Friday, January 27, 2012

‘One for the Money’ is surprisingly entertaining

(Note: There will be general movie discussion – no big spoilers, though)

It exceeded my expectations.

What else can I say? ‘One for the Money’ was better than I thought it would be.

I didn’t think it was going to be bad per se. I should put that out there right now. But I wasn’t sure how good it would ultimately be.

I mean, I love the books. Well, let me clarify that statement. I love the first 12 books. After that, I liked two of the books. After that, well, let’s just say the book series is sinking fast. But that’s another topic altogether.

I had high expectations when I heard they were making a movie based on ‘One for the Money’ – the first book in Janet Evanovich’s ultra-popular Stephanie Plum series. Then the casting choices started being announced.

When ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum Katherine Heigl was unveiled as Stephanie, I was unsure about the choice. Then, when I thought about it, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather have in the role. Ultimately, when I saw pictures of Heigl with dark hair on the set – essentially I was sold.

After all, Heigl is likeable, charming and self-deprecating. She fit the Stephanie character perfectly. So how was she in the movie? Actually, she was pretty spot-on. They did a great job with her wild hair and, while Heigl is a little taller than I always pictured Stephanie, she did capture the clumsy and likeable heroine with her gestures, smile, heart and determination. I don’t think she could have done any better in the role.

What’s great about Heigl is that she doesn’t look anorexic. She’s a solid woman who still has an outstanding body. Since Stephanie is a bond enforcement agent who throws herself on fugitives from time to time – you had to be able to believe the actress in the role. Some 98-pound waif wasn’t going to cut it. Heigl doesn’t have that problem. She’s solid and yet still sexy – just like the book Stephanie.

Other solid casting choices were Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur, Sherri Shepherd as hooker Lula and Debra Monk as Stephanie’s long-suffering mother. The trio of ladies managed to embody their book counterparts with aplomb – even if Reynolds is a bit thicker than the Grandma Mazur in the books.

The casting choice I was most worried about was Jason O’Mara as the very Italian Joe Morelli – one of Stephanie’s love interests in the book. The only thing I had ever seen O’Mara in were guest shots on procedurals – so I wasn’t sure he could carry off Morelli.

Well, I’m here to officially announce I was wrong. O’Mara still doesn’t look like the tall and angular book Morelli – but he has the fiery temper and sly grin (and he looks pretty good with his shirt off) that Morelli always displayed in the books. It helps that he and Heigl have mad chemistry – because that helps sell the relationship. The duo looked like they wanted to jump each other from the beginning.

Even the king of suck, John Leguizamo, can't ruin the movie's fun factor.  He's not going to win an Oscar for his role, but he certainly doesn't distract the audience with his usual overacting either.

The other casting choice I was really worried about was Daniel Sunjata as Ranger. I didn’t think he even remotely looked like the Ranger in the book. Here’s the thing, I was right about Sunjata. He’s not book Ranger. The Ranger he has created for the movie is entertaining – but if fans are going into the movie expecting to buy him as “their” Ranger, I think they’re going to be disappointed.

For his part, Sunjata is not horrible. He’s just incapable of embodying the book Ranger. I’m not sure anyone could, though. It’s almost like he’s playing another character, though, and that character is likeable.

That brings us to the movie itself. I think they wisely had Heigl doing voice-overs that utilized some of the best prose passages of the book.

I also think they did solid work on the set for her parent’s house – but I think they could have did a better job with her apartment. It didn’t detract from the story – but if you’re a book fanatic like I am, you’ll probably notice the difference in the layout.

The overall tone of the movie also matches the books. It’s fun. It’s romantic. It’s never really dark. It’s pretty much just like Evanovich’s world in the books.
Finally, the movie does stick pretty close to the book (there are a few changes, of course) – but there is one notable exception. The ending of the movie is truncated essentially. Meaning, they combined two different scenes from the ending of the book into one scene for the ending of the movie.

Personally, I can’t decide if it was a good move or not. I mean, the movie ending certainly isn’t worse than the book ending. I just don’t know if it’s better. I think, at worst, you can say it is a lateral move. I can see why they did it, though. It makes more sense in the movie’s flow. If they would have went with the book ending, I think it might have made the movie feel a little long.

Ultimately, I was happy with the book’s outcome and I’m hopeful that they will do a second film. The theater I was in for a Friday afternoon matinee was fairly filled – nowhere near overflowing – but everyone seemed to enjoy the movie. In fact, most of the crowd broke out in applause at the end.

