Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2017's MLB Surprise

While no doubt millions will talk about the Boston Celtics and the gruesome injury that may have ended Gordon Hayward's season, baseball has a bit of a series in the American League Championship Series. At the time of this blog, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees are tied, each with two games a piece out of seven. The Yankees staged late inning heroics in the seventh and eighth to even the series as they finish their home stretch of the ALCS. What makes them tick?

With the last two games, there has been a surge in their offense. These are the two top home run teams and the Yankees have shown their biggest strength. It all starts with Aaron Judge, who has cracked a few long balls in these last two games. Other big contributors in the postseason include Aaron Hicks, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, and Todd Frazier in getting those runs in. They are capable of getting guys on base as well, which has lead to these home runs.

One of the bigger surprises is the starting group of pitchers. Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia have shown up in October, especially Tanaka. Getting quality starts have been the key for these two in the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians and this series against the Astros. The starting rotation hasn't given up too many runs and have one of the lowest E.R.As in the playoffs this year despite some flops for Luis Severino. They need to step up their game if they want a shot at that World Series title.

The bullpen is the lifeblood of the Yankees. Considering some of the moves in the summer, it might be stronger than ever. Consistency will be the big factor as they continue with the series and possibly World Series. The team has to stop the big starters of Houston in Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. They are about as deadly a duo, though I feel like Keuchel is doctoring his pitches. No one's pitches are that nasty when they hang low. Verlander has the playoff experience considering his time in Detroit and it has paid off. The Astros got a solid offense with guys like Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa.

Both these teams have the necessary tools. One of them is bound to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although it's too early to predict them as the ones winning the National League pennant, they look to be the easy favorite to get back into the World Series for the first time since 1988. It will certainly be tough dealing with Clayton Kershaw if it does come down to that unless the Chicago Cubs can stage a huge comeback. For now, the Yankees are making the 2017 playoffs a year to remember for Major League Baseball. No one expected them to get this far. With the veterans and young players gelling together, they have the makings of a contender/dynasty for a good five, six years.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Seinfeld: The Stake Out Review

Some of these episodes of Seinfeld are from the minds of these writers during its nine season run. A good chunk of them coming from Larry David, who wrote The Stake Out with Jerry. The basis is Jerry and Elaine talking about a friend Elaine knew when the two were together A deal is made where Jerry goes to a get together at a bar for the friend and Elaine goes to a wedding with a number of Seinfeld family members.

At the bar, Jerry makes small talk and jokes with a woman who works in law. He can't believe how beautiful she looks, but can't make any moves because of Elaine sitting next to him. He does catch the name of the law firm. This is also the first episode with the parents of Jerry, Morty and Helen. Jerry explains his situation to them, which Morty suggests a stake out, and Jerry gets George to stage a thing at the law firm.

Things do go smoothly with Jerry and Vanessa, the law firm woman, but go a little sour when Elaine catches wind of what happened. That's the gist with this episode. While it is focused on him, there is a bit of fear in him. As Jerry explains to his parents, he doesn't feel comfortable with saying certain things regarding other women to Elaine. Maybe it's the idea of saying something to a person you used to go out with, but are friends today.

Speaking of friends, Elaine gets the big focus in this episode, having a handful of scenes despite most of them in the beginning of it. George and Kramer don't have many scenes compared to the first two episodes, but George has his defining moment with the architect idea, something they would use throughout the entire run. Also the name Art Vandelay would be used. Kramer is simply comic relief. For the parents, it's a little different. While most will think of Barney Martin as Morty, Seinfeld had a different route in 1990 with Phil Bruns. Bruns version is a little more natural and not as buffoonish compared to Martin. Helen is a character that stays the same throughout its run, with Liz Sheridan playing the mother role of Jerry's pretty well.

It's a stepping block into the direction of having Seinfeld become the way it would dominate television once audiences started noticing a few years later. The humor is there. How the characters are feels like they have ironed out a few things. Just getting all four equal time on screen is the thing that they had to fix back then. This is a solid episode and hits the right stuff in its short first season.

