Bro-Picks: NFL Week 13 Predictions

Winter is coming.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, signifying the end of Fall and the first 12 weeks of the NFL season. With the calendar turning to the month of December, winter is upon us. But while most of the U.S. gets colder, the NFL season begins to heat-up, especially with a Week 13 slate of NFL games that will heavily alter the playoff picture.

Last Week: 12-4

Overall: 110-66

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (Thursday Night Football)

The Cowboys look so lost without RB Ezekiel Elliott to the point many are questioning whether or not QB Dak Prescott can competently play the position without him. The Redskins are still alive in the playoff race, and the winner of this NFC EAST smackdown will live to fight another day for a spot in the playoffs.

Winner: Cowboys

Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons

Don’t look now, but suddenly the Atlanta Falcons seem to be regaining their Super Bowl form. Their schedule the rest of the season includes “prove it” games such as this one, but it’ll be Vikings QB Case Keenum who will prove he deserves to be under center for the NFC North leading Vikings.

Winner: Vikings

Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens seem to be reverting back to their classic form: a putrid offense combined with a pulverizing defense. The Lions need this game in order to stay in the playoff hunt, but their dreams of winning the NFC North may have sailed away last week by losing to the Vikings.

Winner: Lions

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

After proving head coach Sean McDermott wrong for benching him, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor led the charge in an upset win over the Chiefs. It’s wishful thinking to believe he can do the same against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Winner: Patriots

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo makes his much anticipated starting debut after leading a garbage time scoring drive last week. Only time will tell if he’s the franchise’s savior, but we know Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky definitely isn’t the answer for the Bears.

Winner: 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

Don’t let last week fool you, QB Brett Hundley can’t keep the Packers afloat in the NFC playoff picture until Aaron Rodgers comes back. Buccaneers QB James Winston finally returns after missing a couple of games due to a shoulder injury, but one must wonder how focused he’ll be with the recent allegation against him claiming he sexually assaulted an Uber driver.

Winner: Buccaneers

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars fell victim to the Blaine Gabbert revenge game against the Cardinals last week. It’s time to start envisioning Eli Manning in a Jags uniform if they have any hope of competing for a Super Bowl.

Winner: Jaguars

Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins

QB Paxton Lynch made the Raiders awful defense look ferocious last week and cried about it. Trevor Siemian gets the start for the impotent Broncos against the Dolphins, who are still convinced Jay Cutler is a competent QB.

Winner: Dolphins

Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets

The once invincible Chiefs have hit a wall, losing 5 of their last 6 games. They’re lucky to be playing the self imploding Jets, who can’t get out of their own way.

Winner: Chiefs

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

It’s hard to take the Titans seriously when they barely beat hapless teams like the Colts. If only the Texans had Deshaun Watson to expose the Titans even more than he did in their Week 4 meeting.

Winner: Titans

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers look like the best team in the AFC West right now. They face the STILL winless Browns, whose only win last year came against the Chargers last December. Coincidence?

Winner: Chargers

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

The Saints fell back to earth last week in their loss to the Rams, while Panthers QB Cam Newton struggled against the Jets. The winner of this game more than likely rides that momentum all the way to an NFC South title.

Winner: Panthers

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

The Rams showed they’re for real by knocking off the Saints, and are close to completing one of the most stunning turnarounds in modern NFL history. But even against a team down to their back-up QBs, the Cardinals won’t go away quietly.

Winner: Rams

New York Giants at Oakland Raiders

The New York Giants have benched QB Eli Manning for Geno Smith. GENO SMITH. THEY CHOSE NOT TO FIRE BEN MCADOO BUT CHOSE TO BENCH ELI MANNING. Let that sink in.

Winner: Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football)

The Eagles are the NFL’s best team, as they electric slid their way to a victory over the dreadful Bears. In what could be a potential NFC Championship game preview, they’ll need to overcome the NFL’s best home field advantage against Seattle’s 12th man in order to solidify themselves as the team to beat in the NFL.

Winner: Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (Monday Night Football)

At 5-6, the Bengals still have a shot at the postseason. The Steelers made Packers back-up QB Brett Hundley look like Aaron Rodgers last week, and tend to play down to their competition. If they want to certify themselves as the class of the AFC, the need to take care of business against a desperate Bengals squad.

Winner: Steelers

 

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Bro-Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

An unfocused narrative paired with a tour de force in acting.

Denzel Washington is as accomplished an actor there is in Hollywood. Whether you are a film buff or not, you can identify Mr. Washington easily, particularly by only saying his iconic first name, Denzel. One would think at this point in his illustrious career he may be slowing down, but past awards worthy roles in 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Flight, and 2016’s Fences prove he is only getting better with age. Pair him with screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy, who’s coming off the success of his directorial debut Nightcrawler, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. should be chalked-up as another victory for Denzel, right?

Denzel Washington stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq., a legal genius but socially inept lawyer who has spent years fighting the good fight for a small law firm in Los Angeles, California. When his partner in the firm unexpectedly experiences a health emergency, Roman finds himself working for the law firm of a former student of his partners’, George Pierce (Colin Farrell). After years of staying true to his values, he finds his morality being challenged due to a deadly case he’s working on with Pierce, while also starting a relationship with a civil rights worker (Carmen Ejogo).

Roman J. Israel, Esq. rests on the shoulders on its iconic star, and Denzel delivers more awardsworthy work as the titular character. Although the character is not entirely likeable, there’s something stunning about Denzel’s transformation into this very intelligent but people skills lacking lawyer. Washington has displayed unbelievable range and has carried films throughout his career, and once again displays his talents in this film.

One has to think it’s bizarre to see him share scenes with Denzel, but Colin Farrell is on his A-game. He may not be able to match Denzel blow for blow, but his supporting part should be highlighted and deserves awards consideration. Carmen Ejogo also delivers a fine performance as well, as she admires Roman’s quirkiness and sees him as an inspiring figure.

Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

The issue that looms large over Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the film’s jumbled narrative. At its core, the film is about a man who abandons his selflessness for a short period of time only to realize it is this quality that makes him who he is. The film takes way too long to set this up, as its main story could be told in under two hours easily, but instead runs for an overlong two hours. Its heavy handedness is also glaring, as there are more subtle ways to depict a redemption story than having your leading man call himself a hypocrite at the beginning of the film and seeing him stray away from his magnum opus civil case to experience the luxuries in life once he is able to obtain them. Director Dan Gilroy made Nightcrawler such a taut, slick thriller back in 2014, so it’s curious to see just how this film managed to escape from him and be so distorted.

It doesn’t help seeing Washington’s character struggle in social situations continuously, which becomes more irritating than endearing after awhile. This is due to the fact Roman is the very definition of someone you wouldn’t trust to park your car. He would not only fail to follow instructions, he would attempt to explain why he didn’t do what you told him to do. This hypothetical situation is similar to many of the actions Roman takes throughout the film, making him rather obnoxious. This handicaps the film, as we typically want to sympathize with the protagonist of a film or at least have a reason to care about them. This is especially troubling when a film with a muddled narrative such as this one needs to be carried by the main character in order to make it a better film. That feeling doesn’t arise until the conclusion, and you’re more likely to react by saying “I told you so” rather than be sympathetic.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. isn’t a total misfire, but rather a missed opportunity. The film boasts a capable cast around its star, and features Denzel Washington in yet another tremendous performance. Had the film been more focused, less heavy-handed, and featured a more likeable lead, Roman J. Israel, Esq. could’ve been a nice little redemption story. Instead, what we get from Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a tour de force lead performance that can’t quite makeup for its jumbled narrative.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Nazneen Contractor, Joseph David-Jones, Andrew T. Lee, and Shelley Hennig. It is in theaters November 17th.

 

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 12 Predictions

Turkey. Stuffing. And Thanksgiving Football.

Thanksgiving Day: A day in which we stuff our faces with food while watching the NFL mainstays of turkey day football, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, lose. The NFL on Thanksgiving has given us many memorable moments, including Dallas Cowboys DL Leon Lett’s ill fated fumble recovery attempt, Steelers RB Jerome Bettis’s botched coin toss at the hands of referee Phil Luckett, and Jets QB Mark Sanchez’s infamous “Butt Fumble.” Who knows what memories may be made with this slate of Thanksgiving Day games, but like Week 12 of the NFL season, they feature marquee match-ups that will alter the NFL’s playoff picture.

Last Week: 11-3

Overall: 98-62

 

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving Day)

The Vikings have gained control of the NFC North despite starting 3rd string QB Case Keenum. The Lions are still very much alive in the NFC Playoff picture, but it will be tough for them to beat this Vikings team a seconded time.

Winner: Vikings

Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys (Thanksgiving Day)

This is a tale of teams going in opposite directions. The Cowboys look lost without RB Ezekiel Elliott, LB Sean Lee, and LT Tyron Smith. The Chargers, on the other hand, had five interceptions last week… in the first half. The Chargers have a tendency to let you down, so look for big D to rebound and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Winner: Cowboys

New York Giants at Washington Redskins (Thanksgiving Day)

The Redskins choked away a victory against an elite NFC team in the Saints, while the Giants somehow beat a superior Chiefs team last week. Go figure.

Winner: Redskins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Sure, the Bucs have won 2 in a row, but they’re not going anywhere. The Falcons have one of the toughest schedules remaining, and will need this win in order to remain a wild card team in the NFC.

Winner: Falcons

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

The 2nd battle of Ohio game this year means another “Oh- Why- No” joke.

Winner: Bengals

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have played valiantly this season without QB Andrew Luck, but they’re still in line for a top 10 draft pick. The Titans remain a confounding team, and they need this game to keep pace with the AFC South leading Jaguars.

Winner: Titans

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Bills head coach Sean McDermott made the dopiest move of the season benching QB Tyrod Taylor for rookie QB Nathan Peterman, who proceeded to throw five interceptions against the Chargers… IN THE FIRST HALF ON 14 ATTEMPTS. Meanwhile, the once dynamic Chiefs offense has sputtered, and could only score field goals against a bad Giants team. Neither team is heading in the right direction.

Winner: Chiefs

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

Dolphins QB Jay Cutler may be wishing he stayed retired after suffering a concussion last week.

Winner: Patriots

Carolina Panthers at New York Jets

The Panthers may be the most quiet 7-3 team we’ve ever seen. This team has the a top ranking defense and a dynamic play-maker in former MVP QB Cam Newton. No one will want to face them in the playoffs should they continue there winning ways.

Winner: Panthers

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles shook off their bye week rust in the second half last Sunday en route to throttling the Dallas Cowboys and draining control of the NFC East. They have a “trap game” this week ahead of their match-up against NFC mainstay Seattle, but they should have no trouble dismantling NFC basement mainstay Chicago.

Winner: Eagles

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are continuing to start CJ Beathard, leaving many to wonder when we’ll see Jimmy Garoppolo. The Legion of boom defense may be coming to an end, but Seattle should continue their dominance against their NFC West rival with QB Russell Wilson under center.

Winner: Seahawks

New Orleans Saints at Los Angles Rams

The Saints needed s comeback miracle to beat the Redskins last week, but there’s little doubt they are among the NFC’s elite. The same can’t be said of the Rams, who were pummeled by the Vikings last week, and may be showing signs they may not be among the NFC’s elite.

Winner: Saints

Jacksonville Jaguars at Arizona Cardinals

The Jaguars are shockingly 7-3 and on top of the AFC South, but it’s tough to start believing in this team with QB Blake Bortles under center. The Cardinals may be mailing it in, but they’re still a tough out for most.

Winner: Jaguars

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

The Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy due their awful offensive output. The Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. due to their awful defensive output. Both of these teams are in a tailspin.

Winner: Raiders

Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football)

Packers coach Mike McCarthy may regret spending the last couple of seasons trying to develop QB Brett Hundley. He can’t play. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who threw 4 touchdown passes last week, can still play at a very high level.

Winner: Steelers

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night Football)

The Texans got a nice win over the Cardinals last week and are mathematically still alive in the AFC playoff picture. If only the had QB Deshaun Watson, they might actually have a chance against the offensively inept Ravens. ESPN is wishing they could flex out of this game.

Winner: Ravens

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 11 Predictions

Another week, another slate of telling games.

Week 10 of the NFL taught us a lot about the contenders and pretenders for the Super Bowl this year. Just when we think we know everything there is to know about the league’s best teams, glaring flaws arise that make us question whether we should take those teams seriously. Week 11 of the NFL promises a plethora of telling games, and may be the final nail in the coffin for teams barely hanging on to their playoff chances.

Last Week: 10-4

Overall: 87-59

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (Thursday Night Football)

The Titans could easily be 3-6 this year considering their uninspired wins against the Browns, Ravens, and Bengals were close contests throughout. They end their stretch against the AFC North against the Steelers, who probably should have lost to the Colts last week considering their dreadful performance.

Winner: Steelers

 

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Bears coach John Fox challenged a play on Sunday against the Packers thinking they scored a touchdown. The call was changed to a touchback. If that isn’t a perfect encapsulation of the Bears season, then maybe a loss to the Lions will be.

Winner: Lions

 

Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers

The Packers seemed dead a couple of weeks ago, but they have a stretch of winnable games starting this week against the Ravens that could keep them in the playoff picture. Ravens QB Joe Flacco may no longer be elite, but his elite defense will stifle Packers QB Brett Humdley.

Winner: Ravens

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns

The Browns browned by trying a QB sneak at the end of the first half last week, only to have time expire and without points before halftime. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles Bortled by throwing 2 interceptions late in the game, and somehow the Jaguars won. Imagine if the Jags had an actual QB.

Winner: Jaguars

 

Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans

Both teams have had to resort to playing their back-up QBs this season due to their starters being injured. The Cardinals may have to start 3rd string QB Blaine Gabbert if Drew Stanton can’t go, but the Texans have to start QB Tom Savage, who can’t move to save his life.

Winner: Cardinals

 

Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings

This is the first of a four out of five game stretch that will tell us if the Rams are true contenders. Going on the road against a vaunted Vikings defense will be tough for the league’s top offense to overcome, and the Vikings may eventually have to re-insert QB Teddy Bridgewater into the lineup should QB Case Keenum revert back to his Jeff Fischer coached Rams days.

Winner: Vikings

 

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints

The Saints are winning the good ‘ole fashioned way: running the ball effectively and playing stellar defense. It’s a luxury for them to also have future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, who finally does not have to carry the team on his back.

Winner: Saints

 

Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants

The Giants have given up on coach Ben McAdoo after their embarrassing loss to the winless 49ers. Why the Giants haven’t fired him yet remains the most questionable coaching decision this year.

Winner: Chiefs

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins

Playing on what was supposed the bye week for both of these teams, both teams have failed to match pre-season expectations. This battle of Florida will come down to which turnover-prone QB, Jay Cutler of the Dolphins and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buccaneers, commits the least amount of turnovers.

Winner: Buccaneers

 

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers

The Bills have benched QB Tyron Taylor for rookie 5th round pick Nathan Peterman, and are officially pretenders. The Chargers keep finding ways to lose, so this one is anyone’s guess.

Winner: Chargers

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos

The Broncos’ offense has officially reached rock bottom, with their lone highlight last week being QB Brock Osweiler plunking some guy on the sideline with an incompletion. Remember when this team trounced the Dallas Cowboys?

Winner: Bengals

 

New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders (Game in Mexico City, Mexico)

Raiders owner Mar Davis yuked it up this week at the ground breaking ceremony for the team’s new Las Vegas stadium, playing a shovel like an air guitar and looking like s fool in the process. Patriots QB may have the Raiders secondary looking foolish this week, as they have yet to record an interception this season.

Winner: Patriots

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)

While all of us focused on the loss of RB Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys missed T Tyron Smith and LB Sean Lee even more against the Falcons last week. It’s too much of an ask for them to beat a scary good Eagles team coming off their bye week.

Winner: Eagles

 

Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (Monday Night Football)

The Falcons toyed with the Cowboys last week, proving they’re the most inconsistent team in the NFL on a weekly basis. They should be able to move the ball on a Richard Sherman-less Seattle secondary, but given their aforementioned title, Seattle could sneak away with an important home game to keep pace with the NFC West leading Rams.

Winner: Seahawks

 

Bro-Reviews: Justice League

Injustice for all.

The DC Extended Universe, or DCEU, has never quite found its footing. Man of Steel experienced mixed results at best, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an unmitigated disaster, and Suicide Squad was a dumpster fire. The only one of the DCEU’s films to be legitimately good is Wonder Woman, which is universally regarded as one of the top films in the comic book movie genre and a potential awards contender. Many had hopes with the success of Wonder Woman, the DCEU could be salvaged with the arrival of Justice League, which promised to be the epic universe building film DC fans were waiting for. The only question remains, does Justice League deliver justice for the wrongs of its previous failures?

Justice League sees Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Ben Affleck) discovering an other worldly enemy arriving after the demise of Superman (Henry Cavill). This other worldly presence reveals itself to be Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who along with his Parademons seeks the three Mother Boxes in order to unleash an even more powerful cosmic figure to destroy the world and rule it. To stop Steppenwolf, Bruce calls upon the help of Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Barry Allen/ The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/ Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Arthur Curry/ Aquaman (Jason Momoa), to help defeat Steppenwolf and deliver justice to the world.

It’s hard not to hold the wrongs of previous DCEU entries against Justice League, but Justice League doesn’t do itself any favors by having many of the same flaws that plagued the universe’s previous films. Most of those flaws point to the director and architect of what now must be classified as a failed universe, Zack Synder. The man continues to use slow motion ad nauseam, even for insignificant happenings such as an angry man knocking over fruit baskets outside of a corner liquor store. Synder does have an eye for visual effects and action sequences, but most of those end up looking cheap despite its big budget and hard to follow due to the studio going into full blown panic mode after the film that was supposed to kick everything off wet the bed.

Other trademark Synderism include setting up scenes with no background at all, using exposition to explain away whatever confusion you may have had with those scenes that weren’t set up properly, and a total lack of characterization for most, if not all the characters involved. Why does Steppenwolf want to take over the world? Why does Synder insist on Amy Adam’s Lois Lane being the emotional crux of this universe just to give her something to do even though she’s terrible? Why did Joss Whedon of Marvel fame decide to get involved in this mess and change the already awfully dark color pallet to an even more off-putting colorful one?

Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa in “Justice League.”

We learn next to nothing regarding the new characters introduced to the universe, particularly Ezra Miller’s Flash and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. Miller’s Flash is an encapsulation of millennial stereotypes, and is unfunny and annoying throughout. Despite his impressive physique and stature, Jason Momoa lacks any sort of screen presence, and Aquaman’s rebellious surfer-dude demeanor feels out of place entirely. Henry Cavill somewhat suffers the same fate as Momoa’s Aquaman, and it’s clear Synder and the filmmakers don’t have a clear understanding of the Superman mythos. Even Ben Affleck, whose older and battle-worn Batman/ Bruce Wayne is a welcome change for the character, seems disinterested, and turning him and Jeremy Iron’s Alfred into wise crackers feels out of sync.

It’s only Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg who get anything out of what clearly was a heavily re-edited script to fit everything into one film instead of making a two part film and to ensure a run time of under two hours. Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to be the only beacon of hope in an otherwise lost universe, but even she can’t save the movie. Ray Fisher definitely commands the screen whenever he’s on and his brooding makes for an interesting backstory, but it’s all cut short instead of being explored further so we can get back to a hacked to the bone film that lacks any sort of substance.

There are moments where Justice League does deliver, particularly when you can actually see the action clearly. The final sequences continues the DC tradition of CGI infested climaxes, but I’d be lying if I said my inner 10 year-old didn’t admire all of the classic DC heroes posing in their action shots while doing battle with the insignificant flies that were the Parademons. But for a film that was so supposed to be an epic team-up and a response to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Justice League felt like a throwaway obligation instead of an epic, universe building answer to The Avengers. If anything, the film is a processed version of that superior film, and tries to mimic Marvel to the point that its during and after the credits scenes feel like cheap imitators threatening us with more bad movies rather than significant, anticipated reveals.

Justice League is yet another chore in the DC Extended Universe that seems to be our punishment for enjoying the gluttony of great comic book movies Marvel has released for nearly the last decade or so. It’s a soulless bore that could’ve been something great had it not been altered due to its predecessor’s failures and to resemble an already far better product. In the end, Justice League not only fails to do its source material and universe justice, it should be categorized as something no fan would want its beloved source material to be: an injustice.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

Justice League stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Billy Crudup, and Ciarán Hinds. It is in theaters November 17th.

Bro-Reviews: Murder on the Orient Express

Well-groomed but not the smoothest ride.

As I’ve stated before, adapting treasured literature into a film is always a tall order. The studio and filmmakers want to make a movie that will not only satisfy fans of the work, but will also appeal to mainstream audiences. This seems nearly impossible for the works of Agatha Christie, as Christie purists are notoriously snobbish in regards to adapting her work. If there were ever a person who could do it, however, it would be celebrated actor and director Sir Kenneth Branagh. Surely a knighted man could faithfully adapt one of Christie’s most famous novels and remake the classic 1974 critically acclaimed film, Murder on the Orient Express, right?

Murder on the Orient Express sees famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) traveling from Israel after for his upcoming holiday after expertly solving another case. He does so aboard the Orient Express, a luxurious but overcrowded train holding a wide array of passengers. One night after the train is derailed due to a snow storm, a passenger is discovered dead. Believed to be murdered, Poirot takes the case to solve the murder on the Orient Express.

The first quality of the film that must be noted is its grand settings and slick look. Shots of the city of Israel, the main train station, the snowy mountains, and the sets of the train cabins are nothing short of award worthy. They transport you to the film’s setting in the 1930s, and Branagh’s excellent staging makes you too feel as if you are a passenger aboard this claustrophobic train. There’s not doubt the film is beautiful to look at, and is the epitome of stylish to say the very least.

The all star ensemble cast delivers when necessary, but it’s Daisy Ridley and Michelle Pfeiffer as Mary Debenham and Caroline Hubbard respectively who make the most of their limited screen time. Ridley proves there’s a future for her beyond Star Wars, and Pfeiffer continues her career renaissance with her performance. Though the film’s advertising highlights Johnny Depp as one of the main characters in the film, he’s hardly in it. But he too shines as the gangster Samuel Ratchett in the film, showing that somewhere buried deep within him there is still a man who can deliver an excellent performance.

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Of course, the main star of the film other than his trademark mustache is Branagh as Poirot. Branagh is one of our finest actors living today, and does a splendid job as the famed detective. He is able to deliver scenes of intensity and scenes highlighting Poirot’s unique intricacies with ease, showcasing both his dramatic and comedic range. Branagh is also able to put the audience in Poirort’s shoes as he tries to uncover the mystery, and you too have as difficult a time piecing all of the evidence together, which also shows Poirot as vulnerable for the first time in his life despite his reputation.

While I stated earlier that the ensemble cast does their job, some members of the cast do feel underused. Penélope Cruz seems to fall victim the most to this as a missionary aboard the train, and feels as if she was cast to sell the movie despite not putting her academy award winning talent to much use. Dame Judi Dench also feels under utilized in the film, as her role as a snobbish Princess doesn’t quite resonate the way Judi Dench should resonate as we have grown accustomed to.

Having never read the book nor seen the 1974 Sidney Lumet directed version, I cannot necessarily say Agatha Christie fans will be pleased with every aspect of the film, but that is to be expected whenever adapting famed literature into a mainstream film. However, I would love to ask readers of the novel and Christie purists if the twists and reveal of who committed the crime pay off better in the book, as those reveals don’t payoff as much as they should upon being revealed. I felt I should’ve been shocked or at the very least felt a gut punch in the film’s climatic discoveries, but that unfortunately did not happen.

Overall, Murder on the Orient Express is a solid re-make and adaptation. It’s a glossy, well-groomed whodunit that doesn’t have the climax one anticipates after watching the film. Murder on the Orient Express may not be the smoothest ride, but its solid ensemble cast, terrific lead performance, and elaborate visuals and sets more than make up for its underwhelming final outcome.

Rating: 2.5/4 Stars. Pay Matinée Price.

Murder on the Orient Express stars Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. It is in theaters November 10th.

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 10 Predictions

This is where the men separate themselves from the boys.

Week 10 of the NFL is coming at us fast, and at this point in the season, most teams know what direction they are heading in. That means there are opportunities for teams to separate themselves from others as true contenders, but there’s also just enough time left for teams who got off to slow starts to recover and make a push for the playoffs.

Last Week: 9-4

Overall: 77-55

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (Thursday Night Football)

The Seahawks defense embarrassed themselves last week allowing the Redskins to drive all the way down the field for the game winning touchdown with under two minutes remaining in the game. They’ll have a bounce back performance against the Drew Stanton led Cardinals.

Winner: Seahawks

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans

The Titans were a popular pick to win the AFC South this year, but they haven’t lived up to expectations as a team taking the next step towards contention. Meanwhile, the Bengals are too busy having MMA matches involving star WR A.J. Green to focus on winning.

Winner: Titans

 

Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions

Even with the 6-2 Vikings in their division, this is the perfect season for QB Matt Stafford to lead the Lions to an NFC North title considering Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is sidelined with a collar bone injury. They have to take care of business against the Browns, who recently reinstated former All-Pro WR Josh Gordon, who apparently was intoxicated in one form or another every game of his NFL career. That’s what playing for the Browns will do to someone.

Winner: Lions

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars won without stud rookie RB Leonard Fournette last week, who was suspended by the team for missing the Jaguar’s team photo. That didn’t matter much, as the Jaguars defense held the Bengals to 7 points. While the Chargers have somewhat rebounded from their 0-4 start, it’s a tall order for them to travel across the country and beat a team that boasts one of the best defenses in the league.

Winner: Jaguars

 

New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston won’t be tasting any “W’s” any time soon, as he’s out for a couple of weeks with a sprained shoulder. The Buccaneers will start Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, who will want to enact revenge against his former team. This is the type of game the Jets need to win if they want to continue to avoid tanking,

Winner: Jets

 

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is going to be desposed in former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick’s case in which he is accusing the league of collusion. Kaepernick may not have documentation of this, but anyone looking at how terrible the Packers are starting QB Brett Hundley in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers has to start to wonder if Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem last year is the reason as to why he remains unsigned.

Winner: Bears

 

New Orleans Saints at Buffalo Bills

The Bills had a chance last week to show they’re for real, and then they laid an egg on Thursday Night Football against the Jets. The Bills have had a record of .500 or better after playing eight games eight times since 1999. They failed to reach the playoffs each of those times. That trend seems like it could continue with a rough second half schedule, starting with a revived Saints team this week.

Winner: Saints

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts

In immortal words of Nelly and Tim McGraw, “cause it’s all in my head.” That lyric best describes Colts QB Andrew Luck if you’re listening to Colts owner Jim Irsay and former Colts coach Tony Dungy. Do you think Luck wants to play for Irsay?

Winner: Steelers

 

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins

The Redskins pulled off an impressive victory over the Seahawks in Seattle last week, and they could still make some noise in the NFC East. The Vikings will have a decision to make between QBs Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Bradford in regards to who their starter will be, but with a defense that allows 282 yards per game, it might not matter much.

Winner: Vikings

 

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams

Say it loud: THE RAMS ARE FOR REAL. They’ve scored 30 or more points 5 times this year, and they’re 5-0 in those games. It’s a shame Texans rookie sensation QB Deshaun Watson is out for the season with a torn ACL, as this could’ve been a match-up featuring two young and now promising QBs in him and Jared Goff.

Winner: Rams

 

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, meaning he will be suspended for at least this game against the Falcons. The Cowboys have a ferocious defensive line that will cause problems for the sputtering Falcons offense, and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is more than capable without his troubled star RB.

Winner: Cowboys

 

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

The Giants are awful, and coach Ben McAdoo has supposedly lost the locker room with his constant player fines, throwing players under the bus, and tough practices. This is one of the few games remaining on the 49ers schedule they could win, but the 49ers are 0-9 for a reason, and 0-16 remains a real possibility.

Winner: Giants

 

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (Sunday Night Football)

Including the postseason, Patriots QB Tom Brady is 7-9 in his career against the Broncos. Fortunately for him, the Broncos offense can’t function to save their lives this season. They will trot out QB Brock Osweiler for the second straight week, and if you take Broncos head coach Vance Joseph’s word for it, Osweiler gives the Broncos confidence. Did he watch the beating his team took in Philadelphia last week?

Winner: Patriots

 

Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers (Monday Night Football)

People keep doubting the Panthers this season for some odd reason. It could be because Panthers QB Cam Newton compared his team to the Titanic when asked about the team trading away WR Kelvin Benjamin. If he wanted to use the Titanic metaphor correctly, he would’ve used it to describe the Dolphins’ playoff chances, as it’s a miracle this team is 4-4 despite being one of the worst ranked offenses in the league. QB Jay Cutler probably should’ve stayed retired.

Winner: Panthers