Over the years, Hollywood has had the tendency to churn-out copy cats of popular blockbusters, chief among them 1988’s “Die Hard.” “Speed” was “Die Hard” on a bus. “Under Siege” was “Die Hard” on a boat.“Sudden Death” was “Die Hard” on one of the biggest sports stages, the Stanley Cup Finals. “Air Force One” was “Die Hard” on a plane. “Snakes on a Plane” was “Die Hard” on a plane, with snakes. But what happens when you combine “Die Hard” with another beloved Hollywood blockbuster like 1974’s “The Towering Inferno”, add in the most popular action star Dwayne Johnson and take away one of his legs just to seemingly make it a fair fight? You get “Skyscraper”, Dwayne Johnson’s latest vehicle in an attempt to become this generation’s Schwarzenegger.
Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran turned security accessor for skyscrapers after a rescue mission leaves him with an amputated leg but is fitted with modern prosthetic leg. Sawyer is tasked with accessing “The Pearl”, the tallest building in the world located in Hong Kong, China built by Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) designed to be a literal city in the sky. However, Chin has something on terrorist kingpin Kores Botha (Roland Møller), who unleashes a plot involving setting “The Pearl” on fire in order to attain what Han has on him. With Swayer’s wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and kids trapped inside, Sawyer must scale the building to save his family before the building comes crumbling down.
“Skyscraper” is undoubtedly a retread of the aforementioned “Die Hard” combined with the aforementioned “The Towering Inferno” with current action star of the moment Dwayne Johnson in nearly every single frame of the film. Unfortunately, the film comes across as a tired knock-off of the two, and with Mr. Johnson already appearing in the zanier “Rampage” earlier this year in which he teams up with an giant albino gorilla to fight a giant flying wolf, seeing the seemingly invulnerable Johnson scale a building to save his family seems unimaginative and unimpressive. It doesn’t help matters the film is clearly pandering to a Chinese film audience in the hopes of obtaining high box office receipts, which appears to be plaguing the industry with the release of each new film every week.
Dwayne Johnson is s more than capable action star, and his turn as Sawyer marks one of his finer solo performances. The rest of the characters in the film, however, are reduced to types. Neve Campbell has proven she’s a decent actress, but her role as Swayers wife doesn’t rise above “the wife”. Chin Han’s Ji is nothing more than the eccentric Asian architect with a secret, while many of his Asian co-stars serve as the pandering to China pieces that will hopefully entice people of that nation to see the film. Roland Møller comes across worst as the film’s main villain, a terrorist who believes having an accent constitutes as having a personality.
Working in the film’s favor, however, is just how ridiculous the action is. The further the film devolves into Johnson, best known as his WWE persona “The Rock”, attempting impossible feats of ability on one leg, the more fun “Skyscraper” becomes. Can the Rock defeat an adversary who pulls off his prosthetic leg? Can the Rock jump into the building off a crane while being shot at? Can the Rock dead-lift a bridge to hold it steady for his family to make it across safely? Can the the Rock use the magical powers of duct tape to tip toe his way around the outside of the building? Can the Rock climb up his prosthetic currently entangled in rope and climb that same rope and pull up his leg in time to get into a safe-house door? It’s ridiculous moments like these that make “Skyscraper” enjoyable if one is willing to go along for the ride, and those who do will find the humor necessary to enjoy the film.
“Skyscraper” may be a clone of a clone that lacks any sort of distinction from the films it borrows from, but it’s a rare star vehicle that can be enjoyed. If one abides by Johnson’s/ The Rock’s line “This is stupid” during the film’s over-the-top action sequences, then you’re in for a good time. “Skyscraper” may not be reinventing the wheel in the action genre, but it’s perfectly fine star vehicle that coasts off being “Die Hard” with a Plastic Leg.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. Pay low matinée price.
“Skyscraper” stars Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, and Hannah Quinlivan. It is in theaters now.
Despite a brief resurgence at the start of this decade, by 2013 the teaming up of old action stars had lost its luster considerably. This did not stop Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger from making their long awaited team up in the underrated “Escape Plan”, and while many praised the two’s chemistry, the film underperformed considerably at the North American box office. The film did big business overseas, however, including a $40 million haul in China, the largest overseas market. With the tease of a sequel at the end of the first film, Stallone has taken it upon himself to cash in on a rising foreign movie market while still maintaining a presence in North America with the direct-to-video sequel “Escape Plan 2: Hades” and create his latest franchise in the process.
“Escape Plan 2: Hades” sees Stallone returning as Ray Breslin, a prison escape artist expert who has found a way to monetize this unique skill with his company. After a hostage job gone bad, Breslin’s apprentice, Shu Ren (Xiaoming Huang) takes time away from the company to protect his cousin Yusheng (Chen Teng), a satellite tech millionaire with a target on his back. When the two go missing and wake up in an undetectable prison called Hades, it’s up to Breslin and his associates, consisting of up and comer Luke (Jesse Metcalfe), tech expert Hush (Curtis Jackson), and punishing weapons expert Trent DeRosa (Dave Bautista), to locate them and plan another escape from a seemingly inescapable prison.
