Bro-Reviews: Logan Lucky

Ocean’s 7-Eleven.

The heist genre can be quite tricky to pull off now these days. While most moviegoers themselves fantasize of stealing a large sum of cash in the hopes of a rags-to-riches storybook ending, audiences have seen this story played out dozens upon dozens of times. The only director who seemed to get it right two out of the three times he directed such a film was Steven Soderbergh, who announced his retirement three years ago much to the dismay of film buffs around the globe. However, Soderbergh has ended his retirement and returned to the all-too-familiar heist film genre with his latest project, Logan Lucky.

Logan Lucky centers on Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a would be NFL quarterback had he not blown out his knee at LSU, thus continuing a family curse that also extends to his his one-handed Iraq veteran brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver). After Jimmy is fired from his construction job, he and Clyde devise an elaborate plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with the help of their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keough) and incarcerated explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).

Logan Lucky rests upon the shoulders of its performers, and everyone brings their A-game to the picture. Channing Tatum continues to prove why he is one of the most  sought after A-listers in Hollywood today, bringing to life a smarter-than-you-think character who is doing this just to remain closer to his daughter. Adam Driver also gives a great performance as the down and out younger brother, and it’s roles such as these that allow Driver to expertly portray his awkwardness to make his character seem ever-so appealing. The rest of the ensemble also performs well in the film, particularly Katie Holmes, whose portrayal of Jimmy’s ex-wife makes you wish you had the gumption to pick-up a Southern belle like her. Hilary Swank also makes a welcome return to the mainstream in the third act of the film as a hard-nosed FBI investigator, and it’s great to see a talent like her back where she belongs.

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However, it’s Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang who steals the show. Craig has of course always had the reputation of a suave actor due to his excellent turn as James Bond, but he immerses himself so much into his red-neck character you understand why Steven Soderbergh chooses to bill him as “and introducing Daniel Craig as Joe Bang”. It’s as if he has actually discovered a new bona fide character actor out there, and there’s no doubt Craig should be up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar come next March. Soderbergh also returns with his slick and stylish direction that brings life to the heist. Soderbergh is also able to get the most out his performers, continuing his winning streak of being able to work with and properly direct actors, something that seems to come at a premium these days with most directors.

What helps Logan Lucky rise above its otherwise generic plot is the setting and its willingness to dive into it. These are poor, simple folk we’re following in the film, and there’s something refreshing about having poorer people in the South be the heroes we root for instead of the pretty and attractive people we see in most other heist films. The film’s Southern charm made the characters rather charming and likeable, particularly when you realize that although these characters aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, they are in fact smarter than you think and are counting on you buying into that stereotype so that they can set out what they want to accomplish. Logan Lucky is the anti- Ocean’s 11. It’s not glitzy and glamorous, it’s grimy and rednecky. As one of the extras in the film says, it’s Ocean’s 7-Eleven.

If there’s anything to gripe about regarding the film, it’s that its not as hilarious as it’s been marketed. The marketing campaign would have you believe it’s an all-out hillbilly robbery romp, but it’s more a heist film with quirky characters and a surprisingly good amount of heart. One of the performers that tries to play it up for laughs is Seth McFarlane, who never quite jells in his NASCAR sponsor role to be memorable and or effective in the film.

Overall, Logan Lucky is one of those rare late-summer releases that’s actually a good movie. It’s the kind of film Burt Reynolds would have excelled in and made a boat-load of money back in the 1960s and 1970s. With exceptional performances, great direction, and willingness to get down and dirty, Logan Lucky marks a welcome return for legendary director Steven Soderbergh and is more than worth one last trip to the theater before Labor Day.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Logan Lucky stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane, Katherine Waterson, Dwight Yoakam, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, and Hilary Swank. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.

Bro-Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

When Deadpool met Nick Fury.

