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Monday, July 14, 2014

Germany battle Argentina to win hotly anticipated World Cup final

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July 13th was a historic day for Germany as they lifted the World Cup after a 24-year-old wait. In a tense and exciting final that lasted beyond full time, ‘Super Mario’ Gotze came in as a super-sub and scored the winner with seven minutes to spare at the end of extra time. It had all the drama, excitement and tragedy that befit a final. Germany seemed destined to win this one, but Argentina did not make their job any easier in the entire course of 120 minutes.

Considering the pressure both teams were in, from the first whistle it seemed that both Germany and Argentina were playing defensively in order to avoid an early upset. By the time 90 minutes were over, one could tell both sides were holding off towards extra time. It would make sense in a pressure-cooker final like this, that a goal in extra time would put the conceding side in an extremely difficult position.

Having said that, both sides did try to break the deadlock in the first 90 minutes, with Argentina using the momentum gained on counter-attacks. Argentine skipper Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain unfortunately failed to make their chances count. Both these quality forwards lacked in the finishing department especially when they had been set-up with some fine chances. The Barcelona forward missed a sitter when his trademark left-foot shot went wayward. Higuain put one past Manuel Neuer’s net but the flag had already been raised.

The pressure was always on Messi to deliver considering his reputation as the best player in the world. Having been criticized on occasions for not able to win his country the gold trophy despite his incomparable talent, he was hoping to set the record straight. Germany knew they had to keep him quiet, and without a target man like Angel Di Maria, Messi was handicapped. Ezequiel Lavezzi was replaced on half time by Sergio Aguero who failed to reproduce his stellar form from his time with Manchester City. 

Germany brought in André Schürrle earlier in the first half who provided the extra pace needed in the middle. Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger were all getting into the right positions but finishing was poor. At the close of half time, a header by defender Benedikt Höwedes hit the right post and when Muller got the ball, he was already offside. Schweinsteiger took a knock under his right eye, bled, left the field and came back ready for battle once more. He took home a scar that he would proudly show his grandchildren one day.

BBC’s stats reveal there were no shots on target from Argentina and Germany had five chances. Regardless of the chances, only one shot counted and that came from Mario Gotze with seven minutes left on the clock in extra time. While it seemed evident, both teams would settle for penalties, Gotze took a comfortable chance chesting a cross from Schürrle and placing it in the net stunning Sergio Romero.

Messi now had to be the hero for his country. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona striker had all the skills and experience necessary to score a goal out of nowhere, as he did against the likes of Iran earlier on in the tournament. That moment came in the dying minutes of extra time in the form of a wasted free kick. Not long after that, the ref sounded the final whistle and Germany celebrated a well-deserved victory.  

As the fireworks lit the Rio de Janeiro sky, one would be reminded that football is a beautiful yet cruel game. It is these finals, when the loser feels that on a different day, it could have been them celebrating. However, Germany looked the stronger and tactical unit and deserved the plaudits. Argentina fought hard but one kept wondering if Messi was even playing. He took home the Golden Ball but it was Germany who took home the biggest prize in international football. It was a fitting end to the night of champions!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pride and Glory at stake as Mexico take on Cameroon

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Cameroon and Mexico take the field in the second televised match at the World Cup at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. After yesterday’s match between Brazil and Croatia, fans would be looking forward to another entertaining 90 minutes between two sides that are not considered favorites.

Cameroon reportedly arrived to Brazil four days later due to issues on bonuses within the squad. Two of their important players, the talented captain Samuel Eto’o and Oribe Peralta have injury concerns. Eto’o had a decent season with North London side Chelsea under Jose Mourinho scoring nine goals in 21 appearances. He is also Cameroon’s top goal-scorer and has previously played in the 1998,2002, and 2010 World Cups.

The former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker is currently looking for a club and is hoping to impress some potential suitors, reportedly Everton and Arsenal, with his performances in this summer’s tournament. However, it may not be the best start if he is unable to play against Mexico due to injury.

Mexico possesses a relatively stronger side but manager Miguel Herrera cannot take anything for granted considering how Brazil conceded an own-goal against underdogs Croatia in their opener. Brazil eventually won by 2 goals due to the quality of their attack.

