Tag Archives: report

Sniper Elite 4 VS Sniper Elite 3

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There are two things that I would very much like to stress to begin this particular blog entry: one- this is not a review, and two- many, many, many despotic dictators were hurt in the making of this blog post. Now that we’ve covered that, I think we can truly begin in earnest.

Sniper Elite 4 (Italia) recently released to mostly critical acclaim and I must say, as a fan of the series since its inception and soon-after reboot, I’m a fan as well. There are some aspects of Sniper Elite 4 that make it much more accessible than the previous two major installments, and yet curiously these same aspects sometimes make the game more challenging. Whereas Sniper Elite 3 (Afrika) featured a relocation warning of sorts between sniper shots or loud noises, Sniper Elite 4 does no such thing and immediately (as well as more realistically) expects players to handle this business on their own, free of warning.

As if the series could further refine its base concepts- that being gunplay that is predominately dominated by sniper battles, it somehow succeeds on this front as well. Sniper Elite V2 was received quite well for its mostly realistic portrayal and depiction of sniper mechanics in-game. Sniper Elite 3, though less-acclaimed overall, refined these techniques even further and opened the playing field to a wider variety of takedowns with the addition of sniper versus vehicular enemy type encounters. Needless to say, Sniper Elite 4 ups the ante for the third consecutive time with additional sniper options, more sensible and refined mechanics, and of course added takedowns- featuring more creative ways to kill the Fuhrer (to boot!).

I worry that the series may accidentally stagnate here in the near future if the trend of solely basing its gameplay off of WWII skirmishes and Karl Fairburne continues, however I do have hope that once they’ve thoroughly visited every major theater of war, they can continue into perhaps even modern conflicts with refined mechanics and technological advancements in combat. Sniper Elite’s modern day competition is essentially limited to Sniper: Ghost Warrior and thus far it is a battle Elite easily wins despite the latter series slowly improving itself over time (and the third title dropping later this year). Experiencing the tense action of Sniper Elite and utilizing a visceral setting such as the jungles of Vietnam would be truly awe-inspiring and potentially the best sniping idea since All Ghillied Up.

That having been said, let’s not stray too far from the matter at hand and the topic for discussion- how does Sniper Elite 4 compare to its immediate predecessor?

Despite its truly disappointing qualities and a great many flaws, once I got into Sniper Elite 3 (Afrika) I had a blast. The mechanics were rich to begin with in V2 and yet somehow they took everything from level design to weapon and equipment models so much further with the slight edge in technology over the console gap. What a difference three years can make. And the same can be said for Sniper Elite 4 in comparison with its direct predecessor as of right now as well. Sniper Elite 4 is truly a next generation Sniper Elite, and it is abundantly clear. Whereas Rebellion was still learning the ropes of what was possible with Sniper Elite 3 and as ambitious as it was it fell short at times, Italia is fleshed out a lot more and an overall better experience and more aesthetically and mechanically gripping world.

Granted, the experience by now can only be refined so much here and there, and yet the tweaks and additions that have been made in terms of assists and lack thereof work in perfect cooperation with the preexisting mechanics and ideas. There is a greater array of options when it comes to combat although stealth is still one of the ironically most finicky parts of gameplay in the series. There are more environmental opportunities and the game can be played in an entirely new way even when compared to Sniper Elite 3, much less to V2. All things considered, while each title in the series has had their fair share of minor flaws, Sniper Elite 4 is characteristically the most complete package to date. There is much less of a grind when compared directly to Sniper Elite 3 despite the campaign featuring the same number of stages that take roughly the same length of time to complete. And let’s not even get into the depth of the cooperative offering- it’s potentially expansive to say the least.

All in all, Sniper Elite 4 only does a few new things and even those are mostly aesthetic or minor gameplay and mechanical adjustments. However, the overall presentation is what Sniper Elite 3 could’ve or should’ve been, and therefore it is the clear winner where the two are compared. I’ll not lie when I say this post should and probably will be more helpful to those of you who have at least played a game in the series prior to this one and are deciding whether or not to purchase the latest and potentially greatest iteration. However, bear in mind that this is also by no means a review of the game or anything other than its mechanics in comparison to those of its predecessor. So I make no guarantees as to how it’ll hold up under much closer scrutiny than a day or so can give.

