Every NFL Team and Division in 3 Words

3 words can tell the entire story.

With the dog days of summer winding down, NFL training camps are officially underway. While most want to jump the gun and predict the NFL season now, let’s start with 3 words to describe every team and every division in the NFL.

AFC North: Beat ’em up.

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger goes diva.

Baltimore Ravens: Binding Flacco contract.

Cincinnati Bengals: Picture of complacency.

Cleveland Browns: Hope? LOL. Nope.

The AFC North is a brutal division, one in which the teams beat each other up so much during the season come playoff time, they’re out of gas. The Steelers are the best team in the division, but Ben Roethlisberger discussing retirement this early smells like trouble. The Ravens will be competitive, but they’d be more competitive if not for QB Joe Facco’s contract. The Bengals never seem to aspire to be better than average, and the Browns are a doormat.

AFC South: First round exit.

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Houston Texans: Won with Osweiler.

Tennessee Titans: Rise of Mariota.

Indianapolis Colts: Out of Luck.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gag on Coughlin.

The AFC South Division winner has the luxury of hosting a home playoff game and promptly losing. The Texans won with Brock Osweiler at QB, so rookie QB Deshaun Watson could be a step up. The Titans continued progress will depend on the health of QB Marcus Mariota, the Colts can’t continue relying on QB Andrew Luck to be a contender, and the “new look Jaguars” with Tom Coughlin in the front office will continue to be woeful until QB Blake Bortles is deported.

AFC East: Pats stand pat.

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New England Patriots: Please stop winning.

Miami Dolphins: One year wonder.

Buffalo Bills: Sabotaged by Pengulas.

New York Jets: J-E-T-S spells L-O-S-E.

Since 2001, only the Jets in 2002 and Dolphins in 2008 have won the division. The Patriots have nothing to worry about in this cakewalk of a division. The Dolphins won’t be able to replicate last years success, the Bills’ ownership prevents them from being even halfway competent, and the Jets are essentially tanking.

AFC West: Most competitive division.

Oakland Raiders: Just Win Baby.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kings of almost.

Denver Broncos: Mile High controversy.

Los Angeles Chargers: Soccer stadium tenants.

The AFC West is easily the NFL’s most competitive division, as 3 of the 4 teams posted records above .500 last year. The Raiders will want to continue their newfound commitment to excellence all the way to a division title. The Chiefs will sport a good team but aren’t legitimate contenders. The Broncos will be hindered by their QB controversy between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, and the Chargers were rewarded for moving to LA LA Land by being tenants in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium.

NFC North: Cold and predictable.

Green Bay Packers: Default division winner.

Minnesota Vikings: Bridge(water) too far.

Detroit Lions: Roar no more.

Chicago Bears: Should’ve ditched Mitch.

The NFC North is known for being a rather chilly division come late October, but its utterly predictable. The overrated, over-hyped, and overblown Packers will win the division. The Vikings need QB Teddy Bridgewater to come back if they have any hope of being a playoff contender. The Lions surprised many last season with a postseason appearance, but that seems unreasonable to expect this season. The Bears were swindled by the 49ers and picked a QB who started 13 games in his collegiate career, it’ll be a cold winter for them.

NFC South: Worst to first.

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Carolina Panthers: Dab strikes back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winston’s next step.

Atlanta Falcons: Super Bowl hangover.

New Orleans Saints: The final Brees.

This division always seems to have the worst to first syndrome, where a team that finished in last place the previous year ascends to first place the next. QB Cam Newton and the Panthers will continue this trend, as the dab will strike back. QB Jameis Winston could potentially lead the Bucs into the postseason, the Falcons won’t be over their epic collapse, and the Saints will be looking to move on from QB Drew Brees.

NFC East: Beasts in East.

Dallas Cowboys: Inmates running asylum.

New York Giants: Odell rights ship.

Philadelphia Eagles: Winners of off-season.

Washington Redskins: Kirk or Kurt?

