Bro-Picks: NFL Week 17 Predictions

A long regular season comes to an end.

After 4 arduous months of mediocre football at best, the NFL’s regular season finally comes to an end this Sunday. It’ll go out on a whimper as well, as the NFL elected not to flex one of Sunday’s games into the Sunday Night Football time slot. The NFL claims this is due to the fact that it’s New Year’s Eve, but its mostly due to the fact none of the match-ups this Sunday will draw a crowd. So much for the NFL still being the king of all American sports, as injuries have derailed some of the league’s rising stars, you can have stretches of playing god-awful football during the regular season and still be in the playoff picture, and we still don’t know what in God’s name a catch is. We can only hope these week 17 match-ups can provide marginal entertainment ahead of what will hopefully be an unpredictable postseason.

Last Week: 11-5

Overall: 154-86

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Some NFL teams believe the Packer should have to release QB Aaron Rodgers because he was placed on injured reserved and it wasn’t because of a new injury he suffered, a violation of NFL rules. If this were to happen, it would force Packers GM Ted Thompson to finally build a team instead of relying on one of the greatest QB talents to ever be under center. What a concept.

Winner: Lions

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Colts QB Andrew said he doesn’t feel like he’s part of the team this week, but expects to start throwing next week. Oh the agony…

Winner: Colts

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings know what’s at stake this week, a first round playoff bye. They need to take care of business against the lowly Bears, who should “FireFox” as soon as the final horn blows Sunday.

Winner: Vikings

New York Jets at New England Patriots

The Patriots continued their diabolical ways by signing Steelers legend James Harrison this week in an attempt to play mind games with Pittsburgh ahead of their presumed AFC Championship Game match-up. Oh Belichick, you silver tongued devil you.

Winner: Patriots

Washington Redskins at New York Giants

A match-up many believed would determine playoff seeding at the start of the season is now a battle of ineptitude. The biggest question that looms in this one is where both team’s starting QBs will play next season.

Winner: Redskins

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have nothing to play for this week, as they clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs due to their ugly win over the Raiders on Christmas. As usual, the Cowboys found  a way to choke away a playoff birth under the guidance of Jason Garrett. He used to have Tony Romo to blame for these blunders, but it’s become abundantly clear Garrett is not the one to guide the Cowboys to the Super Bowl.

Winner: Cowboys

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

Here lie the remains of the 2017 Cleveland Browns, the 3rd team in NFL history to have a winning percentage of 0 in an NFL season.

Winner: Steelers

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

For the Falcons it’s simple: win, and they’re in. But accomplishing this against a Panthers team no one will want to face come this postseason is easier said than done.

Winner: Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

Ravens coach John Harbaugh pulled a Kanye this week by saying the NFL doesn’t care about the Ravens by moving their game from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m., which he believes will result in a smaller crowd at the game. He’s not entirely wrong, and he can get back at the NFL by making a long postseason run with his boring team if they beat the Bungles.

Winner: Ravens

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

The Bills mafia has a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 if they win on Sunday. This should be an easy task against smokin’ Jay Cutler and the Dolphins, but the Bills have known cold, playoff-less winters for nearly two decades. One has to wonder if they have it in them to finally end their playoff drought.

Winner: Bills

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite the rumblings of their former Super Bowl winning coach, Jon Gruden, being interested in the head coaching position, the Bucs have inexplicably retained head coach Dirk Koetter for next season. That won’t put a smile on Chucky’s face.

Winner: Saints

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

The Titans have a chance to still make the postseason as a wild card team, but the Sacksonville defense will want to prove last week’s thrashing at the hands of the 49ers was a fluke.

Winner: Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

The Chiefs will start rookie first round pick QB Patrick Mahomes against the “No Fly Zone” Denver defense this Sunday. Could this be the beginning of the Patrick Mahomes era in KC?

Winner: Chiefs

Oakland Raiders at Los Angles Chargers

Despite what will surely be a road game against LA’s favorite team, the Raiders, the Chargers actually have a chance to make it to the playoffs with a win and some help Sunday. The Raiders, who have been the NFL’s most disappointing team this season, may want to consider a coaching change if they want to just win, baby.