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Why You Should Watch Jack Taylor

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If you’re into the sort of thing, the online providers of mixed media (predominately television shows and films) such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO typically offer some quality entertainment and interesting specimens. One such series that has recently struck a chord somewhere deep within the dark recesses of my sleep deprived and otherwise addled brain is none other than ‘Jack Taylor.’ Allow me to state some of the selling points for the series to begin with, in all of its Netflix glory (although there are at least three new episodes not yet available on the streaming service).

Iain Glen, better known as ‘That Guy’ from the often sub-par Resident Evil films and even better better known as Jorah the Explorah from Game of Thrones (HBO), is featured as the titular character Jack Taylor. The series is predominately set in and around Galway- Ireland for those of you unfamiliar to the lay of the land. So you’ve got your fair share of drinking, smoking, and unsavory thuggish sorts going toe to toe with J.T. and constantly getting outwitted and beaten soundly (typically in the literal sense as well). The show is similar to the popular BBC Sherlock series in that it typically boasts three film-length episodes per series and is based upon novels revolving around the same titular character (written by Ken Bruen). One interesting additional note is that the episodes typically originate on local Irish television channels as well.

It is very much a dark, cynical, and gritty show- so essentially everything I love besides petting unicorns and smelling daffodils while skipping around meadows. Jokes aside, the show features story arcs and characters from the novels themselves and despite following in the same thematic footsteps and potential cliches, it all still works and is directed with such things in mind. Unsurprisingly, Jorah- er Jack, is easily the highlight of each lengthy film, although Garda Noonan (Nora-Jane Noone/Siobhan O’Kelly) is just as witty and well-portrayed. It won’t often throw you for true twists that you don’t see coming, but it’s far from mere pulp fiction or trashy romantic paperbacks that most people spend their time with. Think of it as something along the lines of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ series, although not in terms of being made into a feature-length Tom Cruise film.

The gist of what I’m getting at here, without trying to give everything up and give everything away in order to ruin things for you, is that it’s definitely worth a watch. Perhaps the first few episodes get off to a little bit of a rocky start in terms of cliches and stereotypes typically found in thrillers and novels of that sort. But the characters are what really piqued my interest and got me invested and I’ll bet if the series sounds like it’s up your alley, then they’ll probably interest you as well. Iain Glen has long been a favorite of mine in terms of lesser-known on-screen actors who’ve come from great theatrical and producing backdrops. His film roles may be minimal in terms of the limelight (although Mountains of the Moon is pretty amazing) and he may be predominately known for guest roles or his acting slot on Game of Thrones, but he thoroughly sells the Jack Taylor vibe and has quickly become a favorite in that capacity for me as well.

And here’s a quick fun-fact for you as well. Glen starred alongside such notable names as Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Edward Norton, Ghassan Massoud, Alexander Siddig, Jon Finch, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Maton Csokas, and Michael Sheen. If those names themselves don’t all ring a bell, look up some of the films and works they’ve been involved in and you’ll get a better picture. Needless to say the most well-known involved include but are not limited to Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, and so much more.Iain Glen is good. Jack Taylor is good. Well, the show. Try it out.

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The Big Bowl

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This one’s for all the marbles as it would be. It’s come down to the moment of truth and also come time for me to post my predictions and results for the Super Bowl, as well as some interesting post-season stats on my part. Alas, I voted against the Falcons virtually every week save for this one and my sudden confidence in the surging team seems to have taken the wind out of their sails, or wings, or what have you. Truly, Tom Brady for better or worse must be one of the greatest of all time, and I think we can no longer deny it otherwise.

After authoring a twenty-five point comeback to tie the game and send it to the first ever overtime, the Patriots then surged ahead and clinched victory off of the dominant performance of their scat back, White. Whether or not you liked one team or neither, you cannot deny the first half consistency of Atlanta nor the second half magic of New England. What a game.

Final Score SB 51: NE 34 ATL 28 Pre: ATL Act: NE

Overall Post-Season Record: 6-5

WC- 4-0 | DIV- 1-3 | CONF- 1-1 | SB- 0-1

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Divisional and Championship Results

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This particular post is short and sweet and to the point. As the title should suggest, the focus is to illuminate my no-so stellar predictions for each of the subsequent rounds following the wild card weekend (where I went a perfect 4-0). As such, let’s get to it.

Divisional Round Predictions

Seahawks v Falcons | Pre: SEA Act: ATL

Texans v Patriots | Pre: NE Act: NE

Packers v Cowboys | Pre: DAL Act: GB

Steelers v Chiefs | Pre: KC Act: PIT

*To be fair, the final two games came within three points or less so I don’t feel as bad for picking the losers as I do for the Seattle and Atlanta matchup which wasn’t nearly as close.

