Monthly Archives: November 2015

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Movie Trailer – Zootopia #2

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Byron Howard

Starring: Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin

Release: March 4th, 2016

I’m sorry, this is another teaser trailer?  The first was just to show us the animation, this one is to show us a part of one scene?  I’m tired of this movie and it isn’t even close to being out yet.  How many more trailers do we have to sit through before we see something that might indicate whether or not this stupid movie will be any good?!


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Movie Review – The Good Dinosaur

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peter Sohn

Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright

Year: 2015

I began to worry about The Good Dinosaur the more I heard from & saw about it, becoming concerned that we were getting a dino version of Ice Age, which we all thought was funny, but I doubt many of us have the desire to see constantly remade.  After all, these are talking dinosaurs cracking jokes, going on adventures, like a cheap knock off of The Land Before Time, which is not what we signed up for when allowing ourselves to get excited about a Disney/Pixar movie.  The early teasers & trailers made the film seem beautiful, natural, emotional, and that’s what I wanted to be given, not Madagascar set in the Cretaceous period.  But I am overjoyed to announce that none of my fears were realized.  This isn’t a dino movie, this is alternate history, and these creatures aren’t just trying to survive, they are evolving before our very eyes.

What if the theoretical asteroid that disrupted the planet and ultimately led to the annihilate of Earth’s dominant species had missed us?  What if dinosaurs had never lost their rule, but instead had evolved into the powerful, intelligent leaders of the planet?  Well, imagine no more, here is a look at an alternate reality, one in which dinosaurs plow the earth, create religions, drive cattle, and develop loving bonds.  Arlo is a young Apatosaurus whose family respects hard work & making your mark on the world.  Unfortunately for Arlo, he’s weak, scared, underappreciated, and doesn’t know how to prove himself to the others.  He can’t even kill the strange “critter” who seems to be stealing the family’s food, falling into the river instead and becoming swept away.  Arlo and the critter will have to team up if they want to get home alive, creating a special relationship that only exists between two creatures who desperately need each other.

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I was shocked by the story, had no idea that this wasn’t a movie about dinosaurs millions of year ago who could talk and employ prat falls.  Instead, it was a modern day tale with dinosaurs as the lead players on a global stage, with humans as animals that lived on the fringes.  And, even more surprisingly, it was a Western, complete with homesteaders, rustlers, cowboys, varmints, cookfires, campouts, and journeys home.  It was as if Pixar took the classic Western tale, the one we’ve heard a hundred times but still love, and replaced every human with a dinosaur, every wolf with a human, and every other animal with a slightly stranger version of itself.  It was a shocker to me, perhaps not to everyone, but played out as an extremely interesting concept, one that transitioned surprisingly well from old standby to original feature.

But the plot wasn’t even the best part, that was simply comfortably normal.  What really shined was the animation.  Never have I seen nature scenes depicted so brilliantly, with eye-popping colors and movement that you would swear was real.  Rolling western landscapes wherever you turn your head, rocks & grasses created with perfect detail, creatures of all shapes & sizes tremendously crafted; The Good Dinosaur is a stunning visual from start to finish.  It might lack the emotional depth of Inside Out and perhaps relies too heavily on the typical boy-on-an-adventure-who-makes-a-friend concept, but for most audiences (especially young ones) a little classic setup only helps with enjoyment.  The film was enjoyable beyond a doubt, if not the poignant Oscar-winner that we’ve come to expect when we sit down for Disney/Pixar.  Lower expectations a tad, because this isn’t WALL-E, but enjoy a solid bit of entertainment for the whole family.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – How to Be Single

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Christian Ditter

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann

Release: February 12th, 2015

Dakota Johnson failed to emote once in this trailer, while Rebel Wilson failed to shut up.  That’s a bad combination; the pretty one who can’t act and the overweight one who can’t stop being annoying.  You wonder if that’s just their personalities or if they’ve watched so many awful movies that now they think that’s the only way comedies can be done.


