Oscar Taveras Always in the Heart of Cardinal Nation

RIP Oscar Taveras CardinalsOne week ago, Cardinal’s nation was dealing with the calamity of being eliminated from the post season by the San Francisco Giants. Today, that loss is put into perspective, by the true tragedy of the death of 22-year old outfielder Oscar Taveras. Early Sunday evening, the sports world was shocked to learn that Taveras and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, 18, were killed in a car accident near Taveras’ hometown of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. According to Lt. Col. Jose Armando Brito of the Dominican Republic National Police, Taveras lost control of his Chevy Camaro going around a curve and crashed into a tree at 7:40 p.m. ET. Taveras and Arvelo were taken to Sosua Cabarete Medical Center where they died from injuries sustained in the crash. The accident is still under investigation but it is believed that wet roads and excessive speed may have been contributing factors of the accident.

The news of Taveras’ death Sunday broke just as the World Series game 5 was starting and many of his teammates took to social media to exhibit their grief. Kolten Wong (@KoltenWong) tweeted “Wow! My heart truly hurts to hear the passing of Oscar! I’ve played with him every year and we truly lost a great person! #RIPOscarTaveras.”

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. stated, “We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of the youngest members of the Cardinals family. Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight.”

A memorial service for Taveras was scheduled for Monday night with a funeral planned for Tuesday afternoon. Cardinal’s manager Mike Matheny, GM John Mozeliak, and several teammates including Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez were expected to attend.

On Monday morning Matheny issued an official statement, “I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn’t. First of all, it felt like a bad dream that could not be real, and when reality kicked in, my words didn’t even seem to make sense. To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement. To talk about the potential of his abilities seemed to be untimely. All I wanted to do was get the guys together and be with our baseball family. I know the hurt that comes along with buying into the brotherhood of a baseball team. That hurt is just as powerful as the joys that come with this life. Not to say it is even close to the depth of pain his true family is going through, but the pain itself is just as real. The ache is deep because the relationships were deep, and forged through time and trials. To the many fans who have already reached out with condolences, and to the many more who are in mourning, thank you for taking these players in, like they are one of your own. This level of care is what sets our fans apart. In my opinion, the word ‘love’ is the most misused and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar.”

taveras cardinals battingTaveras was signed by the Cardinals on November 15th 2008 as an undrafted amateur free agent and at the age of 17 played for the Cardinals Dominican Summer League team in 2009. In 2010, the Cardinals organization brought Taveras to the states where he played for Rookie League affiliate Johnson City. Taveras quickly made his mark batting .322 with 43 RBIs in 53 games. The following season the then 19-year-old Taveras was promoted to Single-A Quad Cities where his hot hitting continued, batting .386 with 62 RBIs in 78 games. This was enough for the ranking bodies to take note of Taveras. Following his 2011 season with Quad Cities, Taveras was ranked as the #74 prospect by Baseball America, and #23 by Baseball Prospectus. Those rankings would continue to rise the following season as Taveras scorched the Texas League for Double-A Springfield. By midseason, Taveras was considered the #3 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, as well as by MLB.com. Taveras finished the season in Springfield, batting .321 with 23 homeruns and 94 RBIs, making his first of two appearances in the MLB Futures Game and playing in the Texas League All-Star Game, in which he won the MVP. Following the 2012 season, Tavares received numerous awards and honors including: Cardinals Organization Player of the Year, Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year, Texas League Player of the Year, Texas League Top Prospect, Texas League’s Most Exciting Player, Texas League’s Best Batting Prospect, Baseball America Minor League All-Star, Topps Texas League Player of the Year, and the Topps Double-A All-Star.

After a season and a half playing for Triple-A Memphis, the 21-year old Taveras made his much anticipated major league debut on May 31st 2014. He didn’t disappoint. With one out in the bottom of the 5th, Taveras stepped to the plate for his second major league at bat. A light rain began to fall, and I began putting my son’s snacks back into our bag to keep them dry.   Moments later, Taveras drove Yusmeiro Petit’s 1-0 pitch over the right field bullpen, slicing through the falling rain drops to land mere feet away from my seats. I, along with 40,000+ other fans, celebrated the young phenom’s first major league homerun. I remember telling my three-year-old son, who was more excited about the fireworks, how special the day was for him to be at the game where Taveras hit his first, and that it would be something he would think was really cool when he got older. Unfortunately that would be the only Taveras homerun my son would see. Taveras’ bat cooled off and he was up and down between the majors and minors before being called up for good, following the trade of Allen Craig at the end of June. In total, Taveras played 80 games for the club during his rookie season, batting .239 with three homeruns and 22 RBIs. He did make the postseason roster as well for the club. In what would be his final appearance in front of fans at Busch Stadium, Taveras belted a game-tying pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the 7th inning of the NLCS Game 2, the only game of the series the Cardinals would win.

