Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holy Shit

The Season 6 cast photo has just been released, and it's a goodie. Real quick, I'll give you 5 interesting things about the photo.

5. They decided to keep quiet about cast members returning from the dead. We all know Boone and Charlie (and hopefully Juliet) are probably coming back, and it would've been sweet to see them here, but it looks like we won't be seeing them at all until their return episode.

4. Locke as our savior Jesus Christ. Too bad he doesn't have abs like big JC. Still, he's the only one that has been resurrected before the rules changed.

3. Sayid's greased-up arms. No one else is glistening with sweat, so what gives, Sayid? I'm pretty sure he's got Judas' spot, right? Does that hint at some pretty big foreshadowing? Maybe he's the one who takes down Locke... not the Doc.

2. Furthermore, Jack's position makes him seem more like Locke's confidant and right-hand man. Part of me is kinda wishing that everyone was wearing their season 1 outfits (and now you're wishing it, too).

1. They don't even have to say anything... I still hate Kate and Sawyer. Without Juliet, Charlotte, and Rousseau, the cast is devoid of hot chicks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Avatar

The anticipation for Avatar has been enormous, rivaled only by The Dark Knight recently. With the top-notch resume of James Cameron, the picture was certainly going to garner a lot of attention and gain a lot of box office dollars. The movie itself combines many elements from Cameron’s past. The sci-fi action is reminiscent of the Terminator films, and there is a Titantic-esque love story.

The best aspect of
Avatar are the special effects. Visually, the film rivals and probably surpasses the LOTR trilogy. I got used to the glasses quickly and the 3-D was pretty straightforward, there were no tricks or teases like something coming out of the screen.

Story-wise, I thought it was pretty predictable. I’m sure most have seen the movie so no need for a detailed plot outline. Sam Worthington was kind of blah and Sigourney Weaver was rather annoying. The acting highlights were Stephen “George Pickett” Lange and Zoe Saldana. Lange’s death certainly brought back memories of Matrix Revolutions, and Saldana's Neytiri is in the conversation with Gollum in terms of the best computer-generated characters.

Most reviewers give Avatar the highest recommendation, and rightly so, it’s definitely worth seeing and an absolute visual treat. But unlike the opinions of some of my facebook friends, this is far from the greatest movie of all-time. Let’s be honest, it’s a sci-fi version of Dances With Wolves, but not as good.

3.5 out of 4 stars (A-)

70 Minute Phantom Menace Review

I went through a period of time where I thought Episode I was terribly underrated. In fact, I tried to defend it on its 10 year anniversary. What about now? Now I'm back to thinking that it's a big steamy turd of a movie. Especially when you consider the massive buildup of hype and anticipation, it's hard to see Phantom Menace as anything other than a massive failure.

That's why I'm thrilled to share with you the only 70-minute movie review worth watching. This guy hilariously tears apart every single aspect of the Phantom Menace. The best part about it is when it builds and builds to the moment where Lucas is saying that they can't really cut the bad parts of the movie because everything would be effected by it. It's the equivalent of saying "Yep, you're all disappointed by this shit movie, but it's too late."

This is a hundred times more entertaining than watching the ball drop this year, so please watch this instead.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Star Wars Shoes!

Those trendy fashion gays at Adidas are teaming up with the socially awkward nerds at Lucasfilm to produce what might be the greatest shoe line in the world. Yep, it's a whole set of Star Wars shoes, with many characters and vehicles getting their own theme. I'm sure a lot of you woke up today wondering "Hmmm... if in footwear form Yoda was, what shoe would he be?" Personally, I thought Yoda's shoe would be some sort of hobo sandal, but they decided to go with a boat shoe/moccasin hybrid. You can also find shoes for Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, the Death Star, Stormtroopers, TIE fighters, AT-ATs, and many others. I've got dibs on the Millenium Falcon shoe, and I totally expect them to be $200 (George has to make a buck, right?)

