Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 NFL Preview: AFC East

Buffalo Bills
2016 Record: 7-9 (3rd in AFC East)
Head Coach: Sean McDermott (1st season)
Notable Additions: K Steven Hauschka, OLB Gerald Hodges, S Micah Hyde
Notable Departures: CB Stephon Gilmore, ILB Zach Brown, WR Robert Woods

-After heavy speculation about owner Terry Pegula wanting to select his successor in this year's draft, the Bills committed to Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback for at least the 2017 season by re-working the complex, fugazi "contract extension" he signed before the 2016 season. The fact that the team was seriously considering severing ties with Taylor is absolutely insane to me. While he has had some struggles performing in clutch situations and punching the ball into the endzone (he's only thrown 37 TD's in his 29 career starts) during his first 2 seasons as a starter, Taylor is an excellent decisionmaker (he's only throw 6 INT's in each of the past 2 seasons) with impressive accuracy (62.7 CMP % since joining the Bills) and the ability to extend plays with his legs. If Taylor can smoothly adjust to new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison's system and continue to hone his skills as a passer, Pegula and recently-hired GM Brandon Beane will have no reason to not go all-in on Taylor as their franchise QB.

-I never thought I'd write these words, but the Bills are going to miss Robert Woods. While Woods was far from a star, he was a sure-handed, short-yardage option that keep the passing attack afloat whenever oft-injured top wideout Sammy Watkins was out of the lineup. The starting spot vacated by Woods is completely up in the air as of right now and the guys in-line to replace him are unlikely to ease the minds of anyone that's concerned about the team's lack of reliable options in the passing game. Rookie Zay Jones is a raw possession receiver that didn't face a lot of top-flight competition while he was at East Carolina, holdover Walt Powell isn't good for anything more than the occasional freak TD on a deep streak route and the treasure trove of veterans they brought in to "bolster" the depth are pretty much a who's who of anonymous, below average wideouts (Corey "Philly" Brown, Andre Holmes, Rod Streater). Their strong running attack led by LeSean McCoy has helped this offense be relatively respectable over the past couple of years, but they aren't going to become a truly viable offense until someone besides Watkins can step up as a consistent producer in the passing game.

-1st-year head coach Sean McDermott is coming to Buffalo with one of the strongest defensive pedigrees in the league and he's going to need use it to fix this deeply flawed unit. Despite getting some excellent play from unlikely sources (inside linebacker Zach Brown, who left for the Redskins in free agency and outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander) and registering a healthy number of sacks (39, 8th in the league), this unit still managed to underwhelm in most major stat categories (19th in total defense, 29th in run defense, tied for 16th in points allowed per game, tied for 23rd in takeaways) a year ago. McDermott was excellent at getting young players and journeyman to produce throughout his 6-year tenure as the Panthers defensive coordinator and if he can get guys like Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland and Jordan Poyer to perform at even a relatively high level, this defense could end up being sneaky good.

-While pretty much inevitable, the departure of longtime top corner Stephon Gilmore is going to sting. Even with his overly-aggressive, takeaway-driven playing style leading to some huge plays for opposing offenses, he had the coverage ability to shut down top-level receivers on any given Sunday that only a dozen or so corners in the league have. However, the gloom over Gilmore leaving for the greener pastures of Foxboro, Massachusetts could quickly subside if the team's new young corner tandem of Ronald Darby and Tre'Davious White ends up delivering on their abundance of raw potential.  White was arguably the most gifted man-cover corner in this year's draft and despite a rough sophomore season in 2016 where he showed very little of the on-ball dominance he flashed throughout his excellent rookie campaign, Darby has the physicality/fluid footwork/ball skill combo to morph into a legit top corner in the NFL. The results might not come right away, but the Darby/White corner pairing could turn into something really special.

Bottom Line:
 The Bills don't appear to have the talent or depth on either side of the ball to end their league-high 17-year playoff drought this season.

Miami Dolphins
2016 Record: 10-6 (2nd in AFC East)
Head Coach: Adam Gase (2nd season)
Notable Additions: DE William Hayes, TE Julius Thomas, OLB Lawrence Timmons
 Notable Departures: T Branden Albert, TE Jordan Cameron (retired), ILB Jelani Jenkins

-While it's good to see the Dolphins not continue their bad habit of insane free-agent spending, I don't think they did a great job of addressing their needs this offseason. Adding a pair of aging veterans in defensive end William Hayes and outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to their already fossil-filled front 7, a journeyman guard in Ted Larsen and swamping out one below average tight end in Jordan Cameron for another one in Julius Thomas aren't exactly the type of moves that make you a serious contender. Their draft picks were similarly uninspiring as they took a number of players(defensive end Charles Harris, outside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, cornerback Cordrea Tankersly) that are unlikely to make an immediate impact. This is a squad that was very fortunate to make the playoffs last year and with the lack of attention paid to addressing their inconsistent secondary, shaky offensive line and horrible run D, I wouldn't be surprised to see a steep dropoff in play this season.

