Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember When?

I remember when stuff used to be different, do you?

Remember when Sunny D was actually called Sunny Delight, and Sunny D was just the nickname?

Remember when there were only like 4 marshmallow shapes in Lucky Charms? I remember a time when there was a horse shoe, a moon, a clover and a star. That was it.

In the same vein, remember when there were three Cinnamon Toast Crunch chefs? I do. Now there's only one, Wendell. What happened to the other guys? I think they either got murdered by Wendell or died of cinnamon lung from all the years in the factory.

Remember when The Simpsons was funny?

Remember when we thought Tiger Woods was incapable of failure? Yikes, that seems like a long time ago.

Remember when Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy were funny without being made into animated characters?

Remember when Americans really cared about soccer? Me neither.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movie of the Week- 100th Post Special

For my 100th Post- (We made it, baby!) I will review the best movie ever made and my favorite movie ever.

This week,


Starring- Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton

Winner of Best Picture and Best Actor, as well as other awards, The Godfather is AFI's third best film ever, and Conor's number one film of all time. Based on the bestseller by Mario Puzo, The Godfather is the epic story of the Corleone mafia family that launched director Francis Ford Coppola and much of his young cast to stardom, and reinvigorated Marlon Brando's career with his turn as Don Vito Corleone, aka the Godfather.

Puzo and Coppola's script brilliantly adapts Puzo's book into a sweepingly beautiful and tragic film that examines family more than it does the criminal underworld. I have always felt that The Godfather is the story about a family that happens to be involved in organized crime rather than about the mafia itself. The relationships and the struggle for parental and sibling respect and love are things that all families can relate to- regardless of their "business." In the case of the Corleones the business is illegitimate, but because of Don Vito's far reaching influence, they are almost impervious to any consequences. This all changes, however, when a drug kingpin wants to partner with the Corleones, but is rebuffed by the Don. Sollozo, the narcotics man, has the Don shot, leaving the family in chaos as the Don's sons are forced to pick up the pieces.

What happens next is the truly amazing part of The Godfather. Sonny (Caan), Michael (Pacino) and adopted son, Tom Hagen (Duvall) do their best to keep the family afloat, amid revenge killings and corrupt police who try to kill the Don while he recovers from the shooting. The back and forth between the brothers, and how they each deal with the circumstances is expertly directed by Coppola. The rapport that the actors had prior to shooting comes across on screen, as you truly believe that they are brothers. Caan is fabulous as the fiery Sonny, as is Duvall as the level headed Hagen, but the real kudos go to Pacino. Michael's evolution as a character is the real arc of the film, as he begins as an outsider who wants nothing to do with the family business, but gets drawn in after his father's near death. It is sad to think that Pacino wasn't wanted by the studio for the role of Michael because now it is impossible to imagine anyone else as the youngest Corleone son.

Michael's slide into the mafia world is brilliantly captured on screen in the famous dinner scene with Sollozo and corrupt police Captain McClusky. What follows is a sweeping love story that takes place as Michael is in exile in Sicily. Tragedies ensue, as they always do in crime families, and Michael is forced to return to take over the family from his father who has recovered, but is no longer the strong figure he once was. Pacino expertly makes his transformation throughout the film, and is helped along by the Corleone confederates who try to maintain the family's power despite long odds. By the end of the film we are overpowered by the idea of what family truly means, and how it can make us do things we never wanted to do.

While this film has been parodied and impersonated countless times, The Godfather is able to withstand them all because it is a truly timeless work of art. The direction, the dialogue, the cinematography and the fabulous ensemble cast set it apart from any competitors. Despite many problems during the shooting of the film, it could not be stopped from being great. It is all at once a crime drama, historical snapshot and family saga, and it has earned the greatest compliment of all- being featured on this blog.

Things to watch for-

The Baptism scene
Luca Brasi
That horse head
Nino Rota's iconic score
Toll booths can be deadly

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Top 5 Fictional Bands

There have been many made up musical groups over the years, and I happen to like many of them. Movies and T.V. shows have given us some great songs from bands that aren't real, but so often you wish that they were. Here now are my favorite bands that don't actually exist.


The Simpsons gave us this barbershop quartet of Homer, Barney, Apu and Principal Skinner, that won a Grammy Award for their hit "Baby on Board." Just like another band on this list, the Be Sharps are a parody of The Beatles, and most of their work revolves around jokes about the Fab Four. For example, they do a rooftop concert, many of their album covers look like Beatle albums and Barney even gets a Japanese avant garde girlfriend.


Jabba the Hutt's house band is an all time classic fake group. I'm more a fan of the early Max Rebo Band's stuff- meaning the work that they did before George Lucas had to add crap to the 1997 release of Return of the Jedi. Go back and watch for their great hits in the original version of the film. Sy Snoodles is a hot lead singer too.