I'm struggling to come up a with a shoe-related play on "May the Force be with you" but I'm tired and want to sleep.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Review: Everybody's Fine

Robert De Niro has done plenty of larger-than-life tough guy roles, but now he's finally done something that I wish more actors would do... act their age. Harrison Ford (nearly 70) is still playing action hero Indy, and everyone's laughing at him. Clint Eastwood played the old guy in Gran Torino, but he was still channeling Dirty Harry. In Everybody's Fine, De Niro plays a calm, reserved, lonely old man, and it's pitch perfect.

Like Up, the film starts with an old man dealing with the recent passing of his wife and adjusting to life alone. But whereas Carl Frederickson went on a fun adventure in South America, De Niro's road trip is constantly sad and depressing. All 4 of his children were going to come in for a nice family weekend, but one by one they all cancel, and De Niro must travel around the country to surprise them with a visit.

Along the way there are moments of light hearted humor as De Niro plays the stereotypical old man. He shows off pictures of his kids to strangers. He doesn't know how to use his luggage. He still uses a camera that requires rolls of film. But forget those minor laughs; the meat of the story is internal.

It's the story of a father finding out that he doesn't really know much about his kids, and it's mostly his fault. They shared everything with their mother, and only the generic good news with dad, and now he wants to change that. There's actually a lot more depth to this story than I anticipated. He may play the bumbling, out of touch parent, but he's still mentally sharp. And yeah, he wants to hear what's really troubling his kids, but is he prepared to deal with? And sure, the kids want to be there for pop, but there's a lot of bad shit to talk about, and they just want to protect him.

This isn't the usual Christmas movie that comes out every year (you can't tell by the sucky Christmas-movie poster). It's actually one that a lot of family's can relate to. De Niro anchors the movie with quiet sympathy, more than making up for a supporting cast that phones it in. It's not the best or most memorable film by far, but it resonates with you. I can recognize it's mediocrity, but there will still parts that affected me emotionally, and that fascinates me.


Video of the Week: Simpsons Headlines

Holy shit! It's every newspaper headline from the Simpsons!!! Back in it's prime, this show was the king of subtle humor. Yeah, we enjoyed Homer choking Bart and other obvious slapstick humor (still good stuff), but nobody could layer comedy like these guys (not South Park and certainly not Family Guy).

Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Unfortunately, even the great directors sometimes direct big fat stinkers. Spielberg has done it. Lucas has done it. So has Scorsese and Jackson. But what about Wes Anderson? Okay, so he doesn't really aim as high as the other directors on the list when it comes to scale, but so far he hasn't made a bad movie.

Bottle Rocket - Cult classic
Rushmore - Brilliant... his best work.
the Royal Tenenbaums - Genius... my favorite of his.
the Life Aquatic - Sorely underrated
the Darjeeling Limited - Overlooked gem (though wouldn't it be a million times better if Luke Wilson was cast in place of Adrian Brody?)

I love all of these quirky movies, but did Fantastic Mr. Fox live it to its predecessors? Here's a hint: So far I've spent the entire review avoiding the film, and the first paragraph is a little obvious with its foreshadowing. Mediocre Mr. Fox falls way short, and is mostly an interesting, bizzare, and shallow movie. How is it that Rotten Tomatoes scored this one as 92% fresh?

Critics are praising the voice work, led by Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray. I thought all of the voice acting and dialogue to be blank and dull, probably to keep in pace with the blank, dull puppets. All the actors felt out of place except for Wally Wolodarsky as the opossum, but I'm apparently one of the few that felt this way.

The animation and set pieces were definitely unique, and that was primarily what works for the movie. It's supposed to be offbeat; not quite for kids, yet not quite for adults either. Not really a cartoon, and not really live action. The techniques are ambitious and intentionally different from any other movie this year, but they aren't best suited to the story provided. I know that it's about a fox who has settled down, yet it's his nature to steal and be mischievous. Along with that is a lot of family drama and neighborly conflict, but I rarely had time to really care for or process the plot. I was constantly drawn to the stylized look of the film.

And in the end, that's really what killed it for me. I left the theater thinking, "okay, what was my favorite part of the movie?" and came up with nothing. After a few minutes I gave up and decided that I enjoyed the music for the montage when all the animals are digging. The bottom line is that the film looks weird and great, but the characters and story are bland and dull.


Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Wrong With the Steelers?

