Monday, September 1

Review: When the Game Stands Tall

There are cliched sports movies, then there are cliched narrative disasters like When the Game Stands Tall. I saw this movie over the weekend, and it is undoubtedly the second worst sports movie of all time. Nothing will ever come close to the JV production titled Facing the Giants, but this movie sure tried hard.

The film follows a high school football team in California, on a 150+ game winning streak. In an attempt to make a seemingly not-adverse storyline seem deathly adverse, all kinds of ridiculous plot twists were strewn in during the two hour movie. The upcoming senior class is complacent. The coach smokes one cigarette and immediately has a heart attack. The graduated star running back, heading to Oregon, is murdered (and that plot thread basically ends immediately). The team is too cocky. The coach is getting offers from DI schools. The opponents are too big. The powerhouse football program has to play a lot of players on both offense and defense. It's too hot outside. The star RB's dad is too involved. The list goes on and on.

Newsflash, besides the death of a player (which was barely mentioned for the rest of the movie), there is no real adversity here. So what if a powerhouse private school that obviously recruits and has a budget the size of Canada's GDP lost a game. They went on to win the state title anyway. In order to make the path to a 13th (!!!) consecutive state title seem hard, they had to invent an outrageous plotline about the star player's dad desperately wanting his son to get the season touchdown record. In an act of apparent rebellion and team unity, the running back takes a knee instead of breaking the record, just to spite his old man. This is the climax of the movie. A running back took a knee with one minute left in a blowout before winning the state championship. High drama.

Jim Caviezel's lifeless performance certainly didn't help the movie either. The guy spoke in a single, hushed tone, no matter if he was in the hospital after a heart attack or in the state final. I assume he's there because he played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, as this movie was clearly marketed as a Christian story, despite only featuring the briefest and most politically correct mentions of the faith. The team did say the Lord's Prayer, but there was just enough crowd noise during the triumphant football action montage to overshadow it.

The turning point of the movie came after the team lost two games in a row and headed to a VA hospital. One player somehow ends up getting into a treadmill race against a veteran with a prosthetic leg. The veteran wins, shakes the boy's hand and the season is saved. The team then practices very hard all week and somehow goes from 0-2 bums with no talent or motivation, to good enough to beat the best team in the country.

It was also abundantly clear that Dick's Sporting Goods underwrote this movie, as there were several blatant product placement scenes. One of the more dramatic confrontations between the overbearing dad and his son actually occurred outside of the store, with 2014's latest apparel showing in the window's during this 2004 period piece. Dick's shopping bags were as much of a part of the movie as the football itself. I'm surprised the funeral of the fallen player wasn't held in the shoe section of the store.

And Michael Chiklis' performance as an assistant coach was nothing more than him taking off his hat 400 times and yelling "WE PRACTICED THIS!" at his players during the game. Keep gettin' them checks, Chiklis.

This movie had good intentions, but fell flat on its face by trying to tell a tale of overcoming adversity, when there was no adversity to begin with in the first place. Toss in about 20 complications, sports cliches jammed in left and right, a poor lead performance and a plot that was all over the map, and you have When the Game Stands Tall. I think I need to pop in Friday Night Lights or Remember the Titans and cleanse my palate.

By Aaron Brandt, winner of a fantasy football league in 2011. 

Thursday, June 26

Drone footage from the Detroit fireworks

Some cool shots right outside my building from a drone during the Ford fireworks earlier this week. Via Hello Aerial.


Tuesday, June 3

7 Questions for the DirecTV puppets

You may have noticed the DirecTV commercials. You know, the ones where the normal dude has a family composed of wooden puppets on a string? He makes very insensitive comments about how he hates wires, they get sad and then he assures them he meant the TV wires. The looks on those puppets' eyes fills me with inconsolable sadness, but also questions. Specifically, seven questions.  

  1. What led to puppets becoming integrated in society? This is clearly some type of alternate universe, where puppets have been seamlessly meshed into society. But how? Why? What's the origin story here?
  2. Why would anyone want to be married to a puppet? Are they not made of solid wood and glass and controlled by wires? What person would want to be with someone like that? I mean, the fire hazard alone would be a huge cause for concern, and a red flag in my book.
  3. Do houses with puppets have roofs? Clearly the strings lead to something or someone above. There's no evidence of a device in the ceiling, so there must be no roofs in this puppeted alternate universe. Does this mean it never rains? Because if there is no roof, then water would get on the puppets and they might rot, making the whole endeavour useless.
  4. Who controls the puppets? What sort of hand in the sky is in charge of the strings that cause so many problems and emotional damage for these puppets? Does the puppet master control everything, or do the puppets tell the master what to do, and he carries out the actions? 
  5. Do they have independent thoughts? If there is a puppet master, would he not be in control of any movements, including talking? So that would mean the puppets were simply speaking the mind of the great puppet master, not themselves. Do the humans know this? Or are they oblivious to the fact that a hand in the sky controls these wooden beings from a hole in the roof? Or do they choose to ignore this sick societal hierarchy? 
  6. How are new puppets made? Are they whittled, or is there some sort of natural process for having children? Or a combination of both? 
  7. Is anything real? Is this just a metaphor for our own lives? Are we nothing more than puppets on a string, controlled by "the man" (probably Goldman Sachs, Dick Cheney or McDonalds' low wages), unable to think on our own. Do we live in the Matrix? Maybe I'm the puppet master? Maybe the puppets in the commercial are the real puppet masters? Maybe the strings are the real masters? Or maybe DirecTV wants you to look into their new wireless technology, and sign up to a two year agreement. Nah, that's not as fun to imagine. Viva la puppets. 

