Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Halfway Point of 2012

Can you believe that 2012 is halfway over? It always seems to sneak up on me, too. With that said, now is a good a time as any to list the films I've seen so far this year. Of course I'm only listing those movies that came out this year at least according to Box Office Mojo so don't be shocked to see films that had a one-week qualifying run at the end of 2011 to qualify for end-of-year kudos. I, however, won't be including the 3D re-releases of Beauty & the Beast and Titanic, which, yes, I did see.

Without further a due and in alphabetical order...

  • Albert Nobbs
  • The Avengers
  • Brave
  • Cabin in the Woods

  • Chronicle
  • Coriolanus
  • Haywire
  • Hunger Games

  • Joyful Noise
  • People Like Us
  • Perfect Sense
  • Prometheus

  • Rampart
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • This Means War
  • W.E.

I'm actually pretty shocked that I beat my year-to-date tally last year. I really thought I've slacked off a bit this year. Oh well, blame Netflix I guess. Now I won't be ranking films until the end of the year, but it should come as no surprise to anyone that my favorite film from this list is Joss Whedon's The Avengers. I've seen it twice with The Hunger Games being the only other film on the list I've also seen more than once. Will The Avengers ultimately become my favorite film of the summer? It's a good question to mull about since for three years running my favorite summer film (Midnight in Paris, Scott Pilgrim, District 9) ended up becoming my favorite film of the year.

There are not many common themes to glean from the following films (feel free to correct me) except for Joss Whedon being god, people shooting arrows are the coolest, and Chris Pine needs to stop lying to cute blondes. And finally, here is the list of those actors who have appeared in two or more of the films: Michael Fassbender, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Sigourney Weaver, Ewan McGregor, and Elizabeth Banks. And yes, I've only seen one Channing Tatum film this year and I think I'm MUCH better for this.

How many films this year have you seen? Any films I should've seen already? How many times have you seen The Avengers? How many Channing Tatum films have you seen so far this year? If the latter answer is more than one... why?

Michelle & Emma Are Corsetted Blondes

On the left is Michelle Williams at a special New York screening of her new film Take This Waltz. On the right is Emma Stone at the Germany premiere of her new movie The Amazing Spider-Man. They are two of my favorite actresses at the moment so I kind of dig that they seemed to have coordinated outfits (down to the shade of lipstick and type of shoes!) especially since these two events happened just a day apart.

Now this isn't a "who wore it better" type thing. Again, I love them both. I do like that while Michelle is doing her usual B&W deal, it's a bit sexier. And gosh darnit, she just looks HAPPY which makes me happy. As for Emma, she rarely looks bad in anything, but even if this could've gone in so many wrong directions (shoulder pads! corsetted neckline! bow!), she just makes it work. The cut, the color are all very flattering on her. So good on you ladies for looking fi-ine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Box Office: The Avengers Reach Titanic Milestone

Yesterday, Joss Whedon's The Avengers reached a box office milestone only two other films in all of history has reached: $600 million. Actually, Whedon's film is the first non-James Cameron film to achieve this rare feat with the other two films being Titanic and Avatar. More impressively, The Avengers will actually pass the first-run gross of Titanic ($600.8 million) today. It has a chance of getting close to Titanic's final gross of $658.7 million which includes gross from its re-release earlier this year, but it probably won't beat it. Then again this is a film that had a record high opening weekend ($207.4 million), second weekend ($103 million), and was the fastest ever to $500 million (in 23 days). It might just surprise us once more.

Worldwide, the film has made $1.44 billion, which like its domestic gross, puts it squarely at the #3 spot all-time. Your move, Batman.

Looking Forward To...

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Release: June 27, 2012
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, and Levy Easterly

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Happy Pride NYC!

I try to see as many gay films as I can since I think that genre needs all the support it can get and yet the last gay film I saw in theaters was Weekend back in October. I really, really liked it. The most recent gay film I saw on Netflix though was Romeos which I saw two weekends ago. The German film is about a transgender man who takes a liking to a gay man and the inherent complications of their relationship. It was quite a good film and the two actors had real chemistry. Before that film I had seen other gay-themed films on Netflix such as Leading Ladies, KickOff, Albert Nobbs, and Pariah during the past month or so. Pariah, about a Brooklyn girl who deals with issues of identity and sexual expression, is the only film I'd recommend from the rest of those.

