Pearl Jam with BoomThe past couple of days in Timmins haven’t been great; cold (plus 4 Celsius/39 Fahrenheit), raining and just been a “typical fall” in Canada and with the weather changes comes with the first batch of chili! Since I was a kid, my dad showed me how to make chili but never wrote it down. He gave the basic ingredients (sauce, diced tomatoes, meat, peppers, mushrooms) but always told me “chili is something you can never screw it up; you have the basic ingredients but can add spices, not us as much, whatever you want and it’ll still be chili.” When Pearl Jam announced that they were streaming their new album Lightning Bolt a week early on iTunes, it then dawned on me that they are chili.

It can easily be argued that their first two albums (Ten and Vs.) set a benchmark for the band but it was an industry standard. They were making music they wanted to but the sound needed to be what the time was: grunge. Vitalogy and No Code really broke the norm for the band and even divided listeners (the number of people I’ve argued with over the greatness that those albums bring to the table are countless) but it wasn’t really until Yield that the band really hit their stride. Needless to say, it was interesting to see what direction the band went with Lightning Bolt.

The album eases you in with “Getaway” (a decent, mid-tempo song) before blowing the doors off with the first single “Mind Your Manners”. From there, the rest of the album takes the mid-tempo feel that “Getaway” started with. The third track, “My Father’s Son”, will have you nodding to the beat and “Sirens”, the second single and fourth song, has great transition into an amazing Mike McCready guitar solo. Title track “Lightning Bolt”, “Infallible”, and “Pendulum” are all good songs but at the same time don’t necessarily grab your attention the same way the first four have. But that will soon change.

“Swallowed Whole” reminded me of “Thin Air” with the repetition (during which you’ll quickly be humming along) but a more up-beat version. “Let the Records Play” is, by far, the biggest surprise that the band has done to date; a deep, bluesy guitar riff that was featured for the “Hatchet” vignette. “Sleeping by Myself” is a more complete version of the ukulele song released by Ed Vedder back in 2011 and “Yellow Moon” is a good transition song into, arguably the best song, “Future Days”.

No, “Future Days” will not knock your socks off like “Mind Your Manners” but it’s great for so many more reasons. We were given a sneak peek at the song when they debut it at Wrigley Field this past summer but the quality was never the best; hearing the studio version puts the song over the top with the layers they put on the song and it’s a great way to end the record.

Overall, this record is better than Backspacer and Riot Act but not quite as heavy as Yield. It had great flow, gave you some amazing guitar solos, and had deep lyrics that brought emotions to the front. Clocking in at just over 47 minutes, Lightning Bolt could single-handedly crown Pearl Jam as the “Masters of Mid-Tempo” simply because all of the songs found you tapping your toe to the beats but never changing too much. The best thing about Pearl Jam making a new album is that you can put all the guys into a room with their ideas, from song to song it varies as to who has more input, but they always turn out perfect…just like chili.

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali

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Runner Runner Review Review

Posted: October 7, 2013 in Movies

Runner RunnerEarlier today I was watching cartoons (yes, I’m 30) and this Bugs Bunny episode came on. The weather wasn’t the greatest today so after I was done learning a number of valuable lessons from Bugs, I decided (and was probably influenced) to go and see the new movie Runner Runner with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake (by the way, the lessons I learned from Bugs Bunny include: never tell police EXACTLY how fast you were going and never, under any circumstances, try to race a turtle with a jetpack…it won’t end well).

Before I headed out the door to a cold n’ rainy day to take in a show, I decided to check out how well the movie was doing on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes; both are fairly reliable sources. When I saw the Rotten Tomatoes score of 8%, I originally thought “well, more people just need to see it and bring the score up.” Then I saw the IMDb score and, well, um, yeah…but what do the critics know? I’ll still go and see this for myself.

The overall story seemed a little odd: an ivy league Masters student (Timberlake) loses everything, runs his losses through the computers at Princeton to see what the percentage would be like for him to lose that way (SPOILER: it’s VERY HIGHLY unlikely), somehow has enough cash to fly from New Jersey to Costa Rica and confront the organizer of the online gambling site (Affleck), gets paid back in full AND some for his troubles but decides to stick it out in Costa Rica, work alongside the guy who swindled him originally and all that happens before the feds get involved and chaos ensues. Wow.