5. Super Bowl Hangover - It seems like the easy and childish explanation, but I believe there is some merit. The Steelers opened up the NFL season this year on Thursday Night against the Tennessee Titans, and the stars seemed to be aligned for another Super Bowl run. But Steelers came out flat in that game and were lucky to win, Troy Polamalu seemed to be the only player playing at a high level, at least until he got hurt. The Steelers woke up 2 weeks later 1-2. They did go on to a nice little run before losing to Cincinnati in early November. The mentality with Steeler Nation and probably the Steelers themselves was that at least we have Kansas City up next to play. There seems to be an air of overconfidence on this team and for Steeler fans in general. This squad thought they could just show up and would beat teams like the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns, but it has not been the case. This team isn’t hungry. Do you think Jerome Bettis and the 2005 Steelers would have lost these games? A magical Super Bowl run does have an indirect effect on a team. Not only do their heads get big, but you get top efforts from your opponents, and the breaks don’t always fall your way.

4. Player Regression - I was trying to think of two or three players to put here, but this is mainly for one, one of my favorite all-time Steelers, James Farrior. Farrior chasing down Chris Jennings last night looked like me trying to catch Usain Bolt. Remember him trying to cover Ray Rice on the all-important 4th and 5 in the Baltimore game? Polamalu may be the play-maker and Silverback is the defensive player of the year, but James Farrior has always been the nucleus of the defense. He has been the bridge between the defensive line and the secondary, and the center of the linebacking corps. Once a great run stopper, a solid blitzer, and a good pass defender, but all of a sudden, he looks old and slow.

3. Injuries - Goes without saying. Look what happens to the secondary when Polamalu is out. Ryan Clark becomes a little exposed. He was everybody’s favorite “cult” player last year, but is simply not the same player without Polamalu in the lineup. Tyrone Carter now starts. I think Carter is a pretty good backup but has some obvious ills. He plays the Polamalu role as a blitzer and late run stopper, but he just doesn’t have the same speed and overall athletic ability as Troy. Not his fault or anything, it’s just the facts. Ryan Mundy now plays a lot of nickel, which would have been Tyrone Carter territory last year.
We saw what happened two years ago when Aaron Smith got hurt. Same story this year. When’s the last time the Cleveland Browns dominated the line of scrimmage against the Steelers? The Steeler defense this year has been without Polamalu, Smith, and a declining James Farrior, arguably the three most important Steelers on defense.
Do you think the Ravens would have beaten the Steelers if Roethlisberger had not sustained a concussion? Chris Kemoeatu, Hines Ward, Willie Parker, Travis Kirschke, Lawrence Timmons, etc, have all been hurt and missed time. Like I said, sometimes the luck and breaks don’t always go your way.

2. Bruce Arians - The offensive coordinator is always the easy punching bag, but this is getting so frustrating. Last night on the first offensive possession, Rashard Mendenhall gets 9 yards on two carries, and what do the Steelers do on third and one in frigid temperatures? SHOTGUN. It’s just idiotic to me. I don’t care if you pass. Play action is fine, a screen?, but the shotgun is basically a big red sign to the defense of what you are going to do. Remember that awful pitch to Melwelde Moore in overtime against Kansas City? Wasn’t there more of a rhythm with Mike Murlarkey and Ken Whisenhunt that just isn’t at all evident with Arians? The ball is always snapped with one or two seconds on the play-clock and the plays are rather predictable to me. Start two tight ends? Matt Spaeth is worthless. Three wideouts? Go spread? A fullback? I miss Dan Kreider. Where’s the identity? Starting lineups seem to change weekly. Rashard Mendenhall is an absolute potential star and is so underused. In most of their losses this year, they have been leading in the fourth quarter. I was never the biggest Bill Cowher fan, but would he have lost those games? Run the ball in the second half, run the clock out, and win time of possession, those ideas don’t seem to be on Bruce Arians’ agenda.

