Sportsnet’s Euro Blunder

Are you like me?  Have you been following The 2008 European soccer finals since it commenced June 7th?  If so, you might be feeling what I’ve been feeling since this afternoon.
 
Unlike The World Cup, where 32 nations compete for the most prestigious prize in this globally beloved sport, the Euro tournament only features 16.  The teams are divided evenly into four groups.  The two most successful squads in each one advance to the quarterfinals.
 
Right now, we’re in the final leg of the group stages.  By Wednesday afternoon, we’ll know who’s officially out and who’s officially in.  In the end, 8 teams will remain in contention.
 
That brings us to today.  It was the final day of matches for Group A.  Portugal had already earned a berth in the next round with two victories over the Czech Republic and Turkey.  Switzerland had already been eliminated after being defeated by those same two teams.
 
Before this afternoon, it was possible to see every game live.  Two teams would face off around Noon and another two would battle it out around 3.
 
However, that wasn’t the case today.  Both the Portugal/Switzerland game and the Turkey/Czech Republic match started around 3.  This presented a problem.  Because TSN is simulcasting NBC’s coverage of the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament until after 10 p.m. tonight, they weren’t able to broadcast any of today’s Euro matches live. (June 18 UPDATE:  The fourth round actually ended just after 9 p.m.)  And because both games began at the same time, Rogers Sportsnet Ontario could only cover one.
 
The solution, however, seemed simple.  Since Portugal is already in the quarters and Switzerland was already out, it was a meaningless game.  Whatever happened wouldn’t change anything.  But because both the Czechs and the Turks needed a win to continue playing in the competition, there was much more at stake.
 
So, what did the geniuses at Rogers Sportsnet Ontario decide to do about this dilemma?  They aired the Portugal/Switzerland match-up!  Considering the fact that Omni 1, AKA Channel 47 in Toronto, was also broadcasting that game, albeit with Portugese commentators instead of a Brit, it made no sense for Sportsnet to focus on the exact same game.  It didn’t help that most of Portugal’s star players, like Ronaldo and Deco, didn’t play.  Even more infuriating was the fact that Sportsnet viewers outside of Ontario did get to see the Czech Republic/Turkey encounter.
 
That’s not even the worst part.  Because the Portugal/Switzerland game ended before the other one wrapped up, Sportsnet Ontario viewers got to see the last few minutes of the more important match-up.  The British announcer covering that game went on and on about the quality of the match and how it was a classic encounter.  When it was all over, we got the usual post-game highlight reel which indeed gave the impression of an entertaining game. 
 
Now, for those who haven’t seen the Turkey/Czech Republic match, I won’t tell you the result.  (Sportsnet re-airs the game at Midnight tonight.)  What I will say is that Sportsnet blew it.  It was inexcusable of them to not allow its Ontario viewership a chance to see live what will likely be called one of the best encounters of this year’s tournament.  Some might go so far to claim it as one of the best in the history of Euro.
 
Shame on them for making this needless mistake.  Let’s hope it never happens again.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 15, 2008
6:56 p.m.
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Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Strangers

There is one moment in The Strangers that is genuinely creepy.  It’s the dead of night.  A young woman is all alone in a summer home waiting for her boyfriend to return with a pack of cigarettes.  (She has a difficult time sleeping without them.)  As she’s walking around the kitchen, he appears.  If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what I’m talking about.
 
His identity is concealed and he makes no sound.  While the woman is looking outside the window on the right side of the screen, he’s staring at her from the left.  By the time she turns around, it’s as if he was never there to begin with.  Very effective.
 
Other than that, this is a rather pointless filmmaking exercise masquerading as a horror film.
 
Liv Tyler plays Kristen, the woman in question.  When we first meet her, she’s in a car with her boyfriend, James (Scott Speedman), with tears in her eyes looking quite glum.  He’s pissed beyond words as he exits the vehicle to retrieve a large stash of mail from the outdoor in-box.  They’ve fled a wedding reception they were attending after Kristen rebuffed his marriage proposal.  She loves him but isn’t ready to take such a leap with him.
 
Once inside James’ old family summer retreat, we see all the trouble he went through to make this night special for his lady.  Two bottles of champagne and lots of little rose pedals all over the house.  Wanting badly to escape the awkward atmosphere, James leaves a voicemail message for his buddy, Mike (Glenn Howerton), hoping he’ll come pick him up in the morning.  At one point, he goes right for the ice cream to numb his pain.  What a girl.
 