-Despite his outstanding sophomore campaign, I'm very concerned about Jay Ajayi's ability to be continuously successful as a 3-down back in this league. His pummeling rushing style and history of knee ailments makes him a massive injury liability, a lot of the success he had in 2016 (776 of his 1,272 yards) came against bottom-10 run defenses and despite their improvements, the Dolphins O-line still can't be relied to run block on a consistent basis. Ajayi has absolutely proven enough to be trusted as the Dolphins starter, I just don't know if he has the durability or tackle-shedding ability to be a legit top-tier running back in the league.

- DeVante Parker really needs to step his game up this season. While he definitely showed some a bit of progress last season (56 REC, 744 YDS and 4 TD's, up from 26 REC, 494 YDS and 3 TD's in his rookie year in 2015) and has gotten plenty of opportunities to produce as the Dolphins lone big-body outside receiver, the former 1st-round pick's first 2 years in the league have largely been defined by mediocrity and invisibility in key situations. If Parker can build on the decent finish he had to the 2016 season and become the lethal redzone threat he was touted to be when he came out of Louisville, the Dolphins receiving corps-currently led by possession receiver extraordinaire/YAC master Jarvis Landry and speedster Kenny Stills-could transform into one of the most dangerous groups in the league.

-The biggest hope the Dolphins have of building on their 10-6 2016 campaign comes in the form of quarterback Ryan Tannehill progressing in his 2nd year in Adam Gase's offense. Gase's quarterback whisper status is notorious around the league and Tannehill is arguably the most well-rounded signalcaller he's gotten to work with outside of Peyton Manning. Tannehill has been on the cusp of breaking out for the past few years and if Gase's renowned tutelage takes, he could finally achieve the NFL superstardom that's alluded him since he entered the league in 2012.

Bottom Line:
 With a much more difficult schedule and pretty much the same roster as they had a year ago, I have a hard time envisioning the Dolphins returning to the playoffs in 2017.

New England Patriots
2016 Record: 14-2 (1st in AFC East)
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (18th season)
Notable Additions: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Stephon Gilmore, TE Dwayne Allen
Notable Departures: TE Martellus Bennett, RB LeGarette Blount, CB Logan Ryan

-The talent gap between the Patriots and the rest of the league is so huge that the annual "19-0" talk that the Boston media and legions of obnoxious fans pedal to fill dead air in July doesn't seem completely insane this year. Even if you disregard their absurd free agent haul, there isn't a team in the league that will be able to touch them come playoff time and even with all of the up-and-downs that occur during the season, they could very well survive all of their tough-ish road opponents (Saints, Buccaneers, Raiders, Broncos). While I'd be very surprised if they actually pulled off an undefeated season, Brady and Belichick are going to straight-up coast to their 6th championship.

-While the narrative has been beaten to death since they completed the trade with the Saints for rising star wide receiver Brandin Cooks on March 10th, I'd be remiss to not mention the plethora of notable offseason acquisitions the Patriots made. Belichick used his abundance of cap space to add to the team's embarrassment of riches by bringing in the likes of Cooks, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, tight end Dwayne Allen, running back Mike Gillislee and defensive end Lawrence Guy. These moves give the Patriots even more depth than they had during last year's Super Bowl run, which is truly horrifying to think about.

-As talented as they are, I'm not convinced that Cooks and Gilmore are going to end up having the monumental impact that pretty much every other football fan on the planet believes they're going to have. Cooks is a deep-threat specialist who can't break tackles that completely clashes with the Patriots short-to-indeterminate passing philosophy while Gilmore is an Asante Samuel-esque gambler in coverage that is coming off one of the worst years of his career. Be sure to check back in January when both of them are All-Pros and I once again look like a complete dingus for doubting a couple of Belichick's personnel moves. 

