LOS ANGELES — Unless you’re still in the theater watching Transformers 4 because that movie is 1800 hours long, or worse yet got traded by the Red Sox, you’re aware that NFL Training Camps started last weekend across the league in Cortland, New York, Oxnard, California and everywhere in between. Rookies are learning playbooks and carrying pads, while veterans are sharpening skills and honing in on what they hope is an upcoming season filled with good health and victorious Sundays. New coaches are finally realizing their dreams of sleeping less than four hours a night and never seeing their families, and us the fans are beginning the early stages of scouting for our upcoming eight fantasy football leagues. Ah, yes, football is back and not a moment too soon. This Sunday marks the officially opening of the 2014 NFL season with the festivities at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. This year’s class is another star-studded affair with Michael Strahan and Andre Reed highlighting the honorees, and of course, the game between the Giants and Bills Sunday night kicks off football every Sunday from now until February.
So with all that in mind, here’s the latest 8 Things To Look For: NFL Preseason Week 1:
1.) Get Ready For JFFTV — If you’ve noticed a theme in your football programing in the last week, you’re not alone. The Browns haven’t got this much coverage since Jim Brown’s days and why not, between Josh Gordon and Brian Hoyer, they’re actually interesting. Though I’ll be the first to admit, a quarterback battle on a team coming off a 4-12 season isn’t exactly the most appetizing meal, but when one of those quarterbacks is Johnny Manziel all bets are off. Johnny makes headlines whenever he speaks or leaves his house. First it was saying he’s not going to change, then it was his biggest challenge is the playbook, then he threw a couple interceptions in practice, then he got spotted on his off day at a bar. He can’t win. His coach and owner have gone out of their way to praise Brian Hoyer which leads you to believe JFF will start the year holding the clipboard. But why then did the Browns draft him? There was the story about the team being shocked his partying was as ramped up as it was between draft day and camp kickoff. Do none of them have Twitter or Instagram accounts? Look, my position on the kid is well known, but I’ll be excited when actual football is actually being played and we all can judge the kid on what really counts: what goes on between the lines on game day. Until then, hope you got your popcorn ready because we’re going to have a front row seat to EVERYTHING he does for the foreseeable future.
2.) Don’t Listen To Anything Anyone Says — If you’ve heard all the player and coach interviews recently a theme has probably been observed: everyone is awesome, we are going to the Super Bowl. Brandon Marshall told Michael Irvin at Bears camp this week that Jay Cutler could win the 2014 NFL MVP. Now Irvin probably believed this because he was the one who said last year Dez Bryant would be MVP, but that aside, Marshall has seen Jay Cutler play football, right? Cutler is the man who’s thrown at least 14 interceptions in a year five times, including a league-leading 26 in 2009. I know he’s Marshall’s boy but take step back, 15. Do you trust Cutler to win a big game for you? Fourth quarter, two minutes to go, down by six? Didn’t think so. The Bears have seriously high expectations this season predicated on their explosive offense. They are a chic Super Bowl pick. I’ve heard that Las Vegas types are putting serious cashola on them as well. But it all hinges on Cutler. All of it. That should make Bears fans very nervous.
3.) Vampire Injury Biting Back — Sure, “True Blood” is going off the air soon, but vampires are still cool, right? OK, forget it … Regardless, in consecutive days the league lost running backs Vick Ballard (Colts) and Kendall Hunter (49ers) to season-ending Achilles’ and ACL tears, and Giants back David Wilson got concussed again. Texans receiver Andre Johnson strained his hamstring this week and on and on. No quarterbacks have gone down yet, thanks goodness, and while injuries are part of the game, every year a handful of stars go down and the domino effect is palpable. You hate to see anyone go down this time of year, especially, but it makes you appreciate how hard everyone works and just how precious our time in this game is.
4.) Hard Knocks with the Atlanta Falcons — Yearly, it’s the best show on television, and “Hard Knocks” returns next week down in Flowery Branch as the Falcons will be this summer’s featured team. What’s funny is that owner Arthur Blank and head coach Mike Smith volunteered for the gig. Atlanta didn’t fall under the new league-mandated guidelines with having made the playoffs in the last two seasons, but I’m guessing Blank wanted to ramp up the team’s profile and put a little pressure on his talented group of veterans in wake of a disastrous 4-12 2013 campaign. I think this will be a fun season of “Hard Knocks.” There are players we all know and are familiar with in Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, and inevitably a few with personalities we never knew existed will emerge. That’s the beauty of the show; you go in not caring and come out invested in a whole new group of guys.
5.) How Will Holdout Affect Beast Mode — Marshawn Lynch proved last week he’s not only ’bout that action, boss, but he’s also ’bout that paper, boss. The Seahawks running back phoned into NFL Network to announce his hold out and returned Thursday with little bustle. Michael Silver reported Seattle tacked on a few more Skittles onto his existing contract for this season, $1.5 million to be exact, which is always nice. And while Money Lynch was the biggest name who held out this Training Camp others such as Lions all-world DT Ndamukong Suh and Chiefs QB Alex Smith want a new deals before the season kicks of in early September. Many thought Andre Johnson was going to skip Texans training camp but he showed and promptly injured his hammy. How will surrounding contract issues affect these guys? That’s always the question when it appears their main offseason focus has been their wallet and not their body. I’m guessing it’ll be minimal but you never know.
6.) Who’s Awesome/Who’s Trash — Did you hear the one on Monday where Nick Foles is garbage because he came from a rich family and neighborhood and doesn’t scream at his teammates like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Look, I like Buzz Bissinger as much as the next “Friday Night Lights” fan but seriously, Buzz, I think your leather pants are too tight on this one. It’s amazing to me a guy coming off one of the greatest statistical seasons in some time (8-2, 2,981 yards, 27 TD, 2 INT) could be criticized for not being a leader or having what it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league, but all it takes is a keyboard to take someone down, and that’s what Buzz did this week. This also plays into a larger preseason theme of declaring a player a superstar or on the cut list when no games have been played.
7.) Revis Island Taking Reservations for Weekend Getaways — The first English settlement of Martha’s Vineyard came in 1642 by Thomas Mayhew and since then the island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has become a playground for the affluent. This fall, however, a new inhabitant will take over the 87.5 square mile paradise island and plant his flag: Darrelle Revis. By all accounts, the Patriots new defensive back has been terrorizing New England practices this July. He even had the gall to intercept Tom Brady not once but twice! In one day! How dare he?! Revis has proven thus far to be the real deal, which is good news for a Patriots secondary that couldn’t stop me and three friends in recent years. If he is locking down half the field this fall, coupled with a healthy Vince Wilfork and Jarod Mayo, New England will be back to being a force defensively.
8.) I Still Have No Idea Who I’m Keeping In Fantasy — I know my fantasy team is always on your mind, but it’s a serious problem I’m having right now and I know I’m not alone. Surely I can’t be the only one who is pacing like Scrooge McDuck trying to decide on two keepers among six legit possibilities, and then after having done a fantasy mock draft factoring in who I think everyone else in my league is going to keep, pacing even more because I can’t decide if I should take Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall or Jimmy Graham or Julio Jones with the third overall pick?! Right? Bueller? OK, fine. Screw you guys. Never mind. I got this. (no, I don’t. help.)
LOS ANGELES — The 2013 NFL Draft is in a couple hours and by now you’ve surely read 8,000 mock drafts telling which team should take which college standout where and what it should trade up to get him, who’s worth the risk and who’s getting passed up. You’ve read things like “heavy-legged waist bender” and “dancing bear” and dogs and cats and busts, and heard comparisons to Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell and Elway and Marino and everywhere in between. Well this is not like any of those mock drafts. This is way more fun and speculative. Based on NFL.com’s projections for each team’s biggest area of need, I broke down what each of the teams picking in the Top 16 should do if they were drafting celebrities, either based on their real lives or a character they once played long ago. Because what’s more hilarious and a waste of time than mixing sports and pop culture? Right. Nothing. Pretty sure Grantland’s whole existence is based on this premise.
Enjoy and don’t forget to tune into the 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft on NFL Network in a couple hours at 8pm ET and all throughout the weekend. And, as always, I’ll have my 1st Round Running Diary posted sometime before Friday night’s 2nd Round coverage kicks off.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs: Biggest Need — Offensive line. Celebrity Pick — Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family): This might be the easiest pick in the Draft. Not only is Stonestreet a gigantic Chiefs fan, but he’s also roughly the size of a starting left tackle. In fact, I don’t think anyone would notice if Kansas City took him instead. And I know ES has lost some weight recently, but who wouldn’t want to see him in a wing-off with Andy Reid? Who isn’t paying $9.95 to see that?
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Biggest Need — Quarterback. Celebrity Pick — Jerry O’Connell (“Jerry Maguire”): If you were going to be the No. 1 overall pick in a fake NFL Draft, that’s really all I need to slot you at the top of this mock draft. Now, O’Connell didn’t have the greatest arm motion in his brief football clips but hey, anything’s better than Blaine Gabbert, AMIRIGHT?!
3.) Oakland Raiders: Biggest Need — Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Rick Ross (rapper): You want to talk about a hole plugger, Ross is your guy. He’s Vince Wilfork but with vocal skills. And you don’t have to worry about him looking the part; Ross would immediately be in the Top 5 All-Tattoo Team and his rap sheet puts him on par with Rolando McClain. Sounds like a Raider to me.
4.) Philadelphia Eagles: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Abraham Benrubi (“ER”): Every year there are picks that make you shake your head, and this is one of those, but trust me, Benrubi can protect Chip Kelly’s fine jewels. First off, this guy was a nurse, so he knows how to take care of people. Secondly, I once saw him at California Chicken Cafe on Melrose, and let’s just say he can pack away a combo wrap or 5. Conditioning might be an issue in this new high-tempo offense, but a source tells me he’s ready to adjust.
5.) Detroit Lions: Biggest Need — Defensive End. Celebrity Pick — Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”): Aggressive? Check (the guy’s a werewolf). Looks the part? Check (yeah, 6-5, 260 is significantly bigger than Dwight Freeney).
6.) Cleveland Browns: Biggest Need — Defensive Back. Celebrity Pick — Anthony Mackie (“We Are Marshall”): Mackie brought the wood and looked legit doing it as a Marshall safety, and certainly he’s jacked up like LaRon Landry in his latest flick “Pain and Gain.”
7.) Arizona Cardinals: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Billy Gardell (“Mike & Molly”): Not only is Gardell a monster, he’s a security guard, so he knows what’s it’s like to protect the good. Not that Carson Palmer would be considered “the goods” anymore, but you get my point.
8.) Buffalo Bills: Biggest Need — Quarterback. Celebrity Pick — Keanu Reeves (“Point Break”): “Don’t you know who this is? It’s Johnny Utah.” ‘Nuff said.
9.) New York Jets: Biggest Need — Quarterback. Celebrity Pick — Jamie Foxx (“Any Given Sunday”): If there’s anyone who could come in and tame the New York media and become the new QB darling in the Big Apple it’s Willie Beamen. Not only was he ahead of his time with the spread offense, he’s not afraid to smack talk with his own players. Something Mark Sanchez definitely isn’t doing.
10.) Tennessee Titans: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Reuben Studdard (Americon Idol): I don’t know what big Rube is up to these days, but I’m guessing him right now, in 2013, would be better than anyone the Titans could draft here. He could probably play the whole left side of the line if my waistline trajectory projection is accurate. Chris Johnson could ride that sandwich to 2,000 yards.
11.) San Diego Chargers: Biggest Need — Offensive Lineman. Celebrity Pick — James Gandolfini (The Sopranos): There’s not a more offensive person in the history of the world than James Gandolfini. OK, that may be stretching it, but Tony Soprano has to be up there among TV characters. He didn’t even want Meadow causally dating that mixed dude in Season 2, and he was always so eloquent with his speech. This is someone you want protecting you.
12.) Miami Dolphins: Biggest Need — Tackle. Celebrity Pick — John Goodman (“Roseanne”): Explosive. Powerful. Volatile. That pretty much sums up Goodman in all his roles and that’s definitely the kind of attitude you want on the offensive line where he’ll be protecting 2nd-year Mr. Lauren Tannehill.
13.) New York Jets: Biggest Need — Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick — Jason Segal (“How I Met Your Mother”): Segal once told me and Hines Ward on the Red Carpet of the 2012 Academy Awards that if were ever to portray a football player in a movie, he’d be a tight end. So naturally, this is fitting for the Jets who need anyone to do anything productive on the field.
14.) Carolina Panthers: Biggest Need — Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Dwayne Johnson (Everything): Seriously, do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?
15.) New Orleans Saints: Biggest Need — Linebacker. Celebrity Pick — Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”): There’s literally nothing this guy can’t do, so why not start at middle linebacker for the Saints? He’s ripped. A physical specimen and you know if he ever picked one off and returned it to the house he’d have a fantastic end zone dance.
16.) St. Louis Rams: Biggest Need — Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick — Bill Bellamy (“Any Given Sunday”): This seems like an obvious choice. Bellamy told us he’s the greatest receiver of all-time. I have no reason to NOT believe him. All wide receivers are very level-headed individuals and never prone to self-aggrandizing and egomania.
LOS ANGELES — In my former life, I wrote film reviews for the Journal Tribune. The column there was titled “Extra Butter” because, well, I liked a lot of butter on my popcorn (#FatKidProblems) , so it seemed like a logical fit. The idea spawned one day by merely asking the managing editor if we run any kind of reviews, and when he said “no,” asking if I could do them (sometimes all you have to do is ask, kids). The first film I reviewed was “Casino Royale and I later won a Maine Press Association Critic’s Award for my review of Nicolas Cage’s masterpiece “Ghost Rider.”
Since moving to L.A., my well has run dry. I haven’t written one of these columns in nearly three years; that’s my bad. Every so often I feel like I should get back to it; clearly “The Town” would’ve been a nice return and I did write something about “Social Network” when it came out, but not in this vain, and since I still see a lot of movies, I’m going to make the effort because I always had fun with this column. Of all the ones I’ve written since I started really writing in 2004 – Local Celebrity, Game Point, Extra Butter, BrockAngeles and now this site – the film reviews are the ones I wish I had kept up, but fret not.
We’re back! Enjoy, leave me your thoughts and keep truckin’.
From Something To Nothing: The Art of RapThe first time I heard “Regulators” was as I was driving along the main drag in Ocean City, Md. with my family in the summer of 1994. I couldn’t get the beat out of my head all day. Later that night, my uncle asked what I was humming – Doo, doo, doo, doo-do-do-dooo – and I didn’t know what it was, it was just catchy as hell but my interest never went further.
In high school, the East Coast-West Coast war was at its height and a lot of my friends were big Tupac fans. I could never get into it. Leading up to my freshman year at Syracuse I worked at the beach as a grill cook and we listened to nothing but classic rock, so it really wasn’t until I got to college, living with a diverse group of guys, that my musical tastes grew. I became a quick fan of the beats of the day and the old school jams. Sure, I’m as white as a loaf of Wonder Bread but I can appreciate the skill it takes these greats of putting together rhymes. Now, it’s rare a song comes on KDAY that I don’t know.
So, when Ice-T came into the NFL Network studios recently to appear on the Rich Eisen Podcast and started talking about his documentary, “The Art of Rap,” I was immediately interested. The documentary was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, bought the first day, and hit theaters this past weekend. A meteoric path for a film of this nature. I went on its opening night and left not disappointed. Ice-T is not only the executive producer and director of the film but the interviewer of his subjects. He goes to New York (Melly Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Detroit (Eminem) and Los Angeles (Dr. Dre, Xzibit, Snoop Dogg) to talk to some of hip hop’s legends to find out their thought process and how they wrote their rhymes coming up. Ice-T wanted to get inside the minds of these artists, search for their inspiration, look beyond the cars, girls and jewels.
And he succeeded. It was remarkable to hear their tales, see them put pen to paper and create a story from either nothing or life experiences. Grandmaster Caz wrote a rhyme on the spot. Dr. Dre tried to take the audience inside the mind of a producer and offered some insight on working with Tupac. Eminem talked about being white MC in this game and his struggle. After a while the stories about the process got repetitive, though the highlite was each rapper performing a freestyle or reciting a few bars of another legend’s work.
The film did seem every bit of its 107 minutes and probably would’ve benefited from losing a few of the interviews, as well as some of the on-site, scenic transitions, which didn’t really add much. Though I was left wanting a tour or perhaps an entire “Cribs” episode dedicated to Dr. Dre’s ridiculous Hollywood Hills mansion. Jesus, the rap game has been good to him. KRS1’s story about his first battle is epic, too.
The biggest shock, besides the length of Melly Mel’s dreds, was that my girlfriend really liked it. I figured I was going to have to see it solo, but when I explained to her the premise, she was on board and even laughed a few times. An artist herself, she was really interested in the rappers comments on the process and mindset while preparing and performing. She was encapsulated with Mos Def’s segment.
Bottom line: This is a must-see.
Brockman Stamp of Approval: 4.25 out of 5 Mics.
That’s My Boy
Sixteen-year-old me would probably punch 31-year-old me in the face for saying this, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen an Adam Sandler movie in the theater; “Just Go With It” was getting some run on HBO a while back and I caught the last 3/4ths of it, but I think the last one I paid to see was his revamped version of “The Longest Yard.” It wasn’t great and neither is his latest college try, “That’s My Boy,” which co-stars Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester.
Sandler plays as Donny Berger, who was a child pseudo celebrity for having sex with his teacher and fathering a son (Sandberg) at a very young age. As an adult, he’s a drunken, broke mess, and after his lawyer (played by Jets coach Rex Ryan) tells him he needs to come up with $43,000 to avoid prison, Berger turns to his son, now a successful banker. Though he doesn’t come out and ask for the money, he has a plan involving a hornswaggler of a talk show host (Dan Patrick) and an awkward reunion with his mom (Susan Sarandon) to come up with the cash. Along the way, he realizes he misses and loves his son and tries to do right by him by exposing his two-timing fiance. Of course, everything turns out well in the end but not without some absurdities in the middle.
Bleh. Sandler plays Berger as an ’80s hot mess who constantly has a Budweiser in his hand, is best friends with Vanilla Ice and thinks all the flash-in-the-pan ’90s catch phrases are still hilarious (they’re not). The film is set in Massachusetts, so his over-the-top New England accent is amusing to start and annoying by the end. Unfortunately, you can’t get away from it. I was laughing a lot of the time, however, I think it was more of laughing at the whole thing, not with it. The bachelor party stuff was kinda funny, though. Who knows.
All Sandler film reviews are essentially the same at this point, which is means I’m getting older and he just keeps making the same movie; yet we all keep paying for them, so who’s the dummy? People wonder why he routinely makes “bad” movies these days. The answer is simple: we’ve given him the blank check to do so. It’s our fault. And it’s going to continue.
Brockman Stamp of Eh: 1.5/5 Brews.
Men In Black III
It’s possible I’m at the tail end of my 20-year mancrush on Will Smith. I’m not as geeked as I used to be about his newest ventures or are a fan of him force feeding his kids down our entertainment-enjoying throats, but neither stopped me from enjoying the hell out of the latest installment of the “Men In Black” franchise.
Nobody does $100M movies like Smith, who returns after a 4-year big screen hiatus, and I’d expect this one will join his list of big money makers. It follows the formula of the previous MIB films; Agents J and K (Tommy Lee Jones) get into trouble and have to save the world with their badass weaponry. Only this trip around, J has to go back in time to save a young K (Josh Brolin) from an intergalactic warlord whom he put in prison 30-some-odd years earlier and who wants to kill him.
It has a “Back To The Future II” feel to it, where the future is one way, then the villain goes back in time and changes it, and then they have to go back in time to change the changes made by the villain. Only here there’s aliens and suits and Agent K is likable and it’s set in New York.
I don’t know if there’s going to be another Men In Black movie – I’m sure it’ll depend on box office numbers this time around – but if there’s not, this film was a good way to wrap up the series. We get some insight to J’s past, why he is who he is, and same with K, who as a young agent is lively, jovial and fun-loving but couldn’t be more opposite as an adult. As always, the special effects are really neat and the aliens and weapons keep getting cooler. You’ll really have fun with this one.
Brockman Stamp of Approval: 3.5/5 Ray Bans.
I plan to write an entire column on Johnny Depp’s appeal to women in the nearer future – honestly, I don’t get it – but for the time being I’ll stick to his newest vampire flick. Also, what is with every movie these days being about a) vampires; b) bows and arrows or c) zombies? ANYway, “Dark Shadows” is not good, but I saw it recently because the girlfriend is among the millions obsessed with the aforementioned Mr. Depp and for some reason she wanted to see this. I’ll admit the first time I saw the trailer, it looked amusing, but every time after my interest in it lowered exponentially. Actually, this flick made the second JD project we’ve seen together; our first date was “The Rum Diary,” which I liked and just recently found out she did not. So we’re even.
If you’re expecting something like “True Blood” or “Twilight,” you’ll be disappointed. There are some murders but no nudity and I think it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not. “Dark Shadows,” which also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, is about the Collins family, who owns the town and the fishing industry, only to lose it to another company who just happens to be run by the woman (Eva Green) who puts Johnny Depp’s character in the ground for 200 years. I think she’s a vampire, too, or she’s in love with Depp. Something like that.
The Collins family lives in a Wayne Manor-esque estate and each member has something strangely wrong with them. The girl from “Kick Ass” might be a werewolf, the doctor is a drunk, the dad is a deadbeat and on and on. The family is on the verge of bankruptcy and being run from the town, only Depp, the original Collins, can save them.
What’s worse, is that they’ll probably be a sequel because the family shrink (Helena Bonham-Carter) who’s thrown to the bottom of the ocean is still alive. Dum-dum-dum! Spare me.
Brockman Stamp of Eh: 1.5/5 Fangs.