Monday, September 24, 2007

Colts Observations, Week Three

Houston, we have liftoff or We love to Addai and it shows. One of the most breathtaking and amazing plays of the year came courtesy the Colts' very own Joseph Addai. The second-year pro launched himself into the endzone for a short TD run that included some major hangtime. I watched the game this week with KrilDog and his roommate, and wow, we were amazed.

Drops of Gonzo. That Gonzalez kid is quickly becoming a part of the Colts offense. There's only one problem so far: he has the tendency to drop the ball. He missed out on a couple of huge plays because of this. One thing I like about Manning, though, is that he didn't hesitate to throw right back to Gonzo, even after the drops.

Omniscient? Nah, just lucky. At the end of the game, when the TV announcers were talking about how the Texans needed to get the ball to the sideline, and could possibly run two or more plays, I said it could end real quick-like with a sack. Robert Mathis comes around the left side, and BOOM! Game over, man. Game over!

Clock killing 101. Last week I bemoaned the Colts' decision to throw the darn ball while trying to run down the clock. It resulted in some incompletions and left too much time on the scoreboard. This week, they ran the ball. When the Texans got the ball back, they didn't have any timeouts or time to do anything. That's exactly what Indy should've done last week vs. Tennessee.

Stump the Schaub. It sure is easy to say the Texans got the better end of that Matt Schaub deal. I like the kid; he looked really good for Houston. He was pretty hard to sack, too. The Colts put pressure on him, but had a hard time bringing him down (though the D did force some fumbles that Houston recovered). Still, nice to get a couple of interceptions from linebackers like Gary Brackett and our favorite red-headed stepchild of an outside linebacker, Rocky Boiman.

Not quite clicking yet. As we've seen several times, the Colts offense isn't quite in midseason form. They looked great on their first couple of drives, but Peyton missed a few throws, including a high toss to a wide-open-in-the-endzone Marvin Harrison. That doesn't happen often. Bob Kravitz wrote today that this Colts team is better than last year's. On defense, that certainly seems to be the case. We'll see how it holds up over the next few weeks.

Bad start. Visions of Super Bowl XLI when the opening kickoff was returned for a TD. They stopped Jerome Mathis on the first play of the game, but a stupid penalty nullified that. On attempt #2, a squib, Mathis came up big. Definitely not how you want to start off any game, especially one on the road. Thankfully, a long, measured drive tied the game right back up.

Big hitters. This year's defense sure as heck likes to hit. Whether it's Kelvin Hayden, Bob Sanders, Tyjuan Hagler, Freddy Keiaho, Matt Giordano, Antoine Bethea, or anyone else, the Colts know how to make people go down. And the run defense? 40 yards on 17 attempts for a meaty 2.7 average per carry. I realize Ahman Green went down early, but that's still impressive.

Hall of a Killings. I thought Roy Hall took the brunt of the collision with Cedric Killings. After seeing the replay several times, I still think Hall should've been the one knocked out because it looks like he took a lick on the helmet. I sure hope Killings gets healthy again.

Dialin' up DC. Dallas Clark had another TD grab to go along with three other catches. Manning didn't focus on the tight ends this week like he did against Tennessee. Then again, he didn't have to. Really liked the Colts' game plan this week. They really mixed it up and kept Houston guessing.

Protect the franchise. Amobi Okoye had a sack. For the most part, though, the Colts did a much better job of keeping #18 clean this week.

Workhorses. Gary Brackett had a solid game, finishing with 9 tackles. That's pretty good. Marlin Jackson also kept busy...he had 15 tackles on the day. A lot of those were in pass coverage, some were in run support.

Rushing to return. I saw a couple of nice kick returns fom T.J. Rushing, including a big 47-yarder that set up a field goal.

Special again. Welcome back, Adam Vinatieri. After taking us on a trip to the Bizarro World, #4 got his act together and showed us why he's one of the best kickers in league history.

On that note...The Colts left some points on the board again this week. The defense was stout enough to cover for it, however. I'd just like to see the horseshoes come up with a few more touchdowns in the red zone. It'll come, it'll come.

And I realized, hey, I'm so all about Halo. Krildog has me all hyped up over the release of Halo 3. After years of Xbox gaming by myself, I'm taking the leap to Xbox Live Gold. And I'm going to play the crap out of Halo 3!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Death and Return of Superman

Gotta admit: I was stoked for the release of Superman Doomsday, the new animated Supes pic from DC. A straight-to-DVD tale, it's based on the obscenely popular comic book from 1993. Comic philes would know it simply as issue 75.