-After leaning on a power running attack over the past half-decade, Belichick decided to revamp his rushing attack to fit the league's current, speed-driven mentality in free agency. Projected starter Gillislee is the type of dual-threat burner that the Pats usually use as a secondary option, except bigger (5"11, 218 lbs) and with a much stronger nose for the endzone (he scored 9 total TD's with the Bills last season) while former Bengal Rex Burkhead brings yet another gifted pass-catcher into this backfield. Throwing Gillislee and Burkhead into the mix with Dion Lewis and Super Bowl 51 hero James White easily gives the Patriots one of the strongest RB committees they've had during the Belichick-era.

-There really isn't much else to say about this team because the Patriots are so good, so I'll end this write-up by dropping a really unpopular take: I firmly believe that Tom Brady is going to retire after this season. The whole "I'm going to play until I'm 85 because I'm in such great shape thanks to my avocado, hay and magic concussion water diet" shtick is a load of bullshit and when he gets his 6th ring in February, he'll have more than anybody else to every play the game (he's currently tied with former Cowboys/49ers defensive end Charles Haley), rendering his quest to be the most successful player in the history of the NFL complete. I also believe that Belichick's refusal to trade backup Jimmy Garoppolo, whose contract is up after this season, to the Browns for at least 2 first round picks on draft night further backs up this narrative. The national nightmare of the Patriots being in contention for a Super Bowl every fucking season appears to be on the verge of being over and I couldn't possibly be happier about it.

Bottom Line:
Barring some kind of horrific injury plague that takes out at least half of the roster, the Patriots are going to put together their most effortless-looking championship run to-date in 2017. 

New York Jets
2016 Record: 5-11 (4th in AFC East)
Head Coach: Todd Bowles (3rd season)
Notable Additions: CB Morris Claiborne, T Kelvin Beachum, QB Josh McCown
Notable Departures: WR Eric Decker, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

-Don't look now, but the Jets have finally accepted that the "throw money at any semi-prolific free agent that walks through the door" strategy they've employed for much of the past decade wasn't yielding consistent results on the field. The Jets spent the offseason cutting ties with pretty much every aging veteran (wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, cornerback Darrelle Revis, inside linebacker David Harris, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick) they had on their books instead of breaking out their checkbook to ink a 32-year old future Hall-of-Famer that can barely walk onto the field every Sunday to a 5-year/$85 mil deal. This massive roster reset is going to lead to the Jets punting the next few seasons, but it was a necessary move for a franchise that had shoot itself in the foot by handing out a litany of bad contracts over the past several years. 

- Their quarterback situation is probably the ugliest I've ever seen in all my years of following football. The Jets have the pleasure of deciding whether Bryce Petty, who threw 3 TD's and 7 INT's in 4 starts last season, oft-injured 38-year old journeyman Josh McCown or 2016 2nd-rounder Christian Hackenberg, who isn't currently equipped to start in the Arena League game let alone the NFL, is going to lead them to the promised land of a 3-win season. McCown's plethora of starting experience and calm demeanor make him the favorite to line up center for this young squad that's in desperate need of strong veteran leadership, but the powers that be could very well decide to throw Petty or Hackenberg out there to ensure they get the number 1 pick in the 2018 Draft and land the potential franchise-altering signal-caller they desperately need. I'm sure that Jets fans are waiting with bated breath to see who wins the lowest-stakes QB competition in the history of professional football.

-The lack of talent at quarterback makes this the perfect situation to heavily showcase dual-threat Bilal Powell out of the backfield. The long-overlooked secret weapon of the Jets offense (he averaged 5.5 yards per carry and picked up 58 receptions last season) saw his role increase exponentially as the 2016 season went on and should continue to get more volume while the team goes through this transitional period at quarterback. Powell's versatility and relative lack of wear for a 28-year old running back should allow to be a bright spot on this mostly unsettled offense.

-It's going to very interesting to see if this previously dominant defensive line can return to form in 2017. Everybody besides 2015 1st-round pick Leonard Williams was embarrassingly ineffective in 2016 and unlike every other spot on defense, the same group of schmucks(Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Steve McClendon, Sheldon Richardson) will be starting upfront this season. Their ability to bounce back is going to come down the work ethic of Wilkerson and Richardson. Both of these former top-end talents loafed their way through last year's trainwreck of a season and with the Jets pulling the trigger on a rebuild, there's no guarantee they're going to buy back into the program. This front has the ability to disrupt the hell out of the line of scrimmage if everyone is playing up to their potential, which in turn would help their revamped secondary led by newly-signed cornerback Morris Claiborne and rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye adjust to the scheme, and potentially pick up a couple of additional wins for this ragtag squad.