Winner: Chargers

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are resting up for the playoffs with the NFC West wrapped up. Jimmy Garoppolo appears to be the answer at QB for the 49ers, and a team that many thought could go winless not long ago may finish as the hottest team in the NFL.

Winner: 49ers

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians denied a report this week saying he will resign as coach of the Cardinals, but all signs point to that report being true. Despite all the dysfunction with Earl Thomas courting free agent suitors already, the Seahawks can fall into the playoffs with a win and a Falcons loss. They may be dysfunctional, but this is a team that knows what it’s doing once they find themselves in the postseason.

Winner: Seahawks

 

 

 

 

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Bro-Reviews: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Slightly better than the Guns ‘N Roses song.

It may be hard to believe, but the origin of Jumanji isn’t the 1995 Robin Williams film or the board game. “Jumanji” started off as 1981 children’s book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Over a decade later, it somehow got turned into a board game and then a Robin Williams vehicle, which was actually much darker and scarier than we remembered. Jumanji never saw a sequel, until Sony decided to capitalize on 90s nostalgia and announced they were rebooting the film for the sole reason that its name alone is still a recognizable property. Sony upped the ante however, by casting A-list stars in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black, and led many to believe reviving this property would be a worthwhile venture.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle starts off in 1996, where a father discovers a board game titled “Jumanji” and brings it home to his son, where it mysteriously turns into a video game and the son disappears soon after. Flash forward to the present day, where a cowardly nerd (Alex Wolf), a jock struggling with grades (Ser’Darius Blain), a smartphone dependent beauty (Madison Iseman), and a shy outsider (Morgan Turner) all find themselves in after school detention. It is there they discover the Jumanji video game, and are sucked into it as their polar opposite personality: a masculine hero (Dwayne Johnson), a short statured sidekick (Kevin Hart), a middle-aged fat man (Jack Black), and a butt kicking bombshell (Karen Gillian) respectively. In order to escape, they must complete the game, or risk being trapped in it forever.

While I recall memories of flipping through the children’s book when I was young, the 1995 Robin Williams film never stuck with me. So as a person who doesn’t have a strong affinity for the original film, I didn’t really care what they did with this unnecessary re-boot/ re-imagining. The set-up we have here is very Breakfast Club-esque, which at first comes off as contrived. It doesn’t help that the stereotypes for each real-world character are so over the top, with the nerd being overtly wimpy, the jock being a black teen who will get kicked off the football team if his grades don’t improve, the phone dependent popular girl being a vapid blonde, and the somehow unpopular but cute outsider being the one who challenges authority but then reverts back to being timid. Even though this set-up doesn’t last very long, you can’t wait to ditch the losers club finally get to our destination of the jungle with the A-list cast.

Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Dwayne Johnson in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”

Once we get to the jungle, it’s a welcome change of pace, as each of the stereotyped teens interacting with each other in their new avatars is a delight. Obviously his storied career in comedy helps, but Jack Black comes across best as a middle aged obese man with the mannerisms of a ditzy social media obsessed teenage girl. Every time he comes on screen he’s a riot, and it’s nice to see Jack Black back after a long period of taking more serious roles and unfunny star vehicles (*cough* Gulliver’s Travels *cough*). Kevin Hart remains as screechy as ever, but his shtick still works well here and continues to be the go-to man in comedy. Even Nick Jonas shows off his chops in the film, and proves there’s life after the Jonas Brothers and his solo music career.

Not all the characters come across as memorable, however. It’s nice to finally see Karen Gillan without her blue makeup on when she’s Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she doesn’t really resonate much other than her butt-kicking action sequences. Even Dwayne Johnson, arguably the biggest movie star on the planet, is fairly unremarkable in the film. Sure, it’s funny the first couple of times the hulking man acts insecure and sheepish, but in his attempt to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, somewhere along the way of filming this film he left his charisma at home. Even more forgettable than them is the villain, played by a drugged-out looking Bobby Cannavale. I’d attribute his lackluster villainous role to the fact that most video games’ main villains are fairly monotonous but that would be giving the filmmakers too much credit.

