Month: November 2015

Civil War: Ranking the MCU Movies

You’ve heard about them, like it or not. The Marvel film franchise. MCU. With Captain America: Civil War serving up its first teaser, I wanted to present my ranking of the Marvel flicks up to date.

With that being said, it’s time to rank the other Marvel Cinematic Universe film series. I am not talking about the Spider Man films or the old Hulk film. I am swinging via the Thor hammer at the recent batch of films that started with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man back in 2008 and most recently produced Guardians of the Galaxy last August. So let’s see which films are awesome, which are great, good, okay or as Thor himself would said, “tiny”.

12.) Thor: A Dark World

I wasn’t impressed with this second solo act with Hemsworth’s tortured demi god mission. To me, he is the weakest Avenger and this sequel proved that he needs the group to make a true impact. You basically have him and Loki teaming up(that won’t last) and going up against another powerful baddie that will get extinguished. What was so fresh about the first Thor(fish out of water hero tale on Earth) gets forgotten here and a regular action superhero mashup takes place. Thor is the least interesting Avenger and this film showed it. It wasn’t a bad film but it was kind of tiny compared to the other films.


11.) The Incredible Hulk

Sure, Norton did a lot better of a job as Banner than Eric Bana(rough get up from the start) and the movie captured a tiny more of the idea of the monster’s origin, but once Mark Ruffalo blew our minds in Avengers it’s quite silly to think of anyone else as The Hulk. It may have served more juice to the idea that this character is much better in smaller doses. While it had good action, a solid pace, a decent end fight and wrap up Stark tease at the end, this Hulk is nothing compared to the one and only Ruff-Hulk. Again, it’s hard to find a bad film in this set, but this one vanishes from my memory quick when it’s mentioned.


10.) Thor

You may see that I am not the biggest solo Thor movie fan here and I stand by it. While better than the sequel and having some good moments between Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and some unexpected humor in the beginning, I don’t think on this film and remember any game changing moments. It’s just a standard character introduction piece(let’s get Hemsworth into the mix and make a movie around it). Granted, Hemsworth is great here and is a better actor than given credit for, but the story around him(compared to the other heroes here) is kind of trite. The whole “I am a god thing and can swing a very heavy hammer and look amazing doing it” gets old quick. The fish out of water parts of the film are great and it’s never a waste of time to see Natalie Portman.


9.) Iron Man 2

I was a bigger fan of the sequel than most were because I thought it was a cool old school action film and I loved Mickey Rourke’s bad guy so much that he made me forget about Sam Rockwell’s character. Yes, the reshoots and stress from director Jon Favreau does show in the film but I dug it. Having a three year old who is tearing into Marvel’s movie also helps because I’ve recently watched this movie at least ten times. I love the opening reel of Stark’s speech playing as Rourke’s Ivan makes his suit. I love the race car track showdown and the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Don Cheadle’s entrance as Rhodes didn’t make me feel any better about Terrence Howard’s departure, but he grew on me a bit as the film proceeded. My favorite scene was Howard Stark(the classy John Slattery playing the role here) sending that private message to Tony and that made him create the element that saved him. Iron Man 2 was flawed(too many baddies and subplot) but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewatchable flick. Also, the interrogation scene between Downey Jr. and Rourke was a lighter faster version of The Joker and Batman. The coolness of this flick does survive on the easy going charm and rock star talents of RDJ though. The man is a genius.

8.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

The more I thought about this film, the more it rubbed the wrong way. Maybe it was James Spader’s dull and ineffective Ultron. Maybe it was the overlong action sequences or the need to duplicate or top Avengers. The story was imbalanced and weighty at the end of the running time. For all the hype it got leading up to May, the end result was tiring. It is watchable, entertaining but after a few viewings, just decent. That’s it.


7.) Guardians of the Galaxy

Everybody else went nuts on this film, but all I saw was a light cool funny Marvel film that had a great soundtrack at first viewing. After a few replays, I liked it more and more. The wise crack touch of  Chris Pratt was good and Vin Diesel did more with one line than most could do with 20. Danny Bautista’s beast Drax with his eccentric vocabulary and deadly touch worked. The whole idea of this movie being wicked great never struck me but it had a perfect tone. I didn’t finish it and feel the need to write a 3,000 word essay on it(I did that with Pacino and DeNiro’s Heat). I thought the bad guy was terrible. The whole time he can take out our heroes but doesn’t and Bautista’s character CAN’T beat him in a fight and keeps trying.  Bradley Cooper’s Rocket was hilarious and in the end, I didn’t just want to be Groot…I wanted more Groot.


6.) Captain America: First Avenger

While I wasn’t as crazy about Red Skull as a villain, I loved the way Hugo Weaving played him and Chris Evans did some truly good work here as Steve Rogers before he came magnificent. It was the scenes before he became Captain that really allowed me to love his character later. “I’m just a kid from New Jersey” never got old and by the end, when he throws himself, the cube and the jet into the ocean only to wake up decades later without the love of his life, you feel his pain because Evans created that in the first hour. Real breakthrough for Evans. The film is a little long but brilliantly realized. Rodgers is the red, white and blue hero but Evans always gives him an uncertain edge. It started here.


5.) Ant-Man

I admit. The mere mention of this film at first wasn’t exciting but Paul Rudd knocked this shit out of the park. Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Corey Stoll, and Bobby Cannvale rounded out a perfect cast. Director Peyton Reed delivered a similar dose of Marvel versatility that the first Iron Man and GOTG were. Easy going yet potent fun. Rudd’s interaction with Anthony Mackie’s Falcon couldn’t have teased Civil War better. Give me more. You’ll never look at an ant the same way again.


4.) Iron Man 3

People hated the card shark switch that director Shane Black did with the Mandarin here, but I loved the changeup. Tell me you expected that to happen when Ben Kingsley’s hapless drunk actor turned terrorist spewing bad guy came out of the bathroom. Black’s light touch mirrored Favreau’s original film method of madness, and I liked Guy Pearce and James Badge Dale’s bad guy combo and the coming out badass femme fatale party of Gwyneth Paltrow enjoyed at the end. This film carried such an effortless cool pace that I didn’t want the film to end but it wrapped up the last solo journey of Stark quite well and sets up Avengers 2 in the process. The greatest strength of Kevin Feige and Marvel is connecting all these films seamlessly and mixing in the stories without overstepping. It’s confidence. I am glad they supported Black’s idea to throw a change at the fans. Iron Man 3 was strong.


3.) Iron Man

The original stake in the sand by Marvel is still a cool ride seven years later. Favreau’s plea to bring in Downey Jr. being looked on with risky stress but now looking like a stroke of genius. All of it still plays well today, especially Stark’s transformation in the desert when he sees up close and personal the destruction his weapons can do. The way Stark became this guy who wanted to better himself by burning up his past and starting something new was so well done. Downey Jr. is at the heart of the greatness, putting exactly the right amount of cynical charm and bravado in the role that people debated for so many years. Howard’s work as Rhodes is bittersweet because he was good effortless and had great rapport with RDJ. Jeff Bridges Obadiah was well rendered, as was Paltrow’s first piece of work as Potts. There’s something nostalgic about Iron Man. It was the beginning and always will carry a certain juicy flow with its experience. Before the Avengers Assemble could happen, Tony Stark had to light the match.