I am not a traditional comic book geek; I didn't have many comic books growing up, and I certainly never read the Death of Superman upon its original release. I caught up to it all by reading "The Death and Life of Superman," the adapted novel of the epic comic book story arc. It's one of my favorite reads, and I have been known to read it once or twice a year (especially around Christmas, oddly enough). So, though I don't possess the firsthand "comic knowledge" of Superman's demise, I am certainly and unquestionably in tune with the story, and thus, qualified to review a film "inspired by" the epic story.

I will warn you here that I'm not pulling any punches; SPOILERS LIE AHEAD in my review. This is necessary because I'm going to discuss some of the key changes I noticed between the book I've read several times and the DVD I watched yesterday. If you want to go into Superman Doomsday unfettered, then I suggest you read the following line, and then move away: I liked the movie a lot, but was disappointed by how it was reworked.

The movie starts off just like one would expect: all the world seems fine, Superman's around, and then Doomsday comes. Instead of being tucked away in a suit to contain his strength, Doomsday emerges from captivity completely free of restraints. He's completely homicidal and without remorse. I'm not even sure he knows what he's doing. Losing the suit is no big deal. What does stink, and I know this is to condense the story line (some characters' rights issues may be involved here as well), is that there's no appearance from the Justice League of America. If there's one thing that made the threat of Doomsday all too real, it was the fact that America's greatest team of superheroes (even with its flawed members like Maxima and Guy Gardner) was powerless (you could even say comically inept, even) and couldn't slow him down. I really wanted to see that, even though this is primarily a Superman movie. That was my first disappointment.

The fight between Superman and Doomsday was not disappointing, however. It's an epic, gritty, nasty, and exciting fight. Superman coughs up blood at one point, buildings shake and some collapse, there's carnage everywhere. As vapid a character as Doomsday is, there's no denying he's a scary looking dude with an innate hatred for, well, pretty much everything. The Man of Steel's final act, flying Doomsday into space, only to crash in tandem in Metropolis, is stirring, especially the musical score. With Doomsday dead, Superman has saved the day, though he's unable to save himself. With the iconic scene from the comics in mind, Lois Lane cradles Earth's Greatest Hero as he dies.

It's a powerful, sad, and moving moment. Never mind the fact it's a cartoon! My only gripe here is that, when Superman died in the comics, Lois was fully aware of his duel identities. In this movie, she suspects Clark Kent and Superman are the same guy (how you couldn't has always eluded me), but doesn't know, even though she's been shacking up with the Big Blue Boy Scout for six months. It seemed to be an odd choice, although there is a payoff at the end of the film.

Superman's funeral remains as stirring as ever. I really missed the cameo appearances from the comic/novel. In those versions, we saw brief glimpses of Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the whole spectrum of the DC Universe. It made Superman's sacrifice seem even larger and more resonant. That sense is still here, but it's muted. That would've been really neat to see after having read the book.

This is a story about sacrifice and resurrection. You can't ignore these undertones. Although he died, Superman comes back. In the book, a visit from Jonathan Kent brings Big Blue back. Here, Pa Kent is deceased, leaving Ma Kent behind to grieve on her own. Another important distinction: it was heartbreaking in the book to read how Ma and Pa Kent couldn't even attend their son's funeral, since no one knew they were Superman's parents. Thus, they weren't able to fully mourn their loss. In this movie, Ma Kent travels to Metropolis to see her son off. It's still effective, just a different take. In fact, the whole film is a kind of "bizarro world" version of the Death of Superman storyline.

Without Superman, crime goes sky-high . The city needs someone. Its hero has fallen. For me, this is the single most disappointing part of the film. I loved The Reign of the Supermen arc! It's where four Super pretenders descend upon Metropolis, each one representing a different version of the Man of Tomorrow, each one claiming to be or mistaken for Superman. There's the Cyborg, who looks exactly like Superman, except for that whole Terminator face thing. There's the Man of Steel, a huge figure clad in a glistening silver steel suit who carries a giant hammer. There's Superboy, who we find out later is a clone of the original. He's brash, egotistical, and still hasn't fully grown into his powers. Finally, there's the Man of Tomorrow. He's basically what Superman would be if our hero were more like Batman. He's a brutal figure with a mean streak and a perverted sense of justice.
These are all great, fun, visually dynamic characters.