Even the big budget action sequences are meant to be ridiculous and thrilling much like a video game, but they never reach a level happening enough to classify them as entertaining. If anything, they’re just silly. The main highlight of the film other than Black and Hart is the character’s realizations that they can be the avatars they are in the game in their everyday lives as well. There’s something sweet and genuine about this realization that shows the film has some heart, and is a good lesson for young kids and teenagers out there who may be afraid to break out of their comfort zones. In that regard, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle proves there was something to be gained by re-booting/ re-imagining the otherwise bland Robin Williams 1995 version.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle may be on the whole an unwarranted project, but there have been more egregious re-boots/ re-makes. When the film focuses on Black and Hart doing that thing they do and shows its heart by telling audiences you can be the hero you play in your video game in real life, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle proves itself as a manageable journey. It’s biggest star and blockbuster thrills, however, leave much to be desired. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle may be able to prey on and revitalize 90s nostalgia for some, but for others, it’s an expedition into the jungle you can do without.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Missi Pyle, and Colin Hanks. It is in theaters December 20th.

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 16 Predictions

Playoff spots on the line paired with bad officiating? What’s the worst that could happen?

Week 15 of the NFL might have been one of the most controversial weeks in the NFL this season, no thanks to the men in stripes.

First, in the pivotal AFC match-up between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL referees continued to make us beg the question: What’s a catch?

Most would agree, that call reversal not only determined the outcome of the game, but might have been one of the bigger blown calls in the league this year. Surely nothing could top it, right?

Gene Steratore, who officiated the Dallas Cowboys match-up against the Oakland Raiders, said “hold my beer.”

A first down was determined by a folded piece of paper. And many wonder why the NFL’s ratings have dipped this year.

Last Week: 12-4

Overall: 143-81

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (Saturday Afternoon)

Colts QB Andrew Luck is going to test out his surgically repaired throwing shoulder to see if it needs more surgery. The fate of the Colts’ future rests upon the health of his shoulder, while the Ravens are gunning for a wild card spot in the AFC.

Winner: Ravens

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (Saturday Night)

After trotting out Aaron Rodgers for one interception filled game against the Panthers, the Packers have shut down their franchise QB for the remainder of the season now that they are eliminated from playoff contention. Back-up QB Brett Hundley going up against the Vikings vaunted defense? Merry Christmas cheese heads.

Winner: Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are embroiled in controversy at the moment due to owner Jerry Richardson’s boorish behavior and decision to sell the team come seasons end. Apparently Diddy wants to own the team, and (*still not signed*) Colin Kaepernick and NBA superstar Stephen Curry want in on the action. Imagine those guys in a room with a bunch of old white men…

Winner: Panthers

Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals

Rumors surfaced last Sunday Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis will be leaving at the conclusion of the season. He of course said there’s nothing to these reports, but if his team’s effort against the Vikings was any indication, Cincinnati will be looking for a new coach come next year. Paging Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns…

Winner: Lions

Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs

Don’t look now, but the Chiefs seem to have regained their explosive form from earlier this season after two dominating wins over the Raiders and Chargers. Meanwhile, Miami Dolphins QB Jay Cutler has been non-committal in regards to his future. How smokin’ Jay Cutler of him.

Winner: Chiefs

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

If we are to take him at his word, Bills CB Tre’Davious White claims “The whole hood want him” in regards to getting back at Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski for his dirty hit on him just weeks ago. Also, Tom Brady’s snake oil salesman/ trainer, Alex Guerrero, has had his sideline and team plane privileges revoked. Is trouble brewing in title town?

Winner: Patriots

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

The Falcons are somehow still in the race for the NFC South division title, but one would be shocked to learn the Falcons rank in the top 10 in total offense and total defense. The Saints will be in for a dog fight this week, and can’t afford to slip-up against the Falcons again after their week 14 debacle against them.

