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2019 FIFA WWC: My Prediction for the FINAL, And Third-Place Playoff Too

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I have to say this Women’s World Cup has been excellent. It won’t break the attendance record set by Canada back in 2015 but it has already surpassed the 1 million mark. The support for the teams has been outstanding with the various football federations shouting their support and some of the biggest male football stars supporting their teammates. Play has also been excellent as there’s American Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White chasing the golden boot with six goals each. Also there’s only been four expulsions: only one of which was an instant red. So this is a Women’s World Cup France should be very proud of.

THIRD-PLACE Playoff:

Few people are willing to make a prediction for the Third-Place playoff, or the match I call the ‘bronze medal match.’ However I’m one who is willing. Here’s how I look at it:

Head-To-Head Stats:

England and Sweden have faced off against each other 24 times before in the past. Sweden has won thirteen times, England won three times and they drew eight times. Their last match against each other was on November 11, 2018 which Sweden won 2-0.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

England fixedEngland: Women’s football has really grown a lot since England finished third at the last Women’s World Cup. The team they fielded looked like one that could pose the best challenge to the United States. Unfortunately it was not to be as the US beat them 2-1. To add insult to the injury, the US’s Alex Morgan appeared to do a tea-sipping gesture after scoring the winning goal. Many have taken this to be an insult to the English.

It’s difficult to say if England will win. They will have a lot of their top stars like Ellen white and Lucy Bronze ready to play for the game, but Millie Bright won’t be after her double-yellow red card. Phil Neville knows that he will have to get his team ready for the match on Saturday. England have already gotten this far. Perhaps they can give their team one last feat.

Sweden FixedSweden: Before the semifinal, I’m sure most of you predicted Sweden to beat the Netherlands. I mean Sweden had the clout. They’ve been to every Women’s World Cup since it began in 1991. They’ve finished in the Top 3 three times before. They’ve even beat the Netherlands way more often than they lost to them. However things did not go according to plan. Before the match, Fridolina Rolfö received a second yellow card during the match against Germany which meant she will miss the next match. The Netherlands turned out to be a more formidable opponent than they expected. Regulation play resulted in no score. Then there was the goal from Jackie Groenen in the 99th minute. Then there was the shocking injury to Kosovare Asllani where she was carried off on a stretcher.

Sweden came to the tournament with a lot of energy. They won big and were able to rebound after a loss to the United States. Their trip to the WWC semifinal was not easy as they overcame teams like Canada and Germany that had bigger expectations. However they were brought to a halt by the Netherlands in the semifinals. They could win the third-place match or they could lose it. It depends if their players are all in top condition and they attack more than they did on Wednesday.

My Prediction: England have the star strikers, while Sweden has a strong team unit. Sweden will have a one-woman advantage in this game after Bright’s expulsion. Asllani may not be recovered from her injury, but Rolfö can be brought back in play. I will predict Sweden to win 2-0.

THE FINAL

FIFA WWC

This is it. The final for the Women’s World Cup. One team has been their four of the previous seven times and won three times including the last contest in Canada. The other team is only competing in its second Women’s World Cup and won its first-ever knockout match right here in France. So this is quite the quantum leap for the team. So here’s the low-down:

Head-To-Head Stats:

The USA and the Netherlands have met only seven times before. The only time the Netherlands won before was their first meeting all the way back in 1991. The last time the two squared off against each other was in 2016.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

United_States_SoccerUnited States: The United States is the team that is most expected to win this Women’s World Cup. They’re the defending champs from 2015. They’re ranked #1 in the World. They have some of the biggest stars in women’s football who are seen as trailblazers. However they have also earned naysayers too. It all started when they won 13-0 against Thailand and celebrated after each goal. Many thought it was disrespectful. Then Megan Rapinoe made headlines for taking a knee during the play of the Star-Spangled Banner. She followed that by saying she won’t be going to the White House to a reporter. Most recently, Alex Morgan made England fans mad when she celebrated her game-winning goal by doing a tea-sipping gesture. Despite the negative press, they’ve delivered each time. They’ve won all their games, scoring 24 goals and only conceding three.

