Bro-Reviews: Isle of Dogs

Best in show.

Wes Anderson is in undoubtedly a true auteur by Hollywood standards. His quirky style and attention to visual detail has made him every hipster’s favorite filmmaker, but even mainstream audiences have finally started to catch on to his work. Anderson’s latest project has more mass appeal than all of his previous works thanks to its furry and friendly subject matter, Isle of Dogs, his second foray into the stop motion animation genre.

Isle of Dogs takes place in the not too distant dystopian future in Megasaki City, Japan, where an outbreak of dog flu and other various diseases has infected the dog population. The mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura), declares a state of emergency, and banishes all dogs to a nearby trash island, becoming the isle of dogs. However, a little boy named Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin) flies to the island in the hopes of finding his dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Upon reaching the island a pack of dogs consisting of Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston), Rex (voiced by Edward Norton), King (voiced by Bob Balaban), Boss (voiced by Bill Murray), and Duke (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) attempt to help Atari. Meanwhile, a young exchange student from Cincinnati, Ohio named Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig) believes she is on the verge of uncovering a political conspiracy as to why the virus is seemingly incurable.

The animation in the film is nothing short of astounding. All of the dogs have their own unique characteristics that makes them who they are, and their scruffy, sickly look truly resembles that of abandoned dogs. The animation also lends itself well to the human characters and their environments, as Megasaki City illuminates Asian culture in ways not even live action films can accomplish. This marks yet another visually stunning entry in Wes Anderson’s career, and even perhaps his best yet.

Anderson’s trademark quirky humor is also ever present in the film. One may not have thought about it beforehand, but the ability for canines to communicate to us through just their looks and reactions fits perfectly with Anderson’s humor. The added fact the dogs can talk and communicate is also an added bonus, as their reactions and thoughts are conveyed in hilarious fashion throughout the film.

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Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, and Koyu Rankin in Isle of Dogs.

As far as the all star voice cast, Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton do a fantastic job as Chief and Rex, providing the film with a veteran presence. Bill Murray also gets his licks in as Boss, a liver spotted mutt for a Japanese baseball team that will have you rolling. Greta Gerwig as the exchange student Tracy Walker and Frances McDormand as an interpreter of the events unfolding also provide humanity and funny commentary to the film, proving the canines aren’t the only ones holding their own. The rest of the voice cast, rounded out by Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schriber, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swindon also hit their marks and provide even more hilarity to the film.

The story itself is also quite timely considering the current state of of America. The current political happenings revolving around corruption and fear based rationale are explored in the film to tremendous results. The theory of basing political agendas on fear of “the other” or those unlike us is not only relevant, but also cautions us of a slippery slope that could become our reality should we continue our biased and paranoid ways.

Isle of Dogs is a delight. Not only does the film make good on its furry premise, but also provides timely commentary of our current political state. With an all star voice cast that is able to execute the director’s trademark style and humor and near perfect animation, Isle of Dogs is easily one of the year’s best films. Were it performing in the National Dog Show, Isle of Dogs would easily win best in show.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

Isle of Dogs stars Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Koyu Rankin, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, and Scarlett Johansson. It is in limited release now, and expands nationwide April 13th.

 

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Bro-Reviews: Pacific Rim: Uprising

Can we just get the Godzilla crossover already?

Back in 2013, visionary director Guillermo del Toro directed every anime fan’s ultimate live action dream featuring giant Gundam robots battling Godzilla-like creatures, Pacific Rim. The film received mostly positive reviews thanks to its visuals and delivering on its premise, and Idris Elba’s “cancelling the apocalypse” speech, while very akin to Bill Pullman’s “Independence Day” speech in Independence Day, remains iconic. The film wasn’t much of a financial success domestically, but fans craved a sequel. However, thanks to high box office receipts from our friends in China, a sequel titled Pacific Rim: Uprising has finally found its way into theaters.

Pacific Rim: Uprising takes place 10 years after the events of the first film/ “The Battle of the Breach”, where Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of “Battle of the Breach” hero General Stacker Pentecost, lives life as a scavenger for Jaeger parts after being kicked out of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC). During one of his illegal dealings, he and young Jaeger enthusiast Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) are arrested by the PPDC and are given an ultimatum by General Secretary of the PPDC Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Jake’s half sister: either join the academy or go to jail. At the same time, Liwen Shao (Jing Tian) and Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) have developed new drone Jaegers to take on the Kaiju should they ever appear again. However, when a rogue drone Jaeger wrecking havoc is discovered, it’s up to Jake and his crew of young recruits to solve the mystery before the possible return of the Kaiju.

For a movie whose essence is giant robots fighting monsters, the film has a bit too much plot and familiar thematic elements for its own good in an attempt to not be mindless entertainment like the Transformers film series. The redemption story for John Boyega’s character is fine, but the film focuses on it for the first third of the movie with awkward interactions with Scott Eastwood, who appears to be trying to hard to emulate his legendary father. On top of that, the scenes of Amara and the young recruits not getting along are contrived as well, making the first third of the movie a slog.

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Pacific Rim: Uprising

It also doesn’t help that the film is only produced by Guillermo del Toro, as while the first Pacific Rim had familiar elements to its set-up, in the hands of a talented director it can be forgiven. In the hands of first time film director Steven S. DeKnight, they come across as awkward and unnecessary, especially when the reason you bought a ticket was to see giant robots battle giant giant monsters. When you factor in the fact the ending to the first film leaves it in a place where the story didn’t need to continue, this sequel does reek of “be careful what you wish for” sentiment and falls into unneeded sequel status.

It’s not until the 2nd and 3rd acts you get what you paid the price of admission for. The battle sequences with the Jaegers and the Kaiju are still very epic and enthralling. This time you can also see a lot of the action since most of the sequences take place during the day, a welcome change after some complained about the dark, rainy settings of the battles in the first film. There’s also a killer twist in the film that is unexpectedly intriguing, and there’s no denying there’s life after Star Wars for John Boyega, as his charisma and leading man potential is on full display.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a perfect example of why not every movie needs a sequel. Its first act renders the movie lifeless and is a chore to sit through, muting the main attraction of giant robots fighting giant sea monsters. While it does deliver enough of the elements that made the first film great, Pacific Rim: Uprising reminds us to be careful what we wish for, and that we need to get to the Godzilla crossover with Jaegers already.

Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars. Rent it.

Pacific Rim: Uprising stars John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, and Jing Tian. It is in theaters now.

 

2018 MLB Preview: National League and Playoffs

By Matthew and Sean Duckett

Baseball is back, and that means it’s time for us at Bros Can’t Hang to give our preview of the 2018 season!

