Monthly Archives: August 2015

2015-2016 NFL Preview: AFC North

I’m finally back to school and that means it’s time to begin the long-awaited NFL preview! I’m also adding fantasy advice in these previews so they’ll be longer than usual. Let’s get to it!

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS

GET: S Kendrick Lewis, CB Kyle Arrington, QB Matt Schaub

LOSE: CB Aaron Ross, CB Antoine Cason, WR Torrey Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, DE Pernell McPhee, DT Haloti Ngata, S Darian Stewart, TE Owen Daniels, DT Terrence Cody, QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Bernard Pierce, C Gino Gradkowski

RE-SIGNS: CB Lardarius Webb, DE Chris Canty, RB Justin Forsett

DRAFT: 1st round: WR Breshad Perriman, UCF     2nd round: TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota     3rd round: DT Carl Davis, Iowa     4th round: DE Za’Darius Smith, Kentucky     RB Buck Allen, USC     CB Tray Walker, Texas Southern     5th round: TE Nick Boyle, Delaware     G Robert Myers, Tennessee State     6th round: WR Darren Waller, Georgia Tech

SUMMARY:

Baltimore had a solid 10-6 season and no results from last season jump out to me as unusual. Despite it being such a quiet season for their star quarterback, Flacco actually had his best statistical year since 2010, surpassing his last three seasons in all categories, including completion percentage (62.1), passing yards (3,986), touchdown-interception ratio (27:12), QBR (67.0) and passer rating (91.0). Was it a great season for Joe in actuality? I would say probably not. Most of his stats are bloated due to the team’s early struggles at the running back position and the big plays we’re used to seeing from Flacco weren’t as apparent. With that said, I wouldn’t be concerned with Flacco. I got stuck with him in one of my fantasy leagues and I’m not too worried about the guy. No, he’s never thrown more than 27 touchdowns in a season and no, he’s not known for consistency, but I would argue last year was consistent and you should expect a similar season this year despite the reductions at receiver. The loss of Torrey Smith won’t hurt as much as people think, nor am I worried about Flacco’s outlets. Steve Smith Sr. would be a good receiver to take a flyer on in fantasy although I would avoid rookie Breshad Perriman. Especially in the AFC North, I would avoid rookie receivers altogether. You can find better options elsewhere.

The component that will determine the offense’s success, however, is Justin Forsett. The relative unknown managed an insane 5.4 yards a carry. Only Lamar Miller (yes, LAMAR MILLER), Jeremy Hill and Jamaal Charles averaged five or more yards a carry. That’s an exclusive club and one Forsett relished in. His 1,266 yards was fifth-most in the league and second-best in the AFC behind the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell and led the league in rushes of over 20 yards with 17. Behind one of the best offensive lines in football, Forsett’s breakout season last year shouldn’t have been blown up as much as it was and while many are concerned he’s a one-hit wonder, I do not share that concern. I saw potential from Forsett when he was in Houston and he relished in the spotlight. Forsett should be a solid back this year in fantasy, even with the departure of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

The Ravens’ defense, with both subtractions and additions, should be fine and remain hazardous for opponents as usual and with John Harbaugh at the helm, I have to think Baltimore is the favorite to win the division.

There are some things that could derail the train, however. Baltimore got swept by Cincinnati last season, a Bengals team that was actually weaker than it has been in the past so that cannot happen this year, especially considering the AFC North’s dangerous schedule. The Ravens were 23rd against the pass last year, something that must improve, especially when their front seven was an elite fourth against the rush. The onus, like with the Steelers, is on the secondary, but I have more faith in the Ravens defense right now then I do the Steelers. Finally, it’s crucial injuries don’t plague this team on offense. The Ravens’ depth at running back and receiver is desert thin and I don’t know if they’ll be able to hold the reins to the division if the bug plagues them. The Ravens front seven on defense, it’s disgusting how good they are, but can they carry a hobbled offense on their back if they have to?

