Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 17

Here are my NFL Week 17 Picks:
(I was 10-6 last week)
Bye teams: none

TB @ Atl - Sometimes the Week 17 games are a little wonky, as some teams have it all wrapped up and some teams are dead in the water.  Such is the case here.  The Falcons win, probably.
NYJ @ Buf - What a mess for the Jets.  They finally move on from Sanchez, only to call on him when McElroy gets hurts.  Messy, messy, messy.  With both teams out of the playoffs, Bills win.
Bal @ Cin - The Bengals surprised me last week and played themselves into the playoffs.  The Ravens already won the division, but look for them to get a practice win in Cincinatti.
Chi @ Det - The Bears are still alive, but need a win here, big time.  The Lions would like to play spoiler to their division rivals, and I think they're just nasty enough to pull it off.
Hou @ Ind - The Texans are in danger of losing their first round bye.  They need to get their act together, and now!  The Colts have nothing to play for and will lose at home to a superior team.
Car @ NO - Both teams are out, but both teams have some momentum going into next season that they would like to see continue.  The Saints are the better team and will win at home.
Phi @ NYG - The Giants are technically, TECHNICALLY, still alive.  They need to win and to have three separate teams lose.  I think they'll win, but I doubt they'll get in.
Cle @ Pit - What a sad end to the Steelers season.  It's odd to think of the Giants and the Steelers both being out of the playoffs, but cest la vie.  The Steel Curtain will get one more win though.
Jax @ Ten - No wonder the Texans and the Colts got in the playoffs; they got to face these two clowns twice each.  This is an unwatchable game.  Titans by default.
KC @ Den - So far this season the Broncos haven't fallen for trap games.  With a win here, the Broncos get a bye.  Peyton will make it happen and Denver will prepare for the playoffs.
GB @ Min - All the Vikings have to do is win to get in, and the Pack doesn't have much to play for, so I look for the Vikes to win a home game on Adrian Peterson's shoulders.
Mia @ NE - The Pats are hoping for the pieces to fall into place so that they can get a bye.  First they have to beat the Dolphins ...shouldn't be much of a problem.  Patriots.
Oak @ SD - What an end to the Norv Turner era.  The Chargers aren't awful, they just need new life.  A new coach could make the an immediate impact next season.  SD will get one more win.
STL @ Sea - The Seahawks were very impressive last week, and now are in a position to win the division.  They shouldn't have much of a problem at home against the Rams.
Ari @ SF - The Niners were embarrassed last week by the Hawks, but can still win the division and gain some momentum with a win against the Cardinals.  Should happen.
Dal @ Was - The biggest game of the week is on SNF.  Winner takes the division, loser needs some luck to get into the playoffs.  I love Romo, but the Boys will fall once again to RG3.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thought - Merry Christmas!

Well, I'm off on a little holiday break and I will see you again soon.  I hope you have been enjoying reading my blog and that you will continue to read once I get back from my hiatus.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review - I, Robot

Author: Isaac Asimov
Year: 1950

My first experience with Asimov was reading Robot Dreams, a collection of short stories centered around the topic of robot development, intelligence, and incorporation into the human world.  When I picked up I, Robot I was expecting something more akin to the movie.  I was very wrong, but thankfully so.  It was much more a collection than I expected, and had very little to do with the film, but this classic sci-fi masterpiece turned out to be a wonderful read.

The story of I, Robot is one of time.  It is a series of short stories, all interconnected, and chronologically placed to show the history of robot production, improvement, and integration.  The narrator and main character, Susan Calvin, works for U.S. Robotics, a company than ultimately runs the robot world.  As these man-made creations become more and more sophisticated, problems arise that must be faced, solved, and dealt with in a surprisingly human way.  The lines begin to blur between robots as slaves and robots as peers in this scientifically interesting work.

You have got to enjoy science to enjoy this book, even more so than other sc-fi novels.  There is a technical side that is very interesting, but also very in depth.  However, beyond the science is a very human element; the attempt to understand the robot brain leads to some intriguing conversations on religion, thought processes, morals, etc.  It sounds cheesy to say, but the study of robotics leads to some fascinating insights on humans.  I, Robot is part story but mostly idea, as it poses a possible future and leads us in a discussion of the various topics related to it.  A very interesting read, one of sci-fi's groundbreaking stories.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thought - The Reason for the Season

If I read one more Facebook post reminding me that "Jesus is the reason for the season!" that vein in my forehead might finally pop.  In all ways and explanations, Christianity, a Jonny-come-lately religion anyway, has no claims to this winter holiday.

Without trying to sound elitist, I would urge you to read something, anything, on the topic and notice a recurring theme; that almost every religion, culture, and people performed some sort of celebration during the winter solstice.  The Pagans celebrated the physical season, the Syrians celebrated the birth of the sun god Adonis, and even the Jews claim this time as the birth of Yahweh, all before the supposed birth of Jesus, the forming of a religion around him, or the development of a holiday called Christmas.

Of course, it was very intelligent of early Christians to place their holiday on this date.  With everyone already celebrating something, it makes sense to claim this time as YOUR savior's birth, put YOUR stamp on it, and try to get some converts, or at the very least get people thinking about Christmas while they're celebrating the birth of Sol.

We see this in the way that the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, even devout Christians; it is a combination of ancient traditions (pine trees, wreaths, Santa) with religious practice (Nativity scenes, baby Jesus).  There is nothing wrong with this, as it is fundamental to our nation; the merging of many cultures and many traditions into a new society that will forever be influenced by both new religions and ancient traditions.

Believe in whatever fairy tales you want.  Believe in whatever God/gods/spirits you wish.  But don't attempt to tell me that "Jesus is the reason for the season!".  He isn't.  He may be the reason someone made up the term 'Christmas' and then planned his birthday party on the same day that everyone else was celebrating THEIR savior's birth, and that may have resulted in a veritable smorgasbord of American religious and traditional practices that all melted together.  But don't forget that the vast majority of the peoples of Earth have been celebrating a holiday of their own during this time of the year that has nothing to do with your new-found religion.

I say "Merry Christmas!" even though I'm not a Christian.  I think this is ok, if for no other reason than that Christmas is a melting pot of culture as much as America itself is, and I don't see that as a bad thing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie Trailer - The Great Gatsby

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Release: May 10th, 2013

I guess I forgot that this movie was coming out.  I saw the trailer months ago, filed it away, was reminded of it, and watched it again.  If anything, it is going to be more spectacular than I had imagined.  Luhrmann is not for everyone (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!), but his films are exciting, beautiful, and original; Gatsby looks no different.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 16

Here are my NFL Week 16 Picks:
(I was 12-4 last week)
Bye teams: none

Atl @ Det - The Falcons aren't perfect, far from it.  But they annihilated the Giants last week and they get to play an awful Lions team that has lost six in a row.  Matty Ice will dominate.

