Wednesday, 25 September 2013

NFL Week 4 preview

Welcome back readers

Last week in Week 3 I predicted 12 correct victors in the NFL picking home wins for the Dolphins (v Falcons), Panthers (v Giants) and Titans (v Chargers) as well as picking the Jets and Ravens in close encounters.  Much like everyone else I incorrectly selected the Packers and 49ers over the Bengals and Colts respectively. Regretfully I expected the Eagles to bounce back at home versus Andy Reid and his chefs, sorry Chiefs. 

The Eagles are really cocking up by playing too quickly and not giving their underappreciated defence not enough time to recuperate.  They allowed a competent QB in Alex Smith enough time to keep the ball and churn time off the clock culminating in a nine-minute TD drive in the fourth quarter.  The Chiefs had the ball for nearly 40 minutes and did not do many mistakes and got some big time stops and sacks from their defensive line.  The Chiefs may be good enough for a play-off spot if this continues, although they still have to play in their division.

In Week 4, two teams have byes the Packers (1-2) and the Panthers (1-2). The Packers need to get some people fit on offense and the Panthers will feel good following their shut out of the belittled Giants.

49ers at Rams
The Rams beat and drew with the 49ers last year, Jeff Fisher seemingly figuring out the read option system and stopping Kaepernick.  This is not a bad time to play the Niners who have lost two games consecutively and looked very sub-par in both defeats.  Defences have seemingly figured out Kaepernick and they have few weapons on offense.  The Rams have a still under-rated defence and Sam Bradford can expose some secondary worries by stretching the field with Chris Givens.
Prediction: Rams by 3

Ravens at Bills
EJ Manuel looked like the rookie he is at the Jets last week.  The Ravens won without Ray Rice but have a capable replacement in Bernard Pierce available, expect the Ravens to win this one easily but then we said that about the 49ers versus the Colts last week.
Prediction: Ravens by 7

Bengals at Browns
Brian Hoyer is not the second coming, but it is a start for Cleveland who traded Trent Richardson to the Colts last week.  Hoyer won his second professional start and hooked up well with Josh Gordon (another trade piece), although please note this was against the woeful Minnesota Vikings who travel to Wembley this week.  The Bengals resolve after taking a 14 point lead but then going 16 point behind to the Packers was most impressive, and that defence is making plays time and time again.  If they can make Aaron Rodgers look more journeyman, what will they do to Hoyer.
Prediction: Bengals by 10

Bears at Lions
A NFC North smash mouth encounter.  Hopefully the Lions will have Reggie Bush back as this will be vital to their outcome of this tie. The Bears defence is back to its illustrious best with return TDs for Major Wright and Julius Peppers; and Jay Cutler is playing solid with Matt Forte getting good numbers also.  This is a battle of two stud recievers to, Brandon Marshall v Calvin Johnson.
Prediction: Bears by 6

Giants at Chiefs
The Chiefs are on a roll and making mistake-free football.  Alex Smith secures the ball better than anyone, Jamaal Charles is getting runs and passes.  The D-line suffocated Michael Vick last week, sacking him six times.  Eli Manning has been sacked nearly a dozen times already and intercepted nearly the same number; the Chiefs should overpower this transitional Giants team
Prediction: Chiefs by 9

Cardinals at Buccaneers
The word is that rookie Mike Glennon is going to get the start with the Bucs finally fed up with Josh Freeman.  This is unfair of Freeman, as it was not his two defensive mistakes in the first two games to leave them winless.  The Cardinals also have a good defence and the return of Rashard Mendenhall will pay dividends in this one.
Prediction: Cardinals by 3

Colts at Jaguars
The Colts are not a dumb team, and it is doubtful they would succumb to the dumb Jaguars on the road.  They now have the one-two punch of Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw to compliment Andrew Luck's peerless throwing.
Prediction: Colts by 7

Seahawks at Texans
Seattle did well to get through the banana skin of the Jaguars last week, but a lot of starters sat the fourth quarter.  This will definitely be more tricky, with the Texans offensive options.  However, it comes down to defences and the Seahawks will flat out bully DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson, if his concussion clears up.
Prediction: Seahawks by 4

Steelers at Vikings (at Wembley Stadium)
Two 0-3 teams headline the first International Series game at Wembley Stadium.  The Steelers did show some life on offence in the defeat to the Bears on Sunday night, and the Vikings have been scoring points but not winning games.  Rushers have had joy versus the Steelers so if AP can get his wheels going he could be the difference maker on this occasion as he has been so many times before. But do not expect a classic
Prediction: Vikings by 3

Jets at Titans
The Titans defence has impressed many, and Geno Smith underthrows and forces some throws at times. Jake Locker like Alex Smith is making few mistakes and Chris Johnson is due a big rushing day, perhaps against the weakest part of the Jets defence.
Prediction: Titans by 5

Redskins at Raiders
RG3 showed signs of life in the loss to the Lions last week.  He threw better and stronger off his legs and it looks like his legs are getting back to match sharpness.  The Raiders had some joy versus the Broncos scoring three touchdowns but Darren McFadden rushed for only 9 yards total. The Redskins may have found the game to turn the corner.
Prediction: Redskins by 3

