February 2008

Hoops Week!

by Alan Rapp on February 29, 2008

in Uncategorized

Welcome boys and girls to our latest theme week!  This week, along with our regular fare, and in honor of Will Ferrell’s new film Semi-Pro, we’ll be bringing you more basketball goodness than you can stand!  Check out the Full Diagnosis for all the week’s links!

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Reviews:

Semi-Pro
Hoosiers
Space Jam
Glory Road
Teen Wolf
Blue Chips
Love & Basketball
Crossover
Mr. Woodcock

Features:

Will Ferrell’s Semi-Pro Interview
“Beware of the Phog”

Odds & Ends:

Futurama – “Time Keeps on Slipping”
Kansas Jayhwawks video
The Animated Adventures of the Harlem Globetrotters

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Semi-Pro

by Alan Rapp on February 29, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Semi-Pro
  • IMDB: link

semi-pro-poster

I’m not a huge Will Ferrell fan.  I usually prefer my Ferrell in small SNL skits or films which aren’t built entirely around him acting as silly as possible (check out my review for Stranger Than Fiction).  There are exceptions to this rule however as I though Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a very strong comedy.  Semi-Pro, to me, isn’t as good a film, but for those who enjoyed Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and/or Blades of Glory this one should be right up your alley (oh wait, that’s bowling).

The movie centers around the Flint, Michigan Tropics, a struggling ABA team and their owner/player/coach Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell).  Moon is hit with the news that the ABA is disbanding and only four teams will make the transition to the NBA.  Trading the team’s washing machine for a washed-up point guard (Woody Harrelson), Jackie tries to will his team into fourth place, and into the NBA, before the end of the season.

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The Other Boleyn Girl

by Alan Rapp on February 29, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Other Boleyn Girl
  • IMDB: link

“Our daughters are being traded like cattle for the advancement of men.”

the-other-boleyn-girl-poster

The story centers around the two Boleyn girls.  The older, more conniving Anne (Natalie Portman) and the sweeter, though simpler, Mary (Scarlett Johansson), are thrust into a world of societal intrigue and deception for which neither is prepared.

The bond between the sisters is put to the test when their father (Mark Rylance) and uncle (David Morrissey) ask Anne to attempt to seduce King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) and become his new mistress, only to discover he prefers the attentions of the other Boleyn girl – Mary.

What follows are schemes upon schemes, plotting, lies and deceptions which will leave England a far different country, and the Boleyn girls far worse for wear.

The story was adapted by Peter Morgan (The Queen) from the historical novel by Philippa Gregory.  Although the novel became a best seller, the film always seems to be grasping for what made the story work on the printed page.

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Penelope

by December Lambeth on February 29, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Penelope
  • IMDB: link

penelope-poster

Here is a classic yet modern fairy tale of life and true love. Who hasn’t experienced a touch of Penelope from time to time? Who hasn’t felt loved or appreciated or wanted by another or society because of one flaw or another? Everybody has felt dejected in one format or another and Penelope gives us a lighthearted reach into hope; a lighthearted reach with James McAvoy being the end result and no longer feeling like an outcast. True, I may have read just a little more into a simple fairy tale than what was actually there. Then again, isn’t that what going to the moves is all about?

Here we have Penelope (Christina Ricci) and blue-blooded aristocrat that is the first-born female who receives a gypsies curse. Her family kind of pissed off a gypsy by double crossing her daughter and a curse was put upon the entire family tree, the first girl to be born would have the face of a pig, which will not release that child until she is loved unconditionally by one of her own. Luck would have it that after generations of Wilhern’s born Penelope is the first girl and therefore the cursed.

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Hoosiers

by Alan Rapp on February 28, 2008

in DVD Reviews 

Check out any list of the best sports films ever made and the odds are quite good that at,or near, the top you will find Hoosiers.  The story of a small town basketball program and a coach given a second chance chasing the dream of the state championship works as well today as it did when it was released more than two decades ago. 

Hoosiers
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“Welcome to Indiana basketball.”

Loosely based on the true experiences of Milan High School’s basketball team’s championship in 1954 the film tells the story of Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) who lost his last head coaching job due to his temper and a violent outburst directed at one of his players.  Now considered untouchable Dale is given the opportunity by an old friend (Sheb Wooley) to coach a small high school in Indiana with barely enough players to field a team.

What Hickory, Indiana does have however is a vocal local fanbase of knowledgeable basketball fans who aren’t too keen on the new coach or his system of team ball.  Earlier on the coach spends more time deflecting, and ignoring, their unsolicited advice than actually coaching.

