Clueless Gamer – Super Bowl Edition

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Unless you have been living under a rock (no judgment), you are probably vaguely aware that the Super Bowl is this Sunday. Even if you are not a football fan, the Super Bowl is such a big event that it creeps into the public consciousness and many non-sports fans still enjoy the event because of the spectacle, the halftime show and all the commercials. Plus it’s an excuse to eat a lot of junk food and drink beer, which is something that I think, as a nation, we can all get behind. This year’s game is between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots and both teams feature some colorful personalities. On the Seahwaks there is star running back Marshawn Lynch who has zero interest in talking to the media and often gives the same answer in press conferences, regardless of what the question is:

 

Lynch is a former Buffalo Bill and has a weird obsession with Skittles. The man just straight up loves the candy; someone even created a recipe for Skittles chicken wings in his honor. If only the people of Buffalo had thought of that, perhaps he would have stayed in Buffalo. His antics on and off the field have made him a polarizing player in the NFL – people either love him or hate him and there isn’t much room in between. The refusing to talk to the media thing is relatively new; back when he was a rookie on the Bills, he cut this hilarious segment with ESPN:

 

So the guy definitely has some personality.

On the New England Patriots you have Rob Gronkowsi, who has a less checkered past than Marshawn and is far more open with the media. Gronk is one of the best tight ends in the game, but his huge personality almost makes you forget how good he is on the field. Since the Patriots are in the same division as the Bills, I have little love for the team – especially pretty boy Brady- but even I like Gronk. He just seems like a fun guy. I mean, the guy poses for photos like this for ESPN magazine:

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and on media day, while Lynch was giving the media the run-around, Gronk was reading aloud erotic stories that were written about him (yup – this is a thing that exists):

 

So in a lot of ways, Lynch and Gronk are complete opposites of each other; both are talented players and both have big personalities, but those personalities manifest themselves in very different ways.

One of my favorite recurring segments on Conan is “clueless gamer,” where Conan O’Brien – not a gamer – plays popular video games. His reactions are always hilarious and he’s usually pretty terrible at them, which makes for excellent television. I don’t get to watch Conan on a regular basis, but I always make sure to watch the clueless gamer segments online. Last night there was a special edition of clueless gamer; Conan brought together Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowsi to play Mortal Kombat.

 

If that doesn’t get you in the mood for the Super Bowl, I don’t know what will.

 

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Blizzard Juno Edition

As you may have heard, we had some inclement weather hit the East Coast this week in the form of a whole lot of snow. Thankfully, Albany was never in the danger zone; we were originally only estimated to get up to 14 inches, which is a lot but nothing that we don’t know how to deal with. You wouldn’t have known that if you went to any of the area supermarkets, though. People were loading up on supplies like the end of the world was coming. The bread aisle looked likes a scene from The Hunger Games. Suburbanites sure do like to get riled up about the weather. Ultimately, we wound up getting much, much less which is always good news in my opinion. New York City also got a lot less snow than expected, which I was also relieved for since I have a lot of plans in Manhattan this weekend and I was going to be very sad if those got derailed. And, of course, I don’t want anyone to be hurt or in danger. But mostly I don’t want my plans ruined 🙂 At least I own my selfishness. But hopefully the cities that did get a lot of snow have begun to dig out and resume normal life.

But if you are snowed in, you might as well take a break from all the shoveling and catch up on all the pop culture that you might have missed. A lot seemed to happen in the last seven days, but don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.

 

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  • Sam Smith is paying Tom Petty royalties, but how similar are “Stay With Me” and “I Won’t Back Down?”

 

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  • John Oliver wants to audition for Fifty Shades of Grey:

 

  • Get caught up on the last three Jurassic Park movies (there were three of them?) with this animated recap:

 

Time for some trailers….

  • Our first look at the Fantastic Four reboot:

 

  • Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:

 

  • A look at season ten of Keeping Up with the Kardashians:

 

  • Netflix’s first teaser for Wet Hot American Summer:

 

  • Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei in The Rewrite:

 

  • Dead Rising: Watchtower:

 

  • It Follows:

 

  • A trailer for Ben Fold’s new orchestral album:

 

  • Tom Hardy in Child 44:

 

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  • Conan went to the Taco Bell test kitchen; hilarity ensued. No one does a remote piece like Coco:

 

 

63rd Annual Miss Universe Preliminary Show

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As always, we end with the supercuts and mashups….

