Saturday, January 5, 2008

Eagle vs. Shark...the review!

One of the weirdest movies in a long time is coming out on Tuesday. Alliance Atlantis is releasing the New Zealand movie Eagle vs. Shark, which at first I thought was a movie trying to piggy-back on the success of Napoleon Dynamite. You know, some high-school weirdo who doesn't make any sense and is gloriously nerdy and weird somehow makes us smile while failing at everything. When Eagle vs. Shark began, I thought the basic premise was going to be Napoleon Dynamite grown-up. The main characters are mid-thirties Napoleon Dynamites who have never managed to get over that awkward, geeky, socially maladjusted stage in which Jon Heder found himself in that "classic" film. My initial reaction was geez, I've MET people like this. I KNOW these people. But then a little while later, I realized two things. Number one, I do NOT know these people. And that's not because they don't exist, but rather because I would never meet them. These are the kind of people who meet only each other in life. Also, this is not a Napoleon Dynamite rip-off. These characters stand on their own and are unique.

Lily is a cashier at a fast food restaurant, and she is not friends with any of her co-workers, who all look at her as though she is some kind of freak. And, in a way, she is. She is definitely the kind of oddball who would find it hard to make friends at work, since she would have just about nothing in common with anybody else. The one person with whom she does have some things in common is Jarrod, a frequent customer at her restaurant. Lily has the hots for Jarrod, who has the hots for one of Lily's co-workers. This is in itself fairly indicative of Jarrod's level of social awkwardness as well. Any person in their mid-thirties who has the hots for a fast-food employee is one of two things. Deluded, since they think because the girl's job sucks, she must be as big a loser as he is and they would be a great match. Or two, a creepy stalker, because the reason that girl has such a crappy job is that she is sixteen.

Of course, Lily and Jarrod hook up, in one of the most awkward but sweet scenes in movies. This quickly becomes a relationship, of sorts. Jarrod is still that high school loser, making up stories and obviously lying about himself and his family so he'll seem cooler. Lily, on the other hand, is just a weirdo, so starved for affection and social contact that she will believe just about anything Jarrod (or anyone else) says to her. They bond over a video game (big surprise) which leads to more bonding, which very quickly leads to a trip to Jarrod's home town, where Lily gets to meet his family. The reason for Jarrod's visit to his home town, however, is not to see his family, but rather to take revenge against the high school bully who used to torment him. You see, Jarrod believes that now that he is an adult, he is finally cool, and finally a real man, and can now beat up this guy who used to pick on him. Of course he is wrong. He is not cool.

I won't give away the rest of the film, since I think it is worth watching, but I will say this. Jarrod's family is irritating. When you have a weirdo like Jarrod carrying the picture, and Lily is as strange as he is, the people around them shouldn't be equally strange. If he had a regular, normal family, then his strangeness would be accentuated. Instead, the scenes in his home town feel like a giant assault of weird on us, the viewers. There is just too much strange to handle all at once. Remember the second Ace Ventura movie? And how the African people were just as weird as Jim Carrey? Remember how that really sucked? Well, it doesn't suck as much here, but it becomes obnoxious pretty fast.

I do recommend Eagle vs. Shark, because as far as romantic comedies go, it is not that romantic and not that comedic. It's a movie that exists in it's own little world, and that world is a charming and pleasant, if excessively weird, one. It is not a movie that could have held my attention for two hours, but at a tight one hour and 28 minutes, it is just long enough. It ends just before it gets too obnoxious to continue. Well done!

Deep Water.

There's a documentary from Alliance Atlantis coming out on Tuesday that is well worth your while to check out. It's called Deep Water, and it's the story of a race around the world that took place in 1967. Nine people set off from England in nine individual sailboats in a race to see who could circumnavigate the globe the fastest. Eight of the competitors were lifelong sailors, who had years worth of experience and wanted to pit themselves against the ultimate test of survival. The ninth was a younger man, named Donald Crowhurst, a 35-year-old amateur sailor who risked everything to compete in the race. By everything, I mean his business, his family, his friends, his finances and of course his life.

There was a movie with a similar tone recently, called Grizzly Man. Werner Herzog crafted a staggeringly intense portrait of a man who wanted to live with grizzly bears, and was eventually killed by one. It was a wonderful film, capturing the essence of a man who was one-tenth visionary and nine-tenths lunatic. Donald Crowhurst was a similar character, only he was half visionary and half lunatic when he started out, and nine tenths lunatic by the time the race was over. Ten months alone at sea will do that to someone.

