Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lakers 2011-2012 Final Thoughts

The Lakers season has officially come to an end with a thud after losing to the Thunder in five games in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.  It’s the second year they have been eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. They kept it close for three quarters before OKC blew the game wide open with a thunderous fourth quarter and pulled away from the Lakers.  It was sad to see the series come to an end, as that means no more Laker games until October 2012.

Just one week ago, they were starting their series with the Thunder, and a week later, it was over, five games in seven days.  When the series was over, I kept thinking about Games 2 and 4 when they were so close and could have put the Thunder away, and if they did, it would have been a different series all together.  I know it’s not always wise to look in the past, but this was a series of what ifs.  If only this happened, they would have won.  If this had occurred, they could have finished that game off.

In the end, though, you have to put the excuses aside and give all the credit to the Thunder for having the mental toughness and energy to finish games off.  It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, as the old cliché goes.  The Lakers started out fast in games 2 and 4, but they couldn’t finish.  That was the difference in the series. They only have themselves to blame for game one, because if they would have finished off the Nuggets in five games, like they should have, they wouldn’t have been so gassed in game one and put themselves in such a hole.

As I mentioned on Facebook, this has been one of the most exciting Laker season I’ve followed, even without winning the title.  Nothing compares to the 2010 season, however, with the Lakers winning the title in seven games over the Celtics. I’ll never, ever forget that run and that championship. That was by far the sweetest and most enjoyable out of any title run I’ve experienced as a fan, even more than the Packers winning the Super Bowl.

This season, however, is the most involved I’ve been as a fan, thanks to the NBA app from Sprint. I’ve been able to listen to every game called by John Ireland and Mychal Thompson, and then I listen to the breakdown of the games by Mason and Ireland the next day. I even had the pleasure of interviewing Mason and Ireland for 411mania.com.

My girlfriend Amanda and I either listened to the games on the radio or watched them if they were broadcast on national TV.  There was a game almost every other day, and it was very, very exciting having basketball, all the time.  It helped sorrow the pain of the Packers losing to the Giants in the second round.  Amanda also grew as a fan and learned so much about the team, the game, and how it works.  She would get so into the games, and that made me so excited to be able to share the experience of being a Laker fan with her.  That’s really what it’s all about, sharing a moment and a memory with someone that you care about.  That makes it all worthwhile.

My favorite part of this season had to be the games that aired Sunday's on ABC. They won big games against The Thunder, the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, and the Dallas Mavericks. Those were my favorite games of the year along with their big win over Boston by one point on a Thursday night game on TNT. The season was filled with drama, from Mike Brown benching Kobe and Bynum to Bynum shooting a three to Metta’s elbow. The season was far from boring, that’s for sure. As far as the changes they need to make, they are quite clear. They need to figure out if Ramona Sessons is the point guard of the future, what to do with Gasol and Bynum, and they need a better bench, more scorers. 

After back to back early playoff exits, it’s clear that something is going to have to happen and happen soon. Knowing the Lakers and their storied history, they are not going to stand still and do nothing. They tried to get Chris Paul, but we all know what happened with that deal.  You can’t cry over spilled milk, however.  You have to regroup, grow, and become a better team next year.

Next year, it won’t be a shortened season and Mike Brown will have a full training camp to get everyone ready, in shape, and focused on his plan for the team.  Hopefully, there will not be any crazy trades that get vetoed and throw the whole team into chaos and awkwardness.  I still believe in Mike Brown, and I think he did a solid job, considering everything he had to deal with as a first year coach.  All in all, the Lakers finished about where they were supposed to finish. They had the third best record in the West, which is about right, since they are not better than the Spurs or the Thunder. They lost to the Thunder, the second seed. Nothing really happened that was a shocker or totally surprising as far as how the season unfolded considering the circumstances. 

Thanks for a fun, exciting season, Lakers.  It was a disappointing end to the season, but there’s nothing to be sad about, that’s for sure.  Losing always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, as a fan, and it’s never easy to swallow or deal with.  You always have hope, faith and belief in your team. I know I did, even down to the last minutes of game five.  With six teams left in the playoffs, I am going to root for the Pacers to win it all.  I’d like to see a team that no one expects to win end up as the championships.

