Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sports: NFL (Week 2)

The professional football season moves on to the second week. The first game of this week pushed a team I root for, the Cincinnati Bengals, into an emergency situation because they have not scored a single touchdown in the first eight quarters of their season. The Houston Texans take the Thursday Night Football game with an impressive performance by Deshaun Watson, from the championship Clemson Tigers, who ran for a touchdown at the end of the second half.
It's still hard to tell which teams are going to breakout but it is pretty clear that some teams don't have what it takes this year. The champion New England Patriots got their first win of the season over the New Orleans Saints.
The Steelers and Ravens both got a win to go up 2-0 in the AFC North. The Broncos and Chiefs did the same thing in the AFC West. The Panthers got their second win possibly making another run to the Super Bowl after a rough 2016 but making it here and losing in 2015. Their biggest competition will be the Atlanta Falcons who won the Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers.
The Detroit Lions took the Monday Night Football game over the New York Giants putting Detroit into the lead of the NFC North.
The season is still early so it will be easier to spot who is a playoff contender in the upcoming weeks. I might break down the league by division next week if I can spot a leader in each one but as of now, there are a few teams still at the top and other with an even record. Exciting games coming up are from the teams highlight above the Falcons vs the Lions, both undefeated, and the Patriots vs Texans, an AFC playoff rematch. 

TV Show Review: The Strain (Season 4)

A show that had once seemed really interesting turned into a bit of a chore to watch even as it moved toward a finale. There were enjoyable points throughout the four seasons like the nuclear blast in New York City. The show picks up with the repercussions of this wild finale and sets the stage for the human characters last stand against the strigoi. I really don't like that name when this show was first advertised as a viral vampire horror. In my season three review, I expressed my dismay with the choice and mentioned the clumsiness of the dialogue with this terminology. I got over it somewhat this time around but the show still has pretty cheesy dialogue, though the special effects could be impressive at points, like the creepy tentacle tongues that coming out of the enlarged mouths of the creatures.

Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the epidemiologist is hiding out in the wasteland of New York after his son Zach (Max Charles) the most annoying character on television set off a nuclear bomb. The strigoi run the city putting up a front that humans only need to donate blood to avoid trouble. Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) knows the truth as she works at a human baby farm where pregnant women are forced to give birth to strigoi slaves. Zach now lives under the direction of Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) who has becomes possessed by the master. Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) carries out the master's will by setting up concentration camps.

Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) has left New York City and lives out in the flyover states hunting strigoi with Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones). The show goes into the backstory of Quinlan and the Strain is often at its worst when it tries to show backstory. Still, Quinlan is a highlight of the show with his abilities making for some of the best action as he works with Vasiliy to obtain a nuclear bomb. They eventually commandeer a plan and return to New York with the weapon. Ephraim has discovered the evil plan of the master and his strigoi to farm humans and he sets out to learn the awful truth. Eldritch Palmer tries to foil Vasiliy's plan but they manage to escape before he can stop them.

Dutch saves Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) who was sick in a hospital under a different identity. She meets up with Ephraim and Vasilly joins them. Gus (Miguel Gomez) was working with a group of mercenaries to steal food from the strigoi slaves but they run into some trouble especially when Alonso (Jamie Hector) betrays him and tries to side with the master. The show works toward a confrontation revolving mainly around Zach and Ephraim. Zach has a love interest who turns him down and the master turns the girl into a strigoi, but that was one of the weaker stories of the season. Eventually, the master sends Zach out to trick Ephraim though Dr. Goodweather does not fall for it. The finale sees the heroes trying to set off one last bomb to kill the master.

Quinlan fights the master but loses only weakening his current physical form before Quinlan dies. The master orders Zach to kill Ephraim but Zach has an attack of conscience and refuses. The master vomits the infectious worms into Ephraim's mouth rendering all the zombie-like strigoi motionless and allowing Vasiliy and Dutch to escape. As the master takes over Ephraim's body, Zach seeks forgiveness for his evil ways and ruining the show by becoming the ultimate savior and setting off the nuclear bomb. The show wraps up quickly with the strigoi being wiped out and the atmosphere healing itself. Vasiliy returns to his extermination job and has a neat little voiceover to end it all.

The Strain really plummeted in quality or maybe was never that good in the first place. The apocalypse was slow moving and bizarre and at times the horror was decent enough to make up for the mediocre acting and odd plotting. The Strain has long been overshadowed by better genre shows but still made it to four seasons. It started as an exciting horror show with the mind of Guillermo Del Toro behind it but deflated until it was just a silly mess. There was always potential and characters like Ephraim, Quinlan, Setrakian, Dutch, Gus, and Eichorst but never lived up to the promise. 

Movie Review: American Assassin

The novels by Vince Flynn create a compelling character that hopes to transfer to cinema as some of his other spy predecessors have before. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) has an interesting origin story that is controversial in this day and age and glossed over quite a lot in the film. In a brutal opening scene, Rapp experiences awful tragedy while vacationing on a beach in Spain with his fiancé to whom he just purposed. Terrorists invade the beach and kill his fiancé and shoot him. The story jumps forward 18 months where Rapp is in a dark place, training at MMA and shooting at the gun range. I have only read the first part of the first book but could already spot significant differences that change the tone of the story and make Rapp out to be a little more of a loose cannon than a future secret agent.

Somehow, his odd behavior and fraternizing with terrorists leads him to a cell that the CIA could not find. He is about to attack when a task force swoops him to save him. Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) has been watching Rapp and decided that he would be perfect for a secret program known as Orion. After interrogating him for a few days, she takes him out to a secret training facility in Virginia led by the older spy Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The major plot starts to develop as nuclear material goes missing and a renegade American spy Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) is seen making mysterious deals. Ghost was trained by Hurley and hold a grudge against his former tutor.

The training sequence is rushed as Rapp confronts another trainee Victor (Scott Adkins) as they tussle in the forest and train in a warehouse using special goggles. The threat of the nuclear bomb grows to the point that Hurley has to deploy his team in the field including Rapp, though he is understandably reluctant after Ghost turned out to be such a rotten apple. The group goes after the seller of a nuclear trigger and the physicist who set it up with the help of another agent, Annika (Shiva Negar) who has been in the field for years. The mission goes haywire when Ghost kills Victor but Rapp disobeys orders and hunts down the seller, learning more about the nefarious plan and capturing the physicist. Hurley is reluctant to share his knowledge even after Ghost ambushes them.

There was a neat little twist with Annika's true identity but it doesn't affect the plot that much. Ghost manages to get the drop on Hurley and there is a great sequence of acting between Kitsch and Keaton as Ghost tortures Hurley. The film follows a pretty generic track with not a ton of surprises. The action is decent enough and equivalent to some of the lesser spy thrillers. O'Brien does a good job with the hand-to-hand combat and the budget doesn't skimp too much on the explosive effects. I would have liked to have seen a car chase but there is a neat fight scene on a boat between Ghost and Rapp.

