maria Sharapova won in straights.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Normal Heart, Redux

This past weekend, I went to see The Normal Heart after seeing it last month in previews. From the looks of it, they didn't make any big changes now that the show is out of previews, but I did notice that some scenes felt a bit more visceral. Now whether or not that is because the actors are performing it differently or me just having a better understanding of the whole play, I really don't know, but what I do know is that the play didn't lose any of the heart and passion that bowled me over the first time I saw it. One of the great things though was to see Larry Kramer himself outside the theater after the play ended.

The Normal Heart has been getting rave reviews upon rave reviews since it came out. Ben Brantley over at the New York Times notes that "by the play's end even people who think they have no patience for polemical theater may find their resistance has melted into tears." Hollywood Reporter writer David Rooney remarks how "its trenchancy and impassioned urgency reach out and grab you by the throat with the force of an explosive new work." Marilyn Stasio of Variety says the play works "because it has the power to move and disturb us." And finally, Robert Berg calls the new revival "the most important production Broadway has seen in years." (Click here for a few more reviews)

The play was recently nominated for 5 Tony Awards--Best Revival of a Play, Best Direction of a Play, and acting nominations for Joe Mantello, John Benjamin Hickey, and Ellen Barkin. It also picked up 3 Drama League Awards nominations and 2 Outer Critics Circle nominations, winning Best Play Revival for both. The ensemble was also given a special award during the Drama Desk Awards. Check out the video below to see its opening night:

If you're in New York City, definitely check out this great play which has a limited run through July 10. Buy tickets now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

TV Report: 5/16-5/20

Finales galore! This past week so many of my shows ended, I don't even know how many I have to talk about next week. For the most part though, there were some great finales with a few meh-okay ones in their midst. So without further a due...

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER - It wasn't one of the show's stronger finales, but it was solid. I think I would've been more impressed if I hadn't predicted Lily was getting sick due to being pregnant. Lots of Barney/Robin in the episode which is probably setting up the big arc for next season especially since Nora is reintroduced and we find out that Barney is the groom. I thought the Arcadia/Zoey stuff ended last episode, but I guess not. Let's us never speak of them. Overall, a good season, mostly due to the father storylines of Marshall and Barney.

CASTLE - Was that a harrowing season finale or what? With people not being who they say they were and then dying, I felt I was watching a Joss Whedon-penned episode. Stana Katic was fantastic shouldering most of the emotions and action in the episode. Her blowup with Castle in her apartment and then breakdown outside the hangar are two of my favorite scenes. With all that said, RIP Captain Roy Montgomery. That was brutal. Oh and I have mixed feelings about shooting Beckett in the end. She's going to be alive obviously, but now what? Will she develop amnesia and forget Castle told her he loves her? Will she be on leave for an extended time? Just felt we really didn't need that ending.

GLEE - I knew a female castmember was going to die and I had predicted it was going to be Sue's sister Jean since a Sue-centric episode was due and with next week's NYC finale, I'm guessing Sue isn't going to be much of a factor there. With that said, how very sad. I definitely teared up at the funeral, both with the words Sue wrote and with the performance the kids gave. Now Sue seems to have (yet again) buried the hatchet with the Glee Club, so I hope this time it sticks especially since her humanizing influence of Jean is now gone. An even more cartoonish Sue for next year is NOT what we need even if she is running for political office. The rest of the episode was American Idol redux or dealing with the love triangle that I never gave a damn about. So there it is.

THE GOOD WIFE - When a show leaves me breathless before the first commercial break, I know it's going to be good and this episode wasn't any different. I tend to love the "fighting the clock" cases since it promotes teamwork and that is exactly what Kalinda and Alicia needed to at least learn how to work with one another because together they are AWESOME. Throughout the episode we get bits and pieces of some of the things we can look forward to next year such as the Cary/Peter alliance, Eli working within Lockart & Gardner, Jackie bonding with Owen, and of course whatever the fallout is to Will and Alicia giving in to "one hour" of good timing. Now I'm not a big Will/Alicia fan, but that whole end sequence with the elevator was beautifully done. I miss this show already.

