All Things Being Un-Equalizer

DATELINE: Recycled TV Shows

Robert McCall

 As a fan of the original Equalizer with Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, we were braced at the notion of a new version, even with the permission and cooperation of creator Michael Sloan.

The old show was a Reagan Era artifact, one of the unusual pro-CIA programs ever, featuring a laconic Control in the person of Robert Lansing—and a bunch of cowboys that made McCall resign.

Now the chickens have come home to roost. Denzel Washington is hardly the silver-haired man with a newspaper ad. And, the CIA cowboys are now the ones resigning.

In this version, McCall is a man of habit and singular protocols, looking like someone in deep undercover or in witness protection. He works at a lumber company in Boston, and he has a certain number of dangerous skills that he is averse to using, but ultimately understands he must be what he is.

The deadly slow pace, punctuated by sudden bursts of violence, may not be what the average movie viewer wants, but we found it true to the original spirit of McCall. Hemingway metaphors hang in the balance. Imagine an action hero who spends time reading books during the movie.

The final hour of the film turns into a showcase for Robert McCall’s deadly agent. We see less of the vigilante for the downtrodden and more of the knight in shining armor for an age where he is an anachronism.

Whether the film turns into a franchise for Washington’s depiction of McCall is doubtful, despite Denzel’s intriguing performance. The times have changed, and McCall’s sociopathic killings in the name of peace and justice have become about as common as putting out a webpage that asks people if they need help.





TomTom Brady & the Grinch

 DATELINE: Belichick’s Best Friend

TomTom with Debill Bill

Tom Brady seems unable to see the picture clearly.

TB12 has crunched the numbers again and restructured his contract to save the Patriots upwards of $24million. In this day and age of bigger and bigger contracts, Tom wants less—and will receive a helluva lot more.

He apparently wants the Kraft family to use the money to sign some of his favorite players.

The previous occasion that Tom gave the Krafts some of his salary in hopes of signing Wes Welker, he was double-crossed and deprived of his best friend.

So, why is Tom giving the crafty Krafts a second chance?

It has something to do with the fine print. Tom will now be given instant free agency at some point after 2017. You can’t tell us that Tom doesn’t know the devil he knows.

We refer, of course, to that old Debbil Bill (Belichick).

Having seen Belichick dispatch anyone of a certain slippage, Tom knows his days may be numbered. Not only that, Belichick has a fondness for Jimmy Garoppolo or any player who looks good in his undies. The last time Tom saw that formula at work, he was the favorite—and Drew Bledsoe was the established, respected star quarterback.

Uh-oh is in order.

Yep, the Xmas cards Tom received from Lawyer Milloy, Wes Welker, Richard Seymour, and Logan Mankins, not only had Tom’s name on it, it seemed to place a sprig of holly through Tom’s heart and bury him in his own Christmas pudding.

As the Grinch’s lapdog, Tom knows the score. Win or lose, Tom Brady knows this may be his last Super Bowl with the Grinch.

Oh, that Debill Belichick is so mean.


Noel Coward’s Ghosts Come to Life

DATELINE: Spirit Network, Pre-Cable

castst:Blithe Spirit

Natwick, Bacall, Colbert, Hover Over Coward

With the passing of Lauren Bacall not a few weeks ago, and with the recent live television event of Peter Pan, we were moved to a degree of nostalgia.

We went on a scavenger hunt to find one of the few performances by Miss Bacall that we had missed along the way: her live television role as Elvira in Blithe Spirit, a 1956 production with Claudette Colbert and Noel Coward, starring and directing his most clever and brilliant light comedy.

Video Collectors of California actually had a black & white edition, rare and seldom seen, but worth every moment. To think that audiences at home decades ago had live television plays with major stars shames today’s world of hundreds of cable channels with shoddy repeats.

Colbert and Bacall play the two wives of Charles Condomine, a second-rate writer who wants to do a book on charlatan mediums. Mildred Natwick reprises her 1940s Broadway stage role here as dotty, cliché ridden Madame Acarti.

The result is magical. With special effects done live, and well before computer generated efforts, we have understated and perfectly fitting ghostly shenanigans. You see, Mr. Condomine’s first wife (Bacall) is dead—and returns unceremoniously to haunt his second wife (Colbert).