American Assassin probably won't spark a new franchise with a middling box office on its premiere weekend and I won't be surprised if it drops off rapidly with another more tried and true spy franchise sequel coming onto the scene this upcoming weekend. The story seems a little off and the politics of the Iran nuclear deal seem shortsighted. The logic is a bit of a stretch as well. Still, O'Brien was charismatic enough though he does look a little too similar to Kitsch causing some confusion in dark scenes that switch between the characters. Keaton is back in action and I always enjoy seeing him on the screen. I'd also like to see Sanaa Lathan in more movies though she didn't get to do as much in this story. Shiva Negar was also impressive as a newcomer. American Assassin is enjoyable and I'm glad it introduced me to the writing of Vince Flynn.

TV: 69th Primetime Emmy Awards

CBS broadcast the 69th Emmy Awards and the late-night host Stephen Colbert led the comedic event. I was switching over to the football game so I missed most of the sketches and the opening monologue but I'll mainly be focused on the award winners and probably won't publish this until the day after due to time constraints. I always like to discover new shows from the Emmys and see which shows that I've enjoyed receive recognition. There is so much television out there that I think the task of finding a single show to triumph seems near impossible but these awards will certainly put a spotlight on excellence. 

Outstanding Drama Series: The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
I enjoyed this show a lot, it's haunting and depressing and well-deserving of the victory. The Handmaid's Tale pushes Hulu into the mainstream as a serious streaming service snatching the big award before Netflix who has been trying for it a bit long. Netflix had three shows and I thought The Crown but more so Stranger Things might snatch it. The only other competitor was This Is Us, the tearjerker NBC drama. Better Call Saul was definitely one of my favorite show but something about it makes me forget at year's end. House of Cards needs to fall off this list as it is no longer entertainingg and it was foolish of HBO to put forward Westworld instead of the awesome show, The Leftovers. 

Outstanding Comedy Series: Veep (HBO)
Veep wins again. I had finally caught up on all these episodes before this latest season and while I found the show funny, I didn't think it was quite the caliber of earlier seasons. Atlanta was my favorite here and it had the momentum but for some reason, it did not take home the statue. Veep is on the way out and Atlanta won't be around for another year so maybe one more time around for the HBO political comedy before something new takes the throne. I haven't seen either of the network shows, black-ish and Modern Family. I enjoyed both of the Netflix series, Master of None and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and hope one day both these shows can rise. Silicon Valley is also hilarious and I'm curious what it will be like going forward.

Outstanding Limited Series: Big Little Lies
Not surprised by this wonderfully dark drama about domestic abuse and the small town gossip of mothers in a wealthy beachside neighborhood winning the top prize. Limited series has a bunch of great shows like Fargo, a weaker third season, and Feud: Bette and Joan, a winner in another year. The Night Of was also really moving. I didn't see Genius. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Elizabeth Moss, The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
Elizabeth Moss played a great role in the most depressing show of the year and her voiceover was one of the best parts. I need to see Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder. Claire Foy in The Crown will be a growing role though I think she's only in it for one more season. Evan Rachel Wood was the best part of Westworld and Keri Russell also performs in The Americans. Robin Wright probably is the best part of House of Cards and her rise to power should lead to a great series finale.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)
Sterling K. Brown as the businessman seeking out his father delivered something that so easily brought tears to my eyes that it will be hard to forget for some time. It's too bad his speech got cut off. His costar Milo Ventimiglia was the only other star I could have seen winning. Kevin Spacey has won before, I think, but should be wrapping up his role next year or so. Liev Schreiber keeps getting nominated but I don't see him ever winning, though I do like the show. Bob Odenkirk should win when he comes to the end of his brilliant performance as Saul aka Jimmy. Matthew Rhys might take it next year of The Americans series finale really stuns.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus takes the award again for what may be her last or next-to-last as she approaches the series finale. Pamela Adlon could take over this spot but I've yet to start the second season and Elle Kemper may always be nominated but never win. I haven't seen any of the other nominees.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)
I thought Donald Glover's win would lead to a win for the show but just recognition for the actor came this year. Glover also took home a director award. Jeffrey Tambor has been the favorite but was usurped this year. Aziz Ansari might have taken it if the other two weren't around. William H. Macy's Frank will be a steady nominee and his role is so funny. So is Zach Galifianakis as the bumbling clown. Anthony Anderson reminds me that I need to bing black-ish one day soon. 
Outstanding Lead Actress in a  Limited Series: Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies (HBO)

It was a tossup between Nicole Kidman or her costar Reese Witherspoon but Kidman's harrowing storyline won out. The subjects of the Feud led to two great performance between Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange that would have won in another year. Felicity Huggman in American Crime is on my watchlist.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series: Riz Ahmed, The Night Of (HBO)
Riz Ahmed was brilliant in this dark series and he was helped by his costar John Turturro who also won. The only other performance I saw was Ewan McGregor as twins in Fargo.
Other Awards: The supporting Drama roles went to streaming shows, Ann Dowd for Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale and John Lithgow for Netflix's The Crown. In limited series supporting roles, Laura Dern won for her supporting role as the angry mother Renata on Big Little Lies (HBO) as well as Alexander Skarsgård as the abusive husband in the same show. Supporting comedy roles were dominated by SNL with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon taking home statues. Another great win was San Junipero from BlackMirror for best TV movie, Charlie Brooker had one of the best acceptance speeches. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

TV Show Review: One Mississippi (Season 2)

When I heard that Tig Notaro's series was coming back for a second season, I put it at the top of the list for me to catch up and watch. I burned through the first season laughing out loud at every episode and the quirky behavior f Tig's family. In the first season, Tig returns to Mississippi from Los Angeles to attend her mother's funeral. The second season sees Tig returning permanently to live with her stepfather Bill (John Rothman) whose strange habits grate on her nerves but also amuse her. Her brother Remy (Noah Harpster) still lives upstairs and struggles with his dating life. Tig also has a new romantic interest, her coworker Kate (Stephanie Allynne). Kate is not sure of her sexuality and reluctant to date Tig.

Even Bill, who lives such a strict lifestyle, has met someone he can bond with when he has a medical emergency on the elevator and Felicia (Sheryl Lee Ralph), a woman who works in the same building, escorts him to the hospital. Remy finds his best opportunity to meet someone is at church and first, he attends a Vietnamese church where a nurse he met at his Civil War reenactment attends. However, when another performer says something racist, Remy doesn't stand up for her, and this is a major infraction in the time of Trump. Remy attends another church where he meets Desiree (Carly Jibson) a loud single mother with some interesting opinions. Remey and Desiree hit it off and she moves in almost immediately.

Tig finds it frustrating that she can't sway Kate so she finds other opportunities to date, not always easy in Mississippi. The sponsors on the radio show also start to go away as Tig touches on complicated topics like molestation. Kate and Tig have to seek out a new station to work at but there are plenty of jerks that work there too. Each characters' relationship moves forward, Kate jealous of Tig's other dates, Desiree sharing space with Remy, and Bill learning the horrors of institutional racism and slavery. Bill is very particular about his living area and not always great at confrontation so Desiree's boisterous nature clashes with his lifestyle.

