Thoughts on “Entourage” the Movie (from Someone Who Never Watched the Show)

Call me an independent observer, if you’d like.

After watching Entourage and seeing just exactly what kind of ride ain’t over yet, I think I’ve pinpointed the most appropriate feeling to associate with HBO’s former show that found a movie adaptation four years after the last episode aired in 2011.

If something like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia brings an unhealthy amount of frustration due to the utter incompetence of the characters, then Entourage brings feelings like envy, jealousy, and maybe even lust to mind.

While the entire concept of Entourage is loosely based on executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s life and his own entourage, there’s a sense of fantasy that is liberally applied to the whole shebang. Sure, Hollywood has beautiful women – regardless of that beauty’s authenticity – and sure, there are naturally going to be lots of celebrities in Hollywood.

But the way everything works out for the entourage is envious and almost abrasive. In short, where’s the real conflict here? Just the fact that the entourage is composed entirely of childhood friends is a feat in itself: there isn’t one of us who hasn’t lost at least one childhood friend due to geographical separation or some other sad reason.

Excess isn’t all bad, of course. There’s merit in watching heavy hitters like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but average folks like you and me already have some taxing lives and very real stress to deal with. What’s the harm in losing ourselves in a world where everything works out in the end?

Entourage falls firmly within that “oh, of course” category of pop culture, where you watch something bad happen, only to see it resolved either with minimal effort, a montage, or heavy bravado that would never fly in the real world (I’m looking at you, Ari Gold).

According to some of my trusted sources, the movie is basically an extended episode of the show. I say that because I never really got vested in the show during its run in the 2000s (let’s just say my household didn’t put a big priority on TV during those days and let’s just say I wasn’t completely familiar with the concept of “alternative/online viewing” at the time).

In that regard, Entourage succeeds in a goal that may or may not have been one of HBO’s intended priorities: I really want to watch the show now after seeing the movie. Apparently the movie captures the essentials of a typical Entourage episode and if that’s the case, I’m hungry for more.

The celebrity cameos are certainly all there, although one interesting question did arise after I got home from the theater: what universe does this take place in because Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment, and a handful of other celebrities don’t portray themselves, but instead portray entirely fictional characters.

Does that mean some other kid told Bruce Willis he could see dead people? Does that mean Angelina Jolie had a vial of another guy’s blood around her neck during her more tumultuous days? I guess it doesn’t really matter, especially since my sources say in the show, celebrities play only themselves the vast majority of the time.

The witty and usually crass banter between the entourage is here in spades as well and provides the bulk of the humor. Past and present deficiencies are constantly brought up, such as Turtle’s weight back in the day and E’s shortness.

From what I understand, the movie has been getting some pretty lackluster reviews. I kinda get it, but I kinda don’t. I went into the movie with low expectations and found myself laughing way more than I expected; it’s the funniest movie I’ve seen in 2015 other than Inside Out (although to be fair, I haven’t exactly been hitting up the movie theaters this summer).

In the words of Eminem, “just lose yourself in the moment” and have some fun. You can get serious during Oscars season.

Where Will Hannibal Lecter Strike Next?

NBC has canceled Hannibal after three seasons… so what happens now?

On one hand, this comes as a surprise. On the other hand, I always knew in the back of my supple brain that Hannibal was in a league not in of its own necessarily, but certainly out of NBC’s.

While NBC gets credit for sticking with all sorts of artistically unique shows from Seinfeld to Community, Hannibal was a different animal altogether and it was definitely unusual seeing such gory, philosophically complex material from one of the Big Three networks.

From the beginning, Hannibal seemed misplaced, like it should have been on HBO or AMC or even FX, if The Americans is any indication of FX’s ability to support highly intelligent and often highly violent programming.

But I’ll give credit where credit is due, namely in the fact that NBC did stick with Hannibal for three seasons even though ratings were low. It also seems like they pretty much gave absolute freedom to the show’s people, like developer/executive producer Bryan Fuller, who envisioned an interpretation of Hannibal Lecter if it was told through the eyes of someone like David Lynch or even David Cronenberg.

When you watched the show and saw its hauntingly beautiful cinematography that oozed and flowed and splattered, and you heard the dialogue which was arguably deeper and more relevant (and less pretentious – very important) than the ramblings of True Detective‘s Rust Cohle, you knew it was something special.

We all know art is subjective to a certain extent. We also know that Hannibal garnered a lot of critical acclaim, with people generally agreeing that it was consistently one of the top ten shows every year. And while the visual and philosophical aspects were excellent, so was the acting, with Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter being one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.

So the question is where does Hannibal go now?