Crossed between the full-blown movie version and stage depictions, the television version is remarkable for its medium range. It has the best of both worlds, spiritual and physical, as well as film and primitive video.

Directed by the author and with his debonair send-up style, Noel Coward provides a delicious concoction. And, the television production is true to the play’s ending.

If you want an unusual treat, it would pay to look for this DVD version of the Emmy-winning show from the Golden Age of Television.

Wonderful and wondrous, we enjoyed every second.



New England Patriot Dead Pool

DATELINE: To the Victor

affluenza sufferer

Who will the Patriots play in the playoffs?

A silly debate rages on and on without end.

Patriot bubbleheaders now argue as to what opponent will be most dangerous for the hometown team. Sports radio blabbers are making hay out of their favorite specious arguments.

The candidates are available this upcoming weekend to preview, as if that will tell us anything (except perhaps the victor of the game).

On any given Sunday (or Saturday this year), one of these teams can beat the Patriots. Don’t be fooled by gaudy scores during the season wherein the Tom Brady team scored at will.

We are into the season where someone may stomp on your quarterback’s leg while he is helplessly on the ground trying to hold on to a football.

Duh, Suh.

We can only hope that next season Tom and Duh Suh will be on the same side of the field.

You can say “Nevermore” all you want because the Patriots may have a tiger by the tail when next they play.

Predicting the Patriot opponent is a bread and butter issue only if you make a living by betting on the outcome.

And, if you happen to be foolish enough to wager your hard-earned pennies on a sports bet, you probably are not in the same league as the millionaire sports figures who will determine your fate.

Upset is the middle name of the NFL, and referee blindsides will settle the score once and for all in the fourth quarter on a given Saturday.

When you meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gate and he tallies the scores of your life, your best defense will be to plead ignorance. You can bet your life on it.

Garoppolo Supporters Want Brady To Go

DATELINE: Bye-Bye Birdie


The same people who worked hard for years to drive Rajon Rondo out of town on a rail have now turned their attention to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Yes, they love him. He scrambles with the best of them. Of course, no one should hold it against him that he ran 25 yards backwards in the season finale. He’s young and learning. He looks good in his underwear.

Yet, the praise makers have touted his performance as the Second Coming of Tom Brady. They do not praise Garoppolo; they only want to bury Tom. And, Brady has restructured his contract, making it easier to grease the skids out of New England.

What? You mean Tom Brady is still here! If the Jimmy Garoppolo crowd has their way, Brady soon will be history.

Someone please tell the idiots that history often repeats itself.

Rondo is now history—and if the Garoppolo devotees have their way, Tom Brady will be history before he closes the book on his Patriot years.

What is it with the bell ringers who want to ring in the new before they use up the old?

We presume these are the same fans that leave a little soda pop in the bottle until it gets flat and then will toss it. These are the people who never finish up a tube of toothpaste before squeezing a new tube.

And, now the cap is off the Brady tube—and fans that will be cheering on New Year’s Eve want to bring the new year baby into the game like a preemie with bad lungs.

We never understand the concept of New Year. It’s just the next day. And, fans can see how well the Celtics are now that they have rid themselves of Rondo. The next day remains cloudy with a forecast of heavy rain.

A new day is not a better day, Garoppolo fans.





Belichick Hides Behind Mic

DATELINE: Belichick Tries Witness Protection

Saluting BB

Blame It On Elise Amendola AP


Medical issue mystery may be the biggest 900-pound gorilla for Bill Belichick.

When Elise Amendola, mysterious AP photographer with the name related to Danny Amendola, is on the sidelines and taking photos, you have to ask yourself if we have been told the entire story.

Elise Amendola took one photo, being circulated, that showed a Patriot flak saluting Belichick in a manner that was usually reserved for Adolph Hitler.

Yes, it’s Sieg Heil, Bill!

We know Belichick is a tin-plated dictator in his own world. Even a subpoena from Aaron Hernandez will roll of his back. It’s like Congress trying to question Obama. It’s like Kim Jong-un trying to crash a Sony Pictures Board of Directors meeting. Whatever Bill wants, Bill gets.