Conference Championship Predictions

Packers v Falcons | Pre: GB Act: ATL

Steelers v Patriots | Pre: NE Act: NE

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Week by Week Walkthrough

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The following is about to be a quick little runthrough of my stats totals for personal predictions each week of the regular season and into the post-season thus far. As of the time this is being written, I am four for four in post-season predictions and waiting to see the outcome of the rest of the playoff games leading up to the title matchup. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Week One: 8-8 | Week Two: 11-5 | Week Three: 9-7 | Week Four: 8-7

Week Five: 10-4 | Week Six: 9-6 | Week Seven: 8-6-1 | Week Eight: 7-5-1

Week Nine: 9-4 | Week Ten: 7-7 | Week Eleven: 10-4

Week Twelve: 10-6 | Week Thirteen: 11-4 | Week Fourteen: 7-9

Week Fifteen: 10-6 | Week Sixteen: 10-6 | Week Seventeen: 9-7

Wild Card: 4-0

Interesting Stats:

  1. Every week except for Week 14 had a winning or at least even wins/losses record for the regular season and thus far in the playoffs as well.
  2. Two weeks (1 and 10) had even wins and losses while two weeks also had unaccounted for ties which couldn’t necessarily be factored in.

Divisional Round Predictions:

  1. Seahawks v Falcons | Pre: SEA
  2. Patriots v Texans | Pre: NE
  3. Chiefs v Steelers | Pre: KC
  4. Cowboys v Packers | Pre: DAL

Notes: All of the games have the potential to be fairly close but I particularly think the Falcons/Seahawks and Chiefs/Steelers matches will be very close. Seattle has had issues of late but then they are still after all the resilient Seahawks. Atlanta has been an explosive offensive powerhouse for most of the year. Kansas City has the Swiss Army Hill. Pittsburgh has been on a hotstreak for a long time and dominated the Dolphins in a revenge game and wild card match. The Packers and Cowboys also have the potential to go either way and Aaron Rodgers’ promise of “running the table” could come through. I could see the Texans’ defense providing some hiccups for the Pats in their game, however I feel like barring an upset of epic proportions, that match is the surest of the bunch.

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Playoff Rankings

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First of all, yes I did not indeed post actual rankings for Week 17, however I will gladly add them in the beginning here with a simple list as at this point in the season there’s less of a need to explain things along the way. The main purpose for this post is to offer rankings going into the post-season in particular, and that is what I seek to do here. I will be traveling and as such still have paltry access to the interwebs so this may very well be the only week I get to on time for such rankings.

Week 17 Rankings By the Books:

  1. New England Patriots 13-2 +/-
  2. Dallas Cowboys 13-2 +/-
  3. Oakland Raiders 12-3 +/-
  4. Atlanta Falcons 10-5 +1
  5. Kansas City Chiefs 11-4 +1
  6. Seattle Seahawks 9-5-1 -2
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-5 +1
  8. Green Bay Packers 9-6 +3
  9. Washington Redskins 8-6-1 +4
  10. New York Giants 10-5 -3
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-7 -2
  12. Detroit Lions 9-6 -2
  13. Miami Dolphins 10-5 -1
  14. Houston Texans 9-6 +4
  15. Baltimore Ravens 8-7 +/-
  16. Denver Broncos 8-7 -2
  17. Buffalo Bills 7-8 +/-
  18. Indianapolis Colts 7-8 +1
  19. Tennessee Titans 8-7 -3
  20. Minnesota Vikings 7-8 +/-
  21. New Orleans Saints 7-8 +/-
  22. Philadelphia Eagles 6-9 +1
  23. Arizona Cardinals 6-8-1 +1
  24. Cincinnati Bengals 5-9-1 +3
  25. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-12 +3
  26. Carolina Panthers 6-9 -4
  27. Chicago Bears 3-12 -2
  28. San Fransisco 49ers 2-13 +3
  29. San Diego Chargers 5-10 -3
  30. Los Angeles Rams 4-11 +/-
  31. New York Jets 4-11 -2
  32. Cleveland Browns 1-14 +/-

Who Has Been Eliminated:

  1. Titans, Broncos, Buccaneers 9-7
  2. Redskins 8-7-1
  3. Ravens, Colts, Vikings 8-8
  4. Cardinals 7-8-1
  5. Bills, Eagles, Saints 7-9
  6. Bengals 6-9-1
  7. Panthers 6-10
  8. Jets, Chargers 5-11
  9. Rams 4-12
  10. Jaguars, Bears 3-13
  11. 49ers 2-14
  12. Browns 1-15

Who Remains:

  1. Patriots 14-2
  2. Cowboys 13-3
  3. Chiefs, Raiders 12-4
  4. Steelers, Giants, Falcons 11-5
  5. Seahawks 10-5-1
  6. Dolphins, Packers 10-6
  7. Texans, Lions 9-7

Power Rankings:

  1. Patriots
  2. Cowboys
  3. Steelers
  4. Chiefs
  5. Falcons
  6. Seahawks
  7. Packers
  8. Raiders
  9. Giants
  10. Lions
  11. Dolphins
  12. Texans
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Final Predictions of the Regular Season

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I’m a little late here with some of my posts, but I’ve had unreliable connection where I’ve been of late so that is semi-excusable. I’ll start off with the final predictions of the regular season and I’ll try to upload the final week’s worth of regular season power rankings here in the next day or perhaps later today or so. Let’s begin.

Week Seventeen Predictions

  1. Bills v Jets | Pre: BUF Act: NYJ
  2. Browns v Steelers | Pre: PIT Act: PIT
  3. Panthers v Buccaneers | Pre: TB Act: TB
  4. Texans v Titans | Pre: HOU Act: TEN
  5. Bears v Vikings | Pre: CHI Act: MIN
  6. Cowboys v Eagles | Pre: DAL Act: PHI
  7. Patriots v Dolphins | Pre: NE Act: NE
  8. Jaguars v Colts | Pre: IND Act: IND
  9. Ravens v Bengals | Pre: BAL Act: CIN
  10. Chiefs v Chargers | Pre: KC Act: KC
  11. Seahawks v 49ers | Pre: SEA Act: SEA
  12. Cardinals v Rams | Pre: ARI Act: ARI
  13. Raiders v Broncos | Pre: DEN Act: DEN
  14. Saints v Falcons | Pre: ATL Act: ATL
  15. Giants v Redskins | Pre: WAS Act: NYG
  16. Packers v Lions | Pre: DET Act: GB

Weekly Record: 9-7

Final Record of the Season: 153-101-2

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Short Stack Week

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I know I’d initially stated that I would do some sort of triple feature for the final three weeks of the season in regard to week by week predictions. However I’ve since changed my mind and will seek to do something along the lines of a week by week review of the predictions.

Week Fifteen Predictions

  1. Rams v Seahawks | Pre: SEA W Act: SEA W
  2. Dolphins v Jets | Pre: NYJ W Act: MIA W
  3. Colts v Vikings | Pre: MIN W Act: IND W
  4. Steelers v Bengals | Pre: PIT W Act: PIT W
  5. Jaguars v Texans | Pre: JAC W Act: HOU W
  6. Lions v Giants | Pre: DET W Act: NYG W
  7. Titans v Chiefs | Pre: KC W Act: TEN W
  8. Browns v Bills | Pre: BUF W Act: BUF W
  9. Packers v Bears | Pre: GB W Act: GB W
  10. Eagles v Ravens | Pre: BAL W Act: BAL W
  11. 49ers v Falcons | Pre: ATL W Act: ATL  W
  12. Saints v Cardinals | Pre: NO W Act: NO W
  13. Raiders v Chargers | Pre: OAK W Act: OAK W
  14. Patriots v Broncos | Pre: NE W Act: NE W
  15. Buccaneers v Cowboys | Pre: DAL W Act: DAL W
  16. Panthers v Redskins | Pre: WAS W Act: CAR W

No Teams W/ Bye-Week

Weekly Record: 10-6

Week Sixteen Predictions

  1. Giants v Eagles | Advantage- Giants Act: PHI
  2. Vikings v Packers | Advantage- Packers Act: GB
  3. Titans v Jaguars | Advantage- Titans Act: JAC
  4. Chargers v Browns | Advantage- Chargers Act: CLE
  5. Jets v Patriots | Advantage- Patriots Act: NE
  6. Redskins v Bears | Advantage- Redskins Act: WAS
  7. Dolphins v Bills | Advantage- Dolphins Act: MIA
  8. Falcons v Panthers | Advantage- Falcons Act: ATL
  9. Colts v Raiders | Advantage- Raiders Act: OAK
  10. Cardinals v Seahawks | Advantage- Seahawks Act: ARI
  11. 49ers v Rams | Advantage- Rams Act: SF
  12. Buccaneers v Saints | Advantage- Buccaneers Act: NO
  13. Bengals v Texans | Advantage- Texans Act: HOU
  14. Ravens v Steelers | Advantage- Steelers Act: PIT
  15. Broncos v Chiefs | Advantage- Chiefs Act: KC
  16. Lions v Cowboys | Advantage- Cowboys Act: DAL