The episodes are short and so it the season, which is tough, but also shows how effective Tig is at creating great characters. I enjoyed every part of these shows and the intrigue of relationships elevates this season above the original. Kate has a terrible experience at their radio station when their boss masturbates with her in the office. There is no action taken by the owners and this infuriates Tig and Kate. Tig doesn't share Kate's story but does get brutally honest on her radio show causing Bill and Remy to come to terms with what they allowed to happen by looking the other way. Tig does manage to convince Kate to come have dinner and spend the night and the show ends with a new relationship forming.  

One Mississippi was a really pleasant surprise and I'll have to seek out more of Tig Notaro's standup because this show was hilarious. Rothman's Bill is a highlight of the show as the compulsive stepfather and Harpster's Remy gets good jokes in there too. The show does not shy away from tough issuesbut approaches them head on with wit and resilience. The show is not for ht faint at heart but is well worth the short amount of time it takes to binge on Amazon Prime. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sports: College Football (Week 3)

Most of my college football watching this weekend will focus on two games that will give me a snapshot of two conferences: the SEC, mostly the SEC East, and the ACC. I'll keep an eye out for any upsets but this week continues the mismatched games that occur frequently in the early part of the season. The first game that I'll watch will be the Florida Gators taking on the Tennessee Volunteers. The winner of this game will fight with the Georgia Bulldogs for the top of the SEC East. The other game I'll watch is the primetime battle between the Clemson Tigers and the Louisville Cardinals.

All the way to the third quarter of the SEC battle saw only three field goals, two from Florida and one from Tennessee. The Gators got the first touchdown, only their third of the season, with a pick six. So far, the Gators had only defense touchdowns. The Gators could have taken the game even further away but a goal-line fumble turned a touchdown into a touchback. The Volunteers scored a touchdown but a penalty gave Florida good position to respond. Tennessee scored again pushing this to a three-point game in the final minutes. Tennessee nearly scored but their trouble at the goal line continued but their three missed field goals did not last as they tied the game at 20 points. Looking like the game would go into overtime, Florida threw a long pass for a final second touchdown and the win.

The ACC match featured two high-powered offenses that exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter. A costly penalty for Clemson weakened the secondary and helped Louisville score. However, the evenly matched first quarter led to Clemson taking the reigns and running away with the game. I only stuck around for about the first half and early third quarter before it looked like there was no turning back for Louisville. The Clemson Tigers have thoroughly established their dominance in the ACC.
Looking around the league, most of the ranked teams won but there were some upsets. Mississippi State beat 12LSU putting into question who would be second behind Alabama in the SEC West. Vanderbilt upset 18Kansas State as the Commodores could fight for the top of the SEC East while the Big 12 looks to be under the control of Oklahoma. The PAC-12 also had some late night turmoil as 19Stanford lost to San Diego State and 25UCLA lost to Memphis.

Next week, I'll keep an eye on Florida vs Kentucky, TCU vs Oklahoma State, Mississippi State vs Georgia, and UCLA vs Stanford. Not the most exciting week but conference play will really get underway so we'll start to see who dominates in their local regions. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie Review: mother!

Darren Aronofsky makes intense thrillers and his latest is no different. I had no idea what to expect from this film only seeing the cryptic trailer and seeing the film before the reviews. Since its release, mother! has been the source of opinions ranging from hatred to adoration. My opinion rests somewhere in the middle as I was entertained through the whole film and shocked at various moments while also disturbed and little letdown by the outrageous finale. Thinking about the film later, my opinion grows more favorable and it is the kind of film that one would continue to think about days or even weeks after seeing it. The film borders on horror even having a few jump scares that I usually enjoy in a film while also just being creepy and horrific through various scenes.

The film begins with a woman burning and then a man (Javier Bardem) placing a crystal on a stand. A house magically repairs from fire damage all through the room until it focuses on a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) in bed. She wakes up and searches the house. The camera constantly whirls around staying primarily focused on Lawrence and hardly ever going outside of the house. Bardem's character is a poet that can't seem to produce any work or have any affection towards his doting wife. She works to repair the house as he locks himself in his room struggling to prevent art. A mysterious orthopedic surgeon (Ed Harris) arrives at the house, claiming to think this house was a bed and breakfast, and the poet invites him to stay the night, much to the woman's chagrin.

The two men hit it off joking and drinking but the new guest is sick. The next day the guest's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up and boldly questions the owners' relationship, rudely throwing around their wet laundry and making herself at home. The surgeon invades the poet's writing room and breaks his precious crystal causing the woman to demand the guest couple to leave. They don't as the poet remains welcoming even when the guests' younger son (Brian Gleeson) shows up claiming that his older brother (Domhnall Gleeson) is angry about the will. The older brother shows up angry and chases the younger brother until he kills him right in front of Lawrence's character. The family and the poet leave the woman alone in the house to clean up the mess as they go to the hospital. She is terrorized by the older brother until the poet returns.

The movie goes off the rails as the poet invites more and more people for a wake for the young son. The guests destroy the house and invade their room and bed. Lawrence's character tries to get them to leave, though the Bardem's poet remains welcoming. They argue after everyone leaves and eventually make love impregnating the woman. The mother cleans the house as the poet discovers his ability to write again producing an acclaimed work. As the mother's belly grows, the poet's fame increases until the night they are celebrating with a quiet meal turns into a fan event and a book signing. The poet's manager (Kristen Wiig) arranges the event and continues to invite in adoring fans despite the mother's protest. The film gets even wilder as the crowds turn into riots and then all out war.

The mother births the baby but does not trust the poet to hold it. She tries to watch over it but falls asleep and the poet steals the child to bring out to her adoring crowds who take it and pass it around until they tear it apart and eat it in the most disturbing scene of the film. The mother is enraged and fights her way to the baby but the crowd beats her until the poet saves her. She breaks free and runs into the basement where oil leaks from a tank and she sets fire to the house. The process begins again after the poet harnesses the devotion from the mother's chest. The film is a mad metaphor heavy on the symbolism that isn't so desne or subtle about its message. I enjoyed most of it but foudn some parts a bit too strange. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

TV Show Review: Narcos (Season 3)

The intense Netflix takes an in-depth look at the drug trade backed up with plenty of history that illuminates the events of the story. With Pablo Escobar out of the picture, the Cali cartel takes over the drug trade in Columbia, led by the Cali godfathers. Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) is praised for his success in catching the biggest drug dealer in the world but feels stagnant in his hunt for these new men. The leader of the Cali cartel, Gilberto Orejuela (Damián Alcázar) gathers his fellow godfathers including Pacho Herrera (Alberton Ammann), Miguel Rodriguez (Francisco Denis), and Chepe Santacruz Londono (Pêpê Rapazote) to make a big announcement. The Cali cartel will surrender their drug trade peacefully to the government in six months but before they do, they will try to make as much money as they can to fund their legitimate businesses.