The Fuhrer of Foxboro looked strangely pale and pasty during the final, losing game of the season. Then, he was a no-show for his postgame press conference. It led to speculation that Bill’s “little thing” was bothering him again to use his own words.

Belichick did not help matters by huddling in the trainers’ room and pushing out players and other anti-media refugees. There was no press conference in the flesh.

Later, to avoid fines and further controversy, Belichick talked to the press via conference call, from a safe distance.

During the game on the sidelines, BB hid his upper lip with a mic that made him look like Der Fuhrer.

Those close to Belichick weren’t talking, but rumors persist that he will enter the Witness Protection Program during the playoffs to avoid press contact. In the meantime, his upper lip looked more suspicious than usual.


Worrywarts Unite for the Patriots!

DATELINE: Regular Season Downer

Tom' shoe size?

The Patriots ended the season the same way they began it: in ignominious defeat, looking awful.

Somewhere in the middle lay the Crackerjack prize of a playoff spot.

Losing at the end and start seems to be meaningless for Bill Belichick. It’s the sweet cream filling in the center that really matters. The Patriots are home-field, bye-based playoff stars.

Of course, now all the worrywarts will complain that they have no momentum and the layoff will cause them to lose their edge.

It’s the kind of problem about a dozen other teams wishes they had to suffer.

Regular season is now a mere warm-up to the postseason in just about every professional sport. The games that matter are about to separate the men from the boys, or the duck boat bound from the golf course bound.

In the weak finish to the Patriot season we could indeed wonder if the genius of Bill Belichick is on a timer. Yet, most of his key players were given the day off. Brady himself played only half the game. So, you might claim this was not unexpected.

So, the genius of Belichick may yet be revealed as infallible, like a pope.

We admit there were times during this season that we wondered how far this team would go. Doubters had Tom Brady needing home health aides to ready for each game and about to commit him to a nursing facility.

It all now seems slightly hysterical, and the true time for hysteria now has arrived. Every flaw, every wrinkle, every misstep, will now be analyzed and catalogued.

We have reached the post-season where the chaff on the staff could cause instant elimination.

So, in the spirit and in the cockamamie words of Alfred E. Neumann, we proudly state: “What? Me worry?”

Waterworld Meets 3:10 to Yuma

DATELINE: The Bible Doesn’t Tell You So


Logan Lerman & Russell Crowe Both Play Ham

When we saw that Russell Crowe would play Noah in a Bible epic, we readied ourselves for an old-fashioned movie.

Well, were we wrong again.

This Noah and the story of the Flood may as well be one of those ancient alien tales, set on a distant planet in a parallel universe. Forget the notion of a biblical tale because you are now on the planet known as Dune. This movie isn’t wet enough.

Perhaps we should recognize that much of the Bible reads like science fiction. It is quite another horse of a different color to see the story transformed, like the Cliff Notes opening, into a version only a Trekkie could love. The script is cribbed from the Bible, no less via Robert Heinlein.

Even more hilarious are the bits like Anthony Hopkins playing Russell Crowe’s grandfather, Methuselah. It’s almost funny enough for the price of admission. Another great touch is to have Logan Lerman play Noah’s son. In case you missed the 3:10 to Yuma, young Lerman was the boy who followed Crowe instead of his father Christian Bale.

With touches like this, you can forget you are watching the Bible on steroids.

The animals don’t exactly show up two-by-two, but more en masse in a mess. We have to confess that this movie wins no points for originality. If you were going to jettison the Bible for sci-fi, at least turn the ark into a sperm bank. It would have been so much easier.

Oh, yes, Noah builds the Ark with the help of giant stone creatures that look like refugees from the special effects department of Sony Pictures. Next time we recommend you wait for a rainy day before watching this soggy effort.





Gronk Does It in Two Languages


Gronk in Strait Jacket


This week Rob Gronkowski showed why he is a man of many talents. We already concluded that being bi is just one of his many proclivities.

Some may have guessed how Gronk was not your usual NFL superstar. We gleaned that from some of his activities of the past few years. The notorious incident of his braggadocio, “Yo soy fiesta,” probably convinced many that he could stick a piñata with the best of them.