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

Week 1: @DEN   Week 2: @OAK   Week 3: vs. CIN   Week 4: @PIT   Week 5: vs. CLE   Week 6: @SF   Week 7: @ARI   Week 8: vs. SD   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: vs. JAC   Week 11: vs. STL   Week 12: @CLE   Week 13: @MIA   Week 14: vs. SEA   Week 15: vs. KC   Week 16: vs. PIT   Week 17: @CIN

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

GET: RB DeAngelo Williams, CB Brandon Boykin

LOSE: OLB Jason Worilds, S Troy Polamalu, CB Ike Taylor, DE Brett Keisel, CB Brice McCain, WR Lance Moore, WR Justin Brown, TE Michael Palmer, RB Ben Tate

RE-SIGNS: QB Ben Roethlisberger, LB James Harrison, LB Arthur Moats, S Will Allen, TE Matt Spaeth, DE Clifton Geathers, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, LS Greg Warren

DRAFT: 1st round: OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky     2nd round: CB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss     3rd round: WR Sammie Coates, Auburn     4th round: CB Doran Grant, Ohio State     5th round: TE Jesse James, Penn State     6th round: DT L.T. Walton, Central Michigan     DE Anthony Chickillo, Miami     7th round: S Gerod Holliman, Louisville

SUMMARY: Last year’s big three (Ben, Bell, Brown) destroyed defenses like Fox destroyed the Fantastic Four in this year’s superhero dud. Roethlisberger had the best statistical year of his career, throwing for a league-leading 4,952 yards. His average of 8.15 yards per attempt, 67.1 completion percentage and 103.3 passer rating were good for third in the league. Aside from setting plenty of personal and franchise records, Roethlisberger has solidified his position as a top-five quarterback and was paid as such this offseason with an enormous five-year, $99 million extension. Is Ben worth the money? Definitely. Do I like the contract? No. Ben is a top-five quarterback right now, that’s non-debatable. However, the Steelers have a troubled history with salary cap issues and Ben’s $17.2 million cap hit this season and obnoxious $23.95 million cap hit next season is a cause for concern, especially when it comes time to re-sign Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

Speaking of Antonio Brown, he had a legendary year in 2015, racking up 129 catches, the second-most receptions in a season ever behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002. He led the league with those 129 catches and 1,698 yards, shattering his own franchise record of 1,499 yards set in 2013. Brown was also second in targets with 182 and caught 13 touchdowns so if you want a great fantasy receiver in the first round, take Brown. The wheels on the Brown go round and round.

Finally, but certainly not least, Le’Veon Bell was a monster last year. Bell ended the year with 1,361 yards rushing, an impressive 4.7 clip and also became an elite receiver, catching 83 passes for 854 yards. Le’Veon Bell is the best all-around back in the league with those stats and if you don’t pick up Brown or Ben, pick up Bell for fantasy. You can’t go wrong with any of these players.

Those stats led to an incredible 11-5 season for the Steelers that few expected, including three consecutive huge wins against Houston, Indianapolis and Baltimore. However, as there always are, there were some head scratchers. Before that win streak, the Steelers lost to Tampa Bay, beat Jacksonville by eight and got destroyed by Cleveland 31-10. Let’s not mention the Steelers’ humiliating loss to the Jets 20-13.

The defense, however, was not LeBeau’s finest escapade and it’s sad that it was his last in Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ pass defense was 27th last year and allowed 30 touchdowns, one of the worst secondary units in football. Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu missed much of the season and could not be counted on when they got on the field. Mike Mitchell had a terrible inaugural season. William Gay and Antwon Blake were the lone highlights. Luckily, the front seven was top-ten, finishing sixth against the rush, led by Lawrence Timmons and Cam Heyward.

Looking to this season, the Steelers have a lot to prove. The epidemic known as Cortez Allen’s hand-eye coordination will be starting at cornerback and with Senquez Golson out for the year, the trade for Brandon Boykin was paramount. Young Shamarko Thomas and the awful Mike Mitchell will be starting at safety. The front seven has to carry this team. While I still disagree with the Steelers taking Bud Dupree instead of Alabama safety Landon Collins, the linebacking core for the Steelers is now incredibly deep.

With all that said, the Steelers’ schedule this season is far too difficult for a team as weak in the secondary as the Steelers are to succeed in the long haul. Last year was quite a sight to see, but I doubt it’ll happen again.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

Week 1: @NE   Week 2: vs. SF   Week 3: @STL   Week 4: vs. BAL   Week 5: @SD   Week 6: vs. ARI   Week 7: @KC   Week 8: vs. CIN   Week 9: vs. OAK   Week 10: vs. CLE   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: @SEA   Week 13: vs. IND   Week 14: @CIN   Week 15: vs. DEN   Week 16: @BAL   Week 17: @CLE

CLEVELAND BROWNS

GET: WR Brian Hartline, DT Randy Starks, WR Dwayne Bowe, CB Tramon Williams, QB Josh McCown, QB Thad Lewis

LOSE: CB Buster Skrine, TE Jordan Cameron, DT Ahtyba Rubin, QB Brian Hoyer, OLB Jabaal Sheard, WR Miles Austin, G Paul McQuistan, K Garrett Hartley

