Saturday, January 31, 2015

SUPER BOWL 49 PREVIEW: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

By: Connor Glowacki


     Tomorrow (February 1) marks the final game of the 2014-2015 NFL season and there have been many twists and turns that have showcased numerous teams rising and fading down the stretch. Funny enough, the two teams that are representing the NFL in this year's Super Bowl are also the two teams that many analysts and pundits picked to make it to the Super Bowl before the regular season even started.
     Both the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks finished their respective regular seasons with 12-4 records. The fact that these two teams won their divisions and made it through a grueling postseason to Super Bowl berths is not what's surprising. What was surprising was how early on in the regular season, both of these teams were being counted out after rough starts.

Tom Brady is looking for his 4th Super Bowl title.
Photo courtesy of USAToday.
     New England started the regular season with a 2-2 record. Coming off an embarrassing 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, there was a large amount of criticism coming the Patriots way and left questions about whether or not this was the end of the dominant Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
     In the first four games of the season, Brady only had two games where he threw for over 200 yards and at the age of 37, there was a big concern that 'father time' had finally caught up with the Patriots quarterback. And yet in their last 14 games, he has thrown for at least 200 yards a whopping 12 times and thrown for over 300 yards six times.
     Tom Brady proved again this season why he is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL with a stat line of 4,109 passing yards on 64.1 percent completed passes and 33 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions. And it's even more impressive considering that New England hasn't had a consistent running game all season.
     They have several running backs in their stable, which include Jonas Gray (89 carries, 412 yards, 5 TDs), Shane Vereen (96 carries, 391 yards, 2 TDs), Stevan Ridley (94 carries, 340 yards, 2 TDs), and most recently LeGarrette Blount (60 carries, 281 yards, 3 TDs). However, with that kind of the depth at the running back position, it could prove to be a big advantage for the Patriots as the Seahawks defense will have to prepare for four different rushers with varying styles of speed and power.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been the
number one receiving option for New England this season.
Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.
     Outside of Brady, the biggest star on New England's offense is tight end Rob Gronkowski who is a brute physical force, but also has the rare speed to evade many opposing secondary defenders.
     His numbers have been ridiculous this season (82 receptions, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs).   And with other playmakers at receiver, including Julian Edelman (92 receptions, 972 yards, 4 TDs) and Brandon LaFell (74 receptions, 953 yards, 10 TDs), Brady might the most offensive weapons in his arsenal in possibly the last five years.
     And the Patriots defense has gotten a lot better this year too. With standouts like cornerback Darrelle Revis (two interceptions), linebackers Dont'a Hightower (six sacks) and Rob Ninkovich (eight sacks), and nose tackle Vince Wilfork, this defense has the most playmakers its had in the last decade.

     The Seattle Seahawks also stumbled out of the gate as they started the regular season with a 3-3 record that included rumblings of tension and internal discord in the Seattle locker room. But after trading talented, but troubled wide receiver Percy Harvin, Seattle bounced back and have dominated by winning 11 of their last 12 games.
Cornerback Richard Sherman leads Seattle
with four interceptions in 2014.
Photo courtesy of Slate.com.
     The defense has really turned it around and the unit looks just as good now as they did during their championship run over a year ago. Cornerback Richard Sherman has proven why he's the best at his position with a 2014 season that included four interceptions, eight deflected passes, and a forced fumble, all in the midst of a undeserving amount of criticism for what he says off the field.
     Add in safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, each with a interceptions apiece, and the feared 'Legion of Boom' has emerged once again at the absolute right time. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have combined for 12 sacks and linebacker Bruce Irvin added 6.5 sacks on his own to aid the Seahawks' dominant pass rush.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is looking
to win his 2nd Super Bowl in just his 3rd NFL season.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com.
   
     On the offensive side of the ball, third year quarterback Russell Wilson is growing more comfortable as a pocket passer with every single game.
     Despite playing disastrously for three quarters against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game by throwing four interceptions, Wilson rebounded when he had to and led Seattle on two straight touchdown drives to ultimately win the game. It proved not only the resilience that this young man has, but also the confidence and respect that his teammates have in him.
     Running Back Marshawn Lynch has been a monster on the ground (280 carries, 1,306 yards, 13 TDs) and when combined with Wilson's numbers on the ground (118 carries, 849 yards, 6 TDs), Seattle has had the best rushing attack throughout the entire NFL.

