Shows You May Enjoy (plus bonus musings)
Wednesday, December 09, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Contrary to what you might think, I am not dead, nor have I abandoned this blog. I've just had a busy couple of months, which hasn't left me much time for blogging. In any case, here's some random stuff that's been on my mind.

First, with the holidays rapidly approaching, many of your favorite shows will be going on hiatus, so this is a perfect opportunity for you to try out a few other shows that might have slipped below your radar. Thank god for the miracle of On-Demand, iTunes and Hulu, because you'll be able to catch these episodes online, or you can grab DVDs via Netflix.

Comedy gems for you. Did you know that the awesome Better Off Ted (which I've been pushing on you folks for some time now) was back on the air? Chances are, you might have missed last night's excellent episode, since ABC seems hellbent on killing this awesome show. At least ABC seems to be doing right by its new hit sitcom Modern Family, which is easily the show I look forward to most each week now. It's doing well both critically and ratings-wise, so it doesn't need much cheerleading from me right now.

However, while waiting for Modern Family to air (since it's one of the few we like to watch live while it airs), I always happened to catch the last 5 minutes or so of the show that precedes it in the ABC lineup. And every time I saw those 5 minutes of The Middle I found myself laughing and sort of wishing I had watched the whole episode to get the joke in more context. Finally, we DVR'd a couple episodes, and I found to my great delight that it's actually a really delightful sitcom.

The Middle stars Patricia Heaton as the frazzled mom of a family living in the midwest. Her husband is played by Neil Flynn (better known as The Janitor on Scrubs). Both are well-matched, but the real stars of the show are the three kids, particularly Brick the youngest, played by Atticus Shaffer. The show feels like Malcolm in the Middle meets a G-rated Family Guy. I highly recommend you check it out - I think it's a pleasant little gem that's flying below a lot of people's radars right now.

I must also remind you that Parks and Recreation deserves your love as well. It had a so-so first season, which I know turned a lot of people off, but now... I can honestly say it is the best comedy airing on Thursday nights right now. If you've been on the fence, do yourself a favor, go over to and watch the episodes "Practice Date" and "Ron and Tammy".

Sci-fi goodness. Have you been putting off checking out FOX's sci-fi thriller from last season, Fringe? If so, you're missing out. Fringe is top-notch, and the show is finally hitting its stride. The first season started a little weak (I almost gave up on it after the first 6 episodes). But the latter half of the season was lots of fun, and the finale was simply mindblowing. I'm pleased to see the show exploring the Walter/Peter relationship more deeply, as at first I feared Joshua Jackson was there merely to serve as a love interest for Olivia. This is one I highly recommend you nab on Netflix - you won't be sorry.

Also worth your time - Syfy's delightful series Warehouse 13. The show finished its initial run, and I must say, it's a great little show. It may never be on anyone's Top 10 list, but if you like sci-fi and humor, I think you'll really like this show. Eddie McClintock's character Pete is a real standout - it's refreshing to see sci-fi where the characters are actually ENJOYING themselves, instead of brooding over their powers or whatever. Pete is one of those characters you look forward to spending time with each week. The other characters have started to come into their own as well, and the last few episodes have started establishing some worthy recurring villains to spice things up as well (the finale was a nifty cliffhanger that has me excited for new season).

Assorted other thoughts:

Upgrading the old icebox. I like the talk that the government might roll out a "Cash for Caulkers" program, where you'd get pretty significant rebates if you upgrade things like your washer/dryer, refrigerator, or A/C unit. Here's hoping it comes true, because my old fridge in my basement is a real clunker, and I've been craving a fancy new fridge for some time now.

Regarding the Facebook privacy drama: yes, it sucks that Facebook will sell your info to advertisers, etc. You need to read this post (and the related links in it) so you understand how the new Facebook privacy settings will affect you. On the other hand, they can't sell what you don't give them. If you don't want particular information about yourself out there, don't post it. Simply email your friends or call them when you want to share pictures and personal stories.

Facebook is a social networking site. Its very purpose in life is to share information publicly on various levels. While I do wish they'd be more close-hold with your data, on the other hand, it's not their problem to keep your secrets. Facebook is for sharing, not withholding. I personally don't share my address or phone number on there, and I only share one of my personal email addresses (my most "public" facing one). It's your personal responsibility to decide what personal info you want to share with the world. Don't assume that it will EVER be limited to just your friends. If you put it on the internet, you must assume that anyone can see it. I also reject a lot of friend requests on there - don't feel bad rejecting strangers, or even people who you are casually associated with.

That being said, the main thing I'd like to see, if I could have any particular privacy setting put in place, is actually the ability to block people from "tagging" me in photos, as I can't control what my friends post on their photo albums.
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Spoiler Etiquette for Bloggers
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

*** note: this post contains spoilers for the following works: Mad Men, Lost, Harry Potter, Star Wars

I'm a big fan of the blog Televisionary, and usually go out of my way to read it several times a day. Yesterday the blogger there, Jace, posted an interesting article about spoilers that got me thinking. He mentioned that he was irritated that a commenter had gotten upset that Jace had not properly warned about "spoilers" in one of his recent posts. Here's Jace's opinion on spoilers:
Here's where my views depart from the devout spoiler-phobe. I firmly believe that, once an episode has aired across the country, all bets are off. It's a free-for-all, as far as I am concerned. Writers, critics, bloggers, whoever, should be free to discuss the episode's intricacies and plot developments with abandon. There's no need to label a post, an interview, or anything as a "spoiler" because it's not spoiling anything.

The details about the latest episode's plots, reality series eliminations, character deaths, etc. are out there in the public consciousness. Consider them public domain, if you will. And the onus to avoid them isn't on the part of the writer but on the reader.

If by some bizarre occurrence (say, I was trapped on a Martian base being chased by a water-based homicidal creature), I was to miss an episode of Doctor Who or Lost, I would firmly expect to have plot points revealed in every single piece written about Doctor Who or Lost the following day.
Now, note that he is anti-spoiler, prior to the episode actually airing.

I'm not sure that I agree with him. I think his opinion ignores the reality of modern pop culture consumption - that more and more people use DVRs, and therefore the idea of a show being "must watch TV" is a dying concept. A large chunk of a show's audience may be time delaying their enjoyment of the show, so to suggest that they just avoid the internet at large until they can catch up seems a bit unrealistic.

Consider Thursday nights, where a hip pop culture fan must deal with the fact that the following shows all air within a 2 hour block: Grey's Anatomy, CSI (original recipe), Fringe, 30 Rock, The Office, Community, Flash Forward and Parks and Recreation. That's 6 hours of programming that interests me. Even if I watched some of them live, I'd have to stay up past midnight just to watch them all before the next day recaps/reviews start going up on the internet.

On the other hand, readers must give a little here too. The commenter who complained to Jace was a full 7 episodes behind on the show, and intentionally read an interview with the show creator. In that case, yeah... no kidding you're going to get spoiled. I also get Linda Holmes' point that knowing what constitutes as spoiler isn't so easy. She gives the following excellent example:

Suppose there is a news story proclaiming that Courteney Cox has been cast on The Office to play Pam's sister. (This is not true.) Is that a spoiler? Because I will tell you right now: some people think it is. Some people believe that is absolutely a spoiler. Some people believe that all casting news is a spoiler, and that spoilers cannot be in headlines, which means that a blog post about that would pretty much have to be titled, as near as I can tell, "Former Sitcom Star Cast In Supporting Role On Current Sitcom." And you would have no idea whether this would spoil anything you care about until you go to read the item, at which point I could tell you that it contains casting information about The Office, and then you can decide whether to read on.

And at some point, we have just entirely lost the quality of the discussion, because I am leading you through a series of security doors that 95 percent of people won't care about and will find cumbersome and frustrating, just so that you can avoid knowing that Pam has a sister who will be on an upcoming episode.