RE-SIGNS: DE John Hughes, WR Marlon Moore

DRAFT: 1st round: DT Danny Shelton, Washington     C Cameron Erving, Florida State     2nd round: OLB Nate Orchard, Utah     3rd round: RB Duke Johnson, Miami     DT Xavier Cooper, Washington State     4th round: S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern     WR Vince Mayle, Washington State     6th round: CB Charles Gaines, Louisville     TE Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State     TE Randall Telfer, USC     7th round: ILB Hayes Pullard, USC     CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

SUMMARY: Guys, I have huge news! The Cleveland, (yes, you read that right) Cleveland Browns are starting to look like a football team. It’s only taken two decades, but I think they could compete in the SEC now. Hell, the Browns could have made the playoffs last year. They started 7-4. I’d be surprised if half the city of Cleveland didn’t fall over dead from a heart attack or something. They’d probably never seen the AFC North standings read Cleveland at the top. However, it’s okay, Cleveland. You still suck, because your football team managed to choke every single one of the last five games, miss the playoffs and finish in the bottom of the division, AGAIN. It’s honestly humorous and at the same time, pathetically pitiful. Just wow.

With all that said, Cleveland really did look leagues better than they did in the past. They creamed Pittsburgh 31-10 in the middle of the season and you know what? I wasn’t even mad. They deserved to win that game. Dare I say it, they looked like a professional football team. I can’t believe those words came out of my mouth while discussing the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland accumulated 12 draft picks this offseason, so a genuine round of applause for that front office. Now, let’s give an equally genuine round of applause for what they did with them. The Browns’ secondary was great last year, eighth-best in the league but their defense against the rush was dead last. Give the Browns credit for addressing that, drafting Shelton and Cooper in the first and third round, respectively and another young linebacker in Nate Orchard. They also signed DT Randy Starks from Miami to provide some guidance to the rookies. They grabbed a running back to add a section to the spin-the-wheel-and-see-who-you-get backfield and hopefully one of them emerges as a real starter behind yet another one of the best offensive lines in football. The AFC North is full of them. Any Cleveland fan that was upset with the Browns draft is a moron, so heed them no quarter.

The receiving corps as well as the quarterback situation needs a lot of help. A large part of that is that Josh Gordon is probably one of the dumbest players and people in football. You had one job, Gordon. Stay away from weed. Why the Browns didn’t trade him after his first suspension is beyond me. They could have gotten another first rounder out of him. Without him, two new additions are expected to start at receiver, Brian Hartline of Miami and Dwayne Bowe of Kansas City. Neither blows minds and neither is worth a fantasy pickup. In fact, let me just end my fantasy advice real quick right here: if it’s not the Cleveland defense, stay away from anyone on Cleveland. Even if the running back situation is sorted out, I think it’s unlikely they have a breakout season and it’s doubtful McCown or Manziel do either. Once again, it will be up to the secondary to hold the fort and if the front seven can be average up front, the Browns could very well pass the Bengals, who are trending down harder than Nicolas Cage’s acting career. I’m taking the gamble they do.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: @NYJ   Week 2: vs. TEN   Week 3: vs. OAK   Week 4: @SD   Week 5: @BAL   Week 6: vs. DEN   Week 7: @STL   Week 8: vs. ARI   Week 9: @CIN   Week 10: @PIT   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: vs. BAL   Week 13: vs. CIN   Week 14: vs. SF   Week 15: @SEA   Week 16: @KC   Week 17: vs. PIT

CINCINNATI BENGALS

GET: DE Michael Johnson, ILB A.J. Hawk, WR Denarius Moore, QB Josh Johnson, TE Rob Housler, DT Pat Sims

LOSE: OT Marshall Newhouse, CB Terence Newman, TE Jermaine Gresham, G Mike Pollak, DE Robert Geathers, WR Greg Little, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, S Taylor Mays

RE-SIGNS: LB Rey Maualuga, RB Cedric Peerman, OL Eric Winston, WR Brandon Tate

DRAFT: 1st round: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M     2nd round: OT Jake Fisher, Oregon     3rd round: TE Tyler Kroft, Rutgers     OLB Paul Dawson, TCU     4th round: S Josh Shaw, USC     DT Marcus Hardison, Arizona State     5th round: TE C.J. Uzomah, Auburn     6th round: S Derron Smith, Fresno State     7th round: WR Mario Alford, West Virginia

SUMMARY: Last year, I picked the Bengals to win the division and in my playoff preview, I said the following: “What really pisses me off is that the Bengals are one step away from being the best. If only they would draft a receiver in the first round.”