Photo courtesy of NYC Pride.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Birthday Boy and Killer: Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon turns 48 today and do we even need to mention what an insane year or so it's been for him? Let's just spew out some key numbers here: $1.4 billion worldwide, $591.2 million domestic, $200+ million opening weekend, 93% Rotten Tomatoes ratings. Yeah, suffice it to say whedon is on top of the Hollywood world right now and as happy as I am for him obviously I'm not ready for him to become "Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers" as opposed to "Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That may have sounded a little hipterish of me, but not really since I don't at all begrudge him his mainstream success (just the opposite) and I don't regard myself a truer fan of Whedon since I was a fan long before The Avengers. Whedon is for all and may he have many, many more opportunities to show us his mad genius.

Speaking of his mad genius, I think it's common knowledge how much Whedon enjoys putting his characters (and fans) through a ringer including killing off beloved characters and breaking off relationships. You see that in The Avengers where 70% of the plot includes Loki trying to break the superheroes up and of course that one death which I won't spoil for the 3 people in the world who hasn't seen the movie yet. And so with that said, as I promised last year, here's my list of Top 10 Whedon Deaths. Spoiler Alert... obviously.

First, just want to list some honorable mentions. Penny's demise in Dr. Horrible makes you wonder how they'll do a sequel. Jesse's death in episode 2 of Buffy should've clued us in on the depths of Whedon's sadism. Book, Wesley, and Topher's deaths in Serenity, Angel, and Dollhouse respectively made my heart hurt considering I actually thought they'd make it out alive somehow. And of course that one Avengers death that made me shake my head. See the entire list after the jump...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sexy Lincoln

There really doesn't need to be any reason to share this hot picture of Benjamin Walker from GQ. But if you want one then let me remind you that Walker's film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes out today. If that doesn't suffice then I could probably make some word play pun between the heatwave in New York City and the steaminess of the picture.

Or perhaps I can just oh-so-casually mention that today is also Walker's mother-in-law's birthday. I don't know who she is. I think her name is something Streep. So there you go. Enjoy the picture.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

French Open: The Finale

I'm about two weeks too late, but as one Grand Slam begins (Wimbledon is just a few days away with the qualifying rounds completed today and the draw announcement scheduled for tomorrow), I should probably put proper closure to the Grand Slam that just ended. The keyword was "history" as both the man and woman champions did just that by winning the French Open.

Undisputed King of Clay Rafael Nadal won his 7th French Open title one-upping Bjorn Borg's tally of six setting a new record. While Nadal seemingly swept all of his other matches during the fortnight, he faced challenges in the final both in the form of his opponent world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and the weather. On-and-off rain caused delays and suspension of plays and it clearly affected the quality of both players' games with neither player able to play at their best. Still, Nadal managed to win the first two sets and a lesser player would call it quits right then and there, but Djokovic displayed his unflinching self-belief by running away with the third set and breaking Nadal early in the fourth. Unfortunately, the weather just got worse and play was postponed the next day. The conclusion of the final on Monday proved why Djokovic is world no. 1, but also why Nadal now has 11 Grand Slams. Nadal breaks back to get even, but Djokovic makes him fight for it until the bitter end. A double fault from Djkovic during Nadal's match point, however, meant that the "Djoko Slam" is denied. Grudge match at the green grass of Wimbledon?

Now world no. 1 Maria Sharapova lifted her fourth Grand Slam trophy and her very first French Open title. With a title at each Grand Slam, she completed her career Grand Slam and it must have been even more sweet that she was able to do this after a slew of injuries and surgeries. Truth be told, however, this was Sharapova's tournament to lose with other favorites and seeds faltering early and with her relatively impressive play the weeks leading up to the tournament. And while she was reaching her first even French Open final, her opponent Sara Errani was even more inexperienced in such a huge state. Keeping her nerves and her serves in check, Sharapova was able to overpower Errani and take advantage of her experience to win in straight sets. The career Grand Slam catapults Sharapova into the list of all-time greats in the game especially with so many legendary players who couldn't accomplish the same feat. Is she the favorite for Wimbledon and the Olympics? You bet on it.

