Movie Review: The Snowman

Image result for the snowman movie poster free useThe Snowman should work on a fundamental level. Presented next to the stark contrast of a Norwegian winter, it has the atmosphere for an investigative mire through paranoia, a devoted episode in the coldness of murder. With a backdrop splayed with the natural chill of the season, that unnatural rise of the hair on your back can easily be confused for the environment, only to be verified that your life is in jeopardy, your human instinct to fear the cold was correct and all is not right in the snow. There is a predisposition, a seemingly unproven rationale, to view the cold as a negative. Many do not like it. Many connect the word “cold” with removed, isolated and unstable. Those connotations come into play here. You are alone. It is cold. Whether it’s in the field covered in snow or on the frozen lake, no one is going to hear you scream.

This is the conventional basis for a murder mystery and with talent like Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson at your disposal, you should, in theory, be able to convey these emotions whilst diving into the terror created by an unseen psychopath bent on torturing not just those around you but your identity as a person.

What you have read above is a far more intriguing set of lines than will ever be read in Tomas Alfredson’s film. Wildly panned by all forms of human beings, The Snowman went straight to limited showings after two weeks and by this point, it had become difficult for me to find a place to see it. It was such a displeasure that theaters seemed to be going out of their way to save their customers’ time. I appreciated that as a viewer but hated it as a critic. I just wanted to see how bad it truly was.

The Snowman comes as advertised, or rather, not. It comes as audiences have advertised it, not as the studios have. It is barren but not in the context that it’s meant to be. It’s an empty film, with scrawled-out pages of script reserved for only the most mundane of collegiate textbooks.

Based off a series of crime novels, Alfredson’s film is swallowed by the sinkhole that is doing too much and also too little, embedding too many plot points into his narrative and then failing to develop any of them, leaving the lot elementary and the tale as a whole as intriguing as a pot of three-day old porridge, lacking any consistency and being of so little substance that it holds no sustenance and contains no adjective other than the word “bland”.

It is a picture that misses out on the power of cinematography, forgoing the tool that would best demonstrate the serenity of the landscape contrasted with a murderer with a pathological obsession with death and snowmen. Mixing sociopathy into this character’s origin would likely make for a more complex menace, one not easily understood but with loads to say.

This is a concept I would love to brainstorm, a script I’d love to write. We have a lot of options here, a lot of nerve endings to tap into and memories to create. That might be why The Snowman is so bothersome for me. It is specifically this type of film that should be attempting to numb our primal feelings and agitate the receptors we would rather not embrace like paralysis, dread and the foresight of knowing that our characters’ actions, and possibly our own, might be meaningless and lead to the same result regardless of their/our efforts. It should have the steadfastness to remain after viewing for a time and cause us to examine the reactions we had from the material.

Yet despite the movie’s ability to speak, it does not speak. Despite its ability to write, it does not write. Despite its ability to shred us, it leaves us reserved and removed.

Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole is a washed up detective and now full-time alcoholic. He was the real deal back in the day but now is fully off the tracks and the allure of a possible serial killer is the only thing that might have him on his last wheel. Only, we spend no time learning about how real of a deal he might have been, nor how important this case is to him. He seems reluctant to even peruse it let alone pursue it, giving me the inkling early on we have a less than interested protagonist, which isn’t exactly enticing to an audience.

We also have his ex-girlfriend and her son in the picture, for some reason, and we have Rebecca Ferguson’s Katrine Bratt, who still has the itch for crime-solving but also feels like yet another sediment to an already overloaded concoction. It is a spider web spread out too far and with strands that clearly hold little significance. Notwithstanding, the camera will continue to spend valued time on said threads that to any somewhat seeing person hold zero intrigue.

Ferguson and Fassbender’s characters never seem to be on the same page nor in the same book, telling two separate tales rather than one complete one, only halving a film that already feels halved. There is an absence of a meaningful music score or any semblance of flow because of the rampant character flips, bouncing back and forth like a disorganized ping-pong game at a frat house on a Friday night. There’s also no regular communication between Hole and the assailant. The trailer hints at messages engraved in the ice. That doesn’t happen and there’s only one letter sent to the investigator.

I haven’t yet mentioned how dull this film is. Suspenseful crime should be a piece of sharp-edged cutlery. It can be quick or drawn out and yet just as lethal, just as effective. This blade is rusted. It lacks grit, style, finesse and aggression. It is apathetic. I am not. I’m pissed off.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Death NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworld)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Snowman: 26.

This 2017 entry fails in every category. Fassbender is collecting a paycheck, the direction is awful, the reveal at the end unveils a huge problem with the culprit’s motivations and worst of all, I haven’t even mention that the great J.K. Simmons is sitting in the damn corner waiting to be given something to do. Won’t miss this one.

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2017-2018 NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

1. Chiefs (+0)

Kansas City follows a dominant win against New England with an impressive home finish against Philadelphia, who’s playing like a playoff team right now.

2. Raiders (+0)

Derek Carr lights up the Jets with Michael Crabtree hauling in three touchdowns.

3. Broncos (+10)

They looked very good in week one against the Chargers and followed it up with a dominant performance against the Cowboys. Was arguably the best game on Sunday. Trevor Siemian looks like more than a game manager and the No Fly Zone is alive and well.

4. Eagles (+0)

Hard for me to fault the Eagles when they played a competitive game against the Chiefs. Carson Wentz is far superior to Jared Goff and looks like a young franchise staple, though we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves just yet.

5. Patriots (+0)

I’m reluctant to move them after a concerning start last week, but the Saints gave the Patriots a chance to sure up their secondary. They were up to the task. Brady looked like himself.

6. Cowboys (-3)

Dallas got throttled. The best offensive line in football could not contain the Denver pass rush. Prescott played well despite a lack of a running game. Not well enough that he can beat a team like Denver by himself, but well. Cowboys defense looked out of sorts.

7. Lions (+0)

Stafford beats a dismal Giants team. Not much news here.

8. Falcons (+2)

After a head-turning score against Buffalo, Atlanta beats Rodgers at home.

9. Packers (-3)

They played Seattle and Atlanta in their first two games, easily the toughest slate thus far. Winning one of those games is still a good start to the season.

10. Steelers (-1)

Offense got some consistency against Minnesota but nowhere near the production of last season. Ben looks like the wheels are slowing down, though not enough to hit the panic button. Offensive line played much better against a top-ten front seven. Unsure how good Steelers defense is given their lack of competition (Kizer, Keenum).

11. Titans (+1)

Clearly the frontrunners in the South right now, Tennessee pulled away from the Jaguars in the second half. Neither Murray or Mariota are in fourth gear right now and they still put up 37 against Jacksonville.

12. Ravens (-4)

Offense is still unsteady. Capable defense has played weak competition (Browns, Bengals).

13. Seahawks (-2)

This team better find an offensive line fast. Right now, looks like Russell Wilson and the opposing team’s entire defensive line is playing a game of tag. Seattle is at risk of not making the playoffs despite the Legion of Boom, which would be a genuine travesty.

14. Vikings (+0)

Without Bradford and against a better team, the Minnesota offense was contained. Defense played admirably against a top-five O-line.

15. Buccaneers (+3)

Winston has all the tools he requires to have a top-ten offense. Doug Martin isn’t even back yet.

16. Jaguars (-1)

The Jaguars’ run, run, run tactic waned against Tennessee, who caught on as quickly as expected. Jaguars desperately need quarterback help. This issue will likely leave them out of the playoff race for the umpteenth time.

17. Chargers (-1)

The Chargers choke more than any team in football. Getting that monkey off their back will lead to a lot of wins. Rivers can lead this team.

18. Rams (-1)

Got straight run over by Washington, who had 229 yards on the ground. Wade Phillips is the coordinator in Los Angeles. Need to bounce back against San Fran.

19. Panthers (+1)

Carolina might be the least interesting undefeated team remaining. Wins against the 9ers and Bills don’t tell us much about the Panthers.

20. Redskins (+3)

Ground game looked great. Cousins looks like he misses McVay’s play calls.