Score: 7 out of 10

Next week's review has Jerry thinking of moving out to another apartment.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blade Runner 2049's Mediocre Start

For this past weekend's set of films, nothing stood out. My Little Pony didn't do much, but could be worse, and The Mountain Between Us was between Blade Runner 2049 and It. For Blade Runner, it could have been a number of reasons why it made just over 30 million dollars domestically.  Unless it gets strong legs, which I doubt, it will be looked at as a box office bomb.

A problem most sequels have is when to release one. The original Blade Runner released in 1982. Although it didn't do too well, it's considered one of the greatest films in science fiction. Some are rather quick to have a new film such as the horror movies like Saw, which has a new one at the end of the month. Then there is ones that come out after a long time. People wanted new Anchorman and Dumb and Dumber films and they got their wish.  I think you can get away with it in certain science fiction films with the idea of futuristic stuff.

Releasing in the fall is not always a bad thing. You can avoid the headaches of the summer blockbusters. Blade Runner 2049 seemed to catch on with the idea, but maybe people not knowing about the original could have hurt it a little bit. The original isn't really on TV a lot. It has more of a cult status despite the classic status is gets. Then again, the average person may not be interested in either one. Maybe it not being your typical popcorn flick is something that rubs some the wrong way. I don't know.

Regardless of reception (which has a lot of praise at the moment), Blade Runner 2049 has a lot of competition in these next few months. With it being October, there is the usual glut of horror movies. November has a few big name films with sequels. Most notably is another glorified Marvel popcorn flick in Thor: Ragnorak. At 150 million for its budget, 2049 better hope it can get a strong foreign performance, which was strong this past weekend. Unless there's a surge at some point, it could be tough getting to 100 million domestically.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Seinfeld: Male Unbonding Review

POTENTIAL SPOILERS:

Now this is what we're talking about. The look, the theme, the characters. A big blueprint for what Seinfeld would become. It was a gamble to make four more episodes. Note that I am going by production order rather than when these episodes originally aired. So onto Male Unbonding, the only episode without "The" in it. (I think Seinfeld should have let the writers come up with some creative episode names. Some of them during its run are B-plot and not the main focus)

It's a Jerry episode for the most part, but with Kramer creating the reason for it. Jerry gets a call from a friend since childhood, Joel Horneck, who talked to Kramer. The comedian cannot stand the guy as he complains to his neighbor and George. An idea to end the friendship is skeptical but tried. Joel, played by Kevin Dunn, is a huge prick with a very short attention span. He doesn't care for what Jerry says and harasses a waitress at the coffee shop. Jerry decides to end it, but it backfires, resulting in his "friend" crying and tries to make amends.

Throughout the episode after that, Jerry tries to do whatever he can to avoid Joel. For the most part it works. George's story is pretty small, but he does serve as an important part of Male Unbonding. He has a decent relationship with a woman that goes south following an incident at a theater. However, he is the main reason for Jerry wanting to end the friendship with Joel. Not much else is there for him other than rolling coins from a huge jar of change and flipping out on Jerry for giving up tickets to the Knicks game.

Kramer, much like the pilot, has very small screen time. As mentioned, talking to Joel over the phone is the catalyst for the episode. This is also the episode with mentions of Kramerica Industries and a pizza place where people can make their own pizza, ideas that would resurface when the show got big. This is also the first produced episode with Elaine Benes. Like Kramer, she doesn't have much screen time as well. She has no story other than helping Jerry with his problem with Joel and hearing the sob story.

As I watch this, you can see the stuff that got Seinfeld and Larry David's feet wet. They needed a good impression and hit it out of the park. The characters feel a bit like what millions would watch throughout the years. It's got the stuff that they obsess over such as the relationships. Really, the only thing that isn't good is the lack of both Kramer and Elaine in the episode. Even George a little bit, but that part is minor. Despite that, it was a step in the right direction back in 1990. It's another solid episode in it's very short first season.

Score: 7 out of 10

Next week, Jerry decides to stake out a woman he saw at a get together.

