Friday, December 28, 2018

The Christmas Chronicles (2018) Review

Directed by
Clay Kaytis

In The Christmas Chronicles, Netflix has found a new holiday classic that has a chance of becoming this generation's Santa Clause, even if it is only marginally better than a Hallmark movie.

I am always looking for something new to watch that can be viewed by the whole family.  On Christmas Eve, it was an obvious choice to turn on Netflix's new holiday film, The Christmas Chronicles.  It is hard to go wrong with kids when Santa is the focal point, and this was no exception as my toddler was riveted to the TV from start to finish.  So it definitely passed the "toddler test" (which is an important test to pass), but let's talk about this film.

The Christmas Chronicles follows Teddy and Kate Pierce, a brother and sister that are dealing with their first Christmas without their dad.  When they decide to spend some rare quality time together on Christmas Eve, they catch Santa in the act, sneak into the sleigh, and cause Santa to crash putting into question whether he could finish his Christmas duties.  With the help of Teddy and Kate, Santa has to track down his reindeer and toy sack, while running from the police, to get his Christmas Eve back on track so everyone can get their presents.

When it comes to production value, this film is barely better than a Hallmark movie, especially at the beginning.  As Netflix continues to improve in the content they put out, a film like this definitely does not meet expectations.  The plot points are predictable, and the acting is marginal at best.  There is one thing and one thing only that makes this movie better than the countless sappy holiday movies you find playing constantly on TV throughout the month of December:Kurt Russell.  Russell's portrayal of Santa is one of the best I have seen as he plays a brash, stereotype-busting version of St. Nick.  As soon as Santa shows up on screen, the magic begins.  The story picks up and everything becomes more entertaining as Russell adds a certain legitimacy to film that it otherwise is lacking.

This film is not a great movie, but thanks to Kurt Russell it is not a bad movie.  The plot is still pretty predictable, much of the dialogue (not spoken by Santa) is corny, and it works way too hard to try and tug at the heartstrings.  With all that said, when it comes to a Christmas movie it is easy to forgive some of that.  It may have been predictable, corny, and way too feel-good (even for me), but it didn't bother me that much.  You let some of that go when it comes to the holidays (maybe that is why so many people love the Hallmark movies).  I found myself with a smile on my face throughout the movie, even when I knew exactly what was going to happen (including the cameo at the very end).  Kurt Russell gives us the best Santa on film since Tim Allen in the classic Santa Clause franchise.

I said this has a chance to be a new holiday classic.  There are several reasons for that.  First, as a Netflix original film, it will easily available every year come holiday season.  I am sure we will be watching it again come next December in our house.  Second, and more importantly, it has the magic and entertainment value you want out of a family holiday film.  It's not a great movie by any stretch, but it is definitely worth a watch to build some Christmas spirit.

2 stars

View the trailer here:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

8 Team College Football Playoff: It's Time

I feel like every year when we see the reveal of the College Football Playoff field of 4 teams, I am one of what seems like a vast majority of college football fans that are pleading either for their team to have a shot or for an expanded playoff field.  I have been saying for years that an expanded playoff of at least 8 and maybe even 16 is needed.  I feel this season, maybe more than any other, proves that it is time for this to happen.

Here is the craziest part of this realization: the CFP committee got it right this year.  There were 3 or 4 teams that had a legitimate claim on that final playoff spot.  Ohio St. had possibly the best win of anyone this season, demolishing Michigan in embarrassing fashion.  Georgia had 2 losses, but they were the only team to even compete with Alabama, who needed another miracle comeback to pull out the SEC Championship.  UCF just finished their second straight perfect season.  However, Oklahoma seemed most deserving after avenging their one and only loss by beating Texas in the Big 12 Championship game.  I look at the 4 teams that will be playing for the championship, and they are exactly who they should be.  However, the fact that these four are the right four show that the system is flawed and needs to be fixed.