Top seed and defending champions Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor won the Men's Doubles title over second seed Bob and Mike Bryan while Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci defeated Maria Kirinlenko and Nadia Petrova for the Women's Doubles title. Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi took home the Mixed Doubles title.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Birthday Girl: Nicole Kidman

The beautiful and talented Nicole Kidman turns 45 today with a nearly three-decade long filmography under her belt. And she is far from done. She could very well be Emmy-nominated in a few weeks for her recent work in Hemingway & Gellhorn where she played Ernest Hemingway's third wife Martha Gellhorn. And even if she isn't, people are already talking about a fourth Oscar nomination for Lee Daniels' The Paperboy.

And while she has obviously starred and excelled in so many films, her role as the courtesan Satine in Moulin Rouge remains my absolute favorite. Her leading man, Ewan McGregor (who turned 40 just last year), played the penniless writer Christian who falls in love with her, and really how could he not? My one dream is for them to be reunited in film again. If it's in a musical then it'd be icing on the cake, but I really just want them together. Make it happen, Hollywood!

Looking Forward To...

There always seems to be a weekend, or several, during the year where Hollywood seems to offer a bunch of movies I want to see. This upcoming weekend is one such weekend. First, there's Pixar's Brave and since the lauded studio sadly didn't release a film last year (Cars? I have no idea what you're talking about), it's been too long of a wait. With their first female solo protagonist in Merida, I'm hoping they deliver their usual goods and even hoping more than audiences reward them thusly.

But that's just one film opening this weekend I'm looking forward to. The three other films consist of a presidential vampire slayer, an apocalyptic road trip, and a lovely trip to Rome.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Distributor: Fox
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winsted, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, and Dominic Cooper
Synopsis: What about the title is confusing? It's Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires... with an axe.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Keira Knightley, Steve Carrell, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Moses, Rob Huebel, Gillian Jacobs, and Patton Oswalt
Synopsis: Two neighbors go in a road trip to reconnect with loved ones as everyone on Earth prepares for an asteroid to hit the planet. Think Melancholia, but funny.

To Rome with Love
Distributor: Sony Classics
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Alison Pill, Judy Davis, and Roberto Benigni
Synopsis: A diverse group of well-spoken people having adventures in life and/or love in the beautiful city of Rome.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Birthday Boy: Jean Dujardin

Just wanted to give a quick birthday shout out to recent Oscar winner Jean Dujardin who turns 40 today. While already a household name in his native France, he made has his breakthrough on this side of the Atlantic Ocean playing the charming George Valentin in the Oscar Best Picture champ The Artist. That role, that sexy accent, and his easygoing charm made me fall in love with him just a little bit. It was enough for me to check out his two OSS 117 films.

Thankfully, he seems to be trying out the Hollywood thing as he recently signed up for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. I guess the question remains... is he the villain? It IS what everyone is expecting...

Critics' Choice Television Awards Winners

It was only last year when the Broadcast Television Journalists Association held the inaugural Critics' Choice Television Awards and just tonight they handed out their second set of winners. I unfortunately didn't get to talk about the nominees when they came out a couple of weeks ago since I was still in blogging limbo-hiatus land, so just wanted to quickly give my thoughts on the nominees below and the eventual winners.

The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
New Girl
Parks and Recreation

Community surprised everyone by notching the most nominations of any show and it shocked everyone again by taking the top prize. While it wouldn't be my personal choice (my vote would have been for Parks & Rec), I can't help but feel ecstatic for the show and the cast. Nomination-wise, no big shockers. Happy Endings and Cougar Town really should be here, but it is what it is.

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men

I would have loved for them to find room for Fringe, but how can I really complain with a nomination list so obviously full of quality? My own pick would probably be Breaking Bad, but I do mean it when I say that any of these shows would've been a worthy winner. This year the prize went to Homeland.

