Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Bowl 49: Pete Carroll's #LEASTMODE

Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

And just like that, it was over. The Super Bowl and the 2014 NFL season. Over. And not all in the way expected mere seconds before...

A few days later and I'm still trying to understand what the hell happened!



First things first: this was probably the best Super Bowl since 2000 (when the Rams stopped the Titans' last, desperate lunge to the end zone) was over, ending in completely the opposite fashion of how it looked just one play before.



[Aside: That clip makes me <<sigh>> for poor Steve McNair. RIP]

After some shoddy first quarter play, the Seattle Seahawks had finally taken control of the game, 24-14, heading into the fourth quarter. At that point, I thought the game was over. Michael Bennett had completely taken over the line of scrimmage and the Patriots had no answer for him.

With 12:10 showing on the clock, the Patriots stepped up, 1st-and-10 and promptly gave up a sack. Fast forward two plays later, 3rd-and-14 at their own 28, and Brady comes up with the miracle first down to Julian Edelman for 21 yards. Six plays and a TD later, Brady and the Patriots had cut the lead to a mere three points, with Seattle getting the ball back with less than eight minutes to go.

One solid, long drive to pretty much put it away was all that Seattle needed. Instead, Seattle goes three-and-out. To be fair, on first down, on a throw to Ricardo Lockett, it appears as though the Patriots defender tripped and, from the ground, blatantly reached out and tripped Lockett, preventing him from making a catch (which would have been a first down) and definitely would have been better for stemming the Patriots growing momentum than the three-and-out did.

Patriots get the ball back and, for the second drive in a row, promptly drive down the field again, scoring another touchdown with a mere 2:01 to play.

[It should be noted that early in the game, Seattle CB Jeremy Lane intercepted Brady as the Patriots were driving but on the ensuing run-back was injured and lost for the game -- broke both bones in his wrist -- his absence was felt the entire game and Brady and the Patriots absolutely abused his replacement, Tharold Simon]

On the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots made their first mistake: kicking into the end zone for a touchback, therefore preserving the two minute warning for Seattle, who was down to one timeout.

First play, a beautiful 30-ish yard wheel route pass play from Wilson to #BeastMode. Then an incomplete pass and a four-yard run leaving 3-and-6. Then this:


I guess one question I have about this catch is: how was this any different than the Dez Bryant non-catch in Green Bay in the Divisional Round? I mean, no doubt Dez was bobbling control but the end result was the same as this one -- securely in Bryant's control/possession, having never touched the ground throughout the "process".

Anyway, so this catch set up the Seattle 1-and-goal from the 6, leading to a four-yard #BeastMode rush to inside the one yard line with a little over a minute left.

At this point, probably everyone in the world, including Tom Brady and the Grumble Lord himself, believed that the Patriots would once again fall victim to an insane, unbelievable catch to fall just short in yet another Super Bowl.

I mean in that situation, 2-and-goal, and needing only a few feet to win a second consecutive Super Bowl, you immediately pound #BeastMode, right? And if he doesn't make it, you take your last timeout and try it again, right?

[FWIW, Belichick also made a HUGE error by not calling one of his timeouts immediately after Lynch's first down run. Had he used that timeout, and Lynch scored on the next play, Brady would have had about 50 seconds to get them down to FG range for a tying FG attempt. Very doable for this offense. As it was, by not taking this timeout, Belichick was essentially conceding that Seattle would score and win or not.]

Well instead of #BeastMode leading them to victory in the most perfect way imaginable, we got this gem:



A slant, into the middle of an already condensed field? WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!

Carroll's post-game explanation was basically this: we had a three-WR package in there and they had their goal line defense in so it wasn't a good package for running. We were going to throw the ball and if we scored, great, if not, it will be incomplete, stopping the clock, and we'll run on 3rd and 4th.

Okay, okay. I will say that passing in that situation isn't ipso facto bad but that PARTICULAR pass play was awful. Even if you are going to pass, how about some play action? Or a read option look? Or even a less risky fade to the very corner? The play they ran was already very risky from the beginning, compounded by Lockett not stepping to the ball and Wilson throwing too late and not hard enough = interception by previous no-name/undrafted-rookie-FA Malcolm Butler. 

Charm-Slinger = humbled. 

The legacies of Brady/Belichick as among the best ever -- if not THE best ever -- at their respective jobs = cemented. 