MODERN FAMILY - Hilarious and heartfelt, which is pretty much the show's motto right? While the whole Botox thing and the Pritchetts laughing at other people's expense were good, it was Phil and Claire who stole the show as Phil tried Claire to breakdown and then in the process breaking both of them down. Seeing them both roll down the hill hurt my sides. Have also been loving the Alex/Haley interactions throughout the season and Haley giving Alex advise on her harsh valedictorian speech was a nice touch. It felt like a season finale, but we still have one more episode to go!

COUGAR TOWN - This episode pretty much had everything I loved about the show. We got lots of Penny Can with special guest star Lou Diamond Phillips hawking the game. We got Ellie and Grayson being their weird self duking it out with some Children of the Corn-esque "chalk children." And of course we got the complicated and totally unhealthy relationship between Jules and Travis. Jules trying tough love gave the expected result of Travis coming out on top. But really I just can't get the image of Grayson giving his best Travis impression and Jules getting so turned on and making out with him our of my head. ACK! WEIRD! FUNNY!

HAPPY ENDINGS - Clearly these episodes are shown out of order as they probably were to be slated as the second and third episodes of the series. With that said, I'm okay with this decision since the episode they showed right after the pilot hooked me and I'm not 100% sure either of these episode would've. I mean they were still funny, but are they funny because I'm now attached to these characters? I wish I knew the answer to that. Still looking forward to seeing how a full season of this show looks like when it comes back next year.

BIG BANG THEORY - Not sure if putting Penny and Raj together is genius, desperate, or both, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what this means for the group next season. Apart from that I'm just hoping that Bernadette and Amy are back again, because their addition to the cast has been my favorite thing this season. So I liked this finale, but I could've done without Howard's manxiety at having a more successful girlfriend. It just makes me feel like I'm watching a Chuck Lorre show or something. Oh wait...

PARKS & RECREATION - This is probably the show I'm going to miss most of all during summer hiatus as it has been on fire all season giving us not one single weak episode from the bunch. These last two saw Ben/Leslie trying to keep their relationship a secret from her mom and from everyone else they work with. It all came to a head at Lil Sebastian's memorial service (RIP buddy) when Ron got his facial hair singe by the fire. HILARIOUS. Of course Leslie getting approached for a possible run for mayor is just yet another wrinkle to this ridiculously sweet relationship and I'm going to be dying every day until this show is back in my life. Now to listen to "5,000 Candles in the Wind" by Mouse Rat for the 100th time.

THE OFFICE - The episode was a mixed bag to me. It was nice seeing all of these big stars try and audition for the void left by Steve Carrell, but overall it just felt lacking. I guess that was the point since we're supposed to go into the fall not knowing who will take over, but instead of this rush of anticipation, I'm just left feeling largely ambivalent about the whole thing. With that said, it was awesome seeing Catherine Tate on American TV and I wouldn't mind seeing her again. Hint hint.

SUPERNATURAL - A mostly disappointing season for me comes to a close with a somewhat lackluster two-hour finale. First what was Dean thinking with the whole Ben and Lisa thing? So Dean wipes their memory of him? HOW WILL THAT HELP THEM? Demons and angels can STILL use them as leverage against Dean and they're now in even more trouble since THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT'S COMING FOR THEM. Typical "act first think later" Winchester trait. And even though we actually got some nice Castiel scenes especially with Raphael and Crowley, the whole Sam walkabout parts of the episode felt like a cheap out. I mean how did Sam withstand the memories of hell? He seemed hunky dory by the end of the episode. Really Castiel saved the finale for me. God!Castiel is probably my second favorite to Drunk!Castiel. Now, I've heard the rumors for next season. Don't mess with him, show. I mean it.

French Open Preview

So the world didn't end this weekend, which is not only fantastic news for, well everyone, but also for us tennis fans because Sunday marks the beginning of the French Open, the second tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year. Since I don't have time to do my usual draw analysis, here are my scattered thoughts for both the men and women instead.

The main story for the men this whole season has been the absolute dominance of 2nd seed Novak Djokovic. Undefeated this year, he has won 7 titles and shows no sign of slowing down. Defending champion and 1st seed Rafael Nadal is still the favorite, but the fact that Djokovic beat Nadal four straight times this year including twice on Nadal's beloved clay makes the whole thing just a bit more interesting. And even though 3rd seed Roger Federer is a former champion, his form and his chances here at least compared to Nadal and Djokovic aren't so good. Then again he IS the last person to defeat Djokovic (at last year's year-end championships). Then there's 4th seed Andy Murray who is slowly coming out of his post-Australian Open funk fighting Djokovic on clay this year closer than anyone else has.