Winner: Saints

Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears

It’s now or never Brownies…

Winner: Browns

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets

The Chargers once again let everyone down by laying an egg at Arrowhead last week. They still have a shot at the division if the win out and get some help, and they catch a huge break by first facing the QB-less Jets.

Winner: Chargers

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

Just one year ago, 2016 number 1 pick Jared Goff looked like a bust. Now, he’s thriving under the tutelage of sure-fire coach of the year winner Sean McVay. Meanwhile, the Titans have started floundering at the wrong time, and are now in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the ninth straight year.

Winner: Rams

Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins

Inexplicably, the Broncos are on a two game winning streak despite not having a quarterback. If Paxton Lynch is healthy, he needs to play to see if he is in the franchise’s plans for the future. That bodes well for the mediocre Redskins, who still can’t decide if QB Kirk (*or Kurt?*) Cousins figures into their plans for the future.

Winner: Redskins

Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers got a franchise QB in exchange for a second round pick. This could end up being one of the nest trades in NFL history if Jimmy Garoppolo can keep up his winning ways. And despite his reputation, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles hasn’t been trash, throwing for 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions the last 3 games, guiding the Jaguars to their first playoff berth since 2007.

Winner: Jaguars

New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

Neither team is having a good season despite being playoff hopefuls at the start of the season. Giants QB Eli Manning has rebounded well enough from his benching, throwing for 4 touchdowns his last two games. He’s not what he once was, but he’s got enough in the tank to get a win this week and to show teams he can still help a contender next year.

Winner: Giants

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

At 8-6, the Cowboys are still alive in the NFC playoff picture and get star RB Ezekiel Elliott back just in time for one last playoff push. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are imploding. Star defensive players Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner are feuding, and it may be time to blow up the Legion of Boom.

Winner: Cowboys

Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

In a game in which star WR Antonio Brown was taken out in the first half, the Steelers were one blown call and bad decision away from seizing control of the AFC away from the Patriots. One would think the Steelers are due for a letdown this week, but a Christmas Day tilt against the Texans should alleviate any wounds leftover from last Sunday.

Winner: Steelers

Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles

The Raiders’ staggeringly disappointing season can be summed up in one play/ one photo.

Winner: Eagles

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: All the Money in the World

On the money.

Ridley Scott is one of those directors that when he’s on his game, there’s no better director in Hollywood. When Alien: Covenant disappointed back in the summer, many began to worry about his next film setting itself up for an awards season run, All the Money in the World, Based on John Pearson’s 1995 book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty.” The film became embroiled in controversy when one of its stars, Kevin Spacey, was accused of sexual misconduct against several people, including under aged boys. In an effort to distance itself from the disgraced actor, director Ridley Scott pulled off the impossible task of re-shooting Spacey’s scenes with a new actor, Christopher Plummer, and editing Spacey out of the movie in time for the film’s planned December release. With all of the controversy and intrigue surrounding the film, did Scott’s gamble pay dividends?

Based on true events, All the Money in the World tells the story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul  Getty III (Charlie Plummer). Although he is the richest man in the world, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) refuses to pay his grandson’s ransom. With very little help and even less time, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), John’s mother, and ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), must find a way to rescue John before it’s too late.

As mentioned earlier, the film was engulfed in controversy due to its association with tarnished actor Kevin Spacey, and somehow director Ridley Scott and newly cast J. Paul Getty Christopher Plummer were able to re-shoot all of Spacey’s scenes without the use of special effects. We all know Scott is a visionary director, and when he is on his A-game, he’s a force to be reckoned with. In an emergency and seemingly impossible situation, the fact Scott was able to finish the film in time for its release is an achievement in it of itself, regardless of the film’s overall quality.

The gamble manages to pay off immensely, as two veterans manage to deliver a film that undoubtedly benefits from Kevin Spacey’s re-casting with Christopher Plummer. Plummer embodies Getty to his core, a creepy, surly, cheap billionaire who only cares for things, not people. While no one would dare question his acting prowess, there was something about the early trailers with Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty that just felt out of place. Spacey was pancaked with makeup and special effects to resemble an elderly gentleman, and the studio wanted him instead of Plummer, who was Scott’s first choice, to play the role since he is a bigger name actor. Christopher Plummer is able to portray Getty in a manner that Kevin Spacey never could since Spacey is not an old man, and Plummer is able to personify Getty in expert fashion due to his elderly status. Plummer’s recent nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture is very deserved, and his performance should also earn him a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the Oscars as well.

Christopher Plummer in “All the Money in the World.”

His performance also lends itself well to the story, which is nothing short of harrowing and thrilling. Of course the film more than likely over dramatizes and possibly even adds fictitious events to this true tale, but Scott captivates us with J. Paul Getty’s greedy demeanor, the relationship between victim and captor, and the race to find Paul before he experiences irreparable damage.

Michelle Williams shines as Gail Harris, as she is able to convincingly portray a woman not only desperate to get her son back, but willing to do whatever it takes to do so, including fighting Getty’s empire. Her performance nabbed her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama, and could be up for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as well. Despite my initial concerns due to his presence in the film, Mark Wahlberg manages to acquit himself well in the film. Wahlberg avoids his action-star tendencies and instead trades them for a more calm and collected professional demeanor, which he is able to pull off well enough. Charlie Plummer also does a fine job as the kidnapped Getty, and his relationship with one of his captors, played by Romain Duris, functions well in the film and adds another layer of complexity to the kidnapping.

One aspect of the film audiences must get through, however, is the first hour of the film. While it starts off strong by showing us the relationship between J. Paul Getty and his grandson Paul, the first hour drags for far too long, as we are constantly reminded of how difficult it is to get ahold of the elder Mr. Getty and his unwillingness to pay his grandson’s ransom. This could have easily been trimmed to make the film shorter than its 132 minute running time, as we get the point very early on in the film.

Despite a whirlwind of controversy and a somewhat slow first act, All the Money in the World is a directorial achievement unlike any in the history of cinema and a compelling drama. Most studios and directors would have delayed a film’s release under All the Money in the World‘s circumstances, but in the hands of a true auteur in Ridley Scott, one has to wonder why we panicked for him, the studio, and the film in the first place. It also helps that its overhauling changes more than likely made for a better final product, but the performances nonetheless are nothing short of spectacular, chief among them Christopher Plummer’s. All the Money in the World is an on the money drama, and might walk away with a couple of Academy Awards along with some Golden Globes come this awards season.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

All the Money in the World stars Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Andrew Buchan, and Timothy Hutton. It is in theaters December 25th.

Bro-Reviews: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Best Jedi.

When news broke that the next installment of the new Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was having its release date delayed from May to December of 2017, people began to fear the worst. Coming off the heels of the vastly overrated Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the at first warmly received but now popular to mock Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi had its work cut out for it. Throw in new director Rian Johnson replacing Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, and it seemed The Last Jedi was doomed. Does the latest tale in the worldwide phenomenon crumble fans hopes and dreams, or does it deliver another epic entry in the space opera?

The Last Jedi picks up around where Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally finding the last known Jedi in the galaxy, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), living in self imposed hiding. At the same time, the First Order is hot on the Resistances’ trail, and Rey and the Rebels must find assistance before the Rebellion is destroyed once and for all.

Forget what you think you know about the Star Wars universe, as The Last Jedi boldly goes where no other Star Wars has gone before. The story elements we have become accustomed to are shattered in the beginnings of The Last Jedi, and delivers unexpected character arcs that breathes new life into the heroes we’ve come to know and love and further develops the newest additions to the space set saga.

While he was not much of an actor in the original three films, Mark Hamill delivers his finest performance as Jedi master Luke Skywalker. His evolution from legendary hero to now disillusioned hermit is a compelling story that anchors the film. This evolution also includes his interactions with Daisy Ridley’s Rey, who continues to grow as a strong character, and she owns her star making role even more in The Last Jedi than she did in The Force Awakens. While many still question the believability of Adam Driver as the next master Sith, Kylo Ren, Driver’s youthful goofy look and perceived conflict lends itself in a positive fashion even more this time around, as he’s still just a scared little child with enough power to destroy all in his path, making for a tenacious performance.

Daisy Ridley in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

These unfamiliar themes also spill into the action sequences of the film. While much of the suspense can be attributed to the fact that it is a Star Wars movie and we don’t know what is going to happen next, these scenes of battle and peril are not only some of the most exciting unpredictable sequences in a film in quite some time, but have you on the edge of your seat more than any other Star Wars film that has come before.

The rest of the cast acquits themselves well, with Oscar Isaac once again showing he’s a fiery fly-boy as Poe, Andy Serkis as good as ever as in motion capture acting as the leader of The First Order Snoke, and Denzel-in the making John Boyega showing off his movie star qualities as a more heroic rendition of Finn. Of course, one would be remiss if they failed to mention Carrie Fisher’s final screen appearance as the legendary General Organa, or otherwise known as Leia. She saves her best performance for last in The Last Jedi, as her calming presence and hopeful demeanor brings absence of balance to the film.

While The Last Jedi does forgo many of the familiar story elements we’ve known for over four decades, there are obviously still moments akin to previous Star Wars lore. One can’t help but notice parallels to The Empire Strikes Back as it pertains to certain characters, and of course it wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie if there wasn’t one flight sequence in tight corridors. And while new creatures such as the Porgs are at first endearing in their interactions with Chewbacca, they become shameless toy commercials screaming BUY ME towards the latter parts of the film. One of the new human additions to the film is Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose in the film. She eventually finds her footing, but for a majority of the film seems out of place due to her limited acting progress.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has minor flaws within it that may bother some, but they are not enough to derail the entire film. The Last Jedi is filled with tension and delivers stellar blockbuster thrills at a whole new level. The story takes everything you think you know about a Star Wars film and flips it upside down, making it the best Star Wars entry to date. The Last Jedi is a near flawless blockbuster film, and will stand the tests of time in this galaxy far far away.

Rating: 4/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Laura Dern, and Benicio Del Toro. It is in theaters December 15th. 

 

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 15 Predictions

The play clock is winding down.

The start of the final four games of the NFL’s regular season brought plenty of surprises to the league’s best, ranging from devastating injuries to head-scratching losses. There’s little time for teams to feel sorry for themselves, as week 15 of the NFL season brings us another sizzling slate of games that will decide team’s playoff fates.

Last Week: 9-7

Overall: 131-77

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (Thursday Night Football)

Oh the humanity of Thursday Night Football.

Winner: Colts

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (Saturday Afternoon)

Both of these teams are coming off of wins in week 13, something that seemed improbable just weeks ago. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky has shown flashes of competency, but the Lions need this one to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

Winner: Lions

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday Night)

Kansas City suspended their best defensive player in CB Marcus Peters last week and somehow it paid dividends, as the Chiefs demolished the Raiders. The Chargers have won 7 of 9 after starting the season 0-4. In a battle for first place in the AFC West, it’s the home field advantage Arrowhead Stadium provides that will make the difference.

Winner: Chiefs

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

Dolphins QB Jay Cutler looked like a competent QB against the Patriots and outplayed Tom Brady. Can he outplay any of the QBs Buffalo may trot out in unfavorable conditions?

Winner: Bills

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been medically cleared to play, which should give Green Bay a boost in time for a potential playoff run. The Panthers, who are coming off a statement win against the Vikings, could be the team to benefit most from the recent slew of injuries in the NFC.

Winner: Panthers

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

The Browns were up by 14 last week against the Packers heading into the 4th quarter. The lost 27-21 in overtime. Even by Cleveland’s standards, that’s and ungodly choke job.

Winner: Ravens

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars boast a championship level defense and a stout running game led by offensive rookie of the year candidate Leonard Fournette. If QB Blake Bortles can avoid turning the ball over, Jacksonville could be a team no one wants to face this postseason.

Winner: Jaguars

Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings

Vikings coach Mike Zimmerman was once on Marvin Lewis’s coaching staff in Cincinnati. Come next year, the reverse may be the case.

Winner: Vikings

New York Jets at New Orleans Saints

The Saints are now a run first team, as they’re 9-0 when they run the ball 22 times or more. The loss to Atlanta last week is somewhat startling, but it’s not like the Jets are a force to be reckoned with.

Winner: Saints

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Eagles QB Carson Wentz suffered an ACL tear and is out for the season. Backup Nick Foles is good enough to keep the Eagles afloat, but their Super Bowl chances are now slim to none.

Winner: Eagles

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins

Believe it or not, this used to be a classic NFC East tilt. The interesting story here is Redskins QB Kirk (*or Kurt?*) Cousins, who may be playing himself out of a long term contract after what has been a down year for him.

Winner: Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

If you had said at the start if the season a week 15 match-up between the Rams and the Seahawks would decide the NFC West, most would call you insane. The Rams are averaging 30 points per game this season, and head coach Sean McVay is in the running for coach of the year. The Seahawks are coming off a crushing loss to the Jaguars, and won’t be willing to give up their hold of the NFC West just yet.

Winner: Seahawks

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo became the 2nd QB in the franchises’ history to win his first two road starts. There’s definitely some intrigue in the Bay Area now that he appears to be the QB of the future. The Titans are coming off a bad loss to an average Cardinals team, and need a win to keep pace with the Jaguars in the AFC South.

Winner: Titans

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

A game that will decide the top seed in the AFC comes at a time when both teams have major questions. The Steelers are missing LB Ryan Shazier badly, as the Ravens hung 38 points on them last week. The Patriots looked vulnerable in their AFC East tilt against the Dolphins, but do you really think the hoodie will allow the Pats to drop an important game such as this one?

Winner: Patriots

Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders (Sunday Night Football)

What was thought to be a potential Super Bowl 52 preview at the start of the season is now a battle between two teams on the outside looking in as it pertains to the playoff picture. The Raiders came out flat and got demolished against the Chiefs no thanks to  struggling QB Derek Carr, while Cowboys QB Dak Prescott may have finally figured out how to play without RB Ezekiel Elliott.

Winner: Cowboys

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Monday Night Football)

Just when you think the Falcons are DOA, they find a way to make you believe they can make a deep playoff run. Atlanta won despite Matt Ryan throwing 3 interceptions last week, something the Buccaneers can’t overcome with Jameis Winston under center.

Winner: Falcons

 

 

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: In Defense of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The hype was too big to live up to.

The early buzz for the latest entry in the world famous space opera saga Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been very positive, with many saying it is one of the best the series has to offer. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi opening in theaters this week, many television networks are of course opting to show the previous entries in marathon fashion throughout the week. This of course always re-opens the conversation Star Wars junkies and casual fans almost universally agree upon: the prequels are awful.

After the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi, fans had to wait nearly 16 years for another Star Wars film. It came in the form of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menance, the first film in a planned trilogy that would act as a precursor to the original three films from the man who helmed the 1976 film that started a worldwide phenomenon, George Lucas. With the promise of state of the art special effects, a talented ensemble cast including the likes of Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, and an ominous new threat, the film had sky-high expectations, especially considering the positive reception the first three films earned.

Fans waiting outside of a movie theater to be the first to see “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

While the film earned over $431 million and was a smash hit at the box office, many left the theater disappointed. Most of the complaints centered around the terrible acting, over-complicated plot, lack of action, and Jar-Jar Binks. One might say the film is one of the biggest disappointments in the history of cinema, and the release of two more not well received prequel films only solidifies this status, as it was the one that started the disappointing cycle. I, however, invite you to reconsider, as while The Phantom Menace is far from a perfect film, it is a fine entry in the Star Wars saga.

Many criticize the acting in the film, placing much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of unrefined child actors Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd as Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker respectively. Here’s a newsflash: most child actors are terrible. I would never advise one to praise their acting prowess in the film, as they deliver mostly wooden performances, but they get the job done. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are great as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Won Kenobi respectively, and are able to anchor the film. And lets be honest, the acting in the original three films is awful as well. There’s a reason why Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer (*R.I.P.*) didn’t get much work once the original saga concluded, it was because they weren’t very good. Star Wars isn’t a movie franchise you go to see for the acting, you go for the visuals and the story.

Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Jake Lloyd, and Ewan McGregor in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

However, many complain the story in Phantom Menace is poor as well. What they really mean is that the story is complicated. It isn’t as clear as the Cold-War like storyline represented in the original three films, which is the Rebels (*the good guys*) fighting the Empire (*the bad guys*) for space supremacy. In Phantom Menace, there’s many more parties involved, including the Republic, the Trade Federation, the Gugans, the Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council, and the Sith. Each of these parties have their own agendas, with some even acting as double agents, thus alluding to the political climate we have grown accustomed to. The film may not have the sharp dialogue required to pull off the story due to George Lucas’s shortcomings as a writer, but the film should be praised for containing such a complex story-line and using it as the set-up to the stories in the 70s and 80s films.

“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

If there’s anything I can agree with most people about, it is Jar-Jar Binks. Actor Ahmed Best will have to live with this burden the rest of his life, as the borderline racist character will forever live in infamy as one of if not the worst character in the Star Wars universe. However, fans and critics are missing the point as to why the character exists: it’s a movie for children. Yes, Star Wars appeals to fans of many ages, but the films target children. Jar-Jar was the major selling point for kids to see the movie, as the fun loving, goofy character represented the lighthearted side of the film, and whose main function was to provide comic relief for the children. After seeing him in the film, children who more than likely loved the character would then bug their parents enough for them to buy them a Jar-Jar toy, thus allowing the Star Wars franchise to obtain even more funds from everyone. The same was and remains true for Chewbacca, the Ewoks, and also continues for new additions like BB-8 and Porg.

Ahmed Best as Jar-Jar Binks in “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

The podracing scene stands out to most as the best sequence in the entire movie. It’s undoubtedly inventive and suspenseful, and clearly took advantage of the advancements in special effects technology to deliver one of the most thrilling scenes in Star Wars canon. But let’s not forget the feeling of dread and awesomeness when one of the baddest Sith lords to ever grace a Star Wars film, Darth Maul, reveals his double sided lightsaber in the best lightsaber battle in all the Star Wars films. Sure, it’s interrupted by a somewhat annoying Anakin Skywalker in an auto piloted starfighter joining the federation in fighting the droid control ship and the Gugans battling the droids with a clumsy Jar-Jar somehow saving the day, but even those scenes are fun as well. The choreography for the lightsaber fight is unprecedented, filmed in such a way you can tell what’s occurring on screen and feel every clash of a lightsaber, and adds one of the biggest gut-punches that would forever shape the Star Wars universe.

Ewan McGregor in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

It’s elements such as these that makes Phantom Menace much better than its reputation would have you believe. Yes, it’s far from perfect and maybe has its sights set too high in regards to its story for a Star Wars film, but Phantom Menace delivers blockbuster thrills and tremendous state of the art visuals on a grand scale. The hype machine set the expectations for the film so high there was no way it could live up to it. People had been craving another Star Wars movie for over a decade, and wanted it to be the way it was when they were a child. There’s no doubt “this wasn’t my childhood” sentiment also hindered the film, but it’s been long enough now that hopefully everyone has grown up and realized these movies, while they can be enjoyed by all ages, are targeted towards children, which they obviously no longer were by the time Phantom Menace landed in theaters nearly 20 years ago. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace should be given another viewing, and one should leave with a greater appreciation for the film than they did a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Liam Neeson, Ray Park, and Ewan McGregor in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

Rating: 2.5/ 4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiamird, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ahmed Best, Frank Oz, and Samuel L. Jackson.