Other Super Bowl Notes:

  • Idina Manzel did perfectly fine singing the National Anthem and covered the OVER.
  • The double-shot of America the Beautiful followed by the Anthem continues to be unnecessary whenever employed.
  • John Legend and Chrissy Tiegan are officially #OVEREXPOSED though that won't prevent me from posting a Yes and Please! picture of the latter!
  • The commercials were completely underwhelming, with the general theme of the night's ads trending towards serious, dour, depressing even, instead of what they should be -- you know, funny and/or clever.
  • There's a new Carl's Jr. ad girl -- Charlotte McKinney -- and she is a future Yes and Please! Hall of Famer for sure! She's got the same great "assets" of Kate Upton but in a smaller overall package!




  • The MVP was, of course, Brady. He now owns all sorts of records for passing in Super Bowls, most of which likely to ever be broken.
  • Doug Baldwin scored Seattle's first TD and apparently, in celebration, he committed a DISGUSTING ACT! He spun the ball on the ground, waiting a second, then squatted over it as though pooping on the ball. NBC didn't even show it!!! Predictably, this led to a 15-yard penalty which IS stupid (though penalizing celebrations is even more so) but the type of people who are all up-in-arms about it -- the Peter Kings, and Mike and Mikes of the world come to mind most prominently -- leads me to believe that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it!
  • Gronk was pretty unstoppable.
  • As was Edelman, though that had to do more with game plan and some uncharacteristically below-average tackling by Seattle on some plays.
  • The NFL Honors awards show continues to be dumb and unnecessary in its 4th year, especially without the Super Bowl participants! That said, Seth Meyers did get off one really good zing at Goddell's expense during his opening monologue.
  • The halftime show -- headlined by Katy Perry and featuring about 20 seconds of Lenny Kravitz PLUS Missy Elliot (huh?) -- was pretty bland but did have the dancing sharks that have gone completely viral.
  • The five modern-era Hall of Famers are: Tim Brown, Jerome Bettis, Junior Seau (RIP), Charles Haley and Will Shields. Still means Marvin Harrison gets left out despite being (to me anyway) better than Tim Brown. I guess HOF voters get to be judge and jury regarding crimes that were never charged, right?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MOVIES! 2015 - Nos. 6 and 7

SPOILERS FOLLOW in these mini-reviews/blurbs of the two most recent movies I watched, The Equalizer and A Most Wanted Man.

Movie No. 6: The Equalizer

This was relatively well-reviewed (61% critics and 78% audience) and made quite a bit of money: $101,530,000 domestically, $90.8MM internationally, on a $55MM budget.

That it was a remake of a seemingly obscure television show (though it was apparently on for four seasons) and did so well seemed to once again demonstrate the box office power of Denzel, especially when he is being a general badass.

The movie opens by establishing Denzel's character, Robert McCall, living a quiet, solitary, orderly and extremely disciplined life in Boston.

He lives alone in a sparse apartment, times his routine of accomplishing the most mundane tasks (fixing his breakfast shake, eating dinner/clearing the dishes, etc.), all the while working as a clerk at a Home Depot knock-off. 

We know that something is going on beneath the surface, however, because we learn that he has trouble sleeping, such that he often spends his nights (like the middle of the night) at a local diner, bringing his own tea from home and reading books in the same booth, night after night. No one without some sort of PAST lives this monkishly and/or spends all his late nights in a diner.

Anyway, one of the late-night regulars at the diner is Aleena/Teri, a 17-year-old (supposedly) Russian prostitute (who can speak Russian with zero Russian accent when speaking English) who, of course, has "a heart of gold" and aspires to be a singer one day. She's played by Chloe Grace Moretz who is 17 in real life and thus, not eligible for Yes and Please! consideration.

So, obviously, McCall befriends her. And, obviously, her Russian mafia pimp beats the shit out of her, sending her to intensive care. And, obviously, this leads McCall to summon his past badass-ery for some good old fashioned REVENGE.



Basically, McCall is some sort of former super-spy (like he's literally portrayed as maybe the best operative CIA has ever had, before faking his own death and dropping off the grid) and as soon as he's down the path of helping the little guy with his ex-CIA murder/death/kill skills, he's won't be stopped!