A makeshift memorial to Taveras has formed outside of Busch Stadium gate three, where fans have been placing mementos, candles, and flowers to pay respects to the fallen Cardinal. Mozeliak stated that Taveras will be remembered in a special ceremony in St. Louis, but details for that service have not yet been finalized. Rest in Peace Oscar; you will be missed.

Dave Sanders is a sports economist and instructor of economics at St. Louis University. He can be contacted at sandersdt@slu.edu

66: ‘John Wick’ Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe

john wickKeanu Reeves is back.

I mean, he must be back, right? He says it right there in the commercials. Well, not so fast there  Bill (or was he Ted)…we’ll be the judges of whether or not you’re back.

It’s Reel Spoilers 66 – John Wick.

You’ve been warned.

Starring: Tom O’Keefe, Blake Fehl, Joe Buttice, Dan Graney, Kevin Brackett
Run-time: 1hr 19min

You can listen to the podcast above, subscribe to our RSS feed, or subscribe via iTunes. You can also find us on the Stitcher radio app for smartphones and iPads.

65: Return of the Halloween Movie Fun-Time Special Edition Spectacular

Gargoyles Movie PosterLast year for Halloween we gave you our longest episode ever - Halloween Fun-Time Special Edition (Director’s Cut). Clocking in at almost an hour and forty minutes, we tackled five Halloween movies in five different categories for a total of almost (um…five times five, carry the one or something)…ONE THOUSAND MOVIES.

This year we streamlined the process a bit and decided to focus on one category – Movies That Scared When We Were Kids. Now, keep in mind that the things that frightened as children might not be quite so a scary in the bright light of adulthood. And in some instances those things might not even come from horror movies.

It’s Reel Spoilers #65 – Return of the Halloween Fun-Time Special Edition.

You’ve been warned.

Starring: Tom O’Keefe, Blake Fehl, Joe Buttice, Dan Graney, Kevin Brackett

Run-time: 1hr 20min

You can listen to the podcast above, subscribe to our RSS feed, or subscribe via iTunes. You can also find us on the Stitcher radio app for smartphones and iPads.

Movie Review: ‘John Wick’ Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, Bridget Moynahan

john wickThis time of year tends to be a slow time for the movies.. with summer having ended, and it is not yet that holiday stretch in which big movies pull all the stops for the biggest box office draws. That being said, not all movies that are worth your time have to come during the holidays or summer. This happens to be one of those cases in which people be pleasantly surprised; enter John Wick.

Let’s jump into the bare bones of John Wick. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a former contract killer who is just trying to lead a normal life( or as normal as one with a history of his could). John spent one of his days driving his sweet 1969 Boss Mustang around and some young thug, Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) inquires about the price of the car. John tells him it is not for sale, but despite that, Iosef and his boys follow John home, surprise attack him, steal the Mustang, and kill his dog because it was barking at them. To add insult to injury, that dog was a parting gift from John’s wife (Bridget Moynahan) in her final days before losing her battle with an unnamed illness (cancer?). Some may scoff at the basic premise of the film, but you have to ask yourself if you had a skill set akin to John’s, and people took some of your property, something of sentimental value; i.e. the life of the dog and it’s connection to someone dear to you, would you not do something about it? People in real life have actually killed for much less.

