Monthly Archives: December 2015

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Sports – NFL Picks 2015, Week 17

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 17 Picks

(11-5 last week, 156-84 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

atlfalconsNO @ Atl – With both teams eliminated from the playoffs, and without much to play for, the edge goes to the home team.  The Falcons were able to knock off the Panthers last week, but it wasn’t enough to get them to January.  Maybe next year.

 

 

 

 

nyjetsNYJ @ Buf – I don’t like the Bills to play spoiler enough to pick them here, as much as I’m sure Rex Ryan would like to keep his former team out of the playoffs.  The Jets are the better team and are playing for the postseason, so they should win this week.

 

 

 

 

 

chibearsDet @ Chi – Another matchup without meaning, at least as far as this season.  Jobs are on the line though, so both teams could be playing for footage rather than for record.  Ironically, the Bears are even worse at home than the Lions are on the road, but I’ll pick ’em anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

cinbengalsBal @ Cin – The Ravens might have been able to rain on one of their division opponent’s parades last week, but I don’t think they’ll do it again.  The Bengals lost a tough road game, but they’ll return to form at home, unless some backup QB is throw to the wolves.

 

 

 

 

 

pitsteelersPit @ Cle – After losing a disastrous game last week, the Steelers need to win desperately, but they also need other AFC teams to lose.  I don’t think the Brownies will stand in the way of such purposeful play, but I also don’t think that Pittsburgh will make the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

 

dalcowboysWas @ Dal – With the Redskins possibly sitting their starters, this is a game that Dallas can win, though it doesn’t matter to either team.  Washington already clinched the division, the Cowboys had a lost season, and both teams are ready for January, if for different reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

houtexansJax @ Hou – All the Texans have to do is win and they take the AFC South.  That sounds simple, but it’s been a wild year, with surprising ups & downs.  That said, the Jaguars are 1-6 on the road and probably don’t stand a chance against a team that wants it much more.

 

 

 

 

 

indcoltsTen @ Ind – The only chance for the Colts is to win here and have the Texans lose to Jacksonville.  But with a 4th string quarterback, that’s easier said than done.  Still, the Titans are the worst team in the league and would probably rather have the 1st pick in the Draft than a win here.

 

 

 

 

 

nepatriotsNE @ Mia – New England keeps the #1 overall seed in the AFC with a win this week, and a road game in Miami shouldn’t be enough to stop them.  The Dolphins are irrelevant, and although they might be playing for jobs next year, might just roll over.

 

 

 

 

 

nygiantsPhi @ NYG – Chip Kelly’s days in Philly are over, and the teasers that he might be headed to Tennessee to reunite with Marcus Mariota have already begun.  I think he’ll probably head back to college where he can be successful playing lesser competition with a hand-recruited mega-roster.

 

 

 

 

 

aricardinalsSea @ Ari – The NFC playoffs are decided, and both these teams are in.  Now it’s just about seeding, with the Cardinals hoping to nab #1 if the Panthers lose again this week.  Arizona is a great team no matter where they play, and they’ll look to keep their 9-game win streak alive.

 

 

 

 

 

carpanthersTB @ Car – I would pat myself on the back for picking the Panthers & Patriots to lose last week, but it was actually pretty predictable, what with matchups, momentum, and timing.  This week, I think Carolina gets back on track and holds the #1 overall seed, hosting every playoff game going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

denbroncosSD @ Den – The Broncos won in impressive fashion on Monday Night, Brock Osweiler leading his team on drive after drive, even after a poor start and a ton of miscues by his teammates.  Denver wants the division though, and should take it at home vs the Chargers.

 

 

 

 

 

kcchiefsOak @ KC – Man the Chiefs just won’t lose, but they might come up just short, as far as the AFC West goes anyway.  They’ll be playing hard in this one, hoping that the Broncos falter, but either way they enter the playoffs as a team no one wants to face.

 

 

 

 

 

stlramsSTL @ SF – Gurley trumps most other players, and has a way of helping his team with the tough games, even when he doesn’t play his best.  Last week the Rams beat the Seahawks, this week they should be able to beat the Niners, a team that couldn’t be more lost.

 

 

 

 

 

gbpackersMin @ GB – This is the most important game of the week, which is why they flexed it to Sunday Night, and will decide the winner of the NFC North.  The loser with play in the first round of the playoffs, the winner gets a bye, so it’s a big game, and I don’t see Rodgers losing it at Lambeau.