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Movie Review – Spotlight

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams

Year: 2015

If Room is the current predicted #2 in the Oscar race for Best Picture, Spotlight is #1.  A lot can happen between now & this Spring, and of course these predictions aren’t actual indications of how excellent a film will seem to any given individual, but hey, it’s fun to guess.  Spotlight leads the charge due mainly to its thrilling true story, a plot that’s exciting yet not typical, due mostly to its basis on actual events.  But is a compelling true story enough to win awards, or just enough to get audiences into theatres?  For Room, the answer might be ‘neither’, since it’s flying under-the-radar except for critics and doesn’t quite have the acting chops to garner an Academy Award.  Unfortunately, I think this film falls into the same category; excellent plot, well-paced, relevant & interesting, but not performed superbly enough to turn critical heads.

In the early 2000s, the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe unearthed the coverup of the century, a pile of secrets so disgusting that neither the media nor the public were willing to let them see the light of day.  When multiple cases against the Catholic Church were systematically settled, dismissed, or swept away, investigators at the Globe began to pick up on a theme of abusive priests being shuffled around America, but never taken out of service.  At first these events seemed rare, but the more the team dug the more they noticed a frightening fact; that this problem was neither abnormal or prosecuted, the United States government working with the Church to keep the truth hidden.  Fighting the Cardinal of Boston himself, the lawyers who were paid to protect the priests, and their very own Catholic upbringings, Spotlight would publish the story of the decade, no matter who retaliated.

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First of all, let me say this; Spotlight is a great film.  From near the very beginning, attention stays focused on the team, their workroom, their methods, their determination, and their desire to see their findings make a difference.  The movie wasn’t cluttered with family crisis, only mentioning in passing how their hard work was affecting the loved ones of the team members.  It wasn’t convoluted with morals & bravery & God & righteousness, only the simple idea that the abuse of children could not be tolerated, that people deserved to know the truth so that they could keep their kids safe.  This passionate plot was delivered very well and very simply by Tom McCarthy, combining a bit of theme music with a few standard benchmarks to craft a film that was of a high quality but was also easy to watch.  This kind of not difficult to follow yet driving drama is something that is quickly consumed & enjoyed, satisfying all audiences.

But for a film that has its sights set on big award wins, I didn’t think the acting supported the goals.  Mainly, Michael Keaton failed to impress me.  I loved him in Birdman, was excited to see him in the conversation, thought the role was perfect for him.  But let’s not kid ourselves; he isn’t the greatest actor.  There’s a reason he isn’t on the same level as, say, Tom Hanks, and it’s because he’s simply not on the same level as Tom Hanks.  Last year’s success earned him this year’s key role, but his ability isn’t up to our expectations, and unfortunately he fails to pull off a role that was too big a mouthful to chew.  Meanwhile, Mark Ruffalo, who is still one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, shone once again and was perhaps the best part of the film.  Rachel McAdams was also strong, or as strong as can honestly be expected, Liev Schreiber was solid, and Stanley Tucci stole the few scenes he was in, merging styles with Ruffalo in a way that should receive its own personal Oscar nod.  Spotlight as a whole though, that I can’t hand gold to.  It is a fantastic film, a must see, one of the year’s ten or fifteen best, and will definitely have earned a nomination if it comes to that.  But it won’t be receiving my vote as #1, which is only a small criticism in a way; great but not best.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Captain America: Civil War

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Anthony & Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson

Release: May 6th, 2016

I’ve seen only what I had to from this universe and tried to keep my anti-comic, sacrilegious beliefs to myself.  I’m just not the guy to like these movies, though I give them as fair a shot as I can.  Avengers, Age of Ultron, Ant-Man; they were all fine, and I’ve even heard that the Captain America movies are the best the franchise has to offer.  But while this does look fairly good, I’ll stick with Guardians of the Galaxy.  It’s Marvel, it’s a part of all this, it’s just better than the rest.