21. Saints (+0)

Saints had trouble in the red zone in week one. Waiting for them to utilize Adrian Peterson in some meaningful way. Defense is still set for historic numbers.

22. Dolphins (+2)

Not getting excited about Cutler. Ajayi has to prove he’s for real this year.

23. Bears (-1)

After a strong showing against Atlanta, a meh one against the Bucs.

24. Cardinals (-5)

We’re learning how important David Johnson is to this football team. Defense will earn them wins but they got lightly carved by Jacoby Brissett.

25. Bills (+2)

Buffalo hung with Carolina. Let’s get Shady going, shall we?

26. Texans (+2)

Houston really needed this one. Deshaun Watson will have some growing pains but had a connection with Hopkins on Thursday. Watt stepped up.

27. Browns (-2)

Cleveland’s team is young. They will win games and should win against the Colts next week.

28. 49ers (+1)

Held Seattle in check, lost 12-9. Score a touchdown and that’s a W.

29. Giants (-3)

The line is a mess and McAdoo’s scheme might be worse. A team with as talented a receiving corps as the Giants have to suck this much is inexcusable. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese need canned. They have a top-ten defense that likely won’t see the playoffs.

30. Jets (+1)

They hung with Oakland for a bit there.

31. Colts (+1)

Brissett showed us how truly awful Scott Tolzien is. This team could use some Luck right now.

32. Bengals (-2)

Andy Dalton is likely seeing his last year in Cincy. The offensive coordinator was fired following Thursday’s game. Marvin Lewis still has a job in the NFL, for some reason.

Biggest Climb: Broncos (+10)

Biggest Fall: Cardinals (-5)

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2017-2018 NFL Preview: AFC East

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 

GET: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Stephon Gilmore, TE Dwayne Allen, RB Mike Gillislee, LB David Harris, WR Phillip Dorsett, CB Johnson Bademosi, DE Cassius Marsh, RB Rex Burkhead, DE Lawrence Guy

LOSE: RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Jabaal Sheard, LB Rob Ninkovich, OT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Martellus Bennett, DE Chris Long, CB Logan Ryan, DL Kony Ealy, RB Tyler Gaffney, TE Rob Housler, WR Andrew Hawkins, QB Jacoby Brissett, LB Marquis Flowers

RE-SIGNS: LB Dont’a Hightower, CB Malcolm Butler, DL Alan Branch, OL Cameron Fleming, CB Duron Harmon

DRAFT: 3rd round: LB Derek Rivers, Youngstown State     OT Antonio Garcia, Troy     4th round: DE Deatrich Wise Jr., Arkansas     6th round: OT Conor McDermott, UCLA

SUMMARY: New England has a scary roster. They lost some big names: Blount, Sheard, Ninkovich, Vollmer, Bennett. They added some big names: Cooks, Gilmore, Allen, Harris. The scariest name of all? Tom Brady. Brady’s revenge came to fruition and it was very sweet. The greatest of all time cannot be overlooked and should not be doubted. The Patriots are once again the surest bet in the AFC East and most likely to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler should be one of the strongest corner duos in football. The receiving core has taken a hit. Julian Edelman will miss the season, putting Brandin Cooks in a more pressurized situation. Brady will be more than up to the task, with a healthy Gronkowski returning. The rushing game will likely dimish and I’m interested to see how Belichick adjusts, but it’s improbable that it causes any significant problems. New England has always been productive at substituting screens for the running game. If New England matches their 15.6 points allowed per game last year, they’ll be unstoppable.

Brady, Cooks, Chris Hogan and the Patriots defense, against a weak AFC East, should all thrive.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:13-3

Week 1: vs. KC   Week 2: @NO   Week 3: vs. HOU   Week 4: vs. CAR   Week 5: @TB   Week 6: @NYJ   Week 7: vs. ATL   Week 8: vs. LAC   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @DEN   Week 11: @OAK   Week 12: vs. MIA   Week 13: @BUF   Week 14: @MIA   Week 15: @PIT   Week 16: vs. BUF   Week 17: vs. NYJ

BUFFALO BILLS

GET: S Micah Hyde, WR Jordan Matthews, CB E.J. Gaines, FB Patrick DiMarco, G Vladimir Ducasse, K Steven Hauschka, LB Gerald Hodges, CB Shareece Wright, LB Ramon Humber, WR Andre Holmes, RB Joe Banyard

LOSE: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Ronald Darby, CB Stephon Gilmore WR Robert Woods, CB Corey Graham, LB Reggie Ragland, RB Mike Gillislee, K Dan Carpenter, WR Anquan Boldin, S Aaron Williams, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, WR Dezmin Lewis, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Justin Hunter, QB E.J. Manuel

RE-SIGNS: QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Lorenzo Alexander, C Eric Wood, WR Corey Brown, P Colton Schmidt, FB Mike Tolbert, WR Brandon Tate

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU     2nd round: WR Zay Jones, East Carolina     G Dion Dawkins, Temple     5th round: LB Matt Milano, Boston College     QB Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh     6th round: LB Tanner Vallejo, Boise State

SUMMARY: The Bills have done what any smart team would do at this point: trade assets for picks and get ready for the future. The AFC East has already been won.

The Bills’ top four receivers from last year are all gone (Woods, Goodwin, Watkins, Hunter). The Bills’ top two corners (Gilmore, Darby) are both gone. They’ve infused youth into their lineup, saved some cap space and gained future considerations. They’re now in the best position of the three AFC East teams to surpass New England once Brady retires. If he retires.

Buffalo still has a capable defensive line, although they finished 29th against the run last year. That number should change with Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott coming in to coach the Bills. Micah Hyde is a nice addition to the secondary. Buffalo still sports a strong offensive line that hosted the best running game in the league last year, with an average of 164.4 a game. The issue is, with no receivers to fear on the outside, teams will likely stack the box against Buffalo this year, making it hard for LeSean McCoy to replicate his 5.4 average, 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns.

I think Buffalo will still surpass the Dolphins, narrowly, but they simply can’t contend with New England.

LeSean McCoy won’t rack the numbers up like he did last year, but is likely to run a lot this season.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:6-10

Week 1: vs. NYJ   Week 2: @CAR   Week 3: vs. DEN   Week 4: @ATL   Week 5: @CIN   Week 6: BYE   Week 7: vs. TB   Week 8: vs. OAK   Week 9: @NYJ   Week 10: vs. NO   Week 11: @LAC   Week 12: @KC   Week 13: vs. NE   Week 14: vs. IND   Week 15: vs. MIA   Week 16: @NE   Week 17: @MIA

MIAMI DOLPHINS

GET: S T.J. McDonald, QB Jay Cutler, LB Rey Maualuga, LB Lawrence Timmons, CB Alterraun Verner, C Ted Larsen, DE William Hayes, TE Julius Thomas

LOSE: OT Brandon Albert, DE Mario Williams, DT Earl Mitchell, DE Jason Jones, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DE Dion Jordan, TE Jordan Cameron

RE-SIGNS: DE Cameron Wake, LB Kiko Alonso, WR Kenny Stills

DRAFT: 1st round: LB Charles Harris, Missouri     2nd round: LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State     3rd round: CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson     5th round: G Isaac Asiata, Utah     DT Davon Godchaux, LSU     6th round: DT Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State     7th round: WR Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech

SUMMARY: The Miami Dolphins are trending down. Ryan Tannehill has lost his right to the title “franchise quarterback.” Adam Gase may be the only person associated with the Dolphins excited about the arrival of Jay Cutler.  Starting corner Tony Lippett and Tannehill are done for the year. A young receiving core has promise and Jay Ajayi will have a chance to prove he’s not a fluke. The offense was ninth in rushing last year, a number heading downhill with Cutler behind center fresh off shoulder surgery. They were 26th with Tannehill in the aerial attack category last year. Cameron Wake had a third of Miami’s sacks last year (30.0, ranked 23rd). There’s a lot of pressure on a lot of individuals on this team. I’m not buying it.