Weekly Record: 10-6

Total Record Thus Far: 144-94-2

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Week Sixteen Rankings

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One more week down, only  a couple more to go this season before regular season play wraps up. There are still many storylines alive and well today. Will the Cowboys win out? Will the Browns go the full monty with their “perfect” season? Will the Patriots be the dominant team to beat in the AFC for the umpteenth year? Only time can tell for most of these burning questions, and time is something that the majority of teams do not have a lot of if they hope to make the playoffs.Let’s get down to business.

Winning Smiles:

  1. New England Patriots- It was a defensive matchup all day but wow, what a rebound for New England in terms of beating the team that snubbed them last year and then went on to win the Super Bowl for added measure. The Pats held the Broncos to one field goal in the first quarter and then never looked back. Both teams had their fair share of troubles, but the Patriots are one of the most versatile and well-rounded crews in football and it shows in crunch time. +/- 12-2 *Playoffs
  2. Dallas Cowboys- This spot essentially boiled down to the tale of two comebacks but the Cowboys edged out the Raiders in spectacular fashion and leap into number two again just as Zeke leapt into the charity cauldron. The Bucs certainly proved they’re still hot and they’re still hot on the heels of Atlanta for a divisional title as well. I’d actually almost rather see them in the wild card round than the Falcons, but that’s beside the point. The Boys are back on the wagon again. +1 12-2 *Playoffs
  3. Oakland Raiders- Through no fault of their own, seeing as they clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time in a good long while (think 2002), the Raiders drop a spot nonetheless. They overcame a slight deficit and tie game to win one and secure their playoff berth over divisional rival and regular party pooper San Diego. It’s a shame we haven’t seen a healthier and more competitive and evenly matched Chargers team this year but the rest of the division is probably thankful for that because it’s a tough match anyway. -1 11-3 *Playoffs
  4. Seattle Seahawks- The Los Angeles Rams didn’t stand a chance and they certainly weren’t Seattle-brand kryptonite this week. In fact, they didn’t amount to much of anything, least of all a challenge to the Seattle authority. The Seahawks absolutely dominated the Rams and to make matters better, they secured a divisional title as well as a playoff slot. Only time will tell where they end up seeding wise, but in a volatile NFC any slot will do right now. +2 9-4-1 *Playoffs
  5. Atlanta Falcons- Granted the Falcons played an abysmal 49ers team which is second only to the Browns in the level of which they do not play, however the routing that Atlanta gave them gives me shivers to think about. The Falcons have been one of the most explosive offenses all year long and they’ve certainly had a lot better luck than last year’s initially hot then stone cold campaign. They’re barely ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South playoff race, but they’ve got some interesting times ahead as well. I’d be interested to see how things go. +/- 9-5
  6. Kansas City Chiefs- Talk about bad luck at the most inopportune time. After a hard fought win over the Raiders gave them the divisional front seat and they improved to 4-0 for the division, Kansas City lost to the Titans who’ve been upsetting folks right and left lately. Now they’ve been bumped down a notch and despite their pristine record, they stand to lose even more ground. Kansas City needs a few more important wins and losses by themselves and other teams in their division and conference at this rate. -2 10-4
  7. New York Giants- In case you were wondering which of the two 9-4 teams that played this week were strongest, look no further. The Giants absolutely out-dueled the Lions and no amount of fourth quarter magic could’ve saved that team anyway. The Eli-OBJ connection was as real as it’s ever been. The Giants defense was swarming Stafford and the nonexistent Detroit run game all day. It was a tough time for one team and a relative cakewalk for the other. +2 10-4
  8. Pittsburgh Steelers- Not only did the Steelers notch another important divisional win over the Bengals who admirably tried to bring the game back their way, but they furthered their bid for the title over the Ravens who barely won this week. Big Ben and the Steelers have been a dark horse candidate for the Super Bowl run all year with many folks and those hopes could still be alive if this team keeps up the good work. All things taken for what they are, I’m interested to see how they finish the season first of all. +3 9-5
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Tough break for a Bucs team that deserves all the attention they can get this season. This team is a hot one and in the perfect world both themselves and the Falcons make the playoff cutoff. I’d like to see their hard work and difficult schedule well-rewarded. As it is, I’d also like to see how they fare for the rest of the season and whether or not they can win out now that they’ve made their bid against Dallas and just barely come up short. +3 8-6
  10. Detroit Lions- It was a dark day for a Lions team that has seen a spectacular run this season and may have just moved one step closer to seeing that run wasted. The Packers won their game, however barely a win it was, and while the Vikings lost and are essentially out of the question for a division title run, the Lions are feeling more pressure than ever to win out and maintain their first place spot. They may have already lost the first round playoff bye assuming they make the playoffs, but to lose the title itself would be a shame. -3 9-5