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Movie Review – Room

Category : Movie Review

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen

Year: 2015

Room has been touted as perhaps the second best film of the year, behind only Spotlight in the too-early rankings that ultimately mean very little, but can still be fun.  Very rarely is a movie this highly praised & respected only to fall extremely short, and Room definitely doesn’t disappoint in either its attempt at an Oscar or its prowess as a stand-alone drama.  It may very well go down as one of the best of the year, if one of the least seen in that category, a film that won’t get the attention of Joy or The Danish Girl, but delivers a depth of emotion to rival the best that Hollywood’s top directors have to offer.  But with all the positives that Room undoubtedly deserves, it quite simple isn’t the greatest film of 2015.  Its story may be the most moving you’ll see this year, or this decade for that matter, but its acting doesn’t quite match its intensity, ultimately keeping it from the perfection required to be Best Picture.

In a place called Room, Jack lives with his Ma.  They and Old Nick, a man who comes at night sometimes, are the only people in existence.  Everything else is just TV; animals, fancy foods, other humans.  And outside Room is outer space, a vast sky of nothingness that, of course, isn’t safe.  The things in the room are the only things that matter; Lamp, Bath, Sink, Wardrobe.  This is Jack’s existence, and the locked door that Nick comes through might as well be a gateway to another dimension.  Little does Jack know that he & his mother are captives in artificial space, that she once lived a normal life outside, and that Nick is not their friend.  As times grow more desperate, Jack will be sent on a daring mission by his mother in order to earn their freedom, a quest that will take him outside for the first time, an event that will change his life forever.

The story of Room is undeniably phenomenal.  It’s based on a novel by the same name, which is itself inspired by true stories of captivity that involved the birth of children as a result of rape.  Jack has never lived anywhere but Room, prohibiting him from understanding his mother’s desire to leave their home, even keeping him from conceptualizing that there is anything out there anyway.  ‘Heavy’ wouldn’t be the right word to describe this plot, but it will have to do, since the weight of the story makes itself felt continually.  And when events continue in the “real world”, things just get more difficult, if that’s possible.  But while the concept of the film and Tremblay’s perfect characterization will keep it in the Oscar conversation, acting by others involved should stop it from winning.  Larson was only strong alongside her fictional son, failing to continue when asked to go it alone or, even worse, act in conjunction with Allen, who wasn’t great.  The Room section, Tremblay’s acting, the depth of drama inherent to the story; these were the strengths of the film, and are enough to make it a must-see.  But its flaws (Larson & Allen, the outside section, William H. Macy in an odd cameo) are what should keep it from taking gold.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Central Intelligence

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart

Release: June 17th, 2016

From the director of Dodgeball and We’re the Millers?  I’m tentatively optimistic.  I liked those movie, at least enough, and I enjoyed Kevin Hart in Get Hard, at least moderately.  Also, the Rock is a pretty good actor, at least in the right roles.  So you can see where this is going; this movie is going to be balanced on an edge the entire time.  It could be funny, but it could also be fantastically terrible.  I’ll take a chance though.


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Sports – NFL Picks 2015, Week 12

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks

(10-4 last week, 101-59 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

detlionsPhi @ Det – Thanksgiving is here, and that means football.  This year, the Eagles are the chosen team to travel to Detroit, and for Philly, the timing could not possibly have been worse.  Although nothing has really gone right for the Eagles in 2015, things are worse lately, with Sam Bradford injured, Mark Sanchez playing horribly (of course) in relief, Chip Kelly’s job almost definitely lost, a two-game losing streak keeping them from claiming a weak division, and everyone in the media saying that this team has completely given up.  And you thought YOU had a bad few days.  To make matters worse, this Detroit team is hitting their stride as we speak, with big wins over the Packers & the Raiders the last two weeks, starting a winning & scoring streak that seemed unlikely to happen this year, after starting the season 1-7.  Well, the Lions now seem at least competitive if not exactly stellar, and they get to host their annual Turkey Bowl, looking for their third straight win.  I think they do it, behind an offense that’s playing well, a defense that’s improving, and a group of guys who were apparently tired of being laughed at.