The chaotic offseason saw All-Star players scatter across the league, the arrival of Japanese Babe Ruth, and Derek Jeter become the most hated front office official in sports. Despite the sports world seemingly tumbling into chaos in 2018, baseball is looking to be dominated by the usual suspects. Today, we look at the National League and hope Giants fans don’t send us hate mail.

NL East

Washington Nationals

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Positives: The Nationals get another stab at postseason glory with their roster intact. Bryce Harper looks to improve on an already impressive 2017, and has the likes of Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and a returning Adam Eaton to help. The Nationals have the best top of the rotation in all of baseball, with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looking to put up Cy Young numbers once again this season. There are no weak spots on this roster.

Negatives: There is little time for the manager to gel with the players. With Bryce Harper possibly departing after this season, newly hired manager Dave Martinez, longtime Joe Madden protege, needs to find the winning playoff combination quickly, or he could see generational talent bolt for greener pastures. The Nationals are creeping up on the luxury tax as well, so finding adequate replacements for Harper would be a monumental task.

Question Mark: Can Matt Wieters bounce back? Ok, I lied. There is one weak spot on this team, and it’s behind the plate. Matt Wieters was abysmal at the plate last year with a 63 OPS+. He somehow played worse in the playoffs, putting up a slash line of .143/.333/.143 en route to a NLDS loss, aka a Nationals Special. They will need him to be at least replacement level.

Prediction: The Nationals at worst the number two team in the NL. If Dusty Baker was truly holding the Nationals back, this could be the first of many deep playoff runs if Harper stays in D.C. 92-70

 

Philadelphia Phillies

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Positives: The Phillies are about to surprise a lot of people, and they can thank the gobs of young talent expected to play key roles this season. Shortstop J.P. Crawford should get his first full season in the majors to why he’s been a top prospect for years. LF Rhys Hoskins put up 2 WAR in ⅓ a season. His counterpart, Nick Williams, put up respectable hitting numbers as well. SP Aaron Nola will have some pressure taken off him with the addition of Jake Arrieta, adding depth to a much maligned Philly rotation.

Negatives: As mentioned, the rest of the SP unit is quite bad. Actually, they’re not bad, they just have yet to put their talent to use. Using Inside Edge, it seems that the Phillies pitchers each have one pitch they can get outs with, but cannot seem to make use of the rest of their repertoire. If the young arms can figure out their secondary pitches, the Phillies could be an even better team than many predict them to be. If not, they stay locked in the basement of the NL East.

Question Mark: Can the bullpen lock it down? Signing Pat Neshek was a statement signing. Coming off his best season in the majors (1.59 ERA, 10 K/9), Neshek is set to anchor a bullpen that will find themselves in the highest leverage situations the team has faced in years. With Hector Neris throwing filth in the ninth, the bullpen looks set to improve on a respectable 2017 (15th in ERA).

Prediction: The Phillies back-end starters figure out their stuff and allow the pen to close out meaningful games. The young core snatches second place away from the Mets and Braves, and threaten to take the second Wild Card spot. 83-79

 

New York Mets

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Positives: The rotation is among the best in baseball. Health cooperating, the three-headed monster of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz could wreak havoc on opposing teams. The last time all three were healthy, they combined for 11 WAR, all posting an ERA+ of 118 or above.

Negatives: The lineup is going to have to wait a while for help. OFs Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are dealing with injuries, with Conforto unlikely to return until least mid April, and as late as May. His 145 OPS+ will be severely missed. Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez are overrated additions at best.

Question Mark: Can Matt Harvey find anything again? Just a few years ago, Matt Harvey was headlining the Mets rotation, leading them to a World Series in 2015. Now? Inside Edge reports that in 2017, Harvey gave up a 1.008 OPS on his fastball, and a 1.007 OPS on his curve. For context, Barry Bonds led all of baseball in OPS in 1995 at 1.009. Batters literally become Barry Bonds against him. It may be wise to move on.

Prediction: Key players missing time is almost a guarantee for the Mets, and the team’s best hitter will already miss a month. Given Cespedes’ age and wrist, he could miss time a well. Throw in an injured SP, and the Mets stumble their way to the middle of the NL standings. 79-83

Atlanta Braves

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Positives: Despite the hemorrhaging of prospects, due to some Blue Chips-esque prospect signings of their ousted GM, the Braves still have plenty of young talent in the minors and majors. An offensive core of SS Dansby Swanson, OF Ronald Acuna, and the grossly underrated 1B Freddie Freeman could produce a scary lineup as soon as this season. Speaking more on Freeman, he slugged .603 against righties the past three seasons (fourth best in MLB) and posted the second highest line drive rate in the game last season. If he was playing for the Yankees, Freeman would be a household name.

Negatives: Much like last year, the pitching still has major issues. Adding Scott Kazmir would be great if he could be plugged into the middle of the rotation, but it’s looking like he’ll need to carry a good chunk of the load for Atlanta. Projected closer Arodys Vizcaino’s ERA was 3.47 in the second half of the season. Not what you want out of a position requiring clutch.

Question Mark: Would the real Julio Teheran please stand up? I drafted Julio in the last round of a fantasy draft his rookie year of 2013, and he produced solid output. Since then, I have watched his career unfold, and it truly seemed like 2017 was the year he was going to prove he was consistent Ace material. Boy was I wrong. Teheran posted an lowly 4.49 ERA and an even worse 4.95 FIP. Many attribute this to Atlanta’s new ballpark, which is more hitter friendly than the previous. Here’s hoping Teheran can return to his elite form in 2018.

Prediction: The Braves are a promising young club with some glaring issues in the rotation and bullpen. They won’t be as disastrously bad as last year, but they are still a couple seasons off from contending. 73-89

 

Miami Marlins

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Positives: The returns for trading their outfield were actually pretty good. Lewis Brinson, the prize in the trade that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers, has ranked as a top 30 prospect the past three seasons, coming in at number 16 for 2018. From Coral Springs, Brinson could wind up becoming the face of the franchise in desperate need of players to root for. The return for Marcell Ozuna was nice as well.

Negatives: They will likely end up trading their last valuable asset, speedy Catcher J.T. Realmuto (yes, speedy) sometime soon. Realmuto’s dissatisfaction with the Marlins ownership, much the disappointment of the fans, is understandable given how close this team was to becoming a playoff team. However, cash rules everything around Miami (CREAM), and they had to dump expensive or soon to be expensive assets. Perhaps Houston could make a push for his services if McCann falters as hypothesized in the AL write up?

Question Mark: Did Derek Jeter give Giancarlo and co. gift baskets upon trading them?