Now, before I go too much into detail, let’s talk about some of the positives that this movie has to offer:

*thinking*

Home Alone dad plays a deadbeat gambler instead of a deadbeat alcoholic like in Sharknado! No? Hmm…

*thinking*

Costa Rica looks like a fun place to visit if you hit up a licenced casino and then stay at a luxury hotel! (Look out, Costa Rican Travel and Tourism! I’m coming to work for you!)

Okay, there are a lot of issues with the movie and a bulk of them can be found in just what I’ve written outlining the plot (by the way, what I wrote took them 20 minutes to explain in the movie). I will give Affleck credit for the fact that he didn’t mail it in; he did try to act the part of an online gambling tycoon in Ivan Block. His issue was he probably got sold the part like this:

Agent: “Hey, Ben. We’ve got this great part in a movie where you’re an online gambling tycoon…”
Ben: “Yeah, I don’t think so. I’m trying to focus on this new part I want to get; I’d be working with David Fincher and…”
Agent: “Well, in this one you’d be working with Justin Timberlake AND filming it in a tropical location!”
Ben: “Oh! No way! J.T.?! Man, he has some serious swagger! Okay. I’m in.”
Agent: “Perfect! I’ll send over the paperwork. Oh, also, I forgot to mention this to you earlier. You’ve been considered to be the next Batman! It’s yours for the taking.”
Ben: “Well, if you think it’s the right career choice for me…you think people forgotten all about Daredevil?”
Agent: “Absolutely.”

Aside from the bad advice, I don’t think anybody (including Affleck) could’ve seen the performance that Timberlake brought to the table coming. His portrayal of Richie Furst (the Ivy League Scholar/gambler who lost it all) with zero emotion was pretty much the reason why this movie felt longer than it needed to. Not to hate on JT, but it felt like the only time there was any emotion from him was when he had to try and match Affleck’s level on the pier late at night (if you see the movie, I’ll just say “chicken fat” and you’ll know what I’m talking about).

The movie felt like one long (very long) PSA for anti-online-gambling and just needed the NBC star to flash across the screen at the end. Like I said earlier, the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are a little harsh; it’s not great but not exactly an 8% movie. However, if you don’t want to sit through JT showing everything he learned from the Tara Reid’s School of Acting, watch Rounders for the gambling, The Rum Diary for the “tropical-location-with-a-love-triangle”, and Two for the Money for the “taking-someone-under-his-wing-only-to-exploit-him-and-then-leave-him-like-he’s-yesterday’s-garbage”. The movie didn’t drag on, but did has little action and will not deter anyone from gambling (I know; I checked my phone multiple times and then slammed it down when I realized that the Patriots didn’t cover…but I don’t have a problem).

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali.

To The Couch!

Posted: October 4, 2013 in T.V.
Tags:

Simpsons CouchAside from the fact that The Simpsons has been one of the most iconic television shows of the past 20 years (seriously, there are guys now playing professional hockey who have grown up with The Simpsons producing a new episode every week!), one of the things that has really stood out has been “The Couch Gag”. For every new episode, the show will give you a new intro with the family rushing to the couch. Yesterday, the internet was buzzing because film director Guillermo del Toro (whose works include Pacific Rim and HellBoy) got to create this piece of art for the upcoming Treehouse of Horrors. Check it out:

This got me thinking of some of the other great intros the Simpsons have done recently. Let’s take a look.

Breaking Bad:
While the attempt was decent, it felt a little odd to have Marge to be the one cooking and Homer as Heisenberg only because you wanted someone to do both (and after seeing Ned Flanders as Walter White, I think he should have been the one doing the cooking if he’s the one who knock-diddily-ocks).

Game of Thrones:
The actual show has one of the best opening themes around; you immediately get jacked up for the show and the fact that it’s a good show in general kicks it up a notch. Their intro is great and watching The Simpsons take on their own version where they raise up the town of Springfield is hilarious and well thought out.

Simpsons Dandelion:
This doesn’t seem to be that great on the surface compared to the other but put it into perspective: the show created a contest and allowed people to submit their ideas for a “Couch Gag”. Name me another show that has opened up to their audience (and, no, Who’s Line Is It Anyway? doesn’t count) and allowed them to write and direct an opening to the show? Probably never has happened nor will happen again.

Robot Chicken Simpsons:
Hands down the best intro they’ve done to date. The most detailed, time consuming, and all around humorous. You can actually watch how it all came together here, here, and here and it’s all for a less-than-two minute intro. Very cool to see the process and then the end result.

