The New England Patriots Must Be Stopped

Lo, there was a time when The Cheese Fry was an unapologetic New England Patriot fan.

What wasn't to like in the early 2000s as the Patriots won their first Superbowl in 2001 in the shadow of 9/11 on the arm of an unknown quarterback (Tom Brady) and the leg of a clutch kicker (Adam Vinatieri)? Unbeknownst to those of us watching, that victory sowed the seeds for a powerful NFL dynasty. New England won two more Superbowls in 2003 and 2004, a streak unprecedented in this new era of NFL free agency. Before the Patriots began their roll, analysts liked to say the days of the Steelers/49ers/Cowboys dominance were over. Indeed, the Dallas Cowboys were systematically dismantled in the mid-1990s as its Superbowl teams were raided by free agent defections. Maintaining a good team year in and year out was virtually impossible; player turnover was just too high. So they all said. But the Patriots kept finding a way.

Verily, in the early- to mid-2000s it was fun to root for the Patriots. Why?
1. Tom Brady was as mild-mannered a recluse as Peyton Manning was an extroverted media darling, making Brady seem refreshingly no-nonsense and all-business. He didn't appear in stupid TV commercials like Manning. Instead, Brady spent his time winning Superbowls.
2. The Patriots had no real history of winning, so this was an entirely new experience for them (and for the viewers at home). Remember, as late as 2002 or so, the Patriots were still sort of playing the role of underdogs. They weren't a glittery, premier franchise like Green Bay or Dallas or New York.
3. Coach Bill Belichick was known for being some kind of coaching android, able to dissect an opposing team like a thorasic surgeon to expose vulnerable weaknesses. You wished he coached for your team.
4. There was also something very blue collar about the Patriots: players didn't earn big contracts in New England; in fact, they took pay cuts to stay. Those who dared to ask for more money, like CB Ty Law or WR Deion Branch found themselves shown the door.

And so it has come to pass, that almost midway through the 2007 NFL season, the Patriots look unstoppable. Adding a new corps of capable receivers in he 2007 off-season has at last given Brady a fleet of able targets. And he's good enough to use them - give him enough time and he'll find the open man. Especially if there's five men trying to get open. This team is like a franchise Terminator, sent from the future to win another Superbowl.

But enough is enough.

The Cheese Fry is off the Patriots bandwagon. And we're trying to find a way to break its axles and slash, no, steal its tires. Why?

1. The cheating scandal. This is where it all started to come apart. Belichick's staff was caught videotaping Jets defensive signals at a game earlier this season. Supposedly, this practice - though expressly forbidden by the NFL - is somewhat common. But it was the Patriots who got caught. Naturally, people started to wonder how long they'd been doing this and what sort of edge it provided. What role did this kind of cheating have on those three Lombardi trophies? Such speculation angered Patriots players and coaches to no end. Which brings us to...

2. Belichick is kind of an asshole. When questioned about the scandal by reporters, Bill Belichick stubbornly refused to comment. And he refused to comment with a smugly unashamed tone to his voice that made The Cheese Fry want great harm to come to him. This was a major scandal and Belichick was acting like his staff was just caught out past curfew. You'd think a coach would want to say something about what had happened, how he understood it might tarnish the whole team, how he regretted it, how he wished it hadn't happened, how he wanted to reassure fans he ran a clean outfit of the utmost integrity. Just some lame PR babble would have sufficed. But instead, he only wanted to talk about the next game. He's oh so above it all.

3. Running up the scores. Here's where things get interesting. Apparently, those who dared to besmudge the great invincible powers of the Patriots Dynasty were beneath contempt. Players, especially LB Tedy Bruschi, huffed and puffed about how awful it was to suggest their Superbowls were somehow tainted by the cheating scandal. This rage may be getting vented on the football field. The Patriots seem to be a mission to punish other teams and Make a Point. In the waning minutes of the Cowboys game, backup RB Kyle Eckel runs in a touchdown with 20 seconds to go, making the final score 48-27. And today, up 45-0 on the Redskins, the Patriots are still trying to score. And so they do with backup QB Matt Cassell scrambling for the endzone as if the fate of the game hung in the balance. This isn't the BCS, Belichick, and you're not LSU. Yes, it's a fine line between running up the score and ensuring victory in a league where every team can win on "any given Sunday." But like pornography, we know it when we see it. And today, we saw it. Utterly classless. Even in the waning minutes of the game, with the score 52-7, the Patriots were running pass plays. Luckily, NFL teams have a long memory - hopefully there will come a day when Belichick gets a taste of his own medicine. Wonder if he'll have a comment about that.

