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The Best Football Movies to See Before the Big Game

Varsity Blues Promotional Photo via massreality.com

Varsity Blues Promotional Photo via massreality.com

If you live in New York you know that the Big Game is right around the corner. Giant toboggan rides in Times Square, traffic jams along the West Side and shirts in stores that aren’t our local, terrible teams’ apparel are stark indicators of the madness that the Super Bowl brings to an area. Nevertheless, people close and not so close to the northeast have their own way of preparing for this massive event. Some spend hours watching endless amounts of pre-game coverage that starts weeks before the event. Others like to dig into the old bag of movies for a flick that captures their favorite football memories.

Here are our top five favorite football movies:

1. Any Given Sunday (1999)

There probably hasn’t been another football movie as intense and surreal as Oliver Stone’s depiction of the fictional Miami Sharks. It is “in-your-face,” unforgiving, physical and any other movie cliche term you can throw at it. Starring Al Pacino as a washed up coach striving for one last glory-filled run, Any Given Sunday shows how a football team is a tremendously dysfunctional family from the field to the front office. It is also one of the only sports movie that unapologetically depicts character flaws without judgement. Yet still, you find yourself rooting for the characters to change and find success despite themselves. Not to mention, top to bottom, it is one of the most star-studded sports films with appearances by LL Cool J, Lawrence Taylor, Aaron Eckhart, Randy Quaid and James Woods. Definitely the best choice if you’re looking to get in a serious football mood. Especially Al Pacino’s rousingly inspirational speech before the big game! Continue reading

Top 5 Snow Day Movies

Snow Day Promotional Photo via moviegoods.com

Snow Day Promotional Photo via moviegoods.com

Lets face it! If you live in the northeast, this hasn’t been the easiest winter season on record. In fact, it reminds us of those mid-90′s snowstorms that kept everyone locked in their homes while schools, buses and trains tried to dig themselves back into service. So what do you do on days like this? You can go out and roll around in the snow but given the fact that it feels like we’re in the arctic-circle, you’ll be back inside before too long. That leaves only one option:

Watch a movie!

What better way to enjoy a snow day than by watching a frosty movie? Here are the five best Snow Day Movies: Continue reading

The Uneasy Battle of Art vs. Competition

Golden Globe photo: Getty Images via CNN.com

Golden Globe photo: Getty Images via CNN.com

At this point you really have to wonder if the curators of the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards continue to give Woody Allen awards in the hopes that he’ll, one day, show up to accept a little golden statue. Unfortunately, they have continued to be disappointed like a hopelessly romantic lover who shows up to the perfect dinner but ends up with a cold steak and an empty bottle of red wine. What seems like a snub to the overly indulgent Hollywood love-fests is actually a well thought out reason for not participating in the award show circus.

Without going into drawn out quotes, Allen feels that art cannot be judged in an objective competitive format. In its nature, film and art is extremely subjective. It is a theory that holds a great deal of merit. Many times I have found myself wondering how Life of Pi could be compared to a film like Argo or Django Unchained? And when a winner is named, does that mean said winner is better than the others? Is it proper to call the rest of the films losers? The nature of competition dictates that there must be one better than all others. One film would sit on top of the mountain while the others would be relegated to sit below. We won’t even get into the discussion on how being the best director does not mean you have the best film. Continue reading

Capturing Life: Strategies for Taking Better Photos from Henri Cartier-Bresson

Line Drawing by Jen Gallardo

Line Drawing by Jen Gallardo

Recently, I read an article published in the New York Times Lens photo blog containing excerpts of a 1971 interview conducted by Sheila Turner-Seed with legendary Magnum photography Henri Cartier-Bresson. The article struck me at how easily almost everything Cartier-Bresson said could be applied to photography today. Given his status as the father of modern photography, we can distill from his comments some clear strategies for taking better photos.

Lesson One: “you shouldn’t overshoot”

In the interview, Cartier-Bresson mentions that you shouldn’t overshoot. He acknowledges that when you shoot, there are plenty of “yes” moments and then some “maybes” but really, what he is saying is to be judicious. Take too many photos and you may miss the moment (your camera runs out of space and/or film). In our current digital age, take too many photos and you give yourself the headache of having to process over 400 photos! Continue reading

Three Ways to Improve your Nighttime Photography

It’s starting to get much darker way earlier here in New York. By the time 5pm rolls around, the sun has nearly completely set. Until the winter solstice, the days are going to keep getting shorter. If you like to make pictures, this means trouble. Unfortunately for us, our cameras don’t automatically adjust the way our eyes do. Thankfully, there are ways to get the camera to behave when the lights are low. Here are three pretty simple ways to improve your low light photography today.

Friday Night Details by Jen Gallardo

Friday Night Details by Jen Gallardo

1. Ditch flash

It sounds counterintuitive, but if you want to take better pictures in dark atmospheres you should avoid using the flash attached to your camera.

Continue reading

5 Facts You Never Knew About Your Favorite Christmas Movie

It's A Wonderful Life screenshot

It’s A Wonderful Life screenshot via whysoblu.com

It’s December, the time of year when it’s okay to dust off that Christmas movie you’ve seen a million times. Some like It’s a Wonderful Life, others prefer A Christmas Story. Whatever the film may be, it left you with an undeniable association with Christmas.

What if I told you, however, that some of the most iconic moments or some of the most memorable characters almost didn’t happen at all? Or that things weren’t exactly what they seem. Here are the top 5 facts you never knew about your favorite Christmas movie:

1. It’s a Wonderful Life was meant for Cary Grant and not Jimmy Stewart

Hard to picture the suave, romantic, leading man that Cary Grant became being the small town hero that Jimmy Stewart came to immortalize, but it almost happened. RKO Pictures purchased the rights to what would eventually become It’s a Wonderful Life in 1939 for the express purpose of giving Grant another leading role. Unfortunately, as it happens quite often in Hollywood, things didn’t turn out the way they were planned. Several failed screenplays left RKO unsure about the project. Producer/Director Frank Capra swooped in immediately, after being enamored with the project, and purchased the rights from RKO. Eight years later and It’s a Wonderful Life was finally brought to life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as the central characters. Continue reading

Best of Turkey Day on Screen: Pieces of April

pieces_of_april

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s important to remember the films that help to remind us just how crazy Thanksgiving can be. Unlike Christmas or birthdays, family interactions are not hidden behind festive gift-giving. For that reason, it makes for a fantastically interesting backdrop for cinematic drama.

The first film we’ll look at is Pieces of April (2003), directed by Peter Hedges (writer of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and director of The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and starring Katie Holmes. This Thanksgiving dark comedy focuses on April, a young woman looking to host her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately April lives in a rough part of New York City, has little to no cooking skills and, coupled with her mother’s terminal illness, has little chance of keeping things civil. The production value is gritty and the humor is cringe-worthy, helping to make this one of the most unique holiday films on the market. Continue reading

Movies by the Numbers: March 18, 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful Movie Poster

Oz The Great and Powerful Movie Poster

It was another runaway success this weekend for Oz The Great and Powerful but there was an unexpected twist to what was otherwise a similar weekend to last year. Oz held strong, although not as strong as Alice in Wonderland. The $41 million weekend helps set the Disney adventure picture well on its course for $250 million when it finally closes.

To call the success of Halle Berry’s latest film The Call unexpected would be an understatement. The film which was co-produced by TriStar and WWE Films, saw a $17 million opening weekend. Distributor Sony’s aggressive marketing campaign helped ticket buyers understand, early on, what they were getting into. That knowledge definitely contributed to the film’s strong opening. Attendees skewed female, not surprisingly, and reviews were favorable for the most part. A film like this never holds incredibly well after its first week but expectations are that it will finish around the $45 million mark. That would be considered a huge success considering where this film was headed just a few months earlier. Continue reading

Movies by the Numbers: March 12, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Poster

Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Poster

After two months of flops and less than stellar numbers that have left the business well behind last year’s figures, Oz The Great and Powerful has arrived to be the shining beacon of hope. At $79 million, Oz became the first film to crack $50 million in one weekend since The Hobbit. Overall the totals are up 15 percent from last year when John Carter reigned supreme with a minimal $30 million weekend.

The success of 2010′s Alice in Wonderland laid the groundwork for Oz‘s success in 2013. With a release in the same month two years earlier, Disney found a winning formula with fantasy, PG, entertainment. Oz didn’t venture far from that formula and found similar success. They also grabbed a battle tested director that added an edge to keep the film from falling too far into the children’s genre. Sam Raimi has once again found success with a previously established brand. His success and visual style with Spider-Man found a home in the land of Oz. Continue reading

Movies by the Numbers: February 19th, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard Movie Poster

A Good Day to Die Hard Movie Poster

While it’s not an overwhelming victory, Bruce Willis will reign over the President’s Day weekend as A Good Day to Die Hard finishes on top of the box office. Finishing up just shy of $29 million, the fifth installment of the Die Hard series may be the last or perhaps the last to be rated R. The previous film Live Free or Die Hard took in roughly $48 million on its opening weekend and that wasn’t a holiday release. In the end, A Good Day to Die Hard may not even crack $100 million. Where the finger should be pointed for the blame isn’t quite as clear. Although many will say that the PG-13 rating gave them the ability to get more eyeballs on the screen. Throwing in overseas numbers, this latest Bruce Willis action film will be seen as a success for Fox. However, whether or not the gamble on future films will be necessary remains to be seen.

Identity Thief finished second and nearly took first place for the first time. Adding the $27 million into the mix and the Melissa McCarthy driven comedy is the highest grossing film of the year thus far. With a string of comedies in the works for McCarthy, she may be taking the reigns as the queen of comedy in Hollywood in the coming months. Identity Thief is well on its way to becoming the first film in 2013 to reach $100 million. While this is no slight on the success of the film, it is quite telling that Identity Thief is the most successful film of the year. Most of the films have seemingly felt like leftovers from 2012 or sequels to franchises years in the making. This will of course change as 2013 rolls on but the slow start has left the major films of the year with quite a load to carry. Continue reading