     This game will come down to who wins the proverbial battle in the trenches. New England's offensive line play has improved throughout the season and led by left tackle Nate Solder, have been able to give Brady lots of time and protection. But they'll have their biggest challenge ahead of them with this Seattle defense, a defense that kept Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers under constant pressure throughout their respective games.
     How will the Patriots react on the field in the midst of the 'Deflate-Gate' scandal? And how will the Seahawks defense hold up with nagging injuries to Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor?
     With many storylines coming into this game, Super Bowl 49 could end up potentially being one of the classic games that we all remember years from now.

Who do you think is going to win this year's Super Bowl? Share your opinion below or send me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

SEATTLE DEFEATS GREEN BAY IN IMPROBABLE COMEBACK NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

By: Connor Glowacki

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
     The defending champs are still alive! The Seattle Seahawks scored 15 points in just 44 seconds late in game regulation and defeated the Green Bay Packers in overtime by a final score of 28-22. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson struggled MIGHTILY throughout about the first three and a half quarters of the game. Wilson completed just 14 of 29 passes for 209 yards and threw a whopping four interceptions. However, a late fourth quarter touchdown run by Wilson and a 35 yard game winning touchdown pass in overtime to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse turned Wilson from the goat to the hero.

     Despite five turnovers and being down by as many as 16 points, the Seahawks continued to fight and pulled out a comeback for the ages victory. Running back Marshawn Lynch had 25 carries for 157 yards, while wide receiver Doug Baldwin led Seattle with six receptions for 106 yards. And Seattle's defense, led by gutsy performances from cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, kept Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers limited the entire game.
   
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
     Rodgers had a tough day overall, completing 19 of 34 passes for 178 yards and just one touchdown, compared to two interceptions. Rodgers had been struggling with ankle and calf injuries for the last few weeks and the injuries definitely affected him once again today. He looked limited from the pocket and couldn't step into either his throws or runs when he tried escaping from the pocket and from Seattle defenders.
   
     Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy ran for 73 yards on 21 carries, while wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb combined for 12 receptions, 135 yards and a touchdown. The Packers defense, led by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (two interceptions), safety Morgan Burnett (two sacks, 10 tackles), and linebacker Julius Peppers (1.5 sacks) played at a very high level all game long, but couldn't make the crucial final stops when they had to.

The Seattle Seahawks will go on to take the winner of the New England Patriots/Indianapolis Colts game in Super Bowl XLIX in two weeks on February 1.

Any thoughts on the game? Are the Seahawks the favorites going into the Super Bowl? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

'AMERICAN SNIPER'- (MOVIE REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki
   
Photo courtesy of People.com.
     2014 was a big year for autobiographical films. Many films of this genre have garnered commercial success at the box office and even nominations for some of the biggest award shows, such as the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
     One of those films is the Clint Eastwood directed American Sniper, a war autobiography on the life of the deadliest marksman in United States military history, Chris Kyle. The film is based off of Kyle's 2012 autobiography, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Since its release, American Sniper has received six Academy Awards nominations.
     The main plot of the film focuses on Kyle's four military tours in Iraq. After the United States embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998, Kyle enlists to become a Navy SEAL. He demonstrates impressive skills as a long distance marksman and is designated the primary marksman once he is sent out to the Iraqi city of Fallujah. His objective is to kill anyone that is an immediate visible threat to the United States forces. Throughout his career, Kyle is credited with 160 kills by the Pentagon and earned the nickname, 'Legend', among his fellow servicemen.
 Chris Kyle.
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post.
     What enhances the story further is when Kyle returns home from each tour of duty to his wife Taya and, eventually, two children. Like many soldiers who return home from war, Kyle suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He starts to hear the gunfire and cries of horror from countless war battles in his everyday home life. And what American Sniper highlights so well is how difficult it is for soldiers and veterans to return to civilian life.
   
Bradley Cooper portrayed
Chris Kyle in American Sniper.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
     Actor Bradley Cooper's portrayal as Chris Kyle was fantastic. Not only was Cooper able to physically transform his body into the body of a Navy SEAL, but his ability to utilize a Texas accent makes him appear as an authentic and sympathetic figure. He captures the perfect combination of confidence and hopelessness in his acting. It leaves you, as an audience member, feeling completely drawn into his world and into his mind.
Siena Miller portrayed
Tara Kyle in the film.
Photo courtesy of posh24.com.
     Siena Miller is also a highlight with her portrayal of Tara Kyle. Miller did a great job of capturing the emotions of a wife who is madly in love with her husband and yet feels lost due to her husband's erratic mental and emotional behavior.
     The supporting characters are also presented very well, but there is no doubt that Cooper is the star of American Sniper.  Cooper has been in many successful movies over the last few years, such as The Hangover series, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. But his performance in American Sniper is without a doubt the performance of his career.
   