 -Head coach/martyr Todd Bowles is almost certainly going to go down as the fall guy for the Jets inevitable failure this season, which is complete and utter garbage. The current build of the roster puts Bowles in the position of having a guaranteed losing season in 2017, regardless of how well he handles game-planning and player management on a week-to-week basis. I believe that Bowles deserves a shot to oversee this lengthy rebuilding process, I just doubt that owner Woody Johnson is going to exercise the patience that's required to allow him to try and build something. 

Bottom Line:
With a lack of viable talent at just about every position on both sides of the ball, 2017 is going to be painful even by the Jets incredibly low standards.

Projected Standings:
1.New England Patriots (14-2)
2.Miami Dolphins (8-8)
3.Buffalo Bills (6-10)
4.New York Jets (2-14)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 NFL Preview is Coming

The moment that a dozen or so people have been waiting for has finally arrived. My annual in-depth NFL preview series will be starting today with a breakdown of the always ultra-competitive AFC East. Be sure to check back over the next month or so for scorching hot takes, overanalysis and bad jokes galore. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Best and Worst of Patrick Stewart

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 "The Emoji Movie" star Patrick Stewart.

Films starring Patrick Stewart that I've seen:
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius 
X2: X-Men United
X-Men: The Last Stand
Gnomeo & Juliet
X-Men: Days of Future Past
A Million Ways to Die in the West 
Ted 2
Green Room

Best Performance: Match (2015)
If I were in charge of the show, Stewart would've picked up an Academy Award nomination for this performance. Stewart's turn as a prestigious New York ballet instructor who is confronted by the son (Matthew Lillard) he abandoned to pursue his career is a heartbreaking triumph. If you're a fan of Stewart or small-scale human dramas, I'd highly recommend checking Match out.  

Worst Performance: N/A
While Stewart has lent his voice to numerous animated duds over the years (Gnomeo & Juliet, TMNT), he's yet to embarrass himself in a live-action role. Whether he's playing the leader of a deranged group of meth-cooking neo-Nazis or the wheelchair-bound headmaster of a school for the gifted, Stewart fully commits to the part and typically delivers a standout performance. 

Best Film: Green Room (2016)
A majority of the X-Men films are among my favorite superhero movies, but none of the entries in that underrated franchise can match the brilliance of Jeremy Saulnier's grim, minimalist masterpiece. With an unrelenting level of tension, truly unsettling graphic violence and excellent performances from everyone in its ensemble cast, Green Room permanently raised the bar for claustrophobic, suspense-driven thrillers.     

Worst Film: Gnomeo & Juilet (2011)
If you're giving Stewart shit for appearing in The Emoji Movie, you probably didn't see Gnomeo & Juliet. This insufferable animated musical comedy made me long for the pretension and ye old English of Shakespeare's original work.

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 "Columbus" star John Cho.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Album Review: Tyler, the Creator-Flower Boy

For all of his faults as an artist, Tyler, the Creator can never be accused of being boring. His loose, experimental approach to music and over-the-top vulgar lyrical content has made the 26-year old rapper/singer/producer one of the most intriguing and polarizing musical acts of the 2010's.  His fourth LP, Flower Boy, sees Tyler finally starting to grow up without losing his in the process .

After getting through the first few tracks of Flower Boy, it becomes very clear that this isn't the same Tyler, the Creator that rose to prominence making abrasive, horrorcore-tinged hits like "Yonkers" and "Orange Juice". Hell if it wasn't for a pair of goofy, tongue-in-cheek bangers ("Who Dat Boy" and "I Ain't Got Time!) in the middle of the album, there would be nothing here that was even remotely reminiscent of the OFWGKTA/Bastard/Goblin-era.  

Flower Boy is Tyler's way of stripping away the murder, rape and dick joke guise he relied on during the early years of his career and tackling his real insecurities head-on. Over the course of the its 14 tracks, he addresses the subjects of unrequited love ("November"), racial profiling ("Pothole") and feeling constantly alone despite his success as a musician ("Boredom") with potent sincerity and his trademark fearlessness. The long-underutilized introspective side of Tyler's music was begging for a showcase like this since he first introduced it on 2013's Wolf  and this heavy dose of soul-bearing honesty has allowed him to complete his long-needed evolution as an artist.