Oak @ Car - In a game of eliminated teams, even the winner doesn't win.  The Panthers have been playing fairly well, and the Raiders are 1-5 on the road this season.  Cam!
NO @ Dal - Although technically still alive, the Saints don't have a real chance at the playoffs.  They'd have to beat a hot Cowboys team to keep their hopes alive, and I doubt they can do it.
Ten @ GB - Should be a lopsided victory for the Packers, as the Titans have allowed an embarrasing number of points this season.  Rodgers and Co. are prepping for a deep playoff run.
Min @ Hou - The Vikings are a team that I definitely did not see coming.  Adrian Peterson is running wild, but I think that stops this week.  The Texans are the real deal and will come away with a win.
NE @ Jax - And I thought the Packers game was one-sided.  I don't care that the Pats got beat by the Niners, that won't happen again this week.  The Jaguars are pathetic.
Ind @ KC - The Colts are not a very good road team, and the Chiefs defense can actually be formidable at times.  But Luck has more to play for right now and will fight for the win.
Buf @ Mia - The Bills have had such a disappointing season.  Three seasons, actually.  With the Dolphins playing pretty well right now, I don't foresee any circling of the wagons this week.
SD @ NYJ -  Well Gang Green finally came to their senses and benched Sanchez.  Problem is A) they're not starting Tebow, and 2) they're already out of the playoffs.  Chargers.
Was @ Phi - Will RG3 be back this week?  Didn't matter last Sunday, as Cousins stepped up and played well.  No matter who plays at QB, the Eagles still suck and everyone there is getting fired.
Cin @ Pit - I like this matchup; divison rivals fighting for the last playoff spot.  The Steelers have been hurting, but Big Ben ALWAYS beats the Bungles and he will this week at home.
STL @ TB - Doesn't matter, don't care.  Neither team is awful but neither team is good.  The Bucs will win by virtue of home-field, but don't get excited about it.  I guess there's always next year.
Cle @ Den - Thank you, Peyton, for coming to Denver.  The Broncos are on a nine game win streak and couldn't be hotter.  Call it a trap game, but Manning doesn't fall for those.
Chi @ Ari - Talk about collapses.  The Cards finally stopped theirs, but not before being eliminated.  The Bears are currently riding theirs and are getting booed out of town.  Cardinals by a nose.
NYG @ Bal - Which embarrassed team with pull it out this week?  The Giants are playing for their lives, while the Ravens have already wrapped up a playoff spot.  G-men win in a bloody one.
SF @ Sea - A great SNF matchup between two teams fighting for the division title.  Both teams have scored and allowed almost the exact same amount of points.  So the deciding factor will be the 12th Man; the Seahawks are undefeated at home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Movie Trailer - Zero Dark Thirty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt
Release: January 11th, 2013

I'm on the fence about this one.  It's a relevant and interesting topic, and I know people will eat it up, but I'm not that excited about it.  Perhaps because I didn't care for The Hurt Locker, Bigelow's Oscar-winning Iraq war drama.  It's just not my thing, but perhaps it's yours.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Movie Trailer - Kon-Tiki

Director: Joachim Ronning
Starring: Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Release: 2013

It's nice when you stumble across a foreign film that you would never have heard of and it looks this good.  In what seems like a Norwegian Castaway, I expect some good acting and beautiful scenery.  This is one of those films that's worth a shot in the dark.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sports - Broncos vs. Ravens

Today's game between the Broncos and the Ravens is an important one for many reasons.

  1. It is a personal rivalry between my team and the Scott's team.  Now, they're not huge football fans, but I still don't want my team to lose to Baltimore, I want them to have a good showing.
  2. Although the Broncos have already clinched the AFC West, they are attempting to become ranked as either the #1 or #2 seed.  If they can do that they will receive a one week playoff bye and then have home field advantage for two games in the playoffs.  Home field in January is very important.
  3. For the Ravens, they still haven't won their division.  The Steelers and the Bengals are right behind.  Baltimore has lost two in a row, fired their offensive coordinator, and are in a slump.  They need to pick it up now or risk losing home field advantage, or even a playoff spot.
  4. And lastly, the Broncos need to show that they can beat an elite team.  Earlier is the season they lost to the Texans, Falcons, and Patriots; three of the best teams in the league.  These are the Broncos' only losses on the year, and they came early when Peyton was still adjusting, but it would mean a lot to Denver's morale and momentum if they could beat a good team in a tough matchup.
The game is on CBS @ 1 p.m. and should be a good one.  We'll see if Baltimore's new offensive coordinator can fix their problems quickly and help them to score against the Broncos' #4 ranked defense.  Also #4 ranked is the Denver offense, which should be able to put up points on a Ravens team that is too injured to play up to their pedigree.  Ray Rice must be stopped, especially in the screen game, for the Broncos to win this game.  And a few Joe Flacco sacks or INTs would be nice as well.  The Broncos need to hold onto the football, no fumbles on kickoffs or punts or runs, and score when the opportunity presents itself.

Game Score: Broncos 31 - Ravens 16

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Review - The Cider House Rules

Author: John Irving
Year: 1985

Apparently it's easier to write a review of something I hated, because I am finding this very difficult.  When a book exceeds all your expectations, when it surprises you with just how deep it goes, and how strongly it affects you, it becomes hard to judge.  What can I write that will express what this story meant to me?  You might read it, enjoy it, even love it, but it will become something totally different to each person who experiences it, for good or for bad.  And that, I guess, is the magic of a great book.

The Cider House Rules is the story of Homer, an orphan from St. Clouds, Maine.  His early life is sculpted by the people around him; from Dr. Larch, the obstetrician, to the two dedicated nurses on staff, to the children like Fuzzy and Melony who will always be a part of who he is.  Destined to be a doctor and follow in his mentor's footsteps, Homer's life veers onto another path when he meets Candy and Wally, two young lovers whose privileged existence is so very different from his own.  As he begins to understand the world outside of St. Clouds, Homer must make decisions that will effect his future, that of the orphanage, and of everyone he has come to love.