American Horror Story
Page Eight
The Hour
Game Change

Weirdly enough I've seen four out of the six nominees though not the one starring Julianne Moore. Sherlock took the win and it probably would've gotten my vote as well from the choices.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fatherly Emmy Awards Front-Runners

The Emmy nominations are still more than a month away, but of course there has already been plenty of talk on who will actually get nominated. While I'm not really ready to talk about that today, I did want to cast a spotlight on the three men who are the presumed front-runners for the Best Actor in a Drama category as they all play fathers, warts and all. It is after all Father's Day.

Three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston is again the odds-on favorite partly because he has won so many times and partly because his portrayal Walter White continues to astound. This season of Breaking Bad more than any other has seen Walt pushed to the edge, dangling hopelessly and perilously, only to prevail by becoming a harder, darker version of himself. With him trying to put out fires, left and right, he hasn't really been any sort of father to Walt Jr. He gave him a car to buy his affections, but more to stick it to Marie a little bit who forces Walt to return the vehicle (he burns it instead). He even ended up missing Walt Jr.'s 16th birthday later in the season. With that said, the main relationship of the show is the pseudo-father/son relationship between Walt and Jesse and to say their relationship is complicated would be overly simplifying it especially in light of everything that has happened between the two of them this most recent season. Walt, after all, is the one who knocks.

The man who has the best chance to break Cranston's streak is Damian Lewis who made his mark this year with his visceral performance as marine-turned-prisoner of war-turned-politician-turned-terrorist Nicholas Brody in Homeland. The absurdity of his character's arc is completely made horrifically believable not only by the superb writing on the show, but more importantly by the wonderful acting from Lewis. With every new information from his past as the season progressed, his character becomes fully realized leading up to explosive revelations in those last few intense episodes. With that said, it's the moments he has as a father, or father figure, that stick with me the most. All his scenes with his daughter Dana reminds us that while he is a boiling pot of mixed emotions within, he'll always be a father. Dana talking him down on the phone while he was at the bunker remains one of the best scenes on TV last year. And of course there is his bittersweet father-like relationship with Issa Nazir who, in his fate, acts as the main catalyst for the show's plot.

And finally, there's Jon Hamm who is still inexplicably Emmy-less after playing the now iconic Don Draper character for five seasons. His best chance was perhaps last year with his character going through a downward spiral and more importantly Cranston out of the race. This year the task will be even more difficult especially in a season of Mad Men that has seemed to put its leading man more in the background relative to the ups and downs of the other characters. That is not to say Don was sidelined, not at all, but it is accurate to say that the moments and characters that stick out this season don't have anything to do with Don at all or at best they are Don-adjacent. Even his relationship with his daughter Sally had seen better days as it seemed she had many more scenes with other adults than her father be it her younger hipper stepmother, her cynical mother and grandmother, or even with Roger freakin' Sterling. It's telling that one of the last scene (if not that actual final scene?) between Don and Sally was Don telling her to ditch school the next day because neither he nor Megan would be able to drop her off. Father of the year!

And so with that... Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Looking Forward To...

Release: June 22, 2012
Distributor: Buena Vista
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson, and John Ratzenberger

Monday, June 11, 2012

Box Office: Hunger Games Hit Milestone

You'd have to go back four years to get two films opening in the same weekend and grossing over $50 million each. Four years ago it was the duo of WALL-E and Wanted that achieved this feat and this weekend another animated film and R-rated film partnered up to repeat this feat. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted took the top spot with $60.3 million while Ridley Scott's Prometheus was ranked second with $51 million (10th best R-rated debut of all time). Both were right in line with what was expected of them even though the internet hype of the latter certainly contributed to some expecting a bigger gross.

Likewise, recent holdovers such as Snow White and the Huntsman and MIB 3 aren't doing anything special either. While they won't exactly be called flops, it still might be too much to even ask for either one to gross enough to cover their budgets. Speaking of flops, however, the less said about Battleship the better.

The big story of the weekend is The Hunger Games finally crossing the $400 million milestone after 80 days of release and being only the 11th film to do so. No matter how one looks at this, it's an incredible achievement especially for a non-sequel. The other big story of this year's box office is Marvel's The Avengers. While getting hit a bit more than expected this weekend, it is still on its way to reaching the $600 million milestone that no other film not directed by James Cameron has reached.

