Friday, May 27, 2016

2016 NFL Position Rankings: Top 30 Defensive Tackles

30.Vince Wilfork (Texans)
29.Ahtyba Rubin (Seahawks)
28.Sharrif Floyd (Vikings)
27.Roy Miller (Jaguars)

26.Eddie Goldman (Bears)
25.Cedric Thornton (Cowboys)
24.Jordan Hill (Seahawks)
23.Star Lotulelei (Panthers)
22.Nick Fairley (Saints)
21.Kyle Williams (Bills)
20.Brandon Mebane (Chargers)
19.Bennie Logan (Eagles)
18.Haloti Ngata (Lions)
17.Jaye Howard (Chiefs)
16.Jonathan Hankins (Giants)
15.Michael Brockers (Rams)
14.Terrence Knighton (Patriots)
13.Sen'Derrick Marks (Jaguars)
12.Dontari Poe (Chiefs)

11.Ian Williams (49ers)
10.Brandon Williams (Ravens)
9.Dan Williams (Raiders)
8.Damon Harrison (Giants)
7.Linval Joseph (Vikings)
6.Kawann Short (Panthers)
5.Marcell Dareus (Bills)
4.Geno Atkins (Bengals)
3.Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers)
2.Aaron Donald (Rams)
1.Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

2016 NFL Position Rankings: Top 30 Defensive Ends

30.Chris Baker (Redskins)
29.Mario Williams (Dolphins)
28.Robert Ayers (Buccaneers)
27.Derrick Shelby (Falcons)
26.Leonard Williams (Jets)
25.William Hayes (Rams)
24.Derek Wolfe (Broncos)
23.Carlos Dunlap (Bengals)
22.Vinny Curry (Eagles)
21.Cliff Avril (Seahawks)
20.Everson Griffen (Vikings)
19.Jabbal Sheard (Patriots)
18.Robert Quinn (Rams)
17.Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
16.Chandler Jones (Cardinals)
15.Jerry Hughes (Bills)
14.Malik Jackson (Jaguars)
13.Sheldon Richardson (Jets)
12.Cameron Wake (Dolphins)
11.Oliver Vernon (Giants)
10.Cameron Heyward (Steelers)
9.Ezekiel Ansah (Lions)
8.Calias Campbell (Cardinals)
7.Jurrell Casey (Titans)
6.Mike Daniels (Packers)
5.Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets)
4.Michael Bennett (Seahawks)
3.Cameron Jordan (Saints)
2.Fletcher Cox (Eagles)
1.J.J. Watt (Texans)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Best and Worst of Michael Fassbender

The "Best and Worst" series profiles the best and worst work of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week I take a look at the filmography of "X-Men: Apocalypse" star Michael Fassbender.

Film starring Michael Fassbender that I've seen:
Inglorious Basterds
Jonah Hex
X-Men: First Class
12 Years a Slave
The Counselor 
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Slow West
Steve Jobs

Best Performance: Steve Jobs (2015)
HOT TAKE ALERT: I firmly believe that Fassbender should've taken home this year's Best Actor Oscar over Leonardo DiCaprio. Fassbender portrays the late Apple co-founder/CEO with relentless ferocity and a level of fearlessness that puts every aspect of his personality on display, no matter grim those traits may be. It's a truly mesmerizing performance and hopefully one day it'll get the mass recognition it deserves.     

Worst Performance: 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Keeping with the theme of the Academy Awards, I think Fassbender's turn in 12 Years a Slave as   ruthless plantation owner Edwin Epps is easily one of the worst nominated performance of my lifetime to-date. Fassbender's turns a character that should be menacing and disgusting into a god damn caricature thanks to his absurd overacting. Fassbender's cartoonish performance derailed the third act of 12 Years a Slave and is the number one reason why the film failed to be the powerful, no-holds-barred look at slavery that director Steve McQueen intended it to be.  

Best Film: Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most fearless directors to ever come out of Hollywood and there's arguably no stronger evidence of just how depraved and creative he is than Inglorious Basterds. Using the backdrop of World War II, Tarantino is able to make a brutal, complex and often hilarious revenge story about a group of Jewish-American soldiers (led by Brad Pitt and Eli Roth) who specialize in brutally killing Nazis all over Europe. It doesn't quite reach the soaring heights of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained, but Inglorious Basterds is still one of Tarantino's most satisfying and audacious efforts to-date.  

Worst Film: Haywire (2012)
Recently-retired director Steven Soderbergh was a filmmaker that you could never really get a good read on. Whenever you started to gain trust in his creative abilities, he would release a monumental dud that crushed any of the faith you had in him. It was a vicious cycle that never stopped at any point of his 20-plus year career in Hollywood. 2012's Haywire was the last film Soderbergh made that made me scratch my head and wonder what the hell he was trying to accomplish. Haywire is part-action movie, part slow-burning espionage drama and 100% excruciating to sit through. Even the acting from its impressive ensemble cast featuring the likes of Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and Michael Douglas manages to be unholy awful. There's a special place in cinematic hell for this dull, moronic turd of a movie.    

Thank you for reading this week's installment of "The Best and Worst of". Next week, I'll take a look at the best and worst work of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" and "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" star Will Arnett. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 NFL Position Rankings: Top 20 Centers

20.Hroniss Grasu (Bears)
19.Russell Bodine (Bengals)
18.Corey Linsley (Packers)
17.Ben Jones (Titans)
16.Mitch Morse (Chiefs)
15.Jeremy Zuttah (Ravens) 
14.Stefen Wisniewski (Eagles)
13.John Sullivan (Vikings)
12.Jason Kelce (Eagles)
11.Joe Berger (Vikings)
10.Mike Pouncey (Dolphins)
9.Nick Mangold (Jets)
8.Weston Richburg (Giants)
7.Eric Wood (Bills)
6.Max Unger (Saints)
5.Alex Mack (Falcons)
4.Rodney Hudson (Raiders)
3.Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers)
2.Ryan Kalil (Panthers)
1.Travis Fredrick (Cowboys)

Album Review: Ariana Grande-Dangerous Woman

Since she shifted her career focus from acting to music in 2011, Ariana Grande has simultaneously been one of the most intriguing and frustrating artists on the planet. Her vocals are as good as it gets in the current pop climate and she's been responsible for some of the most interesting pop songs of the past few years ("Problem", "Love Me Harder"), but her often lackluster production and inconsistent albums squandered her potential to be a standout artist in the genre. On her third LP, Dangerous Woman, Grande works out just about all of the kinks that dragged down 2013's Yours Truly and 2014's My Everything and finally becomes the force of nature she's shown signs of being in the past.

Calling this record "dangerous" would be a stretch, but Grande does take a number of surprising stylistic risks over the course of the album's 16 tracks. Dangerous Woman sees Grande tackling everything from reggae ("Side to Side") to full-blown dance-pop ("Be Alright") to 60's inspired soul ("Moonlight") with equal success and vibrancy. The near-constant experimentation and genre-swapping naturally leads to a couple of missteps along the way ("Everyday", a failed attempt at pop/trap hybrid which features Future at his most obnoxious and the dull ballad "Leave Me Lonely"), but it's awesome to see her successfully escape the strictly synthpop and piano-ballad formula that defined her previous material and push the boundaries of what she's capable of as an artist.

The one constant among the array of different styles explored on this record is the quality of the choruses. The wide range and staggering power of Grande's vocals gives her the unique ability to pull off just about any style of chorus you could conceive. Whether the song calls for something massive ("Greedy", "Into You"), sultry ("Sometimes", "Let Me Love You") or subdued (the aforementioned "Moonlight" and "Be Alright"), Grande is able to deliver in a major way and create a hook that successful gets drilled into your head immediately. The success of pop music is largely measured by the strength of its hooks and I can't remember the last time an album featured as many brilliantly-executed and insanely catchy ones as Dangerous Woman does.  

Dangerous Woman is an essential modern pop release that considerably raises the bar for every other artist in the genre right now. The Taylor Swift's and Katy Perry's of the world are going to have significantly step their game up if they want to match the level of diversity, consistency and memorability this record achieves. With Dangerous Woman, Grande has officially separated herself from the crowded pack of modern pop artists and if she continues to put out music that matches or exceeds the quality of this record, it will only be a matter of time until she's immortalized alongside Madonna and her spiritual sister Mariah Carey in the annals of pop history.    