So, if you’re looking for a fun movie that both men and women can sit through this weekend, ‘One for the Money’ is probably your best option. It’s actually a plum good time for both sexes. Men will enjoy Heigl’s wardrobe (or lack thereof, at times) and women will enjoy a plucky heroine and their own side of beefcake.

‘One for the Money’ opened in wide distribution today (Jan. 27). It is rated PG-13.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Comic book adaptations: What will be the biggest hit this year?

This year is a big one for comic book fans.

First, you have the return of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead.’ Actually, to be fair, only half the fans are excited about that. The other half want it to be exactly the same as the comic book on which it was based – which never actually works in real world practicality, but let’s move on.

Second, you have ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ – a superhero franchise that barely wrapped up a few years ago and is already getting a reboot with Andrew Garfield and the always fabulous Emma Stone in the lead roles.

Third, you have the final installment in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy with ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ After ‘The Dark Knight’ I think fans have high hopes this franchise will go out with a bang and not the whimper so many other comic book franchises have gone out with.

And, finally (and most importantly) you have ‘The Avengers’ – a film that not only has the capable Joss Whedon directing but features some of the best comic book movie characters in recent years, including Ironman, Thor and Captain America.

The question is, though, will these three things live up to the hype?

In the case of ‘The Walking Dead’ I’m one of the fans who didn’t have a problem with the slower pace of the second season. Personally, I don’t want some Ryan Murphy show that throws everything at the wall to see what sticks and then falls apart after two seasons because all the ideas have been exhausted.

‘The Walking Dead,’ which returns Feb. 12, excels in the quiet moments of the series. Yes, I want to see some zombie gore – but that’s not all I want to see. I don’t think that anyone can deny the emotional weight that accompanied the mid-season finale episode and the massacre at the barn.

If anyone thought this show was going to stick to the comic books, they were wrong. By breaking from the comic books they show runners made a smart move. I mean, honestly, if you stick to the comic books that would be pretty boring because everyone would know what would happen. Where’s the fun in that?

The atmosphere surrounding ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ is a little different.

It seems like just yesterday that Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were webslinging across the big screen.  Mostly because, well, it was practically yesterday.

I think the reason this franchise isn’t getting any mainstream buzz is because fans haven’t had enough time to miss it yet. Take Batman, there was a big gap between the previous franchise and the current franchise. That’s why fans got excited for it.

Granted, ‘The Dark Knight’ did get inflated buzz because of the death of Heath Ledger and his phenomenal performance as The Joker, but that movie was high quality, high drama and high octane. It even killed off a main character – which is gutsy in a superhero movie.

‘The Amazing Spiderman’ is just the opposite, though. Fans didn’t really embrace the third film in that trilogy because they were fatigued (and, let’s face it, that story pretty much sucked) so re-launching it so quickly could prove to be a big mistake.

While I have liked Garfield in ‘The Social Network’ and ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ I’m actually not sure this role is a good fit for him. And, while I think Stone can do practically anything, I’m a little worried she might be above this role. Only time – and a July 3 premiere -- will truly tell, though.

As for ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ I’m not sure what fans think. Most dislike lead actor Christian Bale as a person but admire his acting chops. Familiar faces like Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson are back to partake in the festivities, but there’s still something “off” about the aura surrounding the film.
There were rumors filming didn’t go as smoothly as previous installments. Given Bale’s track record, that’s not all that surprising. I guess we’ll just have to wait until July 20 to find out for sure.

That brings us to the ultimate summer movie, ‘The Avengers.’

This movie has a lot going for it – besides Whedon’s capable direction. It has the talented Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner and Scarlet Johannson anchoring the acting corps with what is anticipated to be strong turns from Chris Hemsworth, Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson.

Actually, the sheer amount of talent being utilized in this film is off the charts (don’t worry, no one is counting Chris Evans in the talented department). Aside from the actors already mentioned, we also have Mark Ruffalo as the third big screen Bruce Banner, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tom Hiddleston as well.

So what’s the problem?
There’s a lot of pressure associated with a movie that boasts this much talent.

From what I’ve heard, ‘The Avengers’ should be the top grossing movie of the year. I guess there’s a chance that teenage girls might dethrone it for the final ‘Twilight’ movie – but I’m always hopeful people will wake up and realize just how bad those movies really are. I know, I’m deluding myself, but I don’t want to give up on that dream. Never underestimate the power of teenage girls and babysitting money, though. They truly do rule the world.