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali

Bridging the Gap to Greatness

Posted: October 3, 2013 in T.V.

The Bridge

When The Killing first came out, I ignored all the skeptics and what they had to say about the show. Eventually, their concerns became too glaring and I fell out of favour of the show and, unfortunately, some of the acting (a cop who decided to take on a murder before she was to move? Was this plot written in 1988 and just kicked around for two decades?). When FX announced that they, too, were importing a show Danish-idea about an unlikely cop-partnership-drama who are supposed to solve a murder, I almost refused to watch. Almost.

The biggest selling point about The Bridge is that FX was going to produce it; yes, I’m well aware that I’ve gushed about FX in the past but they do produce quality shows overall. So, when The Bridge was made available, I found it to be really well done.

The show starts with a murder that resembles that of Bon Cop, Bad Cop (Canadians everywhere that have seen both just nodded in agreement) but the twist, that won’t be given away here, felt almost Dexter-esque. From there, there are a number of different storylines (the death of a rancher with a tunnel, a journalist with a substance abuse problem, a number of dead bodies) that all intertwine with the overall theme: people die in Mexico, nobody cares, people die in the U.S. and people are up in arms about it.

The show itself does a great job trying to show the dynamics between the Mexican and the American “way of life” and also isn’t afraid to keep the dialogue authentic with the use of subtitles (by the way, if you’re one of those people who will play the “I don’t like subtitle because I don’t like to read while I watch”, you’re just being lazy and I doubt you said that when you watched Inglourious Basterds).  Over the course of the season you see Detective Macro Ruiz struggle with his personal life, Detective Sonya Cross trying to just deal with everything after a messed up childhood, and Lieutenant Hank Wade doing his best to keep it all together when he’s so close to retirement.

As far as the casting goes, Sonya is played by Diane Kruger (amazingly enough, was IN Inglourious Basterds) and does a phenomenal job as the ‘by-the-book-but-lacks-social-interaction-on-a-personal-level’ character. Demain Bichir is the reasonable but often too emotional for his own good Mexican detective (who may have let his emotions get the better of him after the season finale), Ted Levine (yes, THIS Ted Levine) is the Lieutenant is a blend of both officers for their good traits, and then you have a great tag-team of “keep your eye on” guys with Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Steven Linder (Thomas M. Wright).

Overall, the first 2/3rds-or-so of the season makes you wonder “who dunnit?” and the rest makes you genuinely wonder “where do we go from here?” The show is definitely worth a watch and, since it’s on FX, will most likely be on Netflix in the near future to get caught up.

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali.

Third and Ugh – Week 5

Posted: October 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Much like last week, this week was an email exchange of football picks between Spence and myself because he has a wedding to attend to (Congratulations to Davis and Soon-To-Be-Mrs.-Davis). Here’s how we broke it down:

Hey Spence,

I guess your ‘Bizarro Week’ has turned into a ‘Bizarro Season’ and a lot of things I’m still trying to make sense of…and you’ll notice that when we go through this week’s lines. Let us begin and (hopefully) come out on top!

Buffalo vs CLE (-4.0) – Wow, do I ever want to get suckered into this one and take Buffalo…
NE vs Cin (-1.0) – REALLY?! New England ISN’T the favourite in this game?! What has Cincy done to be favourites? Take NE!
Det vs GB (-7.0) – Too high of a line.
Sea (-1.5) vs Ind – Yes, Indy is hot right now but they’ve beaten the Jags (ugh) and a 49ers team trying to get it together. SEATTLE!
Phi @ NYG (-1.0) – Giants are 0-4 and favourites? …and I’m afraid to take them.
KC (-2.5) vs Ten – Titans lost their starting QB, KC is undefeated and less than a FG? CHIEFS, BABY!
Jak vs Stl (-11.5) – Too high.
Car (-1.5) vs Arz – Carolina should have this one. Should.
Den (-8.0) vs Dal – I have no reason not to take Denver other than it’s too high.
Hou vs SF (-7.0) – Houston ran the table against Seattle and San Francisco looks like a poor-man’s-Seattle. Hmmm…
SD (-4.5) vs Oak – This should be a SD win.
NYJ vs Atl (-9.5) – Oh, yeah, no…

Okay, so to recap:

New England (+1.0) over Cincy.
Seattle (-1.5) over Indy.
KC (-2.5) over Ten.
Thoughts?