Fifth seed Robin Soderling has reached the French Open finals two times in a row beating the defending champion en route each time. We doubt he'll do it a third time, but weirder things have happened. Other names to watch out for include David Ferrer (always a threat to test our your endurance), Richard Gasquet (beat Federer recently on clay), Milos Roanic (newcomer of the year, no?), and Juan Martin Del Potro (comeback of the year, no?).

Rafael Nadal d. Robin Soderling
Nicolas Almagro d. Andy Murray
Roger Federer d. David Ferrer
Novak Djokovic d. Mikhail Youzhny

Rafael Nadael d. Nicolas Almagro
Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic

With Justine Henin retired and the Williams sisters injured, the big story here is that anyone, I repeat, ANYONE can win this thing. The one who seems to be a few people's favorite is 2-time French Open finalist and 2nd seed Kim Clijsters even though she's injured and hasn't played competitively in two months. Top seed Caroline Wozniacki should see this as yet another golden opportunity to win that maiden slam especially since she has probably been the most consistent player on the tour this year. Defending champion and 5th seed Francesca Schiavone should not be counted out (remember her implausible dream run last year?), but she really hasn't been the same player since. Then there's 7th seed Maria Sharopova who is one of the very few multi-Grand Slam champions on the list and with her recent successes in clay, you never know. She could win the career Grand Slam.

Third and fourth seeds Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka can most definitely claim the championship, but they're their worst enemies. Then again this pretty much goes for a whole slew of players such as Li Na (have struggled recently, but always a threat in slams) and Sam Stosur (she was last year's finalist!) as well former champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic who both possess the talent obviously, but recently not the self-belief to win. All I really have to say is, Elena Dementieva surely retired from the game one year too early didn't she?

Caroline Wozniacki d. Samantha Stosur
Vera Zvonareva d. Francescha Schiavone
Victoria Azarenka d. Petra Kvitova
Kim Clijsters d. Maria Sharapova

Vera Zvonareva d. Caroline Wozniacki
Kim Clisjters d. Victoria Azarenka

Kim Clijsters d. Vera Zvonareva

FINAL WORLD: Somehow I find myself predicting the top four women seeds to reach the semifinals as improbable as that outcome may be, but that's what happens when I don't pay attention to the recent results. For the men, I predicted the top three plus Almagro since I just don't trust Murray to reach that far. In the end though Nadal will most likely repeat while there will be a first-time French Open champion for the women.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthday Girl: Tina Fey

Couldn't let today go by without wishing multi-Emmy winner Tina Fey a happy birthday.

Life is good for Fey. Her TV show, 30 Rock, will be back next year for its 6th season and in the meantime, she's expecting her second child. Earlier this year, she released her first autobiographical book Bossypants to much fanfare.

She also became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Here's a snippet of her wonderful speech:
I never dreamed I would receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, mostly because my style is so typically Austrian. I never thought I would even qualify for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. I mean, Maybe the Nathanial Hawthorne prize for judgmental nature. Or the Judy Blume award for awkward puberty. Or the Harper Lee prize for small bodies of work - but never this. And yet I hope that like Mark Twain, a hundred years from now, people will see my work and think, "Wow, that is actually pretty racist".
Happy Birthday Tina Fey!

Looking Forward To...

Midnight in Paris
Release: May 20, 2011
Distributor: Sony Classics
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Léa Seydoux, Carla Bruni, Mimi Kennedy, Corey Stoll, Kurt Fuller, and Owen Wilson

Sunday, May 15, 2011

TV Report: 5/9-5/13

Here are my thoughts from this past week's TV. So many shows are having their finales or penultimate episodes! Exciting times for a TV viewer.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER - The penultimate episode of the season effectively ended the Arcadian/Zoey arc and even though I didn't actively hate this arc like many people did, I'm still relieved it's over. Zoey just never really clicked with the rest of the characters or the arc itself felt tonally dissonant from the more effective storylines of Barney reconnecting with his dad or Marshall dealing with his father's death. So that's two below average episodes in a row. Hopefully tomorrow's season finale will give the show it's high note to end on.