I am sympathetic to the fact that there's always going to be someone on the internet who's going to be upset about what they perceive as spoilers. You can't please everyone. On the other hand, you can follow some simple rules, both as a reader and a writer, that should satisfy 90% of the reasonable public.

Guidelines for bloggers/writers to address spoilers:

1) First and foremost - do NOT put spoilers in your headlines. That makes your blog/site a hostile place for readers to visit, because they have to worry about being spoiled just by doing you the favor of frequenting your site. The same goes for posting spoiler-y pictures on the main page. There's no reason to put up a post the day after the Mad Men finale aired in Season 2 with the headline, "Mad Men finale: Peggy tells Pete about the baby!" That just ruins a great moment for your readers who haven't yet seen the episode. If anything, that's a sure way to ensure readers AVOID your site, because they'll know you're that kind of person.

2) There's no harm in tossing a line at the top of your post saying, "This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Show Y". Then it's fair to expect readers to proceed at their own discretion. It should be assumed that all previous episodes that aired prior to the one you're focusing on are also potentially spoiled in your post.

3) Before revealing a plot point that you know is significant to a work NOT directly related to what you're discussing as the main topic, ask yourself whether or not that spoiler is really worth tying in. This is where you have to apply what I call the "Under the Rock Rule": in other words, unless your reader has been living under a rock for the last 10 years, there's a 99% chance they should know this already. Classic example: Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father. EVERYONE knows that. You can't dance around the issue because you don't want to spoil it for that weird .0009% of the population who doesn't know about that. On the other hand, a particularly beloved work that you know many people haven't had the luxury of finding for themselves yet - maybe you want to keep that to yourself. This is more of a judgment call, but really....

4) WHEN IN DOUBT, SPOILER TAG IT. Really, it costs you nothing and maybe you'll win a reader's loyalty because they know you're being considerate of them. You can either spoiler tag at the top (like I have done for this post), and/or do an inline spoiler tag, like this: My favorite scene in *SPOILER ALERT FOR HARRY POTTER!**** Harry Potter is when Dumbledore dies **** END SPOILERS***.

Guidelines for readers to handle spoilers:
Now, it's not all on the authors out there to protect you, the reader, from spoilers. You need to apply a little common sense as well.

1) The general statue of limitations should be about a week. If you are more than a week behind on a show and you really want to avoid spoilers, the onus is on you to avoid pop culture sites on the internet where you know they talk about those things. If you are one of those people who wait to watch the season when it comes out on DVD.... you're going to have to accept that you either need to do a media blackout for yourself, or occasionally catch a spoiler reveal here and there.

2) Some sites recap episodes. Obviously, the nature of the recap means that they'll be discussing details of what happened. Don't go places like TWOP if you don't want to be spoiled (they often spoil in their headlines, which I don't appreciate, but hey... now you know). If your favorite blogger recaps, be aware of that, and be aware of whether or not they follow rule #1 above.

3) Casting news is not a spoiler almost 99% of the time. Don't give people grief about it.

4) The day after an episode airs, there's going to be a lot of content out discussing the previous night's episode. Reader beware. Again, it sucks when they can't control themselves and post headlines that reveal major plot points. But if you willingly "read below the fold" and drill into an article, you should assume you'll be spoiled on what happened.

Basically, you'll never please everyone, but I think that these rules are a good guideline overall. Remember, we blog because we WANT people to read out stuff, and by having a consistent policy regarding spoilers, we make it possible for readers to keep coming back to our sites knowing what to expect.
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Paranormal Activity: Go See This Movie!
Sunday, October 25, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Two Saturdays ago I went and saw the new horror movie Paranormal Activity with my boyfriend and a couple of friends. I can safely say this is one of the best horror films I've seen in the past decade.

A lot of people are going to compare it to The Blair Witch Project. And on one hand, yes, there are some similarities between the two films, most notably the cinéma vérité mockumentary style that the film is shot in. On the other hand, I think it's a real disservice to Paranormal Activity to compare it to Blair Witch, because I think a lot of people are going to assume that the same problems that plagued Blair Witch are present in Paranormal Activity.

First of all, the characters are approximately 110% less hateful than the shrieking, terrible people who populated The Blair Witch Project. The structure of the film demands that the characters push the envelope a little bit in terms of unreasonable behavior, so you will need to be able to live with the idea that someone would actually take the time to film a loved one having a terrified breakdown instead of immediately comforting them. However, though the male lead tries your patience a touch, ultimately by the time things get really hairy, he's fairly sympathetic.

Second of all, Blair Witch had moments where it felt like the action was just sort of meandering all over the place. In contrast, Paranormal Activity is very tightly plotted and executed, and because of that, the film has an incredible tension that continuously ratchets up over the course of 86 minutes. By the time the final few night time scenes rolled around, my stomach was literally aching from the stress of it all (I mean that in a good way).

I don't want to spoil any of the plot points, so I'm going to stay very vague here. I dislike films where the scares are strictly about people popping out of doorways unexpectedly, or loud noises/soundtrack spikes that catch you off guard. That's sort of cheating. My favorite kind of horror is the when a film delivers an idea or an image that truly sticks with you. That's what Paranormal Activity does so well - there are parts of this movie where just seeing certain images is going to make your skin crawl. It's an almost entirely blood-free movie, yet still manages to be terrifying, which is a nice break from the standard gore fests such as the Saw franchise that seem to be the only other horror films available right now.

Sufficed to say, if you like horror at all, go see this movie right away. It MUST be seen in a theater for several reasons. First, it's the kind of thrill that's tons of fun when surrounded by hundreds of people feeling the same horror you are (in fact, this will be the only time you'll ever see me suggest you actively seek out the busier times on Friday and Saturday nights, since in this case, crowded = good). Second, the sound design is really top-notch, and you'll want the full effect of the theater, since this is just not going to look or sound as great on your home setup.

I can't recommend this film strongly enough. It's a must-see for any true horror fan (we discuss this film and other scary things on my podcast this week, for those of you who want to hear all this in audio form.

one word of caution: if you get motion sickness easily, this may not be the movie for you, because there's a lot of shaky handheld camera work in this film.
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Meet the Nook, the new e-book hotness of the week
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Courtesy of Engadget, here's a picture of the newest e-book reader, dubbed "the Nook", from Barnes & Noble:

According to the article posted at Engadget, the new e-book reader will feature several intriguing Kindle-killer features:
  • Built-in WiFi and free 3G connectivity, to better enable impulse buying
  • An SD slot, so you can expand the memory as needed
  • FULL COLOR!!!!
  • Pretty excellent battery life (up to 10 days, if you disable WiFi)
  • Touchscreen
  • Most importantly - the "LendMe" feature, which will apparently allow you to transfer the book to other readers for certain period of time. The #1 thing that had been keeping me from committing to an e-book reader has been the inability to lend/give books away once I'm done with them.
It looks great, and is priced competitively to the Kindle. Like the Kindle, there is a version of the software available for the iPhone as well, which is good for people like me who already own one of those little lovely devices.

I'm very interested in this new product, so we'll see what other details trickle out as the release date gets closer. I'm very excited at the thought of being able to buy extra batteries for it, as well as the ability to "easily download" PDFs. I'd like to learn more about how that would work (I just hope and pray that we'll be able to do the smart and easy thing, using the USB connector to transfer directly from your computer to the device, versus Kindle's bizarro "email it to yourself").

Thoughts? Anyone out there as psyched about the new device as I am?

edited to add: Make sure you read the Engadget article for a full video demonstration and all the sexy ass details you can shake a stick at.
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Welcome to the Dollhouse (season 2)
Thursday, October 08, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

Good news. Dollhouse is back!

Bad news. It might not be back for long!

The ratings for the new season of Dollhouse have been abysmal. Ratings for the premiere were pretty bad, but dropped even more the next week. This is a sad thing, because I really liked some of the stuff I saw in the last few episodes of the season. And then I finally got around to seeing the infamous never-aired 13th episode, "Epitaph One" and that desire to see more Dollhouse was further strengthened within me.

