Archive for September, 2013

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

Addition by Subtraction – Vapour Trails

Posted: September 27, 2013 in Music

Rush Vapour Trails

When Rush announced that they were releasing a box set of their Atlantic Record days, my ears perked up (figuratively) but when I read that Vapour Trails was going to be remixed, my eyebrow raised (literally). It didn’t make sense to me that Rush would want to remix an entire album; a few songs here and there to make a remix album, sure. But an entire album? This intrigued me. Then I read this article from Rolling Stone Magazine where Geddy Lee said: “We overcooked it.” (Wow, that’s pretty harsh. But he goes on.) “The mixes were really loud and brash. The mastering job was harsh and distorted.” Not exactly giving the original a ringing endorsement there, is he?

Well, in that Rolling Stone piece the magazine also got the exclusive rights to the remix and I sat down and compared it to the original cover-to-cover (even though online there are no actual covers but you get the general idea). Now, you should know that I’m not a HUGE Rush fan; I like Rush, I will defend Rush against the haters, but if you asked me to give you the entire track list of Moving Pictures, I can’t do it (yes, even after researching the album I can’t remember. Also know that you’re trying to ask a guy that forgets what he had for breakfast two days ago or when his Dad’s birthday is….but I still think I deserve points for getting the season right).

I will say that the 13-track album is overall a very good record (even before the remix issue came) but Geddy Lee was right; it was overdone. When you hear songs like ‘Ghost Rider’ and ‘The Stars Look Down’ from the original to the remix, the new edition really adds layers to the songs (backing vocals that aren’t brought forward, more elements that have crescendos than just ‘being there’ for lack of a better term). In fact, the second you compare the two albums, you can notice it on the first track ‘One Little Victory’.

Now, not all the songs feel like they’ve been changed that much; take songs like ‘How It Is’ or the title track ‘Vapour Trails’. They have been brought down so they’re not “loud and brash” but that’s more likely because they were originally written as songs that should be quieter. You notice the heavy guitars and backing vocals but on a song like ‘Earthshine’ to the point that you could have said to me “Hey, the guitars for that song were produced by Chad Kroeger and Mutt Lange which is why the distortion sounds the way it does” and I would’ve believed you. For Rush, that’s not a good thing (simmer down, Nickelback fans…I said “FOR RUSH”; I’m not hating, just saying…).

Overall, the remix album is a much cleaner and higher quality version to have. If you’re someone who likes to pick up on little nuances that a band like Rush will put into their music, you will appreciate the subtleties that Rush has done with this remix instead of the original. Think of it like this: Rush laid the perfect foundation and even the too care of the interior design to the point that the floor plan was solid (kitchen, bedroom, family room all laid out, great view because it’s on a hill and the backyard faces west) but they hired the wrong contractor who messed up the plumbing and electrical so they had to get someone to come in and make it…better (clearly, I’ve been watching too much Holmes on Homes…but he keeps saying he’s a drummer which would be REALLY cool to see him play with Neil Peart! I would pay to watch that.).

In Short: if you’re offered up a choice between the remix and the original studio version of Vapour Trails, take the remix. You’ll appreciate it far more and the decision by the band to remix it was a great addition to their collection.

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

Third and Ugh! – Week 4

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Sports

Due to time conflictions this week’s edition of “Third and Ugh” (the NFL point spread picks my buddy Spence and I like) has been written out in an email exchange. Please give it a read, you can email your feedback here and if you’re going to gamble do so responsibly. Enjoy! (Home team in bold.)

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Hey Spence,
 
Here are this week’s lines and what I like/don’t like.
 