2.) Captain America: Winter Soldier

Talk about combining real life world weary issues and mixing in the Marvel madness. Every time I watched Winter Soldier, it got better. The transformation of Bucky into the Winter Soldier that changes our titular hero was the key ingredient in this madness. Sebastian Stan’s work is astounding and he does it with barely any dialogue. Just looks, action and moves. Frank Grillo’s Brock Rumlow also got a much needed tease here before his deadly Crossbones heats up Civil War.  Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was also a nice light touch to the proceedings, as were Scarlett and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury(who always gets just the right amount of screen time per appearance). The scenes near the end between Stan and Evans, as two best friends facing off, is heartbreaking and thrilling. Winter Soldier may go down as the most complete Marvel film. Maybe.


1.) Avengers

That’s right. The moment where the Avengers Assemble kicked off.  Joss Whedon’s ability to take all these misfit toys, toss them together and spin them into this kickass, poignant and thrilling combo of heroic danger was such a miraculous feat. I don’t think any other director could have blended the personalities and actions of these heroes as well as he did. He got the best of Thor and brought out the Hulk we all knew was there in Ruffalo’s rendition. There isn’t one part of this movie that feels flat and it can be consumed and savored well today with the right amount of surround sound. It plays like a greatest hit and it’s only three years old. The shot towards the end during the huge NYC battle where the camera whips around to all our Avengers fighting is still a piece of art. Avengers is going to be money decades from now and that makes the expectations for this week’s Age of Ultron fly through the roof with ease.

That’s my list. What is yours. Civil War may end up being #1 in the end.

Fifty Shades of Shitty

I know what you are thinking. How did I actually end up watching Fifty Shades of Grey? Over a candlelight dinner with a cup of coffee and I eyeing one another like two long lost, no, I’m fucking with you. It didn’t happen in a theater. I didn’t pick it up at Redbox. It was on HBO, otherwise known as my not so secret lover. It premiered a short while back and it came on and I decided to stick with it. Having already made an indent on the sofa and not wanting to move or watch Taken 3’s ending again, I decided to partake in this sexy fantasy novel turned cinematic experience. What a waste of time.

Sam Taylor-Johnson tried to direct E.L. James first novel in a series of three. She really did. The book she was working from with screenwriter Kelly Marcel was crap. No mainstream Hollywood film was going to take the sexual leaps that the book did. I mean, come on. Jamie Dornan spanking Dakota Johnson with a whip or bending her over a piano isn’t what those two got down to in the book. It had to something steamier. I didn’t want to ask my wife about it. The script was elementary, pulling all the sharp edges from previous bad boy romance novels. It was bad bad. Dialogue came out of the teeth and slammed to the floor. Cringe worthy. Dornan and Johnson aren’t good enough actors or interesting enough people to make it up on the run or fool people into the idea that the movie isn’t really bad. She had been in bit roles and Dornan had been in very little. Sure, it doesn’t take Oscar worthy peeps but something more than this.

When the best part of the movie is a conversation between two fully clothed people about what butt plugs are, the film missed out. I found myself wanting more from this or expecting some far more erotic. Once again, Hollywood isn’t going to release a mainstream equivalent of Real Sex. Not happening. It was always going to be soft. I didn’t expect it to be this boring, soft and stupid.

Let’s get the facts out of the way. There’s a brief cock shot and a few glimpses of Johnson’s vagina crop, but that is it. She gets naked a lot(neither of their asses are noteworthy) but he remains clothed, much to the chagrin of the ladies. It’s not sexist to expect more from a novel series that extended millions of marriages across the world and replaced chocolate ice cream pints and big blankets for a week or two. If there isn’t acting going on, there better be some hot stinky horny sexy time happening. In the end, it was lame. Neither actor is good looking enough either. Johnson isn’t ugly but she isn’t hot either. Sorry.

There’s as much here for men as there is for women. Story steers its gears towards both sexes. Anastasia Steele is an innocent young woman looking for adventure and finds more than she bargained for in the rich wealthy and handsome bad boy prince Christian Grey. A contract is presented, some spanking happens, some sex, pancakes are made, more sex, a ride in a plane and some million mile stares. The funny thing is, Ana leads him on. He tells her early on that all he wants to do is strap, load, spank and reload, but she tries to change him. This could have been over the minute he showed her the red room, but no she said keep going. She gets spanked, teased and fucked but only when he really whips her does she figure out that this is how he gets off. It takes two hours for her to realize this. Really?

I also hate movies where a guy is so fucking rich yet we never see him do any actual business. There’s the loud phone call where a deal seems to go bad. There’s lots of paper signing. Lots of suits. Lots of end of days. No deals. When Richard Gere’s hot shot played the rich card in Pretty Woman, we got to see him work. And work with Jason Alexander no less Here, it’s just expensive suits, nice cars and leaving the office. Bullshit.

There will be more. Fifty Shades Darker and Freed come in the next three years. Dornan is excited. Johnson probably isn’t. I am not. Leave these things to the books. Let the women who read this horseshit fill in the blanks and details. They will make money. For the same reason Adam Sandler films still make money. People like trash of all kinds. After a long day at the office or wrestling with kids or co-workers, watching Ana get wooed by Christian into a lovely nut of asshole fisting and teasing nipple clamps has its rewards I guess.

Fifty Shades of Grey made 166 million(94 opening weekend) on a 40 million dollar budget. All they needed were hot cars, three suits, a penthouse, mansion and some aerial shots. The biggest action sequence was Johnson’s ass jiggling from the whip. There will be more and they will make lots of money.

Save me the argument that these movies exploit violent sex crimes. Please. Ladies and gents, the women who read these novels are doing worse things to themselves after they put the book down or their husband Harry is. Ana isn’t a victim. She likes it all until she doesn’t. It’s all voluntary. The only thing worse than this flick are the people hating it for the wrong reasons.

Hate it because it’s a terrible excuse for 125 minutes of your time. They should have just let Cinemax really step into it and do all the dirty scenes in depth. Hollywood took a half swing and foul tipped it into the catcher’s mitt. Weak. That’s all it is.

It’s better to just think of it as Batman romancing poor young Ana….

Blues: A post playoff chat between two fans

I posted this back in April after the Blues lost to Minnesota, but wanted to revisit it. A bang for bang convo between a good friend, PJ, and I.

Every writer needs someone to properly put them in their place when needed. A cooling stick to a guy with hot hands. For the past 12 years or so, that has been my good friend P.J. It doesn’t matter if it’s the St. Louis Cardinals, The Blues, a movie review, a comedian disagreement, musical taste, big statement about crime and poverty…P.J. will raise the hands at me if I write a shit article or ride off the rails. He is a good guy and someone I like to call a friend.

I posted my first Blues season wrapup where I broke down the latest failure of this hockey team to give anyway back to the city of St. Louis. Every time I post an article, I have this guy in my head and I would be lying if I said I didn’t aim a few paragraphs at him like I was pointing a dart gun at a man with his back turned. He’s my fiercest sports talk competitor, so when I saw a three paragraph response to my article, I got excited, weary and elated at the same time. In case you missed the article, here it is so you can get the base of the conversation. Let’s get into it.

