Monthly Archives: November 2014

Just For Kicks – Drumline: A New Beat, Reviewed

Drumline: A New Beat

I love the movie Drumline.

I love it so much, that even though I’ve seen it more than a dozen times, I have to watch it every time I come across it on TV (which happens a lot more often than you might think).

I don’t even love it in an ironic way, like some people do, who think that it’s great because they like how corny it is; I actually think it’s a great movie. Then again, I also really like the movie Wimbledon and own it on DVD, so you may not want to give my taste in movies much stock.

Drumline had so many elements that made it enjoyable, an awesome acting performance by Nick Cannon as Devon Miles (one of my favorite all-time characters), the over-the-top plot that seemed like a sports movie but really wasn’t and a group of corny but likeable supporting characters.

So when I heard that VH1 was making a sequel to the original called Drumline: A New Beat, I knew I had to see it. It took me a little longer than I wanted to and some of the reaction from social media during its TV debut made me nervous, but I wasn’t going to miss it. And you know I have to seriously be a fan of something for it to be a non-sports addition to my blog.

Below is my reaction as it happened. (Obligatory Warning: major plot spoilers ahead)

As It Happened Reaction:

Our new main character, Dani, has a group of friends who just hang out in the park beating on drums… with a surprising level of choreography. Odd, but at least we know she has credentials, and her cousin Tyree is on the team.

We find out she’s going to Atlanta A&T University on a partial scholarship, so at least the storyline isn’t going to be a total carbon copy; we know she’s not a superstar recruit, and she comes from a well-off family rather than a financially struggling one.

Have to love that A&T exists in a city where marching band performances are so popular, they’re discussed on talk radio. Sean Taylor (from the original movie) is the new hope.

10 minutes in – This movie is going to buck some stereotypes! We’ve got a gay drummer who lets people know, “We all don’t snap our fingers.”

Dani’s face when Jayvon starts hitting on her is hilarious.

Drumline 2 - Dani's Face

College hazing returns. That’s right crabs, you better work your butts off. And apparently they’re not allowed to hook up with each other. (They know this is college right???)

18 minutes in – This movie has already had two seemingly forced mentions of “selfies.” I fear this could lead to more awkward moments where the movie tries to be hip and into what all the kids like these days. Because that usually goes well.

Why do you need a recommendation to get a dish washing job? Seriously? Don’t colleges have a never-ending need for people working in the kitchens?

20 minutes in – Jayvon is dealing drugs! What happened Drumline 2?!?! I thought we were breaking stereotypes, not reinforcing them!

Only white character in this movie also plays a bass drum, like the one in the first movie. Only has one line of dialogue though through the first half hour, so its not looking good for him becoming a meaningful character.

I liked the old way of deciding the ranks of P1-4, where they made them play at night and upperclassmen from the overlooking hill flashed their lights and honked their horns. This new way of deciding right in front of them leads to less drama.

I like that they’re giving the Sean Taylor character a storyline, but having him try to hook up with the dean/his ex-girlfriend/his brother’s ex-wife seems a little odd. Original, but odd.

31 minute mark – Confused sexism. Drum line member (Armandi?) says he won’t let any “bitches” on the line. Dude, don’t you know what day and age this is? Are you trying to get yourself thrown off the band and create a scandal for your school?

Football player (also gay?) tells drummer to tear it up out there and that he’ll be watching (and we even see a glimpse of him on the sideline that he is, indeed, watching!). Guy doesn’t seem to understand the whole thing about going into a locker room at halftime to, I dunno, listen to the coach so as to not lose the football game… you know, the sport he plays. [Addendum: unless this is supposed to be during the pre-game… then that makes a little more sense.]

Another drummer forcing himself/herself onto the line! The spirit of Devon Miles (Nick Cannon) lives! Next thing you know they’ll be fighting another band.

36 minutes in – First direct reference to Devon Miles! Still haven’t seen him, but now we at least know the trailer wasn’t a lie and he’ll probably show up. But what’s this about him becoming as big as “P-Diddy?” How did that happen?

“The A&T/Southern State rivalry goes back YEARS!” So are we just going to pretend that Southern State is Morris Brown College? Did we just switch the two? Seriously, if you’re going to act like they’re the same why not just keep the original name?

40 minutes in – White bass drummer (Josh, nickname: JFK) got another line!

Jayvon’s dad, Jimmy LaPierre, a supposed hot shot singer is apparently well known enough that everyone knows who he is, but not well known enough that anybody has heard he’s performing right by the campus. Strange. Note: we don’t actually get to see his dad perform to know if he’s any good.

49 minutes in – Apparently the rules about challenges for a spot on the field have changed since the first movie. In the original, you could challenge any member of the line to take their spot, not just the last member to make it. Why you have to drive Jayvon and Dani apart producers? Why?

The dean is in the front row of the stands? What, they don’t have a box seat at the field for the head of the program?

I do love the world that these marching bands reside in. So what if you’re performing during the halftime of a football game, just go ahead and add an extra drum line face-off to the itinerary. We’ll just wait to get the second half of the game started once you’re done. Whereas in the world of regular college athletics (especially football) everything is planned out down to the minute and deviating from that schedule would probably cause an AD to burst a blood vessel.

FIGHT! FIGHT! No! Not yourselves! Yes, the other team. Now you get it.

61 minutes in – “There’s some dissension in the senate…” I didn’t realize they were testing out lines for the new upcoming Star Wars movie.

Nick Cannon straight up drives his car onto the running track around the field. If I see signs saying you can’t roller blade, skateboard or bike on a track… I’m pretty sure you can’t drive a car on there.

Dani managed to engineer the quickest transfer to a college in history. And since when do schools let you transfer in mid-semester?

75 minutes in – Devon Miles still has it! Now if he and Sean can just go battle the director of Southern State’s band, Sean’s brother, we’ll have a movie!

Love Sean’s face when he says truth.

Drumline 2 - Sean Taylor's Face

And now Dani is un-transferred just like that?!?!

83 minutes in – Don’t you try and put Leon back in that closet!

How long is the pregame show for the Big Southern Classic? They’re on the air when it looks to be about 1-2 in the afternoon and the event doesn’t even start until that night? What is this, a Super Bowl-esque pregame build up?

Always wondered what the judging process was like for a marching band competition. Is it like figure skating or gymnastics where you write down your routine in advance and can get points based on the level of difficulty? Or do the judges just arbitrarily pick who they liked the most?

A&T wins! But what’s up with that hesitation on the celebration. You should have been going wild as soon as you heard, “For the first time in six years…”

So you’re just allowed to straight up challenge somebody to a drum line battle if you think you’re team should have won? Why do they even bother having a competition then? Can any team challenge the “winners” or is it just the runner-up?

Have to love that the drum line leader says he has an idea for their performance, and a few seconds later they all have blue masks and light-up drumsticks. Like you just pulled that performance out of thin air without practicing…

How do they decide who wins the drum line battle? It’s just the radio host guy who gets to pick?

Well, as you’d expect, A&T wins (drumming upside down probably clinched it) and Jayvon and Dani work things out. All’s well that ends well… even if it ends predictably.

Overall Thoughts:

Overall, Drumline: A New Beat does what you’d expect from a sequel of a beloved movie from the early 2000’s. It gave me that nostalgic feeling I wanted in a movie where the plot wasn’t exactly unpredictable. It wasn’t nearly as good as the original, but I don’t think anybody was expecting it to.

The amusing world where people take marching band competitions WAAAAY too seriously survived and I was treated to plenty of over-the-top scenes. Band competitions where the rules are seemingly made up on the spot and ridiculous choreography is executed perfectly is part of why I liked the original movie in the first place.

I was surprised that the movie chose to follow a storyline mostly independent from the original film though. It seemed less of a sequel and more of a second attempt at the film for a new generation.

I was expecting a storyline that focused more on restoring the A&T band’s former glory, perhaps with a backdrop of closing down the program for good if it could not, to add some urgency. I thought for sure I’d see Dr. Lee pop up ready to dole out advice to new band director Sean Taylor, and figured Nick Cannon’s character Devon Miles, the star that made the first movie shine, would play a much larger role helping Sean win the competition. I also would have liked to see the return of their rivals, Morris Brown College.

Maybe that would have been the easier movie to pull off as a “sequel” and it probably would have appealed better to fans of the original Drumline like myself, but I have to give props to VH1 for having the guts to go off the beaten path on this project.

Final Grade:

I’d have to give Drumline: A New Beat a C+. It’s not bad for what you’d expect from a made-for-TV movie. It had a fun, relatively wholesome storyline, although I was surprised to see it could maintain a PG rating when one of the characters is shown dealing drugs, but I guess that’s the world we live in.

I’ll bump the grade up to a B for fans like me who were just happy to see a new Drumline movie. When you weren’t even expecting anything, it’s hard to complain about what you get.

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3 Takeaways From: New England vs. Columbus

MLS NE vs. CLB

This past Sunday, I attended my first Major League Soccer game to see the New England Revolution host the Columbus Crew at Gillette Stadium in the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. The Revs had notched a 4-2 win on the road in game one meaning all they essentially had to do was avoid losing by three goals and they would be move on.

The Revolution did more than that as they picked up a 3-1 victory and a 7-3 series win on aggregate to advance to the conference final against the New York Red Bulls. This blog entry is about my three takeaways from the Revs performance, but first a few notes about the experience of attending the game itself.

For starters, the New England Revolution are the only New England area team that I, despite having been born and raised in the state of Maine, can claim to be a fan of. I’ve discussed various reasons in the past for how my sports allegiances came to be what they were.

As for the Revs, I started to become a fan at a younger age when I took part in some summer MLS “camps” (really just bargain-priced youth soccer clinics without any real connection to the league besides the logos on the free t-shirt and soccer ball). My rooting interest materialized much more around 2003-04 when the Revolution were led by a very talented group, which included Taylor Twellman, Joe-Max Moore, Clint Dempsey, Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis, among others.

So even with the idea of being a fan diluted a bit due to the whole being an impartial sports broadcaster lifestyle, it was still nice to make the three-hour drive and see a Revolution game in person rather than on TV.

Second, I was happy to find I could see the whole field from my seat in the first row of the lower bowl near the corner flag by the visitors’ end, across from the field from the team benches. This was the perfect location for ample heckling of any Columbus player who got near, which happened plenty of times with throw-in positions and the corner kick spot just a few feet away.

And heckling is especially fun considering I don’t get the chance to do it much since I don’t make it to a whole lot of sporting events where I’m not covering the game in some way. Always enjoyable to draw a few laughs from the fans around you and maybe an annoyed stare from an opposing player.

Overall, the atmosphere was pretty good for a playoff game in a non-soccer specific stadium. The fan section (dubbed “the Fort”) was rowdy as always, and the Patriots were even nice enough to let their NFL yardage lines get (mostly) scrubbed off the playing surface for this very important game. It also helped that the Revolution decided to score some impressive goals. Alas, I digress. To the takeaways!

1.) a.) Bobby Shuttleworth is better than I thought – So I’m starting things off by breaking my own rule. I’m dividing my first point into two parts (rather than just copping out and making four points instead of three) and justifying it by noting it involves two players who both had exceptional performances. The first is New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth who I have, perhaps unjustly, continued to underrate for the past few seasons.

Maybe that is due in part to him replacing Matt Reis who was the gold standard in goal for many years or maybe it has been seeing Shuttleworth fail to firmly establish himself as a starting-quality MLS keeper before this season, but either way this game left little doubt in my mind that Shuttleworth truly has arrived on the national stage.

The former University at Buffalo Bulls goalkeeper made several excellent stops in the first 40 minutes of the game when Columbus was looking for a fast start to give them a fighting chance, and he made a few more huge saves in the second half to put the game beyond all doubt. His finest works were a point-blank parry of a Jairo Arrieta header and a string of fine saves early in the second thanks in large part to his ability to patrol the 18-yard box.

Shuttleworth put up a .670 save percentage this season and kept his starting job, going 16-12-4 during the up-and-down roller-coaster ride the Revs went on before arriving in the playoffs. Those are decent numbers, but it was a six-save performance like this, in the MLS postseason when things matter the most, that made me have to acknowledge that he has earned his place.

b.) Lee Nguyen looks like the MLS MVP – Scoring 20 goals and counting in a season is enough to get a player into the MVP discussion, but Lee Nguyen provides so much more than just his ability to put the ball in the net.

The 28-year old Vietnamese-American midfielder has had a breakout year pulling the strings in the heart of the Revs’ attack. MVP-caliber players are able to put their stamp on a game. Looking at the past few years, players like Mike Magee, Chris Wondolowski and Dwayne De Rosario have won the award based mostly on the strength of their goal-scoring record, but aside from Wondo’s amazing 27-goal season, it only took 15 tallies to earn Magee and De Rosario the honor.

Nguyen demonstrated his full range of talents in the second leg of this semifinal series. When New England struggled to control the game in the first half it was Nguyen who more often than not relieved the pressure by coming back for the ball and personally shepherding it up field to allow the defense to regain its shape.

His composure on the ball has been evident all season long, this game included. In the second half he comfortably took the space the Crew’s defense offered him, leading the offense up field on the dribble. When Columbus’ packed midfield took away space Nguyen simply executed high-tempo one-touch passes to keep possession. And if that wasn’t enough he showed an uncanny ability to know when the right time was to switch the field and stretch the defense with long, lofted passes.

He didn’t just bring his playmaking instincts to the field either. His ruthlessness in the 18-yard box might have been his greatest addition to the game. In the 43rd minute, with things still scoreless, he made a beautifully timed run into the box to get on the end of Teal Bunbury’s dinked cross, which he rifled into the net with a half volley. One minute he was seemingly stranded at the edge of the box, the next he had ghosted into a prime scoring position without a marker in sight.

Players like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Robbie Keane have had great seasons of their own, but Nguyen has been the better all-around player and he fully deserves to take home MLS’s top individual award. Even if he doesn’t, a nice feather in his cap is his call up for the USMNT’s two games coming up later this month; his first senior U.S. caps since 2007.

2.) The Revs don’t look comfortable just playing defense – New England didn’t need to score in this game. Thanks to a 4-2 win in the first leg it was always going to be just about impossible for Columbus to come back. The Revolution simply needed to keep the Crew from winning by three goals. However, as the case has been for large parts this season, the Revs simply did not play well when trying to prevent goals rather than score them.

New England has made its mark this year by using lots of pressure far up the pitch to force turnovers before duly converting them. In the first 40 minutes of their second leg they played like a team between two minds. The defense and most of the midfield hung back in their own half and tried to absorb the pressure that Columbus threw at them. Meanwhile, the wingers and forward pressed up the field trying to force the Crew to waste time in their own half of the field.

The result was an immense amount of empty space in the middle that the Crew used to build up plays. Midfielders had plenty of time to dribble up field and pick out runners with through balls before the Revs defense and holding midfielders converged on them.

Shuttleworth had to be alert to keep Columbus from snatching the early goal they so desperately craved to try and grab the momentum. When the first half was up, the scoreboard showed that the defense had held and the Revolution appeared to have weathered the worst of the storm, but the question still remains, why did defense struggle so much to begin with?

The answer seems to be that this team goes by the old adage (or variation on it depending on, which one you prefer) that the best defense is a good offense. The Revs have largely gotten by on the strength of their attacking talent. Even when they’re not scoring goals, they’re generally pressing enough that the opposing team has trouble mounting any kind of a consistent attack of their own.

Unlike teams you might be used to seeing in the Premier League who can just “park the bus” in front of their attacking third and defend a one-goal edge until the end of the game, the Revolution seem to be at their most vulnerable when they drop into their own half to try and protect a lead.

Some of that has to do with mentality, some of it has to do with the experience of this still very young squad and some of it has to do with the team’s style of play. The fact is the Revs are about to take on one of the best attacking squads in the league in the New York Red Bulls who boast both Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry.

If New England can grab a lead they’re going to have to improve better than they did against the Crew to avoid letting NY back into the contest. Some of those chances the Crew missed will not go begging with one of those two forwards on the ball.

3.) This Revolution team might be the one to break the curse – Being a New England Revolution fan is a lot like being a Buffalo Bills fan. You have some great teams to look back on in your franchise’s history, but the fact remains that they have come up short in four championship games. The Revs didn’t finish runners-up quite as many times in a row as the NFL’s Bills but the Revolution still have the same number of total second place finishes, including back-to-back losses to the Houston Dynamo in ’06 and ’07.

That 2006 championship game loss stung worse than all the rest as the Revs pulled ahead in second half stoppage time, thanks to a Taylor Twellman goal, only to immediately give up the equalizer and lose on the ensuing penalty kick shootout. In my book New England deserves to have a championship trophy to its credit and it is high time that situation was rectified. But is this team finally the one that can get it done? I believe they are.

The Revs entered the playoffs as the hottest team in MLS, going unbeaten in 11 out of 12 straight games en route to clinching the #2 seed in the East. Some of the great markers of past championship teams are there as well. The Revolution have a very effective attack that has put up goals in bunches. They eviscerated what was regarded as a very good Columbus Crew team over the course of two games. They have gotten superb goalkeeping when they’ve needed it. They have a star player playing at the peak of his abilities. The list goes on and on.

But mostly, I want to believe that this Revolution team is the one that will break the curse and finally claim a championship because if they don’t, then I can’t see how I could ever justify believing that another Revs squad will.

Wrap-up points – A few final, quick points to make. As impressive as the Revolution’s 3-1 second leg win was it has to be noted that it came against a Columbus team that was missing its joint top scorer in Federico Higuain who missed the game with an injury along with two other players in Aaron Schoenfeld and Bernardo Anor who could have potentially seen the field.

The Crew’s two red card ejections, while controversial, were justified to me. I had a great look from where I was sitting at the foul by Finley, and my immediate reaction was that he had left his foot trailing as he went past Shuttleworth, which caught him in the head. I immediately started berating the linesman for not calling a foul on the play, which happened a few feet in front of him.

It was a tough call for the referee to make, but after discussing things with his assistant I saw the referee motion toward himself, indicating that the red card was his decision, when dealing with angry comments from a Crew player. Obviously he saw enough to issue the ejection without the linesman’s call.

Bottom line is if you’re a forward going hard after a ball, it’s your responsibility to avoid the goalkeeper if he beats you to it. That didn’t happen here. I compare that situation to when a player initiates a slide tackle and accidentally catches an opponent’s ankle just after the ball had been played away from him. It might not have been the tackler’s intention to get the player and not the ball but you often see bad injuries from those moments, which result in red cards.

Finally, hate to say it but I did see quite a few flops from Revolution players who seemed eager to waste as much time as possible from the moment the game kicked off. Kevin Alston was especially guilty of this, as he got caught hanging on to the ball too long multiple times. It may be a tactic, and almost every team does it, but I still hate to see that kind of gamesmanship.