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One Team, One Jersey: Cleveland Browns

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Cleveland Browns are the biggest joke in the NFL. I actually wrote a piece detailing how they might be the worst franchise in professional sports. A champion in complete incompetence, Cleveland just finished the 2017 season 0-16, bringing Hue Jackson’s career record as a head coach to 1-31. All logical signs point to him losing his job, especially given he had three first-rounders on his roster this year, but Cleveland and logic simply don’t go together. He will be at the helm for 2018.

People spend their whole childhood playing football with the hope they make it to the NFL. When you’re drafted by the Cleveland Browns, your dreams die pretty fast. Football is supposed to be fun. That’s the whole point of playing it. Playing for the Cleveland Browns is downright depressing. It’s laughable. Just watching the Browns would make me want to quit playing.

You pity them initially but once you realize the team is digging its own holes, that pity quickly turns to unabated hatred. You hate the management that has no idea how to perform the bare necessities of their position (consider the amount of draft picks this team has had over these last few years) and the owner that refuses to sign a marquee free agent. Whether that results in an overpay or not should be of little consequence given the team’s desolate landscape.

Their ability to draft quarterbacks is legendary. Only the Browns could miss that many times. DeShone Kizer is painful to watch, regularly overthrows his receivers and makes mind-numbingly awful reads. Despite his mobile ability, he has little pocket awareness and perhaps less composure under pressure. Kizer ended the season with a completion percentage of 53, 22 interceptions to only 11 touchdowns and a sack percentage of 7.4 (38 sacks). It’s hard to tell at this point if the Browns are that bad at picking players or if there’s a psychological block that comes into play when an athlete dons the Cleveland gridiron colors.

Picking a jersey from this hellhole is very difficult. No one stays in Cleveland long enough to make an impression, leaving us with a lot of unproven youth to choose from.

Yes, perhaps we should consider Myles Garrett, one of only 82 players to ever be drafted first overall. Garrett has yet to show the talent that shot him to the top of draft boards, with a rookie campaign that was beset by injury and didn’t produce much flair from the edge rusher.

Duke Johnson Jr is one of the best third-down backs in the NFL. He, at times, shows the abilities of a starter. He’s predominantly a screen back and is good in the open field but I have a hard time seeing him in a starting role and you just don’t buy jerseys of third-down backs.

Christian Kirksey is one cocoon that could become a butterfly. 

He signed a four-year contract extension with Cleveland so if you get his jersey, he should be around for a while, but that’s the only draw you’re really getting out of it. He’s a backer in a weak defense who doesn’t make a lot of high value plays.

“Tim, if you’re looking for high value plays, why don’t you take Josh Gordon?”

Was Josh Gordon the first player in NFL history to record back-to-back 200-yard receiving games? Yes.

Is Josh Gordon also a complete idiot? Yes.

After leading the league in receiving while playing for the CLEVELAND BROWNS in 2013 (in a shortened season after failing a drug test), Gordon was arrested for driving impaired, suspended ten games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy again, suspended a game by the Browns for violating team rules, suspended the entire 2015 season for failing to follow the substance-abuse policy a third time, applied for reinstatement only to fail yet another drug test (that’s four times for those counting at home) and got suspended the first four games of the 2016 season before coming to the decision to leave football and try to get his life back. He was activated off the Exempt List in November of 2017.

Gordon has set a couple of franchise records, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Josh Gordon is a horrible role model and toxic personality to have in a locker room. He’s completely unreliable and it’s a virtual certainty that he will get suspended a sixth time. That’s not someone I want to support or associate myself with.

When it comes to Cleveland, you have to look at folk heroes. For example, Peyton Hillis is a legitimate selection. While he doesn’t meet either of the requirements for this series, a Peyton Hillis jersey is one I can respect. While he only had one great year in the league, there was a lot of hype surrounding him that season and it was well-deserved. He gathered 1,177 yards and 11 TDs on the ground after starting only 14 games. He added nearly 500 receiving. It seemed like everyone was rooting for him, so much so that he won the Madden cover vote after the season. There’s a good chance he’s the last Browns player to ever show up on the cover of Madden and it’s probably for the better honestly. Not a lot of folk heroes pass through Cleveland and certainly not many good players, which leaves us with only one true choice.