Eagles at Broncos
In this game, you will see the difference between a high tempo offence and a high powered offence.  Peyton Manning is throwing touchdowns for fun, spreading the love from game to game. Eric Decker had 133 receiving yards and one TD reception coupled with one for Wes Welker and DeMaryius Thomas each.  The Eagles need to even out the time of possession otherwise Manning will control the clock and score at will, which is what he is doing anyway.
Prediction: Broncos by 10

Cowboys at Chargers
Would like to think the Chargers can win this one, but they are suffering injuries at inopportune times.  The Cowboys, however, are doing okay with Des Bryant looking to fulfil that immense potential he contains and the defence doing okay.
Prediction: Cowboys by 6

Patriots at Falcons
This is a huge encounter for both teams.  The Patriots will want to maintain the 100% record in case the Dolphins lose on Monday night and the Falcons dare not fall three games behind the Saints should they triumph versus the Dolphins.  Two big offences go head to head.  Tom Brady looked to have clicked with his receivers better this week and there is a certain tight end, Rob Gronkowski, expected to start at last this week and the defence of the Patriots has been a nuisance all season thus far.
Prediction: Patriots by 4

Dolphins at Saints
A great match up for MNF with the impressive Dolphins playing the seemingly restored Saints. Both teams are 3-0 so someone is going to go home unhappy.  The Saints have the better defence plus that raucous home crowd as their 12th man; although they need to get pressure to Ryan Tannehill who continues to prove the doubters wrong week on week.
Prediction: Saints by 4

Finally, can I extend a pleasant thank you to the Americarnage (@Americarnage) crew who gave me a very surprising plug for my blog on their latest podcast.  Many thanks Gents and I look forward to meeting up with you all soon.

Follow me @JamieGarwood

Meet Daniel Johnson...Part 1

"In the future, everybody is going to be a director. Somebody's got to
live a real life so we have something to make a movie about"
- Cameron Crowe
Welcome and thank you for taking the time to read this the first part of a series of interviews with the young, up and coming director Daniel Johnson.  Johnson has been making short films for quite some time over the last ten years, and is currently in the process of finalising his web series, Sally the Life Coach starring former Coronation Street actress and current member of the Strictly Come Dancing series Natalie Gumede.  The series is scheduled to go live in the early part of 2014.
Dan afforded the opportunity to talk to him at length about many aspects of his film-making career, but as one singing nun once said, 'Let's start at the very beginning, its a very good place to start'. I started by asking where did Dan get his passion for film-making from?

I don't really know! I've always loved stories, I was a big reader as a kid. I remember my passion for film coming more in my teens; when I started watching films at a ridiculous rate.
What was the first film you remember seeing and thinking I can do that?
I actually think it's the bad films that make you think 'I can do better than that!'.  But I think with the films I really loved growing up, it was more an aspirational thing-- I'd think, 'I'd love to be able to create something that makes people feel something the way that film made me feel.'  The films that make me want to make films are the great ones, or at least ones I consider great -- films that resonate with an audience, that leave you thinking about them for days after.
What did you do to enhance your film education? Did you go to a film school?
I watched films and re-watched films and wrote films and made films and then did all those things a hundred times over.  I'm self taught in the sense that I have very little in the way of filmic education. I went to college at a time when the industry was going through a digital revolution, but they had us shooting on S-VHS and editing analogue. It was a really wasteful time for me, or would have been, but I kept making films in my own time and got to build contacts through my own work.  The college improved a lot in the years after I left, they were just behind things at that particular moment.  I got accepted at Bournemouth Uni but decided it wasn't for me. I started a film degree in London but quit after two weeks, I hated it.  Its strange because a bunch of people from my course applied to me years later to be runners on my productions. There are no guarantees in this industry, the most important thing is how you educate yourself and who you work with.
What was the first script you wrote?
I wrote a 50 page script called 'Growing Up'. It was a coming of age comedy drama about a bunch of small town kids who were reaching 18 and trying to figure their lives out.  It was pretty crap but my heart was in the right place.

Who are your major influences in writing and/or directing?
I like writer/directors who tell personal stories in their own unique ways; so in that respect I like Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Cameron Crowe and Woody Allen. They all have styles that are unmistakable. And they've alll made crap films too. But I much prefer a well-intentioned bad personal movie than a giant Hollywood film that dies in a puddle of intentional mediocrity.
Do you have a favourite film, or a film you keep going back to time and time again to remind yourself of your passion for cinema?
Nearly any Chaplin film. Or a Cameron Crowe film like 'Almost Famous' or Jerry Maguire'.
What's your favourite cinema? And most memorable cinema viewing experience with a full audience?
I love the Angelika in New York, and also the Film Forum. In London I like the obvious ones like the Prince Charles and the Screen on the Green.  I also really like the main screen in the Cineworld Haymarket, it's big and old.  I think the best screenings are on opening nights, when everyone is massively excited. Unfortunately I don't go to these much now, as they're not my type of movies but I think if there's a film like Harry Potter coming out, or a superhero movie, those audiences are massively energised and it becomes a communal experience.