 

carpanthersCar @ Dal – Speaking of a tough matchup with some bad timing, look no further than the Carolina Panthers in our other traditional Thanksgiving game.  The Panthers have been near perfect all season, going 10-0, scoring at will, holding opposing offenses to low totals, running the ball with efficiency, and tossing it around when the occasion calls for it.  That brings us to Cam Newton, who just threw 5 TDs in one game, which is a frightening, unexplored dimension of a team that’s already  arguably the best in the NFL.  But that bad timing I spoke of early, it comes in the form of a man named Romo, and it could bring Carolina their first loss of the season.  Dallas was horrible without Tony, going 0-7 in his absence.  The games he’s started though; 3-0.  Romo is the leader & life of this team, just ask Dez Bryant who is happy to be back catching touchdowns from his boy.  Romo knocked off some rust last week, should look sharp at home on a day his team is used to owning, and would make a frightening opponent to any club coming in.  All that said, I guess I can’t pick against Cam until he shows me a reason to.

 

gbpackersChi @ GB – Out third & final Thanksgiving game, though not an annual one but a late night extra, is a classic rivalry; Bears vs Packers.  The Bears were just embarrassed at home vs a backup QB in a game that Cutler & Fox desperately wanted to win.  They came close, but Osweiler (unlike Peyton) didn’t make any mistakes, and the Broncos walked away with the W.  People had begun to talk about Chicago’s improvement, Langford’s running ability, their strong road record, how this team could actually compete.  But they’re winless against the division, have only gone 1-5 vs the conference as a whole, and won’t be good enough to beat the Pack in Lambeau.  Green Bay had been looking beatable until last week, with three straight losses and a surprising lack of offensive execution.  So I benched Aaron Rodgers from by fantasy lineup, started Derek Carr, and was frowned upon by the football gods.  I won’t make that mistake again, Rodgers is back in, and he should shine here.  The Packers played convincingly well in Minnesota last week, a game they had to win, and they should light up the scoreboard at home in Week 12.

 

minvikingsMin @ Atl – The Vikings found themselves inexplicably on top of the NFC North, after the Packers lost three games in a row.  They then found themselves facing Green Bay in a game to decide the leader of the division.  Put to that test, they failed, and the Pack returned to the top where we are all used to seeing them.  I really thought that Minnesota’s defense was good enough to slow down a poorer-than-average Aaron Rodgers, but they proved to be not quite there yet.  That’s not to say that they can’t win games, and I think they find themselves in a winnable spot right here.  There’s no team colder than the Atlanta Falcons, not including the Browns & the Chargers, who are just plain bad, not cold.  The Falcons were flying high before a 3-game skid, but even before that they showed a lot of weaknesses and were winning games by too little a margin.  I think they have the talent to turn things around, but the Vikings aren’t the 49ers, and this might not be the game to do it.  The Falcons are only average at home, rely too heavily on Julio Jones, and seem to shut down when the game is tight; not a great combination.

 

cinbengalsSTL @ Cin – How anyone missed Case Keenum being completely out of it on the field last week is beyond me.  The video shows his teammate dragging his limp body to its feet, and not under some scrum, but completely out in the open after a big hit.  The guy was woozy and should not have been allowed to play until he got checked out.  The NFL put rules & people in place to make sure stuff like this didn’t happen anymore, and yet it did, under the eyes of millions of people.  Perhaps that just exemplifies the problems the NFL is having with its officials, as this season has been one giant problem after another.  Refs need to be full time, players need to practice more period, but also with officials on hand, and everyone needs to get their act together before the product that is the sport I love is completely ruined.  Geesh.  Anyway, the Rams offense has been terrible no matter who their QB is, concussed or not, and they don’t stand up to the quality that is the 2015 Bengals.  Cinci was always gonna lose that game in Arizona, and it doesn’t mean they’ve lost their magic.  Look for an easy, big, rebound win here.