This is the fifth year of the College Football Playoff, and something that has been an issue since its inception is how in the world can you have a playoff a four when you claim to have a "Power 5" conference group.  It makes no sense.  One of your conferences, who are all said to be of equal standing, is guaranteed to be left out of the playoff.  On top of that, this is the second straight year only three conferences will be represented in the Playoff (Alabama made it as a non conference champ last year, Notre Dame is conference-less this year).  Both years, the Pac 12 and Big 10 have been the conferences left out of the party.  Ranking these top teams not only is judging the quality of that team, but also the quality and priority of a conference.  For instance, the SEC will never be left out of the CFP no matter what the best record is coming out of the conference.  There is a definite priority of some conferences over others.  I'm not even going to touch the fact that Notre Dame is still allowed to exist outside of the conference system.

Another argument I have always made for an expanded is the fact that about 2/3 of the college football landscape in FBS starts their season knowing they have no chance at winning a national championship.  UCF just finished their 2nd straight undefeated season, even destroying a team that ended up in the ACC Championship Game this season, and they were never even considered a serious option.  There must be a way that every team can have a legitimate shot at winning a title every year.

A lesser issue I have with the current system, and actually how the system has always worked, is the fact that we now have to wait a month to see these top teams play again.  I have always found this odd.  No other sport would even consider taking a month off between its regular season and postseason.  All momentum is gone, all continuity is gone, teams come out rusty as if they were playing the first game of the season.  It really produces a product that is less than the best.

This really is an easy problem to fix I think.  Go to an 8 team playoff.  Everything currently in place can stay the same.  It would just add one wild weekend of football to set up the current four team format.  This weekend would take place two weeks after championship weekend, which is the current start of bowl season already.  There wouldn't be a need for more travel and neutral site games as the first round can simply be a home game for the top seed.  The field would consist of the conference champs from the Power 5 conferences, the top Group of 5 team, and two at large teams.  The committee can continue to do what it is doing, however their primary function would shift to choosing the last three teams and seeding the playoff.  If this were to take place this year, here is what it would look like.  Tell me this doesn't sound worth it!

1.  Alabama (SEC Champ)
2.  Clemson (ACC Champ)
3.  Notre Dame (at large)
4.  Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)
5.  Georgia (at large)
6.  Ohio St. (Big 10 Champ)
7.  UCF (Group of 5 team)
8.  Washington (Pac 12 Champ)

On Saturday, December 15th, here would be the quarterfinal matchups.

Washington at Alabama
Washington proved earlier this year that they are not afraid to play in the south and go toe to toe with a big bad SEC team.  The Huskies started this season beat up, playing a sloppy game, and still almost beating Auburn in Atlanta.  They are now at full strength, playing their best football, and would give Bama a run for their money.  I'm not saying they could win in Tuscaloosa in a game like this, but it would be worth the watch.

UCF at Clemson
This game would be a lot more intriguing if McKenzie Milton hadn't tried to get his leg ripped off a couple weeks ago.  With that said, the Knights have shown the last two weeks that they are much more than Milton as they have continued their winning streak.  So you would have the most hungry team in the playoff facing, potentially, the most untested team in the field.  Clemson played their way through a weak ACC without ever really needing to break much of a sweat.  It would make an interesting dynamic for a playoff game for sure.  It definitely would add some weight to UCF's game on the big stage; much more weight than the Fiesta Bowl against LSU, who has been irrelevant since their loss to Bama last month.

Ohio St. at Notre Dame
No one would argue about seeing these two powerhouses face off in a playoff game!  Notre Dame and Ohio St. share something in that they are the only two teams to defeat Michigan this season.  This would be a fun game to watch for sure!

Georgia at Oklahoma
Which team deserved to make it to this year's playoff?  Well, this rematch of last year's semifinal classic would help determine which team truly is best.  Honestly, I think Georgia is the better team, but Oklahoma is the more deserving team.  It would be fun to see Kyler Murray and that Oklahoma offense go up against an SEC defense (which we will see when they play Bama).  It would also be fun to see an SEC team Georgia have to go on the road to Norman and play the Sooners.

You are crazy if you think this wouldn't be beneficial to the sport.  Everyone wants to see it, all 8 of these teams have earned their opportunities to play for the title.  How is this a bad thing?  Make it happen NCAA!