NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Preview

The east and west’s final four duke it out for the right to be in the NBA’s final four.

After a first round that saw some series have predictable results and others that were nothing short of shocking, we have reached the halfway point of the NBA Playoffs. While the Western Conference Semifinals have already gotten underway and should yield expected outcomes, the Eastern Conference Semifinals should prove to be a much more compelling watch.

Western Conference

2. Golden State Warriors V. 6. New Orleans Pelicans, GS leads series 1-0

Remember when the sky was falling due to the Warriors finishing the last seventeen games of the regular season 7-10? That proved to be an aberration, a team that was bored and wanted to play in the postseason already. Golden State blew past an over matched San Antonio team, and that was without their heart and soul, Stephen Curry. The Pelicans undoubtedly surprised most by sweeping the higher seeded Trailblazers in the first round, and with the emergence of Anthony Davis and the two guard combo of Drue Holiday and Rajon Rondo, looked like they could prove to be a worthy foe against the Warriors. If game one was any indication, the Pelicans may not be as strong as we thought they were. And with the impending return of Curry to the Warriors’ lineup, the Pelicans may be blown away in this series.

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Prediction: Warriors in 5.

1. Houston Rockets V. 5. Utah Jazz, Hou leads series 1-0

The Jazz are a nice reminder that well built teams still exist in the NBA today after defeating the more talented Oklahoma City Thunder. The rise of rookie Donovan Mitchell is a sight to behold, and should the Jazz be able to keep the core of Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gobert together a few more seasons, Utah could prove to be a contender for years to come. Unfortunately, their scrappy defense has nothing on Rockets MVP candidate James Harden, as Houston is the far more talented team and should dispose of the Jazz quickly, especially if Ricky Rubio is battling an injury.

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Prediction: Rockets in 5.

Eastern Conference

2. Boston Celtics V. 3. Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers have become the popular pick to emerge as the Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals after their series win over a Miami Heat team that was a shell of their former glory days. “The Process” seems to have panned out for young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who dominated against Miami. They face a tough challenge in the Boston Celtics, however. Sure, it took them seven games to dispose of an underachieving Bucks team, but the fact this team was able to win a playoff series without star players Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving is a testament to Celtics coach Brad Steven’s coaching prowess, as he is able to get the most out of rotational players like Terry Rozier of all people. It’s a classic showdown reminiscent of the teams’ 1980s playoff showdowns, and is without question the most compelling of the remaining playoff series since it could go either way.

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Prediction: Sixers in 7.

1. Toronto Raptors V. 4. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Raptors seemed to have gotten the monkey off their back after winning a tough series against a game Washington Wizards team, but now they must face their arch nemesis who has dominated them time after time: LeBron James. Sure, it took the Cavaliers seven games to beat a better constructed team in the Indiana Pacers, but the herculean effort of “The King” proves LeBron James is a team all by his lonesome. One can’t believe James’ supporting cast won’t show up at all for a second straight series, but LeBron’s path to the NBA Finals may prove to be more bumpy this season than previously anticipated.

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Prediction: Cavaliers in 6.

 

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Bro-Reviews: Avengers: Infinity War

The Marvel to end all marvels.

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe thrilling us again and again with each new release. Over the last decade, Marvel Studios has meticulously built their universe to the point where each new release wasn’t just an event to behold on the silver screen, but also a necessity to see. Marvel’s gamble seemed to have paid off large dividends with the release of their first team up film, 2012’s “The Avengers”, breaking numerous box office records at the time and came with the promise that bigger and better was coming. Even with the disappointment of 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, audiences have waited in anticipation for Marvel’s promise to bring every single Marvel Cinematic Universe character and film together in “Avengers: Infinity War”. Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the envy of Hollywood to the point multiple studios have tried copying the formula but to less than stellar results (*see the DC comics extended universe and Universal’s Dark Universe*), could the mighty MCU crumble under their own ambition of assembling most, if not all, of its heroes into one feature length film?

“Avengers: Infinity War” takes place immediately after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok”, where Thanos (Josh Brolin) is on a quest to collect the six infinity stones in order to restore balance to time and space. With the threat of doom to mankind and the universe at stake, it’s up to the heroes of earth and the galaxy to team up and stop Thanos before he accomplishes his task and the cosmos are affected.