Tyler's sweeping personal renaissance project also carried over to the production side of the equation. The transition from the signature cheap-sounding, minimalist production that drove his first three LP's to Flower Boy's lush, densely textured beats was a shocking and brilliantly-executed overhaul that helped his music branch out into even more unforeseen directions. His utilization of a variety of influences from all over the musical map (soul, R&B, funk, jazz) establishes a distinct tone that consistently complements the album's melancholic subject matter without ever becoming stale or repetitive. As refreshing as it was to see Tyler grow as a performer and lyricist, the strides Tyler has made as a producer was the most impressive aspect of this record to me.
Despite the notable leap in maturity, Flower Boy still manages to be dragged down by the same nagging consistency issues that have plagued Tyler's records throughout his career. Even with the presence of the consistently excellent production and deeply personal lyrical themes that he's never had in the past, Tyler has an incredibly difficult time stringing together sets of great songs on this record. The aimless filler tracks ("Glitter", "See You Again", "Droppin Seeds", "Garden Shed") that are sprinkled throughout Flower Boy prevent it from ever settling into a nice groove and subsequently kill any shot this record had at achieving true excellence. Establishing momentum with extended periods of strong tracks is a fundamental (and often underrated) part of crafting an effective album and Flower Boy's inability to do so makes it a lot less memorable of a release than it should've been.

Even with the greatly-improved production value and unprecedented level of cohesion for a Tyler, the Creator, there's too much dead air present for Flower Boy to be a truly great record. Tyler is a unique voice who has proven time and time again since the Bastard days that he is capable of making fantastic material, but until he is able to parlay these semi-frequent bursts of brilliance into a project that's excellent from start to finish, I'm going to continue to view him as an artist that keeps settling for field goals in the redzone when he should be scoring touchdowns.    

3.5/5 Stars
Standout Tracks:
1.Pothole (feat. Jaden Smith)
2.Boredom (feat. Rex Orange County and Anna of thr Noth)
3.Who Dat Boy (feat. A$AP Rocky)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

RIP Chester Bennington

When the news of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington's passing broke this afternoon, I was legitimately in disbelief. It felt like losing an old friend or relative whose relationship you had taken for granted, only to realize how much you missed them once they were gone forever.  Linkin Park's first two records (2001's Hybrid Theory and 2003's Meteora) were full of energetic, angst-ridden anthems that defined my middle school years and played an essential role in developing my love for heavy metal and music in general. While I haven't enjoyed any of the records they've put out since they shifted away from the nu-metal genre on 2007's Minutes to MidnightHybrid Theory and Meteora are still among my all-time favorites. RIP Chester and thanks for the great music.

2016 in Music: Revisited

This might come as a huge shock to people who have just started on the journey known as life, but some opinions have a tendency to change over time. In recent years, I've found that the world of music is where my takes go through the most constant transformations. The frequent shifts in my musical taste is why I like to go back and revisit the music of a given year to see what records have gained, lost and maintained their standing in my eyes. Here's how how I feel about the excellent musical year of 2016, just over six months after I initially posted my year-end recap.  

()=ranking in my 2016 year-end recap
(new)=a record I heard after I posted my year-end recap

15.(15)Charli XCX-Vroom Vroom (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Trophy")
14.(14)Gucci Mane and Lil Uzi Vert-1017 vs. the World (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Secure the Bag")
13.(13)TWENTY88-TWENTY88 (3/5) (Favorite Track: "On the Way")
12.(11)Vic Mensa-There's Alot Going On (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Dynasty")
11.(12)Turnstile-Move Thru Me (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Move Thru Me")
10.(10)Carly Rae Jepsen-E.MO.TION Side B (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Higher")
9.(9)Lamb of God-The Duke (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Culling")
8.(8)Skeletonwitch-The Apothic Gloom (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Well of Despair")
7.(5)Gucci Mane & Future-Free Bricks 2 (Zone 6 Edition) (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Kinda Dope")
6.(6)Kiiara-lo kii savage (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Gold")
5.(7)2 Chainz-Hibachi for Lunch (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Good Drank")
4.(4)Michael Christmas-Baggy Eyes EP (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Intercontinental Champion")
3.(3)Vince Staples-Prima Donna (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Loco")
2.(2)Migos-3 Way EP (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Can't Go Out Sad")
1.(1)21 Savage and Metro Boomin-Savage Mode (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "No Advance")