The Cali family's security is led by Jorge Salcedo (Matias Varela), at least he's second-in-command and plans to leave the drug business for his own legitimate security company. However, Miguel refuses his resignation and tells him that he has to stick around for the next six months. In Bogota, the DEA is having no luck and two DEA agents, Duffy (Shea Whigham) and Lopez (Nicholas Gonzalez) are busted doing an undercover operation without permission from the Columbian government. While the godfathers are bad, the worst villain in this season is Miguel's son David Rodriguez (Arturo Castro) whose scheme to transport cocaine in tanks of chlorine leads to little kids being poisoned and killed. The environmental protection agent is blackmailed by Salcedo to cover up the cause of this mass poisoning. 

Javier pursues a new lead by following the Cali cartel's banking operations. Javier tracks Franklin Jurado (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and his American wife Christina Jurado (Kerry Bishé) while he sends the DEA agents Chris Feistl (Michael Stahl-David) and Daniel Van Ness (Matt Whelan) to Cali to track the dealing of the Cali cartel's accountant Guillermo Pallomari (Javier Cámara). All the while CIA agent Bill Stechner (Eric Lange) derails Javier's investigation by taking him on cross-country trips to impress Congressman with staged drug busts. Feistl and Van Ness stumble upon Gilberto's location while tailing Pallomari and formulate a plan to capture him but first, have to fool the corrupt Cali police officers. They manage to trick the police and capture Gilberto, upsetting the plan to surrender. 

Miguel, the new leader of the Cali cartel, becomes paranoid about traitors and takes out the head of Cali security and his wife leaving Salcedo in charge. Salcedo realizes his only way out is to turn himself over and help the DEA catch Miguel. A rival gang, the North Valley, who cooperated with Cali before senses weakness in Gilberto arrest and starts a war. They try to assassinate Pacho and Gilberto but fail, leading to a bigger blowback. Javier, Feistl, and Van Ness use the information to track Miguel though he eludes capture by hiding in the walls and having the authorities pull back on the DEA's ability to fight crime. Up in New York, Chepe takes over rival dealers territory but the lab explodes bringing unwanted attention to their American operations. 

Javier tries to turn Jurado by leveraging his wife but she ends up captured and Peña must go to extremes to get her back only to find a mole in the government. The corruption goes much deeper than he imagined to the highest offices of the Columbian government. Salcedo gives the DEA another chance at Miguel and this time it works, toppling the godfathers and halting the surrender. Members of the Cartel are eliminated and Javier turns Pallomari who gives them all the information they need to convict the rest. This season of Narcos was exceptionally entertaining though I can't ever look away at risk of losing a narrative thread due to the Spanish. Pedro Pascal is always fun to watch but the highlight of this season for me was definitely Matias Verala as Salcedo is some of the most intense scenes. I wouldn't be surprised if looking back over this year, I put this season on my top ten list. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sports: NFL (Week 1)

Professional football is back in action with an exciting football game after one of the most heartbreaking Super Bowls of my life. The New England Patriots faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening game and I couldn't stop watching because I had no idea if Tom Brady would mount a comeback even if the Chiefs were up 42-27 with two minutes left. Kansas City did it though and wins the first game of the season. This could mean big things for this AFC West team and trouble for the reigning champs. 
Sunday arrived with a couple of interesting games. The first game on my television that I focused on was the game between my favorite team the Atlanta Falcons against the Chicago Bears. The Falcons are still showing signs that they could blow a crucial game and if they had faced a stronger offense than the Bears, they might have lost this game. But the former second place team wins their first game 23-17 and go up 1-0 in the division. 
The other team I watched, because I'll be forced to for the rest of the season, somewhat illuminated what could be going on in the AFC East, the Cincinnati Bengals were shutout by the Baltimore Ravens. Andy Dalton threw three interceptions. The Ravens will have to challenge the Pittsburgh Steelers for the top of this division but Baltimore looks like they could be strong.
The afternoon game on the television was between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, probably the two best teams in the NFC as of now. This match up would really show which team would take first place and lead the league. The first half was scoreless and the third quarter saw two touchdowns from the Packers. Seattle fell and Green Bay takes the first game looking at the Falcons as the next team they can put down showing their dominance.
The Sunday night game was a fight for the top of the NFC East between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas had some trouble with running back, Ezekiel Elliot who was going to be suspended but the suspension was reversed in court, so they got their running back but he wasn't a huge difference maker. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys beat Eli Manning and the Giants to start the season off on what looks like definitely a playoff if not Super Bowl run.
The first weekend showed that this season is not going to be predictable. Other wins that are interesting are the Buffalo Bills over the New York Jets in the AFC East, the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Houston Texans in the AFC South, and the Denver Broncos over the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC West. The Dolphins and Buccaneers couldn't play due to the hurricane raging through Florida. Football is back, I'm interested to see how this season plays out. 

TV Show Review: Preacher (Season 2)

The graphic novel from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon leaped to the screen last year and returned once again for a more action-packed second season. Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is on the road with his girlfriend Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga) and best friend the vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). They are on the search for god who has abandoned heaven to live a secret life on Earth. The cops try to pull them over but Jesse's power allows him to tell the officers to do whatever he wants but the whole altercation is thrown off when the murderous gunslinger The Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish) starts blowing everyone up. Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy escape but the saint is hot on their trail. Meanwhile, Arseface (Ian Colletti) has been sent to hell by Jesse's power and must suffer the same trauma on repeat.

Searching for answers, Jesse encounters a former friend of his father, Mike (Glenn Morshower), another priest that has an unusual way of disciplining his parishioners. Mike tells them that god might have been at a jazz club which, after a violent altercation, leads to Jesse deducing that god has an obsession with jazz. The Saint of Killers kills Miek and continues on the trail of Jesse whenever he uses his voice power. Jesse and Cassidy discover that Fiore (Tom Brooke) is working in a casino killing himself repeatedly as a stunt act. Fiore was the one responsible for siccing the Saint of Killers on them so they make a deal to call him off after Cassidy and Fiore go through a drug binge. Fiore doesn't actually call off the saint and has him kill him. Tulip also encounters a man from her past right before she and Jesse can get married. Jesse decided he'll pursue god in jazz central, New Orleans. This casino episode was one of the better.

The group heads to New Orleans where Cassidy and Tulip must confront their past. They stay at the house of Cassidy's friend Denis (Ronald Buttman) who later turns out to be his son. Tulip encounters the gangster boss Viktor (Paul Ben-Victor) who is actually her husband. Jesse encounters Lara Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery) in disguise. She is actually working for the grail under Herr Starr (Pip Torrens). The momentum pauses for a flashback episode showing more of Tulip and Jesse's relationship and how Tulip came to marry Viktor. Jesse finds out Tulip has been captured and goes to her rescue only to find out the truth. The Saint of Killers tracks them down after Jesse uses the voice to fight Viktor's thugs. 

Jesse has to give the saint a soul to control him and send him up to heaven but he just drowns him in an armored truck and the grail capture him. Herr Starr has an interesting origin and appetites that are explained in a montage training flashback along with his job to seek out miracles. Aresface teams up with Hitler (Noah Taylor) to attempt an escape from hell under the strict guard of Ms. Mannering (Amy Hill). Cassidy has to make his old son a vampire too while Lara earns Tulip's trust pretending to be a battered wife. Tulip also worries about the Saint of Killers who returns and attacks them until Ms. Mannering stops him, making Jesse trust Herr Starr. The ultimate plan for Herr Starr is to replace the inbred descendant of Christ with Jesse and his vocal power.