Villarreal forward Giovani dos Santos will be leading the line instead of Manchester United forward Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who has been out of form going goal-less in nine games. The Mexico side has not been the same since their 2012 London Olympics gold medal and is hoping to use the World Cup as an opportunity to re-establish themselves in world football.

Mexico did not win their pre-tournament friendly matches but will be looking to have a winning start against Cameroon. It should be an interesting match between two sides looking to prove themselves and may the best team win!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spider-Man returns to screens in 'Amazing' action-packed 3D sequel! *may contain spoilers*

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Rating: 8/10

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone return to Marvel’s rebooted ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ franchise with high expectations. Filmed in 3D by director Marc Webb, it takes you inside the web-slinger’s world unlike ever before.

Garfield finally looks comfortable playing the lead role and gets very close to erasing Tobey Maguire’s memorable role as the ‘Amazing’ hero. Emma Stone is brilliant as Gwen Stacy, his love interest. Their love story is one of the highlights of this action packed 3D adventure.

The wall-crawler faces multiple villains this time around. Unlike Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man 3’, the villains do not feel overwhelming. Garfield is the star and every time he is on screen, he shines as both Peter Parker and Spidey.

The film kicks off with Spider-Man swinging the skies of New York looking for trouble. He tackles Russian criminal Aleksei Sytsevich in a get-away truck holding flammable liquids. Sytsevich is portrayed by Paul Giamatti who looks like he is really enjoying the role. He later gets his own super-villian moment as ‘Rhino’.

Spidey eventually succeeds taking down Sytsevich and makes it to his high school graduation as Peter, missing girlfriend Gwen’s speech. The primary antagonist in the film is surprisingly a good guy turned bad. 

Versatile talent Jamie Foxx plays nerdy Spider-Man obsessed engineer Max Dillon working at Oscorp. Having been saved by Spider-Man in the beginning, he becomes his fan-boy. 

Poor Max stumbles into a tub full of electric eels and gets transformed into electric-powered being later known as ‘Electro’. Electro turns against his hero when he blames him for not protecting him from the cops.

The web-swinger succeeds in restraining him with water. In the midst of all this chaos, as both Peter and Spider-Man, he has to deal with his relationship with Gwen and also tackle a returning Electro and former best-friend turned super villain Harry Osborne who becomes the Green Goblin. At the same time, he discovers the mystery behind his parents leaving him as a child.

Dane DeHaan’s portrayal as Harry Osborne is lot more sinister than James Franco’s in Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ films. Franco edges out Dehaan and the relationship between Peter and Harry as buddies was better played out relatively.

The film ends on a bittersweet note that leaves you in tears with some hope for the future. Spider-Man according to Peter is all about hope and you really believe it coming from Garfield, especially when he shows emotions.

The film is great entertainment. The 3D scenes are brilliantly done with spectacular scenes as you follow the friendly neighborhood web-head swinging around the city. They come to life especially during the epic action sequences. There is even a sneak preview to a future Marvel film during the credits not to be missed.

‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is an entertaining super-hero film with lot of heart worthy of another sequel!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spanish lions collide: Showdown in Camp Nou as Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid for La Liga title!

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This season, we have seen domestic competitions like the Barclays Premier League go down to the wire with the winner being decided on the last day of the season. In similar fashion, one of the biggest leagues of the world, La Liga (LIGA BBVA), sees the top two teams, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid go head to head for 90 minutes in the quest to clinch the title and its happening tonight at the Camp Nou!

This is more than just a title decider. One the one hand, Barcelona want to retain their league title and their supremacy while Atletico are looking for their second title after an 18 year wait. This will give Atletico the momentum going into the UEFA Champions League final against derby rivals Real Madrid in Lisbon on the 24th of May.

Barcelona may look the stronger side on paper, but face a stiff opposition in a team that knocked them out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals earlier this year. At the same time Barcelona has had one of their roughest seasons. The Spanish giants had to cope with the loss of former beloved manager Tito Vilanova, UEFA sanctions and Argentine sensation Lionel Messi’s mixed form, among other issues. Messi, arguably the best player in the world, recently signed a lucrative contract extension making him the highest paid footballer in the world overtaking Real Madrid’s Portugese icon Cristiano Ronaldo.

