Bro-Reviews: Baby Driver

The hipster incarnation of the Transporter.

Edgar Wright is one of the most talented men working in Hollywood today. His Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which includes Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, is comedy at its finest. Although Scott Pilgrim vs. the World delivered meager box office results, it’s widely considered a cult classic. Despite the success of his films among film aficionados, he’s never truly made a mainstream film. Baby Driver, however, is his first foray into mainstream filmmaking, but does it retain the sharp wit and well developed characters we’ve come to know his films by?

Baby Driver sees expert getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) relying on the sound and beat of his preferred soundtrack to help him navigate through the world of crime. He believes his time as a getaway driver is coming to an end, as he is very close to paying off his debt to the mysterious kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby then begins romancing a diner waitress named Debora (Lilly James), and the two plan to run off with each other. Before they can run off and live happily ever after, Baby must complete his most challenging job of all with the most dangerous criminals in the city: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s girlfriend Darling (Eiza González), and Bats (Jamie Foxx).

Baby Driver is essentially a Transporter movie minus the over-the-top action and the abtastic Jason Statham. What it does better than those three films (*The Transporter Refueled never happened, it just didn’t*) is having an actual story, better characters, and sharp dialogue. In other words, if Edgar Wright ever made a Transporter movie, it’d look something like this. Wright is able to put his stamp on what is otherwise a story we’ve seen done over and over again, and he gets a lot out of what is an all-star ensemble cast.

Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, and Jon Hamm in “Baby Driver.”

Kevin Spacey delivers another fine performance as the crime lord Doc, and he shows no signs of slowing down as one of the best actors in the game. Newcomer actress Eiza González is a sultry villainous, and she commands your attention with her stunning looks and acting abilities anytime she’s on screen. Lilly James also delivers a solid performance as Baby’s love interest, as her free spirited young self represents this generation’s feelings on life and adult responsibilities to a t.

While I can’t get over the fact I feel he’s just a younger version of Josh Hartnett, Ansel Elgort is solid as a leading man. However, while his quirky trait of playing music during getaways functions well within the premise of the film, he has another quirk in which he carries a recorder around with him, records people, and then creates music with the recording. The film tries to play this up for laughs to make you believe he’s unique, but it comes across as awkward. He also has no issue with singing aloud in public, something that seems more irritating than endearing. It’s Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm who steal the show as Bats and Buddy respectively. Both are veteran actors who are at a point in their careers where they are open to playing more character parts than being leading men. While Hamm’s Buddy has a quiet but deadly demeanor about him, Foxx’s Bats is a swaggering lunatic, making both scene stealers in the film due to their ability deliver Wright’s exceptional dialogue.

While the performances and dialogue are components of the film we expect to be done well, it’s Wright’s filming of the action scenes that is most surprising. Wright is able to film the chase scenes in such a way you can actually tell what’s occurring onscreen. On top of that, they’re thrilling and action packed, something we don’t typically expect from Wright even though he’s done it before in his previous films. We’ve come to know Wright for his writing capabilities and ability to make us laugh, but he’s actually one of the better action scene filmers working in Hollywood.

With its great performances, witty dialogue, and have you on the edge of your seat action, Baby Driver is an action-thriller that never takes its foot off the gas. A prime example that you don’t necessarily need giant robots or super heroes to make an enthralling summer action film. While it is essentially the hipster incarnation of a Transporter movie, you can chalk up Baby Driver as another win in the illustrious career of Edgar Wright.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

The Curse of the Quarterback Contract Extentsion

Forget the Madden Curse, it’s all about the curse of QB contract extensions.

In a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders signed franchise quarterback Derek Carr to a 5 year, $125 million contract extension. That averages out to $25 million annually, and includes $40 million in guaranteed money. Carr undoubtedly deserved the extension, as through three NFL seasons he has amassed 11,194 passing yards and thrown for 81 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 87.9. However, history has shown many quarterbacks have struggled the next season after receiving a contract extension. Such examples include:

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams: 6 years for $62.5 Million

Rams QB Marc Bulger fell off a cliff after receiving his contract extension during the 2007 offseason.

Bulger signed this extension after the 2006 season, where he threw for 4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 92.9. The next season, Bulger threw for only 2,392 yards, 11 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 70.3. Bulger never came close to living up to the extension, as he was released after the 2009 season and finished up his career backing up Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars: 6 years for $60 Million

QB David Garrard never lived up to his contract extension after leading the Jaguars to the playoffs in 2007.

In 2007, David Garrard threw for 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 102.2 while leading the Jaguars to the AFC Divisional playoff round. Garrard was then rewarded with this contract extension, similar to the one the aforementioned Marc Bulger received. In a 2008 season that saw the Jags have lofty Super Bowl aspirations, Garrard threw for just 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and the Jaguars finished 5-11, good for last place in the AFC South.

Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: 6 years for $62.7 Million

Matt Cassel was supposed to be the QB of the future for the Chiefs.

Matt Cassel threw for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 89.4 in 2008 for the New England Patriots with Tom Brady injured. This was enough for the Kansas City Chiefs to trade for him and sign him to a new contract, as the Chiefs thought they had finally found their franchise quarterback. The Chiefs went 4-12 in 2009, and Cassel threw for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 69.9. While Cassel did earn a Pro-Bowl bid and led the Chiefs to an AFC West Divisional title in 2010, Cassel never came close to matching his supposed worth, as he was cut after the 2012 season after struggling mightily in 2011 and 2012.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: 6 years for $120.6 Million

Joe Flacco’s status as an elite QB has come into question after a couple of mediocre seasons after winning the Super Bowl in 2012.

To be fair, Joe Flacco was coming off a postseason in which he threw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to a Super Bowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens. He had made it to 3 AFC Championship Games since 2008 and was legitimately deserving of a new deal after the 2012 season. Unfortunately, the 2013 season saw Flacco and the Ravens experience a Super Bowl hangover, as Flacco threw 22 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 73.1. The Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the postseason that year, and have only made it to the postseason once since signing Flacco to that extension.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: 6 years for $108 Million

QB Tony Romo got chance after chance after chance, and only won 1 playoff game after his monster extension.

Tony Romo already holds the mantel of the most overrated quarterback in NFL history because his stats were admittedly astounding for fantasy football geeks and he played for “America’s Team.” This led to Owner/ GM of the Cowboys Jerry Jones to give his illegitimate son this massive contract extension after two straight seasons of Romo choking in the final game of the regular season that could’ve put the Cowboys in the playoffs. 2013 saw him gag important games against the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers (*the Cowboys blew a 23-point lead and Matt Flynn started for the Packers that game*) and the Cowboys missed the playoffs. While Romo did lead the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the NFC Divisional Playoff round in 2014, injuries and Dak Prescott prevented Romo from playing out the rest of his contract, and he is now the lead color commentator for CBS.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: 7 years for $126 Million

NFL: Chicago Bears at New England Patriots
QB Jay Cutler had a lot of talent, but it never amounted to much considering his contract extension from the Bears after the 2013 season.

Although the Bears hadn’t made it to the postseason for the third straight season, Jay “My arm is bigger than John Elway’s” Cutler signed this massive contract extension after the 2013 season. The Bears went on to finish 5-11 in 2014, and Cutler was run out of town and the league after the 2016 season amid questions about his leadership abilities. He is now a color commentator for Fox.

While Carr is most certainly better than many of the quarterbacks listed here and the Raiders are better than the teams those quarterbacks played for, Raiders fans should be somewhat concerned about the 2017 season. History indicates many quarterbacks struggle the season after they receive a contract extension, and Carr could be the next victim of this curse. Factor in the fact that the Raiders’ schedule is already one of the toughest in the league, Super Bowl expectations, and the looming move to Las Vegas into the equation, and the 2017 season could turn out to be a major letdown for the silver and black. This may not be the Curse of the Bambino, the Billy Goat Curse, or even the Curse of the Black Pearl, but the Curse of Quarterback Contract Extensions looms large over the Raiders’ 2017 season.


Bro-Reviews: Transformers: The Last Knight

If only it were the last of its kind.

The Transformers franchise is one of the biggest wastes of potential in the history of film. Based on the popular Hasbro toys and the cartoon series, the Transformers movies have so much material to draw upon to not only make a compelling movie, but also an absorbing universe similar to the one Marvel Studios has created. 2007’s Transformers is still one of most pleasant surprises in the history of summer blockbusters, 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a dumpster fire of epic proportions, 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon came close to matching its predecessor’s ineptitude but averts that fate by having an epic climatic battle, and 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction should’ve left the franchise extinct according to most (*I enjoyed it, however*). But due to the fact that these films print money, a fifth film, Transformers: The Last Knight, has now arrived in theaters.

In The Last Knight, we find out back in 484 A.D. a magician by the name of Merlin (Stanley Tucci) enlisted the help of Cybertronian Knights to help King Arthur and Camelot defeat their adversaries thanks to a staff given to Merlin. In the present day, more and more transformers are arriving to earth despite the fact they are hunted by the Transformers Reaction Force. During this time, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) crash lands onto his home plant of Cybertron and is corrupted by the sorceress Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan). She forces him to embark on a mission to destroy earth by obtaining the staff of Merlin, which holds the key to bringing the planet Cybertron back to life. It is then up to inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Oxford professor Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock), and astronomer/ transformers historian Sir Edmond Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins) to find the staff of Merlin in order to save earth from annihilation.

Despite that synopsis and the promise of delving deeper into the mythology of the transformers, the movie is impossible to follow. There is no flow to the story, as most of the characters give exposition to try and explain what is going on. It’s as if the writers were literally making the story up as it went along, something we’ve grown accustomed to with this franchise.

Mark Wahlberg in “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Even more glaring this time around are the amount of useless characters in the movie. Jerrod Carmichael is one of the top comedians in the game right now, but you wouldn’t know that watching this movie, as his scenes are unfunny and awkward. John Tutorro returns for this installment, and his psychobabbling grows irritating every second he appears on screen. Isabela Moner’s street savvy Izabella comes across as heroic in the trailers, but is rendered ineffective for long periods of the film.

Stanley Tucci now plays two characters in this woebegotten franchise, and he’s given top billing even though his screen time is limited to 5 minutes as Merlin. Josh Duhmel returns to the franchise as well, but his arch of now being part of the team hunting the transformers despite being one of their biggest allies in the first three movies makes little sense. While Laura Haddock is more heroic and intelligent than previous female leads in this series, she still experiences Michael Bay’s exploitative cleavage shots much like the ones Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, and Nicola Peltz experienced. Mark Wahlberg still has his whole Boston dad from Texas affect going on, but he’s effective enough as the leading man and is an improvement over Shia Labeouf. And not even a real knight in Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is in peak “I’m just collecting a check” form, can make this film tolerable. He comes across as a senile old man who was just dragged out of a retirement home and thrown into a movie.

If there’s anything positive to be said of these films, the action sequences are something to behold. Director Michael Bay knows how to direct action sequences and make great use of state-of-the-art special effects, and The Last Knight delivers thrilling action sequences involving the Transformers and finally perfects shooting these scenes in a way in which the audience can tell what is going on.

That being said, Bay once again goes overboard with his use of explosions, making the parody trailer “Michael Bay Explosions” in the T.V. show Robot Chicken seem more like a documentary than a joke. The film beats you down with its action, special effects, and booming sound to the point of fatigue. Technically, the film constantly switches from wide-screen frame to full-screen frame, leaving one to wonder if Michael Bay has gotten so lazy that he does not care if the framing of his films are consistent from scene to scene. But there is evidence to the contrary, as the film is so frenetically edited you would have had to have put effort into the countless quick cuts there are in the film.

Michael Bay has his great films such as the Bad Boys movies, The Rock, and Pain and Gain. It has become clear, however, that he should not be at the helm of the Transformers franchise, as after five films, only one of them is legitimately considered good. One can only hope The Last Knight is the final Transformers movie to be directed by Bay, as it’s time for him to step away from this series and allow someone else to try and salvage what could be one of the most thrilling franchises in Hollywood. As it stands, Transformers: The Last Knight is a two-and-a-half hour all-out assault on the senses that bludgeons its audience to the point of exhaustion. A polished, continuous car-wreck that has no end in sight. I may not have proof that Transformers: The Last Knight destroys brain cells, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if such a discovery was made.

Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay Away.


Bro-Reviews: All Eyez On Me

More like no eyez should see.

Bio-pics are probably the toughest projects to make in Hollywood. Recently, the bar has been set high with the smash hit Straight Outta Compton, the film about the rise and fall of the influential rap group N.W.A. With the success of that film, obviously producers saw the opportunity to make even more biographical films on influential rappers. The most obvious choice to do such a film was Tupac Shakur, the king of west coast hip-hop/rap and widely regarded as one of the best rappers the genre has ever seen. That film has arrived in the form of All Eyez on Me, and fans of the rapper everywhere have held their collective breath in the hopes that the film tells the story of Shakur as elegantly as the makers of the film have promised us.

As stated earlier, All Eyez On Me tells the life story of rapper icon Tupac Shakur. This includes his tumultuous upbringing with his mother and sister, his time as a member of rap group Digital Underground, his rise to superstardom as a solo artist as part of Interscope Records and Death Row Records, his fall due to his prison sentence, and his complex relationship with classmate and close friend Jada Pinkett Smith.

Unlike the titular song and the rhymes of the rapper whose story is being told, All Eyez On Me has no flow. From a technical standpoint, the transitions from scene to scene are jarring. The film also liberally flashes back and forth between time periods, mainly between an interview that was supposedly conducted while Shakur was incarcerated and his early life/ rise in the hip-hop world. The script/ dialogue in the film is soap-opera level, and it’s clear director Benny Boom does not have the competency to direct his actors nor does he have the ability to make a competent film. I’d compare the film’s inability to be cohesive to a T.V. movie, but even HBO made for T.V. films are more competently directed than this feature film.

Demetrius Shipp, Jr. in “All Eyez on Me.”

Lead actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. gives it his all as Tupac Shakur, and although he bares a striking resemblance to the rapper, he comes off as a cheap imitator of the man. Like Straight Outta Compton having veteran actor Paul Giamatti in the cast to help anchor the film, All Eyez On Me relies upon Danai Gurira (*who plays Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur*) to do the same, but to embarrassing results. All her character does is speechify and over-act, and does more harm than good to the film. Dominic L. Santan’s Suge Knight is more laughable than threatening, Kat Graham’s Jada Pinkett angle could’ve been completely cut out and the film would have benefited from it, and Jamal Woolord’s return as Notorious B.I.G. serves a reminder that his 2009 film Notorious is much better than the bio-pic you’re watching.

The only riveting scenes in the film are Tupac’s time as a member of Digital Underground. The original members of that group return portraying themselves, and it’s interesting to see Mr. Shakur’s beginnings and rise to superstardom. That portion of the film lasts maybe 15 minutes, and All Eyez On Me is a near 2.5 hour long slog through the rest of the rapper’s supposedly mesmerizing life. Anytime the film gets remotely interesting it glosses over the subject and moves onto the next scene, making the film feel like a greatest hits album. One of the most cringe-worthy sequences in the film is the re-enactment of Mr. Shakur’s rape case, but instead of offering proper insights and casting some reasonable doubt, the film slut-shames the woman involved and flat out says she made the whole incident up. While she very well could’ve made it up since Shakur denied the charges back when he was alive, the filmmakers are such amateurs that they can’t cast at least some doubt on the case.

Listen, I firmly believe the filmmakers had their hearts in the right place while making this film. They clearly have love for the man and his life and want to see his story told on the silver screen for a broad audience to view and enjoy. But there lies the issues with the film. The filmmakers are blind to their mishaps because they are too invested in the project. There has to be some objectivity with a bio-pic. All Eyez On Me, however, would to prefer to treat its subject as the incarnation of rap Jesus to the point that during his death scene, he resembles Jesus dying on the cross while operatic church music blasts in the background.

All Eyez On Me is a perfect example of how not to make a biographical film. You have to treat the subject matter with objectivity, but this film substitutes that for complete adoration of their subject, to devastatingly crippling results. When it’s all said and done, All Eyez On Me resembles more of a cover band of Tupac Shakur than the man himself. In short, no eyes should be on All Eyez On Me.

Rating: 1.5/4 Stars. Stay Away.

The Plight of LeBron James

How can the best basketball player in the world be so maligned?

From the moment the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the spotlight was on the king from Akron, Ohio, LeBron James. While he was still in high school, James was proclaimed “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated. 14 years into his NBA career, LeBron James has not only lived up to this billing, he has exceeded it. Year after year, LeBron James showcases he is not only the most valuable player in the NBA, but also the best basketball player in the world.

Yet, after losing to one of the most talented teams ever assembled in the NBA, there are still detractors and haters out there who will continually deny LeBron the mantel of the G.O.A.T. They’ll point to his 3-5 Finals record, they’ll point to “The Decision”, they’ll say he’s no Michael Jordan. Whatever criticism you have of LeBron James now borders on insanity or pure hatred for the man.

LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007 in just his fourth year in the league. The starting lineup for that Cavaliers team included Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. They’re hardly the dynastic San Antonio Spurs team they were swept by. LeBron wasn’t ready for the spotlight, and he was the only weapon on a team that would’ve won 20 games without him. You can’t hold the 2007 Finals against him.

LeBron James’ first tenure in Cleveland brought the Cavs back to relevance.

The one year you can rightfully hold against LeBron James is 2010-2011. In the summer of 2010, LeBron exposed himself as one of the most immature, self-absorbed human beings on planet earth by broadcasting on national television his intentions of “taking his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat” in The Decision. A few days later, he and the Heat organization celebrated as if they had just won an NBA championship, where he made his infamous “not five, not six, not seven” championship remarks. James then led his Miami Heat “super team”, which included Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, to the 2011 NBA Finals. Unfortunately, LeBron pulled a disappearing act even the great magician Harry Houdini would have envied, and lost to the lesser Dallas Mavericks. It was poetic justice. A man who had spurned his hometown in a selfish pursuit of championships finally got what he deserved and acted like a sore loser in defeat.

LeBron James was a no-show against an inferior Mavericks team in the 2011 NBA Finals.

It was at that moment LeBron James evolved into the greatest player the game has ever seen. LeBron led the Miami Heat to back to back titles in 2012 and 2013, dismantling an Oklahoma City Thunder team consisting of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in 2012 and finally overcoming the dynastic San Antonio Spurs in 2013. Both times he was the Finals MVP. In 2012 he averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game and in 2013 he averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. In 2014, he led the Heat to their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, but were abused by the vengeful San Antonio Spurs in 5 games. He was, however, the best player on the court, averaging 28.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

While LeBron was off winning championships, the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose owner Dan Gilbert infamously denounced James and said the Cavaliers would win a title before LeBron would, were a perennial NBA Draft Lottery team. They had won the lottery three times, striking gold by selecting Kyrie Irving in 2011, bombing in 2013 by selecting Anthony Bennett, and trading away Andrew Wiggins in 2014 to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. This acquisition was made because LeBron James did what no other player in NBA history of his caliber had ever done, he came home.

For the last three seasons, LeBron James has led the Cavaliers to three NBA Finals appearances. In a losing effort in 2015, James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. He was without Kyrie Irving for 5 games of the series and was without Kevin Love for the entire series, as both were lost due to injury. Yet, LeBron James still took the Golden State Warriors, one of the most prolific shooting teams in NBA history, to 6 games when his starting point guard and second best player on his team was Matthew Dellavedova. In the 2016 Finals, James came back from a 3-1 series deficit against a 73 win Golden State Warriors team and won his third NBA title and Finals MVP, averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game. In the deciding game 7 of the series, LeBron James had a triple double and made one of the greatest plays in NBA history when he blocked Andre Iguodala of the Warriors to keep the game tied at 89.

LeBron brought a title to Cleveland, something that hadn’t been done since the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964.

The Miami Heat, on the other hand, have not recovered since James left. The Heat have been in the NBA Draft lottery two out of the last three years, with their only playoff appearance coming in 2016, when James led the Cavaliers to an NBA title. LeBron James is the difference between your team winning an NBA title or your team picking in the NBA Draft Lottery. No other player in NBA history has had that kind of influence on a team. That includes Michael Jordan, as his Chicago Bulls went from winning 57 games in 1993 to winning 55 games in 1994 when Jordan retired for the first time.

This year, the best player in the world ran into the best team in the world. Anyone who tries to tarnish his legacy due to losing to a better team is blind to the greatness we have witnessed over the last seven seasons. Not even the great Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who yes, has more accomplishments in his career than LeBron to this point, made it to seven straight finals. LeBron James is the only man to do so, and keeps inventing new categories to judge players by. This past NBA finals, although losing in five games, LeBron James became the first player in NBA Finals history to average a triple-double, averaging 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. As LeBron has gotten older, his NBA Finals numbers seem to get better and better each year.

LeBron James averaged a triple-double in the NBA Finals, but it wasn’t enough against a stacked Warriors team in the NBA Finals.

Any argument you have against LeBron James makes you look like as foolish as Skip Bayless. LeBron James may be the only man in NBA history who can seemingly do it all, yet we want to tear him down and make it seem as if he is not worthy of the G.O.A.T. label. LeBron James is more than worthy of this label, and denying him of it is an exercise in futility. I may not always be a man who hangs his hat on statistics, but by the end of his career, LeBron James will have obliterated Michael Jordan in every measurable statistical category. Yes, LeBron may not reach Jordan’s 6 titles, 6 Finals MVPs, and may not have an undefeated record in the Finals like Jordan. However, it wouldn’t take long for anyone to notice the player you’d want to build your team around is LeBron, a man among boys who can do it all as opposed to the high volume shooting and scoring Jordan.

We’re witnessing greatness before our very eyes. A once in a generation player. Father time himself has not yet caught up to LeBron James. Maybe this is why we hold LeBron James to such high expectations. We believe a player as gifted and talented as him should be perfect, despite the fact that no human being, let alone no basketball player, has a flawless resume. Fairly or unfairly, this is the plight LeBron James. A man so supremely talented,  a man with many accomplishments, yet no one wants to embrace him as the greatest of all time.




The Vindication of Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant made all the right moves.

Last Summer, F Kevin Durant shocked the world when he decided to abandon the Oklahoma City Thunder and singed with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were coming off a record setting 73 win regular season, but blew a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Many, including myself, called the move cowardly. A weak move that signified Kevin Durant didn’t have the killer instinct necessary to win an NBA championship. We saw him as a man who was only going to ride the coattails of a team that had just won 73 games and was one win away from back-to-back NBA titles. A team that, quite honestly, never needed him.

My how the times have changed over the last year.

After an injury plagued season that saw him miss 20 games, Kevin Durant justified his move to the Golden State. He delivered an NBA Finals performance of a lifetime and won his first NBA title and was named Finals MVP. In the Finals, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He did so against a man who schooled him back in the 2012 NBA Finals, LeBron James.

Many will say this was an expected result. After all, the greatest team in NBA regular season history added one of if not the most prolific scorer in NBA history to their already stacked squad. A squad that featured the back-to-back MVP, Stephen Curry, and one of the best shooters in the game, Klay Thompson. But Durant gave the Warriors something many believed the Warriors already had a plethora of: more offensive firepower. He made a prolific offense even more unguardable, the extra boost the Warriors needed to avenge last year’s choke-job. Durant also proved himself a capable defender, as he bought into the Warriors championship mentality and finally turned himself into an all-around weapon.

Of course, one would be remiss if they did not mention his former Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double this season for the Thunder and is the likely MVP of the NBA, is hurt the most by Durant’s triumph. Durant traded a stubborn ball hog in Westbrook for a distributor in Stephen Curry, and put his stamp on Golden State’s title run. Westbrook, on the other hand, couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. Westbrook may be supremely talented and a bona fide superstar, but Durant knew he couldn’t win a championship with him. All of those triple doubles make Westbrook look foolish now, as he will be seen as the force that drove Kevin Durant to Northern California when he could have adjusted his game to better compliment Durant.

No one knows whether or not this will be Durant’s only title. No one knows if this is the first of many to come for him. But let’s not speculate about the future too much now. Let us allow Kevin Durant to enjoy moment in the sun after enduring a season of scathing criticism. All of that criticism means nothing now, as this past NBA season should be titled as so: The Vindication of Kevin Durant.

Oh yeah, Kevin Durant also overcame this…




Bro-Reviews: The Mummy

The Mummy and its Dark Universe may want to be buried.

Every major Hollywood studio these days wants to build their own cinematic universe. Disney has perfected it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Warner Brothers might finally be on the right track with their DC Extended Universe after the release of Wonder Woman. However, those universes owe their beginnings to Universal, who back in the early and mid twentieth century had their own monster universe with films such as Dracula, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and of course, The Mummy. In the late 1990s, Universal re-imagined The Mummy with then Hollywood hunk Brendan Fraser as their Indiana Jones-esque adventurer fighting the ancient evils of Egypt. This resulted in three films that were resounding box office successes, but experienced diminished quality in terms of reception with each entry. Nine years after the last Mummy film starring Fraser, Universal has decided to get in on the universe building with the re-boot The Mummy, the first film in a universe under Universal’s “Dark Universe” brand.

The Mummy stars Hollywood icon Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, who along with his crew consisting of partner-in-crime Sergeant Chris Vali (Jake Johnson) and mysterious archeologist Jenny Hasley (Annabelle Wallis) stumble upon an ancient prison that imprisons Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Unbeknownst to them, they awaken her and her evil past, in which she murdered her father, her step-mother, and her baby brother in an attempt to become the almighty queen of Egypt. Ahmanet curses Cruise, whom she wants to use to awaken the god Set, as Set has promised Ahmanet she will rule the world should she awaken him. While attempting to break the curse laid upon him, Morton and Hasley come into contact with an organization known as Prodigium, led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who has his own agenda in regards to Princess Ahmanet.

The Mummy
Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in “The Mummy.”

I am unapologetically a fan of Tom Cruise. With the exception of Cocktail, Days of Thunder, and Far and Away, I believe the man is a crown jewel of Hollywood who has managed to engrave himself into star-vehicle films. The Mummy is no doubt a Tom Cruise vehicle, but something about it being a star-vehicle makes the film feel somewhat off-base. The Brendan Fraser films may have been designed for him to shine as a leading man, but those films never forget what they are all about, mummies. While Cruise does what he does and is effective, it’s a wonder as to why more time wasn’t spent on the rising star Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet. She’s a fascinating character with a lot of depth and mystique, and Boutella has a commanding presence whenever she is on screen.

Even more out of place is Jake Johnson, who represents the comedic relief the film wants to retain from the Brendan Fraser glory days. This results in jarring tonal shifts, as one moment the film is attempting to be a frightening horror-action film, and then the next an action-comedy. Annabelle Wallis is literally there to be a spear carrier to Cruise, and their contractually obligated romantic subplot is nothing short of uninspired.

The Mummy does deliver on some of its action sequences, as the plane crash highlighted in the trailer is exhilarating. Other sequences including the sandstorm with a face in London also delivers, but the climatic sequences are bogged down by the filmmaker’s ability to just make up super powers on the spot for Boutella’s mummy character. That being said, there is some good imagery in the film. The special effects, while not top dollar, do create some freaky looking mummies for Cruise and company to battle, and one can’t help but believe they are an improvement over the cartoonish looking fiends we saw in the Brendan Fraser films.

Before the movie even begins, Universal flashes their “Dark Universe” logo, as to proclaim that The Mummy is the film to launch their universe. The Mummy spends the whole second half of the movie attempting to commence this universe that they forget this movie is supposed to be about mummies, hence the title. All of this world-building is done by Mr. Russell Crowe, whose performance as Dr. Jekyll resembles a drunken Orson Welles at the end of his career when he was filming Fish Sticks commercials, which is a delight to see onscreen. That being said, it’s so obvious he and his group, Prodigium, are a rip-off of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and that Jekyll is the Nick Fury of this group and world Universal is trying to expand. This includes gratuitous cameos of body parts of other classic Universal monsters, as if to tease more monster films in the future. While the cameos are somewhat fascinating, they leave you asking how any of them could possibly connect to each other. If you want to make your viewing experience of the film more enjoyable, I suggest you take a shot every time the word monster or evil is said in the film. By the end of it, you’ll be stumbling out of the theater due to being plastered.

Strangely enough, I was oddly entertained by the film. Cruise is still a capable blockbuster star, there’s enough enticing mummy stuff to remind you it’s a mummy movie, and the laughable attempts at igniting this universe creeps into so bad it’s good territory. It just goes to show you, not everything needs to be turned into a universe, but I’m perversely fascinated as to what happens next. Ultimately, The Mummy is harmless, disposable summer fun that can’t decide whether it wants to be a Tom Cruise movie, a Mummy movie, or a universe kick-starter.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent It.