143.(135)J.Cole-4 Your Eyez Only (1.5/5) (Favorite Track: "For Whom the Bell Tolls")
142.(140)Future-Purple Reign (1.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All Right")
141.(139)Riff Raff & DJ Afterthought-Balloween (1.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Working Everyday")
140.(138)Rob Zombie-The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Get Your Boots On! That's the End of Rock and Roll")
139.(137)Kodak Black-Lil B.I.G. Pac (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Vibin in This Bih")
138.(136)Thomas Giles-Velcro Kid (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Immersion Highway")
137.(134)Devin Townsend Project-Transcendence (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Failure")
136.(133)A$AP Ferg-Always Strive and Prosper (2/5) (Favorite Track: "New Level")
135.(132)Clams Casino-32 Levels (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All Nite")
134.(141)Lil Yachty-Lil Boat (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Minnesota (remix)")
133.(131)D.R.A.M.-Big Baby D.R.A.M. (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Broccoli")
132.(130)Blood Orange-Freetown Sound (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Hands Up")
131.(129)Sia-This is Acting (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: ""Bird Set Free")
130.(128)Textures-Phenotype (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Shaping a Single Grain of Sand")
129.(127)Lil Uzi Vert-The Perfect Luv Tape (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Of Course We Ghetto Flowers")
128.(126)Macklemore & Ryan Lewis-This Unruly Mess I've Made (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: ""Light Tunnels")
127.(125)letlive.-If I'm the Devil... (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "A Weak Ago")
126.(124)Sum 41-13 Voices (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "A Murder of Crows")
125.(123)Red Fang-Only Ghosts (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Shadows")
124.(121)Deftones-Gore (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Prayers/Triangles")
123.(120)Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Juke Jam")
122.(119)Juicy J-#MustBeNice (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Trap")
121.(118)Regina Spektor-Remember Us to Life (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Small Bill$")
120.(117)Childish Gambino-Awaken, My Love! (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Zombies")
119.(116)Red Hot Chili Peppers-The Getaway (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Getaway")
118.(122)Lady Gaga-Joanne (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Hey Girl")
117.(115)The Fall of Troy-OK (3/5) (Favorite Track: "401k")
116.(114)Wheeler Walker Jr.-Redneck Shit (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Eatin' Pussy/Kickin' Ass")
115.(113)Steve 'n' Seagulls-Brothers in Farms (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Aces High")
114.(112)Young Thug-I'm Up (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Fuck Cancer (Boosie)")
113.(new)The Hotelier-Goodness (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Goodness Pt.2")
112.(111)Jessy Lanza-Oh No (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Going Somewhere")
111.(110)Beartooth-Aggressive (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Hated")
110.(109)Volbeat-Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie (3/5) (Favorite Track: "The Gates of Babylon")
109.(108)Wormed-Krigshu (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Neomorph Mindkind")
108.(107)gates-Parallel Lives (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Empty Canvas")
107.(106)Solange-A Seat at the Table (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Weary")
106.(105)Nails-You Will Never Be One of Us (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Life is a Death Sentence")
105.(104)NxWorries-Yes Lawd! (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Starlite")
104.(102)Chevelle-The North Corridor (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Last Days")
103.(101)Beyonce-Lemonade (3/5) (Favorite Track: "6 Inch")
102.(100)Nick Jonas-Last Year Was Complicated (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Close")
101.(99)Mac Miller-The Divine Feminine (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Dang!")
100.(98)Carnifex-Slow Death (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Black Candles Burning")
99.(97)Hail the Sun-Culture Scars (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Entertainment Lies")
98.(94)Riff Raff-Peach Panther (3/5) (Favorite Track: "I Drive By")
97.(96)Whitechapel-Mark of the Blade (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Tremors")
96.(95)2 Chainz-Daniel Son; Necklace Don (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Get Out the Bed")
95.(93)Trophy Eyes-Chemical Miracle (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Heaven Sent")
94.(92)Megadeth-Dystopia (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Dystopia")
93.(91)Bury Tomorrow-Earthbound (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Burden")
92.(87)Plini-Handmade Cities (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Cascade")
91.(90)Despised Icon-Beast (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Drapeau Noir")
90.(88)Weezer-Weezer (The White Album) (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Endless Bummer")
89.(86)Aborted-Retrogore (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Coven of Ignorance")
88.(85)Fleshgod Apocalypse-King (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "And the Vulture Beholds")
87.(84)Rae Sremmurd-SremmLife 2 (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Start a Party")
86.(103)Lil Uzi Vert-Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Hi Roller")
85.(89)Young Thug-Slime Season 3 (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "With Them")
84.(83)Invent, Animate-Stillworld (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Celestial Floods")
83.(79)Injury Reserve-Floss (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All This Money")
82.(78)Dark Tranquility-Atoma (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Force of Hand")
81.(82)Architects-All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Empty Hourglass")
80.(77)Dave East-Kari Chanel (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Keisha")
79.(76)Wovenwar-Honor is Dead (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Compass")
78.(75)CZARFACE-A Fistful of Peril (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Czar Wars")
77.(74)Avenged Sevenfold-The Stage (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Sunny Disposition")
76.(73)A Tribe Called Quest-We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Conrad Tokyo")
75.(72)Gojira-Magma (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Shooting Star")
74.(71)Metallica-Hardwired... To Self Destruct (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Spit Out the Bone")
73.(70)The Zenith Passage-Solipsist (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Dreamsphere")