Friday, October 6, 2017

YouTube Videos: September 29-October 5




MLB Playoffs 2017

With the Division Series set in stone and a few games played already, let's get into who I think has the chance to make the World Series. I see it as an easy choice in the National League. The American League, on the other hand, could have some upsets if it gets to that point by either the end of this week or next week.

What I view in the National League is very simple. I see it coming down to either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Arizona Diamondbacks winning a pennant. The Dodgers have good pitching. There is some power at the plate. Having a strong closer and a decent reliving unit helps. They shouldn't be too cold following that huge losing skid at the end of August into early September. The key for the Diamondbacks is their starting pitching, which improved a lot compared to last year. They aren't exactly a team that has big home run hitters everywhere, but they could net a few hits here and there. How far this team goes depends on the starters. That bullpen could potentially struggle.

As far as the other two NL teams go, I don't feel confident in the Chicago Cubs. I think it'll be too much if they have to face the Dodgers or D-Backs pending if they can beat the Washington Nationals.  There is some power, but the starting pitching will be the reason they either advance or finish out of the playoffs. Their bullpen is a decent group that could help out if things go south fast. Regarding the Nationals, they got guys that can hit for contact and power. They also have a speedy runner in Trea Turner. In a way with their pitching, it's the opposite of the Cubs. The starters will help the team out with a good trio of pitchers that can get through innings quickly. For the bullpen, they could be the factor of advancing or being eliminated. Washington needs a number of things to happen if they want to get to the Championship Series or World Series.

In the American League, it's not an easy thing to predict. Each of the four have a chance. Beginning with the Cleveland Indians, they have probably one of the best trios in the game for starting pitching. They are playing it smart with Corey Kluber if things go to a Game 5. I see them as the team going to the World Series. They got good power and speed at the plate and on the bases. Not to mention their bullpen is one of the better ones in the league. If this next team plays their cards right, the Houston Astros could be the next favorite. The batters are a big mix of contact, speed, and power. They can win in various ways. However, a big issue lies in the pitching. Their starters aren't exactly a must watch, and the bullpen has a few blemishes, although they aren't that bad. Getting Justin Verlander added much needed insurance to their September run. They will need sweeps to avoid relying on some of the other starters.

It'll be tough for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to even get a win or two. Even advancing could be something that they envy. The Yankees have power at the plate. There is some speed, and a few of their batters can hit for average. Their bullpen is one of the best, and the starters can hold their own. The question lies in whether these pitchers can bring their talent to the next level in order to win. Don't rule them out these next years, though. This is a young team that will catapult them into the new generation of baseball. Don't rule out the Red Sox, either. There are good contact hitters combined with a little power and speed. Craig Kimbrel is lights out as a closer in a questionable bullpen, and when healthy, the starters could be one of the most dangerous in the league. Similar to the Yankees, this is a young team, and both these teams could make these next few years some of the most exciting baseball that hasn't been seen in a good while.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nintendo's Internet Incompetence

While 2017 will, no doubt, be something Nintendo will remember, it also has a few blemishes that taint a strong debut of the Switch. For most people, this company is very, very bad when it comes to understanding the Internet. In recent years, they have ordered cease and desists on a number of fan projects. They have gone after emulation and ordered websites to get rid of ROMs of their games. Just recently, they have updated a part of their Creators Program.

For the last few years, Nintendo has partnered up with YouTube for monetization. Despite existing, it has been met with quite a bit of scrutiny. From games that are whitelisted to every video needing to be reviewed for their approval, it's clear they don't understand online. With the banning of live streaming on YouTube, it's another sign that they are not in the right century. No way in hell are users going to create another account just to stream games. I get what they're doing, but this squeaky clean image they are trying to show is not always going to work. This isn't 1985 where the audience is mostly 10 year olds. It also shows just how incompetent these idiot executives in Japan are.

