Tiger Woods was arrested the morning of Memorial Day for DUI. Has Woods officially hit rock bottom?
I predicted it long before I started writing this blog. I famously declared the NBA season over back in February during NBA All-Star Weekend. And now here we are, for the third straight season, the only two teams left standing in the NBA are the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Never before has the NBA seen the same two teams face each other in the NBA Finals three years in a row. The Celtics and Lakers didn’t do it in the 80s, the Bulls and the Jazz only saw each other two years in a row in ’97 and ’98, and the Heat and the Spurs went head to head twice in two years as well back in 2013 and 2014. This is a historic NBA Finals, and if you thought the stakes were as high as they could be last year with the greatest season in NBA history and an all-time greats’ legacy on the line, the stakes are arguably even higher this year.
While most would believe there’s little pressure on Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James this year since he came back from a 3-1 series deficit last year, this series has the potential to have him leap-frog the ghost and G.O.A.T. in Chicago, Michael Jordan. Jordan may have faced four 62 or more win teams in the 90s, but most would agree the ’93 Suns with Charles Barkley, the ’96 Supersonics with Gary Payton, and the ’97 – ’98 Jazz with John Stockton and Karl Malone are nowhere near as talent nor as good as the Warriors’ teams that have won 67 or more games the last three seasons. Should LeBron beat this Warriors team with four all-stars, three hall-of fame caliber players and one borderline hall-of-fame caliber player, it would become increasingly difficult to deny him the mantel of the G.O.A.T. . Also, considering the fact that he’s averaging 32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.0 APG during this playoff run, it’s hard to count out LeBron James. Throw in the fact that he still has one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game in PG Kyrie Irving and a surging Kevin Love, who’s coming off an explosive Eastern Conference Finals in which he averaged 22.6 PPG, 12.4 RPG, and shot 53.5% from the 3-point line, and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers have more than enough to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Warriors.
However, the Warriors are out to avenge last years’ failure of adding a ring to their 73-9 regular season. To do so, they lured F Kevin Durant to Northern California, thus becoming the living embodiment of the phrase “If you can’t be ’em, join ’em.” While injuries and the Warrior’s success without him may have somewhat plagued his season, Kevin Durant has held up his end of the bargain, averaging 25.2 PPG in the playoffs and becoming a more active defensive player than we ever saw him be as a member of the Thunder. While Durant might be the best player on the team, make no mistake, this is still PG Stephen Curry’s team. Averaging 28.6 PPG and shooting 43.1% from the three-point line, Stephen Curry has arguably had just as magical of a playoff run as LeBron James. However, neither he nor SG Klay Thompson have lived up to their billing as “The Splash Bros.” in the last two NBA Finals. Curry failed to live up to his MVP standards, as he averaged 26 PPG and shoot only 35% from the three-point line in the 2015 Finals, averaged 22.6 PPG in the 2016 Finals, and Thompson averaged only 15.8 PPG and 19.6 PPG in the 2015 and 2016 Finals respectively.
Barring injuries, this is the no excuses NBA Finals. All of the teams are fully healthy. LeBron will have his other two counterparts unlike in 2015 and for some of 2016. Stephen Curry will have a leg to stand on after his knee left him somewhat ineffective in 2016. Kevin Durant won’t have to worry about PG Russell Westbrook hogging the ball like he did back when they were teammates on the Thunder. While memories of LeBron throttling Kevin Durant throughout his career aren’t forgotten, including in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Warriors have too much offensive fire-power for LeBron James to supplant MJ as the G.O.A.T. … for now.
Prediction: Warriors in 7.
Over the last decade or so, Hollywood has had quite the fixation on reviving the 1980s and 1990s. This was first done mainly by Sylvester Stallone with 2006’s Rocky Balboa, 2008’s Rambo, and The Expendables franchise, but later made its way to 80s television properties. Prominent examples include 2010’s preposterous but fun The A-Team and the now wildly successful 21 Jump Street franchise. Now here we are in 2017, and the latest 80s property to get the big screen treatment is Baywatch, the king of slow-motion use and the queen of hot chicks frolicking around in skin tight bathing suits that starred David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. In theory, this sounds like a good idea, throw in a man that oozes charisma in Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock and you’ve got a recipe for success, right?