1. Mike Tomlin - A lot of these problems can be rolled into the leadership category. Why are the Steelers flat some games? Why does Bruce Arians still have a job? What part of Mike Tomlin is imprinted on this team? He was a former defensive back's coach, and yet the secondary has regressed, with or without Polamalu. Tomlin announced changes would be made, and yet the same starters played last night. He always preaches about the importance of special teams, but the unit is historically one of the worst of all-time and shows no sign of improvement. He’s a smash-mouth guy, but lets Arians loose and throw all over the field. He’s a cover-two guy, but lets LeBeau loose with the zone-blitz (not a complaint). The point I am trying to make is where is his personality on this team. When people say a Bill Cowher type team, you know what they are talking about. His game and clock management skills are below average at best. There was the 2-point conversion debacle in the Jacksonville playoff game. Last night, there were two timeouts taken prior to the 2 minute warning. If those timeouts were saved after the failed 4th down conversion, the Steelers could have gotten the ball back with about a minute left. More important than all of that is the fight and fire. “We are going to unleash hell…..” It was obvious that the Cleveland Browns were more prepared to play and far more fired up yesterday. The Steelers were slow all night. They walked to the line of scrimmage, they ran the play clock all the way to basically zero, and they were playing catch-up on defense. Where is the fight? Where is the fire? Where is the motivation? If this team has in fact quit, in which Hines Ward hinted at, then that lies on the coach. Mike Tomlin is a good coach and nothing can take away the Super Bowl he won last year, but my trust in him has certainly been shaken this year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best Season of Survivor?

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I am a Survivor superfan, and because Dave and Andy definitely aren't, I usually stay away from writing about it. BUT NO MORE! This season (Survivor: Samoa) has been one of my favorite seasons of all time. Almost exactly a year ago, I listed the Top Ten Survivor Seasons, and so far this one better than half. First, I'll tell what any good Survivor season needs, then I'll tell you why this one rocks.


  • CHARACTERS- whether they are true blue good guys or evil villains, you absolutely someone to root for or someone to hate.
  • EVENLY MATCHED TRIBES - while it's funny to watch bad tribes get slowly decimated, it takes away from the drama of the vote.
  • BLINDSIDES - nothing beats seeing someone visibly stunned because they didn't expect to go home.
  • TWISTS IN THE GAME - exile island, tribe kidnapping, hidden immunity idols, and other things of this nature that add a wrinkle to a player's strategy
  • CRAZY SHIT - environmental disasters, tribe conflict, medical emergencies, etc.
  • A CLOSE FINAL VOTE - When you invest in a live finale and a drawn-out final vote, it sucks when it ends in a 7-0 or 6-1 blowout.


There's really only one standout character, but he just might be the game's greatest supervillain of all time. He's a trailblazing strategic mastermind like Richard Hatch and a despicably vile liar like Johnny Fairplay. Here's a list of his accomplishments through 11 episodes.

  • On day 1, he told a heartwrenching story about living in New Orleans during Katrina. He lived near the levee, and when it broke, the flood rushed through his house and swept his 9 year old German Shephard away. He then grabbed his fireman axe and climbed to the roof where he waited 2 days for rescue. Of course, Russell is not a fireman, never owned a dog, and certainly never lived in New Orleans.
  • On day 1, while everyone slept, he emptied everyone's canteen and threw some socks in the fire. His thinking was, if he created an irritating environment, it would be easier to manipulate his teammates. He was right.
  • Every single time he's alone in a confessional, he loves to talk himself up and trash his teammates. It's hilarious.
  • For the first time in Survivor history, he found the hidden immunity idol without a clue. He just figured it would be around camp, and searched in likely places. And guess what? Once he unsuccessfully played that idol, he went out and found the second one without a clue. That one was played perfectly, and it started the chain reaction that led to his team evening the numbers. Oh, and he just found the third idol as well, and still holds on to it.
  • For good measure, he told the cameras that he doesn't even need the million dollar prize since he owns an oil company and is already a multimillionaire. He just wants to show us how easy it is.
  • Though most people see him as a slippery snake, any time someone has subtly threatened him or voiced their distrust (Marisa, Betsy, Liz, and John), Russell immediately had them voted out. He knows how to recognize and neutralize threats. It's just so much fun watching someone who knows how to play the game.
As far as the other criteria, the tribes were definitely not even. Galu pummeled Foa Foa in immunity challenges and went into the merge with an 8-4 advantage. I would still argue that the tribes are even since Russel, despite being outnumbered, orchestrated the blindsides of 4 consecutive Galu members, and also flipped one to his size. He now holds a 5-4 advantage in the game.