That still holds true now because this team still needs that receiver and last year’s season is a testament to that. Not only did Dalton lose his cool without Green in the lineup, recessing in every statistical category except completion percentage, but without the Bengals’ star receiver, the team at times looked like a discombobulated mess leaning on a rookie running back named Jeremy Hill. The LSU star thrilled, but could not carry the team nor should he have been expected to. This team has plenty of talent and year after year it goes poorly coached and Marvin Lewis, who has been with the team since 2003, has still been unable to get Cincinnati a playoff win. The longest playoff drought in the NFL belongs to the Bengals, not the Browns. If that’s not unsettling, I don’t know what is. Who knows why the Bengals continue to ignore their most vital need, a wideout, draft after draft. Let’s ignore that the Bengals, in the last two seasons, have taken two receivers in the draft, one in the sixth and one in the seventh. Let’s ignore that the Bengals learned diddly-squat about their receiver depth this past season because, again, they decided they only needed one receiver and decided to take that receiver in the seventh round. Let’s ignore the fact that the Bengals spent their first and second-rounder on tackles when their offensive line remains one of the strongest in the league so the need isn’t really there, nor was the need dire that they draft a tight end with one of their third round picks. Let’s ignore Marvin Lewis’ inability to coach in the playoffs time after time after time after time after time after time (he’s 0-6 now). Whatever.

At this point, the Cincinnati Bengals should just start ignoring everything. Ignore your needs, continue to build insane depth at positions that fall third or fourth on the check list and leave your main priorities unaccounted for year after year. If I was A.J. Green, I’d be livid. He’s made some insane plays and has carried this team without complaining for years now. Help a brotha, out. This is coming from someone who isn’t a Bengals fan, either. I’m a Steelers fan through and through, yet any real fan can look at an organization as misguided and negligent as the Bengals and become engulfed in a need for moral justice because no fans, not even Cleveland fans, deserve such incompetence from their franchises and the fact that such a thing is still a problem is as sad as it’s ever been. It’s 2015, we have technology, statistical analysis, endless Benjamins and then some and the Bengals still can’t figure out how to win a playoff game.

The loss of Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator proved to be a bigger blow to the team than I thought it would be. Cincinnati fell to 20th against the pass and the rush last year after a concrete fifth in both categories in Zimmer’s last year. When you look at the depth the Bengals have on defense, perhaps the lone project they’ve managed to not fall behind on, it’s criminal this team fell below 15th in any defensive category let alone 20th. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Leon Hall, Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick does not equate to a 20th-ranked defense on any planet and it’s a sad sign the team went so poorly coached last year.

But cheer up, Bengals fans, because Marvin Lewis is still here to practice mediocrity and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is returning to take a top-ten defensive lineup and let them run loose and wild like sheep on a prairie.

With no additions that truly matter on offense, franchise quarterback Andy Dalton trending down and the coaching staff being allowed to stay despite their obvious ineptitude, Cincinnati should look forward to keeping that egregious playoff streak going because this team ain’t going anywhere fast. Unless you’re drafting Hill or Green, run from Cincy like the plague.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: @OAK   Week 2: vs. SD   Week 3: @BAL   Week 4: vs. KC   Week 5: vs. SEA   Week 6: @BUF   Week 7: BYE   Week 8: @PIT   Week 9: vs. CLE   Week 10: vs. HOU   Week 11: @ARI   Week 12: vs. STL   Week 13: @CLE   Week 14: vs. PIT   Week 15: @SF   Week 16: @DEN   Week 17: vs. BAL

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Movie Review: Fantastic Four

Every year for the last three years since I started this blog, I’ve gone to the theaters to purposely see an awful production. However, there are a few basic rules to go over before you step in the door:

Rule 1: Don’t go alone.

Seeing a dreadful movie by yourself makes it twice as miserable. I strongly recommend you bring someone along to share in your suffering.

Rule 2: Don’t go on an empty stomach.

If you’re going to die from this viewing, go out with a full stomach. If you happen to vomit, oops.

Rule 3: Go at least a week after it was initially released.

Not only will this allow for the excommunication of the director and for a while, the actors and companies responsible for financing this hellhole, it allows for mostly empty theaters, which means you can react to the film’s happenings, or in this case, not happenings, instantaneously. If after a week someone still decided to see this travesty, they are there a) for the same reason you are, self-harm or b) they’re dumber than the Kardashians. If it’s a, they won’t care what you say. If it’s b, you won’t care what they say.