The show improved somewhat from the first season but has a long way to go before it could even be comparable to the graphic novel. Still, I'll stick with it if it comes back for a third season. The show definitely pulls out some absurd scenes and the story is only secondary to all the wackiness. Pip Torrens as Herr Starr was the highlight of the season but I liked him more as a villain in the original story and Jesse works him with him at the end. Joseph Gilgun was still pretty fun as Cassidy too. I also liked that they hinted at Jesse upbringing and the evilness of Jody and T.C. and Jesse's grandmother. There are some great scenes from the book that they could use especially as those vicious characters show up. I am glad to see that the creators Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin are doing better for this interesting show. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

TV Show Review: Insecure (Season 2)

In one of the more entertaining shows on the most entertaining night on television on the most entertaining channel, Issa Rae returns for a hilarious and awkward season. Issa is newly single and exploring her newfound freedom. Lawrence (Jay Ellis) has to adjust as well staying with his friend Chad (Neil Brown Jr.) on an inflatable mattress. Issa's best friend Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) has more experience being single but always hopes to have an ideal relationship. Things seem to fall apart for Issa from the first episode and only get worse. She wrecks her car staring at a dick pic, throws a party that gets out of control, and goes on way too many terrible dates through Tinder. In the end, she still feels lonely and tries to seek out the man that helped cause the split with Lawrence, Daniel King (Y'lan Noel). 

Issa also has trouble at work. Her job to help students after school to learn and do their homework runs into a problem when a vice principal only recommends black students and does not include the Latino students. Her coworker Frieda (Lisa Joyce) sees the problem and wants to change it but Issa shuts her down just excited to have students back in her class. Molly hopes to move up at her law firm but she suspects her bosses judge her by her race as they promote white men. She starts to look around and forms a bond with another lawyer in a Chicago office (LilRel Howery). Lawrence has success at a new job too but finds the developers are just nice to him and don't respect his ideas. He forms a relationship with a coworker Aparna (Jasmine Kaur).

Issa goes out more often on her "hotation" of different men including her neighbor who ends up with another girl, an older man she moves too fast with, and Daniel, though a sexual encounter pisses Issa off. Molly can't seem to settle for a guy that would appear to be ideal Lionel (Sterling K. Brown) and starts sleeping with her married friend Dro (Sarunas J. Jackson) who is in an open relationship with his wife. Lawrence also has a chance encounter with two women who turn out to just be using him for his body and have no interest in him as a person or his pleasure. Lawrence keeps thinking he might go back to Issa even pulling up outside their old apartment but he only acts on it early in the season. They sleep together but don't talk about it, leaving things extra awkward.

Issa finds herself broke, without a car, and lonely. She is invited to a dinner for her friends and Lawrence is as well just as she finds out that he blocked her on social media. Lawrence brings Arpana and Issa gets drunk and rude. They confront each other and have some harsh words for one another. The finale shows that they could have turned it around and had a whole marriage and life together. Alas, it's not to be and I guess this will be the end of Lawrence but I was always rooting for them to get together. Molly also doesn't go for the nice guy and continues her tryst with Dro.

Insecure was so much fun this year and strikes me as such a true show about young relationships and troubled race relations in the modern day. Issa does great in the main role and the writing with plenty of humor interspersed with awkwardness and emotion. I am hooked on the show and hope it goes on for many seasons to come. The show fits in well after the intense one hour drama and sets up a nice half hour of humor after it. I look forward to where the story goes in the third season. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

TV Show Review: Snowfall

FX steps deep into the drug game jumping back to the dawn of crack with a clever show that has its highlights but plods along with the pace and feels like a lesser version of similar shows. The show is ambitious though and the first season seems to plant a lot of seeds that could grow and pay off in future seasons to come if renewed. The story is broken up into three different stories that follow various aspects of the drug trade from the source to the transport to finally distribution. It only has a distant relationship to major historic events, at least so far, and the characters interact minimally in a few scenes of little consequence. There also aren't many stories of the dangers of the drug game as the effects of this new substance hardly have time to take effect since crack really isn't introduced until the last few episodes.

The main story, and the most interesting one, is about Franklin Saint (Damson Idris), a young black entrepreneur who hopes to make enough money to solve all his problems. When a rich white friend asks him to ride along and then send him inside to buy coke from Avi Dexter (Alon Aboutboul), he learns that he can make more money from selling coke than weed. The coke turns a profit nicely but garners attention and Franklin is jumped for his cash. He seeks out help from Leon Simmons (Isaiah John) and others but the search for his money turns violent. Franklin quickly learns that there is more to the coke game than supply and demand. When he really works to turn a profit is when he heads up to Los Angeles to learn more about the mysterious recipe of mixing the cocaine with baking soda. This accelerates his business and leads to what will eventually be the crack epidemic. We only see the start of this change but already know the future. 

The second story involves a CIA Agent Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson) and his dealings with a Columbian cartel Alejandro Usteves (Juan Javier Cardenas). Teddy believes helping fund the fight against Communism is important and is willing to make sacrifices to do it but when a young woman Victoria (Justine Lupe) seeks out her friend who went missing in the company of a dead CIA agent and Usteves, Teddy has to step in and derail the investigation. He and Usteves also have to deal with all the difficulties of transferring the illegal drugs across the border even almost getting stuck in the middle of the desert. Usteves has to kill Victoria and Teddy kills Alejandro. He receives praise from his superiors and continues to deal the cocaine.

The third story has to do with a cartel family in Mexico. Lucia Villanueva (Emily Rios) is the daughter of a prominent gangster but their business partner's son Pedro Nava (Filipe Valle Costa) hopes to run the cocaine business. Lucia employs the former wrester Gustavo 'El Oso' Zapata (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) to serve as his muscle and help with distribution. Gustavo and Lucia have a growing relationship that makes Pedro jealous so he tried to push Lucia out of the game and discredit Gustavo but Gustavo knows other gangsters that will help him eliminate anyone that contests his right to run the business. The couple looks to be in a prominent position by the end of the season.

Snow fall had a tough time garnering my undivided attention and none of the storylines really stuck out to me as exceptionally interesting or exciting. Franklin's story was certainly one to watch and had the most exciting developments and showed the consequences of the drug game the most. Idris put in a good performance. Rios's Lucia was fun to watch but I wasn't always keeping up with the Spanish parts since I need to pay more attention to these parts. I would like to see where this show goes in the future as crack spreads through the neighborhoods of California and across the country and the cartels receive more wealth causing the CIA to take more drastic action. 

Sports: College Football (Week 2)

With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, all of the games in the state were canceled. I only sort of paid attention to any games in the afternoon not seeing any majors upsets. My post this week will concern only four games. The tense of my writing will very because I'm writing it as I watch but will also reflect back on each game after it's over.