The only barrier I can see the US would have en route to winning the Cup is them being overconfident. They’ve played very well: better than any other nation. However they showed in their Round Of 16 game against Spain they could give it all away. They won 2-1, but on two penalty kicks from Rapinoe. They did come back in the QuarterFinals against France winning 2-1. However they should not go to the Final thinking they’ll roll over the Netherlands. The Netherlands has surprised all their major opponents here in France. For the US to win, they have to be on the ball and take the Netherlands seriously.

Netherlands FootballNetherlands: Before Women’s Euro 2017, people did not expect much of the Netherlands. Why should they after they finished in the Round of 16 in Canada 2015 and failed to qualify for the Olympics? However they surprised everybody by winning all their games and would win the final by beating Denmark 4-2. This made it the first Women’s Euro since 1993 that Germany didn’t win! Here at this Women’s World Cup, expectations were good but not that big. Canada was expected to top Group E, but the Netherlands did it by winning all their games, including beating Canada 2-1. Then in the Round of 16, they were pitted against Japan whom they lost to in Canada 2015. This time the Netherlands won. They were pitted against Italy in the quarterfinals and won 2-0. Then came Sweden who was more expected to win the game. It started with nil-nil after regulation, but a goal from Jackie Groenen in the 99th changed it all. Now it’s the Netherlands in the final.

What can I say? The Netherlands have silenced their critics. Especially those who dismissed their win at the Women’s Euro as host-country luck. These past six matches show that the Netherlands have earned their place in the WWC Final. However the United States team has more seasoned players and have consistently shown to be a stronger team unit with more know-how of the game than the Dutch players. Now don’t get me wrong. I think the Netherlands can win against the USA, but they will have to play like they’ve never played before, both as individuals and as a team unit, and take advantage of any American weak-spots once they find them.

My Prediction:

I hate to side with the majority so instantaneously, but I think the United States will win this 4-1. I hate to peeve off Oranje fans, I could be wrong, but the Netherlands simply making it to the final already shows how much women’s football has improved there.

And there you go. That’s my prediction for the Final of the Women’s World Cup, as well as my prediction for the third-place match. To think it will all be decided by Sunday. What a month it’s been!

 

 

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Movie Review: Thor

Once again, Marvel Comics had another superhero movie for release. This time it was Thor and it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh. The big question is does Thor stack up? And is Branagh able to direct sci-fi action?

Before I give my review, I have to confess that I’ve never read the Thor comic books so I am unable to compare the movie with the comics. I can just judge the movie for what it is.

The movie takes place between two worlds. The first is in the supernatural world of Asgard in 965 A.D. The second is in present day New Mexico. Odin, king of Asgard is in a war against the Frost Giants in their quest to conquer the Nine Realms, including Earth. The Asgardian army wins and seizes the Casket of Ancient Winters. Just as Odin is about to crown Thor the new king, Frost Giants attempt to retrieve the Casket. Against Odin’s order, Thor battles Laufey and the Giants along with his brother Loki, childhood friend and the Warriors Three. The battle destroys the fragile truce between the two races and Thor is stripped of his godly power by Odin for his arrogance. He is banished via a Bifrost to present day Earth along with his hammer–the source of his power–protected by an enchantment only allowing the worthy to wield it.

Thor lands in present-day New Mexico where he is found by astrophysicist Jane Parker, her assistant Darcy Lewis and her mentor Dr. Selvig. However Thor and the hammer also caught the attention of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who soon commandeers the hammer area building a security-tight shield and and forcibly acquires Jane’s data about the wormhole that delivered Thor to earth. Thor learns of his hammer inside the S.H.I.E.L.D. area and breaks in to retrieve it. He’s unable to lift it and is captured by the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Selvig is able to break him free and is left exiled on Earth clueless of his surroundings. He does develop a romance with Jane.

In the supernatural world, Loki learns he is the son of Laufey, the leader of the Frost Giants who the king adopted after the war ended. Loki is able to manipulate his way to becoming king when a stressed-out Odin falls into a deep recuperating ‘Odinsleep’. He offers Laufey the chance to kill Odin and retrieve the Casket. His rule does not sit well with the Warriors Three and try to find a way to enter the Bifrost but Loki soon learns of the plan and sends a warrior to Earth to kill Thor. The Warriors find Thor, but the Destroyer attacks and defeats them, which prompts Thor to offer himself instead. After he’s hit by the the Destroyer by a potentially fatal strike, his self-sacrifice now makes him worthy to wield the hammer. As he finally retrieves his hammer, his powers return to him and allows him to defeat the Destroyer. Before he leaves back to Asgard with his fellow Asgardians, he kisses Jane goodbye and vows to return.