Finally, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom are both doing their best Midnight in Paris impersonations by doing solid business in the specialty markets. For my part, my friends and I ended up seeing Prometheus this weekend.

Tony Awards 2012 Winners

Once was the big winner of the night taking home 8 of its 11 Tony nominations including Best Musical and Best Actor. Peter and the Starcatcher had the next best tally with 5 wins despite losing Best Play to Clybourne Park (its only win). Death of a Salesman and Porgy and Bess also took top honors. The complete list of winners are below:

Best Play: Clybourne Park
Best Musical: Once
Best Revival of a Play: Death of a Salesman
Best Revival of a Musical: Porgy and Bess

Best Actor, Play: James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors
Best Actress, Play: Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur
Best Actor, Musical: Steve Kazee, Once
Best Actress, Musical: Audra McDonald, Porgy and Bess
Best Feat. Actor, Play: Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Feat. Actress, Play: Judith Light, Other Desert Cities
Best Feat. Actor, Musical: Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Get It
Best Feat. Actress, Musical: Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It

Best Direction of a Musical: John Tiffany, Once
Best Direction of a Play: Mike Nichols, Death of a Salesman
Best Book of a Musical: Once
Best Costume Design for a Play: Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Costume Design for a Musical: Follies
Best Scenic Design for a Play: Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Scenic Design for a Musical: Once
Best Lighting Design for a Play: Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Once
Best Choreography: Newsies
Best Original Score: Newsies
Best Orchestrations for a Musical: Once
Best Sound Design for a Musical: Once
Best Sound Design in a Play: Peter and the Starcatcher

Despite only seeing one Broadway show this season (Godspell) which wasn't even nominated for anything, I still thought the ceremony was thoroughly entertaining. Most of that is certainly due to Neil Patrick Harris, who called the Tony Awards "Fifty Shades of Gay" right up front, and his fun and easy way of hosting--a song and dance number about the theater to open the show, some witty jokes sprinkled throughout including another jab at Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, and a recap song to close it all out. It also helped that the winners across the board delivered wonderful speeches from Steve Kazee's ode to his mother to Nina Arianda's glee at receiving an award from Christopher Plummer. Or how about the great reaction of underdog James Corden when he won or Audra McDonald's tearful message to her daughter? I also enjoyed the short and sweet presentation of Hugh Jackman's wife giving him a special Tony award.

The performances were mostly good with a few or so exceptions which I'd rather not go into (ahem Ghost). I'd rather focus on the welcome performance from last year's winner Book of Mormon to open the show (though I was missing original stars Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad), the exuberant gymnastic skills of the Newsies cast, and the heartbreaking and beautiful show put on by Kazee and the Once ensemble. I also found the montage of Best Plays particularly well done if a bit odd to do so in musical style. I halfheartedly livetweeted the show last night, which I hadn't planned on, but I was plenty amused that my tweet about losing nominee Andrew Garfield going home with Emma Stone still making him a winner got a lot of attention.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Andrew Garfield Looking Adorkable

I was just fine missing out on last weekend's MTV Movie Awards, but I do somewhat regret not being able to immediately see the hotness that was Andrew Garfield walking the red carpet. For anyone else who missed it, here he is looking adorkable in Prada:

He was there with his current paramour Emma Stone to promote their film The Amazing Spider-Man which is set to be released in less than a month. Onwards and upwards though as tonight Garfield has a 1 in 5 chance to walk away with a Tony Award as he is nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his work in Death of a Salesman alongside Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Pundits are calling him one of the favorites to win, locked it a two-way race with theater vet and Peter and the Starcatcher actor Christian Borle.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

French Open Finals Preview

We are just two matches away from crowning the champions of this year's French Open. For the women, it will be a fight between now world no. 1 Maria Sharapova and now top 10 player Sara Errani. It would be their first title at Roland Garros though in Errani's case it's also her first Grand Slam final. Actually that's not completely accurate as it was only yesterday she reached the Women's Double final with Roberta Vinci... and won. So no matter what happens today Errani has already had a winning fortnight. She will be seen as the underdog today, but underestimate her at your peril. She did take out two French Open champion and gutted out an impressive 3-set win in the semifinals against the reigning US Open champion Sam Stosur. For Sharapova, the pressure is wholly different. Winning this title would mean completing a career Grand Slam which is one of the sport's greatest achievements. After her relatively impressive clay court season and other top players early exits, the French Open really coalesced as hers to lose. Kudos to her to keeping focus and reaching the finals here for the first time. She even avenged last year's Wimbledon final loss to Petra Kvitova just a round before.