Very rarely does a story have so much of an effect on me that I can't describe it or even express myself.  Very simply, this is one of the best books that I have ever read.  It was more than a novel, it was a piece of life.  It was a record of an interesting time and the extraordinary people who lived it.  It was a window into a character that becomes more real than any I have ever known.  I will never forget the story, the conflicts and questions that it raises, the personalities that were so well written that they became physical.  The Cider House Rules will always be on my mind, and will change the way I read every book from now on.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie Trailer - The Impossible

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts
Release: December 21st, 2012

Rarely do you watch a trailer that is so stunning and terrifying.  This happened, recently enough so that we can remember it, and that makes it all the more upsetting.  Pair a story like this with incredible actors, and you should come away with a phenomenal film.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Movie Trailer - After Earth

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Release: June 7th, 2013

The last sci-fi post of the week, I promise.  I couldn't pass up this one though.  Will Smith and his son on a futuristic Earth, directed by M. Night Shyamalan?  It could be a disaster, but I actually doubt it.  I think it'll work, and I say that even after The Happening and The Last Airbender.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 15

Here are my NFL Week 15 Picks:
(I was 11-5 last week)
Bye teams: none

Cin @ Phi - I think 'yucky' describes this matchup fairly well.  At least the Bungles are playing for a possible playoff spot and they do pretty well on the road.  They should play harder and win.

NYG @ Atl - Tough call.  The Falcons are up and down, but then again so are the Giants.  The Dirty Birds are undefeated at home and can get back on track with win here.  Hotlanta by a nose.
Den @ Bal - Neither team is playing for much more than a seed at this point so it's hard to envision a hard-fought battle here.  The Broncos are the hotter team and should win a close game.
GB @ Chi - Jay Cutler is hurt again; what else is new.  He's body is always as fragile as his psyche.  I think the Packers win this one big, even though the game is in the Windy City.
Was @ Cle -The Brownies may be on a hot streak, but I see this as one of the easier calls of the week.  RG3 is in the zone and I don't see a way that Cleveland can win, assuming that he plays.
Ind @ Hou - I've been giving Luck more credit lately, and the Texans got smeared last week vs. the Pats, but I think they will bounce back.  The Colts might be up and coming, but Houston is there.
Jax @ Mia - In a battle between sad teams, the question is only which one is sadder.  The Dolphins have a little more ability and drive, the Jaguars have nada.  Miami at home in a blowout.
TB @ NO - Both teams have lost three in a row and their playoff hopes are fading fast.  Playing desperate, I see Brees coming up with a big game and outscoring the Bucs 30+ to 30.
Min @ STL - Just the opposite, both of these teams are trying to make a late season push and ride their momentum into the last wild card spot.  The Rams can win a tight one at home and stay alive.
Det @ Ari - The Cardinals are the most pitiful team in the league, having lost their last nine games.  Yes, I said nine.  The cowardly Lions might not be MUCH better, but they are better.
Sea @ Buf - The Seahawks and their defense are the real deal.  Problem is, they're no good on the road.  However, this game is in Toronto, not Buffalo.  Enough to make a difference, if barely.
Car @ SD - The Chargers always make a push at the the end of the season to save Norv Turner's job.  They'll try again this year, but even a win this week won't be enough.  SD wins, but so what.
Pit @ Dal - I think Ben came back too soon last week, like he always does.  You gotta be tough, but you gotta play smart.  He's not 100% and the Cowboys are gaining momentum.  Big D.
KC @ Oak - I'm sorry to say that the Broncos are in the same division as these guys, two lifeless teams with almost no positives to hang on to.  The Raiders win, but again, so what.
SF @ NE - Watching Tom Brady carve up the Texans last week, it's hard to doubt that he'll do it to San Fran this week.  The Patriots are clicking when it counts, like they always do.

NYJ @ Ten - Man, talk about anticlimactic.  Does anyone even care who wins this game?  The Jets have been finding ways to win, and they should again this week, somehow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie Review - Event Horizon

Director: Paul Anderson 
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Joely Richardson
Year: 1997

As I've said, I enjoy sci-fi a lot, both books and movies.  I understand that in order to like this genre I have to be willing to accept a few things: 1) the acting might not be phenomenal, 2) the plot may have a few holes, and 3) I could be left wanting more.  A good sci-fi movie will minimize these negative aspects, and a bad one will compound them.  Guess which one Event Horizon did.

The story is quite simple yet interesting: a futuristic spacecraft is capable of faster-than-the-speed-of-light travel using black holes and the folding of space & time.  On its maiden voyage, the ship disappears and is not heard from again, until years later a distress signal is detected, coming from the lost vessel.  A team of doctors, pilots, and rescue workers travels across the solar system in order to save the crew and to uncover the truth, but the reality of the situation is far beyond anything they were trained for, far beyond human understanding.

Yeah, it was how it sounds; a little silly and a little muddled.  The premise was intriguing, and the actors actually pulled off the typical sci-fi setup; lost crew, dangerous mission, secret space tests.  But a good beginning was as far as it would go.  Eventually the plot disintegrated, people starting dying in unbelievable ways, speeches kept getting more and more ridiculous, and I began to lose interest.  Appreciate Event Horizon for being a sci-fi mainstay, but don't hope for much.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Monday, December 10, 2012

Movie Trailer - Oblivion

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman
Release: April 19th, 2013

I must be on a sci-fi kick right now.  Star Trek Saturday, Oblivion today, and a review of Event Horizon tomorrow.  But I can't help it, sci-fi is unique in its ability to blend reality with fiction in a believable and entertaining way.  Dramas are too real sometimes, fantasy can be too silly, but sci-fi takes a story that could come true and weaves it with action, drama, and effects to create a great movie.  You still have to pair up a good director with a great actor, and some would say that Tom Cruise is not that, but I would disagree.  Very excited to see this movie.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Movie Trailer - Star Trek Into Darkness

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana
Release: May 17th, 2013

I'm not a huge Abrams fan (Star Trek, Super 8), but I liked the first one much more than I thought that I would.  I'll give the second one a chance and see if it can avoid being a cliche sequel.  And, hey, I might have a slight man-crush on Chris Pine.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sports - Rivalries

