Review: The Divine Nature of Basketball: My Season Inside the Ivy League

Follow Yale through the 2011-12 season

Let me be clear before the outset of this review: I did not attend an Ivy League school, nor did I previously have an appreciation for it. Save for a few friends who worshiped Penn hoops, my loyalties remain in the old Big East and the current ACC. So it is with that lens that I review Ed Breslin’s The Divine Nature of Basketball: My Season Inside the Ivy League, his look at the 2011-12 Yale Bulldogs basketball team, led by head coach James Jones. Breslin petitioned Jones to be a special assistant coach, essentially shadowing the team throughout the entire season. What follows is an insiders look at one of the more entertaining Yale basketball seasons in recent memory.

It’s clear within a few pages of reading that Breslin eats, prays and loves college basketball. Breslin devours media guides and watches intently through practices. Throughout the course of the season, Yale basketball completely consumes his life and his passion oozes through the pages of the book. His enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s hard not to become a Yale fan, too.

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Review: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is set to go dark — for good — in January, 2014 after a turbulent three year run on Broadway that was hampered by negative press at the start. The highlights included an actor tumbling 20 feet into the orchestra after not securing his harness (one of five injuries sustained by the cast); deep budget overruns for the multi-million dollar project and a major rewrite of the plot after the original was universally panned. The show ended up becoming a punching bag at the 2012 Tony Awards, as the show set a Broadway record with 182 previews before it finally opened. 

So now that the background is out of the way, I figured I’d start with the good: There are about 15 total minutes of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark that delivers a spectacle unlike anything seen around Broadway. The death-defying, high-wire stunts left the audience squealing in delight as Spider-Man and the Green Goblin had it out 50 feet above the floor. The fights were well choreographed and was done in such a way as to enhance the plot as opposed to overtaking the show. Gimmicky? Sure. But you can’t deny that the gimmick is wildly entertaining. The sets are also grandiose and does well to add to the visual  candy the musical already has. I wouldn’t splurge for full price based on these 15 minutes, but I didn’t, so my discounted ticket went a long way.

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Review: The Great Gatsby

When I read the Great Gatsby as a high schooler, I was taught about dangers of excess and the cautions of the chase for the American dream. Jay Gatsby’s pursual of Daisy Buchanan was a warning of the attempt to achieve an unobtainable goal. In the same vein, Gatsby’s wild parties were examples of the moral decay in society. Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby largely ignores that message in his 2013 release, instead choosing to focus on a highly stylized fantasy world.

And what a fantasy world it is. Luhrmann’s Gatsby has Jay-Z playing in the background of his wild and lavish parties that would put Ditty to shame. ‘Extravagant’ wouldn’t come close to describing the visuals. Then again, I expected that, coming from his work in Moulin Rouge.

In this regard, Luhrmann does pay appropriate tribune to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. The characters all speak in his stylized prose, and the parties do justice to what Fitzgerald envisioned. But, of course, this isn’t the reason that Fitzgerald’s novel became a mainstay in American education. The main problem with The Great Gatsby is that Luhrmann’s film doesn’t quite cut to the core of Fitzgerald’s story, missing the chance to connect the viewer with the overall message.  Continue reading “Review: The Great Gatsby”

Review: Ironman 3

I’m always wary when watching the third installment (the three-quil, if you will) of a movie series. Think Godfather 3, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Spiderman 3, or the Matrix Revolutions. Then again, there has been a reverse in the trend recently with The Dark Knight Rises, and now, with Ironman 3.

What separates Ironman 3 from its two predecessors is  that the focus of the story shifts to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) rather than The Suit he wears. There are plenty of flaws in the exposition in an attempt to tell an over-complicated story (see also, The Dark Knight Rises), but in the end, do we really watch movies like Ironman for the logical consistency of the story?

Ironman 3 picks up where The Avengers leaves off (which is good, considering I’ve seen the Avengers). Tony Stark is having nightmares and anxiety attacks from his experiences from New York City, and, instead of working on his relationship with the lovely Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), he chooses instead to build every iteration of The Suit he can think of (going up to 47). When bodyman Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is put into a coma by international terrorist “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley), Stark lashes out at the organization, prompting Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and his thugs to destroy Stark’s home. An old flame of Stark’s, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), is part of the impetus, and the threat extends all the way to the President of the United States (William Sadler) who is protected only by “Iron Patriot” (Don Cheadle). Continue reading “Review: Ironman 3”

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

The immediate thought that came to mind after the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises: Has there ever been a trilogy that has reinvented its genre in such a way? Has there ever been three movies so complementary of each other and so well executed that it has become the new standard bearer by leaps and bounds? Not recently.