Concession Handshakes:

  1. Green Bay Packers- It’s not often that a team barely wins a game by a field goal against an inferior opponent and moves up several spots in the rankings, but this week’s case has a story to go along with it. The Packers are now officially “back in the game” if the hype is believable and they can keep the wins coming. Not only did the Vikings flame out in glorious fashion, but the Lions lost as well which makes the division title that much more attainable for a raging Rodgers and co. +3 8-6
  2. Miami Dolphins- Don’t sleep on Miami just yet. Apparently you don’t even need Ryan Tannehill in order to post a winning season this year with the Fins. Don’t look now, but the Dolphins’ playoff potential grows by the week and if they can hold of a Bills or Jets playoff berth buster level of a failure then they may be good for a wild card slot indeed. +4 9-5
  3. Washington Redskins- A tough break for the Redskins this week as their playoffs hopes may be completely dashed in a surprising loss to Carolina. They would’ve had a tough time as is with the record they have, but now it’s gotten even tougher. Not to mention they’re third down in their division behind tow teams with more than ten wins apiece and better divisional and conference play. It’ll be interesting to see how Kirk Cousins and co cope. -5 7-6-1
  4. Denver Broncos- The Broncos were snapped back to reality in harsh fashion by the Patriots and are the second team in a row to be three down in their division and still hoping against everything that they can secure a playoff slot somehow. It really doesn’t help that the AFC West is continually one of the most difficult division to play within and that conference matchups are hard enough when you’ve got to play the Patriots. -4 8-6
  5. Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens may have gotten the win this week, but they’re still stuck one game behind the Steelers who currently hold the divisional lead. In a conference that boasts another close race in the AFC South between the Texans and Titans at the moment, it’ll be interesting to see how this particular one turns out. The Ravens have a tough time ahead of them for the next couple of weeks as well and may have lost out on the chance to win out. -2 8-6
  6. Tennessee Titans- Another week and another big, clutch-time win for Marcus Mariota and the Titans. As it stands, I can’t help but feel that Mariota and Jameis Winston will almost always be competing with each other in more ways than one. They’ve constantly come up against each other in both college and pro football and both post similar stats and results with their teams even now. I’d like to see the Titans win out and topple the tyrannical Texans who have somehow slithered their way to a 5-0 divisional run and still maintain the technical lead. +2 8-6
  7. Buffalo Bills- As impressive a win as it was score-wise, the Bills played the Browns and that counts for very little right this moment in a league where the race is so close between teams. They’re not completely out of the picture yet but this team needs to step it up just a little bit more since they have some of their most important pieces back on the board again. I’m curious as to where they will end up for the season as well. +/- 7-7
  8. Houston Texans- By simple virtue of somehow still being in the lead for the AFC South and because they won another game and did it with a surprisingly not-bad comeback as well (against the Jags though, ugh) I’ll grant the Texans a little leeway this week. But don’t expect much more than that. The Quarterback situation is still very much a mess. And there’s still a lot that’s just waiting to build into another week one playoff implosion when they probably play against the Chiefs again, at least as it would stand today. +3 8-6
  9. Indianapolis Colts- What an absolute blistering the Colts gave the Vikings this week, effectively eliminating their opponent from playoff contention for that matter as well. At least, any serious talk of playoff contention, which the Colts themselves are actually still in considering their relatively weak division as well. It’s hard to believe that they’re only one game back behind both of the teams ahead of them, and that it has been that way for most of the year with the teams occasionally flip-flopping each other along the way. +/- 7-7
  10. Minnesota Vikings- The Vikings have come seemingly full circle since their idiotic playoff chip shot field goal that apparently was symbolic of the end times in Norse mythology. The serpent wyrm has devoured their world and their record. Blair Walsh has since left but the curse of the black spot remains. After going a remarkable 5-0 and even being the number one here a few times, they’ve gone a thoroughly unremarkable 2-7 since. And now sit not-so-pretty at an even record. -5 7-7