With support of the town’s best player (Maris Valainis) and the knowledge of an alcoholic assistant coach (Dennis Hopper), Coach Dale manages to keep his job long enough to start winning some games and make a run at the state championship.

If you love the game of basketball, this is the film for you.  Down to the basics of passing, moving, dribbling, hard work, and execution the script by Angelo Pizzo (who would also write another pretty good sports movie) gives us a basketball experience in its purest form.  The film also succeeds in capturing the small town feel and the emphasized importance of high school basketball to the community.

Hackman is well cast as the gruff head coach and surrounded with a team of underdogs who look and sound the part (Scott Summers, Wade Schenck, Kent Poole, Brad Long, Steve Hollar, Brad Boyle).  Barbara Hershey also has a small role as a Marian the Librarian type who distrusts the coach, researches into his past, and then must decide what to do with the information she finds.

The film is sports in a nutshell.  It’s a tale about the love of the game, of second chances, of hard work and perseverance, of the little guy taking on the bigger challenger on the largest stage possible, and of winning the right way.  Sure, there’s a bit of sports cliche along the way, but it’s dealt with in such an honest and forthright way that it never comes close to harming the characters, the story, or the film itself.

Hoosiers is a basketball film made by, and for, those who love basketball.  Considering its reverence among sports movies I was a little surprised to find the average score on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB to be only a 7.5.  If you haven’t seen Hoosiers in years give it a second chance.  And if you’ve never seen it (where have you been?) get out there and find a copy!  You will be glad you did.

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Basketball, Futurama Style

by Alan Rapp on February 28, 2008

in Uncategorized

What’s Basketball Week without mutants, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Philip J. Fry?  Here’s the Futurama gang standing up for Earth when the the Harlem Globetrotters arrive to humiliate our planet, but have to stay in order to save the universe (from one of Professor Farnesworth’s experiments) in the episode “Time Keeps on Slipping.”  Larger version available inside the Full Diagnosis.

Futurama – “Time Keeps on Slipping”
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21 Questions with Will Ferrell

by Alan Rapp on February 28, 2008

in Uncategorized

Call him Anchorman, Harold Crick, Ricky Bobby, or one half of the worst cheerleader team ever, but no matter what you call him you probably know the name Will Ferrell.  As part of his promotional tour for his new film Semi-Pro, Ferrell is currently schlepping around the country with a handful of comedians at his side for the “Funny or Die Comedy Tour.”  Between giving us an early peek at the film and preparing for the opening night of the tour in Manhattan, Kansas, he sat down with us to answer some questions.

21 Questions with Will Ferrell
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As a launching off spot to promote his new film Semi-Pro actor and funnyman Will Ferrell brought, along with his film, his Funny or Die Comedy Tour to Manhattan, Kansas.  Between the screening of the film that afternoon and the comedy show that night he was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions.  And we were lucky enough to be invited.  Here’s how it went down.

 

1. Why do you think the 1970’s are such a rich ground to make fun of?

Well, I think it’s kind of a remarkable time period where you look back and think back to clothing styles and hairdos and attitudes that was actually a period of time that happened.  That people actually wore the clothes they wore and looked the way they looked and thought, “I’m looking great!  I will never get higher than this.”  You know.  So I think for some reason it’s just intrinsically funny period of time.

2. Where did you find Kelly from the Bad News Bears (Jackie Earl Haley)?  And did he look like that?

Kent Alderman, our director, was actually an executive at New Line, which is the studio that put the movie out, and helped produce the movie the movie [Little Children] that he got so much acclaim for.  And we were just such a fan of him as an actor, and also we loved Bad News Bears, and we thought, “Oh my God, he’d be perfect for this role.”  To play this you know weirded out guy, and that’s kind of how it happened.  We found him in a dumpster; he thanked us for giving him employment.  No, it’s funny that was obviously just a wig, and everything like that, and he looked pretty normal.

3. Why did you go with the title Semi-Pro?

We just loved that title because even though the ABA, they were fully paid salary guys, for the most part a lot of these guys had to work other jobs in the off-season.  It was such a rinky-dink league in a way.  Well, I take that back, there was such a dichotomy in that you had players like Dr. J and Artis Gilmore and guys who went on to great fame in the NBA and they were like the upper echelon and they made pretty big money and the other guys on the roster, I was reading something just recently about this one guy who was negotiating a deal for $10,000 dollars and a new refrigerator.  They came back and the counter-offer was $10,000 and a used refrigerator.  He said “I’ll take it, I’ll take it.”  So it was a professional league but it had a semi-professional feel to it.  So we just loved that title.