Actually, ‘The Avengers’ should be a good gauge for the summer movie season. Starting on May 4, we’ll see what the super hero corps will look like this summer. At least we don’t have anything green – like a lantern or a hornet – to worry about. Well, that is except for the Hulk, of course.

What do you think? Which comic book adaptation are you most looking forward to this season?

What are the best comic book and graphic novel adaptations of all time?

When it comes to comic book movies, the only thing you can say with absolute certainty is that they’re usually big in scope and larger-than-life.

What do I mean by that? Well, frankly, comic book movies stem from a genre that doesn’t always translate to the big screen well (or tackle reality with aplomb, for that matter). In other words, just because fans find it entertaining on the page doesn’t mean it’s going to be entertaining on the big screen as well.

When it comes to adapting a comic book to the big (or small) screen, you have to find a balance.
If it is too cheesy, then you risk turning your film into ‘Batman and Robin.’

If you take yourself too seriously, then you risk turning your film into something akin to ‘Watchmen.’
If you try to be too stylized, you might become another ‘Elektra.’

Essentially, you have to find that perfect juxtaposition between character development, casting, believable dialogue and charisma. A hook doesn’t hurt (nor does a hot leading man). Just being honest.

Believe it or not (and I’m sure most of you do), the dialogue in comic books is generally pretty heavy handed and impractical when it comes to translating it to the big and small screen. It’s a tightrope that a lot of directors have fallen off of.

So, what have been the best comic book adaptations?'

10. 30 Days of Night – I know, this is technically a graphic novel and not a comic book movie, but I figure they’re close enough together to be considered the same genre. Anyway, the ‘30 Days of Night’ graphic novel collection has been an underground favorite for years. When I heard about the premise of the movie, I immediately went out and caught up on the series. As a horror movie fanatic, I was thrilled with the graphic novels and even more thrilled with the big screen outcome. Josh Hartnett is usually one of those actors that doesn’t exactly blow me away – but he did in this movie. It’s kind of like rock and roll meets blood sucking fiends – and that’s a collaboration I can get behind. Besides that, with ‘Twilight’ turning vampires into fuzzy little brooders, I was totally up for a reminder of what vampires truly should be.

9. Spiderman 2 – I don’t really like Tobey Maguire. There, I said it. I have always liked Kirsten Dunst, but Tobey Maguire is just not an actor I gravitate towards. That being said, the second ‘Spiderman’ movie couldn’t have succeeded without him. Sure, it’s Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock that really carries the emotional heft of the movie, but Maguire, Dunst and James Franco are no slouches in the drama department either. It’s really too bad the third movie couldn’t gain on the momentum that was set up with this one – but not every franchise can be perfect. Thankfully, the Spiderman franchise had one almost perfect installment.

8. Ironman – I resisted seeing this for a long time. I don’t know why. It’s not that I’m not a Robert Downy Jr. fan – because I am. It’s not because I’m not a superhero fan – because I am. Either way, though, I didn’t see this movie until like a year after it came out. What a disappointment to finally see what I had been missing. ‘Ironman’ was funny, sexy and engaging. Everything a true comic book movie should be. The sequel wasn’t quite as good as the original, but in the grand scheme of things, it was also a solid production.

7. Thor – This movie took me pleasantly by surprise. Actually, I wish I had seen it in theaters instead of catching it on Blu-Ray months later. Chris Hemsworth makes an interesting debut as the volatile God of Thunder. He’s both charming and roguish – something that women generally can’t resist (it doesn’t hurt that he’s ripped and his shirt clings to him in a way that can only be described as appealing). It’s Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Tom Hiddleston that balance the story out, though. This is one of those movies that manages to prove, with the right amount of humor and spot-on casting, you can create magic in modern times – even when you float between two different worlds.

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – On the half shell, the heroes four haven’t been popular for a number of years. That being said, when this movie first came out all I felt was love. A Donatello and Michaelangelo fan for as long as I can remember, I couldn’t help but love the campy atmosphere that surrounded this movie (or the awesome T-U-R-T-L-E power that fueled the M.J. Hammer rap song). Sure, this is an example of when campy comic books could have been a disaster – but for the first movie, at least, this didn’t happen. Now the second and third installments? Those were comic book disasters.

5. A History of Violence – Viggo Mortensen manages to succeed in just about everything he does. Whether it’s being a smartass lawman in the old west, rightful heir to the Middle Earth throne or as a quiet man trying to maintain a quiet life despite a past littered with regret – like in ‘A History of Violence.’ Mortensen really can do no wrong in this movie. This is a comic book movie that proves that the genre isn’t only about spandex and cod pieces. It’s also about real emotions, real battles and real pain. Mortensen was ripped off when he didn’t get an Oscar for this role.