4/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Into You
3.Bad Decisions

Monday, May 23, 2016

Movie Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Neighbors was a massive success back in 2014 due to its unique premise (a fraternity moves in next door to a 30-something couple with a new baby) and a cast of comedic heavyweights all killing their respective roles. That feeling of freshness may be missing from Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but the laughs (mostly) remain in tact.

Like most comedy sequels, Neighbors 2 is very reminiscent of its predecessor. The clash between the Radnor's (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), who now have a second baby on the way and are trying to sell their house and the loud, hard-partying college students living next door (led by Kick-Ass' Chloe Grace Moretz, Dope's Kiersey Clemons and newcomer Beanie Feldstein, who is the younger sister of Jonah Hill) is the film's primary source of comedy. The generational clash humor and onslaught of increasingly malicious and over-the-top pranks they pull on each other to gain the advantage in their battle for neighborhood power remarkably still works here. While it's clear that the humor is being mined from the same place as the original, the jokes rarely ever feel lazy or forced.

The feeling of successful familiarity that drives Neighbors 2 carries over to the cast as the deeply talented acting ensemble once again plays a pivotal role in making this material work so well. The newcomers and returning cast all deliver quality performances with ample standout moments and one-liners, but this film still undeniably belongs to Zac Efron. Despite the fact that he's relegated to a supporting role this time around, Efron manages to steal every single scene he's in thanks to his combination of outstanding timing and ability to perfectly skewer the "pretty boy" stereotype that's been attached to him since his High School Musical days. In addition to being absolutely hilarious, Efron adding some legitimate emotional depth to the dumb yet lovable recent college graduate Teddy Sanders by capturing the hopelessness he feels as he watches his former fraternity brothers enjoy successful careers and relationships while he continues to try to get his life together. Neighbors 2 further proves Efron's unlikely ascent to the top of the comedic actor food chain is completely justified.

The only really noticeable difference between Neighbors 2 and the original-aside from the obvious swamping out of a fraternity for a sorority-comes in the film's overarching messages. In between all of the gags about sex toys and drugs, the film makes some strong and insightful statements about how women are viewed in modern society and the ridiculous restrictions colleges put on sororities that don't apply to fraternities. It was pretty refreshing and surprising to see an over-the-top vulgar comedy have a pro woman's right message and treat all of its female characters with dignity and respect. Writer/director Nicholas Stoller and the army of other screenwriters deserve a ton of credit for making a film that addresses how poorly women are treated on college campuses without ever coming off as preachy or toning down the raunchy humor. Neighbors 2 is a slight downgrade from the original, but it's still a very funny movie that gets this summer's extensive R-rated comedy slate off to a rock-solid start.

4/5 Stars

Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 NFL Position Rankings: Top 30 Guards

30.Andy Levitre (Falcons)
29.Jeff Allen (Texans)
28.Brandon Linder (Jaguars)
27.Brandon Schreff (Redskins)
26.Louis Vazquez (Broncos)
25.John Greco (Browns)
24.Manny Ramirez (Bears)
23.James Carpenter (Jets)
22.Orlando Franklin (Chargers)
21.Jack Mewhort (Colts)
20.Justin Pugh (Giants) 
19.Clint Boling (Bengals)
18.Andrew Norwell (Panthers) 
17.Ramon Foster (Steelers)
16.Brandon Brooks (Eagles)
15.Joel Bitonio (Browns)
14.Matt Slauson (Chargers)
13.Gabe Jackson (Raiders)
12.T.J. Lang (Packers)
11.Trai Turner (Panthers)
10.Richie Incognito (Bills)
9.Kevin Zeitler (Bengals)
8.Kyle Long (Bears)
7.David DeCastro (Steelers)
6.Kelechi Osemele (Raiders)
5.Mike Iupati (Cardinals)
4.Zach Martin (Cowboys)
3.Evan Mathis (Cardinals)
2.Josh Sitton (Packers)
1.Marshal Yanda (Ravens)