CASTLE - The case of the week was nothing special (a pageant contestant is murdered) but it was great seeing Michael McKean and Sasha Roiz guest star as potential suspects. Loving the slight forward movement on Castle/Beckett via Alexis/Ashley dealing with the future of their relationship. Tomorrow's finally looks ALL KINDS of intense.

GLEE - Like most episodes of this show, there are plenty to praise and plenty to complain about. Part of the latter stuff includes the shoddy development and inadequate build up of Mercedes' and even Dave's situations making their albeit heartfelt scenes feel a tad unearned. And as much as I love Jonathan Groff, I didn't really miss Jesse. With all of this said, I do want to give props to the queer characters--Kurt's reaction to being named prom queen, Dave's sincere apology to Kurt, Santana and Brittany yet again hashing out their feelings for one another, Blaine being Blaine, etc.

THE GOOD WIFE - Kalinda/Alicia is probably the closest thing to an OTP on this show, so this episode hurt like a mofo. The scene in Alicia's office where Alicia pretty much throws Kalinda out was heartbreaking as was Kalinda's breakdown in the elevator. And as much as it pains me, it makes some DAMN good drama as well as changing these two characters by forcing both to essentially become a hardened versions of themselves. We see that in Alicia's aggression in court and with Jackie (their scenes together were fantastic as well) and in Kalinda becoming more resolve to be as shut off as ever.

MODERN FAMILY - Phil and Claire switch their traditionally good cop/bad cop roles and so much hilarity ensues. Of course both of them take it too far to the detriment of the children, but how hilarious the results were! Mitchell trying to decide whether or not to go to a Lady Gaga concert even though Cam is sick also had its moments esp. the ending with he is caught. The Jay/Gloria dog plot line fell flat to me even with the presence of guest star Lin Manuel Miranda.

COUGAR TOWN - A bit of a disjointed episode, but it still managed to work in the end. Travis is depressed and so OF COURSE he ends up in a strip club not only with both of his parents, but his grandfather as well. The laughs were there, but I really liked the heart these four brought to this storyline. Ellie dealing with Andy's sister-in-law's flirting with Andy by being mean to Laurie also gave them some bonding moments and real life couple Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez were a hoot. Best scene though has to be Laurie acting as a "live note" and then proceeding to uncannily imitating Bobby.

HAPPY ENDINGS - Two episodes again which makes it difficult to review in my usual short snippet kind of way. My favorite character Max had to deal with his overly picky way of dating guys in the first episode and him actually having feelings for a new guy in the second. Too bad the latter relationship wasn't meant to be as the end tag made it seem like they broke it off. The other MVP this week to me was Brad as he hilariously partnered up with Penny in the first episode accidentally getting a waiter fired (and dumped and made homeless) and then competing with super competitive Jane in an interview-off; both ultimately using their sexuality to no success. Yay for this show's renewal!

BIG BANG THEORY - Not a bad episode, but until we found out that Howard's mom was only suffering from food poisoning, the seriousness of her possibly heart attack didn't mesh well with the comedy the cast was involved in. I didn't expect them to go all-out somber, but it all still felt a bit off. I also didn't find Sheldon's germophobia and subsequent containment funny. The Priya-Penny tete-a-tete was a long time coming though.

COMMUNITY - The season finale closes out the paintball storyline that began last week as we find out that this whole thing was a ruse by rival City College to get the students of Greendale to destroy their own school. Thematically speaking, last week's Western motif worked better than this week's Star Wars homage, but the action was still quite epic. The centerpiece of it all really was Pierce and his relationship with the school/his study group. Soon after he is shunned by the group, he saves the school and is welcomed back only for him to leave them on his own volition. It was a nice capper to the season-long storyline and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next season with Pierce and the rest of them.

PARKS & RECREATION - Perfect show is perfect. The first episode where everyone got drunk from Tom's latest venture, Snakejuice, was pure hilarity even though it gave us Leslie and Ann's first fight. They made up in the end, but not before Ann lets it slip to Ben that Leslie likes him. Segue to the next episode where Ben and Leslie have to endure spending time together even though they know they can't act on their feelings. Of course, this doesn't work and what proceeds is about 15-20 minutes of awesome flirting and confessing and everything. Chris acting as the ultimate cockblocker for most of the episode also worked since it made the payoff of Leslie and Ben having their first kiss all the sweeter. This episode also had April serenade Andy and Ron bonding with a little girl. Again, perfect show is perfect. Baba booey!