-Chris

——————————————————–

Morning Chris,

You would have thought Bizarro anything would work in our favour considering our sub .500 record on normal weeks. Not the case. Damn.

Buffalo vs CLE (-4.0) – Beware buddy. ‘Ol Buffalo is up to its old tricks. And CLE – somehow – is a new team. Not going to touch.
NE vs Cin (-1.0) – What are they thinking?! Are they worried about the NE pass def? They should worry more about CIN losing badly against CLE last weekend. Worst case scenario, this is an ugly win for the Pats. Exactly how they’ve gone to 4-0 and soon 5-0.
Det vs GB (-7.0) – Agreed.
Sea (-1.5) vs Ind – Let’s continue to ride the ‘Hawks.
Phi @ NYG (-1.0) – PHI looks lost at 1-4. The Giants are just awful. Couldn’t even give them home field advantage here. I’d rather put my two dollars into a gum ball machine and reap the rewards of a mouthful of old, stale gum.
KC (-2.5) vs Ten – Really?! Something is going on here. Vegas, is that you hiding behind the curtains. Are you fucking with us again?…
Jak vs Stl (-11.5) – Agreed.
Car (-1.5) vs Arz – The Panthers are coming off a by-week. I like them to take it to ARZ.
Den (-8.0) vs Dal – We have to get on this wagon Chris. Anything under -14.0 pts is now the norm here until proven otherwise. Tony Dungee – former head coach of Peyton’s former Colts – said that the Cowboys play a 4-3 defensive game. This is the same def scheme Payton saw every day in practice for 7 (sic) years. He’s confident the Broncos continue to roll and so am I.
Hou vs SF (-7.0) – Yup, take the points. If only we could take the 3 points too many here and spread them out to the rest of our picks.
SD (-4.5) vs Oak – This should be a SD win. This should be a SD win. …just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?
NYJ vs Atl (-9.5) – Wow, third straight week for ATL against the AFC East. Will it be 3 straight loses? I doubt it, though -9.5 pts is steep.

Okay, so to recap:

New England (+1.0) over Cincy Yes.
Seattle (-1.5) over Indy Yes.
KC (-2.5) over Ten YES.

Spence

Best of luck to us (and you) because we all need it….badly.

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali.

2013-14 NHL Playoff Prediction

Posted: October 1, 2013 in T.V.

The start of the NHL season is tonight and with it comes a lot of anticipation; who will get in to the post season? Who will be the league’s biggest ‘shocker’? How long until James Reimer won’t be able to smile during a press conference because he wants to be the Leafs’ number one goalie? (I predict 18 games in and then you’ll see his frustration….maybe take a lesson from April on how to give ‘the look’.)

This year is going to be a little different (the politically correct way of saying “a clusterf***”) when it comes to seeding for the post season. They’ve reduced the number of divisions from 6 to 4 while keeping the East/West Conferences. This year also features a ‘wild card’ format because…well…the East has too many teams (and heaven forbid the NHL considers retraction). Here’s the breakdown: the west will have two divisions of seven teams, the East will have two divisions of eight, the top three from each are guaranteed playoff spots. The next four are based on overall record and can be loaded from any division; one division could have up to 5 teams and another could have the minimum of three. Confused? Read the NHL’s way of putting it and if you still are…well…blame Gary (seriously, I have no idea what else to tell you).

Here’s how the league looks so let’s try and predict who will be playoff bound starting in the west:

NHL Divisions 

Pacific Division: L.A., San Jose, and Vancouver looks like the early locks (simmer down Ducks fan; you’re not out of this yet). Phoenix is on the cusp, the Ducks will have to make some major improvements to replace Bobby Ryan, the Oilers are still a couple years away (and some defense and a goalie), and the Calgary Flames are…umm….hmm….look, I’m trying to be nice because the people of Calgary have been through a LOT lately so we can pretend that the ’13-14 season just doesn’t exist for them. Sound good?

Central Division: Chicago, St. Louis and (oh, god, I have to pick a third?), Minnesota. I like what Dallas has done but it has too much of an unknown, Nahsville feels like they can light it up or fade away with the best of them, and Winnipeg always feels like they’re a perennial nine-seed which is NOT what you want your team to be (go all in or blow it up and struggle for 3-5 years).

Overall Western Teams in Playoffs: L.A., San Jose, Vanvouver, Anaheim, Phoenix, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota (not in that order). Let’s move on to the East.

