Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Best and Worst of Olivia Wilde

“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 “Life Itself” star Olivia Wilde.

Films starring Olivia Wilde that I've seen:
The Girl Next Door
Alpha Dog
Year One
Tron: Legacy
Cowboys & Aliens
The Change-Up 
In Time
People Like Us
The Words
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Best Performance: Butter (2012)
Wilde really needs to do more comedies. As a revenge-seeking stripper who gets caught up in the middle of a butter-carving rivalry between a 10-year old girl (Yara Shahidi) and an ultracompetitive socialite (Jennifer Garner), she constantly steals scenes with her manic presence and beautifully-delivered snarky one-liners.

Worst Performance: Tron: Legacy (2010)
Even on a bad day, Wilde tends to be a pretty inoffensive screen presence. Tron: Legacy is the lone, painful exception to that rule. Her performance as cyber warrior Quora is so devoid of charisma that she could've easily been replaced with an actual computer program.

Best Film: Rush (2013)
Hot take: Rush is my favorite directorial effort from Ron Howard. Its fascinating depiction of the development and subsequent intensification of a rivalry between two elite athletes along with the tremendous performances from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl got me really invested in a story about a sport (Formula One racing) that I couldn't care less about.

Worst Film: Year One (2009)
It's a real shame that this was the last movie Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day) made before he died. Despite boasting a terrific cast led by Jack Black and Michael Cera, this prehistoric adventure comedy ends up being a meandering mess that whiffed on about 90% of its jokes.

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Way Too Early Oscar Predictions: 2018 Editon

It's mid-September, which means Hollywood has just wrapped up the glamorous, globetrotting launch pad for awards season that is the late summer/early fall film festival circuit. Telluride, Toronto and Venice seemed to be particularly buzzworthy this year as nearly every potential contender ended up receiving raves from critics. This wave of hype, hope and temporary burst of over-the-top optimism from cinephiles about the state of modern film gives way to one of my favorite traditions: Predicting Oscar nominees and winners nearly five months before the ceremony takes place. Per usual, it needs to be noted that some high-pedigree films (Mary Queen of Scots, Vice, On the Basis of Sex, Bohemian Rhapsody) have yet to have formal press screenings and the hierarchy of contenders could radically change once they premiere. Without further ado, here's my highly speculative, way too early predictions for the 91st Academy Awards.    

*indicates the projected winner 

Best Picture:
Boy Erased
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Favourite 
First Man
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born*

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle (First Man)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)*
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Peter Farrelly (Green Book)  
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)

Best Actor:
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Ryan Gosling (First Man)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)*
Robert Redford (The Old Man & the Gun)

Best Actress:
Olivia Colman (The Favourite) 
Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Nicole Kidman (Destroyer)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)*
Saiorse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots)

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy)*
Sam Elliott (A Star is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
John C. Riley (Stan and Ollie) 
Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams (Vice)
Claire Foy (First Man)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)*  
Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)

Best Animated Feature:
Early Man
The Incredibles 2*  
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 
Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

Best Original Screenplay:
Eight Grade
The Favourite* 
Green Book

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Boy Erased
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk*
A Star is Born

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018 NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

()=previous ranking

1.(4) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0) Week 3 opponent: Tennessee Titans
2.(5) Los Angeles Rams (2-0) Week 3 opponent: Los Angeles Chargers
3.(6) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) Week 3 opponent: San Francisco 49ers
4.(1) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Indianapolis Colts
5.(2) New England Patriots (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Detroit Lions
6.(3) Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1) Week 3 opponent: Buffalo Bills
7.(16) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) Week 3 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
8.(20) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) Week 3 opponent: Carolina Panthers
9.(7) Green Bay Packers (1-0-1) Week 3 opponent: Washington Redskins
10.(12) Atlanta Falcons (1-1) Week 3 opponent: New Orleans Saints
11.(11) New Orleans Saints (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Atlanta Falcons
12.(17) Denver Broncos (2-0) Week 3 opponent: Baltimore Ravens
13.(13) Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Los Angeles Rams
14.(9) Carolina Panthers (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
15.(21) Miami Dolphins (2-0) Week 3 opponent: Oakland Raiders
16.(8) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) Week 3 opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
17.(10) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Denver Broncos
18.(25) Chicago Bears (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Arizona Cardinals
19.(22) Tennessee Titans (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
20.(23) San Francisco 49ers (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
21.(27) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Seattle Seahawks
22.(14) New York Jets (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Cleveland Browns
23.(15) Washington Redskins (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Green Bay Packers
24.(30) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) Week 3 opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
25.(24) Houston Texans (0-2) Week 3 opponent: New York Giants
26.(19) Seattle Seahawks (0-2) Week 3 opponent: Dallas Cowboys
27.(26) Cleveland Browns (0-1-1) Week 3 opponent: New York Jets
28.(18) New York Giants (0-2) Week 3 opponent: Houston Texans
29.(28) Detroit Lions (0-2) Week 3 opponent: New England Patriots
30.(29) Oakland Raiders (0-2) Week 3 opponent: Miami Dolphins
31.(31) Arizona Cardinals (0-2) Week 3 opponent: Chicago Bears
32.(32) Buffalo Bills (0-2) Week 3 opponent: Minnesota Vikings