The NFL and other sports leagues got at least one thing very right; divisions.  Competition between divisional opponents is the key to their success.  Why?  Because it creates rivalries, and rivalries are what we want to see.  Take last night's TNF game on NFL Network for example.  The Broncos are 9-3, the Raiders are 3-9.  Should be a lopsided victory for Denver, a foregone conclusion, and it was.  So why were people still watching if they could easily predict the result?  Because 'any given Sunday'?  No, because of the rivalry.  The NFL has created a hatred between these two clubs by placing them in the same division and forcing them to play each other twice a year.  Both teams are old AFLers, and the NFL did a great job in keeping them together and keeping the bad blood between them alive and well.  We love to see rivalries because they elevate the level of competition and make unwatchable games watchable.  This is the only way ANYONE can watch a Browns games, because sometimes they play the Bengals and Steelers.  In these games, teams play harder.  They play angry and they know their opponent.  It makes for a better game, one that could go either way, and that's what we want to see.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Movie Trailer - Epic

Director: Chris Wedge
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell
Release: May 24th, 2013

Ok, yeah, it does seem a little silly, a tad juvenile, and a bit of a ripoff.  But I don't want to hear any complaining.  I guarantee you it will be twenty times better than Avatar, and that rotten tomato was nominated for a Best Picture Ocscar!  Have you no shame, Academy?!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 14

Here are my NFL Week 14 Picks:
(I was 8-8 last week, worst week so far)
Bye teams: none

Den @ Oak -  The last time these two teams played the Broncos won 37-6.  Now, to be fair that was in Denver, but not much should change as the Broncos are on a roll.  Go Peyton!

STL @ Buf - It's very frustrating to pick winners and losers in matchups between bad teams.  The Bills have a good home record and the Rams are awful on the road, so Bills I guess.
Atl @ Car - My fantasy team is out of the playoffs thanks to Matt Ryan's epic collapse over the past three games.  Ironically, the Falcons won all those games.  They will continue this week.
Dal @ Cin - Tough call in what should be a good game.  Both teams have renewed hope and are fighting for the playoffs, but with Murray back the Cowboys have a leg up.  Big D.
KC @ Cle - Yuck.  An almost unwatchable game between boring teams.  I expect an emotional letdown with the Chiefs, and the Brownies are actually playing ok.  Cleveland.
Ten @ Ind - I keep doubting Luck and he keeps proving me wrong.  I have to take him at home this week against an abysmal Titans defense in what has become a pretty nice rivalry.
NYJ @ Jax - Last week the Jets won 7-6.  What is this, baseball?  And the points were scored behind McElroy.  What is this, golf?  The Jets are messed up.  But hey, they'll probably still win.
Chi @ Min - Ponder and the Vikings just aren't scoring enough points to keep up with their opponents.  The Bears have issues, but Cutler is scoring and the Chicago D is still formidable.
SD @ Pit - I was shocked by the Steelers win last week; the Ravens should be embarrassed.  The Chargers have their own problems, but their D can stop Batch if he starts.
Phi @ TB - I don't see how the Eagles can win with the mess that they've created for themselves.  The Bucs are not awful and can definitely win at home, and they should this week.
Bal @ Was - Another player I keep doubting is RG3.  They are on a mini-roll, knocking off the G-men last week.  The Ravens lost to Charlie Batch, and should play mad, but Flacco is struggling.
Mia @ SF - The Niners allow the least amount of points per game in the league.  They got themselves into some trouble by creating a QB controversy, but they should still win easy.
NO @ NYG - Both teams are coming off big losses to division opponents and should be playing good football.  Both teams can also score points, but the Giants can actually play D.  G-men.
Ari @ Sea - The Cards only score 15 points per game, lowest in the league.  Their defense is good, but all three of their QBs stink.  Russell Wilson does not, and should lead his team to a W.
Det @ GB - The Lions are a direct reflection of their coach; a pompous, dirty, juvenile wreck.  Let's just say I don't love Jim Schwartz.  I hope and imagine that they will lose this game.

Hou @ NE - A great Monday Night matchup and the clear game of the week.  Should be a very tough and physical game with a good amount of points scored.  I'll take the Texans by a nose.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Movie Review - Albert Nobbs

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Starring: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer
Year: 2011

There exists an uncomfortable balancing point when it comes to film expectations: you want to be surprised, but you want to know what's coming.  In the case of Albert Nobbs, I thought I knew what the movie would be about.  When it turned out that I was wrong, I wasn't especially happy about it.  

The title character Nobbs is a waiter in a 19th century hotel in Dublin.  He is respected and frugal, planning on someday getting married and opening up an idyllic shop where he will spend the rest of his days.  The trouble is, Albert is a woman.  As he attempts to make his dreams come true, he must come to terms with who he was and how that will effect who he can become.

Now, the fact that the main character is actually a woman is not the surprise, nor is it the problem.  Glenn Close plays Albert to perfection and the supporting actors are more than capable of keeping the storyline going.  The problem is that what starts as a brilliantly edgy character movie begins to slowly drag and become bogged down in issues, not individuals.  We are left with a commentary on the history of feminism and sexism, without ever really getting to know Nobbs in the way that could have been extremely fascinating.  I thought I would be watching a great story, and when I got a documentarial period piece, I was disappointed.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sports - Playoff Picture

I'm not sure why I'm obsessed with this, but I'm really enjoying keeping tabs on the NFL playoff picture.  Perhaps it's because the Broncos are relevant, or perhaps because I love the storyline of their projected matchup with the Colts.  Either way, it's interesting to see the potential scenarios and the current rankings.

Additionally, more teams punched their tickets to the playoffs this week.  Houston is officially in the playoffs, and Denver, New England, and Atlanta have already clinched their divisions, partly due to great play and partly due to poor competition.  But, doesn't matter, those teams are in.

The Broncos, for winning the AFC West, will host at least the first playoff game, which is a huge advantage, especially if they could draw a warm weather or a dome team (Indy) and welcome them to Denver in January.  Very exciting.  Take a look at the current playoff picture and check back each week to see the updates.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thought - Are you ready for some football?

This is a part sports/part thought post, as it is about sports but it is also a thought in my head.  Stay with me.  Ok, Monday Night Football.  Now I love me some Jon Gruden, and Mike Tirico is cool too, but who here remembers when MNF was awesome?  I'm talking the 80s and 90s.  I'm talking John Elway, Brett Favre, Barry Sanders, Deion.  I'm talking Hank Williams  Jr. and his signature song that always got me going before a football game.  There is nothing that compares to "Are you ready for some football!?".  Sorry Faith Hill, but you suck.  I miss that song and I miss that opening tradition.  I know they all had a falling out, but hey, that song defined a television show.  It would be like 'Cheers' without "Where everybody knows your name!".  Something should be done.  I'm just saying.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Movie Trailer - The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vincente Fernandez

Director: Elia Petridis
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Barry Corbin
Release: 2012

This cracks me up.  Who came up with this movie?  At the very least it looks original, interesting, and funny.  That's enough for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 13

Here are my NFL Week 13 Picks:
(I was 11-5 last week)
Bye teams: none

No @ Atl - I predicted the Falcons one loss this season to the Saints in Week 10, but I don't think the outcome will be the same this game.  Atlanta is undefeated at home and will get their revenge.

