Author Archives: ochippie

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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 2

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 2 Picks

(9-7 last week, 9-7 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

NYG @ Was

NE @ NYJ

Den @ Jax

Buf @ Mia

SF @ Phi

LAR @ Ind

LV @ Pit

Cin @ Chi

Hou @ Cle

NO @ Car

Min @ Ari

Atl @ TB

Ten @ Sea

Dal @ LAC

KC @ Bal

Det @ GB

 


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Movie Review – Green Lantern

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Campbell

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard

Year: 2011

I didn’t think Green Lantern was going to be as bad as I had heard, and then the helicopter-on-the-ramp scene happened, and I regretted that I didn’t turn the movie off sooner.  And it was all going so well; Ryan was funny, Blake was sexy, the backstory was neat, the story was interesting, I was in.  But it takes a talented director to keep a runaway train of a film on its cinematic rails once it gets its full head of steam, and Campbell simply wasn’t up to the task.  He let this movie steamroll him, he let it turn goofy, he never harnessed its power, and I guess that’s why everyone makes fun of it.

Hal Jordan is a ballsy test pilot who’s one mistake away from pseudo-suicide; he’s constantly battling the memories of his deceased father and almost welcoming death.  His ex flies beside him, but she’s growing tired of his bullshit, and he’s running out of chances.  But fate has plans other than his death, Hal is destined to be a great hero, he just doesn’t understand that yet.  An intergalactic team of protectors called the Green Lantern Corps need help battling an omnipotent foe, and the power of the Green Lantern chooses Jordon to take up the mantle of Defender of the Sector, whether he wants the responsibility or not.

There are pieces that worked for a time and could have worked all the way to the end, had the writers and the director not flubbed it all up.  Reynolds was fun in an early version of Deadpool, Lively was hot in an otherwise throwaway role, the villains were supremely evil, there was set up for a second film featuring Sinestro, this character could have been a good edition to the Justice League films; we just needed someone talented who could hold the project together when it started to get shaky.  You know who would have been perfect?  Taika Waititi, who is a brilliant director, would go on to helm Thor: Ragnarok, but was, instead, a really stupid & unnesseccary side character for some inane reason.  Campbell can do better, has done better, he just let the comic book lunacy run amok, the effects were awful, the film took on a goof that it couldn’t support, and the project ultimately failed.  I’m almost more mad at this film because I can see something cool underneath the crap; it’s better than Thor 1 or Thor 2 for a time, only to turn disastrous halfway through, and it, sadly, really didn’t have to go down as one of Hollywood’s biggest flops.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Toy Soldiers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Daniel Petrie Jr

Starring: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Louis Gossett Jr

Year: 1991

Toy Soldiers is a lot more adult than I remember it being, and I probably shouldn’t have watched it when I was 8, 9, 10, whatever I was; my parents may have been asleep at the wheel.  Honestly, I saw a lot of films when I was young that I shouldn’t have, I think I had a thirst for cinema that trumped any parental restrictions, and, yeah, times were different then as well, there’s that.  But I think this simply made me love movies, and eventually made me into a film critic; what’s a little scarring, anyway?  So at least Toy Soldiers has the distinction of being a cool, boundary-pushing personal experience for me, because it doesn’t have much else going for it, other than some cool teenage action; it’s really not that good from any other angle.

In Columbia, a drug lord’s son leads a hostage takeover in order to get his father out of prison, which doesn’t go very well.  So he sets his sights on the US, where, at a prep school, the son of a judge attends classes and goes through puberty, not knowing that his & his family’s lives are in real danger.  Well, even with that kid eventually moved to protective custody, the drug heir, Luis Cali, takes over the school, demanding his father’s release.  But this is no ordinary boarding school, these kids are rich but mischievous, and they quickly form a plan to defeat the bad guys themselves; they don’t trust authority, can’t stand being told what to do, and would rather kick some ass on the inside than wait to be rescued by adults.

Yeah, I watched this movie too early.  They talk about masturbating, have phone sex, say fuck a lot, people get dropped out of windows to splat below, guys are blown away, heads get holes shot through them; I have no problem with any of these things, bring the sex & sadism on, but man, I probably shouldn’t have seen this when I was 9.  But wow did I enjoy this film then, and I assume a lot of it passed over my head, and I still remember it fondly, AND I became a film critic, so hey.  Looking at the film itself, it’s pretty silly, Red Dawn meets Taps meets Breakfast Club meets Goonies meets Dead Poets Society, a real all-over-the-place experience that’s too far-fetched to accept.  But the cast is fun (Astin, Wheaton, Gossett Jr, Keith Coogan, R. Lee Ermey, Denholm Elliott, Jerry Orbach), the pace is nice, Sean Astin was (very briefly) a bad ass, and was one of my (temporary) heroes, so that’s cool, and Toy Soldiers remains a weird little time capsule that I still enjoy, even though I know it’s pretty bad.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The Karate Kid