3Clemson Tigers vs. 13Auburn Tigers
The first game is 
a classic ACC vs SEC match up for early in the season. The reigning champs face their first challenge of the year as Auburn hopes to rise into the top ten and keep their hopes of a national title alive as they seek the top of the SEC West. This match of Tigers started with two field goals for the Auburn Tigers and a possible injury to the Clemson Tigers quarterback. But it didn't last and Clemson's QB Kelly Bryant ran in for a touchdown right before halftime putting the Tigers up 7-6. Clemson came out at the start of the second half and got another touchdown to lead 14-6.  The Clemson Tigers maintained the lead and took the second game of their season over the Auburn Tigers. 

15Georgia Bulldogs vs 24Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The second game jumped on my radar when the independent Fighting Irish just pulled into the ranking putting while the Bulldogs have an open SEC East to dominate if they reach out and take it. The two team exchanged field goals at first. Notre Dame pulled ahead with a touchdown in the second quarter. Georgia responded with a stellar one-handed from Terry Godwin. Notre Dame led at the half 13-10. The Fighting Irish got another field goal at the start of the half to go up 16-10. Georgia responded with a touchdown to take a one-point lead 17-16. Notre Dame pulled back ahead with a field goal to make it 19-17. The Bulldogs came back with a field goal to go up 20-19. Georgia wins this big game on the road to help them build momentum towards a SEC East top spot.
2Ohio State Buckeyes vs 5Oklahoma Sooners
The third game is the most exciting. The Buckeyes were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year and look to return at the top of the Big Ten while Oklahoma is the only team to ever represent the Big 12 in the College Football Playoffs. With a championship to look forward to, it would help the Sooners chances to win this game. The two powerhouse defense held each other scoreless through the first quarter. Ohio State struck first with a field goal and Oklahoma got one too by halftime. Ohio State scored a touchdown to start the second half but Oklahoma answered to tie it at ten points. The Buckeyes got a field goal and then Oklahoma came back with a touchdown in the third quarter. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Sooners stretched their lead with another touchdown to 24-13. With an interception, Oklahoma was able to add another touchdown to the score going up 31-13. Ohio State was only able to respond with a field goal. Oklahoma takes a huge win and will probably take that second spot in the top 25 ranking. 

6USC Trojans vs 14Stanford Cardinals
The fourth game starts a little later because it's over on the west coast, a PAC-12 match. The two teams exchanged touchdowns to tie it at 14 points. The Trojans went up by another touchdown to lead 21-14. The Cardinals only got a field goal while the USC got another touchdown. The Trojans led 28-17 at the half. The third quarter was quiet but USC grew the lead even more with another touchdown to 35-17. Stanford didn't put up much of a fight but they did put up another touchdown but so did USC. The Trojans defend their spot at the top of the PAC-12. 
These four games gave me a nice glimpse of what is going on in the College Football season. The top spot will remain filled with Alabama who destroyed an unranked opponent, Fresno State, and Penn State might move up from fourth after beating an in-state opponent Pittsburgh. Washington, Michigan and Wisconsin round out the top ten at 8, 9, 10, all with wins this weekend. Next week, I'll be watching Clemson vs Louisville, Tennessee vs Florida, and Miami vs Florida Sate while also keeping an out for any upsets. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Movie Review: It (2017)

The latest iteration of the horror classic creates a vivid sense of terror while telling a heartfelt tale of youth while reinvigorating the iconic image of Pennywise from our generations most popular horror writer. Stephen King's book is a very long, yet great, read. I'm only about three hundred pages in and enjoying it more than most books. The massive amount of information is compressed nicely in this film that serves as a first part of the story, the childhood part. The liberties they take only add to the horror and keep the pacing moving somewhat swiftly though at times it felt stalled and the scares don't compare to other prominent films in the genre. I found the movie very entertaining and I think it will grow on me but there were certainly flaws that I would like to see improved upon if there is a sequel. With positive reviews and a crowded theater, I think it's likely that we will get to see the second half in a few years.

Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) struggles with a stutter especially after he sends his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) out with a boat and the boy goes missing. Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is the new kid in school and has to deal with the ruthless bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). He retreats to the library but not before awkwardly blushing in front of his crush Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). Beverly has to deal with own set of bullies including her abusive father. Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) works on the sheep farm with his grandfather bolting the animals in the head but he's haunted by the images of his parents burning behind a door. Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) is the loudmouth who is skeptical of the hauntings. Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) studies for his bat mitzvah when a horrific image comes to life.

The kids bond over their shared fear of the bullies and the mysterious clown. Ben Hanscom has taken over the role of young historian and explains the history of Derry, Maine and mysterious disappearances. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) doesn't seem to be hunting the kids so much as scaring them and feeding off of their fears. There are some exceptionally hideous forms that It takes like dead girl in the sewer when It attacks a bully and an infectious leper that haunts germophobe, Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer). The boys investigate the source of the attacks only to find Pennywise bursting from the projector screen. They trace it back to a house but when they go in, Bill, Richie, and Eddie are confronted by horrors and they almost don't make it out if it weren't for Beverly's quick thinking. 

The group splits up when Richie is so angry about nearly being killed yet Bill is still determined to search for Georgie. In the meantime, It recruits Henry to his side by giving him a knife to kill his father. When Beverly's father attacks her, she fights back but once she knocks him out, she's attacked and capture by Pennywise. BIll gathers the gang together to save Beverly once he discovers she's gone. They return to the house and climb down to the sewers below though Henry attacks them. Mike has to fight him off and pushes him down into the pipes. The boys head deeper into the pipe but Stanley becomes lost and is attacked by a creepy image from a picture that has haunted him throughout. The others save him but he's clearly disturbed. They move further into the sewer finding Pennywise's lair where children are floating in the air. Bill confronts the image of Georgie but kills him finally accepting that his little brother has passed. Ben kisses Beverly to bring her out of a trance and recites the poem he gave to her. They all work together to destroy the evil.

It was a very entertaining movie with a nice mix of horror and comedy. Finn Wolfhard's Richie was my favorite with his constant one-liners and adult language, especially when confronted with horror. Jack Dylan Grazer's Eddie compliments Wolfhard's performance while Lillis and Lieberher were great in the lead role. Skarsgård's performance was haunting as well adding to the horror though sometimes it did look cartoonish. This update version exceeds the original and while there are minor pacing issues, I felt overly entertained for pretty much the entire film. This film should help push more horror films into cinema and open up an impressive franchise. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Movie Review: It (1990)

I wasn't sure how to categorize this review since this story first appeared as a television special but I bought it on Blu-ray and watched it as a three-hour movie. Since I'm thinking of it as a movie, I'll settle with labeling it a movie review. Stephen King's IT had its first adaptation in a strange, comical, slow-building that borrows from the book and makes some questionable choices to deliver the horror of childhood memory and the remaining adult trauma. The acting is cheesy, there is nothing special about the special effects, and the horror is minimal, but still, there are parts of this that I enjoyed and I didn't mind revisiting after many years. My memory of it was disjointed and fragmented much like the adults thinking back on their childhood, but certain scenes were still etched on my brain like the clown crawling out of the shower floor and Tim Curry's performance is iconic.