None are in this film.

That's my biggest disappointment! I wanted to see the Reign of the Supermen! I understand time constraints, but for me, the four different Supermen were the biggest draw of it all. Can anyone replace Superman? Are any of them real? It's a great conspiracy!

Each character draws upon a part of Superman's soul. The Cyborg represents how Superman is more than man. The Man of Tomorrow harkens back to his Kryptonian roots. Superboy exhibits Superman's youthful spirit. And the Man of Steel...well...do I really need to say it?Instead of these fine characters, the producers did the best they could. They had Lex Luthor clone Superman, stealing his body to finally get control over his great nemesis. Obviously, this perverse tribute goes very wrong. Everyone is thrilled to have Superman back. But he's emotionally cold toward Lois (like the Cyborg and Man of Tomorrow in the book) and fond of extremely brutal examples of justice (a real vigilante, like the Man of Tomorrow). In addition, he's a clone, a trait he shares with Superboy. And, like the Man of Steel, he also takes it upon himself to protect Metropolis.

Actually, it's a pretty shrewd solution. It's ironic: while the comic went four different ways to "replace" Earth's Greatest Hero; the movie version condenses elements of those four figures into a single cloned Superman. Wow.

Of course, Superman comes back, yes, with longer hair and a truly awesome black-and-silver suit. Despite the fact he's only at 67%, he challenges his clone, fighting once again for Metropolis. At the end, Superman wins because, well, Superman always wins. His clone even begs him to "protect the people of Metropolis" with his dying breath.

So, while I was put off by some of the creative decisions, this is a good movie. Great animation, some very good voice acting (most of the time), and a great score (even if John Williams' triumphant theme is missing).

Extra features include a commentary that I haven't listened to yet, a tremendous feature on the comic book storyline that really helps underscore how big of an undertaking it was to kill Superman. Funny thing about that documentary, though. You won't find an image of Superboy. Apparently, legal wrangling over the character means DC no longer owns it! The picture of Superboy here is from a Superman archive website. All other images are from the DVD.

There's also a fantastic preview for an upcoming DC animated film. It looks excellent.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Something different...

My wife and I just signed up for Netflix about a week ago. Our trial period expires at the end of the week. So, I thought I'd try something a little different. Yes, I write a lot about sports. Sometimes, I write about Star Wars. Sometimes I combine the two (see the "Maized and Confused" cover for proof). I'm going to branch out to movies, specifically DVDs. Call it the Studicus Netflix Movie of the Week. If I think of a better title, trust me, I'll use it in the future.

This week's feature: The Departed (2006)

Plot: A fake real cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a real fake cop (Matt Damon) match wits to bring down and protect an Irish mobster (Jack Nicholson), respectively.

My thoughts: Hey, it's a Scorsese film. Expect lots of blood, copious amounts of swearing, and lots of "law-abiding" citizens. I originally went to see this at a movie theater in Scottsdale, Arizona with my wife on our honeymoon. She didn't exactly like it that much, mostly due to the aformentioned lots of blood and copious amounts of swearing.

I, on the other hand, have been wanting to rent it again for a while now. This is really a fantastic film, as long as you don't have overly sensitive ears. The cast is superb, from the main leads to the supporting characters (Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg). There's great atmosphere and a wonderful conspiracy. I loved it how the characters of Damon and DiCaprio overlapped in their lives in so many ways (both worked for the police and for Nicholson's character, although their motivations were different; both had previous family connections with Nicholson's character; both had romantic relationships with the same girl; both teetered on the edge of losing their sanity and fell into paranoia).

Upon my second viewing, I recalled how great of a twist the ending had before it actually ended (you know, when Wahlberg took care of business). And, like the first time I saw it, I wanted to shoot Matt Damon myself after he recommended DiCaprio for a medal of distinction. I hated his character before that; after that I literally wanted to punch through my TV screen. I mean, for the love of God, he killed Jack Nicholson's character to protect himself, offed another snitch in his unit, and then had the audacity to "honor" DiCaprio with an award!

Favorite scene: I would say the very last one, when Damon gets his comeuppance. I really think, however, that my very favorite scene is when Matt "the prick" Damon and Mark "badass" Wahlberg exchange pleasantries following the death of Martin Sheen. Go get 'em Mark!

And the "winner" is...