SF (-3.5) vs Stl – SF is very, VERY tempting…
Bal (-3.5) vs Buf – DON’T SUCKER ME IN, BUFFALO!!! DON’T!!!
Ari vs TB (-3.0) – Home team gets the points? Still not a fan….
Pit (-1.0) vs Min – Kinda like Minny here…but not sure if I “$10-like” them…
NYG vs KC (-4.5) – I like this one for KC; I think people are still weary on taking them.
Ind (-9.5) vs Jak – Hmmm….maybe???
Sea (-3.0) vs Hou – YES! Houston hasn’t proven anything to me this season.
Cincy (-4.5) vs Cle – Sorry, Cleveland, but it has to be done.  
Chi vs Det (-2.5) – Wait. You have a 3-0 team who’s NOT the favourite in this?? DA BEARS!
NYJ vs Ten (-3.5) – Like an element left on, DO NOT TOUCH!
Wash  vs Oak – NOT UP YET
Philly vs Den (-11.5) – I like Philly and here’s why; Denver (while at home) played late Monday. They might win but Philly isn’t THAT bad and they played on Thursday (so lots of time to prepare).
Dal (-2.5) vs SD – Noooooope.
NE at Atl (-1.5) – I would hope the Falcons would rebound after losing to Miami but not a fan of this game.
Miami vs Saints (-6.5) – I don’t know which Saints team will show up…and I don’t know which Dolphins team will…stay away.

Hey Chris,

So we’re 4 weeks in and I think we GOTTA come up with at least 2 of 3 this weekend to restore any credibility. And that’s just credibility between you and I! I’m not even considering the hole we’ve dug on the podcast. I’m glad you titled it “Ugh”

Before I start looking through the junk pile, I would like to mention Rule #3 when betting on NFL games. “Don’t put any stock into a BIZARRO week.” Let me explain.

Bizarro is the anti-Superman from an alternate universe. Now before I go too deep, let’s just all agree that Week 3 was mostly an alternate universe NFL and not put any stock into most of the unexplainable results.

SF (-3.5) vs Stl – There’s word going around that the league has gotten wise to the ‘Read Offences’ being run by both SF and WSH. I’ll pass until they string together a few wins.
Bal (-3.5) vs Buf – Especially after a convincing win by BAL over HOU last weekend – see Rule #3
Pit (-1.0) vs Min – I could see Brett Favre disconnecting his phone back at the ranch because AP just won’t stop calling.
NYG vs KC (-4.5) – Giants going 0-4. KC going 4-0. What’s not to like. Ride them while their hot.
Ind (-9.5) vs Jak – Just a bit steep for my tastes. I like my Colts vs Bad Teams at under -6.5 pts
Sea (-3.0) vs Hou – Just a FG?! Agreed.
Cincy (-4.5) vs Cle – Big division match-up. CLE won last weekend, but that’s redundant (see Rule #3) and they are still pretty horrible at playing football (see Rule #1 from earlier podcast – “In the early going, always bet against bad teams”). We’re not through September yet. Still early enough for me.   
NYJ vs Ten (-3.5) The guy on *network that shall not be named* Tuesday Morning QB refers to TEN as the Flaming Thumbtacks. That’s all I got.
Philly vs Den (-11.5) – You’re right, this is too much. Let’s take the points.
Dal (-2.5) vs SD – In my best Yoda voice: The suck factor is strong in both these teams.
NE at Atl (-1.5) – Poor ATL. Can’t get away from the AFC East. Wait, did I just say that…
Miami vs Saints (-6.5) – Waiting for the real 8-8 MIA to show up. I like the Saints at home.

KC (-4.5) over NYG
SEA (-3.0) over HOU
CIN (-4.5) v CLE
PHI over DEN (-11.5)
It’s looks like you really like SEA. I’m good with taking them because they are so consistently great instead of CIN.

Spence

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Spence,

The thing with Bizarro Week is that you usually can’t predict when it will creep up on you; it’s usually week 3 but it always kills us. So to recap:
 
KC (-4.5) over NYG
SEA (-3) over HOU
PHI (+11.5) over DEN
 
Sounds good? Also, how was the BP weekend?
 
-Chris

—–

I’m good with the picks.

The bachelor party was great. In a nutshell: the cottage was huge, everybody had a bed, they had a snooker table, we dressed Davis up in a McDonald’s French Fry costume, he had to carry around a blow-up doll all day (if we caught him outside of arms-reach of her, he had to take a whiskey shot), we ate extremely well (one of the guys made delicious pulled pork from scratch), dragon boat losers had to jump in the lake, Cuban cigars, everybody brought a mickey of whiskey, roasted the groom, & Slurry Worth made an appearance for good measure.  

Good luck to us!

Spence

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Where the f*** did you find a McDonald’s Fry costume? Yes, out of everything, that was my biggest question.

-Chris

His younger brother brought it. Never asked.

