Movie Review: The Salvation (2014)

February 15, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

salvation

After Hannibal, it’s difficult to watch great Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen these days without thinking that he’ll start eating everyone on screen. But such is his awesomeness that I almost forgot this when I saw him in The Salvation, a good, old-fashioned Western about a man’s quest for vengeance.

Directed and co-written by Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring, The Salvation tells the simple story of two Danish brothers who immigrate to the US in search of a better life. Seven years later, Jon (Mads — what an awesome name) finally brings his young son and wife to the country, but a stroke of fate ends up shattering his Amercian Dream. What follows is a brutal tale of revenge that will bring Jon face-to-face with a notorious gang leader played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his damaged sister-in-law, played by Eva Green.

There’s not much to The Salvation in terms of plot or character development, but that doesn’t stop it from being a highly watchable film. That said, while I was expecting a violent rampage like Taken, The Salvation actually has more depth than that. It’s one of those films where you have to keep watching the protagonist suffer — whether it is pain, loss or injustice — with the unspoken promise that he’ll eventually turn things around in the end and get his “salvation.”

It’s far from an original concept, though when executed well it can still be darn entertaining. The Salvation succeeds in doing that thanks to the aesthetically pleasing cinematography (certain scenes look like paintings), the grounded direction of Levring, and of course Mads’ mad performance (I’ve always wanted to say that). Keeping in mind that he’s an immigrant in 1870’s America, Jon is a man of few words and expressions, but you can sense his pain beneath the stoic surface because that’s the type of nuance Mads can deliver.

Notwithstanding that there was less action — especially less stylised action — than I had anticipated (not to mention less cannibalism), The Salvation is a gripping and satisfying Western fuelled by a master performer at the peak of his powers.

3.75 stars out of 5

Is Steph Curry’s 27 the best 3P contest round ever? (and other thoughts on All-Star Saturday 2015)

February 15, 2015 in Basketball, NBA, Sport by pacejmiller

curry three

I had my money on his splash brother, Klay Thompson, but Steph Curry proved tonight that he’s the best three-point shooter alive when he’s on a roll, knocking down 20/25 shots en route to an all-time best score of 27 in the final round of the 2015 Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But was it the best three-point contest performance of all time? Let’s take a deeper look.

Nominally, 27 points is the highest score in any NBA Three Point Contest since the competition was introduced at All-Star Weekend in 1986. However, since last year, the contest has had the “money ball rack”, in which every ball in one rack of the contestant’s choice is filled with money balls as opposed to just the last ball of each of the five racks. This means instead of a perfect score of 30 as it had been in the past, the perfect score of any single round is now 34.

Steph’s final round shot chart is as follows.

CURRY

– He only missed five shots in the entire round, including two money balls
– He was nearly perfect from the money ball rack, missing only his last shot
– At one stage he hit 13 consecutive shots, the second longest hot streak in the contest’s history

The previous highest score in Three Point Contest history is 25, by Craig Hodges in the first round of the 1986 contest (when no one had a clue how ridiculous that was) and Jason Kapono in final round of the 2008 contest. Both were accomplished when there was no money ball rack and the perfect score would have been 30.

Of course, you can’t really say that things would have turned out exactly the same if there was no money ball rack, but keep in mind that if that were the case, Steph’s score would have technically only been 23, which would have tied for eighth all-time in the pre-money ball rack era.

On the other hand, Kapono’s shot chart from his record-tying round (at the time) is as follows:

Kapono

Kapono also missed five shots like Curry and had a hot streak of only 10 consecutive shots, but his score was boosted by the fact that he made all five of his money balls.  If there was a money ball rack at the time, Kapono’s score would have ranged from 27-29, depending on where he put it.

As for Craig Hodges’ 25-point round in 1986, I haven’t been able to track down his shot chart or locate any video on YouTube to create one. It actually appears that no complete video of his performance even exists, being that this was one of the first rounds of the contest ever. Also, back in the day, two contestants would shoot at the same time at opposite ends of the court, and the cameras were actually more focused on Hodges’s opponent.