72.(69)Korn-Serenity of Suffering (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Die Yet Another Night")
71.(67)Ordinance-The Ides of March (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Bloodwine")
70.(80)Rihanna-ANTI (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Kiss It Better")
69.(new)Vader-The Empire (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Prayer to the God of War")
68.(66)Moon Tooth-Chromaparagon (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Igneous")
67.(65)Deviant Process-Paroxysm (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Persecution")
66.(64)Night Verses-Into the Vanishing Light (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Drift")
65.(68)Silent Planet-Everything Was Sound (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Understanding Love as Loss")
64.(59)Aesop Rock-The Impossible Kid (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Lotta Years")
63.(54)Kendrick Lamar-untitled unmastered. (3.5/5)(Favorite Track: "untitled 07|levitate")
62.(52)Animals as Leaders-The Madness of Many (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Glass Bridge")
61.(62)Anderson.Paak-Malibu (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Season/Carry Me")
60.(60)Drake-Views (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Weston Road Flows")
59.(81)Strugill Simpson-A Sailor's Guide to Earth (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All Around You")
58.(58)Anthrax-For All Kings (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Breathing Lightning")
57.(61)Gucci Mane-Everybody Looking (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Waybach")
56.(53)Norma Jean-Polar Similar (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "An Ocean of War")
55.(63)blink-182-California (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Kings of the Weekend")
54.(48)A Day to Remember-Bad Vibrations (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Paranoia")
53.(55)2 Chainz & Lil Wayne-Collegrove (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Bounce")
52.(47)Death Angel-The Evil Divide (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Father of Lies")
51.(44)Hatebreed-The Concrete Confessional (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Us Against Us")
50.(46)Isaiah Rashad-The Sun's Tirade (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Free Lunch")
49.(43)Descendants-Hypercaffium Spazzinate (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Shameless Halo")
48.(42)Hope for the Dying-Legacy (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Flame Forged")
47.(50)ScHoolboy Q-Blank Face LP (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Dope Dealer")
46.(49)Flatbush Zombies-3001: A Laced Odyssey (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Odyssey")
45.(51)Kanye West-The Life of Pablo (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "No More Parties in LA")
44.(57)Denzel Curry-Imperial (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Knotty Head")
43.(41)Abnormality-Mechanisms of Omniscience (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Synthetic Pathogenesis")
42.(40)Trap Them-Crown Feral (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Revival Spines")
41.(39)First Fragment-Dasein (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Mordetre Et Denaissance")
40.(37)Anciients-Voice of the Void (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Worshipper")
39.(38)Killswitch Engage-Incarnate (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Strength of the Mind")
38.(36)Painted in Exile-The Ordeal (4/5) (Favorite Track: "House of Cards")
37.(35)Kvelertak-Nattesferd (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Svartmese")
36.(34)Toothgrinder-Nocturnal Masquerade (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Diamonds for Gold")
35.(33)Gucci Mane-The Return of East Atlanta Santa (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Walk on Water")
34.(32)Serpentine Dominion-Serpentine Dominion (4/5) (Favorite Track: "The Vengeance in Me")
33.(31)YG-Still Brazy (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Twist My Fingaz")
32.(29)Gucci Mane-Woptober (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Wop")
31.(56)Young Thug-Jeffrey (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Harambe")
30.(30)Dance Gavin Dance-Mothership (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise")
29.(45)Tove Lo-Lady Wood (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Don't Talk About It")
28.(28)Amon Amarth-Jomsviking (4/5) (Favorite Track: "On a Sea of Blood")
27.(27)Meshuggah-The Violent Sleep of Reason (4/5) (Favorite Track: "By the Ton")
26.(26)Polyphia-Renaissance (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Culture Shock")
25.(23)Thank You Scientist-Stranger Heads Prevail (4/5) (Favorite Track: "The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook")
24.(21)Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Seven Seals") 
23.(22)After the Burial-Dig Deep (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Deluge")
22.(20)Future-EVOL (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Seven Rings")
21.(13)Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Again")
20.(25)The Weeknd-Starboy (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Secrets")
19.(24)Obscura-Akroasis (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Perpetual Infinity")
18.(16)Frank Ocean-Blonde (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Pink + White")
17.(19)Periphery-Periphery III: Select Level (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Flatline")
16.(18)Car Bomb-Meta (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Black Blood")
15.(15)Allegaeon-Proponent for Sentience (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Of Mind and Matrix")
14.(14)Travi$ Scott-Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Sweet Sweet")
13.(11)Migos-Y.R.N. 2 (Young Rich Niggas 2) (4/5) (Favorite Track: "WOA")
12.(10)Death Grips-Bottomless Pit (4/5) (Favorite Track: "BB Poison")
11.(9)Vale of Pnath-II (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Reaver")
10.(12)Every Time I Die-Low Teens (4/5) (Favorite Track: "The Coin Has a Say")
9.(17)Banks-The Altar (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Gemini Feed")
8.(7)Touche Amore-Stage Four (4/5) (Favorite Track: "New Halloween")
7.(8)Ariana Grande-Dangerous Woman (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Bad Decisions")
6.(6)Run the Jewels-RTJ3 (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Panther Like A Panther")
5.(5)Revocation-Great is Our Sin (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Crumbling Imperium")
4.(4)Entheos-The Infinite Nothing (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Perpetual Miscalculations")
3.(3)The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Honeysuckle")
2.(2)Danny Brown-Atrocity Exhibition (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Ain't It Funny")
1.(1)Fallujah-Dreamless (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Adrenaline")