While the first "fight" scene is really cool -- taking out 4-5 Russian mafia thugs in their HQ and being pissed off that it took longer than the 16 second he had estimated -- the second half of the movie gets pretty cheesy. I mean, he takes down the entire Boston Russian mob by himself, including the main fixer brought in to take him out PLUS all of the different teams of mercenaries brought in to do the same. Then, when all is said and done, he STILL goes all the way to fucking Russia to kill the Boss. Seriously, I had that reaction out loud as watching it unfold: "He goes to fucking RUSSIA?!?!"

There are a couple of Hey, It's That Guys: (1) the first Russian pimp is played by David Meunier, who played Cousin Johnny on #Justified, (2) the lead Russian clean-up guy is played by Marton Csokas, who was Jarda in The Bourne Supremacy (kitchen fight scene) and (3) the Boston cop on the Russian payroll is played by David Harbour, who I just recently became familiar with in the excellent WGN America drama, Manhattan.



FINAL GRADE: C-minus 
(the "minus" is for him going to Russia which even two days later bugs the shit out of me)

Not even a Yes and Please! Oh wait, there's another Russian hooker bit character, played by Haley Bennett, a cute lass (not actually Russian, born in Florida) who is also quite the Yes and Please! (if a bit anonymous):




Movie No. 7: A Most Wanted Man


I've been wanting to see this for quite some time as it (1) is adapted from a John le Carre novel (specifically, this one, which I have not read) and I'm a HUGE LeCarre fan, and (2) it features one of the last performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman, prior to his untimely and tragic overdose death.

John LeCarre is most famously known, of course, for his Smiley/Karla trilogy, with his most famous novel being the first of those three books, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Tinker, Tailor, as it is abbreviated, was a much-celebrated BBC miniseries with Sir Alec Guinness starring as the incomparable George Smiley, the brilliant MI-6 analyst during the Cold War. I've only watched the mini-series once but now own it as I will try to fit a re-watch in sometime. From just the first viewing, however, I can tell you it's excellent.




Recently (2011 -- wow, doesn't seem nearly so long ago already!), Gary Oldman played the role of Smiley in a movie version of Tinker, Tailor, which was also excellent, especially after repeat viewings (I think repeat viewings are especially necessary for those unfamiliar with the plot from the books as it is just a wee bit complex).



I'm a le Carre fan because I like the genre but also because his writing demonstrates real literary skill. His books could be called "literary spy novels". Some who know this writing, and who also know me, might be surprised that I am such a fan as le Carre often travels in the world of moral relativism that I hate so much. Of his 23 novels, I've read about half and pretty much all of the ones that take place during the Cold War. 

This movie is adapted from one of the more recent novels (of which, I think I've only read one, Our Kind of Traitor, which is more or less about Russian organized crime and pretty good), and is basically about civil liberties/intelligence gathering in the post-9/11 world, as well as the tension between intelligence gathering and law enforcement in that same world.

It takes place post-9/11 in Hamburg, Germany, where you might recall, Mohammad Atta did a lot of is recruiting, training, etc.  Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Gunther Bachmann, the head of an off-the-books intelligence unit in Hamburg.  A known Chechnyan terrorist has come to Hamburg and put under surveillance, with Bachmann's plan being to use him and his ten million Euros (inherited from his Russian military father who raped his Chechnyan mother) to unwittingly ensnare a terrorist financier who looks and plays the part of honest, respectable, "moderate" Islamist businessman, Abdullah (played by the same guy who played Hassan Ghul in Zero Dark Thirty).  As Bachmann explains, "You need a minnow to catch a barracuda, and you need a barracuda to catch a shark."  Contrary to this viewpoint, collecting intelligence, following the path onwards and upwards, is the viewpoint of the polizei, who just want to arrest anyone who is a threat the second their whereabouts are known. This tug-of-war plays throughout the whole movie and, of course, mirrors a debate raging in every Western nation dealing with the threat of Islamic terrorism.

To be perfectly honest, there's a lot in this movie that didn't work for me. Rachel McAdams is simply NOT BELIEVABLE as a competent human rights attorney. Not only that, but she sports absolutely impeccable movie star hair for the entirety of the movie, even when she's been detained and interrogated for at least 24 hours straight. So, human rights lawyer, not so much, Yes and Please? Absolutely!



I'm also not sure what the CIA character (played by Robin Wright Penn) was doing. As mentioned above, a huge amount of the conflict comes out of the tension between Bachmann's intelligence unit wanting to make this an intelligence operation, and the federal police, who simply want to arrest everyone as soon as they can. In the end, the CIA sides with the police, which makes no sense whatsoever. Bachmann gets Abdullah on the hook and the CIA would not doubt want to see where that development led. By not doing so, it makes absolutely no fucking sense.