First things first: if you haven't seen Epitaph One, you need to stop right now and go download it on iTunes or via Amazon's Unbox site. Ironically, the best episode of Dollhouse ever (and seriously, it's good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the finer episodes of other sci-fi series such as BSG, Lost and Babylon 5) is the one episode that will probably never air on regular television. Anyway, obviously this post will contain spoilers for that episode, so do yourself a favor and see it first - you deserve to experience its mind-blowing revelations without being spoiled.

Here's some thoughts, based on what I saw in Epitaph One, as well as the first two episodes of Season 2:

Eliza Dushku is not a bad actress. Contrary to what a lot of people think, she's had some moments where she's shown what she's capable of bringing to the table. Consider the scene in epsiode 1 of season 2 ("Vows") where her new husband (played by scrumptious BSG vet Jamie Bamber) attacked her. Her face ran an incredible gamut of emotions, and you really felt the persona's wit and intelligence, as she was convincing enough to delay her fate for at least a little while.

The problem with Dushku is that I think she's better in a supporting role. Her natural charisma is best utilized in the role of a foil for other characters. In the lead role on Dollhouse she's being asked to be, in many ways, the straight man among characters. This isn't her strong point as an actress, and it's compounded by the fact that her character is still too broad - we have a great sense who Victor, Sierra and even Mellie/November are, but I feel like Caroline is still too poorly fleshed out to be worth cheering for as a protagonist.

However... watch Epitaph One, and you finally (FINALLY!) get a sense of what Dushku might be able to do with the character, if Echo is allowed to finally evolve into a persistent character. She's shown hints of it in the first two episodes, as we're made aware that Echo DOES retain some level of consciousness about events, even as she's being driven by her various personas. Epitaph One shows us what Echo will eventually become - a master personality who can simultaneously have consciousness at the same time as her current persona.

The real star of the show, though, is Whiskey . I enjoyed Amy Acker's work on Angel (especially once her Illyria personality emerged), but I never would have guessed at how great she'd be in this very limited role on the show. Part of it is definitely her skill as an actress, since she's proven she can be more versatile than Dushku. But part of it is also that Whiskey's just simply a more interesting and compelling character than Echo. Echo is just trying to get back to who she was - Caroline - and that's not that interesting for me (partially because I found original Caroline to be sort of annoying). Whiskey, in contrast, will probably NEVER go back to being who she once was. Her struggle with her sense of self - what it means to have a soul, what it means to question every impulse you have - is so much more profound because of that fact.

It was interesting to see Whiskey struggle to understand who she was with the Dr. Saunders personality embedded in her. Her pain at knowing that her phobias were something that someone else intentionally embedded into her was really visceral. I also found it really fascinating that the scars that once used to cause her pain now became a safety net of sorts for her, as she reasoned that remaining "broken" in that way was an insurance policy against Adelle Dewitt re-enlisting her to serve as an Active.

We can see in Epitaph One that many of Dr. Saunders strongest personality traits live on in Whiskey even after she reverts to Doll form. The poignant ending of that episode shows Whiskey once more serving as the caretaker to the lost souls roaming the Dollhouse (or what's left of it). We also see that perhaps a part of her never conquered her fears of leaving, despite the semi-hopeful ending of Vows.

I still have trouble seeing how this show is going to get from the present to the results of Epitaph One. I love so many of the ideas of Dollhouse, but my ongoing struggle as a viewer (and as a fan trying to get other viewers interested) with the show is that often the execution isn't living up to the ideas being pitched each week. For example, it's nice to see Alexis Denisof (a.k.a. Mr. Alyson Hannigan) pop up as a senator investigating the Dollhouse, but those scenes are a classic example of how the show often violates a central rule of writing: Show, don't tell. We see the senator yelling about how BAD and EVIL the Dollhouse/Rossum is, but we don't really get a good sense of why that is, exactly. In the present tense, the Dollhouse seems by and large like a particularly high tech brothel. 90% of the viewing audience doesn't really understand the endgame present here, because the show is mostly concerned with having characters TELL us things could get bad, instead of showing us just what that means.

The problem is that, for all it's excellence, Epitaph One isn't technically a "real" episode. While it's available online, it's never aired, and therefore a good chunk of the viewing audience has never seen the actual scenes that demonstrate (instead of just telling) what the Dollhouse tech can really lead to. For example, there's a great scene in Epitaph One where the Higher Powers send down a messenger personality that gets imprinted onto Victor. It's then that we see exactly what the larger plan behind the Dollhouse really is - permanently selling the bodies of the Dolls to rich and powerful clients who wish to live forever. Epitaph One also establishes that in the future the technology has evolved far enough so that ANYONE can be imprinted remotely, even without being specially fitted as the Dolls in the present are. Topher posits that you could robo-call a whole city and instantly have an army of mind-wiped slaves. These are two totally chilling scenes and really help the viewer understand what's at stake in this particular universe. But again... they're stuck in an episode that hasn't aired, and so it's hard to consider them part of continuity.

One of my complaints about Dollhouse is that it sometimes moves too slowly. I think the second episode, "Instinct", is a perfect example of that. After the drama of the finale, plus the season opener, the show had a good head of steam going. So, it was disappointing to see the show take a step backwards and produce a monster-of-the-week format episode immediately after that. The problem is that what was great about Epitaph One - the passion of the various characters, the urgency you felt as a viewer, the dark and driving tone of the show - are often not present each week. It's very frustrating.

Random thoughts:
  • The most important thing ever: Victor's face is back to normal. Yay! It's also interesting that Adelle obviously hasn't totally given up on her affection for him.
  • Victor still loves Sierra.
  • Boyd loves Whiskey. I thought Whiskey was being a little unfair with Boyd, since it seemed pretty clear to me last season that he was attracted to her, even before he knew she was a Doll. Epitaph One shows that this relationship does progress, even if they sadly don't end up together. Amy Acker just totally killed me when she tearily confessed that she wished that they would have had more time together before the world went to hell.
  • Whiskey's psychological warfare with Topher was amazing to watch unfold. Not only did Acker bring her A game, but Fran Kranz was also incredible as we saw Topher really struggle with the idea that this game he's been playing at might be more harmful and dangerous than he ever realized. Many people have criticized the character for being too flip about his work - I've even seen people accuse him of being a sociopath. But I think that between Vows and Epitaph One you can see that Topher is anything BUT an uncaring sociopath. Indeed, we see in Vows that his happy-go-lucky persona has begun to crack, as he's confronted by the result of his handiwork in the form of a vengeful and psychologically damaged Whiskey. You can see the pain he feels at the realization that Whiskey chose on her own to hate him. In Epitaph One we see the final end for Topher, as it appears his role in orchestrating the literal end of humanity has driven him insane, reduced to a weeping child.
  • I'm disappointed that you had Apollo and Helo back together in the first episode, and neither of them had their shirt off. Boooooooo. Dimly shot wedding night scenes are no replacement of a full on daytime shot of Jamie Bamber topless.
  • You know what, show? It's not immortality if your consciousness doesn't survive. That's Whiskey's whole point about giving up the Dr. Saunders personality. That consciousness would cease to exist if they put a new personality into her. What the Dollhouse tech does is NOT the same as transferring your consciousness to a new body. It's making a copy, and that's a totally different thing. It's cloning your mind, not transferring it. If you were to clone me, and I was then standing in a room with my clone, I wouldn't go, "Oh, well, I can totally die right now, because hey I'm still going to live on." No, you'd go, "Hmm... better kill my clone before it gets any funny ideas about stealing my place."
  • Apparently in the future Alpha is an ally, so I guess we don't have to worry about him getting killed off any time soon.
Anyway, we'll see what happens the rest of this season. FOX hasn't canceled the show yet, but on the other hand, keeping it exiled on Friday night and paired inexplicably with their new sitcom Brothers (not exactly compatible demographics) isn't doing it any favors either.

