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Showing posts from August, 2017

Best of the Small Screen, Drama No. 1

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Over the past 25 weeks I've been taking a look at some of my favorite TV series, broken down into three groups (Limited Run Series, Comedies, and Dramas). In my post on March 1 I laid out the ground rules for these categories and this exploration, the biggest of which is no series that are currently airing. To read the whole thing, check out the post "Best of the Small Screen" from March 1.

Today, it all ends with my No. 1 drama (at least until "Game of Thrones" ends its run).

The Wire (2002-2008)
Number of Seasons/Episodes: 5/60
Network: HBO
Starring: Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Michael Kenneth Williams, John Doman, Clarke Peters, Sonja Sohn, Jim True-Frost, and Andre Royo
Creator(s): David Simon
Favorite Episodes/Season: Season 4; 3.11 "Middle Ground," 3.12 "Mission Accomplished," 4.13 "Final Grades"
About: Simon is a great writer who has a knack for capturing important stories in life. He created "Homicide: Life …

Summer TV Roundup, Week 15

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September is achingly close, and that means the fall TV season. But before we get there, networks and streaming services are still providing a flood of new content. In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on HBO (Premiered August 8)
About: "Hard Knocks" is the original football documentary series, following a different NFL team through training camp, pre-season, and cutdowns each year. This is the 12th iteration, and this year we get the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I love the series for the inside look it gives to the life of an NFL team, and gets you hyped for the NFL season. But as a piece of entertainment, it really lives and dies on the players it finds to follow and connect with. Unfortunately for HBO, this Bucs team doesn't seem to have a lot of personality or …

The Real War Begins

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There’s a tradition in Game of Thrones around the penultimate episode. And it’s something all long-time viewers and fans know to be weary of. Think of “Baelor,” “The Rains of Castemere,” “The Dance of Dragons,” or “Battle of the Bastards.” People talked about it as being weary of the ninth episode of the season, but it’s really because it’s the penultimate outing.
Season seven of Game of Thrones doesn’t have nine episodes. It will only run for seven episodes. But the showrunners haven’t forgotten about the penultimate episode. “Beyond the Wall,” the penultimate episode of this shortened season, delivered another classic in the cannon of the show. And, much like other penultimate episodes, it was at turns thrilling and heart-breaking.
Earlier this Spring I saw the image above of an ice dragon. It was beautiful and captivating, and something that I couldn’t let go. At one point I even named one of my Fantasy Football dynasty league teams the Ice Dragons. But the question was whether we…

2017 Broncos Season, Pre-Season Week 2

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The Broncos are 2-0 this pre-season, but there are still plenty of questions to answer.

Pre-Season Week 2: Broncos 33, San Francisco 49ers 14
Pre-Season Record: 2-0 (0-0 Home)
Key Play: In the first half, with time winding down, Trevor Siemian connected with Jordan Taylor on a 17-yard pass for a touchdown to push the score to 20-0 before the half.

Recap: The Denver Broncos got a win in their second pre-season game and, more importantly, might have gotten some clarity and direction in their most pressing area of concern, who will start at quarterback. Paxton Lynch started on Saturday night, going 9-for-13 for 39 yards, and rushing three times for 27 yards. On the surface, that doesn't seem too bad. But if you watched, you'd have seen a young quarterback who struggled with some decision making, had trouble with accuracy on throws down the field, and frequently panicked in dumping the ball off or running. That's not great. What compounded matters was that Trevor Siemian came in…

Player Profile: Jay Cutler

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Well, we’re finally to the pre-season, and real football is right around the corner. And by real football, I mean the official Fantasy Football season. I mean, come on, that’s what we’re all here for anyway, right?

But before we get there, we have to survive camp and pre-season. And in terms of fantasy, that means trying to recover from crippling injuries. One of those came when Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill — already working his way back from a knee injury that ended last season early — took an awkward step and re-injured his knee. He’s now had ACL surgery and is out for the season.

That instantly left folks wondering what the Dolphins would do. Would they turn to Matt Moore, a well-paid backup who was serviceable to end 2016, including a playoff start. Would the Dolphins consider Colin Kaepernick, whose talent on the field seems to get lost in the off-the-field stories. Or would they sign Jay Cutler, the 34-year-old who seemed set to move to the booth but had worked with Dolphins coac…

2017 Broncos Season, Week 2 Expectations

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The Broncos head into the second week of the pre-season on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers with plenty of questions to answer. They've also spent the past few days in joint practices, which is always a chance to measure yourself against other teams.

As we head into this second pre-season game, it's time to consider what we need to see in this second game, or at least what we'd like to see.