 


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Movie Trailer – Ice Age: Collision Course

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Mike Thurmeier, Galen T. Chu

Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo

Release: July 22nd, 2016

My kids just love the Ice Age movies, or at least the first two.  They think that they’re hilarious, which makes sense, since I always did think that they were a bit more juvenile that the Disney/Pixar greats.  These are pure entertainment, but in a good way, and this installment looks pretty cool, pun intended.  Also, take a look at the cast list, which is too large for me to lay out here; it’s star-studded.


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DVD Review – Lumberjack Man

Category : DVD Review

Director: Josh Bear

Starring: Ciara Flynn, Michael Madsen, Adam Sessler

Year: 2015

There’s campy and then there’s campy.  Certain horror movies are allowed to be silly, to be over-the-top, to kill off their characters in ridiculous ways.  That’s the camp that we’ve come to love, the gore & insanity that comes as a result of certain filmmakers letting their imaginations run wild.  The term “camp” comes, of course, from actual films set at camp, where horny teenagers peek into showers, where counselors get it on in the woods, where the adults aren’t always as nice as they seem, and where some wacko slowly walks around the woods murdering helpless virgins.  That’s camp and we love it, at least until it goes too far.  It’s not really fair, saying that a movie can go off the deep end, but not too much.  But that’s exactly what I’m saying here to Lumberjack Man, a movie that took the genre to an unwatchable & embarrassing place.

The Movie

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Welcome to Good Friends Church Camp, where God will bless your soul and the Devil will eviscerate your body.  Well, not the Devil, some mad lumberjack, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  First, the counselors of the camp need to arrive, set up, and prepare for the arrival of a whole mess of rowdy kids.  It’s a Christian camp, but not all the staff stick exactly to the religion.  Faith sees it as merely a job to do, quoting imaginary scripture to suit her needs, and not seeming to take the whole thing seriously, much to Danielle’s dismay.  Doug & Theresa, the leaders of the camp, take it all very seriously, and will look to whip the youngsters into shape before the gates officially open.  Meanwhile, Jeff & his buddy just want to get a little action, and everyone is feeling excited as another year at Church Camp begins.

But there’s still that murderous lumberjack to contend with, let’s not forget about him.  Some event some years ago & quite nearby has led to the unearthly spirit of an angered woodsman to rest uneasily in his grave, coming out to stalk the campgrounds in search of vengeance.  How exactly does he plan to get his revenge, you might ask?  Why, by spilling the blood of everyone who crosses his path and pouring it onto a wagon loaded with over-sized pancakes, that’s how.  Yep, you heard right, pancakes, complete with a giant slab of butter and bloody, home-grown sauce.  Everyone better watch out, as the evil lumberjack is on a mission to become some sort of powerful, unstoppable spirit, and he won’t let a little thing like summer camp get in his way.  With the help of the overly-knowledgeable Dr. Peter Shirtcliff, Faith will fight the demon, both physically and with syrup.

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I hope that made some sort of sense, because it was the very best I could do to explain the utter nonsense that is Lumberjack Man.  It’s a church camp whose festivities are cut short by a ghost (ish) who pulls mega pancakes around and makes sure his victims’ blood is spread evenly on top.  If that’s not the strangest thing you’ve heard all day, you must be leading some sort of wild life.  The premise is just so strange, without much of an attempt to reign things in.  Kids smoke pot, have sex, douse themselves in syrup, have food fights.  Adults snort cocaine, rub themselves with lotion, sport doofy haircuts, make every bad decision imaginable.  Really, Murphy’s Law is in full effect here, but with a horror twist; whatever can run off into the woods & bleed will run off into the woods & bleed, regardless of how little sense that makes.

“But it’s campy!” some might cry, and I would respond with “but way too much so.”  It’s the genre perverted into something so genre that’s it’s no longer recognizable as the genre.  Make any sense?  Well neither does the thought process behind this movie.  It’s like everyone was on drugs when they made it, complete with the pointless food fight & ridiculous flapjacks.  Why did that character just put on a beard costume?  Why did those girls just take off their clothes?  Why is anyone saying anything that they’re saying?  The answer is the same every time; absolutely no one knows.  The only thing that can be said to this film’s credit is that they love campy movies and they try to make one, boobs & blood & bodies & all.  But the poor attempt doesn’t earn an A for effort from me, turning me off rather than eliciting applause, missing the mark completely.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (letterbox), the video is way down on a long list of bad things about this movie.  Worded that way, I guess being toward the bottom of a list like that would be a good thing, and the video isn’t the worst thing, that’s for sure.  The picture quality is fine, low-budget, but not great, and the filmmakers probably assume you don’t really care about the clarity of each chop-a-body-into-pieces scene.