 

houtexansNO @ Hou – Boy did the Saints need a bye week.  They’ve lost two straight after it seemed like they were figuring a few things out, they fired their defensive coordinator after becoming the only team to allow 300+ points this season, and rumors are swirling in the Big Easy that the days of Payton & Brees are soon to be over.  Also, this is a team that’s 1-4 on the road in 2015, making this game in Houston seem like a foregone conclusion.  The only aspect keeping their hopes alive is that bye week, something fans will be hoping helped astronomically, which may be too far-reaching.  Meanwhile, the Texans are headed in the opposite direction, with three straight wins and a tie atop the AFC South.  With Indy hurting, Houston knows that this is the time to make a move, grabbing the division away before Andrew Luck gets back healthy.  The Texans play well at home, will get Brian Hoyer back this week, and will look to pressure Drew Brees into taking sacks & throwing interceptions.  The Saints can still put up points, so this game could come down to the wire, but I have to go with the better team here.

 

tbbuccaneersTB @ Ind – These two teams are almost identical, the question is, do you pick new blood or old?  Records: both 5-5.  Points: 236, 224, respectively.  Points allowed: 254, 248.  Non-conference record: both 1-2.  Win streak: both 2 games.  Home record: both 2-3.  Away record: both 3-2.  There is literally nothing to differentiate these two teams except, currently, one has a 21-year-old leader and the other has a 40-year-old backup pressed into service.  Now, lately Famous Jameis has been playing better than a rookie, with 5 TDs in his last game, and a solid season going overall.  And while I don’t like the Bucs to make the playoffs but think the Colts still have a great shot, I think I have to go with the kid here.  Hasselbeck has filled in admirably for Luck, and he has Indy winning games.  But you’ve got to think that the magic will wear off, that the other shoe will drop, that his body will catch up to him sooner rather than later.  And so I’ll go with the good, young road team over the mediocre, old home team in this matchup, and we could see Houston as the sole leader of the AFC South going into Week 13.

 

jaxjaguarsSD @ Jax – The mystery of Phillip River & the Chargers has finally been solved, and America is finally understanding what Broncos fans have known for about 10 years; they suck.  And please don’t think I’m jumping off some bandwagon because of their surprisingly bad record; I’ve always seen San Diego as a team that fails every year to make the necessary changes that will get them pointed in the right direction.  They did it over & over with Norv Turner, allowing his team to save him in December, only to watch him lead his team into the basement every single season.  And now they’re doing it again, holding on to Rivers even after he continually proves that he doesn’t have that It Factor present in the great ones.  It’s time to give up, SD, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  On the other hand, as weird as it is to say, Jacksonville might actually be improving.  Bortles is playing well, they’re scoring points, and they’ve won two games in a row, albeit against bad teams.  But that’s the first step, beating the teams you should beat, like the Chargers.  The next step can wait until next year.

 

kcchiefsBuf @ KC – Boy was Rex Ryan bummed that the Bills didn’t beat the Patriots last week.  I’m sure he hates losing any game his team loses, but this one was special, this one was hyped, and this one stung.  Rex & Tyrod just aren’t the same caliber combination as Bill & Tom, even though the Bills are scoring surprising amounts of points, 24 per week.  It’s their defense that’s the real shocker, how little they sack the opposing quarterback, when last year they were so proficient at it.  Well, the AFC East has only one dominator, and that’s New England.  Also at 5-5 but headed up, not down, are the Chiefs.  They’ve won four in a row, and will look to keep it going with games against the Bills, Raiders, and Chargers.  Coming off their bye week, Kansas City destroyed the Broncos & the Chargers, making a serious run at the Wild Card, if not the division.  Now, I think Denver will hold on to the AFC West and KC will have to settle for a road playoff game, but I think they’d be happy with that.  And I think they’ll be happy after this one, winning against a tough Buffalo team, but one that is definitely beatable.