GO LAKERS! Purple and Gold.

-Tony Farinella

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lakers Game 5: Heart Vs. Logic

I’m back after a rough weekend for the Lakers.  It started out with Friday’s game, which was a nail bitter, from start to finish. The Lakers squeezed out a victory by being aggressive, attacking the basket, and having an insane amount of free throw attempts. They were down by five with under three minutes to go, and they won by three. It was a hard fought victory and it was officially a series.  If they went down 3-0, it would have been all over but the crying. 

Game four, however, was similar to game two in the fact that it was a painful, brutal, and horrible loss. They were up by 14 at one point before Russell Westbrook took over and was a one man show.  As has been the problem for most of the year for the Lakers, they couldn’t cover an elite point guard and suffered because of it. The game was tied until Gasol passed up the chance to shoot an open shot and passed the ball which resulted in a terrible turnover. Kevin Durant waited until the shot clock ran down and nailed a cold-blooded three pointer over Metta World Peace. Bryant missed a game tying three, and the game was over. It was another deflating, painful, and tough to swallow loss for Laker fans.

Now, it’s Monday night, and game five is tonight, along with the Lakers season being on the line. If they lose, they pack their bags and go home for good. If they win, they pack their bags back to L.A. for game six. Either way, they are going home. We just aren’t sure if they will go home to play another game or if they will go home for the last time this year.

It’s obvious that the Lakers can compete with the Thunder. They got their doors blown off in game 1, but games 2, 3, and 4 were very competitive, and it easily could have been 3-1 Lakers, if they were able to finish games off. That’s been the problem all year for the Lakers.  They can’t finish games. They have the talent, and they are prepared, but they seem to lose all sense of control in the last two to four minutes of the game. This is something that we experienced as Laker fans in the first game of the year against Chicago.  It’s been the sad and annoying theme all year long.

Everybody and their mother have picked against the Lakers and have said that the series is over, and OKC will play the Spurs. Magic Johnson has blamed it on Mike Brown. He said during halftime of the Heat Vs Pacers game that he is a good coach, but he’s not a great in game coach that can make adjustments. It’s hard to argue with him right now, considering the results of games two and four.

Down 3-1 is a tough task, but it’s not impossible. Eight teams have done it before, most recently the Suns against the Lakers in 2006.  It will not be easy and the odds clearly favor OKC, especially at home. That crowd is going to be loud, proud, and insane, as they want their Thunder to wrap up the series and go to the Western Conference Finals. OKC does not want to go back to Staples Center. If that happens, the series will go to seven games.

Until the end, I’m a fan, no matter what.  I wouldn’t bet money on the Lakers, but my heart, my pride, and my Laker fandom predict the Lakers tonight.  Logic, money, and wisdom say OKC wins and wins big. The Lakers do not have a great history in close out games at their expense, look at the finals against Boston in 2008 and the Mavericks series last year. I know it’s not easy to look at, but history is not on their side.
What will win tonight? Heart or logic?

Go Lakers

-Tony Farinella

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thoughts on the Lakers Game 2 Loss

Last night’s Laker game was as painful and tough of a loss as I can remember. It reminded me of last year’s game three loss to the Mavericks before they got swept out of the playoffs. It was a game they had a chance to win and they crapped the bed in the last two minutes of the game. It happened so quickly, it left me and Amanda speechless. It was as if the air was sucked out of the room. Just minutes ago, we were high fiving, happy, and feeling great about the game. It felt like the series was over, even though it’s not yet.  It just felt like it.

Call me naïve, crazy, or stupid, but I’ve always believed and hoped that this year’s Laker team could win a championship. I like Mike Brown’s defensive strategy, Kobe has at least a few more years left in him of elite play, and Bynum and Gasol are always tough to deal with, thanks to their height. The team is flawed, but when their mind is right, they can beat anybody, which we have seen this year, with big victories over Dallas, Boston, Miami, and OKC in the regular season.