If you're going to rip off a real band for your fake band, there is no better one to steal from than The Beatles. Instead of John, Paul, George and Ringo, The Rutles boast the lineup of Nasty, Dirk, Stig and Barry and their musical prowess is amazing enough to last a lunchtime. With their hits like, Ouch!, Yellow Submarine Sandwich and Get Up and Go, we are privy to musical genius in its highest form. It's actually really fun to see how much their songs sound like Beatle hits without actually being direct rip-offs.


This band would be number one, but they are a borderline real band, so they get bumped to two. The great show band of Joliet Jake and Elwood actually toured, had several albums and two movies because they were so good on Saturday Night Live. The Blues Brothers signature sound was a traditional blues rhythm section combined with a New York horn section and the smoky vocals of Jake Blues (John Belushi). They really set the standard for all future fake bands to be measured against. No phony music act, save one, can top their awesomeness.


Britain's loudest band is also the greatest fake band of all time. Spinal Tap's lineup of David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls has given us so many great hits like Big Bottom, Sex Farm and Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight, as well as the definitive example of how to live the rock and roll lifestyle. No other band, fake or real, lives up to their billing like Tap does. Despite their line of deceased drummers, all black album covers and some controversy over their music, they are still out there today making fake music and cranking it up to eleven.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fun Facts

I like to tell people things that they may not know. These things are usually fun little facts or bits of trivia that I have picked up over the years, and have stored away in my brain. Here now are some fun facts from the Cranium of Conor.

Winston Churchill used to dictate memos and written material to his secretaries from the bathtub.

Tom Selleck was the original choice to play Indiana Jones, but was unavailable because of his commitment to Magnum P.I.

Queen Elizabeth I was called the 'Virgin Queen' because of her refusal to marry and devote herself completely to her nation, and not complicate her life with a husband.

The literary character of Horatio Hornblower was Gene Roddenberry's original basis for the character of Captain Kirk, and later the basis for director Nicholas Meyer's vision for Star Trek II.

There is a rumor that the envelope containing the New York Knicks logo was chilled in 1985 to allow them to get the first pick in the draft in order to select Georgetown center Patrick Ewing. At the time, the NBA Draft Lottery was done by putting envelopes containing each team's logo in a drum and drawing them out "randomly."

Adam West was a possible replacement for Sean Connery as James Bond in Diamonds are Forever.

During the 1960 presidential election, a debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon garnered very different reactions from those who watched the debate on T.V. and those who listened to it on the radio. The people who saw the debate on T.V. thought that the good looking, clean cut Kennedy won over the sweaty, five o'clock shadow sporting Nixon, while those who simply heard the debate thought that Nixon had better arguments and won. T.V. eventually trumped radio as Kennedy beat Nixon.

Yours truly was in an Arctic Circle wazmo shades commercial s a kid. Oh yeah.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch

This movie sadly flew under a lot of people's radar, but I am glad to bring it to your attention now. Just like Director David Wain's other classic comedy- Wet Hot American Summer, this movie is rife with great characters, moments and lines. It follows two energy drink reps who get sentenced to 150 hours of community service with Sturdy Wings, a Big Brothers, Big Sisters knockoff. Hilarity ensues as Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) bond with their two young friends.

Danny's "little" is Augie Farks, a nerdy teen who spends his time in L.A.I.R.E., a large scale medieval role playing game, and Wheeler's charge is Ronnie, a smart mouthed black kid who likes boobies. The foursome struggles to bond, but in the end they become close and triumph in the L.A.I.R.E. battle royale. There are many movies like this out there, but the writing is so clever and the performances are so nuanced that it feels new and fresh. Role Models also boasts a first rate cast that brings back many of the same actors that made Wet Hot so great. Rudd and Banks are joined by Joe LoTruglio, Ken Marino, A.D. Miles and even Wain himself. All of these performers, as well as the fantastic Jane Lynch, are so quick and good at improv that there are riotously funny moments within moments.

While I do not think this film is quite up to the Wet Hot standard, it has much of what I expected when I heard it had come out. In fact, there are many in-jokes and references that are especially great for fans of earlier films by Wain as well as the comedy show The State, which featured many of the same actors. Where this film does trump Wet Hot is in the overall message. There is a little more heart in Role Models, and even though the moral of the story is dressed down with sex and KISS inspired jokes, the viewer walks out thinking about what it means to be a role model.

Things to watch for-

Jim Stansel- he's that guy
The whispering eye
The bagel dog
The Burger Hole

"I'm not here to service you, I'm here to service these young boys."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Like You

As the antithesis to my Schmohawk posts, I now present a few people that I admire/like/think everyone should be aware of.