4. Tom Brady is kind of a louse. We'll keep this simple: when you get a girl pregnant and then leave her and the baby, you lose points. You lose additional points when you leave impregnated Hot Actress to hook up with Hot Model. Very dickish. Say it ain't so, Tom.

5. Dynasties are no fun. At this point, no one seems capable of stopping New England. Maybe Indianapolis, maybe Pittsburgh. Everyone else is playing for sloppy seconds. One wonders why we don't just call the whole thing off, hand them the Superbowl trophy now, and give us some free time to go read a book or take up pottery. Some talk of the good old days when the Steelers ruled the 70s, the 49ers the 80s, the Cowboys the 90s. But those dynasties weren't like this Patriot juggernaut. The Cheese Fry enjoyed cheering the Cowboys to three Superbowls in the 1990s (it's fun to have a winning hometown team), but the road to those Superbowls were tough. Every game was a question mark. Emmit Smith once played with a dislocated shoulder in a final regular season game to make sure the Cowboys beat the Giants to win the NFC East. These 2007 Patriots, by contrast, are cakewalking. There's no dislocated Patriot shoulder in the immediate future for anyone, it seems. Unless you live in Boston, it ain't fun.

6. False humility is almost worse than justifiable arrogance. Following the Washington stomping, WR Wes Welker gave a post-game interview in which he actually said Washington has a good defense. Is he serious? He's referring to the defense that just gave up 52 points, right? Who the hell does he think he's kidding? Such phony sentiments somehow make all of this even more infuriating. Yes, we'd be mad if Welker said "Clearly, their defense really sucked and we enjoyed riding them like $10 whores," but at least it would seem honest.

7. Belichick's ridiculous sideline hoodie. This was a charming idiosyncracy back in 2001. Now it's just pathetic.

And so, we say unto you, that The Cheese Fry is irrevocably revoking its support of the New England Patriots. We ask you to do the same. Perhaps together, our hatred and anger can give Tom Brady a sprained elbow or at least allow Randy Moss to become the irrational jackass locker-room cancer we all know he can be.

This team must be stopped if mankind is to survive.

Some delicious children's breakfast cereals

* Honeycomb (Post)
* Trix (General Mills)
* Frosted Flakes (Kellogg's)
* Apple Jacks (Kellogg's)
* Lucky Charms (General Mills)
* Cinnamon Toast Crunch (General Mills)
* Trix (General Mills)
* Froot Loops (Kellogg's)
* Cocoa Pebbles (Post)

Scariest 10 movies

1. The Blair Witch Project - An ingeniously simple concept (three teens get lost in the woods while chasing a witch legend) spoiled by hype that made it impossible for the film to ever live up to its reputation. The scares here come from what isn't seen, such as the main characters fleeing into the dark woods surrounded by mysterious noises that may be chasing them.
2. Night of the Living Dead - The grainy rawness of director George Romero's low budget approach makes it all the more terrifying as a group of strangers huddle in an isolated farmhouse to escape the army of undead outside. A watershed film that spawned an entire sub-genre of pop culture (see #6 below).
3. The Ring - Usually Hollywood can't be trusted to remake a foreign film, but this is the exception. Exporting a strange "J-horror" premise (you die seven days after seeing a weird haunted videotape) gives the film an unexpected freshness that makes it impossible to predict how it's all going to turn out. The weird music is just the cherry on the cake.
4. The Omen (1976 original) - Many prefer that other tale of superatural childhood evil, The Exorcist, but that movie's too intellectual and, frankly, rather boring in the first half. It's like sour medicine: you know it's good for you, but it's not that much fun. The Omen, however, is the tasty junk food, delivering big scares start to finish.
5. The Others - Many lumped this in with The Sixth Sense because of the fashionable Big Twist Ending That Changes Everything, but this is a much scarier, much creepier movie because of the old-school Gothic ghost story elements: the rambling house full of shadows and lanterns, the question of what's real and what isn't (including the sanity of a brittle Nicole Kidman). Good stuff.
6. Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake) - A peerless updating of the zombie genre. A bigger budget allows for more action, better zombie effects, and a better cast (yes, Ving Rhames is always good, but the revelation here is Jake Weber). Director Zach Snyder stuck to the Romero playbook...
7. 28 Days Later - ...while director Danny Boyle reimagined the Romero template by making the monsters "infected" rather than "undead" and, of course, by making them sprint like terrifying Olympic relay runners. Points must be deducted for a muddled and anticlimactic third act, but the first hour is so strong and scary that we can overlook any shortfalls.
8. Hostel - Unfairly labeled as worthless "torture porn," this does what any good horror film does: take society's fears to the extreme. Here we get a murky Internet rumor come to life as our hapless characters stumble onto an Eastern European black market snuff ring. It's scary because you imagine such a thing is possible.
9. The Shining - The cold dread of this movie, filling the empty rooms of the massive Overlook Hotel, is almost palpable. So many of the small touches can still give one goosebumps, such as little Danny Torrance suddenly seeing the ghosts of two dead twin girls. The Cheese Fry is freaked out just typing that.
10. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the 1974 original) - Like #2, the cheap grit of this low-budget film gives everything a sweaty newsreel immediacy (i.e. "oh my god, this is really happening"). And because it's filled with unknown faces, you have no one of predicting who - if anyone - will survive. The godfather of the many teen slasher movies (FYI, the best of the 1980s: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the quintessential slasher movie).

Knee-jerk review: "Michael Clayton"

1. This is a movie that makes you work. It takes about 30 minutes to piece everything together and figure out who's doing what to who and why. While it's nice that the filmmakers so clearly trust the audience to be intelligent, a little bit of narrative hand-holding would have helped.
2. We're also not convinced the confusing flashforward prologue was 100% necessary.
3. A plausibly complex look at big-money machinations of corporate lawyers, their multi-millionaire clients, and the class-action lawsuits that brings them together in an ugly symbiosis of profits and self-delusions.
4. An outstanding cast that clearly relishes the A-level dialogue supplied here by writer-director Tom Gilroy.
5. George Clooney may not be a movie star who can open films just be the virtue of his being in them (this one's struggling a bit at the box office), but the guy knows how to pick projects. If he's got anything to do with a film, chances are it will be a good one. Even better, chances are it will be an interesting one. Clooney's more than willing to use his power to make unconventional films. Looking back on his career, the only real dud is 2003's Intolerable Cruelty.
6. The murder that happens here is unusually chilling in that it happens so simply and matter-of-factly. It doesn't take much at all to end someone's life.
7. There's something strangely attractive about Tilda Swinton. Or is it just us?
8. Love the satisfying ending, even if it disappointingly relies on one of the more creaky of thriller cliches.
9. Very very good, but not quite as great as it could have been.


Cassette tape rewind: Sophomore year (part 2)

Back to the fall of 1987 and the Cheese Fry's 10th grade hell of senior pranks (please don't ask about the "I ride the bus" sign) and secret crushes. Billboard Issue date: October 17, 1987.

1. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam "Lost in Emotion" - This actually made to #1? Go figure. Whatever happened to Lisa Lisa? And why the two names? She was probably a little too similar to Paula Abdul for her own good back in the day. Same sort of baby-girl voice and exotic ethnic look. A catchy song without question with a dreamy steel drum/marimba vibe.

2. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince "U Got the Look" - A truly great song, even with the rather dated lyrics "Your body's jammin'/Your body's heck-a-slammin'." When Prince is on his game, the guy is a genius.

3. Europe "Carrie" - Ouch. Among the worst of the hair-band 1980s power ballads. That's one musical trend that's particularly embarrassing for Generation X. But the Cheese Fry never liked this song. Seriously.

4. Michael Jackson "Bad" - I think we can all agree that Jackson peaked with Thriller. "Your butt is mine"? Eww.

5. Madonna "Causing a Commotion" - Catchy dance pop song, neither here nor there.

6. Whitesnake "Here I Go Again" - Among the best of the hair-band 1980s power ballads. I've got my cigarette lighter up.

7. Heart "Who Will You Run To" - The Cheese Fry definitely had a thing for guitarist/singer Nancy Wilson. She's the skinny blonde sister, not the pudgy brunette sister. Good stuff.

8. Levert "Casanova" - Hmm, this sounds familiar, yes. But can't remember the melody. Or the lyrics. Or what Levert looks like.

9. John Mellencamp "Paper in Fire" - Solid Mellencampian rural twangy rock. It aged nicely. The Cheese Fry wasn't a fan of the song when it was on the radio, but now it's definitely in the oldie-but-goodie category.

10. Bananarama "I Heard a Rumor" - Among the best dance pop songs of the 1980s. It's essentially perfect. A sonic masterpiece of fluff.

11. Tiffany "I Think We're Alone Now" - Cough-guilty pleasure-cough.

12. Expose "Let Me Be the One" - A fun song, but if Expose's songs were never played again, you'd probably never notice.

13. Fleetwood Mac "Little Lies" - Part of that little mid-80s hiccup of Fleetwood Mac renaissance. The darkly odd "Big Love" is the better song.

14. Billy Idol "Mony Mony" - One of those utterly annoying songs that top 40 radio played the all-hell-crap out of. Couldn't stand this stupid-ass song in 1987, can't stand it now. Even worse: the Thomas Jefferson H.S. drill team performed this as one of their numbers so the Cheese Fry had to actually play this song in marching band. Oh the humanity.

15. Whitney Houston "Didn't We Almost Have It All" - Yawn.

Knee-jerk review: Drew Carey on "The Price Is Right"

1. The good news is that while the set's got an upgrade (don't worry, it's still ridiculously garish), the overall feel of the show remains exactly the same as the Barker era. That includes the iconic handheld wand microphone.
2. Drew Carey is certainly having a good time, it seems, especially the way he's willing to share a laugh with the contestant...
3. ...but he also seems a little nervous. Fidgety. He keeps dipping one hand into his coat pocket where he keeps the "actual retail price" for the contestants' row bids.
4. He certainly lacks the effortlessly smooth polish of Bob Barker. Doing several thousand shows can probably takes some of the edges off.
5. Carey also misses a chance to pay respect to Barker. Introducing a game called Barker's Bargain Barn, Carey tries to make a joke and say it's named after the founder of the show Ezekial Barker. It's almost like Roger Moore giving Sean Connery the finger. A weird moment.
6. CBS hired Carey to pursue a younger audience. We'll have to wait and see if it works.


Top 10 "Gilligan's Island" episodes

1. The one with the active volcano that the Professor hopes to seal up using a gourd bomb with a bamboo timer. (“Operation: Steam Heat”)
2. The one with the experimental robot the castaways train to walk all the way to Hawaii underwater. (“Gilligan’s Living Doll”)
3. The one where the castaways eat vegetables grown from radioactive seeds, giving them supernatural powers – Lovey gets double-time energy from beets, Gilligan gets superhero strength from spinach, Mary Ann gets incredible eyesight from carrots. (“Pass the Vegetables Please”)
4. The one where the big radioactive meteor crashes on the island and the Professor rigs up those weird all-silver suits so he, the Skipper, and Gilligan can investigate. (“Meet the Meteor”)
5. The one where Gilligan’s hunted by big-game hunter Jonathan Kincaid ala “The Most Dangerous Game.” (“The Hunter”)
6. The one with the ancient stone tablets that show a secret way off the island. The best episode button in the series: when the castaways realize Gilligan’s had the last missing tablet piece all along - using it as a serving tray - he’s so excited that he drops and breaks it into a million pieces. Fade out. Classic. (“The Secret of Gilligan’s Island”)
7. The one where Gilligan falls asleep when he’s supposed to be keeping an eye on the castaways’ precious oranges (The Professor: “Those tiki torches must stay lit!”). (“V for Vitamins”)
8. The one where Gilligan knocks some burning logs out of whack so an orbiting pair of astronauts see a message on the island reading S.O.L., not S.O.S. (“Splashdown”)
9. The one where Gilligan’s likeness appears at the top of a headhunter totem pole. Ever notice how many headhunter tribes there were in that part of the Pacific? (“High Man on the Totem Pole”)
10. The one where a mad scientist uses a mad-scientist-type contraption to switch the castaways’ personalities. Perhaps the most ridiculous episode in a ridiculous television series – shamelessly implausible. (“The Friendly Physician”)


Knee-jerk Round-up

The Kingdom
1. An interesting movie in that it tries to have it both ways - inciting some simple-minded, anti-Arab American bloodlust with the shoot-em-up gunfights while also suggesting that the Middle East situation is, like, you know, complex with by daring to show the Saudis are people, too. The action movie meets the arthouse drama. It doesn't quite succeed at either. But you have to give it points to trying.
2. The Cheese Fry isn't sure what the big deal is with Jennifer Garner.
3. No way they surive that alleyway ambush. Seriously.
4. Chris Cooper always gives an interesting performance.
5. Inside joke: Jamie Foxx gives an onscreen shout-out to his real hometown of Terrell, Texas. Yee haw, y'all.
6. Clever bit: you can always spot a bombmaker because he's missing fingers.
7. Nice set-up and pay-off with the lollipops.
8. Don't you wish in the real world someone would insult the U.S. Attorney General like that?

The Brave One
1. That one scene in the cafeteria with Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard is worth the price of admission. Brilliantly written, directed, acted. One of those great scenes where what they're talking about isn't what they're really talking about.
2 Nicky Katt's always fun to watch.
3. Not exactly sure what point this movie is making about vigilantism. It may destroy your psychic soul, but some thugs deserve it anyway? Don't try this at home because it's bad, but have a good time watching someone else do it?
4. The ending pretty much goes off the rail and undermines a lot of what we've known about the two main characters. Disappointing. Going or the big catharsis whether it makes logical sense or not.
5. It may be flawed, but the movie's better and more intelligent than most films. Jodie Foster - with the exception of 2005's unfortunate Flightplan - knows how to pick projects.
6. "I want my dog back." Cheesy, predictable, eye-rolling money line. And very effective.
7. The brutal attack that starts the movie is very tough to watch. We get it, the bad guys are bad and deserve Jodie's wrath. Enough is enough. Have mercy on us, director Neil Jordan.
8. Come on, seriously? Jodie Foster's occupation is a talk show commentator?! Yeah, that's an everyman sort of job. No one in movies are ever databasemanagers or air condition repairmen.

3:10 to Yuma
1. One of the best movies of the year. Oscar worthy, people. For real.
2. The ending may stretch credibility in some ways, but as a Cheese Fry colleague noted, you really do have to look at it as myth or melodrama. This is a big story of Good and Evil told on a big, sprawling canvas. It's not a documentary.
3. Russell Crowe is very good. But Christian Bale is even better - and he's got the less showy role.
4. Get thee to a cinema and see it.

The Invasion
1. If you want to make a zombie movie, make a zombie movie. Don't be ashamed. Don't dress it up as a pod person movie. You're not fooling anyone.
2. We've seen all of this before - and done much better. Case in point: the projectile vomiting of the infected, which is a steal from 28 Days Later.
3. There's something... plastic about Nicole Kidman. And she's getting more and more plastic as the years go by, it seems. The charming humanity of Moulin Rouge is but a distant memory these days.
4. Naturally, the cure to the "invasion" is in the blood of our heroine's son thanks to a rare disease. And her ex-husband is a bigwig at the CDC. Yeah, it's that kind of movie.
5. For about 10 minutes, the film gives you a hint of what it could have been as Nicole Kidman must try to "pass" as a pod person (quietly assisted by other secretly uninfected humans who are "passing") among crowds of pop people by showing no emotion. Truly terrifying.

* All you need to know if this: for the first 3/4 of the movie, this is the kind of smart, suspenseful, plausible science fiction movie they just don't make anymore. It's just this side of brilliant...
* ...and then the wheels come completely off in the final 20 minutes with such unexpected suddenness that you're left completely stunned. Did that just happen? It's a terrible thing to do to a good movie.
* Cillian Murphy is too feminine and weird-looking to be a good guy. You keep figuring he'll snap and kill everyone.