Down 2-0 to a team that is better than you, faster, quicker, and hungrier, that’s a deadly combination and some might say it’s a death wish. People are calling the Lakers dead, old, slow, and that it’s OKC’s time.  It would be hard to argue with them. The Lakers collapsed and gave the game away, and they have no one to blame for that but themselves.  On paper and using logic, it’s easy to say goodbye Lakers, goodbye to their era of winning, and goodbye to them in this particular series against the Thunder.

From my years of watching sports, I have come to learn that it’s not over until it’s over.  Yes, the odds are not in their favor, and yes it’s going to be difficult, but it starts with game three on Friday night.  Nothing sours the pain of a tough loss quite like a victory.  As we have seen with this year’s team, they are a different team at home. They won’t have to listen to the loud, annoying, and insane crowd that is in Oklahoma City. The Lakers play their kind of game at home.  They also play their best when their backs are against the wall.  That’s clearly the case right now.  If they don’t win Game 2, the season is just about over at that point.  No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit.  I’m a Laker fan, a hopeless fan at times, but I’m not that much of a Laker homer that I would believe that.

The best advice people give you in life, and it applies to sports: take it one day at a time.  That’s what the Lakers have to do, and their fans as well, one game, or one day, at a time. A good night’s sleep has helped erase the pain of last night’s loss a little bit.  The Lakers have to have that same mindset. Don’t let this loss linger or stick in your brain.  Move on and be ready for Friday’s game, like it’s the last game of the year, because if you don’t win, you might be swept out on your home court, and that’s a terribly painful way to end a season.

It’s time to show OKC that the Lakers are not ready to give up their spot as one of the top dogs in the West just yet.
-Tony Farinella

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Think Like A Man Review

Think Like A Man is probably the biggest surprise so far in this year’s movie season.  The trailer makes the film look unfunny, unoriginal, and cliché ridden.  The film is actually a funny, entertaining, and at times insightful look at love and relationships.  It’s boosted by an incredible ensemble cast that adds charm and likability to their characters.  This film was a real shocker for me.
Think Like A Man is inspired by the Steve Harvey book, Think Like a Man, Act Like A Lady.  When four young ladies are disappointed by how men are behaving and acting, they turn to the book to even the playing field.  We have the mama’s boy, played by Terrence Jenkins, who always puts his mom over his girlfriend.  We have the young adult who refuses to grow up, played by Entourage’s Jerry Ferrara. We also have the very funny Kevin Hart, who plays a recently divorced man who is happy to be single and not dealing with the stress that men in relationships are currently battling. Rounding out the male cast is Romano Malco, the player, Gary Owen, the happily married man, and the upstart with potential but no real income, played by Michael Ealy.
Their women are played by Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, Meagan Good, and Taraji P. Henson.  The women realize that with the help of this book by Steve Harvey, they are able to get their men to grow up, commit, and act like real men.  The men are shocked as everything is changing with their women, and they can’t figure out why.  It’s a full on battle of the sexes in Think Like A Man, which starts off funny and ends up being very funny and quite sweet before it’s all said and done.
Think Like A Man is a movie that both men and women can enjoy, due to relating to or understanding their problems or the characters themselves. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, you have to like the characters in the film and want them to end up together. If not, there is no reason to watch their plight and their misunderstandings for two hours.  Even though this film runs at two hours, you enjoy spending time with all of them, as even though they have their problems, they feel real and authentic to what could actually happen in a real-life relationship.
I really wish this film would have had a better trailer, as I would have viewed it a lot sooner.  Then again, it was a nice surprise to walk into a flick with no expectations and enjoy the heck out of it, smile, and laugh. I have to give a special shout out to Kevin Hart, as he is downright hilarious in this film and steals every scene.  When they finally showed his wife, I thought it was brilliant casting.  Don’t let the bad trailer for you. This is a good romantic comedy worth seeing.
Grade: A-
How should you see it: On the big screen

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers Review

The Avengers is one of those films that really does not need a review, but Im going to review it, anyways. Its pretty clear whether you are going to be a fan of this film or not. When you have Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor in a film, chances are, if you are a comic book fan, it will be worth your while. Its almost impossible for the film to fail, unless you take away the spirit of the comic book heroes and their world. Thankfully, we are in the capable hands of Joss Whedon, who also wrote Cabin in the Woods, one of the best films of the year so far and definitely one of the most ingenious.
Loki, Thors brother, wants to take over the world (who doesnt these days?) so Nick Fury is forced to call together the Avengers to stop him. The Avengers, of course, are Iron Man (Robert Downey. Jr), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). In reality, its really just a reason to get the Avengers together on the big screen all at once. The first portion of the film is largely spent on assembling the Avengers and introducing them together and seeing them interact with one another.