Audio – The audio of the film was done in English Dolby Digital 5.1.  There are no language options or subtitles choice on the menu.  Actually, there’s no menu at all, and nothing to do other than pressing play.  I guess the sound quality of the movie was fine, since I didn’t notice anything good or bad.

Extras – There are no special features on this disc.

Final Thoughts

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Skip It.  I like campy movies, but Lumberjack Man went too far.  To someone unused to the genre, they probably all go too far, and to an aficionado, perhaps they can’t go far enough.  But for me, as someone somewhere in the middle, this film was more joke than serious attempt, coming across as worthless instead of entertaining.  Yes it had the typical elements of the genre, but turned into something weirder and more unnecessary that usual.  The video was poor to middling, so was the audio, and there were no extras on the DVD.  So many other campy horror films exist that are so much stronger, that at least show a little bit of intelligence, and are enjoyable in an offbeat way.  You won’t find that here, so take my advice and stay away from church camp.

☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Storks

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Nicolas Stoller

Starring: Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg

Release: September 23rd, 2016

It’s hard to tell if this movie will be super bad or merely bad, but bad it shall be.


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Movie Review – The Big Short

Category : Movie Review

Director: Adam McKay

Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt

Year: 2015

Gather together three of the hottest Hollywood hunks in the business and give them all incredibly awful haircuts.  But don’t make any of  them the lead, give that position to a comedian whose name might as well be Michael Scott.  Hire the director of a dozen Will Ferrell movies to create a thriller about the collapse of the global economy.  Base the entire plot around financial principles that only .01% of Americans understand.  Break the 4th wall continually, especially with celebrity cameos that are purposely placed to make audiences feel dumb.  And to top it all off, make the run time over two hours, filled with jargon & banks & concepts that no one in their right might can possibly find interesting.  Sound like a recipe for one of the best films of the year?  Spoiler Alert: it is.

2007 brought the United States one of the biggest economic disasters since the Great Depression, hinging on the collapse of the housing market, an institution that had become the bedrock of the global marketplace.  Banks went under, millions lost their homes, prices skyrocketed, and the Democrats won the American election as a direct result of serious issues that had been boiling under a lid for a decade, something that almost no one saw coming.  But, for a crafty few, this disaster meant giant personal profits.  A handful of brilliant minds saw the collapse coming, understood that the housing market was build on shaky loans, and so insanely bet against an institution that had been solid as a rock since 1776.  This is their story.

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Genius.  Pure genius.  But you know who’s not a genius?  Me, for predicting that this movie would fail.  Take a look at this trailer and at my thoughts on the film in September of last year.  I saw the ingredients, saw how the cast looked to be mismanaged, knew the director, heard the boring plot.  It looked like a complete mess, a story that was destined to be mishandled and wasn’t that interesting in the first place.  Boy does the world have a way of putting you in your place sometimes, and man am I glad.  The Big Short is a brilliant film, one that should be considered as a front-runner for Best Picture.  We’ll see what the Committee ultimately decides, but it’ll stand on my list as one of the best of the year.

The cast is phenomenal, Carell as the powerful lead, Gosling as the narrator, Bale as the savant, Pitt as the solid side character, with peripheral players serving it up as well: Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Melissa Leo, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro.  And then there were the cameos, placed to bring a little levity to a heavy dose of number-crunching and to explain the almost unexplainable: Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez.  I’m not one to enjoy having concepts explained to me in a movie; tell me with your acting, not with obvious cues.  But in a film that was part reenactment, it was either think of a clever way to explain some of the technical aspects or have one character turn to the other and say, “by ‘shorting’ you must mean ‘betting against’, a term we bankers use quite often.”  No, the filmmakers did what they had to do, but crafted the entire film as one giant aside in a way that worked.  And perhaps that’s an understatement; it worked to perfection.  The Big Short is hilarious, witty, honest, fast, forces you to think, and is, above all, the truth.  I don’t know how they told this story with this much humor & captivation, but I applaud the entire cast & crew for pulling off the coup of the century.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Review – By the Sea

Category : Movie Review

Director: Angelina Jolie

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt

Year: 2015

By the Sea is what happens when famous people get too famous, get too much money, get married, lose their minds, and decide to make a movie about themselves under the guise of art.  Jolie directs, stars, writes, and even produces, emerging with a product that is basically a self-funded, self-crafted, self-absorbed melodrama about the difficulties of marriage.  It’s beyond personal, becoming almost obsessive, and allows audiences into the lives of celebrities in an offbeat way that we quickly understand teaches us to be careful what we wish for.  This isn’t Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, but rather something much more dark & twisted.