The NFC East is always one of the roughest, toughest divisions in the NFL, and this year will be no different. While the Dallas Cowboys resemble more of a Federal prison than a football team, they’re the best team in the division. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. will overcome the ghost of his ill-fated boat trip and have an MVP caliber season. The Eagles impressed many with their off-season acquisitions, but will there be team chemistry? Meanwhile, the Redskins will continue to be petty and mispronounce their overrated QB’s name, Kirk (Kurt?) Cousins.

NFC West: One team matters.

Seattle Seahawks: Winning trumps animosity.

Arizona Cardinals: Gasp for Arians.

Los Angeles Rams: Scoff at Goff.

49ers: Still York owned.

This division has one relevant team. Despite the fact every player on the roster hates QB Russell Wilson, chief among them CB Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ winning will mask their dysfunction. This season could very well be the Cardinals’ final run at a Super Bowl title. QB Jared Goff of the Rams will prove himself to be one of the biggest Draft Busts ever. Lastly, the 49ers are still owner by Jed York, who hired John Lynch, a former color commentator with no front office experience to be their GM (*Does Matt Millen ring a bell?*). Lynch went on to hire the man who called 5 running plays in the second half of Super Bowl 51 when he was up 28-3, Kyle Shanahan, the spoiled brat son of a tomato (*Mike Shanahan*).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kyrie Irving’s Trade Demand

Cleveland? More like LEAVE-land.

In the case that you’ve been living under a rock, Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving demanded a trade last week. Word is that Kyrie is tired of being under LeBron James’ shadow, as he has the “Mamba Mentality” and wants to be the focal point of a team. It has also been reported that LeBron James is upset with Kyrie Irving for mentioning his name in this topic, so upset to the point that LeBron is “Tempted to beat his (Kyrie’s) ass” should the two come into contact with each other.

With all of the rumors swirling around LeBron James that he is bolting the Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers next off-season, one can hardly blame Kyrie Irving for wanting to be two steps ahead of the game. When LeBron James left the Cavaliers in 2010, they suffered 4 straight losing seasons, 3 of which Irving was present for. Ever since LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return back home to Cleveland in 2014, the Heat have missed the postseason 2 out of the last 3 seasons, and now have to settle for signing Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk to big contracts. Kyrie sees a pattern here. That pattern? Whenever LeBron leaves, the team he leaves is decimated. Kyrie Irving does not want to be the next victim in LeBron’s pattern.

However, it has not been confirmed LeBron is leaving Cleveland  for LA LA land (*he hasn’t denied it either, but that’s another argument for a different day*). As of right now, LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier. As evidenced by the previous 7 years, if LeBron James plays on your team, you will play in the NBA Finals. Evidence from 3 of those 7 years also indicates you might actually win a title. One of those years indicates you might be the player to hit the game winning shot to defeat the greatest NBA regular season team ever. Oh wait, was the player who hit that shot LeBron James? No, it was Kyrie Irving.

Irving’s desire to be traded can only be described as a petulant, spoiled brat who complains about the line at Starbucks being too long. Kyrie Irving, a man who took 74 more 2-point shots and 99 more 3-point shots than LeBron James last year, is complaining about not getting as much attention as the greatest player on the planet. And by the way, this isn’t Kevin Durant in free agency in the summer of 2016 having all of the power in the world. When you demand a trade, you’re still under contract. You don’t get to choose your destination. The Cavaliers could trade Irving anywhere they’d like or tell him to go kick rocks. Irving has no leverage.

Irving is of the belief he can be a franchise cornerstone. That a team can be built around him to be “The Man” and compete for a championship. Going by Irving’s preferred destinations, one must ask what on earth he is thinking? He wants to be traded from the Cavaliers, a team essentially guaranteed to be the representative of the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, to New York to become a nothing with the woeful Knicks? To be the fourth best player for the Minnesota Timberwolves? To compete for more shots with Dion Waiters for the Miami Heat? To be the second option like he is now with the Cavaliers for the San Antonio Spurs? Irving doesn’t realize how good he currently has it. Kyrie Irving is demanding a trade from a team in which he is an all-star and regarded as the team’s closer? Talk about first world problems.

What makes Irving believe he can utilize his “Mamba Mentality” like his idol, Kobe Bryant, and be “The Man” elsewhere when he could be described as a supremely talented, but oft-injured ball hog? Prior to the arrival of Cleveland’s lord and savior, LeBron James, Irving was already “The Man”. He was the number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. As “The Man”, the Cavaliers won 21 games in the lockout shortened 2011-12 NBA season, 24 games in 2012-13, and 33 games in 2013-14. While Irving was “The Man”, he was also chronically injured, as he missed 49 games in his first 3 seasons. Even when LeBron came back, Irving has still been injury-prone, missing 46 games over the last three seasons, and that doesn’t even include the 5 NBA Finals games he missed in the 2015 NBA Finals.

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Also, let’s pretend LeBron James does in fact leave the Cavaliers for the Lakers next summer. Should Kyrie stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he becomes the sympathetic figure, as LeBron James would once again be painted as a man abandoning his hometown for a more glitzy, glamorous destination. Irving would regain his “rightful” place as “The Man” in Cleveland with two years remaining on his contract. Sure, he’s stuck with an aging roster riddled with bad guaranteed contracts, but in an Eastern Conference without LeBron James, that team could compete for a lower seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Kyrie Irving’s trade demand is understandable if you’re looking through the prism of not wanting to bite the dust should LeBron James ditch the Cavaliers in the summer of 2018. Every other prism you look through, however, cannot justify Irving’s immature stance of wanting to be “The Man”. His first three years in the league suggest he not only cannot carry the load as a team’s first option in terms of winning, but also cannot be on the court to help see that vision trough. Even in his three seasons with LeBron James, Irving hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Why would any team risk placing their future in a guard who is unable to stay on the court? Why would you want to forgo competing for a championship when you would be nowhere closer to building towards this goal should you be traded to one of your preferred destinations, which you may not even be granted? Kyrie Irving needs to wake up before it’s too late, and realize he has been given an NBA player’s dream career: being the number one pick, being an all-star who is treated like a superstar, and playing alongside and winning championships with the greatest player ever, LeBron James. With Kyrie Irving’s trade demand and rumors circling LeBron James regarding his future plans, Cleveland might as well re-name themselves Leave-land.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: Dunkirk

Dud-kirk.

Christopher Nolan is undoubtedly one of the most masterful directors working today, but the case could also be made he’s one of the greatest directors of all time. From small budgeted independent films like Memento, to original triumphs like Inception, all the way to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has proven himself to be a true auteur. However, many would agree Nolan may have lost a step with the release of the bloated and cheesy Interstellar in 2014, a major disappointment in the eyes of many. Three years later, Nolan has created another epic film being hailed as a masterpiece based on the true story of the Battle of Dunkirk during the half of World War II America always ignores, Dunkirk.

In Dunkirk, the Nazi Germany army has surrounded the British and French armies, forcing them to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. It is there where the soldiers await and pray for the arrival of help whilst being under constant attack by the Nazis. We follow a couple of foot soldiers attempting to escape Dunkirk within a span of a week, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles), a father (Mark Rylance) and son (Tom Glynn-Carney) sailing to Dunkirk to rescue the stranded soldiers in a span of a day, and Royal Air Force Pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) fighting off Nazi bomber planes in the span of an hour.

As I stated earlier, Nolan has full control of the films he makes at this point in his career. Dunkirk is another example of Nolan’s stranglehold on his projects, as the film is beautifully shot while retaining an apocalyptic, doomed atmosphere much like the battle itself. On top of that, the battle sequences put you in the middle of the action, making you jump at every sound of a gun shot to the point that you too want to spring from your seat in the theater and run for cover. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk might be Christopher Nolan’s most masterful work yet.

However, what prevents Dunkirk from rising to being a great film and one of the most powerful war films ever is the utter lack of characterization in the film. To put it bluntly, Dunkirk doesn’t have characters, it has people. Even though I listed the characters’ names in the synopsis, you cannot recall their names without looking at a cast of “characters” list, that’s how expendables and unmemorable they are. Sure, the whole feeling of dread and wanting to escape is present, but other than wanting to survive/ make it home, we don’t empathize with these people. As an audience member, I wanted to know what specifically these people would miss out on should they perish. Are they trying to escape because they have families back home? Are they sailing to danger because they have an overwhelming feeling of nationalism and want to serve their country? Heck, we don’t even get the cliche’ of a solider pulling out a picture of his girlfriend and saying he can’t wait to see her again.

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As I stated earlier, Nolan more than likely has final cut and other overreaching decision making powers whenever he wants to make a project. It’s important to point this out, as Nolan not only directed this film, he also wrote it. This is nothing new as it pertains to Nolan, as he has a writing credit for every single film he’s made with the exception of being uncredited as a writer for 2002’s Insomnia. One of the major criticisms of Interstellar was the writing in the film, and Dunkirk marks Nolan’s second straight misfire in the writing department. A writer’s job is to make the audience empathize and feel for the protagonists, to make them want to get up and cheer once they have accomplished their goal. To make the people that appear on screen human. That feeling never arises in Dunkirk. Sure, there are moments when the performers on screen are in peril or dire circumstances, but the only investment you have in these situations is the uncertainty of what is going to happen. You couldn’t care less whether or not these “characters” survive, and that fault should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Nolan.

With such underwritten characters present and lack of dialogue in the film, it’s hard to judge the performances Dunkirk. Every teenybopper’s dream boat of the moment and One Direction member Harry Styles makes his much anticipated acting debut in the film, but one can hardly judge his acting capabilities since he gets lost in the shuffle of all of the indispensable soldiers in the film. At this point, it seems like Christopher Nolan is determined to turn Tom Hardy into Batman supervillain Bane, as he is muffled by a plane mask throughout the film, a total waste of Mr. Hardy’s many talents. Veteran actors Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance (who might as well be wearing a tee shirt with the inscription I AM THE SPIRIT OF THE FILM) come across as the best performers, but with such minimal dialogue, Dunkirk might have been the easiest acting job they’ve had in their lengthy careers.

With all of the power Nolan has over his projects now, it’s as if no one bothers to give him notes, or as if he believes he is above them. Someone should’ve met with Nolan and said while his behind the camera craftsmanship is tremendous, the people in his movie are lifeless, inconsequential pawns lacking humanity. Had this occurred, there’s the possibility Nolan would’ve gone back to the drawing board and fleshed these people out further other than bunching them all into the theme of survival. However, maybe Nolan rules with an iron fist and no longer listens to such constructive criticism, opting to instead make his films his way. One can hardly blame him due to his impeccable resume, but one can only live off of their reputation for so long.

Do not make the mistake of thinking Dunkirk is a bad movie. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk is nothing short of masterful. From a writing and emotional investment perspective, Dunkirk is one of the most underwritten films in a long time. While I’m sure everyone will ridicule me and say “You just don’t get it.”, and maybe I truly don’t, I will not allow a great filmmaker such as Nolan off the hook for woefully underwriting the people in this film. Someone needs to stand up to him and tell him his writing abilities have woefully diminished over his last two films, but maybe I’ll be the only one to do so. Dunkirk is nothing to marvel at and laud, if anything, don’t believe the hype.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

Bro-Reviews: War for the Planet of the Apes

Ape-ocalypse Now.

Planet of the Apes is one of the last remnants of classic Hollywood still alive today. Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, a release of a Planet of the Apes movie was an event, as moviegoers flocked to see an epic sci-fi story of an alternative universe where apes ruled planet earth. 2001 saw a re-make of the film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg. That version was savaged by critics and fans alike, leading to the cancellation of any future sequels. 2011 saw a revival of the franchise in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a thrilling new take on what was essentially a re-boot of the classic franchise. While many praised its sequel released in 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I found myself disappointed in the film. Due to Dawn’s critical acclaim and financial success, however, the epic and final chapter of Caesar and his primates has arrived in the form of War for the Planet of the Apes.

War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes seeking refuge away from humans, who still blame the apes for the Simian Flu outbreak and for the current state of the world no thanks to the actions of Koba two years earlier in Dawn. The particular humans they are at war with are a clan known as Alpha-Omega, led by the ruthless and seemingly apathetic Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After Alpha-Omega attack Caesar and his tribe in their refuge in the woods, Caesar goes on a vengeful mission to kill the Colonel and end the war between apes and humans once and for all.

If there were ever a time to praise a film for its ability to create a big-budgeted blockbuster while avoiding the typical tropes of such blockbusters, this would be the time. War for the Planet of the Apes is able to be an engrossing, emotional film with minimal dialogue, as it substitutes dialogue for some of the best reaction shot acting ever captured on film. The film relies upon these reactions to pull the emotions out of the audience, and War leaves you feeling every single emotion there is throughout during its near two-and-a-half-hour run-time. At the same time, the film also delivers on its title, as the action/ war sequences are nothing short of thrilling, leaving you on the edge of your seat.

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Within the confines of the film is also emotional complexity that you not only do not see in summer movies, but do not even see in some movies period. We feel Caesar’s plight and wanting to be left alone, yet completely side with him once he decides to go after the Colonel. We laugh at the quirkiness of Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) yet empathize with him since he too has experienced pain and suffering that has led him to becoming a hermit. The tenderness of the relationship between Maurice (Karn Kornoval) Nova (Amiah Miller) is nothing short of sweet and tear-jerking, representing one of the best parent child relationships we’ve seen on film in quite some time. Even though the film wants us to root against our very kind thanks to Woody Harrelson’s harrowing performance as the Colonel, we understand his motivations and the decisions he makes in order to protect the human race. It’s emotional depth, investment, and complexity like this that sets War for the Planet of the Apes above and beyond the rest of the pack.

The motion capture technology used in the film is nothing short of extraordinary, as the apes look more realistic than ever in this epic final chapter. This technology, however, wouldn’t be anything without the casting of such tremendous actors who are able to capture the spirit and likeness of actual primates. They are of course led by the great Andy Serkis, who continues to exploit his niche of motion capture acting and delivers yet another showstopping performance as Caesar. It’s times such as these where I believe the Academy of Arts and Sciences should seriously consider motion capture actors for acting awards, as Andy Serkis’ performance of the apes’ leader is not only deserving of recognition, but is the best acting performance you’ll see this summer.

The film also draws many parallels to slavery and the journey of Moses to the promised land, adding even more compound aspects to a film that is being released during a time in which most audiences are looking for escapist entertainment. The Planet of the Apes films have always had some sort of uncomfortable comparison to racial tensions back in the late 1960s due to certain people’s reluctance to accept the Civil Rights Movement, but War also seems to be the most contemporary Planet of the Apes film to date. One can’t help but think of Donald Trump’s psychotic plans regarding the border of Mexico after the mere mention of the Alpha Omega clan building something in order to keep certain people out of there military camp, adding a composite nationalist mentality to the humans that is even more enhanced in the real world today.

In a summer filled with franchises that have well overstayed their welcome, War for the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular triumph. A film such as War should be praised immensely for having the courage of its convictions by not only having limited dialogue and packing an emotional punch, but also for delivering the type of explosive action we’ve come to expect summer blockbusters to provide. It’s an ambitious film that dares to defy the action and drama genres all at once. Three films into the re-imagining of the franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes is the strongest Planet of the Apes film yet, and administers an enthralling and satisfying conclusion to Caesar’s saga.

Rating: 4/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

 

Bro-Reviews: Wish Upon

Wish upon a better movie.

As it pertains to the horror film genre, there’s very little material out there that is new and original. Filmmakers have resorted to taking tried and tired premises and repeating them over and over again in the hopes that younger audiences who have not seen these premises before will be fooled into thinking the material they are being presented with is something that’s never been done before. Once again, Hollywood producers are trying to hoodwink and bamboozle audiences, and their latest attempt to trick us has come in the form of a new “horror” film, Wish Upon, from upstart distributor Broad Green Pictures.

Wish Upon sees Claire Shannon (Joey King) struggling through life ever since her mother committed suicide when she was a child. Her high school life is also a chore, as she is unpopular, bullied and goes unnoticed by her crush. One day, her hoarder father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) stumbles upon an ancient Chinese music box, which Claire learns grants wishes and turns them into reality. After making wishes that change her life for the better, bloody terror breaks out and hurts the ones she cares for. Claire must then solve the mystery of how to make the carnage stop before it’s too late.

This is an exact replica of “The Monkey’s Paw”. For the uninitiated, “The Monkey’s Paw” was a book by W.W. Jacobs published in 1902 that has since been adapted into numerous films, with the basic premise being three different people can hold the monkey’s paw item and it will grant them three different wishes. While the wishes come true, there is a blood price for the ones who made the wishes to pay since they are altering fate. Wish Upon takes this premise and puts it in a high-school setting, resulting in one of the most embarrassing blunders ever released in theaters.

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Joey King is a fine young actress and does what she can with the material, but she comes across as a junkie who hasn’t had her fix in the film. I firmly believe the filmmakers kidnapped poor Ryan Phillippe after he went out on an all night drinking-bender and just threw him onscreen, as throughout the film he looks as if he is crying for help and wondering where his once promising career has gone. Jerry O’ Connell also appears in the film for about 30 seconds, making me wonder if he too was strong-armed into doing this film because he owed the mafia some money. The rest of the cast consists of mainly no-names who should never work in film again, as they deliver their terrible dialogue like a high schooler performing in a play that’s only there because they need the extracurricular activity credit to graduate.

The actual use of the premise is inconsistent throughout as well. Once a wish is granted, someone close to Claire is supposed to die. However, people die in the movie that Claire is neither close to nor is even related to, so the film can’t even stick to its tried and tested premise in an attempt to make a compelling film. The only time the film is even marginally suspenseful is a scene in which the filmmakers use the cheap gimmick of showing two different people experiencing dangerous situations while leaving you guessing who’s going to be the one that gets it.

One aspect of horror films that is quiet necessary to qualify it as a horror film is providing scares, which Wish Upon can’t even wish for. Even if a horror film isn’t particularly scary, it can be improved in an exploitative fashion by quenching the audiences’ blood thirst. Wish Upon is largely bloodless throughout, so it doesn’t even go for the cheap exploitation in the hopes that its PG-13 rating will lure in dumb, unassuming teenagers who still believe the Paranormal Activity movies are real. The film also tries to blend comedy into the mix, as numerous snarky teenagers quip one-liners and do “things millennials do” despite the horror that is occurring around them. Most of the laughs are unintentional, and one must highlight Shannon Purser’s dramatic “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT” line, as it provided one of the biggest unintentional laughs I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Somewhere buried deep within the incompetency of it, there’s a decent movie that Wish Upon could’ve been. Instead, what we have is an incompetent, bloodless, not scary “horror” film that insults the audiences’ intelligence with its predictable themes that have been retreaded for the thousandth time. Had it not been for the laugh inducing middle-finger-to-the-audience ending/ payoff, Wish Upon couldn’t wish for even a half a star rating. In the end, Wish Upon will leave you wishing you had stayed at home and read “The Monkey’s Paw” instead.

Rating: 0.5/ 4 Stars. Stay Away.

 

 

The Winners and Losers of the NBA Off-season

One could argue the off-season was more unpredictable than the season itself.

This past NBA off-season was as unpredictable as ever. However, not everyone emerged a winner from this wild wild west of an off-season. With an off-season that was seemingly more exciting than the actual season itself, here are the winners and losers of the 2017 NBA off-season.

Winner: Gordon Hayward

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Hayward was the biggest free-agent of the off-season, and he cashed in big time by signing a 4-year, $128 million contract with the Boston Celtics. Hayward reunites with his college coach, Brad Stevens, in a move that puts him in a better position to win than he would’ve been in had he signed with the Miami Heat or re-signed with the Utah Jazz.

Loser: Boston Celtics/ Danny Ainge

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Boston may have scored the top free agent of the off-season, but they gave up a lot to get him. G Avery Bradley was traded to the Detroit Pistons, and C Kelly Olynyk signed with the Miami Heat. General Manager Danny Ainge also continued to show he is paralyzed by fear, as he passed up trading for forwards Jimmy Butler and Paul George. On top of that, he traded the number 1 pick in the draft in an effort to draft Kansas F Josh Jackson, but was given the cold shoulder by him and ended up taking Duke F Jayson Tatum instead. They’re no closer to beating LeBron James/ the Cavaliers, and they seem to get cold feet as it pertains to trying to win now.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves

Jimmy Butler, Tom Thibodeau

Losing Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn wasn’t ideal, but gaining forward Jimmy Butler in the process makes it all seem worthwhile. With a young core consisting of center Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves seem primed for a quick rise to the top of the Western Conference not only next year, but also remain there for the foreseeable future.

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

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The Thunder improved their team immensely by trading for Paul George, and only gave up an overrated Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to get him. While it is a huge one year gamble for Sam Presti with rumors of George bolting for the Lakers in 2018, there’s no doubt the duo of George and MVP Russell Westbrook will inch the Thunder closer to the top of the Western Conference.

Loser: Los Angeles Clippers

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I’m sure Jerry West is regretting leaving the Golden State Warriors by now. After seeing the writing on the wall that superstar point guard Chris Paul was going to bolt LA in free agency, the Clippers traded Paul to the Houston Rockets for Lou Williams, Patrik Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harell, and the equivalent of a bag of magic beans. With the exception of the magic beans, that’s not a bad haul. But when you consider the team signed the oft-injured forward Blake Griffin to a 5-year, $173 million contract, it makes you wonder what direction the Clippers are heading.

Winner: Sacramento Kings

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For once, it seems like the Sacramento Kings know what they’re doing. They signed veteran guard George Hill to a 3-year $57 million contract, veteran forward Zach Randolph to a 2-year $24 million contract, and veteran guard Vince Carter to a 1-year $8 million contract. Not to mention the fact they drafted Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox, who looks like a stud. After catching heat for trading away DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans at the 2017 trade deadline, general manager Vlade Divac may finally be able to implement his plan and bring the Kings back to glory.

Winner and Loser: New York Knicks

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The Knicks finally fired check collecting Phil Jackson after three aimless, embarrassing seasons. They fired him too late, however, as Jackson was not let go until after the NBA draft. While forward Kristaps Porzingis will now want to stick around now that Jackson is gone, forward Carmelo Anthony is still on the team, and his value diminishes every waking moment he remains on the team. After seemingly luring former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin to the same position, Griffin pulled his name out of consideration because he wouldn’t be able to hire his own staff.  And by the way, none of their dysfunction will go away so long as they are owned by the worst owner in professional sports, James Dolan, who skipped the NBA Draft in favor of playing at a concert with his band.

Winner: Golden State Warriors

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Guard Stephen Curry was re-signed to 5-year $201 million contract. Forward Kevin Durant took less money and allowed the Warriors to re-sign forward Andre Iguodala, guard Shaun Livingston, and center Zaza Pachulia. They also signed forward Omri Casspi and guard “Swaggy P” Nick Young. If you thought the Warriors were unbeatable last year, next year’s squad should prove to be even better.

Loser: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors

Owner Dan Gilbert seems too complacent with the Cavaliers title win back in 2016. He unceremoniously fired general manager David Griffin right before the draft, and then low-balled general manager candidate Chauncey Billups. The Cavaliers haven’t made any impact signings either, they don’t have a general manager after all. While the Cavaliers are still the class of the Eastern Conference, rumors of a disgruntled LeBron James don’t bode well for the team come next off-season.

TBD: Houston Rockets

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The Rockets pulled off a blockbuster trade by acquiring guard Chris Paul from the Clippers. On paper, the Rockets seem better.  However, last time I checked, you can only play basketball with one ball at a time. One must wonder if the combination of two ball-centric players in Chris Paul and MVP candidate James Harden will pay off, but its much too early to tell whether or not Daryl Morey pulled off one of the best or worst trades of all-time.

Bro-Reviews: Spider-Man: Homecoming

A friendly neighborhood homecoming.

Spider-Man is not only one of the most beloved comic book heroes of all time, he’s also one of the most prized possessions in Hollywood, with Sony and Marvel Studios/ Disney currently sharing custody of the web slinger. How we got to this point is simple, Sony kept making awful movies (*Cough* Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *Cough*) in an effort to retain the rights to the property, and fans and movie goers alike eventually rejected the films. Not only did these films lead to Sony cancelling plans to their planned spideyverse with The Sinister Six, but also led Marvel Studios/ Disney to finally step in and show Sony how it’s done. After a spectacular debut in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has returned for another solo outing in the re-boot Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man: Homecoming sees high school prodigy Peter Parker struggling to remain interested in his mundane high school life while wanting to expand his reach as the popular super hero, Spider-Man. He sees an opportunity to prove himself as a capable hero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) by going after Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a former salvaging company owner who turns to selling weapons made by the Chitauri aliens from The Avengers, including creating his own vulture suit, to make a living.

There’s little doubt the change of setting to high school makes Spider-Man Homecoming the funniest Spider-Man film to date. This is thanks mostly to Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who has many laugh out loud moments in the film. Zendaya also has quirky moments as Michele, and proves herself to be an up and coming starlet. Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is probably the best in terms of the high school version of the character, as his nerdiness and awkwardness are captured brilliantly particularly when he attempts to win the attention of his love interest Liz (Laura Harrier). This could be because the entire film takes place in this setting whereas the previous films didn’t spend much time focusing on Peter’s high school experiences, but it’s still nonetheless done well.

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Even though most of the jokes surrounding her are “wow look how hot she is”, Marissa Tomei gives a solid performance as Aunt May. She may not reach the tear-jerking levels of Rosemary Harris, but Tomei does a fine job of portraying a caring, worrywart aunt we all have. Michael Keaton (*A.K.A. Batman*) delivers a menacing performance as the Vulture. Keaton is undeniably likeable as the little guy who’s just trying to stick it to the man, and It’s a delight to see him take on villainous roles at this stage of his career. If his turn as the central villain proves anything, his career renaissance has taken yet another legendary turn.

During the first act, however, I was relatively unimpressed with the film. The angle of Parker being the young hotshot who wants to have more responsibility is a trope we’ve seen played out over and over again. On top of that, lackluster action sequences weren’t helping the film either. To be honest, the film during the first act felt like an exercise Marvel Studios/ Disney was doing just to cash-in. It didn’t have the same handcrafted feel Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man had back in 2002. And Holland, while very good, comes nowhere close to Tobey Maguire’s expert performance as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man.

Once the stakes are raised during an impressive action sequence on-top of the Washington Monument, Spider-Man: Homecoming knocks off the cobwebs and swings into high gear. It’s during the second and third acts we see more of Keaton, who comes across as the best spidey villain since Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Also, the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is expanded during these acts, and Robert Downey Jr. is not only as snarky as ever as Stark, but is also a great motivator and father figure to Peter in the film. The action sequences get more consequential and exciting as the film goes on, as the battle on the ferry and the climatic battle serve as impressive scenes that showcase Spider-Man and Vulture’s tremendous action chemistry.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is without a shout of a doubt better than the last four Spider-Man movies. It’s funny, contains great performances, and filled with enthralling action. However, due to it’s familiar themes, it never quite reaches the levels of the near perfect 2002 Spider-Man. While it’s definitely the second best Spider-Man film released to date, by its own merits, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a step in the right direction for the previously entangled web slinger.

Rating: 3/4 Stars: Pay Full Price.