I have to admit that I didnt entirely understand what was happening a lot of time on screen in terms of plot, although I dont really go to films like this for plot. I knew that Loki was bad, and the Avengers had to spot him. I think that was all I really needed to know and understand. It took a little while to get to the action, but once they did, it was pure fun and a blast to watch as an audience member. The Hulk, at least in my theater, received the most praise and applause, by far. He stole the show. The next best I would have to say is Iron Man, and hes always been the most interesting and complex of the superheroes. His back story and his other life are just as interesting as his superhero life.

Over the past couple of years, Ive started to become a fan of superhero movies. I dont know exactly what has changed, but they are growing on me and Im becoming a slight fan. Im not a giant comic book fan or anything of that nature, but I do look forward to enjoy them, for the pure entertainment that they are. For The Avengers, I tend to view it more as a solidly entertaining and fun action flick. Im not going to go crazy and call it the greatest comic book movie ever made or anything like that, but, for me, as a casual fan, I enjoyed it. Its fun to think that there is someone out there, watching over us and protecting us. It makes us all feel like little kids and teenagers all over again.

The success of the film is thanks to Joss Whedon, who pens a solid screenplay that is sure to win over comic book fans as well as casual fans like myself. The humor is done at the right moments, and the characters all get plenty of time to shine on the big screen. Im not going to over praise this film for being something that it isnt. Its action packed, entertaining, fun, and the perfect summer popcorn flick. Its nothing more than that, and I think some people are forgetting that. I accepted the film as it is, and I had an enjoyable experience, knowing what its purpose is.

Grade: B

How should you see it? On the big screen, once the crowds die down.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pirates! Band of Misfits Review


Pirates! Band of Misfits is a film that I had wanted to see for quite some time after viewing the trailer. It appeared to be a light, breezy, deadpan style comedy mixed with some British dry wit.  Plus, the Pirate Captain was going to be voiced by Hugh Grant, and I’ve always enjoyed what he brings to the table.  Sad to report, this is an example of a film where all the good parts were shown in the trailer.
The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant, leads a merry band of pirate misfits that are trying to flourish in the ways of the pirate.  They often do not succeed, which leads to humorous results.  There is a pirate of the year competition that the Pirate Captain hopes to win in order to prove all of his doubters wrong. Along the way, some mischief occurs, including a monkey butler that uses cue cards, an angry Queen Victoria , and a dodo bird named Polly. We also get some predictable voice work from Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven.  It’s basically Ari Gold as a pirate.
Pirates! Band of Misfits got off to a great start within the first five minutes, but then it just stayed on screen, dead in the water. I smiled here and there, but did not laugh or find myself caring about what was happening all that much. It all seemed rather irreverent and pointless.  I understand it’s a children’s film, and it’s not meant to be groundbreaking or earth shattering in terms of plot.  There needs to be a point however, and it seems as though they were only interested in taking the premise and milking it for an hour and twenty-eight minutes with no real rhyme or reason.
As a children’s film, I’m not exactly sure if young kids will respond to it.  It’s not cutesy enough for children to enjoy, and it’s not funny enough or well-written enough for adults or young teens to enjoy.  It fails on both levels.  It does however have an entertaining, fun, and free-spirited last half hour that only teased me, as I was hoping for more of that.  The last half hour of the film and the first five minutes were what I was hoping for and did not get.  The film is wildly inconsistent.
I viewed this film in good old fashioned 2D, and I didn’t see anything in it that really warrants a 3D viewing.  This is an example of a film where the cons outweigh the pros.  The cons: forgettable voice work, meandering second half, and pointless plot.  The pros: the last half hour and the soundtrack. I’d wait for it on TV, or rent it for a dollar at Redbox, if there is nothing else to choose from that particular weekend.
Grade: C
How should you see it: At Redbox