SMALLVILLE - And just a quick note on this show's series finale even though I stopped watching regularly years ago. Lots of the emotional stuff that involved Clark and his parents and his past worked for me, because that's when I was still watching the show. Everything else... from Lutessa to Darkseid to Green Arrow to Dark Omega to even his marriage to Lois... felt at best exposition-heavy and at worst deux ex machina-like. Even the big Lex-Clark reunion felt off. The seven-year jump in order for the story line to sort of match up with DC canon is a little suspect, but using that Superman score at the end was perfect. Overall, I still can't believe this show lasted 10 seasons, but congrats to all involve.

Pre-Upfronts Cancellations and Renewals

This past week saw a flurry of renewal, cancellation, and pickup news from many networks which makes sense since this coming week, they will all present their new schedules at the annual upfronts. FOX started off the barrage of news this past Tuesday by canceling all of the yet-to-be-renewed bubble shows they had on their lineup. Since they renewed Fringe a few weeks back though, I was pretty nonplussed by the massacre.

In the days that followed, NBC and ABC chimed in with their decisions. Thankfully, most of the shows I regularly watch and enjoy have already been renewed, but there were still some recent cancellations and renewals that I want to comment on:

Chuck - Renewed. Despite having stopped watching the show in midseason, I'm very happy this show gets to live on just a little bit more. And now that everyone involved is sure that the next 13 episodes will be the show's last, I'm confident that they'll be able to weave a satisfying final arc for this little show that could.

V - Canceled. With the miracle renewals of Fringe and Chuck, I expected this show to also get renewed, but alas it wasn't meant to be. I'm not exactly mourning its end even though I made it no lie how impressed I was by its three leading ladies (Elizabeth Mitchell, Morena Baccarin, and Laura Vandervoort). May they all find another project worthy of them. Plus I actually really liked how the series ended with the aliens on top.

Brothers & Sisters - Canceled. I was a bit shocked by this, but again not really mourning it. Just thought it would be the type of show where the network would bend over backward to at least give them an actual end date to conclude the series. With that said, the writers did a good job these last few episodes to make sure all of the Walkers are in a good place. So other than missing Holly/Rebecca, the final episode works just fine as a series finale.

Happy Endings - Renewed. I'm so very delighted about this news. It really is the only new show this whole TV season that has impressed me, which also says a lot about the state of the new shows that premiered this season. But hey, that's not this show's fault. Can't wait to see more from this cast and crew.

Mr Sunshine, No Ordinary Family, and The Event - Canceled. Every single one. So speaking of disappointing new shows... I saw at least a handful of episodes of these three and with The Event, I actually saw all of its episodes before it went on a midseason break, but ultimately they all just failed to live up to expectations.

As I said before, they were other shows canceled or renewed, but I either don't watch them or don't really have any comments on their fates. CBS and The CW haven't made similar announcements, but with Supernatural already set to come back, I really am only waiting for the fate of The Good Wife. I'll go deeper into my thoughts on each network's new schedules as they present them in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Looking Forward To... SUMMER

Summer movie season kicked off last week with Thor expectantly topping the box office charts, but unexpectedly doing so as a favorite among critics as well. I'm hoping this bodes well for Joss Whedon's Avengers, because damn him for getting involve since now I actually have to care about these stupid superhero movies! BTW Thor is Natalie Portman's fourth movie this year.

The rest of May actually doesn't look too bad as well. My most anticipated film from the lot is probably Terence Malick's long-awaited film The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and dinosaurs! Apart from the super gorgeous and super pretentious trailer, I have no idea what the film is about. Another auteur, Woody Allen, also has a film this month, Midnight in Paris, starring Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson. Advance word from Cannes seem to be good, so I'm excited for it. In the comedy front, there's the sequel to The Hangover which I'll probably check out when it comes out on DVD. What's more intriguing is Bridesmaid which seems to be a female version of the other film. It has Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Jon Hamm. I'm also interested in Hesher, an indie film starring Joseph-Gordon Levitt as a rock star and with her fifth film of the year, Natalie Portman. Finally, Johnny Depp teams up with Geoffrey Rush and Penelope Cruz for a totally unnecessary Pirates of the Caribbean film, subtitled On Stranger Tides.