In the meantime, let's enjoy what we've got. Summer Glau is guest starring on a future episode (as is Michael Hogan and Keith Carradine), and hopefully we'll start getting much closer to the events hinted at in Epitaph One. Hopefully you enjoyed this belated review - did I do my best?

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100 Worst Movies of the 2000s
Thursday, October 01, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Now, I got a lot of crap from friends about my non-review review of G.I. Joe, with many of them stating that I wasn't allowed to diss a movie I hadn't seen. I mostly thought, "Well, if it looks like shit, stars actors that I know are shitty, and/or are directed by shitty directors... it probably is safe to avoid because it probably shit and I don't need to throw 10 bucks away to prove something I already know." In other words, while you shouldn't judge ALL books by their covers, I think it's still fair to judge SOME books by their covers. I mean.... how good could this be:
Anyway... Courtesy of the Onion AV Club, I stumbled upon Rotten Tomatoes' "100 Worst Reviewed Films of the last decade." The fact that I've managed to avoid seeing almost ANY of these proves to me that my policy regarding judging certain films from their trailers and advance reviews is certainly a good way to keep from wasting your hard earned dollars. From that list, here are the Worst Films I've actually seen, along with my excuse (feel free to peruse the list and share in the comments section which ones you've seen and why):

#94 - The New Guy
Okay, I saw this movie mostly because D.J. Qualls was pretty funny in Road Trip, and because it has Eliza Dushku in it. And at one point in the movie, Eliza rides a mechanical bull in a very seductive fashion. That fact, plus the fact that there are at least 5-6 legitimately funny parts of this movie, make it a decent enough experience that I don't regret seeing this in the theaters for the cost of a matinee ticket.

92 - Babylon A.D.
I didn't pay to see this movie, but caught it when it came around on HBO. I was curious to see how it was, because the trailer was amazing, so I thought at a bare minimum it'd probably have good special effects. Plus, it starred Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh, who are both great action stars and freakishly charismatic even when saddled with poor material. I was well aware that the movie was a potential disaster, because the fights between the director, star and studio are pretty well documented. And yeah... it was pretty much a hot mess. Since I saw it for free and was really really bored at the time, I can't feel too bad about watching this. There were several moments where the film hinted at the decent story it COULD have been, given better circumstances.

70 - New Best Friend
Another one that I caught on cable. I'm not sure why I watched this, other than the glee I probably felt watching Mia Kirshner's obnoxious character get killed on screen. Trashy and terrible stuff.

47 - Soul Survivors
I watched this because it had Eliza Dushku in it. And clearly, I can't be trusted to make good decisions when she's involved (see: my comments for #94 on this list, plus my endless prattling about Dollhouse). This one is ALMOST in the category of "So bad, it's good".

42 - House of the Dead
You know what? This is one of my favorite bad movies of all time. It's biggest "stars" are Clint Howard and Jürgen Prochnow. It has a cast of 30+ year old actors attempting to pass themselves off as teenagers in the wood for a "rave" (one of the worst raves ever committed to screen, by the way). For no reason, it features a female character who spends the entire movie running around in a jumpsuit emblazoned with red and white stripes, with one breast featuring a blue background with white stars. And her name is Liberty (get it? get it?). And to top it off, it's directed by the master of schlock, Uwe Boll. I watch this shit at least once a year. It's a special, special film that can only be appreciated with a fifth of vodka and a close group of friends who will help you heckle this one. LOVE IT.

27 - Battlefield Earth
Another film you shouldn't apologize for seeing. This is one of my favorite "comedy that doesn't know it's a comedy" kind of movies. Gloriously cheesey. Vain and self indulgent. Worthy of the finest MST3K treatment. I celebrate this film in all its terribleness.

26 - Kickin' It Old Skool
It's a terrible film that I was nonetheless happy to watch. There are a few good chuckles in here. I don't know... maybe the Jamie Kennedy Experiment finally wore me down to the point where I submitted to his comedic charms (seriously, did you see the episode with Bob Saget?). I was also optimistic, because Kennedy's last film Malibu's Most Wanted was actually much better than people gave it credit for. The same, sadly, cannot be said of this film.

23 - The In Crowd
I love when movies about romantic rivals (in this case, two blandly hot chicks) is really more about the homoerotic subtext between the two characters. Yes, the maintext was about the two girls fighting over the stud in the cardigan. But the delicious lesbian subtext was pretty epic. Plus, there was murder(!) involved. Good enough for me, though I wouldn't exactly recommend this to anyone other than a true connoisseur of so-bad-it's-good cinema.

1 - Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
Not only did I see this in a theater for full price, I actually convinced an entire group of friends to go see it with me. I.... have no excuse. There aren't enough adjectives in the English language to describe what a total failure this film is.
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NFL Week 3 breakdown
Sunday, September 27, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Let's start this post off with a quote from one of my favorite movies:
Every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think we'd save everyone a lot of time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I'm for wasting sports writers' time. So, I'd like to hang around and see if we can give 'em all a nice big sh**burger to eat.
With that in mind, let's talk about which teams' local media should get their ketchup ready.

Oh my god, they actually won. No team exemplifies this quote more than the lowly Detroit Lions. Losers of 19 straight games, they hadn't won since December 2007. Well, luckily the Washington Redskins were accommodating enough to help the Lions break their losing streak. It was a pretty exciting game that had me on the edge of my seat. The Lions defense, normally porous, particularly in the secondary, managed to buckle down for once when the going got tough. The rookie QB Matthew Stafford had his first interception-free performance, and looked like he was actually having fun for once. RB Kevin Smith turned in his first 100+ yard rushing performance of the season as well, despite leaving the game with an injury in the second half.

In the locker room after the game, head coach Jim Schwartz remarked that people seemed awfully excited about winning a game that they expected to win. And while it's understandable that the Lions are relieved to have this 900 pound monkey off their backs, on the other hand, he's totally right - this was a game that many expected the Lions to win.

The difference between bad, mediocre, and good teams is this: bad teams lose games they should win, mediocre teams win the games they're supposed to and lose the ones they're supposed to (see also: Bills, Buffalo), and good teams win games that they aren't supposed to. Up till now, the Lions have been a bad team, imploding when the chips were down, losing to teams they had in their sights (rare as that was, there were a few last season). Now, the Lions can count themselves as a mediocre team. Surprisingly, that's okay. A 3-12 season would be something to build on (and looking at their schedule, they should only be expected to be 2 of the teams listed there).

With those definitions in mind, it's a bit early to be certain, but it sure looks like the Cincinnati Bengals (long mocked as "The Bungles" by the press) are in danger of being classified as a good team. They've now won two games in a row that no one expected them to (and really, their loss to the Broncos was a total fluke, so I'm giving them a pass on that). True, the wins weren't pretty, but on the other hand I attribute part of that to Carson Palmer being rusty coming off his recent injuries. If he gets into a groove, I predict Cincinnati might get even better on offense. I'm also shocked that Cedric Benson, a dud for so long, actually looks like the real deal this year. Looking at their schedule, I count 5 games they should win (CLE twice, DET, OAK, KC), which leaves them about 3 games against opponents that are challenging, but not impossible (SD, CHI, HOU). That would put them at 10 wins, which would position them well for a wild card spot.

In any case, even if they suck the rest of the year, that was still an exciting victory over their hated divisional rivals. Palmer started the game shaky, but showed real poise and leadership in the fourth quarter. Their final drive was a real nail-biter that included not one, but TWO 4th down conversions to keep the drive alive. I'd also like to note that on the final Hail Mary heave by Rothelisberger, the Cincinnati DBs went out of their way to make sure they batted the ball DOWN this time. That gave me a good chuckle.