Jax @ Buf - The Jaguars are on a mini-roll, but their defense is still horrible.  Only three teams allow more points per game, but one of them is Buffalo.  The Bills will lose at home.
Sea @ Chi - Will Jay Cutler back and with the Seahawks terrible road play, this game shouldn't even be close.  However, Cutler is fragile, and you just never know.  I'll take the Bears.
Ind @ Det - Luck and the Colts are actually pretty good on the road and will make a game of this one, but I think the Lions will be playing angry after their embarrassing Thanksgiving loss.
Min @ GB - Talk about playing angry; the Pack got their collective ass handed to them last week vs. the G-men.  Rodgers will bounce back and continue his excellent home record.
Car @ KC - The Chiefs gave the Broncos a run for their money, but remain winless at home.  The Panthers are a good road team and Cam looked comfortable last week.  Carolina.
NE @ Mia - The only thing that could give Brady & Co. a hiccup would be Miami's D at home.  But I think the Pats are just too much for the Dolphins to handle.  Could be close though.
Ari @ NYJ - After starting 4-0 the Cards have lost seven straight.  Ouch.  The Jets have their own problems, but they're overall a much better team.  I will wear my Tebow jersey and hope.
SF @ STL - I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that this game doesn't end in a tie.  The Niners are much better all around and Kaepernick is looking good.  Rams could lose big.
Hou @ Ten - The Texans have had three narrow wins in a row and a team that looked almost unbeatable is now showing some holes.  However, they get to play the Titans.
TB @ Den - The Broncos had a little scare last week and the Bucs are by no means pushovers, but Manning is hot and on target.  It might come down to the wire, but Denver will win.
Pit @ Bal - Charlie Batch proved that the Steelers couldn't win with him against the Browns, they're definitely not going to win with him against the Ravens.  Blow out city.
Cle @ Oak - Which awful team wants a meaningless win more?  The Raiders have a horrible defense, but the Browns don't have the offense to take advantage of it.  The Boys in Black.
Cin @ SD - The door is wide open for the Bengals with the Steelers struggling.  And the door is wide open for Norv Turner in a "don't let it hit you on the way out" kind of way.  Cinci.
Phi @ Dal - The Eagles may not have a team left by the end of the season, as they begin to clean house for next year.  The Cowboys still have a chance and they will take advantage of it.

NYG @ Was - I can't predict RG3, he's a mystery to me.  But I know this; Eli is back and ready to win.  Also, the Giants love playing on the road.  The Redskins should lose a close one here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie Trailer - Any Day Now

Director: Travis Fine
Starring: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt
Release: 2012

Talk about a tearjerker.  A movie about a gay couple struggling to adopt a kid with Down's Syndrome in the 1970s?  Perhaps it's a bit much, but I trust Alan Cumming (Cabaret, Titus) , and I'm willing to put myself through a bit of emotional torture.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thought - Thanksgiving

Hello everyone, I'm back from Thanksgiving break.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and got to spend some quality time with your families.  I consumed more pie this year than I normally do, and it was glorious.  Football was entertaining, Carcassonne was played, and I generally had a nice four days.  Now Christmas!  Decorating, getting the tree, 93.3, shopping, and hopefully some snow.  Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 12

Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks:
(I was 11-3 last week)
Bye teams: none

Hou @ Det - The Texans nearly let the Jaguars steal a win last week, but came to life when it came down to it.  They are undefeated on the road and should take care of a mediocre Lions team.
Was @ Dal - One of the best rivalries in football, Cowboys & Indians.  I need to start giving RG3 and the Skins a little more credit, but Tony Romo has never lost at home on Thanksgiving.
NE @ NYJ - Another great rivalry.  At least, it would be if the Jets didn't suck.  Wouldn't you rather see Tebow get beaten by the Pats than Sanchez?  I know I would, and I like the guy.

Min @ Chi - This game hinges on Jay Cutler.  If he plays, I think the Bears win.  If he doesn't, Jason Campbell and that awful offensive line are going to get a beating courtesy of Allen and the Vikings.
Oak @ Cin - The Bengals are on a little bit of a hot streak right now, and the Raiders are on a slide.  Their defense is just atrocious, and Dalton should be able to carve it up.
Pit @ Cle - Seems like an obvious W for the Steelers until you remember that Batch will be their QB this week.  The Browns should be able to steal a victory here, might be their last of the season.
Buf @ Ind - I'm just not comfortable calling Luck amazing quite yet.  The Bills are a solid team that can run all over anybody, but since the Colts don't lose at home I'll give them the slight edge.
Ten @ Jax - The Jaguars were dead in the water, last in points scored, and nearly winless until Henne steps up last week and almost beats the Texans.  They can get their first home win vs. the Titans.
Den @ KC - I believe in trap games, but I don't believe Peyton will fall for one.  No McGahee no problem as Hillman will step up this week and the Broncos will win big.
Sea @ Mia - If the playoffs were today, rookie Russell Wilson and the Seahawks would be in.  Not too shabby.  The Dolphins are trending in the wrong direction and ought to lose.
Atl @ TB - The Falcons won somehow last week, even with Ryan throwing 5 INTs.  He might have cost me my fantasy game, but I still believe in him.  He might throw 5 TDs instead.
Bal @ SD - The Ravens are playing Raven football right now and that it pretty scary.  The Chargers are playing Charger football, and that's scary for a different reason.  Baltimore.
STL @ Ari - One of those "who cares" games.  Both teams have returned to normalcy after good starts, which shouldn't surprise anyone.  Cards should win at home if they can choose a QB to start.
SF @ NO - Strength vs. strength in this nice match-up, as the Niners defense takes on the Saints offense.  San Fran has a QB controversy, and that's never good.  New Orleans.
GB @ NYG - Coming off a bye week, which Eli will show up: Super Bowl Eli or Confused & Slow Eli?  It's tough to tell.  Either way, the Packers are hot and should win.