Marketing for “Escape Plan 2: Hades” would leave you to believe Stallone and Bautista are the focus of the film. But if you had watched the trailer closely and paid attention to other direct-to-video films that boast A-list stars, you’d know this isn’t the case. This is Chinese star Xiaoming Huang’s movie, as he subs in for Stallone. While Huang isn’t much of a screen presence due to struggling with his English, he’s capable of delivering good action with his martial arts background, which suffices enough for the least demanding of action fans.
That’s not to say Stallone isn’t in the movie much, he just takes more of a secondary role in the film. He gets his time with a few action sequences, and the film attempts to make up for his lack of screen time with Huang by having him be a voiceover that acts as Shu’s thought process of planning an escape. It’s Dave Bautista who feels underused most in the film, but he seems resigned to cash in this check while waiting for his next Marvel project as Drax.
Jesse Metcalfe barely resonates as a beefy rookie in the film as he attempts to recapture his “Desperate Houswives” fame. One can barely tell the difference between Metcalfe and Wes Chatham’s Jasper Kimbral, another member of Breslin’s team whose arch is beyond predictable. Jamis King doesn’t even reach eye candy level that’s how much of an afterthought she is, and it’s obvious rapper turned actor Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson needs to pay a few bills by reprising his role from the first film. The only one who gets anything out of his small role isTitus Welliver, who seems to be enjoying himself as the villainous “zookeeper” of Hades.
The film has all the trappings of a direct to video film: bad acting, laughable special effects, and choppy editing. While the action itself is somewhat competent, it’s the film’s underused premises and lack of explanation that truly made it destined for life on the direct to VOD market. A group of hackers called “Legion”, who appear to be pale rejects from “Mad Max: Fury Road” and speak only one phrase just because, and the prison’s system of selecting which days are fights days and why they are doing so has little rhyme or reason. There are numerous times you’ll have to stop the film and ask aloud “Wait, what?”, and at times you yourself will ask how it took one movie studio and five production companies to make this film.
Other than a nice way for Stallone to add to his grandchildren’s college funds, there’s a reason why “Escape Plan 2: Hades” wasn’t released in theaters. Despite an inkling of an interesting idea, the film is a largely bland and derivative sequel that makes the first film look like a masterpiece by comparison. Stallone die-hards and undemanding action fans may find something worthwhile, but most will be left without an escape and without a plan, languishing in movie hell.
Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars: Rent it.
“Escape Plan 2: Hades” Stars Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Xiaoming Huang, Jamie King, Jesse Metcalfe, Wes Chatham, Tyron Woodley, Chen Teng, Titus Wellive, and Curtis Jackson. It is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD now.
Every year there seems to be a darling film that arises from the festival circuit. 2018’s film festival darling was “Hereditary”, a midnight screening at the Sundance Film Festival that was met with rave reviews. Some have even gone as far to say it’s the scariest movie of all time, but does the film live up to the hype it received back in the winter?
“Hereditary” sees Annie Graham (Toni Collette), a diorama artist, grieving from the loss of her mother, a private woman who seems to have been very popular within the community. After her death, Annie’s family, consisting of husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), begin to experience a series of strange behavioral changes and freak occurrences. This leads Annie to investigate the meaning behind these occurrences and their relation to her mother’s death.
While maybe not “the scariest movie ever” as the hype would have you believe, “Hereditary” is the scariest movie to be released in quite some time. This is thanks in part due to Ari Aster, making his feature film directorial debut, and his ability to create tension throughout the film. The films use of quiet and the dark creates such tension, leaving you gripping your chair’s arms and at the edge of your seat. Tension also undoubtedly arises from the wide arrange of emotions the Graham family is experiencing, as their drama builds to the point of near explosion numerous times. The family’s off putting mannerisms also helps build a sense of uneasiness throughout, particularly Milly Shapiro, whose turn as Charlie is nothing short of captivating.
One other aspect of ”Hereditary” that perhaps has resonated with people most is the film’s imagery. The film boasts some of the creepiest, goriest imagery throughout, especially towards its hellish climax. Some may not find the film’s use of such imagery scary, but it undoubtedly will creep back into your mind as you attempt to sleep and will keep you awake all night.
Toni Collette gives an awards worthy turn as Annie, as her emotional depth is unlike one we’ve seen in art house horror. Gabriel Byrne gets plenty of mileage out of a seemingly thankless straight man role, Ann Dowd is a scene stealer as a friend of the family, and Alex Wol shows he’s a star in the making coming off the success of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.
Like all horror movies, however, there will be those who have a bone to pick. The strange occurrences surrounding the family will leave plenty asking why don’t they notice something that is obviously peculiar. The film’s climax will have some asking why would you do that/ why wouldn’t they do this instead, but these are tropes that we should be accustomed to and prevent you from being in the moment. If you are able to be in the moment with these characters, you along with the characters of “Hereditary” will leave the theater scarred in fashion or another.