Rule 4: Expect to be tortured.

Sometimes production companies don’t care what their finished product looks like or how much toil it causes. As long as they earn a quick buck, they don’t care. If you’ve done your job correctly and managed to pick one of the worst films of the year, prepare for the worst. Prepare to deliver cuss-filled tirades. Prepare for the level of torture practiced during the Spanish Inquisition. Prepare to be mortally injured internally. Prepare for the fires of Hell. This film might have come through its gates.

Rule 5: Don’t drive home alone.

After watching a film where rash decisions were made, you might be, scratch that, you will be heavily inclined to make some rash decisions of your own. Don’t give in to the hate. Don’t join the dark side. Dammit, I wish I was reviewing Star Wars right now.

And that concludes the checklist. On to Fantastic Four Quacktastic Ducks.

It’s hard to forget the original Fantastic Four in 2005. Corny, cliche-ridden and foreshadowing all up and down the film strip, Fantastic Four had no suspense, drama or original conflict. The character development was minute, the acting pitiful and the direction elementary. It executed the careers of many of the actors that took part in the production, Chris Evans being the lone escapee. It earned a sequel because of the enormous payoff it got, but watched it implode. After that trash was taken off the curb, the Fantastic Four franchise laid dormant and everyone was okay with that.

After the grand success of most of the latest superhero ventures, 20th Century Fox decided to bring the old toy out of the box, clean it up and parade it in front of audiences in the hope that a spark might be ignited.

I had no interest in seeing a Fantastic Four film. I find the tag team the least of the Marvel superhero creations. Very few, when asked to name a superhero, are going to name someone from the Fantastic Four.

I waited for the hammer to come down and man, has it come down hard.

This year’s Fantastic Four has fallen to a microscopic 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on what I’ve been able to find, that is the worst score a superhero film has ever gotten on Rotten Tomatoes, surpassing Elektra‘s 10%.

It also dropped 78.7% in earnings compared to last Friday. That’s believed to be the largest drop for a comic book film from a Friday to Friday ever.

With stats like that, this film is making history. I had to see it.

So Fantastic Four is the bad movie to see in theaters this year and I went to see it with my brother, Chris, my best friend, Jon, and a fun co-worker, Zach.

Coming out of the theater, we all talked about what we didn’t like about it and what we didn’t like about it (not a typo, meant to repeat myself) and something Zach said rang especially true: “No one wanted a Fantastic Four movie”.

We have The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World and Mission Impossible. You think someone is going to choose Fantastic Four over any of those? Really?

Alas, money calls and by money, I mean stupid.

The thing is, Fantastic Four manages to be worse than its predecessor in every way and I honestly didn’t think that was possible. With a better cast in Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, and a director and company that should have learned from past mistakes, they faltered at every chance of improvement: story, characters, acting, direction, visuals, even soundtrack. All of it is dreadful. How did all of this happen?

For one, director Josh Trank threw his own film under the bus the day it was released and tried blaming Fox for the disaster he directed. I understand that at some stages the company paying the bill can be heavy-handed but Fox was not over your shoulder telling you how to direct the characters and visuals. Take accountability, bud.

There have been numerous reports of behind-the-scene gossip and conflicts that should have hinted at the tornado this film was gonna be as well. I’ve read reports of Trank nearly dropping gloves with Teller and being excessively hard to work with. That I’m sure is just the beginning but moving on.

Trank, probably because he was too busy making everyone’s life miserable, avoids his characters like the plague. No significant time is spent with any of our quartet or with our villain, Dr. Doom. Trank is so obsessed with plot, which I’m sure he’ll blame on Fox, that he ignores the focal point of the movie: the Fantastic Four. No one cares about your plot. No one cares about anything but the famous characters being portrayed in your popsicle stand. Your only true commodity you managed to leave on the shelf.

Miles Teller, who’s shown to be one of the youngest talents in Hollywood, is given close to no material as our leading man and a plot point contrary to Mr. Fantastic’s character nixes the gimmick Teller was trying to pull off and eliminates our main protagonist for a solid 15-minute portion.

Don’t get me wrong, if there is anyone that is a supporter of creative license in regards to comic book movies, it’s me. Directors and writers should be allowed to make the franchise their own while still honoring previous material. Not only does Trank not have a Stan Lee cameo in his film, he writes the characters like they’re his own creation. The Thing, someone with a hot temper, is written as a calm and collected individual, a polar opposite of The Thing. Only Johnny Storm parallels the original material but I’d like to put a quick plug-in here and say that The Human Torch is the most unlikable superhero ever. Irresponsible, immature and pitifully predictable, I find no intrigue in this character whatsoever.