Category : Movie Review

Director: John G. Avildsen

Starring: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue

Year: 1984

An all-time childhood favorite, Karate Kid has finally been seen by my children, and it has pasted the test of time.  One the greatest sports movie that we don’t think of as a sports movie, this franchise has been redone to death, but nothing compares to the original; it really is pure magic.  Watching it this time around, as an adult, through my kids eyes, as a film critic, I was struck by the purity of the film, how simply it stated what it wanted to say, introduced us to the characters it wanted to feature, and wasted no time pulling our hearts into a story like no other, a morality tale that I have never and will never forget.

Daniel is an Italian kid from New Jersey who now finds himself on the sunny coast of California, after his mom moves them there for a job.  Daniel is out of place, out of friends, and out of his comfort zone; he doesn’t fit in with these rich blonde kids from the Hills.  But he does meet a girl, Ali, she’s great, so nice; problem is, her ex boyfriend is a real creep, and he & his pack of bullies make life hell for our hero.  The solution; karate, which Daniel knows a little about, but not enough.  An old handyman from Okinawa, who works at Daniel’s apartment complex, reluctantly shows him the ropes, and it becomes a matter of principle, to show this boy what true courage really is, and what true friendship really means.

What a legendary film, one that will bring you to tears if you let it, based solely on the pure heart of the performers, and how much they draw your emotions into the story.  It’s a fairly basic plot on the surface; boy is new to town, meets a girl, falls hard, the bullies don’t like him, he’s got to prove himself, in so doing he learns about himself.  But there’s more to it than that, and maybe that magic is provided by Pat Morita, who plays Mr. Miyagi to perfection.  He’s the real star, he lends the film a certain seriousness, and Daniel’s karate becomes something much more important and meaningful than how we first saw it.  The music, the camaraderie, the classic scenes; it’s a childhood dream and an adult reality, a movie that works to impress kids and delight grownups, all wrapped in 80s glory and lifelong nostalgia.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2021, Week 1

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 1 Picks

(169-86-1 in 2013, 170-85-1 in 2014, 163-93 in 2015, 156-98-2 in 2016,

167-87 in 2017, 163-91-2 in 2018, 153-102-1 in 2019, 163-92-1 in 2020)

Bye teams: none

 

Dal @ TB

Jax @ Hou

LAC @ Was

Sea @ Ind

NYJ @ Car

Min @ Cin

Ari @ Ten

SF @ Det

Pit @ Buf

Phi @ Atl

Cle @ KC

GB @ NO

Den @ NYG

Mia @ NE

Chi @ LAR

Bal @ LV

 


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Movie Review – Fear Street: Part 3 – 1666

Category : Movie Review

Director: Leigh Janiak

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Ashley Zukerman, Olivia Scott Welch

Year: 2021

In a surprising turn of events, Part Three turns out to be the best of the trilogy, making Part One and Part Two look like major knockoffs, when this installement was just a minor one.  Well, it still did take from Stranger Things, with a big mall battle, so that was dumb, and it did steal from The Witch with a flashback chunk, so that sucked, but otherwise, yeah, it was …more original.  Hmm, doesn’t sound like it was, actually, thinking back, so I’m not sure how much credit I can give this film after all.  Regardless, it was better than its mates, and that’s something; a mostly-cool conclusion to an other mostly-forgettable franchise.

After she learned about the curse on Shadyside, and after she heard the story of the camp killer, Deena’s mind is sent back into a memory, back to 1666 when Sarah was killed for being a witch and the terror was unleashed.  Deena experiences the story firsthand, among people that she know, but it doesn’t feel strange to her, it’s like she really is Sarah and can finally learn the truth.  The legends are all wrong, something else happened in that long-ago village before it split into Shadyside & Sunnyvale, and the truth can set them all free, if they can just act on it in time.

So the story jumps back a couple hundred years to show us what really happened, to let us in on all the secrets, and I really enjoyed that, seeing it all play out.  It was a little like The Witch, a few stolen ideas there, but it was nice to wrap around the entire plot and go back to the beginning, I liked that choice, even if the execution wasn’t wholly original.  The second half of the film is back in 1994, back in “real time”, when the characters try to put their new-found knowledge to good use and end the curse on Shadyside.  But, again, it was in a mall and it was so Stranger Things; a little too much borrowing for good taste.  BUT, the story ends nicely, the mystery is resolved well, and I ended up liking this part more than the others, mostly because it was clever and well-written, not exactly because it was original and well-acted.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Fear Street: Part Two – 1978

Category : Movie Review

Director: Leigh Janiak

Starring: Emily Rudd, Sadie Sink, Ryan Simpkins

Year: 2021

If Part One was a little like Stranger Things, Part Two took the piece of that show that I like the least and made it the star, which is far worse, and why this movie takes a step backward.  The problem is, it doesn’t have far to go before it falls off the edge completely, and I have a sinking suspicion that the third installment is going to be the worst of all.  By the way, that bad piece from Stranger Things is Sadie Sink, who I could not STAND as Max, and she’s back with a vengeance here, ready to …not act, ready to …not emote, ready to ruin another good thing with her lack of talent.  Maybe that’s harsh, but my dislike is real, and it’s nothing personal, I just get mad when people who only have one facial expression become millionaires and I’m still …not one.