“Hereditary” is an art house horror masterpiece. Its use of familiar horror elements builds a sense of terrifying for the unknown that will leave you horrified and regretting your curiosity. It may not scare all and live up to the hype of “scariest movie ever”, but “Hereditary” will frighten you and leave you restlessly disturbed.
Rating: 3/4 stars. Pay full price.
“Hereditary” stars Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd. It is in theaters now.
It bears reminding that Disney’s quest to take over the world came into great focus after they purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion back in 2012. This purchase came with the promise that not only would there be a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films, but also spin-off films of some of our favorite characters. One of the more beloved characters who was announced as getting his own Solo adventure was Han Solo, which was met with a resounding meh. Throw in the casting of Alden Ehrenreich and the firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller of the “Jump Street” movies fame, and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” seemed doom from the start. The opening weekend results haven’t been pretty, as “Solo” had the worst opening of the new “Star Wars” films, but the rumors of pre-production problems and box office competition doesn’t mean the film is a bomb, right?
“Solo” sees a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) attempting to escape orphanage on the planet Corellia with his first love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After separating during their escape, Han vows to return for Qi’ra but joins the Imperial Navy to escape capture. After being expelled for insubordination and becoming an infantryman for the Empire, Han meets a group of criminals, led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who plan to steal the valuable resource known as coaxium for the evil crime syndicate known as Crimson Dawn for their leader,Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Along with the help of a Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Solo joins the gang the origin of Han Solo’s legend is revealed.
It needs to be said that perhaps no one could aptly portray a character made so legendary by Hollywood stalwart Harrison Ford, but Alden Ehrenreich is no Han Solo. Ehrenreich doesn’t have much charisma or screen presence, making him a dud as Han Solo. A resounding 90 percent or so of his jokes fall flat, and his sweet talking in negotiations nowhere near matches that of Harrison Ford. And call it nit picking, but the man is barely taller than his female counterpart in Emilia Clarke, so how are we to believe this guy is the legendary space cowboy Han Solo?
Speaking of Ehrenreich’s female counterpart, Emilia Clarke barely resonates as Han’s first lover, and her arch is beyond predictable. Donald Glover, who plays Lando Calrissian, seems to be doing a bad impression of Billy Dee Williams, who was the original Lando. Any hype surrounding Glover’s portrayal of the 2nd most sleazy space cowboy next to Solo is unwarranted, as his performance disappointments. Paul Bettany is an afterthought as a villain, and when your best characters are secondary ones such as the always likeable Woody Harrelson and a character who cannot speak English in Chewbacca, your film more than likely has a tremendous problem on its hands.
It doesn’t help the dialogue is bad, and the actors cannot bring it to life or rise above it. Most of it is exposition, and the cracks of preproduction definitely show in the films’ script. The action in “Solo” isn’t inventive or imaginative, a crushing blow to a film that is surprisingly boring throughout, making this “Star Wars” story a slog to get through.
The only positive in the film revolves around a cameo appearance from one of the most under appreciated villains in “Star Wars” lore. I found myself nerding out at the appearance of this character, but to have to sit through two hours of the film just to get a two minute cameo is torture.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a Solo venture that should have never been greenlit. Its preproduction problems undoubtedly seeped into the script, its action never excites, and the casting falls incredibly flat. If not for the one easter egg towards the end of the film, “Solo” would be a colossal waste of time. As it stands, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the worst “Star Wars” film since “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and gets lost in space.
Rating: 1 out of 4 Stars. Skip it.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” stars Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, and Paul Bettany. It is in theaters now.
Flashback to February of 2016, a time where comic book movies were in a strange place. Most of them took themselves too seriously, and Marvel had hit a bit of a lull with the disappointing results of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This was also a time when the team-up of DC Comic’s biggest heroes in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” seemed like a sure thing. Meanwhile, audiences were welcomed by “Deadpool”, a fourth-wall breaking, quipping, Spider-Man looking superhero that was the least beacon of hope for Ryan Reynold’s career. Most importantly, it was the first mainstream R-rated comic book movie in nearly a decade, with the prevailing wisdom that such movies couldn’t be made and be financial and critical successes. “Deadpool” more than bicked the trend, it destroyed it, as the film went on to becoming the highest grossing R-rated film of all time and was beloved by critics and audiences alike. Neatly two-and-a-half years later, the long awaited sequel, “Deadpool 2”, has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to capitalize on the successes of the first film.
“Deadpool 2” sees the return of Wade Wilson/ Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who continues life being the “Merc with a Mouth” as a contract killing anti-hero. While assisting in a mission with X-Men allies Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), he encounters a troubled youth named Russell Collins/ Firefist (Julian Dennison), who is being hunted by futuristic time traveler Cable (Josh Brolin). With Cable after Russell due to his dooming visions of the future involving the fiery mutant, its up to Deadpool to stop Cable and rescue Russell in order to alter the youth’s future.
Needless to say, Ryan Reynolds remains born to play the “Merc with a Mouth”, as his fourth wall breaking, foul-mouthed quips, and self deprecating humor distinguishes the character as one of the most memorable in the Marvel cannon. Even though we know what to expect from the character, Reynolds is also able to give Wilson enough humanity to make us empathize with him, something that even the Marvel Studios films tend to overlook in their sequels. His willingness to also make fun of his previous comic book movie sins also retain hilarity, and pay big dividends in the film.
Josh Brolin’s Cable may not be nearly as complex as Thanos, but he’s still able to deliver a solid performance as the antagonistic and physically threatening nemesis. Zazie Beetz’s Domino is also a welcome addition, as her comedic timing and screen presence make her a strong female hero that many will find relatable, and her star should undoubtedly rise to new heights after her turn in the film.
The action is definitely bigger this time around and has more CGI effects behind them. While still not a mega-budgeted comic book film despite the success of the first film, “Deadpool 2” has thrilling action that although sometimes strains its budget, still flows nicely thanks to director David Leitch. Leitch previously helmed “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde”, and his star continues to rise as one of the best action directors in the business thanks to his capable direction.
While the humor definitely reeks of repeating itself and isn’t nearly as fresh the second-go-around, “Deadpool 2” is still quite funny. Sure, it follows many of the same tropes of the same genre it expertly made fun of in the first film, but its willingness to level with the audience and call itself out on its own storytelling makes it one of the most honest film franchises around.
The unfortunate fate the film suffers like many of its counterparts is a case of sequelitis. Not only do the filmmakers believe bigger is better, but the story is merely an afterthought and derivative of previous movie sequels. This leads to the underdevelopment and downright unlikability of Julian Dennison‘s Russell/ Firefist, who comes across as a mutant with fiery powers doing a impersonation of Rebel Wilson, not the desired result when considering the character’s troubled backstory.
Deadpool 2 at times comes across as a cash grabbing sequel it critiques, but as one of the few films willing to take risks with its R-rated thrills and jokes and isn’t afraid to communicate with its audience, it works more often than not. It’s clear Reynolds and company have love for the character and desire to continue on as the near antithesis of mega-budgeted films, but it the sequel can’t help but follow the same tried and true path as other comic book movie sequels. “Deadpool 2” may have its flaws, but its still a rousing good laugh and thrill ride that suffers the unfortunate fate of having to live up to the expectations of its groundbreaking predecessor, a fate even Deadpool himself could quip endlessly to his audience about.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay matinée price.
“Deadpool 2” stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić, and Eddie Marsan.It is in theaters now.
Eastern Conference Finals: 4. Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. 1. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have defied all odds in making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Most had the Celtics DOA after prizes free agent signing Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome leg injury minutes into the season, but other prized off-season acquisition Kyrie Irving was able to propel Boston to the top of Eastern Conference in his absence. If not at the beginning of the season, most people especially had the Celtics as good as dead after Irving was pronounced out for the season due to knee surgery. They kept winning.
This is a testament to the great coaching prowess of Brad Stevens, who has gotten the most out of his young roster and has made a strong case for not only being the Coach of the Year, but also the best coach in the league. Reserve players like Terry Rozier have made star turns this postseason, and the development of young talent like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have the Boston Celtics future decade long run at success all but a given.
Unfortunately, they have now run into their reckoning: LeBron James. LeBron has carried the Cavaliers well beyond the point most of his detractors had him going, especially since it took a herculean 7 game effort from “The King” for the Cavs to beat the Indian Pacers in the First Round. Very few had them beating the first seeded Toronto Raptors in the Conference Semifinals despite owning them the past two postseasons. James and the Cavs swept the Raptors and now have them partaking in an overhaul in their leadership.
Even if the Cavs role players revert back to struggling like they did in the First Round, Boston is too young to dethrone “The King”. The likes of Brown and Tatum are no match for James, and much like how LeBron renamed the city of Toronto “LeBronto” in the Conference Semifinals, Boston will be renamed “LeBoston” after yet another dominant series against the Celtics and reach his eighth straight NBA Finals.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.
Western Conference Finals: 2. Golden State Warriors Vs. 1. Houston Rockets
The current makeup of the Houston Rockets was constructed by analytically driven general manager Daryl Morey in an attempt to not only be the top team in the Western Conference, but to dethrone the Golden State Warriors as the Western Conference Champions. So far, the Rockets have accomplished the first step, as they have home court advantage over the Warriors after winning a franchise record 65 games in the regular season.
The latter half of Morey’s master plan can accomplish its final goal in this upcoming series. Despite some hiccups, the Rockets have blasted past their playoff competition in convincing fashion, with a 50 point quarter in the first round and a close out performance of the ages from off-season acquisition Chris Paul, who has thrived along with the presumed MVP of the league James Harden. Houston is confident heading into the series, as center Clint Capela boasted the Rockets are better than the Warriors back in January after defeating them twice in their three meetings this season.
If the postseason play of the Warriors against the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans is any indication, Houston shouldn’t be. Despite Stephen Curry not playing for over a month, including the First Round of the playoffs, he has been seamlessly reinserted into the lineup and Golden State looks as unstoppable as ever. Kevin Durant has more than picked up the slack, and continues to be the cherry on top of the already stacked sundae the Warriors have served for the last four seasons.
Head coach Steve Kerr commented on how he felt about his team heading into the much anticipated match-up against Houston, saying he feels comfortable with where they’re out because his players have rings on their fingers. While it’ll definitely be an offensive fireworks show, one cannot blackout memory of Rockets superstar James Harden failing to get off a game winning shot and falling to the floor in Game 2 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals. He and Houston are built better to compete three years later, but it won’t be enough to execute the second part of their master plan.
Ahh the Toronto Raptors, a team birthed due to the popularity of the 1993 Steven Spielberg film “Jurassic Park” as part of the NBA’s thirst for the Canadian dollar. To be fair, I myself used to be a fan of this team when I was younger due to their logo and exciting superstar players. In their beginnings, the Raptors were just another expansion franchise struggling to remain relevant. In the early and mid 2000s, the Raptors were a bonafide fringe contdender. They have mistakenly taken this status and have attempted to sneak into the NBA’s Contenders Club with a fake I.D. Let’s revisit their franchise’s history.
1994: The Raptors are born due to then NBA Commissioner David Stern’s Manifest Destiny expansion into Canada along with the Vancouver Grizzlies. In a press conference in which the team’s name and logo were introduced, their first General Manager and partial owner, NBA legend Isiah Thomas, pops out of the team’s logo like a supervillian ready to inflect misery and sadness onto the city of Toronto.
1995-1996 Season: After a debut home win against the then New Jersey Nets, the first season for the Raptors goes as anticipated as the team struggles immensely on the court under the guidance of first year coach Brendan Malone. They somehow inexplicably beat the 72 win Chicago Bulls en route to an 21-61 season and start off an endangered species. There is promise, however, as the team boasts NBA Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire, who averages 19 points and 9 assists per game, and drafts UMass center Marcus Camby with the second pick in the absolutely stacked 1996 NBA draft. Next year should be an improvement.
1996-1997 Season: The Raptors don’t make the playoffs but improve to 30 wins under new head coach Darell Walker. Marcus Camby averages nearly 15 points per game while Damon Stoudamire averages 20 points and nearly 9 assists per game. They also select a raw but talented high schooler in Tracy McGrady with the ninth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. The next season should see contention for a playoff spot.
1997-1998 Season: The Raptors suffer a catastrophic set-back, finishing 16-66 and remain extinct. Head coach Darell Walker is fired mid-season and is replaced by Butch Carter. The team blows it up mid-season by trading away Damon Stodaumire to the Trailblazers. Toronto continues their reshuffling in the offseason by trading away Marcus Camby to the New York Knicks in exchange for tough-guy veteran Charles Oakley and mid-season acquisition Chauncey Billups is traded to the Denver Nuggets. The good news for the team is that they are able to swindle the hapless Golden State Warriors in the 1998 NBA Draft by trading forh overall pick Antwan Jamison for Tracy McGrady’s high-flying cousin, Vince Carter, the fifth overall pick. 1998 should see brighter days.
1998-1999 Season: Carter is able to reignite the fanbase with his tremendous leaping ability and wins Rookie of the Year by averaging 18 points per game as Toronto becomes the land of “Vin-sanity”. Players like McGrady steadily improve and the Raptors finish 23-27 in a lockout shortened season. Just imagine if this team had a full season to gel, they would surely be able to make the playoffs. The new millennium should see the Raptors rise from extinction and capture their first playoff birth.
1999-2000 Season: The Raptors combination of savy veterans like Oakley and Kevin Willis and young guns in Carter and McGrady lead them to a franchise best 45 wins. The Raptors put themselves further on the map due to Carter’s Slam Dunk Contest win at the 2000 All-Star Game. They develop a unique home-court advantage in their first full season at the Air Canada Centre as basketball fever intesnifies in Canada. Sure, they’re the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and are facing the defending conference champion New York Knicks in the first round, but maybe they can shock the world.
2000 NBA Playoffs: The Raptors are slapped around by Latrell Sprewell and the Knicks and are swept in three games. Head coach Butch Carter is blamed for this failure and is fired and replaced by coaching legend Lenny Wilkens. Sure, the team loses T-Mac to the Orlando Magic in the offseason but have gained more veteran leadership in Antonio Davis and draft Michigan State National Champion Morris Peterson in the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft. Next year will be their year.
2000-2001 Season: See?! The Raptors win a franchise best 47 games and make the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Vince Carter officially solidifies himself as a superstar by averaging 27 points per game, good for fifth in the league. They can enact revenge on those darn Knickerbockers in the first round.
2001 Eastern Conference Playoffs,First Round: The Raptors battle back from a 2-1 series deficit and defeat the Knicks in Madison Square Garden in a deciding Game Five. Savor this moment Toronto, it won’t come around very often. Their reward? A date with the Allen Iverson led 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals: The Raptors battle valiantly against the Sixers but lose a heartbreaking Game Seven in which Vince Carter misses a fade-away jumper that would’ve won the game. Maybe Carter would’ve had more energy if he hadn’t attended his college graduation ceremony earlier that day. But who can be mad at this? Toronto exceeded expectations and Vinsanity will have plenty of cracks at the playoffs. Better luck next year!
2001-2002 Season: Toronto becomes the last stop on Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon’s retirement tour in the hopes it will turn them into a true contender. After a 29-21 start, the Raptors lose 17 of 18 games, including 13 in a row, but bounce back with a 9 game winning streak and finish the season 42-40, good for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Vince Carter struggles with a knee injury throughout the season which causes him to miss the 2002 NBA Playoffs. They face an offensively challenged Detroit Pistons squad in the First Round, so maybe they have a miracle in them and can get Carter back for a long playoff run if they win the series.
2002 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: The Raptors cannot overcome the loss of Carter and lose in five games to the Pistons. But a healthy Vince next year should be just what the doctor ordered for next season.
2002-2003 Season: The Raptors are sent back to the Stone Age with a 24-58 record.Carter becomes injury prone as he is limited to 43 games due to his previous knee injury. Lenny Wilkens is fired and replaced by Kevin O’Neil. Toronto is able to secure the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft and select Georgia Tech standout Chris Bosh as the next Raptors superstar. Next year the Raptors should emerge from their seeming extinction.
2003-2004 Season: Nope. The Raptors win only eight games after the All-Star break due to injuries and finish 33-49. Chris Bosh shows promise in his rookie season as his superstar turn looms. Kevin O’Neil is fired and replaced by Sam Mitchell in the offseason. While Carter has a bounce back year, he becomes frustrated with upper management, fearing the Raptors won’t build a contender. This probably won’t end well.
2004-2005 Season: Vince Carter plays just 20 games and is traded to the then New Jersey Nets in exchange for scraps, including an embarrassing saga in which the team buys out Alonzo Mourning’s contract and then states he did not meet the medical conditions to be cleared to play. Mourning plays for the Miami Heat later that season. Although Chris Bosh continues to improve and is now the team’s de facto superstar, the players openly clash with each other and head coach Sam Mitchell and finish 33-49. Extinction continues.
2005-2006 Season: Another meteor hits the Air Canada Centre and the Raptors suffer extinction yet again by finishing 27-55. Chris Bosh improves but gets injured. The also team falls victim to Kobe Bryant’s 82 point game masterpiece in a contest in late January. They are able to secure the first pick the 2007 NBA Draft and select the promising Andrea Bargnani from Italy and acquire T.J. Ford and Rašo Nesterović in the offseason. Maybe these moves made by newly appointed general manager Bryan Colangelo can turn this franchise around quickly.
2006-2007 Season: Toronto emerges from the Stone Age and wins the Atlantic Division by tying their franchise record 47 wins and finish with the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Bosh averages career highs with 22.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Andrea Bargnani shows flashes of being a dangerous stretch forward for years to come. Head coach Sam Mitchell and GM Bryan Colangelo win Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards respectively. They have a chance at revenge by taking out ex-franchise player Vince Carter and the Nets in the first round. Does someone smell a playoff series win for the first time in six years?
2007 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: The Raptors cannot solve the rubik’s cube known as the Nets veteran leadership led by future hall of famer Jason Kidd and lose in six games to that darn “Vin-sanity” guy. But the Nets have been through this routine before, practice makes perfect and the Raptors should be able to build upon their success next season.
2007-2008 Season: The Raptors trend backwards despite another All-Star season from Chris Bosh and finish 41-41. They sneak into the playoffs as the seventh seed and face an upstart Orlando Magic team with a promising young big man in Dwight Howard. Perhaps this is Bosh’s moment to prove he is the big man on campus in the East?
2008 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: Orlando works their Magic and transports the Raptors back to the stone age by defeating them in five games. Chris Bosh turns out not to be the kryptonite to Orlando’s Superman, Dwight Howard, and the team decides to go all-in during the offseason by acquiring the services of former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal from the Indiana Pacers to help bolster their frontcourt. Next year is their year to rise from the ashes!
2008-2009 Season: The team gets off to a disappointing 8-9 start, head coach Sam Mitchell is blamed for this underachieving and is fired and replaced by Jay Triano. The Jermaine O’Neal experiment does not work and he is traded mid-season to the Miami Heat for another former All-Star in Shawn Marion. This experiment also does not work as the Raptors finish 33-49 and wastes another career year from Chris Bosh. Toronto may be back in the desolate Stone Ages but they draft USC superstar and high-flyer DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft in the hopes he will be the next Vince Carter. They also steal Hedo Türkoğlu away from the Portland Trailblazers and totally reconstruct their roster. With the final year of Chris Bosh’s contract looming large, they have better be good in order to keep Bosh in Canadia.