Spence

(Some things are better left going unanswered; this, however, is not one of those things.)

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

Gray Areas in The Blacklist

Posted: September 24, 2013 in T.V.

The Blacklist Some things get over hyped and don’t live up to expectations (looking at you, 2013 Blue Jays!) but once in a while something will come along and not necessarily live up to the hype, but definitely make you think “that was good; I need to see more to form an opinion”. That was pretty much the overall idea behind The Blacklist. The Blacklist made its debut last night on NBC and if you saw the trailers leading up to it, you might have been underwhelmed. But some reviews trickled in that basically said “you have to give this show a chance”, so I did.

To be perfectly honest, the premier episode started off a little slow; it gave the impression that it was moving quickly to set up the overall premise but I found myself looking at my watch. James Spader plays Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (who will make you constantly wonder: “Why didn’t they just cast John Lithgow for this role instead? Is the role of The White Rabbit THAT much more lucrative?”) who was/is on the FBI’s most wanted list but surrenders in an effort to help the FBI capture some of their most wanted (but not the 10 most wanted; the ones you never hear about…spoo-OOO-ooky). However, he only wants to work with one agent: Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).

(By the way, if you hate spoilers, you better stop reading because the next few paragraphs are a synopsis of what happened.)

(Seriously, stop reading if you don’t want it to get ruined for you.)

(Okay, you asked for it…)

In the first episode, Agent Keen and Red are trying to foil the terrorist plot that involves a General’s daughter (who is a child and nothing like The General’s Daughter) and a chemical weapon. Keen has to work around the fact that Red is pretty much playing mind games with her while maintain a ‘normal’ personal life (notice how normal is in quotations? Wink-wink!). They are able to disarm the bomb thanks to a Ukrainian guy who then steals it because he’s into those sorts of things (apparently. Oh, and hearing James Spader speak Russian was the second greatest thing to happen last night; hearing Jon Gruden say this name was number one by a landslide).

It felt like the overall premise of the show was a producer watching The Negotiator, The Silence of the Lambs (or since this is an NBC show, Hannibal), and The Jackal on a Saturday afternoon with nothing else and going “THAT’S how I can make a number one show! Yes!” but it does work. There is a twist that happens with Agent Keen’s husband that they do leave until the end that makes you wonder where the show will go next (there, I didn’t spoil the best part for you). The biggest issue with this show is “can it bring you back for next week.”

We’ve been spoiled by shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and even The Walking Dead that leave you with hooks where you will say “HOLY S***!” out loud in your apartment late at night only to get a noise complaint from your Asian neighbour in his underpants and beater asking you to keep it down (okay, so maybe just me). The Blacklist laid out all the elements of a great show and had a good premise for a hook but should have ended it with Agent Keen just opening the box, not seeing what she found, and then approaching Red in his cell asking the question about her husband (because we always want to know “what’s in the box?!”). The only fear for this show is that it could be more of a “random-on-demand-and-feel-up-to-date” show like Lie To Me (you could’ve picked any episode from there, watched it and felt like you knew what was going on; not necessarily a bad thing but the story arc was too loose for the most part).

The show is worth watching but when it comes to making it a weekly event, it may not make your main rotation (but put it on your list no one knows about).

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

Third and Ugh – Week 3

Posted: September 20, 2013 in Sports

Spence and I take our 2-4 record into Week 3 of the NFL season and make picks for the Green Bay/Cincinnati, San Diego/Tennessee, and Atlanta/Miami matchups. If you’re going to take our advice (and I highly recommend that you don’t) please remember to gamble responsibly.

Mad Men Going Bad

Posted: September 19, 2013 in T.V.

 

Mad and Bad

Long before I jumped on the Breaking Bad bandwagon, I was hooked on Mad Men (when I say “long before”, Breaking Bad was in its third season before I got caught up; in this day and age, two years is considered “long before”). Since day one, I found Mad Men to be dramatic, smart, witty, and a hint of jealousy over the fact that I wasn’t living back in the 60’s. With its final season approaching, I was gearing up for it like a kid on Christmas their birthday. I had even theorized what might happen in the final season. But the air in that balloon has gone away since I saw articles like this.

