Sunday, June 30, 2013

Celebrating Gay Pride!

New York City, along with other cities likes San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto among others, celebrated Gay Pride today. For Americans especially, it was a great end to a week that saw the Supreme Court overturn DOMA and upheld the original determination that California's Prop 8 was unconstitutional. And with that said, here are some gay characters from recent television shows I've watched...

If you're not familiar with any of the characters or shows above, then you really should check them out! The first image is from the latest season of Mad Men of the mysterious Bob Benson played by the super charming James Wolk. The two women are from Orphan Black with Tatiana Maslany playing Cosima Neuhaus (the girl in dreads) aka one of 9 characters she plays on the show! And finally, the hunk in the green shirt is Keahu Kahuanui who plays Danny Mahealani in Teen Wolf.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

SYTYCD: Top 20 Puttin' On The Ritz

I love So You Think You Can Dance, but with all of the changes the past couple years (most notably having only one show per week) forced me to stop watching as diligently as in past years. This year I thought I would make a clean break and not even watch any episodes. I was successful through auditions and Vegas week since I was already busy, but I had to check out last week's introduction of the Top 20 and I got sucked right back in.

This week's epic opening with the Top 20 only reaffirmed my decision to start watching again:

Choreographed by the great team of Napoleon and Tabitha, the top 20 along with a few cameos from a couple of the judges and choreographers, performed to "Puttin' On The Ritz" all in one take. It's as ambitious as it is really fun. I might still change my mind about watching the entire season, but this number reminded me why I loved the show.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Looking Forward To...

The Way, Way Back
Release: July 5, 2013
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Starring: Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Sam Rockwell, Jim Rash, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, AnnaSophia Robb, Nat Faxon, and Liam James

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

RIP James Gandolfini (1961-2013)

At the age of 51, James Gandolfini has died. He will forever be known as Tony Soprano, a role that won him numerous awards including three Emmy Awards. Sadly, The Sopranos is one of those rare TV shows that I never got around to seeing. Fortunately, I was able to appreciate Gandolfini in his often small, but almost always wonderful film roles. His comedic turns in The Mexican and In the Loop are scene-stealers, but it's his Oscar-worthy portrayal of Carol in Where the Wild Things Are that is currently sticking with me at this moment, especially this scene:

Carol: This part of your kingdom's not so good.
Max: Why?
Carol: Well, look: this used to be all rock, and now it's sand, and then, one day, it's going to be dust, and then the whole island will be dust, and then... well I don't even know what comes after dust.
Max: Carol... did you know the sun was gonna die?
Carol: What? I never heard that... Oh, come on. That can't happen. I mean you're the king, and look at me, I'm big! how can guys like us worry about a tiny little thing like the sun, hmm?

And cut to black. Rest in peace.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tony Awards and Birthday Boy Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris was the first celeb I gave a birthday shout out to on this blog and today he turns the big 4-0! Happy Birthday!

He will be wrapping up the final season of his hit show How I Met Your Mother during this upcoming TV season, but he should be able to land on his feet afterwards. At the very least, he can always hosts awards shows for a living. In fact, he just brilliantly hosted the Tony Awards for a fourth time last Sunday with his usual mix of show-stopping numbers and charming asides. Speaking of show-stopping numbers...

He deservedly got a standing ovation off the bat with an epic opening number that literally had everything Broadway has to offer:

He then was in the mix for one of the most inspired numbers ever held at Tonys with a few Broadway vets lamenting their canceled TV shows:

Finally, he ended the show with his usual Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned rapping recap of the night with bonus appearance of the amazing Audra McDonald who literally dropped the mic:

If I had it my way, every awards shows would only be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Hugh Jackman... in any combination. After the cut, a full list of the Tony Awards winners and very brief non-Neil Patrick Harris thoughts...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

French Open: Final Preview

Let's just say the two favorites pre-tournament are still the overwhelming favorite heading into championship weekend. Let's start with the women...

Serena Williams [1] vs. Maria Sharapova [2]

Why it's taken so long for Serena Williams to win her second French Open title is up for debate, but she's certainly making a concerted effort this year to do just that. She's been absolutely unbelievable the whole tournament including her demolition of last year's finalist Sara Errani in the semifinals. The only person standing in her way is last year's champion Maria Sharapova who she has a dominant 12-3 H2H record against. They've already played three times this year and Serena has won them all, but if anything Sharapova can take it to heart that nothing is set in stone--Serena could have a bad day, Sharapova could start zoning. Weirder things have happened after all.

Prediction: Serena in 2 sets.