What movies do you avoid and just generally avoid?
I find things that are very genre specific hard to watch. Like if something is clearly horror or sci-fi, I tend to get bored because those films are ruled by the conventions of their genre. And even if they break those rules, they're still doing it in reaction to an expectation.  I prefer films that feel kind of genreless, they just wash over you and tell a story, like 'Almost Famous' or 'The Apartment'. Unfortunately these types of films are a rarity..
I hope this portion of the interview has been of interest to you.  If you would like to see more of Daniel Johnson's short films then please seek out his website and follow him on twitter @danieljohnsonuk
Stay tuned for more interviews with Daniel Johnson in the weeks to come all the way up to the release of Sally The Life Coach. Watch the trailer here

Salma - DocHouse preview

DocHouse returns this September for a special one-off screening of Salma, Kim Longinotto’s hugely anticipated documentary on a Tamil poet, at the Rich Mix Cinema on Thursday 26th September.

When Salma was 13, her parents took her out of school and locked her away in a room with a single window. After 9 years she gave in to pressure to agree to an arranged marriage and was released from her house arrest into another kind of prison, in the home of her new husband's family.

Throughout her desperate years of confinement, Salma poured out her anguish writing poetry, which she sneaked out of the house, eventually getting a notebook into the hands of an enthusiastic publisher. Against the odds, Salma became one of the best known Tamil poets and her newfound fame helped her start on the path to freedom.

Following Salma on a trip back to her village, renowned British director Kim Longinotto (Divorce Iranian Style, 1998; Sisters in Law, 2005; Rough Aunties, 2008) paints a nuanced portrait of an extraordinary, resilient woman. Salma has hopes for a different life for the next generation of girls, but as she witnesses, familial ties run deep, and change happens very slowly.

The film is a wonderful documentary that typically shows us a window to the world rarely shown, and in light of the recent rape trials in India it is imperative that this continued marginalisation of women in Islamic culture is addressed and change is brought about with equality for all.  Salma is one of those campaigners hoping for this change, change your cinema going habits and go see this vital film document from one of Britain's best documentarians.

Kim Longintto is renowned for films that highlight the plight of female victims of oppression or discrimination; her editor and long-time collaborator, Ollie Huddleston, will join us for a Q&A after the film.

SALMA+ Q&A with editor Ollie Huddleston
Thursday 26th September|
Rich Mix Cinema |8pm | £7 (£5 conc)

A trailer can be viewed here

In praise of...Paul Gascoigne

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Following on from the latest documentary into the latest sorry chapter of Paul Gascoigne's ongoing battle with off-field demons involving alcohol and substance abuse; this writer felt it necessary to correct the balance and remind readers of why Mr. Gascoigne is held in such esteem by writers, fans and now gossip columnists.

For many, Gascoigne or Gazza as he became to be affectionately known, is the once in a generation player and talent who transcends the sport he plays in, becoming known to millions of households, bringing new supporters to the sport.  He follows in the footsteps of Pele, Cruyff, Zidane and now the modern day duo of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

This is not to state that Gascoigne is as great as those aforementioned players, far from it.  Yet he remains the most gifted player from the British Isles since that other player who had a drinking problem, George Best.

That is why every time I talk about Gascoigne in glowing terms with my father, the question is asked 'How good was the Belfast boy?' and how sad to hear that Best wasted the peak years of his career when he was early to mid 1930s with his desire for booze and birds instead of scoring goals and winning trophies.

In this day and age, that is why a player like Ryan Giggs should be applauded because he has maintained such a high standard of performance and application for 20 years and over a 1000 games.  Giggs' resume of trophies is one of immense achievement.  What did Paul Gascoigne win apart from the affection of millions? An FA Cup winner's medal for which he could not collect and a Scottish Premier League title with Glasgow Rangers.

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My point though is that Gascoigne's first great purple patch, late 1988 to May 1991 with Tottenham was one of the most amazing periods of football performance witnessed by this writer.  Being a Spurs season ticket holder was helpful and perhaps a bit myopic to ignore such talent elsewhere in the league at Liverpool (Barnes, Rush, Beardsley); yet did any one player carry the weight of responsibility with such blasé nature and passion as Gascoigne.

Being a passionate individual helped Gascoigne when he moved to London - you do wonder what might have happened if he had gone to Manchester United and worked with Alex Ferguson, how many trophies would they had won together - yet Gascoigne's weekly highlight package for Tottenham helped him get on the plane to Italia'90 when his tears in the semi-final versus Germany endeared him to the nation and made football cool again. 

Whilst it was England's best finals performance since the 1966 World Cup and the team had the goals of Gary Lineker, the inspirational defence of Mark Wright without the industry and guile of Gascoigne, England might not have made the knockout stages.  His free-kick deliveries to Mark Wright and David Platt versus Egypt and Belgium respectively in the dying minutes of both games, helped save English blushes.  Not forgetting his through ball to Lineker in the quarter-final versus Cameroon that dissected the defence and led to the goalkeeper upended Lineker from which he converted the winning penalty in extra time.  Gascoigne along with Lothar Matthaus was the stand out performer of the tournament. 

His first game of the new season was a home game versus Derby at White Hart Lane, where he scored a treasure chest of three long range efforts all past his England team-mate Peter Shilton.  However, injuries became a problem throughout the season; ankle knocks, hamstring strains caused Terry Venables to manage him effectively.  The FA Cup run was systemic of his handling of Gascoigne as performances at home to Oxford, away at Portsmouth, home to Notts County and subsequently the semi-final against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium, made it Spurs' year.

