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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
End of an Era
There will be a lot of sports stories today--the Stanley Cup playoffs, NBA teams making a final push to the playoffs, baseball scores, etc.--but none of them will have the lasting significance that the news coming out of Knoxville today did.

After thirty-seven years as the coach of the Lady Vols and the face of women's college basketball, Pat Summit is stepping down as the head coach at the University of Tennessee.  She leaves with a legacy of winning, tradition and transcending the game.  Among all of her impressive stats, it's not the SEC titles, the multiple twenty win seasons, the Final Four appearances or the national titles that will leave the longest lasting legacy.  It's the fact that for thirty-seven years every young lady who stepped onto the court at Tennessee graduated.  One hundred percent.    That's one hell of a legacy.

I feel fortunate that I was able to be a fan of the Lady Vols and Pat Summit during one of the golden ages of Lady Vols basketball.

It's going to be strange next year when the Lady Vols take the court for the first time and Pat isn't on the sidelines, making changes, glaring at players and running the team.

When we got word of her health last year, we all knew this day was coming.

As a fan of Tennessee, it came too soon.   My thoughts and prayers go out to Summit and her family during this time.

As does my thanks to Pat Summit.  She elevated the game of women's basketball to a new level.  She did it with dignity, grace and a commitment to making her players better people when they left the doors of Tennessee than when they entered.  She was a classy, intelligent, motivated person and truly one of the greatest who has ever or will ever coach.

I'd wished the Lady Vols could have won it all this last year and sent Pat out on top.  But in the end, that doesn't really matter.  She was going to go out on top no matter what.

Thank you, Pat Summit for all you did for the Lady Vols.  I know you'll still be around as coach emeritus, bt somehow it just won't be the same without you on the sidelines coaching our Lady Vols.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/18/2012 07:01:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up: Game of Thrones, Eureka

Game of Thrones: What Is Dead May Never Die
As we saw last week, Tyrion clearly realizes that not everyone at King's Landing who claims loyalty to the Hand of the King is going to follow through and actually be loyal.   He replaced the head of the Night's Watch last week and this week he finds out which of his trusted advisers has loose lips.  By creating three separate stories about who he'll wed the princess to, Tyrion can figure out who's leaking information to Cersei and how to remove them from the inner circle.  Of course, having read the books, I know where a lot of this game is headed and how Cersei will fight back against Tyrion.   Clearly Tyrion sees her as a threat, but not as big a threat as he should.  

Meanwhile, all over the kingdom, things aren't exactly going well for everyone.   Balon Greyjoy forces Theon to choose between his families--the one that gave birth to him and the one that he's lived with these past several years.  In many ways, both sides have betrayed him and yet Theon seems content to be a whipping boy, unless he's whining to his father about how Balon sent him away to be a prisoner to the Starks.   It appears he's decided to side with his family (for now) with the burning of the warning letter to Robb and his being baptized into his family's religious sect on the beach.   And it's interesting to hear how both sides view the Greyjoys as one of those groups that can swing power in Westeros.  
All three episodes this year have seen various characters trying to consolidate their hold on power.  Tyrion is doing it, the Greyjoys are trying to return to it and we've got a couple other instances this week.   As we saw last week, Margaery is trying to help her new husband Renly hold onto his new found power and influence by making sure he has an heir.  Of course, the problem is that Renly plays for a different team, something that could cause him to lose his grip on power should it come out.  Margeary is shrewd though, offering to bring in her brother to help things along or pretend to be her brother in order to achieve the goal of conceiving a son.  Of course, should this happen, she'll have some amount of power over her husband for her silence.  In many ways, these developments parallel the situation between Cersei and Jamie Lanister, with each party having something they'd rather kept in the dark about their sexual preferences.
This week also treats us to an epic battle between those bound for the Wall and the Night's Watch.  It's a good think Arya is quick on her feet and tell the Watch that the slain boy their commander just killed was Robert's bastard and not the real culprit.  
Eureka:  Lost
Given that Eureka pulled a major game changer out of its hat to start the fourth season, there were moments in "Lost" when I fully expected the four plus year jump and the changes made to the town and characters to stick.    Part of me would like to think had the show been given the full sixth season SyFy promised us, that might have happened.  But another part of me realizes that the series had pretty much wound up season five when SyFy dropped the axe, so there was never any real chance of the changes being made permanent.
But I can't say I wasn't buying it for a long time.  The sense of being inside the world of 1984 was overwhelming in this one.   The episode had such an overriding sense of losing hope and futility as went along that I'm not sure it could have sustained it for long.  That said, all the copies of Sheriff Andy were creepily effective.   The smooth transition from the Andy we knew to the more sinister Andy was superbly done.  I know Eureka isn't a show that is going to garner any awards buzz, but it should for this performance.
Of course, the whole cast was just on top of their game here.  Allison's discovery that Jo and Carter are now romantically involved and raising her children was pitch perfect, as was Zane's discovery of the Jo/Carter romance.  
I really thought for a long time that Jamie Paglia had pulled a fast one on us by skipping ahead five years and not having to deal with the consequences of last year's finale--especially the part about Jo leaving town.   I will admit part of me is looking forward to seeing if or how Deputy Lupo comes back to town. 
But at least while we had one rug put back into place, we had another pulled out.   The final scene in which we see the Astereus crew is all hooked up to some virtual reality, Matrix-like device under the control of Beverly Barlow raises some interesting questions.   Is everyone hooked into the same virtual reality world or is each character experiencing their own nightmare reality designed to break them down and make them work for Beverly?  And the question of how long the crew has been missing and what the town is doing to find them will probably have to be resolved at some point.  And I'm going to guess that at some point, those under the influence will have to find a way to figure out that reality isn't exactly real and just how will they escape?  
If the next thirteen episodes are as solid as this one was, the final season of Eureka should be a treat. 


posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/18/2012 10:40:00 AM | |
Friday, April 13, 2012
Movie Thoughts: The Five Year Engagement

While visiting a local cupcake store last week, I picked up passes for a sneak preview screening of The Five Year Engagement. 
Last evening, I attended the screening with my lovely wife.   I've been to a few sneak previews over the years, but not one in recent years when file sharing is as a rampant as it is.  Everyone going in was searched to make sure we didn't have any filming equipment and we were repeatedly told not to use cell phones during the screening or else risk being removed from the movie (something I wish they'd do for EVERY screening of a movie, sneak preview or not!   Next, I will complain about young people getting on my lawn...)
So, without getting too spoilery, here are my thoughts on the movie....

Jason Segel and Nick Stoller, who gave us the romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, team up again for this one.  It's the story of Violet (Emily Blount) and Tom (Segel), a couple of met at a New Year's Eve Party, who celebrate their first dating anniversary by getting engaged.    The two begin trying to plan the perfect wedding, only to see a series of unexpected life complications get in the way--Violet gets her dream job, Violet's sister and Tom's best friend hook up at an engagement party, get pregnant and throw a hasty but "perfect" wedding that Violet and Tom realize they'll have a hard time competing with.
While it's billed as a romantic comedy, don't let that be a turn off for you if you're a guy like me who tends to resist most romantic comedies.   The Five Year Engagement is more from the school of Sarah Marshall or Love Actually than The Notebook (which is a running gag throughout the film) or just about any other romantic comedy film from a novel or short story or hastily plotted out note on a napkin from Nicholas Sparks.   While most of the characters are broad, Segel and Stoller make them all interesting enough so that we're (for the most part) laughing with them and they feel authentic.  
And while Segel and Blount are good in the lead roles, it's the duo of Alison Brie and Chris Pratt who steal the movie in their roles as the couple forced to get married before Tom and Violet can.  One particularly funny scene has Brie and Blount discussing their current romantic and life predicaments in the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster.   
As a romantic comedy, The Five Year Engagement has just enough romance to keep those who enjoy that aspect of the movie happy and enough comedy (some of it quite rude and quite hilarious...the movie earns its R-rating) to keep those who enjoy that aspect happy as well.  It's a date movie that both parties won't feel like they're having to sit through something to make the other half of the couple happy (again, like let's say The Notebook).  
The movie hits theaters on April 27th, a week before the big summer season gears up.  It might be a good way for the gentlemen to earn some romantic points with the ladies before The Avengers opens the next week.    

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/13/2012 03:16:00 PM | |
Monday, April 02, 2012
TV Round-Up: Game of Thrones
The North Remembers

The first season of Game of Thrones was about introducing viewers to the rich fantasy world created by George R.R. Martin, creating a level of comfort to the universe of Westerios.  And then taking that rug and pulling it firmly out from under the viewers.

As season two gets underway, we're familiar with most of the players in the game, but there are new rules and new faces coming into the power struggle going on all across Westerios.

As with the novel, A Clash of Kings, the first episode of season two begins with the appearance of a strange red comet in the skies above the kingdom.  What the red comet means is a source of some debate among the various parties involved in the on-going power struggle.  The episodes uses the comet as a way to move in and out of the various settings in the Thrones universe to great effect and impact, quickly allowing us to catch up with familiar faces and introducing a variety of new ones.

As season two starts, there are multiple kings all vying for the throne of Westerios.  Early on, Robb Stark would seem to have an advantage in terms of military victories but there's also Stannis Bartheon who could have the best claim in terms of lineage to the throne.   As the brother of dead king Robert, Stannis may have the best case but as we see here, he's not quite the leader his brother was.  And he's got the added baggage of a Melisandre, a priestess who seems to have Stannis' ear and is advising himself to distance himself from the old ways--even to the point of burning statues of the old gods on the beach.

Back in King's Landing, Tyrion relishes his new role as the Hand of the King.  Among the highlights of the episode is the scene with Tyrion unsettling his sister Caersi with the proclamation from their father, giving Tyrion the title of Hand.  Of course, both of them could quickly face issues when it comes to trying to keep Joffrey in line in the coming weeks if early scenes are any indication.  Joffrey is clearly enjoying the power of being king but he isn't showing much interest in actually ruling the kingdom beyond telling everyone what they can and cannot do.  Tyrion may have his hands full in the coming weeks, which can only be good news for fans of Peter Dinklage.  He's going to have a lot of great scenery to chew in the coming weeks.

And while the peace is shattered in Westerios, there are still bigger threats on the horizon.  Across the sea, Dany has her dragons which could give her a claim to power.  However, she'll first have to lead her people out of the desert and despair before she can begin pondering taking the throne back.   In the north, the Night Watch is beyond the wall, looking for evidence of a greater supernatural threat that could threaten the South before all is said and done.

While not quite as exposition heavy as the first season premiere, "The North Remembers" does have some heavy lifting to do in order to set up things for season two.  If you've read the books, you know not all the pieces are in play just yet, but a lot of them are here.

Using the comet as a unifying factor, the story quickly establishes where things are and begins to set some things into motion.  This is not an episode for fans coming late to the series.   While there was a nice montage of highlights from season one before the episode aired, to truly understand all of what's happening you have to watched the first season.   There's no moment where characters stop and summarize all that's come before now. As a fan of the first season and the show, I appreciate that the show assumes I'm paying attention and can follow things.  Of course, the cynical side of me also says, "Yes, and it helps sell DVDs to those who dropped in based on the buzz for the show."

A solid season premiere with some fascinating scenes.  As we move through the rest of season two, I look forward to seeing how this complex, fascinating world continues to play out.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/02/2012 08:58:00 AM | |
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