In today’s era, death is never forever for a television program. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the people at Netflix, Amazon, or even Yahoo! swoop in and give the show a new home. While the content of the show probably wouldn’t change dramatically, thanks to NBC’s hypothetically loose leash while they had Hannibal, it would be in a more lenient position in regards to ratings.

I mean, if Netflix still has Lilyhammer around, I’m sure they would be more than happy to acquire a show people actually watch, even if that number happens to be in the low millions or whatever. As for Yahoo!, I liked what they did with Community, but I feel like there’s still a general “meh” vibe associated with that brand.

Regardless, Hannibal is a show that deserves to live on. While we may say that about a lot of shows, this is one case where it is absolutely true.

Even if it costs an arm and a leg.

In Defense of “Malcolm in the Middle”

Entertainment Weekly recently published an issue titled “The Binge Guide: 32 Perfect Shows For Every Occasion.” While the notoriously dense The Wire made it, as did other shows with serious substance (The Sopranos and Breaking Bad), somehow Malcolm in the Middle did not.

For reasons that are wide, varied, and vaguely justified, I think Malcolm in the Middle gets something of a vicious wedgie these days. Maybe it’s because Frankie Muniz progressively gets more and more unlikable throughout the seven seasons, starting as an adorable little kid and ending as a punk who seems to be glaring and/or yelling the vast majority of the time.

Maybe it’s because the show has an inherent reliance on physical comedy more than other sitcoms, on account of it being the wild tale of a set of parents dealing with a handful of raucous, mostly ungrateful children – if there was a comedy spectrum, with something like Reno 911! on the lowbrow end and Arrested Development on the highbrow end, Malcolm in the Middle probably falls closer to a parody of Cops than a dysfunctional family in the O.C. (don’t call it that).

Or maybe it’s because we tend to remember last impressions the most when it comes to pop culture, and like all TV shows, Malcolm in the Middle reached its apex in the middle and started to go downhill the last two or three seasons. Whatever the reason, there are two things to remember: Malcolm in the Middle was – and still is – a lot better than you think and a binge-worthy show does not directly correlate with the quality of said show.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about Entertainment Weekly‘s egregious decision-making skills is that they apparently don’t know what a good binge-worthy show actually is. Here’s what my criteria are, and yeah, I’m making it all up as I go along.

First of all, a binge-worthy show has to actually be entertaining. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a comedy (The X-Files is a great example), but comedies are definitely the easiest to binge-watch (Family Guy, Parks and Recreation, and Trailer Park Boys, to name a few).

“Entertaining” means the show doesn’t even have to be that good. Are Storage Wars and Pawn Stars actually good, or are they just inexplicably fun to watch?

A binge-worthy show is also a show that does not require viewing from the beginning of the series – again, The X-Files and even something with a more defined story arc like The Office are good examples of shows you can go into at any point and enjoy.

Time is also a concern: an episode that is 22 minutes long feels much different than an episode that is twice that length. Shorter episodes equals more efficient binge-watching. It’s that simple.

Those are my criteria for now. Now tell me how exactly The Wire is a show anybody should be binge-watching!? You can hide behind the vague criteria of a “perfect situation” but I can’t imagine when there would ever be an appropriate time to binge-watch The Wire. Even The Sopranos, a show that maintains a steady pace right from the beginning, is very difficult to binge-watch; the most I’ve seen at once is about three to four episodes. And that was an exhausting process.

Breaking Bad is the one outlier: a show that is usually quite serious, goes for approximately 48 minutes per episode, and most definitely has a slow start. And yet, it’s really addicting. Like blue crystal meth, perhaps?

But let’s go back to Malcolm in the Middle. It’s certainly entertaining, with excellent acting (Jane Kaczmarek as the mom, Lois, and Bryan Cranston as the dad, Hal, are simply phenomenal – and they have the statue nominations to back it up), developed characters, and light material that makes it very easy to watch for hours at a time.

While the majority of the episodes revolve around some type of bad behavior caused by the boys or some kind of angst due to Malcolm’s genius status, sometimes the show mixes it up and gives us moments of really beautiful sweetness, usually in the form of Lois and Hal expressing their love for each other, or the boys getting revenge on Lois’ behalf.

Look, I started my Malcolm in the Middle marathon a couple of weeks ago and I’m almost done. Keep in mind every season has about 22 episodes. If that doesn’t quality as binge-worthy, I don’t know what does.

So what was Entertainment Weekly thinking? I guess you could say…

Life is unfair.

Madden NFL Mobile: Saying Farewell and Some Lasting Lessons

I’m finally irrevocably bored with the game. Maybe I’ll tune in next season, but in the meantime…

NOTE: THIS IS LAST YEAR’S GAME. FOR THIS YEAR’S (2015-2016), CLICK HERE.

