Bro-Picks: NFL Week 16 Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Week: 12-4

Overall: 143-81

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (Saturday Afternoon)

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

Winner: Ravens

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (Saturday Night)

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

Winner: Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

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

Winner: Panthers

Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals

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

Winner: Lions

Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs

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

Winner: Chiefs

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

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

Winner: Patriots

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

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

Winner: Saints

Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears

It’s now or never Brownies…

Winner: Browns

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets

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

Winner: Chargers

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

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

Winner: Rams

Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins

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

Winner: Redskins

Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers

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

Winner: Jaguars

New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

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

Winner: Giants

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

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

Winner: Cowboys

Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

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

Winner: Steelers

Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles

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

Winner: Eagles

 

 

 

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Bro-Reviews: All the Money in the World

On the money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

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

Bro-Reviews: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Best Jedi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

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

 

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 15 Predictions

The play clock is winding down.

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

Last Week: 9-7

Overall: 131-77

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (Thursday Night Football)

Oh the humanity of Thursday Night Football.

Winner: Colts

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (Saturday Afternoon)

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

Winner: Lions

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday Night)

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

Winner: Chiefs

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

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

Winner: Bills

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers

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

Winner: Panthers

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

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

Winner: Ravens

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

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

Winner: Jaguars

Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings

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

Winner: Vikings

New York Jets at New Orleans Saints

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

Winner: Saints

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

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

Winner: Eagles

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins

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

Winner: Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

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

Winner: Seahawks

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers

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

Winner: Titans

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

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

Winner: Patriots

Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders (Sunday Night Football)

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

Winner: Cowboys

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Monday Night Football)

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

Winner: Falcons

 

 

 

 

 

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

The hype was too big to live up to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 2.5/ 4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.

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

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 14 Predictions

The 4th quarter has begun.

Week 14 marks the start of the 4th quarter in the NFL season. While some teams have already started making vacation plans for January, other teams are either thriving or barely hanging on to their playoff hopes. One thing is for certain, the intensity of the NFL’s playoff races will only grow larger in these last 4 weeks.

Last Week: 12-4

Overall: 122-70

 

News Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (Thursday Night Football)

The Saints revival seems unstoppable due to the RB combo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and they still have a future hall of fame QB in Drew Brees. The Falcons playoff hopes took a damaging blow last week by losing to the Vikings, and a loss Thursday night would be the final nail in the coffin.

Winner: Saints

 

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

The Bills suffered a major blow last week with the injury to QB Tyrod Taylor. Back-up QB Nathan Peterman may get the chance to start again, but we all remember what happened the last time he started.

Winner: Colts

 

Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

The Vikings are on a roll with a 10 game winning streak, and could be the first team to ever play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Panthers are clinging on to the 6th seed in the NFC, and need a bounce back win if they want to remain on the inside of the playoff picture.

Winner: Panthers

 

Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are licking their wounds after another prime time game meltdown, while the Bears keep finding more ways to shoot themselves in the foot and lose. It may be time for a house cleaning in Chicago.

Winner: Bengals

 

Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is practice again in the hopes his collar bone will heal in time to play in the Packers’ final three playoff implicating games. If QB Brett Hundley can get past the Browns, the Packers could be primed for a playoff run.

Winner: Packers

San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo made the inept 49ers offense look functional last Sunday despite red-zone struggles. He’ll need to be sharper against Jadeveon Clowney and the Texans vaunted defense.

Winner: Texans

 

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs

With a three way tie atop the AFC West, this one could be an elimination game. The Raiders have been fortunate enough to have faced backup QBs the last 2 weeks, and the Chiefs appear to be falling apart. But Andy Reid can solve the Chiefs’ woes in time to win the division, right?

Winner: Chiefs

 

Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers QB James Winston looked good in his return, but had another careless turnover that cost his team the game last week. You would think he’d be more careful with the ball after considering he’s in his third NFL season. The Lions got smacked by the Ravens last week, and QB Matt Stafford will be playing through pain with a badly injured hand.

Winner: Lions

 

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell signed a 5 year, $200 million contract extension, thus making Jerry Jones look like a dope for threatening to sue him and the league. After cleaning house by firing GM Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo, the Giants have reinserted Eli Manning as their starting QB. Years from now, we’ll ask what was the point of benching the two time Super Bowl champion, and we won’t have a good answer.

Winner: Cowboys

 

Tennessee Titans at Arizona Cardinals

The Titans have a minus 16 point differential despite being in first place in the AFC South. The Cardinals are a shell of their former 2015 NFC Championship Game selves, but it’s mediocre teams like them the Titans have trouble beating handily.

Winner: Cardinals

 

New York Jets at Denver Broncos

In what was supposed to be a year in which they were tanking, the New York Jets have somehow already matched their win total in 2017 and still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff hunt. The Denver Broncos have three QBs on their roster, meaning they have no QBs. GM and Mr. Bronco himself John Elway called the Broncos season “embarrassing”, might we see first year head coach Vance Joseph gone after just one season?

Winner: Jets

 

Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers

The Washington Redskins have injuries piling up and are on their way to a below .500 record. The Chargers have now won 6 of their last 8 games after starting 0-4 behind a ferocious pass rush and borderline hall of fame QB Philip Rivers. Go Chargers, Go ! (*Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*)

Winner: Chargers

 

Seattle Seahawks at Jacksonville Jaguars

If you had told someone at the start of the season a wee 14 game between the Seahawks and the Jaguars would have major playoff implications for both squads, you’d had been labeled insane. A win for the Jaguars would implicate the Jaguars are the real deal, while a win for the Seahawks would be business as usual.