The great cover contest was no contest whatsoever. I guess "Maized and Confused" was the cover for week one or week two of the NCAA season; "Onward to Oh-and-Three" sure fits the Irish right now. Will they even be almost competitive this season?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Colts Observations, Week Two

Not so special teams. A blocked XP, a field goal that was for all intents and purposes blocked, and a "wide left" from Adam Vinatieri. Not very special at all.

Throwing the game away, almost. I don't want to question my favorite all-world quarterback. I will anyway. Why in the world are the Colts throwing not once, but twice with less than two minutes in the game remaining? Is Joseph Addai such a crappy alternative? Run the ball, make the Titans burn their timeouts, and let the defense do its job with less time on the clock.

Opportunities lost. Five red zone trips, one freaking touchdown. You have to give a lot of credit to the Titans defense. But this game should've never been this close, should've never needed a heroic stand from the defense at the end.

Those boys and me are tight. 12, count 'em, 12 receptions for tight ends Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht. Peyton loved hitting the big guys. And, no reason for caution, yes, Ben Utecht did fumble.

Dierdorf and Peyton sitting in a tree, P-A-S-S-I-N-G. Listen, I love Peyton Manning, even when he frustrates me (like, say, at the end of the half). But Dan Dierdorf's awestruck treatment of Peyton was getting on my nerves. He was mouthifying #18 something fierce, and everytime Peyton completed a pass, I got the uncomfortable feeling that something was stirring in Dierdorf's loins.

Short stuff. Saw a lot of Tim Jennings today. He finished with five tackles, but his height made him a liability. Not that the other corners are that big, but Jennings looked awfully tiny out there.

Upon review, it was lack of effort. First time I saw Peyton's interception (breaking a streak of 190 consecutive throws without a pick), I thought Reggie Wayne pulled something, explaining why he didn't finish his route or go after the intercepting defensive back. Now I know what happened: Reggie got bumped, didn't like it, wanted a flag, and pretty much gave up on the play. I hate it when my team sulks.

A lot of drops. Marvin dropped a key pass (although the situation shouldn't have warranted a passing play) and Dallas Clark dropped several, including one that would've given the Colts some breathing room from their own endzone.

Super subs. Tyjuan Hagler and Rocky Boiman did an admirable job filling in for Freddy Keiaho and Rob Morris. I still can't wait to have the starters back in their normal positions.

Bob Sanders: Sacks Machine. The Hitman was everywhere, and the Colts moved him around a lot on defense. He finished with 2 1/2 sacks and more big defensive plays than you can shake a (hit)stick at.

Forever Young. Well, Dan Dierdorf loves Peyton. But he loves Vince Young, too. I thought the Titans QB played a pretty well, even showing some nice touch on a couple of passes. He had his share of misfires too, and the dude simply won't go down. It's like McNair, only he's younger and I don't hate him yet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Find your fate...

One of these covers will win out this weekend, when we find out which team will remain winless.

Will it be the Michigan Wolverines, whose season ended two weeks ago, and became ever more embarrassing last week against the Oregon Ducks?

Or will it be the mighty and proud Notre Dame Fighting Irish, reeling from a youth movement, an unimaginative offense, and a wunderkind quarterback who's being treated with kid gloves?

Only this weekend's head-to-head matchup will tell. I'm not a big Michigan fan, as some of you may know. I almost, almost feel sorry for them. You know, since everyone came back for one last year, only to watch it go down in flames in stunning fashion. It takes me just seconds to realize that feeling empathy here should be impossible.

Yet, it's there because I feel the same thing for Notre Dame, my favorite college football team. the Irish are a joke this year. I can only hope better days are ahead for the Fighting Irish, that "genius" is a label we can actually stick on Charlie Weis. The way this team has looked so far, it'll be a miracle if the Irish are within a game of becoming bowl eligible.

I'm not sure what this season holds for either of these teams. What I do know is neither will win a National Championship, and that fans are anticipating next season.

The Patriot Games We Play



Did they or didn't they?

That's the question everyone's been asking. Apparently, they did. I haven't heard what the punishment will be, but the Commissioner has floated several ideas, including penalizing the Patriots a few draft picks.

Ouch.

Was it really worth it to videotape the Jets sideline?

Was there really much of an advantage to doing that?

And is there any doubt Bill Belichick is an evil man whose conspiracies make Washington politics look like an episode of the Wonder Pets?

I've heard the old saying a lot this week: "it ain't cheating if you don't get caught."