Trips to the Bench:

  1. New Orleans Saints- In this week’s game that didn’t really matter, the Saints and Drew Brees dueled with destiny and the Cardinals and came out on top. I say it doesn’t really matter because the division is effectively going to either the Falcons or Buccaneers at this point, and the Saints, however much I respect them and their work ethic at QB, are only going to maybe edge out the Panthers this year. So congratulations on the win but at this point it may have come too little too late. -1 6-8
  2. Carolina Panthers- Oh Carolina, you’re always on my mind. But not always for the best of reasons. Tonight it is for a good reason, considering you all put a moderate dent in Washington’s playoff hopes and actually managed to keep the majority of a fourth quarter lead for the first time in forever. In fact, I’m proud that the Panthers actually showed up to play against former-Panther Josh Norman and his new trash talking and punch throwing teammates. +/- 6-8
  3. Philadelphia Eagles- Alas poor Philadelphia, we knew you well. The Eagles have had several last gasps this year but this one was one of the most painful to witness yet, because they came closer than they have in a few games and still fell short to the Ravens. It doesn’t make matters better that the team that beat them is also one that could in theory secure a playoff berth as well, however barely. +/- 5-9
  4. Arizona Cardinals- Yes, you’re reading this correctly. Three teams in a row thus far have retained their exact position from the previous week, which is virtually unheard of. But it’s happening nonetheless. The Cards showed up and showed out against the Saints but it just wasn’t quite enough for them to walk away with a victory. The Seahawks have already secured the division title and the other two teams in the division aren’t doing much to change that either. +/- 5-8-1
  5. Chicago Bears- The Bengals played the Steelers close but they didn’t even score in the second half once. The Bears on the other hand scored a whopping seventeen points in the fourth quarter and Matt Barkley and co put the burden on Aaron Rodgers and his team to come and take the win from them. Really, even in a lost season and on a lost team, some games just shine. And the Bears have been doing far too well to be the 3-11 team they are for at least the last few games and their win over Minnesota earlier in the season. +1 3-11
  6. San Diego Chargers- For much the same reason as the Bears and Bengals being in the slots they will find themselves right now this week, the Chargers played well against a superior team as they have even in this dismal season so far. It wasn’t enough to get a win but it was more than enough to get the blood pumping and hearts beating. I really wish things had been different for this team so far but it looks like they’re in for a six win season if they’re lucky. +1 5-9
  7. Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals are once more the Bungles this week even though they showed some poise last week. They had the chance to win and led for a while and ultimately lost the game in a second half where they couldn’t score even the measliest of field goals to secure a victory. It’s been a tough team to watch this season and ever since they gave their would-be playoff victory away on penalties and a field goal to the Steelers last year, it’s been a tough game to watch anytime the two play. -2 5-8-1
  8. Jacksonville Jaguars- Well, the Jags finally showed some signs of life as they gave the Texans a run for their money. Even though I predicted them carrying out the win and they didn’t, I’ll gladly take this week’s L knowing they had the opportunity to do so as I’d hoped. +1 2-12
  9. New York Jets- As I get closer and closer to the bottom of the barrel, there’s always seemingly less and less to say about teams because it’s past the time for them to take any of those things into account anyway. The Jets had a wonderful albeit frustrating year last year and could’ve made the playoffs if not for literally one game. This year they’d be lucky to win one more game. -1 4-10
  10. Los Angeles Rams- After a hot rookie debut, Todd Gurley has cooled this year. After a cold season debut and then a hot four games and wins, the Rams have cooled this year. Such is the way things are in Rams-land with and without Jeff Fisher it seems. I’d like to see how the team evolves past that and how they do in the future. +/- 4-10

No Man’s Land:

  1. San Fransisco 49ers- The 49ers outscored the Falcons 13-7 in the second quarter of their game this week. That’s the only thing I have to say about them and those were the only points they scored at all to the Falcons’ 41. +/- 1-13
  2. Cleveland Browns- If it weren’t for that pesky record I could put Cleveland above San Fransisco based upon the relative strength of their earlier games and upon the fact they also scored 13 points this week. Alas, one can only hope as the Browns further their pursuit of the imperfect season. +/- 0-14
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Rogue One: The Depressing yet Promising Tie-In You Never Knew You Wanted

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For all its aspirations and even all of its drawbacks, Rogue One is not only a success but a genuinely good addition to the cinematic Star Wars mythos. Unsurprisingly, if you know anything about the films, then you know this isn’t a story that ends happily ever after. However, it’s a necessary event that sets up the beginning of the original film (Episode Four) by quite literally running all the way up until that fateful opening scene. There were some callback elements in the guise of easter eggs and CGI appearances by Peter Cushing (deceased) and Carrie Fisher. Overall, while newcomers to the series or fans with minimal memory of key points in the now-canon and extended universe(s) can watch with ease, it is best appreciated if you have seen the other seven films and specifically episodes three and four.

I will do my best to avoid the majority of spoilers, but for the most part the plot of the film is pretty straight forward and simplistic, similar to that of the original film. Whereas the original’s premise was to complete a suicide run and destroy the evil Empire’s operational battle station known as the Death Star, Rogue’s goal is to obtain the plans for said station. This film also really puts it into perspective just how close the Rebel Alliance came to failing every step of the way leading up to the destruction of the original Death Star. Rogue One puts this into the limelight in ways that the original film never seemed to seriously do, and as a result is much darker than any Star Wars movie we’ve watched to date. It may not be “killing younglings” dark, but the tone is definitely a lot more gritty and the stakes are a lot realer despite us knowing how it will ultimately end.

Although this film went the route of the prequels in having a relatively star-studded cast as opposed to unknowns in the lead roles, I think it helped for sure. Felicity Jones is phenomenal and each member of the rogue’s gallery that comprises the Rebel Alliance as well as some of the new faces of the Empire are fleshed out and portray their parts quite well. I was a bit disappointed but not altogether surprised that some of the more familiar roles and faces didn’t play as big a part as I had initially speculated that they would. Forest Whitaker plays grizzled guerilla veteran and leader Saw Gerrera (notably from the animated series), however his role seemed to be relegated to a little bit of backstory, tying the mission to Jones’ character, and tying up Gerrera’s arc in the universe as well. Despite that and despite Peter Cushing being given a little bit too much screentime and this bordering on irreverence considering he could’ve easily made his initial cameo and then the other scenes could’ve been pulled off without his appearance, my gripes are relatively few.

The characters themselves, while not necessarily so fleshed out seeing as this is a one-shot kind of one-time story for the majority of them, played their parts perfectly and seemed to mesh on-screen. I thought the melding of new and old characters was promising and worked much better than it seemed to with the original trilogy characters meeting The Force Awakens’ characters in episode seven. While I’m still curious as to what exactly Episode Eight will entail and what exactly it will be called, I cannot deny that Rogue One will be a success and admittedly deserves it. It has it flaws here and there but a simplistic story is not one of them. We knew where it was going to go based upon the time period and universe’s chronology and history, but even with that linear path set in stone and in mind, the story managed to do a lot of things that kept it fresh as well. Yes, by the end it is depressing and dark indeed, but there’s still that glimmer of faint hope on the horizon that will eventually blossom into the roaring wildfire of rebellion come Episode Six.

I was pleasantly surprised that the film actually concludes virtually with the opening scene of Episode Four, as that really put into perspective where exactly it falls in the scheme of things and also how brutally efficient the Empire is with cracking down on the Rebellion, despite never being able to train efficient Storm troopers in the art of hitting targets. I loved that the cast was as diverse and attentive to detail as it was, as well as the strong presence of Jones in the lead role, shining in more than a couple of moments in the film. I also particularly liked Donnie Yen’s character and would be interested to see some more detail and thought put into the origins of his organization- the ‘Wills’ and all that Force-related stuff has been mentioned before, just look back at Yoda and Qui-gon Jinn’s mention in Episode Three. There were plenty of memorable moments, special effects to make any fan drool, and tiny homages and moments made specifically with other moments in mind. All in all, not only is Rogue One a solid film on its own, but it is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe and will hopefully prove that even stories outside of the main episodes and outside of the recognized or unrecognized expanded universe are welcome too.

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millie schmidt writes... with cats

millie schmidt writes...

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