It is tough not to love someone like Donald Crowhurst, a guy who really went for it, despite the overwhelming odds against him. And there was a lot against him. Experience, the ocean, the weather, and common sense. I find it difficult to write a review of the movie without spoiling it, because what happens during the race is one of the most compelling stories I have ever seen in a documentary. But I really don't want to tell that story, because you have to see it for yourself. Deep Water is a terrific story about some incredible people. Man vs. the elements, vs. his own demons, vs. his mind after ten months at sea, it all makes for an incredibly watchable story.

The 1967 race around the world was an event I've never heard about before, and I'm surprised. After all, I have spent an awful lot of time with sailors, and this sounds like the kind of thing that would be pervasive in the yarns of the old-timers who sit at the stools of the Grand Banker in Lunenberg and entertain the passers-by with tales of the nautical deep and their days on the Bluenose. And yet, Deep Water was the first I had heard about it, and it was absolutely fascinating. Again, I am tempted to tell the whole story, but it would ruin it for those of you who would be interested in watching the film. And I hope a lot of you want to watch this film. Deep Water is the best non-political documentary (Sicko, No End in Sight) since Grizzly Man.

Do NOT take my advice!

Summit Energy lied to me. At least once, possibly up to four times. My earlier post about going ahead and accepting all those rate-freeze gas plans and letting them fight it out amongst themselves? Don't do it! I was on the phone with Summit energy when the epiphany hit me. You see, I had told the man from Summit, on the other end of the phone, that I did not want his plan. I explained that I believed I already had a plan, but that I had moved so recently all my stuff was still a jumble. So I said no. "Better safe than sorry", I said. He would not let it go. He was a bulldog with a bone. I tried to get him off the phone for about six minutes, but much like that drunk girl outside the Def Leppard concert, he would not take "I'm not interested" for an answer. His position was that if I did indeed already have a contract with one of these rate-freeze providers, that when Summit put through my order, the other provider would show up, and the Summit contract would never go through, his exact words were either "better safe than sorry", or "no harm no foul". I can't remember which, but it was one of those two delightful cliches.

So I said fine. Will this get you off my damn phone if I say yes? He said "sure". I said "fine" and hung up. That was the extent of our interaction. But I felt quite safe in doing so, since he had said there would be no problems. If I already had a provider, there would be no issues, and I would no longer be bothered. That was until I received a bill for $350.00 from Superior Energy yesterday. Since I had signed a new contract with a new provider, you see, I was in breach of the Superior Energy contract under which I was already registered. I thought, that's funny. The Summit guy told me nothing at all would happen if I was already with a provider. I called Superior. I told them I don't want to break my contract, and I don't want to spend 350 bucks. They said that was fine. It was just a standard form letter. They would not charge me for it, I could throw out the bill. But I had to call Enbridge to cancel this other contract. Superior told me the other contract was with Summit.

So I called Enbridge. They said that Summit Energy had tried once to put my contract through. That time, Superior had shown up, and so Summit had been rejected. Just like the guy on the phone said. But then, Summit tried AGAIN. I suppose in the world of gas-price-freeze-distribution-companies, you CAN try the same exact thing twice and expect different results. Because the second time they tried, it went through. And that automatically canceled my contract with Superior. Which made me liable for 350 bucks in breach of contract fees or whatever. Enbridge said there was nothing they could do from their end, I would have to call Summit myself.

Which is where the fun began. I called Summit. I said I never really wanted their program, but here is what your guy on the phone told me. What he told me was clearly not true. Therefore I would like to cancel whatever business you have begun on my behalf. The guy at Summit told me that was no problem. I just had to send them the 350 dollar breach of contract bill from Superior, and everything would be fine. What? I have to send them the bill from the OTHER company just to convince them I am with the other company? I explained. Paitiently and slowly. Your. Guy. Said. Your. Deal. Would. Not. Go. Through. If. I. Was. With. Another. Company. Summit of course realized that, but in order to prove I was with another company...blahblahblah. I tried being angry. You guys clearly know I'm with another company, because you tried to put this through once...and you couldn't, because I was with another company! When I called Superior, they knew Summit was the other company involved. So you clearly know Superior is the other company involved, no?