To be sure, several franchises have begun and rebooted to critical acclaim (X-Men and Spiderman, to name a couple), but all have universally lost their momentum by the third installment. Batman is the new standard in comic book adaptations, and it may never be topped.

Set eight years after The Dark Knight, we see the ramifications of the character’s choices in the first two movies. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, driven by his pain and inability to escape the memory of Rachel Dawes. He has distanced himself from confidants Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).

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Random musings on Jeremy Lin leaving Knicks

Knicks wave goodbye to Lin

1. Let’s start with the basketball standpoint. Lin was the best point guard option available. Felton, by all accounts, is overweight and coming off the worst season of his career. Kidd, or the shell that’s left of him, is 39, (though he apparently still has the party habits of someone 20 years his junior). Pablo Prigioni has even less NBA experience than Lin. Are there arguments that Lin isn’t the best of the group? Sure. But then again, this wasn’t a money decision.

2. Nope. This wasn’t about money. This was about loyalty. Jim Dolan gave Jeremy Lin his chance, and Lin stabbed him in the back. And by “giving a chance,” I mean signing the dotted line below Lin’s minimum NBA pay check, and by “stabbing him in the back,” I mean shopping around for a contract because Dolan and the rest of the knuckleheads in the front office told him to. How dare Lin accept a contract for more money to become a millionaire when he made $600 million for Cablevision and single-handedly ended the Time Warner Cable dispute? Seriously, if anyone handed you $5 million dollars, would you *ever* turn that down? Where was it written in stone that Lin had to come back to New York?

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Review: The Newsroom

imageFinally, Aaron Sorkin has found the right premise.

In 2006, Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip lasted one inglorious season before the overly expensive and lightly watched “inside the writer’s room” dramedy was cancelled by NBC. Why was the show such a failure? The premise, I wrote.

At the heart of every Hollywood production, there must be some kind of believability. This is a sliding scale, of course. (We accept that James Bond will never be seriously injured because he’s a summer action star.) But with Studio 60, the show was built around a comedy show, and Sorkin was completely out of his element. The jokes and skits simply weren’t funny and the political dialogue seemed completely out of place. Had Sorkin changed the show to an inside look at The Daily Show or the Colbert Report, the premise would’ve been more palatable.

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Review: Magic/Bird on Broadway

Magic-BirdMagic/Bird is a play that comes about 15 years too late, telling a story that has a definite beginning with a compelling middle, but struggles to find where to conclude. It’s a story that has its dramatic moments, but isn’t best told on the stage. So it comes as no surprise that the play was shut out of the Tony’s this year, and will shut its doors for good on May 12 after opening just a month earlier.

To be sure, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson dominated all of the headlines of the mid-80s, as their heated rivalry from college extended into the NBA. The Celtics and Lakers were regulars in the finals during that decade, and the two played each other in some of the most memorable games that resurrected a stagnant NBA.

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Building the Syracuse lacrosse dynasty — Brad Kotz

KotzIt’s strange when “Syracuse lacrosse” and “dominant” (or some other synonym) aren’t used in the same sentence these days. Since 1983, the Orangemen have won 11 National Championships, produced a pair of Tewaaraton Trophy winners and have seen 12 players become four-time All-Americans.

Yet, there exists a time when the Orangemen were underdogs in the lacrosse world. Before 1983, SU had last won a national championship in 1925 (to put that in prospective, F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby that year) and in the 1982 season, the Orangemen had gone 6-4, losing to a pair of Division II teams while missing the tournament completely.

But that all changed in 1983.

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Syracuse hurdler Jarret Eaton knows he can go faster

Whether it’s a race in the familiar confines of Abington High School or a pressure packed NCAA National Championship 2,500 miles away, Jarret Eaton and mother Sharon have a long standing tradition.

Dominating win or heartbreaking loss, mother and son will convene.

“He’ll call me up, and I’ll congratulate him,” Sharon says. “But I’ll ask him after every race, ‘Jarret, can you go faster?’”

The answer has evolved over time, mirroring the rise of Eaton from a part-time hurdler at a small college in Pennsylvania to an elite athlete at Syracuse University with Olympic aspirations.

“It started off as, ‘I don’t know,’” Sharon says. “It became, ‘I think I can.’”

Nowadays, the answer is, unequivocally, “I can go faster.”

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