However, the real nail in the coffin was when right after our heroes got their powers, a black screen popped up with the phrase, “1 year later.”

As Zach mentioned, and again, I totally agree, the best part of a superhero movie is watching them get their powers and learn how to use them. Trank skips all of that with a mere three words. One word in all caps would have sufficed: DISAPPOINTMENT.

This large passing of time thwarted all of the previous character development as well as the friendships we were just starting to be a part of. As I said, disappointment ensued.

Yet, there’s still more to talk about, like the fact that every character in the 2005 version is written better and acted better than they are here. Chris Evans made a better Human Torch, words I never thought anyone for ten generations of my family would ever type. Here I am typing them, geez.

A plot as trivial and meaningless as the 2005 version Trank somehow bests, taking the script of The Incredible Hulk and planting it in his own film. The heavy “government is evil” theme reeks from its last use and isn’t even executed well. Government is evil, I got it, paint some creativity on the screen. Don’t plagiarise the last artist’s work. I paid to see a movie, not a photocopy machine in its natural habitat.

Yet I assure you that is exactly what you will get from Trank’s attempt at a reboot but at far less of a pedigree.

There are so many reasons behind why this film is so bad (I found a YouTuber who did an investigation on it that I found quite interesting) that I can’t believe Fox ever released it. I think a postponement was in order and I think we all would have waited a few extra months if it meant we got a finished product even twice as good as this, I mean, did you look at this crap, Fox? It’s egregious!

There are so many mortal wounds in this brainchild that it’s hard to mention them all but one last one that I have to mention is how boring this film was. At a 100-minute run time, Quacktastic Ducks is already ridiculously short for a superhero flick, but when you watch it, it feels like you were in the theater for barely an hour if that. Nothing happens in this film. There are two action sequences the whole movie and only one of them holds any tension. Its reliance on a plot held together by paperclips is mind-numbing and makes you feel comatose. The script has clearly been rewritten so many times that it’s directionless with no theme clearly standing front and center except for “THE GOVERNMENT IS EVIL.”

Thanks, The Incredible Hulk, for donating the theme to the “20th Century FOX can’t-make-a-story-line Fund.” All donations are appreciated.

The lone highlight for this escapade is that the actors hold some talent if no material in their hands and Dr. Doom is made into a fairly intimidating villain even if we spend almost no time with him, meaning yet another underdeveloped villain in a superhero flick. Still, the potential was at least there that he could have been something more. I see little to no undiscovered potential anywhere else.

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. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the Enemy)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

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. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

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. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

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. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

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.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Fantastic Four: 28.

As my best friend, Jon, said on Twitter, “Saw Fantastic Four (Not worth the Hashtag). More like a Fantastic waste of my Money. #ReadAComicBook”

There’s no reason to watch this. Not the worst superhero film I’ve seen somehow, but very close, the Fantastic Four should going back to being dormant and think about staying that way this time around for a lot longer.

 

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Movie Review: Enemy at the Gates

Since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with history. I love it. I’m unsure why it means so much to me aside from the fact that I hope to make some of my own. Regardless of why, it’s always fascinated me. This same fascination has drawn me to war films time and time again. This was simply the next one.

Vasily Zaytsev (Jude Law) is thrown into a desecrated Stalingrad with five bullets and no rifle. This was a thing. The Soviet Union was so sparse on firearms that it had one rifle to every two men and the second was to follow the gunner until he fell and then pick up his rifle. For me, most of the stuff in this film, at least historically, I already knew about. I’m a history buff. However, I did not know about Vasily Zaytsev, one of the greatest snipers of World War II and a hero of the Soviet Union.

I love sniping in video games and have always been a solid shot. There is a dark euphoria to be found in winning a long-range cat-and-mouse contest with deadly consequences. It takes patience and precision, cleverness and reflexes, and picking your shots wisely.

This is one of the reasons American Sniper will be one of my next reviews. I’ve never seen a movie centered on a sniper but I’ve always wanted to experience that.

Enemy at the Gates is a history lesson as much as it is film. In no way am I insinuating that everything in this film is completely accurate because it’s not, but I think few everyday people realize how important the Battle of Stalingrad was nor how desperate it became. The Russians were so frantic that they began throwing bodies at the Germans with shovels and sticks.