Well, the Patriots got caught. I can't wait to see how they try to weasel out of this one. Will they take their three Lombardi Trophies and blind the Commish with their self-aggrandizing greatness? Don't bet on it.

Then again, don't bet against it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Colts Observations, Week One

Football is back, baby! The Colts looked pretty darn impressive last night. It was nice to see...

Thursday the Sixth: Jason Returns, Gets Burned Alive. It was a horror movie for former Colts corner Jason David. He reminded fans early why they had a love/hate relationship with him: he got burned by Harrison for a touchdown, then stripped Reggie Wayne and returned it for a score. He had a similar pattern of good Jason/bad Jason while in Indy. Of course then he got burned repeatedly in the second half by Colts wide receivers. For many people, like my friend Bill, it all had a familiar ring to it. We saw Jason David get burned a lot.

Banner day. I heard Irsay say something along the lines of "the banner will remain here forever." And then I thought, wait a second...they're tearing the RCA Dome down really really soon! Forever really isn't as long as it used to be!

It still counts...Robert Mathis' "sack n' strip" in the fourth quarter was about as cheap as they come. He barely batted the ball from Drew Brees, who fumbled it, and then Mathis jumped on top of it. But, hey, it still counts, right?

It's not delivery, it's Giordano. I swear this is the truth: I saw Matt Giordano make a tackle on the field, and I thought to myself: if I were to get an odd-ball Colts jersey that few people would have, I'd get #43, Matt Giordano. What happened after that was just scary: Giordano picked off Drew Brees' pass and scored an unnecessary but entertaining 83-yard touchdown in garbage time. Love that guy.

Addai Another Day. I was totally freaked out when Joseph Addai went down on the first play from scrimmage. I was reassured when I saw the replay: there was no knee buckling, ankle rolling, or helmet-to-helmet contact. I knew he'd be okay, but man, did he take a shot! Of course, he came back into the game and had 100+ plus yards and a touchdown. It's just bad when it's the kickoff game and Kenton Keith's already in during the first quarter.

Watching history. It's awesome to know that every time we hear Manning-to-Harrison, it's something historic. Great to see the first TD of the year go to #88. And what a fine catch it was.

That Wayne guy's not bad either. Reggie Wayne is a great complement to Harrison, and he's gotten scary-good. He scored three touchdowns in the game, one was for the Saints. But Wayne did everything else so well the rest of the game, he almost made up for that bonehead play. Almost.

And then The Madden thundered something almost insightful. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Madden most of the time. And this year he didn't so much as utter the phrases "WHAM! Block" or "The Eraser." But he did have a big compliment to hand out on the national stage, calling Jeff Saturday the MVP of the Super Bowl run. That's high praise from a former guru coach and offensive lineman. And, as I mentioned, almost insightful.

Keiahoed Up. Well, looks like the Colts plug-and-played the weakside linebacker position yet again. This kid looked like a stud, flying around, hitting people and making big plays. There was the time he pushed an offensive lineman into Reggie Bush to stop him in his tracks, a lot of big hits, and even an interception. Who's Cato June?

Picking up where they left off. I was very impressed with the defense. While you can argue whether the talent is better or not, I sure thought Indy lost a lot of experience on defense. But there was no problem replacing the corners, a weakside 'backer, and a Big Booger. I hope the unit is able to keep it up all season. Good to have Bob Sanders back and healthy.

Ben there, done that. Hey, was anyone else surprised to see Ben Utecht hold onto the ball after he got popped early in the game? I for one was pretty surprised. After all, Ben has dropped his share of passes over the past few seasons.

Pitchman Peyton. If you watched the game, you saw a distinctive trend: the NFL plans to air three types of commercials this season: one with Mellencamp singing "this is our country," one featuring the NFL shield, and the most popular of them all, something, anything with Peyton Manning. But hey, at least those Priceless Pep Talks are pretty much, well, priceless. Still, what the hell was with the commercial featuring Dolphins swirling around Harrison. Oh, don't worry, I get it. But that doesn't mean it's not stupid.

Getting Robbed. Man, how can you not feel good for Rob Morris? Derided for most of his career because of his high draft pick-status, released and reassigned to special teams at the league minimum. Yet, through it all, he hung with the Colts, even if they didn't want to hang with him. He's found his place at strongside linebacker, and he was everywhere Thursday night.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

More TFT Times...

If only there were some articles....