Which brings up the blindsides. Survivor sucks when you get a string of episodes where the bigger tribe intelligently picks off the weaker tribe before they start to play individually. Thank goodness Galu has a lot of stupid morons on their tribe. Their alliance cracked, and every post-merge vote has resulted in dropped jaws. Probst loves it, and so do I.

For crazy shit, we've had 2 medical emergencies on the show. Mike Borassi, a late 40s guy, had to be pulled from the game after an especially physical challenge when he almost passed out from low blood pressure. To top that, the other Russell from Galu passed out DURING a challenge when he collapsed on a puzzle board. Probst called in the docs, Russell passed out again, and immediately called off the challenge and pulled Russell from the game. In Probst "scariest" moment on Survivor, when Russell passed out the second time, his eyes went blank for about 4 or 5 seconds and he legitimately looked dead before he snapped back into consciousness. Near death challenges makes for great TV.

The only thing that could derail this season is if villain Russell gets voted out. The rest of the cast is generic and boring. For the near future, Russell seems invincible. His gang finally has the numbers, he is guarded by the hidden immunity idol, and he's playing harder than everyone else combined. Of course, when you start to feel invincible, that's usually when you go home.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NFL Power Rankings

And down the stretch we come, 2/3 of the season completed and only a 1/3 to go. Teams continue to jockey for playoff positions, while others may be jockeying for future draft picks. My ratings are based on how good I think the teams are as opposed to a ranking of records. So here we go. The videos don't have much to do with the rankings, I just thought they were funny.

1. New Orleans Saints - The Monday Night domination was very impressive. Maybe even more impressive than Brees and the offense was the play of the defense and how they shut down Tom Brady. Everybody talks about how great Drew Brees is, but he has never won a meaningful playoff game, he will definitely get his chance this year.

2. Minnesota Vikings - Will Favre break down in the second half? That is the major question. Whether it be AP, the passing attack, or the overall defense, the Vikings are clicking on all cylinders, and it looks like a Super Bowl-esque potential NFC Championship Game.

3. Indianapolis Colts - I'm really starting to hate this team and their miracle 4th quarter comebacks. The defense is pretty shaky in my opinion. I can see the Colts being 15-1 or 14-2 and losing their first playoff game. Peyton Manning just doesn't always show up in big games.

4. New England Patriots - They should have beat Indy and then looked terrible against New Orleans. It's tough to get a good read on them. Definitely not as good as the 2007 squad, but would you want to play these guys in the playoffs?

5. Dallas Cowboys - Same thing every year. A great start in the first half of the regular season, but what happens next? Do you trust these softies in a meaningful January game?

6. San Diego Chargers - The super-Chargers are so hot right now that I thought of putting them higher, but I just can't forget how bad they looked against the Steelers a few weeks back. Norv Turner is such an awful coach, but the Chargers definitely have the ability and the playmakers to make a serious Super Bowl run.

7. Philadelphia Eagles - Another team that's tough to read. It seems like it's either a quick strike or nothing for these guys. I probably trust them more than Dallas in the playoffs, but it will be an uphill battle for the Eagles to dethrone either New Orleans or Minnesota.

8. Cincinnati Bengals - Sweeping both the Steelers and Ravens is quite impressive, but do you think these guys want to see Pittsburgh again in the playoffs? Like Indy, they will probably be one and done come January.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers - Injuries, injuries, and more injuries, not to mention some very poor fourth quarter play. The defense is certainly weaker than last year, but they have been without Polamalu. The offense has been upgraded from a year ago. Ben improves yearly, the offensive line is better, Mendenhall is an upgrade from Parker, and Mike Wallace has been an adequate replacement, if not a better player, than Nate Washington. If the Steelers gather it together and close strong, they could have another deep playoff run. If they have another Kansas City hiccup, they could be on the outside looking in.