Car @ Phi - Very rarely is there a MNF game that I don't care to watch.  This may be one of them.  Cam Newton vs. Nick Foles.  Meh.  The Eagles looked bad last week and should lose.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Trailer - Now You See Me

Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher
Release: June 7th, 2013

Ok, so this might not be the best movie ever made, and yeah heists have been overdone, and yeah Jesse Eisenberg is kind of a douche bag, but I still want to see this movie.  It looks cool, at the very least, and that's something.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sports - Super Bowl Picks

It's getting closer and closer to Super Bowl time!  Now, a lot of people make their SB predictions at the beginning of the year, and I have mine.  But now that the season has progressed, would you change your mind?

My Super Bowl prediction: Preseason - Broncos vs. Giants - Manning Bowl!
My Super Bowl prediction: Midseason - Broncos vs. Packers - Elway/Favre!

So, what were your SB predictions at the beginning of the year, and have they changed?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Movie Trailer - Brooklyn Castle

Director: Katie Dellamaggiore
Starring: Pobo Efekoro
Release: 2012

I'm not usually into documentaries, but this one looks interesting.  If you watch The Daily Show, you may have seen the two names mentioned promoting their film, and if you did chances are they caught your attention too.  I think it's worth a look.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Review - Hollow Man

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin
Year: 2000

Oh, Kevin Bacon.  It's hard to judge him by his movies because he's more about quantity, rather than quality.  Like Samuel L. Jackson, we love him as part of American culture, and every once in a great while he is part of a great film, but usually he just makes us shake our heads.  Combine his acting style with Verhoeven's directing (RoboCop, Starship Troopers) and you're in for a odd night.

Think The Invisible Man meets quantum physics and the plot will be set up.  The story follows a group of scientists on government payroll attempting to discover the properties of invisibility and, more importantly, the return to the visible world.  When Dr. Caine volunteers to become invisible himself, the results are not what any of the team could have imagined.  Things spiral out of control quickly as the power of his new state begins to consume Caine and the others race to fix this disaster.

Words can barely describe how utterly awful this movie is.  The plot is mildly interesting, but that's as far as it goes.  The story falls apart, the characters remain uninteresting, and the acting; oh my.  Some of the worse acting you will ever see is on display from every actor.  Each cast member in the movie should be ashamed of themselves.  Josh Brolin, who is an incredible actor, ought to feel especially silly for taking part in such a horrible movie.  We can forgive acting in bad films at a young age, hey you need work.  But this was 2000, not 1978, they should have known better.  I would only recommend Hollow Man for a good laugh, please don't watch it expecting talent.

My rating:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review - The Leftovers

Author: Tom Perrotta
Year: 2011

Given to me as a gift, I had never heard of The Leftovers before, nor had I heard of Tom Perrotta.  When I found out what it was about, I was very intrigued; a 'rapture' occurs in the present day and millions of people from every nation and faith just disappear.  Sounded cool, and I like sci-fi/fantasy/post-apocalyptic themes.  But I underestimated the depth and focus of the book, as it goes far beyond the single event that caught my attention.

The story focuses on the small town of Mapleton, a very normal, suburban community.  It is hit hard by the 'rapture', as is almost every city in the world.   The mayor, his family, and the residents of the town are all touched by the event in some fashion, and deal with the consequences in one way or another.  They must come to terms with their losses if they ever hope to move on with their own lives.

Perhaps I should have known from the title, but The Leftovers was about just that; the remaining people, not the event, not the search for the cause.  It was, in all ways, a character book, following the lives of those left behind and how they chose to cope with fear, abandonment, guilt, all of the emotions that confused and tortured them.  Those who enjoy character study and dialogue will enjoy this book, but don't expect much action or suspense.  The causality takes place offstage, leaving readers to sort through the effects.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 11

Here are my NFL Week 11 Picks:
(I was 10-3-1 last week)
Bye teams: Min, NYG, Sea, Ten

Mia @ Buf - Neither team is playing well right now, which makes for a tough pick.  The Dolphins D started strong but has been fading, so the Bills have a chance at home in the cold.
Ari @ Atl - After starting 4-0, the Cards have lost 5 straight.  The Falcons are no longer undefeated, but that's doesn't mean much.  They will win this week against a sub-par team.
TB @ Car - The Bucs couldn't be hotter, and they seem likely to stay that way.  Cam & Co. have shown that they can't score enough points to be relevant.  Tampa Bay all the way.
Cle @ Dal - The Cowboys got a boost last week beating the Iggles and should play with some confidence.  The Brownies haven't won on the road yet and won't this week.
GB @ Det - As bad as the Packers D has looked at times, they really don't allow that many points, only 20 per game.  The Lions are not pushovers, but should lose a relatively high scoring game.
Jax @ Hou - Whoa, not fair.  The Jaguars only score 14 points per game, and allow double that.  The Texans couldn't be playing better, and should absolutely dominate this game.
Cin @ KC - The Bengals shocked the reigning champion Giants last week, and still have a shot at a wild card, considering the Steelers' injury problems.  The Chiefs are awful and should lose.
NYJ @ STL - Ties are embarrassing, and the Rams should feel that.  The Jets have gone from bad to worse and Sanchez seems destined for failure.  Could be a close one, with the Ram just ahead.
Phi @ Was - Hmm, which bad team is better?  Vick might not play for the Eagles, and that might not be a bad thing.  Watch Foles step in, check the ball to McCoy, and cruise past the Skins.
NO @ Oak - Upset alert!  The Saints beat the Falcons and seem to be back in stride.  But the Raiders can score and they know it.  The Black Hole will win dirty, 30s to 30s.
SD @ Den - The Broncos are on fire and don't lose at home.  They also don't lose to dysfunctional teams.  The Chargers helped the Broncos get on this roll and will help them stay on.
Ind @ NE - Not the same rivalry that we're used to seeing, but should be a good one nonetheless.  I've tried to give Luck more credit, but the Pats will just be too much for the Colts.
Bal @ Pit - Ouch.  Big Ben is out, and it could be a while.  The Steelers defense is just not the same as it used to be and can't pick up that much slack.  Ravens win big.
Chi @ SF - The battle of the concussed QBs.  And it's sad, because this was shaping up to be a good match-up, but now will be a strange MNF game.  Campbell isn't awful and could carry the Bears, but Kaepernick knows his team better and the Niners know how to use him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie Trailer - Anna Karenina

Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Release: November 16th, 2012

I'm a sucker for period pieces, especially if they have Keira Knightley in them.  From the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, this ought to be a good one; stimulating, beautiful, larger than life.  It may not be for everyone, but if you like epic love stories, than here you go.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sports - Tebow Part II

I will admit it; I have a man-crush on Tim Tebow.  Not only is he devastatingly handsome, but he's nice, likable, watchable, interesting, and top-notch boyfriend material.  Anyway, football, right.  On October 9th I stated my view of Tebow with the Jets (Sports - Tebow), so I won't go through it again.  On October 24th I predicted that the Jets would lose at home to the Dolphins (Sports - NFL Picks, Week 8) and that, following a Week 9 bye week, NYJ would turn to Tebow.  They didn't, and my question to the the world is, why not?