If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style. Meanwhile, there are several teams lined up to take over where the Lions left off as Kings of Loserville. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used to be a power house on defense, but so far this season they've looked like a sure thing for offenses who need to get a boost in their stats. Not that the Tampa Bay offense is much better - this week they post 86 yards of total offense (54 of which came late in the 4th when the Giants had the game well under control), converting 0 of 9 third downs and scoring no points. You've got to think that the floundering Washington Redskins can't wait to play Tampa Bay next week.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland QBs seem to be in a competition to see who can play worse. Brady Quinn had his big chance to shine this year as the starting QB, but instead played poorly enough that he was yanked for Derek Anderson - who promptly threw 3 INTs yesterday.'s website cleverly labeled the game "Carnage on the Chesapeake". Consider that it could have been even worse if the Ravens hadn't pulled their starters in the fourth quarter out of mercy.

The Miami Dolphins aren't a bad team, but they're not that good of a team either, and they have a pretty tough schedule this year. While I think they'll win some games this year, they really need to start considering looking at Chad Henne to see if he can really be their QB for the future. I love Chad Pennington, but having no big passing game is really killing the Dolphins right now. Imagine how good Ronnie Brown might be if there was an actual passing threat teams had to guard against.

Vick who? For all the hullabaloo about Michael Vick and where he might fit in the Eagles organization after this year, the real story has been the performance of young QB Kevin Kolb these past few games. Kolb was drafted to be the quarterback of the future after aging starter Donovan McNabb leaves, and he's definitely given the Philly faithful a reason to be optimistic moving forward. Of course, we'll still have to see how he performs one day in a game that is actually close - he threw INTs against the Saints, but that's going to happen when you play from so far behind, and you don't exactly get a prize for beating up on the Chiefs. Last year's meltdown was against the Ravens, and frankly you can't blame him for that one - the Ravens made a lot of otherwise good QBs look terrible last year.

Vick was pretty much a non-entity in the game: he only got 10 plays or so, and he wasn't even the best Wildcat QB out there - rookie RB LeSean McCoy did a better job running plays out of that formation. At this point, you have to wonder if Vick might only be the 4th best QB on that roster right now. Also, with the way Kolb has played and the way JaMarcus Russell has played, do you think maybe Jeff Garcia might be regretting asking to leave Oakland so early?

Random quick thoughts. I get a lot of complaints from people in the comments section that I don't give their favorite team enough love each week, so here are some quicky bites on some other teams that played this week:

- I think the Falcons needed to put a lot more pressure on Tom Brady this week. That's why they lost: he had too much time in the pocket to think about how he wanted to destroy them. The Falcons also need to find a way to get the Michael Turner bus rolling again.

- The Chargers look pretty good, but I'm a little unsure about their run game right now. Luckily Philip Rivers is willing to throw the hell out of the ball while they work that out.

- I thought Houston spent the past few years drafting high profile defenders to improve. This year they seem hell-bent on awarding fantasy football glory to every opponent they face.

- Arizona has serious offensive line issues. That's why they can't run and that's why Kurt Warner was rushed most of the game yesterday.

- I think there might be something seriously wrong with the Seattle Seahawks conditioning program, as the program is riddled with injuries for the second season in a row early in the year. Also, WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THESE JERSEYS?

Seriously. Maybe players were faking injuries this week so they wouldn't have the embarrassment of playing in these jerseys. Between this and the horrific jerseys the University of Oregon sports, it's clear that the West Coast has some kind of weird fashion dementia.

Studs of the week. Call me crazy, but the HBO series Hard Knocks has converted me into a closet Bengals fan. And the series also helped inspire my love for some of the role players on the team, like Brian Leonard. This week he awarded my love with an amazing effort on 4th down to keep the final drive alive, plus he caught the 2-point conversion that ensured that a Steelers FG could only tie the game.

Peyton Manning is a beast (24/35, 379 yards, 4 TDs). I also love the way Joe Flacco has become a big game QB this year, posting his best effort yet for yardage (25/35, 342 yards, 1 TD), and continuing to lead a shockingly potent Baltimore offense. Imagine what he could do with a true #1 WR that could run down passes thrown by that huge arm of his. However, it's not like the ageless Derrick Mason isn't pulling his share of the offensive load (118 yards, 1 TD).

Good for you, Maurice Jones-Drew for having a huge game (118 yards, 3 TDs). But could you please try to do it next time on a week when I'm NOT playing your owner in fantasy football?

Lastly, Brett Favre still has a little magic left in his seemingly bottomless bag of pixie dust. Did you see that throw on the final play of the game? Just awesome. I'm not even going to quote his stats for the day, because that's not why Minnesota was so eager to sign him - single plays like the toss to Greg Lewis are why they signed him. If there were hints of a schism in the locker room, I'd say it's safe to assume all the boys in purple are squarely behind him for now.

Duds of the week. My god, just when you think JaMarcus Russell can't get any worse, he turns in an even worse performance the next week. How long can the Raiders continue to justify starting a QB that goes 12/21 for only 61 yards, 2 INTs, and takes 3 sacks? He has thrown for a TOTAL of 378 yards in the past 3 weeks - which you'll note is 1 yard fewer than Peyton Manning threw for in a single game.

Teams I like this week. The NY Jets look mighty fine. So do the New Orleans Saints. So I guess it's lucky for us football fans that they meet up next week to decide if the Jets have what it takes to contain the Saints offense. Despite their heartbreaking loss to the Vikings, the 49ers are still the real deal and I still like what I'm seeing out of that program. Lastly, if the defense tightens up a bit, the best team in the AFC (or perhaps the whole NFL) might be the Baltimore Ravens.

Teams I don't like this week. The Oakland Raiders' conduct both on the field and off the field (read this bizarre story about them attempting to ban Rich Gannon from their facility) continues to be an embarrassment. The way the Washington Redskins are playing, I think Jim Zorn might be fired in their bye week, barring some kind of miraculous turn around before then. Their division is just too competitive for them to lose to teams like Detroit (and nearly to the lowly Rams the week before).

**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Matthew Stafford image by AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Cleveland Browns image by AP Photo/Gail Burton
Seattle's horrible uniforms image by AP Photo/John Froschauer
Kevin Kolb image by AP Photo/Michael Perez
JaMarcus Russell image by AP Photo/Ben Margot

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Fall TV: Finding The Diamonds in the Coal Pile
Thursday, September 24, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
In case you're wondering what's entertaining me these days, here are the shows I'll be following along with this fall (and perhaps blogging about, if I have time):

Must-Watch Shows

1) I must say - the pilot episode for the new sitcom Modern Family was absolutely stellar. I haven't seen a pilot this strong in a long time (perhaps back to Arrested Development). If you missed it, you can watch it online here. Highly recommended. It's sort of like The Office crossed with Married... With Children (and I mean that in a good way).

2) Dollhouse is back! And all reports are that it's much improved. The fact that they poached some more great Battlestar Galactica actors (Jamie Bamber appears in tonight's season opener, and Michael Hogan pops in at some point as well) probably helps. Joss Whedon also took advantage of the cancellation of The Sarah Connor Chronicles to pull the excellent Summer Glau back into his fold. And really... could anyone LOOK more plastic and doll-like than her?

3) Parks and Recreation started sort of wonky, but picked up good steam towards the end of the season. Last night's premiere was really great - highlights include Chris Pratt really committing to flinging himself into an open pit head-first - and gives me hope that the show has found its comedic footing.

4) On the sci-fi front, I'm also still excited about the reboot of V, which is coming in November. Advance word is that the pilot is awesome. Finally, Stargate gets another spin-off show, when Stargate: Universe launches later this fall. The cast (Ming Na, David Blue, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Robert Carylyle to name a few) is stellar, and it looks like this show's going to be a lot darker than previous ones.

5) I don't need to tell you why I'm watching 30 Rock, The Office, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother and Fringe. They rock and you all know it.

6) Don't forget, Dexter returns this Sunday on Showtime. And John Lithgow is the season long guest star! Wooooo! Anyone who saw Lithgow in "Raising Cain" knows he can be one scary mo-fo when he wants to be.

