Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 9: Aaron Donald Takes Down Cam Newton and “The Ghost Ship”

Written by :
Published on : November 9, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, blood drips from the walls, and my hideous assistant has turned in for the night.

 

Week 9: Aaron Donald Gobbles Up Cam Newton For Big Time Sack

 

Week 9 proved to be a pretty glorious one in terms of highlights with a miraculous Lions victory, a great game for the Ravens in Baltimore, and Melvin Gordon starting to look downright freakish in San Diego. The Haunted Dungeon is always looking for a good sack, and while there have been a few good ‘uns in the 2016 season (I’m looking at you Khalil Mack) we finally got that monster QB hit we’ve been waiting for.

 

Aaron Donald’s second sack of the game came in the fourth quarter of a supremely ineffectual offensive effort for both teams. The big boy in 99 looks almost Suh-like as he pushes forward, pulls a little move, and then leaps out to smother Cam Newton and take him down. It’s a textbook power play that brings the oft-used word “explosive” to mind.

 

I’m not gonna forget this hit anytime soon. I don’t think Cam is going to either.

 

Week 9: The Ghost Ship

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Director: Mark Robson
Released: 1943

 

In week 1 of the Haunted Dungeon I made a little jab at Val Lewton for making movies in which you never really “see the monster.” In a way it wasn’t a fair thing to say because Lewton’s real genius efforts were sort of in a league of their own that had nothing to do with jump scares or rubber monster suits.

 

Lewton is primarily known as a producer for RKO, a studio that wasn’t Poverty Row, but wasn’t one of the big players either. He’d take wonderfully lurid titles thought up by company brass and then generally work those pulpy monikers into highly cerebral and atmospheric thrillers and horror films. Today he’s best known for Cat People (1942), but my very favorite Lewton films are the ones without any hint of the supernatural at all.

 

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The Ghost Ship is one of those films. The title evokes all sorts of eerie happenings and ghoulish goings-on, but in reality the film deals with something far more terrifying than ghosts or goblins: human psychosis.

 

Lewton was the king of atmosphere, and here he builds unbelievable amounts of suspense, dread, and foreboding with noir-ish cinematography and a ship captain (Richard Dix) who is mentally unstable and incompetent to such a degree that the lives of his entire crew are in jeopardy.

 

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The salty world of sailors is a fun one to dabble in and the depths of psychology involved really cut to the quick with a frightening combination of megalomania and cowardice interwoven into the nut-job captain. It’s a level of insight that goes far beyond the film’s b-picture trappings to make it worthy of Hitchcock’s brainier forays like Rebecca (1940) or Marnie (1964).

 

There’s also a nice device in one of the more visually interesting seamen, Finn the Mute (Skelton Knaggs), narrating the story through interior monologue. The effect comes off as cheesy initially, but grows more powerful and poignant as the picture progresses.

 

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If this is your kind of thing I also highly recommend the Lewton films Isle of the Dead (1945) and especially The Seventh Victim (1943).

 

I couldn’t find a trailer online but you can cop the whole flick here:

 

 


Review of HBO’s 2016 Hard Knocks

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Published on : September 7, 2016

 

 

The Los Angeles Rams are the subject of this season of HBO’s Hard Knocks. A superiorly produced documentary series partnered with NFL Films that shows an exclusive behind the scenes look at training camp. All the highs and lows. It’s excellent and helps get me get pumped for the new NFL year. The Rams were a solid choice to focus on because this is their first season back to L.A. after relocating from St Louis. A team coming back to it’s old town is just a great story. Just like Alex said.

 

After watching all five episodes, there are some clear trends that shine through. Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way now. There’s tons of swearing. Like fucking tons. This is why Hard Knocks is on HBO, they are the only ones that can air what these guys actually say. And it’s a lot of not-safe-for-work shit but that’s how pro football is. It can be a little shocking, even for me, who curses like a mother fucking sailor. So be warned. Earmuffs.

 

 

After the crazy swearing, the next standout is that Jeff Fisher and his staff are total dicks. But especially Jeff. Every time he talks I just hate him more. He speaks down to everyone and acts like such hot shit. I hate his hair cut but begrudgingly respect his mustache. For a coach with a career record of 170-156-1 who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008, he sure walks around training camp with some Hall of Fame swagger. Fake it till you make it, I guess. To be fair, he seems to be genuine when he cuts players from the team but everything else still applies.

 

In episode three, Mike Singletary makes a visit. He is awesome. Super intense but completely purposeful. You can tell why he was a great player. His tenacity is clear as day. That’s how you are supposed to coach.

 

Rookie QB and first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff, looks to have a solid arm but the Cal product is kind of a dummy. In one episode, it is revealed that Goff doesn’t know what direction the sun rises and sets. That’s insane. It’s not like the sun is some regional thing. Goff is currently second in the depth chart behind Case Keenum. Maybe the rook will take over at some point but it will be because of his play making, not his brains.

 

Speaking of smarts. Defensive End, Will Hayes, doesn’t believe dinosaurs existed. Even when confronted with fossils and dinosaur bones. It all goes down in episode four when Hayes visits super fun looking museum called Dino Quest.

 

 

Todd Gurley likes to talk. The running back phenom is entering his sophomore season and is looking to build off his breakout performance last year. I knew the dude can ball but man, does he like to talk trash. It’s awesome. His mouth has a motor just like his legs. Gurley doesn’t even need to be on the field. He is easily the most exciting character the franchise has. As both a player and a personality.

 

Other great highlights include the big brawl in practice that HBO captures in beautiful slow-mo. Some of guys drive a golf cart to the In-N-Out drive thru. The spelling bee. And the heart break of the last round of cuts in episode five.

 

Hard Knocks kicked butt like it always does. It did its job. It got me all amped for the start of real NFL games. As a team, Los Angeles, possess some nice pieces. Beyond Gurley, they have offensive weapons in Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, plus the defense is loaded with studs like Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree. The NFC West is a pretty tough division so I don’t expect the Rams to surpass either Seattle or Arizona but who knows. HBO makes me think anything is possible.

 

Sorry St. Louis.

 

 


LA Rams are just the kind of exciting story ‘Hard Knocks’ needs

Written by :
Published on : March 28, 2016

 

The newest season of HBO’s Hard Knocks will feature the LA Rams, and if you ask me, it’s just the kind of exciting storyline that the show desperately needs. Since its debut in 2001, the award winning series has given fans an inside look at NFL training camp. By following a different team every season, Hard Knocks gives those on the outside a chance to see what the life in the big leagues is like for players, coaches and their families.

 

While I personally enjoyed last season’s show, which covered the Houston Texans, I think it was more driven by some of the stronger personalities in the organization. The format of the show itself has gotten somewhat tired and with the absence of particularly compelling characters, it can be hard to watch (see Falcons in 2014). That’s why the Rams moving to LA this offseason is one of the best things that could happen.

 

 

The last time a NFL team moved cities was when the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee (they later changed the name to the Titans) in 1997. We, as fans, have never had a chance to see what such a colossal undertaking entails. From all the players and coaching relocating their families, to the team needing to find new facilities, there’s an endless amount of fresh ideas for the new season of Hard Knocks that should prove for some very interesting television. Hopefully the stress and tension of the move leads to some exciting training camp fights. I can just see Nick Foles angrily tackling Case Keenum to the ground as he begins to fear for his job.

 

I’m not sure Jeff Fisher will be as entertaining as Bill O’Brien was last year but there will be a battle for the starting QB position which is always exciting. Fans will have a chance to get to know some absolutely electric players who they might not yet be that familiar with. Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald are the young, rising stars to keep your eyes on.

 

 

Hard Knocks can be kind of a crap shoot. I’ve seen some great seasons and some utterly boring ones. But this year should be a big hit no matter what. With the dynamic of a team moving to a new city there is something seriously wrong if this year isn’t entertaining from start to finish. If this one sucks then maybe it’s time to stop doing the show altogether.

 

I’ll always be a die hard Lions fan but being an LA resident means that I probably have some sort of stake in how the Rams do. This will be my first chance to meet the new team in town, they better not disappoint.

 

 

 


A Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List

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Published on : December 25, 2015

 

 

 

 

As we spend the holiday with family, feeding both our gluttonous faces and the capitalist machine, I thought I would take a minute to do what most Americans do around this time. Dream about the things they don’t have and probably never will. In order to do that, I made a Christmas Wish List of all the athletes that I wish my teams would acquire, either by free-agency, trade, or kidnapping if necessary.

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes

 

This a weird one because it’s a dream of mine that was reality for a short time. For just about a year, my favorite Cuban-born player was on the Detroit Tigers. Once they realized the season wasn’t going anywhere, the team traded him away in the midst of an all-star caliber season. Cespedes was a very important piece on the Mets teams that went deep in the playoffs. He is looking for a big payday in free-agency. I say the Tigers should break out some serious cash and bring him back to the Motor City.

 

 

Kevin Durant

 

If the Pistons could somehow get Kevin Durant on the floor with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, then this team would be very scary. He’s just the type of wing player that this squad needs. He can shoot the ball, take it to the hole, rebound and defend with the best of ’em. He’s an absolute monster all of over the court and can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. In fact, the other night he hit the go-ahead shot, and followed it up with a game-saving block to seal the win over the Clippers.

 

Aaron Donald

 

Now this is someone that should already be on the Detroit Lions’ roster. They had the chance to draft the defensive tackle with the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but passed him up to take TE Eric Ebron. That has proved to be a poor choice when you consider Ebron’s inconsistent production, the loss of their top-3 DTs in free agency, and the fact that Donald absolutely destroyed the Lions two weeks ago for 3 sacks. If he was on the team, I would be like Ndamukong “Who”?

 

Jamie Benn

 

For the final selection on my Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List, we’ve got the captain of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn. This guy has it all. He’s young and plays the entire length of the ice. He’s got 46 points in 35 games this season and would kill it on a line with any handful of young Red Wings. If he was on the team, they would have to be favorites to come out of their conference.

 

 

 

So there you have it, my Christmas Wish List for all four of my favorite professional sports teams. Leave a comment and tell us which superstars you’re wishing for this holiday.

 

 


SBS NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 2

Written by :
Published on : September 17, 2015

 

 

Well, my week 1 for NFL Picks Against the Spread didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped. I came away with 7 wins, 8 losses and 1 push. Which is ok, but I strive for greatness and will use the lessons learned about teams to push up my win percentage this week. There are some nice divisional matchups coming up that are going to make it a little tricky. Surely, there will be some surprises and some upsets, but with a few big underdogs, I’m confident that I’ve got a full helping of winners here for you guys.

 

Winning picks in italics.

 

Broncos at Chiefs (-3): Chiefs

Both of these teams came away with wins last week. The Broncos won at home in underwhelming fashion and the Chiefs won on the road against a disappointing Texans squad. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the hardest places in the league for opposing teams to play, and with Manning’s arm looking about as weak as previously rumored, watch the Chiefs defense to get all over him.

 

Patriots (-1) at Bills: Patriots

Both the Bills and Pats were very strong last week, and the Bills defense neutralized a Colts offense that was one of the most explosive in the league last season. That said, the Patriots are going to continue to play angry and stick it to Roger Goodell, one win at a time. Even though it’s a divisional game and they are on the road in Buffalo, with the Bills only getting 1 point, the Patriots are the right pick.

  

Titans (-1) at Browns: Titans

How about that Marcus Mariota guy? He looked very, very good last week as he led the Titans to a week one win against the top pick of the draft in Tampa Bay. The Browns on the other hand, are looking like they will be as bad as I thought they were going to be. Mariota is going to pick that defense apart and get win number two in Cleveland by a wide margin.

 

Texans at Panthers (-3): Panthers

The Panthers didn’t look great last week, but still managed a 21-9 win on the road in Jacksonville. They welcome a Texans team that lost by 7 on their home field last week. I see the Panthers winning this one with some help from a couple of broken plays that Cam Newton extends with his legs.

 

Cardinals (-1.5) at Bears: Cardinals

The Bears put up a very good fight against the Packers and had a real chance to come away with a huge win last week. Then reality set in, of course. This week they welcome in a Cardinals team that beat the Saints last week, but lost their starting running back in the process. Carson Palmer looked pretty sharp in his first game back from injury and I think he will overcome the 1.5 points being given to the Bears, while passing the ball all over them. Cardinals win.

 

Chargers at Bengals (-3): Bengals

The Chargers had a huge second half last week to overcome a Lions first half 21-3 lead, and get a 33-28 win. While the Bengals destroyed the lowly Raiders for the entirety of the game. Both of these teams are good and will probably be battling each other for a wild-card berth this year. With the Bengals being at home, I think that gives them the advantage and they beat the spread.

 

Lions at Vikings (-3): Detroit

For one half of football, the Lions seemed like they could be one of the best teams in the league, then they were severely out-coached in the second half and lost. They now head to Minnesota and play a team that didn’t look for good for any sustained period against the 49ers. The Lions defense and offensive line will want to prove that they aren’t as bad as they looked in that second half last week.

 

Buccaneers at Saints (-10): Buccaneers

I think the Saints win this one at home straight up. I just can’t resist the urge to take the 10 points that the Bucs are getting here. I think Jameis has a much better game than last week and does enough to keep this one close.

 

Falcons at Giants (-2.5): Giants

The Giants should have won their game last week against the Cowboys, but they at least did enough to cover the spread. They are going to be heartbroken after that division loss last week and are going to come out strong at home against the Falcons. Look for them to win by a touchdown and for Odell Beckham Jr to have a few big plays.

 

49ers at Steelers (-6): 49ers

Neither of these teams looked all that great last week, but the Steelers defense still looks like a work in progress and they remain without Le’veon Bell for one more game. They win straight up but the 49ers keep it close enough to cover the spread.

 

Rams (-3.5) at Redskins: Rams

The Redskins are bad and are going to get murdered by Aaron Donald & Co as that Rams defense gets all over them. Enough said.

 

Ravens (-6) at Raiders: Raiders

The Raiders got a big scare when Derek Carr went down with a hand injury against the Bengals. He was back to fully practicing this week and should be good to go at home against the Ravens. If he wasn’t playing then the Ravens would be the easy pick, but with Carr and Amari Cooper on the field, I think the offense keeps it close enough to cover the spread.

 

Dolphins (-6) at Jaguars: Dolphins

There might be a point sometime soon when the Jaguars are decent, but they clearly aren’t there yet. The Dolphins defense and offense is going to continue to improve, especially against the Jags this week. Add to that the fact that there will probably be more Dolphins fans up in Jacksonville, and it should work out essentially like a home game for the ‘Fins. They are are going to beat them up and run them out of their own stadium.

 

Cowboys at Eagles (-5): Cowboys

The Cowboys had an inspiring comeback win against another division rival at home last week.  This week they travel to Philly to take on an Eagles team that was less than inspiring against the Falcons. This will be another NFC East slugfest that is decided by less than the 5-point spread being offered up by Vegas. Take the Cowboys

 

Seahawks at Packers (-3.5): Seahawks

The Seahawks aren’t getting any favors from the schedule makers by having to travel to St Louis week one and then into Green Bay for week two, but luckily for them, the Packers defense looked pretty awful last week. Look for Marshawn and the Seahawks to keep it very close, even if they don’t pull out the win.

 

Jets at Colts (-7): Jets

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Colts will win this one at home, but it’s another case of me not being able to look past the points being given by Vegas. The Jets looked pretty good against a bad team last week and with a defense that is supposed to be strong, I think it stays close enough for the Jets to be the pick here.

 


Last Week’s Record: 7-8-1

 

Season Record: 7-8-1

 


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