Marvel has once again aptly sown all of its unique, intricate pieces together into the class of super hero movies. Much credit must be given to the superstar directing team of the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joseph, who have yet to make a bad MCU film. It’s wonder how the directors of “You, Me, and Dupree” have made arguably two of the best MCU films, “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Captain America: Civil War”, and yet have somehow outdone themselves once again by tackling the most ambitious and perhaps even the most expensive films ever made.

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Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Infinity War”.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in “Infinity War”, and the film definitely illuminates the catastrophic consequences. One of the benefits of building a universe for a decade is the audience is attached to all of the intertwining characters and story lines, so there’s a true sense of loss and despair when the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther and company come face to face with impending doom. In regards to the film’s central villain, Josh Brolin’s Thanos may come with some trademark villainous background, but he’s easily one of if not the most complex and interesting villains the MCU has ever seen, and the exploration of his relationship with his adoptive daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) packs an emotional punch. But the film is not bereft of laughs at all, as Marvel’s trademark timely humor is also ever present and as belly aching as ever, a welcome necessity considering the dire outcomes facing the heroes we have come to grow with and love.

As mentioned early, the Russo brothers are somehow able to make sure every seemingly single character we’ve come across in the MCU over the last decade gets their time to shine. This lends itself well to the action sequences, which are breathtaking to say the least. The constant shifting from set piece to set piece could come across as jarring for most, but it feels like a natural progression in “Infinity War”. There’s no doubt the film is exhausting at two and a half hours trying to include everyone, but it feels almost necessary for the film to be this way, and the film’s ending cliffhanger leaves audiences asking questions and yearning for answers.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is the Marvel to end all marvels. Its blending of every single major Marvel Cinematic Universe film and character into one cohesive story that serves as only a part one to what should be a tremendous book end to an incredible era nearly tops 2012’s “The Avengers” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight” as the best comic book films ever made. Nobody does it better than Marvel Studios, as they have once again changed the game in terms of not only the genre of film they make, but Hollywood blockbusters in general. Sure, by the end of it you may feel distraught, begging for answers, and perhaps even needing a nap, but “Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t just a marvel to see unfold on the silver screen, but a tremendous achievement that sets a new standard in blockbuster filmmaking.

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

“Avengers: Infinity War” stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Lettia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleson, Idris Elba, Karen Gillan, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Peter Dinklage, Carrie Coon, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, and Josh Brolin. It is in theaters now.

San Francisco 49ers Schedule Analysis

2018 could be a return to glory for the red and gold.

For the San Francisco 49ers, the release of the 2018 NFL Schedule couldn’t have come soon enough. After a disastrous 1-10 start in 2017, the 49ers ended their season on a five game winning streak thanks to the emergence of new franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo. His play earned him a five year, $137.5 million contract extension, the richest in NFL history. With all the excitement surrounding him and one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, let’s take a look and analyze the 49ers schedule for 2018.

Week 1: at Minnesota Vikings (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 9th)

Week 2: Detroit Lions (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 16th)

Week 3: at Kansas City Chiefs (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 23rd)

Week 4: at Los Angeles Chargers (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 30th)

Week 5: Arizona Cardinals (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday October 7th)

Week 6: at Green Bay Packers (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST Monday October 15th)

Week 7: Los Angeles Rams 5:20 p.m. PST (Sunday Night Football, Sunday October 21st)

Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals (1:25 p.m PST, Sunday October 28th)

Week 9: Vs Oakland Raiders (Thursday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Thursday November 1st)

Week 10: New York Giants (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Monday November 12th)

Week 11: Bye

Week 12: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 a.m. PST, Sunday November 25th) 

Week 13: at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Sunday December 2nd) 

Week 14: Denver Broncos (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 9th)

Week 15: Seattle Seahawks (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 16th)

Week 16: Chicago Bears (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday December 23rd)

Week 17: at Los Angeles Rams (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 30th) 

For a team that went from middling aspirations in 2018 prior to trading for Jimmy Garoppolo to now being mentioned as a possible contender, the 49ers start to the season couldn’t be any harder. Three of their first four games are on the road, and all four games come against teams that posted records of 9-7 or better in 2017, including the NFC runner-up Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Within the first quarter of the season, we’ll know whether the playoff aspirations for the 49ers are legitimate or not. 

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The pairing of quartback Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan could yield playoff results in 2018.

The 49ers then have a stretch where four of their next five games will be played in front of a national television audience. These games include a Lambeau Field showdown against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, a home divisional battle the next week against the upstart Rams, a battle of the Bay Area less than two weeks later against their cross town rival Raiders, and a classic NFC slugfest against a historical rival in the Giants. The 49ers five game wining streak at the end of 2017 caught the eyes of many, and they’ll be playing under the lights in prime-time five times in 2018. 

