Friday, May 18, 2018

2018 NFL Position Rankings: Top 20 Tight Ends

20.George Kittle (49ers)
19.Benjamin Watson (Saints)
18.Austin Hooper (Falcons)
17.Vernon Davis (Redskins)
16.Eric Ebron (Colts)
15.Tyler Eifert (Bengals)
14.Charles Clay (Bills)
13.Jared Cook (Raiders)
12.Cameron Brate (Buccaneers)
11.Hunter Henry (Chargers)
10.Jack Doyle (Colts)
9.Evan Engram (Giants)
8.Kyle Rudolph (Vikings)
7.Jordan Reed (Redskins)
6.Jimmy Graham (Packers)
5.Delanie Walker (Titans)
4.Greg Olsen (Panthers)
3.Zach Ertz (Eagles)
2.Travis Kelce (Chiefs)
1.Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Album Review: Playboi Carti-Die Lit

It's difficult to explain the appeal of Playboi Carti's music without sounding like a complete maniac. Carti is a minimally charismatic, often lethargic presence with mic skills that are sloppy on a good day, yet he almost always manages to deliver a product that is really enjoyable to listen to. On his official debut LP Die Lit, the most inexplicably enjoyable rapper to ever hop into a booth shines a bright light on these unconventional musical gifts by putting forth the strongest effort of his pretty brief career thus far.

What makes Carti such a compelling figure is the emphasis he puts on utilizing bold production. While he's far from the only rapper that choses to let the beat do the heavy lifting, Carti has a tendency to gravitate towards shit that is more visceral and off-the-wall than the genre norm. This audial gift gets taken to the next level on Die Lit. Enlisting frequent collaborator Pi'erre Bourne to handle the bulk of the work behind the boards was a brilliant creative decision that heightened the suffocating atmosphere that drives his music. Bourne's mesmerizing beats transform Carti's parade of ablib-and-excess driven verses into hypnotic blasts of ignorant oddball trap that left me feeling like I had floated into a parallel universe where sports cars, Instagram models and hallucinogenic substances reign supreme. When you roll out music with an aesthetic that's as hard-hitting and richly textured as the one that flows through Die Lit, the lack of technical proficiency present in the rapping doesn't matter in the slightest.

As satisfied as I am with the current state of hip-hop, I completely understand the criticisms that are lobbied towards records like Die Lit. Listening to collections of tracks about popping pills, buying designer clothes and having wild sex with a multitude of women can be really tedious, particularly if you have an affinity for the genre's rich history of raw, powerful storytelling. That being said, plenty of other genres have artists that are solely renowned for their instrumentation and I don't see why hip-hop should be viewed through a different lens. Beats are the hip-hop equivalent of a cool guitar riff or a thundering bassline and when an album boasts a collection of strong ones, it can serve as the driving force behind its memorability, catchiness, etc. Die Lit is as effective as a mood piece can possibly be and I'd recommend it to anyone that's willing to look past the repetitive, non-lyrical structure of the rapping.

Grade: B
Standout Tracks
2.Mileage (feat. Chief Keef)
3.Poke It Out (feat. Nicki Minaj)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Album Review: Post Malone-beerbongs & bentleys

No entity living, dead or divine could manufacture an entertainer more perfect for 2018's pop culture climate than Post Malone. A 23-year old white rapper/singer that regularly pumps out polarizing chart-topping hits and headline-grabbing pull quotes is an eternal blessing for the social media firing squads that thrive off of loud, pointed outrage that disappears just as fast as it arrives. In the shadow of the constant dragging and "Post Malone is over" tweets, he's only managed to get more popular, pumping out a trio of top 10 singles ("Congratulations", "Psycho" and "Rockstar"-the latter of which held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight straight weeks) and smashing multiple streaming records since the start of 2017. His second full-length album beerbongs & bentleys provides ample evidence of the easygoing attitude and slept-on gift for crafting memorable vocal melodies that has allowed him to overcome all of the bullshit internet noise to become one of hip-hop's biggest breakout stars.

On the surface, beerbongs & bentleys isn't exactly a dynamic album. It's a lengthy meditation on the pros and cons of becoming famous that features plenty of soaring choruses, atmospheric production and guest verses from some of modern hip-hop's most prominent figures (Nicki Minaj, Swae Lee, 21 Savage, G-Eazy, YG, Ty Dolla $ign). Despite this pile of familiar characteristics, Post's consistently memorable vocal melodies and energetic delivery ensure that beerbongs & Bentleys never becomes stale. This colony of massive earworms that are tailored to match the subtle stylistic  changes present in each moody yet melodic beat make the relatively gaudy 64-minute runtime fly by while also possessing a special addictive quality that practically begs you to keep coming back to these tracks. In less bizarre words, roughly 75% of the hooks and bridges on this record haven been stuck in my head since I first heard this last week, which is an undeniable sign that a pop rap album has done its job.

beerbongs & bentleys is a two-pronged W for Post Malone. It's a breezy LP full of catchy-ass songs that are ideal for a party or any laid-back summer activity as well as a more confident and polished effort than its predecessor (2016's Stoney). While it's a longshot to end up on my year-end best list, this is still a highly enjoyable effort from a talented artist that I feel gets far more flack than he deserves.  
Grade: B
Standout Tracks
1.Over Now
2.92 Explorer 
3.Zack and Codeine 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018 NFL Position Rankings: Top 50 Wide Receivers

50.Randall Cobb (Packers)
49.Nelson Agholor (Eagles)
48.Sterling Shepard (Giants)
47.Paul Richardson (Redskins)
46.Tyrell Williams (Chargers)
45.Jermaine Kearse (Jets)
44.Mohamed Sanu (Falcons)
43.Jamison Crowder (Redskins)
42.Mike Wallace (Eagles)
41.Kenny Stills (Dolphins)
40.Jordy Nelson (Raiders)
39.Josh Gordon (Browns)
38.Pierre Garcon (49ers)
37.Devin Funchess (Panthers)
36.Robby Anderson (Jets)
35.Sammy Watkins (Chiefs)
34.Cooper Kupp (Rams)
33.Marquise Goodwin (49ers)
32.Allen Robinson (Bears)
31.Julian Edelman (Patriots)
30.Michael Crabtree (Ravens)
29.Kelvin Benjamin (Bills)
28.Robert Woods (Rams)
27.Davante Adams (Packers)
26.Rishard Matthews (Titans)
25.JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers)
24.Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos)
23.Dez Bryant (Free Agent)
22.Amari Cooper (Raiders)
21.DeSean Jackson (Buccaneers)
20.Stefon Diggs (Vikings)
19.Marvin Jones Jr. (Lions)
18.Adam Thielen (Vikings)
17.Golden Tate (Lions)
16.Jarvis Landry (Browns)
15.Alshon Jeffrey (Eagles)
14.Brandin Cooks (Rams)
13.Demaryius Thomas (Broncos)
12.Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)
11.Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)
10.T.Y. Hilton (Colts)
9.Mike Evans (Buccaneers)
8.Doug Baldwin (Seahawks)
7.Keenan Allen (Chargers)
6.Michael Thomas (Saints)
5.A.J. Green (Bengals)
4.Julio Jones (Falcons)
3.Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants)
2.DeAndre Hopkins (Texans)
1.Antonio Brown (Steelers)

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Best and Worst of Terry Crews

“The Best and Worst of” series chronicles the career highlights and lowlights of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week, I take a look at the filmography of “Deadpool 2” star Terry Crews.

Films starring Terry Crews that I've seen:
Friday After Next
Malibu's Most Wanted
Starsky & Hutch
Soul Plane
White Chicks
The Longest Yard
The Benchwarmers
Hard Times
Balls of Fury
Street Kings
Get Smart
Terminator Salvation
The Expendables
Middle Men
The Expendables 2
Draft Day
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
The Expendables 3

Best Performance: The Longest Yard (2005)
From Chubbs to Crazy Eyes, colorful, scene-stealing side characters are a cornerstone of Adam Sandler movies. As a McDonald's-slinging inmate known as Cheeseburger Eddy, Crews held this vital role in The Longest Yard. Cheesburger Eddy was an early showcase for the great timing and willingness to commit to selling stupid jokes that has made Crews a reliably strong comedic presence over the past 15 years.

Worst Performance: Friday After Next (2002)
Friday After Next was a soul-sucking vortex for the abundance of funny people that were involved with it and Crews was no exception. In one of his first acting roles following his retirement from the NFL, Crews looks completely lost trying to salvage the series of weak jokes Ice Cube's janky script handed him.

Best Film: The Expendables 2 (2012)
As cool as it was to see a collection of high-profile action stars from across the globe share the screen in an R-rated blockbuster, The Expendables wasn't quite the over-the-top nostalgia bomb Sylvester Stallone promised it would be. Thankfully, the sequel ended up solving that problem. With its more self-aware tone, greater volume of excessive action scenes and a true scenery-chewing villain played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, The Expendables 2 was exactly the kind of preposterous, fun as hell throwback action flick that Stallone and co. set out to make when they started this franchise.

Worst Film: Soul Plane (2004)
Even with my love of all things absurd, I can't find much to like about Soul Plane. Outside of an unexpected death scene that's impossible to forget, this slapstick comedy that featured numerous future stars (Kevin Hart, Sofia Vergara, Crews) in prominent roles is a mostly painful ride through the friendly skies that is overly reliant on bad sex jokes and cheap stereotypes.

Thank you for reading this week's edition of “The Best and Worst of”. The next victim of my praise and ire will be “Solo: A Star Wars Story” star Thandie Newton. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018 NFL Position Rankings: Top 50 Running Backs

50.Jalen Richard (Raiders)
49.Joe Mixon (Bengals)
48.Charles Sims (Buccaneers)
47.T.J. Yeldon (Jaguars)
46.Tarik Cohen (Bears)
45.Alfred Morris (Cowboys)
44.Jonathan Stewart (Giants)
43.Orleans Darkwa (Free Agent)
42.Theo Riddick (Lions)
41.Javorious Allen (Ravens)
40.Corey Clement (Eagles)
39.Samjae Perine (Redskins)
38.Jeremy Hill (Patriots)
37.Doug Martin (Raiders)
36.Dalvin Cook (Vikings)
35.Kenyan Drake (Dolphins)
34.Christian McCaffery (Panthers)
33.Giovani Bernard (Bengals)
32.James White (Patriots)
31.Jerick McKinnon (49ers)
30.Bilal Powell (Jets)
29.DeMarco Murray (Free Agent)
28.LeGarrette Blount (Lions)
27.Spencer Ware (Chiefs)
26.Isaiah Crowell (Jets)
25.Duke Johnson Jr. (Browns)
24.Chris Thompson (Redskins)
23.Latavius Murray (Vikings)
22.Carlos Hyde (Browns)
21.Alex Collins (Ravens)
20.Marshawn Lynch (Raiders)
19.Frank Gore (Dolphins)
18.Tevin Coleman (Falcons)
17.Derrick Henry (Titans)
16.C.J. Anderson (Panthers)
15.Dion Lewis (Titans)
14.Melvin Gordon (Chargers)
13.Leonard Fournette (Jaguars)
12.Jay Ajayi (Eagles)
11.Lamar Miller (Texans)
10.Mark Ingram (Saints)
9.Jordan Howard (Bears)
8.Kareem Hunt (Chiefs)
7.Alvin Kamara (Saints)
6.LeSean McCoy (Bills)
5.Devonta Freeman (Falcons)
4.Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys)
3.David Johnson (Cardinals)
2.Todd Gurley (Rams)
1.Le'Veon Bell (Steelers)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Best and Worst of Gabrielle Union

“The Best and Worst of” series chronicles the career highlights and lowlights of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week, I take a look at the filmography of “Breaking In” star Gabrielle Union.

Films starring Gabrielle Union that I've seen:
10 Things I Hate About You
Bring It On
Cradle 2 the Grave
Bad Boys II
The Honeymooners
Meet Dave
Cadillac Records
Top Five
The Birth of a Nation

Best Performance: Top Five (2014)
Anytime an actor disappears so far into a role that you forget they're acting is wildly impressive and that's exactly what Union pulled off in Top Five. As the reality star fiancé of actor Andre Allen (Chris Rock), Union captures the narcissism, greed, fame-chasing and overwhelming desire to project a life of perfection to the general public that drives individuals that agree to have every minute of their life caught on camera with an eerie degree of accuracy.

Worst Performance: Sleepless (2017)

I don't know if it was because she lost the action movie chops she displayed in the early stages of her career or this was simply a poorly-constructed character, but Union kind of stunk in Sleepless. Union was the only member of this crime thriller's ensemble that refused to embrace the schlocky vibe that naturally comes with a "mobsters kidnap the teenage son of a dirty cop after a drug deal gone bad" plot, which made her scenes relatively hard to buy into.

Best Film: Top Five (2014)
Over two decades into a film career that hasn't exactly been rife with quality projects, Chris Rock finally made his masterpiece with Top Five. The standup icon's third directorial effort is a brilliant meditation on relationships, addiction, self-doubt and the hollowness of fame that showcases why he's one of the smartest comic minds to ever walk the earth.

Worst Film: Bring It On (2000)
Bring It On isn't so much a bad film as it is one that doesn't line up with my personal taste. Peyton Reed's cult comedy hit didn't have enough laughs or likable characters to offset my complete disinterest in the world of competitive cheerleading.

Thank you for reading this week's edition of “The Best and Worst of”. The next victim of my praise and ire will be “Deadpool 2” star Terry Crews.