Baywatch stars Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchanan, an overzealous but courageous lifeguard who leads an elite team of lifeguards in Emerald Bay, Florida. After adding new recruits to the team, namely the brainy and skilled surfer Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and former Olympic gold medal winner but selfish screw-up Matt Brody (Zac Efron), the Baywatch crew must investigate suspected drug smuggler Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), the owner of a swanky new nightclub called the Huntley Club.
Baywatch is a prime example of some aspects of the 80s/ 90s are better left dead. Part of the charm of Baywatch during its original run was that it was in on the joke. It was a campy T.V. show and knew it, and it wasted no time in shamelessly exploiting the hardbodies of Pamela Anderson and whichever other Playboy Bunny of the Month they could get to film for that week’s episode. Baywatch tries to have it too many ways: it wants to be silly summer comedy, it wants to be in on the joke as a satire, and it attempts to be a capable action-comedy as well, and it succeeds at none of them.
The television version of Baywatch was never known for award worthy acting, but this film adaptation makes it look like it should’ve been up for multiple Emmys every year it was on air. Ilfenesh Hadera’s Stephanie Holden is supposed to be the most experienced and capable member of the bunch, but her bland personality and non-acting abilities make her stick out like a sore thumb. Jon Bass plays the awkward tech genius Ronnie, who is only there to be abused and made fun of because of his awkwardness and fatness. The only problem is the filmmakers thought his scenes where he fumbles about flirting with Kelly Rohrbach’s C.J. Parker would steal the show, but suffice to say jokes about his dude genitalia getting stuck on a beach lounger come across as cheap gross-out humor than comedic gold. Alexandra Daddario’s Summer Quinn barely resonates in the film, making me question other than exploiting her body why she was even cast in the film. It’s Rohrbach who comes across best as C.J. Parker, as she appears to have fair comedic timing to match her busty looks, making her a perfect fit for Baywatch.
Zac Efron does what he always does: looks pretty, takes off his shirt, and plays an irresponsible d-bag who thinks he’s a bro, adding nothing to the film. Priyanka Chopra is a sultry villainous, but there’s not much depth to her character and comes across as a villain we’d see in either the Roger Moore (*R.I.P.*) or Pierce Brosnan James Bond eras. This brings us to Mr. Dwayne Johnson, whose Mitch Buchanan is the straight-man of the film. Mr. Johnson is charismatic, funny, and just plain likeable in real-life and in most of his other films. Here, he’s just flat-out boring. Considering he produced the film, he should’ve been able to have more power in creating a character that would be able to carry the film, but he doesn’t.
More shocking is how incompetently directed the film is. Director Seth Gordon directed the consistently laugh-out-loud funny Horrible Bosses back in 2011, but then went on to direct the much maligned and rightfully so Identity Thief in 2013. Much of the same problems in that film are present in this one: there’s little chemistry between any of the characters on screen, the action is hard to follow, and it’s just not funny in the least bit. And not to mention the fact that the film runs nearly 2 hours long. The television incarnation of Baywatch barely had enough material to justify hour-long episodes on T.V., what made the filmmakers believe they had enough material to stretch it to 2 hours? Was it the jiggle factor of the voluptuous bodies on screen? Was it the unfunny juvenile humor? Was it the lifeless cameos of David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson? Was it the tease of a sequel during the credits?
Baywatch is the definition of a wasted opportunity. Baywatch boasts a seemingly charming, capable, and pretty cast of actors along with a good premise that could’ve made for one of the better summer comedies we’ve seen in a while. Instead, we get an overlong, laugh-less affair that not even the beefy shoulders of Dwayne Johnson can carry, leaving this bay unwatchable.
Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay Away.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is an indication of just how powerful of an influence Disney has on our society. Disney turned one of the worst rides at Disneyland into arguably the biggest movie franchise of all time. Pirates of the Caribbean’s first three entries shattered box office records, although most would argue the series started experiencing diminished returns during that time. All would agree the fourth entry, On Stranger Tides, was unnecessary save for seeing Penelope Cruz in a pirate outfit, and that the ending left no reason for there to be a fifth entry. Six years later, however, captain Jack Sparrow and the pirates have returned for another adventure on the Caribbean.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales introduces Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), attempting to break the curse that bounds his father to remain the captain of the Flying Dutchman. His only hope is to obtain the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that not only breaks all of the curses of the seas, but allows one to rule them as well. To obtain the trident, he enlists the help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and a feisty female astronomer accused of witch-craft Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to accompany him on his quest. However, trouble awaits them on the deadly waters of the sea, as Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who has sworn to rid the seas of pirates, seeks revenge against the man who killed him, Jack Sparrow.
If we’re being honest, the character arch-types of Dead Man Tell No Tales mirror the ones of The Curse of the Black Pearl. Yes, he is the son of Will Turner after all, but the humble beginnings of Henry nearly match the ones of Will. As a woman of science, Carina is just as doubtful of the myths of the seas just like Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the young actors Thwaites and Scodelario are improvements over the barely resonating younger cast in On Stranger Tides. While the romantic subplot between the two is cliche’, there’s no doubt the two have sizzling chemistry on screen.
And of course, Jack Sparrow is the same carefree swashbuckling drunkard who first graced the screen nearly 14 years ago. We go see these movies for Depp’s portrayal of the legendary pirate. When he isn’t mumbling his way through scenes, we’re reminded of just how great of a character Sparrow is and why the Academy nominated Depp for his portrayal of Sparrow back in the 2004 Academy Awards. The rest of Jack’s rag-tag crew also reappears, and it’s Kevin McNally’s Joshamee Gibbs who remains as grounded and honest as ever, a welcome aspect of these films. Veteran Actor Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Hector Barbossa as well, and given the material he’s given, he comes across as a more heartfelt character than we’ve seen him be in the previous films.
Unfortunately, it’s Bardem’s Salazar who keeps the curse of lackluster villains alive for the series. His whole goal in life to rid the seas of pirates is fascinating, but the explanation of why he is doing so is merely glossed over instead of deeply explored, robbing the audience of any sort of connection to the character other than “oh hey it’s the dead bad guy.” It’s a shame, because then the audience might have actually been conflicted over who to root for had that dynamic been examined further.
The one aspect of the series that appears to grow larger in scale with each entry is the action. For starters, dead sharks as dangerous weapons should have been introduced to the series a long time ago, as they provide for one of the most thrilling action sequences the series has seen. Pirates robbing banks is always a hardy good time to experience as well, after all they are pirates, it’s what they do. And the final sequence, as implausible as it is, is something to behold, even though it almost ruins the entire movie. If you want the full scale of the action, see the movie in IMAX 3-D as I did, you won’t regret it.
Lastly, we get more closure than we did in At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While it shouldn’t be characterized as leaving the series on a high note should they choose to do so (*apparently this film is supposed to be the first of a new trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean films*), it should be characterized as less of a low one than the ones we got from At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While there are still many flaws present that have consistently plagued the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales sails on better tides than most of the previous sequels. However, Jack Sparrow and company should sail on this tide into retirement, as it’s evident there are no more tales to tell after the dead have told the most competent tale since Dead Man’s Chest.
Rating: 2.5/4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.
Let’s face it, as it pertains to the Alien franchise, the first two films are the holy grail. Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien popularized the sci-fi genre and still holds up as one of the most horrifying films of all time. The sequel, James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens, was a prime example of how to do a sequel correctly and is one of the best sci-fi horror/ action films ever made. Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, however, are the epitome of studio blockbusters made to cash in and failed. The less said of Alien Vs. Predator/ AVP the better, and AVP: Requiem never happened, okay? After over 30 years and six Alien films, one might have thought the franchise was dead. Director Ridley Scott, however, decided he wanted more money and made the 2012 prequel to Alien, Prometheus. Five years later, we have yet another prequel to Alien but also a sequel to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant.
In Covenant, a crew made up of couples carrying embryos sets off for an adventure into space on a ship called the covenant in an effort to colonize the remote planet Origae-6 in the year 2104. Along the way, they discover a radio transmission from an unknown planet, which they discover to be even more habitable than Origae-6. Against the wishes of terraforming expert Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterson), acting captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) orders the crew to go explore the planet, only to find that terror awaits them.
While many have their complaints about Prometheus, one thing you cannot deny the film for was the film’s character development. The characters in Alien: Covenant are about as dimensional as a plank of wood and commit even dumber acts than the scientists in Prometheus. Considering the capable cast assembled, including Danny McBride, Academy-Award nominee Demián Bichir, and Carmen Ejogo, it’s odd that you couldn’t care less about these characters. We briefly learn that Billy Crudup’s Oram is a man of faith, but that isn’t explored any further. Also, Katherine Waterson appears to be in the film only because she resembles Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but that’s it. It’s not that the cast isn’t doing a good job, it’s just that they’re given nothing to do. The only vaguely interesting character in the entire movie is the always stellar Michael Fassbender’s Walter, a synthetic android created much in the vain as Fassbender’s David 8 in Prometheus but without the humanoid free-will David 8 possessed.
The best quality of Alien: Covenant is the production value. Ridley Scott has made a career off of making grandiose blockbusters, and Covenant is his latest achievement. The sets are nothing short of stunning, outer space looks epic but terrifying at the same time, and the planet the crew explores feels real, not like a green screen. Of course, the once practical Alien costume is tossed out for CGI incarnations of the beasts, but they do look frightening and even more impossible to kill than the ones that came before them. This makes for some impressive and epic action, including some homages to the first two Alien films. The other aspect of the film that must be mentioned is the question of our lives: who created us? The film connects to and seems to answer that question in order to continue the story-line started by Prometheus, but drops the ball by not exploring this question much further than that.
However, the fatal flaw of Alien: Covenant and all of these prequels is the fact that it’s supposed to connect to Alien eventually. The ending of the film leaves you asking how? How in the world is this supposed to connect to Alien? The answer is nobody knows how. 20th Century Fox is just winging it in hopes that you’ll spend your cash and two hours of your life to see another prequel to a classic. If you must, the visual spectacle of the film is enough to warrant a trip to the theater, but you’re better off watching Alien or Aliens instead.
Rating: 2/4 Stars. High Rental.
The Eastern Conference finals are set, and the top two teams are set to clash with the one seed Boston Celtics facing the two seed Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Celtics and Cavaliers faced each other four times during the regular season, with the Cavaliers winning three out of the four games. The most recent meeting between the two occurred on April 5th, when the Cavaliers came into Boston and obliterated the Celtics 114-94.
If there’s one thing to admire about the Celtics, its their tenacity and ability to respond to adversity. This team was down 2-0 to the Chicago Bulls and came back to win the series in six games. They just escaped a no-holds-barred seven game series against an up-and-coming Washington Wizards team that features one of the most dangerous backcourts in the NBA. Their leading scorer and MVP candidate PG Isaiah Thomas has been resoundingly resilient throughout the postseason. First, he dealt with the tragic death of his 22-year-old sister while averaging 23 PPG in the first round. Then in the semi-finals, he underwent dental surgery after his teeth were knocked out and averaged 27.4 PPG, including a 53 point masterpiece in game 2. The Celtics have exceeded expectations this year. They finished the season as the number one seed in the east and have a bright future ahead of themselves due to their impeccable ability to steal draft picks from bumbling NBA franchises (*cough* Brooklyn Nets *cough*).
But to be blunt, the Celtics are done. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a class of their own in the eastern conference. They’ve swept the competition they’ve faced in the eastern conference so far, toying with Indiana Pacers in the first round and straight-up clowning the Toronto Raptors in the semi-finals to the point the Raptors should be re-named the Barney the Dinosaurs. LeBron James is on a mission to achieve what Hall of Fame PF Moses Malone predicted for the 82-83 76ers, fo, fo, fo. Translation? Four, four, four. The 82-83 76ers went 4-0, 4-1. 4-0 en route to an NBA title, so LeBron and the Cavaliers have the opportunity to achieve what Moses and the 76ers couldn’t. LeBron is averaging 34.4 PPG, 9 RPG, 7.1 APG, and shooting 48.8% from behind the three point line this postseason. Even Michael Jordan at his peak would envy what LeBron has done in just eight postseason games so far.
Simply put, the Cavaliers have LeBron James. The Celtics do not.
Prediction: Cavs in 5