In any case, I managed to catch the back end of Hodge’s performance and can confirm that he must have missed at least three shots because he made his last two money balls and missed another regular ball. In fact, it is probable that he missed at least four shots because his round is not in the list of most consecutive baskets made, where the minimum is nine consecutive shots. This means he could not have had two perfect racks in a row.

So regardless of whether Hodges made all five of his money balls in that round, the most number of shots he could have missed is five, which would have at least tied Curry.

The round that Hodges actually gets more mentions for is his 1991 semi-finals round, where he smashed the record for most consecutive shots with 19 — a record that still stands today — en route to 24 points.

Here’s his shot chart.

Hodges

Hodges ran out of steam in the end and missed his last three shots, but the ridiculous thing is that he hit his first 19 shots and missed only four shots overall. If there was a money rack, his score would have ranged between 26-30.

Among the other 24 rounds in contest history (Mark Price in 1994, Hubert Davis in 1998, Kapono in 2007), none of them missed fewer than five shots.

The verdict: while Curry’s 27 points is indeed impressive, it’s not necessarily the best Three Point Contest performance of all-time. Craig Hodges bests him in terms of least shots missed (at least once, probably twice) and most consecutive shots made, while Jason Kapono would have at least gotten the same score and as high as 29 if there was a money ball rack.

Other thoughts and observations on All-Star Saturday 2015

Degree Shooting Stars — next! (This is always about who can make the half-court shot)

Taco Bell Skills Challenge — I liked the idea of having two guys compete at the same time so it pushes them a little more. I was as stunned as anybody that Patrick Beverly (a late replacement for John Wall) won it in the end, coming from behind each round to steal victory when his opponent could not capitalize on the last three-point shot (it was previously a top-of-the-key shot). I also liked the gamesmanship too when he stomped as he ran up behind his opponent to know them off their games.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest — most stacked contest of all-time with winner Curry, runner-up Thompson and the likes of Kyle Korver (aiming for the NBA’s first 50-50-90 season), defending champion Marco Belinelli, former winner Kyrie Irving, scoring leader James Harden, specialist JJ Redick and sharp shooter Wesley Matthews. Turned out to be by far the most exciting event of the evening because of the star power and drama.

Sprite Slam Dunk — no big names, but no worries thanks to Zach Lavine, my early pick, who performed some effortless high-difficulty dunks including an off-the-bounce, threw-the-legs one-handed reverse in a Jordan Space Jam jersey and an off-the-bounce, behind-the-back in the first round to earn a perfect 100. With the contest pretty much wrapped up thanks to Victor Oladipo’s misses, the second round was kinda anti-climatic, though Lavine still performed some very sick dunks. Thank goodness the teenager was there because everyone else sucked dogs balls (looking at the Greek Freak and Plums in particular).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZaGBDmhoU4

The only other decent dunk was Oladipo’s first successful jam, but it was NOT a 540-degree dunk as Kenny Smith claimed it to be. You cannot start and end up facing the same direction if you did a 540-degree spin, which is what Oladipo did. It was in fact a 360-degree reverse that finished on the other side of the rim. Still a well-deserved 50 though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDcm17QHiK0

PS: A quick word about the scoring. I don’t think the way it works right now is consistent. Apparently a missed dunk should be awarded a minimum score of 6/10, though in one case Dr J gave Oladipo a 7/10 for effort. But for made dunks by Plumlee and Antetokounmpo — pretty decent dunks too — the judges were also awarding 7s. That’s not right. The gap between made dunks and missed dunks needs to be bigger. The way I see it, a missed dunk should be awarded an arbitrary number of say 4 (it is a “fail”, after all, though I resist awarding dunks 0/10 because you have to give guys a chance to catch up) and the worst made dunk (like one that accidentally goes in off a failed attempt) should score no lower than 5. That sets a barrier between made dunks and missed dunks, and provides a much wider range for judges to score.