10 Athletes the World Should Be Watching in London

Few events attract the eyes of the entire world like the Summer Olympics. Beginning Friday, July 27, every moment of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be shown live on NBC’s family of networks and its website. For those counting at home, that’s some 5,535 hours of coverage. Over 17 exciting days, familiar sports icons like LeBron James and Usain Bolt will be heard time and again. But for every Michael Phelps and Serena Williams, there are literally thousands of other athletes around the globe with amazing talents and fascinating stories to share (including Brazilian soccer sensation Marta). Here are 10 largely unknown Olympic athletes we’ll be keeping up with over the spirited weeks ahead in London, as well as a guide to the best times to see them each in action.

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Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

In the last Spider-Man movie series, Tobey Maguire was great as the awkward Peter Parker, fawning over Mary Jane Watson and delivering pizzas. In this take, Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) is awkward for about five minutes in a high school hallway–director Mark Webb must have looked at some footage and realized Garfield was too handsome to pull the shtick off for a whole movie– but quickly turns into this camera-wielding, skateboard-riding mystery who defends fellow students from bullies. But fanboys will appreciate the fact that Parker’s high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), is really his first crush from the Marvel comics. Of course, in between saving kids from cafeteria torture and staring at pictures of Gwen, Peter’s waging an internal struggle with the loss of his father, scientist Richard Parker. His uncle (Martin Sheen) and aunt (Sally Field) give Peter love, just not the answers he seeks. But a mysterious briefcase shows up in the basement, and its contents lead to Oscorp, an ambitious research outfit led by Richard’s old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). As you know, Peter goes snooping around the building and ends up bitten by an atomic arachnid. Scenes where Parker acclimates to his newfound powers, especially one cool moment on the train, are pretty special. In fact, Peter’s early fights against street thugs and his quiet spells with Gwen almost leave you questioning your loyalty to Tobey. It’s only when Dr. Connors’ screen time increases that this new version loses something. We know the doc wants to re-generate his missing limb, but why does he want to take out his frustrations on New York, too? We realize his failed experiment changes him into Lizard, but why does his alter ego have to look like something out of The Dark Crystal? We see the rotten reptile and Spidey get into a knock-down, drag-out at the school, so how does the place appear immaculate just a few scenes later? Not really sure. All we’re certain of is that the web-slinger’s flights are awesome. The behind-the-mask action shots are dynamic. The lovebirds’ chemistry is evident. But as a franchise reboot, there’s just not enough about this Spider-Man for it to be considered truly amazing. (B-)

The New Gold Standard: A Chat with First-Time Olympian Blake Griffin

It has to be a humbling experience to be a superstar player, making millions as a savior of an NBA franchise, yet having to essentially audition for a spot on a basketball team. That’s basically what Blake Griffin had to do in Las Vegas last week before USA Basketball Men’s National Team coach Mike Krzyzewski and chairman Jerry Colangelo. But as the world knows by now, Blake, Andre Iguodala and James Harden dazzled enough in their respected casting calls to be granted the final three spots on Redeem Team 2.

I was in the audience for the official roster announcement on Saturday. Coach K spoke about commitment and upcoming challenges; Colangelo discussed athleticism and roster depth; Kobe Bryant and LeBron James made their usual patriotic proclamations. As for Blake, the gravity-ignoring All-Star just sat quietly on the stage, looking like the new kid in class. Thankfully, after the announcement, the Clippers’ prized pupil was in a more talkative mood, electing to chat with reporters about everything from the selection process to his humbling role on the super squad. Click this SLAMonline link to see what BG told me and the rest of the group.

Going One-on-One with Wladimir Klitschko

My first scheduled interview with reigning heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko didn’t work out because of time-zone confusion. (Wait, how many hours ahead of Atlanta is Klitschko’s native Ukraine again?) The second interview didn’t pan out because training for Wlad’s July 7 title defense against American Tony Thompson ran well into the night. Frustrations started building on this end. My deadline was approaching, but I knew Klitschko (57-3, 50 KO’s) had so many boxing-related items (controversial Pacquiao-Bradley decision, boxing’s fragile overall state, retirement rumors) to get off his chest. This third interview just had to come together. Thankfully, it did because nobody would have wanted to see my mean side as I labored to set up a fourth interview, not even Mr. Klitschko… Kidding, champ, kidding.

10 Uncrowded National Parks for Your Travel Bucket List

According to its website, Yellowstone National Park gets three million visitors annually. We don’t blame folks for making the trip either: The place is heavenly. But just because Yellowstone, Yosemite and a few other popular parks get most of the foot traffic, it doesn’t mean they’re the only stops that capture this great country in its unspoiled splendor. The following 10 natural wonders (including Alaska’s magnificent Wrangell-St. Elias National Park pictured above) probably won’t ever see a fraction of Yellowstone’s guests. That’s okay. The fewer the visitors, the more of a unique experience in store for you and other clever travelers.

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