In Week 10, the Jets lost 7-28, failing to score an offensive point.  Mark Sanchez went 9 of 22 with an interception, adding to his dismal 2012 stats: 10 TDs, 9 INTs, 8 fumbles, and completing only half of his passes.  The Jets are now 3-6 and have, basically, zero chance of making the playoffs.

Why has Tim Tebow not been named the starter?  Say what you want about him, he has GOT to be a better option right now than Sanchez.  Rex Ryan is on the verge of being fired, the entire team is collapsing, Sanchez could be let go in the offseason; why not made a move that could win you some games, and at the very least will get your team on Sportscenter?

The Jets need to make the switch;  if for no other than reason than 'why not?'

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Movie Trailer - World War Z

Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, David Morse
Release: June 21st, 2013

I'm not huge nto zombie movies, but O.  M.  G.  This is one of those must-see-on-opening-night movies A) because it looks awesome and 2) because it will literally look awesome.  And I'm excited that it shouldn't be your run of the mill zombie/action/crap thanks to an actual film director and an actual film actor.  WWZ should be an excellent movie that happens to be about zombies.  I might be a little bit excited.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sports - Go Duke!

It's that time of year again; college basketball.  Tonight is opening night of the season, and I'm ready for it.  College basketball is great for many reasons, but #1 has got to be this; is has the most entertaining postseason of any sport, amateur or professional.  Nothing beats March Madness.  Now, I'm an NFL guy, and I can watch any weekly match up.  I can't say the same about the NCAAB, but even football playoffs can't compare to the opening weekend of the college hoops tournament.

My team is Duke.  Yeah, I know, you probably hate them.  You hate them because they've always been rich, cocky, relevant, and hyped (Cowboys, Yankees).  But that's exactly why I chose them.  Years ago, I was looking to get into college basketball.  I didn't have any loyalty to a particular school, so I was open to anything.  Duke was always on TV, I liked their old school approach, I respected Coach K, they were an exciting, small, 3-point shooting team, and they just happened to be my favorite color.  So I chose the Blue Devils, and I've been a fan ever since.

Who is your favorite college basketball team?  Does it differ from your favorite college football team?  Is your choice based on location, parents, both?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Movie Trailer - The Americans

Creator: Joseph Weisberg
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys
Release: January, 2013

At first I thought that this was the worst movie ever made.  And then I realized that it was the worst TV show ever made.  Either way, Keri Russell peaked doing Felicity and will never top that.  Sad, considering how bad Felicity was. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 10

Here are my NFL Week 10 Picks:
(I was 12-2 last week)
Bye teams: Ari, Cle, GB, Was

Ind @ Jax - I may not have as much faith in Andrew Luck as the rest of the country, but even I think he will beat a team that can only score 15 points per game.
Oak @ Bal - The Ravens have been hit hard by injury, but thankfully for them Suggs has returned.  With the Raiders banged up as well, I expect a bloody battle with the home team winning.
Den @ Car - John Fox returns to Carolina and he should be able to leave with a smile.  The Broncos and Peyton are hot and should outscore the Panthers by 20 points.
NYG @ Cin - While a falter against the Stillers was expected, I don't think the Giants will suffer the same fate this week; the Bengals are a mess.
Ten @ Mia - The Titans' problem is their defense; they are the only team to allow 300+ points this season.  That's an average of 34 points allowed per game.  Dreadful.  Miami.
Det @ Min - These teams are going opposite direction; the Lions are on their way up and the Vikings are on their way to the basement.  Ponder has hit a wall and should lose this game.
Buf @ NE - How many of us had the Bills as a sleeper team this season?  Their offense should be scoring more points and their D should be much better.  But the reality is, they're awful.
Atl @ NO - This is the week.  The Falcons have been lucky in a few games this year, but it may be about to run out.  Should be a very high scoring game, with the Saints winning by a nose.
SD @ TB - Both teams are 4-4, both teams play good D, and both teams will most likely miss the playoffs.  Look for Rivers to get rattled and blow the game; that's what he does.
NYJ @ Sea - Well, I predicted Tebow would start this week.  So far no good.  The Seahawks defense is just too good for a hapless Jets team, especially if Sanchez starts.
Dal @ Phi - So, who wants to get fired first?  Both Garrett and Reid are soon to be out, as well as their respective QBs, most likely.  The Cowboys play pretty well on the road and might win.
STL @ SF - The Niners are just too good for a team like the Rams to go up against.  In what should be a low scoring game, we should see a pretty easy win by the best defense in the league.
Hou @ Chi - The Game of the Week for sure, on SNF, featuring the #2 and #3 defenses, and two teams that each score 30 points per game.  Not to mention that the Texans are undefeated on the road and the Bears are undefeated at home.  Something's got to give, and I can only assume it will be Jay Cutler.  Texans win.
KC @ Pit - Talk about anticlimactic.  The Chiefs are plain miserable, and the Stillers are on the up.  This game shouldn't even be close, as any KC QB they throw out there may not come back alive.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Movie Trailer - This Must Be the Place

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand
Release: November 2012

I'm just not sure.  Sean Penn; of course.  Frances McDormand; yeah.  A movie about an ex rock star; ok.  Jews and Nazis; alright.  An amateur director; not really.  All these things combined; I'm just not sure.  The trailer might be just enough to get me to watch it to find out.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Movie Review - Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban
Year: 2012

In case you didn't know, The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite film of all time, written and directed by, of course, Wes Anderson.  I've loved everything he's every done except, of course, The Life Aquatic (no one liked that one).  And I was pretty sure I would enjoy Moonrise Kingdom if it was at all like the former, as opposed to the latter.  I was not disappointed.