Though, the story does not fall into the category of groundbreaking, lets talk about what John Wick does quite well… I’m only talking about the action. It can be described as both visceral and stylish with many uses of deadly and efficient movements in a way that is pleasing to the eye. It’s apparent that Keanu has been on a martial arts kick for sometime and this movie is certainly a good outlet for such a display. There were not signs of the whole ridiculous high kick here, ridiculous high kick there, business… it was more like crushed throat here, this guy over there is for sure to have a closed casket funeral. A ballet of chaos if you will. This delivery of action would not have been possible without the likes of stunt coordinators (and in this case directors too) Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. If their names don’t ring a bell, I’ll inform you that these two did a lot of stunt work for The Matrix, so it is safe to say they know a thing or two about upping the ante in making a scene and the actors portrayed looking good in the midst of the madness. Another thing to note is that you can see what is going on. A bullet connecting here, an elbow here, it can actually be seen! Some filmmakers have mistakenly gotten the impression that if  you have a shaky camera and a bunch of random things occurring in the scene, that it is supposed to generate excitement. How does one get excited about things that they are NOT SEEING in an ACTION movie? In short, John Wick does not have this problem.

Yes, John Wick is a bloody action movie, but it is not without it’s comedic beats. The things that generate humor in the film are not done unintentionally. It comes from  well placed pieces of dialogue and use of situational irony. In the case of the genre, such things can add to, or on the other end break what was otherwise a solid film.

Something that does, however, make John Wick standout is the ‘universe’ the movie establishes. It’s quite clear that John Wick has quite the reputation for the insane body count he has racked up over the years, and the fact that the various individuals / or groups (that are still alive) so casually address his line of work. Marcus (Willem Dafoe) is a man who has clearly worked in the organization at least as long as John has, and it is alluded to that they have quite the history. Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) seems to be a former employer of John’s and also coincidentally the father of the young punk who just had to have that Mustang that was mentioned before. There is some sort of code that this shady organization John is tied to abides by. One cannot help but wonder just how far these contract killing businesses’ influence stretches in the film’s universe. It’s like they’re hidden in plain sight. It brings about a source of intrigue. With these fun mysteries about, it’d be easy to jump the conclusion of possible sequels, but at the same time there is enough finality where this could be a one-off kind of deal.

With Keanu Reeves having just hit the 50 mark, we can say he has officially joined the “over-the-hill and still kicks copious amounts of ass” club. This seems more like a return to form for Reeves in this genre, who knows, maybe he’ll get Neeson style typecast in a few years. Action movies are a dime a dozen, and while John Wick may not be the most original in concept, but the important thing is that it executes what it sets out to do rather well.

John Wick is a B+

 

64: ‘Fury’ Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman

fury movie posterThis week we take on Fury the latest from Brad Pitt. Set in the waning days of World War II, Pitt leads a battle-hardened tank crew (plus one newbie) into battle with a gritty take on “The Great War”. Great discussion abounds as we talk about the amoral depiction of U.S. soldiers, some of the films “rape-ier” moments, and the importance of having a good combat nickname (like “Wardaddy”).

It’s Reel Spoilers #64 – Fury.

You’ve been warned.

Starring: Tom O’Keefe, Blake Fehl, Joe Buttice, Kevin Brackett

Run-time: 1hr 8min

You can listen to the podcast above, subscribe to our RSS feed, or subscribe via iTunes. You can also find us on the Stitcher radio app for smartphones and iPads.

This Week in Games: Halo 3 at 1080p/60fps, Deals, New Titanfall Mode, Ridley Scott’s ‘Halo: Nightfall’

Master Chief CollecitonWelcome to This Week in Games, a weekly recap of some of the best news to come our way.

First off Microsoft and 343 Studios just released a two minute video of Halo 3—which is part of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection—running at 1080p and 60fps. Don’t know about you guys, but here at ReviewSTL we can’t wait to take on the Flood and Covenant again.

Continuing with the Halo theme, Microsoft has just released the trailer for the Ridley Scott-produced Halo: Nightfall series. You can view the trailer below. <!–more–>

Next, Respawn Entertainment, in a bid to stay relevant, has announced three new game modes for Titanfall—the highlight being a 4 player co-op horde mode. Players will take on waves of AI-controlled enemies, be able to setup automated guns, provide fire from drop ships and use their Titans to control the landscape. In addition to the horde mode, they’ll be a adding a variant of the Marked for Death mode called Mark for Death Pro—a single elimination version of the popular game type. They’ll also be adding a game type called Deadly Ground, which is a pretty much the “Floor is Lava” mode, forcing players to wall-run to traverse the battlefield.

Rounding things off, we have some great PC and Xbox game deals.

Deals

PC (Steam)

PlayStation 4

  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition ($29.99) | Amazon.com

 

That’s all for this week, visit ReviewSTL next week for your recap on the best of gaming news and more deals!