Director Jean Jacques-Annaud’s cinematography in its opening stages tries to further this point but never gets as dark and hollow as I feel this history deserved. I find that many directors back away from dark material, as if they are afraid of traumatizing audiences. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be a concern. Saving Private Ryan has remained the greatest war film ever in my opinion for the simple fact that Spielberg feared no consequences. He made a film with no barriers, no limits and pure honesty and while it brought back dark memories for those who served, there’s no denying that Spielberg did justice to them and told it how it was.

That is what I want from my war films: brutal honesty, no sugar-coating or dramatization. Tell it how it is, how it was.

To my immediate recollection, the only films of the last five years that did this were Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor and David Ayer’s Fury. Studios these days can’t get the actors, the reporting and scripting or the budget to give the most telling picture.

Jacques-Annaud’s Enemy at the Gates doesn’t make this list either.

The biggest reason why is that Jacques-Annaud manages to slither his way out of the battle so many times to explore other subplots and outlets that weren’t needed. A cat-and-mouse contest of this magnitude does not require a love story, let alone a love triangle, but I’ll be damned if Jacques-Annaud didn’t spend the entire screenplay smashing this love triangle into a round peg. The idea that love could be found anywhere in such a desolate, dire place is obnoxious and in my opinion, impractical.

The visuals out of the gate were looking good and then, like a baseball announcer commentating on a lady in the stands rather than doing his job and announcing the action on the field, it was taken away. Again, a director decided to make a story something it wasn’t.

There is no need for romance in a story about Russian youth throwing their bodies into German 50 cal’s. Period. There is nothing romantic about that. There is no love on this battlefield or in this crumbling city. There is filth, shattered lives and the snipers that crouch in it, trying to add another body to the trash.

But sure, let’s throw Rachel Weisz in here and have a romance. Whatever.

Let me tell you all something. Of the target audience that gathered to see this war film, NO ONE CARES ABOUT RACHEL WEISZ! Beautiful she may be, but needed SHE IS NOT! Completely irrelevant to what any film-goer wanted, Jacques-Annaud will tell his cinematographers and production crew to talk to the hand while he demonstrates his obsession for Weisz and puts her in front of the camera as much as he can without getting fired by the companies spotting the money for this endeavor.

If I watch one more movie with a needless love story, I’m writing a feature story about it and I’m going to rant about it hardcore because this isn’t fun anymore. It’s getting ridiculous. EVERY MOVIE DOES NOT NEED A LOVE SUBPLOT.

With that mini-rant set aside, the rest of Enemy at the Gates is a solid seven out of ten. The characters are noticeable and acknowledged but not greatly so, the sets and visuals are the greatest achievement of the film and the tension is there at times. Rachel Weisz manages to sabotage the fuel tank though before it could go any further than it did.

This isn’t Rachel Weisz’ fault and I know that. She’s a beautiful actress and I always love seeing her in the Mummy trilogy when it pops up on television. However, because Jacques-Annaud never showed himself on-screen, she was the only person I could project my hate on. I’m sorry, Rachel. It’s not your fault.

The white flag for this film comes at the 45-minute mark when Jacques-Annaud has Jude Law’s Vasily contemplate his life’s meaning, what he’ll be known for and whether he wants to fight anymore at all. This means Ed Harris’ antagonist gets less screen time than he should and even less character development, though the argument could be made that this aspect was intentional. A sniper never knows anything about his adversary nor a soldier his. It’s nothing personal. It’s survival.

I would agree that could have been Jacques-Annaud’s intention if he hadn’t put a set piece in the script that then made it personal, another needless addition. Makes you wonder if this guy ever watched a good war film before.

As I was saying, the 45-minute mark is where the tension and suspense begin to loosen their grasp on the viewer and instead of that, you have a lot of thematic content that’s welcomed but I wish had been delivered in a way other than expositional dialogue to lover, because again, this film doesn’t need love subplots. However, by the 45-min mark, the love story and the cat-and-mouse game reverse roles, with the love story given the spotlight and the war grunge sent to the back. At this point, you have to go with it or shut it off because if you watch it hoping the grunge returns, it doesn’t. A sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.

The love story, despite all of the hate I’ve thrust upon it, does develop into something worthwhile and doesn’t lose my engagement. Rachel Weisz is lovely as always, but the love story also discredits Joseph Fiennes’ character to an absurd proportion, making the love triangle that’s trying to be instituted here seem all the more disparaging.

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. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the EnemyEquilibrium)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

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. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

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. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

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. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

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.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Enemy at the Gates: 72.