P.J. kicked things off-

I disagree with the claim (made by you and others) that Allen performed well for the first 4 games.  He was not good in game one.  The first goal (the wraparound) was his fault.  The 2nd goal was a undeflected, lightly-screened, shot from the point on the power play.  It’s a save that goalies need to make if they want to win playoff games.  Despite the fact that the Wild outplayed the Blues for most of the first 2 periods, that game should have been 0-0 heading into the 3rd and was definitely winnable.  He was reasonably competent in games 2 and 4, but the way the team played, there was no way they were losing either of those.  He was outstanding in game 3; it was his only great performance in the series, despite the lopsided loss.  Games 5 and 6 don’t need to be revisited; we are both aware of Allen’s awful performance in those.  As is usually the case in playoff hockey, the two goaltenders were the biggest difference-makers in the series.  Dubnyk was above average; Allen was average.  In Allen’s defense, he played the same way in the regular season.  Allen’s play is usually a mixed bag of good and subpar performances.  He saved 116 or 125 shots he saw during the series – a 90.4% rate which is slightly below how he performed during the season.  There’s a reason that neither Allen or Elliott asserted their claim as the number one goalie until Hitchcock tapped Allen for the role after a few good performances at the tail end of the regular season. Inconsistent goaltending can be good enough in the regular season but falls way short in the playoffs when the margins are paper thin.  In the playoffs, a goalie has to elevate his play.  Allen didn’t.  Neither did Ryan Miller last year.  As is the case every year at this time, the team goes into the offseason with goaltending as a huge question mark.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a change being made between the pipes, so I think we’re stuck with what we have.
Obviously, Hitchcock needs to go.  He’s a good coach but he’s had 4 years to make something happen in the playoffs and if it hasn’t happened yet, there’s no reason to stick with him.  Someone like Dan Bylsma, who had a good run with Pittsburgh and has a reputation as a players’ coach (the antithesis of Hitchcock), would be a good choice.  Something has to change and it’s much easier to replace a coach than to replace a collection of players.  I do think the core of this team has the talent to be successful in the playoffs.  Despite the goaltending woes, the rest of the team underperformed. There were too many long stretches where Minnesota simply outplayed us.  If it was just a couple of guys lagging behind, you could point fingers, but given the comprehensive underachievement from one end of the bench to the other, you have to point to the head coach.  Tarasenko had a good series but disappeared in a couple games.  Oddly, Berglund was the most consistent forward; when that’s the case, you know you’re screwed.
No matter what team takes the ice next year and who is behind the bench, no one should take this team seriously until they win a playoff series.  The regular season serves only to separate the playoff teams from the non-playoff teams; aside from that, it is meaningless.  I don’t care of they go 82-0 next season; we will not have an answer until 365 days from now.
(Hannah Folsien-Getty Images)
My Response(typed inside 20 minutes with a cup of coffee flying down the pipes)

On Allen-In Game 1 he let in a soft goal but he also made some great saves to keep that game close. When you have a team that doesn’t score enough in the playoffs, like the Blues, making 25 of 27 saves in Game 1 is pretty solid. I see your point. The second goal Allen never even saw because he had three players in front of him. Actually, a lot of goalies don’t make that. Devan Dubnyk actually did let in a couple saucers from the middle of the blue line. Allen let in one soft goal in Game 1 but made more than a fair share of great saves. Pj, the Blues defense is dreadful at times. Their penalty killing had some horrible moments, and I can’t tell you how many odd man rushes they allowed in Game 1 that Allen snuffed out and stopped. He made 93 percent of his stops(and made more great ones than soft let in’s). 

Game 2 he was amazing. 24 of 25 and saved the Blues when they predictably took their foot off the gas pedal at the end of the 2nd and most of the 3rd period. Allen is the perfect combination in net. He’s calm, poised and doesn’t get rattled. He’s not laid back like Halak or a meth addict mobile guy like Elliott. Game 2 I agree was his best.
Game 3 was a game that the Blues didn’t show up for. Allen made some solid stops and stopped 91 percent but Game 3 was on the Blues lethargic offensive attack. It won’t matter who is in net when the Blues play so horribly and soft overall. When this team gets down 2-0 in a game they shut it down. Every single time. That’s the problem. While not amazing overall, I think Allen was solid in this series.
Game 4 was thoroughly dominated by the Blues offense. The only true game where they played a complete 100 percent attack never give up game. Allen only had to stop less in than 20 shots and kept 94 percent in front of him. Not on him or a particularly MVP showing.
Game 5 and 6 were not good. Allen came undone and the rest of the team sucked it up. He made good stops but let in the softest goal of all time in Game 6. 
However, I don’t think it matters who is in net for this team because the forwards and D-men play like utter useless crap for huge stretches. Allen was better in my opinion than yours but he didn’t outplay Dubnyk and has learning to do. Not bad for a rookie and I still stand behind my opinion that he was the guy for the team in the playoffs. I don’t think Elliott could have done a better job. 
As team reporter Lou Korac said, when you have a team scoring 2 GOALS in the final two games that are must win, the last thing you look at is goaltending. That’s not the issue. It’s a team that has averaged 2.11 goals the past five years in the playoffs. Allen had solid #’s overall so I can’t pin much of the blame on him. 
I do think these two will both be back and I hope Allen gets the bulk of the time because he is the goalie of the future. He showed enough promise in this series to make me think he can figure it out and be sharper next round. 
Berglund wasn’t bad but he’s still a useless 3.7 million making player who is holding a spot that a much younger and cheaper Blue needs. Tarasenko did disappear but he scored 6 of the 13 goals and disappeared less than Backes, Oshie, Schwartz, Steen and others. In my opinion, Oshie needs to go or see his role dramatically reduced. When it comes down to the former drunkard, his shootout expertise is nice but doesn’t matter in the playoffs and he was missing in action far too much. Backes is an underrated captain but his career playoff numbers are dog shit. Same for Steen. It may be time to break up this original core by sending Oshie/Berglund out and figuring out which roles Steen/Backes have moving forward.
We can both agree that this team is Peyton Manning with the exception of 2006. A regular season beast that goes aggressively limp in the playoffs. 
While I don’t like hanging it all on the coach, I do agree Hitch’s touch in the playoffs has disappeared. He had his time and has to go. While I hold players more accountable, he doesn’t have the success to hand him 82 more games to divide up and I think he struggles with line management. He should have noticed how better Stastny could be with more ice time and switched him and Oshie. You don’t sign a guy like Stastny and put him on the third line when Oshie doesn’t have a goal in over a month. Stastny didn’t blow me away this year but he plays so much better when paired with the right guys. Hitch can’t recognize that. 
I love Bylsma a lot. He is my first choice. I don’t mind Babcock from Detroit either or if the Kings get tired of Sutter, I’d take him. All three are playoff hungry and experienced lions. For some reason, I don’t want Todd McLellan because I don’t think he is much of an upgrade over Hitch. Bylsman is a radical change in the way he deals with and handles players. 
Overall, this team went limp at the wrong time. They won 51 games and like I said, seemed to come undone after a 2 goal deficit. The Wild aren’t more talented but in the playoffs, it’s about will power and the ability to react to bad shit happening. How you react defines your playoff tenure and the Blues are still children playing in a big boy’s pond. 
The goaltending wasn’t electric but it was good enough to deserve a better result. The Blues offense left the ice for the last two games and the soft core defense let in too many rushes. Eventually, those rushes lead to goals. 
It’s all ugly. Rock the ship, Armstrong. Shake up the core. It’s the only way.
P.J. Kicked This Back-
We’ve pretty much chewed up and spit out this topic, even if we don’t agree on some things.  In hindsight, game 1 was the biggest game of the series; it was winnable, whether there was one soft goal or two.  Goals are harder to come by in the playoffs, so when you cough up an easy one right off the bat, it changes the entire flow of the game.  Goaltending was also big key in game 5; I kind of feel like Dubnyk stole that one (we had 37 shots on goal) with some help from Allen.  I agree on Dubnyk; he was far from perfect in the games we won.  The Reaves slapper from the blueline and Tarasenko shot from the side of the net come to mind.  In my email to you, I originally had written “Dubnyk was outstanding” and changed it to “Dubnyk was above average” because, while he did enough to win the series and stole game 5, he wasn’t invincible by any means.
However, one factor that hasn’t been mentioned is luck.  After acquiring Dubnyk, Minnesota was the best team in the conference.  When you win your division and run into a team like that in the first round, you got screwed.  As the regular season was closing down, my hope was that we’d draw anyone but Minnesota. I think I even mentioned that in one of our email duels.  While losing the series sucks, I don’t really see it as an upset.  Minnesota is a legitimately good team and it’s just pure bad luck that we ended up with them in the first round.  They will give the Blackhawks all they can handle.  And yes, as I mentioned, whether I like it or not, I agree with you that Jake is likely our guy next season.  I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a shot at the Coyotes’ goalie Mike Smith, despite his huge contract, if Arizona decides to unload him.  However, I don’t see that happening because we don’t really have any young, talented players on cheap contracts and that will be what Arizona wants.  Allen is the only guy that fits that description and I don’t see the Blues parting with him yet (although I’d be fine with it), after they got burned a few years ago by giving up on Ben Bishop too quickly.  Hopefully this year was just a case of the rookie jitters and Jake will come back more solid next spring.
To Which I Sent Back-