* Someone taking control in the quarterback race. It's Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, and the first game didn't offer anything concrete. It seems like Siemian has taken the lead in practices, and if Lynch doesn't shine in the game, the Broncos could, and should, make a decision. It will help the team to have a decision made.

* Improvement on both lines. Allen Barbre has gotten run with the ones this week, and may do the same in the game. Clearly, the Broncos' offensive line needs to play better. So, too, does the defensive line, which has been really banged up…

Best Movies of Summer

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Technically summer (both the season and Box Office cycle) is still going. But, let's face it, the big blockbusters have come and gone. Now is a fitting time to take a moment, step back, and hail the best of summer. Below is my favorite films from this summer season, which also happen to be some of the best of the year so far.

Blockbusters:
* Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 5): It's easy to forget this now, since it's almost September, but summer kicked off with this sequel to the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it was awesome. The soundtrack was great. The performances were great. The film was a fitting follow-up, albeit not quite topping the original.

* Wonder Woman (June 2): It's been rough for DC as they've tried to create their own cinematic universe. They have some great heroes and properties, but they hadn't really made the most of them in their new cinematic universe. That is until Patty Jenkins saved the day with "Wonder Woman," w…

Best of the Small Screen, No. 2

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Over the next 2 weeks I'll be taking a look at some of my favorite TV series, broken down into three groups (Limited Run Series, Comedies, and Dramas). In my post on March 1 I laid out the ground rules for these categories and this exploration, the biggest of which is no series that are currently airing. To read the whole thing, check out the post "Best of the Small Screen" from March 1.

Getting close to the top, and really, this one could have had that spot.

The West Wing (1999-2006)
Number of Seasons/Episodes: 7/155
Network: NBC
Starring: Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Dule Hill, Rob Lowe, Joshua Malina, and Stockard Channing
Creator: Aaron Sorkin
Favorite Season/Episodes: Season 1, 7; 1.01 "Pilot," 1.10 "In Excelsis Deo," 1.22 "What Kind of Day Has It Been," 2.01-2.02 "In The Shadow of Two Gunmen," 2.22 "Two Cathedrals," 3.21 "Posse Comitatus," 4.23 "Twenty Five&…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 14

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We're nearly to September, which means the fall TV Season. But before we get there, we have a few more weeks of summer, and that includes more new TV shows. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on HBO (Premiered August 8)
About: This sports anthology series is in its 12th season, but each year is new because it follows a different team. We have had two other sports documentaries air this summer ("All or Nothing" on Amazon and "Last Chance U" on Netflix), but "Hard Knocks" is always the most anticipated lead-in to the NFL season. But it can be made or broken on how interesting the players and coaches are. Unfortunately in the season premier, it looks like there isn't much to work with in Tampa Bay. Dirk Koetter is by all accounts a good co…

Loyalty and a Dangerous Mission

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We have just two episodes left in this season seven before we settle in for the long night, and it’s fair to say things haven’t exactly gone the way I thought prior to the start of this season. Episode six will be 75 minutes, and episode seven will be the longest in the history of the series so far, but it might be more of a prologue of what’s to come than a wrap up of anything.
After the close of season six, it seemed clear there were two battles left to be fought. On was for control of Westeros, with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) sailing for home and Cersei (Lena Headey) having taken control of King’s Landing. The other was the battle for humanity, as the army of the dead was marching on the living. My suspicion, with 13 episodes left, was that season seven would be that battle for Westeros and, when the dust settled, season eight would be the battle against the Night King.
The first four episodes of the season seemed to bear that out. After the premier set things in motion, episodes tw…

The End of Orphan Black

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"Orphan Black," the long-running sci-fi series on BBC America, wrapped up last night. The show spanned five seasons and 50 episodes, and became something of a cult favorite. And many wondered how it would end.

For me, the first season was an engrossing and nearly perfect mystery. The second season was solid, too, then I felt the show got a little lost. I stuck with it to see where it would go, but I thought the latter seasons waned in quality. Still, it was interesting to see how the series would wrap up.

The finale, like the last few seasons, was uneven. The first half hour was the climactic battle between Sarah and her creators and Neolution. Then, the final 30 minutes was a sort of personal wrap up on the characters that felt like it wanted to be more emotional than it was for me. It was OK, but it was a sort of quiet-open-ended, life goes on kind of feel. In this day and age of shows getting a second life, maybe that's for the best.

But here's my take aways from…

2017 Broncos Season, Tight Ends

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The Pre-Season began on Thursday, but much is left to do. I continue my look at position groups with tight ends. The Broncos completed 17 passes on Thursday night, but not a single one went to a tight end. In fact, as a unit, tight ends were only targeted two times. That continues the struggle in determining what to do with this position group.