A film unsure of its tone or what message it wants to promote, Enemy at the Gates has its flaws, but there’s also no denying its set design and themes. The acting from Jude Law to Ed Harris is satisfactory although not at the level I wanted. We’re talking about one of the best snipers of all-time according to what I’ve read and researched and Jude Law is not an actor with a high enough plateau or large enough filmography to do this hero justice. At a basic level, the film works, but it could and should have gone farther than this.

 

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Movie Review: Hercules

It has been such a long time.

Guys, I apologize for that. I’ve been in a writing funk lately, working on sports features and I was at my church camp two weeks ago, which meant I had no access to a computer or a phone for a week.

I’ve still been watching movies and have been saving drafts so I know what I need to get back to, but nothing ready to publish yet. Then I opened up Netflix for the first time in a while and there were a bunch of new releases. There are a bunch of films I’m excited to see on Netflix so aside from what’s on Netflix, what’s in theaters and what I own, don’t expect anything else. It’s time to get back to reviews. That and Breaking Bad.

And so, the first film that caught my eye on Netflix and will be my first review after my hiatus is….Hercules?

I’m as surprised as you but it was the first thing that jumped out to me. It’s been almost four weeks since my last post. I had to start cracking pronto.

I had considered seeing this in theaters but then I saw Brett Ratner and was like, “ha ha ha, NO.”

Even I, someone who’s never been a big fan of the X-Men franchise, understands how bad a movie X-Men: The Last Stand was. It was awful, one of the worst superhero films ever made. However, I find myself believing Ratner might have a resurgence. He directed the Rush Hour franchise and they all entertained at the most basic level. I think Ratner needs to go back to the basics. Make people laugh again and stop taking the dramas and action power plays. Leave those to the big boys.

As expected, Hercules is built on heavy CGI and by heavy I mean noticeable. This film could have been the rebirth or final bullet in Brett Ratner’s career. This was a big deal and we’re starting off with suspect visuals? I’m not saying I’m rooting for the guy but come on, man.

In ways, Hercules is what I expected it to be. It’s mindless action at its most bare which is also one of the biggest problems with it. Hercules is a legend and therefore, his character should be presented as such. Instead, Ratner seems lured to repeat what his successful predecessors have done (big budget action films) and misses out on the film’s greatest asset. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a solid actor and one of the few who did not start as an actor but who can act. Sadly, Johnson is neglected for almost the entire film. He trained for the role for more than half a year and yet is given no character to exemplify. Can you imagine dedicating that much time to something and then you get there and the event’s cancelled?

It’s a huge blight on the film that Ratner dismisses his most valuable piece to the film’s success, putting an unfair amount of responsibility on the supporting cast who is now led by a faceless hero. Hercules, a character that has been immortalized in history for centuries, remains faceless. Quite an achievement, Ratner. Quite an achievement.

Thank God for Ian McShane, as much of the comedy and Hercules‘ most entertaining moments are delivered by him. The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t hold the experience nor the talent required to cover up the “protagonist out to lunch” placard, leaving McShane looking around like, “Guys?”

The characters are weak as is the writing. Only with McShane is there any light at the end of the tunnel. I appreciate the side crew element in action-based films but there isn’t enough quirks or more importantly, dialogue and character establishment, to make me care about these characters. They are there and I’m forced to put up with them.

With Hercules’ character left behind, any plot threads associated with him hold minute value, which sadly are all of them. A few days later, I’m still struggling to understand how you look at this finished product and you think, “Yeah, we did the character of Hercules justice.” They let Johnson walk into the spotlight and then they threw a cloak over him. It’s like throwing a cloak over an easel because the artist didn’t know what to paint, so he tried to sell his clients a covered canvas. Makes no sense, but I guess $100 million budgets allow this these days?

To go even further, Ratner pokes fun at the legend of Hercules, painting it as a fool’s charade rather than a feared fable. Would it have been hard to craft the hero that I so wanted from this film? Of course. Was it within the reach of Ratner? Absolutely but when I see a film struggling as hard as this one is, I truly don’t think Ratner cares anymore what people think of him.

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. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the EnemyEquilibrium)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

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 SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe PunisherDrive Hard)

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. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

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. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

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.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Hercules: 53.

With standard action and a plot line built on a bedrock of plot twists rather than on character, Hercules is the final nail in the coffin for Brett Ratner’s career. In what should have been a big deal for Johnson’s acting career, Ratner manages to make him as irrelevant as a snowball in the Florida summer heat. In closing, goodbye Brett Ratner. I think we all stopped wanting you after X-Men: The Last Stand.

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