One of the best offensive lineman for nearly a decade, Joe Thomas is a 10-time Pro Bowler and has been first-team All-Pro seven times in his career. His streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps is the longest streak in NFL history, a streak that ended this past season due to a torn triceps. He’s regularly been in the conversation for best offensive lineman in the league and he’s done all this while playing for a franchise that certainly doesn’t deserve him. There’s a chance he retires this offseason, which would be a great loss for professional football and the Cleveland Browns. Joe Thomas is the only thing that fan base has to look forward to.

My pick: Joe Thomas. My jersey: Away White.

Image result for joe thomas away jersey free use

 

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One Team, One Jersey: Cincinnati Bengals

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Cincinnati Bengals have been on the struggle train for a while now, with seemingly no end in sight. A roster that at times has shown promise has been unable to pop out a playoff win. The team hasn’t won one of those since 1990, stifled by a host of draft busts such as Ki-Jana Carter and Akili Smith. With Marvin Lewis at the head for another few years fresh off a contract extension, that doesn’t look to change. A culture has been created in Cincinnati for dirty play, from notable players such as Vontaze Burfict, quite possibly the league’s dirtiest player, and Adam Jones. That culture cost them a playoff win in 2015, one of the weirdest endings to a football game you’ll ever see. With the game all but over, running back Jeremy Hill got stripped by young talent Ryan Shazier, giving Pittsburgh another chance. Vontaze Burfict went headhunting in the most crucial moment of the contest and Adam Jones just couldn’t help himself when it came to doing something stupid.

The Bengals have only seemed to embrace those with character issues by drafting Josh Shaw, who did this, and Joe Mixon, who did this. This is not to say the Bengals are the only team to do this. Plenty of teams have decided to give players with flawed histories a second chance, but they have done little to prevent this aggressive mindset from festering.

You can make an argument that Andy Dalton, the Red Rifle, is a jersey worth having, but the TCU product has yet to win a playoff game. He has made a career of chucking 50-50 balls to one A.J. Green and there are rumors Cincinnati may let him test free agency. If I buy a jersey, I want it to be one that will stay relevant and I don’t see Dalton staying relevant in Cincy or anywhere for that matter. He’s barely stayed relevant during his time there. He’s had a QBR over 60 once in his seven-year career and is coming off his worst campaign since his rookie season, completing a slice under 60 percent of his passes. In fact, you can make the argument the less you use him, the better he plays. In his best statistical season, he threw for only 3200 yards in 13 games. He had 386 attempts in those games, an average of about 30 per. The more he throws, the worse he performs. He’s not a play caller that can take over a game, which is what you look for your quarterback to do. I’ll pass on this misfire.

I’m sure someone out there wants to see Tyler Eifert’s name on this list, but the Notre Dame star has dimmed quite a bit in recent years. Coming off his third back surgery, his career highlights are likely behind him and the time when he was in the conversation as one of the best tight ends in football has passed. He had 13 touchdowns in 2015, quite an accomplishment for a tight end, but has played in only ten games since. In total, he has missed about two and half seasons worth of time because of injuries.

One of the best defensive lineman in the league, Geno Atkins has big moment potential. He has the impact of a game-changer. He has a high motor, a bull rush than can overpower a lineman of any caliber and a swim that can finesse nearly any double team. He’s also one of the best values you can find on the defensive line at a $9.5 million cap hit. Cincinnati grabbed him in the 2010 draft in the fourth round out of Georgia. He was the 13th defensive tackle taken. To get a player with the ceiling he has at that round is a steal for a franchise. He’s already set a franchise record in sacks with 12.5 (2012) and has had at least nine sacks in each of the past three seasons. He’s the player to fear on that defense.

But Atkins isn’t the only Georgia stud on the Bengals. One Adriel Jeremiah Green, drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, began his career with five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has yet to miss a Pro Bowl since coming into the league and this despite a lingering injury history.