All of this said, however, Hoffman is fantastic. I would give this a much lower grade without his skills, but even so...

FINAL GRADE: C-plus

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Movies! Nos. 1 thru 5

A little something different for 2015 w/r/t to coverage of movies. In 2011 (maybe?), I stole an idea from a Facebook friend (someone I went to BGHS with and was friends with, but didn't hang out with) and that was to document every single movie I watched in that year, on Facebook, with a little blurb about each.

Obviously that lasted only a few months.

Then, when I started this blog, I instead did full-on reviews for some of the big blockbusters that I would see (read: NERD movies). As my blogging went from pretty prolific in its early days, to non-existent more recently and now, onto, "I'm giving it my best shot" it has become apparent that full-blown movie reviews (like this, or this, or this, or this) take WAY too much time to write.

[Side Note: Each and every blog post that I've written is very time-consuming. Never would have thought this to be the case and not an excuse for how much I cut down in the past but just the truth]

Anyway, so I figured I'd start a hybrid, where I capture all the movies that I see this year, whether new or a repeat, on whatever medium (theater, Blu, TV, etc.) and write a very brief blog about each.

At least that will be the thought...We shall see... Mild SPOILERS may be ahead...

(1) Guardians of the Galaxy

This was my Blu-Ray re-watch from when I saw it in the theaters the first time.

Don't know what to tell you. If you missed this -- only the highest grossing movie of 2014 [Note: Hunger Games 3 is likely to ultimately surpass it] -- you simply don't watch movies (or, alternatively, only watch snobby indie bullshit).

This is the movie that made Marvel Studios the King of the Motherfucking Mountain, if you will.



Take an absolutely unheard of Marvel comic properties (well, at least unheard of to all but a handful of diehard NERDS) that features a talking raccoon, a blue-skinned Bautista in the main cast and a talking tree that only says three words ("I. Am. Groot."), and it doesn't look like that's a recipe for success.

Yet, that's exactly what happened. A smart script tied just enough to the rest of the Marvel universe + tight, fun direction + a great soundtrack + an a-star-is-born performance from leading man Chris Pratt = Huge Box Office Success (not to mention a belief that Marvel can do no wrong, to be put to the test this Summer with Ant Man).

Oh, and a Yes and Please!

Zoe Saldana, Yes and Please!
(2) Godzilla

Also a re-watch from seeing it in the theaters this summer. This was a surprise hit as it the first trailer led to near-universal derision coupled with "We need another Godzilla?" sentiment.

Probably a lot of it was due to bad feelings from the last time someone tried to make a Godzilla movie...

Starring Matthew Broderick = WHAT THE FUCK?!?!
That steaming pile of shit Godzilla just about broke even at $130MM domestically (but was also pretty huge internationally, adding another $242MM) but is also considered a laughingstock.

THIS new Godzilla grossed $200MM domestically (good for 12th in 2014) // $528MM total worldwide. In other words, a HUGE American AND International hit. 

But it's also a GREAT Godzilla/action movie. 


The direction, F/X, score are all amazing. Plus, Godzilla is unequivocally the GOOD GUY, fighting two other giant monsters to put "nature back in balance." In the process, Manila, Honolulu, Vegas and San Francisco all get absolutely obliterated and it's all good stuff. The acting is "Meh" (even Bryan Cranston for the 15 minutes he's in the movie) but that's not why you're watching a Godzilla movie in the first place. Finally, unlike most Hollywood movies, this one is relentlessly pro-military, showing how members of the US armed forces are selfless and courageous to a fault, even against an "enemy" that simply cannot be defeated by military means...they keep following orders and going after it anyway.

(3) Inside Man

Have seen this a bunch of times. Late one night, saw it starting on one of the movie channels and ended up watching the whole thing.


Of all of Spike Lee's movies, I think (total guess) that this was his biggest commercial success and also my favorite. As a critical endeavor, it's merely a bank heist movie, but an exceedingly smart one at that, with prime-level acting talent. 

It's got Denzel, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor before he was anything. And, as Denzel says "This ain't no bank robbery!" -- it's much more than meets the eye than that! Plus it's got Nazis. Nazis getting their comeuppance is always a good time!

(4)  The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is the talk of Hollywood with its surprise nine Oscar nominations (tied with Birdman for most).