Shows With Potential

1) I liked the first two episodes of NBC's sitcom Community, so I'm tentatively in for now. Joel McHale is perfectly cast, as is Chevy Chase. I'm not sure how the rest of the cast is going to work for me, but it's early so we'll see.

2) I like the singing on Glee, plus Jane Lynch is delivering comic gold week after week, which allows me for now to endure the more annoying aspects of the show. It's got tons of potential, but needs to figure out what kind of show it wants to be. Tonally, it's all over the place. Does this show want to be a dark comedy that exposes life in high school (a la Election), or does it want to be an optimistic, everybody sings and dances sort of show (a la High School Musical).

3) You might want to check out ABC's new show Flash Forward (I DVR'd it and will comment more once I watch this weekend). I love serial drama/sci-fi shows when they're done right, so we'll see how this one turns out. It's got a good cast, and it's a promising sign that the showrunners plan to answer the main mystery by the end of the season.
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NFL Week 2 breakdown
Sunday, September 20, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Wow, what an exciting week of football. Let's get down to it.

The panicfest has been postponed till next week. There's a hilarious tendency for fans to freak out after Week 1 of the NFL regular season. I have several friends who were ready to give up on their team for the season based on one performance.
Let's start with the Bears fandom, who last week saw Jay Cutler throw 4 INTs and their star linebacker Brian Urlacher leave the game with a season-ending wrist injury. My Facebook feed was overwhelmed by friends posting things like, "Oh god, there goes the season" and "If we wanted 4 INTs, we would have kept Grossman."Well, those fans have to feel a lot better after watching Cutler perform fairly well (27 for 38, and no INTs this time) against the Steelers defense (still a tough group, even with the loss of superstar Troy Polamalu). Though I'm still not 100% sure that the Bears will do much this season - since this win was partially about Jeff Reed's failure to convert critical FGs versus any spectacular defensive play - it's got to feel good to pull off the victory, especially at home. Good teams know how to win when the chips are down, when they're playing a team that might be better than them. The Bears will need to win a lot of tough games this year if they want to make the playoffs. However, I am very concerned about the Bears seemingly abandoning Matt Forte, their best offensive weapon, in their rush to take advantage of Cutler's abilities.

Also bouncing back from horrific implosions last week were the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and the Oakland Raiders. Of those teams, I think Cincy has the most to be proud of. They played a pretty good game, and of the 3 teams, I think they're the most solid. Cedric Benson has run strong now for 2 straight games, and the passing game is slowly getting back in sync (you can tell Palmer is still struggling to find his rhythm after missing most of the pre-season with an ankle injury).

The Raiders lost a game they should have won last week against the Chargers, so I guess they felt compelled to win a game they should have lost this week. The Chiefs had 409 total yards of offense compared to the Raiders' 166 yards, but made more mistakes - 2 INTs and twice the number of penalties as the Raiders - that ended up costing them the win at home. I have a feeling this might be a long and unhappy season for KC again.

The Bills won a game that they should have. That's all I can really say about that - good for Trent Edwards for taking more shots down the field, I guess. I'm still not optimistic about their chances, because I don't believe they can win games that are close or where they're expected to lose.

Good for the Arizona Cardinals, who bounced back from a bad loss last week and got their offense back on track. More on Kurt Warner's record breaking performance later in this post. I'm also quite pleased, for selfish reasons related to fantasy football, that Larry Fitzgerald has now gone two weeks in a row avoiding the dreaded Madden curse.

Lastly, the Eagles fan who moaned and groaned about McNabb getting hurt again have to feel good about the way Kevin Kolb performed yesterday. Yes, the Eagles lost, but I have a feeling that Drew Brees is going to make a lot of otherwise solid defenses look foolish when he rolls into town. The last time Kolb played, he looked like a frightened bunny rabbit. This time, Kolb looked a lot more in control. Yes, he had turn overs, but that's going to happen when you throw over 50 times and are trying to keep up with the most potent offense in the NFL.

On second thought, go ahead and panic. The following teams actually should be panicking a little, since I see some bad tendencies that could blossom into big problems if they continue this season.

The Redskins could barely muster enough enthusiasm to beat the lowly St Louis Rams. I look at this offense, and I see a group of 11 guys playing uninspired football. The WRs aren't performing up to snuff, and there's legitimate concern over Jason Campbell's ability to truly put the team on his back. Also, Clinton Portis can't cheat age and wear on his body forever. You can't afford lackluster output like this when you play in the toughest division in football.

Attention Kansas City: when you can't even beat the Raiders AT HOME (where the Chiefs used to boast a huge advantage), you need to start panicking a little. I'm not sure head coach Todd Haley has the right temperament to deal with this team. If he thinks he's going to scream them into playing better, he's not going to have any voice left at the end of the season. They have to play the Eagles next week, which could be very ugly.

Lastly, the Jaguars are 0-2 and they can't get fans into the seats. This is a franchise that's in serious trouble. The fans (what few they have, based on attendance and general buzz) should be freaking out, because at this rate, can Jacksonville really hang onto their franchise much longer? Is it possible the Jags might move in the near future?

Studs of the week. I have a feeling that I'm going to get tired of writing "Drew Brees" here week after week. He's a robot (25/34, 311 yards, 3 TDs). He must make opposing defenses crazy - you KNOW he's going to pass, and yet you can't do anything about it. He has more TDs than quarters played this season (9 TD in 8 quarters).

Speaking of phenomenal QB performances, special props to one of my favorites Kurt Warner, for his record setting performance. I'll just quote's Peter King here: "His 24-of-26 passing day, 92.3 percent, is the best in the 90-year history of the league. He's getting older, but he might also be getting better." Also, I don't like Philip Rivers as a person, but I must give him mad props for his performance (25/45, 436 yards) in that heart-breaking loss. It's just a shame that the team didn't trust the ball to his capable hands on the last play of the drive.

And speaking of that play... oh my god. Did you see the tackle by Ray Lewis on 4th down with the game on the line? Simply one of the best defensive plays I've ever seen. Words can't do justice to the awesomeness displayed here (though Michael Silver comes close in this outstanding article you HAVE to read) - check out the video (the play in question starts around 4:55 or so). That is what we call "outstanding individual effort." Lewis also had 12 tackles and forced a fumble. Another player who elevated his team with his individual play on defense is the NY Jets' Darrelle Revis - learn that name, because he's a rising star.

Last, the Houston/Tennessee game was an orgy of amazing offensive performances. Chris Johnson ran wild (197 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 87 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD), but Matt Schaub went wilder (25/39, 357 yards, 4 TD), squeaking out the win after a poor performance the week before. What's amazing is that someone managed to top Chris Johnson's yardage, as Frank Gore had two HUGE runs of 79 and 80 yards, on his way to a 206 yard, 2 TD day.

Duds of the week. One of the main criticisms leveled at the Cowboys last year was that Tony Romo couldn't win when it counted. Judging from his performance (13/29, 127 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT) last night, he hasn't really fixed those issues in the off-season, even with Terrell Owens run out of town. His 3 INTs were simply terrible (2 returned for TDs). He looked awkward and nervous in the pocket all night, and he cost the Cowboys a critical divisional win. Meanwhile, the Brady Quinn era in Cleveland is off to an ugly start. And Willie Parker, where are you? What happened to the vaunted Pittsburgh run game? Did you know that instead of JaMarcus Russell, who is now 19/54 (35.2% completion rate) with 1 TD and 2 INT for the year, the Oakland Raiders could have drafted Adrian Peterson, which would have then allowed them to select a QB the following year when guys like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were floating around?

Teams I like this week. Don't look now, but the San Francisco 49ers are 2-0, with two division wins under their belt. I think the New Orleans Saints are the most terrifying team out there right now, especially if their defense steps up their game at all. The NY Jets might just be the real deal, especially with that defense. The Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens are both 2-0 and helmed by QBs that are thus far avoiding a sophomore slump.