Yes, it’s true. Roberto Gronkowski is bilingual.

Despite his known association with Canadian monolinguist Justin Bieber, also known as Lolito for his lollipop habit, Gronk speaks Spanish with the best of them. His fluency received another test when the Patriots asked him to deliver Christmas greetings in Spanish.

With all the panache of the Cisco Kid, Roberto gave an accounting of his language skills with flair reserved for matadors and muchachas de la notte.

Roberto el Gronko probably thinks Spanish is the language of love. After all, earlier this year, his notorious quote that O-line men were sexy seemed to break all language barriers when it came to Neanderthal grunts. There is a great deal of grunting in romance languages.

We’re not the type to pin the tail on the burro, but if they want to remake a movie about the life of Zapata, Gronk could adequately fight off General Pershing and Pancho Villa with his sharp serpent’s tongue.

Feliz Navidad, indeed, Roberto el Gronko.

Paying Props to the Proper Stranger in Sports

DATELINE: Denoted Notation

Dumb America

Is it time to start asking athletes and media experts to put as asterisk (one of these *) next to the word “props” when they use it?

We are rapidly reaching saturation point if someone doesn’t give us props when it comes to language skills. We feel obligated once a year to show our pedantic diction skills, and you may want to stop reading right here.

In a world of abbreviated values, we have come to find that few of the well-spoken athletes in postgame interviews have the most vague notion of what exactly those “props” are.

Yet, props* are spread out like a Thanksgiving feast under the Xmas tree by every player when he talks about the guy who beat him down the court, to the ball, or at the contract table. Lately we seem to find a cornucopia of props falling out of our horn of plenty.

What exactly are these “props”? And, how are they measured?

We have begun to see these things as “sugar props,” a sort of pre-sweetened homage (that’s French, Tish, pronounced O-mah-juh). Or, at least, we figure Gomez Addams might give it that flourish. We always add an italicized emphasis to show off our education.

If we recall correctly from our drama classes on how to be a stage critic, props are the junk actors work around.

Some of our favorite athletes wear boot props when they are injured to help prop them up for the duration and for the cameras.

Whatever the respectable and proper term, we seem at a loss to explain it in less than one syllable.


Patriots Put It Away in a Manger

DATELINE: NFL Season’s Greetings

Discontent Staff

Downton’s Offensive Line is Ready!

Christmas is on our doorstep—and so are the Buffalo Bills. End of the season’s greetings are in order.

At long last the end of the NFL season can be celebrated with spiked eggnog and a spiked touchdown from Gronk.

It’s that time of the year when all Patriots fans are singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” This annual favorite actually is a cry to Bill Belichick to rest his team for the playoffs.

They seem to forget that the Patriots are already the proud winners of a bye-week in the first round. There will be no round young virgins to beat up as the playoffs start.

With home field advantage, we know that the refrain, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” will give Tom Brady his usual advantage against warm weather, indoor teams.

We await the toe-to-toe matchup of Julian Edelman and Gronk under the mistletoe. It can’t be any more embarrassing than a header with SWAG champ Justin Bieber.

The Three Wise Men of Defense (Wilfork, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich) will bring gifts of myrrh to Bill Belichick. In case you forgot at this busy shopping season, myrrh is hard to find, but it is essential if you want to perfume bad games, incense your enemy, or need a balm for your aching muscles. And, you thought resin was only used in baseball.

The biggest problem facing knowledgeable fans of a certain stripe is the Downton Abbey issue. Starting in January, the prestigious British series returns on Sundays to go head to head with NFL thugs. The choice of tuning in to the upper crust or the bottom feeders will become a great debate among intelligentsia.


Smarty Pants in a Celtics Uniform

DATELINE: Smarty Pants

how smart is this guy?

Marcus Smart has already begun the process of replacing Rajon Rondo. He certainly has overtaken Rondo’s sense of fashion as his first step.

It is not hubris, nor is it premature to arrive at the conclusion that Rondo has indeed been replaced. Smart will not be another Maxwell—no, not Cedric—but rather, we mean the inept secret agent. Agent 36 seems to be his own best friend.