Of course, one would be remiss if they failed to mention the 49ers late season match-ups against the Seattle Seahawks. While the Seahawks have won the last 9 games is in the series, including the 2013 NFC Championship game where then Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman had his miraculous deflection in the back of the end zone to linebacker Malcolm Smith for a game sealing interception send them to Super Bowl XLVIII. In 2018, Sherman will find himself on the opposite side of the rivalry, and look for him to perform at an All-Pro level against his former team in Weeks 13 and 15.

The end of the 49ers season resembles that of a homebody, as three of their last four games will be played at Levi’s Stadium. This includes a Super Bowl XXIV re-match against the Broncos, the aforementioned NFC West battle against the Seahawks, and a gimmie game against the lowly Bears. This could result in a nice end of the season run to the postseason should they take advantage of the home for the holidays crowd.

The 49ers are in a prime position in 2018 to not only move out of the basement of their division, but also be a surprise contender in the NFC. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan seems to have found his quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, as he elevated a putrid offense into the the best offense statistically in the NFL during the last five weeks of 2017. While trouble looms over linebacker Reuben Foster over his domestic violence case (and should’ve been cut already), the defense still boasts young talent in Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner along the defensive line, and the previously mentioned addition of Richard Sherman improves the secondary. Even with a tough start and a series of under the microscope prime-time games, the 49ers should be players for the postseason should everything fall into place.

Oakland Raiders Schedule Analysis

Jon Gruden and the Raiders look to improve upon a disappointing 2017 season in 2018.

While we’ve known who the Raiders opponents will be in the 2018 NFL Season since New Years Eve 2017, the NFL has finally released every team’s full schedule for the 2018 season. Sure, there’s still the NFL Draft to get through and we haven’t even reached training camp, but let’s analyze how the 2018 schedule stacks up for Jon Gruden and the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders.

Week 1: Los Angeles Rams (Monday Night Football, 7:20 p.m. PST, Monday September 10th)

Week 2: at Denver Broncos (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 16th)

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 23rd)

Week 4: Cleveland Browns (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday September 30th)

Week 5: at Los Angeles Chargers (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday October 7th)

Week 6: Seattle Seahawks (10:00 a.m. PST, Sunday October 14th in London)

Week 7: Bye

Week 8: Indianapolis Colts (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday October 28th)

Week 9: at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Thursday November 1st)

Week 10: Los Angeles Chargers (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday November 11th)

Week 11: at Arizona Cardinals (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday November 18th)

Week 12: at Baltimore Ravens (10 a.m. PST, Sunday November 25th)

Week 13: Kansas City Chiefs (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday December 2nd)

Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Sunday December 9th)

Week 15: at Cincinnati Bengals (10 a.m. PST, Sunday December 16th)

Week 16: Denver Broncos (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Monday December 24th)

Week 17: at Kansas City Chiefs (10 a.m. PST, Sunday December 30th)

Once again, the NFL has not been kind to the Raiders schedule. It’s not like they have much of a choice, however. Especially after owner Mark Davis pillaged Las Vegas for nearly a billion dollars in public funds for their new stadium in Las Vegas and begged the NFL to move there, the Raiders are at the whim of the league and their scheduling. 

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The Raiders brass faces an uphill to start the season in 2018.

They begin the season away from home for four out of the first six weeks of the season. This includes divisional clashes against the Broncos and Chargers, and a trip to South Beach against the Dolphins. One of the recurring themes of the Raiders schedule since 2014 is effectively losing a home game in Oakland to play a “home” game internationally, and this year their reward is to play the earliest scheduled London game in Week 6 against the Seahawks. Sure, the Raiders have international appeal due to their global brand, but taking away yet another home game from the soon to be abandoned Oakland fans adds insult to injury.

To end the season, the Raiders face divisional foes three out of their last five games, including two tilts against the Chiefs and a Christmas Eve battle against the Broncos. They also face two tough AFC North foes in the final five weeks, with their historical rival in the Steelers coming to town in what could be a potential playoff match-up and a grind it out early kickoff against the Bengals. This stretch could make or break the Raiders playoff aspirations, and they must take care of business in their final divisional games and stand up to the bullies of the AFC North.