Metropolitan Division: First off, I would like to say to the League, What the *expletive* were you thinking when you came up with this?? I’m picturing a brainstorming session where you hired a creative consultatnt to come into your boardroom and spend all night spit-balling ideas (maybe even having some discarded Chinese food containers on the dark wooden table for added effect) befpre someone jumped up and said “I got it! We’re in New York, a Metropolis…so let’s go with ‘Metropolitan’!” and then you lit up expensive cigars with $100 bills. Sorry, on to the division.

Pittsburgh, Washington, and the New York Rangers are going to be the top three this year in that division because Philly is still using an abacus to try and figure out what the hell a salary cap is, the New York Islanders are getting better but in the “not a lock yet”, the New Jersey Devils have a puncher’s chance, the Carolina Hurricanes are another 8 Stall brothers away from being contenders, but the team I do like (and will benefit the second most from moving west-to-east) is the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Atlantic Division: Detroit, Boston, (and I will never forgive myself for this but) Ottawa. Not to discourage Montreal fans but last season the Habs started off great and then got hammered in the playoffs (and it was a shortened season). The Buffalo Sabres still have more questions than answers (unless they actually think the answer will always be “Ryan Miller”), the Florida Panthers signed Tim Thomas (match made in heaven for both professional and political reasons), Tampa Bay lost Vinny Lecavalier but might have found goaltending, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are still missing a top centreman, another top six winger, and the young defense needs time to grow and I’ll stop myself there before I walk away.

Overall Eastern Teams in Playoffs: Pittsburgh, Washington, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal (not in that order).

(May God have mercy on me for not putting the Leafs in the playoffs…)

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali

Breaking for Perfection

Posted: September 30, 2013 in T.V.

breaking_badBefore Breaking Bad’s final episode was going to air, I racked my brain trying to think of ways to compare this to other greats; maybe try and rank it against shows like Cheers, M*A*S*H, The Sopranos, and Seinfeld and discuss its ending versus theirs or assign an album/some songs to that would reflect the different emotions I felt during the final episode or even write a “what’s next for the cast”-type of blog (that has Dean Norris getting the career Michael Chiklis should have had, Anna Gunn takes on a dramatic movie role that makes us all change our minds about her acting abilities, Bob Odenkirk has huge success with his Saul-spinoff and gets to host SNL; Aaron Paul becomes the next Bruce Campbell in that he absolutely nails every B-Role he gets for the rest of his career [and he’s got a jump start on it now], and Bryan Cranston ends up winning an Oscar for Best Actor after teaming up with George Clooney).

But then the episode started and it did what it always does; sets up a situation and leaves you wondering what’s going to happen next but simultaneously allows you to get lost in the show. Never before have I been in a room for a show and you could hear a pin drop (unless an “OH, S***” moment happens like last night with the ricin and the big boom). The show’s creator Vince Gilligan earlier said he was going to kill Walt and the show will end, so we knew what was going to happen. We just wanted to know who else Walt was going to take down with him (…because, well, that’s what Walt does). But there was a point in show (for me, around the same time Jessie drove off) where it all sank in; you couldn’t help but think that you’re a part of history.

Growing up, you heard about ‘the classics’ like M*A*S*H and Cheers and how your parents weren’t going anywhere for that final episode. Talk to someone who was around and they’ll tell you where they were just like they would if it was the JFK assassination or Paul Henderson’s goal in 1972. I was able to experience this a little bit with Seinfeld but that ending left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth (it’s like the ‘Saint Anger’ of show endings; see? A musical reference I felt was strong enough that I had to use). The Sopranos was not available at the time to me (young, living at home, bad cable package, and even DVD’s weren’t totally popular) so I wasn’t that invested in the show when it ended. Not like this.

Gilligan and Co. ended the show almost exactly how we all wanted it to end; the loose ends with Skylar and Marie over Hank should be tied up, Flynn and Molly have been taken care of for life, Jessie gets to do whatever he wants, and Walt just went away. It was an ending as intense as the rest of the show, graphic, but also made you realize just how beautiful it is in its own way. During the last episode, I was watching it with some friends and one of them asked “Do you think this can ever be topped?” Forever is a long time, but I certainly hope not.

Thank you to everyone for making this show such a success, keeping millions entertained every week and being damn near perfect.

Thanks for reading and stay connected with me on Twitter: @ChrisFudali