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Against Portsmouth, Spurs trailed 1-0 at half-time yet Gascoigne scored twice including a rare header to win 2-1.  Against County, Gascoigne's hamstring was so bad he played virtually on one leg but his mere presence again turned around a half-time deficit. Then the semi-final when Gascoigne won the game after 4 minutes with his memorable free-kick, that every knew he would score.  Again injury meant he did play the whole game but his influence was never in doubt.

The final became less about Brian Clough v Venables as Cloughie v Gazza as the main event.  Yet as well known, Gascoigne's self-destruction came to the surface as his two assaults on Garry Parker (which was not cautioned) and then Gary Charles (again not cautioned) led to him being stretchered off with the first serious knee ligament damage of his career.  Spurs conceded from the subsequent free-kick and looked like they had a mountain to climb.

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Yet this is where I thank Gascoigne the most.  Spurs were a lesser team without him undoubtedly, and yet they stuck at it despite having a Lineker penalty saved by Mark Crossley and a legitimate goal chalked off incorrectly for offside.  A team that contained such names as Steve Sedgley, Justin Edinburgh and Vinny Samways played out of their skins.  The industry of Paul Stewart elevated the team to better things culminating in Stewart's second-half equaliser and subsequent Des Walker own goal under pressure from captain Gary Mabbutt.

Who knows what would have happened if Gazza had been fit and played the whole game.  Yet for me his absence brought to the fore for me the ideal and ethos of the team ethic in the sport, no one man is greater than the rest of the team.  A team is a sum of all its parts, not made up of just four or five good parts.  Tottenham gave me one of the greatest days of my life and they did it without their best player, should not that team be remembered with more fondness than just the team that won it without Gazza.

Monday, 23 September 2013

College Football Week 4 review

This writer had had a very long day on Saturday involving travelling in a propeller plane across water, being subjected to a Bosnian national telling me about his way of life ('I shit you not') and then being stuck on an island enveloped by fog with little optimism of getting back to the mainland.  Eventually I got home at 9.30pm following a 17 hour day of memorable experiences.

Upon my return home, I switched on ESPN to get a College football update and the first two scorelines I saw left me disheartened and disconsolate for the sport in general.  College football is all about equal competition and a general rise in challenges throughout the season.

The first two scores were the Ohio State and Louisville victories.  Both were blowouts to the nth degree.  Ohio State beat Florida A&M 76-0 at home, Louisville beat Florida International 72-0. 

It is annoying how these stellar institutions book these silly opponents into there schedule.  In week 1, FCS schools can catch a bigger fish cold due to teams not having the luxury of pre-season.  Now in week 4, schemes and plays are learnt.  Players are up to match speed and full fitness and then the lambs of these two Florida schools are led to the slaughter on the road as these bigger schools run rough shod over all of them.

Ohio State are ranked #4 and will remain #4 because they won by so much no team at 5 or 6 can leapfrog them and they cannot rise unless a 3 team is upset which is unlikely as the majority of most teams in the Top 10 played weak opponents and at home.  In fact #3 Clemson went on the road and beat NC State 26-14 led by Tajh Boyd.  This is a good road win for Clemson, who will be in the championship game if they run the table.

Alabama hosted Colorado State at home.  Colorado State are woeful, and they are forced to travel cross-country.  For the Crimson Tide, it looks good to play a Pac-12 side considering the #2 side in the country are the Oregon Ducks. They won 31-6, far from the slaughter expected but what purpose does it serve.

Florida State #8 hosted Bethune-Cook and won 54-6; now I am sure Jameis Winston has had more stressful games of Madden than what he experienced in this game.  Florida State will remain the 2nd best side in the ACC behind Clemson.

Credit then to Stanford hosting a conference rival Arizona State, they built up an early lead and won 42-28 to gain the first conference victory; although they did concede three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the game look closer than it actually was.

Other examples, Miami demolished Savannah State 77-7 and Baylor won 70-7 versus Louisiana-Monroe, Washington beat Idaho State 56-0.

This was a bad weekend for College Football, even the big game Florida versus Tennessee which was 31-17 was overshadowed by the unfortunate sight of Gators QB Jeff Driskel leaving the field and being done for the season with a broken lower left leg in the first quarter. His back-up Tyler Murphy did the job effectively, but the SEC East may well lose a contender.  Will Muschamp was understandably gutted for Driskel and his team.

Texas A&M beat Southern Methodist 42-13. Johnny Manziel threw for 244 yards and ran for 102 yards on 12 carries for 2 touchdowns.

This week suffered from the lack of a marquee match-up inter-conference battle and even the lack of the idle Oregon Ducks made it slightly less fun to watch the highlights.  In Week 5, things are looking up:
#6 LSU who beat Auburn led by Jeremy Hill's career day travel to #9 Georgia who had their wobbles versus North Texas before Aaron Murray threw for 400+ yards
#14 Oklahoma at #22 Notre Dame; can the Irish defence contain the explosive Sooners attackers
#21 Ole Miss at #1 Alabama; another solid test for the Tide but home advantage should be enough for them
#23 Wisconsin at #4 Ohio State; the first real test for the Buckeyes who seek perfection again this season.
#2 Oregon are at home to California; over or under a 40 point victory?