The biggest aggravation is that, no matter who it is that comes before them, The Blues go down too easy and there isn’t any fight in this team at the crucial time. Look at the way the Jets battled the Ducks or the way the Pens batted the best team in the NHL In the Rangers. There were overtime games and back and forth struggles. In Game 2, the Blues got very luck with Backes pushing that near goal out of the crease and Allen was huge. They dominated Game 4 but the four losses they had the team was just flat. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Kings, Hawks or Wild. The Blues have to rise to a certain level of play in the playoffs and they consistently don’t. 25 different teams have won the Stanley Cup since the Blues came into the league in 1967 and it’s disheartening. I can’t tell you that if the Blues get a different coach, cut the fat, win another 50 games next season that they will advance past the first round. 

Luck is always a factor in the playoffs. The Wild were great down the stretch but the Blues finished 5-1, were completely healthy and got their asses kicked. Allen getting outplayed by Dubnyk was a factor but the bigger factor to me is our supposed playmakers(at least in salary alone) in Backes, Oshie and Steen coming up horribly short in a big time. That spells change. Do you really think we fare any better against a Predators team that struggled down the stretch. They pushed the Hawks to three OT’s and made the Hawks shuffle their goalies twice. 
The Blackhawks have decent to slightly above average goalies in Corey Crawford and Scott Darling(I believe Ells-Allen are better) but they win because their entire team plays a full 60 and doesn’t give up after the Preds go up 2-0 or 3-1. It’s a different thing with the Blues. Compared to the other series and the way they were played, the Blues went down too easy. 
I don’t want Mike Smith. I don’t think he is any better than what we got. Stay with Allen. He is going to be great. When Ells started playing like shit at a crucial time, Allen went berserk in net from March 5th to April 12th. He got beat up late in the playoffs but still deserves the future look of this team. The players put in front of them will make the biggest difference. If the Blues average a paltry 2.1 goals per game next playoffs, the person in net won’t matter much at all. 
This team is infuriating. Without Tarasenko’s ability to be an offensive beast(there’s a reason Dubnyk stopped him in the post game handshakes to tell him how good he was), the Blues get swept in this series. He also lit up the Blackhawks last year. He can’t do it alone. The other high paid guys need to show up. As much as I like Backes as a captain, he plays like shit in the playoffs. He takes bad penalties and doesn’t do much. That has to change. 
This October things better look different. If not, where’s the hope?
P.J. ends it with…
I can’t argue with any of what you wrote.  If Allen is the future, then I think you have to cut bait with Elliott and bring in someone who is fine being a backup (unless Elliott is willing to do that, which is doubtful).  I don’t like the “play the hot hand” approach that was used throughout this season.  I would take Mike Smith in a heartbeat if they wanted to give Allen more time to develop (or give up on him completely), as I do think he’s an elite goaltender (aside from his shitty start to this season), but it’s not going to happen, so it’s not even worth the words I’ve already given it.
I can completely agree with you regarding the frustrations of being a Blues fan.  This team has made the playoffs in nearly every year of my life and has never made the Stanley Cup Finals during that time.  I can only recall 2 times that they’ve even made the conference finals (vs Colorado during the manual scoreboard days and Calgary in around 1986 or 1987).  It is so frustrating so see talent wasted and potential unfulfilled year after year.  The fucking Lightning and Hurricanes have more Cups than the Blues and that is embarrassing.  We are regressing.  The pre-strike Blues used to win a series before wilting in the 2nd round.  Now, they don’t even do that.
And yes, you are correct in saying the way we lost was pathetic.  I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think we came back to erase a deficit once during this series.  Once Minnesota had a lead, it was game over.  All the other series losers battled harder.  We never sniffed overtime in the games we lost.  It was a pathetic pattern: fall behind, stay behind, pull goalie, immediately concede empty netter, game over.
My Finishing Touch
The Blues are just a kill joy. They either don’t get the goaltending they need or they flunk every single playoff test. It’s tiring and it doesn’t help that right down the street the Cards dominate every single season. There are hockey fans united in STL and they are let down every year. Stillman is a proud owner and a hockey guy himself, and he put up the cash for Stastny and other players and raised the payroll but saw the same result. It’s pathetic. 
If you are asking yourself how all this was typed in one afternoon, you have to understand how quick P.J. and I can fire at each other. It’s relentless and we kept this one mostly clean. If a bit of profanity dropped in there somewhere, I halfway apologize but come on, on this site it’s the middle of the night so anything goes.
I wanted to share this conversation because for years we have had these kind of talks and they never saw the light of day and I love reading a conversation between two fans. It’s real and there’s history and fire worked in so it’s interesting. I hope you enjoyed it and if you did, I’ll recruit the next GMAIL chat for future post. Thanks and see you in October Blues fans.

Michael Clayton: George Clooney’s best film

George Clooney is a classic movie star that occasionally acts his ass off. He’s charming, affable and loves to dish and dice up his bad decisions(Batman and Robin) and offer cool behind the scenes stories about Hollywood. He’s also a fine actor, and an Oscar winner(for the hard boiled drama, Syriana). However, that isn’t his greatest performance. Granted, Clooney is also an acclaimed writer/director/producer who recently won for Argo and has directed quiet gems like Goodnight, Good Luck but his finest hour came in the underrated Tony Gilroy thriller, Michael Clayton.

In the film, Clooney plays the title character, a “fixer” for a prestigious law firm who specializes in dirty cover ups and soulless work. He’s also a flawed parent and degenerate gambler who wanted to open a restaurant and failed. In the film’s central plot, Clayton is brought in to remedy a situation where one of the law firm’s best lawyers comes undone while he is hammering a nail into a chemical company he knows is guilty in a billion dollar class action law suit.