 

nyjetsMia @ NYJ – I like the direction in which the Dolphins are headed; new team logo, a young QB, a great receiving corp, a defense that can be improved upon, a hard-headed interim head coach.  And they’re a good road team, going 3-3, playing solid football almost every week, showing that they’ll be around for years to come.  But while I like the idea of Miami becoming a strong team, I don’t think the magic is there this year.  I loved them in the preseason, thought they might win the division with an easy early schedule and Brady suspended 4 games.  But that wasn’t realized, and although they’re pointed in the right direction, an 0-4 record against the AFC East shows exactly where they’re at.  The Jets are only slightly better off this season, one game ahead in the standings, have a bit less of a sustainable core of young players, but are definitely more likely to reach the postseason this year.  I like the way Fitzpatrick is playing, his two receivers are one of the best duos in the league, the run game is producing, and the Jets’ defense is good if not great.  A home win should be in order here.

 

oakraidersOak @ Ten – The Raiders relish the spoiler role, but were unable to play it in Detroit last week.  Carr laid an egg, and a team that had been doing very well on the road in games they were kinda counted out of failed to stop the team with the worst record in the league.  Well, maybe the Lions aren’t all that terrible, or maybe the Raiders had a bad week.  Either way, they’ll need a win here away from Oakland if they want to reenter the playoff conversation.  As it is, they’ve fallen to 4-6, with a loss here perhaps pushing the out of the postseason.  Luckily, they get to face the Titans.  I don’t know what happened, or why the team fired their coach so quickly, but things have gone from bad to worse in Tennessee.  They’re 2-6 overall, 0-6 vs the AFC, and 0-5 at home, a stat that is almost unfathomable.  Mariota has yet to win in from of his home crowd?  He only has three more opportunities this year, with this week being one of them.  But I don’t think they can do it, not even against a mediocre Raiders team.  Tennessee scores the least points in the AFC, even less than the Browns, and that’s saying something.

 

wasredskinsNYG @ Was – I’m even starting to annoy myself with my constant reassuring comments that the Giants will win the NFC East.  They have had every opportunity, but have kinda squandered it while the Cowboys got Romo back & the Redskins found a way to follow Cousins.  The Eagles are still around for Pete’s sake, only one game out of first place.  If the Giants don’t win this division, it will be the poorest attempt I have ever seen; what do they want, gift wrap?  Romo is back and Dallas is back to winning, Cousins is playing semi-well, at least against bad defenses at home; enter Week 12.  Washington is a surprising 4-1 at home, though a terrible 0-5 on the road.  Luckily for them, they get the G-Men at home, while New York is only 2-3 away from East Rutherford.  I still think that the Giants have the best shot at winning the division, even with Dallas playing better, the Redskins hanging around, and even the Eagles putting in their two cents.  But I have to go with Washington here at home, where hopefully they can put a terrible game vs the Panthers behind them and realize that the postseason is still within reach.

 

aricardinalsAri @ SF – The Cardinals proved they were one of the best, if not THE best team in the NFL with a solid win over the Bengals last week, preceded by another difficult win Week 10 in Seattle.  The Cardinals may not be as visible as the Patriots, Broncos, Packers, or Panthers, but they can legitimately be called a Super Bowl contender.  After all, no team in the league has scored more points or logged more touchdowns.  Arizona also has the highest net point total in the league except for New England, meaning that their defense is almost as good as their offense.  And with one loss at home and one loss on the road, this is a team that knows its own weaknesses, which may be the biggest asset to a championship team.  I can hardly waste time here talking about their opponent, a Niners team who scores the least points in the league and has the least net point total.  They are 3-2 at home (0-5 on the road), so perhaps there’s a bit of a trap game scare in San Francisco.  But my money is on the Cardinals, who I think should easily be playing in January, if not February.