As Thor and the Asgardians return to Asgard, Loki kills Laufey in an attempt to destroy the Frost Giants land with the Bifrost Bridge to appear worthy of the crown to Odin. Thor arrives and fights Loki while destroying the Bifrost Bridge to destroy Loki’s plan. Thor is left to battle Loki stranded on Asgard in danger of falling into the Abyss.  Odin awakes and prevents the brothers from falling into the abyss, but Loki does a suicide fall. Before Odin coronates Thor, Thor admits he’s not ready to be king while back on Earth, Jane and her colleagues seek for a way to open the portal to Asgard.

Overall the movie has the predictable thick drama one would come to expect from a superhero movie. The special effects were excellent and top notch. The set design of the world of Thor was excellent. The action scenes were scenes that can keep one thrilled. The acting was the type of thick and casual acting one would expect from a popcorn movie, so no really bravado performance from Natalie Portman here. There’s no doubt the role of Thor was intended to make Chris Hemsworth a star. The directing was done right. Kenneth Branagh did a good job. The writing was also well done but sometimes went over the top during some of the more comical scenes. Overall Thor is the type of movie that would impress people who like action hero movies or your expected summer blockbuster fare.

Thor was a very good start to the summer movie season. It has what it takes to charm audiences of action movies and superhero movies as well as get summer movie crowds excited.

Move Review: Super 8

DISCLAIMER: Okay, I know I’m behind in my writing and my movie reviewing. This has been a summer where I’ve tried to relax as possible so please excuse while I play catch-up here.

It’s the summer: the time when Hollywood producers, directors and film companies compete for the #1 grossing movie and the top moneymaking film company. It’s always at the box office where they decide the tried-and-true from the tried-and-tired. Despite the intense competition, there’s always a movie that comes with modest expectations that surprises everyone and steals their attention in the end. Super 8 is a movie that came with no top billed cast, Steven Spielberg acting only as a producer, and directed by little-known J.J. Abrams. Nevertheless it surprised everyone who saw it and gave them more than their money’s worth.

The movie starts as Joe Lamb’s mother had died on the job at the steel mill in an Ohio town. His father, the town deputy, is not taking it that well and even arrests Louis Dainard, the town bad apple. Four months later, school’s out. Joe’s father wants to send him off to a baseball camp in Pennsylvania but Joe’s more interested in making a zombie movie with his friends. This is a film director Charles Kaznyk wants to make to win a Super 8 film competition. He convinces Alice Dainard, Louis’ daughter, to play the protagonist’s wife in the movie. Alice steals her father’s car and takes the group to a train station to film the scene. During the shoot, a train passes by which the crew hopes will add more to the story. During the passing, Joe notices a truck driving towards the train, colliding, and derailing the whole train. In the aftermath, the kids come across a lot of explosions from the train cars and unique white cubes amongst the debris. They also find out the man who hit the train was their biology teacher Mr. Woodward who instructs them never to talk of what they saw or they and their parents will be killed. Just before the children flee, they learn that the Super 8 camera was untouched during the crash. Later the U.S. Air Force arrives to take over the crash scene.

Over the next two days, strange paranormal phenomena occur like people and dogs disappearing, power lines vanishing, missing electronics and even a gas station destroyed by something unknown. Woodward, recovering from the accident, refuses to answer the Air Force any questions and he is poisoned by a soldier. The Air Force has complete control of the town and its people, even deliberately starting a wildfire to evacuate the whole town. The town relies on Joe’s father to assure them of their security and answer their questions.

In the meantime the kids try to use some of the events as catharsis for Charles’ film, including using one evacuation scene for shooting. They also try to look for clues to this whole mystery. The first clue comes in the developed film used at the train station shoot. They notice something bizarre, like bugs. Later after Alice is amongst the missing, they break into their school and search for any of Mr. Woodward’s items that may have clues to this creature. What they find is a film and audio recordings about a creature that crashed to Earth in 1958. The alien only wanted to rebuild its ship but the Force tortured and imprisoned it to take its technology. One film even showed Woodward attacked by the alien only to form a bond. Woodward crashed into the train to free the alien.