By Aaron Brandt, no strings attached. 

Friday, May 30

My whole generation is stupid! Video proof

Can't stand this kind of stuff. Guy goes on a beach, asks some drunk idiots a few history questions, they get the questions wrong, and my whole generation is labelled as idiots, thanks to Obama or Common Core or something. Meh. Be sure to check the subsequent garbage column from Glenn Beck, which took this hypothesis even further. P.S. nice popped collar.

Videos like this are great on Jimmy Kimmel as humor, but when Bill O'Riley and Glenn Beck get up there and act like this is some kind of scientific barometer for an entire generation, they lose all credibility. Dude, you went on the beach, popped your collar like its 2005 and asked the dumbest people you could find questions. Nice sample size. What's your confidence interval here? Two percent? Get real.

Sure there are a lot of morons in my generation. It can actually be depressing. But don't paint everyone born within the past 25-30 years as total idiots using a 4 minute video clip. Looking at you, commenters on Glenn Beck's website.

Why didn't you head down to Silicon Valley and see what my generation is up to there? I can play the small sample size game too. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg was too busy making billions off his idea? Or 19-year-old Nicholas Allegra, who got an internship with Apple for hacking their precious phones couldn't find the time to return your calls? What about Kevin Systrom, who founded Instagram and sold it for $1 billion? Do you even know what Instagram is, Bill? Don't forget Jonny Cohen, a 16-year-old that invented an air shield for buses, which increases fuel efficiency by 25%. And Daniela Witten is developing artificial intelligence programs to help identify genes that lead to diseases. She's 26. Or Blair Brandt, 23-year-old CEO of a global real estate company. Or 27 year-old Karin Agness, a lawyer who founded a conservative group for college women. Javier Fernandez-Han invented a system that uses algae to digest sewage and capture methane for fuel. He's 17. Ernestine Fu negotiated a $1.3 million deal in seed funding for Qwhspr at age 20. Pete Cashmore founded a media website at age 19 that has become one of the biggest on the web in less than 7 years. Yeah, he's pulling apart your old-fashioned media, Bill and Glenn. Robert Nay programmed a game called Bubble Ball, which has over 9 million downloads. He's 15. No journey to Harvard, Stanford, Michigan or any respectable campus either? No trip down Wall Street, where the brightest young minds are being cherry-picked? Hmm.

When you seek out morons at the beach, selectively edit responses and act like this represents my generation, you are simply deceiving your dwindling viewers. Yes, educational systems are not doing a great job. Yes, we've been dumbed down by technology. And yes, learning history is crucial. But there are millions of success stories in my generation. We are embracing technology and turning it into billion dollar industries. Sure, some of my gen might be content to play Candy Crush all day, but there are so many more smart, educated and motivated individuals making a huge impact on society. And this isn't just in tech. This is across all industries.

Sorry Bill and Glenn, we will not get off your lawn. We will invent an app to measure the length of your lawn and communicate with a landscaping company, then charge you to use it. Your bill is in the mail, because I'm assuming you aren't using the app Venmo to pay for it.

By Aaron Brandt, inventor of the potato and cheese pita in the Foreman Grill. 

Saturday, May 10

Dwyane Wade imitates an old painting

It's been a hot minute since I last blogged, so why not get back in the game with a breakdown of some overalls?

(h/t @jonesontheNBA)

Anyway, Dwyane Wade showed up to the Heat-Nets game in this number, and it seemed eerily familiar. After no less than 37 seconds of hard Internet research I got it. American Gothic.

D-Wade is totally paying tribute to Grant Wood's classic "American Gothic" painting, now hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. I see you, Dwayne. I see you. He took one of the most American paintings we have, and put his own spin on it. Today's modern man has no time for overall straps, but he can certainly find space in his busy lifestyle for a nice brooch. And if Grant Wood had painted a full body portrait, it would have 100% revealed the man to be wearing animal print Keds. Comfortable and functional footwear; perfect for battling dustbowls and boll weevils. Gotta love athletes who have respect for America, our history and art. Bravo, Mr. Wade.

By Aaron Brandt, art and fashion critic. 

Sunday, January 5


Swimmers Itch special reporter Storm Timberlake hit the mean streets of Eastpointe, Michigan to report on tonight's blizzard, otherwise known as the #SNOWMAGEDDON2014; the storm so big, it needs a hashtag. And a slogan.


Godspeed, Storm Timberlake. To be continued?

By Storm Timberlake, reporter.