4. The Walking Dead – This is small screen magic. I know that show producers were trying to capitalize on the loyalty of horror fanatics – and they did manage to do that. What they crafted, though, is a thought provoking and well acted ensemble that shares a lot with Stephen King’s ‘The Stand.’ Yes, there’s gore and action, but there’s also gravitas, symbolism and characters that live in a gray world instead of black and white. That is the true strength in the show. When morality dies with humanity, what is the true evil?

3. Sin City – This is an example of stylized filmmaking working. I think any movie that makes me think Bruce Willis is semi-talented has to be considered a feat of modern movie magic, but ‘Sin City’ actually manages to almost transcend the genre. Benicio del Toro also manages to anchor the action while a bevy of beautiful women that aren’t always considered solid actresses (yes Jessica Alba, I’m talking to you) are featured but don’t detract from the story’s monologue. That is the true feat, after all.

2. Superman 2 – This spot could just has easily gone to ‘Superman: The Movie.’ They’re both stellar movies with solid casts and strong scripts. It’s the second film, though, that manages to find the franchise’s true pathos. It takes a common premise – what happens if you get everything you thought you wanted – and then turns it on its head. Essentially, are you willing to give up what you want for the betterment of others? Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman are spectacular in the film, as is the menacing Terence Stamp. It’s too bad that movie producers didn’t follow this model when they did the next two movies in the franchise.

1. X2 – I liked the first movie in the X-Men franchise, I did. I was generally pleased with the casting – who didn’t fall in love with Hugh Jackman? It’s really the second movie that expands the universe and manages to interweave true emotion into the storyline, though. Jackman’s conflicted Wolverine is still the central character, but it’s Anna Paquin’s Rogue, Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman and Aaron Stanford’s Pyro that actually manage to center the ensemble. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen also wow as the elder statesmen fighting for different outcomes – but still having to rely on each other. The movie’s ending – a fantastic special effects marvel – also has the strength of killing off a core character and still giving fans hope at the same time. It’s too bad the third movie in this franchise completely eradicated any good will this movie garnered. But, for a brief time period, this was the king of the comic book hill.

And, as usual, honorable mentions go to ‘Hellboy,’ ‘The Crow,’ ‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Captain America,’ ‘Road to Perdition,’ ‘Superman: The Movie,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘Batman Returns,’ ‘The Hulk’ television series, ‘V for Vendetta,’  and ‘X-Men: First Class.’

What do you think? What are the best comic book adaptations? Did your favorite make the list?

Click here for the worst comic book adaptations ever.

What are the worst comic book adaptations put to screen?

By their very nature, “worst of” lists are just more fun to write than “best of” lists.

It’s kind of fun to slap a movie (or television show) while it’s down.

When it comes to comic book movies, the “worst of” list really could be a “worst of” book when you think about it.

The sheer number of colossal failures in the genre is staggering. You could include any number of ‘Superman,’ ‘Batman,’ and green anything on the list.

Picking the movies wasn’t actually the hard part this time. Narrowing them down was.

So, without further ado, the worst comic book adaptations are:

10. Superman Returns – In the land of vapid leading men, Brandon Routh should be king. So much was riding on this ‘Superman’ reboot. You would think they’d at least make an attempt at casting a likeable, warm and engaging leading man. That piece of wood that ran around trying to ape Christopher Reeve is not a capable leading man. It was more like he was playing Reeve playing Superman than trying to put his own spin on Superman. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he hasn’t been heard from since. I hope he has fun with his new job as a gym trainer -- because that’s where his talents truly belong. That being said, Kate Bosworth was also the queen of suck. The only thing worth watching in this movie was Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey. They should have just cast the two of them in a sitcom and tossed the rest of the movie.

9. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – I actually don’t think this movie had a prayer of working from the beginning. It had a lot of strikes going against it – including a cast that had only one good actor. Yes, I’m talking about Sean Connery. Sure, Connery phoned it in, but even with half the effort of the rest of the cast, he blew them out of the water. Shane West is as vapid as a CW actor and Peta Wilson apparently only had one good performance in her – ‘La Femme Nikita.’ What’s funny about this film is that I think producers knew it was a dud. Very little marketing was done and it faded from theaters in about 15 minutes flat.

8. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – Both ‘Fantastic Four’ films could have made the list. They’re both ridiculous. They both have plot holes you could ride a big silver surfboard through. They both have Jessica Alba – an actress that may be hot – but can’t act her way out a ‘Spy Kids’ movie. The only good thing about this franchise is that it appears to be over and done with. Not everything that’s good on a comic book page is good on the big screen – and this is a shining example of that.

7. X-Men 3: The Last Stand – There were two ‘X-Men’ movies that could have been relegated to the worst of list. This one, and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine.’ You know why I picked ‘X-Men 3’? Because Hugh Jackman runs around in ‘Wolverine’ buck naked for a good 10 minutes. Yep, I’m just that shallow. Honestly, though, I think ‘X3’ is worse. Between the rancid Dark Phoenix tale, the ridiculous Rogue, Iceman and Kitty triangle to the wasteful deaths of Cyclops and Professor X – the entire tale, which actually doubled as a genocide warning -- was hackneyed and forced. Following the greatness that was the second movie in this franchise, I think fans were both stunned and disappointed at the same time. This could have been so much more.

6. The Green Lantern -- Will someone please stop casting Ryan Reynolds in stuff? I like him on a personal level. I was actually rooting for him to work things out with Sandra Bullock. Heck, I’ll even admit the dude is hot. He just can’t act. If I’m being honest, though, Reynolds isn’t the only problem with this stinking pile of excrement. Bad direction, bad costumes and bad writing also sunk this green ship. Please, don’t let there ever be a sequel to this. Not a reboot. Not a sequel. Nothing. Let the Green Lantern live free – off the big screen.

5. Batman and Robin -- George Clooney always jokes that he sank the ‘Batman’ franchise. To be fair, it really wasn’t his fault. His performance was fine. The story, however, could have been some of the most campy dreck to ever cross the big screen. As someone who is a fan of Clooney, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone and Chris O’Donnell, I don’t understand how things could go as poorly as they did. The only one who looks like they’re having any type of fun in the movie is Thurman – and even she can’t elevate the horrible script. We now know that Clooney only sunk that ‘Batman’ franchise. Thankfully, after a few years in Mr. Freeze’s vault, the franchise came back and re-launched with much better writing and acting. Holy big relief, Batman.

4. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – Actually, two of the Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ movies could have made this list. I went with the movie that had Nuclear Man as the big bad. Enough said. Really, it’s no surprise that this is the movie that sank the Reeve ‘Superman’ franchise. Gene Hackman was always kind of a ham in the Lex Luthor role – but he still managed to have substance early on in the franchise. All of the actors looked embarrassed to be involved with this bomb. They should have been.

3. The Spirit – I just recently caught this at the behest of my cousin – a big comic book fan. He told me it would make a lot of “worst of” lists but he thought it was really good. I gave it a shot. He was wrong. I have been a fan of Gabriel Macht since I saw him in ‘The Recruit’ and ‘American Outlaws’ – so I thought the movie couldn’t possibly be that bad. I was so very wrong. Macht is horrible, but everyone has a down movie at one time or another. It’s the always reliable Samuel L. Jackson who is the true travesty, though. Even he can’t elevate this bile.

2. Elektra – I know it seems like I’m being harsh on my own sex, but female comic book movies rarely work. This is no exception. Jennifer Garner kicked but on ‘Alias.’ She carried the show – even when the storylines were ridiculous. Now, the script in this movie was a big old pile of rotten sushi – but Garner was horrible in the role, too. I think the producers and director were trying to be stylistic. All that came across, though, was laughter – and not the good kind of laughter. Technically, ‘Daredevil’ could have had this slot, too, but at least Colin Farrell looks like he’s having fun in that movie. Everyone in ‘Elektra’ looks constipated.

1. Catwoman – Any of the top three could have easily fit into the number one slot. I opted for ‘Catwoman.’ Why you may ask? Between the dialogue, direction, acting, casting and wardrobe departments, everyone involved in this bomb deserved a Razzie. Halle Berry has proven herself to be a solid actress (if a bad judge of men, but I digress). This role, though? Just about anyone would have been better. When you add in the overacting Sharon Stone and the bland Benjamin Bratt, the whole endeavor is best left forgotten.

And, as usual, honorable mentions include, ‘Spawn,’ ‘Howard the Duck,’ ‘Jonah Hex’ (even though I love Josh Brolin), Dolph Lundgren’s ‘The Punisher,’ 'Watchmen, ‘Ghost Rider,’ Ang Lee’s ‘The Hulk,’ and ‘Daredevil.’