Set on an island in New England in the 1960s, the story is, quite simply, one of young love facing insurmountable odds.  Sam, an orphan Khaki Scout, and Suzy, an angry schoolgirl, decide to run away together, following an old Indian trail and living off of Sam's Scout training.  However, Suzy's parents, Sam's Scout troop, and the local police team up to find the young couple.  As the storm of the century approaches the island, can love conquer all?

Taking a classic tale, setting it in an interesting location, and adding some patented weirdness, Anderson creates a movie that is part children's novel, part dark comedy.  He has an amazing ability to transport audiences into an Anderson World where the bizarre makes sense and all characters learn something about themselves in an hour and a half.  The acting is impeccable, the dialogue is hilariously understated, and the mood is captivating.  While not quite Tenenbaums standard, Moonrise Kingdom is a wonderfully strange love story that will be loved by any Anderson fan.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thought - Moving

I was AWOL from my blog yesterday, as I was helping my mom move.  For anyone who doesn't know, the Coens are big movers.  We're like nomads.  It would take me a full day to list all of the places my family has lived over the course of my childhood and the places my parents, my sister, and I have lived independently.  But no matter how many times we move, we still enjoy the day itself.  We don't believe in movers.  We always try to only make one trip.  We always have donuts at the break of dawn.  And that U-haul is always packed like a puzzle.  Moving is a Coen tradition, much like tacos, boardgames, and football.

Anyway, I'll be back blogging like normal on Monday.  My next movie review will be Moonrise Kingdom.  It's not a movie for everyone, but you will have the same opinion of it as you do of Royal Tenenbaums.  So, stay tuned.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review - The Time Ships

Author: Stephen Baxter
Year: 1995

As mentioned before in my review of The Time Machine, I reread it in order to refresh my memory so that I could read The Time Ships, a sequel written exactly 100 years after H.G. Wells' classic.  I enjoyed the original very much; it was a quick, exciting, and interesting read.  I expected the second in the series to be equally interesting, but I was not prepared for the philosophic depth that Baxter's novel would bring, going far beyond the story that birthed it.

The Time Traveler, as the protagonist is called, is off on another adventure.  After his trip to the far future and his return to London, he sets off again to visit humanity's descendants.  However, the Earth he discovers is unaccountably different, and time, it appears, is more complicated than he could have ever imagined.  With a very strange companion, our hero journeys through space and dimension, attempting to unravel the truth and history of his own invention.

A much longer and more complicated novel, The Time Ships does justice to its predecessor.  It takes the idea of time and twists it, examines it, and ultimately breaks it down in a way that is more philosophical than scientific.  Baxter does an excellent job writing his book in a very similar style to Wells, using the same catch-phrases and tone, just in a different setting.  These novels should be read as one book, as each makes the other better, and together they create one of the best sci-fi stories of all time.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Movie Review - Prometheus

Director: Ridley Scott
Year: 2012

Ridley Scott is a director with one of those pedigrees that speaks for itself: Alien, Blade Runner, Legend, White Squall, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven.  When he is involved in a film it will be well made, high-octane, and deeper than an action movie ought to be.  Such is the case with Prometheus, a sci-fi-action-alien thriller with never a dull moment, but with a story that goes beyond a single film into a dark depth that will surprise you.

Credit to Justin Pyle for letting me in on the well-known "secret" of the movie; it is basically a prequel to the Alien trilogy, setting the scene for one of the best sci-fi franchises of all time.  On a mission to discover the origins of humanity, a group of scientists, pilots, and corporate heads travel across space in order to find the Engineers, a race theorized to have created human life on Earth.  Of course, all does not go as planned, and the crew is soon fighting for survival; their own and that of mankind.

If the plot seems manufactured, it can be forgiven.  Prometheus was created to be the quintessential sci-fi roller-coaster, as well as a vehicle for later films.  It is everything you would expect from an action blockbuster, and yet it upheld the standard of its Alien legacy.  The plot was interesting, the special effects were incredible, and the acting was respectable.  The only actor to break mediocrity was Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, A Dangerous Method), playing David the robot assistant to perfection.  For a film in a series, Prometheus holds its own, and excels as a homage to sci-fi.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sports - NFL Picks, Week 9

Here are my NFL Week 9 picks:
(I was 11-3 last week)
Bye teams: NE, NYJ, SF, STL

KC @ SD - Only one team scores fewer points per game than the Chiefs.  The Chargers have their own issues, but their embarrassing loss last week should motivate them enough for a home win.
Den @ Cin - Coming off their bye, the Bengals will look to stop a three game losing streak.  Too bad they have to face the red-hot Broncos, who have scored a total of 69 points in their last two games.
Bal @ Cle - The Ravens are hurting, literally, and the Browns are improving, but I can't really believe that the outcome of this game will be surprising.  Ravens.
Ari @ GB - After a hot start, the Cardinals have lost their magic.  And after a slow start, the Packers are back to normal.  This isn't a 1 vs. 16 seed match-up like last week, but the Pack should cruise.
Buf @ Hou - After a little hiccup vs. the Packers, the Texans showed that they are the most complete team in the NFL.  Coming off their bye, they look to smash an inept Bills team.
Mia @ Ind - Colts games have been consistently hard to call this year.  Both teams have a 4-3 record, but the Dolphins D is dominant and good on the road.  Tannehill or Moore, shouldn't matter.
Det @ Jax - The Lions might not be stellar, but the Jaguars are just plain awful.  They did keep up with the Packers last week, but they will remain winless at home.
Chi @ Ten - The Bears have the best defense if football, allowing only 14 points per game.  The Titans have the WORST defense, allowing 32 points per game.  You do the math.
Car @ Was - The Redskins can score with anyone, but their defense is sad.  But the Panthers whole team is sad.  The Skins & Obama will win.  No joke, check it out.  95% Presidential Accuracy.
TB @ Oak - The Jon Gruden Bowl!  Neither team is that good, but the Bucs are statistically better in all categories.  Freeman is hot and should light up the Raiders D.
Min @ Sea - Both teams have lost whatever momentum they created after fast starts, but the Seahawks D is for real, and that 12th man advantage hasn't failed them yet.
Pit @ NYG - The Giants dodged a bullet last week, but have played consistently well.  However, the Steelers are the more desperate team, and I have a feeling Eli is in for a rough day.
Dal @ Atl - Talk about desperate; the Cowboys entire team might be fired if they don't win soon.  I've been saying that the Falcons will lose soon, but perhaps they have one more week of perfection.
Phi @ NO - Obviously, both of these teams have major problems.  The Eagles can't score and Saints can't stop anyone.  I believe Brees will shoulder his team this week and come away with a victory.