Saturday, December 31, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE CAIRNS BLOG

I could talk about the world juniors or the bowl games, or the Iowa caucuses, but not tonight. I'll talk about it later, maybe tomorrow. That is it for now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

GOP RACE IN IOWA DOWN TO ITS FINAL WEEK

Exciting times in US presidential politics! The Iowa caucuses are less than one week away, coming up next Tuesday. The latest buzz is that Newt Gingrich is sinking like a rock because of new divorce revelations from years ago. Someone needs to tell the media that this is 2011 and people get divorced all the time. 

Also, in a big news flash, apparently people in Iowa are finally realizing that Rick Santorum is a presidential candidate. Better late than never, I say.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE LED BY MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

So the Christmas weekend box office is in and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol led the way, but you can't really say that it was so great a weekend overall as the box office was only up a percent or two. Big deal. The weekend was basically good for one movie and it was the usual mediocre showing for the rest.

Anyway, so much for 2011 at the movies. Coming soon from me: my annual 2011 Box Office Year in Review.

Monday, December 26, 2011

WORLD JUNIORS ARE ON

Christmas is over and today is Boxing Day, and for Canadians it can only mean one thing -- the World Junior Hockey Championship has started in Alberta.

For others, though, Boxing Day simply means people return their unwanted gifts to the store. Such is life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Yes, today is Festivus. Enjoy goofing off and watching TV, folks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BOWL SEASON IS ON!

Watching football is all I am really doing these days around here. You know, even though there's all this criticism of the bowl games and the BCS, I think it's great there is football to watch just about every day and night during this holiday season -- even if these games essentially mean absolutely nothing.

The ESPN link to the bowl game scores is here.

POLITICAL UPDATE ON HAPPENINGS IN THE USA WITH THESE REPUBLICANS

I am now officially off for the Christmas break and thought I would provide this update on what's happening in the USA before I hibernate for a few days.

First of all, just as I predicted would eventually happen, Newt Gingrich seems to be sliding. I dunno the exact reason why. Maybe the Republicans have wised up. Maybe Newt's organizational woes are showing up at the worst possible time. Maybe it's all the attack ads against him and the gang-up against him by the other candidates at the last debate. It's probably the last sentence.

In any event, the Iowa race suddenly got more exciting. Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney. Whether that is a good thing or not for him, I don't know.

As for Congress, all I will say about them is that the Republican Tea Party wing continues to show that they are rank amateurs when it comes to politics. These folks in Congress need to make a deal on the payroll tazw and get the extension done before all the taxes go up, but these nutty Tea Partiers would rather stand on principle regardless of the consequences to taxpayers of the United States of America, come hell or high water. And in doing so they are hurting their own cause and hurting their party.

Really, guys, I thought you folks in the GOP were supposed to be the cut-the-taxes crowd. Well, if you don't do this deal the taxes will go up and President Barack Obama will be pointing the finger at you. Tea Partiers, you need to swallow your pride, save your fights for later and get a deal done for the good of the country -- before you sink your whole party. That's my comment.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

DAY OF DEATH ON THE WORLD STAGE

Earlier today Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, died.
And just tonight, news is in that Kim Jong Il, North Korean dictator, has died.

Oh, and a couple of days ago Christopher Hitchens died, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MOVIE SLUMP IS STILL ON

More thoughts on the great movie box office slump of 2011 today. First, here's a link to my Cairns on Cinema column this week where I give my reasons why people aren't showing up.

I said the slump was due to 3D and increased ticket prices, and this was why people were no longer supporting the "same old junk" that they used to spend money on in the past. Although truth be told, they're not even really supporting the good movies, either. 

As for this weekend's box office, it looks like the grim domestic trend is continuing. Nikki Finke is reporting this weekend's releases Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (pictured) are way off their previous instalments' box office. Just 24 hours earlier Finke was claiming that pent-up demand was going to mean big audiences for both of them, but Saturday is seeing a different story play out. As for the reasons these two aren't setting the world on fire, you can look no further to my theories: 3D (both of them), increased ticket prices (ditto), contributing to people refusing to support the same old junk (two sequels). And this is definitely junk -- especially the Chipmunks. 

Memo to Hollywood: no more high ticket prices, and no more sequel junk. Please.

About the only good news is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is doing great business on the IMAX screens. But when was the last time we saw a decent action movie on screens? A long time ago, I say. No wonder it's doing so well.

Monday, December 12, 2011

WORST MOVIE ATTENDANCE OF THE "YEAR". LITERALLY

I was not at the movie theater this weekend, and from what I hear, neither were you. But if you were, let me introduce you to a fellow from Massachusetts who's willing to bet you $10,000 that the theater was pretty empty.

The word is that this past weekend was the worst box office weekend of 2011. In fact, it was worse than that -- you had to go back to September of 2008 for a weekend this terrible. The total domestic movie gross: $78 million.

To show you how bad a showing this is for the entire movie industry: one blockbuster summer movie can normally expect to make this much in a weekend all by itself.

Part of the problem was that nobody was too interested in New Year's Eve, Garry Marshall's star-studded New Year's movie that was along the same lines as his previous Valentine's Day. It was expected to finish Number One.

What happened was the critics pelted the movie with tomatoes, and then the fans didn't show up. It did finish first, in the end, but with a haul of only $13.7 million dollars! Also, Jonah Hill's flick The Sitter looked simply lame and did even less business, at $10 million.

I am planning to do my movie column later this week on the miserable box office numbers we have seen, not only this weekend but the entire year. It really has been a year to forget at the box office in 2011. My theories basically all have to do with 3D and with a populace refusing to put up with these increased ticket prices. Especially since Hollywood is insisting on sending our way the "same old, same old" all the time. 

Anyway, look for a column on all my thoughts on the box office numbers later this week.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

FIGHT NIGHT IN IOWA

Not only is it Fight Night in Toronto but it is Debate Night in Iowa. The US presidential contenders are going at it on ABC. Live blog of the event is here.

IT'S UFC FIGHT NIGHT TONIGHT IN TORONTO

Enough about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tonight is FIGHT NIGHT in Toronto, and instead of the usual hockey fights at the Air Canada Centre we have MIXED MARTIAL ARTS as Jon "Bones" Jones takes on Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. It's UFC 140.  Here's a sneak peak at the weigh-in.



May I also add that I heard sales were kind of slow for this one. While UFC absolutely packed the Rogers Centre for their inaugural fight with Georges St.Pierre, there were reports this wasn't even sold out as of a few days ago.

Bleacher Report has a few reasons why. Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun was scratching his head about it too. I am also scratching my head because I would have thought if there was any place in North America that was a UFC hotbed, it's Toronto. Maybe people there just don't have any money. 

As for live coverage, here's the link to Sportsnet. Enjoy fight night!

Friday, December 09, 2011

ON THE BIG SALE OF THE LEAFS, RAPTORS AND FC

Here are my thoughts about the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund selling their stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and FC, not to mention Air Canada Centre, to media conglomerates Rogers and BCE.

I dunno. A lot of people are worried that these two media and telecom giants are just going to take advantage of this acquisition to hose the public and monopolize their control over content in this country. I think people believe the new owners are going to regard the sports fans in Toronto as a bottomless pit of money to be taken advantage of, and ignore putting together winning teams. Besides, we've seen what Rogers ownership has done for the Toronto Blue Jays on the field. That's right: nothing. Just as MLSE current ownership has done absolutely nothing.

I'm not opposed to conglomerates owning teams as long as they don't hose the fans and commit to winning. In some ways, I think it would have been better for these teams if they were owned by some sole billionaire whose sole focus is winning - a George Steinbrenner type, or maybe a Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban. Their teams may not win titles every year, but you can be sure they will make an effort to get top players. If their teams lose, you can be sure these owners will blow their tops and make changes.

But with conglomerates, they generally tend to look at teams more as revenue generators for their properties. I think in this case it all comes down to attitude. If these new corporate owners only care about enriching themselves and selling a product, that will be a bad thing. But if they care about actually having a winning product and spending the money that needs spent to do it, that's different. Look at Labatt's when they owned the Blue Jays -- they actually cared about having a winning product on the field, and made sure the team was well-financed to acquire top players. It was more than simply about beer sales for them.

I say the only way you'll make money in the long run with these properties is if these teams win. I don't think you can count on the fans to shell out for products that don't perform on the field, the ice or the court -- even if the team is called the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seriously, all this losing by all these Toronto teams is testing the patience of the fans to no end. The new owners need to pay attention to keeping their suffering fans happy, otherwise they're going to have a very unhappy balance sheet in the long run.

JAIME EDMONDSON DOES IT AGAIN: COUNTS DOWN COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TOP TEN PROGRAMS

College football's regular season is basically over; all that is left is the big Army-Navy game tomorrow on TV and the awarding of the Heisman Trophy. After that, it's bowl season.

So, with that, I thought I would pass along this fun item which I had been meaning to post for a number of days now. Hopefully, it will also get all the "girl" posts out of my system -- for a while, at least.

As you know, this blog is crazy for Jaime Edmondson of Miami Dolphins, Amazing Race and Playboy fame. That gorgeous redhead has really done her part to make the whole sport of football fun for the fans. Last year, the ex-Dolphins cheerleader did a wildly popular pictorial where she donned outfits in the colors of everyone's favorite NFL teams. This year, in a unique twist, Jaime's part of Playboy's countdown of the top college football programs of the Playboy Era, post-1953.

Number one on their list? USC. (Which, I notice, is having some troubles as of late with the NCAA.)

As an example of what to expect, here's a photo where Jaime dons the famed maize and blue of the Michigan Wolverines. (Photo credit: Playboy.) You can see the whole countdown here, but be warned: the site is kind of not safe for work.

The folks over there at Playboy, by the way, have quite a rich history when it comes to college football coverage. Every fall, they would put out an issue where they would do a "Pigskin Preview" with a thorough ranking of all of the college football programs in the USA. It's great the folks at Playboy have remembered their heritage and it's great to see Jaime back reminding the fans how hot she is. She's also been heating up the cover of Guitar World these days, too.

What else is there to say? Jaime Edmondson rocks. I still think she should've been Playmate of the Year. Oh, well.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

ON THE US PRESIDENTIAL RACE AS IT STANDS NOW

My monthly News Watch column is now up in which I dissect the state of affairs in the USA presidential race.

Needless to say, it has not been an impressive display on the Republican side so far by either the candidates or these befuddled GOP voters. Make up your minds, folks.     

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

MORE BAD TV NEWS: ROGER EBERT GETTING GROUNDED

More bad cancellation news, this time from the ranks of public television. Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies on PBS will be going on hiatus. The reason: lack of funding.

Ebert had sent out an SOS not long ago, saying they needed a big financial angel to come through, or else the show was toast. Apparently Roger and his wife Chaz were financing the show out of their own pockets. You can't expect that to go on forever.

It's really too bad because it seemed like a good show with a loyal following of viewers. This begs the question -- what the heck are these PBS pledge breaks for if they don't keep your favorite shows on the air? Seriously, I don't get it.

A lot of people are saying they should just continue the show as a web-only venture, but that is just unrealistic -- you really do need a TV partner to be able to make a go of it with a quality production. I mean, look at Richard Roeper -- he does a lot of video stuff online these days, but still needs a TV partner for all that, too, in Reelz Channel. Anyway, I hope Ebert finds a way to finance this show so it can get back on the air before long. This news gets a big thumbs down from me.

PAN AM LOOKS LIKE IT IS GROUNDED

Despite the recent hoopla over Ashley Greene (of Twilight fame) getting a role on Pan Am, the word that just came in recently is that the network cut the order for the show, which can only mean one thing -- this show's doomed.

So much for all these Mad Men imitations on TV this season, then. The real reason I think all these shows have flopped on TV can be summed up, I think, by the following words: the Sixties are over, man.

Way over.

NHL REALIGNMENT IS TOO RADICAL FOR MY LIKING

On the heels of the BCS decision-making comes more crazy-slash-stupid decisions from the powers that be in the sports world.

As has been much-rumored or feared, the NHL went ahead and approved radical realignment today. They are scrapping the two conferences with three divisions each, and will now go to four conferences with no divisions at all. For more on the realignment, here's the release here.

Now for my own thoughts. This is really, really unnecessary and quite a bizarre-looking setup, especially compared to the other sports leagues who still have three or four divisions within two conferences. I know the NHL had to move the Winnipeg Jets out of the Southeast, but all they had to do was simply move the Jets to the Central and the Nashville Predators to the Southeast to take their place. They didn't have to go ahead with this craziness, moving teams all over the place and blowing up the divisions and conferences.

I also know there were these travel and scheduling concerns of various teams, but I think these could all have been addressed while keeping the current division format. You could have moved Dallas out of the Pacific to the Central, for example, or even the Southeast, and moved Colorado to the Pacific. 

But instead, this league went and blew the whole thing up. Now we have four conferences and they make little sense, with these southern teams all over the place. These don't even have the same number of teams, these conferences -- two have seven teams and two have eight. This isn't realignment like what the NFL did when they went from six to eight divisions. At least those divisions made sense in how they were set up. This NHL setup, though, is just nuts. Four conferences, not two? Really?!

It's crazy stuff like this that is the reason why the NHL isn't more popular in the USA. The league does this kind of realigning over and over again, and they keep on moving teams around and messing things up. First they had the six-team league, and then when they expanded to 12 teams they split them into two divisions. Then, when they expanded to 18 teams, they split them into the Campbells and the Wales and divided them into four divisions --- but instead of having the conference champions face each other in the end, they had a crazy playoff format which simply ranked all 12 teams and had them play off for the Stanley Cup. Then came the merger with the WHA, so they moved some teams again, and this time ranked the teams 1 to 16 for the playoffs! Then in 1982 they finally got around to ranking teams 1-through-4 in the divisions and had them play off, with the divisional winners meeting for the conference title and the two conference champions eventually  facing for the Stanley Cup.

Then after a number of years they changed it to 1-through-8 in the conferences, and then after that they split the league into six divisions and moved the teams around again so that Montreal and Toronto could finally be in the same division, while the southern teams could be in their own division, too. Somewhere along the line they also got rid of the Campbells and the Wales conferences and called them the Western and Eastern Conferences, but kept on awarding Campbell and Wales trophies to the conference champions and well, anyway -- now they're blowing it up again and moving to four conferences, and who knows what they will be named.

I heard they might be called the Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr and Howe Conferences. That is too hilarious. We'll probably even see these four guys handing the winning teams their trophies in the playoffs!

I'm sorry, but this kind of realignment insanity is exactly the reason why people in the United States don't take the NHL seriously. The league had a good thing going with the division alignment they already had, and didn't have to shake up things. You just watch. This new format is going to land with a thud with the public.     

I DON'T SEE WHAT THE FUSS WAS ALL ABOUT

Some interesting/weird Christmas news to tell you about from this side of the world.

About a week or so back, I attended our staff Christmas party and went up to the bar and asked for a Coca-Cola. They gave me a can of Coke -- but it was a strange-looking white can with polar bears on it. The folks at the bar assured me that, indeed, this was regular Coke, not diet Coke or something else. 

Despite the initial confusion I got used to drinking Coke out of the special white can. I guess it was all part of the company's fine efforts to save the polar bears. 

It turned out, though, that the Coke drinkers were all up in arms over the color of the cans and were complaining they were getting confused as to whether it was Coke or Diet Coke, or whatever.

The backlash got so bad that Coca-Cola finally got rid of the white cans and returned to red cans for their cola. 

Honestly, I don't see what the fuss was all about! I figured out the white Coke cans were special white Coke cans for the Christmas season easily enough, but I suppose other Coke drinkers are easily confused and get easily upset over things like this.

Are Coke drinkers really that dumb? I guess so, eh!!!! And that is my comment on Coke's white cans.

Monday, December 05, 2011

THE BCS IS STILL A JOKE

TEAMS ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY

The final tally is in for the Bowl Championship Series standings, and LSU and Alabama will meet for the national title, shutting out Oklahoma State.



Well, great -- that's two SEC teams playing for the title. Why the heck does anyone from any of the other conferences bother even fielding a football team, then, if this is what we get? Alabama already lost to LSU. Why not give a deserving champion from another conference a chance? At the very least, have some sort of system that allows them to play off against one another for a title shot?

Oklahoma State won its conference while Alabama didn't, but Alabama gets to play for the national title while OSU gets stuck with a nothing game against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Like I said -- this is ridiculous. Teams from outside the SEC are all getting robbed under this system.

In other BCS news, I notice that the Sugar Bowl shafted Boise State, Kansas State, Arkansas, Michigan State and maybe some other deserving schools by picking lower-ranked Virginia Tech and Michigan to play in its bowl game, and this stinks to high heaven with me. Virginia Tech got clobbered in its championship game, and Michigan wasn't even the best team in its own state! Yet these two both go to the BCS!

People are ranting and raving that these two got picked because more tickets can be sold for the game.

Is this what it has come down to -- BCS bowls picking teams based on how popular they are, as opposed to whether or not they are any good? This is truly a joke. Boise State and Kansas State might as well not even have football programs if this is the kind of treatment they are going to get from these bowl committees. Really, why even bother playing the games? All that will happen is you'll get screwed in the end!!

I guess I should be glad to be living in a country where college football has an actual playoff system, unlike Division 1-A in the United States. The BCS really has to go.

As for the bowl game schedule, here it is.

HAROLD AND KUMAR IN 2D

Well, my latest Cairns on Cinema column is now up on my experience last week watching A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas --- except I watched it in 2D in a 2D theater! That proved to be, uh, very interesting.

Word of advice: never watch a 3D movie in 2D, because you'll miss all the special effects.

Anyway, here's that column. Have a good one. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

HERMAN CAIN THROWS IN THE TOWEL

Well, in the GOP presidential race another one bites the dust. Today in Atlanta at the grand opening of Herman Cain's new campaign office, Cain went to the microphones and announced he was suspending his campaign. No doubt about the reason why -- the Cain campaign was wilting under all the accusations of sexual harassment and so on. 

May I add I thought it was a very strange, surreal announcement. I watched the whole thing online, and it had people going up there to the podium and giving speeches saying why they wanted Cain in the White House and how great he would be for America, all completely oblivious to the reality that he was going to withdraw. Anyway, he's now out of the race. I just hope he doesn't come back from the dead the way Gary Hart did on the Democratic side after his campaign blew up on him in 1988 -- that would just mean further embarrassment.   

That leaves a Republican field topped at the moment by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. The primaries and caucuses are getting closer: Iowa is just a month away, folks.