When a young girl is murdered in the town of Derry, Maine, Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) knows what caused it and calls up his old friends. Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas) is a famous horror novelist, like a lot of King's characters, who has been channeling his childhood trauma. The call from Mike brings back haunting memories including the time his brother Georgie went out with a paper boat and went missing. Ben Hanscom (John Ritter) is an award-winning architect who sleeps around with various women. When he gets the call, he remembers his youth (Brandon Crane) as a chubby kid constantly bullied by Henry Bowers (Jarred Blancard). He escapes Henry's awful attempts to cut the bully's name into Ben's stomach and encounter young Bill (Jonathan Brandis) and Eddie Kaspbrak (Adam Faraizl). 

As each member of the Loser's club gets the call, they reminisce on their forgotten youth from older Eddie (Dennis Christopher) thinking back on his controlling mother who always claimed he would get a disease and his haunting in the boys' showers to Beverly Marsh (Annette O'Toole) leaving her abusive boyfriend only to recall how similar he is to her father who abused her as a young girl (Emily Perkins). Despite the immense fear, they all drop what they're doing and head back even Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson) who has a successful career in Hollywood except Stanley Uris (Richard Masur) who decides he'd rather kill himself than return. Young Richie (Seth Green) and Stanley (Ben Heller) would join the group on their excursion, Richie was always the joker.

The group experienced all sorts of hauntings as children like Beverly seeing her sink explode blood and Richie attacked by a wolfman and these hauntings continue in their adult life. Richie sees bloody balloons explode in the library where he seeks out Mike. Richie can't find him because Mike and Bill have gone back to reminisce with Bill's old bike. The group finally all meet up at a Chinese restaurant to catch up on their lives but are disgusted by fortune cookies that come alive with horror. Mike takes them to the library where they research the history of the evil clown and speak with Stanley's severed head. The frights continue when they retreat to a motel and Ben is fooled by It pretending to be Beverly who he has always loved. An old Henry escapes an insane asylum and heads towards the grown losers as well.

The story flashes back to show how the kids headed down into the sewer and challenged their fear with the help of Beverly's aim to destroy the clown. The adults have to do the same thing in a odd scene of special effects where Eddie admits he's still a virgin. The movie wraps up with the evil finally destroyed and each person able to move on with their lives. It was interesting to see this story play out because I'm going to take several more months to read the book. The new adaption definitely enhanced the younger story but this film does a good job balancing them both by telling the young story in flashbacks and showing how that affected each kid in their grown up life. It is a story that I am enjoying seeing in different forms and is decent horror not too scary to really give me chills. Tim Curry really comes out the best as the creepy clown even with the silly makeup, he makes the role work.

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I had a chance to revisit a long version of Neil Gaiman's great fantasy novel after reading it several years ago and enjoyed it all the more. With the adaptation of the novel into a television show, I interested to compare and think they did a decent job bringing this story to life. Shadow is getting out of prison when he hears that his wife had died. With nothing to go home to, Shadow returns home on a plane where he meets Mr. Wednesday, a strange con man with strange abilities. Wednesday offers him a job but Shadow thinks he has a job waiting for him because he doesn't yet know that his wife Laura was sleeping with his best friend who had offered to employ Shadow at the gym he owned. Without a job and with no family, Shadow agrees to work with Wednesday. In order to seal the deal, he'll have to drink mead and during the drinks, he fights a leprechaun, Mad Sweeney. Winning the fight, Shadow obtains a golden coin that contains certain powers.

In an absurd turn of events, Shadow flips the magic coin into Laura's grave after learning that she'd been cheating on him with his best friend. This action brings Laura back to life but she's still sort of dead. Shadow is accosted by a strange man in a limo with weird bodyguards. They beat up Shadow until Laura, undead, saves him. Once Shadow is working with Mr. Wednesday, they set out across the country as Mr. Wednesday meets with various gods trying to rally them against the new gods. Television, technology, and the world are encroaching on the worship of these old gods and once no one worships to them, they pass on from existence. This is different from death, gods can die but come back, though they may be slightly changed. One of the first gods that they encounter are the three sisters that trade off their times of day and Czernobog. Shadow enters a game of chess with the god who loves slaughter and the stakes are high because if Shadow loses he'll be smashed in the head and if he wins, they'll join in Wednesday plan.

Shadow loses but Czernobog still agrees to help. Wednesday grows his army and needs the cash to support his travels. He pulls off a scam taking the deposits from a bank during a blizzard that Shadow seemed to cause mentally. Wednesday is constantly on the con and he lays out several tricks that he can pull, all of this comes back around to the clever conclusion of the book. There are places that contain a power for the gods as people come to worship there or used to worship there. Shadow is given the chance to step beyond the veil of what normal humans see and go beyond the realm of reality. In an old museum, Wednesday leads a meeting of the other gods but Shadow has a hard time understanding what is happening. He stays at a funeral parlor for a while and finds Mad Sweeney dead after he gives him money for a bottle.

The hunt is one for Shadow and Wednesday as Mr. World leads his agents to catch them. Framed for murder, Shadow is forced to flee up to a frozen town, a small town that has a strange sort of prosperity along with odd traditions. Shadow acclimates to the cold and finds bonds there but is soon outed for using a fake identity and arrested. Other gods help him escape and they have to retrieve Mr. Wednesday's body as he's been murdered by the enemy gods. At the center of the country, they have a truce with the other gods and retrieve the body at midnight though Shadow has a suspicious encounter with his old cellmate and another god, Loki. There is a ceremony that must be performed at a sacred tree and Shadow has to hang himself on the tree as a sacrifice.

Throughout the book, Shadow has weird dreams where a talking buffalo gives him odd messages about the country. The other gods, new and old, are gathering in Rock City, a tourism site I used to frequent as a kid. Gaiman imbues the place with a special power as all sorts of wild deities arrive. Shadow comes to the conclusion that his connection to Mr. Wednesday, Odin, is deeper than he first realized and this changes everything he knew about his job and heritage. Shadow returns to the land of the living with the help of East, a god who is closely associated with resurrection. He confronts Wednesday and Loki for a twisty finale. American Gods is an incredibly enjoyable book that even enthralled me on the second read. I was read the extended version but could hardly remember what happened the first time. The other twist in the small cold town is also one of my favorite parts of this book. Maybe in another decade I'll read it again. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sports: College Football (Week 1)

College football is back in action with some mega games to kick off the season. The first big match that I watched was Indiana taking on 2Ohio State. Indiana put up a fight but by the second half The Buckeye had proven their dominance and took the game away. 
On Saturday, I noticed that the returning champs the 5Clemson Tigers trounced their first opponent Kent State 56-3. 
The two games I was most looking forward to this weekend were the 11Michigan Wolverines vs 17Florida Gators and the 3Florida State Seminoles vs. the 1Alabama Crimson Tide. The Gators took on the Wolverines in a tough match but Michigan proved their hiring ranking was not for nothing and outlasted Florida for a 33-17 victory.
The biggest game of the weekend and the likely determinant of who would dominate the top spot for the season was the battle between Alabama and Florida State. The game had a lot of hype and kicked off the season with solid competition but in the end the Seminoles could not match the power of Roll Tide. Bama beat the FSU 24-7. 
There were a couple of other good matches throughout the rest of the long holiday weekend. Texas A&M was upset by UCLA after being up by a ton of points. 22West Virginia went down to the wire against 21Virginia Tech but could not pull out an upset. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets also tried to upset the 25Tennessee Volunteers but a final play in double overtime fell short. 