10. Arizona Cardinals - The other 2008 Super Bowl participant. The offense might be better than a year ago with an improved running game, and they gained a lot of experience after last year's magical run. Can they repeat it? Like Philly, the pieces seem to be in place, but the teams at the top, NO and Minn, seem so strong.

11. Baltimore Ravens - Definitely not as good as last year. Ray Rice is a future star, but the defense is certainly aging. Probably good enough to make the playoffs, but the schedule makers have done them no favors.

12. New York Giants - What happened to this team? They seemed so strong early with great line play and some solid playmakers. Do they miss Plaxico? Is Eli Manning even that good? Probably on the outside looking in, in terms of the NFC Playoffs.

13. Green Bay Packers - A very solid team with good playmakers on both sides of the ball. The NFC playoffs looks stacked, and I'll be surprised if they even win a game in January.

14. Atlanta Falcons - A solid team that was due for a step back to the mean after last year's surprise. The Falcons are a team that nobody really wants to play, but probably a squad that will miss the playoffs.

15. Denver Broncos - I wasn't a believer, then I was, then I wasn't, now what? They have positioned themselves well for a playoff spot but will certainly be a one and done postseason participant.

16. Tennessee Titans - Everybody talks about Vince Young, but it's all about Chris Johnson and a healthy defense. 0-6 is probably too big of a hole to come back from since another loss pretty much eliminates you, but nobody wants to play this team right now.

17. Miami Dolphins - The Chad Pennington injury was blessing since Chad Henne is probably better. The Dolphins are a good solid 500 type team that probably has zero chance for a playoff spot.

18. Houston Texans - What a joke, this team is always hyped up. What do you expect from a team with no defense, a terrible coach, and a quarterback that has won jack?

19. Carolina Panthers - Speaking of awful quarterback play. Does Bill Cowher coach here next year? If you match up a solid QB with this running game and that defense, the Panthers would be pretty strong.

20. Washington Redskins - The laughing stock of the league. They have actually played ok recently. The defense is pretty solid. I feel bad for Jason Campbell, as he has some promise but his offensive line is terrible and his playmakers are old washed-up has-beens like Antwan Randle-El, Santana Moss, and Clinton Portis.

21. San Francisco 49ers - I guess they are moving in the right direction. But it seems like the Niners are a few years away from serious contention.

22. Chicago Bears - I think Jay Cutler is getting a bad rap. The defense has always been overrated and just plain out sucks this year. What happened to the "great" Matt Forte? Lovie Smith is a terrible coach who just looks clueless on the sidelines. Jay Cutler has not done much in this league, but the potential is there. The expectations were just way too high this year.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars - How is this team still in the playoff race? David Garrard is "ok" at best and the defensive glory days are long gone. Elimination type game this weekend with Houston.

24. New York Jets - Darrelle Revis is awesome and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but I just despise Rex Ryan and love seeing these guys lose. With him at the helm, the Jets will be doing a lot of that.

25. Seattle Seahawks - Has this team ever recovered from their Super Bowl loss to the Steelers? I think Matt Hasselback is underrated, but Jim Mora Jr. is just a dreadful coach.

26. Buffalo Bills - Ever since the early-1990s, it has been easy for me to root for the Bills. A blue-collar type small market team, but since those early 90s glory days, they just lose and lose.

27. Kansas City Chiefs - How did this team beat the Steelers. The defense is horrendous and wasn't Matt Cassel a backup in college? Isn't Todd Haley gay as well?

28. Oakland Raiders - It's easy to root for Brad Gradkowski, but that's about it. If the Steelers lose to these bums, that won't be good.

29. St. Louis Rams - Steven Jackson, that's about all they have going for them.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I'm glad they canned Jon Gruden, because he is definitely an upgrade from Tony Kornheiser on MNF. The Buccaneers probably want him back though.

31. Detroit Lions - Beating the Browns on the last play of the game, at home, is not a great thing.

32. Cleveland Browns - Their best player this year, Shaun Rogers, is now out for the season. Who do they draft next year? A quarterback? Sam Bradford? Jimmy Clausen? Another position? What direction is this car going in? It should probably just drive off a cliff.