Basically, if you like Wes Anderson movies, you'll like this. If you don't, it's best to skip this one. Almost all of his standard actors are in this, including Bill Fucking Murray. But most of all, it might be the most Wes Anderson of Wes Anderson movies possible (to date).

The plethora of Oscar noms might be a little surprising because he has not been all that successful with the Academy. Nevertheless, I'd say that this is probably his most "complete" movie, with the most complete plot and overall characterization. 


It has all the tricks that the Academy likes, in this case a story-within-the-story-within-the-story structure, well-loved actors, a girl with a tattoo in the shape of Mexico on her right cheek and a heavy dose of inter-war Europe nostalgia (this period of time, if done well with set design, costuming, etc. always fares well with Academy members). It also has perhaps the most ludicrous prison escape scene ever on any TV show or movie.

It's supremely well-acted, as any Anderson movie is, especially Ralph Fiennes (though its rare that he's not great). Best picture quality? Eh, not for me. And I even put a few of his other works (Life Aquatic, Mr. Fox, even Moonrise Kingdom) ahead of this one.

(5) Neighbors

FINALLY got around to seeing this on Blu. You all probably know the basic premise as one of the we're-bringing-back-the-R-rated-comedy genre movies that have come out lately.


Long story short: Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne are married (pardon my editorial laugh at that ludicrous coupling, HA-HA!) with a small baby yet still not ready to accept that the baby has changed everything about their former lives.

Fraternity, led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, moves in next door. Rogan/Byrne try to be cool while still requesting that the Fraternity "keep it down" a bit. Parties/noise/pranks/fights/hilarity ensues. Great soundtrack. Epic parties. Rose Byrne is a Yes and Please! Hall of Famer. Efron's GF in the movie, played by someone called Halston Sage is a Yes and Please! newcomer. 

First, the newcomer:


And now the Hall of Famer (and with her Australian accent, just that much HOTTER) ...


Thursday, January 15, 2015

#FOOTBALL

Welp, my arch college football enemy, The Ohio State University Buckeyes, are officially the first college football champions decided by an actual, factual playoff.

The NFL's final four are: Green Bay Packers (BOO), Indianapolis Colts (YAY-ish), New England Patriots (BIG BOO) and Seattle Seahawks (YAY).

Rex Ryan HIRED by the Bills without the Bears making any play for him, not even interviewing him.

John Fox FIRED by the Broncos after the upset home loss to the Colts and he immediately becomes the front-runner for the Bears job.

In-depth thoughts about all if you READ ON!

OSU: The First "Real" National Champion

After years of hand-wringing, the NCAA finally took the BCS out back last year and shot it in the head. It was replaced by the "College Football Playoffs" that would feature four teams selected by a panel of "experts" that included such noted football geniuses as former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice.

Now, this new system is not perfect, to be sure. It should be expanded to eight teams, with automatic bids for the champions of each of the "Power Five" conferences (ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC), with the three others still being chosen by the same panel of robot elders (SILENCE). With this modification, both TCU and Baylor would have been in the playoff instead of #Butthurt about being left out.

Anyway, Ohio State jumped into the four spot with its absolute annihilation of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Then it outplayed and beat betting favorite Alabama/Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl before dominating Oregon (who itself dominated Florida State in the Rose Bowl) in the National Championship Game. 

And, oh yeah, they did all of these things with their third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, who first played in the Michigan game when the second-stringer went out with an injury.



The dude is an absolute BEAST. How the fuck does Urban Meyer convince such a talent to go to Columbus to be a third-stringer? This baffles me. 

Anyway, as a Michigan man, it pains me to say this but Urban Meyer has now supplanted Nick Saban as college coaching's best (though I'm hoping Michigan's new man challenges this as quickly as possible). Remember, Ohio State was supposed to contend next year. Gross as it feels, congrats to the Buckeyes.



The one positive from Ohio State's win is that it reestablishes the Big Ten back into football relevance. I guess all those the-Big-Ten-is-dead stories from about Week 4 were a little premature, eh?

NFC Championship Game: Green Bay at Seattle

What the fuck is a catch in an NFL game? The fans don't know, the broadcasters don't know, the referees don't even fucking know. By now, this Dez Bryant non-catch has been talked about endlessly:



I guess, according to the very technical, jargony rules of the NFL, this was not a catch because he didn't maintain "control" all the way through the process of the catch. Personally, I think that's bullshit and that this is a catch. He catches it, takes three steps and lunges for the endzone before the ball comes loose. And, even though the ball does come loose, it NEVER TOUCHES THE GROUND.