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Movie Review: To the Bone

Netflix's journey into the world of original hasn't exactly been a rousing success thus far. Since they launched their scripted film division in the fall of 2015, they've only had three projects (Beasts of No Nation, Okja and 2017 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Winner I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore) generate any sort of notable buzz among critics and audiences. To the Bone, which is the fourth Sundance acquisition to premiere on Netflix this year, is yet another flawed albeit watchable entry into the streaming juggernaut's middling library of original films.

As the first film in recent memory that was brave enough to tackle the subject of eating disorders, it's hard to not look at To the Bone as somewhat of a missed opportunity. Every glimpse that writer/director Marti Moxon (I Am Number Four, the 2011 remake of Fright Night) provides into the mindset of the people that are dealing with anorexia is largely undercut by the story's frequent descents into cheap, tearjerker territory. This reliance on forced melodrama is especially disappointing given the fact that Moxon and star Lily Collins have battled eating disorders in the past. Both of these women have the firsthand experience required to tell a poignant story about this condition that quietly effects millions of people around the world, but for some inexplicable reason, they largely bypass diving into this underexplored topic by making a film that favors inorganic, Nicolas Sparks-esque weepy emotional conflict over raw realism. While Moxon's intentions were 110% in the right place, a majority of To the Bone was too contrived to resonate with me.

The impersonal ridiculousness that sinks To the Bone's narrative is offset (to an extent) by the excellent acting delivered from some of the cast's key players. Collins gives the clear standout performance of her up-and-down career to-date as Ellen, the film's cynical, self-aware protagonist. Even when the story veers into full-blown soap opera territory in the final half-hour, Collins makes Ellen magnetic and emphatic enough to rise above the hokey trash that's going on around her. Hopefully this impressive turn will result in the 28-year old getting some better scripts thrown her way in the future.

Keanu Reeves also shines as the "unorthodox" doctor who runs the group home Ellen checks into early on in the film. Reeves prevents the character from being an insufferable hippie douche by beautifully juxtaposing compassion with a straight-shooting, no bullshit-attitude. It's a really remarkable piece of work from a guy that's been regularly accused of having no emotional range during his 25+ years in Hollywood.

To the Bone is a terrific example of why admirable intentions aren't enough to make a movie great. Despite her immense respect for the subject matter, Moxon's film lacks the grounded realism, soul-bearing insight and emotional resonance that drives every effective low-key human drama. I'm fairly confident that someone will come along and make a poignant film about the struggles of living with with and/or overcoming an eating disorder, but unfortunately To the Bone isn't it.

3/5 Stars