Prediction: The Marlins had the fire sale to end all fire sales this offseason, and their roster reflects it. Marlins’ Park will somehow be emptier. 60-102

 

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

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Positives: Roster depth means that Joe Maddon can use his gamer tendencies to play around with the lineup. While Addison Russell and Javier Baez will be the everyday middle infielders, do not be surprised to find Ben Zobrist or Ian Happ taking reps at second over the season. The latter two could also spent time in the outfield, which provides the Cubs a safety net if Kyle Schwarber falters again. Throw in MVP candidates Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, and this lineup has a solid mix of power, contact, and glovework. Well-rounded teams make the deepest playoff runs.

Negatives: Injuries could derail the season. The Cubs’ two best pitchers, Kyle Hendricks and newly signed Yu Darvish, have missed significant time in the past. Hendricks missed nearly two months last season, while Yu Darvish was coming back from Tommy John surgery. If issues persist, Theo Epstein will have to search far and wide for replacement level starters both in and outside the organization.

Question Mark: Is Jason Heyward’s defense worth it? His two seasons with the Cubs have been severely disappointing. No team wants to spend upwards of $28 million a season for a non threat behind the plate. His .153 average during the playoffs is painful. If JeyHey gets off to a hot start, it may be wise to search for a trade partner while eating some of the contract.

Prediction: The Cubs are once again a solid ball club with all the pieces in place to win the World Series. Joe Maddon’s tinkering could either push them over the top, or sink them come October. 93-69

 

St. Louis Cardinals

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Positives: The Cardinals were a pedestrian hitting team last year, sitting near the league average in OPS+. The addition of Breakout All-Star Marcell Ozuna (37 HR), plus full season of Paul DeJong, Matt Carpenter, and Tommy Pham could result in a serious power surge in St. Louis. Pham put up almost 3 WAR in just 108 games last year.

Negatives: The losses of Lance Lynn and Mike Leake leave a rotation lacking stamina. They’ll have to hope phenom prospect Alex Reyes can A. Make the rotation and B. Eat innings upon returning in May.

Question Mark: How hard does Manager Mike Matheny tank this team? The ability for Matheny to derail games with his questionable tactics is well known to Cardinals fans. He blames the wrong players when issues arise, and is completely out of his depth when it comes to implementing advanced stats. He comes from the Goose Gossage sabermetrics “are for nerds” school of thought. If Matheny can’t get his act together, he’ll have to start watching Cardinals playoff runs from his couch starting next season.

Prediction: The talent of the Cardinals’ roster will outplay their bumbling manager and secure a Wild Card spot. They, like the Giants, always threaten to fluke their way deep into the postseason. 88-74

 

Milwaukee Brewers

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Positives: The acquisitions of OFs Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain add two bonafide All-Stars to a team whose rebuild is ahead of schedule. Cain has World Series experience, and will provide a veteran presence to a team that was one game out of the playoffs. With their other outfielder Domingo Santana coming off a 30 homer campaign, the Brewers have a wonderful combination of power, contact, speed, and fielding playing deep.

Negatives: There is not room for all their good bats. The crowded outfield situation means that playing time for April wonder Eric Thames and the reviled Ryan Braun could be scarce. Thames. Each have experience playing the infield, but each would have been better suited in left field. Given Braun is still owed $20 million, Eric Thames may see himself shipped out to the AL come the trade deadline.

Question Mark: Why didn’t the Brewers pursue any good pitchers in Free Agency? The Brewers rotation put up solid numbers last year, but their back end does not inspire confidence. Not pursuing Darvish or Arrieta is understandable, but it is inexplicable that they did not make a play for a Lance Lynn type. With Alex Cobb still on the market, Milwaukee may want to take a good look at him.

Prediction: If SP Jimmy Nelson can stay the course upon returning in late May, and the new outfield meshes as well as they do on paper, the Brewers could very well see themselves in the playoffs. They can’t compete with Chicago, but have the edge on other Wild Card hopefuls. 87-75

Pittsburgh Pirates

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Positives: Competitiveness is on the horizon. Losing Andrew McCutchen meant the Pirates lost their soul. The also lost staff Ace Gerrit Cole. The good news is that the new core has already seen time in the majors, and should take a step forward this season. 1B Josh Bell finished with a respectable 108 OPS+ and placed third in Rookie of the Year voting. Jameson Taillon has the stuff to be a front end starter, as his 4.44 ERA disguised his 3.48 FIP (meaning he was VERY unlucky).

Negatives: The lineup cannot score. The Pirates wound up third to last in runs scored and team OPS+ in 2017. There is not much to indicate those numbers will improve significantly in the new campaign. Corey Dickerson will bring some additional power to the plate, but someone else needs to step up.

Question Mark: Who else leaves? 2B Josh Harrison has made it clear he does not wish to stick around if the Pirates are not serious about winning. SP Ivan Nova seems like an obvious trade piece given his low salary. The Pirates’ front office has to decide if they want to keep their role players and make a push in 2019, or sell the lot and hope for sustained success come the next decade.

Prediction: The Pirates are a young-but-also-not-young team that requires a lot of guesswork to place in the standings. A mediocre finish seems to be the safest bet. 75-87

 

Cincinnati Reds

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Positives: Joey Votto has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down. The man is an inner circle Hall of Famer, but because he plays for one of the consistently worst teams in baseball he is oft-forgotten in conversations about the greatest active players. The only players with a better career slash line than Votto? Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby.

Negatives: Everything else sucks.

Question Mark: Why do the Reds insist on putting Billy Hamilton at leadoff? He’s had four seasons to put up something resembling a good on base percentage, but has not. The Reds need to bat him ninth or they will continue to waste Votto’s God-like hitting numbers.

Prediction: This is a bad ball club, but the rotation is young and could improve on a league-worst team ERA. But better than worst is still not great. 70-92

 

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

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Positives: Top Tier talent at essential positions. It is no surprise that a team owned by Magic Johnson of the “Showtime” Lakers features top-level talent at the most glamourous positions in baseball. Clayton Kershaw is undeniably the best pitcher in the game when he is healthy. Kenley Jansen lead all pitchers Win Probability Added at 5.57 and posted an ERA+ of 318(!), higher than any mark in Mariano Rivera’s career. SS Corey Seager and 1B Cody Bellinger are perennial All Star talents. Put simply, this team is Hollygood.

Negatives: The Bullpen. The Dodgers desperately need their relievers to step up, so that Jansen can actually close out games. Pedro Baez imploded into nothingness and could not even make the playoff roster come the NLCS. The rest of the relievers are an unidentified blob of passable mediocrity. Manager Dave Roberts will have to experiment a ton during the regular season to create a World Series caliber pen.

Question Mark: How will last year’s crushing defeat affect this season? Making it back to the World Series is tough. Consecutive World Series appearances has only happened once in the past six seasons. If the Dodgers cannot get past last season’s disappointing end, it could be another early exit come playoff time.