Winner: Seahawks

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Ram

A battle between the number 1 and number 2 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft could potentially be a preview of the NFC Championship game. The Eagles are coming off a rough loss to the Seahawks, while the Rams throttled the Cardinals in an impressive road win. The winner of this one is in the driver seat for a playoff bye, and maybe even the number one seed in the NFC.

Winner: Eagles

 

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football)

AFC North football in December. Nothing is greater than a good ole’ fashioned showdown between two blood rivals who can’t stand each other. The Steelers look to keep rolling and remain the top seed in the AFC, while a win for the Ravens would make them a team no one would want to face should they make it to the postseason.

Winner: Steelers

 

New Englan Patriots at Miami Dolphins (Monday Night Football)

If there’s one place the Patriots have struggled to play over the last few seasons, it’s in South Beach. The Patriots have lost 3 of their last 4 games in Miami, and stumbling against them could cost them a number 1 seed in the playoffs. Luckily, the Dolphins are quarterbacked by Jay Cutler, meaning their chances of winning in Miami are considerably higher than previous seasons.

Winner: Patriots

 

Bro-Reviews: The Disaster Artist

No, this is not a Funny or Die sketch.

The Room is widely heralded as one of the worst films ever made. Written, directed, and starring the quirky and mysterious Tommy Wiseau, the film was released in June of 2003 to universally negative reaction. In the following years, however, The Room has gained a cult following, with dozens of midnight screenings attended and merchandise sold that has since made the film profitable and turned Tommy Wiseau into a beloved figure. A book chronicling the making of the film written by Wiseau’s co-star and friend, Greg Sestero, called “The Disaster Artist: The Greatest Bad Movie Ever” was released in 2013 to universal acclaim, and caught the attention of one of Wiseau’s biggest fans, actor James Franco. Franco has taken it upon himself to tell the story of Wiseau’s attempt to make it in Hollywood by directing and starring in an adaptation of Sestero’s memoir, The Disaster Artist.

The Disaster Artist sees Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) struggling to achieve his dream of becoming an actor due to his lack of confidence. He then meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a classmate of his in an acting class in San Francisco, and is mesmerized by his vulnerability on-stage. The two begin an unlikely friendship, which sees them move together to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming matinée idols. When the two are rejected by Hollywood, Wiseau decides to make his own movie, entitled The Room, in the hopes of finally achieving success and a Hollywood ending.

When the trailer for the film first appeared online, many, including myself, thought it was a Funny or Die sketch. That no one was actually making a movie about the making of arguably the worst movie to ever grace the silver screen. And while many now adore The Room and categorize it as a film that is “so bad, it’s good”, I am not one of those people. The Room is a bad film made by an amateur who had enough money to do it. Nothing more, nothing less.

While there is no doubt hero-worship occurring, James Franco is tremendous as Tommy Wiseau. Sure, there are times where it feels as if he is parodying Wiseau, but he is able to portray Wiseau as a sympathetic figure you root for and an off-putting on-set monster all at the same time with the careful dexterity we have come to know James Franco by. Dave Franco also showcases his acting chops finally with his performance as Greg Sestero, and shows he’s capable of delivering good character actor work. The two share many scenes together in the film, and their impeccable chemistry makes their friendship and semi-homoerotic relationship shine on-screen.

James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist.”

The film’s final two acts are nothing short of fascinating, as they focus mainly on the making of The Room. While I am not one of the members of the film’s cult, it is fascinating to see just how in the world the film got made. Scenes showing The Room‘s troubled production and the difficulty of working with Wiseau will no doubt add to The Room‘s and Wiseau’s legend, and deliver some of the funniest scenes in the entire movie.

Much like The Room, The Disaster Artist does have somewhat of an amateurish feel about it. This is due to the fact that its director, James Franco, is not very experienced in this field. There are scene transitions that come across as clunky, and would have fared better perhaps if the film were in the hands of more skillful director. And while much praise should be given towards the Franco brothers for their seamless chemistry, there’s a point when the two decide to move to Los Angeles where I felt myself groaning at their over-excitement over them taking this next step, as it is clear by this point the two have developed a special bond that does not require more showing, but instead more telling.

As stated earlier, I am not a person who has a love for The Room. One of the problems that hinders The Disaster Artist is the film’s over reliance on people loving and praising The Room. The film opens with celebrities applauding the film and Wiseau, and as a person who only admires Wiseau for his gumption to make his own movie and not the movie itself, the opening felt like an unnecessary add-on. The film also closes with a side-by-side comparison of The Room‘s most iconic scenes and those scenes being re-enacted by the actors in The Disaster Artist. Had the film cut-off just five minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have left with the feeling of over-adoration for a film that I do not share the same feelings for, which somewhat left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

The Disaster Artist is still a fine adaptation that does its subject matter justice and further illuminates the mystery of Wiseau and his beloved creation. While fans of The Room are no doubt in for a treat, non-fans may grow wary of the film’s unnecessary over-adoration of its topic. However, The Disaster Artist succeeds due to its terrific lead performances and admittingly compelling story, and will more than likely find itself as an awards contender since it is a movie about making a movie. Hollywood loves to tell such stories and pat themselves on the back for telling them, even though the end result could potentially be hypocritical considering Hollywood rejected The Disaster Artist‘s subject many years earlier.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Matinée Price.

The Disaster Artist stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutchinson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Melanie Griffith, Paul Scheer, and Sharon Stone. It is in theaters December 1st.