Japan has mostly been a very strict area for companies. Sega's Japan branch did not care for Tom Kalinske and his approach with the Genesis. While they did approve a few of his suggestions, the tensions between the Japan and America offices got to the point of the company being in the red and struggling in the second half of the 90s. Nintendo is in that realm, only with billions of money. How the Switch does in its second year next March will tell if they succeed or struggle. I really think Japan has the final say on everything and the presidents of the American and European divisions can't do anything about it. If they defied something, the odds of them being fired would be very high.

I get the emulation thing. A number of their titles are on Virtual Console and they want customers (or repeat idiots who will buy them for a fifth or sixth time) to play them legitimately. Here's the thing, though. There is no way they can go after every site that carries ROMs and ISOs. Not to mention the Virtual Console ports are the exact same games with nothing additional added to them. This is a gray area and Nintendo is trying to do whatever it takes to get money.

Much like the emulation, I get what Nintendo is doing with the fan projects. It is their own IPs. They are, unfortunately, within their rights to have them removed. Once again, here's the thing. There are lots of fan projects that get no cease and desists. Sonic 3 Complete is something I doubt Sega cares. Hell, even Tecmo doesn't shut down any of the Tecmo Super Bowl hacks people make, adding updated rosters for the NES hit. NHL 94 even gets updates with modern rosters, and that has one of the biggest followings for anything that doesn't involve RPGs and platformers. It seems like Nintendo is the only one that tries to do anything most of the time.

One of these days, these executives need to realize how loved the IPs and franchises are on social media. This isn't the 80s and 90s where you have one to three others together playing an NES or Nintendo 64 game. Nintendo has to understand how useful the Internet is and realize it's not a bad thing. Not everything is G-rated, and they have to suck it up and realize that. If they don't, they will get way more hate than they would ever think down the road.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Seinfeld: The Seinfeld Chronicles Review (Good News, Bad News)

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

If there was ever an auspicious way to begin a good run on television, Seinfeld might be a prime example. It may be hard to think today it was deemed to fail, but in 1988, test audiences were not impressed with what creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld wrote. For NBC, they let it die off in the summer of 1989, airing it in July. It was one that could have been on Fox or a couple of other networks, but it took some convincing to even get a first season. NBC took a shot. They did with Cheers after a dreadful debut in 1982 and it grew into one of the 80's biggest sitcoms.

For the pilot, The Seinfeld Chronicles, it is such a different animal. Outside of its initial broadcast, your only chance of watching the original version is on DVD, which they provide that and the revised broadcast with the familiar sounds you know and love. Some things will be familiar like Jerry's apartment despite looking a little different. Kramer is Kessler, which they would address very late in the show's run. And the local coffee shop, Monk's, is not here.

Getting into the pilot, Jerry and George Costanza are in a talk throughout the episode of a woman Jerry met doing stand up. George doesn't buy into the woman being serious into his friend and Jerry is confused at times during most of it. This is the kind of stuff that would be a staple during the show's run. It's talking about the little things such as signals and even talking other stuff like laundry. One of the bits early on was Jerry's stand up, which they integrated heavily in the first season. They certainly add a bit to how Jerry feels during the episode and adds to the humor of it, which is surprisingly solid for a pilot.

Really, it's mostly a Jerry episode. There isn't much for George, but you can see the chemistry between Seinfeld and Jason Alexander with the scenes they have. They provide strong humor with how they interact in the facets of life. Kramer isn't seen in much of it, but how he is is a start to the wackiness he would add to many episodes. One thing people will find odd is no Elaine. Obviously, they were trying something different before they created her with the waitress Claire. For that character, played by Lee Garlington, her very brief moment in the pilot is somewhat funny, though it is a monotone approach to acting.

It is a little rough around the edges. The original theme is very outdated and cheesy, even for the 80's. Kramer's dog feels out of place. As I said, it's mostly a Jerry episode, but that shouldn't deter anyone from watching it. I expected it to be the norm of most pilots, but I find it to be a surprisingly solid one. The novelty of its initial broadcast makes it a much watch just to see what it was like back in July of 1989.

Score: 7 out of 10

Next week's review involves Jerry trying to end a friendship with an obnoxious guy.

YouTube Videos: October 13-19