Rafael Nadal [3] vs. David Ferrer [4]

Rafael Nadal has won his 8th French Open title! Oh wait, he didn't yet? Well, after his semifinal clash with top seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, he really should've just gotten the trophy, right? Their up and down match lived up to the hype as Djokovic found another gear later in the match to push Nadal to a rare fifth set at Roland Garros. In the end, the king of clay withstood Djokovic's stand and Nadal is just one match away from his 8th French Open title, the most of any man in any major. He'll face a familiar foe in countryman David Ferrer who dismissed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets the round before. Like Serena to Sharapova, Nadal has a dominant H2H record against his opponent 19-4, but Ferrer is entering the final in fantastic form as the only player to not have lost a set. It's also his first Grand Slam final, so perhaps luck is just on his side? Or maybe not, since Nadal is the one on the other side.

Prediction: Nadal in 3 sets.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

French Open: Semifinal Preview

If there's something to be said with regards to the players who made it to this stage, it's that it's been a very formful tournament.All four of last year's finalists are still around and the lowest seed is sixth, which all just means that we're in for some epic showdowns.

N. Djokovic [1] vs. R. Nadal [3]
D. Ferrer [4] vs. J. Tsonga [6]

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played the spoiler here by convincingly knocking out 2nd seed Roger Federer in a straight set beating that saw the former French Open champion unable to do much of anything against the Frenchman who got even more support from the home crowd. The rest of the line-up is made up of last year's semifinalists which includes Tsonga's next opponent, the indefatigable David Ferrer who easily handled the inevitably exhausted Tommy Robredo the round prior. Both man are trying to reach their first ever French Open final.

It's the other match-up though that everyone has been waiting for ever since the draw came out. Last year's finalists Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet for the 35th time in what many are calling the de-facto final. Djokovic pushed Nadal to four sets last year, but his form heading to this tournament is not what it was last year. Similarly, Nadal has blitzed through the clay season as per usual, but is he 100% physically? Nadal and Djokovic won in straight sets their previous round against Stan Wawrinka and Tommy Haas with the latter capping off his terrific tournament with the most spirited performance among the losing quarter-finalists.

My prediction for the finals? Nadal vs. Tsonga.

S. Williams [1] vs. S. Errani [5]
M. Sharapova [2] vs. V. Azarenka [3]

Last year's winner Maria Sharapova was bageled in the first set in her quarterfinal match against Jelena Jankovic, but was able to grit her way to a win. She's going to need that same attitude against Victoria Azarenka who reaches the semifinals at the French Open for the first time in her career by winning in straights against Maria Kirinlenko. Azarenka leads their H2H 7-5, but Sharapova has won at the two clay tournaments they've played. Should be an interesting match to watch and certainly it's the match whose result is not certain.

Unlike the other semifinal match between favorite Serena Williams and last year's finalist Sara Errani. Every sports stat will say this is a slam-dunk win for Serena who has just been on top form this tournament, but she did hit her first bump the prior round losing a set to former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. But her focus to capture only her second French Open title is at an all-time high and at this point she is her own worst enemy. As for Errani, she has certainly backed up her surprise results from last year including a convincing straight sets win against Agnieszka Radwanska, but beating Serena will be a big ask especially since Errani is also still alive in Women's Doubles!

My prediction for the finals? Serena vs. Sharapova.

Monday, June 3, 2013

French Open: Quarterfinal Preview

I still go back and forth regarding my sporadic blogging about tennis, but I guess waiting until the late stages of a slam to start posting is a temporary solution. With that said, the first 10 days of the French Open has come and gone and after we're left with the last 8 men and women of the tournament. Among them are many of the usual suspects including 5 former champions, but a few surprises as well like a couple of Tommys over 30 years old.

N. Djokovic [1] vs. T. Haas [12]
R. Nadal [3] vs. S. Wawrinka [9]
D. Ferrer [4] vs. T. Robredo [32]
R. Federer [2] vs. J. Tsonga [6]

Yes, Rafael Nadal is going for his 8th French Open title. Yes, top seed Novak Djokovic is looking to improve his results last year by winning and achieving a career Grand Slam. And yes, Roger Federer is attempting not only his second French Open title, but also his first title of the year. But can we just talk about 35 year-old Tommy Haas and 31st year-old Tommy Robredo? By this time last year Haas was ranked outside the top 100 while Robredo, beset with injuries, was ranked in the high 400s. Since then, they've played well enough to get seeded here and their performance is nothing by inspiring. Robredo actually becomes the first man since 1927 to come back two sets down in three consecutive matches while Haas is the first German to reach the Roland Garros quarterfinals and the oldest major quarter-finalists since Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open. Haas' 3rd round match with Isner has been dubbed by many as the match of the tournament so far with the German edging out the tall American 10-8 in the fifth set.