4. Did you read Terry Pluto’s book Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association?  Do you remember any stories from that?

Yeah.  There’s so many.  When you read the book and see the movie you see what we did in the movie is not that far from anything.  Some of the classic stories are Marvin Barnes who played for the Saint Louis Spirits refused to fly on a plane which was changing time zones because he was afraid it was a time machine.  That’s probably my favorite, because I have those same fears myself.

5. Can you flashback to the 1970’s and 80’s, what kind of student athlete were you?

The word excellent comes to mind.  I was nine in 1976 so I was really big in the Bicentennial.  I loved that.  Do you remember the Freedom Train?  I waited three-hours to see the Freedom Train and then my mom got impatient and we left so I never got to see the stuff on the Freedom Train.  Let’s see, I started playing soccer as a kid and I started playing basketball in 8th grade and played in high school.  Played baseball, played football.  I was kind of a funny jock I guess you’d say.

6. So then maybe we’ll see a football movie come out?  About a kicker, maybe?

Uh, no.

7. Do you have any current plans to do other sports movies?

No.  I mean this just kind of lined up this way that I ended up doing [these films] .  It’s truly by coincidence.  Blades of Glory happened because Ben Stiller was originally going to do it and asked me to do it.  And we’d actually talked about Semi-Pro before Blades of Glory even happened.  So it all just kind of lined-up this way that I did these three sports movies together.  So unless someone could write a really good part for me to play a jockey, a thoroughbred jockey…  The joke is I’m too big.

8. Your degree is actually in Sports Information, is that correct?  Do you use that daily?

Sports Information, yes.  I probably use it ten times a day.  I use my degree ten times a day, the now defunct Sports Information department.

9. The costumes were great in the movie.  Did you actually have to be custom tailored into those pants for your size?

We had a great [designer]; Susan Matheson was the wardrobe designer and she wanted everything to look completely authentic.  I kept telling her my shorts weren’t short enough.  I found out later that a lot of the other guys on the team refused to wear their shorts any shorter than what they were.  So I truly lobbied for the short shorts.

10. What was your favorite outfit you wore in the movie

Favorite outfit?  Well [looking at the poster] that’s a pretty good one right there.  I don’t know if I had a favorite, I really liked all of them.  But my favorite accessory was my neckerchief.  I saw some old footage of Rick Barry, a player who went on to be an All-Star in the NBA, but he started out in the ABA also and he was doing this press conference with this scarf tied around his neck that literally fell over his shoulder and I was like I have to have that.  Jackie Moon has to wear neckerchiefs.

11. Was it nerve-wracking having the camera shot up your crotch on your free throws?

You know I was in such a zone I didn’t even notice. A lot of times I just carry a video camera and shoot my crotch, just to have it.

12. Did you guys get into any pick-up games on the set?

Yeah, all the time.  It was kind of a problem because you’re working with a packed arena of extras with five, ten, different guys on the court.  You have these choreographed plays that we run to make it look like free play.  So anytime it was cut where they had to move the camera to do another set-up we all just started playing; basketballs bouncing, they literally had to take the balls away from us because when you’re in a gym all you want to do is shoot baskets.

13. Who was the best player on the cast, other than you?

Woody was, other than me, was very good at the half-court back to the basket throw it over his head.  He actually made a couple of those.  There was a bunch of good players on all those other teams.  Pooh Richardson actually was on the Spurs.  Every player that played either was playing currently in Europe or had played in college.  It was very seductive in a way because these guys were going half-speed and in a couple takes the coordinator of basketball, this guy Mark Ellis who had this thick South Carolina accent, said “Okay, let’s go full speed.”  And these guys would turn it on and you forgot they have a whole another gear and you sort of get cocky thinking you can play with these guys and they would just blow by you.  Even that was fun.

14. Was there a stunt double for the bear scenes?

Actually the bear trainer was the guy who fought the bear when it was actually the bear and then we had a robotic bear, a guy in a suit, that fought me.  And then I fought him.  But between the two that’s how we pieced that whole piece together.

15. What are some of the differences between you feature film work, your Internet videos, and the tour tonight?

Well, I’ve never done anything like tonight.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.  It’s going to be…it should be fun.  This is brand new, doing this tour that we’re doing, and I don’t know.  They all kind of compliment each other.  I feel lucky that I get to think of little funny ideas for the website.  Obviously the film work is the biggest commitment to my time.  Adam McKay and I have started producing things as well so it’s a little busy.