Vanessa & Roland are a married couple who used to be the talk of the town, she a dancer, he a writer, both reveling in fame and fortune.  But that was long ago, or what seems like long ago, and the couple’s inability to have a child has added to the growing feeling that their lives are pointless, that their marriage is failing, and that nothing really matters.  So they go on a vacation.  They head to the French seaside where Roland can write, Vanessa can relax, and they can move on with their lives in a positive direction.  But instead of feeling therapeutic, the vacation quickly turn into more of the same; fighting, drinking, blaming, general misery.  And meeting a young couple who are staying next door and seem so very much in love doesn’t help things, only heightening their own depression.

Talk about a movie that makes you hate life, bringing you down to the desperate level of the characters that isn’t appealing in any way.  Some might call this art, and there is a depth of sorrow that you can find yourself swimming in & contemplating, if that’s your thing.  But that isn’t my thing, and there isn’t enough intention here to really make me work to like this movie.  Instead, it becomes so heavy, so selfish, so meaningful to Angelina & Brad, that it leaves the rest of us completely out.  This is their film, their baby in a creepy way, and they make no bones about the fact that we are voyeurs looking into their lives.  As far as talent goes, I find it difficult to watch Jolie, her skeletal face & deliberate manner, going over-the-top as often as she can.  Pitt was fine, nothing extraordinary, representing more with his presence than with his dialogue.  The French characters were solid though: Niels Arestrup (War Horse), Melvil Poupaud (Laurence Anyways), Melanie Laurent (Enemy).  But By the Sea was just The Canyons with a bigger budget and bigger names in charge, nothing that needs your attention this Oscar season when so many others are so much better.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Everybody Wants Some

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell

Release: April 15th, 2016

Richard Linklater has two directorial personalities; the dramatic Boyhood & Before Sunrise side and the toking Dazed and Confused & Suburbia side.  This movie is definitely the latter, with an odd, 80s, stoner vibe that’s hard to figure out.  Are you going to have to be a pothead to appreciate this, or will enough of his very talented mind poke through for critics to enjoy it as well.  I guess we will see, though I’m not excited.


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Movie Review – Concussion

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peter Landesman

Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks

Year: 2015

Will Smith hasn’t been in a good movie since Men in Black in 1997.  There, I said it, and it’s mostly true.  Since then, he’s done a lot of fun fluff, but nothing that stands out as great: Wild Wild West, Men in Black II, Bad Boys II, I Robot, Hitch, I Am Legend, Hancock, Men in Black 3, After Earth, Focus.  And even his serious stuff has been more cheesy than quality: Enemy of the State, Bagger Vance, Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds.  My point is, Will Smith is an actor who we fell in love with in 90s, have followed ever since, root for to succeed, but who ultimately hasn’t panned out as a legitimate threat.  His work is either over-silly or over-dramatic, and yet we keep waiting for him to have that impressive, break-out performance that establishes him as a Oscar presence.  Concussion might be the closest we ever get to that (other than Ali, for which he was nominated for Best Actor, but let’s be honest; that movie was boring), but it still falls short of being special.

This is the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and his research as it pertains to head trauma, specifically concerning professional football players who receive constant minor & often major unseen brain injuries.  While working in Pittsburgh for the coroners office, Omalu investigated the deaths of multiple former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, uncovering startling similarities: aggression, mood problems, and death at an early age.  Further research would lead Omalu to develop a theory on repetitive brain trauma, calling it CTE, a condition that was silently affected every person practicing a brutal sport.  But when he brought this knowledge to the public, the NFL was quick to shoot his theories down, to claim that they were doing everything necessary to take care of their players, while at the same time those very players continued to die.

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I don’t mean to tear Will Smith down just to build him back up with a glowing review, and really I wouldn’t say that I support either of those extremes.  He’s a good actor, a fun presence, someone we all like, he just hasn’t blown me away in all the years that I’ve been watching him.  So there’s my backhanded compliment and here’s my take on his latest effort; it’s one of the best roles he’s ever played, while still not settling in as Academy Award worthy.  He’s solid as Omalu, does a fine accent, remains believable throughout the film, keeps the action grounded around him at all times.  But meanwhile, he never breaks out of the acting shell that I’m becoming more & more positive is the best that he can manage.  Perhaps Will Smith is only a strong actor and not a genius; is that an insult?  He manages to do a fine job here, but can’t seem to take that extra step toward greatness.