What do you think? What are the worst comic book adaptations ever?

TENNIS: Rafa continues to own Roger

The greatest current rivalry in tennis continued last night, when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

This meeting was slightly different – especially since the last time Federer and Nadal met in the semifinals of a major was 2005. Given the fact that they were number one and number two in the world for so long, they were usually on different sides of the draw.

Things are different now, though.

Nadal is still number two but Serbia’s Novak Djokovic claimed the number one spot for the first time last year after winning three of the four Grand Slams. Nadal won the fourth.

Now, it can be argued that at 30 years old, Federer is starting to slow down. Given the ease at which he raced through the draw at this year’s Open, however, that doesn’t actually appear to be true.

It can also be argued that, given the physical nature of his play, Nadal’s body is starting to break down. Despite the fact that he said he was taking time off after the Australian Open to rehab his shoulder (and his right knee has been heavily strapped throughout the tournament) Nadal has showed no signs of slowing down, though.

Both these guys proved Wednesday night (Thursday night in Australia) that they are both hungry to reclaim their former glory.

It was Nadal, though, who came out on top 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a little under four hours of play -- improving his record to 8-2 over Federer in majors. So how did he win? Actually, the same way he always does – he just wore Federer down. Plain and simple, he out grinded him, out shot him and ultimately out thought him.

Nadal came out a bit slow in the first set and Federer – who now is 0-9 in his last Grand Slam appearances -- was on fire. He broke Nadal’s serve early and looked to be on the way to coasting through the first set.
Always tenacious, though, Nadal clawed his way back and evened things up late in the first set. He would ultimately drop the first set in a tiebreaker, but it was clear that momentum was starting to swing his way.

Then, in the second set, Federer had another early break. This time, when Nadal broke back to even the game count at two, he was the one who cruised through the second set – making Federer look more like a qualifier than the winningest man in tennis history.

In the third set, Federer and Nadal traded breaks until they reached another tiebreaker. This time, Nadal jumped out to what seemed like an insurmountable lead – 6-1. The fact that he only won the tiebreaker 7- 5 is more of a commentary on Federer’s desperation than Nadal’s tennis playing. It was almost like Federer realized he couldn’t come back from being down two sets to one.

He was right.

In the fourth set, Nadal seemed to almost be toying with Federer. He threatened the Swiss wonder on almost every single one of his service games, before finally breaking in the ninth game of the set. He then fought his own nerves (and two break points) to ultimately win the match.

The question now becomes, can Nadal reclaim the number one spot when he meets either Djokovic or Britain’s Andy Murray in the final on Sunday? Mathematically, he can’t do it even if he does win the championship. Emotionally, though, I think Nadal would get more from a Djokovic win (especially since Djokovic beat him in two Slam finals last year).

After his rehabilitation break, Nadal will then enter the North American hard-court season a heavy favorite before returning to his beloved clay. That is, of course, if the 25-year-old Spaniard’s body holds up.

It’s no secret that Nadal has struggled with knee, shoulder and stomach injuries over the last few years. In fact, injuries have hampered his last two Australian Open appearances, helping him lose to compatriot David Ferrer and Murray the last two years.

A healthy Nadal is practically unstoppable – and I think Djokovic knows this. Despite his dominant year last year, I don’t think Djokovic actually played as well as most pundits thought he did. I think it was more that the rest of the men’s field also had a down year.

Now, I like Dojokovic, don’t get me wrong. I like his jovial nature and how passionate he gets on the court. I have nothing against him. I mean, I openly hate Murray, for example, but that’s not the case with Djokovic. Against anyone but Nadal, I root for him.

Ultimately, the thing is, I think this could be Nadal’s year to reclaim the number one spot. If he manages to win even two Grand Slams, that would bring his number to 12 – only four behind Federer (who is almost five years older). He could still have a good shot of taking Federer’s overall title.

For his part, I think Federer probably has one more Grand Slam title in him. But, if he’s going to win it, I think it’s going to have to be this year. I don’t think he can do it next year at the age of 31.

The big test for Nadal will come in Sunday’s final. I think it would be easier for him to beat Murray (who is known for choking in finals) than Djokovic. I know I always appreciate it when Murray loses (he really is a poor sport and a whiner). However, I think Nadal will get a bigger boost if he beats Djokovic.

Of course, if he loses to Djokovic, that creates a whole other problem doesn’t it?

What do you think? Will Nadal reclaim the number one spot this year or will Djokovic continue his winning ways?