Follow me @JamieGarwood

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

NFL 2013 Week 3 preview

Okay bit late in the season, but I intend to preview every week of the NFL season with some general opinion, fantasy advice and picks:

Chiefs at Eagles
Andy Reid makes his return to Philadelphia with his Chiefs currently 2-0 following their narrow victory over the luckless Dallas Cowboys.  The Eagles lost at home to the San Diego Chargers due to giving a quality quarterback like Philip Rivers too much time. They gave the Chargers just under two minutes to get into field goal range, so maybe Chip Kelly should buy himself a watch instead of a new playbook.
However, I feel the Eagles will bounce back as they will not commit as many penalties as they did on Sunday which chalked off two big touchdowns.  The Chiefs will keep it tight and will rely upon wide receiver play as the Eagles have stopped the run pretty well thus far.
Prediction: Eagles by 3

Packers at Bengals
This could conceivably be the match-up of the weekend as two very highly rated teams will duke it out.  Again it comes down to run defence, can the Packers stop the one-two punch of the LawFirm and Giovanni Bernard which they have done thus far; they stopped Alfred Morris and plugged up Frank Gore in week 1 forcing Kaepernick to throw for 400 yards.
However, the other match-up is which quarterback do you want. Rodgers or Dalton? And if you even bothered reading the second name then you are a Bengals sympathiser.  Rodgers threw for 400 yards and did so easily utilising all of his receivers - Nelson, Cobb, Jones, Finley.
Prediction: Packers by 6

Rams at Cowboys
The Cowboys did some silly mistakes and had their usual mix of bad luck yet Tony Romo could and maybe should have won, however, the defence is still looking good and should do enough against the Rams who went 21-0 down on the road to the Falcons before a late fightback led by Tavon Austin's first touchdown receptions.
Sam Bradford is solid and if he has less turnovers than Romo, then the Rams might run them close. Yet for me home field advantage is the key to this yet it will be close.
Prediction: Cowboys by 2

Chargers at Titans
The Titans are on an upward curve and will wonder how they let a division victory turn into a defeat at the Texans who nabbed them in OT thanks to DeAndre Hopkins. The Chargers bounced back from their own disaster versus the Texans with the impressive road victory versus the Eagles.  So for the right to be named the best team to lose to the Texans this season, we have this intriguing head to head.  The Titans defence may hold the key to this as they have made both Big Ben and Matt Schaub look pretty naïve in selection process.  Its also the Titans home opener so for me the Titans should get a big day from Chris Johnson and if you have Kendall Wright in fantasy, seek him out.
Prediction: Titans by 4

Browns at Vikings
It has been announced that Brian Hoyer will start for the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.  Take a breathe and read that. The Browns think they can beat a steady side like the Vikings with a third string quarterback, and a team that cannot defend the run well face the number one running back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson.  Christian Ponder has a deep weapon in Jerome Simpson, but if he does what he does and does not commit turnovers this could be a big win for the Vikings.
Prediction: Vikings by 7

Buccaneers at Patriots
The Bucs are probably the most unlucky 0-2 team in the NFL, and it might not get easier as they travel to Fortress Foxboro to face the undefeated Patriots (I am a New England fan if you didn't know). However, the Patriots barely got past the Jets in a rain-soaked affair with question marks over the receiving core who impressed so much in training camp.  Word is that Rob Gronkowski will be returning this week having trained this week.  The Bucs threw away victory over the Saints at home much like they lost on the road to the Jets.  So the Bucs lost to the Jets, the Jets lost to the Pats. The Pats should beat the Bucs.
Prediction: Pats by 7

Cardinals at Saints
The Saints are 2-0 but not been that convincing, still requiring all the components to click to the greatest effect.  The defence has improved and they can win ugly.  The Cardinals upset the Lions at home and have a lot of highly skilled players, however, they are only individuals and not much of a team at the moment.  Expect the Saints D to bully and hassle Carson Palmer to numerous turnovers.
Prediction: Saints by 9

Lions at Redskins
The Redskins are in trouble, RG3 is not the same person or player at the moment.  He is reluctant to run and is not throwing well, with Morris not getting much joy from his running game.  The Lions have the weapons and a lot depends on the presence of Reggie Bush and if he starts this Sunday.  Once Bush, departed the Arizona game on Sunday, that allowed the Cardinals to double team Calvin Johnson without the worry of a backfield presence who could punish them in Bush. The Lions should win this but it could be a high scoring affair due to the number of mistakes possible.
Prediction: Lions by 3

Giants at Panthers
The Panthers are unlucky also, they somehow lost to the Bills (who still can improve), and the Giants are also 0-2.  The Giants have the weapons, yet I remember Cam Newton ripping apart a Giants defence in his rookie year.  Newton has not been able to do that yet this season, we await it with bated breath.  There is no alarm for the Giants just yet, but maybe Tom Coughlin could be on a hotter seat if they succumb to this inferior opponent.  This is a tough one to call for me, my mind says Giants based on player level yet the Panthers could quite well surprise in this one.
Prediction: Panthers by 2

Texans at Ravens
The Ravens may be without Ray Rice (hip) but have a capable replacement in Bernard Pierce and have a receiving core with rookie Marlon Brown looking strong.  The 2-0 Texans have been far from convincing, the defence is stellar but have conceded 20+ points in two games and could be without Andre Johnson (concussion) although DeAndre Hopkins offers hope.
Prediction: Ravens by 5