In regards to marquee time slots, the Raiders appear on prime-time television four times in 2018, down from the five nationally televised games last season. They’ll get exposure on all three prime-time time slots, with two home game Monday Night Football tilts against west coast rivals in the Rams and Broncos, a road battle of the Bay Area on Thursday Night Football against the 49ers, and a Sunday Night a Football slugfest against the Steelers.

After a disappointing 2017 that perhaps had too much unwarranted hype going into it, the Raiders should improve upon last season’s disastrous campaign. Yes, the defense may have to bend and not break once again, but 2016’s Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Kahlil Mack, can anchor this defense, and should receive a contract extension at some point before the start of the regular season. Quarterback Derek Carr is a franchise player who regressed to the mean last year, and should bounce back under the tutelage of Jon Gruden. Adding veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson should help wide receiver Amari Cooper regain his Pro-Bowl form, and the one two punch of running backs Marshawn Lynch and free agent acquisition Doug Martin should result in a potent running attack. Mark Davis can only hope his ten year, $100 million investment in Jon Gruden pans out in year one of the second Chucky era. By the looks of the 2018 schedule, the Raiders should be able to contend for the postseason, but as always, it’ll be a grind for the Silver and Black. 

Bro-Reviews: Rampage

Arcade button mashing is more thrilling.

Earlier this year, the video game movie genre stumbled with the arrival of Tomb Raider, an uneven, overlong slog that received mixed reviews at best and disappointed at the box office. Hollywood can’t seem to get the video game movie formula down. But their was hope, as such films never had as big a movie star as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Sure, he had starred in the film adaptation of the popular video game “Doom” back in 2005, but he wasn’t a bona fide star then like he is now. Throw in the high concept idea of the video game “Rampage”, a game in which you play as giant creatures going around the world destroying everything in your path, and you’ve got a recipe for a fun, and possibly even first good video game movie, right?

Rampage sees Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who prefers the company of animals rather than humans. His favorite animal/ friend George (* motion captured by Jason Liles*), an albino gorilla he rescued, one night becomes infected by a pathogen that causes him to grown in size and increase aggression. After numerous cases of other animals being infected by the pathogen arise, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Noami Harris), a genetic engineer, teams up with Okoye to try and find a cure before the evil Energyne Corporation, led by Claire Wyden (Malin Åkerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacey), unleash even more hell upon the world with their experiment: Project Rampage.

Obviously, the glaring difference from the game and this adaptation is actual animals become infected with the pathogen in the film whereas it was humans being turned into giant animals in the game. This was probably a wise decision, and it lends itself well to the relationship between George and Johnson’s character. This is surprisingly one of the best aspects of the film, as while Johnson isn’t exactly known for his acting abilities, he’s able to convey his concern for his friend and vice versa. Of course, the giant albino gorilla, giant crocodile, and giant flying wolf wrecking havoc on the city draws parallels to the game, and at times is a delight to watch. It even lends itself well to an interesting horror element that makes the film one of the most violent PG-13 rated films ever released.

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Dwayne Johnson in Rampage.

Unfortunately, for a film that’s main selling point is monstrous destruction, Rampage is confoundedly mute during some of it. Sure, there’s plenty of destruction, but it doesn’t sound or feel like you get the full brunt of the carnage unfolding. The obliteration in the film never escalates to what should be disaster movie levels, and this could be due to the fact that the film struggles to balance tones during its slog of a second act. At times, the film takes itself seriously as if it’s trying to sell us that this could actually happen, and at others it stops to be meta and lighthearted, a combination that does not mix well. The second act is the main area where we see these jarring tonal shifts, and after countless male posturing confrontations, mistimed comedy, and failed attempts at developing characters, Rampage unforgivably becomes a bore.

While Dwayne Johnson may have the desire to be the next global action star, al la Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s no Schwarzenegger. Jeffrey Dean Morgan should change his name to Jeffrey “Lean” Morgan, as his performance consists of the tendencies of his Negan character from The Walking Dead combined with an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive. The result is an awkward cowboy persona that feels like he’s in a completely different movie. Naomi Harris and Joe Manganiello are utterly wasted in the film and barely even resonate, while Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy come across as Team Rocket from Pokémon and also feel out of place.

Rampage is yet another missed opportunity for the video game movie genre. A film boasting the talents of Dwayne Johnson, a blockbuster budget, and a high concept like the “Rampage” video game should have at the very least been fun. The result we get is an uneven disaster movie that hopes it can save itself by recklessly button mashing its way through its climax. You’d better off going to the arcade and doing that with the game the movie drew its inspiration from, at least you might get some thrills attempting to beat the high score.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars. Rent it.

Rampage stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomi Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin  Åkerman, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, and Joe Manganiello. It is in theaters now.

2018 NBA Playoffs Preview: First Round

The road to the finals begins here.

After a long, arduous, and meaningless regular season that left many teams and their superstars decimated by injuries (*the exact opposite result the NBA and its players wanted after making the schedule more “player friendly”), the NBA Playoffs have finally arrived. For teams like the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, the postseason is their time to parlay their regular season success into showing everyone they’re the real deal. For teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the postseason represents the switch that must be flipped from boredom of the regular season to becoming world beaters during the playoffs.

The first round of the playoffs sees some intriguing match-ups, but will we see any early round upsets that could shake-up the road to the NBA Finals? (*Before I forget, Pitbull’s “Timber” NBA Playoffs remix is the best NBA Playoffs anthem. Fight Me.*)

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto Raptors V. 8. Washington Wizards

Once again, the Raptors had an exceptional regular season, though they faltered late against playoff caliber competition. For their All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the postseason has been a place of struggle and misery over the last couple of years, as Lowry shoots under 40% from the field and DeRozan barely shoots above that mark. They face a Washington Wizards team that has been the epitome of Jekyll and Hyde this season, looking like a top NBA team with and without superstar guard John Wall, but also a bottom feeding underachiever as well. The Wizards swept the Raptors in first round of the playoffs back in 2015, and represent the worst possible match-up the Raptors could’ve had in the first round other than the Cavaliers.

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Prediction: Raptors in 7.

2. Boston Celtics V. 7. Milwaukee Bucks

The fact the Celtics were able to be the 2nd seed in the East after prized free agent Gordon Hayward suffered a season ending leg injury five minutes into the season is a testament to the coaching prowess of head coach Brad Stevens. But the Celtics are in trouble now that other prized offseason acquisition, PG Kyrie Irving, is out for the season. The Celtics now have to rely upon young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to carry them to postseason success. While that should be enough to down “The Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the somewhat disappointing Bucks, it doesn’t bode well for prolonged postseason success.

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Prediction: Celtics in 6.

3. Philadelphia 76ers V. 6. Miami Heat

People have started to “Trust the Process”, especially after the Sixers overshot even the most generous of expectations en route to a 52 win season. PG Ben Simmons looks like the rookie of the year, and C Joel Embiid should be able to regain his All-Star form if he’s healthy to return. The Heat may not have any superstar players of note, but they’re a gritty squad that will compete every game, and push the upstart Sixers enough for them to break a sweat.

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Prediction: Sixers in 6.

4. Cavaliers V. 5. Indiana Pacers

If you had the Indiana Pacers winning 48 games after trading away Paul George, you’re lying. PG Victor Oladipo has revived his career back in his college stomping grounds, and is the front runner to win Most Improved Player of the Year. Had it not been for Raptors coach Dwane Casey and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Pacers coach Nate McMillan would be the front runner for NBA Coach of the Year. None of this matters, as they face a man who is set to appear in his eighth straight NBA Finals, LeBron James. If you have any doubt whether he or the Cavaliers can flip the switch, LeBron has won 21 straight first round playoff games and has never lost a first round playoff series. One of those marks will end, but it won’t be the latter.

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Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.

Western Conference

1. Houston Rockets V. 8. Minnesota Timberwolves

After 13 years, the Minnesota Timberwovles have finally made it back to the playoffs. For most of their franchise’s existence, they have been a playoff doormat. Even with the talent of C Karl-Anthony Towns, SG Jimmy Butler, and SF Andrew Wiggins, this narrative will not change against the Houston Rockets. The Rockets somehow made the pairing of PG Chris Paul and SG/ MVP candidate James Harden not just work, but excel to the point of being the NBA’s best team by far. Don’t let head coach Mike D’Antoni’s recent comments fool you, however, the Rockets know their season will be judged based on their postseason success. They’ll have dispatch the Timberwolves quickly in order to save themselves for a potential Western Conference Finals showdown against the Warriors.

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Prediction: Rockets in 5.

2. Golden State Warriors V. 7. San Antonio Spurs

The Warriors limped to the finish line with a 7-10 record over their last seventeen games of the season, most of which were without two-time MVP and their heart and soul, Stephen Curry. Curry will be out for the first round of the playoffs due to a left-knee injury. Even with the talent of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the Warriors have fared poorly against playoff caliber competition. Fortunately for them, they get a Spurs team that seems to be on the brink of dysfunction. Head coach Gregg Popovich has done his best to keep the Spurs afloat without Kawhi Leonard, who missed all but nine games this season and has been clashing with Popovich over his recovery from his quad injury suffered last postseason. This is the exact team the Warriors needed to face to get their mojo back in time to defend their title.

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Prediction: Warriors in 5.

3. Portland Trailblazers V. 6. New Orleans Pelicans

The Portland Trailblazers are who the Washington Wizards are supposed to be, only better. The All-Star backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is near unstoppable, and their playoff experience in the early rounds should be enough to carry them on a longer postseason run this year. The Pelicans, however, have managed to get even better without C Demarcus Cousins, as Anthony Davis and his unibrow have carried the Pelicans to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Davis is a match-up nightmare for the Blazers, but the backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday won’t be enough to slow down the Trailblazers.

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Prediction: Trailblazers in 6.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder V. 5. Utah Jazz

A team consisting of Mr. Triple Double (*for the second year in a row) Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony seemed primed to finish better than the fourth seed in the Western Conference, but the team never quite jelled together and here we are. The Jazz, after starting the season 19-28, amped up their defense and went 29-6 to finish the season as one of the NBA’s hottest teams heading into the postseason. Led by Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz are a team no one wants to face this postseason. But can Mitchell up his game even more to the point of taking down the talent filled Thunder? One has to think that is too tall a task for a rookie.

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Prediction: Thunder in 7.

 

Bro-Reviews: A Quiet Place

Quite the surprise.

Horror films have been lacking originality these days. Most rely upon teenage tropes that only unassuming audiences can enjoy, or recycle the same premises or old franchises ad nauseam. However, when trailers dropped for the new survival horror film A Quiet Place, people were instantly intrigued by its unique premise of using the ever so underappreciated use of quiet as a means of survival. Even more shocking was the reveal of the talent behind the camera, Jim Halpert himself, John Krasinski. With all of the intrigue and positive word of mouth for the film coming out of the South by Southwest Festival, A Quiet Place couldn’t land in theaters soon enough for the general public to see and judge for themselves.

A Quiet Place takes place in the year 2020, where a blind alien species with supersonic hearing has arrived and wrecked havoc on the earth. One of the few survivors consists of a family having just experienced a tragedy: a mother and father, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), their son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds). The family must live in silence and band together to avoid the seemingly invincible creatures in order to survive.

A Quiet Place gets plenty of mileage out of its selling point and biggest asset: quietness. With the premise established in a fashion in which you fear for the characters at every turn, A Quiet Place has you paralyzed in suspense and at the edge of your seat throughout the film. The premise lends itself so well you begin to feel frightened for just squirming in your seat too loudly, as the film transports you to its world so well you too feel as if you’re living under the dire circumstances established in the film. Much of this credit must be given to director John Krasinski, who also co-wrote the film. With so little innovation in the horror genre, A Quiet Place is a welcome change of pace. A rare jewel in the genre that is not only tense, but undeniably frightening as well.

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John Kasinski in A Quiet Place

In regards to the performances, one must highlight the actor’s abilities to convey real emotions while still maintaining the logic of the premise. The strongest of the bunch has to be deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, whose character comes across as sympathetic and brave, and is a testament to the wonders of properly casting a role. Blunt also delivers as a caring yet strong mother, and her encounters with the other worldly species are undeniably jumpy. While some may laugh at his attempts to shed his Jim Halpert persona in favor of a ripped bearded mountain man in the hopes of reminding us he was almost Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, John Krasinski also does a splendid job as the family patriarch and protector.

If there’s anything to gripe about, the film’s premise does render its first half-hour somewhat slow. Yes, it’s all to establish the environment and setting, but even after the first sequence we get the point. Also, you can’t help but question some of the logic behind the film’s premise, such as day to day functions. Call it nit-picking, but the film doesn’t answer some of those questions as well. Most films at a certain point have to cheat their premise, but it would’ve been nice to see some of those burning questions resolved as well.

A Quiet Place is an edge of your seat survival-horror thriller that will leave you jumping at every sudden move. When a film can absorb you into its world to the point the happenings around you make you feel terrified for the potential consequences set up in the film, one must give kudos to the filmmakers for creating such an uneasy atmosphere. Considering its quiet rise to the public’s attention, A Quiet Place is quite the surprise.

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

A Quiet Place stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinsku, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds. It is in theaters now.