Our theory for years has centered on the reality of instant stardom. The real stars, the genuine article, the super impact player, arrive on the scene and show no need to grow, to develop, or to acclimate. He may do all of those, but the factors would be secondary to his star qualities.

Marcus Smart is a star in the order of Larry Bird. Like Bird, he will be the centerpiece of a new Big Three or however many it takes to return Celtic greatness.

If we were to guess, he already has his Kevin McHale in the body of Kelly Olynyk. It could also be that Jared Sullinger is the other missing link. They will ape the original big three and the second coming of the big three, and will inspire a third helping of Divine Three.

The team may not be much right now, but it could be playoff ready by end of season. And, Smart will lead them through the desert to find another banner. He is carrying stone tablets in his front smarty pants pocket.

As for our beloved target of many years, Rajon Rondo was seen smiling on the court while playing for the Mavericks. He has gone to a better place—and we think he will be happier than toiling where he was despised by so many “purists.”

Smart, like Bird, seems to have that basic gift that will render critics silent. Fasten your seatbelts, Green Teamers, the ride may be bumpy—but we are off on a decade-long adventure with Mr. Smart. He is no 86. Call him Agent 36.

Film Festival Favorite Is Cold Soup


Campbell Souper

Campbell in the Soup

The Spanish Prisoner from 1997 is Kafkaesque. That means the paranoia is palpable. It also means you can kiss off any chance of finding an answer among the questions.

The trailer claimed this movie was on the order of North by Northwest and The Usual Suspects. Those movies knew something about entertaining us with smart characters and witty situations. Don’t look for that in The Spanish Prisoner.

Since we enjoyed both those classic films, we wondered what on earth the critic saw in this film that reminded him of stories with comprehensible plots. There is no satiric humor on old movies, and there is no maddening chase around the country. Instead, you have dull businessmen doing what they always do.

Of course, this is a David Mamet film—so its ambiguity helps it pass muster as cerebral fare.

From the beginning, the businessmen are selling some intangible product called “a process.” From there, you are heading into the world of layers of abstractions. It makes it easier to write and direct if you don’t have any real explanations.

On top of that, the naïve protagonist (Campbell Scott) seems all too trusting when surrounded by bosses, secretaries, partners, and casual acquaintances that cry out for a cursory criminal background check.

Mamet features some beautiful settings and well-respected actors to dress up this enigma wrapped in a mystery plot. Somewhere along the way, the hoodwinked pigeon (Scott) is told about scams called Spanish Prison games.

Oh, that clarifies the potholes in the plot. It also makes it easier to leave open-ended questions as concrete road markers.

Well, we do agree that life is usually full of surprises and double-crosses. It is so hard to find talent and art in commerce that we never expected to find Steve Martin and Ben Gazzara giving us art in a movie.

Campbell gives us a pea-souper for sure.

Grinch Belichick Hands T-Rex Ryan Xmas Gift

DATELINE: By Skin of Their Teeth


Jets often lay low in the high grass of the Meadowlands.

New England’s Patriots know how to play down to the lowest level of the AFC.

When you want to get down and dirty, the Jets will revel in the muddy truth. In a game that the Patriots should sleep walk to victory, they faced Rex Ryan’s minions playing over their heads.

When the T-Rex tells his team that King Kong can be knocked out, they believe him. During the first half of the game, the Patriots looked about as befuddled as Kong facing those ancient technological marvels, the biplanes.

The team that should have been gnats for Belichick to swat seemed to have become dangerous Tsetse flies. Tom Brady seemed to turn yellow with malaria before our eyes.

If T-Rex high-fiving his players weren’t enough to fire up the Patriots, then this is not a Super Bowl caliber team.

Worse yet, all those close-ups on Gronk showed that he is starting to lose his hair, not a good omen for the Samson of Foxboro. By next year he will start to look like Wes Welker before the transplants.

Tom ought to give Gronk the number of his hair specialist immediately before another follicle bites the dust. In the meantime, Gronk and Tom seemed to be thinking of last minute Xmas shopping, instead of a victory.

Grinch Belichick is a mean one, but this Christmas he was more than willing to give old nemesis Rex a happy holiday in the fashion of a moral victory. Patriots hung on by one measly point.