Teams I don't like this week. The Cleveland Browns really need to learn to tackle. I'm also thinking that maybe the New England Patriots' long streak of having an old defense and little-to-no consistency in the run game is finally starting to fail them. Tom Brady needs help once in awhile, guys, especially since the O line is looking particularly suspect this year. Though both the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders inexplicably won this week, I don't like what either team is bringing to the table.

**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Bears image by AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Redskins fumble image by AP Photo/Nick Wass
Chris Johnson image by AP Photo/Wade Payne
Giants interception image by AP Photo/LM Otero

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Monday Night Football Madness
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Normally, I probably won't blog about the weekly Monday Night Football matchups*, but since ESPN decided air back-to-back games and screw all East Coast residents that need to actually, you know, WORK and shit early in the morning, I guess I'll go ahead and discuss last night's results.

It was the best of times.... Watching the pre-game show, Chris Berman mentioned that the Bills had announced their plan to play in the no-huddle offense for the entire game. He then pitched it to his fellow commentators to discuss. Tom Jackson made a valiant attempt to be fair-minded, but eventually settled on (paraphrasing here), "I.... I.... I just.... it just seems like a bad idea to give the Patriots offense MORE time to beat on you." Other hosts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka and Keyshawn Johnson couldn't even manage that, breaking down into giggles almost immediately at the thought. Naturally, I went into the game thinking that I was about to see a disaster unfold.

Surprisingly enough, though, Alex Van Pelt (the new offensive coordinator) put together a very solid game plan. Trent Edwards looked really in control of the offense, which was a promising sign. Though much will be made of the fact that T.O. only caught 2 balls, he did exactly what he was supposed to do - pull double coverage on deep routes. This allowed the Bills to take advantage of the defense by running screens, draws and crossing routes. Fred Jackson was on his way to earning a game ball for the way he gutted out several huge runs that kept drives alive. The Bills defense dug its heels in and stopped the Patriots on 4th down twice. Things were looking like they were headed for an upset with just over 5 minutes to go.

The second game of the night - featuring another predicted division winner against a team that no one thinks will be any good this year - unfolded much in the same way. The Raiders, expected to suck as they usually do, matched the Chargers blow for blow, with newly acquired Richard Seymour anchoring the defense (6 tackles, 2 sacks). Then suddenly, miraculously, JaMarcus Russell had a moment where he lived up to his billing, as he tossed a gorgeous 57 yard TD pass on 4th down that put the Raiders up with just over 2 minutes to go. The Black Hole was rocking.

... it was the worst of times. There is a competition among fans of certain franchises to see which team truly is the more woeful. Cincinnati had already made their case for Most Woeful with their bizarre last minute loss to the Broncos. However, clearly the Bills and Raiders weren't to be counted out so easily, as both teams imploded in the worst way. The difference between good teams and bad teams is that good teams know how to finish, and bad teams do not.

In some ways, the Raiders loss seems a little less painful, in that they did go blow-for-blow with the Chargers the whole night. The Chargers simply had the final blow that sealed the game in their favor, as Darren Sproles ran in the go-ahead score. The Bills, by contrast, were more spectacular in their utter failure. They gave up a TD before the 2 minute warning, but were still up by 4 points. All they had to do was run the clock out, or at least take a good chunk of time off the clock (and drain the Pats remaining time outs), putting the game in the defense's favor. However, Leodis McKelvin fumbled the kickoff and Tom Brady capitalized on it by quickly driving for the game winning TD. That the TD came to the same exact receiver on the same exact route as the previous score was just extra salt for the Bills' wounds.

Random thoughts. First, the Richard Seymour trade isn't looking so insane anymore. He clearly made the Raiders defense better immediately. And seeing the Bills tear apart the Patriots defense for a good part of the night made me think perhaps the Patriots were premature in letting Seymour go.

Second, the "B" crew for ESPN was simply horrific. Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Steve Young were terrible commentators. Listening to the game, I thought that ESPN had strolled down to the local sports bar and just randomly picked 3 guys off bar stools to work the game. At one point, Golic went off for several minutes about how he would like to change the rules about illegal contact. He was stunningly uninformed about the nuances of why the rule was in place, and what the ramifications of his proposed change would be. It was embarrassing. Greenberg was slightly better, and I do enjoy him on his radio show, but wow... his voice is not suited for color commentary work at all. Nasally and too high-pitched.

Third, I don't believe in moral victories, but the Bills did a lot of things right that they should be proud of.

Lastly, I think the Chargers will be fine this season, and they'll probably still win the AFC West. The Patriots I'm not quite as sure about. They looked really rusty on offense (which will probably improve), but they looked very vulnerable on defense (which might not improve, especially if Jerod Mayo is out for awhile). I'm curious to see how Rex Ryan reacts after this game, as the Patriots O line looked like it could barely stand a 4 man rush. I expect to see a lot of crazy blitzes from the Jets next week.

Studs of the night. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers both started rusty, there's no doubt about that. Sometimes players are studs because they put up gaudy numbers. However, these two are studs this week because they showed real poise and leadership when it really mattered, putting their teams on their backs and willing them to victory. Though the Bills lost, you have to admire the way that Fred Jackson ran all night long, and the impact that Aaron Schobel had. And when the game was on the line, it wasn't LT that got the call - it was Darren Sproles (who also had a killer return earlier in the game). You never want a TE as your leading receiver, but Zach Miller was simply excellent.

Duds of the night. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't look sharp at all. He lacked the quick step we've seen in previous years. All the speed in the world can't help Darrius Heyward-Bey if he can't catch the damn ball once in awhile. And I'm getting sick of hearing that JaMarcus Russell is a work in progress. A third year starting QB simply cannot go 12 for 30. That's horrible. Even if you spot him Heyward-Bey's two drops, he's still below 50% completion. Leodis McKelvin should be punched in the throat. That is all I have to say about that.

*you can always message me or discuss the games in the comments section of my weekly wrap up posts.

**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Bills are excited image by AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
McKelvin fumbles image by AP Photo/Steven Senne
Raiders/Chargers image by AP Photo/Marcio Sanchez
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NFL Week 1 breakdown (2009 Edition!)
Monday, September 14, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Well, a lot of folks told me they liked my NFL-related posts last year (and by "lot", I mean, "one or two, including my mother"). Anyway, they're back, so hopefully you'll enjoy them.

It's a Hard Knocks Life for the Bengals. During training camp and the pre-season, the Bengals agreed to be the team featured on HBO's reality show "Hard Knocks", which showed life behind the scenes at camp and let you get to know the players and coaches in a more intimate way. Watching the show, I realized the following: 1) I kinda sorta liked Chad Ochocinco more than I ever expected; 2) Carson Palmer is a total weirdo; 3) Marvin Lewis is totally fucking scared for his job this season. Hard Knocks was interesting because I found myself getting attached to this lovable band of losers and secretly cheering for them during their game against the Broncos. However, I forgot that this team isn't nicknamed "The Bungles" for no reason, as they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing a miracle TD pass to Brandon Stokely with 27 seconds remaining in the game. Frankly, this was a must-win game for the Bengals: with the next two games upcoming against the Packers and Steelers, it's looking like the Bengals will start the season 0-3 (barring their own miracle). Marvin Lewis is right to fear for his job - nothing less than a playoff appearance and win will save his job, and it's going to be almost impossible to recover from an 0-3 start, especially since they have to play the Steelers once more during the season, and the Ravens twice.

While the Broncos certainly weren't impressive, needing the miracle catch to save the game for them, you can't underestimate what this victory means for the team. First, it gives Josh McDaniels his all-important first official win as a head coach. Second, there's nothing more dangerous than a team that believes it can win, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The Broncos play two cream-puff teams next (Browns and Raiders) - they could conceivably go 3-0 to start the season, which will go a long way towards silencing the critics and nay-sayers who were down on the team after the Cutler/Marshall fiascoes.