And as far as the film itself is concerned, Smith is the very best part.  The rest is barely worth talking about.  There’s the story, which is interesting and current, but then that’s about it.  Does this film change the world because we never knew that getting hit on the head repeatedly was bad?  No, life will go on, and so will the NFL, they probably couldn’t care less; no press is bad press, right?  So Smith is fine, the story is relevant, but that’s where the positives end.  Alec Baldwin with an odd accent, Luke Wilson as Roger Goodell, Mbatha-Raw with a completely extraneous character; the supporting cast didn’t do much supporting.  The entire thing was a bit overdone, overzealous, and thinks too much of itself, wanting so badly to be an exposè when what it really does it expose its own weaknesses.  Do you love Will Smith and hate football?  Well, here you go, but beyond that there’s a reason this film gets solely mediocre reviews.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton

Release: March 4th, 2016

I like the premise, I like Tina Fey, I like that they let Margot Robbie be Australian, I like Martin Freeman, and I like Billy Bob Thornton as an asshole Army guy.  The only thing that concerns me are the directors, since I didn’t like Focus at all.  I’m hoping Tina took this movie under her wing is a strong way and will keep it from being the stupid thing it could easily fall to being.


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Movie Review – Joy

Category : Movie Review

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper

Year: 2015

The magic of Silver Linings Playbook is slowly receding into the past, as year by year ticks by and the players involved in that film fail to continually impress.  American Hustle, done one year later, added Bale & Adams to the team of Cooper & Lawrence, with a result that was solid if not exactly phenomenal.  Since then, things have gone downhill.  Cooper & Lawrence took their chemistry to Serena where it completely disappeared, Russell directed Accidental Love under a pseudonym which was a total disaster, and now they team back up with Joy in an attempt to regain what worked so well a few years ago.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it didn’t work.  Joy is nowhere near the well-acted, enjoyable stories that this team has created before, and you begin to wonder if the magic has very simply worn off.

Joy’s grandmother saw big things in her future, predicting that she would become a happy, successful matriarch and lead a large family to a respectability that seemed beyond their grasp.  Well, many years & two kids later, Joy is divorced, hates her job, has an ex-husband living in the basement, a mother who won’t get out of bed, a father who carouses his way around town, and a life that is anything but wonderful.  But she’s still a strong woman, if a confused one, and when an invention pops into her head that could change the housekeeping industry, Joy latches onto it with everything she’s got.  She puts up her money, borrowed money, does everything she can to let the world know about her product, even traveling to the offices of QVC.  She’ll make her life work if it’s the last thing she does, dragging her dysfunctional family along behind her.

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Lawrence, as the unmatched lead of this film, never felt believable enough to make Joy work.  We’re supposed to believe JLaw as a homemaker who scrubs floors on her knees, who has two kids, an ex-husband, and retiree parents?  Please.  Even after she cuts off her own hair in one scene she appears in the next as some sort of Hollywood goddess who can make everything right by just speaking firmly.  She wasn’t realistic in any way, and for a film that was trying to secure some sort of true life, powerful woman, strong mother theme, that was a major problem.  The only time she felt natural was in her scenes with Bradley Cooper, who really saved the day and made his moments actually feel like a Russell film.  Unfortunately, he was a minor character and so appeared in only a few places.  We needed him around more, giving Lawrence a companion to play off of.

As it was, the film felt oddly choppy and unlike the vibe we’ve enjoyed from Russell before.  It felt more like a play or a Wes Anderson film, relying on quirky side characters and funny interjections, then bouncing right back to Joy’s depressing life & struggle.  With all this wavering of action, the film began to drag, feeling much longer than it actually was and making we long for the end.  A overarching narration didn’t help things either, continuing even after the narrator had died, giving the film a wacky feel that in no way matched the mood of the movie.  Or perhaps I should say “moods”, since the up & down quality of the film became a constant distraction that ate away at the heart of what I can only imagine was a well-intentioned plot.  But you don’t get bonus points for effort when you’re a proven director working with a proven cast, you get judged extra sharply because we know what you’re capable of.  Joy isn’t the best work by anyone involved, and is perhaps a continuation of a very disappointing trend.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 

Joy Movie

Joy Movie