Prediction: This team has all the talent to be perennial World Series contenders. Honestly, it’s surprising that we are not in the midst of a Dodger Dynasty given how long they have been expected to win. Though the playoffs are tough to predict, it is safe to say the talent on this roster will cruise to a first place finish in the NL West. 98-64

 

Colorado Rockies

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Positives: Youth on the mound. The Rockies have an impressive stable of young SPs headed into 2018. Though the base stats look ugly, each pitcher who started in 20 or more games last year posted an ERA+ above league average. Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland could soon blossom into the Ace-level pitchers Colorado has lacked its entire existence.

Negatives: Beyond top five MVP Finalists Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies lineup is lacking. Carlos Gonzalez, though impressive in the second half, has become a shell of his former self. Trevor Story’s power has vanished, leaving Colorado dependent on at best mediocre hitters to fill in the gaps.

Question Mark: Will the bullpen live up to its cost? After losing Pat Neshek to Free Agency, the Rockies’ front office spent over $100 on bullpen arms Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGhee. With the MLB’s shift towards RP reliance, this should not come as a surprise. However, such a heavy investment in not-so-young pitching could have negative effects now and in the future.

Prediction: The NL West will most likely be the most competitive in baseball. With a little luck, we could see three teams form the division playing into October for the second year in a row. Colorado can be one of those teams if the pitching continues last year’s momentum, and if Arenado and Blackmon can once again carry the offense. 84-78

 

San Francisco Giants

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Positives: This team is not nearly as bad as their 2017 record indicated. Injuries plagued the team at positions where they could not afford players missing time. Ace Madison Bumgarner should be back to form alongside RF Hunter Pence and 1B Brandon Belt.

Negatives: My God this farm system is abysmal. A lack of backup in the minors means that starters must stay healthy if the Giants want to compete. The back end of the rotation is as forgettable as a Dwayne Johnson film (looking at you, Baywatch). Can we take a second to mention that almost all of Dwayne Johnson’s movies are terrible? Maybe he could have played a better third base than the Frankenstein’s monster SF had last year.

Question Mark: Will the former MVPs recover their lost glory? The biggest story for the Giants this season will be how the trio of Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen play in 2018. All coming from one or a series of down seasons, a bounceback by two or all could be the difference between missing the playoffs or some good ol’ fashioned even-year BS. With the aforementioned lack of a farm system, the Giants chose to reload instead of rebuild. After missing out on the Giancarlo Stanton and the Shohei Otani sweepstakes, settling for past-their -prime stars like McCutchen and Longoria was the Giants’ only hope of competing. On top of that, the Giants will be without ace Madison Bumgarner and end of the starting rotation anchor Jeff Samardzija for the first month of a very front loaded schedule that features many match-ups against NL West rivals.

Prediction: If the Giants tread water without Bumgarner, they’ll be in contention for the second Wild Card spot this year, and a postseason appearance may help them lure free agents come the stacked upcoming offseason. That or another disastrous campaign awaits, but we’ll go with the former. 82-80

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

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Positives: The D-Backs have a critically underrated rotation. While Robby Ray deservedly got the spotlight, every pitcher in the rotation put up at least 3 WAR last year. Most notably, Taijuan Walker appears to have risen from the shadow realm of draft busts. Repeat success would mean this rotation is built of bonafide Aces and second/third men.

Weaknesses: Losing J.D. Martinez to the Red Sox obviously hurts. Steven Souza and Jarrod Dyson are nice adds, but cannot come close to replacing the reign of terror Martinez went on after being shipped to the desert (29 HRs in 62 games). Beyond that, the power numbers of numerous Diamondbacks could decrease with the implementation of a humidor in Chase Field. Fangraphs hypothesizes that HRs in Chase Field could decrease around 30% with the new climate-controlled baseballs. Now, Studs like Paul Goldschmidt likely won’t have an issue cranking out homers even with the new tech. But it could curtail lesser skilled hitters like Jake Lamb.

Question Mark: How much will the team improve? With the Giants and Rockies making big moves in the offseason, one cannot help but be concerned that the Diamondbacks have not done enough this offseason to keep up.

Prediction: The Diamondbacks are good, but good is not enough here. The lack of power hitting will ultimately derail them come mid/late season. 80-82

 

San Diego Padres

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Positives: Ironically, the Dads’ best asset is their youth. CF Manuel Margot is a future All-Star, C Austin Hedges is a plus defender with solid power, and Top 30 prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. (5) and Luis Urias (29) are waiting in the wings. The Padres look to be the team to watch in 2020.

Negatives: It isn’t 2020. Pretty much everything outside of the future is in bad shape for the Padres. Bottom barrel pitching, whatever defense, and a lack of team identity all make playoff contention seem much farther than it actually is.

Question Mark: The most obvious question is why San Diego would commit eight years and $144 million to first baseman Eric Hosmer, who could easily not be a part of the team’s long term success. Hosmer has shown he can be a plus bat, but is a comically overrated defender (even more so than Derek Jeter). Defense gets worse with age, and without a DH spot to hide in, Hosmer could very quickly become a negative asset for this ballclub.

Prediction: Things are not going to be fun in America’s finest city this year, but that does mean they can add more pieces that could have significant roles in the upcoming decade. 71-91

 

NL Awards

MVP

Matt: Joey “Ted Williams Jr.” Votto (1B, CIN)

Sean: Bryce Harper (RF, WAS)

 

Cy Young

Matt: Clayton Kershaw (SP, LAD)

Sean: Noah Syndergaard (SP, NYM)

 

Rookie of the Year

Matt: Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL)

Sean: Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL)

 

PLAYOFFS??

 

AL Wildcard

Matt: Red Sox def. Angels

Sean: Red Sox def. Angels

 

ALDS

Matt: Astros def. Red Sox

Yankees def. Indians

 

Sean: Astros def. Red Sox

Yankees def. Indians

 

ALCS

Matt: Yankees def. Astros

Sean: Astros def. Yankees

 

NL Wild Card

Matt: Cardinals def. Brewers

Sean: Brewers def. Cardinals

 

NLDS

Matt: (HOT TAKE ALERT) Cardinals def. Dodgers

Nationals def. Cubs

 

Sean: Dodgers def. Brewers

Nationals def. Cubs

 

NLCS

Matt: Nationals def. Cardinals

Sean: Dodgers def. Nationals

 

World Series

Matt: Yankees def. Nationals

Sean: Dodgers def. Astros

2018 MLB Preview: American League

By Matthew and Sean Duckett

Baseball is back, and that means it’s time for us at Bros Can’t Hang to give our preview of the 2018 season!

The chaotic offseason saw All-Star players scatter across the league, the arrival of Japanese Babe Ruth, and Derek Jeter become the most hated front office official in sports. Despite the sports world seemingly tumbling into chaos in 2018, baseball is looking to be dominated by the usual suspects. Today, we take a deep dive into the hitting-happy American League.

 

AL East:

1st. New York Yankees

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Positives: Dongs. Dongs dongs dongs. The Yankees acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, the obvious move after being one game out of the World Series the year before. With this, the Yankees will most likely have three 30+ HR hitters (Stanton, Judge, Sanchez) and even more players in the 25 HR range (Gregorious, Bird). Put simply: This lineup is absolutely stacked.

Negatives: They’re called the bombers for a reason: The pitching is usually not very good. Though Luis Severino had a breakout season and CC Sabathia stayed healthy and effective, SP (Starting Pitching) is still a weakness for New York. Masahiro Tanaka pitched lights out in the playoffs, but his inability to use his fastball effectively demolished his ERA last season. Sonny Gray’s peripherals looked in line with his time in Oakland, but the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium could prove too much for the contact-inducing righty.

Question Mark: Health. Giancarlo Stanton has only played more than 120 games once in the past three seasons. Aaron Judge needed shoulder surgery in the winter. Gleyber Torres is still adjusting after Tommy John surgery, Greg Bird seemingly can never stay healthy, and Gary Sanchez missed time last year as well. All the talent on the Yankees roster means nothing if they cannot stay on the field.

Prediction: Even with the risk of multiple players missing time, the Yankees’ “rebuild” was short lived, as they hope to homer their way out of their SP issues. It’s World Series or bust for the most hated franchise in sports. 96-66

 

2nd. Boston Red Sox

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Positives: The hitting is way better than they showed last year. Mookie Betts’ norm is far closer to his 2016 season than 2017. Rafael Devers looks like the truth, and SS Xander Bogaerts should recover from vanishing HR power (10 HR in 2017 despite JUICED BALLS). Add in a 168 OPS+ J.D. Martinez to the mix? Your odds of keeping this lineup quiet drastic go down.

Negatives: Another AL East team with major SP issues. Cy Young finalist Chris Sale should continue to wreak havoc and Drew Pomeranz is an All-Star when he’s on, but everyone after them is a big liability. David Price still can’t figure out pitching in Boston (or media-friendly relationships), and Rick Porcello is the weakest Cy Young of recent memory. Everyone but Price (who came out of the bullpen) disappeared in the playoffs. And honestly, I’m not sold on their relievers outside of Craig Kimbrel.

Question Mark: What will the Red Sox outfield look like defensively? J.D. Martinez appears adamant about playing a non-DH role for some part of the season, despite being the worst defensive RF in the game by nearly all metrics. If the Red Sox cave into his demands and give him time in the OF, it could spell disaster for them come playoff time. An insistence on giving 1B/DH Hanley Ramirez at-bats could hurt Boston as well.

Prediction: The Red Sox added a big bat this offseason, but underperformance in the playoffs could once again rear its ugly head given the largely unchanged rotation. 91-71

 

3rd. Toronto Blue Jays

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Positives: The Blue Jays’ pitching should be in great shape once healthy. Just two seasons ago, this was arguably the best rotation in baseball, leading the league in ERA, WAR, and placing second in FIP. Jaime Garcia isn’t a sexy addition, but does solidify a group of SPs that had an off-year last season. Roberto Osuna could be the best closer in baseball come year end.

Negatives: With the collapse and departure of Jose Bautista, there are some obvious holes in the power department. In 2017, the Blue Jays were basement dwellers in a plethora of hitting stats, equating to a 88 OPS+, the fourth-worst team mark in the league.

Question Mark: Can the new supporting cast bolster the lineup? Curtis Granderson, Kendrys Morales (returning to the team from last year, but expected to play a larger role), and Randal Grichuk could all theoretically contribute, but also could nosedive the Jays to the AL East bunker.

Prediction: Toronto is not a bad team. However, playing in one of the strongest divisions in baseball with major uncertainties on offense does not bode well. Tulo will miss at least 75 games. Kendrys Morales reveals he’s been Bartolo Colon the whole time. 81-81

 

4th. Baltimore Orioles

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Positives: Home run hitting. Despite some players having a down season, the Orioles still boast a line-up filled with power. Led by Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Mark Trumbo, Baltimore ranked fourth in the AL in home runs in 2017. The lineup may not strike fear in opposing pitchers like it did in years past, but this team should be able to hit the ball out of the park once again.

Negatives: Starting pitching. The Orioles are deprived of it. They were worst in the AL last year in home runs allowed and walks, and had the second-worst team ERA in the AL.

Question Mark: Is there an Ace? The Orioles have had trouble filling out their rotation over the past few seasons, but even their mainstays are questionable. Sure, their “best” pitcher, youngster Dylan Bundy, won 13 games last year, but his 4.24 ERA doesn’t exactly exude confidence for an organization that is counting on him to develop into a frontline starter.

Prediction: The Orioles can hit with power, a plus in the AL East. However, their utter lack of starting pitching spells doom and another sub .500 season. 73-89

 

5th. Tampa Bay Rays

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Positives: Chris Archer? Who may be traded before the All-Star break?

Negatives: Where you wanna start?

Question Mark: The Franchise’s existence. Can we add the “Devil” back to “Rays”?

Prediction: Bad. 67-95

 

AL Central

1st. Cleveland Indians

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Positives: The Indians are near the top of the AL Playoff for a third straight season, and that’s because they have top-shelf talent in every aspect of the game. They and the Yankees were the only two clubs in the top five in both OPS+ fourth and ERA+ first in 2017. Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and SS of the next decade Francisco Lindor headline a team filled with star power.

Weaknesses: Though Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are arguably the best one-two relievers in baseball, losing middle-reliever Bryan Shaw means that Miller will find himself with an increased workload during the season. Bullpen fatigue in the playoffs is a bad recipe, especially given the terrifying bats of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros.

Question Mark: Need there be a sense of urgency? With so many key players entering free agency after this season, this may be the Indians’ last year to truly make a run for the title. The question is whether the pressure to win now pushes them over the top or causes the Indians to self-destruct. The looming pressure of an improved Twins team means that the time to win is now.

Prediction: The Indians are still one of the best clubs in baseball. With all their stars returning, the question is will they align to give Cleveland their first World Series in 70 years? 94-68

2nd. Minnesota Twins

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Positives: The Twins arguably had the best offseason of any MLB team. They were able to re-tool their roster in the short term without any long term risk. Adding SPs Lance Lynn, Michael Pineda, and Jake Odorizzi to their rotation, while loading the bullpen with Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed means their young core has plenty of room to grow and continue last year’s momentum. Adding a power bat in OF Logan Morrison (38 HR, .516 SLG) is also a big plus.

Negatives: The biggest weakness of this team is that everything is “pretty good.” The Twins are not elite in any aspect of the game. Given that the true contenders in the AL have at least one attribute to hang their hat on, it will be hard for the Twins to breakthrough.

Question Mark: Which Byron Buxton will we get this season? Despite his youth, many were beginning to write CF Byron Buxton off as a draft bust of sorts. The former number two overall pick was labeled as a defense only speedster, possessing a slash line of .216/.288/.306 in the first half. Suddenly, it all clicked, and Buxton’s last 57 games saw him slash .300/.347/.546. Mixed with his aforementioned elite defense and 29 stolen bases for the year, a full season of second half Buxton would thrust the young CF into MLB superstardom.

Prediction: The Twins have arrived, but to a party of elite superteams in the AL. Another early playoff exit is most likely, but stranger things have happened. 85-77

 

3rd. Kansas City Royals

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Positives: They get to play in a division with the Tigers and White Sox. The Royals are in a clear rebuild mode, and luckily have some decent trade pieces headed into this season. Mike Moustakas could generate interest at the deadline despite not generating any in Free Agency. Lefty Danny Duffy (3.47 ERA) and reliever Kelvin Herrera will produce a decent haul. In other words, this rebuild will likely be faster than the seemingly endless one of the 2000s.

Negatives: The Royals have arguably the worst lineup in baseball coming into 2018. No one reading this article can honestly say they knew who Chester Cuthbert before his name was typed literally right here. Projected to score the fewest runs of any ball club, the Royals will rely heavily on their rotation to make them look respectable.

Prediction: Do not let the third place finish fool you, this team is not good. With multiple compensation picks in this year’s draft, Royals fans will have to look into the 2020s for signs of life. 70-92

 

4th. Detroit Tigers

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Positives: They won’t be worse than the 2003 squad. Living in Detroit in the early 2000s meant baseball was nothing but pain. You would show up to beautiful Comerica Park to watch people act like Bobby Higginson was good. Tony Clark would ground out swinging at the first pitch. Their best player was the damn DH. Literally the only thing to look forward to was a potential Dmitri Young dinger. Somehow I was there every time they beat the Royals in 2003. The 2018 squad at least has All-Time great Miguel Cabrera to watch.

Negatives: Seriously, if you told nine-year-old me that Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago would still be in the league through 2013 I would have yelled stranger danger. Referencing 2003 is the only way I can make current Tigers fans feel better. With Miggy on the decline and Justin Verlander looking for another ring in Houston, the Tigers are a true who’s who of “Who’s that?” Seriously, the only reason I can name the probable lineup is because of Battle Royal drafts in The Show ‘18. This is a bad team with some bad contracts to boot.

Question Mark: Was anyone else at the ballpark that one game they gave out Matt Anderson bobbleheads and he got shelled? Pretty sure it was this game. God that guy sucked.

Prediction: Things are not looking good, but the bottom of this division is so bad the Tigers may be able to avoid their second consecutive last place finish. 65-97

 

5th. Chicago White Sox

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Positives: The White Sox have an elite farm system, and by dumping assets the past two seasons, their prospects will have the opportunity to gain experience on the major league stage. Top five pitching prospect Michael Kopech should be called up this summer, and should make Sox fans forget about Chris Sale quickly.

Negatives: While they wait for Kopech, the White Sox will have a very weak rotation the first half of the season. The trade for James Shields was one of the worst in recent memory. Carlos Rodon is injured, but has been unimpressive when healthy.

Question Mark: Will the team trade Jose Abreu? The former All-Star 1B put up impressive numbers last season, hitting 43 doubles and 33 homers, good for an OPS+ of 140. While there is value in keeping him around, his true worth may be in the trade market come July. An AL team searching for one more big bat could offer a king’s ransom for such gaudy numbers.

Prediction: I do not see this team holding on to Abreu, and I think it will be a rough adjustment to the bigs for this young ballclub. A last place finish is not fun, but this is probably the last time the White Sox will find themselves here for a while. 64-98

 

AL West

1st. Houston Astros

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Positives: Everything. There is not a weak spot on this club. Houston is a five-tool team with elite pitching, even more so given the acquisition of SP Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Add in a full year of former Cy Young Justin Verlander, and this team is somehow even more terrifying than last season’s.

Negatives: I do not think Evan Gattis is the answer at DH. In addition, while Brian McCann is an excellent game manager, I would not be surprised if he took a major set-back in the hitting and durability department. If the Astros want to get really crazy, they could ship off some prospects for a C/DH (seriously, how do they still have good prospects with the roster they have already?).

Question Mark: The only real question to ask is can the Astros repeat? Cliche, but given how much this team looks to improve, it’s all we can really ask. They would be the first to do so since the 1999/2000 Yankees.

Prediction: The Astros will look to avoid a World Series hangover and are the favorites to win again this year. Given the weakness of their division, expect a similar win total from 2017. 102-60

 

2nd. Anaheim Angels

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Positives: The Angels added some great pieces this offseason. While two-way prodigy Shohei Ohtani headlines the group, signing Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler, and Chris Young on top of extending Justin Upton puts the Angels in a good spot to compete for the Wildcard. Mike Trout actually has support! Hooray!

Negatives: Albert Pujols is your first baseman. No one would have imagined that would be a negative, but the future first ballot Hall of Famer was the least valuable player in baseball last season (-1.8 WAR). They’ll need IF utility man Luis Valbuena to step up so that Pujols can be the everyday DH (unless they want to throw Ohtani in there), but it is unclear if Pujols would even accept such a role.

Question Mark: How will Zack Cozart adjust to 3B? Before his offense caught up last season, Cozart was a defense-only shortstop during his time with the Reds. He signed with Anaheim with the expectation of moving to second. However, the very day he was flying out to sign his contract, the Angels acquired Hall of Very Good poster boy Ian Kinsler. Cozart still signed with the team and agreed to move to third. The Angels hope he can continue his defensive success at the position. However, SS to 3B is a larger adjustment than many think. If it does not go well, the Angles could have the best defensive middle infield in baseball, but the worst corners in the league.

Prediction: With how talented the AL is, the retooled Angels can really only compete for the second wild card spot. On top of that, they may need to steal some games from Houston if they want to sneak in. If Trout stays healthy, he could add a third MVP to his already HoF career. 87-75

 

3rd. Oakland Athletics

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Positives: Two young studs lead the A’s into the future. 3B Matt Chapman is an elite defender with potential for well above average hitting, while SP Sean Manaea could very well establish himself as the Ace this season if he remains consistent. It is always exciting to see star power on both sides of the field.

Negatives: The supporting cast is not there yet either. The starting pitchers give up too many homers. The ones who don’t have issues striking out batters. The lineup has some interesting pieces in OFs Stephen Piscotty and power hitting mainstay Khris Davis, but this team could have issues getting on base, much to Billy Beane/Brad Pitt’s dismay.

Question Mark: Could the bullpen push them over the top? The A’s bullpen is quite literally the A-Team. A group of ragtag unknowns, but extremely effective in their roles. And they play for a team called the A’s. Many are comparing them to the Orioles, whose conglomerate of relievers stymied the negative effects of a mediocre rotation just a few seasons ago.

Prediction: With the A’s soon to be the only game in town, Oakland fans will be happy to know this team is on the up-and up. Last place finishes are not uncommon for Oakland sports, but the A’s should stay out of the basement for a while. 80-82

 

4th. Seattle Mariners

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Positives: Despite all the hubbub around the initial trade, Dee Gordon moving to CF actually makes sense, given the larger emphasis MLB teams have placed on speed as opposed to arm strength at the position. His and SS Jean Segura’s legs are crucial to Seattle given the glacial pace at which their best hitters, Cano, Cruz, and Seager, move around the basepaths.

Negatives: Everyone is hurt. Granted, this team is not competing anytime soon given the oft-mentioned-in-this-article depth of the AL. But early season injuries for older players like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz could foreshadow their careers’ end.

Question Mark: Rebuild Time? As mentioned, Cano and Cruz are not getting any younger. Kyle Seager is 30 and Dee Gordon 29. Felix Hernandez will be 32 in April, but last year played like he is pushing 40. Ichiro is actually 8,000 in human years. The Mariners may want to sell the lot and dream it all up again.

Prediction: The Mariners could be an interesting team if their stars can stay healthy as well as return to form, but this is unlikely. To boot, even a healthy summer and star play from star players would not be enough to push them over the Angels, Red Sox, or Twins. 79-83

 

5th. Texas Rangers

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Positives: The Outfield. They’re a garbage mid-80s rock band who confusingly made baseball references despite being from England. The Rangers’ outfield consists of exciting young players who could possibly lift the team from last place in the division. RF Nomar Mazara has had two seasons in the majors, but his bat has not yet compensated for his poor defense. However, he is just 22 years old. The power numbers should go up. Delino Deshields Jr. has all the makings of the perfect leadoff man with his high on base percentage and base stealing ability. Willie Calhoun is a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year after tearing up Triple-A Last year.

Negatives: The rotation is likely to be one of the worst in baseball. Cole Hamels is on the decline, Mike Minor has faltered when in a starting role. Matt Moore is trash. Doug Fister has not been good in quite some time. Bartolo Colon emerges from hibernation.

Question Mark: Can Tim Lincecum return to a semblance of his old form? The Rangers were impressed enough by Big Time Timmy Jim’s showcase this offseason to bring him on in a bullpen role. If the two-time Cy Young winner can put it back together, he could find himself back in the rotation. If not, Texas’ vote of confidence should indicate he can be a very effective reliever.

Prediction: The Rangers have a promising outfield but not much else. They will need to find trade partners for Hamels and others in order to set themselves up for future contention. Can the team lobby Texas’ government to legalize weed in time for Lincecum’s debut? 74-88

Awards Predictions:

AL MVP

Matt: Mike Trout (CF, LAA)

Sean: Aaron Judge (RF, NYY)

 

AL Cy Young

Matt: Chris Sale (SP, BOS)

Sean: Carlos Carrasco (SP, CLE)

 

AL Rookie of the Year

Matt: MIchael Kopech (SP, CHW)

Sean: Gleyber Torres (SS, NYY)

Bro-Reviews: Ready Player One

The ultimate 80s video game.

It’s been discussed here before, but it bears reminding; adapting popular books into films is a tall task. Not only do you have to please the fans of the source material, but also make it accessible for general audiences to enjoy as well. The latest book to get the big screen treatment is Earnest Cline’s “Ready Player One”, a futuristic science fiction novel published in 2011 that gained “unfilmable” status as soon as the idea was brought up. Of course, the only man willing to tackle this challenge head on was legendary Hollywood blockbuster director Steven Spielberg, as the film became a passion project of his that took years to develop and film. Now, the “unfilmable” Ready Player One has arrived in theaters, hoping to capture the attention of the novel’s fans and reignite the imaginations of general audiences everywhere like the director has done for decades upon decades.

Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, where much of the earth’s population now lives in slum-like conditions due to overpopulation, climate change, and corruption. To escape the hardships of reality, people spend most of their days in a virtual reality platform called OASIS, created by the late innovator James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Before his death, Halliday created a game within OASIS called “Anorak’s Quest”, wherein easter eggs are hidden throughout the virtual reality world, and the person who collects all the easter eggs gains control of OASIS. This attracts normal everyday users of the platform called “Gunters”, including Columbus, Ohio resident Wade Wilson (Tye Sheridan), and an army of soldiers called “Sixers” controlled by the leading creator of virtual reality equipment, Innovative Online Industries, and their CEO, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). With such high stakes on the line, it’s a race to find all of the easter eggs and gain control of not only OASIS, but also potentially the world.

There’s no doubt Ready Player One is a blast from the past, an 80s type film for the present generation’s enjoyment. Spielberg, when he doesn’t want to lecture a history class, still knows what puts butts in the seats: a good story, relatable characters, and blockbuster thrills. In regards to most of those categories, Ready Player One delivers on an epic scale. OASIS is a full blown spectacle of special effects, with animation so rendered and crisp you feel as if you too are part of this virtual reality. The action scenes that occur in this realm are nothing short of jaw dropping, whether it’s a race featuring King Kong standing in ones path to the finish line or the films’ the final battle sequence, only a true craftsman like Spielberg could handle such awe inspiring action.

One of the more intriguing aspects to the film is its dependency on pop culture references. There are so many easter eggs and nods to the 1980s, a decade Spielberg directed films dominated, throughout the film. It definitely draws a parallel to today’s pop culture obsessed world, somewhat of a biting commentary that our current habits will only be expanded to new levels in the future and in the soon to be virtual reality driven society.

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Ready Player One.

While the film doesn’t boast any A-list stars, the ensemble cast delivers. Tye Sheridan makes for a compelling protagonist in the film, and his chemistry with Olivia Cooke is apparent. Ben Mendelsohn may be somewhat of a generic villain, but he’s having a blast in the role of a corporate suite. Mark Rylance and Steven Spielberg appear to be attached at the hip these days, but Rylance once again does a remarkable job embodying the spirit of a film. The rest of the ensemble, consisting of Simon Pegg, T.J. Miller, and Lena Waithe, also hit their marks, making for a diverse, well rounded cast.

While the story definitely sets up for great visuals and special effects, it does take a little getting used to the visual dependent film, and could be overwhelmingly vibrant for some. The story itself has also been explored before not only in other science fiction novels, but in other films as well. This means its general themes can be pinpointed quickly, and audiences get a general feel for where the film is going over its 140 run time.

Even with the aforementioned faults of the film, Ready Player One is old school blockbuster filmmaking from a director who keeps finding ways to out-do himself. It’s a visually striking triumph that should not only please fans of the novel, but also general audiences deprived of such good quality films. Ready Player One is the ultimate 80s video game, a great reminder from the legendary Steven Spielberg that he’s not slowing down anytime soon, and a reminder of why we go to the movies; to escape the plight of reality for a short period of time, only this time it’s not just to theaters, but to OASIS as well.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe,Win Morisaki, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance. It is in theaters March 29th.

Bro-Reviews: Tomb Raider

More like Time Raider.

The video game movie appears to be a genre of film that Hollywood can’t seem to get right. A majority of them rank as bad and don’t rise above guilty pleasure status (*Doom, Mortal Kombat), and still represents a challenge for Hollywood to conquer. Despite it being a critical failure, the most successful and highest grossing video game adaptation of all time remains Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which featured an iconic turn from starlet Angelina Jolie as the popular character. 15 years after its unsuccessful sequel, Lara Croft Tom Raider: The Cradle of Life, Hollywood has decided to give the character another try, but this time in a more realistic fashion much like the successful 2013 video game reboot in 2018’s Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) struggling to make ends meet despite being the heiress to her father’s, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), estate. She struggles with this decision due to her belief her father is still alive despite his disappearance on an expedition looking for Himiko, the Queen of Yamatai whose legend proclaims she was buried alive by her generals due to her ability to kill anyone she touched. In a video recorded message Lara finds at her former home, her father proclaims a group called Trinity, led by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), intends to uncover Himoko’s tomb and use her powers for a global genocide, and must be stopped. Lara sets off for an adventure with the help of Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a ship captain, to find the island where Himiko is buried and stop Trinity before the genocide ensues.

In regards to its likeness to the recently rebooted 2013 video game and its 2015 sequel, Tomb Raider definitely nails the look. Alicia Vikander looks the part of the re-imagined Croft, and her physicality is put on full display in a fashion in which you fear for her safety and feel all the bruising punishment she endures throughout the film. This makes for some impressive action sequences, as the dangers of the jungle and the tomb she explores present various challenges but bear a striking resemblance to the games, making it a true adaptation.

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Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider.

Unfortunately, it takes way too long to get to this point, as the movie spends an inexcusable amount of time being boring in its attempt to set-up Lara’s back story Batman Begins-style instead of actually delivering what we came to see: Lara Croft raiding tombs. Instead, we get to see Croft participate in trivial bike races for money to help clear her debt (*because that was everyone’s favorite part of the “Tomb Raider” games) and her pout over being the heiress to a company and her daddy-dependent issues. To make matters worse, its not until the last 30 minutes of this overlong slog that we get to seeing any action in a tomb, a surprising development for a movie titled TOMB RAIDER based on the video game of the same name.

While Vikander nails the new look of the character, she doesn’t have the same screen presence as Angelina Jolie, and isn’t quite an action star in the making. Dominic West looks like he was dragged into being in the film, and is straining to appear happy to be there. Kristin Scott Thomas is thoroughly wasted in the film, that is until a preposterous Marvel-esque stinger/ reveal towards the end. The only two who manage to get anything out of their roles are Goggins and Wu, because a bored Goggins is still somewhat compelling and Wu is woefully underused despite his laid-back charisma.

Tomb Raider cannot break the curse of the video-game movie. Its an overlong slog and a sorry excuse for an action movie attempting to capitalize on the recent resurgence of the women’s empowerment movement. Sure, the film resembles the game in regards to its environments and look of its starlet, but it seems as if the filmmakers chose to focus solely on the aesthetics of the game instead of the actual game play, which will leave fans of the game wishing they stayed home and turned on their Playstation instead. In short, Tomb Raider doesn’t spend much time doing what its title suggests it should, and should be regarded as a “Time Raider” instead.

Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars. Skip it.

Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Derek Jacobi, and Kristin Scott Thomas. It is in theaters March 16th.

 

Bro-Picks: The NCAA Tournament Final Four Predictions

March Madness has officially arrived.

In what could be described as one of the most unpredictable seasons in NCAA Men’s basketball in years, this year’s tournament is shaping up to be one of the craziest ones March Madness has ever had to offer. While some of the typical powerhouse schools are obviously favored, there is no clear-cut favorite, and it is anyone’s tournament to win.

Here is the bracket to end all brackets, read it and weep.-1

Final Four Picks:

West Region: Michigan

The Wolverines may be the hottest team heading into the tournament. Their back-to-back victories against top ranked Michigan State and Purdue in the Big 10 Tournament solidified them as the team nobody wants to face, as their 9th ranked defense has the ability to shut any team down. If that wasn’t scary enough, they also have a tournament star in the making in 6’11 junior forward Moritz Wagner, who shoots nearly 40% from three point range.

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Moritz Wagner is the leader of perhaps the scariest team heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Midwest Region: Kansas

Despite an up and down season that saw them drop games to lower-tier schools in the Big 12 such as Baylor and Oklahoma State(*twice*), Kansas boasts a talented roster wherein all five starters average at least 12 points per game. While the status of sophomore Udoka Azubike remains unclear, any team coached by Bill Self stands a chance to make it far into the tournament, even in the hardest region in the tournament.

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As one of the top coaches in the game, Bill Self can guide the Jayhawks to San Antonio.

South Region and NCAA Runner-Up: Arizona

Even with all the controversy surrounding the school in regards to its supposed misdeeds in the FBI’s investigation of corruption in the NCAA, head coach Sean Miller will use it as fuel to help guide his program to the Final Four and make the tournament more awkward for everyone. It helps they have generational talent Dendre Ayton, as the 7’1 forward averages 20.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and can carry the Wildcats to San Antonio.

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Deandre Ayton could carry the Wildcats past the controversy all the way to a National Title.

East Region and National Champion: Villanova

Only two years removed from winning one of the most thrilling National Championships ever, Jay Wright’s squad seems even more unstoppable this year. With 6 players averaging double figures in points and a team 3-point shooting percentage of nearly 40 %, Villanova’s top ranked scoring offense will carry them to another National Title and a dynasty in the making.

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Junior guard Jalen Brunson leads the top scoring offense in college basketball, which should result in another National Championship for Villanova.