In what can only be seen as an effort to get more ad revenue, AMC has decided to split the final season of Mad Men across two years: this year will be called “The Beginning” and the second, slated to start in the spring of 2015, titled “The End of an Era.” This would make sense if it were to be justified because of scheduling conflicts, but, according to the New York Times: “Matthew Weiner will shoot all the episodes in one production cycle, so in effect, AMC will simply be storing away the last seven episodes for a year.”

Wait. Seven episodes?

That’s right. The last SEVEN episodes.

They’re only making 14 in total and have decided to split it over two calendar years. To put that into perspective, a regular Mad Men season is (usually) 13 episodes. So instead of adding an extra week, they decided to add a year and give you just over half a ‘normal’ season. At least with Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan took the time to really draw out the story and felt it was necessary to add extra episodes (going from 13 to 16). They developed the show in such a way that the last season (or the last eight episodes depending on your viewpoint) has become such compelling television that you’re willing to miss any other major event going on for that hour of television (yes, even the Seahawks/49ers game took a back seat and luckily that game turned out to be a blowout).

As much as I may love Mad Men, the last season didn’t win me over or make me set my PVR with the same desire that Breaking Bad has done. They wanted to split Breaking Bad because it made sense on the surface and the product has delivered. Mad Men is a different animal and it should not be done. This feels like AMC’s executives saying “Oh, god! After 2014, we’re pretty much screwed for programming! What do we do?!” and then hitting the panic button. Unless Weiner & Co. are doing some MAJOR transitions that would be far too complicated to follow along in a single season (and even IF they make those major transitions, it should be up to the audience to notice them; and I would like to think that those who watch a show like Mad Men are smart enough to pick up on said transitions). This is a bad decision on everyone involved and with today’s media coverage and the internet, over the next two years you can almost guarantee that something will get leaked.

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

Andy Samberg & Co. are Brooklyn’s Finest

Posted: September 18, 2013 in T.V.


When the upfronts happened a few months back, a handful of trailers for upcoming shows were released and one of them that stood out was “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”; a new Fox comedy staring Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Terry Crews to name a few who are detectives in, you guessed it, Brooklyn New York. This was definitely on my radar and last night, following the premiere of dads (which I won’t get into but it somehow has a second show next week…Fox must’ve been suckered into Martin Mull’s golden lab puppy dog look).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine starts with Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) performing the monologue from Donnie Brasco at an electronics store that was just robbed into a bay of televisions before easily solving the crime. It shows that right off the bat, Peralta is a goofball and later reinforced when Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) tells Captain Ray Holt (Andrew Braugher, the new Captain for the precinct) that Peralta can solve anything except how to grow up (by the way, Terry Crews seamlessly played up the “used to be fat” card when he and Captain Holt reminisce that Terry used to be called “Terry Ti**ies”; and if anyone doubts Crews’ comedic chops, watch these).

The show does a great job a introducing the entire precinct to the audience (as they get introduced to Captain Holt) and while it gives elements of ‘out there’ comedy, it still feels real enough that the crimes are actually getting solved. When they’re having a debriefing on the murder that needs to be solved, Peralta talks about how he interviewed a witness and then shows a slide zoomed in on her face wondering “what’s on her chin”. After hanging around friends who are officers, there is no doubt in my mind that this sort of thing probably happens (True story from a cop friend: a new officer when to a minor call and forgot to lock his car. The other officers came and stripped it of everything inside; computer, shotgun, etc. The rookie then had to call it in before being let in on “the joke”.)

As defiant as a joker that Peralta is, Captain Holt puts him in line by sending him to the records room where Peralta shows Holt that he can be a good detective even when he’s being punished. From there, Peralta, Holt and company are able to catch the killer and Peralta learns what it’s all about to be on a team, even if they’re all working individually to get a case done.

The comedy will make you laugh out loud (even when living alone like I do) when you hear lines like Detective Santiago (Melissa Fumero) tells Captain Holt she just tunes out Peralta by calling him “white noise” and he calls her racist. Or when Peralta tells everyone the low point of the investigation was when Santiago struck out with a 92-year-old. She says “that’s not entirely accurate” and Peralta quickly responds with “Wait, you hooked up?”

Overall, the show feels like a combination of “Law & Order” minus the lawyers but replaced with witty comedy. If you missed it, catch up on it. If you can’t catch it on Tuesdays, then make sure you set your PVR.

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