2009-2010: The Raptors miss the playoffs yet again with a 40-42 record and waste Chris Bosh’s best season as a pro. He chooses to join forces with Dwayne Wade and LeBron James (*remember this name) to form “The Big Three” in Miami with the Heat in the offseason. Oof.
2010-2011 Season: Andrea Bargnani has a career year and DeMar DeRozan improves mightily. This does not save them from extinction as they are absolutely devastated by Bosh’s spurning and finish 22-60. But there is hope, as Jay Triano is fired as coach and is replaced by Dwane Casey, a longtime assistant coach who devised the defensive game plan against LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals to make him look weak and secure the Dallas Maverick’s first NBA Championship. The Raptors won’t remain in the Stone Age for long.
2011-2012 Season: Toronto remains extinct in a strike shortened season and finishes 23-43. Chris Bosh wins his first title with the Miami Heat, a reminder of what could have been.
2012-2013 Season: The Raptors now boasts an intriguing backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and journeyman Kyle Lowry but finish the season 34-48. General Manager Bryan Colangelo steps down and is replaced by his protege Masai Ujiri. They ship that underachieving first overall pick in Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks in exchange for role players that should provide depth that will carry them back into the postseason. In other news, Chris Bosh wins his second straight championship with the Miami Heat. Yet another reminder of what could have been.
2013-2014 Season: What a turnaround! The Raptors win a franchise record 48 games and win the Atlantic Division yet again. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have career years averaging over 22 and 17 points per game respectively. They can get revenge on those darn Nets coached by Jason Kidd residing in Brooklyn now in the First Round as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Let’s go!!
2014 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: Raptors GM Masai Ujiri decides the best time to piss off the veteran savy Nets consisting of a washed up Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce by screaming “@#$% Brooklyn!” at a fan rally prior to Game 1 at home. The Raptors lose this game but bounce back to take a 3-2 series lead. They proceed to lose Game 6 on the road and choke like dogs by losing Game 7 at home. So much for homecourt advantage. Maybe the Raptors and Ujiri will learn from this failure and actually win a playoff series for the first time in over a decade next year.
2014-2015 Season: The Raptors are even better off. They win a franchise record 49 games, their second consecutive Atlantic Division title as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry continue to wreck havoc on the league’s backcourts. Toronto finishes with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and face another team with a backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal in the Randy Whitman coached Washington Wizards. This is their time!
2015 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: Savy veteran Paul Pierce unfortunately now plays for the Wizards and plays mind games with the Raptors by saying Toronto doesn’t have “it.” Loudmouth GM Masa Ujiri takes the bait yet again at another fan rally prior to Game 1 at home proceeds to say “We don’t give a @#$% about ‘it’!”. The Raptors proceed to get swept. Guess the Raptors don’t have “it” after all.
2015-2016 Season: This should be the year for Toronto. Sure they overpaid for players like DeMarre Carroll and Corey Joseph but the two guard tandem of DeRozan and Lowry have career years by averaging over 23 and 21 points per game respectively. Tornoto finishes with the second seed in the Eastern Conference by posting a franchise best 56 wins. Sure, we’ve heard this story the previous two seasons, but this year is different.
2016 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: Tell me if you’ve hear this one before… The Raptors blow Game 1 at home against the seventh seeded Pacers. They manage to bounce back and take a 3-2 series lead, but then lose what could’ve been a series-clinching Game 6 on the road and must play a deciding Game 7 at home. As Toronto fans proceed to get their liquor to drown their impending sorrow, the Raptors shock everyone and win their first playoff series since 2001. Only took them fifteen years. Indiana isn’t the powerhouse they once were though so this is nothing to brag about. Next up are the three seeded Chris Bosh-less Miami Heat whose best players are a declining Dwayne Wade and Joe Johnson. The Conference Semifinals should be a breeze.
2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Tell me if you’ve heard this one before… The Raptors blow Game 1 at home, again. They manage to bounce back and take a 3-2 series lead but proceed to once again lose a series clinching Game 6 on the road. Toronto fans are hopeful but keep their hands on handles of alcohol just in case. They proceed to drink it in celebration as the Raptors take out those pesky Heat. The series lasted longer than it should have but they’ve moved past their choking and extinct reputation. Next up is LeBron James and the first seeded Cavaliers. They’re projected to be moped up but maybe they can shock the world.
2016 Eastern Conference Finals: The Raptors participate in the first six game sweep in NBA history and get smacked around by LeBron and the Cavs. You finally lived up to expectations, have a participation banner. Next year you’ll learn from this lesson and come back with a vengeance.
2016-2017 Season: Despite rumors of returning home to Los Angeles, Toronto re-signs DeMar DeRozen to a five-year, $139 million contract in the hopes of gearing for another championship run in the face evidence their two guard tandem can’t win a title. Unfortunately, the Raptors fall behind the emerging superpower in the Boston Celtics in their own division despite trading for Serge Ibaka mid-season and finish with the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 51-31. The tag-team of DeRozan and Lowry once again have career years and take on a raw but young Milwaukee Bucks squad in the First Round. Their experience of making it to the Conference Finals should enable them to dispose of these deer.
2017 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: To no one’s surprise, the Raptors blow Game 1 at home and fall into a 2-1 series deficit at the hands of “The Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and head coach Jason Kidd. Miraculously, the dinos awaken from their impending extinction and win the next three games to finish off the deer in six games. Up next is a chance at revenge with LeBron and the Cavs, who have struggled all season with consistency. This is their time.
2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals: LeBron James owns Drake’s dinos and sends them back to the stone age. The Raptors don’t even win a game against the Cavs this time and are swept.
2017-2018 Season: The Raptors decide to re-sign Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65 million contract in the hopes there is something to build upon with him anchoring the frontcourt. They also re-sign Kyle Lowery to a three-year, $100 million contract with the intent of dismantling the definition of insanity despite more mounting evidence their two guard tandem cannot defeat LeBron. The team, however, soars to new heights by winning a franchise record 59 games and finish with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The team has depth that is built to carry them past their postseason shortcomings in CJ Miles, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoboy. Even Drake releases hit single “God’s Plan” during the season and Toronto believes it is indeed the lord’s plan for them to finally make it to the NBA Finals. Sure they lose their final two games to the LeBron and the Cavs but those were on the road, and they face an imploding Washington Wizards team whom they can enact revenge on. Someone may be shedding their choker label this year!
2018 Eastern Conference Playoffs, First Round: The two guard tandem of DeRozan and Lowry stupidly put unnecessary pressure on themselves by saying Game 1 at home is like a Game 7 due to their franchise’s woes in home game 1s. They somehow win their first two games at home, proceed to drop the next two on the road, and overcome this adversity by beating the Wizards in six games. They get to face LeBron and the Cavs in the conference semifinals, and Bron Bron is exhausted from carrying the team on his back in a hotly contested first round series against the Indiana Pacers. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THIS HAS TO BE THE YEAR!!
2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 1: The Raptors are up by as many as 14 in the second half. It is destiny… for them to miss their final 11 shots in regulation and lose in overtime despite LeBron not scoring a single point in the extra period. The look on the Raptors faces is one of distraught, as if they lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals at home. But they can bounce back, right?
2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 2: Despite scoring 63 first half points, the Raptors are sent back to the stone age by LeBron James’ fadeaway jumper extravaganza in the second half as he scores 43 points. Toronto is aptly re-branded LeBronto as the Raptors seem to have no answers. But they’ll put up a fight on the road, right?
2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 3: The Raptors are down by 14 points entering the fourth quarter and DeMar DeRozen is struggling to the point coach Dwane Casey must bench him. But by god, the Raptors battle back and tie the game at 103 with 8 seconds left after a clutch 3-pointer made by OG Anunoboy. This must be Drake’s “God’s Plan” being put into action… if by that you mean Dwane Casey is out-coached by Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who draws up a full court play that enables LeBron to go coast-to-coast and sink a game winning floater off the backboard. “God’s Plan”? More like Bron’s Plan.
2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 4: Coach Dwane Casey devises the brilliant game plan of benching Center Jonas Valanciunas for CJ Miles, DeMar DeRozan is ejected, Cleveland’s starters shoot nearly 69% from the field combined, and the endangered species known as the Raptors are put into extinction as they are whooped by the Cavs by 35 points. The Raptors show no fight and once again go out on a whimper at the hands of their owner, LeBron James. LeBronto Forever.
To be somewhat fair, not all NBA teams are created equal. The Raptors weren’t inserted into the NBA to become a true contender, their true purpose was to sell merchandise and toys to an untapped market. Even with the recent re-brand spearheaded by “Brand Ambassador” Drake, this continues to be their main selling point. They’ve experienced a turnstile at the head coaching position and have never capitalized on the superstars they’ve drafted like Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. Obviously, the Raptors are the most successful team to venture into Canada, as the Grizzlies moved to Memphis after just six seasons in Vancouver. But even the Grizzlies appeared in Conference Finals before the Raptors did, as the Grizzlies made it to the Conference Finals in the much tougher Western Conference in 2013, three years before the Raptors got there in the weaker Eastern Conference.
Toronto’s recent failures are due to stubbornness and fraudulence, as the team has continually relied upon DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to carry them to the promise land when this over reliance has only led to their demise. If the Raptors hope to emerge as true contenders, they must blow up the current make-up of their roster and start all over. It is clear DeRozan and Lowry aren’t the guys to take them to the Finals, GM Masa Ujiri can’t keep his mouth shut, and coach Dwane Casey’s defensive scheme for LeBron has been rendered useless by “The King’s” ability to make fade-away jump shots ad-nauseam against them. Knowing the dinos, they will chose to continue living in the Stone Age, forever solidifying their status as pretender despite their regular season accolades. It is “Bron’s Plan” in LeBronto. “We The North” has become “We The Choke”. The Raptors’ legacy can be summed up in one word, one that relates to the team’s mascot and name: extinction.