Jay Ajayi’s the surest bet, though Jarvis Landry is worth WR2 consideration.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:5-11

Week 1: vs. TB   Week 2: @LAC   Week 3: @NYJ   Week 4: vs. NO   Week 5: vs. TEN   Week 6: @ATL   Week 7: vs. NYJ   Week 8: @BAL   Week 9: vs. OAK   Week 10: @CAR   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: @NE   Week 13: vs. DEN   Week 14: vs. NE   Week 15: @BUF   Week 16: @KC   Week 17: vs. BUF

NEW YORK JETS

GET: G Brian Winters, CB Morris Claiborne, DE Kony Ealy, S Terrence Brooks, QB Josh McCown, OT Kelvin Beachum, WR Jermaine Kearse, K Chandler Catanzaro, RB Jordan Todman, TE Chris Gragg, DT Mike Pennel

LOSE: DT Sheldon Richardson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Brandon Marshall, CB Darrelle Revis,  C Nick Mangold, WR Eric Decker, OT Breno Giacomini, S Calvin Pryor, S Marcus Gilchrist, LB David Harris, K Nick Folk, WR Devin Smith, CB Dexter McDougle, QB Geno Smith

RE-SIGNS: LB Bruce Carter

DRAFT: 1st round: S Jamal Adams, LSU     2nd round: S Marcus Maye, Florida     3rd round: WR ArDarius Stewart, Alabama     4th round: WR Chad Hansen, California     5th round: TE Jordan Leggett, Clemson     DE Dylan Donahue, West Georgia     6th round: RB Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafeyette     CB Jeremy Clark, Michigan     CB Derrick Jones, Ole Miss

SUMMARY: No team lost more notable names than the New York Jets this offseason. Management tried to remove every one of their franchise staples. They were mostly successful.

Let’s not sugarcoat it. The New York Jets are gonna suck. They had the worst turnover differential in the league last year (-20) and were one of five teams to finish with at least a -10 (Rams, Browns, Jaguars, Bears). They also scored 17.2 ppg, third-worst in the NFL. Quincy Enunwa is out for the year, leaving second-year receiver Robby Anderson as the number one target opposite Jermaine Kearse. Matt Forte is nearing the end of his career but might still have a little game left. Neither Bryce Petty nor Christian Hackenberg looks to be the answer at quarterback. Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams should provide some entertainment on the defensive line, but it’s gonna be hard to find other success points.

No fantasy assets here.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:2-14

Week 1: @BUF   Week 2: @OAK   Week 3: vs. MIA   Week 4: vs. JAC   Week 5: @CLE   Week 6: vs. NE   Week 7: @MIA   Week 8: vs. ATL   Week 9: vs. BUF   Week 10: @TB   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: vs. CAR   Week 13: vs. KC   Week 14: @DEN   Week 15: @NO   Week 16: vs. LAC   Week 17: @NE

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2017-2018 NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

1. Chiefs

Kansas City had a historic night against the best team in football. Alex Smith played the best game of his career in a crucial game, not only because it was on the road in New England, but because draft pick Patrick Mahomes is now on the bench chomping at the bit for a shot. Kareem Hunt, after fumbling on his first NFL snap, exploded with the most fantasy points ever scored in a rookie debut in the history of the NFL. His stat line was quite impressive (17 for 148, TD; 5 receptions for 98, 2 TDs) and with Spencer Ware out for the year, was the type of game Kansas City needed to see from the Toledo product. Tyreek Hill looked like a star receiver. All this said, it’s important to put things into perspective. Tom Brady was clearly not himself on Thursday, two long touchdowns were scored off of blown coverages and again, Alex Smith has seen his best performance pass him by. It was the perfect start for the Chiefs, but just the start.

2. Raiders

Derek Carr looked fresh off his season-ending injury from last year and Marshawn Lynch looked like Marshawn. I’m hesitant to get too excited about the latter, just because it was one game, but I had no complaints. It was also against Tennessee, a likely playoff team. Finally, it was probably a fluke, but the Raiders didn’t allow a passing touchdown and DeMarco Murray didn’t get 50 yards rushing.

3. Cowboys

The second year matters a lot more to an NFL player’s career than the first because it shows whether or not he’s a one-hit wonder. Dak Prescott does not look like a one-hit wonder. Dallas has made a seamless transition at the quarterback position, found a running back that makes the absolute most of his offensive line and defensive coordinator Scott Linehan has done wonders with the Cowboys defense. Notre Dame star Jaylon Smith looked good.

4. Eagles

Carson Wentz looked improved with a valid receiving core and outperformed Kirk Cousins. The Philly defensive front looked insufferable.

5. Patriots

New England’s still my Super Bowl pick, but looked disorganized on Thursday. The Patriots defense set a record for most yardage allowed in the Belichick era and couldn’t get any pressure on Alex Smith. That element must change quick. However, New England fans shouldn’t panic. They face New Orleans on Sunday, the perfect team to face when you need to improve your defense and get your offense rolling.

6. Packers

Packers once again come out victorious against a powerful foe. Defense held Russell Wilson at bay, though that may say more about the Seahawks offensive line then the Packers defense. Still, a win against Atlanta in week 2 would be huge.

7. Lions

Matt Stafford started the first game following his bloated contract signing in the worst way, throwing a pick-six, but, as Stafford does, slinged his way to yet another fourth quarter comeback. However, as has always been the problem with Detroit, they still have no idea how to run the ball. Ameer Abdullah was nonexistent. This continual reliance on Stafford will come back to bite the Lions for the umpteenth time in a row.

8. Ravens

Yes, they played the Bengals, who are awful, as I expected. Yes, Joe Flacco was mediocre at best. Yes, the Ravens defense played way better than I anticipated in its opening game and yes, that alone is worth a top-ten spot after a rather mundane week 1 for the NFL.

9. Steelers

Ben looked frazzled, the offensive line struggled, Le’Veon Bell was clearly not prepared after his holdout and the offensive play calling was lacking. However, T.J. Watt and the defensive pressure on rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was great, totaling seven sacks and Antonio Brown showed why he’s the highest-paid receiver in the league with an 11-reception, 182 yard performance. That is why Brown got the extension with the Steelers and not Bell. They play the Vikings on Sunday, which will give the offensive line a chance to redeem themselves against one of the best defensive lines in football.

10. Falcons

Nothing flashy. Actually concerning that they couldn’t beat Chicago until the last play of the game.

11. Seahawks

Russell Wilson needs help up front. Badly. He can perform insane athletic feats as he scrambles for his life, but he can’t be expected to do that every game. A running game would be a huge help, too. The Seattle defense is excellent, but if you hold Aaron Rodgers to 17 points and still lose, you need to take a real look at your offense.

12. Titans

Marcus Mariota wasn’t flashy and Murray didn’t thrill against the Raiders defense but it’s worth noting their defense held the Raiders to 26. They kept them in the game. Look to make a big step in 2017 and hopefully, a playoff spot.

13. Broncos

Trevor Siemian looked fine in his first start of the year. Broncos defense will give teams fits all season.

14. Vikings

Not going to get excited about Sam Bradford carving the worst defense in the league. Dalvin Cook looked good and one of the best defenses in football did great in the red zone against Drew Brees.

15. Jaguars

I had them ranked highly after they were able to contend with Green Bay in week one last year. We’ll see if something similar happens. Last year, following the Green Bay game, they went 2-11. Fournette looked good and Jacksonville looks content to run the wheels off of him, but that strategy won’t work against everyone. They’ll need to get more creative as the season progresses.

16. Chargers

A late rally nearly got the Los Angeles Chargers a W. They lost a lot of close games last year, a stat that needs to change if they want a postseason birth.

17. Rams

Not going to get excited about the Rams beating on Scott Tolzien. Rams defense will be good this year with Wade Phillips in town.

18. Buccaneers

Bye. Jameis should be a lot better with added weapons on the offense.

19. Cardinals

Loss of David Johnson will hurt this team tremendously. Carson Palmer looked washed up.

20. Panthers

Carolina won against the 49ers. Yay.