Director Clint Eastwood
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
     Director Clint Eastwood should also be given a huge amount of credit to this film's success. He expertly steers the plot back and forth between Kyle's military tours and his time stateside. It doesn't at all feel repetitive. The fight scenes between the American forces and the armed insurgents are extremely exciting and help build further momentum.
     However, the quieter moments, such as when Cooper is sitting alone in a dive bar near the end of the film, are full of pure raw emotions that capture the fragility of human character, the mind and our subconsciousness. Eastwood accurately presents Kyle as a fragile American hero that never wanted to be a legend. But instead to just be a man who was willing to protect the country that he loved.
     A few weeks ago, I saw the film Unbroken and was relatively pleased in the way that it positively portrayed its own American war hero. And yet, American Sniper completely blows Unbroken out of the water. Where Unbroken is a film about a war prisoner who defies all odds to endure and outlast his enemies, American Sniper showcases a more sobering take on a soldier's experiences at war and when they return home. It helps that American Sniper contains subject matter that is still relevant today due to the recent threats of danger from terrorist groups, like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
     Unlike Unbroken, American Sniper wasn't a film that was full of inspirational cliches and it succeeds at taking the entire theme and tone of the film in an entirely different direction.
   
      This is an emotionally RAW film that makes you think and leaves you in a state of mind that you didn't expect to be in when you first arrived to the theater. American Sniper could possibly be viewed as a masterpiece years down the road. Both Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper were masterful in their performances behind the camera and on screen, respectively. This is the best film that I have seen in years and it could be a film that stands the test of time.

RATING: 4.5/5.

Leave a comment about American Sniper down below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

'BIRDMAN', 'GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL' LEAD OSCAR NOMINATIONS

By: Connor Glowacki

'Birdman' starring Michael Keaton.
photo courtesy of hitfix.com.
     The nominations were announced today for the 2015 Academy Awards, set to air on February 22 in prime time. The dark comedy 'Bridman' had a big morning tying with 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' with a whopping nine nominations; including best picture, best actor for Michael Keaton, best supporting actor for Edward Norton, and best supporting actress for Emma Stone.
     Outside of best picture, most of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel's' nominations were for behind the scenes work, which included best director, best cinematography, and best costume design. 'Boyhood', a film that took over a decade to make, also earned several nominations, including best supporting actress for Patricia Arquette, best supporting actor for Ethan Hawke, and best original screenplay.
     Some other notable nominations included first time nominees Eddie Redmayne and Steve Carrell for their films 'The Theory Of Everything' and 'Foxcatcher', respectively. Other films nominated for best picture include, 'American Sniper', 'Selma', 'The Imitation Game', and 'Whiplash'.
     The most notable snubs would have to include the Angelina Jolie directed epic, 'Unbroken', which received just one nomination for best mixing and the Jake Gyllenhall starred 'Nightcrawler', which also received just one nomination and it was for best original screenplay.
'Selma' starring David Oyelowo.
photo courtesy of showbiz411.com.
     Another snub that critics are acknowledging is 'Selma', the biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., that focuses on his work in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Even though 'Selma' did receive two nominations for best picture and best original song, the film's director, Ava DuVernay, and lead actor, David Oyelowo, were both shut out of their respective nominations fields.

Below is a list of some of the major nomination categories for the 87th Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

*'American Sniper'
*'Birdman'
*'Boyhood'
*The Grand Budapest Hotel'
*'The Imitation Game'
*'Selma'
*'The Theory Of Everything'
*'Whiplash'

*BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

*Steve Carrell, 'Foxcatcher'
*Bradley Cooper, 'American Sniper'
*Benedict Cumberbatch, 'The Imitation Game'
*Michael Keaton, 'Birdman'
*Eddie Redmayne, 'The Theory Of Everything'

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

*Marion Cotillard, 'Two Days One Night'
*Felicity Jones, 'The Theory Of Everything'
*Julianne Moore, 'Still Alice'
*Rosamund Pike, 'Gone Girl'
*Reese Witherspoon, 'Wild'

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

*Robert Duvall, 'The Judge'
*Ethan Hawke, 'Boyhood'
*Edward Norton, 'Birdman'
*Mark Ruffalo, 'Foxcatcher'
*J.K. Simmons, 'Whiplash'

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

*Patricia Arquette, 'Boyhood'
*Laura Dern, 'Wild'
*Emma Stone, 'Birdman'
*Keira Knightly, 'The Imitation Game'
*Meryl Streep, 'Into The Woods'

BEST DIRECTOR

*Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 'Birdman'
*Richard Linklater, 'Boyhood'
*Bennett Miller, 'Foxcatcher'
*Wes Anderson, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
*Morten Tyldum, 'The Imitation Game'

What do you think of this year's Academy Awards nominations? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

RANDY JOHNSON, PEDRO MARTINEZ, JOHN SMOLTZ, AND CRAIG BIGGIO ELECTED TO MLB HALL OF FAME

By: Connor Glowacki

     Four new players were elected today into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and infielder Craig Biggio were all elected. The Baseball Writer's Association of America has not given four separate players the necessary 75 percent threshold in a single year since 1955 when Joe Dimaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, and Dazzy Vance were elected.

     Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz were all elected during their first year on the ballot and easily passed the minimum 75 percent threshold. Johnson was the most widely elected player by the Baseball Writer's Association of America with 97.3 pecent voting for his election.
     Martinez finished second with 91.1 percent and Smoltz with 82.9 percent. Biggio, who was just two votes short of being elected in 2013 finished this year with 82.2 percent of writers voting for his election.

Pitcher Randy Johnson
Photo Courtesy of sikids.com.
     Johnson is one of the last pitchers in the modern era to win over 300 games. He pitched for the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks throughout his 22 year career.
     Johnson's career record stands at 303 wins to 166 losses, a career earned run average of 3.29 and 4,875 strikeouts and was also a five time Cy Young award winner.

Pitcher Pedro Martinez
Photo Courtesy of philly.com.
     Martinez led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title back in 2004 and pitched for the Red Sox, Philadelphia Phllies, New York Mets, and Los Angeles Dodgers throughout his 18 year career.
     His career record stands at 219 wins to just 100 losses, a 2.93 career earned run average and 3,154 career strikeouts. Martinez is also a three time Cy Young Award winner.

Pitcher John Smoltz
Photo Courtesy of republicreport.org.
     Smoltz spent 19 years of his 21 year career with the Atlanta Braves and now joins his former teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Smoltz finished with a career record of 213 wins to 155 losses and 3,084 strikeouts.
     Smoltz was also a relief pitcher during his career and is the only pitcher to ever win 200 games and save 150 games. He finished with 154 career saves and also won the Cy Young award in 1996.

     Biggio pulled off a rare feat in professional sports by spending the entirety of his 20 year career with the Houston Astros. Biggio's career stats include 3,060 hits, 291 home runs, 1,175 RBIs, and a bating average of .281.

Infielder Craig Biggio.
Photo Courtesy of bizjournals.com.
     Some of the notable players to miss the cut for being elected include catcher Mike Piazza, outfielders Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell, pitchers Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, and sluggers Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire.

     The quartet of Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 26.

     Below is a partial list of players on the ballot, the percentage of votes they received and the number of years that each have been on the ballot:

1.) Randy Johnson, 97.3%,1st Year
2.) Pedro Martinez, 91.1%, 1st Year
3.) John Smoltz, 82.9%, 1st Year
4.) Craig Biggio, 82.7%, 2nd Year
5.) Mike Piazza, 69.9%, 3rd Year
6.) Jeff Bagwell, 55.7%, 5th Year
7.) Tim Raines, 55%, 8th Year
8.) Roger Clemens, 37.8%, 3rd Year
9.) Barry Bonds, 36.5%, 3rd Year
10.) Edgar Martinez, 27%, 6th Year

     Numbers are not yet available for Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Mussina, and Mark McGwire, among others.

What do you think of the new selections into the Baseball Hall of Fame? What do you think about the players that were snubbed this year? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.


Monday, January 5, 2015

DION WAITERS AND J.R. SMITH INVOLVED IN 3 TEAM TRADE

By: Connor Glowacki

Former Knicks guard Iman Shumpert
Photo Courtesy of Bleacherreport.
     News broke late today of a three team trade that has the potential to alter the NBA landscape. As part of the deal, the Cleveland Cavaliers will trade shooting guard Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
     In exchange, the Cavaliers will acquire shooting guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks. The Knicks will acquire forwards Louis Amundson, Alex Kirk and Lance Thomas from both Oklahoma City and Cleveland. The Thunder will also be sending a future first round pick to the Cavaliers, while Cleveland will send their 2019 second round pick to New York.

Let's take a look at how this trade affects all teams involved.




Case For Oklahoma City:

Former Cavs guard Dion Waiters.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today.
     The Thunder have struggled in the early part of the season and are currently at 17-17 overall. However, these early season struggles were largely due to the injuries of their two superstar players, forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook. With limited action this season, Durant and Westbrook have once again been the primary offensive playmakers for Oklahoma City, with averages of 25.5 and 27.3 points per game respectively.
     Some of the Thunder's role players, like guards Anthony Morrow and Reggie Jackson and forward Serge Ibaka, have averaged over double figures in points this season, but those numbers have been inflated due to Durant and Westbrook initially being out of the lineup.
     What the team was lacking in was a consistent third scoring option that could create a shot for themselves and take some of the offensive burden off of their two superstars. With the acquisition of Dion Waiters, the Thunder might have found that missing piece for a serious championship run. Waiters was drafted in the top five by the Cavaliers in 2012 and has garnered rave comparisons to Miami Heat guard Dwanye Wade for his ability to slash his way into the lane and creating his own shot.
     But, Waiters has been fairly inconsistent throughout his young NBA career and is only averaging 10.5 points per game this season. There are games where he shoots lights out from the field and can physically take over a game, and then there are other games where he cannot convert shots from the field, commits turnovers, and rarely passes the ball to his teammates. And that will be the big question for his new Oklahoma City team.
     The Thunder have several players now, (Westbrook, Durant, Jackson, Waiters, Ibaka) who need the ball in their hands and prefer to create scoring opportunities for themselves. Waiters could be the next James Harden for Oklahoma City, but he will have to improve on defense and in his shot selection to make an immediate impact for this burgeoning team.

Case For Cleveland:

Former Knicks guard J.R. Smith.
Photo Courtesy of nypost.com.
     It hasn't been a secret that Waiters and point guard Kyrie Irving have significantly struggled to share the backcourt and to exhibit any kind of on-court chemistry. They are both players that, as mentioned with Oklahoma City, need the ball in their hands to make a positive impact.
     And with the loss of center Anderson Varaejao for the season with a torn achilles, it was no surprise that the Cavaliers made the move to trade Waiters. But it was the players they acquired that could leave some Cavaliers fans scratching their heads.
     J.R. Smith has built his entire career around being a player that has been criticized for taking too many ill-advised shots during games and not being a player that can elevate the play of his teammates. Smith has only averaged 10.9 points per game this season for the lowly Knicks and doesn't have the same athleticism as Waiters. On the other hand, Iman Shumpert could be a great addition for the Cavaliers due to his tenacious defensive ability and prowess as a rim protector.
Cavs center Anderson Varejao
is out for the rest of the season
with a torn achilles.
Photo Courtesy of blog.cleveland.com.
     Cleveland has been littered with injuries throughout their roster this season. Not only Varaejao, but forwards LeBron James, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, and Irving have all had to miss games at some point this season due to injuries. Irving isn't a great passer, but if James can get healthy and return to the lineup, his impeccable passing ability will create open shots for Smith and Shumpert and allow them to knock down open jumpers. And Shumpert's wide wing span will only improve the Cavaliers' defensive play.
     Cleveland is still VERY thin at center, but the market of available centers right now in the NBA is also very thin. Acquiring Smith and Shumpert for Waiters doesn't make the Cavaliers worse, but it doesn't make them that much better either.




Case For New York:
Knicks President of Basketball Operations
Phil Jackson
Photo Courtesy of nypost.com.

     The Knicks traded two of their more well known players and got VERY little in return. Amundson, Thomas, and Kirk all have expiring contracts and might not even last the remainder of the season with the Knicks.
     However, none of those three players have been a solid contributor for an NBA team in the last few years. So if you count out those three players, the Knicks received just a second round draft pick in 2019. Over four years away!
Projected number one pick in 2015 draft.
Duke center Jahlil Okafor.
     That being said, New York is 5-30 this season. They are flat out terrible and might actually be the worst team in the entire league. Outside of superstar forward Carmelo Anthony, the roster is filled with journeymen veterans (Jose Calderon, Jason Smith, Pablo Prigioni) and inexperienced youth (Tim Hardaway Jr., Qunicy Acy, Shane Larkin).
     This is all part of the Knicks plan to tank the rest of this season, in hopes of getting the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft and build for the future.
     New York isn't going anywhere this season so if they can get the number one overall pick, which would probably be Duke center Jahlil Okafor, and shed the large expiring contracts of Smith and Shumpert to create salary cap space for the 2015 free agency period, this trade could be the best thing that the New York Knicks do in setting themselves up for long term success.