June starts out strong, then sort of limps to a finish. The first weekend is chock full of films I need to see now. There's X-Men: First Class with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, which I'm ridiculously excited for probably because I'm such a huge X-Men nerd. There's also a great looking Focus Features' film Beginners starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer where Plummer plays McGregor's gay dad. Finally, there's Beautiful Boy with Michael Sheen and Maria Bello, a harrowing film about two parents dealing with the loss of their son who is responsible for a school shooting. The following week, J.J. Abrams' super mysterious film Super 8 premieres and that one just looks like a great old-fashioned summer film. The rest of the month contains films that I may or may not check out depending on my mood from Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern to Pixar's Cars 2 (wait I probably should see the first one first) to Bad Teacher starring Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, and... wait I think I can skip this one. I mean really now.

July has a little bit of something for everyone. Of course there's your big budget summer action films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Cowboys & Aliens. All of them have impressed via trailers, but I'm only really looking forward to the latter. Why? Read the title again and that should tell you EVERYTHING. Speaking of big budget films, Harry Potter ends this month as part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows premieres. In the other end of the spectrum are the comedies with really awesome ensembles. There's Larry Crowne which stars Tom Hanks who also directed and co-wrote the film. Julia Roberts, Taraji Henson, Bryan Cranston, and George Takei are also in the cast. The team that brought us last year's delightful Easy A is back with Friends with Benefits starring Mila Kunis, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Justin Timberlake, and many more. Finally, there's Crazy, Stupid, Love with Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. I, along with everyone else loved the trailer. Finally, Dominic Cooper stars in The Devil's Double doing double duty as one of Saddam Hussein's son and his double.

August is, well, a bit random. Don't know much about Rise of the Planet of the Apes but it stars James Franco, Tom Felton, John Lithgow, and Andy Serkis. There's also The Help, based on a book, starring Emma Stone (is she trying to be in more movies than Natalie Portman this year?) and Viola Davis. There's a few horror/thrillers such as Final Destination 5, Fright Night (with David Tennant and Colin Farrell), and Weinstein's Apollo 18. Comedy-wise there's 30 Minutes or Less with Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari and Our Idiot Brother with Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Hugh Dancy, and Zooey Deschanel. But my most anticipated film this month is probably One Day, a love story through the years starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. And I almost forgot The Debt, starring Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington, which comes out on the last day of the month.

So as per usual, that's a lot of films. I wish I had the money and the time to see them all, but at the very least I'll see them all eventually thanks to Netflix. Gotta love technology.

Monday, May 9, 2011

TV Report: 5/2-5/6

I saw all of these within the last 48 hours or so which, even by my standards, is just a lot of TV in such a short time. So my write-ups below will feel a bit scattered and disorganized, but without further a due...

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER - Wasn't one of this show's stronger episode, but it had its moments mostly revolving Robin and Lily using alcoholic drinks to manipulate Barney and Marshall into sharing their feelings. But even that whole thing lasted just a wee bit too long. The whole Zoey/Ted thing is played out, so that's it.

CASTLE - This LA-centric episode was wonderful and not just because the case was good and personal (for Beckett, it was her mentor's murder after all), but it subtlety showed us the evolution of the Beckett/Castle relationship. For example, in the beginning when Castle tried to stop Beckett from seeing the dead body, Beckett countered him by asking him what he would've done if it was her instead lying there dead. This shows that Beckett recognizes how Castle feels about her. Then for the episode to end with her mentor pretty much pushing her towards Castle in his letter from the grave... well it's about time.

GLEE - I'll deny this in the future, but I actually found Matt Morrison quite affecting in this episode especially with his scene with Jayma Mays talking about his dreams of Broadway. Also found the Sam storyline a bit tearjerky so all in all, it was a far deeper emotional episode than I thought. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Santana (and Karofksy) by the end of the season. Nice to see Chenoweth back again, of course.

THE GOOD WIFE - Very good episode even though all of the guest stars were a bit distracting. Martha Plimpton makes her fantastic reappearance as Patti Nyholm, but we also got Aaron Stanton (Mad Men), Christopher Shyer (V), and John Glover. The big developments in this episode was Alicia breaking it off with Peter and the beginning of the Peter/Cary alliance. Next episode (i.e. tomorrow) Alicia and Kalinda finally face off. I'm SO scared.