This guy is the funniest stand-up working today. You might know him from his work as the Rat in Ratatouille, but do yourself a favor and listen to some of his work. His routines are full of great stories, references, sarcasm and self deprecating comments. For those who think Dane Cook and Larry the Cable Guy are the height of comedy, I'm here to reeducate you, and tell you that the best jokes come out of this short, stocky comic book nerd and not one of those other d bags.


Even though he has sadly departed this earth, this man was a class act all the way. In a business where people change husbands and wives like toilet paper rolls, he was married and loyal to his wife, Joanne Woodward, for 50 years. In addition, he was a race car driver, a humanitarian and a bad-ass actor. If I could be someone else, Paul Newman would be at the top of my list. I think I'll go eat some fabulous Newman's Own products and watch The Sting.


She is the only thing keeping Saturday Night Live afloat these days. Her characters and nuanced performances are really remarkable, considering what crappy other people she has to play off of. I hope that they can bring in some other people who are up to her standard so that she doesn't bolt and take a crappy NBC show called "The Office: Sandusky."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Utah Jazz Season Wrap Up

Well, another season has come and gone for our beloved team, and once again we have been ousted by the hated Los Angeles Lakers. I am very sad that the Jazz didn't make it farther, especially when we had such a great streak of games in the early part of 2010. Instead we saw the Jazz limp into the playoffs, a wounded, but resilient group, that was able to knock out a Denver team that everyone, including me, thought we would lose to. Now begins the soul searching and head scratching as we look forward to an uncertain off season and the hope that we will do better next year.

Here is what we KNOW about the Jazz-

Deron Williams is the best point guard in the league, and he can play through injury better than anyone since Malone and Stockton. Any debate about Chris Paul vs. Deron needs to stop because it isn't fair to Chris Paul anymore.

Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko are soft and can't be counted on to be there when they are needed most. In order for them to stay with the team, the Jazz need to get solid players at their positions who can step up when they inevitably miss time due to their little boo boos.

Carlos Boozer is a very solid 20/10 guy and plays well most of the time. I was very impressed with him this year, and frankly hope that he stays. There are so few guys who can do what he does on a nightly basis that the Jazz need to try to keep him. Also, he and Deron run the Sloan system really well together- except against the Lakers.

Wesley Matthews and C.J. Miles earned a lot of respect this season. These two made huge strides and filled in nicely during Kirilenko's extended absence. I think one of them needs to go so that we can upgrade our wing spots, but because of their strong play, the Jazz can demand someone good in return.

Fesenko and Koufos are not the answer in the post. Get rid of them and get someone who could actually hang with guys like Gasol, Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire.

Here is what I think SHOULD happen in the off season-

We resign Boozer.

The Jazz draft Greg Monroe from Georgetown with the Knicks' pick and he becomes the guy who can do what I just said Fes and Koufos can't. He is a great passer and long enough to be a real shot blocking presence inside.

We package Miles and/or Korver and one of our bigs and trade for a starting swingman to play alongside Matthews. Someone like the Hawks' Joe Johnson who underachieved enough this year to be available to us. Maybe even Andre Igoudala would be a possibility.

The Jazz open the season with a starting lineup of Williams, Joe Johnson, Matthews, Boozer and Monroe and a bench of Millsap, Kirilenko, Ronnie Price, Sundiata Gaines and Okur. That's a team that could be deep enough to give any Western Conference rivals real trouble.

You're welcome, Mr. O'Connor.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,

IRON MAN 2 (2010)

Starring- Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle

I don't usually review brand new films, but I'm going rogue and letting you know my thoughts on a movie that came out this weekend.  Iron Man 2 is the first of what I hope to be many "new release" movies of the week. The film picks up right where the last one left off, with weapons mogul Tony Stark (Downey) having revealed that he is Iron Man, and dealing with all of the problems that come with his new superhero persona. In addition to the government wanting him to turn over his suit, Stark must also deal with rival weapons maker Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), and mysterious Russian physicist, Ivan Vanko (Rourke), who is out for revenge.

The villains set up some very interesting plot lines that play out against a backdrop of witty one-liners, showy effects and thinly veiled social commentary about the military industrial complex. There are, however, some shortcomings in this movie, but they are not enough to derail a very fun adventure. The most major criticisms that I have are with the S.H.I.E.L.D. Organization subplot which only really serves to set up another Marvel film, The Avengers. This distracts from the movie we are actually watching, and muddies up the action with unnecessary characters, i.e. Samuel L. Jackson's phoned-in Nick Fury, and Scarlett Johansson's boring Black Widow, who feel as if they were inserted at the last minute when the studio decided to green light The Avengers. Because of this, there is less screen time for more interesting people like Vanko and Hammer, as well as Stark's sidekick Rhodey, played this time by the always watchable Don Cheadle.