Gilroy’s method of madness here is putting this seemingly familiar pot of goods on the burner and slowly turning the heat on the characters. The film starts out with Clayton running from a burning car and flashes back to one of his easy fixes(which involves the brilliant actor Denis O’Hare). Gilroy establishes that Clayton is a man slowly losing touch with who he is and that the work he is doing is beginning to eat into his soul. A man who has the connections to fix everybody’s problems except for his own. The film is a marvel of work due to Gilroy’s script and his direction, but also from the performance of Clooney. The man is in nearly every single scene of this film and if we don’t buy into his remorse and feel some contempt for his character, the movie doesn’t work.

He has plenty of fine company to dine with here, including Sydney Pollack’s last complete work, Tom Wilkinson’s Oscar nominated turn, and Tilda Swinton’s Oscar Winning work. For my money, Clooney is the best of the bunch and that’s because he shows us a slow transformation in Clayton that takes place over the two hour running time. This isn’t easy work because this movie was made in 2007, which was the height of Clooney’s reign. He was doing the Ocean films, popping up in other notable movies and beginning to unwind as a filmmaker. He is in the public eye constantly and that means as an actor, he has to work so much harder to produce a signature performance. This isn’t feeling sorry for a rich man, but explaining the difficulty in Clooney’s drive to be taken seriously.

He has been great elsewhere and the list isn’t short. Syriana. Oceans Eleven. My Brother Where Art Thou. Up In The Air. Three Kings. There are more but in Clayton, Clooney digs deep and doesn’t wear an ounce of makeup or use an accent to hide who we see him as. He’s a wounded warrior trying to find a way home in the most dangerous cutthroat world, the corporate empire.

For the first half of the film, Clooney does a fine job as Clayton. He works a few facial expressions and builds the seeds beneath which will make this character sing later on in the film. We buy into his plight and his proposed flight. At the halfway mark, Clooney delivers a speech to son, played by Austin Williams. He tells his son about the harrowing world they live in and how looking up to people like himself or the boy’s uncle isn’t the right way to go about it. It’s an out of nowhere knockdown moment that Clooney deftly plays without getting too sentimental. It is also the kickoff of knock down, drag out Clayton that fuels the rest of the film which involves exploding cars, killer showdowns between cast members and a climax that will make you fist bump everyone in close proximity. The final lingering camera shot on Clooney as he rides around in a taxi is so confident, perfect and allows the viewer to wonder if this constant man of sorrow is ever going to realize happiness or just think of as a state of mind.

Gilroy is a master of high stakes thrills and drama. He wrote the Matt Damon Bourne films and wrote and directed the Jeremy Renner vehicle(another underrated gem), The Bourne Legacy. He is constantly raising the bar set by his previous characters and stories, and Michael Clayton is his jewel because it doesn’t have the action but it has all the power of his work.

Michael Clayton can be enjoyed even if you don’t like Clooney, because he isn’t playing the flashy loving talker but a man who goes to great lengths to suddenly retrieve his soul inside a dirty world. As good as his role in Syriana was(his diner faceoff with Christopher Plummer is all time great there), Clayton gives Clooney his own venue to establish his premium talents as a performer. The film suits him and relies on him coming through, which he does in a big way.

If you haven’t seen it, find it, digest it and watch it again. The movie grows on you if it’s too cold or diabolical at first and it gets better if it hits you the first time. Whenever it lingers too long in the realm of suits and misery, it immediately exits and enters a world of family and finding peace. As I mentioned before, the pot gets hot when Clayton decides to clean up his own mess instead of the firms and it all starts in that car with his son.

Other moments that sting and surge inside a viewer’s system.

*A moment with Wilkinson’s character in Times Square and a scene back at his loft reverberate because we all have that aha moment in our life where it all clicks.

*Clayton has a moment after the car explosion where he encounters horses that could went over someone’s head but instead lands right in your chest. It’s quick and fleeting but if you allow yourself to ride with the tempo of the story, it’ll hit you…hard.

*Scenes between Clayton and his brother(Sean Cullen) are so good that you instantly see the past these two characters share. Honest and brutal.

*James Newton Howard’s is subtle and carries certain scenes that are dialogue driven. Howard doesn’t overpower the story, instead spraying lubricant on the tracks of the plot.

*Robert Elswit’s cinematography is shrouded in black and dark gray, echoing the mood of the story and the characters and where their heads are at.

*Swinton is brilliant here as an attorney who prides herself on repetition yet is slowly undone by this case and Clooney’s character. Her faceoff with Clooney towards the end is a polar opposite of their first encounter and serves as a highlight that had to leave Gilroy singing himself to sleep that night after the shoot.

Look, George Clooney’s career speaks for itself and doesn’t require this uninformed opinion to give it any extra airtime. However, whenever I see pics from the movie or think about some of the scenes, I get filled with movie lover ambition and demand a date with my couch and a pot of coffee to relive it again. Michael Clayton is as powerful as it gets and its a beautiful slow burn of a story. It’s greatest virtue is Clooney’s go for broke performance.

Watch it…like right now.

Death Sentence: James Wan’s underrated gem

Before James Wan got furious with Vin Diesel this spring, he once paired with Kevin Bacon for one of the most underrated crime dramas of the past ten years. The 2007 film, Death Sentence, didn’t make any money or gain critical acclaim but it came on around midnight the other morning and I got sucked in again. This happens when quality if unknown movies sneak up on you when it’s quiet in the house and all you can hear if the coffee slurping from your cup. This is a Lost Boys kind of film. A versatile cast, solid premise, blunt violence and a satisfying if unconventional ending.

What’s it all about? Bacon is a family man who watches his oldest son die in a gas station robbery. Full of rage, he tracks down the killer and takes him out. Unfortunately for this ordinary guy, that guy’s brother is a well known criminal who goes after Bacon’s family, promising the guy a…wait for it…death sentence.

Why is this movie so good? The actors really dig into a familiar premise and give it their all. This is Kevin Bacon’s best work in the last decade. You won’t see this much depth in his work outside of a few episodes from Season 1 of The Following or the sneaky good horror thriller, Stir of Echoes. Bacon’s Nick Hume doesn’t have any fighting ability and barely knows how to hold a gun in the first part of the film. He slowly changes from one type of person to another type of person throughout the course of the film. It’s all about what you would do if your family was seriously harmed and you saw the wrong in front of you. How far would you go and would you change in the process?

Nick is a family guy who seems cut off from the dangerous parts of the world in the beginning. On the way home from his son’s hockey game, he stops for gas in the worst part of town and is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Something terrible happens and it changes him. Bacon’s work is marvelous here because he has to play a few different shades. Innocent, harmless, ruthless and finally, murderous. The movie, written by Ian McKenzie Jeffers based off Brian Garfield’s novel, doesn’t avoid the effect it has on everyone around him. Here, revenge is treated like a grenade. The more Nick pushes for vengeance, the more people close to him he sees harmed. Wan and the producers don’t mishandle that part. They invest in it unlike most films and it feels real, especially due to the chemistry Bacon has with Kelly Preston, who plays his wife.

Wan doesn’t skimp on the action here either and it’s brutal and utterly realistic. Shooters actually miss with their weapons and the fights are messy in a visceral way. We don’t see Bacon instantly turn into a badass and throw Van Damme kicks and pick up a shotgun and flip it around like Arnold’s Terminator. He is a fish out of water thrown into a violent world that he helped produce. There’s a shootout in his home, a parking lot faceoff(Wan really loves these) and a finale set inside an abandoned church because why not, where there is a church the devil is close by anyway. This is a movie from the guy who got famous with a little horror film called Saw and from the novelist who gave us Death Wish.


It also helps to have a really good cast that seems fit for their roles. Garrett Hedlund may be best known for the horrible Tron remake and his lame duck brother in John Singleton’s Four Brothers, but he’s a gifted actor and can be great when put in the right role. He digs his teeth into young Billy Darling, and doesn’t just produce a cardboard box villain. Hedlund creates this vengeful young man who loses the best family he has and must respond in a horrible way. He shaved his head, grew a mustache, and walks and talks like a man with no fear. It’s old school territory with authenticity.

Aisha Tyler(you know her as the woman who drives FX’s Archer crazy) chimes in as a cop on Bacon’s trail and John Goodman has the two scene juicy cameo as the gun salesman who could be more. Goodman has the best lines of the film and is only in it for 7 minutes. Looking at Bacon after handing him guns, Goodman quips, “Take that gun and go to the desert and start your own Holy War. You’re a cash customer, and you got a killing way about you.”

Hume and Darling are two completely different men who collide with each other on one fateful night at a gas station and the movie is a result. As Darling tells him in the end, “Look at you. You look like one of us. Look what I made you.” The movie never loses sight of what it is and the message it’s trying to get across. Revenge isn’t always ideal and has consequences but it’s a real thing because humans are flawed and make emotional irrational decisions.

If your son dies in a horrible way and you know exactly who did it, what would you do? Tell the cops, hope they get it right and sit it out. Death Sentence is a far fetched action film, but it doesn’t forget about real questions like the one posed above. What would you do? Are you sure?

The movie isn’t perfect. There are instances where the police became useless and way too far behind the main protagonist and his prey, which will make you roll your eyes a bit. There are lots of improbable action sequences that challenge the realistic grounds the film seems to live on. However, the movie is meant to be an action thriller with dramatic elements and a human frailty threat running throughout it. Wan’s violence is a heightened variety but still thrills.

You’ll feel every hit and every bullet fired and even appreciate the slow and calming ending scene with Hedlund and Bacon, and then Bacon at his home. It’s not exactly what you would expect from this kind of film, but the ending put it on another level for me. It circles back to what drove the actions of the entire film. Family, and what we would do if they were taken from us.

Death Sentence has it’s guilty pleasures, but he hits the hardest with its realistic themes of revenge, vengeance and the cost of an eye for an eye.

CREED produces best Rocky story in 36 years

During recent weeks, all I heard about the seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed, was that it wasn’t needed. Fair game I figured. The sixth film seemed to put a nice stamp on the series after a lackluster fifth entry so why push it? When you leave this film, you will know why it was made. The Rocky Balboa saga comes full circle here and is the strongest film in the series since Rocky 2, which was made 36 years ago. It has a lot to do with Sylvester Stallone, the epitome of the tough hardened streets of Philadelphia this tale was born on. He’s never been better and bares EVERYTHING as an old, tired and lonely champ who sees a chance to redeem something when Apollo Creed’s son Adonis finds him at Adrian’s restaurant. Let me explain…

Some actors get better with age. Others fade into the distance, taken over by younger talents never to be found again. As he has gracefully plowed into his late 60’s, Sylvester Stallone has found his stride. He blows things up with the Expendables, makes a light film like Grudge Match, and returns to either Rambo or Rocky. He’s old, rich, well known and can do whatever he wants. With his latest film, Stallone packs the hardest punch in his entire career. He gave his baby and the rights to the characters to writer/director Ryan Coogler. This guy didn’t just pick up a script and say let’s go make a movie. Coogler had intentions here and something to add to the series. If not, Sly would have never given it over. Creed is the first Rocky film Stallone didn’t write.  The result is a special Thanksgiving treat that took me back to my first Rocky film when I was just five years old. Creed will fill loyal fans of the series with nostalgic thoughts while entertaining newcomers aka the young hashtag crowd.

The story is simple enough. Adonis(Michael B. Jordan, perfectly cut from the boxing mold and sharing an uncanny resemblance to Carl Weathers) is a lost soul at 30. The film opens with Apollo’s wife(not Adonis’ mother) taking him in from juvenile detention and raising him in her house. Adonis wrestles with the fact that he never knew his dad yet shares so many things in common, such as fighting. He quits his day job and goes to Philly to track down his father’s roots and Rocky.

The scene where he walks into the restaurant and asks Balboa who won that unofficial tussle from the end of Rocky 3 is perfectly scripted, acted and laid out. Coogler has a confidence with the camera that most young directors don’t have. He lets Stallone and Jordan do the lifting and circles them like they are fighters in a ring. From there, it’s cake talking. Rocky trains Adonis after initially declining and they are off. I don’t need to explain the rest. There’s a girl(Tessa Thompson), a few bumps, training montages(NO eye of the tiger) and a climactic fight.

Jordan is the perfect sparring partner for Stallone. He proved in Fruitvale Station that he could carry a film and tear into a role. The two actors meld into their roles seamlessly, conveying emotion and historical relevance like it’s following their footsteps. Jordan is a dynamic young talent and physically gifted so he convinces just as much in the ring as he does out of it. Stallone feeds off his energy and gives it all he’s got.

Coogler’s script is even better than his directing, filling the spaces in between the fight scenes with true grit from a fighter’s life. It’s believable and emotionally satisfying without being repetitive or manipulative.

I can’t say enough how good Stallone is. This is his baby. His stomping ground. With no offense to John Rambo, Rocky Balboa will always be the part I associate Sly with. I grew up watching him kick butt, take names and look good doing it in other roles but Rocky is his personal stage to swing the wrecking ball. Here, weary and gray, he goes for broke. Maybe due to the fact he didn’t write or direct, Sly could fully plug into the role and push harder. There are three scenes in Creed where he will break your heart. Smashing it to pieces with his poignant take on a boxer who searches for reasons to get up in the morning and keep throwing punches. Underrated for his entire career due to his action bravado, Stallone can act and do a lot with a look. The moment he goes “how you doin” or sits next to Adrian and Paulie’s grave to tell them what’s what, you just sit back and smile, realizing the actor is home again.

The boxing scenes in the series have always been stellar because they respect the true craft and sweet science of boxing and combat. Creed is no different. Real boxers like Andre Ward and Tony Bellew make cameos here and add authenticity to the film. The training scenes are legit boxing tutorials that give off knowledge if one is paying attention. The film carries a dirty lived in look that serves the fight game well. Coogler has respect for the characters and the world here, infusing it with flashbacks of the previous films and using part of the score and the same locations.

When I left the theater, my good friend, a former MMA fighter and beast of a human being, told me watching this movie took him back to those pre-fight emotions and internal energy. Some films can do that to you. They make you want to revisit a part of your own history because a connection was made. They hook you.

Creed wasn’t just good. It was surprisingly great and made for a purpose. The strongest film in the franchise since Rocky II. See it for Stallone. See it with the family. See it to revisit this cinematic champ one last time before Sly decides to hang them up.

Kingdom On Audience: Episode 207 reviewcap

CQ_pxHnUsAASbyS“The beast in me. Is caged by frail and fragile bars. Restless by day. And by night rants and rages at the stars. God help the beast in me.”

It’s hard not to think of the Johnny Cash torture tune when watching this latest episode of Direct TV’s Kingdom. Season 2 has been a slow descent for every character. The ascent to better things and happiness is met with new hardships previously unknown. There’s a beast in all of us. Every day. We choose to stare it down or ignore it. It’s there and alive. Here’s what happened on Kingdom.

Alvey is going down the rabbit hole. A straight fucking nose dive into madness. The ex-fighter/trainer/maker of men is spinning out of control after his wild night with Chapas leaves him at the mercy of the police station the next morning. If only all the bad shit that has happened with King Kulina could be placed on the old friend with the snake eyes grin and his sturdy shoulders. There’s more to it. Alvey is a former drug addict my friends. This is a door being pushed open that he is swinging open furiously.

It’s a joy to watch Frank Grillo spar with this version of Alvey. The demon straggler. Actors are at their best when they are playing fucked up people stuck in between the black, white and gray areas of life. Grillo is going full bore at this devil’s tomb dancer. When we first saw Alvey, he was firing guns, smiling like a preacher’s son and seemed to be walking on water. Now he is down in the pits, fighting for everything. He takes his youngest son, Nate(Nick Jonas, as innocent as vanilla ice cream but hiding a heat of his own) to Fresno for the under the radar dirty backyard brawl that EVERYONE knows is bad for the kid. When you get knocked out, though, your head wants to do vicious things to the rest of your body.

Alvey drinks like a fish, and this is whiskey folks. When the opponent predictably comes in over weight, he nearly beats the shit out of him because he saw all this coming. Nate is abrasive to Alvey’s advice and knowledge because he pushed too hard and doesn’t know a thing about the young man. They are oceans apart. Bonded by blood but nothing else. In need to attacking the ground game to protect his head, Nate takes the fight to the boxer turned MMA challenger. Remember, this isn’t a normal fight, taking place indoors and sanctioned properly. When the ref breaks up the two fighters any time Nate gets him into a submit stance, doom settles in. Suddenly, the kid seems to give up. He gets his head bashed in. Beaten impulsively to the mat by this nobody puncher. When his plan doesn’t go as planned, Nate is left in the dark again. A kid with no true hunger for the sport. He is beaten bad and spends the night in the hospital. Alvey is…well, he is beside himself but does it even matter.

Here is a guy who didn’t know where his license went. A guy who seems to drink in as many places as he can. This is the Alvey who ran off in Season 1 and met Andre Royo’s hotel savant. Bad news Alvey.

In the end, he gets what is coming to him. A punch he didn’t see coming. Lisa, after speaking with her dad earlier, has made a choice. She is moving into her pops vacant condo for a while. How long? Indefinitely. Her and the baby. These two were hanging by a thread at the end of season 1, and then a baby came along. Now they are at that crossroads again. A place where Lisa doesn’t know how much of Alvey she will ever be able to get or have for herself. I hate to say it but he deserves it.  He needs a push. Alvey Kulina doesn’t need a drug. He is the fucking drug.

By the way, every time I say fucking or fuck, picture Grillo saying it. It sounds better!

Ryan Wheeler and his dad truly make peace. I’ll be honest and say I expected this interview to go awry. Everything was going so smooth on this train of redemption that something turbulent had to strike it. I was wrong. Wheeler’s dad came to the gym and gave an impassioned interview with his son. The work turned in by Matt Lauria and M.C. Gainey isn’t just good or great. It’s magnificent. Two actors who are sewn into their roles, keeping the fabric of this show unique and fresh.

Right when you think his dad will sabotage everything or say something to erase all the good, Gainey pours out the heart of this character in telling Ryan that he just wants his boy to be happy and at peace. He was Ryan’s hero growing up, sharpening him into the fighter he is today. For the past 16 hours, Wheeler has been self-inflicting pain onto himself. Wrapping a storm around himself because he didn’t just have a big fight with his dad like we all do. He put him in a wheelchair for life. While that’s not Keith justice(stabbing to death), it’s pretty deep shit that doesn’t go away with prison time served. Hearing his father say it’s all good, maybe Ryan will stop purposefully stepping on shit. He may be the happiest character on the show right now. Remember when he was wanting to kiss Lisa and smashing up the gym? Long time ago bro!

Poor Jay can’t have anything. He can’t have real food. Steak, bacon, sandwich, bread or pasta. He can’t have the woman of his dreams who came into his life like a ninja, chopping his heart into a thousand pieces and not giving him a map to find them. He can’t trust his mom. He feels like he is abandoning his younger brother Nate, even though a big hug could probably do wonders for the man. He doesn’t like his friend Mac because he eats large sandwiches with his time. All Jay has is his look, his tenacity, and his ability to see right through people. He has no answers, can’t make weight and is miserable. Remember the guy shooting at a dummy in his underwear? That man had things figured out. This Jay is lost and it’s beautiful. Gives Jonathan Tucker a canvas to dance on. The man is a marvel. Just watch.

Lisa is having a baby and feels zero connection to it. Why does she feel this way? Well, let’s see. Look at the men from her world. Alvey is a drunk. Nate is a closeted gay who can’t figure out what he wants to do or be so getting punched in the head may work. Jay is a misguided mess who does drugs to stay up all night to see if his girlfriend calls. Oh yeah, and her ex-love is the champ who trains under her husband and someone she has to work with. Poor girl. No wonder Bruce Davidson’s dad can see her armor picking up a few dents. For the past season and a half, she has stuffed her own needs in a box and forgotten about them. Finally, with the move out of Alvey’s place and into the condo, she may recapture something. Or find out how bad she misses the madness.

The next day in the gym will tell all.

What else?

Christina is doing drugs again, going back to her nasty pimp, who tries to talk sense into her after pounding her from behind for the tab. She can’t play it straight or feel good enough about hooking, so she is content to walk between the hot coals and the sandy beaches for the time being.

I hereby nominate Keith’s new look to be the greatest look of all time!

Is it wrong that I wanted more Jay-Laura-Paul tripod danger?

I spied creator Byron Balasco next to the bald shady promoter during the Nate fight. The man has to take some time to be in this masterpiece of a show he created that is the new binge required series.

Where does Nate go from her? That is after he finds his tongue two miles down his throat.

Does Alvey find Chapas? Of course he does. According to Lisa’s old man, the investment looks good but what is Sean not telling Alvey? Why did he say in the car before the police pulled them over that he was sorry? Bad news Chapas!

When does torment fueled Ryan return?

Tune in next week for episode 208. Did you like what you read here? Tell me one way or the other. I’m not shutting up anytime soon.

You can catch up on Season 1 and 2 on Itunes, Amazon, Direct TV or UVerse On Demand. No place to hide folks.

-DL Buffa

Captain America: Civil War pits friends against each other

What if your friends didn’t share the same ideals and beliefs that you did? What if this mutual disagreement pitted you against each other, separating one party into the land of the law and placing the other on the run as a fugitive? The new trailer for Marvel’s next cinematic thrill ride, Captain America: Civil War, promises their best adventure yet because it gets personal. Are these people heroes or vigilantes? Marvel is tapping into their internal Dark Knight questions. Are these Marvel heroes the ones we deserve?

Captain America: Civil War Trailer and Posters are Here!

After the fun yet overlong and silly Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Russo brothers are bringing the Winter Soldier real world touch to the table again, honing in on the conflict between Steve Rodgers’ Captain and Tony Stark’s Iron Man. When the government(welcome back William Hunt) wants to start regulating superheroes instead of simply turning them loose, Stark agrees with the philosophy and Rogers rebels against it. When Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is targeted, the band splits down the middle.

“If we can’t accept limitations, we are no better than the bad guys.” Stark has a point, and he has come a long way since Iron Man 2, where the government wanted his suit and he said no. This time it wasn’t Garry Shandling asking though.

War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther(hello Chadwick Boseman) and Vision join Stark while Hawkeye, Falcon, Winter Solder aka Bucky and possibly others join Rodgers. This sets up a showdown unseen before in these Marvel adventures. Namely, it pits Stark against his friend Rodgers. The best line of the trailer was the simplest.

When Rodgers apologizes for going against Tony because of his friend Bucky, Stark’s response is tragic and chilling. “So was I.” Wow. The poster’s tagline couldn’t be more spot on. “Divided we fall.”

This is going to be the must see film of 2016, at least the first half of the cinematic schedule. The people who laugh off the silliness of these superhero films miss the moral of the story from Winter Soldier. What happens when you fail to regulate people with extraordinary powers? Is that a good thing? Winter Soldier asked about the cost of war and if sacrificing civilians for the greater good was digestible or not. Civil War aims for a destruction of the brotherhood. The music used in the trailer is perfect. This is going to be bittersweet and contain mega loads of awesome sauce.

It’s been hinted at before. In both the Avengers films, the crew have tussled internally. Nothing like this though. Civil War puts these matters on a global scale and turns the meter to red before leaving the building with the gas leaking. This is going to be explosive and it’s only six months and change away so start re-watching.

The only letdown for me was seeing no glimpse of Frank Grillo’s Crossbones. A guy who historically(comic book wise at least) has a lot to say about the fate of Mr. America. Someone who lost to Rodgers in the elevator but has come back stronger and deadlier than before. I can’t wait for their showdown. I needed a little Grillo and got none. The only drawback of an otherwise great first look.

Watch for yourself.


Canelo Alvarez arrives with Cotto defeat

Two years and change ago, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez succumbed for the only time in his career, to Floyd Mayweather Jr. While his handlers asked him to wait before taking on the best pound for pound boxer in the sport, Canelo didn’t hesitate and lost in honorable fashion. He ate what seemed like 20,000 Floyd jabs and could never break into the vault that Mayweather built over 15 years in the ring.

Saturday night in Las Vegas, Canelo turned the tables and used the exact same strategy on Miguel Cotto. He had become the teacher in the ring. The wiser one. Cotto only landed 129 of over 629 punches, assaulting the thin air more than anything. Canelo was nearly perfect, winning the fight easily and taking the middleweight belt from his challenger.

Say hello to Canelo, boxing fans. This is a name you will want to remember for the next 5-10 years. And at last, it won’t be for his distinct look of red hair, pale skin and freckles. It will be for his dominance in a boxing ring.

The 25 year old took the final step into legitimacy Saturday night when he took down Cotto. For 12 rounds, Canelo frustrated the attacking Cotto and didn’t let the older fighter land his signature hook. It was like a dog chasing a car that never stopped moving yet Canelo didn’t have to run. He threw and landed a punch, pivoted, moved his head and set up his next assault. It marked Canelo’s final test in transitioning from a puncher to a boxer.

Alvarez tagged Cotto at will throughout the fight. He would slip his jab and punish Cotto’s body, like a hammer swinging down at the kidneys. When Cotto got risky and peered in towards Canelo, he was tagged with another jab and Canelo would unleash the hook to the body. There was nothing Cotto could do but take the punishment or risk getting dropped. Nobody got knocked down Saturday night, but Cotto’s career hit the canvas and Canelo’s rose to the rafters.

As 2015 ends, boxing is shifting away from Mayweather Jr. and towards fighters like Canelo and Russian sensation Gennady Golovkin. The future may represent the adventures of true action fighters. Boxers like Canelo and Golovkin prefer action rather than speed racing in a ring. They don’t fire a punch and run away. They fire multiple shots, step forward and throw more. Whenever people tell me boxing is dead, I tell them about Canelo and Gennady. With atom bombs for fists and a will that matches a moving tornado, these two guys will set up what could be the blockbuster fight of 2016.

In May, Gennady Golovkin and Canelo could very well meet and decide who gets to be the new face of the sport. It doesn’t matter who is the pound for pound champ. It doesn’t matter who has the most wins. It matters whose name comes into fight fans minds when the word boxing is uttered within their earshot. Between them, Canelo and Golovkin have 66 knockouts in 82 fights. For people that beg for action in the ring, look no further than these two.

Cotto won’t retire from the sport but his days as a championship contender have been fractured. He enjoyed a late career renaissance under Freddie Roach, but had no idea how to connect with anything sinister on Saturday against Canelo. A great warrior took his final pay per view bow on Saturday. Another is just getting warmed up.

It’s not about his Mexican background and legion of fans. It’s not about his look. It’s about his ability to cut down any style of fighter in the ring with him. Canelo Alvarez has arrived and isn’t moving anytime soon. No longer a novelty, he is an action packed delight that boxing fans, hardcore and casual minded, should know and appreciate today.


Blues enrich STL region with new Youth Hockey program

Think about when you were a kid. It’s 5:30 in the morning. The sun is coming up. School is in two hours. It’s time to get out there and skate around with a puck and play a little hockey with your friends. The most important meal of the day for a legion of young kids was a slab of ice, a black puck and a net to chase. Thursday, the St. Louis Blues paid it forward in the best way possible.

Via, Tom Stillman and his ownership group put up two million dollars in an attempt to rebuild the city’s youth hockey foundation. The campaign is called “Hockey STL 2020” with the goal being to grow the city’s youth hockey population by 70 percent when 2020 rolls around. The two million dollars will roll the two million dollar plan over the next five years.

This isn’t just dropping off a sack of pucks and shirts and letting the kids get after it. This is providing a future for a lot of families and their kids. Nobody goes to a game at Scottrade and doesn’t leave imagining themselves burying an overtime one timer. That’s where it starts. For a guy who jumped at the chance to play ice hockey as a sophomore in high school, I can admit the cost is steep and forced my small school, Brentwood High, to only play for a couple seasons. Ice time alone can bury a community in depth. This is a chance to erase that burden. This plan lowers those costs and makes ice time more affordable.

If the plan goes right, 25,000 kids will be introduced to ball hockey and 5,000 new ice hockey players will be born on the rinks across the city. Total Hockey and other companies are working with the Blues to get this done. After all, the interest in this town’s team has grown throughout the years. With it, come new rinks, players and a growth in the interest. If all things work out, maybe the team creates a revenue stream back towards the team down the road while doing a lot of good.

The St. Louis Cardinals just introduced a new stadium dedicated to Tony La Russa this past season. The St. Louis Rams may not have the greatest owner in the world, but they also do a lot of good in the area, including programs like Basket of Hope, Character Plus and a celebrity softball game. These are great ways of giving back to the community in a way that gets better every year.

Maybe, a few hundred of these players make it out of the city teams into amateur games and some play in college. In the end, a few NHL players may be introduced. Stillman and company can smile and know that they paid it forward in the best way possible. Building a community of hockey in the St. Louis area. This cup of coffee is for you Tom!