MODERN FAMILY - Good solid Mother's Day-themed episode. For some reason seeing Phil and then Jay wearing the onion goggles made me laugh way too hard and of course seeing Gloria deal with Manny contrasted with how Claire deals with her three children was great. Not sure how I feel about the Cam/Mitchell storyline with Cam not wanting to be the "mother" though.

COUGAR TOWN - The council was a fun running gag throughout the episode, but I like the main storyline of Travis wanting to propose to Kristen and how Jules and Grayson act in response. The moment on the beach when Jules sees Travis get rejected was a wonderful one and totally in character. Looking forward to seeing where they take this.

HAPPY ENDINGS - This show continues to provide much enjoyment. While Max is probably my favorite character (seriously he's just SO different from any other gay character on TV), I go back and forth a lot on who my second favorite character is and that speaks well for the ensemble. Though if I was being more honest, it'd probably be a tie between "Gay Husband" Penny and "Super Competitive" Jane. I know I didn't really talk about the episodes, but I thought they were both funny and the second episode that skewered hipsters and likened them to zombie? PERFECTION.

BIG BANG THEORY - Great, great episode. The girls (minus Priya) have totally been the MVP of this season and it was wonderful to get a cold open with just the girls. In fact we don't get all of the guys in one scene until the end tag, which was shocking. Bernadette and Amy provided the bulk of the story and the comedy of the episodes and I hope to God they're both back next season.

COMMUNITY - Wonderful start to the 3-part paintball season finale. Love the reveal on the origin of their card names coming from the cards they used to vote on whether or not to invite Pierce back into their group next year (red for yes and black for no). It also enabled them to air out the Pierce Problem that has plagued the entire season. There's one more hour left to this season, so let's see how exactly they resolve this. But even if they don't OMG PAINTBALL. And yes, Josh Holloway... woot!

PARKS & RECREATION - The casting of Parkey Posey as Leslie's former best friend and now rival was pitch perfect and I would so totally watch a spin-off with her. The whole Eagleton-Pawnee thing was fun to see if only to see Leslie reaffirm that her one true love is that city. Ron freaking out about Leslie's birthday plans for him provided a hilarious B-plot.

FRINGE - When I can I'll probably try to do a separate post to talk about my feelings of probably the best show of the season. Its finale was J.J. Abrams' show kind of a finale which meant it was one part epic, one part timey-wimey, and one part OMG WTF JUST HAPPENED? There were so much information thrown at the audience that I admit I felt a bit overwhelmed and a bit detached emotionally (with the exception of one or two scenes) for most of the episode. Despite that, I thought it was another strong outing for most of the actors and definitely a worthy ending to such a wonderful season.

SUPERNATURAL - It's been an uneven season to be sure, but this episode is definitely one of the best the show has offered in its history. Was it perfect? Not at all. The voiceover narration was a bit overused and the end of The Mother arc was a bit anti-climactic at least in terms of The Mother being such a meh villain. Everything else though from this being such a Castiel-heavy episode to the welcome return of Crowley to major Dean-Castiel angst was perfect. It seemed to tie the season, and even the show as a whole, together. Wished we had gotten what we learned in this episode a bit earlier or maybe throughout the season, but I'll take it. Now I'm just fearful what the repercussions will be. They can't kill Castiel off, could they?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Just A Quick Drive-By Post

I'm back! After a week off, enjoying a much-needed vacation, regular posting will resume tomorrow with a TV Report of the shows I managed to catch up on this weekend. Then a special "Looking Forward" post where I look at which movies I'm excited about this upcoming summer. Also this coming week, if I can, maybe I'll do a quick entry on the Tony nominations or at the very least another post on the exquisite play The Normal Heart.

For now, with only about 15 minutes or so left on the day, just wanted to wish mothers, mothers-to-be, and maternal folks everywhere a Happy Mother's Day!

Last year, I picked the mothers in Big Love to highlight, but this year I can't pick just one. I mean there's Best Actress winner and mom-to-be Natalie Portman as well as Jane Krakowski who just delivered her first child last month. Then there are the TV moms like Alicia from The Good Wife, Gloria and Claire from Modern Family, Jules from Cougar Town, Shirley from Community, Tara from United States of Tara, and of course the aforementioned moms from Big Love. There's a bunch I'm missing I'm sure, but the sentiment remains the same.