Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: 2013 Topps Football Trading Cards

I've picked up four packs of the basic 2013 Topps football set over the last few months and want to share my thoughts.  First impressions are very good.  I like the basic design as well as the special cards.  The front of the cards have a white boarder with the Topps logo embossed in silver in the upper left hand corner.  At the bottom is a wavy colored decoration in the player's team colors with the team logo in the middle.  Embossed on the appropriate cards are special designations such as All-Pro on the Vince Wilfork card or League MVP and Player of the Year on Adrian Peterson's card.  I enjoy this feature on these cards as well as the other sports.  Fairly simple design and I like it.  Plenty of room for the photo with little distraction.

The back of the basic cards have a white border and have a wavy trim on both sides of the card somewhat similar to the front.  At the top is the card number in black.  Below that is the player's name set on an oval colored in one of the team's primary colors.  Under that is the player's position and team.  Next is the ht, wt, and college with the player's draft position and how acquired on the next line (big plus for me).  The line after that has their birthdate, home and twitter handle.  After that is a small blurb about the player on a primary colored background.  Next are the stats.  These are of course different for each position but I didn't see any major omissions.  Most of the players had all their career stats but for some reason the Peterson card only had last year's stats and his career totals.  Maybe because the card is special?  Don't know but that is as good a guess as any. 
I pulled quite a few of the insert cards to include, but not limited to, Calvin Johnson and Tom Brady "Legends in the Making" cards, teams cards of the Saints and Pats, a Ronde Barber mini, Andre Reed "Gridiron Legend", Wal-Mart Continuity card of E.J. Manuel, and a gold bordered Mark Barron.  I like the Legends in the Making, team and legends cards.  Anything retro works for me of course but the Making cards look nice and I like the team cards which have team leaders and highlights of the season on the back. 
 I highly recommend this set to everyone.  As always the price point on the Topps basic set makes it an easy pickup and these cards look good and have quite a few inserts to keep it interesting.  The most different item about this set for me is the twitter handle on the back of the card.  I'm not the most techie of individuals but I like that.  Looking at the checklist (see links below) there are quite a few cards I'll look to pick up - lots of retired types for me to enjoy.  This is a very solid set - check it out.
Set checklist here.  Pictures of base and variant cards side by side here. 
Official Topps checklist in PDF format here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: Panini NBA Hoops 2013-2014 Trading Cards

I picked up a 45 card rack pack of the 2013-2014 Hoops NBA trading cards at Wal-Mart for $4.98.  Besides the base cards I received one blue border and one gold border card (George Hill seen above). 

The front of the cards are appealing visually to me.  The border is white.  At the bottom is the NBA Hoops logo in silver against a background color of the player's team.  The players name is found at the top on a background color which is associated with the player's team.  The team logo is in the upper right on a parquet floor background.  The photos themselves take up the rest of the space.  No issues with pictures with the majority being action shots.  It seems like the majority are pictures of the players at the rim. Not a big issue but seems different.  Some rookies were pictured playing in the summer league or in posed shots.  My only beef would be the lack of the player's position.  Again a nice front which I can't find much fault with. 

The back is a whole other story.  It is vertical in design.  An example is below though it isn't a card I received in my pack.  My first impression was not negative.  The back is completely black and white with Panini's logo in the upper left hand corner with the card's number.  The year of the set and Panini's information is at the bottom of the card.  The player's team logo is centered at the top.  I think it is a bit too large and could have been shrunk to help out the font size.  Below the logo is the player's position, name, a brief snippet on the player and then the player's specifics (Ht, Wt, Birthdate, Drafted - round only, school).  Each section alternates the background color between black and white.  Then come the stats (season, team, g, fg%, ft%, 3pm, rpg, apg, stl, blk, pts, ppg).  Kudos as always for putting all the career stats of a player on the back.  I really enjoy being able to look back at all the years of a player's career.  I would rather see steals and blocks per game as opposed to totals but that isn't a huge point.  What is is the size of the font.  Without lots of squinting I'd never be able to read the back of the cards.  I'm thinking they could have gone horizontal with the design and made the logo smaller to allow for a bigger font.  I'm sure 20 years-olds don't have the same issue as someone my age but it seems this could be done better. 
Good draw in the 45 cards.  I grabbed a Stephen Curry who is a big star in the league today whom I really like.  Other cards of note were the gold bordered George Hill who is also making a big name for himself.  The Dwayne Wade card has a cameo by Tim Duncan.  Andrew Bynum's pic is a good one of him holding his new Cavalier's jersey.  Just looking at that you actually have hope he may play well again someday.  Grabbed a Damian Lillard and George Teague card from each of my favorite teams which is always nice.  The rookie Nerlens Noel card was also a nice pickup.  It is a picture of a staged dunk.  Manu Ginobili's picture is of him slamming one down and is one of the pictures that stood out to me.  I think it might have been against Miami no less.  The Pau Gasol card just made me laugh.  Kind of an awkward position they caught him in.

I struggle on this one as the back really turns me off.  At first I was ok but I just get more irritated the more I try to read anything on the back.  Overall I'll say pick these up with the caveat that the back might be frustrating.  I may put more importance on the back than most.  The fronts are visually appealing and I think most would enjoy as well.  The price is also a win and I'm sure they are available at most retailers. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review

Possible spoilers in this review:  I didn't get to see this one in the theaters so I was excited to watch it yesterday on Blu-ray.  I enjoyed the first movie and couldn't get a good feel from the previews on how this movie would play out so I was skeptical.  Boy was I surprised.  They did a great job with this movie. 

From the beginning the crew is setup for failure against their nemesis Khan.  The character is the Khan we all know and "love" but it is a different take/storyline for him.  Again I was leery but I like it.  All the characters get plenty of screen time but I would like to see them fleshed out a little more.  They did a good job setting them up the first film but outside of Kirk we don't get to see much of who they really are.  I know this is a big cast and time doesn't allow so this isn't a gripe just a preference. 

As for the plot it isn't too convoluted and gives you enough twists so that nothing is easy in the crew's world when trying to figure out what to do.  I thought all the tough decisions that had to be made were more of a nod to what makes Star Trek great as opposed to the first movie which was pretty straight forward - there is the bad guy, go get him.  This time the lines are blurred which makes for a much more fun times. 

The movie has plenty of nods to the Star Trek franchise to include Dr. Carol Marcus who joins the crew.  This sets things up for possible future movies.  SPOILER:  I also like that Khan is ultimately kept alive.  He is a great character who can be a foil for a long time to come.  As with the original movie with Khan in it we had the great yell "Khaaaaaaaaan" but this time it is Spock who gets to deliver the line as the roles are reversed and Kirk "dies". 

Another good film everyone who is remotely interested in the franchise should see.  I was not disappointed. 

Rating:  PG-13
Length:  132 minutes
Cost:  $190 million
U.S. Box Office:  $228 million
International Box Office:  $467 million

Movie Review: Thor The Dark World

I was able to see Thor: The Dark World this weekend.  Since it just came out I won't throw out any spoilers in my review.  If you liked the first movie you'll like this one.  Thor The Dark World is not as grounded on earth as was the first movie.  I enjoyed this as I think there are tons of different worlds and different peoples to explore in this "universe".  Natalie Portman's character, Jane, and her relationship with Thor is front and center of the movie but this is not a chick flick.  Plenty of fighty fighty for everyone.   Loki has been one of my favorite characters throughout the first Thor movie as well as in Avengers.  Again he plays a pivotal part in the movie.  Thor, himself, gives us what we have come to expect from his character.  I think Chris Hemsworth does a great job bringing his character to film.  Marvel overall has done a good job adapting Thor to the movie screen, something I thought would be very hard to do.  As with any movie there are minor plot points someone could haggle over but it isn't worth it.  Too much good in this movie not to see it.  I highly recommend it to everyone. 

Red Sox Beat Cardinals in 6 Games to Win 2013 World Series

Boston won the 2013 World Series 4 games to 2 over St. Louis.  And Big Papi starred when the majority of Red Sox bats went silent.  The stats can be found here but the highlights for Ortiz are a .688 batting average, 2 homers, 8 ribbies, 8 walks, only 1 strikeout, .760 on base percentage, and 1.188 slugging percentage.  Wow.  He has always been a huge leader on this team and they needed him this series as no other Red Sox player hit above .250 and six players with 13 or more at bats batted under .190.  Considering the zoo the Red Sox were last year when they lost 93 games, to the bombings during the Boston Marathon this year, winning 96 games and taking the championship in six games it has been a heck of a ride.  See the speech heard round the world here when Papi said "This is our f******* city".  I don't doubt he used some colorful language during his dugout pep speeches that got so much attention. 
While Papi will get all the accolades the pitching staff deserves their own praise.  Overall they excelled with a 1.84 ERA while walking only 11.  Jon Lester was marvelous in two starts going 15 1/3 innings and giving up only one run while winning both games.  John Lackey was also very good in his two starts winning one while giving up four earned runs in 14 innings.  Clay Buchholz added another good start and Jake Peavy kept them in the game in his start.  In the bullpen, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Euhara (2 saves), and Brandon Workman gave up zero earned runs in a combined 10 plus innings.  Felix Doubront gave Boston much needed innings in relief of Peavy's and Buchholz's short stints as starters, and did it well registering a 1.93 ERA in 4 2/3 innings.  To me the pitching staff as a whole deserves huge kudos for what they were able to do against a very good St. Louis Cardinals offense.
While the St. Louis offense did have a tough time against Red Sox pitching they actually had their chances but couldn't come up with the timely hits that Boston did.  One thing that stood out about St. Louis was their young pitching.  They seem primed to continue to be a power house in the National League as long as they can figure out the shortstop position and maybe add another bat.  Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, and Joe Kelly all played well and again make the future for the Cardinals look bright. 
Being a Red Sox fan in the St. Louis area this was really fun.  Talking games every morning was a great experience no matter who won.  The Cards fans here show their pride in mass and I take my hat off to them.  I was even able to catch a game with a buddy of mine whose a St. Louis fan.  It was game three so the ending was a heart breaker but I really enjoyed.  It doesn't get much better than that. 
I don't want to forget manager John Farrell.  The team he was handed was no slouch but they weren't picked by anyone not a Red Sox homer to win the World Series.  He made some mistakes in game two but that didn't take him off his game and he made the right lineup changes when needed and kept his team up to the task.  Good job. 
That's all I got.  It was a great World Series with tons of good pitching.  How could you complain?  Well, assuming you aren't a Card's fan.  I've already received my World Series Champs shirt, a World Series shirt and I'm thinking of picking up the beards shirt.  This is awesome.  I'll enjoy for the next few months until spring training starts up.  Great stuff.  GO BOSOX!
The facial thing isn't new but it was really worked well in Boston during their run to the title.