Apparently, no. This man told me they couldn't look that stuff up on my account, because it was considered "personal information". This was a bit too much for me. Really, this was the second time they had lied to me. First off, they clearly already had this information, they were just trying to make me jump though hoops to cancel the Summit business, hoping I would get lazy and tired and give up and just pay the 350 bucks and cave in to Summit. Well, no. I will not. I will get angry. I demanded to speak to a manager. I was placed on hold for two minutes. I was placed on hold at 3:59 yesterday afternoon, and the same guy picked the phone back up at 4:01. And he just kept talking. When I finally asked where the manager was that he had gone off to get, he told me that it was after 4:00, and they had all gone home for the day. This may or may not have been the third time they were lying to me. Either way, it didn't matter. They had lied to me at least twice, and they were using some pretty underhanded and ridiculous sales tactics. Don't take my advice and sign up for these things! Stay away from them all! Especially Summit.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A bit more football.

While at the moment, I am mostly excited for the two Junior Championship games today - Russia-Sweden at 10:00 and Canada-US at 2:00, I am also looking forward in a big way to Week One of the NFL playoffs. I am picking Sweden and Canada to win and move on, but I have not traditionally been great with hockey picks. So I will make a few NFL picks, simply because I have begun doing so all year, and I find it impossible to stop now. Also, Doc is going to get me to make some predictions, as the winner of our CHEZ pool, and I figured I would write them down here to see how well I do.

Game One: Skins at Seahawks. Washington has played so very well over the last few weeks just to make the playoffs, and they are such a strong and resilient team, coming together after the murder of one of their stars, Sean Taylor. Seattle has caused me to doubt them a little over the last few weeks of the season. However, Mike Holmgren has been here before, he certainly has the horses to win, and if they put it all together, and I think they can, they should beat a very tough Redskins team. Skins to cover, Hawks to win.

Game Two: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh. The Jaguars win over the Steelers earlier this season was no fluke. Jacksonville rested their three toughest and best offensive players in the final week of the season, and Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard will be fired up to play in Pittsburgh. Garrard almost never makes a mistake, and those two backs can tear apart the Steelers. Jacksonville will win this in a minor upset.

Game Three: Tennessee at San Diego. The Titans kind of backed into the playoffs, beating a Colts team that sat just about everyone in the final game. Tennessee could have locked up a playoff spot much sooner had they played the way they should have played. San Diego is up-and-down, hit-and-miss, but they have what it takes to put it all together and face the Colts in Round Two. San Diego will take this one, plus the points.

Game Four: New York Giants at Tampa Bay. Both these teams are playing for this game only. No matter who wins, that team will lose in round two, and both have looked decidedly less than dominant over the course of the season. I will take Tampa here because they have more momentum and they are at home, and I think the Giants may have worked a little too hard in that season finale against New England. Giants to cover, because who knows in this one?

Secondary, tertiary, primaries...

I watched Wolf Blitzer interview Fred Thompson yesterday on the oddly and hilariously titled CNN program "The Situation Room"...I would love to see George C. Scott introducing the show, yelling something like "gentlemen! There can't be any issues in here! This is the situation room!" or something similarly nonsensical. Fred Thompson sonded every inch the Republican in the interview, with brilliant quotes like "I think we will surprise some people. We'll see who's right - us or the experts." How very party-line of him. There is only one group of people who know what's what better than the experts. The Republicans. This is why they feel so free to ignore the advice of so many of those experts. The war experts, who told them they would need several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. The rebuilding experts who told them not to clean out the entirety of Saddam's old party, or to fire every soldier in the Iraqi army. This would lead to chaos and violence, they said. But the government knew better. They are Republican. This is why they ignored the other experts who said if you fire the Iraqi military entirely, you should probably not let them keep their guns. Or, hey - there's global warming.

But that wasn't the true story of yesterday. Much as I dislike The Situation Room, and Wolf Blitzer rubs me the wrong the way, is there a phrase in the world that bothers people more than "hearts and minds"? I don't know if this phrase was invented by Karl Rove or not, but it certainly became Bush's calling card. As Al Franken says in his latest book, The Truth (With Jokes), the first step to winning Iraqi hearts and minds would have been to protect their chests and heads. I highly recommend the book, it's terrific. But I heard Wolf Blitzer use the term about five times while interviewing people yesterday, and three more times this morning while discussing the results of the primary.