Both men will be underdogs in their next matches as Haas will face a rusty, but still solid Djokovic while Robredo will go up against relentless David Ferrer. Nadal, who had uncharacteristically slow starts in his first few matches, is the obvious favorite against Stan Wawrinka, who had to come back down 0-2 sets in his latest match versus perennial major non-quarterfinalist Richard Gasquet. The most intriguing quarterfinal match of the lot will be between Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga since despite Federer's 9-3 record H2H against the Frenchman, Federer was pushed to 5 sets in his last match while Tsonga hasn't even lost a set the entire tournament.

S. Williams [1] vs. S. Kuznetsova
A. Radwanska [4] vs. S. Errani [5]
V. Azarenka [3] vs. M. Kirilenko [12]
M. Sharapova [2] vs. J. Jankovic [18]

First and foremost, this is Serena Williams' tournament to lose. This is true even though she hasn't won the French Open in more than a decade and had only played ONE match total in Roland Garros the past two years! Of course anything can happen (see her first round loss last year), but she hasn't lost on clay this year and in terms of pure power and talent, there is no one left that should trouble her. She'll have to face former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova who hasn't had a great year since her quarterfinal result at this year's Australian Open and came into this tournament unseeded. On the same side of the draw is 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska who beat former champion Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round to reach her first French Open quarterfinals. She'll meet last year's "surprise" finalist Sara Errani who is so far backing up last year's result. That's probably the one match that could go either way.

Defending champion Maria Sharapova is playing like the defending champion and she can certainly repeat provided Serena isn't her opponent at the finals. First she'll have to get through Jelena Jankovic who has had mixed results this year, but seems to be finding some form here. Sharapova should still win based on form. On the same side, Victoria Azarenka took out former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone to reach another major quartefinal (her 7th in her past nine slams). She should be seen as the favorite against Maria Kirilenko who was blessed with an easy (hasn't faced anyone ranked above 50).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weekend TV News Shockers: Community and Doctor Who

It was an unusually busy TV news day yesterday as a couple of announcement dominated my twitter timeline. First was the news that Dan Harmon was coming back to helm the next season of Community after being dismissed a year prior. Second was the announcement that Matt Smith is stepping down as the Doctor at the end of this year.

With regards to Harmon's return, it's certainly unheard of for a show-runner to come back after he was essentially fired, but perhaps this was the only logical choice that NBC and Sony had after unexpectedly giving the show a renewal for a 13-episode fifth season. After all, they tried to tinker the show after Harmon left to try to make it less niche to fit in with all of their other new "broader" comedies of the season and yet it was Community (and Parks and Recreation) who made it through the season. There was also a growing contingent of fans and critics who have been disappointed by the show's latest season, calling it a pale comparison to the "Harmon era." I liked the season more than many, but still recognize that something was off, different. Was it lacking Harmon's vision, voice? NBC is hedging their bets by thinking this way and so Harmon is back to right the ship (or at least to go down with it to the very end).

Matt Smith's departure is less shocking, but probably the news more people are talking about this weekend. After all in nerd world, this is pretty much akin to hearing a Pope announce his retirement. In a statement he gave to BBC, Smith expressed his immense gratitude in playing the iconic role:

Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I'm incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.  [...] It's been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one'. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt.

Smith is the 11th actor to portray the Doctor and will subsequently appear in the 50th Anniversary special with the 10th Doctor David Tennant later this year. Smith's final episode will be the Christmas episode when audiences worldwide will also witness a new actor taking up the mantle as the Doctor. It is highly convenient for a show to easily change its lead actor, but doing so also creates advance buzz. Already there has been endless articles, conversations and debates on who the next Doctor will be with many hoping that perhaps this time around they cast someone who isn't white or even male. My favorite suggestion at the moment is Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, Submarine). But that's thinking ahead when I really want to stop and praise what Smith did with the role. Following Tennant's Doctor must have been daunting as Tennant had grown quite beloved even outside of Doctor Who fandom. And being the youngest actor to portray the role had its own pressures. Yet in time, Smith was able to make his unique mark on the character highlighted by his stunning ability to somehow convey age-old wisdom and weariness through his youthful demeanor. This is even funnier to me since it was his relative youth that many fans, including myself, latched onto as a cause for concern when he was first cast.

Even Dan Harmon commented on this weekend's Doctor Who news: