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.

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. 

 

 

 

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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-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.

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.

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 13 Predictions

Winter is coming.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, signifying the end of Fall and the first 12 weeks of the NFL season. With the calendar turning to the month of December, winter is upon us. But while most of the U.S. gets colder, the NFL season begins to heat-up, especially with a Week 13 slate of NFL games that will heavily alter the playoff picture.

Last Week: 12-4

Overall: 110-66

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (Thursday Night Football)

The Cowboys look so lost without RB Ezekiel Elliott to the point many are questioning whether or not QB Dak Prescott can competently play the position without him. The Redskins are still alive in the playoff race, and the winner of this NFC EAST smackdown will live to fight another day for a spot in the playoffs.

Winner: Cowboys

Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons

Don’t look now, but suddenly the Atlanta Falcons seem to be regaining their Super Bowl form. Their schedule the rest of the season includes “prove it” games such as this one, but it’ll be Vikings QB Case Keenum who will prove he deserves to be under center for the NFC North leading Vikings.

Winner: Vikings

Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens seem to be reverting back to their classic form: a putrid offense combined with a pulverizing defense. The Lions need this game in order to stay in the playoff hunt, but their dreams of winning the NFC North may have sailed away last week by losing to the Vikings.

Winner: Lions

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

After proving head coach Sean McDermott wrong for benching him, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor led the charge in an upset win over the Chiefs. It’s wishful thinking to believe he can do the same against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Winner: Patriots

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo makes his much anticipated starting debut after leading a garbage time scoring drive last week. Only time will tell if he’s the franchise’s savior, but we know Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky definitely isn’t the answer for the Bears.

Winner: 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

Don’t let last week fool you, QB Brett Hundley can’t keep the Packers afloat in the NFC playoff picture until Aaron Rodgers comes back. Buccaneers QB James Winston finally returns after missing a couple of games due to a shoulder injury, but one must wonder how focused he’ll be with the recent allegation against him claiming he sexually assaulted an Uber driver.

Winner: Buccaneers

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars fell victim to the Blaine Gabbert revenge game against the Cardinals last week. It’s time to start envisioning Eli Manning in a Jags uniform if they have any hope of competing for a Super Bowl.

Winner: Jaguars

Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins

QB Paxton Lynch made the Raiders awful defense look ferocious last week and cried about it. Trevor Siemian gets the start for the impotent Broncos against the Dolphins, who are still convinced Jay Cutler is a competent QB.

Winner: Dolphins

Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets

The once invincible Chiefs have hit a wall, losing 5 of their last 6 games. They’re lucky to be playing the self imploding Jets, who can’t get out of their own way.

Winner: Chiefs

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

It’s hard to take the Titans seriously when they barely beat hapless teams like the Colts. If only the Texans had Deshaun Watson to expose the Titans even more than he did in their Week 4 meeting.

Winner: Titans

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers look like the best team in the AFC West right now. They face the STILL winless Browns, whose only win last year came against the Chargers last December. Coincidence?

Winner: Chargers

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

The Saints fell back to earth last week in their loss to the Rams, while Panthers QB Cam Newton struggled against the Jets. The winner of this game more than likely rides that momentum all the way to an NFC South title.

Winner: Panthers

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

The Rams showed they’re for real by knocking off the Saints, and are close to completing one of the most stunning turnarounds in modern NFL history. But even against a team down to their back-up QBs, the Cardinals won’t go away quietly.

Winner: Rams

New York Giants at Oakland Raiders

The New York Giants have benched QB Eli Manning for Geno Smith. GENO SMITH. THEY CHOSE NOT TO FIRE BEN MCADOO BUT CHOSE TO BENCH ELI MANNING. Let that sink in.

Winner: Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football)

The Eagles are the NFL’s best team, as they electric slid their way to a victory over the dreadful Bears. In what could be a potential NFC Championship game preview, they’ll need to overcome the NFL’s best home field advantage against Seattle’s 12th man in order to solidify themselves as the team to beat in the NFL.

Winner: Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (Monday Night Football)

At 5-6, the Bengals still have a shot at the postseason. The Steelers made Packers back-up QB Brett Hundley look like Aaron Rodgers last week, and tend to play down to their competition. If they want to certify themselves as the class of the AFC, the need to take care of business against a desperate Bengals squad.

Winner: Steelers

 

Bro-Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

An unfocused narrative paired with a tour de force in acting.

Denzel Washington is as accomplished an actor there is in Hollywood. Whether you are a film buff or not, you can identify Mr. Washington easily, particularly by only saying his iconic first name, Denzel. One would think at this point in his illustrious career he may be slowing down, but past awards worthy roles in 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Flight, and 2016’s Fences prove he is only getting better with age. Pair him with screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy, who’s coming off the success of his directorial debut Nightcrawler, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. should be chalked-up as another victory for Denzel, right?

Denzel Washington stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq., a legal genius but socially inept lawyer who has spent years fighting the good fight for a small law firm in Los Angeles, California. When his partner in the firm unexpectedly experiences a health emergency, Roman finds himself working for the law firm of a former student of his partners’, George Pierce (Colin Farrell). After years of staying true to his values, he finds his morality being challenged due to a deadly case he’s working on with Pierce, while also starting a relationship with a civil rights worker (Carmen Ejogo).

Roman J. Israel, Esq. rests on the shoulders on its iconic star, and Denzel delivers more awardsworthy work as the titular character. Although the character is not entirely likeable, there’s something stunning about Denzel’s transformation into this very intelligent but people skills lacking lawyer. Washington has displayed unbelievable range and has carried films throughout his career, and once again displays his talents in this film.

One has to think it’s bizarre to see him share scenes with Denzel, but Colin Farrell is on his A-game. He may not be able to match Denzel blow for blow, but his supporting part should be highlighted and deserves awards consideration. Carmen Ejogo also delivers a fine performance as well, as she admires Roman’s quirkiness and sees him as an inspiring figure.

The issue that looms large over Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the film’s jumbled narrative. At its core, the film is about a man who abandons his selflessness for a short period of time only to realize it is this quality that makes him who he is. The film takes way too long to set this up, as its main story could be told in under two hours easily, but instead runs for an overlong two hours. Its heavy handedness is also glaring, as there are more subtle ways to depict a redemption story than having your leading man call himself a hypocrite at the beginning of the film and seeing him stray away from his magnum opus civil case to experience the luxuries in life once he is able to obtain them. Director Dan Gilroy made Nightcrawler such a taut, slick thriller back in 2014, so it’s curious to see just how this film managed to escape from him and be so distorted.

It doesn’t help seeing Washington’s character struggle in social situations continuously, which becomes more irritating than endearing after awhile. This is due to the fact Roman is the very definition of someone you wouldn’t trust to park your car. He would not only fail to follow instructions, he would attempt to explain why he didn’t do what you told him to do. This hypothetical situation is similar to many of the actions Roman takes throughout the film, making him rather obnoxious. This handicaps the film, as we typically want to sympathize with the protagonist of a film or at least have a reason to care about them. This is especially troubling when a film with a muddled narrative such as this one needs to be carried by the main character in order to make it a better film. That feeling doesn’t arise until the conclusion, and you’re more likely to react by saying “I told you so” rather than be sympathetic.

Roman J. Israel Esq. isn’t a total misfire, but rather a missed opportunity. The film boasts a capable cast around its star, and features Denzel Washington in yet another tremendous performance. Had the film been more focused, less heavy-handed, and featured a more likeable lead, Roman J. Israel Esq. could’ve been a nice little redemption story. Instead, what we get from Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a tour de force lead performance that can’t quite makeup for its jumbled narrative.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Nazneen Contractor, Joseph David-Jones, Andrew T. Lee, and Shelley Hennig. It is in theaters November 17th.

 

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 12 Predictions

Turkey. Stuffing. And Thanksgiving Football.

Thanksgiving Day: A day in which we stuff our faces with food while watching the NFL mainstays of turkey day football, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, lose. The NFL on Thanksgiving has given us many memorable moments, including Dallas Cowboys DL Leon Lett’s ill fated fumble recovery attempt, Steelers RB Jerome Bettis’s botched coin toss at the hands of referee Phil Luckett, and Jets QB Mark Sanchez’s infamous “Butt Fumble.” Who knows what memories may be made with this slate of Thanksgiving Day games, but like Week 12 of the NFL season, they feature marquee match-ups that will alter the NFL’s playoff picture.

Last Week: 11-3

Overall: 98-62

 

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving Day)

The Vikings have gained control of the NFC North despite starting 3rd string QB Case Keenum. The Lions are still very much alive in the NFC Playoff picture, but it will be tough for them to beat this Vikings team a seconded time.

Winner: Vikings

Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys (Thanksgiving Day)

This is a tale of teams going in opposite directions. The Cowboys look lost without RB Ezekiel Elliott, LB Sean Lee, and LT Tyron Smith. The Chargers, on the other hand, had five interceptions last week… in the first half. The Chargers have a tendency to let you down, so look for big D to rebound and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Winner: Cowboys

New York Giants at Washington Redskins (Thanksgiving Day)

The Redskins choked away a victory against an elite NFC team in the Saints, while the Giants somehow beat a superior Chiefs team last week. Go figure.

Winner: Redskins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Sure, the Bucs have won 2 in a row, but they’re not going anywhere. The Falcons have one of the toughest schedules remaining, and will need this win in order to remain a wild card team in the NFC.

Winner: Falcons

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

The 2nd battle of Ohio game this year means another “Oh- Why- No” joke.

Winner: Bengals

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have played valiantly this season without QB Andrew Luck, but they’re still in line for a top 10 draft pick. The Titans remain a confounding team, and they need this game to keep pace with the AFC South leading Jaguars.

Winner: Titans

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Bills head coach Sean McDermott made the dopiest move of the season benching QB Tyrod Taylor for rookie QB Nathan Peterman, who proceeded to throw five interceptions against the Chargers… IN THE FIRST HALF ON 14 ATTEMPTS. Meanwhile, the once dynamic Chiefs offense has sputtered, and could only score field goals against a bad Giants team. Neither team is heading in the right direction.

Winner: Chiefs

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

Dolphins QB Jay Cutler may be wishing he stayed retired after suffering a concussion last week.

Winner: Patriots

Carolina Panthers at New York Jets

The Panthers may be the most quiet 7-3 team we’ve ever seen. This team has the a top ranking defense and a dynamic play-maker in former MVP QB Cam Newton. No one will want to face them in the playoffs should they continue there winning ways.

Winner: Panthers

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles shook off their bye week rust in the second half last Sunday en route to throttling the Dallas Cowboys and draining control of the NFC East. They have a “trap game” this week ahead of their match-up against NFC mainstay Seattle, but they should have no trouble dismantling NFC basement mainstay Chicago.

Winner: Eagles

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are continuing to start CJ Beathard, leaving many to wonder when we’ll see Jimmy Garoppolo. The Legion of boom defense may be coming to an end, but Seattle should continue their dominance against their NFC West rival with QB Russell Wilson under center.

Winner: Seahawks

New Orleans Saints at Los Angles Rams

The Saints needed s comeback miracle to beat the Redskins last week, but there’s little doubt they are among the NFC’s elite. The same can’t be said of the Rams, who were pummeled by the Vikings last week, and may be showing signs they may not be among the NFC’s elite.

Winner: Saints

Jacksonville Jaguars at Arizona Cardinals

The Jaguars are shockingly 7-3 and on top of the AFC South, but it’s tough to start believing in this team with QB Blake Bortles under center. The Cardinals may be mailing it in, but they’re still a tough out for most.

Winner: Jaguars

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

The Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy due their awful offensive output. The Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. due to their awful defensive output. Both of these teams are in a tailspin.

Winner: Raiders

Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football)

Packers coach Mike McCarthy may regret spending the last couple of seasons trying to develop QB Brett Hundley. He can’t play. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who threw 4 touchdown passes last week, can still play at a very high level.

Winner: Steelers

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night Football)

The Texans got a nice win over the Cardinals last week and are mathematically still alive in the AFC playoff picture. If only the had QB Deshaun Watson, they might actually have a chance against the offensively inept Ravens. ESPN is wishing they could flex out of this game.

Winner: Ravens