Falcons at Dolphins
The Dolphins are turning heads, thanks to the consistency of Ryan Tannehill and the defence who shut down Andrew Luck and avoided a fourth quarter comeback from him.  They are also getting plays from rookie Lamar Millar and Clay who had a huge receiving day.  The Falcons will definitely be without Steven Jackson for 4-6 weeks with no obvious back-up and have concerns over Roddy White's high ankle sprain meaning more work for Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.  The Dolphins are a team I have picked against in both encounters thus far.  Not this time, Dolphins for the upset.
Prediction: Dolphins by 6

Bills at Jets
Both of these teams are better than people thought they would be.  I knew the Bills would be better than thought and were unlucky to not beat the Patriots in week 1; EJ Manuel got the job done versus the Panthers last week.  This week at the Meadowlands will be a running back battle as the Bills' CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson take on the Jets' Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory.  This will be low scoring like both Jets encounters so far, and I think the Jets' upward curve is just that little higher if Geno Smith avoids a bonehead interception when in field goal range as he had last week
Prediciton: Jets by 2

Colts at 49ers
Its the master versus the pupil as for the first time, Jim Harbaugh faces off against Andrew Luck for the first time since they both left Stanford.  Harbaugh has one of the better NFL teams at his disposal and Luck will get there eventually.  The 49ers need to bounce back after the humiliating defeat in Seattle, and need to get back to basics with Kaepernick, hence make him throw from the pocket and run second or scramble.  The Colts will score touchdowns they always do and will always make it close due to their spirit, however I feel the Niners will want to make a statement this week.
Prediction: 49ers by 10

Jaguars at Seahawks
The best team in the NFL versus the worst team in the NFL.  The pitiful Jaguars average 5.5 points through two games and the quarterback has been sacked 11 times total.  Not good statistics when facing the best defence in the league, at home, where they are unbeatable.  There could be an after the Lords Mayor show feel for the 12th man fans but Pete Carroll could easily run up the score against this opposition.  Question: Which will score more fantasy points this week? Russell Wilson or the Seahawks defence
Prediction: Seahawks by 17

Bears at Steelers
Sunday Night on Channel 4, brings us the rampant Bears on the road at the declining Steelers.  Jay Cutler still has turnovers but has won two close games and the defence is doing okay, whereas the Steelers defence is depleted, the D-line cannot stop the run nor pressurise the quarterback.  The Bears have enough weapons in the backfield and downfield to make this sorry Steelers look shameful.
Prediction: Bears by 9

Raiders at Broncos
Who at ESPN thought this would be a good game for Monday Night Football? A divisional battle yes, but the Broncos are rampant and whilst Tyrelle Pryor offers promise at the position, he is nowhere near to the quarterback status of Peyton Manning who has 11 touchdowns already through two games.  Muck like the previous two selections, this could be one way traffic and more than likely another double digit victory for the Broncos.  However, a word of warning, the Super Bowl is won in February not September.
Prediction: Broncos by 12

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood and leave me your comments

Monday, 16 September 2013

Kelly + Victor

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Kieran Evans' first fictional film following a career in documentary cinema is one of startling vision and originality that renews faith in young British film-making and bodes well for the future of the director and cast.

Evans adapts Niall Griffiths novel of the same name, about a young couple who meet each other by chance on a nightclub dancefloor and end up becoming a couple experiencing a new found liberation by way of sexual freedom in each other.

Evans' work in documentary holds him in good stead, as his keen visual eye for his surroundings is helped by his use of Liverpool and its nearby locales as a vital part of the piece and is as much a character as either Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Julian Morris).  This writer has family who lives in Liverpool, and was not aware of such beauty in Merseyside such as when Victor and his mates sit in the countryside waiting for a drop on drugs; or when Kelly and Victor sit near a lake in beautiful sunshine, so kudos to Evans and his cinematographer, Piers McGrail.

Campbell-Hughes and Morris are both excellent in the leading roles.  Kelly who was a character somewhat underwritten by Griffiths in the original source novel, becomes an altogether more intriguing person owing to the restraint showed by Campbell-Hughes.  She morphs from timid female to an altogether stronger person during intercourse, finding herself during the act and certainly wants to put her mark on her behaviour.  Morris gives a real strength and resilience to the role of Victor, who is sometimes put in a difficult position and yet you sympathise Victor and the rough decisions he has to make.

The two actors also cleverly reflect the disillusionment and alienation suffered by many young twenty-somethings in the UK currently; neither have a solid career in employment, not close to family but closer to friends, have burnt bridges with past friends due to serious acts and yet yearn for a connection with someone in terms of intimacy.  This film makes the point of stating that in this digital anonymous age, the closest you can be to someone is by sexual contact.  So often in film, young men are seen to be seeking women as sexual conquests, for Victor he is a young man who wants to be held, comforted and loved - a rare thing portrayed in cinema.

Whilst some of the subject matter may leave a bad taste in the mouth of some, the journey of the film and the chemistry of the two leads is worth watching.  It is rare of a British film to be so brave in its portrayal of sex in a young couple (not since Lynne Ramsey or Michael Winterbottom's Nine Songs) with such candour and honesty, but also the emotional complexity of a physical relationship can have. 

Do we seek sex as a release from the mundanity of the real world and do we become a different person when we return to a primal role?  Evans is not afraid to ask these questions and for that, we should embrace this new talent accordingly.  Seek it out, it will leave its mark; as will the utterly brilliant soundtrack.