 

pitsteelersPit @ Sea – Pittsburgh & Seattle, this season, have become mirror images of each other.  They got to this point from different paths, but the result is the same.  They score about the same, they allow about the same, they both hover around .500, and they both have enough of a history to keep folks believing that the playoffs are still an option.  But for the Steelers, the injury to Big Ben has led them to this point.  With him, and Le’Veon Bell for that matter, the season would have gone very differently, and perhaps today we talk about Pitt being a shoe in for the Wild Card spot, of even a contender for the division.  The Seahawks though, they’ve gotten where they are by bad O-line play, poor coaching, and bad game plans.  Why don’t they use Jimmy Graham?  No one knows.  Why did they trade away the keystone of their line for a guy they don’t utilize?  No one knows.  And it’s this uncertainty that has turned into frustration and has some ready to write off Seattle as a failed experiment, at least for 2015.  Stat to know: the Steelers are 3-0 vs the NFC this season, while the Seahawks are 0-1 vs the AFC.

 

denbroncosNE @ Den – I keep saying about these good teams that I won’t pick against them until they show me a reason to, but I’m about to buck that trend.  Bronco buck it actually, but that’s a bad joke, and we’ll move right along.  I know that the Patriots are undefeated, that they score at will, that they defend better than people give them credit for, that Tom Brady is playing to prove something, that Belichick is a master of original game plan, and that (hey, let’s be honest) they’ve cheated a little to get ahead where they can.  But it’s all about to catch up with them when they face a momentum they can’t resist.  New England has had so many injuries, they’re coming off an emotional game, Brady doesn’t play well in Denver; the signs are there for the reading, but the most telling might be this; that nothing gold can stay.  The Pats will lose at some point, and this could very well be the week.  Osweiler stepping in for Peyton did great, the defense rose to the occasion, and this team is on a high right now knowing that they’ve gone 8-2 mostly behind a QB who couldn’t play the game.  Now they have a new stud horse; watch out Tom.

 

balravensBal @ Cle – Is this game really going to go ahead as scheduled?  Can’t they just call it a tie and save us all from watching two terrible teams bludgeon each other to death?  Or, actually, would they just let them bludgeon each other to death for real?  That might be more entertaining.  As if the Ravens’ season couldn’t get any worse, both Joe Flacco & Justin Forsett get put on IR, completely ending Baltimore’s year.  This is a 3-7 team that can’t win on the road and yet I’m still going to pick them to win; that should tell you something about the Browns.  Cleveland, if possible, is in an even worse spot, a game behind and light years away from being a competitive franchise.  Recently, their newly sober QB Johnny “Football” Manziel, who promised to behave on the team’s bye week, got drunk and let himself be filmed.  Well, he’s now on the bench, so in comes Josh McCown, the least likely candidate to do something spectacular that I have ever seen.  The Browns are a mess, the Ravens aren’t much better, but someone has to win this game, I guess.  God, what a terrible Monday Night Game; even Gruden must agree.

 


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Movie Trailer – The Benefactor

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Andrew Renzi

Starring: Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Theo James

Release: January 15th, 2016

Is this meant to be a twist of Great Expectations?  Because that’s what it seems like.  And not that that makes it bad, but it does produce a little bit of a dishonest feeling, like the film is tricking us into thinking that it’s going to be more than a standard thriller.  I think if we judge it by its genre, if we expect very little out of it, then this movie could surprise us by working.  But we shouldn’t get our hopes us, because it doesn’t exactly look that good.


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DVD Review – Lilies of the Field

Category : DVD Review

Director: Ralph Nelson

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Stanley Adams

Year: 1963

In 1959, Sidney Poitier was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Defiant Ones, a film about escaping convicts, a black & a white man chained together and forced into an unlikely partnership.  In 1964, Poitier was nominated in the same category for his role in Lilies of the Field, this time winning the award.  He became the first African American man to win a Best Actor Oscar, highlighting a career that would span five decades and culminate in an honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in 2002.  Not too shabby for a kid from the Bahamas, and perhaps no actor in history has had a more impressive year, with three major & memorable films in 1967: To Sir With Love, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.  Poitier’s legacy is undeniable, and here we get to see one of movies that began it all, a real cinematic treat.