21. Saints

The defense is awful but if they performed in the red zone, they likely beat the Vikings.

22. Bears

Nearly pulled off an upset of an Atlanta.

23. Redskins

Ryan Kerrigan is really good and the defensive front will get some pressure. Offense looked stagnant.

24. Dolphins

Bye. Not thrilled to see Jay Cutler.

25. Browns

Looked like an actual football team. Offensive line should allow for a strong running game this year.

26. Giants

McAdoo needs fired. Offense, despite multiple weapons, is bottom five. Great defense will help them contend for a playoff spot but already regret picking them for a wild card spot.

27. Bills

Struggling to beat the Jets is nothing to be proud of.

28. Texans

Defense struggled with Jags. Hopefully Deshaun Watson can get the offense going.

29. 49ers

Kyle Shanahan should get some fresh energy in the locker room.

30. Bengals

Andy Dalton is approaching a cliff. Marvin Lewis has been off the cliff for years but continues to have a job.

31. Jets

Who would have thought the Jets wouldn’t be at the bottom of the power rankings after week one?

32. Colts

The defense is thin and without Andrew Luck, we get to see how awful Indy really is.

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2017-2018 NFL Preview: AFC West

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

GET: DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

LOSE: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Jeremy Maclin, DT Dontari Poe, LB D.J. Alexander

RE-SIGNS: S Eric Berry, G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

DRAFT: 1st round: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech     2nd round: DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova    3rd round: RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo     4th round: WR Jehu Chesson, Michigan     5th round: LB Ukeme Eligwe, Georgia Southern     6th round: S Leon McQuay III, USC

SUMMARY: The Kansas City Chiefs have surprised me each year for a little while now because on paper, they’re simply not explosive on the offensive side of the ball. For a few years, Jamaal Charles was their only playmaker and the offense was fully reliant on both his health and execution. Last year, Kansas City really impressed me because they showed they could function with the ball without Charles. Spencer Ware finished with 921 yards last year, good for 16th, ahead of Todd Gurley, and carried a 4.3 clip (also 16th), better than names like David Johnson, Latavius Murray, Lamar Miller and Melvin Gordon.

Spencer Ware will miss 2017 with a torn PCL, which puts added pressure on third-round selection Kareem Hunt out of Toledo to serve as a backfield cornerstone. He looked pretty good against New England on Thursday, but that type of production, as Jamaal Charles found out, is taxing on one’s body and very hard to duplicate with regularity.

Alex Smith also played perhaps the best game of his career on Thursday, showcasing he can be more than a game manager. He can actually play a part in changing momentum and making key throws. Tyreek Hill last year was a wild card, but looked like a talented receiver in Week 1. The receiving core isn’t deep, but as long as the offense can perform with some continuity, Kansas City should continue to own the rights to a playoff spot. They were 20th in passing last year and 15th in the ground game, but a 24.3 ppg rate will lead to victories when your defense gives up 19.4 per game (7th). They gave up a lot of yards last year (20th), but total yardage is not always an indicator of a defense’s true potential. Kansas City led the league in turnover differential last year with a +16. Turnover differential is a number that fluctuates year to year and is nearly impossible to repeat, but one way to keep it positive is by increasing their pressure rate. Kansas City had 28 sacks last year, ahead of only the Jets, Browns, Lions and Raiders.

The Chiefs personnel on defense is stout and will keep the team in games. Marcus Peters is likely the best young corner soon to be on the market. Eric Berry’s season-ending Achilles injury will hurt, but Kansas City looks poised for another playoff run.

Tyreek Hill could be a capable fantasy asset as could Kareem Hunt, but I’m unwilling to take on that gamble. Kansas City defense, sign me up.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 11-5

Week 1: @NE   Week 2: vs. PHI   Week 3: @LAC   Week 4: vs. WAS   Week 5: @HOU   Week 6: vs. PIT   Week 7: @OAK   Week 8: vs. DEN   Week 9: @DAL   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: @NYG   Week 12: vs. BUF   Week 13: @NYJ   Week 14: vs. OAK   Week 15: vs. LAC   Week 16: vs. MIA   Week 17: @DEN

OAKLAND RAIDERS

GET: RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Jared Cook, OL Marshall Newhouse, QB EJ Manuel, LB Jelani Jenkins, LB IK Enemkpali, WR Cordarrelle Patterson

LOSE: RB Latavius Murray, DT Dan Williams, OT Austin Howard, QB Matt McGloin, CB D.J. Hayden, LB Perry Riley, LB Malcolm Smith, OT Menelik Watson

RE-SIGNS: QB Derek Carr, G Gabe Jackson, WR Seth Roberts

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State     2nd round: S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut     3rd round: DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA     4th round: G David Sharpe, Florida     5th round: LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest     7th round: S Shalom Luani, Washington State     OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State     RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina     DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

SUMMARY: There were three true MVP candidates last year: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Derek Carr. He threw for 3,937 yards, led his team to multiple comebacks over the course of the season and was by far the team’s best player. His team’s championship hopes were shot the minute his leg broke.

Carr has the chance for even better numbers this year behind one of the best offensive lines in football and with Marshawn Lynch taking additional pressure off of the young quarterback. General manager Reggie McKenzie has given his young quarterback one of the strongest supporting casts in professional football so any failings Carr encounters, in most cases, are his own doing. The team lives and dies on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, which is why he was given such an enormous contract so early in his career. I expect the Raiders passing attack (13th in 2016) to receive a nice boost with another year of experience under Carr’s belt. A sixth-ranked rushing attack will likely regress, but not enough to be a problem. If the Raiders can mimic their 26.0 points per game from last season, they will see the promise land of playoff football. They, and the Steelers, seem to be the only teams with enough talent to beat the almighty New England Patriots in a playoff game.

The defense of Oakland, on the other hand, is poor. There is only one defensive category that they were good in: turnover differential. They tied Kansas City with a +16, but as I already mentioned, it’s a sporadic number that is based on skill, luck and schedule, and not in even portions.

In more important categories, Oakland was one of seven teams to allow over 6,000 yards of offense (New Orleans, Washington, Miami, Indianapolis, Cleveland, San Francisco.) Coincidentally, none of those teams are likely to make the playoffs this year and Oakland needs to change their setup if they don’t want to join the club (24th pass, 23rd rush, 24.1 ppg (20th)). They must improve from a league-worst 18 sacks last year. They also have a strong enough corner group (David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Sean Smith, Gareon Conley) to outpace 60 passes defended, a stat from last year.

Khalil Mack is sure to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, but there needs to be more of a team impact on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders are also starting rookies Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle and Marquel Lee at middle linebacker.  This won’t be a strong unit. It just needs to be a better one by the end of the season.

Derek Carr is a top-five quarterback for me this year and Amari Cooper, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree are also great selections in fantasy.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:10-6

Week 1: @TEN   Week 2: vs. NYJ   Week 3: @WAS   Week 4: @DEN   Week 5: vs. BAL   Week 6: vs. LAC   Week 7: vs. KC   Week 8: @BUF   Week 9: @MIA   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: vs. NE   Week 12: vs. DEN   Week 13: vs. NYG   Week 14: @KC   Week 15: vs. DAL   Week 16: @PHI   Week 17: @LAC

DENVER BRONCOS

GET: RB Jamaal Charles, G Ronald Leary, OT Menelik Watson, NT Domata Peko, QB Brock Osweiler, OT Menelik Watson, G Allen Barbre

LOSE: LB DeMarcus Ware, S T.J. Ward, LB Danny Trevathan, OT Russell Okung, NT Sylvester Williams, OT Ty Sambrailo, G Michael Schofield, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Marlon Brown, OL Michael Schofield, RB Juwan Thompson

RE-SIGNS: F

DRAFT: 1st round: OT Garett Bolles, Utah     2nd round: DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State     3rd round: WR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech     CB Brendan Langley, Lamar     5th round: TE Jake Butt, Michigan     WR Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia     6th round: RB De’Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina     7th round: QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

SUMMARY: The Denver Broncos have new faces at the linebacker spots including Shaquil Barrett and Todd Davis, along with second-year safety Justin Simmons taking the spot of hard hitter T.J. Ward. They also lost Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, along with coach Gary Kubiak, who called it a career. In comes Vance Joseph, former DC for the Miami Dolphins. Step one: choose a quarterback and for week one, Joseph has chosen to stick with Trevor Siemian, a short-term solution until someone better comes along. Paxton Lynch has progressed little since being drafted, leaving Siemian, who performed admirably last year (3,401 yards, 18/10 TD/INT, 84.6 passer rating) for a seventh-rounder. With receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders flanking you, Siemian needs to do his best Alex Smith impression for the entirety of 2017 if he wants his team to have a chance. Denver and Kansas City are constructed the same way and will find success in the same manner.