Kelly + Victor is out on DVD on Monday 13th January, and Kieran Evans was nominated for Best Outstanding Newcomer at the BAFTAs

College Football Week 3 review

Thanks to the wonders of scheduling, we had the marquee match-up of the season in just the third week of the season.  The walking hyperbole or is it hype machine, Johnny Manziel, whose performance on the road at Alabama helped him win the Heisman Trophy this year welcomed the National Champions to College Station, Texas; as the #6 Texas A&M Aggies hosted #1 Alabama on Saturday.

The game that was hyped to the hilt for once did not disappoint as the Crimson Tide remained unbeaten winning 49-42 on the road to stay the No.1 team in the country.  Yet the Aggies still put up a lot of questions of this weaker Bama defence, as wide receiver Mike Evans had 7 catches for 279 yards and 1 touchdown.

The questions of the defence come down to the giving up of 628 total yards (464 passing yards by Manziel), and yet they won by a touchdown owing to A&M having one more turnover.  AJ McCarron marshalled the offence 20-29, 334 yards and 4 TDs with TJ Yeldon having 149 yards off of 25 carries.  Yeldon has filled the hole left by Eddie Lacy. Yet it is the winning mentality of the Crimson Tide who retained enough players from the Championship side to retain a cohesiveness, whilst the offensive line improved allowing McCarron time to throw; the defence needs to step up in later contests down the stretch - Zach Mettenberger must be licking his lips at the prospect of facing this team.

The SEC is fast becoming the highest scoring conference helped by teams like the Aggies; the Tide and LSU Tigers so often renowned for being professional and getting the job done, are now scoring 40 plus points regularly and this is good for the product of College Football.

One reason for the high scoring must be a reaction to the Oregon Ducks and the Chip Kelly offense; the Ducks continued their march with a 59-14 home victory over the SEC's Tennessee Volunteers led by Marcus Mariota throwing for a career-high 456 yards and four touchdowns.  Amazingly, the Volunteers scored on their first possession, but where you worried?  Mariota is my favourite for the Heisman Trophy, if they remain undefeated then the sheer volume of points and dynamic ability will seal it for him.

The Big 10's big noise are the Ohio State Buckeyes who went undefeated last year but were ineligible for bowl selection.  Eligibility is available this year and they intend to make it count with so many players returning. On Saturday, they travelled to California and won 52-34 with fifth year quarterback Kenny Guiton getting his first start and leading them to victory with 21-32, 276 yards and 4 TDs.  In comparison to Braxton Miller who gives you options on the run, Guiton is a better pocket passer and gives time for receivers to get separation and hits his targets.

Florida State Seminoles decimated the Nevada Wolf Pack 62-7 at home, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston went 15-18 for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The Seminoles along with the Louisville Cardinals (who won 27-13 at Kentucky) are attempting to make the ACC get noticed and the play of Winston and Cardinals' Teddy Bridgewater, who is projected as the top quarterback in the upcoming draft, are turning heads.

Another QB who could be drafted high will be UCLA's Brett Hundley who led his Bruins to a supreme road victory at the #23 Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Hundley led his team from an 18 point deficit to win comfortably 41-21 thanks to a 28 point third quarter.  Hundley went 16-24, 294 yards for 2 TDs with help from RB Jordan James who had 105 yards off 22 carries, Hundley had 61 yards off 16 carries.  Hundley's leadership is vital to the Bruins going forward and they need to keep winning for the eventual meeting with the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12.

And poor old Texas Longhorns, lost for a second consecutive week, to go 1-2 for the first time since Mack Brown's debut season.  They lost 44-23 at home to Ole Miss Rebels (who next play Alabama in two weeks time) thanks to Jeff Scott 164 yards off 19 carries who ran at will against the struggling Longhorns, who have a problem but seem to have no idea of stopping it.

What to watch in Week 4:
Tajh Boyd and #3 Clemson return to national stage on Thursday night at North Carolina State; On Saturday, upset alert as Purdue (who nearly beat Notre Dame) travel to #24 Wisconsin; Alabama are at home to Colorado State (snooze); #23 Arizona State at #5 Stanford should be a great match-up and close contest and Auburn travel to #8 LSU for a typical SEC slugfest.

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Monday, 2 September 2013

2013 FCB Week 1 review

And we are off.  The race for the final BCS National Championship before the inaugural four team play-off next year has began in earnest.

Week One in College Football is a rare monster, not as traditional as Opening Day in Baseball, not as glamorous as week 1 of the NFL season yet due to the ESPN monster it is just as hyped an event.  These are the stars of the NFL future, although amateur by definition they are as feted as former college now NFL stars Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

Last year was Year One of Johnny Football and the huge rotation of Jadeveon Clowney's monster hit in January led to him being earmarked as the next Lawrence Taylor or Ray Lewis.  Fittingly, it was Clowney and his side, South Carolina Gamecocks who opened up the College Football season at home to North Carolina Tar Heels.  The Gamecocks scored on their opening drive, a huge 65 yard TD pass from Conor Shaw to Shaq Roland gave the #7 ranked Gamecocks a lead they never relinquished, winning 27-10.  The Tar Heels offered little on offence, a blessing considering Clowney's sub-par performance where he had no sacks and only three first half tackles.  An upset stomach was apparently too blame, although the humidity at the 6pmEST kick-off could be as much at fault.