The plot unfolds rather predictably, but there are enough quirky moments and exciting action sequences that it feels fresh. Some scenes of note include, the Grand Prix scene in Monaco, Hammer's presentation of the "ex-wife," and Stark's drunken birthday meltdown. Also, any scene that has Downey and Paltrow doing their old married couple routine is amusing. The ending is semi-anti-climactic, but there is enough of a payoff that you won't walk out feeling gipped. See Iron Man 2 for all the things that were good about the first one- action, charm, wit, gadgets and Robert Downey, Jr.

Things to Watch For-

My Bird
The Late DJ AM
A great AC/DC laden soundtrack
Cool Cars
The after the credits scene

"I have successfully privatized world peace."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part III

Here is Part III of my paper on the Vietnam War.

It was not known at the beginning of the war how little the U.S. government and military knew about their enemy and how best to fight them. The North Vietnamese military and the Viet Cong knew the territory and had developed a way to fight that gave them an advantage over their enemy. Ambushes were the nature of battle in the Vietnam War, and in some ways the Americans did not expect that type of warfare. “It was coming from everywhere, the ground the trees. Suddenly, everyone around me was getting hit and dying...We fought and fought for what seemed hours, but it was no good.” This description of battle at Ia Drang in October 1965 by Sergeant Miguel Seise illustrates that the U.S. military was not prepared to face an enemy like the one they encountered in Vietnam. 

Even though the Americans were victorious at Ia Drang they suffered 247 deaths and 570 wounded. Battles like the one at Ia Drang would soon become more commonplace as 1965 turned into 1966 with more men dying. In June, 1966 the war was already showing signs of turning against the Americans. Kenneth Peeples wrote of a horrific battle, “I can’t help crying now because I think about the horror...In my squad of nine men, only four of us survived.” Horrors like those experienced by Peeples were about to become much more common as the U.S. commitment intensified. By 1966 an average of 400 men were killed each month in Vietnam. The battles in which these soldiers died were usually without a clear victor, and with a new objective by the enemy, killing as many U.S. soldiers as possible.

As time went on, U.S. soldiers realized that they were fighting a war on the Viet Cong’s terms, without a clear plan to gain the upper hand. A small factor contributing to the V.C. advantage was guns and ammunition. Shortly after the U.S. arrived in Vietnam, the U.S. Army switched the standard rifle from the heavy, reliable M-14 to the less reliable, plastic M-16. The Viet Cong, however, packed the highly effective Russian AK-47 which could utilize both Russian and U.S. ammunition. Rifleman Frank McCarthy called the M-16 a “Mattel Toy.” According to McCarthy and others in his unit (101st Airborne) the war in 1965 and 1966 was meant to last only a year or possibly two, but after a few months in Vietnam he noticed a lack of action by the U.S. military heads which lead to an inactive American force who were “immobile.”

One of the elements that gave the Americans a mobile advantage quickly turned against them in 1966. By using helicopters for support, a U.S. unit that was pinned down by enemy fire could call in and have the helicopters bring reinforcements. Beginning in early 1966, the Viet Cong took advantage of the predictable U.S. pattern of calling in for reinforcements by waiting and ambushing the helicopters. Army correspondent Frank Faulkner noticed how these attacks on helicopters shook American soldiers, and sent morale shooting downward. By using their advantage against them, the Viet Cong continued to make the U.S. fight their war, their way.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Things I Think

It's been a while since I shared some of my unfiltered thoughts with you. Here are some new pearls of wisdom from the Brain of Bentley.

I think that Pau Gasol looks like Big Bird.

I think there is a great deal to be learned from your elders. If you have living grandparents or even great-grandparents, take time to sit down with them and learn about what they have experienced. Their stories are priceless, and may give you some valuable insights.

I think the work of Stephen Sondheim is grossly underrated and not performed as much as it should be.

I think the Philadelphia Eagles are going to be sorry that they traded Donavan McNabb.  Especially when he comes to town with the Redskins and kicks their ass.

I think that neck tattoos are kinda gross.

I think thrift stores are a great place to find certain items. Don't be such a snob, and check out what they have. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

I think there is a special place in hell for people who do bad things to children. Do you hear me, Catholic Church?

I think going to Costco is a great way to get lots of cool, reasonably priced items. I also think that it is a great way to make sure you never want to have kids.

I think the new movie version of Robin Hood should be called, Gladiator: The Next Generation. You know, because Russell Crowe is on both of them and...oh forget it.

I think I'll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun's calling my name.