And look, maybe they should have taken Julio Jones, who wasn’t taken until the sixth pick that year, but A.J. Green might be the third best receiver in the game. He’s got the hands and leap made for the deep ball and no matter the coverage, A.J. Green always seems to be a safe bet. He has excellent sideline awareness and the type of vertical presence one associates with Calvin Johnson. Goal line fades were made for athletes like Green, someone who can simply outmuscle you and go over top of you, mano-a-mano. Green also has speed that defenses have to respect (recorded a 4.47 at the combine). Only making it more impressive is that Cincinnati has never given Green a solid number two. Marvin Jones hadn’t yet come into his peak when Cincy let him walk and just when they found a talent in Mohammed Sanu, who showed the potential of a one when Green missed time, Cincy let him go, too. The lack of weapons on offense has hurt this team and if it weren’t for Mr. Green, they’d have been bottom feeders long before now. Where A.J. goes, the team goes.

It’s possible Green might be on his way out, too. 2018 is the final year of his four-year, $60 million extension and he’ll be 29, but it’s also true that he’s been one of the most dominant players at his position for five plus years now. To be honest, Cincinnati doesn’t have much else going for them.

My pick: A.J. Green. My jersey: Home Black.

Image result for aj green home jersey free use

 

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Movie Review: The Conjuring

Image result for the conjuring movie poster free useJames Wan’s 2013 novella was beloved by audiences, conjuring over $300 million and becoming one of the highest-grossing horror films in cinematic history.

As I’ve made my way through the depths of horror these last few years, I’ve found a lot of duds, the type of garbage that turned me off to the genre at an early age. I’ve also found some crystals such as Cabin in the Woods, Sinister, The Babadook and The Shining, films that demonstrate tension, creativity and imagination. These are the type of productions that keep the category alive. We need more of them.

The Conjuring, through and through, is an ode to original horrors such as The Exorcist, playing on high wires, shredding one’s nerves against a grater and stretching them with a rolling pin like an experienced culinary maestro. Wan has a talent for this type of film making, pairing a fascination with cinematography with a genuine care for character. The widely known pitfalls of the niche are tactfully avoided by his pen strokes. (You’ll be hard pressed to find a misplaced horror trope.)

This isn’t to say The Conjuring is revolutionary in its innovativeness. Familiar imagery is often used to give us rather blatant gestures. Wan is not trying to finesse you. He’s going to come at you. Here, we’ll play a game of hide and seek in Rhode Island before unleashing the stops in the final third. A certain bar of patience is required, though I feel the apprehension to what we all know is coming is more than enough of a reason to stick around. We’re all toys in Wan’s fantasy. We’re just being played with.

The acting is capable though nothing dramatic. Most of its success is from its authenticity. Invested characters are key to an audience’s sympathy and involvement. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring intrigue to demon hunters and paranormal specialists, a concept that is rather difficult to take seriously without our acceptance of these leads.

I feel that directors of scare stories underappreciate the value a character brings to said moving picture, whether it’s a slasher flick or dramatic mind bending. Cynics, especially like myself, are looking for any opportunity to remove themselves from the equation, which spells, “Uh-oh” for horror creationists. An audience that is not slaved by the puppeteer is hard to frighten. They still feel they have control of the situation. That’s why drawing a line from your audience to a character is so important, whether that person is a protagonist or villain. Friday the 13th is great because that line is drawn from us to Jason. He embodies emotional trauma. It’s hard to watch a film like that and not get even a little uneasy. The same goes for Michael Myers and Halloween.

So when you start the film and find yourself asking why we’re spending what seems like forever on this family, that is why. It gives us time to get to know ourselves in this pattern.

This film contains little to no jump scares. Wan is not someone to dab in the trivial. Wan would prefer to throw elements into his pressure cooker and watch them slowly rise up until its overbearing, silently laughing like a mad scientist.

This is not the type of movie to scare the daylights out of you, nor tell you a whole lot about yourself. There are shades of destiny talk here and there between the Warrens but not much in form of storytelling is going on. It is, however, a nice stamp to add to your passport of horror trips if you’ve just begun your adventures. It dedicates itself to what the origins of this storytelling based themselves on: a slice of visual grandeur, a pinch of narrative bravado and a heavy sampling of anticipation.

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. (Tommy Boy, Death NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin Hood)

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. (The Snowman, Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

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 Conjuring: 84.