Which is the real reason I'm writing. This was a huge event, not only for the U.S., but for the world. All morning, all you heard was Obama this and Barack that. The news coverage on just about every station was all over Barack Obama and his major victory in stage one of the presidential race. Which was great. What was story number two? Hilary Clinton's mis-step in phase one of the presidential race. (You've got to feel bad for John Edwards, who finished second, and who was largely ignored, one might say completely ignored, by the media in general.) The fact that Mike Huckabee, a Christian right-wing nut job lunatic, won the Republican battle was also overlooked. His name was mentioned half as much as Clinton's, who was mentioned half as often as Obama. Mitt Romney, the guy who finished second to Huckabee, barely made a dent, except to deliver his staggeringly predictable "we won a silver medal here, the gold is not far off" speech. Huckabee looked even worse in his "victory" speech, as he was unaware of the national intelligence study on Iran's nuclear weapons program, and somehow managed to connect the Pakistani riots to illegal Pakistani immigrants in the U.S. Bizarre.

There are a couple of things Obama believes with which I disagree. For example, he does not think the States should lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. Blasphemy! Also, his environmental policy needs to be much stronger, and I would like to hear more about where he stands on Kyoto. But he certainly seems like the guy who can make real change happen in the States, and if he can win a primary in Iowa, a state that gave right-wing zealot Mike Huckabee the Republican vote, things are looking way, way up for our neighbours to the south.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Shoot 'Em Up

Shoot 'Em Up is the latest DVD to be released by Alliance Atlantis, it hit stores yesterday and it was the biggest release of the week. The movie stars Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti, two terrific actors who seem bemused at best with their involvement in the film. Shoot 'Em Up is sort of a spoof of the genre, the shoot-em-up genre, where every scene is taken to it's extreme utmost, where most of the staples of the genre are spoofed, sort of, and sent up, kind of. It's a tough movie to review, and for me, it was kind of tough to watch. You see, when you are clearly "sending up" a genre, that gives you license to do a lot of things. You can defy the laws of physics with your action set pieces. You can get away with having bad guys with the aim of storm troopers and good guys with the aim of Robin Hood. You can even get away with breaks in continuity and terrible dialogue, because people might just think "well, that's just part of the spoof".

Where Shoot 'Em Up lost me was where the lines blurred between an actual action movie and a send-up of action movies. Hot Fuzz was a terrific action-movie spoof, because we, the audience, were constantly aware that the action sequences were created more for amusement than for adrenaline-pumping, hardcore, edge-of-your-seat thrills. In Shoot 'Em Up, I constantly felt like the action scenes were supposed to be taken sort-of seriously. Sure, there was a small wink to credibility and plausibility here and there. But the lines and the action are delivered so straight, especially by Clive Owen, that it becomes difficult to laugh along with the implausible. At least Giammatti is constantly aware that he is playing a Gary Oldman-esque cartoon character, and hams it up in a way that indicates he is enjoying himself.

But merely acknowledging the ridiculousness of your movie does not mean that terrible dialogue can be given a pass. The dialogue is so bad in places that it literally stops the movie. Owen dispatches a bad guy by jamming a carrot through his eye and out the back of his head, and then says "eat your vegetables", or some such nonsense. It actually stops the movie dead, and more bad guys have to run in to be killed off just to jump start the flow of the movie once more. The worst line is delivered by Monica Bellucci: "You know, Smith. I've just figured out what you hate most of all. Yourself". Ouch. If she was overacting, hamming it up like Giammatti, this could have slid. But she delivers this in such earnest seriousness that you can't help but cringe.

There are few cliches in movies worse than the bad guy who is SO evil that he will kill his own men just for screwing up. He cares so little about human life, you see, that he is willing to kill even those he needs! This has never been plausible, unless it's some sadistic Nazi colonel with the weight of the whole Third Reich behind him. You wouldn't dare disobey him, you see, for they would just send another guy to replace him, and THAT guy would kill you. But if it's just the boss, then...what? Suppose your boss came to the cubicle of the guy next to you, and fired him because there had been a spelling error on the memo he sent out about the office Christmas party. How long would you stay in that job? Now, suppose that boss didn't just fire your co-worker, but bludgeoned him to death with an ax handle? Would you keep your job, making damn sure to use spell check when you sent out a memo, or would you call the police? These bad guys sure are evil, what with their indiscriminate killing. But how could they ever get anyone to work for them? Ever?

And Paul Giamatti somehow has seven hundred expendable commandos working for him. Another obnoxious cliche in movies - the government. Because the bad guys are the government, they can cover up ANYTHING. Even the sudden appearance of seven hundred bodies, in abandoned warehouses, above a heavy metal club, in the middle of highways, in the park, in a field, and at six hundred other locations around town. No one will EVER know. They're the GOVERNMENT. And of course, Clive Owen can kill anyone he looks at funny, but seems to miss the main bad guy every single time, until the final, dramatic showdown. Again, this slides by because the movie doesn't take itself seriously. Just like that guy who wanders in from nowhere to explain the entire set-up and give us all the information we need to know, like some kind of contrived narrator.

