Interstellar Review

11 Nov


Interstellar (2014)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain

Directed by: Christopher Nolan


Finally after far too long I made it back to the movies. Part of that was because I felt like no good movies were coming out and part of that was because I have been very busy. But this was not a movie I was going to miss. How could Nolan, McConaughey, Caine and space/time travel be a miss? It couldn’t be. In terms of plot, the film is fairly straight forward. People have pushed the planet to its limits and if the world cannot find another place to live all of humanity will perish. In comes McConaughey as a washed up astronaut to save the day but at the cost of leaving his family. From there on out the movie does a lot explanation on how space travel and time travel and even relativity work. I honestly felt during the film I should have been taking notes because these were not simple concepts. This is not one of those films where you appreciate regardless of whether or not you understand the science, I honestly believe that the science is so important to the plot that not understanding the science will actually ruin the film. The acting was good but not necessary. The film relies on an interesting plot and incredible visuals. The actors do a good job of not getting in the way of the film, but they do not add anything either. Now the visuals and music were spectacular. Even when you expect a lot, the film still impresses. Not only was the music good though, the sound itself was great. The film knew when the silence of space would add value and when the score would add value. That is something that Gravity did well also. The film kind of falls a little flat at the end and leaves you with a lot of questions. Not the same types of questions like in Memento or Inception but more questions on how the science itself works.

I definitely recommend seeing this movie but would also recommend understanding some of the basics of relativity, wormholes, and time travel before you go. It absolutely adds to the experience if those things are understood.


UNC’s Academic Scandal

26 Oct

There have been plenty of stories in the news recently that I wanted to write about. Derek Jeter having one of the best send offs of all time, Landon Donovan ending his storied soccer career for the United States, the once golden child Oscar Pistorious being found guilty and the continued problems of professional athletes in the NFL. But none of these really inspired me enough to actually sit down and write. Well, that day has finally come.

My once golden alma mater has fallen from grace and all for what is supposed to be “student” athletics.

Within the past few days, a report was released that stated over 3100 UNC athletes for over a decade long period basically got free grades in their classes to help keep them eligible for sports. There are so many different ways to take in this information that it is almost impossible to choose. I could talk about how this points to the NCAA and the fact there are not really student-athletes anymore. I could talk about how these students were robbed of an education to provide money for their schools. I could talk about how this is probably happening at every major athletic school in the nation and as well as at some of the smaller schools. But those are all issues for someone else to write about.

Instead, I am going to write about how my college education has been degraded by people I never met and by decisions I had no control over. I can rant and rave all I want that all the classes I took at UNC were not only fairly graded but difficult. I can say that I worked for every single grade I earned, bad or good. And I can say, for certain, that I earned my degree, nothing was handed to me. But in the eyes of the general public that doesn’t mater. The name of my school has been tarnished, possibly forever.

How far UNC has fallen was very clear to me when I attended the UNC vs. UVA football game. Now I am no softee when it comes to sports and mocking other teams. In fact, in our very own fight song we tell Duke to go to hell. Do we mean it? Of course not, our two schools just love to hate each other. However, at this game, I saw multiple signs that claimed that if I could read them I didn’t attend UNC. Clever, of course. Insulting, definitely. Or this sign, UNC “Univeristy of No Classes.” Also quite clever. However, in a few short days the past four years of my life have evidently been degraded, all for a few wins. I wanted to argue with these fans and say not only was my UNC education worthwhile but it was good enough for me to be accepted to your institution as a graduate student. But a college sporting event is not the time or place for such academic discussions.

What worries me most is this is how the general public views my institution. What happens when I meet people or go for a job interview? Do I hide from my college now that it has been tainted? I will always look favorably upon my time in Chapel Hill. The question remains if people will look favorably upon me.

I am a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred and when I die I will be a Tar Heel dead. Those words that I once shouted at the top of my lungs so proudly now seem to only come as a whisper.

Are eSports “real” sports?

9 Sep

The President of ESPN said yesterday that he does not consider eSports such as League of Legends and Dota real sports. Instead he classified them as competition. I would tend to agree with him except that his very network also hosts the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Last time I checked a spelling contest is not a sport. It is not his definition of sports that bothers me, it is his blatant hypocrisy. ESPN also shows the World Series of Poker and billiards. The final nail in the coffin is that ESPN showed the Dota International tournament (an eSports tournament with a prizes this year of over $10 million). ESPN showed a competition that it does not consider a sport on a sports network. If the President of ESPN wants to have a stringent definition of sport fine, but do not be so hypocritical in practice.

I loosely define sports as any contest where a person does most of the work in the contest. This makes auto racing and horse racing not sports. This does not mean I do not think they are hard. Those activities are incredibly difficult but the car and horse do most of the work respectively. I am less confident in my definition when moving to more competitions and less “mainstream” sports. In eSports, poker, billiards and spelling bees a person does most of the work. A person is also required to put in huge amount of practice to master their craft and eventually must compete against other people. With those being the parameters for sports I would argue that stock trading may also be classified as a sport. The US government is taking a more liberal definition of sport as well. They have offered eSports gamers sports visas which is a huge step in defining eSports legally, as a sport.

In light of ESPN’s recent comments I realize that I may also be hypocritical in my definition of sports. However, unlike ESPN I am willing to recognize my hypocrisy and modify my definition of sport.

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

4 Aug


Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper

Directed by: James Gunn


Guardians of the Galaxy is the newest installment in the Marvel franchise and it is once again a juggernaut at the box office. It made $94 million on its opening weekend and will probably end up near the billion dollar mark when all is said and done. What makes this so different from other summer blockbusters is that it is really good. It actually reminded me a lot of the Avengers. What this movie did the best was knowing exactly what it was. This is a comic book movie, but unlike other superheroes Guardians of the Galaxy was always meant to be a little more humorous and off the beaten path. The movie does a great job of embodying that. As soon the scene starts to get a little serious or emotional there is some joke to lighten the mood. I spent most of the movie laughing. Part of what makes this film so enjoyable are the actors. The show stealer is definitely Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). I honestly thought Rocket was going to be the worst character just given his appearance but I actually liked him the most. The other actors are also great and they all work really well together as a group. Obviously the film has great visuals and I expected nothing less from Marvel. The soundtrack was another surprise. Instead of writing a whole bunch of original pieces or using popular songs from today, Marvel brought in a whole bunch of oldies that worked so well with the story but also made the audience laugh. The only other movie that has made me laugh from soundtrack alone is Django Unchained but Guardians of the Galaxy can be added to that list. The weak part of this film was the plot. Marvel usually does a better job with story although when creating a new universe with 5 different characters sometimes it is more important to introduce all the characters instead of crafting a wonderful story, so I’ll give a pass for the first film. All in all this is a great film and definitely worth seeing in theaters as soon as possible.


The Imitation Game Trailer

22 Jul

I just saw this trailer today for a new movie, The Imitation Game. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock), Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones). The story revolves around Alan Turing, the father of computer science and the man who Winston Churchill said was the single biggest contributor in defeating Nazi Germany. Turing was also a highly controversial figure at the time because he was a homosexual which in the 1950’s was a crime in the UK.

Add all of these pieces together and you have the plot for an incredibly interesting movie. There is a great cast, an interesting historical figure at the center, an incredible time period and some social controversy thrown in. All these pieces can come together for an Oscar winning movie (Lincoln) or a box office bomb (J. Edgar). I am leaning more towards the former.


Why I am still proud to be Brazilian

8 Jul

When the semi-final today started I was nervously excited, then I was upset, then angry and finally I ended completely demoralized. Hats off to the German team, they were everything a good soccer team should be, precise, ruthless, clinical and professional. All those compliments aside did not make the sting of defeat any less painful. In fact at one point during the game I had to turn the TV off because I could not watch the beating my birth nation was taking. However, looking back on the game and the tournament as a whole I cannot feel sad.

This Brazilian team gave it their all. Many are going to point to today’s lackluster performance and say they should have been better and I agree. However it is hard to expect a lot from a team that lost its star player and captain in the same game. Along with that, they held the hopes of a nation for 7 games. 7 games they made Brazilians believe again, believe that soccer would run through the giant of South America. I cannot feel sad.

For a tournament that many people thought would lead to riots in Brazil and would be a security risk for all tourists, Brazil provided the fun atmosphere that it is famous for. The riots that threatened this cup have been kept to a minimum. For all intents and purposes this World Cup is exactly what people expected, a little disorganized but fun nonetheless. I cannot feel sad.

Brazil put the hopes of a nation into 23 individuals. Soccer, politics, economy, and religion are all interrelated in Brazil and during the World Cup one of those carries more weight than the others. 23 individuals and a coach were supposed to return glory to Brazil, save it from political strife, and fix the economic problems. This is a team of boys faced with the tasks of men. They performed admirably. Watch any commercial in Brazil, look at any advertisement, even the music. All signs pointed to Brazil winning the sixth championship. It is not surprising that the team did not live up to those goals. And yet they put on a brave face, even when they lost their star player and their captain. All through the week with murmurings of them flaming out, of being a one man team, they still showed up to play the game. I cannot feel sad.

I like many other Brazilians wished for this to be the year we won the sixth cup. It will not be. I am still proud of my team. They put their heart and soul i\onto the pitch over the past 3 weeks. Unfortunately when the whistle blew for the start of the game, they had nothing left to give. For 3 weeks the Brazilian team gave us everything they had and yet we want to look upon them as if they owe us more. I do not blame the officials, or the injuries, or the coach, or the players. At the end of the day soccer is 90 minutes of 11 individuals doing their best to win. Today that nod goes to Germany.

When the 90 minutes ended and I was fuming with anger over how poorly my Brazil played, I saw something. Every Brazilian was crying, or on their knees praying, or looked completely lost. Oscar crying, Thiago Silva crying, David Luiz praying, Luiz Gustavo praying, Julio Cesar crying, Marcelo crying. This is the look of a team that had given its all. For that I say thank you.

I do not feel sad that we lost. I only feel sad that I could expect so much for so long from 23 people. I thank you for what you gave Brazil. For three weeks you gave us hope when for years we felt hopeless. For 3 weeks you gave us excitement and pure joy in a world that is filled with sadness. For 3 weeks you gave us a sense of community when the world has become ever more fractured.

I am still proud to be Brazilian, you have accomplished so much more than people realize.

Game 2: Rio de Janeiro

25 Jun

My trip in Brazil is almost over but I am lucky enough to still have a few more days here. I recently returned from a little trip around Brazil to Sao Paulo where I stopped in Ouro Preto, Rio de Janeiro and Niteroi. I also was able to see another Belgium game this time versus Russia. Once again Belgium scored in the last minutes to seal their victory. I am not sure the Belgian fans can handle another last minute victory in their last group game tomorrow. Nevertheless the atmosphere at the most famous stadium in Brazil, the Maracana, was unbelievable. I am sad that I will not be able to be there for the final (when Brazil wins their sixth World Cup). While in Rio I also went to Fan Fest to watch the US game. I know the fans of the US team are disappointed that they did not win but you have to remember that two weeks ago no one thought the US would have any points let alone 4.

I said it before and I will say it again. This is the World Cup for non-soccer fans. The games are still averaging a crazy amount of goals and cards. And now there is Bitegate in which the infamous Luis Suarez could not help but take a bite out of the Italian defender Chiellini. I beg all non-soccer lovers to tune in for the next two weeks because I have a feeling it will be unforgettable.

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