Speaking of scenarios that can be labeled "The Cutler Fiasco".... How horrific was Jay Cutler's performance last night against the Packers? 4 INTs on 36 pass attempts (for a 1:9 INT-to-attempt ratio). To be fair, however, not all the blame can be laid at Cutler's feet. Chris Collinsworth (who I am LOVING so far as a replacement for Madden) pointed out that at least 2 of the INTs were due to receivers quitting on their routes, or failing to run the proper route. The last INT looked like it was the fault of the rookie WR, who let the safety muscle past him for the pick.

Despite Cutler's poor performance, the Bears were still in the game up to the very end. However, the Bears made some bizarre decisions (including a fake punt on 4th and 11, from their own 30 yard line) that cost them the game as much as Cutler's turnovers. I thought the play calling on offense was bizarre. You have a RB in Matt Forte who had over 1,000 yds rushing last year and over 60 catches. And what do you have him do? Stay in the back field to help block, as Cutler throws pass after pass to guys like Devin "I can only run in a straight line" Hester and Earl Bennett. I have no idea why the Bears thought it was a good idea to take their best offensive weapon out of the picture on play after play, especially since he showed poorly ability as a blocker (I watched him miss several blocks, including ones where he had help).

I Like Mike. The commentator doing the Cardinals/49ers game made an interesting observation that the marketing campaign in the Bay Area for the San Francisco 49ers doesn't feature players, but rather an inspirational series of images and sayings of head coach Mike Singletary. Much has been made about Singletary's attitude - from the bizarre pants-dropping episode of last season, to bawling out Vernon Davis, to running a reportedly brutal training camp this year - but it seems that his hard-nosed approach to life and football is popular with fans. More importantly, after watching the 49ers stay physical with the Cardinals and pull out the close win, there's evidence that perhaps that approach is paying dividends on the field as well. Singletary has been vocal about not wanting to be the face of the franchise, as the article above states:
Singletary has adamantly stated that he doesn't want to be the most famous person wearing 49ers colors. He would rather have the distinction go to a player, or several of them, dropping him deep into the fame depth chart.
Still, until players like Frank Gore and Vernon Davis establish themselves, there are worse things than having a strong head coach that brings a toughness that the franchise has lacked for some time now.

Studs of the Week. This is sort of a no-brainer. Obviously, Drew Brees had a ridiculous day, throwing for 6TDs and 358 yards. It's funny that this is the same guy San Diego couldn't wait to get rid of, who was told all his life he was too small to play the QB position, who people thought would never fully recover from his shoulder injury in 2005. Yeah. Suck it, doubters.

In other news, Adrian Peterson is still awesome (180 yards rushing, 3 TDs). However, fantasy players shouldn't expect this every week - these two won't have the benefit of facing the Lions and Browns every week. Tony Gonzales rewarded fantasy players who spent early draft picks on him with a #1 WR-esque performance, catching 5 balls for 73 yards and 1 TD. With that performance, he becomes only the 21st player in NFL history to break 11,000 yards receiving. Tony Romo had one of the best performances of his career, putting up 355 yards passing and 3 TDs (insert obligatory "T.O. Who?" quip here). Finally, Joe Flacco registered the first 300+ yard passing game of his career, torching the Chiefs for 325 yards and 3 TDs.

Duds of the week. Semi-stolen from Peter King's "Goat of the Week", but I had to add this section, just so we can talk about how terrible Jake Delhomme was. In the past 2 games (last year's playoff game, and yesterday's game), he's thrown 9 INTs. No, that is not a typo. In an effort to perhaps show faith in Delhomme, the Panthers failed to go out and get a quality backup for him. Methinks they're regretting that decision right now. I've got the Panthers high on my list of "People who need to be calling Jeff Garcia right now". Also failing to impress anyone is Larry Johnson, which pleases me, because from all reports he's sort of a bastard. And I do enjoy watching bastards fail.

Teams I like this week. This week, I like the 49ers, who played solid football and contained Arizona's high powered offense. I also like the Jets, who got a nice performance out of rookie QB Mark Sanchez, and delivered on the promise of a Baltimore style of smash-your-face-in defensive play. I thought the Packers also looked good (though I would have liked to see more of a ground game), and the 3-4 defense seemed effective, especially at containing the run.

Teams I don't like this week. Just because they won doesn't mean the Broncos were particularly impressive. And starting week 4 they'll have to deal with Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, so it could get real ugly real fast for this team if they don't improve. I'm also disappointed the Detroit, Kansas City and Cleveland looked their old selves again this year. Lastly, the Houston Texans looked terrible.

**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Broncos image by AP Photo/Al Behrman
Bears image by AP Photo/Jim Prisching
Drew Brees image by AP Photo/Bill Feig
49ers image by AP Photo/Paul Connors
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Life As A Game Designer (preview)
Friday, September 11, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

Last night my co-host Mark and I sat down and recorded Episode 14 of our podcast "Across the Nerdaverse". We were both very excited to welcome David Leung of Twisted Pixel Games to the show. Here's a little preview of what you can expect in the upcoming episode:

Dave joined us to give us some insight into his creative process as Art Director behind games such as The MAW, ‘Splosion Man. He also gave us a little tease of Twisted Pixel’s newest project Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley. Check out some of the videos below to get a sample of the fine work being turned out by Dave and the crew at Twisted Pixel! Episode 14’s release will be announced via our Facebook Group as soon as it is ready! Click here to join the Facebook Group and receive updates on new episodes as they are made available!

While you're waiting for the episode to drop, be sure to go on Xbox Live Arcade and play these two titles. I can personally recommend 'Spolsion Man - it's a highly addictive platformer that's just tons of fun.

The Maw

‘Splosion Man

Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley

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DragonCon Day 1 Adventures
Saturday, September 05, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

I know I haven't posted in awhile, but I had a few notes and pictures to share from DragonCon 2009 here in Atlanta.

My cousin recently expressed surprise that I'd be "one of those kind of people" - you know, a D&D nerd, the kind of person who'd dress up and go to a convention where other equally nerdy people were sporting their own bizarre and elaborate costumes. But the truth is: that's just who I am, and I'm actually pretty okay with that.

Here's what I love about nerd and geek culture: it's a break from the normal Vogue and Hollywood notions of beauty and coolness. According to mainstream culture, you aren't allowed to be larger than a size 4 and you can't express interest in things like dragons and sci-fi and fairies in mixed company. But at places like DragonCon you can dress up in a hoop skirt, strap on a leather tool belt and parade around in your finest steampunk outfit, and by god... you are hot. You are beautiful. You can make jokes that draw blank stares at home, and you'll have people shouting back the proper response and/or cracking up at the pop culture reference you just dropped.

I got to the convention this morning at 9am, stood in line for registration for almost 2 hours (unacceptable, and a blight on an other wise excellent day) and finally got to start hitting the panels and show floors. This particular convention is huge - it fills up 4 hotels in the downtown Atlanta area, and almost every ballroom is packing to capacity all day long. I spent a good part of the day running from panel to panel (sample sessions attended included a writing seminar, a panel on the upcoming Hobbit film and a Q&A with the excellent Terry Gilliam), hunting for autographs on the Walk of Fame and people watching. As you can see from the photos posted here, the costumes are simply amazing - a lot of love and creativity went into these outfits, and I can't wait to see the parade tomorrow morning.

I ended the day with a midnight screening of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. The organizers arranged a Rocky Horror Picture Show style reenactment, where performers acted out the action on the screen, as the whole audience sang along and shouted at the screen. There's something simply amazing about being in a room full of fans, singing at the top of your lungs, buzzing on the collective energy and excitement of those around you. As an added bonus, one of the stars of the movie (the always lovely Felicia Day, who I've gushed about on this blog before) popped in to say hello and to introduce the film. Anyway, it was a total blast - if you ever get a chance to do something like that, I highly recommend it.

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