The terror of Sarah the Witch continues, as Deena & Josh learn more about the curse, its origins, and what they have to do to stop the madness.  In 1978, at a summer camp where the Shadyside Mall now stands, a killer arose and wreaked his havoc, apparently just another nutjob with an ax who Shadyside turned evil.  But it’s more than that, it’s Sarah, the girl killed all those years ago, and the hate she has toward the residents of the town forever more.  Two sisters, Cindy & Ziggy, begin to understand the danger, but much too late, and the killing spree begins.  But they might be able to stop it if they can appease the Witch, to force her to relinquish her hold on their lives, and the lives of so many yet to die.

I like camp horror, I like it done pretty smutty, it’s a fun genre, and I support having hot 70s girls in short shorts, mop-topped 70s dudes in tight tshirts, shower scenes, axe murders, the whole shebang, give it to me.  But Part Two is much more Goosebumps, more Stranger Things, more being a joke instead of making a joke, and I simply didn’t like it.  There was a feeling of amateurism that I just couldn’t shake, especially when the gore started and went WAY over the top; it was like a kid pushing the boundaries without really knowing what they were doing.  It felt juvenile and that threw me off, plus the standard more-adult stuff was missing, so replacing it with extra blood might have seemed the right thing to do, but it wasn’t.  I hope the third wraps up well, but I have strong doubts in its ability.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Fear Street: Part One – 1994

Category : Movie Review

Director: Leigh Janiak

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr, Olivia Scott Welch

Year: 2021

While watching, I thought of a few movies that Fear Street took from & ran away with, but it really comes down to one TV series instead, and that’s Stranger Things.  Especially when you watch the second (which I understand has no bearing on this review) and you see even more of the same actors, but it’s more than that, it’s like it was filmed to be based on/set in the same universe, and that’s weird, because, as far as I know, it’s not.  This is R.L. Stine horror, not singularly Netflix content, but it only feels like the latter, and I think that was a mistake.  Horror fans like me could like what’s going on here if it was done a bit better and a bit more originally, instead of simply capitalizing on what worked before.  I guess the result, at least in this first installment, is fine, but, I mean, couldn’t they have done better?

Hundreds of years ago, a curse was cast on the town of Shadyside, and since then nothing has gone right.  Its inhabitants seem doomed to fail, can’t get out of their own way, and lead unhappy lives, while, meanwhile, the folks in nearby Sunnyvale get all the luck.  But there’s more, and more specific; every few years a psycho seems to rise up out of nowhere, kill a bunch of townsfolk, and die themselves; it’s a weird history that people have simply gotten used to.  There’s a reason things are so shitty, though, and it goes back to a girl who was killed in 1666, a supposed witch named Sarah.  She wants revenge on the town, and she takes it by sending killers to stalk those who catch her eye; her newest targets are two girls, Deena & Samantha, and their bumbling friends.  It’s up to them to solve the riddles of the curse and to stop Sarah once & for all; that is, of course, if they can survive the night.

Maya Hawke at a mall in the beginning of the film was most definitely a Stranger Things reference, but it went further than that; it felt exactly the same.  And even when the story moved on, the mood was still 80s kids growing up, just set in the 90s instead, and still dealing with a horror that adults didn’t understand.  Another, better movie that Fear Street pulled from is It Follows, which is so much darker & more terrifying.  This film seemed to want to go gore first, second, and third, stepping away for humor & for heart at times, but always coming back to the desire to shock us to see if we’d blink.  It was almost dishonest in its scariness and scare tactics, almost rude in its insistence to push us hard into a corner.  I liked some choices, I liked some of the jokes, I liked some of the references, but I couldn’t like the film as a whole.  It’s a Cabin in the Woods nod to horror, but not with the same, laudable, excellent intent.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – 2021 Fantasy Football: TEs, Ks, & DEFs

Category : Sports

With the season soon beginning and many fantasy drafts planned for the next few days, it’s time to prep for your 2021 Fantasy Football team. Here is my advice/predictions as it relates to tight ends, kickers, and defenses:

TEs

  • Obviously, the other skill positions are the sexier in fantasy football, but having an elite (or at least solid) tight end can be the difference between a championship and a consolation prize.  One year I won the league because Jason Witten threw a touchdown, no joke, it happens, so don’t forget about this position come draft day.  Travis Kelce is the undisputed #1 TE and the only one that should be drafted at all high.  The Chiefs will score, he’ll be the recipient often, and you should try to pair him with Mahomes if you can, that would be pleasant.  After Kelce, the Tier Two guys can sure help, but aren’t worth as much of a reach: Andrews, Kittle, Waller, and Pitts.  I really like Pitts this season with his new team and I think Matt Ryan will throw to him a lot; he won’t put up Jimmy Graham In New Orleans numbers, but he could still help your team immensely.  If you don’t get someone from those groups, try your luck at the next bunch of serviceable options: Hockenson, Tonyan, Logan Thomas, and Higbee.  Gronk, Cook, Ertz, and Everett have become a little old & unreliable, so avoid those guys unless you want to take a chance at having them as backup in case they still have some surprises left.

Ks

  • Again, pulling from personal experience, a kicker has saved my bacon more than once, and Justin Tucker has turned my mediocrity into a championship a few times.  I’ve had him five or six years in a row now, in my book he’s the absolute best, and I wouldn’t pick any kicker over him.  Still, there are some guys who might be projected to score more points: Butker, Myers, maybe Gay.  You can’t go wrong with that first tier, and those guys could really make a huge difference, so don’t wait too long to get your franchise kicker.  The next tier you can wait a while for: Gano, McManus, Parkey, Sanders, Lambo.  These are solid, week-in-week-out kickers, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.  After that, wait till your final pick to choose anyone else: Prater, Succop, Bass, Zuerlein, Gould, Folk.  Just don’t undervalue the position; it’s more important that most amateurs would think.  Nab a great kicker before anyone else has even thought about it, and rest easy the rest of the season knowing that you have guaranteed points for every matchup.

DEFs

  • Defense seems to be a position that can be picked up in free agency later in the season, but the flip side philosophy is to be the first team to select one, that way you get the absolute best.  Tampa Bay is at the top of the list, then Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver, Buffalo, and New England.  Get one of those teams before other people think about defenses and you’ll be set for the season.  Otherwise, you can wait a while or even simply pick one up in free agency after teams show their true colors.  Still, there is a solid group after the first tier, and they are worth consideration.  Washington, San Francisco, Minnesota, the Rams; can’t go wrong with those solid teams, they will (probably) not let you down.  After that, the third group might be the last to really even consider: Cleveland, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Miami, Green Bay, Chicago.  The other teams just pick who you like and hope for the best, replacing them as you need.  Defenses shift in power throughout the year, so keep an eye on the waiver wire.


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Book Review – Gathering Blue

Category : Book Review

Author: Lois Lowry

Year: 2000

Set in the same universe as The Giver, Gathering Blue is Lowry’s second book in the quartet, though The Giver is by far her most popular (and probably her best) in the series.  They are only loosely tied together, both taking place in a war-torn post-apocalypse that has moved on to new society, though in different ways.  It’s a cool story, one that takes its time developing, and rewards its readers with both appeasing answers and continuing mystery.  Gathering Blue might not be The Giver, but it has power all its own, as well as something to say.

Kira is an orphan with a talent, but her life is in jeopardy.  Her father died before she was yet born, her mother recently died of an illness, and now Kira is on her own, which could mean that the village will discard her as unneeded.  She doesn’t contribute much to the community on accord of a deformed leg, a defect that almost had her cast aside as a newborn.  But now, strangely enough, the opposite happens; she is given housing and a special task by the village council, because her mother taught her to weave at a young age.  It’s more than that though, Kira is a natural artist, and her threads seem to come to life under her fingers, creating beauty where once there were only random colors.  But her artistry, and that belonging to other young people, is being drained from her as she begins more mundane tasks for the village; is this part of a sinister plan or is this simply the price for survival?

Gathering Blue starts out intriguingly, slows way down, and then ends by tying up a lot of loose ends, most of which you could have seen coming if you were paying attention.  Or, since this book and its companions are aimed at younger audiences, if you’re an older reader; try to read with a mind toward your more impressionable days.  But even if the twists don’t surprise, there is still a ton to enjoy from this curious novel.  It’s part of The Giver very slightly, asks some similar questions, but takes s different angle; what if art wasn’t respected, what if it was used, what if artists only used their talents for specific purposes, not for their own enjoyment or our enlightenment?  It’s a fascinating read, introduces great characters (the third book actually focuses on one in particular), and is worth your time.  I read it to my daughter and we talked a lot about it along the way; I think that’s the way to do it, because I’m not sure how it would come across to an adult reading it on their own.  Either way, there is strength here, and Lowry knows her stuff.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