Like Sharapova, Novak Djokovic is reaching the finals of the French Open for the first time AND he is also looking to get a career Grand Slam. Not only that, but if he wins this tournament, he will become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four major titles at once. Not even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done this. It hasn't come at all easy for him, however, as he had to claw and fight his way through the draw. He was down two sets against Andreas Seppi, down multiple match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and nearly lost the first two sets to Federer. But the world no. 1 persevered, was fearless, and got through them all to make a date with history. Unfortunately for him, he is up against the undisputed King of Clay and Nadal has been nothing short of brilliant this fortnight. The six-time French Open champion has yet to lose a set or even be tested. The efficiency with which he dismissed each and everyone one of his opponents is scary and he will be going into the final against Djokovic as the heavy favorite. Just for reference, Nadal only let Juan Monaco win two games the entire match while Nadal made David Ferrer look clueless in their semifinal clash.

Predictions: Whoever wins it will be an inspiring sports story be it for a first-time slam winner, a career Grand Slam, or a record 7-time champion. If I was placing bets, I'll bet on Maria Sharapova to handle the big event better and use her experience and physicality to overpower Sara Errani. Likewise, Rafael Nadal will end Novak Djokovic's historic run as Nadal just seems unbeatable. With that said, weirder things have happened. That's why they play the game.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

French Open 2012 So Far

The second Grand Slam tournament of the year has been going on for ten days. Interestingly enough, that's also how long I lasted in the suicide pool being taken out by Andy Murray's lost today. Neither here nor there! Now with the tennis world focused on the red clays of Roland Garros, here are just some of the storylines of the tournament...

Ups and Downs for American Women

Through their first 10 matches, American women went 10-0 including some impressive wins from young players against seeded layers. Of course, it also set up the improbable upset of Serena Williams in the first round, her earliest lost ever from a Grand Slam. With all of this said, there's a handful of women who was looking to do well to qualify for the Olympics including Venus Williams. Will be interested to see where all of that settles.

Top Women Struggle

Along with Serena, former champions fail to reach the latter stages including Francescha Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic, and defending champion Li Na. World no. 1 Victoria Azarenka also crashed early as well as Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli, Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozkiacki.

Newcomers and Comebacks

Here are just a few names making their presence known by making it as far as they did. There's David Goffin who took out Radek Stepanek in the first round and played his childhood idol Federer hard in the fourth round. There are Sloane Stephens and Varvara Lepchenko, the two Americans to make it furthest in the draw, 4th Round, losing to eventual semifinalists. Or how about Yaroslava Shvedova, ranked 142, making it all the way to the QF and Nicolas Mahut getting some nice revenge on Americans in a big stage by taking out Andy Roddick in the first round? Finally there's Brian Baker, who came back to the game just last year and after a few weeks of non-stop winning including his run through qualifying and the 2nd round of the French Open, he's never been higher.

The Final Eight and Predictions

So after ten days, out of the 256 men and women 8 remain, the final four guys and the final four women. The final four guys are no strangers. Top seed Novak Djokovic is looking to complete a career Grand Slam while second seed and clay king Rafael Nadal is trying to get his record 7th French Open crown. Former champ Roger Federer is looking to win his first major since 2010 Australian Open and David Ferrer is celebrating reaching his first French Open SF. In the women's side Maria Sharapova, like Djokovic, is looking to complete a career Grand Slam (and recapture the #1 ranking) while Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur want to get back on top after lackluster results post their Grand Slam results last year. Finally, Sara Errani took out two previous French Open champions and now reaches her first ever major semifinals. All eyes will be on Sharapova-Kvitova and Djokovic-Federer since they look to be the blockbuster match-up the tournament has been waiting for. The winner of that woman's match should be seen as the favorite to win the whole thing while Nadal WILL win regardless of who he is facing. That's just the truth.