  • Here’s The Big Lebowski mashed up with Springsteen’s “Secret Garden”

 

  • A supercut of every knob, switch and interface from Star Wars:

 

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  • Hundreds of scenes from iconic films edited together to make a trailer:

 

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A post shared by AK (@ak47_studios) on

 

  • Family Matters as anime:

 

  • This Duran Duran/Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars mashup is very catchy:

 

  • The Avengers re-cut in the style of Watchmen:

 

  • A montage of memorable movie mustaches:

 

  • And finally, The Muppets doing Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” may be my favorite thing of the week:

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – A Review

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“Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last.” Those, of course, are the words made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech. These were also my words after the final Hobbit movie. After nearly nine hours invested and a lot of time watching people walking, I was very relieved that my time in Middle Earth is (hopefully?) over for the foreseeable future. Please make it so, Peter Jackson. I’m not the world’s biggest Tolkien fan to begin with – I never read any of his books – but I did enjoy the original Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. The Hobbit, however, was a true test of my patience. Had the final film failed to get nominated for any Oscars, I would have waited to watch in on HBO or DVD. But a nod for sound editing meant that The Battle of the Five Armies was in play for my Oscar death race, so reluctantly I trudged off to the cinema.

As the movie began to start, I realized that I remembered very little from The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in this trilogy. That’s not necessarily a good sign. As I racked my brain for information to orient myself, this is all that I could come up with:

  • Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), the dragon, was pissed off and about to attack a town.
  • The dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) had spent two movies trying to get to Lonely Mountain for…..some reason. I honestly no longer remember.
  • There was some sort of romance brewing between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and one of the dwarves, Kili (Aidan Turner).
  • Gandalf (Ian McKellen) was off doing his own thing.
  • The Elf King Thranduil (Lee Pace) was kind of a jerk.
  • There were way too may dwarves to keep track of.

Thankfully, you can see The Battle of the Five Armies without knowing a lot of the backstory. There are enough cues within the film so you can basically figure out what’s going on even if this is your entry point into the trilogy. Turns out, a lot of the information that was garnered in the last two films was relatively extraneous. I know that life’s a journey, not a destination, but when it comes to The Hobbit movies, the destination is when the action really starts to kick in.

As the subtitle indicates, the focus of The Battle of the Five Armies is, well, a battle. That means that there is a lot less wandering around and a lot more killing, which was a very welcome change of pace for me. The third film is around twenty minutes shorter than the previous two installments and it moved a lot faster and held my attention. One of the reasons I was loathe to see The Battle of the Five Armies in the theater was because it was a 144 minute time commitment, but I have to say that the time flew by. It’s the amazing the difference that some bloody warfare can have on a movie.

The Battle of the Five Armies begins immediately after where The Desolation of Smaug left off – with Smaug on the verge of wreaking havoc on Laketown. Smaug is dealt with – unsurprisingly since his name is no longer part of the movie title – but not before the people of Laketown have lost everything. They seek refuge in the ruins surrounding Lonely Mountain, led by Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). Now that Smaug has left the treasures of the mountain unprotected, the people of Laketown want a share of the gold to begin to rebuild. But they are not the only ones who want a piece of the treasure; Thranduil and his army have also descended on Lonely Mountain, in search of some jewelry that was part of Smaug’s stash. Unfortunately for them, Thorin (Richard Armitage) – the dwarf king currently in residence of Lonely Mountain – is not in the sharing mood and has barricaded himself and his companions inside. Thorin gets some reinforcements when his cousin shows up with a dwarf army and everyone is ready to square off…until the Orc army that’s been lurking in the last few movies shows up to complicate matters. Commence battle royal.

It’s nice to finally have some payoff from the previous two movies; the stakes are pretty clear in The Battle of the Five Armies and while there is some other stuff going on, the film benefits greatly from one focusing event. The cinematography is always top notch in these films and Jackson certainly knows how to do world building, so it’s nice to see these elements used for a greater purpose. The actors all do a nice job as well; this may not be the kind of work that gets you recognized for an Academy Award, but they create real characters that – other than the miscellaneous dwarves – are memorable despite the fragmented screen time required to accommodate so many stories and a cast this size. The action sequences are choreographed very well and even though there is a lot of chaos as battles break out on multiple fronts, it’s never hard to keep track of what’s going on or what everyone is up to. It helps that despite all their bluster and inherent scariness, Orcs seem pretty easy to kill. There’s also a fair amount of humor infused in the film, which was somewhat lacking from the previous installments. My only real complaint is it’s a little unclear on the accounting methods used to get to the five armies in question. There are four obvious armies in play – The dwarves, the elves, the Orcs and the humans – but I’m not sure if they are counting the animals that show up pretty late in the game as the fifth army or not.

All in all, The Battle of the Five Armies was a much needed change of pace from the rest of The Hobbit trilogy. I’m not sure that the previous 5+ hours of buildup were necessary, but the franchise ended on a relative high note. The Hobbit trilogy will always pale in comparison to The Lord of the Rings for me, but The Battle of the Five Armies was my favorite film from the trilogy. If you liked An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, you will definitely dig the final installment of the trilogy. If you found the first two movies as boring as I did, you may be surprised by The Battle of the Five Armies.

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is currently in wide release.