But again, that is not an excuse for bad dialogue or scripting. Spoiler alert! Stop here if you don't want to know major plot points! Of which there are not many! You see, the whole killing spree revolves around a baby factory. There is an important senator running for President of the United States on a platform of gun control. This senator also has a disease for which he needs bone marrow, and women are being artificially inseminated with this man's DNA so he can have a child that will be able to donate it's bone marrow and save his life. The bad guys are the gun lobby, who are against gun control, for obvious reasons, and they think that by killing these mothers and their babies, they are basically murdering the senator. OK, it's a far-fetched movie, so this isn't a problem. But what is a problem is that when we find out these gun-crazy nuts are working WITH the senator, none of that gets explained. If they were working WITH him now, why would they still want to kill the babies and thereby dispatch the presidential candidate? He has agreed to reverse his stance on gun control, so why are they still out there killing babies?

All the standard guns-and-action movie devices are in place here. The guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, who also happens to be the deadliest man alive. The hooker with the heart of gold (although her personal method of prostitution is too weird to be anything other than a comedic device, and too strange and off-putting to get any laughs). The dark personal past, skeletons in the closet, sad secret history of the tough-as-nails good guy. The crazy leaps in logic that are made by every single character to ensure they are all in the same place at the same time, that no sane person or Stephen Hawking would ever be able to deduce. It's all there, but it is either played too straight for a spoof, or too bonkers for a straight movie. Shoot 'Em Up has some pretty cool action scenes (the rope scene, the warehouse scene - NOT the skydiving scene, which was obnoxious), but it doesn't know what it wants to be. Or, it knows what it wants to be but doesn't know how to get there.

It's like a Limp Bizkit album, that really wants to be a rock album AND a rap album, but ends up kind of failing at both.

DVD review #1: Veggie Tales Double Feature!

There is a conventional wisdom surrounding movies, music and art in general that states certain people are not cut out to make that art. Traditionally, those who suck at making movies and music and the rest of it are from two areas. Either the hard-core Republican-type right wingers, or the hard-core Christian evangelist types. Of course, very often these people are one and the same. Of course there are exceptions, and please don't write in listing every one of those exceptions. I am aware of them. Alice Cooper, for example, is a Republican. One way to look at this is documentary movies - compare right-wing biased documentaries with left-wing biased documentaries. Michael Moore stuff, ant-war in Iraq stuff, pro-pot stuff. Now, name me one right-wing documentary you know of. Just one. GO ahead, name it. Well, they've been made, but they are not well done, and no one has heard of them. Perhaps the most famous is FahrenHype 9/11, a movie seen by fully 3 percent of the number of people who have seen Fahreheit 9/11.

Perhaps the man who proves this rule best, Republican-wise, is Jack Abramoff. As a movie producer in the 80s, he managed to get a neo-con, anti-commie, ridiculous film made. It was called Red Scorpion, and it starred Dolph Lundgren, and it was staggeringly bad. He followed this up with Red Scorpion 2, released in 1994. Then, he joined the George W. Bush team, and along with Tom DeLay, he managed to extort, steal, embezzle and misappropriate millions and millions of dollars from, among other groups, the native American tribes of the U.S. He also inspired dozens of jokes, both good ones and bad ones. If Abram helped you off a horse, would you help Jack Abramoff? And so forth.

And the Christians? Two words. Christian rock. Does that make you cringe just a little? Yeah, me too. Scott Stapp, why have you forsaken us? However, rules were made to be broken, and there is at least one Christian production team that does good work. They are called Big Idea Productions, and they are the fiercely pro-Christian, pro-God company behind the Veggie Tales. And you know what? They are good. In some cases, they are absolutely great! I grabbed the Veggie Tales series from Alliance Atlantis because our eight-year-old loves them. At first, I was awfully leery about this stuff - evangelical, pro-God songs? Christian values crammed into the faces of kids? It scared me a bit. Then I started watching. And I found myself laughing. Actually laughing. So much so that when the latest shipment of DVDs arrived, our 8-year-old was not even here, and I still opened them up and started watching them. By myself.

The double feature DVD is Very Silly Songs, and the Ultimate Silly Songs. Which is the best part of Veggie Tales. Their songs are very, very good. Although the wisdom of creating a 2-DVD package, each DVD being song-related, is debatable when there are five songs repeated from one disc to the next. Why bother? Couldn't you fit all that on one disc, rather than making two? In the end, you get about fifteen songs. Which brings me to complaint number two. MY favourite Veggie Tales song is not on here! The one about the ball that was kicked into the tree, and it bounced in to the gated community? Hilarious. Gated community. Haha. There are still some comedic gems here though, that kids will love and adults will, hopefully, with an open mind, find quite amusing. Songs like I Love My Lips and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

Yes, some of the Veggie Tales songs are preachy and irritating. But most of them are well done and not crazy God-centric, and those are very good. It proves that rules are made to be broken, and Christian producers can be just as good as atheist Golden Compass-type producers. Also out on DVD are actual Veggie Tales episodes such as Larry-Boy and the Rumour Weed, and Madame Blueberry, of which Madame Blueberry is the superior DVD. But the silly songs are the way to go. Christian movies can be good (the Ten Commandments), Christian music can be good (Handel's Messiah) and Republicans can be cool too (Alice Cooper). I am leaving out Ted Nugent here, because although he has made some great music in his life, he is a class-one, Grade-A nutjob.

Something new.

Over the Christmas holidays I became somewhat inspired, to a small degree. I received two books by movie reviewers, one a local guy named Robert Fontaine called Movies Ate My Brain, and another by Roger Ebert called Your Movie Sucks. The Ebert book contains some of my all-time favourite reviews of lousy movies, particularly Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. to read the abbreviated version. Brilliant! So, what occured to me was that I can not always say everything I want to about a movie in the one-minute segments I have on Cynical Cinema. Also, with the way that segment is set up, I can't always make sure those reviews are delivered in a timely fashion - for example, on the Tuesday that they are released. So I have decided to use my blog for this purpose, both to ensure the timeliness of some reviews, and also to expand on those reviews where I would like to say more. I will start with a couple today, and move on from there.

Monday, December 31, 2007

I win!

The final results are in. Although I did not WIN the CHEZ pool, I came in first where I cared about it - the Doc and Woody show. I beat Doc, I beat Woody, that's good enough for me. In the end, I finished 73 points ahead of Doc and 113 points ahead of Woody. Now, Doc will argue when he returns, I am sure, that because he missed a week that he would have won had he played them all. To this I have a response, albeit a premature and pre-emptive one. You see, over the course of the season, I averaged 72.8 points per week. And Doc averaged 72.9 points per week. Which, I agree, IS more than I averaged. However, if we give him his weekly average for the week that he missed, then he ends up with 1,237.9 points, and I end up with 1,238 points. And I still win. Woody has a better case, in this circumstance. He finished with 1,127 points. But he actually missed THREE weeks of picks, meaning that he averaged 80.5 points per week. By that average, he would have finished with 1,369 points had he played every week, which would have made him the clear winner. But he didn't, and he lost. As they say, that's why they play the game. The online gambling game.

As for my office pool, I went 15-1 over the weekend, and I am reasonably confident in that number. I think there is a good chance I could overtake Greg, the front-runner, and hopefully outdistance those around me, to claim victory. But as we all know, the last week of the season is impossible to predict, so there is always a chance someone came out of nowhere with some ridiculous 16-0 week. I will know soon enough. Until then -

Ones I got right: Packers did beat up on the Lions, even though they sat their starters early on. Same goes for the Chargers over the Raiders. The Falcons were indeed hungry enough to (barely) knock off theSeahawks second string. Baltimore beat the Steelers, who were resting everyone. Skins made the playoffs with a victory over the Cowboys, and the Panthers did get the road upset over the Buccaneers. Bears knocked the Saints out, Philly beat Buffalo, Cleveland smacked San Fran, Cincy stomped the Bengals, and Arizona and the Jets both won. And the Titans did win a close one to make the playoffs.

Ones I got wrong: I will admit, when I found out the Jaguars were sitting David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor for their Sunday game, I changed my pick in the pool to the Texans. But based on what I wrote last week, I was wrong. And Minnesota was completely incapable of doing themselves any favours with that OT loss to the Broncos. So that's the one I was wrong about. So far so good!

An amendment: As it turns out, I did not make the same picks in my office pool as I did here in the blog. I can't imagine why, but I picked the Panthers to lose and the Colts to win, and I ended up with 12 wins, not 15. Therefore, with HIS twelve wins, Greg beat me by one win on the year, and I finished in second place. Not bad. I shoulda taken my own advice!