16. How did K-State get on your list?

We had a number of schools that we knew we wanted to do like seven schools or so.  We wanted to do enough but not too many because we didn’t know how taxing something like this would be.  We knew we wanted to bring this tour to parts of the country that maybe wouldn’t get a chance to see something like this and Kansas State just totally fit the bill.  And some of our promoters were like it’s a great place to go, take something like this, and people will really respond.  It’s fun to get to kind of bring, for myself and the comedians, to come here and know this crowd is going to be so fired up to see something like this.

17. How was it decided to promote the movie that there would be this tour?

This was in conjunction.  Some of my agents who represent a lot of the stand-ups just came up with the idea is how it kind of happened.  It would just be a different way to get the word out about the website and the movie and just do something a little more interactive with a live audience and break it up as opposed to a lot of the time you just come to a city and do interviews all day, blow out.  But this is something that gets attention but is actually fun for us to do, and that was the idea.

18. What line from your movies do people yell at you the most?

You know it’s kind of evolved.  It’s funny, I was just in Ireland for a few weeks and for some reason Anchorman is huge in Ireland.  So I would get yelled, in Irish accents, “I want to be on you,” “I’m kind of a big deal,” so a lot of Anchorman quotes have kind of come pack around a little bit.  So I guess that’s kind of in first place now.

19. What’s going to be the catch-phrase from Semi-Pro?

You just never know.  One of the obscure lines from Anchorman I get is “milk was a bad choice,”  I never would have picked that as something anyone would have ever picked to recite back to me.  Or even “you’re my boy blue” from Old School, I just made that up that night at 3 in the morning yelling at this poor old actor.  it’s tough to predict.

20. Do you have a favorite SNL character?

It’s tough to say, and I’m happy to be able to say that because I’ve really enjoyed so many of these things I’ve gotten to do, and it’s so fulfilling that the crazy ideas I have people actually think are funny.  From the show I loved doing Harry Caray, I loved Robert Goulet, I loved doing Alex Trebek, I loved the middle school music school teachers I did with Ana.  You know the cheerleaders were great because kind of the first think people started to notice.  I’m just lucky that a lot of those things I had so much fun doing.

21. Can we look forward to a Jackie Moon album?

You never know.  We’ll see.  Love Me Sexy…

 

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You Can’t Top This Sh—!

by Ian T. McFarland on February 28, 2008

in DVD Reviews 

Space Jam is so amazing, the idea of typing up a review for it is, like, the most pointless thing ever.  How do you say something bad about the glory of a movie with a Michael Jordan-fronted cartoon basketball team?  It’s kind of like walking up to the President and telling him within earshot of the Secret Service that you’re going to kill him, in that it’s pretty much the dumbest thing anyone could say.

Space Jam
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So, it’s 1998 and the tension is beyond palpable.  The cliché goes that it was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife, but today you needed something like a couple of machetes and at least one grenade to explode through the excitement.  See, I had just realized that Space Jam was being released in theaters a mere five days after my birthday, meaning it was ripe for being the centerpiece of my ninth birthday party.  It was with much excitement and eagerness that I asked my parents if we could go see the movie for my birthday and – to be honest, I don’t remember when they said yes; but it’s probably because I was to blown away with ecstasy for my mind to be capable of forming memory.

Like I even need to say it, the movie was amazing.  It was kind of like the Immaculate Conception, only awesomer.

Here’s the story:  Those shit-eating assholes from the Moron Mountain theme park on the moon need some new attractions for the park.  So eventually, they decide to kidnap the lovable Looney Toons that we grew up with, in hopes of chaining them up and forcing them to become permanent attractions.  But these Toons, lead by their courageous leader good Bugs of Bunny, won’t go lightly – and flat out refuse the enslavement, unless, umm, the aliens can beat them in, uh, basketball.  But when their opponents drink the blood of famous NBA talents and steal their life-forces and talents at B-Ball, Fudd and company realize they need some help – some help from a little guy named Michael God-Damn Mother-Fucking Asshole-Shitting Jordan.

That’s right.

So MJ’s all like “I’m not going to help you,”  and then my boy Taz (what up T-Money!) is all like “Hell naw, you are” and eventually, Air is like “Okay.”  Then they train for a while and, before you know it, it’s game day.  The game is a tough one to be sure, as their opponents – the Monstars – are both monsters and all-around Basketball stars (yeah wordplay, try that fucker on for size).  The game is so close, so on-the-edge-of-your-seat ass-putting that my blood pressure permanently rises 10% every time I sit through it.  But in the end, with the awesome power of last-minute walk-on Bill Murray (playing himself,) they destroy the MonStars, and in doing so, proceed to rape their self-esteem, which eventually leads to their suicides (an important element of this real-life story that was left on the cutting room floor.  Fucking MPAA.)