On The Roster:
* Virgil Green
* AJ Derby
* Jeff Heuerman
* Jake Butt (Rookie)
* Steve Scheu
* Austin Traylor

A Look Back at 2016: The Broncos' offense wasn't great as a unit in 2016, but particularly disappointing was the tight end unit. The Broncos had expected greater production when the season began, and even made and in-season trade to acquire AJ Derby, hoping for more pass production. But it didn't really materialize. Virgil Green has never developed into a reliable receiver, and Jeff Heuerman, after missing his rookie year with a knee injury, played in 12 games in 2016 but recorded just nine receptions on 17 targets. Derby, acq…

2017 Broncos Season, Pre-Season, Week 1

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The 2017 NFL Season has officially begun. The Broncos have finally played an actual game (a pre-season game, but still a game).

Pre-Season Week 1: Broncos 24, Chicago Bears 17
Pre-Season Record: 1-0 (0-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, knotted at 17-17 with time running down and facing a third and 22 from the 41-yard-line, the Broncos handed the ball to rookie running back DeAngelo Henderson, who took the ball to the end zone for the lead. That proved the difference in the game.

Recap: Well, we've seen this before. A defensive score. Offensive ineptitude. Some trouble stopping the run. Penalties on the offensive line. Struggles on Special Teams. And just enough plays to squeak out a win. We've seen this formula before. Some of the faces have changed, and the coaches are new, but the Broncos looked an awful lot like the 2016 version last night. The defense is still great (Chris Harris, Jr. started the game off with a pick-six), but the offense isn't great. We continue t…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

The Dark Tower
Starring: Tom Taylor, Idris Elba, and Matthew McCounaghey
Synopsis: Stephen King is a master storyteller who has a legion of fans. And his “Dark Tower” books have been among his most popular and highly anticipated as a film. On Friday, August 4, fans got that film. But judging by reviews and Box Office receipts, it might not be what they expected. The novel series is eight books, many quite dense. This first film, a 95-minute action story, was meant to serve as a franchise starter, but it also tries to pack a lot of dense mythology into a tight package. The result is something less than stellar. My biggest issue with this film, as a non book reader, is that it was a story that was hard to follow. The narrative, due in part to collapsing so much story into such a compact running time, cuts some corners. That led to more than a few questions. At the same time, the film is boring at parts. That’s also a problem. It’s short…

Best of the Small Screen, Dramas No. 3

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Over the next 3 weeks I'll be taking a look at some of my favorite TV series, broken down into three groups (Limited Run Series, Comedies, and Dramas). In my post on March 1 I laid out the ground rules for these categories and this exploration, the biggest of which is no series that are currently airing. To read the whole thing, check out the post "Best of the Small Screen" from March 1.

Today  I continue my countdown with a delightful sci-fi gem.

Fringe (2008-2013)
Number of Seasons/Episodes: 5/100
Network: FOX
Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Jasika Nichole, Lance Reddick, and Blair Brown
Creator: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Favorite Season/Episodes: Season two; 1.20 "There's More Than One of Everything," 2.16 "Peter," 2.18 "The White Tulip," 2.20 "Brown Betty," 3.08 "Entrada," 3.15 "Subject 13," 4.06 "And Those We've Left Behind"
Synopsis: Of all the shows on this l…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 13

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It's August. We're a few weeks from fall premiers, but the new shows of summer keep on coming. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Wednesday Nights:
The Sinner, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on USA (Premiered August 2)
About: This latest scripted series from USA is an eight-episode limited series starring Jessica Biel and based on a book of the same name. It's about a wife and mother who, one day, snaps and stabs a man to death while on a family outing to the beach. She's quickly taken into custody and confesses. But a detective (Bill Pullman) is convinced there's more to it than that. That pretty much covers the pilot episode, and the question moving forward is whether there's more to the story. Biel began her career on the small screen but quickly graduated to film. Her return here is with a very different kind of character and a very different kind…

Coming Home

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We are officially half way through this penultimate season. Actually more than half way through. Last night’s fourth episode means there’s just three weeks left before the long winter begins for Game of Thrones fans. And that’s not something we’re excited about.
A lot was made about last night’s episode, “The Spoils of War,” and the fact it was the shortest episode in the show’s history. In an already shortened season, that stung a little. Of course, at around 50 minutes, it’s not like it was drastically shorter.
But when you watched the episode, it was impossible to forget the idea that big things come in small packages. That might have been a shorter episode by Thrones’ standards, but it was a mighty episode. One that many are hailing a top-five for the series. I’ve seen it twice, and I’m not ready to make that bold claim yet. Partly because I want to see where it fits in the overall narrative, and partly to avoid recency bias. That being said, last night’s episode had me from the …