People might have hyped this up a tad too much for me to see it as a magnum opus, but it’s still clear that The Conjuring pulls its punches and waits for its characters’ most vulnerable moment before unleashing on them. James Wan is certainly a prodigy in the industry.

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Movie Review: Tommy Boy

Image result for tommy boy movie poster free useI recently watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective for the first time, one of the 1994 Jim Carrey trifecta (The Mask, Dumb and Dumber) that spawned the comedian’s career in film. In it, you see what happens when a mind of humor is let loose like a dog off a leash. Carrey helped write the screenplay for Ace Ventura, allowing him near complete control of his character and surrendering to him near ultimate authority in the investigator’s portrayal. It worked quite well. Ace Ventura is a true work of stand-up comedy put to film, one that deserves a second viewing before being talked about.

Pieces like Ace Ventura do not come around often. Producers play a far larger role in the industry then they are meant to, leading to corporate heads telling artists they are restricted in their works of freedom. That is what is beautiful about art: it holds unlimited potential. It is genuinely free. An artist, through willpower, creativity, ingenuity and diligence forms an idea, one that was once amorphous and now has a visual element. Art is never finite. It always has something more to say if you but only take the time to look upon it.

It’s also important, however, to state that one must have the talent and ambition necessary to put all those pieces together. It is yet another portion that makes a movie’s success that much more impressive: there are so many people who help create a film. Moving pictures require hundreds of people.

Tommy Boy is what happens when too much independence is given to an actor, or perhaps not enough. Tommy Boy is one of comedian Chris Farley’s brainchilds. He’s the lead, asked to carry the story forward through charisma and spontaneous off-script meandering.

If you’ve watched Ace Ventura, you know there is a minimal weight placed on the plot. The story arc is not why we’re watching and in the grand scheme of things is rather meaningless. Jim Carrey is why anyone starts that picture, as well it should be, and the Canadian-American lavishes in front of the camera, deploying all the eccentricities and chimerical wit he can muster.

Tommy Boy is what happens when you force a narrative onto a comedian rather than allow him to form his own. Chris Farley is a treasure of the 90’s, one of the best that Saturday Night Live ever churned out. He excelled at the short skit, bringing an overbearing presence so animated actors often struggled to keep straight faces through his routines. Farley put a premium on making his audience laugh and always felt his fellow compatriots were a part of that group.

While we see from the get-go that Farley’s character is the capitulation of absurdity, we also notice a rather convenient restraint of that free spirit emblematic of the film’s chief character flaw: funneling. The creative juices seem bottlenecked rather than poured over the script. A character is only allowed to go full auto if the script says such. In few of his routines did I ever find Farley underwhelming and yet here he clearly is and given the enthusiasm he displayed during his entire career, it’s hard for me to believe he phoned it in here. It seems more likely producers didn’t want the film to go over the handlebars.

David Spade, who I’ve never been a fan of, is asked to bring a guided hand to Farley’s plot-appointed erratic character. While given some dry humor, Spade gets few barbs in himself, directing more of the audience’s attention toward Farley in the hopes he pulls another masterful routine.

Feature films were never Farley’s forte, however. Perhaps he would have gotten better with more practice, but it never seemed that was where his talent lied. His films did fine at the box office because of his popularity as an entertainer, not because of those films’ quality.

Tommy Boy might be a cult favorite, but it doesn’t offer anything substantial to write home about. There is a sales pitch scene that is quite good, seemingly taken right out of an SNL episode, and a few small moments that might warrant a brief grin, but nothing that warrants a second viewing aside from the nostalgia that comes from watching Farley perform again. Vintage Chris Farley is SNL Chris Farley, when he was one of the bad boys of Saturday Night Live, starring alongside Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and Spade. Film Farley is only memorable because of the loose connection it has with the golden days of 90’s SNL. Each movie he signed up for was another chance to strike silver, but none ever panned out. If we’re going to remember Chris Farley the comedian, let’s remember him at his height, not for things like Tommy Boy.

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. (The Snowman, Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

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 Tommy Boy: 50.

Tommy Boy is a comedy that’s remembered that is honestly better off forgotten. No meaningful impressions were made during it and there’s little reason to revisit it.

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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 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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