I know, it’s like how do you even properly acknowledge the achievement of the film – let alone MJ’s master plan of winning the game with ten seconds on the clock (which is literally “Steal the ball, and score points”).  The IMDb page says otherwise, but there’s no way something this intensely written could have been penned by anyone except Bill Shakespere, Markie Mark Proust or Karl Rove – all of whom are great at making shit up.

Okay, I’m lying.  Space Jam is actually a kind-of-lame movie that works well for kids, and just okay for anyone out of Middle School.  But as far as third grader Ian T. McFarland is concerned, everything I said in this review is totally legit; and as long as my present self has Bill Murray in a movie, I’m not going to complain.

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Beware of the Phog

by Alan Rapp on February 28, 2008

in Essays 

For more tha 50 years Allen Fieldhouse, named after former Kansas head coach Dr. Forrest “Phog” Allen, has been the home court of the Jayhawks.  There’s just something about old basketball arenas in general, and Allen Fieldhouse in particular.  If you’ve never seen a game there you haven’t seen basketball as it was meant to be played.  As part of our Basketball Week I thought I’d share this little poem, written by yours truly, about the the mystery, the wonder, and the Phog, of Allen Fieldhouse.  Check it out in the Full Diagnosis.  Oh, and Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!

“Beware of the Phog”
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Beware of the Phog

A warning to all, beware you who enter,
For this is no normal gym, nor expo-center.
Here in the heartland where this game was born,
And championship banners on rafters do adorn.
The ghosts are still strong, for here legends were made,
Here, the Dean bled, and here Wilt played,
Where Danny and the dreamers first emerged,
And all purple has long ago been purged,
Big Country was shut out, and Norm can only sigh.
Listen carefully and you might hear the cry,
From the rafters it comes, softly at first,
Then rising until the fieldhouse will burst,
Rock…Chalk…Jayhawk in deafening sound,
Here is where true champions are to be found,
Coaching legends these sidelines have seen,
Naismith, Brown, and Williams, just to name three.
This is Allen, a fieldhouse of universal renown,
For here the Jayhawks of Kansas are to be found.
A warning to every Tiger, Cowboy, Tarheel, or Hog,
Beware you who enter, Beware of the Phog.

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Zorro

by Alan Rapp on February 27, 2008

in Comics

As Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello did for The Lone Ranger this time Dynamite Entertainment taps Grendel creator Matt Wagner and artist Francisco Francavilla to retell the classic story of Zorro in this new series.  Here’s our review of the first issue!

Zorro #1
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“A legend is formed by those who hear it..by those who believe it.”

In the tradition of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Matt Wager (creator of Grendel) retells the origin of one of comics earliest and most enduring characters – Zorro.

In this first issue the tale is told of the first appearance of a mysterious demon who attacks a band of soldiers by the lone survivor of the altercation.  Intermixed with his tale is the origin of Diego De La Vega as told by his childhood friend and loyal supporter Bernardo who peals back the veil to give us a look at the important events in the life that shaped Deigo into the man he would become.

There is much here to enjoy and as the story unfolds on multiple fronts from Diego’s first experience at injustice as a child to juming out of the night in the shadows.  In these short and limited panels of our hero’s first foray into the night the story borrows from Miller’s Batman origin tale, which is only fair as Batman has borrowed much from Zorro over the years.  In fact my only real complaint is that it’s done so well we never actually get to see Zorro!

Wagner also adds a new element to including in the tale Isabel Allende’s version of Diego’s mother as a Mexican tribal warrior whose heritage, along with the Spanish heritage from his father, was passed on to her son.  The story includes a Spirit Quest for both Bernardo and Diego as each finds part of their future, and a piece of Zorro.

The art by Francisco Francavilla captures both the harsh light of Diego’s past and the darkness and mystery (what little we do see) of Zorro.  I’ll wait a little longer until the masked man makes more of appearance in the series to provide a final critique, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

The tale is dedicated to Zorro creator Johnston McCulley and the “countless films and comic creators who have chronicled the adventures of America’s first masked super-hero.”  From the first words to the reveal of the final panel the story, one that has been told many times over the years, will keep you enthralled.  Whether this is your first experience to Zorro or your hundredth, this is a Zorro worth spending some time with.

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