Fortunately for the Catalans, the UEFA sanctions prohibiting them from transfer business for the next two windows have been suspended. Since this is the only title silverware left to fight for, they will be looking to attack the Atletico defence, retain the title and wrap up their relatively turbulent season with a celebration.
Atletico, on the other hand, can win the title even with a draw as they are three points ahead of the defending champions. Barcelona would equal on points with a win, but will lift the title based on relatively better head-to-head record as well as goal difference.

Barcelona’s 36-year-old long-serving defender Carles Puyol will not be part of the historic match ending his 15 year association with the club as the season wraps up. However, after being sidelined due to injuries, their talented Brazilian forward Neymar, defenders Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are expected to return to the starting line-up.

Atletico manager Diego Simeone is fortunate to have his strongest offence, Diego Costa, back after nursing a hamstring strain. He would be the key to breaking down the rejuvenated Barca defence. Simeone knows by winning tonight, they would be the first club to break the two horse title race between Real Madrid and Barcelona dominating Spanish football for years.

To their credit, going toe to toe with the two biggest clubs in Spain is no easy feat. It will be a deserved victory for Atletico Madrid who are this season’s underdogs. Similarly, Barcelona are hoping to extend their superiority and snatch a huge victory on the final day of the season.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: biggest series finale since Friends?

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Those looking for a ‘Friends’ reunion don’t need to look any further, since its biggest inspiration ‘How I Met Your Mother’ finally came to an end in an exciting series finale. Both shows had several similarities. Both were based on New York and focused on the lives of young, close friends dealing with day-to-day situations in their personal and professional lives.

Almost every character on ‘HIMYM’ seemed like a version of their ‘Friends’ counterpart in an alternate universe. The only difference was that it was narrated by former ‘Full House’ star Bob Saget as a retrospective of how his younger self found ‘the mother’. The show starred Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel and Cobie Smulders in their respective lead roles

Most television audiences remember the series finale of Friends with fondness of how it wrapped up different stories of the characters and created new beginnings. It was closure for not just the fans but also for the cast who had spent ten years in their respective roles on a weekly basis. 

The last season added the character of the mother Tracy McConnell, played by Cristin Milioti. The finale focused on how the main character Ted Mosby played by Josh Radnor eventually meets and marries ‘the mother’. 

Similarly to Friends, it wraps up sub plots such as the relationship of the witty ladies man Barney Ross played by former ‘Doogie Howser’ Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders’ character ‘Robin’. Alyson Hannigan, famous for her starring roles in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ show and the ‘American Pie’ film series, stays on as Lily, the loyal wife of Jason Segel’s character Marshall.

The series finale has been the most talked about since Friends, especially on social media platforms. Fans have been discussing the finale. A simple Google search even reveals a petition for the show’s producers to change the ending. Without giving anything away, an alternate ‘perfect’ ending to the finale season was filmed.

Cast members including Smulders have reportedly stated that they are content with how everything is wrapped up in the broadcasted ending, breaking tradition by giving fans a glance to the future, the fate of the mother and ‘Aunt Robin’. One of the scenes filmed during the shoot of the first season nine years ago has been featured in the ending. Radnor, however, was reportedly more content with the alternate ending instead of the one they had shot during the first season.

The alternate ending is expected to be available on the series DVD set. For those who have not seen the finale yet, we will not spoil it but it is worth watching for long time fans of the series. It may bring back memories of the now-classic series of finale ten years earlier. At least we finally met ‘the mother’!

'Friends Reunion' Rumors: Do we really need them?

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It’s been almost 10 years since we last heard ‘I’ll Be There For You’ by ‘The Rembrandts’ on our television screens in the opening credits of possibly one of the biggest sitcoms of the last two decades. Friends was created by writers Marta Kaufmann and David Crane for NBC in 1994 and lasted a good ten seasons. Not only did the show set new pop culture trends, the series finale was one of the most watched in television history.