After much silence, the couple are on the verge of make-up sex when, out of nowhere, a loud knock is heard on their front door.  A young woman is looking for someone who isn’t Kristen or James.  Her face is hard to make out since, before knocking, she unscrewed the light bulb on the front porch.  When James tells her she’s at the wrong residence, she exits saying, "See you later." 
 
"That was weird," replies a perplexed Kristen.
 
Soon, James is off for a drive to get those cigarettes.  Why he would leave his woman all alone like that makes zero sense.  (Why he drove her up to this place after getting a "no" is also puzzling.  Was he hoping to wear her down?)
 
In fact, very little about The Strangers is rational.  When Kristen is left to her own devices, there are more sudden knocks on the front door.  And soon, she realizes her very life is in danger.  By the time James returns (without cigarettes, it should be noted), she’s barefoot and completely freaked out.  She’s also somehow cut her hand quite severely after mishandling a lamp.  Their car is trashed, their cell phones are missing and there’s no one around to hear their screams.
 
We learn ultimately that there are three masked psychos after them: two young women and a wheezy-sounding man.  It’s hard not to think of Halloween whenever you see the latter wandering around the house.  In one scene somewhat reminiscent of a key element of that film’s third act, Kristen hides in a kitchen supply closet while keeping a close eye on her male attacker who, after inspecting a few places, actually takes a break to sit down for a few seconds.  Time to join a gym, buddy.  Is stalking the corridors very slowly really that exhausting?  No wonder he’s always breathing heavily.
 
This slow moving, unoriginal thriller only runs for an hour and a half but it feels so much longer because of its dreadful pacing.  Tyler and Speedman have zippo chemistry as a couple but they do the best they can with uninteresting roles and surprisingly little dialogue.  Tyler, in particular, looks fantastic in close-ups (the Gene Siskel test for movie stars) but she’s reduced to mostly crawling, screaming, and looking perturbed.  This is quite a comedown from The Lord Of The Rings.
 
As for the villains, I’m reminded of the 2006 remake, When A Stranger Calls.  Like the heel in that picture, there is no legitimate reason why this trio have targetted this couple, why they constantly toy with them and why they want them dead.  (How did they even know they were going to be there that night?)  The gimmick of the masks gets old quick.  In fact, even when they come off, we never do get a good look at their faces.  Why?  Is it scarier not seeing them?  Or maybe the actors who play them wanted their identities protected.  I can’t say as I blame them, if that were the case.
 
And what about that ending?  It’s horrifying for all the wrong reasons.  Do the filmmakers really think they can squeeze a sequel out of this mess?  Considering the fact that the movie made twice its budget in its opening weekend (made for 9 million, it grossed a healthy 20 million), we all know the answer to that one.
 
(Special thanks to Dave Scacchi.)
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 6, 2008
8:11 p.m.
Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

U2 Reissues Update

Two months ago, U2 made a big announcement on their official website.  Their first three studio albums are being re-released this summer.
 
As previously noted in this space, Boy, October and War will be available for purchase in three different formats.  What we didn’t know at the time were the contents of the bonus discs included in the special “Deluxe Editions” of each reissue.
 
Now we do.  Last week, U2.com revealed complete track listings for every edition of these early albums.  A quick glance at each one will make even the most hardcore fan very pleased.
 
Let’s start with Boy, their debut.  Disc two of the Deluxe Edition is loaded with goodies.  For the first time ever, two non-album singles, Another Day and 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, can be heard on this CD.  Not only that, the B-sides to those old 45s have been added, as well.  Plus, you get the original U23 EP from 1979, some live tracks and several previously unreleased numbers.  In total, you get 25 songs on 2 CDs.  Sounds fabulous.
 
Next is October.  The bonus material in this package includes more live tracks, A Celebration (the third and final non-album A-side never to be heard on CD before), some BBC sessions and a few B-sides (including J. Swallo).  There are 17 songs altogether on disc two.
 
Finally, there’s War.  Multiple versions of New Year’s Day and Two Hearts Beat As One, plus two B-sides and a never-before-heard rarity called Angels Too Tied To The Ground are what you can expect to hear on disc two of this set.
 
All three offerings are available July 22nd.  Let’s hope these Deluxe Editions will be available at your local record shop unlike the two-disc version of The Joshua Tree, which I’ve still yet to find.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
6:48 p.m.
Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 6:48 pm  Leave a Comment