The Air Force capture the boys and place them on an Air Force bus heading back to the base only to be attacked by the alien. The alien kills the men from the Air Force bus with allows Joe and the boys to escape and return back to the town. The boys return to town which is under heavy fire from the malfunctioning military equipment. They find a subterranean lair near the cemetery where Joe’s mother is buried. They come across many missing people still alive, including Alice, in which the alien was planning to have for food. They also learn the town’s electronics are underneath the base of the water tower formed together in which the alien is hoping to build a machine to return him back to his planet. Joe rescues Alice but in the escape, Joe is caught by the alien. Joe tells the alien that he can still live on after the painful events. The alien understands him telepathically and allows Joe and his friends to escape.

Soon after, all the loose metal, including the cubes that break free from the Air Force transport truck, are attracted to the town’s water tower. The cubes align and a ship forms allowing the alien to enter and finally leave earth. During the end credits, we see the film in which Charles, Joe and his friends created. A fun zombie movie filled with simple effects and gory make-up.

The movie is not just about an alien breaking free from the Air Force captivity. It also has a lot of human elements and themes. One theme featured is about parent-child relations. The town sees Deputy Lamb as a hero but Joe sees him as someone who has alienated him ever since his mother’s death. Alice Dainard thinks her father’s a monster. Things turn for the worse as she befriends Joe and her father forbids him. Another theme is about trying to heal from the past. Deputy Lamb blames Louis Dainard for his wife’s death since he didn’t show up for his shift that day. Joe also keeps the locket of him as a baby in which his mother wore until her death. Another theme is about the growing pains of adolescence. Charles hoped using Alice in his film would attract her to him. Instead she develops a bond with Joe. That puts a hot spot in the friendship between Joe and Charles with Charles feeling like the misfit again because he’s overweight. This was one sci-fi film that had a lot of depth in its script that worked well with the movie.

One of the best things about this movie is that it will remind many people of Steven Spielberg’s thrillers of the past. I’m sure most of you have a favorite one: Jaws, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Poltergeist, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Gremlins, The Goonies. They captured people’s imaginations and dazzled viewers looking for an escapist thrill. Here in Super 8, we can see a lot of the Spielberg magic captured with the storyline, the special effects and the thrilling sequence of events. That’s what makes for a winning story. Many people can already see many hints of Spielberg’s past movie’s in Super 8. I’m sure if you see it or have seen it, you might too.

The best thing about the movie has to be the lack of star-billing in this movie. Here the main characters are the children. The adults are in minor roles. They are all great individually but its their unselfish performances together where the acting shines best as a whole. J.J. Abrams’ direction is also excellent. He was very good at taking the story he wrote and turning it into a thrilling movie that is as generous with its storyline as it is with its thrilling effects. With Spielberg acting as producer, I’m sure that J.J. Abrams could rightfully label himself the heir apparent to Spielberg. The visual effects definitely could pass as some of the best of the year. The mix of music with 70’s hits and the original score of Michael Giacchino was also excellent. Overall this was an excellent movie.

In terms of its business, Super 8 cost surprisingly over $50 million to make and even had a video game released with it. As of now, the film has grossed $125 million in North America and just over $200 million worldwide; not enough to rank it even in the annual Top 10 list of highest grossing movies. I really enjoyed it. I feel sorry for those who missed out on it. It’s also surprising to see that something like this about an alien invasion of such would draw and captivate moviegoers in the late 70’s but doesn’t seem to do so now.

Super 8 is an excellent summer movie that the viewer would expect little of but would leave the theatre amazed. This definitely has to be one of the best summer movies you could see. It may not look like your type of movie but if you give it a chance, you might be surprised.

Movie Review: Paul

Okay, you’re probably wondering why on earth am I just posting this review now when Paul has been out for at least a month? Here’s the thing. I don’t immediately rush out to the theatres whenever a movie comes out. I see them when I see them. Often when there’s a big hit movie, I wait weeks until the crowds die down to go see it. So that explains why you get my review of Paul later than most. So after explaining all that…

Who is Paul? He’s a fugitive. He’s a celebrity. He’s a slacker. He’s a joker…He’s an alien. Paul is all those things, and the subject of a recent comedy movie. The latest concoction of the British writing/acting collaboration of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. So how does this close encounter of the funny kind end up?

Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are two British comic book dweebs with a passion for sci-fi and alien encounters. The love it so much, they rent an RV and take it from San Diego’s Comic-Con all across the US for their own alien encounter tour. Little do they know they’d find themselves in trouble. First they come across some homophobic hunters who suspect them to be a couple. They head off, accidentally denting their truck. On the run, they get hit by a car driven by, among other things, an alien named Paul. The two bring Paul along in the RV. Little do they know that Paul is actually in pursuit by a shady government agent named Zoil who even recruits two inept FBI agents in the capture.

Later during a campfire over at a campground run by Moses, a strict Christian and his daughter Ruth, Paul tells the twosome that while captured by the government, he helped with Spielberg’s E.T. and the X-Files’ Mulder. Ever since he learned the government planned to dissect his brain, he’s been on the run since. Ruth is then kidnapped by the two. Once in the RV, she learns of Paul and refuses to trust him as it contradicts her devout beliefs. Once Paul heals her blind eye, blind since she was four, she trusts him to the point she becomes eager to sin.

Meanwhile Zoil and the two agents question Moses who says she was abducted by demons. Graeme, Ruth and Willy once again meet up with the homophobic hunters, but Paul comes to the rescue. Upon pursuit of Paul, Zoil and the agents come across him. Once Paul makes his escape, all three are after him but for their own separate pursuits each. Meanwhile Moses is chasing for Ruth.

Paul finds refuge in an old house which is owned by Tara, a young girl who saved his live back in 1947 and is all grown up, reclusive because of the ostracism she received throughout her life. Tara is relieved to find that Paul is real. After turning on the stove, a shootout ensues at her house, causing it to explode with Paul, Graeme, Clive, Ruth and Tara on the run. The three agents go on their pursuits again but only Zoil survives in meeting up with Paul, who is in a field waiting for his UFO to take him home. Instead, it’s a helicopter with ‘The Big Guy’, Zoil’s superior. Zoil reveals he was the one who helped Paul get away. Zoil disarms the men but is shot in the shoulder. Tara punches out ‘The Big Guy’. Moses shoots Clive dead. Paul heals him but his healing powers come at the risk of his own life. After Clive is revived, it appears Paul is dead but he’s just exhausted. Paul’s ship arrives, crushing ‘The Big Guy’. Heading for home, he invites Tara to come with him and finally live a life. Two years later, Clive, Graeme and Ruth return to Comic-Con. This time, they are on stage as successful comic book writers thanks to their comic book Paul.

I have to say the biggest overall glitch with this movie is that it often appears to rely on the crude and rude one-liners in many parts. It has enough humorous subject matter and comedic characters without having to resort too often to such lines. First off,  the incorporation of the subject lines of many alien shows of past, like Star Wars, Close Encounters, E.T. and the X-Files. Second off, there are already a lot of talented actors that have been able to prove of recent that they can do comedy well. Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader have proved their humor in Saturday Night Live and other movies they’ve acted in. Blythe Danner, Sigourney Weaver and Jason Bateman were also able to make their roles work in the movie. Seth Rogen, already a reputed funny man himself, did a good job in the voice over as Paul. Pegg and Frost are already known for their comedic acting as well as their writing for Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. They don’t have to resort too often to such low brow material.

Outside of that, the movie was a good job of meshing 3D animation with live-action, an alien encounter story with comedy, and even romance with sci-fi dweebs. Pegg and Frost once again show that they’re at their best when they’re together. They also showed they can do a good job with an American story line for the first time. Also it was unique to see a comedy not just revolve around an alien encounter but also with San Diego’s Comic-Con, which has grown in popularity in recent years to the point even A-listers make appearances.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who both wrote and star in Paul, describe it as a ‘love letter to Steven Spielberg’. You could describe their two previous big-screen comedies, Shaun OIf The Dead and Hot Fuzz, as ‘love letters’ too. If you saw Shaun Of The Dead, you’d tell it was a love letter to all those zombie movies. If you saw Hot Fuzz, you’d definitely know it was a love letter to all those gunslinger action movies of the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t think Paul is so much a love letter to Spielberg as much as it is a love letter to sci-fi as a whole. Good mesh of stories but I feel this movie is more of a salute to sci-fi dweebs and comic books geeks the world over.

Paul is an enjoyable movie. Even though I felt it could be better with the humor in the script, it is a delight to watch. Pegg and Forst know how to do enjoyable movies and they do it again here.