Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sports: NBA (Opening Night)

The National Basketball League has their first games tonight with six teams facing off in three different matches. The first game of the night is between the reigning champions of the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron James and the Cavs took on the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony. Cleveland crushed New York with a 117-88 victory to start the season. 
The opening night of the season is a fresh start and any team has a chance at the moment with endless possibilities as to who will make it to the playoffs. Two teams that have a strong chance to make it to the playoffs and the finals are the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors who face off in a later game tonight.
The Warriors have something to prove after losing the championship series last year. One last game that starts off the NBA season is between the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. Portland made it to the playoffs last year and could have a strong chance to do it again this year. Excited to have some basketball back even if it is in the middle of a ton of other exciting sports events. 

The spurs went on to win against the Warriors 129-100. Portland beat Utah 113-104. On the second night of basketball but first game for other teams we have: MIAvsORL, DALvsIND, BKNvsBOS, DETvsTOR. I'm excited to be tuning into the Hawks later as they take on the Wizards. I'll also be following the Grizzlies who play the Timberwolves first. Along with these two teams, I'll be studying better teams that made the playoffs last year. I'll be watching Oklahoma City taking on Philadelphia and later Houston playing Los Angeles. 

Sports: MLB (World Series)

The final series of the postseason with only two teams left, the World Series begins tonight between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. Both teams have done well this year though the Cubs are highly favored in this matchup. We'll find out who starts off strong tonight with both coaches choosing their aces to start the first game. Since the American League won the All-Star game, Cleveland starts at home.
Game 1: For the Indians, Corey Kluber will begin on the mound and his counterpart for the Cubs will be Jon Lester. The Indians loaded the bases in the bottom of the 1st and scored on Jose Ramirez blooper infield single. They added another run when Brandon Guyer was hit by a pitch to lead the 2-0. In the bottom of the 4th, Roberto Perez homered to put the Tribe up by 3. Roberto Perez homered for a second time in the bottom of the 8th to put the Indians up by 6 runs. Cleveland went on to take game one with a shutout
Game 2: Jake Arrieta started game two for the Cubs while Trevor Bauer pitched for the Indians. Not to be shut out again, Anthony Rizzo doubled in the top of the 1st to put the Cubs up 1-0. 

Sports: NFL (Week 7)

Now that there are no undefeated teams remaining in the NFL, I'm going to take a look at the last place teams in each division and try to see if any of them have a chance to make it to the playoffs this year. There were so matchups of top teams this weekend that were fun to watch and an upset of the last undefeated team shows that every NFL team is fallible.

AFC East
The New York Jets triumphed for only the second time this year over the Baltimore Ravens. They remain under the Dolphins who also won against the Bills. Despite the loss, Buffalo is still second. The Patriots remain number one with a win over the Steelers. The Jets won't be played after the season is over.

AFC North
It's an extraordinary night in Cleveland as the Cavaliers start their season after being champions and the Indians start game one of the World Series, but the Browns have lost seven straight and remain without a win after a loss to the Bengals. The Browns face the Jets next week for their best chance at one win this season. As mentioned, Cinicnatti, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh lost.

AFC South
The Jacksonville Jaguars fell to the Raiders this weekend and had a two-game spurt against the Colts and Bears before that to be at 2-4. The Jaguars have the best chance of all the last place teams in the AFC as their division of the Texans, who lost to the Broncos on Monday night, and Colts who beat the other member the Titans, are not a great division.

AFC West
The Chargers beat the Falcons with a last minute field goal in overtime. San Diego could make it but they'll have to get past Kansas City who beat the Saints, Denver, and Oakland.

NFC East
This whole division looks good but the Giants are tied at the bottom with the Redskins who lost to the Lions right behind the Eagles who defeated the Vikings. The dominant Dallas Cowboys remained at the top with a bye-week.

NFC North
 Chicago may be in the World Series but da Bears remain at the bottom with only one win after a loss to the Packers who trailing behind the Vikings who got their first loss. Detroit beat Washington but still trail Green Bay and Minnesota.

NFC South
 This one is surprising as the Panthers were in the Super Bowl last year but have only one win this year after a loss to the Saints. The Falcons are doing everything they can to lose it in the last minutes. The Buccaneers have improved with a win over the 49ers.

NFC West
Their starting quarterback has been off and on and had controversy but the Niners remain at the bottom of a tough division. Los Angeles is at 3-4 after losing to the Giants. Arizona tied Seattle so the Seahawks remain at the top with a record 4-1-1.

Lots of sports to discuss tonight so I'm just going to take a quick look at next week. In week 8 we have some interesting divisional matchups to watch from Patriots vs. Bills to Chargers vs. Broncos, and Eagles vs. Cowboys could be interesting. I also might check out the Falcons vs. Packers. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Movie Review: Ouija: Origin of Evil

Ouija: Origin of Evil is a prequel to a spooky, yet lackluster original title Ouija that scared me but received abysmal reviews. I don't recall all of what happened in the original but I remembered some of the story and the twist in that one that leads to the story laid out in this movie. The setting is 1967 in the same house where murders would come back to haunt teenagers in the present day. During this time period a family that runs scams about contacting the dead lives there, a mother Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser), and her two daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson).

To spice up the act, Alice brings home a ouija board, Doris plays with it by herself and starts to communicate with an otherworldly being. The special effects are subtle and not too overused but as Doris becomes more possessed her eyes turn white and her mouth stretches overly large to create a disturbing visual. The movie establishes a decent emotional core as the three women mourn the loss of the father and husband. The need to reach out to the dead is understandable as they tread into dark magic.

Doris begins to act stranger as Lina has horrifying images of her mouth closing shut. A priest, Father Tom (Henry Thomas) becomes involved as he discovers the strange behavior leads to a more sinister plot by demonic spirits and the ghosts of tortured humans. The backstory is dumped on us in a bit of a rush as the movie speeds up towards a creepy climax. I wonder if they will continue pushing the story into the past if it is a success at the box office this weekend. 

The set pieces put viewers in the time period and all the costumes looked great as well taking us away from the world of internet and smartphones. The acting was great as well with an impressive performance from Wilson as the young possess Doris who has to carry most of the horror and her smug grin spooked me thoroughly. Basso and Reaser also deliver brilliant performances that make the acting in this film better than the usual horror fare. 

As far as horror films go, this one is impressive enough, though nothing that will keep you up at night and thinking about it too long afterward. It's tough to realize that Halloween won't be having any other horror movie except for this one but it's satisfying enough to have me squirming in my seat and enjoying the suspense and tension. Ouija was a movie that really didn't need a sequel but this one is fun nonetheless. 

Sports: College Football (Week 8)

In the eighth week of college football, a huge upset will change the ranking while other teams improved their chances to make it to the playoffs.. The marquee game of the weekend, Alabama vs. Texas A&M served only to solidify the Crimson Tide's dominance as the top-ranked team in the league. 

The biggest upset of the weekend came when Penn State upset 2Ohio State with a 17-point fourth quarter. Penn State already has two losses but they'll move into the top 25 with that impressive win. OSU will stay in the top ten. 

As the Buckeyes plummet, Michigan moves to second place with a win over Illinois. Clemson had a bye week and remain in third. Washington takes on the last playoff spot as the leader in the West. Louisville benefits from a win over NC State and Nebraska is still undefeated. West Virgina and Baylor head towards a matchup at the end of the year as they have both avoided losses so far this season as well. The Aggies won't drop too far since they lost to the best team and round out the top ten. 

Other teams I'm keeping an eye on are the Florida Gators who had a bye-week but remain atop the SEC East, the Boise State Broncos still haven't lost, and Utah has only one loss with a game against 4Washington next weekend. Beside the Utes and Huskies game, I'll also be following Clemson vs. Florida State, and Nebraska vs. Wisconsin. It looks like the top four have established their position but they'll have to work hard to defend their playoff chances. 

TV Show Review: Black Mirror (Season 3)

Netflix produced the third season of this previously BBC sci-fi thriller of stand-alone episodes that range from horror to mystery to romance yet all provide cautionary tales on how we use technology today. The third season has some harsh depictions of social media hate, societal ranking by online activity, and even technological effects on warfare. None of this episodes are cheerful and all of them end on a haunting note that will leave viewers second-guessing their online interactions and the nature of our reality. This season fell right in line with what I've enjoyed so far about the short series and I found no episode lacking in mind-bending social commentary and sci-fi entertainment.

The first episode "Nosedive" follows Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) as she tries to increase her ranking in a society that judges each social interaction with a five-star rating. As Lacie takes a road trip to her old friend/bully's wedding she encounters different rankings and finds that the world isn't open to those who haven't had positive interactions their whole lives. The scenario is a definite possibility as individuals achieve fame and money from Instagram likes and a person's career can be destroyed from a single Twitter rant.

"Playtest" depicts the growing trend of augmented reality only accelerated to tap into the main character Cooper's (Wyatt Russell) greatest fears from his childhood bully to grotesque spiders. The brain works against him as personally trauma become a reality and time is relative to the person interacting with the technology. I found this blend of sci-fi and horror one of the most enjoyable to watch though the ending was strange and simplified.

"Shut Up and Dance" was the most disturbing and sickening of the episodes. A young man Kenny (Alex Lawther) has his computer hacked and with the fear of compromised information being released begins to obey anonymous text messages. He encounters Hector (Jerome Flynn) and is ordered to do awful deeds. The threat of being spied on by hackers and the revelation of our inner secrets will spark fear for many viewers and none of the characters are sympathetic.

"San Junipero" starts out a bit confusing as a young woman Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) travels to a strange city of eighties or nineties nostalgia and falls for Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Each one of these stories puts viewers in a new world so it takes a while to become acclimated but when the twist is revealed for this strange city it is both saddening and fascinating for the possibilities it implies.

"Men Against Fire" shows how technology could brainwash an entire army into thinking a group of humans is other. Humanity has not had a problem with this concept but in the future, this technology could be the awful nudge needed. Stripe (Malachi Kirby) suffers a trauma after his first kill in the field in a war against a type of humans that are considered roaches for their inferior bloodline. They are depicted as zombies or vampires that don't talk but only howl. The layer beneath this reality is terrifying.

The final episode "Hated in the Nation" follows a detective Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) as she uncovers an awful terrorist plot from a string of murders. The ruminations on environmental impact and the consequences of social media interaction definitely had me thinking about the issues of a hashtag and online hate.

Overall, this season lived up to the first two by leaving me both terrified of technology and excited for the possibilities of the future. Some of the twists were easier to figure out this year, but still mad fun to watch. Black Mirror is one of my favorite shows the why it pushes emotional issues and mixed horror and sci-fi and leaves viewers hanging with no resolutions and no definite message. Each episode takes several minutes to fully be encompassed in the world but by the end, I saw each setting as something that could easily exist in a few years and may already be in development now. Creator Charlie Brooker has tapped into some of societies greatest fears through their most ambitious dreams. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

TV Show Review: High Maintenance

The new HBO comedic drama focuses on different characters throughout each episode connected by a character known only as the guy who bikes around New York City and sells pot to various people. Each character has their own issues and reasons for encountering the guy played by Ben Sinclair. The show started out as a web series and has graduated to thirty-minute episodes that can encapsulate up to two different storylines that interweave in strange connections not always noticed in everyday life.

Stories range from a young Muslim student to couples hosting an orgy to an entire episode from the point of view of a dog. The shows use the slice of life to explore issues of the human condition that are both humorous and emotional. The writers don't hold back on the awkwardness of being a weed dealer that interacts with all sorts of strange individuals that are either shut-in and antisocial or a bit too comfortable and overly social. The guy takes all this in stride with a relentlessly positive attitude.

The six-episode run felt entirely too short for the potential showed but the writers never planned to reveal much more about the guy or tell anything further than the anthology like tales that rip viewers away before they can become too attached to any single characters. It has a great feel of what it is like to work in New York encountering strange individuals lost in their own world or at least how I would assume it would feel especially with a job like delivery that isn't exactly person but with the illegal nature of the business causes purchasers to open up to a larger extent.   

Each show never failed to deliver a new surprise from daytime raves to meth usage to pushing back against stereotypes. With the freedom to follow any character that doesn't have to carry an entire season or even an entire episode, the creators Sinclair and his wife Katja Blichfield were able to explore the wholly different to  the oddness fo the mundane. There are cameos from plenty of recognizable actors but names that will not stick out and draw away from the mini plots. The guy is endearing enough as the everyman dealer that seems to recognize the bizarreness of each situation and yet accept the circumstances that he finds himself in due to his business.

With a strict code of referrals, the guy tries to avoid the pratfalls of dealing an illegal substance from robbery to arrest to exposure by the press. Still, the guy fails at moments with quick assumptions and desperation to make a quick buck. The viewer never fully realizes how the guy manages the business or if it is even profitable and how he receives his product but we see enough to sympathize with him and understand his function in society. I hope High Maintenance is renewed for many seasons to come to allow them to explore more of this interesting stories.