Last time I talked about the game, I was unsure whether I could make more improvements to a team that was already loaded as heck. As it turns out, I did make some moves, and you can see the lineup here.

If you’ve been following my progress, you’ll notice the pictures you can see without clicking on any links seem to indicate an inferior team than even the one from my last post. Where’s Bruce Smith? Where are all the Positional Heroes?

Well, I got so bored, I destroyed that team and actually built a Falcons team and then the one you see now. That was fun for a little bit, especially combining Anthony Davis with Bruce Miller to create a formidable blocking duo for Faulk.

And the deep ball was never more fun to throw, as Megatron and Vincent Jackson went up and got it almost every single time.

But the game has gotten boring once again so I’m deleting it from my tablet. Maybe I’ll revisit next season. Maybe not (okay, I definitely will). Meanwhile, I have some final lessons I’ve learned through the process of suddenly playing with “weaker” teams after my peak team.

The Middle Linebacker

Both in real life and in the game, the MLB is one of the most important players on the field. Playing with shitty guys (who shall remain unnamed) was so awful, I ended up rebuying 99 Jack Lambert who has excellent play recognition.

A truly great middle linebacker will be a master controller, wreaking havoc against halfbacks and cleaning up any leaks on outside runs. While Lambert is slow and his coverage stats are poor, that play recognition is insanely important.

In the words of many players, “He always seems to be at the right place at the right time.”

His AH value is low right now too after the release of 99 MM Jack Lambert, so be sure to pick him up if you’ve got the coins to spare – he’ll absolutely be worth it.

Numbers CAN Lie

Speaking of stats, let’s talk about 99 Lawrence Taylor (standard, not MM). This is another player whose skills transcend what his stats imply, and the problem is that we don’t get to see all the stats in-game. You would have to go to a website like Muthead (linked above for my peak lineup), which shows complete stats.

And Lawrence Taylor is another beast. Blitzing is a finicky creature on the mobile game, and honestly it never seems to have the impact it should. But Taylor is a beast who slices through and around the offensive line at will and makes tackles very consistently. He is also inexplicably good at covering wide receivers and has gotten me a nice number of interceptions.

But deceptive stats are probably the most frustrating at the wide receiver positions. As it turns out, height is a huge factor (which I was skeptical of before), and a guy like Vincent Jackson is actually better than higher rated players for deep lobs. CIT (catch in traffic) is also very important, since most passes will be, well, in relatively tight coverage.

That means a guy like Andre Johnson is really good, especially for the slot position.

So remember: height and CIT are just as important as the regular catch rating, the jump rating, and things like speed and awareness.

Primary Secondary

It turns out your secondary might be more important than you ever realized. If you have a solid MLB and everybody else is decent, your front is pretty much fine. It’s your final line of defense – your cornerbacks and safeties – that have a bigger impact.

If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. After all, how many times do you give up long rushing touchdowns? With passing, all bets are off, and that’s why you need good cornerbacks and especially good safeties.

So yep, you guessed it: PH Harrison Smith and MM Ronnie Lott are two of the best bangs you can get for your buck, which is why I bought them again as well. Smith is an interception machine sent from the future to terrify today’s quarterbacks. Lott doesn’t get as many, although he’s a ferocious hitter and an excellent pursuit monster.

My cornerbacks aren’t the best, obviously, but I always wanted to try out Deangelo Hall (remember, I’m a Falcons fan). He gives up way more passes than his stats would imply – disappointing. I think picking good cornerbacks is both harder and easier than you think. Sometimes you just go with the “best” players like PH Vontae Davis and even PH Patrick Peterson.

But then you’ll see them give up yards on gimmick plays and question your choices. Just remember: even the best players make mistakes sometimes. You know, like MJ disappearing for three years of his prime to suck dick at baseball. That kind of thing.

Defensive Ends and Defensive Tackles: Meh

As I said above, your frontline is good if they’re consistent. I cannot emphasize this enough. I ended up with Honors JJ Watt and TOTY Mario Williams. They performed at a higher level than MM Bruce Smith and PH JPP. I can’t explain why – it just happened. Ditto for my defensive tackles… even the gold player, who always held on and made a number of big plays in the opponent’s backfield.

I suppose it’s important to point out once again that I don’t play H2H. But still, the discrepancy in performance between my peak lineup and my final lineup was negligible at best. So save your coins and focus on what’s important!

That’s That

So yeah, people. I’m done with the game. And yes, if I think of something else, I’ll update this post. Have fun playing and remember this absolute truth: GET JACK LAMBERT NOW!