The Movie

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Homer Smith is a drifter who’s got it all figured out.  He sleeps in his car, he’s got his box of tools, can get a handyman job anywhere he likes, eats at roadside stands, and heads West just because the mood strikes him.  But when his car begins to overheat, forcing him to pull over for some water, Homer’s life takes a turn that he never saw coming.  The spot in the desert at which he stops is a rundown nunnery, home to four Sisters and one Mother, all of whom speak German and have come a long way to be where they are today.  Homer Schmidt, as the nuns now refer to him, agrees to take on a few odd jobs around the house in return for a small fee, planning to hit the road again as soon as the cash is in his pocket.

But you know what they say about best laid plans, and the nuns are convinced that God himself led Homer to their home, that the man was sent to help them in their time of need.  And what do they need?  A chapel, or “shapel”, as Mother Maria calls it.  No money, no bricks, no wood, no hope, but this group of women is determined that the people of the area will no longer meet near the local diner on Sundays to hear Mass, that they will soon have an actual building in which to proudly worship.  For Homer, who isn’t a Catholic and has already grown tired of the poor fare he receives at the table of the nuns, staying on to build a chapel will take more courage & determination than he is used to exhibiting, especially for free.

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Sometimes we get stuck in modern times, both audiences & critics, imagining that the greatness we can see currently must outshine the greatness of the past, that the glow of actors who have come before has dimmed, that they should be thanked for laying the groundwork but we’ve got it from here.  It takes a performance from an award-winning & naturally gifted actor like Sidney Poitier to remind us that talent wasn’t handed out a week ago, that incredible individual performances have been caught on film many times, if we’d only look back & remember them.  Consider Poitier’s role in Lilies of the Field to be one of those iconic performances that should be remembered not only for their foundation but for their stand-alone superiority.  He is flawless in a complicated role, completely setting aside that this was also a complicated time for African Americans in the U.S., that the film’s reference to Hitler, to slaves, to derogatory terms, could only have been handled as well by the most delicate gloves or, apparently, the most gifted actors.

Apart from Poitier, the film suffers a bit by the 50 years between its release and now, coming across as the definition of dated.  The funny nuns learning English, the Mexican immigrants drinking tequila, the construction company owner calling Homer ‘boy’; it all screamed 60s so loudly that it became a bit distracting whenever Poitier wasn’t dominating the scene.  Thankfully, he dominated most of them, and his talent alone was enough to make Lilies of the Field a solid movie.  Its themes were simple, though there were a few too many of them, making the real point a little obscured behind side stories, failing to focus in as perfectly as one would wish.  But underneath it all was Sidney Poitier as a man who represented so much, a character delivered to us with a kind of grace that we didn’t & don’t often see.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (Anamorphic), the video quality is as good as you’re going to get from a DVD created from a film from 1963.  The picture is in black & white, which actually only aids in the concept of the separation of the races inherent to this time.  The picture quality is fine, as long as your expectations are low, succeeding in avoiding any major problems and bringing the movie to a new medium as best as could be achieved.

Audio – The disc was done in Mono, with a option of English Subtitles if needed.  The audio quality is the same as the video; good enough for a 50-year-old movie transferred to a modern DVD but not, of course, something that’s going to blow you away. The sound was fine, with little warbling and a nice theme song, though the dubbing when Poitier sang was a little ridiculous.

Extras – There are four trailers in the Bonus menu: Lilies of the Field, They Call Me Mister Tibbs, The Organization, Duel at Diablo.

Final Thoughts

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Highly Recommended. Watch Lilies of the Field to see a great performance from Sidney Poitier and to watch a time capsule of the times.  Watch for a few lessons in morality, some ethical fables, and a story designed to create hope in the power of both prayer & personal sacrifice.  Don’t watch expecting Dr. Strangelove, as this isn’t a groundbreaking film exactly, but rather a strong one in which a great actor shows his true talent.  The video and audio qualities are passable, as good as you should expect, and there are a few trailers on the DVD for those who are interested.  I can see why Poitier won an Oscar for this role, and for that reason alone, this movie becomes a must-see, if not exactly a must-own.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay