49ers

New 49ers Uniforms

Having loved the San Francisco 49ers since I started watching football as a little kid, seeing my all-time favorite player, Joe Montana, take the field in the iconic red and gold of the team, it has become increasingly difficult to cheer for this team, 30 years after I began to love them.

The next step in their own destruction is the introduction of their new alternate jerseys for the upcoming season.

They are black.

Like, all black.

49ers2Black is not a colour in the 49ers palette, and the whole uniform looks like it belongs back in the late-90’s, when everybody seemed to want a black jersey. This is a lazy design, and it simply doesn’t look good at all. The red numbers on the black uniform look like they will be difficult to see from a distance, and the complete lack of gold (aside from the tiny Nike swooshes) is an abomination. Not that I would ever agree with this team bringing in a black uni, but not having gold on it was a massive mistake, especially since the combination of black and gold is always a solid one (even if they may be venturing into the New Orleans Saints territory there). But if red was added on top of it, then there may have been something there, aside from this incredibly dull set.

My most significant beef with these jerseys is the way that they match with the iconic Niners’ helmets. Meaning, they don’t belong together at all. Without a hint of black on the helmets, it looks like this is a team that is actually wearing the wrong jerseys, or the wrong helmets. They are that mismatched, and out of place. I could understand it if there was gold on the uniform, or if the helmets were primarily red, but they are not. It looks terrible.

I get the idea that they want to sell more uniforms, and having an iconic look limits sales to either a red, or a white, jersey. But aside from the obvious money grubbing of this uniform move, I simply don’t understand it. It is such a move away from the tradition of the team, and it serves at stripping away the identity of the NFL’s great franchises. I’m simply not sure why anyone would do that.

My only hope for this uniform set is that they are used twice this season (the maximum number of times they can be worn), and then they fade into obscurity because there are enough fans that feel the same way I do, and don’t shell out a bunch of money to buy these things. Hopefully, in a decade, we can look back at lists of the worst uniform changes in league history, laugh at how there was that time the Niners tried to wear black, and then move on from it, happy that the 49ers still wear red and gold, as they should.

42

42 (Film Review)

For any fan of baseball history, there are few moments more important to the game, and to the changing views of American society, than the introduction of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to even suit up and play Major League Baseball.

To this day, the MLB still celebrates Jackie Robinson day, a day in which every single player in the league wears number 42 on their backs to celebrate the trailblazer who changed the game forever when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It is completely unsurprising that there is a Robinson biopic, titled 42; it is more surprising that it took this long for there to be one.

42 is an all-around solid sports movie. It gives us our central characters, Jackie and Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers who was so focused on winning and making money, that he decided to be the first professional baseball owner to break the colour barrier.

424What 42 doesn’t do, however, is provide us with much of a supporting cast of characters. There are brief glimpses into the lives of the men who managed Robinson, in both Montreal (the Dodgers AAA affiliate), and Brooklyn, and there are glimpses of some of the Dodgers players. But that’s about it. We don’t get to know anything about them at all, and the moments of them finally realizing that Robinson is on their team, and that they need to stand up for him no matter what come across as fairly run-of-the-mill. There is the vitriol of some players, and coaches, and managers, and fans that exist, and Robinson needs to overcome these things.

But it all seems a little bit too Disney. I feel that the real story is much darker, much harsher, and much more impressive an accomplishment than 42 portrays. We still get it that he overcome the longest of odds to become a legend, but the whole story seems pretty cleaned up, when it could have been absolutely brutal. At times, it seems like the writers and director of the film were wanting to make something more, that transcended more than just the game of baseball, but were wrangled into making a feel-good sports movie that would appeal to the largest possible audience.

422And there is the fault of 42. There are a thousand stories to tell about the arrival of Jackie Robinson, including what could have been much more focus on his teammates, and the rise of the Dodgers as a powerhouse team after his arrival. We are given the broad strokes of an incredible feat, and an incredible career. His time in Montreal is given a quick flyby, even though it historically was extremely important. His interactions and friendship with Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese is glossed over to a few brief moments in the final film.

But those are superficial beefs, I suppose. Starting to watch 42, I knew that the film was not going to produce a gritty retelling of the legendary ascent of one of the game’s best players, and the revolution of the sport that happened after his arrival. I knew that it would be rife with cliches, and not offer the depth, or breadth, of the story that I would be hoping for.

Regardless, this is a strong film. It tells the story, which is the most important thing. For those who are younger, and don’t know his story, or the lasting impact that it has had, 42 is a good place to start. The film has good performances throughout, and allows us to get the general idea of what was happening in that time, and why this feat is so impressive.

423There are some really great moments in the film, those moments when you know that things are going to change, whether it is the attitude of the fans, or the owners, or the players themselves. The moment when Reese slings his arm over Robinson’s shoulders in front of a hostile crowd is one of those moments. And these moments are what make 42 so good: despite the desire to know more, and see more, we are given parts that really do justice to the story of Jackie Robinson.

At the end of the day, I liked 42 quite a bit. I don’t think it will soar to the heights of the greatest baseball movies of all-time, simply because I wanted more of the story. But it will stand as a good film about an important moment in the history of the game, and generally, it does a pretty good job of doing it.

lies

House of Lies: Season 3 (TV Review)

At the end of the second season of the hit show House of Lies, Marty Kaan broke away from his massive firm and decided to open up his own shop, forcing the loyal members of his Pod to make decisions for themselves on what their futures may hold, and where they will work.

To start the third season, we are given views into the lives of the different characters in their new (or old) places of employment. Jeannie and lovable Doug are still toiling away at Galweather, while Clyde jumped ship to work with Marty’s psychotic ex-wife Monica. Marty is toiling away at his new place, trying to put Kaan & Associates on the map, while struggling with his new Pod, and dealing with life as a smaller fish in a very big pond of financial consultant firms out there.

lies2Much of the season is focused on how the members of Marty’s original Pod will reunite, and with this comes the usual manipulation (of companies, and each other), blackmailing, and backstabbing that we have become used to on House of Lies.

Many of the usual things are there, even if by this third season, the show has become more serious and seems to have lost a step in the razor-sharp wit department that it was so good with over the course of the first couple of seasons. (I think much of this was due to the primary characters being apart for much of the season, as their interactions with one another are what gave the first two years of the show its best, and most humorous, situations).

lies3Either way, House of Lies remains crazily watchable, as we wait to see what is going to happen with these people that are created as so detestable, that we can’t help but love them.

While the show always provides interesting stories about the companies they are working for (this season focuses primarily on a couple of health food companies and a new hip-hop clothing line run by friends with past ties to the drug trade), the most interesting part of the show remains the characters.

Season 3 gives us more on each of the primary characters, including Doug and his hasty marriage to his controlling wife, Clyde and his fall from grace, Marty and his dealings with his family, including an excellent look into the often rocky relationship with his son, and the mysterious Jeannie, who remains perhaps the best shark of them all, all while keeping her life a secret from everyone else.

Don Cheadle has garnered much acclaim for his role as Marty Kaan, and rightfully show. But Season 3 signals a bit of a changing of the guard.

lies5In my opinions, House of Lies has become Jeannie’s show. Kristen Bell, still beloved from her days as Veronica Mars, rules House of Lies. She is deliciously manipulative, and knows how to get what she wants. She manages to out-maneuver even the best during this season, showing that she is more than just an associate of Kaan’s- she has become his equal, and in many ways, his superior. Bell plays the role so well, that she is able to keep us adoring her, even if so many of her methods are questionable, and even if we never really know what her true motives are. Is she pushing for the throne in the business? Or just trying to make it rich? Or does she simply want to do the right thing for her clients and her partners? She shows glimpses of all of these things, and she manages to keep us guessing the entire time. In my opinion, the beautiful and vicious Kristen Bell deserves more credit than she gets for her role as Jeannie, who over the course of three years, has far and away become the most interesting character on the series.

Okay, not from Season 3, but I don't care!

Okay, not from Season 3, but I don’t care!

Even though Season 3 may not be the best during the show’s run, it is still very good television, and worth delving into a Netflix coma for a little while to pour through the episodes.

Sit back, and watch Kristen Bell take the world of financial consulting by storm.

Showrunners_i-Tunes_Art_2.psd

Showrunners (Film Review)

There is a lot going on behind the scenes of your favorite television show.

Hundreds of people are required to do a myriad of different jobs, long before the highly paid actors ever stroll on to the set and start to act out the episode that you will see on air months later.

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show is a fascinating documentary that takes us around Hollywood to see the people that truly are in control of shows, and some of the work that needs to go into the toughest job in television: running an entire show.

show2With a host of interesting and hard working show runners being interviewed, we are shown just how tough their job really is, how everything is questions that they must somehow come up with the answers for. From scripts to directing, plotting out episodes and seasons, casting, balancing their personal vision with that of the studios and networks…it is a ton. It truly is amazing the amount of time and effort that goes into bringing our favorite stories to life each week. And it is a miracle that there are still people out there who want to run their own shows.

The amount of stress on these people is incredible. And with such a quick-to-judge audience, even more so with social media picking at every move that is made on screen, the pressure to be successful, and remain that way, is enormous. Running one small scale show is an incredible balance. Seeing people like J.J. Abrams, who seems to be the executive producer for every show on television, the workload is unfathomable.

show3Showrunners is definitely interesting. While we are provided with behind-the-scenes information on actors and directors all of the time, and with a renewed focus on the writers of late, it is great to go behind even those important people to finally give some notice to the people who really make a show tick. Actors are famous. Some directors achieve a level of fame, and there are some writers who have truly made a name for themselves out there. But there is very little attention paid to the showrunners, and perhaps this documentary will give them some of their due. Seeing how they come up with ideas, and get scripts written (usually themselves) in a short time frame, going through re-writes, and the endless meetings with their teams, it kind of makes it amazing that TV shows are still done in this manner.

We get to see some of their ups and downs, from a hit series, to one that has run its course, to one that is flat out cancelled. How far should these people pursue their dreams? When do they know when it is time to give up, and if you are lucky enough to have a hit, what do you do next? (This last one is of particular interest for fans of the show Lost.) We are told about the debacles that can happen when a network becomes to involved with the vision of the writer, and that moment when they need to cave to get something done, or stand up for their beliefs, and scuttle something that they love just so it can be done in the way that they perceive as being right.

Definitely worth checking out, Showrunners will, if nothing else, provide you with some insight into TV, and give a new perspective and respect for those who care enough about an idea to try and make it happen week after week, season after season.

Connor McDavid

Heartbreak for McDavid

You really could see the crushing disappointment in his face, and hear it in his voice.

This kid, along with every hockey fan, is not happy that the Edmonton Oilers have again won the NHL Draft Lottery, making it the 4th time in the past 6 years that they will get the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

mc6And this time, they have the chance to draft Connor McDavid, who is widely viewed as being a generational talent, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Sidney Crosby.

Normally, a Canadian kid would probably be pretty happy that a Canadian team won the lottery. But not when that team is the raging dumpster fire that has been an Oilers franchise that has missed the playoffs for the past 9 straight seasons (longest playoff drought in the league).

The hate of the Oilers began before the lottery even began. Nobody wanted to see them win, and this includes many of the fans in Edmonton. Sure, it is incredibly exciting that the future best player in the league will be coming to town, but it is also terrifying for many fans, because we have seen first hand what has happened with the other three #1s that currently litter the Oilers roster. Fans around the league would have preferred to see McDavid go absolutely anywhere outside of Edmonton. An Eastern team (aside from Carolina) where his profile would be massive, and he would help the game continue to grow. Or the Leafs, because even if their season was an absolute train wreck, they have someone in charge now who isn’t afraid to make the needed changes to get better. Or how about Buffalo, the team that tried the hardest to get him by giving up on this season two years ago?

mc3Even Arizona, a team that everybody is simply waiting to move to Quebec City, would have been a better option than Edmonton. They have some great young talent coming up, and having McDavid down there would have helped the team as much as possible. If the Coyotes couldn’t make it with him, then it really is time to pack there things and head for La Belle Province once and for all.

There was a such a league-wide groan of disbelief when the gold Oilers placard was pulled from the envelope, signalling that they had won the lottery. Absolutely, there was a ton of excitement among fans. But it is also embarrassment that this is the 4th time they are doing this. Facebook messages and sports message boards all over the place are lighting up with renewed vitriol towards the incompetent Oilers management, that has brought them to this place of being so unbelievably terrible.

Most of that hatred, naturally, is focused on Kevin Lowe, the team president that has engineered the entire downfall of the organization over the past decade, and keeps getting promoted because of it.

Also, there is focus on Craig MacTavish, the General Manager that doesn’t seem to really get it, and what it takes to win in this league. He was even quoted as saying that “offense wins championships,” after winning the lottery. Does it really? Ask the last few Cup winners about the importance of their defense and goaltending in the playoffs.

mc4Immediate calls are being made by the fans to finally see that there is a player to build around, and make some moves to help the poor kid out, so that he doesn’t need to be a part of the poisonous losing culture that exists in Edmonton until he is a free agent at age 27. Trade Taylor Hall, a dynamic offensive player with a long injury history, painfully obvious defensive flaws, and a divisive attitude in the community for a D-man. Package a couple of these guys, like Nail Yakupov, one of their other high picks, for a goalie that can at least be competent in the net to give the team a chance to win. Moves need to made, or Connor McDavid will be wasted.

Already, he is going to a market where the majority of the fans of the sport will never hear much from him. Edmonton loves hockey, there is little doubt about that, but they are buried deep in the West, and McDavid will not get the coverage that he deserves because he is in a small market. Think of how underrated John Tavares is, simply because he plays for the Islanders. If he was as good as he is on the Flyers, he would be a megastar. It will be the same for McDavid.

mc2So what can this kid do? Does he have any options if he truly doesn’t want to be a part of this team that is eternally rebuilding, and seems pretty clueless about how to do it? Or does he just need to suck it up, come be an Oiler for the first 8 years of his promising career, and hope it doesn’t destroy him, like it has other top talent that are doomed to come to this team?

1. He can pull a Lindros. He can tell Oiler management before the draft that he never intends to play for them, so that they should trade the pick and get a massive haul for him while they can.

Pros: He would force the team’s hand, and he would be dealt somewhere else. The Oilers would probably get so much back for him that they could fill in the massive gaps in their roster with just this one move. There would be no shortage of trading partners that would drool at the idea of getting McDavid. Think that when the Nordiques traded Lindros after drafting him, they got the pieces that won them two Cups.

Cons: McDavid would quickly become public enemy #1 in Edmonton, not that he would really care. He would only need to see them once a year. And even still, if this happened, I feel that many fans would continue to hate the team management, and not really blame the kid for not wanting to come here. The perception of McDavid then would be that he was a whiner, but again, I don’t know that too many people would actually blame him for pulling a Lindros move.

2. He can go to the KHL for 2 years. If a player doesn’t sign with the team that drafts them, after two years they will either re-enter the draft (if they are still under 20), or become Unrestricted Free Agents. There have been cases of this before.

Pros: He would avoid the Oilers completely. He would still get to play pro hockey, even if it isn’t in the best league in the world, where let’s be honest, he is so good that he needs that kind of challenge. When he came to the NHL, if he was a UFA, he would get to choose where he would play, and it would create the biggest and most exciting bidding war in league history.

Cons: Upon entry to the NHL, he would be forced to sign a rookie contract. Not the biggest deal, but he would essentially be losing out on a lot of money (but would he? Some KHL magnate would be sure to pay him ridiculous money to go play in Russia). He wouldn’t be playing in the NHL, which is really the biggest drawback.

3. Count the days until he is 27. Being the good soldier, and then moving on, is probably the most likely choice.

Pros: He would be the most sought after free agent of all-time, assuming he lives up to the hype, of course. He would be starting his prime, at age 27, and could play anywhere he wanted to, including for his beloved Maple Leafs.

Cons: 8 years in Edmonton is a long time. If he hasn’t been broken by the losing, or tired from shaking his head at the incompetent managerial moves, or confused over the number of coaches he has probably had to work with, then he really might be the next Great One. In Edmonton, he will play in relative obscurity, while at the same time having to face the tough media and fan base here. If losing continues, how long until fans turn on him as well?

4. Hope the Oilers do something very Oilers-y at the draft. There is no question that the group running this team is incompetent. Are they incompetent enough to do something ridiculous before the draft, and not end up getting McDavid? They have arguably taken the wrong player with each of their previous #1 picks…could they do it again?

Pros: You never know with this team. You just never know.

Cons: Even the clueless MacT has to know that McDavid is a twice-in-a-lifetime player. Doesn’t he?

There really is no win here for McDavid. Surely, if you could get an honest answer out of a hockey player, he would say that he would rather be in Phoenix, or Buffalo, or Toronto, or anywhere but Edmonton. But he will never say that. He will be drafted by the Oilers, and come play here like a good soldier.

He will be awesome, and he will be a hero in the city.

mc5But sadly, this is just giving this terrible management another life to live. MacT will keep his job, because he was the guy that got them McDavid. So will Kevin Lowe. Well, that, and the fact that he is best friends with an owner more concerned about money and hanging out with his 80s friends than money. The management team will soon forget that it is because they are so absolutely terrible at their jobs that they have been able to put this losing waste of a team together, which in turn landed them a stud like McDavid. No skill was involved in getting this kid. In fact, it is the complete opposite.

My heart genuinely breaks for this kid, having to walk into this complete mess, and be expected to be the savior of the whole thing. Even though what the management has done is put together some good players that barely look like a cohesive team on most nights.

Personally, as a citizen of this city, I am torn. My entire life, I have cheered against the Oilers, even during the dynasty years that nobody here will ever let go. I want them to fail and continue to be a laughingstock for the rest of my days. But I just feel bad for this kid, because I truly feel that elsewhere, he would have been one of the greats. That by no means that his career is over by becoming an Oiler, as some have suggested.

It just won’t be the same.

Welcome to Edmonton, Connor McDavid.

blood

Bloodline (TV Review)

Netflix keeps churning out solid original programming as the on-demand company continues its quest to take over the world. Bloodline is the latest offering from Netflix, and it is a show that features a stellar cast and a story about a renowned family whose past its dragged up and ripped apart with the return of a prodigal son and the death of the patriarch.

The Rayburns rule the Florida Keys, and when their hotel is celebrating its 45th anniversary, older brother Danny, the clear black sheep of the family, returns to the Keys to see the rest of his siblings (another two brothers and a sister), things are really shaken up, and the dark secrets of the family slowly get exposed, focusing mainly on the long-ago drowning death of their other sister.

blood4The cast here is a definite strength of the show, led by the always strong Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, ER). Chandler plays John, the good brother, who has grown up to become an important law man in the area. Cardellini is the lawyer sister, and Ben Mendelsohn plays the evil, yet kind of good, but definitely evil, Danny. Each of the actors in the show are able to create characters with depth and story to them, as the past is dug up and they need to face who their family really is, when memories and truth about the drowning of Rachel begin to come to light. The events of her drowning, and the aftermath, shook the family to the core, and now the adult children must deal with a past that was based around lies, manipulation, and the ostracizing of the bad seed: Danny. It is not only the central characters that are portrayed by strong actors, but there is an excellent supporting cast as well, filled with actors that are well known, or at least recognizable, bringing their roles to life.

The narrative of Bloodline is interesting, as it provides us with flashbacks to the younger days of the Rayburn children, as well as little hints of events to come. From the early episodes, we know everything is going to hit the fan with Danny, and that John is going to be playing a major role in the whole ordeal, but the show still manages to make it very interesting on how we are going to be getting to that final, culminating point. It makes for an interesting method of story telling, and for interesting TV.

blood3Bloodline isn’t a perfect show, and it actually moves quite slowly at some points, almost having too many good characters and secondary story lines to focus on. At times it feels like it is taking us away from the central plot, and there is no real reason why, but in the end, it does allows us to see a richer version of the characters had there not been the meandering secondary story lines. Aside from that, there is really a reason for everything, and all the minor events of the lives of the Rayburns that is exposed is for the greater good of the story. Even if an event feels minor, it plays a role in the complex construction of the family, and of the events that will befall them.

BloodlineSince the plot is far more character-driven, it does not lend itself to the traditional binge watching that Netflix is best known for. Bloodline is a show best taken in over a little bit more time. A couple of episodes here and there, instead of planting yourself on the couch until the whole adventure is over with (like something like House of Cards).

blood5My only complaint about the show would be the ending…literally the last line of the season. I get it that Bloodline deserves another season, as we really do want to see the continued fallout from the climactic event, but it created a bit too much of a random cliffhanger that kind of felt out of place in the scheme of the show. It is obvious how it will create havoc when Netflix decides to bring us Season 2, but I thought it could have been left for now, and brought up in the early episodes of the second go-round.

Even with that minor blip, Bloodline is a good, intense show, that gives us very layered and strong characters that we can easily cheer for or against as the episodes progress. Well worth a watch.

fury

Fury (Film Review)

Fury is an excellent film about the Second World War. Sure, there are a plethora of options when it comes to perhaps the greatest conflict in human history, but this is one that belongs perhaps among the 15 best (that is a completely arbitrary number…I’m saying that it’s damn good).

fury2This war offering gives us Brad Pitt as the leader of a tank crew in the final days of the war. Nicknamed “Wardaddy,” he leads his faithful group of men on whatever mission the Allies can throw at him, he having the ultimate faith in his group, and in his tank, named “Fury.”

When a group of four tanks are given the mission to clear the way for some supplies, things eventually go wrong when they are ambushed by a powerful German Tiger tank, taking out the majority of the group of Allied tanks. The Fury survives, and the film culminates with an incredible last-stand battle in which the gang of the Fury must stand up and defend themselves against an onslaught of SS troops, who will not give up even the war is essentially over for Nazi Germany.

fury4The final scenes of the film are strong, violent, and powerful. It is great entertainment, and the producers and directors have done a great job in taking a great cast, a strong script, and tremendous war action and blending it all together into something that is definitely great.

Even though we pretty much know how this whole thing is going to wrap up, it is entertaining getting there, to say the least. We care about the characters, even if they have rubbed us the wrong way over the course of the film (damn you, Shane from The Walking Dead), and Fury will keep you on the edge of your seat as it hurtles towards its finality.

There are many great scenes in Fury, and many of them are lead by the strong acting performance by Brad Pitt. One in particular, where he comes across a couple of German women in their house, and proceeds to have them cook him dinner, is excellent, and tense in its own way. That is something that Fury demonstrates over the course of the film: it is consistently tense. And that is what makes it so great.

fury3With so many WWII film options, Fury offers some diversity, and a part of that comes from the fact that it is about a tank division. This is not the most common viewpoint of the war, and it is an interesting one, to be sure. Tank crews are their own kind of people, different from infantrymen or snipers or whichever other group has been given their due on the silver screen.

Fury is absolutely worth watching. It provides realistic depictions of the war, all the while being strongly entertaining, and backed by a pretty stellar cast.