National Champions, Alabama Crimson Tide opened on neutral territory at the Georgia Dome versus the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Although the scoreline looks lopsided 35-10, the Tide were helped by Christian Jones scoring a kickoff return TD, a punt return TD and a reception TD for 256 total yards.  The Hokies exposed a new offensive line for Alabama who lost three four-year starters to the draft this year; they packed the box with eight defenders prompting confusion and panic for QB AJ McCarron who finished with 10-23, 110 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.  The same packed box allowed RB TJ Yeldon 75 yards of the 96 total rushing yards.

They may be National Champions but even champions have some weaknesses that were exposed and need rectifying before next week's huge match-up versus Texas A&M Aggies and Johnny Manziel.

Following on from his NCAA squabble about signing for paid autographs, Manziel was punished with having to sit out the first half of their home opener versus Rice.  At half time the Aggies needed him as they held a slender 28-21 lead over the unfancied Rice Owls.  Manziel answered the call with three TD passes to help them come out 52-31 victors.  Manziel seems to have this aura about him off the field which cannot be put into question in spite of his off-the-field behaviour.

Oregon may have lost Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles, but for new Head Coach Mark Helfrich it is the same old story as they decimated Nicholls State College 66-3 with three players having 100+ yard games rushing including QB Marcus Mariota had 113 yards in addition to his 234 passing yards.  The Ducks had 772 total offensive yards and remain favourites for the Pac 12 title this season with Mariota an under the radar Heisman selection.

Fresh for bowl eligibility this season, Urban Meyer hopes to lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to the National Championship after going undefeated last season.  They opened on Saturday with a 40-20 home victory over Buffalo Bulls.  Braxton Miller went 15-22, 178 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT but the impressive performance was RB Jordan Hall who had 2 TDs for 159 yards off 21 carries. However, there were moments of worry for the Buckeyes that many better teams would have taken advantage of.

However, that is why many ranked sides open up against easy opposition to give them the opportunity to iron out any creases on both sides of the ball in a real game time situation.  Some choose to open with a tougher opponent such as LSU Tigers who played Big 12 TCU at Cowboys Stadium and proved victorious 37-27 for a big non-conference win before the conference slate begins.  QB Zach Mettenberger went 16-32 for 251 yards, 1 TD and crucially no turnovers for the senior man, as his side had 448 total yards.  TCU led by Gary Patterson have been touted as a side who can step up and mix with the big boys of the SEC, whilst they did themselves justice they only had 259 total yards so to lose by only 10 points was some marker of their intentions and the grit in the side.  This close encounter was the game of the weekend.

And just behind was Georgia 35 Clemson 38 with two good QBs Aaron Murray and Taj Boyd trading blows but with Boyd coming out on top.  Clemson reside in the ACC but are now in the Championship talk after defeating an SEC side.  Boyd - who along with Teddy Bridgewater (see below) is NFL bound - had 270 yards passing and 3 TDs and also ran for two close to goal TDs for five in total.  Murray had 323 yards passing but one crucial INT with no TDs; and again he came up short in the big game versus a ranked opponent being sacked four times in the process. The Tigers of Clemson made sure their roar was heard on Saturday, expect them to replace Georgia as the #5 ranked side in country come Monday with the new rankings.

Sunday night, another Heisman favourite Teddy Bridgewater the No.1 ranked QB prospect for the NFL draft in 2014 started his campaign with his Louisville Cardinals as they attempt to seek perfection to get to the National Championship.  They made short work of the Ohio Bobcats winning 49-7 at home with Bridgewater going 355 passing yards and 5 TDs.  Louisville play in the ACC, a weak conference in comparison to the SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12, they also have a weak schedule so need to run the table and hope teams lose games to their advantage.

Crocodile Shoes

Released on DVD for the first time on Acorn Media UK, Crocodile Shoes written by and starring Jimmy Nail was a hit TV series that first aired in September 1994 on BBC.

Nail plays Jed Sheppard a factory metal worker who is facing redundancy and so faces a life-changing decision to pursue a passion of country music and make a dream career in Nashville. Helped by the only man who believes in him by his manager Ade (James Wilby) they encounter loan sharks, record companies and women who bring their own unique brand of obstacle to overcome.

The drama has aged well in nearly 20 years; the music industry is all about image still, double crosses still persist and the drama is clear as day.

The show is helped by Wilby's fragile performance as Ade. In the first episode, 'The Tape' it is predominantly Ade's story at the centre of the narrative with Jed a subsidiary to the need for Ade to find a big hit.  This is usually apparent in people's first screenplay, where they take a backseat or need some established actor to take the reins and pressure off - think Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. 

Wilby is as much importance as Jimmy Nail here, and their chemistry and partnership as a traditional odd couple; North v South, education v street smart, blonde v dark is all too apparent and to the form here.

Nail is his usual brooding, imposing self with a Ronseal character; yet there are many a good actor in the series of name actors; Alex Kingston, Melanie Hill, Amy Madigan, Burt Young and Brian Capron, who played evil Richard Hillman on Coronation Street.

Anyone with a fondness for decent British drama will appreciate this Clement-La Frenais influenced piece and be pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack of country songs performed by Jimmy Nail but written by renowned Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout.

Crocodile Shoes is out on DVD Monday 2nd September from Acorn Media UK for £29.99RRP