Review: ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ Opens New Line’s 24th Season With a “Bang, Bang”

Bonnie and Clyde Musical New Line TheatreBonnie and Clyde (or Clyde and Bonnie, if you asked him) were a couple of American outlaws who captured the attention of the public in the early 1930s. While these two kids weren’t much more than a couple of petty robbers, commonly knocking over gas stations and small “mom and pop” stores, the media glamorized their exploits into legend. And now legend has become musical. Following its short run on Broadway, New Line has once again seen the potential in an unappreciated show – and has given it a new and glorious life!

Both newcomers to the company, Larissa White and Matt Pentecost play Bonnie and Clyde. The two leads share a phenomenal chemistry, as well as an energy that lights up the stage. Each of the actors hold their own in vocals and acting, but when they come together it is magic. The story starts off before the two of them met, with Bonnie’s dreams of being in the “Picture Show,” and Clyde trying to stay out of jail while singing about how “This World Will Remember Me.” The show then chronicles their relationship from their humble beginnings to making the headlines. Joining them are Clyde’s brother Buck (Brendan Ochs) and his wife Blanche (Sarah Porter), who both do a great job of providing the comedic relief in the show. Hot on their trails are Ted Hinton (Reynaldo Arceno) and Sheriff Schmid (Christopher Clark) who relentlessly track down the outlaws throughout the show.

Larissa White and Matt Pentecost in New Line Theatre's 'Bonnie and Clyde.' Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

Larissa White and Matt Pentecost in New Line Theatre’s ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

New Line veteran Zachary Allen Farmer steals the show, as he tends to do, every time he comes on stage as a local preacher. Farmer’s energy is explosive as he belts out “God’s Arms Are Always Open” with the rest of his congregation. He also does a fantastic job leading “Made in America” with the rest of the ensemble. There is no question as to why the versatile actor keeps ending up in the cast for shows at New Line, and it’s always a pleasure to watch him perform.

The Cast of New Line Theatre’s ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

The Cast of New Line Theatre’s ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

Rob Lippert, who produced the beautiful red pickup truck for ‘Hands on a Hardbody,’ has once again crafted a stunning vehicle to be used on-stage. The show opens and closes with the titular duo in the car, and also showcases their main mode of transportation throughout. Lippert is also responsible for the scenic and lighting design, which is beautiful. This may be one of my favorite New Line sets yet.

Artistic director Scott Miller has a knack for choosing musicals that you probably haven’t heard of, but won’t soon forget. The music of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is no exception to this rule. The New Line band, directed by Jeffrey Carter, does a fantastic job with the music for the show. Aside from the aforementioned tunes, numbers like “When I Drive” (featuring a fantastic sequence between Clyde and Buck), “Raise a Little Hell” and “Too Late to Turn Back Now” will stay with you long after leaving the theatre.

Bonnie and Clyde in the car designed by Rob Lippert.

Bonnie and Clyde in the car designed by Rob Lippert. Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is a cool show, and yet another surprise from the company who knows how keep their choices interesting. The entire cast does a terrific job in this public enemy period piece, bringing the story you think you knew to life through music and dance as only New Line can. The show is a time warp back to the 30s, with terrific music, scenery and costume design (thanks to Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert) that is not to be missed.


New Line Theatre’s HANDS ON A HARDBODY runs now through October 25. For more information and to buy tickets, visit NewLineTheatre.com.

Movie Review: ‘Fury’ Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, and Logan Lerman

Fury-Poster-logan-lerman

I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

– William Tecumseh Sherman

If there is one singular purpose in Fury, it is to convince you of the notion that war is hell. Most people didn’t need convincing of this fact before seeing the film, but they’ll likely leave the theater echoing the sentiment in their heads.  Fury brutally beats you over the head with the atrocities of war in its quest to show you the hardship faced by many combat troops in World War II.

The film revolves around the lives of a seasoned Sherman tank crew led by Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt). The crew has successfully made it through Africa, D-Day, and are continuing to cause havoc as the Allied forces invade Germany. Despite their stellar record, they lose one of their members shortly before the film begins.  Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a fresh trained clerical typist, is thrust into the front lines of war as he replaces the deceased member of ‘Fury’.  Over the next two hours we follow Norman as he struggles through the worst parts of war, as he struggles with the inevitable doom facing him on the front lines.