Now, the Packers were ahead 26-21, there were only four minutes left in the game and this was the Cowboys' 4-and-1 play (DeMarco Murray, where ya' at?!) Even if this call had gone the Cowboys' way, there's no guaranty, of course, that they would have scored a touchdown, or that they could have stopped Aaron Rodgers from scoring on the next possession (especially considering he'd likely only need a FG). 

Rodgers, with a tear in his calf, was clearly not 100% but was still excellent, going 24-35, 316 yards with 3 TDs and no INTs (Rodgers simply does not throw interceptions at Lambeau) but a very important aspect of his game, namely, his ability to scramble, was pretty much non-existent due to the injury. 

If he is unable to scramble in Seattle, I just don't see anyway that the Packers can beat the Seahawks, especially as they are playing at their highest level of the season right now. Against Carolina, the Seahawks were really hitting on all cylinders. Despite this, both Cam Newton and the Panthers hung tough, however, with the game always seeming closer than the 31-17 final score. The game wasn't really wrapped up until the amazing Cam Chancellor Pick-Six that everyone was rightly gushing over the next day)



Despite the Seahawks being the defending champs (which normally would steer me away from them), and all the annoying-as-shit "12th Man bullshit" of their fans and how irritating Pete Carrol's face can be, I'm rooting for them the rest of the way due to my love of #BeastMode Marshawn Lynch and, of course, Russell Wilson, who is just flat-out fucking awesome.

Wilson was a supremely efficient 15-22, 268 yards, 3 TDs, no INTs and a paltry (by his standards) 22 rushing yards. 

Both Wilson and BeastMode had amazing, definitional plays in the closing weeks of the season against Arizona. I'm going to take this opportunity to show them!

First, another BeastQuake:



Now Wilson:



Absolutely unbelievable stuff.

Anyway, for Sunday's NFC title game (3:05 on FOX) in Seattle, the Seahawks are -7.5 according to Sportsbook. Like I said, if Rodgers can't scramble, I don't see any way that they can handle Seattle's defense. And, frankly, despite Julius Peppers playing out of his mind right now (where was that last season, asshole?), Green Bay's defense isn't all that great.

I'll take Seattle 31-21 for its second straight trip to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game: Indy at New England

The Ravens had the Patriots, up 14 points TWICE, before letting Herr Grumblelord and Tom Brady back in it and, ultimately to victory in Foxboro, 35-31.

There's no reason that I should dislike the Patriots (other than maybe Spygate) but I do. Tom Brady played at Michigan, Belichick is obviously a football wizard and his grumble/grumble schtick with the press entertains me to no end (that he's a MILF Hunter is also great). Plus Gronk! Who doesn't love Gronk!


Famous Gronk photo with ex-girlfriend and
former porn star Britney Maclin aka Bibi Jones


Yes and Please Bibi Jones! Please go back to
making high quality adult entertainment!
Anyway, there's plenty for me to like about the Patriots (I failed to mention above that I also have a soft spot for dynastic teams) but I don't. I think I've determined that it's due to Boston fans being the most insufferable in all of sports. Alright, so fuck the Patriots!

Baltimore came out pretty aggressive and played well from the outset. Joe ELITE Flacco continued his string of post-season impressiveness but ultimately fell short. His line: 28 for 45, 292 yards, 4 TDs and 2 pickles. Running back nobody Justin Forsett -- who I now love because I got him off waivers in fantasy fairly early, then rode him all the way to a championship -- continued his season-long good play too, rushing 24 times for 129 yards (a 5.4 per carry average - I believe he led the NFL in yards per carry this season).

Ultimately, however, the Ravens D, long its stalwart, couldn't stop Brady, who was 33-50, 367 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT plus a rushing TD. The Patriots also only ran the ball 13 times for a 1.1 average (and I can't recall them really rushing at all the second half). Gronk did his thing with 7 catches for 108 yards and a TD and when they looked his way, the Ravens had no answer for him.

But the play of the game and the decisive blow came on a JAP PLAY that they Patriots had apparently been keeping under their hats all the way back to last year!



Oh that Bill Belichick! He'll fucking run a Jap Play on you, yes he will. He will also design a new type of formation, completely within the rules, but never seen on offense before that will literally have John Harbaugh losing his fucking shit on the sideline, drawing a 15-yard penalty.