The Broncos offensive line needs to be better this year after allowing 42 sacks (third-worst) and dragging a 27th-ranked ground attack through the mud. Jamaal Charles may very well get one last hoorah in Denver and by mid-season, could own the starting role if C.J. Anderson can’t get the wheels turning.

Conversely, Denver got run over last year (28th, 130.3 ypg), a stat that must change in a ground-and-pound division. If they sure up up front, Denver will be nearly unstoppable. They were first against the pass with the best corner duo in football (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.) and their 18.6 points per game was fourth-best. They have the tools to contend for a second wild-card spot. I’m just not sure it happens.

The Denver defense is the top pick from this squad for fantasy football. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should be given WR2 consideration. If Jamaal Charles is available near the end of your draft, I believe he’s worth a selection.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:8-8

Week 1: vs. LAC   Week 2: vs. DAL   Week 3: @BUF   Week 4: vs. OAK   Week 5: BYE   Week 6: vs. NYG   Week 7: @LAC   Week 8: @KC   Week 9: @PHI   Week 10: vs. NE   Week 11: vs. CIN   Week 12: @OAK   Week 13: @MIA   Week 14: vs. NYJ   Week 15: @IND   Week 16: @WAS   Week 17: vs. KC

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

GET: OT Russell Okung, QB Cardale Jones, G Michael Schofield, LB Korey Toomer, S Tre Boston

LOSE: OT King Dunlap, G Orlando Franklin, G D.J. Fluker, LB Manti Te’o, K Josh Lambo, QB Kellen Clemens, RB Kenjon Barner, TE Jeff Cumberland

RE-SIGNS: S Jahleel Addae, RB Brandon Oliver

DRAFT: 1st round: WR Mike Williams, Clemson     2nd round: G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky     3rd round: G Dan Feeney, Indiana     4th round: S Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami     5th round: CB Desmond King, Iowa     6th round: OT Sam Tevi, Utah     7th round: DE Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame

SUMMARY: San Diego is no more. The Chargers are now onto Los Angeles and are likely the lesser of the two LA-based teams this fall. The Bolts carry a strong defensive line featuring Ohio State product Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (combined 18.5 sacks), but they’re weak at the linebacker spot after the anchor of the unit, Manti Te’0, left for New Orleans. Kyle Toomer, fresh from Oakland, and Kyle Emmanuel are young players who’ve yet to make an impact on the field and Jatavis Brown has done only slightly more than those two. I expect San Diego to fall drastically in the run defense column (10th last year at 97.9) and their points against is unlikely to make a notable improvement from the 26.4 they allowed last year (29th). Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett are capable corners, but Verrett begins the year on the PUP list, which spells bad news for Los Angeles, San Diego edition.

Philip Rivers has top target Keenan Allen back, but for who knows how long given his injury history. Rivers has slowly become one of the better quarterbacks remaining in the league and has aged well, but at 35 is the only player keeping this team above water. He’s done much with little and it’s a shame he couldn’t have been this player about ten years ago during the LaDainian Tomlinson years. He would likely have a ring. Instead, Rivers is likely to end his career without reaching the playoffs again. When his inevitable retirement occurs, this team will find itself stranded at the bottom of the AFC.

Melvin Gordon should break the 1,000 yard mark after falling three yards short last year, but is unlikely to have double-digit touchdowns for the second straight year. All in all, the AFC West, the strongest division in the AFC, is just too strong for Los Angeles.

Rivers has the strongest fantasy upside for the Bolts and Gordon is a RB2.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:6-10

Week 1: @DEN   Week 2: vs. MIA   Week 3: vs. KC   Week 4: vs. PHI   Week 5: @NYG   Week 6:   @OAK   Week 7: vs. DEN   Week 8: @NE   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @JAC   Week 11: vs. BUF   Week 12: @DAL   Week 13: vs. CLE   Week 14: vs. WAS   Week 15: @KC   Week 16: @NYJ   Week 17: vs. OAK

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Movie Review: Death Note

Image result for death note netflix movie poster free use“Shall we begin?”

I need to watch more anime. It offers a lot to film as an art form, in terms of cinematography, character design and visual depiction. It is its own genre and we have many Japanese innovators to thank for it.

Death Note is an anime I am now interested in watching, not because of Netflix’s Death Note, but in spite of it, because the two are not one in the same.

The film has some going for it. For example, all of the original material that it’s based on, of which it holds zero responsibility for, is compelling, offering deadly deeds, moral dilemmas and a seemingly playful but actually cunning death god. Imagine what carnage and creation can be formed with a few names on a piece of paper from a book that kills people. All you have to do is write a name down and poof, gone. Look at the sludge. Visualize the products of one’s ambition.

There’s a lot of narrative promise here and a wide variation of thematic content. There’s a chimerical quintessence present. There’s a vicarious lust here. There’s….. a lot going on.

Netflix’s Death Note doesn’t. Not really. It’s actually rather amorphous.

We have a lead character that’s shortchanged both by actor Nat Wolff and the script. He’s portrayed as a punk, actually, an immature teenager with family troubles who’s screaming for freedom and independence. A bit conventional.

The book falls out of the sky and once the rules are explained, he decides to write the school bully’s name first. A bit conventional.

Once discovering his new power, he finds the attractive girl he’s been trying to date and immediately tells said girl about a book that can kill people. Lazily conventional. It loses a lot of tension due to this and once again, chooses a romantic subplot over a story that carries far more gravity.

In any story, the strongest portion should be saved for the conclusion but here, one of the strongest scenes comes at the beginning with the introduction of Ryuk, voiced by Willem Dafoe.

You can never have too much Willem Dafoe, nor does it ever feel bad to have him around, as is once again the case here. Ryuk is the death god, the man behind the book. The book that makes one think of ambition is actually one full of artifice, one composed of madness, but Ryuk, in his calm and yet clearly unsafe demeanor, lures our hero in like a spider and its web. This seductiveness is alluring and while you know something’s up, as I’m sure Light does here, you can’t help but wanna try it, right?

Possibility is a strong motivator, and we get to see the primal instincts of humanity through this device. We get to see what it truly feels like to be all-powerful. It is a Greek tragedy with the stylus of a Japanese artist, or at least that’s what the anime is.

This supposed love interest ends up chewing up more than she has any right to consume, clearing her plate and then Dafoe’s and then some of Light’s before all is said and done. Mia, this girl, is a sociopath, the more interesting character, the person capable of bringing the carnage and vileness of the Death Note to its full potential, making Light’s presence unwarranted. We have two main characters fighting for possession of both the Death Note and the camera, and Ryuk, who should be playing the role of the puppeteer above, is instead sitting on the couch throwing back apple cores, enjoying the festivities, a complete misuse of the character’s time and actor’s talent.

Something about adaptations tells me there is no girl in the anime. Something tells me this is another Hollywood attempt at Americanizing material. That something is memory.

I’ve seen it too often, slogged through it many a time, written about it here and there. Who would think it was so pervasive in our film industry? And look, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is in the anime, but it’s so divisive and corrosive to what is initially planted in the framework that it definitely does not belong in this film.

Another crucial part of the movie, when Light realizes the difference he can make with the Death Note, is put into a montage, a stylistic atrocity. A centerpiece of the film and you’re speeding through it rather than stretching it out? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.