Who do you think won and/or lost this trade? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

'UNBROKEN'- (MOVIE REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki
The real life Louis Zamperini passed away
last July at age 97.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
   
     The release of the American war drama film, Unbroken, was Angelina Jolie's second film that she had ever directed. Based off of Laura Hillenbrand's bestseller novel, Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption, Jolie was able to bring the incredible life story of Louis Zamperini to the big screen. Unbroken focuses on Zamperini's troubled childhood, being trained by his older brother to become a runner, competing as a distance runner in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, and his terrible experiences as a soldier during World War II.
     While Unbroken does showcase glimpses of Zamperini's childhood and Olympic accomplishments, the majority of the film focuses on Zamperini's experiences during World War II. Mainly when Zamperini's United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator Bomber malfunctions and crashes in the middle of the ocean during a search and rescue operation.
     He and two other survivors from the plane crash drift along the ocean for a whopping 47 days desperately waiting to be rescued. It transitions to Zamperini and the survivors being discovered by Japanese forces and placed in several prisoner of war camps. In these war camps, Zamperini is aggressively tortured by the sadistic Mutsuhiro 'Bird' Watnabe because of his notoriety as an Olympic athlete.
Jack O'Connell portarayed
Zamperini in 'Unbroken'.
Photo Courtesy of IMDB.
     Jack O'Connell was absolutely brilliant in portraying Zamperini. The way that he transformed his physical body from a healthy athlete into a weak and starving prisoner of war, during the filming of Unbroken, is remarkable and it was very easy to witness the various emotional states that O'Connell put into his character.
     Another great acting performance was from Japanese actor Miyavi, who did a great job selling the evil, ruthless personality of Watnabe. It's amazing because Miyavi was originally known as a well-renowned singer-songwriter and guitar player in his native Japan.
     In terms of Jolie's job as the film's director, the incredible life story of Zapmerini and the main underlying theme of outlasting adversity and overcoming all odds were definitely great building blocks to work with.  Unbroken is meant to be a film of inspiration, hence the title.
   

     While this main theme was consistently stated in various ways throughout the film such as when Zamperini's older brother tells him in the beginning of the film that, "An initial amount of pain is worth a lifetime of glory', it can start to feel cliche and, at times, too similar to other underdog stories. But I can't fault Jolie for this because Unbroken IS the ultimate underdog story. Jolie and the production crew did a solid job at presenting the prison camps and the film's time period with an authentic feel.
'Unbroken' marked Angelina Jolie's
second film as a director.
Photo Courtesy of people.com.
     I was disappointed to learn that there were many parts from the book that weren't included in the movie version. Some of those events from the book included events after the war, such as Zamperini suffering from nightmares of the tortures in the prisoner of war camps or how rededicating himself to religion ended up keeping him alive by learning that the only way he could move on from this traumatic period in his life was through forgiveness and not revenge.
     Also left out was the more descriptive attachment that Watanbe had towards Zamperini in the torture camps. It's understandable because the film already ran well over two hours, but those were several key points from the book that could've made the film version even more stimulating. And I would've preferred seeing more of those left out scenes instead of watching Zamperini get physically and mentally tortured in various different ways throughout the film.
   
     In the end though, Unbroken does it's job at being a film that can not only inspire everyday people to be better, but also as a note for citizens to be way more appreciative, understanding and supportive of all veterans that risk their lives to serve our country. It gives viewers somewhat of a look at how soldiers were treated in these prisoner of war camps, how YOUNG a lot of the soldiers fighting in World War II were, and the physical, mental and emotional abuse that soldiers, like Zamperini, were put under.  
     Unbroken isn't a perfect movie, but it is very good at what it sets out to do and gives the entire world a little more insight into the courageous and inspiring life of Louis Zamperini. And I have to applaud Jolie for doing simply that because his life was a story that was made to be put on a movie screen and it was a story that had to be told.

RATING: 3.5/5

     If you saw Unbroken, what did you think of the film and did Angelina Jolie succeed at telling the story of Louis Zamperini? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.