Anyway, they won and now have the privilege of hosting the Colts on Sunday (6:40 p.m. on CBS) with the AFC title on the line.

As for those Colts, their win was clearly the shocker of the weekend and represented a real changing of the guard as Peyton sadly looked the part of a broken down old man and Andrew Luck playing the roll of the new king.

After the game, we learned that Peyton has had a quad injury for the past month, and that would explain why his passing has been so off (and bad). He was especially bad in this game at any throw more than ten yards. He wasn't helped by two drops by Demeryius Thomas (also a guy who came up big for me in my fantasy football win), who had his worst game of the season (despite the first TD) since Week 1 when he had a dreadful performance against these same Colts.

Really, in the 24-13 loss, the Broncos looked bad all around. They didn't sack Luck once. And with the diminished Manning, held the ball for almost ten full minutes less than the Colts. Really this game felt more like 34-13 when it was over. And it felt like they were out-coached, which makes the next item down all the more shaky for me.

While I don't think the Colts overall have the roster to YET beat the Patriots, they'll certainly be able to move the ball in Foxboro. And Luck might just be able to pull it off. They're 7 point dogs and I won't pick them to win, but I'll go with them to cover.

Patriots 37, Colts 31.

State of Da Bears Rebuilding

Ladies and Gentlemen, your new Chicago Bears head coach, this guy:



Actually, this isn't official yet but starting to be reported as fact. Look, there's no denying Fox's overall success, both with the Panthers and with Broncos (both without Peyton (1st year) and obviously with). He's well-respected around the League, with players too, and a strong locker room presence and head coach "gravitas" are sorely needed after the Trestman era.

But I'm also a little "meh" on him. He makes the same bone-headed game management mistakes that most NFL coaches do. So I guess because they nearly all do (sans Grumble-Lord), I can't be too upset. AND, if he brings on Kyle Shannahan as offensive coordinator as is also being reported then I'm totally sold.

But backing up a few paces, about a week ago George McCaskey/Ted Philips/Ernie Accorsi hired their GM man from the Saints, 37-year-old Ryan Pace. This guy:



There's very little to know about him by someone like me. What I do know is that all the Saints beat reporters were on twitter saying what a good hire it was for the Bears and what a loss it will be for the Saints' front office. Then all the national NFL people (i.e., Jay Glazier, etc.) were tweeting that he was a star and that was always going to get a GM opportunity, with a little surprise that it was so soon sprinkled in.

He was impressive at his introductory press conference (then again, so were Emery and Trestman in each of theirs), stating that he really wanted the Bears to be a tougher team.

His coaching hires will be a first indication as to whether he knows what he's doing. Going with Fox carries the least amount of risk. That can be a good or a bad thing. Time and a few drafts will tell the story.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Idiot Box -- Quick Hits: Marvel's Agent Carter and Empire

MARVEL's Agent Carter -- "Now is Not the End" and "Tunnel and Bridge"
(Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC)

This is Marvel's second foray into TV. I have to admit that I gave their first, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a chance (probably like 5-6 episodes) before abandoning it as super boring.


Allegedly, the series had a tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier (S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated by HYDRA) that was very well received and, from all accounts the show has been much better since then. Oh well. Guess I missed out.

Agent Peggy Carter also comes from the Captain America universe, if you'll remember, as she was an integral character in the first Captain movie (The First Avenger) and a near love interest for Steve Rogers. Of course, because the Captain froze himself at the end of the first movie and now lives in modern times, Agent Carter didn't go with him.

Instead, this new, eight-episode stand-alone series takes place solely from her perspective. She's played by the same actress as in the movie, Hayley Atwell, who is borderline Yes and Please! material (i.e., in some pics yes, in others not).



The character previously made an appearance in a short that's on the Iron Man 3 DVD but, despite owning that, I've yet to watch it.

Anyway, the series takes place post-war, with Agent Carter working in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR). Because she's a woman and its 1946 she's basically treated like a glorified secretary by her bosses and co-workers, notwithstanding all her good work during the war as set forth in Captain America. 

The good news? Her boss at SSR is played by Shea Whigham, last seen as Eli Thompson in Boardwalk Empire (may it rest in peace sigh).

