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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:18

'The Big Year' not for the birds

Comedy driven by performance, plumage

Of all the hobbies that one might choose to make a film about, bird-watching would seem to be fairly low on the list. There would appear to be nothing truly dynamic inherent to quiet guys quietly picking their way through the woods and watching birds - quietly.

However, 'The Big Year' would beg to differ.

It's the story of three men who have decided to attempt what is known in birding circles as a 'big year.' The gist is that you try to see and catalog as many different species of birds (in North America) as you can in one calendar year. The person who puts up the biggest number is acknowledged as the world's best birder.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:12

'Damned' a Hell of a good time

New Palahniuk book offers a different kind of afterlife

'Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison.'

So begins 'Damned' (Doubleday; $24.95), the latest offering from best-selling author Chuck Palahniuk. And just like that, we're whisked away into a world that is part young adult novel, part John Hughes movieand complete Hell.

As in literal Hell. The place bad people go when they die? Yeah. That one. Only here, it is viewed through the cracked and chaotic lens of Palahniuk's hyperkinetic and warped sensibility. You've never seen the afterlife presented quite like this.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011 14:37

An open letter to Theo Epstein

Dear Mr. Epstein,

I've been a Red Sox fan for a pretty long time. I first started really following the Red Sox at the tail end of the 1986 season. I had just started the fifth grade and the Sox were making their memorable run to the World Series. So my fandom was born in heartbreak. From day one, I understood that being a Red Sox fan meant being disappointed. It meant understanding that it wasn't a matter of if the Sox would blow it, but rather when.

And then you came along, Mr. Epstein. You came along and changed what it meant to be a Sox fan. You and yours took a team that hadn't won a championship in eight decades and landed two rings in a span of four years. You were only in the driver's seat for nine seasons, but in that time, you completely changed the perception of the Boston Red Sox organization.

Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:07

Patriots Progress Report - First Quarter

We're officially four weeks into the NFL season and the Patriots are off to another great start. New England is sitting at 3-1 and looking really tough to beat. Sure, the defense has been a little shaky, but with Tom Brady at the helm of a high-flying offense, New England has just been outscoring other teams.

This is most definitely a flawed team, and a lot of improvements will need to be made if they're to have any hope of going all the way. They can score enough to get to the playoffs, but can they prevent enough scoring to win once they get there? We'll see as the season progresses. For now, just sit back and watch the offensive fireworks.

On to the Progress Report.

Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:00

Looking back at Al Davis

Remembering an NFL legend

The NFL lost a pioneer last week when Al Davis, the longtime owner of the Oakland Raiders, passed away at the age of 82.

Ever since I've followed the game of football, I've been weirdly fascinated with Al Davis. His eccentricities, his unwavering devotion to 'the Raider way,' his ubiquitous 'Just win, baby,' and of course, the omnipresent track suits - all of it came together into this human caricature, a cartoonist's dream of a sports team owner.

However, before Davis was a punch line, before his Raider teams endured lengthy stretches of mediocrity, he was one of the most influential figures in the history of the NFL. After years of jokes at his expense by the likes of Bill Simmons and his many write-alikes, it's easy to forget that.

Thursday, 13 October 2011 09:53

October odyssey

Thoughts on the 2011 MLB playoffs

Friday, 07 October 2011 14:32

The lighter side of cancer

50/50' offers humor, heartbreak and humanity

Sometimes, the best, healthiest way to deal with tragedy or trauma is to laugh. Sure, it sounds counterintuitive at best, morbid at worst, but the simple truth is that there are times in our lives when you have to laugh or else you'll cry.

Discovering the humor in an inherently sad situation can be tough, especially in a film, when the slightest misstep can turn the audience against your characters in a heartbeat. Tiptoeing through the minefield of love, loss, sadness and pathos is a dangerous game, a game that can blow up in your face at any time.

But when that balance is achieved, when you can walk that narrow path through the minefield and come out on the other side, you've got something special.

Thursday, 01 September 2011 13:22

A dish served lukewarm

Thursday, 25 August 2011 11:50

Rebooting the barbarian

With the current Hollywood trend of remakes, reboots and reimaginings, it should come as no surprise that the 1982 cinematic classic 'Conan the Barbarian' would eventually be given the treatment. As a fan of the original as much for its wonderful flaws as anything else I went into the remake with a combination of low expectations and guarded optimism.

What I got was an ultraviolent and bloody fantasy epic with an overwrought and underdeveloped back story, clumsy performances and gratuitous special effects, 3D and otherwise.

In other words: perfect.

The plot such as it is revolves around an ancient mask that bestows great power on the wielder. In times gone by, the mask was destroyed and the pieces scattered among the barbarian tribes. The sinister Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, 'Avatar') searches out a Cimmerian village in his quest for the final piece of the mask and winds up massacring them all, leaving a young Conan (Leo Howard, 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra') to watch his father (Ron Perlman, TV's 'Sons of Anarchy') die, but the youngster escapes.

Flash-forward to a now-grown Conan (Jason Momoa, TV's 'Game of Thrones') still on a constant hunt for the man who killed his father and destroyed his village. When a familiar face makes an appearance, Conan finally knows who his opponent is the most powerful man in the land. And then?

It's on.

I'm going to be right up front about this 'Conan the Barbarian' is not a good movie. However, that doesn't change the fact that I enjoyed the crap out of it. While there's no accounting for taste, I acknowledge the many, many problems here. The story is thin and the performances alternate between wooden and maniacal the film often screeches to a halt when people, you know, talk.

But here's the thing Robert Howard's 'Conan' stories were pulp fiction. They were supposed to be populated with broad archetypes and gory violence. They were filled with good guys and bad guys and you knew which was which. This isn't complex psychodrama here it's a movie about a guy whose primary response to any situation is to cleave it in two with a broadsword.

And that's why I enjoyed this movie, as bad as it might be. Whether intentional or not, the filmmakers have created a true spiritual successor to the original movie. Like the original, the new 'Conan' is huge and sprawling, filled with swords and blood and skulls and fire. Bad guys get killed by the score and there's an occasional boob. It's big, dumb, ridiculous fun. It's nothing more and needs to be nothing more.

'Conan the Barbarian' simply is what it is. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

3 out of 5

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