It’s typically around the month of August we see the summer movie season slow down considerably. Although recent years have seen the release of blockbuster films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, August is the month many studios reserve for dumping films they have no confidence in in the hopes that audiences will go see them out of pure boredom. Many of these films are mindless, over-the-top action films catered to action junkies, and Summit Entertainment is hoping the presence of Mr. Deadpool Ryan Reynolds and Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson will propel those junkies to go see the latest R-rated action buddy-comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a former special protection agent who laments on his career whilst still protecting lesser clientele after a job that went sideways. When an Interpol transport mission is intercepted by the enemy, Interpol agent and Michael’s ex-flame Amelia (Élodie Yung) calls upon him for help transporting a witness to the trial of a power-hungry Eastern European dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). That witness happens to be Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a hitman and Michael’s rival. Despite their hatred for one another, the two must band together to make it to the International Court of Justice in England in time to put Dukhovich in jail once and for all.

Before going any further, one must note the first trailer for this film was cut expertly, with Samuel L. Jackson cursing up a storm, loads of explosions, and the late Whitney Houston belting out her famous rendition of “I will always love you.” It was marketed as an anti-The Bodyguard, the 1992 smash hit starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. The trailer made me very excited to see the movie, but unfortunately, the trailer is better than the actual feature length film.

While Jackson and Reynolds do have chemistry, the two aren’t straining to portray characters, they’re playing themselves. Reynolds is in peak snarky but capable form, and continues to showcase he can rise above otherwise pedestrian material. Samuel L. Jackson is in peak “Samuel L. Jackson” form, yelling four letter swear words every other line of dialogue and clearly having a blast doing so. The two are well matched together, but the surrounding material just isn’t there for them to gain any momentum and carry the film by themselves.

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Salma Hayek, save for the typical cleavage shots, one butt-kicking action sequence, and one joke with another prisoner, is utterly wasted in the film. Her scenes consist of her swearing, swearing in Spanish, and exploitative cleavage shots. That’s it. Gary Oldman is sleepwalking through the film as the villain, and it’s time to hold him accountable for giving terrible performances in films such as this, The Unborn, Paranoia, and Red Riding Hood. There’s no doubt Oldman is a talented actor and can give a great performance when he feels like it, but he far too often chooses to take “for the money” roles such as this and goes through the motions.

The film also has jarring tonal shifts within the first 30 minutes or so. Scenes of Oldman’s Dukhovich slaughtering innocent people are meant to make us fear him, but then the film cuts to Reynolds and Jackson quipping one-liners in an attempt to make the audience laugh-off the otherwise horrendous events we’ve just witnessed. The film is also far too long at 118 minutes, as a tighter, quicker film could’ve improved it tremendously. It doesn’t help the film is also riddled with cheap-looking special effects and actors from other late-summer action films such as Sam Hazeldine (Riah Crane AKA the bad guy in Mechanic: Resurrection) to remind you you’re watching a late summer action film, and not a quality one.

Although the special effects are quite cheap-looking, the action sequences are brutal and do deliver. Director Patrick Hughes has shown he’s capable of staging action scenes very well in the underappreciated Expendables 3, and his direction of the action in the film livens it up. One must particularly note the final car chase, which displays Hughes’ talent for filming thrilling action. It’s these scenes that ultimately made me forgive the film for it’s otherwise cheap feel save for the leads they were able to sign onto the film.

Ultimately, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a disposable, substandard, harmless late summer action film that has the saving grace of two well matched leads and enough adrenaline pumping action. However, one cannot help but notice the film surrounding the two leads and action sequences isn’t up to par with them, ultimately leaving viewers an expandable and forgettable action buddy-comedy film.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Sam Hazeldine, Kirsty Mitchell, and Joaquim de Almeida. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: The Dark Tower

One (frustrating) step away from an epic.

Let’s face it folks, making a movie is never easy. Adapting legendary literature beloved by many people into a film is near impossible. This has never stopped Hollywood before, as “unfilmable” classics such as World War Z, Watchmen, Cloud Atlas, and Atlas Shrugged have all been adapted into feature length films, yielding mixed results at best. One of these classic works of literature that has also been label “unadaptable” is The Dark Tower by legendary author Stephen King. With an expansive universe that has been built for many years through numerous books, The Dark Tower could never get out of production hell, recycling through directors such as J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard. Years later, however, The Dark Tower has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to break the “unadaptable”/”unfilmable” curse.

The Dark Tower sees 11-year-old child Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) experiencing nightmares of a parallel universe called “The Mid-World”. Convinced his dreams are true, Jake sets off for an adventure to explore this universe, which he eventually discovers and befriends Roland (Idris Elba), a Gunslinger sworn to protect the Mid-World. Roland is on a quest to find the Dark Tower, the nexus point between time and space, in hopes to save all existence from extermination. However, Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is hot on the unlikely duo’s trail, and the two’s mission appears to be near impossible to complete.

Throughout the development of the Dark Tower, rumors circulated the film was too big for director Nikolaj Arcel to grasp, with initial test screenings panning the film for being too convoluted and lacking in special effects. This of course led to re-shoots and studio interference to try to make the film more accessible to mainstream audiences in the hopes of making a bankable summer blockbuster. As I stated earlier, The Dark Tower has always had the reputation of being near impossible to adapt to the big screen, and that’s the case for many of Stephen King’s works. The Dark Tower was more than likely never going to be the epic hardcore fans had hoped for, but as it stands, there’s evidence The Dark Tower was closer to being an epic than one might have originally thought.

Idris Elba continues his ascension to the top of the A-List with his turn as Roland. Elba is undeniably cool as the legendary gunslinger, and he projects his sense of frustration and seemingly aimless wandering due to the damage Walter o’Dim/ the Man in Black has done to the Mid-World and all of the other gunslingers. The Dark Tower serves as further proof the Elba is an actor to be reckoned with. Matthew McConaughey is delightfully creepy and suave as Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black, and appears to be having a blast in the role. He’s also able to convey a sense of dread and impending doom every time he appears on screen, once again adding another tremendous performance in McConaughey’s “McConaissance” that has been going strong since 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer. Although there are moments of bad child acting, Tom Taylor is an appealing enough actor as Jake Chambers to display his wonder when first encountering the Mid-World and eagerness to help Roland, as he and Elba as make for a nice duo.

Matthew McConaughey;Idris Elba

Of course, one would be remiss if they did not mention whether or not the Mid-World is realized in any fashion. There’s definitely enough imagery within the film that makes King’s parallel universe come to life, which is impressive considering the film’s muted $60 million budget. Scenes in which children are being strapped to machines and using their “shine” in an attempt to bring down the tower are frightening and original, giving the film a much needed chilly atmosphere. This atmosphere is also bolstered with the barren wasteland of the Mid-World, an abandoned theme park, a village safe haven, and secret Mid-World societies in the heart of New York City Roland and Jake come across during the film’s 95 minute run time.While the special effects are nothing to marvel at, they’re good enough to be passable in a film that clearly had budget restrictions.

However, therein lies one of the issues preventing The Dark Tower from rising above an otherwise conventional fantasy film. Although I’ve said it before, it needs to be said again; The Dark Tower was never going to have a seamless transition to the silver screen. King has written 8 books in the series, and never truly concluded his epic saga. With that in mind, it’s very disappointing the film was restricted to a lower budget and not allowed to be the $100 million summer blockbuster it could have been in order to have the Mid-World and all of its intricacies come to life. Action scenes involving the creatures of the Mid-World are so dark you can’t really follow what’s occurring on screen, somewhat muting the film’s otherwise stylish and pulpy action sequences. It would have been even more terrifying to see all of the monsters and creatures Roland gives exposition about when explaining how the tower guards the universe from such monsters and then see him do battle with them. The film also feels hacked to the bone at 95 minutes, and one cannot help but feel the studio interference in the film in order to make the film more appealing to a wide audience. At 95 minutes, the film could’ve used an extra half hour of set-up, exposition, and action to make The Dark Tower be the epic film it should have been.

Also plaguing the film are the 20 minutes or so we see Jake in the real world/ keystone earth. Much of the dialogue during this time is laughably bad, and it does not help that the young actors in these scenes clearly needed another take or more acting lessons in order for them to not come across as actors but as actual children living in New York City. On top of that, the ending of the film clearly has a rushed, “we ran out of money” vibe, leaving one with somewhat of a sour taste in their mouth as they exit the theater.

By no means is The Dark Tower a great movie, but it’s not terrible either. Considering most of the other Stephen King films such as Pet Sematary, The Mist, and Dreamcatcher that were all quite bad, The Dark Tower stands as one of the better Stephen King adaptations.  Unfortunately, one cannot but help but feel the studio interference onscreen while watching the film. The result is a near epic film that needed more time and money to have Stephen King’s legendary vision fully realized, rendering it somewhat conventional. Despite the feeling of what could have been, The Dark Tower is bolstered by Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances, has enough imagery, and stylized action to justify a trip to the theater.

Rating: 2.5/4. Pay Matinée Price.

The Dark Tower stars Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kanz, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Dennis Haysbert. It is in theaters Friday, August 4th.

Every NFL Team and Division in 3 Words

3 words can tell the entire story.

With the dog days of summer winding down, NFL training camps are officially underway. While most want to jump the gun and predict the NFL season now, let’s start with 3 words to describe every team and every division in the NFL.

AFC North: Beat ’em up.

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger goes diva.

Baltimore Ravens: Binding Flacco contract.

Cincinnati Bengals: Picture of complacency.

Cleveland Browns: Hope? LOL. Nope.

The AFC North is a brutal division, one in which the teams beat each other up so much during the season come playoff time, they’re out of gas. The Steelers are the best team in the division, but Ben Roethlisberger discussing retirement this early smells like trouble. The Ravens will be competitive, but they’d be more competitive if not for QB Joe Facco’s contract. The Bengals never seem to aspire to be better than average, and the Browns are a doormat.

AFC South: First round exit.

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Houston Texans: Won with Osweiler.

Tennessee Titans: Rise of Mariota.

Indianapolis Colts: Out of Luck.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gag on Coughlin.

The AFC South Division winner has the luxury of hosting a home playoff game and promptly losing. The Texans won with Brock Osweiler at QB, so rookie QB Deshaun Watson could be a step up. The Titans continued progress will depend on the health of QB Marcus Mariota, the Colts can’t continue relying on QB Andrew Luck to be a contender, and the “new look Jaguars” with Tom Coughlin in the front office will continue to be woeful until QB Blake Bortles is deported.

AFC East: Pats stand pat.

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New England Patriots: Please stop winning.

Miami Dolphins: One year wonder.

Buffalo Bills: Sabotaged by Pengulas.

New York Jets: J-E-T-S spells L-O-S-E.

Since 2001, only the Jets in 2002 and Dolphins in 2008 have won the division. The Patriots have nothing to worry about in this cakewalk of a division. The Dolphins won’t be able to replicate last years success, the Bills’ ownership prevents them from being even halfway competent, and the Jets are essentially tanking.

AFC West: Most competitive division.

Oakland Raiders: Just Win Baby.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kings of almost.

Denver Broncos: Mile High controversy.

Los Angeles Chargers: Soccer stadium tenants.

The AFC West is easily the NFL’s most competitive division, as 3 of the 4 teams posted records above .500 last year. The Raiders will want to continue their newfound commitment to excellence all the way to a division title. The Chiefs will sport a good team but aren’t legitimate contenders. The Broncos will be hindered by their QB controversy between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, and the Chargers were rewarded for moving to LA LA Land by being tenants in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium.

NFC North: Cold and predictable.

Green Bay Packers: Default division winner.

Minnesota Vikings: Bridge(water) too far.

Detroit Lions: Roar no more.

Chicago Bears: Should’ve ditched Mitch.

The NFC North is known for being a rather chilly division come late October, but its utterly predictable. The overrated, over-hyped, and overblown Packers will win the division. The Vikings need QB Teddy Bridgewater to come back if they have any hope of being a playoff contender. The Lions surprised many last season with a postseason appearance, but that seems unreasonable to expect this season. The Bears were swindled by the 49ers and picked a QB who started 13 games in his collegiate career, it’ll be a cold winter for them.

NFC South: Worst to first.

NFC-South

Carolina Panthers: Dab strikes back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winston’s next step.

Atlanta Falcons: Super Bowl hangover.

New Orleans Saints: The final Brees.

This division always seems to have the worst to first syndrome, where a team that finished in last place the previous year ascends to first place the next. QB Cam Newton and the Panthers will continue this trend, as the dab will strike back. QB Jameis Winston could potentially lead the Bucs into the postseason, the Falcons won’t be over their epic collapse, and the Saints will be looking to move on from QB Drew Brees.

NFC East: Beasts in East.

Dallas Cowboys: Inmates running asylum.

New York Giants: Odell rights ship.

Philadelphia Eagles: Winners of off-season.

Washington Redskins: Kirk or Kurt?

The NFC East is always one of the roughest, toughest divisions in the NFL, and this year will be no different. While the Dallas Cowboys resemble more of a Federal prison than a football team, they’re the best team in the division. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. will overcome the ghost of his ill-fated boat trip and have an MVP caliber season. The Eagles impressed many with their off-season acquisitions, but will there be team chemistry? Meanwhile, the Redskins will continue to be petty and mispronounce their overrated QB’s name, Kirk (Kurt?) Cousins.

NFC West: One team matters.

Seattle Seahawks: Winning trumps animosity.

Arizona Cardinals: Gasp for Arians.

Los Angeles Rams: Scoff at Goff.

49ers: Still York owned.

This division has one relevant team. Despite the fact every player on the roster hates QB Russell Wilson, chief among them CB Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ winning will mask their dysfunction. This season could very well be the Cardinals’ final run at a Super Bowl title. QB Jared Goff of the Rams will prove himself to be one of the biggest Draft Busts ever. Lastly, the 49ers are still owner by Jed York, who hired John Lynch, a former color commentator with no front office experience to be their GM (*Does Matt Millen ring a bell?*). Lynch went on to hire the man who called 5 running plays in the second half of Super Bowl 51 when he was up 28-3, Kyle Shanahan, the spoiled brat son of a tomato (*Mike Shanahan*).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyrie Irving’s Trade Demand

Cleveland? More like LEAVE-land.

In the case that you’ve been living under a rock, Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving demanded a trade last week. Word is that Kyrie is tired of being under LeBron James’ shadow, as he has the “Mamba Mentality” and wants to be the focal point of a team. It has also been reported that LeBron James is upset with Kyrie Irving for mentioning his name in this topic, so upset to the point that LeBron is “Tempted to beat his (Kyrie’s) ass” should the two come into contact with each other.

With all of the rumors swirling around LeBron James that he is bolting the Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers next off-season, one can hardly blame Kyrie Irving for wanting to be two steps ahead of the game. When LeBron James left the Cavaliers in 2010, they suffered 4 straight losing seasons, 3 of which Irving was present for. Ever since LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return back home to Cleveland in 2014, the Heat have missed the postseason 2 out of the last 3 seasons, and now have to settle for signing Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk to big contracts. Kyrie sees a pattern here. That pattern? Whenever LeBron leaves, the team he leaves is decimated. Kyrie Irving does not want to be the next victim in LeBron’s pattern.

However, it has not been confirmed LeBron is leaving Cleveland  for LA LA land (*he hasn’t denied it either, but that’s another argument for a different day*). As of right now, LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier. As evidenced by the previous 7 years, if LeBron James plays on your team, you will play in the NBA Finals. Evidence from 3 of those 7 years also indicates you might actually win a title. One of those years indicates you might be the player to hit the game winning shot to defeat the greatest NBA regular season team ever. Oh wait, was the player who hit that shot LeBron James? No, it was Kyrie Irving.

Irving’s desire to be traded can only be described as a petulant, spoiled brat who complains about the line at Starbucks being too long. Kyrie Irving, a man who took 74 more 2-point shots and 99 more 3-point shots than LeBron James last year, is complaining about not getting as much attention as the greatest player on the planet. And by the way, this isn’t Kevin Durant in free agency in the summer of 2016 having all of the power in the world. When you demand a trade, you’re still under contract. You don’t get to choose your destination. The Cavaliers could trade Irving anywhere they’d like or tell him to go kick rocks. Irving has no leverage.

Irving is of the belief he can be a franchise cornerstone. That a team can be built around him to be “The Man” and compete for a championship. Going by Irving’s preferred destinations, one must ask what on earth he is thinking? He wants to be traded from the Cavaliers, a team essentially guaranteed to be the representative of the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, to New York to become a nothing with the woeful Knicks? To be the fourth best player for the Minnesota Timberwolves? To compete for more shots with Dion Waiters for the Miami Heat? To be the second option like he is now with the Cavaliers for the San Antonio Spurs? Irving doesn’t realize how good he currently has it. Kyrie Irving is demanding a trade from a team in which he is an all-star and regarded as the team’s closer? Talk about first world problems.

What makes Irving believe he can utilize his “Mamba Mentality” like his idol, Kobe Bryant, and be “The Man” elsewhere when he could be described as a supremely talented, but oft-injured ball hog? Prior to the arrival of Cleveland’s lord and savior, LeBron James, Irving was already “The Man”. He was the number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. As “The Man”, the Cavaliers won 21 games in the lockout shortened 2011-12 NBA season, 24 games in 2012-13, and 33 games in 2013-14. While Irving was “The Man”, he was also chronically injured, as he missed 49 games in his first 3 seasons. Even when LeBron came back, Irving has still been injury-prone, missing 46 games over the last three seasons, and that doesn’t even include the 5 NBA Finals games he missed in the 2015 NBA Finals.

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Also, let’s pretend LeBron James does in fact leave the Cavaliers for the Lakers next summer. Should Kyrie stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he becomes the sympathetic figure, as LeBron James would once again be painted as a man abandoning his hometown for a more glitzy, glamorous destination. Irving would regain his “rightful” place as “The Man” in Cleveland with two years remaining on his contract. Sure, he’s stuck with an aging roster riddled with bad guaranteed contracts, but in an Eastern Conference without LeBron James, that team could compete for a lower seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Kyrie Irving’s trade demand is understandable if you’re looking through the prism of not wanting to bite the dust should LeBron James ditch the Cavaliers in the summer of 2018. Every other prism you look through, however, cannot justify Irving’s immature stance of wanting to be “The Man”. His first three years in the league suggest he not only cannot carry the load as a team’s first option in terms of winning, but also cannot be on the court to help see that vision trough. Even in his three seasons with LeBron James, Irving hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Why would any team risk placing their future in a guard who is unable to stay on the court? Why would you want to forgo competing for a championship when you would be nowhere closer to building towards this goal should you be traded to one of your preferred destinations, which you may not even be granted? Kyrie Irving needs to wake up before it’s too late, and realize he has been given an NBA player’s dream career: being the number one pick, being an all-star who is treated like a superstar, and playing alongside and winning championships with the greatest player ever, LeBron James. With Kyrie Irving’s trade demand and rumors circling LeBron James regarding his future plans, Cleveland might as well re-name themselves Leave-land.