The main narrative is that Howard Stark (reprised by the same guy who played him in the movie) has been accused by the U.S. Government of treason. Apparently a bunch of his prototype weapons have gone missing and some of have shown up on the black market. So obviously, despite his enormous wealth (taking away one motive for becoming a traitor) and his good works during the war (like, you know, creating/inventing Capt. America himself), he's a traitor and subject to Congressional hearings. On the last day of his testimony, he disappears (skips town, if you will), making his capture SSR's number 1 priority.

Agent Carter, being a useless WOMAN, is of course relegated to the sidelines. Just as well as Stark covertly meets with her and asks her to help clear is name. And that's the premise for at least the first 8 episodes: Carter working within SSR to undermine its efforts to nab Stark and to clear his name. Also introduced is Stark's butler, Jarvis, who will be at Carter's disposal to assist in her mission (and who will, of course, become Tony Stark's master computer in the Iron Man movies, voiced by Paul Bettany).

These first two episodes, played back-to-back, were entertaining enough. The feminism stuff is a little heavy handed but it's sure off to a more promising start than Agents of SHIELD was. And the critics -- Alan Sepinwall, TV Club and EW -- seem to like it.

It's good enough for me to keep watching, especially with a short episode commitment. 

Grade based on first two episodes: B

Extras:
  • Andre Royo, better known as Bubbles from The Wire and, more recently, as the voice of Marcus on Bob's Burgers, makes a short-lived appearance as a high-priced fence. Always good to see Wire alumni getting work!
  • Marvel premiered the Ant Man trailer during the episodes. Not sure what to think but due to how Great Guardians of the Galaxy was, I'm willing to trust the studio on any of its movies right now:


Empire -- "Pilot"
(Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX)

I've always been a sucker for primetime soaps (the original 90210, the first season of Revenge, etc.) so I've been intrigued for Fox's new rap-world-take-on-King-Lear show since commercials started airing months ago.



The pilot, at least, did not disappoint as the world was fully-formed, most of the characters were complete people, the two leads -- Terrance Howard's rap-mogel/family patriarch, Lucious Lyon and Taraji P. Hensen's, Cookie Lyon -- are both fantastic, and the music, my God the music, supervised by Timbaland, is radio quality profession (and Fox is selling songs on iTunes, naturally).

As I mentioned above, this is a staging of King Lear in a modern, rap "empire" setting. Lucious, the patriarch and founding musician of the label, is just about to take it public. 

His oldest son, Andre, a business school graduate with, of course, a white she-devil wife (Kaitlin Doubleday, moderately Yes and Please!), has been helping run the board room and getting the IPO ready. 

The middle son, Jamal, has his father's music talent (he looks like, and his music is like, John Legend) but there's a problem -- he's a GAY! Oh no! This is especially bad in both the Black and rap communities where, as apparently the last bastion of civilization, homosexuality is not yet universally acclaimed. The third son, Hakeem, is a talented rapper who seems to be taking the the "rap star" life (booze, broads and blunts) quite well.

Lucious finds out he has ALS and maybe, at most 3-4 years to live. This prompts him to tell all three sons that one of them has to step up to become the heir-apparent (surprising Andre, who rightly thought he already was), thus the King Lear parallel (which is even expressly mentioned).

There to shake everything up though, is Cookie, who has just been released from prison after a 17-year stint (surprising everyone because she had a 30-year sentence) for drug dealing. Turns out she was dealing drugs to use the proceeds to start the label. In other words, she's a ticking time bomb who could fuck up Lucious' shit right quick and she is there to get what is her's!


Andre and his white she-devil wife think that this is perfect. He is going to convince Cookie to manage Jamal's career (which such career Lucious gladly gives up for her silence because, you know, he's a Gay) such that Cookie/Jamal are constantly at odds/war with Lucious/Hakeem. This will lead to Andre taking charge of Empire, get it?

So that's basically the set-up: Lucious is dying and needs to find his successor. Cookie is back to stir up shit and the three sons will be drawn into a fight over the company, with all the family drama that a soap opera set in the world of rappers can promise. Based on this trailer, I'm definitely going to keep watching though I'm sure it won't sustain this quality. If and when it ultimately starts to falter, I'll revisit. Hopefully that won't happen.

Pilot Grade: A

Extras:
  • Can't say enough about how great Taraji P. Hensen is. She was also great in Person of Interest but this is a whole new level.
  • Lucious just flat-out murders his best friend/closest member of his entourage when the latter tries to extort money from him. Once a gangsta always a gangsta, right?
  • Also can't overstate how great the music was. Here's just a sample of one song from the pilot: