Bro-Commentary: The Raiders Move to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Raiders. Let that sink in.Las Vegas Raiders Football

I was born a Raider. I bleed silver and black. I remember the sinking feeling I had when the Raiders lost to the New England Patriots in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game in the 2001 Divisional Playoffs that birthed a dynasty. I remember tuning in to Super Bowl 37 and watching the Raiders get crushed by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I remember the feeling I got every Sunday from 2003 until 2015 expecting the Raiders to lose. “Just Win, Baby” became “Just Lose, Baby”, as the Raiders became synonymous with losing.

None of those feelings compare to the one I have now with the news that the Oakland Raiders are no more. They are now the Las Vegas Raiders. On Monday, the Raiders received conditional approval from the NFL to relocate from Oakland, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. They received “yes” votes from every owner in the NFL with the exception of Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins. Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement the Raiders plan on playing at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, as the new stadium in Las Vegas is not set to open until 2020.

The city of Oakland took a hard stance in new stadium negotiations throughout the last decade or so, refusing to use public funds to pay for a new stadium. Oakland made a last ditch effort to keep the Raiders by sending the NFL a revised $1.3 billion stadium proposal. On Saturday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gave an impassioned speech in which she pleaded to the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland. I was moved by her speech. I couldn’t help but feel this was a woman who wanted to see the city of Oakland, the birthplace of the Raiders, keep their beloved football team. However, this was a move just to save face. It was an 11th hour PR strategy. The very definition of a Hail Mary pass in the closing seconds in the fourth quarter. She could have done more. Oakland could have done more. They lacked the urgency to do more.

One can hardly blame the Raiders for their decision. The city of Las Vegas put up $750 million in public funds from a hotel tax to build a new stadium. That number could be $950 million when accounting for the extra $200 million in public funds that suddenly became available over the weekend. Las Vegas ponied up. Whatever the Raiders needed, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval provided it. Governor Sandoval had the political power to do so. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf didn’t. There was no alternative for the Raiders. Las Vegas was the only option on the table. The Raiders had to go all in. The move resulted in a payout larger than one you’d see at any of the Las Vegas casinos.

Mark Davis also said in a statement Monday that his father and former Raiders owner, the late Al Davis, once told him ” ‘the greatness in the raiders is in its future.’ ” That future no longer includes Oakland. Losing the Oakland in the Raiders name just doesn’t feel right. No matter what decade you were playing the Oakland Raiders, you knew you were in for a rough afternoon. Oakland epitomizes the toughness, grit, and win at any cost mentality that everyone came to know the Raiders by. Even in an age where techies are gentrifying the city, Oakland still maintains its blue collar identity, the same one everybody also came to know the Raiders for. Even when they moved to Los Angeles in 1982 those same qualities remained. Something about putting Las Vegas in front of the Raiders’ team name just seems wrong. Sure, the jersey colors, players, and logo will remain, but those aforementioned qualities get lost once Las Vegas is stamped onto the team’s name.

The Raiders will always have the classic Al Davis-isms. Commitment to excellence. Just win, baby. But it’s the “autumn wind” anthem that is perhaps the most apt description of how the whole Las Vegas saga has unfolded. “The autumn wind is a Raider. Pillaging just for fun. He’ll knock you ’round and upside down, And laugh when he’s conquered and won.” That wind no longer blows in Oakland. It’s the Raider Nation that’s been pillaged, knocked ’round and upside down. Mark Davis can now laugh that he has conquered and won his new stadium, but it comes at the expense of a city and fan base that has now lost its team twice. Even with all of my disappointment and heartbreak with the news of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, I can’t help but fall back on this phrase: Win lose or tie, Raider Nation till I die.

Bro-Reviews: Power Rangers

Mighty morphin indeed.

One of my fondest memories from my childhood was waking up every Saturday morning and watching Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It had action. It had imagination with its various zany villains. It had every young boys’ first childhood T.V. crush (Amy Jo Johnson as the pink ranger). It was the perfect Saturday morning escapist entertainment. I also watched the other incarnations of the series (Power Rangers In Space, Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue to name a few) and the films (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie) the original series spawned. Of course, I eventually grew out of it, but I was shocked to hear that the show has continued for over a decade since I last tuned in.

Even more unexpected was learning that Lionsgate was going to reboot the series in an attempt to turn the property into another movie franchise. I can’t blame them for the idea, their tent-pole young adult/ kids movie franchise The Hunger Games ran out of steam before the film series even concluded. But it begged the question: why Power Rangers? Why take a campy series hardly any kid watches anymore and film a hundred million dollar reboot? Who was begging for a new Power Rangers movie to be made? Well apparently someone did, otherwise the Power Rangers and their zords wouldn’t be crashing into theaters this weekend.

Th film starts in the Cenozoic era with Zordon (played by Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston), the original red ranger and leader of the Power Rangers, being defeated and betrayed by the green ranger, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). In a last-ditch effort to defeat her, Zordon takes and hides the power coins, the source of the ranger’s power, and orders Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) to send a meteor airstrike, killing Zordon and blowing Rita Repulsa into the ocean. Fast-forward to the present day, where hot-shot quarterback and troublemaker of Angel Groove Jason Scott (Zac Efron knockoff Dacre Montgomery) finds himself under house arrest and must go to Saturday detention as penance for his latest screw-up. There he meets and befriends autistic student Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) and former-cheerleader Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott). Then after some exploration in Angel Groove’s mines, they encounter equally troubled Angel Groove students Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G), who together discover the power coins Zordon buried millions of years ago. They then stumble upon Zordon’s spaceship, discovering that they were chosen by the coins to become the next protectors of the Earth, the Power Rangers. Together, they must team up and battle a newly awakened Rita Repulsa, who is out for vengeance and in search of the zeo crystal so she may use it to destroy the earth.

Now with that synopsis, you may find yourself asking how in the world could this work? The film sounds just as incomprehensible as the Saturday morning T.V. show while taking itself seriously at the same time. But much to my surprise, Power Rangers plays well as a starting point in what could turn out to be a new cinematic franchise. As I mentioned earlier, each of the teenagers we encounter in the film is troubled or has some sort of back story as to why they are considered the outcasts of Angel Groove. Much credit must be given to the writers for representing those on the spectrum with Billy Cranston/ the blue ranger, as RJ Cyler gives an honest performance and functions well as the emotional component of the team. Most of the others do fall into cliché territory with Kimberly/ the pink ranger turning out to be a bully, Zack/ the black ranger revealing he has a sickly mother, and Trini/ the yellow ranger hiding she may be attracted to the same sex. However, the characters are developed enough that you are emotionally attached to them, a welcome change in the blockbuster genre and due in part to the young actors’ ability to work well with the material they’ve been given.

Bryan Cranston does his job as the motivator and spiritual leader of the rangers Zordon, as most have come to expect whenever Cranston appears on-screen. Chewing the scenery is Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa, who you can tell is having fun with the role. While some may note Banks as a negative, Rita Repulsa was always the most over-the-top character in an over-the-top show, and Banks is a delight in this film. Power Rangers’ best moments, however, come in the last quarter of the film. During this last quarter, we finally get to see all of the rangers morph into their suits, battle Repulsa and her army of putties, and face the final boss with their Zords. Sure, the CGI isn’t up to par as the Transformers films, but it’s passable and fun to watch. And yes, the classic “Go Go Power Rangers” anthem and catch-phrase “It’s morphin time”make appearances in the film, paying homage to the wackiness of the original T.V. series and igniting memories of those Saturday mornings many years ago.

However, I couldn’t help but find myself restless during the first three-quarters of the film, as the rangers don’t morph until the last thirty minutes. That means for an hour and a half, Power Rangers somewhat slogs through typical origin story material. While most of it works, the audience is there to see the Power Rangers be the Power Rangers, and not delivering on that until the last thirty minutes feels like a misinterpretation of the Power Rangers brand. Part of this is more than likely due in part that the old Power Rangers shows and movies were beyond ludicrous, and this re-imaging of the rangers implies they are embarrassed of the source material. So instead of having a two-hour episode of the old T.V. show, we get a more realistic Power Rangers movie for the first ninety minutes and then an episode of the 90s T.V. show in the last thirty minutes. This is a strange route for the film to take considering the appeal of the series was that it was completely preposterous, something only a child could suspend their disbelief while watching and still enjoy it. Also, Ludi Lin’s Zack/ black ranger stands out as the worst performer out of the bunch. He attempts to come-off as the cool bro you’d want to hang out with, but ends up being the weakest cog in the Power Rangers machine.

Overall, Power Rangers is a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting much considering its dated source material, but Power Rangers manages to reboot the franchise with a gritty, grounded film that also delivers on some of the cheesiness we’ve come to expect from the series. Unlike most re-boots/ re-imaginings, Power Rangers shows it has a promising future ahead of it. Should the film perform well at the box office, we’ll more than likely see the Power Rangers morph into theaters again in the very near future.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars out of 4. Pay Matinée price.

Bro-Commentary: Grading the Raiders Free Agent Signings and Rumors

Have the Raiders made the moves necessary to turn them into perennial Lombardi Trophy contenders?

A week or so ago, I wrote about the potential moves the Raiders could make during the NFL free agency period to help improve their team. While they may have started relatively quiet at the start of the period, the Raiders have made some new additions to their team whilst also being the subject of one of the biggest rumors of the off-season. Here are my grades for their new additions and the speculation they are currently experiencing.

OL Marshall Newhouse, 2 years $3.5 Million

The Raiders’ first move of free agency was signing veteran offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse to a 2-year deal worth $ 3.5 million. With the departure of OL Menelik Watson to the Broncos, the Raiders needed some depth behind an already stacked offensive line. Newhouse is a nice addition that doesn’t break the bank, but it definitely won’t be a move that significantly improves the Raiders.

Grade: C

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, 2 Years $4.5 Million

Patterson is a welcome addition to the Raiders, particularly for their return game which has struggled the last few seasons. Patterson has five kickoff returns for touchdowns since being drafted by the Vikings in 2013, including a ninety-five-yard touchdown return against the Raiders in 2015. He’s also a great addition to a deep wide receiver corps, as he caught 52 passes for 453 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. He’s the type of signing that may not make headline news, but will be looked back as one of the best signings of the off-season.

Grade: A-

TE Jared Cook, 2 Years $ 12.2 Million

If there’s been a weak position that needed to be addressed on the Raiders’ offense, it was the Tight-End position. Mychal Rivera regressed last season, posting career-lows in receptions and yards and hasn’t blocked a day in his NFL career. Clive Walford hasn’t quite panned out since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL draft, and Lee Smith spent most of last season on injured reserve. Jared Cook gives the Raiders the pass catching and blocking abilities they have lacked at the tight-end position. While he was limited to only 10 games last year, Cook is an improvement over all of the tight-ends currently on the roster. He will be a significant contributor to Derek Carr and the Raiders’ explosive passing game.

Grade: B+

QB EJ Manuel

The first quarterback taken in the quarterback bereft 2013 NFL draft, EJ Manuel never found his groove with the Bills. He’s spent the last few seasons backing up Tyrod Taylor, and he knows he isn’t competing for the starting job in Oakland with Derek Carr in the saddle. He’s an improvement over backup quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Connor Cook since he has more starting experience than the two, so won’t look totally like a deer in the headlights should he be thrown into action.

Grade: B-

LB Jelani Jenkins

Jenkins is the first defensive signing for the Raiders, an area they would like to improve upon after finishing 26th in total defense last season. Jenkins was limited to only 9 games last season due to injury, but has shown flashes of being a standout linebacker in the NFL. In 2014, he had career highs in tackles and sacks with 110 and 3.5 respectively. If he can produce those kinds of numbers for the Raiders, he’ll help enhance the Raiders’ depth at linebacker and bolster their defense.

Grade: B-

Rumor: RB Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement and the Raiders acquire him

There’s been a rumor out for the last week or so that the Raiders are interested in acquiring retired running-back Marshawn Lynch from the Seahawks since they still hold the rights to his contract. Lynch retired after a frustrating 2015 season that saw him rush for a career-low 419 yards and 2 touchdowns in 7 games. Lynch, a native of Oakland, would be a great veteran presence in the Raiders locker-room, and he’s stated in the past that he has always wanted to play for the Raiders. It would also add to his legend as “Beastmode”, as he would provide the Raiders with a short-yardage ground game and improve their already potent rushing offense. In theory, this sounds like a slam dunk move for the Raiders and Lynch, a match made in heaven, a homecoming to top all homecomings.

However, I am somewhat weary of the possibility of Lynch to the Raiders. Lynch retired in 2015 due to being frustrated with the Seahawks organization and his overall lack of desire to play. Now while all of this understandably stems from the Seahawks’ 1-yard-line blunder in Super Bowl XLIX, Lynch is still a headache for any organization that signs him. Does he truly miss football as his agent said on San Francisco radio station KNBR? Only Marshawn Lynch knows the answer to that question. Considering there are other running-back options such as Adrian Peterson still out there on the free-agent market and the NFL draft looming, the Raiders may be better served looking for running-back help elsewhere.

Grade: C+

 

 

NCAA Tournament: Final Four Predictions

It’s the final countdown.

We are just hours away from the official tipoff of the NCAA Tournament. Ok, the play-in games have already started, but none of the teams participating in the play-in games will pull a 2011 VCU and make a run to the Final Four. Besides, the only question most people ask in regards to the tournament is this: Who’s in your final four? Well in an effort to answer this question, here are my picks to make it to the Final Four and win the National Championship.

Final Four:

1. Villanova V. 2. Arizona, Winner: Arizona

1. Kansas V. 2. Kentucky, Winner: Kansas

National Championship:

2. Arizona V. 1. Kansas, Winner: Arizona

East Regional Winner: 1 Villanova

Villanova is back in the NCAA Tournament to defend their crown as the number one overall seed in the tournament. Head coach Jay Wright deserves a lot of credit for the job he’s done at Villanova. He’s taken a team that has been known to choke under the bright lights of the tournament and transformed them into a perennial power house. Led by senior guard Josh Hart (18.9 PPG), Villanova is once again one of if not the best teams in the tournament. Their defense has been outstanding this year, allowing 62.8 points per game, ranking 17th in all of Division 1 Basketball in Scoring Defense. Villanova will make it out of the East Region to get to the Final Four, but they won’t make it past Arizona.

South Regional Winner: 2 Kentucky

Head coach John Calipari has expertly set himself up to look like an overachiever again this year, just like he did last year. Once again right before the start of the tournament, he complained about the selection committee’s process of seeding the teams. This is all an effort to mask some of the problems that his Kentucky team has, such as the fact that his team shoots only 35.9% from the 3 point line. However, they have a tremendous freshman guard in Malik Monk (20.4 PPG), the 29th leading scorer in the nation. He’s just enough for Kentucky to get past the number 1 seed in the South North Carolina and make Kentucky’s season appear to be successful. However, a freshman guard alone won’t be enough to topple Kansas in the Final Four.

 

Midwest Regional Winner and Runner-Up: 1 Kansas

There’s always one top team in the nation that appears to be more lucky than they are good, and that’s the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas has played in countless close games this year, and they’re able to pull them out due to having one of if not the top coach in all of Division 1 basketball, Bill Self. It also helps that Kansas’ backcourt may be the best in the tournament. They’re led by 5-11 senior guard and Wooden Award (*award for the best play in division 1 basketball) candidate Frank Mason III (20.8 PPG) and 6-8 freshman guard Josh Jackson (16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG). These two will help carry Kansas all the way to the National Championship Game, but their luck will run out come April 3rd.

West Regional Winner and National Champion: 2 Arizona

What can be said about the Arizona Wildcats? Head coach Sean Miller consistently has his team atop the PAC 12 Conference, and this will be the year he takes his team over the top to not only the Final Four, but to the mountain top as National Champions. They have the size and length of an NBA roster, most notably 7 foot tall Forward Lauri Markkanen (15.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG). Guard Allonzo Trier (17.3 PPG) has also found his groove after a frustrating season, and his play is trending upward at the right time. And like any good team, their defense can shut opponents down, as they allow opponents to score just 65.4 points per game, good for 37th in the Nation. Oh, and they’ll be playing in Phoenix, Arizona, the ultimate home-court advantage considering they play just down the road in Tucson. All of these ingredients will result in some home cooking for the Wildcats, as they will be crowned as the national champions once the final buzzer sounds.

 

 

March Madness: Tips for a Good Bracket

The NCAA Tournament is here, let the madness that is March begin.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, it’s not Christmas, its mid-March. That means the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has arrived! Which also means we can now begin an age-old tradition, filling out a bracket. Whether it’s for fun, money, or just plain bragging rights over your bros, filling out a bracket has become as American as apple pie. Many of us, myself included, do struggle with filling out a bracket, and this year figures to be one of the most unpredictable tournaments we’ve had in a while. But have no fear, Bros Can’t Hang is here to help! Here are some tips to consider while filling out your bracket.

Don’t Have a “Chalk” Bracket… Until the End

A novice mistake when filling out a bracket for the tourney is picking only the favorites for every game, or a having a “chalk” bracket. Avoid this! Not every higher seeded team is going to win. It’s the NCAA tournament, upsets are going to occur. However, don’t avoid picking the higher seeds entirely. The teams with the 1-5 seeds are seeded this high for a reason, and they will ultimately be the teams playing in the later rounds of the tournament. Your bracket (*or brackets, depending on how into it you are*) should have plenty of higher seeds come the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship game.

Don’t Have All Number 1 Seeds Make it to the Final Four

Another rookie mistake is to pick all of the number 1 seeds to make it to the Final Four. Not only is it boring, but it could result in you losing your bracket pool, badly. Not every team can be a one seed, but the 2, 3, and 4 seeds are good teams too, and have favorable match-ups if they come to blows with the number 1 seeds. Have no more than two number 1 seeds in the Final Four, as none of the number 1 seeds this year are that dominant to the point that they will all meet come April 1st (*I’m looking at you Gonzaga*).

Pick Upsets Involving 5 and 12 Seeds

It’s a simple fact of life, a 12 seed always takes down a 5 seeds. Since 1985, a 5 seed has been upset by a 12 seed 49 times.  The actual rate a 5 seed wins these match-ups is 66.9%, the worst among the higher seeds. This year’s 5 v 12 seed match-ups include Virginia V UNC Wilmington, Notre Dame V Princeton, Iowa State V Nevada, and Minnesota V Middle Tennessee State. According to those odds, you should pick at least one 12 seed to beat a 5 seed.

Only Go Upset Heavy in The Early Rounds

The upsets occur in the early rounds of the tournament. If you’re one of those people who loves to pick the underdogs, do so in the first round. Other than the 5 and 12 seed match-ups I mentioned above, it’s perfectly fine to have a 3 lose to a 14 seed, a 4 lose to a 13 seed. If you want to be bold, go ahead and pick the first ever 16 seed to beat a number 1 seed. The first couple of rounds are primed for upsets.

Have 1 Team Seeded Higher than 4 go to the Elite 8

While I have said to stick with mostly “chalk” in the later rounds of the tournament, have at least one of the lower seeds go far. No, don’t pick the 16-10 seeds to go too far, but pick a 6 or 7 seed go to the Elite 8. This will be your “Cinderella”team, the one nobody expected to make it this far, but the one that could result in you winning in your bracket pool.

Follow these tips and you’ll have the bracket that all others in your pool will envy. You have been warned, however, as this year’s tournament seems like the most unpredictable one in years. Come back soon and I’ll have my late round picks!

 

 

Bro-Commentary: The 5 Moves the Oakland Raiders Must Make In Free-Agency

The Oakland Raiders are just a few moves away from solidifying themselves as Super Bowl contenders for years to come.

The Oakland Raiders enjoyed a return to prominence last season, making it to the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they reached the Super Bowl. For the last decade and a half, free agents in the NFL avoided the Raiders at all costs, seeing it as a destination where careers go to die. This off-season, however, the Raiders appear to be a premiere destination for free agents, seeing the Raiders as a team on the rise. On top of that, the Raiders don’t have as many glaring needs as they’ve had in past off-seasons. That being said, if the Raiders want to legitimize themselves as Super Bowl contenders for years to come, these are the 5 moves the Raiders must make this free agency period.

5. Sign a ILB

One position the Raiders have played musical chairs with the past few seasons has been the Inside Line Backer position. They drafted Ben Heeney in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he has had injury issues and has been a liability in coverage situations. Curtis Lofton was a bust free agent signing for them in 2015, and was promptly released. Perry Riley Jr. played well for the Raiders this past season, but it seems the Raiders are comfortable letting him walk. Same goes for Super Bowl 48 MVP Malcolm Smith, who had a career year in 2015 for the Raiders, but regressed mightily in 2016 and has become a major coverage liability for the Raiders.

The Raiders should take a look at Patriots ILB Dont’a Hghtower, but not overpay him. Hightower is a tremendous talent, but has an extensive injury history. Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Lawrence Timmons, while 31-years-old, could also be an option. The Raiders need to add a play-maker as it pertains to the ILB position, as it will bolster their defense that needs to improve.

4. Sign DT Calais Campbell or NT Dontari Poe

While the Raiders have already tendered DT Denico Autry, they still need help along their front seven. Adding a veteran presence like Arizona Cardinals DT Calais Campbell (8.0 Sacks in 2016) would not only improve their pass rush which ranked last in the NFL with 25 Sacks, but also add a locker room leader as well. If he’s not available or too expensive, the Raiders should poach NT Dontari Poe from the Kansas City Chiefs. He had a down year last season due to a back injury, but he’s younger and would still improve the Raiders’ defensive line. Plus, he’d be one less player to fret over when playing the Chiefs.

3. Add to the Secondary

The Raiders thought they struck gold by signing CB Sean Smith last season. While Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 18th best CB in the NFL last season, he recorded only 2 interceptions and got beat BADLY at times in 2016 (*see Week 1 98-yard TD allowed against Saints WR Brandin Cooks, Week 2 against Atlanta Falcons WR  Julio Jones, Week 15 47-yard TD allowed against Los Angeles Chargers WR Travis Benjamin*). CB David Amerson is a solid 2nd string CB, but at times he was asked to play like a 1st string CB, a position he is at best average. CB D.J. “Toast” Hayden is not getting re-signed due to injury issues and being burnt like toast one too many times since being drafted 12th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Raiders need to add another CB to assist their secondary. There are options out there for the Raiders, namely Houston Texans CB A.J. Bouye, New England Patriots CB Logan Ryan, and Jacksonville Jaguars CB Prince Amukamara.

2. Sign RB Adrian Peterson, For the Right Price

Rumor has it the Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has narrowed his interest down to two teams: the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are a viable option for Peterson, but have an offensive line that needs a lot of work, not exactly a dream scenario for a veteran RB. The Raiders on the other hand, have one of the best offensive lines in football, and ranked 6th in the league in rushing offense with 120.1 yards per game in 2016. Yes, Peterson was limited to only 3 games and rushed 37 times for 72 yards last season due to a knee injury. Yes, Peterson is 31-years-old. This is why I caution the Raiders not to overpay Peterson should he choose to sign with them. He’s looking for $4-$6 million per year, a significant reduction in salary considering he was due to make $18 million this season had he remained with the Vikings. If he can stay healthy, the Raiders would add another weapon to their already explosive offense should he choose to join the Silver and Black.

1. Extend DL Khalil Mack and QB Derek Carr

Some moves don’t need that much explaining.The 2 pillars of the franchise, DL Kahlil Mack and QB Derek Carr, need to be locked down for the long term.

Defensive Player of the Year winner Khalil Mack ( 73 tackles, 11 sacks, 5 FFs , 1 INT, 1 TD) has a 5th year option, which the Raiders should have picked up… yesterday. After doing so, they need to sign him to an extension. It’ll more than likely make him one of the highest paid defensive players in the NFL, and he’s worth every penny.

QB Derek Carr (3,937 YDS, 28 TDS, 6 INTS,  63.8 CMP%) was an MVP candidate before breaking his Fibula in Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts. He’s the franchise QB the Raiders have searched desperately for since their Super Bowl season in 2002, when QB Rich Gannon was under center and won NFL MVP honors. There may now be questions as to whether or not he can stay healthy, but he makes the offense go. He should be rewarded a contract extension this off-season as well.

 

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: Logan

The Wolverine we wanted. The Wolverine we deserved.

To some, comic book movies are the plague of the earth right now. With the exception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, which even at this point have somewhat of a cut-and-paste feel to them, there appears to be an over-saturation of comic book films. One outstanding example was last summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, an overlong special effects-fest that featured actors who flat-out didn’t care even though the film centers around their actions (*cough* Jennifer Lawrence *cough*). Even I find myself at times wondering if there will ever be an end to comic book movies, and have prayed for something different to come along to revitalize the genre.

It seems my prayer has been answered, and its arrived in the form of a new Wolverine movie, Logan, based loosely on the popular comic “Old Man Logan”. In the not too distant future where mutants are all but extinct, Logan finds a past his prime, sickly Logan AKA Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) slumming through life as a limousine driver. When he’s not driving his limo, Logan hustles for prescription drugs in an attempt to care for the now senile Charles Xavier AKA Professor X (Patrick Stewart) with the help of fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). He then encounters a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who enlists his help escort a mysterious 11- year-old girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to a supposed safe haven for mutants in North Dakota called Eden. As a result, Logan becomes entangled in a deadly circumstance, as Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) along with the assistance of the leader of the Reavers Donald Pierce (Boyd Holdbrook) are looking to capture Laura for unknown purposes. A reluctant Logan finds himself having to protect Laura and Professor X while on the run from the deadly duo.

Lets face it, with the exception of X2: Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past, the X-Men franchise doesn’t have an illustrious history. 2000’s X-Men, 2006’s X-men: The Last Stand, 2011’s X-Men: First Class and 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse all fall in-between mediocre and awful on the comic book movie greatness barometer. The franchise has been especially weighed down by the fact that it’s most recognizable anti-hero, Wolverine, has never gotten a great stand-alone film. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not only one of the most underwhelming comic book films ever made, it’s one of the biggest middle fingers to comic book fans after the filmmakers bungled the mythology of Deadpool. 2013’s The Wolverine was solid, up until the last 30 minutes which featured its titular character battling a giant samurai transformer in its climax. Logan, however, finally rights the wrong of not only previous Wolverine films, but also past X-men films as well.

Logan isn’t your typical comic book film. It’s a character study. Logan is Hugh Jackman’s finest hour as Wolverine. Jackman aptly embodies a harden man who wants to be left alone to die, but still has enough of a conscious left to care for those in need. We feel Wolverine’s pain throughout this film and sympathize with him greatly, probably the most since his origin was explored further in X2: X-Men United. Sure, the character is essentially a mirror image of  Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name and/ or Dirty Harry, but Jackman’s performances as Wolverine have always been the strongest of his career.

Not to be outdone, however, is Patrick Stewart as Professor X, whose dementia has rendered him a walking nuclear weapon if he is not medicated properly. Stewart is a classical actor, so we expect this of him regardless. More surprising is Stephen Merchants’ performance as Caliban, a tortured albino mutant who aides Logan. Known more for his comedic roles such as in Hello Ladies, Merchant puts his acting abilities on full display, which should result in him obtaining more serious work in the future. Boyd Holbrook continues to show he’s a rising star with his performance as the villainous Donald Pierce, and injects the humor into the film (*because God forbid there not be any humor in a comic book movie*). But the real showstopper here is Dafne Keen as Laura, who barely speaks throughout the film, but gives the performance of a lifetime. You want this girl to make it to Eden, and she doesn’t come off as an annoying kid like most kids do in comic book movies (*cough* Iron Man 3 *cough*). It also helps that she kicks butt too. We haven’t seen such rooted characters in a Marvel Comics movie in quite some, and when something does happen to these people who you’ve grown attached to, it’s as if Wolverine himself claws you in your gut.

Now while Logan is a character piece, it doesn’t forget the main aspect of why people come to see comic book movies: the action. No longer are the days when Wolverine would stab someone and hardly any blood was shown. Logan takes full advantage of its R-rating by showcasing numerous ways to stab people in the head, stomach, and neck. Logan’s action sequences finally quenches my and the audiences’ blood thirst we have begged to see from Wolverine for years, and once the action starts, the blood doesn’t stop dripping. The film also has the feel of a classic western as well, most notably in the film’s scenery. The barren wasteland of Wolverine’s hideout in Mexico, the sequences that take place in Oklahoma City, and the final battle in the woods of North Dakota add an element we haven’t witnessed in a comic book movie. Think True Grit but with claws.

While I have to this point praised the film immensely, Logan shares a flaw like its other Wolverine stand-alone film predecessors: the big bad final boss. X-Men Origins: Wolverine had a mutated Deadpool that had sword Wolverine claws and numerous other mutant abilities. The Wolverine had a giant samurai transformer. While I won’t reveal the seemingly unstoppable force that Wolverine cannot overcome by himself, its one of those moments where you just look at the screen and say, really? That’s it? That’s the best you could come up with? For one reason or another, the standalone Wolverine films find a way to fumble the ball as it pertains to the final boss, and Logan is the franchises’ latest victim.

However, that’s not enough to hold myself back from proclaiming Logan as not only the best Wolverine and maybe even X-Men movie ever made, it could one day be regarded as the pinnacle of comic book films. It delivers on everything we’ve ever wanted in a Wolverine/ X-Men film and more. We get the character depth. We get the action. We get the blood and gore. We get the Wolverine movie we’ve always desired despite its one major blemish. One can only hope that after its successful theatrical run, Logan will be the new gold standard in how to make comic book films for years to come.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Pay Full Price.