It doesn’t. It’s nerve-grating. Some of Adam Wingard’s decision-making here in the story’s fabric don’t mesh with the elements illustrated. There’s also not a high enough premium paid to the patterns and peculiarities of the anime design, leaving the material distanced from its maker.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (True Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-Over)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Death Note: 59.

All in all, I enjoyed this at points for the content it presents, not for how it adapts it. If you know nothing of the anime, as I did, watch it, get heated, and then bathe in the glory that the anime provides. It’s quite good.

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2017-2018 NFL Preview: AFC North

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

GET: CB Joe Haden, WR Justin Hunter, CB Coty Sensabaugh, DE Tyson Alualu, TE Vance McDonald

LOSE: TE Ladarius Green, WR Markus Wheaton, RB DeAngelo Williams WR Sammie Coates, CB Justin Gilbert, QB Zach Mettenberger, TE David Johnson, CB Senquez Golson

RE-SIGNS: WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, OT Alejandro Villanueva, LB James Harrison, LB Vince Williams, QB Landry Jones

DRAFT: 1st round: OLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin     2nd round: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC     3rd round: CB Cam Sutton, Tennessee     RB James Conner, Pittsburgh     4th round: QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee     5th round: CB Brian Allen, Utah     6th round: LS Colin Holba, Louisville     7th round: DE Keion Adams, Western Michigan

SUMMARY: An offense as dominant as the Pittsburgh Steelers is hard to stop and with nearly all of those pieces coming back in 2017, it’s hard to see that dominance waning. Pittsburgh was seventh in total yardage (5th pass, 14th rush) but could still use improvement in a vital category: points per game. Last year, they were tied for tenth with Buffalo (yes, that Buffalo) with 24.9 ppg.

Why is that? A very good question. In eight home games last year, the Steelers scored 226 points, an average of 28.3 per home game. Across a whole season, that would rank them third in the league in points per game, ahead of New England, Green Bay and Dallas. On the road, that total dropped to 173, a 21.6 average. If they played like that over the course of 2016, that would have ranked them 20th in ppg, tied with Detroit and narrowly ahead of Baltimore, a team with much less firepower. As any football expert can tell you, Roethlisberger has struggled on the road these last few years, which bodes poorly for the Steelers when they face weaker competition on the road this year, such as Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis. However, it also bodes well for them at home, when they face playoff-caliber teams like Minnesota, Tennessee and Green Bay. If the Steelers defense plays as well as they did last year (20.4 ppg, 10th-best; 38 sacks, ninth) and continue their bend-don’t-break philosophy, the Steelers look like a strong Super Bowl candidate in the AFC and one of two teams that have a roster capable of topping powerhouse New England.

Bell, Brown and Bryant all look like fantasy picks with high upside this year.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

Week 1: @CLE   Week 2: vs. MIN   Week 3: @CHI   Week 4: @BAL   Week 5: vs. JAC   Week 6: @KC   Week 7: vs. CIN   Week 8: @DET   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @IND   Week 11: vs. TEN   Week 12: vs. GB   Week 13: @CIN   Week 14: vs. BAL   Week 15: vs. NE   Week 16: @HOU   Week 17: vs. CLE

BALTIMORE RAVENS

GET: FS Tony Jefferson, WR Jeremy Maclin, CB Brandon Carr, OT Austin Howard, OL Tony Bergstrom, CB Brandon Boykin, RB Danny Woodhead, TE Ben Watson

LOSE: RT Ricky Wagner, LB Zachary Orr, LB Elvis Dumervil, DT Timmy Jernigan, OL John Urschel, TE Dennis Pitta, CB Kyle Arrington, C Jeremy Zuttah, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, TE Crockett Gillmore

RE-SIGNS: NT Brandon Williams

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama     2nd round: OLB Tyus Bowser, Houston     3rd round: DT Chris Wormley, Michigan     OLB Tim Williams, Alabama     4th round: G Nico Siragusa, San Diego State     5th round: T Jermaine Eluemunor, Texas A&M     6th round: S Chuck Clark, Virginia Tech

SUMMARY: The injury bug has hit Baltimore hard. Promising corner Tavon Young tore his ACL during OTAs and will miss the season. RB Kenneth Dixon and LB Albert McClellan are other notable contributors who will start 2017 on injured reserve. You’ll see unproven names along the offensive and defensive line, including 2013 sixth-rounder Ryan Jensen at center, tackle James Hurst, 2015 third-rounder Carl Davis, 2016 second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa and 2016 fifth-round linebacker Matthew Judon. The Ravens draft class is likely to see action on the field sooner rather than later, especially corner Marlon Humphrey, a likely nickel corner and Tyus Bowser, who will force pressure on the edge.

Last year, Joe Flacco threw the pigskin 672 times, one fewer than NFL-leader Drew Brees. Despite that, Joe threw only 20 touchdowns, a number that must increase if Baltimore wants a chance at a playoff spot. His 6.42 yards per attempt was 27th in the league last year, though this is likely due to the scheme offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has implemented, an attack predicated on the short passing game (Flacco threw within five yards of the line of scrimmage on 56.8 percent of his passes, second-most behind chronic drag route addict Sam Bradford). Regardless, Flacco’s numbers weren’t pretty. An 83.5 passer rating was good for 24th last year. Even Trevor Siemian managed an 84.6.

We can make all the jokes about whether Flacco is elite but what is becoming a concern based on fact is Flacco’s bloated contract is punishing the Ravens right now on and off the field. Flacco had a cap hit of $22.55 last year and that number will continue to go up until 2021. One historical Super Bowl run is not worth sinking your team for the next seven years. Injuries are a concern, but can only be blamed so much.

On the positive side, it seems heavily unlikely that Flacco manages less than 25 this year with the addition of Jeremy Maclin and the return of a hopefully fully recuperated Breshad Perriman, who needs to show once and for all why the Ravens spent a first round pick on him back in 2015. It would also be great if Baltimore could get a running game (averaged 91.4 per game last year, 28th) which would surely help them put more points on the scoreboard (21.4 ppg last year, 21st).

Baltimore’s defense has to copy their numbers from last year, but improve on their pass defense  (8th total yards, 23rd pass, 4th rush, 18.9 ppg). Those numbers will be hard to duplicate with youngsters on the starting roster, but is doable. All these things have to come together for them to win a postseason bid and even more would have to happen for them to dethrone Pittsburgh, though a win at home against the Steelers is a virtual certainty.

Mike Wallace is the best fantasy pickup this year from Baltimore. With Maclin now drawing attention from the slot, Wallace’s 14.1 yards per reception, which was already 24th in the league last year, could go higher.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

Week 1: @CIN   Week 2: vs. CLE   Week 3: @JAC   Week 4: vs. PIT   Week 5: @OAK   Week 6: vs. CHI   Week 7: @MIN   Week 8: vs. MIA   Week 9: @TEN   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: @GB   Week 12: vs. HOU   Week 13: vs. DET   Week 14: @PIT   Week 15: @CLE   Week 16: vs. IND   Week 17: vs. CIN

CINCINNATI BENGALS

GET: G Andre Smith, LB Kevin Minter, CB Bene Benwikere

LOSE: OT Andrew Whitworth, G Kevin Zeitler, LB Rey Maualuga, OT Eric Winston

RE-SIGNS: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, WR Brandon LaFell, RB Cedric Peerman

DRAFT: 1st round: WR John Ross, Washington     2nd round: RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma     3rd round: DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State     4th round: DE Carl Lawson, Auburn     WR Josh Malone, Tennessee     DT Ryan Glasgow, Michigan     5th round: K Jake Elliott, Memphis     C J.J. Dielman, Utah     6th round: LB Jordan Evans, Oklahoma     CB Brandon Wilson, Houston     7th round: TE Mason Schreck, Buffalo

SUMMARY: I have the same problem with Cincinnati that I’ve had with them for going on three years now: they don’t have a number two receiver. A.J. Green might be one of the most undervalued players in this league. They had a real chance to not only win a playoff game but contend for a championship a few years ago, but the lack of help in the passing game cost them both of those accolades. Cincinnati should have held onto Mohammed Sanu, who demonstrated his ability during Green’s absence, but as Cincy has come to do, they let another opportunity slip through their fingers. Let’s not forget Marvin Jones played for that team as well.

This year, they went heavy on the offensive side of the ball in the draft, selecting speedster John Ross and Tennessee pass catcher Josh Malone. We’ll see if that adds up to anything. An interesting stat: Dalton was a below-average deep passer, ranking 21st in the league with a 38.3 accuracy percentage. Ross’ big-play potential is fully reliant on Dalton bettering that ranking this year.

The Red Rifle wasn’t guns blazing last year either. After his best year in 2015, in which he had a career best 66.1 completion percentage, an 8.42 ypa, 25/7 touchdown-interception ratio and a 106.3 passer rating, second to only Russell Wilson, he imploded, throwing a measly 18 touchdowns last year. Trevor Siemian threw 18 last year.

Dalton’s performance also occurred behind a strong offensive line that lost two key cogs in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler this offseason, putting only more pressure on Dalton to perform.

The front office, clearly not excited about Jeremy Hill sitting in the bottom 10 in yards per attempt (2015: 3.6 ypc, third-worst. 2016: 3.8 ypc, t-10th) drafted another shady character to add to the toxic duo of Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones (honorable mention: Josh Shaw): Joe Mixon. Giovanni Bernard is likely to stay involved on passing downs while Hill is a short-yardage resort.

The defense is the biggest concern with this team. It hasn’t been the same since Zimmer’s departure to Minnesota after the 2013 season, minus the 2015 season, when the team outpaced expectations. In 2014 and 2016, Cincy was 20th and 21st against the rush. They weren’t much better against the pass in those years either (20th and 17th). They also haven’t gotten consistent pressure on opposing offenses (last in sacks in ’14 (20), 19th in ’16 (33)). They were eighth in points against last year, but the dam is cracking and if you thought last year was a flood, wait until you see what happens when that dam breaks.

On a positive note, Dalton’s likely to improve on 18 touchdown passes. A.J. Green remains the player to have in Cincinnati for fantasy. Bernard is likely to be nice in PPR leagues and if you’re willing to take a risk on Eifert’s injury history, he could provide a nice payday. Behind a revamped offensive line, I’m unlikely to add Mixon and I think the stats above demonstrate why you should avoid the Cincinnati defense.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: vs. BAL   Week 2: vs. HOU   Week 3: @GB   Week 4: @CLE   Week 5: vs. BUF   Week 6: BYE   Week 7: @PIT   Week 8: vs. IND   Week 9: @JAC   Week 10: @TEN   Week 11: @DEN   Week 12: vs. CLE   Week 13: vs. PIT   Week 14: vs. CHI   Week 15: @MIN   Week 16: vs. DET   Week 17: @BAL

CLEVELAND BROWNS

GET: CB Jason McCourty, S Calvin Pryor, G Kevin Zeitler, WR Kenny Britt, C J.C. Tretter, WR Sammie Coates

LOSE: WR Terrelle Pryor, G John Greco, CB Joe Haden, C Cameron Erving, QB Brock Osweiler, TE Gary Barnidge, LB Demario Davis, K Cody Parkey, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Josh Cribbs

RE-SIGNS: RB Isaiah Crowell, G Joel Bitonio, LB Jamie Collins, LB Christian Kirksey, P Britton Colquitt

DRAFT: 1st round: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M     S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan     TE David Njoku, Miami     2nd round: QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame     3rd round: DT Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte     4th round: CB Howard Wilson, Houston     5th round: OT Roderick Johnson, Florida State     6th round: Caleb Brantley, Florida     7th round: K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State     RB Matthew Dayes, North Carolina State

SUMMARY: The Cleveland Browns, for the first time in a while, will be an interesting team to watch. New management at the top (GM Sashi Brown, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta) have given Cleveland the type of intrigue and publicity they desperately need. They showed some of their wits when they accepted the tragedy of a contract that Brock Osweiler carried with him and a second and sixth round draft choice from Houston as a “Thank you for getting rid of this embarrassment,” all in exchange for one of Cleveland’s fourth rounders. The Browns, who have endless cap space, then simply cut Osweiler before the beginning of the year but had picks to show for it.

Their draft went well, selecting Myles Garrett, hybrid safety Jabrill Peppers, Miami product David Njoku and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer has earned the starting job going into Week 1 and now, after all Cleveland has done, they have to hope he doesn’t flounder like the 27 other quarterbacks before him.

Among high points for this season sits running back Isaiah Crowell. If Cleveland has had anything the last few years, it’s been a stout offensive line and it’s only gotten stronger with the addition of G Kevin Zeitler. Crowell was great last year, maintaining a clip of 4.8 ypc, a top-ten average. Expect Crowell to surpass his 198 carries last year as Cleveland puts together a dangerous running game.

Kizer will likely face early struggles with Kenny Britt as a number one target opposite Corey Coleman, only leading to more opportunities for Crowell. Teams that have a poor run defense, such as Cincinnati (21st), Indianapolis (25), and Chicago (27th), will struggle with Cleveland this year. I expect more surprises from Cleveland than blowouts.

If I haven’t mentioned it enough, Crowell’s a great fantasy pickup. As in RB1 status.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 5-11

Week 1: vs. PIT   Week 2: @BAL   Week 3: @IND   Week 4: vs. CIN   Week 5: NYJ   Week 6: @HOU   Week 7: vs. TEN   Week 8: vs. MIN   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @DET   Week 11: vs. JAC   Week 12: @CIN   Week 13: @LAC   Week 14: vs. GB   Week 15: vs. BAL   Week 16: @CHI   Week 17: @PIT

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Movie Review: True Memoirs of an International Assassin

Image result for true memoirs of an international assassin movie poster free use“Why would an actual assassin write a book about being an assassin? It’s beyond stupid.”
“Or is it so beyond stupid, it’s brilliant.”

I love this line. I really do. It’s the type of insert that slithers its way into comedies, presenting a line of thought that causes a burst of joy and also drops a trinklet of apparent wisdom into the minds of its viewers. You have to take a double take and think. Would it really be stupid or is it jaw-dropping how genius it is?

True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a Netflix original that from the beginning, demonstrates this same wit and charisma.

Sam Larson, an accountant who’s dove into the cobwebs of assassination and writing, has created an alter ego for himself, one in which he feels he truly gets to live. Mason Carver is everything he’s ever wanted to be. And unknown to him, that chance at a more exotic lifestyle has arrived.

The introductory phrases of Jeff Wadlow’s Netflix special deals with vicariousness and journalistic integrity, offering both food for thought regarding ethics and some life advice that, while endlessly cliché, doesn’t seem to ever be heard by some. Do something worth your time. Live life.

These points are accompanied with a quiver of writing jabs and a parlance for dialogue that has the versatility to be both thought-provoking and worthy of a gigglefest. It’s whimsical but also odd in an amusing enough way that you’re willing to put up with it.

That’s generally the basis for Kevin James videos, to be honest. How much are you willing to endure?

You can see the prototype for Kevin James’ career in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Is it a good movie? Hell no, but like Sandler has come to do, it tiptoes the trapeze of the funny and the galatically stupid. It hits and misses and at the end of the run, it’s up to the viewer to decide if the shooting percentage was worth their time.

What you see with True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a film that shows signs it wants to take itself seriously but then quickly retracts and goes back to being the fun, silly movie that certainly attracts younger audiences, but dampers the chords trying to be played.

This is what holds it back. Its insistence on keeping a younger audience engaged prevents it from being a tempting thriller, showcasing what can happen when life steals you away from your comfort zones and your routine that affords you the peace of mind you desire. In some ways, its failings are similar to Sandler’s The Do-Over, creating an appetizing adventure and possessive writing style that’s forced to run concurrently with ill-timed humor, interrupting the pleasant balance the film is trying to maintain. As the movie proceeds, True Memoirs of an International Assassin becomes more of an slog through comedy tropes than it does that endeavor we signed up for at the beginning. There is a direct rift between the first and second halves of this piece, one that allows its drama and personality to run freely, unleashed, and the one that feels the need to act like someone other than himself. That second part can only be viewed sympathetically for so long before the damn breaks free and that’s what comes here. Its flamboyance downplays the narrative drive and its continual detours for quick ad libs from James and crew do not provide the productivity that would warrant them. It leaves it in a run in pig slop or a tractor trying to mull through the fields after a downpour. It’s a mess and requires too much effort for too little gain. Difference is, True Memoirs of an International Assassin didn’t have the effort either.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for True Memoirs of an International Assassin: 57.

While certainly containing its own batch of cleverness, I can’t help but wish this was a film that took itself seriously.

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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Image result for pirates of the caribbean dead men tell no tales movie poster free useBeen a long time. Here’s to the return of WisTim.

Great cinema is precious, as sovereign as an angel and at times, a true blessing to behold. Such grandeur is not created unilaterally but by a team of stars both before and behind the lens. Such performance requires a certain deftness and composure. Superb film making mandates a chimerical touch, both a fascination and a mind willing to push forward both conceptually and contextually. It takes both aplomb and humility with a few pinches of stoicism.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the pole opposite of these accolades. Dark and desolate, overused and washed up, a stain on the record of a talent beyond his years. That is what POC 5 has to offer. It presents the marketing of a new chapter to one of the better franchises of the 21st century and promptly violates the pureness of it. It is what could have happened to The Force Awakens if the people who became a part of the project decided a tonal shift or crude humor was a missing part of the single most important franchise in film history. Instead, one of the better franchises of our times has been soiled like a sacrificial lamb, though the term sacrificial suggests this was something that needed to happen and it certainly did not. Literally no one was asking for this. No one was asking for a Seth Rogen-esque script writer, one fully reliant on his audience’s enjoyment of ill-mannered bacchanals.

There is one asteroid-sized problem with this scope: a small minority of Pirates of the Caribbean fans walked into a theater, not once, twice or thrice but four times and thought, “I hope this one is like Billy Madison but pirates and Depp.” It seems fair to make this claim because Pirates of the Caribbean had made billions from its loyal fan base that, presumably, enjoyed the content as it was. I do not recall reading a protest online from viewers decrying any Pirates film, vehemently berating the producers for not including more raunchy retorts and less substance in both character and narrative. Who asked for this?

If you haven’t caught the drift yet, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a shipwreck of what was a quite glamorous creative vessel that now, hopefully, has seen its final days. Like many great athletes that can’t bear to leave the game even if it is clearly time, POC5 is a reminder that the end of something beautiful is usually quite ugly.

Johnny Depp’s most critically acclaimed role, at least in these critic’s eyes, is blinding in this installment, a nearly severed connection to the lively, clever swordsman we have come to love. The quick-witted Captain Jack Sparrow is nowhere to be found. Instead, a drunk who’s lost his edge enters from behind the curtain. The envious Sparrow never failed to be one step ahead of us or to keep us enthralled in his parlor tricks. He was a tactician with a smirk of metal as much as he was a coach with near flawless decision-making, traits quite rare among seafarers. He was a king of the dramatic and a prince of the perverse.

That beloved character is physically present but mentally unavailable. The bedrock of this persona isn’t here, nor does it ever feel like Sparrow shows up. Johnny Depp is on the screen dressed as him but the character glorified over four films is not.

It’s especially painful to watch because I can’t emphasize enough how natural this role seemed to come to Depp. It allowed him to show his polished, witty delivery and there’s no doubt Captain Jack Sparrow is the most articulate pirate I’ve ever seen. Look at this. This scene is so Jack Sparrow it’s silly. I could watch this all day.

It does nothing in terms of plot, aside from get Captain Jack to a new location, but it’s premier Johnny Depp, utilized by a scriptwriter who clearly understands the heart of the man and his character.

You’ll be hard strung to find a scene even remotely as good as that here.

I have not been beguiled. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is not arcane, some great mystery that critics and viewers alike can’t solve. It’s simply a generation that didn’t inherit the praised talent of its ancestors and can’t help but leave a taste of disappointment in all who hoped for more.

It’s hard not to be churlish here. With another captain at the helm of the project and writer at his side, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales falls into the pit of off-color humor, which is so tonally off the mark. Pirates of the Caribbean was flamboyant, excessively melodramatic, making a show out of life. That presentation and exuberance doesn’t arrive and neither does the type of cinematic treasure we’ve come to expect.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Power RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: 46.

Prosaic rather than poetic, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales seems to miss the heart of what made Pirates of the Caribbean intriguing: that both Sparrow and the script could always add something extra that we didn’t see coming, like the scene above to surprise us. It’s a film that has betrayed its identity, and concurrently, its audience.

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What Are You Doing, Sullivan?

Image result for marc-andre fleury free useThe 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Penguins postseason run has been a bumpy ride. The Columbus Blue Jackets battered the Pens throughout the first round and the Washington Capitals, clearly the better team for most of if not all of the series, couldn’t close out Pittsburgh in game seven. The defacto key to both series? Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury outplayed two Vezina winners in Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby and handedly so. While Bobrovsky struggled to contain the Pens’ blistering offense, Fleury posted save percentages of 97 and 98 in the first two games, stopping 70 of 72. In one of Fleury’s best postseason performances, he thwarted 49 of 51 Columbus rubber pellets in the series-clinching game five win.

In round two, Holtby watched from afar as his teammates peppered the Penguins’ end for seven games and watched with frustration as Fleury continued to bail his teammates out. Holtby, on the other end and with little to do, failed to execute. In the second period of game four, Holtby gave up two goals on four shots. That is laughable and he, more than anyone, cost his team the series.

On the opposite side, we have a goalie that surely stole a series against a superior opponent, including a game seven shutout on the road. Fleury was as much a fluid gymnast in front of the net, contorting his body in every shape and form, as he was a magician, making pucks disappear before hitting twine. He has been the Penguins best player this postseason and is a virtual guarantee to win the Conn Smythe if they win Lord Stanley’s cup. The Penguins’ offense that was first in goals and third on the powerplay during the regular season has been on and off during this year’s run and it hasn’t mattered. Marc-Andre Fleury has been the best postseason goalie. Pekka Rinne is the only other candidate you could even make an argument for.

A goalie is the most integral part to playoff success. Goalies can steal a game or, a la Fleury, a series.

And never in my life have I seen the best postseason goalie in a calendar year get benched. Until today.

In an unprecedented move, coach Mike Sullivan will be starting Matt Murray in tonight’s game four. There’s no logical reasoning for this.

If anything has hampered the Pens during this series, it’s been the team’s inability to score. The Pens should have won game one, but went 0/5 on the powerplay, an ongoing problem. Injuries knocked Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz out of game two and there’s no timetable for their return. In three games, the once mighty Pittsburgh offense has scored three goals. The defense that has played quite well without headmaster Kris Letang completely flopped in game three, to an embarrassing level. Only one of the goals scored on Fleury on Wednesday could be attributed to him. The utter incompetence of the Pens defensemen that game was the singularity of that trainwreck and everyone who watched that game knows that.

Except Mike Sullivan. Mike Sullivan appears concerned with how to allow less goals rather than score more than one. That is the only rationale I can come up with at this point.

Look, Mike Sullivan is a wizard. I love him and he’s already on his way to being one of the best coaches in franchise history. Of all the issues this team currently has in front of them, goaltending has been the least of them. It has been since day one. It still is. Patrick Roy could have played goal for the Pens on Wednesday. It would not have changed the outcome.

So, to bench Fleury, your best player this postseason run, because of a historically bad period from your defense, makes not even a minute of sense. Matt Murray has always been Sullivan’s favorite and that will most likely never change, but head coaches are not afforded the graces of favoritism. One goalie has played the best postseason of his career. The other hasn’t played a full game since April 6. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this one out.

On the other hand, Sullivan is a genius and even he couldn’t figure out this “conundrum.”

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