Ever since the series came to an end in 2004, fans have been hoping for a reunion. The individual lead actors have made appearances on each other’s shows, but have consistently denied rumors of a reunion. The sitcom ‘Joey’ was a spin off starring Matt Le Blanc as his Friends character Joey Tribbiani. The show only lasted for a season and was not considered to be as strong as its parent. 

As of now, any rumors about Le Blanc getting back together with former co-stars Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Matthew Perry (Chandler), Lisa Kudrow (Pheobe), Courtney Cox (Monica) and David Schwimmer (Ross) is considered fake.

It’s not so hard to get rumors on such stories viral in this day and age. Not just rumors, fan-made reunion posters are a constant feature on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These rumors and fake stories have been consistently denied by the show creators and actors. Every fan is drooling at the aspect of seeing the baby Emma as a young girl being raised by Ross and Rachel, or Monica and Chandler spending their tenth anniversary on a romantic getaway or Joey finally getting nominated for an Oscar.

These make up great stories, but whether we get to see them realized on screen is a burning question. For the moment, fans willing to relive the show can do so easily since all seasons are now available on DVD. Recently, Matthew Perry and Courtney Cox reunited on an episode of the show ‘Cougar Town’ featuring subtle nods to their relationship in Friends. Hopefully one day we may see ‘The One about the Reunion’ on television one day or a feature film. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wii like to Move your Kinect

I know the title does not make sense, but for anyone familiar with videogaming, they would instantly recognize that I am speaking of the new motion control gaming fad that has exploded in the last few years. It was in 2006, when Nintendo launced the Wii to great critical acclaim and the sales proved it was possibly the company's biggest hit console since the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996. Wii brought back the classic gaming of yesteryear where it was all about family entertainment. It was the 1980s and early 1990s, where the family would always get together to play video games. Anyone remeber Duck Hunt? the classic shooter, in which one would aim a light gun to shoot virtual ducks. The Wii brought all that back with their new take on motion controlled gaming, where with just an infra red device that corresponds with your motion controlled remotes: Wii-mote, you can become a golf player, bowler, Pete Sampras and even a Jedi Knight. The remote could basically be used for any thing like a golf club, tennis racket or a light saber. The idea behind the name was simply "We" because it brought back party gaming for all ages. It did not require big HDTV sets like the Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 to utilize its full potential.

The Wii became a phenomenal success upon its launch, eclipsing Microsoft and Sony's next gen game console powerhouses in sales and popularity. The rival consoles were more powerful and could show the best graphics if you had a HDTV at home. Realizing the popularity of motion gaming, Sony and Microsoft decided to bring out their own rival consoles to compete with the Wii. However, these would simply be add on devices to their current consoles. It was news that Sony had apparently been working on similar technology before the Wii launched and it was even highlighted in the new PS3 dual shock 3 controller, which was known as Sixaxis initially because for certain games, one can tilt the controller using it as a steering wheel or a fighter jet throttle. Eventually in 2010, Sony launched the Move add-on to their PS3 console, which basically used similar Wii-mote styled motion controllers with a glowing ball that corresponded to a webcam set on top of your television set. It was said to be more accurate than the Wii backed by the awesome power and graphics of the PS3. Move was followed by Microsoft's X360 add-on device codenamed Project Natal launced as simply Kinect. This took motion gaming one step further. It made the gamer, the controller. A rod style attachment on top of your TV would accurately via a digital camera and possibly infra red would capture all your movements, similar to motion capturing in movie and video games. Basically there would be no controller, but your own body and hands would be used to play Kinect games. It allowed the use of voice commands, as well as the ability of using one's hands to change menus in the XBOX 360's main menu/ GUI interface.

At this point, Wii has also improved their own console with the addition of Wii Motion Plus controller. The Wii still leads the motion gaming market because of an established library  of games since 2006, while their rivals have launched their add - ons only less than a year ago. At this time, we will need to wait for newer titles from Nintendo's rivals and see an eventual winner of the new console wars. It is also important to note that Nintendo has announced the new WiiU to be launched next year which would improve on motion controlled gaming and include the capabilities to show high definition graphics that would rival the PS3 and X360. It is an exciting time for gaming, especially for me since I have literally grown up with a  joystick. Clearly, a gaming revolution is about to happen, and its definitely going to be for the best.