The strength of Fury lies in its cast from top to bottom. Lerman plays the fresh recruit with surprising sincerity, and his eventual transformation is perfectly believable.  Brad Pitt brings in a strong performance as the battle hardened Wardaddy. Although, at times his performance veers awfully close to Lt. Aldo Raine of Inglourious Basterds. Pitt anchors the film well, and escalates the performances of those around him.  His even keeled character is in stark contrast to that of Shia LeBeouf’s Boyd, Michael Peña’s Gordo, and Jon Bernthal’s Grady. The chemistry between the core cast shines across on screen, and saves moments that might have dulled the film with a less talented cast.

Washed out colors and grays dominate the visual landscape of Fury.  Overcast skies mixed with the ominous score give the film a dark feel, and the sometimes gory visuals only add to that feeling. The biggest knock on Fury is the fact that it continually hits you over the head about how terrible World War II was for the men fighting the battle. Some of the darker moments feel added in for shock value rather than substance. Many of these moments come as moments of plot filler to disguise moments in the film that were becoming overly dull.  Director David Ayer crafts a great visual look and great performances, but he would’ve been aided by being a bit more subtle with his message.

Fury is a fine film, and fans of the genre are likely to love its portrayal of  soldiers fighting in the gasps of a dying war. However, it doesn’t add much that hasn’t been done in war films for the past few generations. It’s likely to get lost in the mix of dozens of similar films across the years.

Grade: B+

WB and DC Comics Announce Movie Slate Through 2020

DC Movie Slate

 

No need to bury the lead folks.  There you have it,  the DC Cinematic Universe has been set.  At a shareholder meeting today, Kevin Tsujihara (CEO of Warner Brothers) made the blockbuster announcement.  Not only will Zack Snyder’s Justice League be broken up into two movies, but we will also get a stand alone Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) movie in 2017.

In 2018, The Flash and Aquaman will also make their big screen debut. We know that Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) is playing Aquman and  will have a small part in BvS, but to what extent is still unknown.  With The Flash, it was also announced today that Ezra Miller (Perks of Being a Wallflower) will be The Flash.  What a version of the character (Barry Allen, Wally West, or Bart West) is still unknown.  Miller and Mamoa will be in both Justice League films as well. I still don’t understand the thought process behind having two version of The Flash (TV and Cinematic).  That’s an odd mindset.

Moving on to 2019, Shazam already has it’s villain/anti-hero cast.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was announced a couple of months as Black Adam.  No other news or casting has been announced yet.  The second flick for that year is the second part of Justice League.

2020 is an interesting one.  The two movies on the slate are Cyborg and Green Lantern.  I’ve yet to figure out the push behind Cyborg.  I know Geoff Johns loves the character.  So much so that he added him to the main roster during his New 52 relaunch of the Justice League. To me, he’s always been a character that works in a team setting (Teen Titans or Justice League), but he’s always been kind of one dimensional. The other big flick is the reboot of Green Lantern. I think the 9 year gap between the last movie and this one is a good thing.  We will never be able to forget the complete misfire of the 2011 version, but hopefully with wound won’t be quite so fresh.  Again, no word on which version of the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, or Kyle Rayner) will appear on screen.  I can only assume Cyborg and Green Lantern will debut in the Justice League.

What I find interesting is that there is no Superman or Batman solo flicks on the slate.  That doesn’t mean the movies aren’t coming and I’m sure they’re working on something. I just found it strange that they didn’t announce anything.  The other question I have is why the Suicide Squad?  It’s a third tier book at the most.  That was an odd choice.

Overall, it’s pretty exciting to see the DCCU take shape.  Now we only have to wait 2 more years…….

63: ‘The Judge’ Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio

The Judge Poster

This week we spoil The Judge and learn that Robert Downey, Jr. can play someone other than Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. Who knew?

We’re down to three this episode but it’s enough for quorum (that’s kinda-sorta legal talk) so join us as we drill down on the legal wrangling and family turmoil of The Palmers.

It’s Reel Spoilers #63 – The Judge.

You’ve been warned.

Starring: Tom O’Keefe, Blake Fehl, Joe Buttice

Run-time: 58min

You can listen to the podcast above, subscribe to our RSS feed, or subscribe via iTunes. You can also find us on the Stitcher radio app for smartphones and iPads.