With the new rankings out, Florida State dropped to tenth and the positions set up four games for Saturday night. 3Clemson plays 13Auburn in a battle of Tigers and an ACC vs SEC fight. 5Oklahoma faces 2Ohio State in a Big 12 vs Big Ten match and a fight for a spot in the playoffs. 15Georgia takes on 24Notre Dame as both teams hope to move out of the lower rankings. Finally, a PAC-12 matchup come from 14Stanford and 6USC. I'm happy that football has back and so many exciting matches have started the season. 

TV Show Review: Power (Season 4)

The fourth season of Starz's crime drama had plenty of twists and turns moving towards what looks like an all out war for the next season. The show picks up with James 'Ghost' St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) in jail after being charged by his former lover AUSA Angela Valdes (Lela Loren). Ghost's partner Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) has to take over the business amidst Ghost's absence, beating up anyone who messes with their drug distribution. Power is up against some really popular shows including one of the most popular shows but somehow I caught each episode only a few days later and found this season really entertaining. I always like to watch Jamie or Ghost succeed so seeing him in prison kind of sucked but it was just another obstacle he had to outwit everyone and escape. Meanwhile, Ghost's son Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) has fallen in with the wrong crowd, particularly Ghost's nemesis and one of my favorite characters Kanan (50 Cent).

New threats pop up as Ghost has to not only survive his murder charge for Angela's old partner and lover but an abusive guard and a scheming criminal mastermind. Having to take over the legitimate club business while Ghost is locked up is Dre (Rotimi), a young man who Shadow took out of poverty. Dre is not the most trustworthy and it is clear that he is scheming behind Tommy and Ghost's back. Ghost is confronted by the abusive guard Marshal Clyde Williams (Charlie Murphy) and reacts violently when the Marshal tries to kill him. Ghost kills the guard and sees no way out when the criminal Tony Teresi (William Sadler) has another prisoner take the fall for the kill though now he uses his knowledge as leverage over Ghost. What he wants more than anything is to speak with Tommy though Ghost is not sure why.

Ghost dodges that conviction and also the one that put him in jail in the first place when Angela reveals additional evidence. Ghost's wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) has to deal with the fallout of her husband while taking care of her daughter Raina (Donshea Hopkins) who suspects something is up with her brother. Tasha receives a disturbing text message that asks for a ransom for Tariq but he turns up fine and denies any trouble. She also starts a relationship with Ghost's lawyer Terry Silver (Brandon Victor Dixon). When Ghost finally gets free, he finds that there is a rival gang the Jimenez cartel growing in power as a supplier and Tommy has made several wild business moves.

Ghost proceeds to put everything back together while others scheme behind his back. He works to repair his image and keep his criminal empire intact. Kanan's co-conspirators have grown impatient with his plan to kidnap Tariq so the woman cop Jukebox (Anika Noni Rose) captures him and demands a ransom. Kanan teams up with Ghost to take out Jukebox and save Tariq. The plot thickens when Tommy finds out that Teresi may actually be his real father and threatens a war with the Jimenez cartel. Tariq doesn't learn his lesson and continues to associate with a criminal element. He witnesses a murder during a home invasion he helped execute and finds himself on the run. Ghost believes he's manage to avoid war and is even being recognized for his contribution to the community.

The season takes a mad twist when Tariq's actions lead to another villain and rogue cop Ray Ray (Marcus Callender) shoots Raina in cold blood when she confronts him. Tariq swears revenge but doesn't tell his father or the police. Tommy gets to the bottom of it but also finds that Dre has double-crossed them. Once again, Ghost evades arrest but the death of a family changes everything for him. It looks like there will be a huge gang war to start off the fifth season with Tommy, Kanan, and Ghost working together. Power is a fun show that always has some crazy plot twists making it very entertaining to watch. I am anticipating this show to return next year. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

TV Show Review: Twin Peaks (The Return)

One of the most bizarre television shows out there returned after two and half decades with a humorous and wild season. There were moments of intense violence mixed with otherworldly occurrences and interspersed with silly scenes of nostalgia. Characters had grown old or become possessed by strange spirits with a story that spanned the country. Knowing this show was coming back, I revisited the old seasons having never watched the second and really enjoying the first. I found the pace slowing in the second season as the murder investigation ended and another villain took its place but the finale left plenty of things unexplained. The biggest cliffhanger was that Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) had become possessed by Bob, a demonic spirit that was responsible for the death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).

The new season begins with some strange scenes and the discovery of a dead body. There is a class case that is being watched by a man but when he invites a woman to see it and they start making out, they are brutally murdered by a strange creature that appears int eh box and breaks free. The murder victim is several people whose body parts have been placed together in a motel bed. An evil version of Dale Cooper has been traveling around causing trouble and could be responsible for the murder. The time has come for Bob to return to the signature red room but to avoid detection, the rogue Dale has created a clone known as Dougie Jones, an insurance agent who liked to spend times with prostitutes. He is taken back and replaced with the real Dale. Unfortunately, Dougie, or Dale, is unable to communicate so he travels around only repeating words he hears. This still works out as he can predict which slot machine is about to reward a jackpot and his wife Janey-E (Naomi Watts) doesn't seem to notice his limited vocabulary.

Back in Twin Peaks, there are some familiar faces like Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) who is receiving strange messages from the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson). Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) are still working at the Sheriff's office though Harry Truman is no longer the Sheriff, his brother Frank Truman (Robert Forster) is now in charge. Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) has grown up and joined the force and works with Hawk to figure out the strange messages. Bad things are happening again in Twin Peaks as criminals terrorize innocent individuals. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Gordon Cole (David Lynch) has retaken up an investigation into the Blue Rose cases from the initial murder alongside Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell). They recruit Diane (Laura Dern) as the expert on Dale Cooper.

It's hard to explain anything that happened though there are plenty of scenes of horror and humor throughout and though I couldn't always follow what was happening, I was almost always entertained. Dougie's venture through Las Vegas in search of coffee and pie was hilarious while the murderous rampage of Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) was horrific. One episode, in particular, episode 8 is almost all in black and white and alludes to the creation of evil with the atomic bomb, full of symbolism and strange, disturbing images. There is no way I could capture every thread and idea that pops up in this wild ride of a television show but I enjoyed it and would be curious to read more about it as professional reviewers recap the final episode.

Twin Peaks is true experimental television that is not always focused on the main plot and will drop a character or add a new one without a full arc. For all the enjoyable comfort of seeing old characters eating pie or drinking coffee at the Double R, there were equally terrible scenes of the black faced hobo ripping someone apart or a bug crawling into a young girl's mouth. There were murders and mysteries, multiple dimension and timelines, and all sorts of wackiness. Sometimes I had to sigh at the outrageousness of the scenes and shake my head in confusion. I enjoy the interpretation and would be interested to see if someone has understood it all and hear them explain what they think.