Week 2 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers (2018 Edition)

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers)
Patrick Mahomes' 6-TD performance in a 42-37 Chiefs victory grabbed all the real-world headlines out of Pittsburgh on Sunday, but Roethlisberger edged out the promising young signalcaller for the honor of top fantasy QB of the week. Thanks to an early 21-0 deficit that forced the offense to air it out pretty much right away, Roethlisberger put up a monster statline (461 YDS, 4 total TD and a 2-point conversion) that was enough for the Steelers to make an impressive rally and turn this game into a true shootout before the Chiefs pulled away again late in the 4th quarter. Even against a decimated Buccaneers secondary that has allowed back-to-back 300+ yard passers, Big Ben will be a relatively risky start on the road in Week 3.  
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Matt Ryan (Falcons)

LVP: Alex Smith (Redskins)
For better or worse, Smith posted a vintage statline in Week 2. The notoriously conservative veteran didn't turn the ball over and cleared 300 total YDS (292 passing, 14 rushing) on the day, but failed to throw a TD against the Colts questionable defense in his home debut as the Redskins QB. Mr. High Floor/Low Ceiling takes on the Packers mediocre secondary in Week 3.    
Dishonorable Mentions: Andrew Luck (Colts), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

Running Back
MVP: Todd Gurley (Rams)
Gurley is such a special player that he even delivers for his fantasy owners on his off-days. The Cardinals stout front kept him relatively in check (73 YDS from scrimmage on 22 touches), but Gurley still managed to score 3 TD's on the ground and cross the plain on a pair of 2-point conversions. If you had the opportunity to draft him at the top of 1st round, you're probably doing pretty alright right now.
Honorable Mentions: Melvin Gordon (Chargers), Matt Brieda (49ers), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys)

LVP: David Johnson (Cardinals)
This total rebuild the Cardinals are currently going through has not been kind to David Johnson. The star back was limited to just 14 touches for 51 YDS on Sunday in an ugly 34-0 loss against the Rams. As long as the brittle, bumbling jabroni otherwise known as Sam Bradford is under center, Johnson will be relegated to high-end RB2 status.
Dishonorable Mentions: Adrian Peterson (Redskins), Isaiah Crowell (Jets), Peyton Barber (Buccaneers)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Stefon Diggs (Vikings)
September has proven to be primetime for Diggs. The 4th-year wideout posted a ridiculous 9 REC/128 TD/2 TD/1 2-PT CNV day against a largely young Packers secondary that struggled to slow down the Vikings passing attack for the majority of the game. He'll be in the mix for another MVP honor this week as the Vikings take on the helpless Bills at home.
Honorable Mentions: A.J. Green (Bengals), Adam Thielen (Vikings), Michael Thomas (Saints)

LVP: Robby Anderson (Jets)
2017's surprise fantasy darling underwhelming start to 2018 continued in Week 2. Anderson caught 3-of-5 targets for 27 YDS and lost a fumble in a surprisingly lopsided 20-12 Jets loss to the Dolphins. His lack of chemistry with Sam Darnold paired with strong early play from Quincy Enunwa, who missed all of last season with a neck injury, make Anderson a very shaky WR3 play until further notice.
Dishonorable Mentions: Demaryius Thomas (Broncos), Jamison Crowder (Redskins), Kenny Stills (Dolphins)

Tight End
MVP: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) 
Last week I said it that was only a matter of time before Kelce redeemed himself following his underwhelming 1 catch performance in the opener. Turns out that this week was that time. Kelce was the focal point of this lethal-looking Chiefs offense against the Steelers, posting 109 YDS and 2 TD's on 7 receptions. The spread-the-wealth offense Andy Reid runs will result in the occasional stinker, but Kelce remains locked in as one of the few truly elite fantasy options at the tight end position. 
Honorable Mentions: O.J. Howard (Buccaneers), Evan Engram (Giants), Jimmy Graham (Packers)

LVP: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)
Gronk ended up playing a very minimal role (2 REC for 15 YDS on 4 TGTS) in a game where the Patriots primarily attacked the Jaguars excellent defense via the run and short-passes. Look for his workload to return to normal against a banged-up Lions defense that is run by former Belichick underling Matt Patricia. 
Dishonorable Mentions: George Kittle (49ers), Jack Doyle (Colts), David Njoku (Browns)

Defense/Special Teams
MVP: Bears
Are the Monsters of the Midway back? While it's clearly too early to definitively answer that question, the 2018 Bears are definitely off to a hell of a start on the defensive side of the ball. Vic Fangio's troops absolutely feasted on a suspect Seahawks offense, registering 6 sacks, a fumble recovery and game-clinching pick 6 in a 24-17 win over the former NFC powerhouse. Chicago will look to stay hot this week in a showdown with the Cardinals anemic albeit turnover-averse offense.    
Honorable Mentions: Rams, Chargers, Jets

LVP: Ravens
A week after absolutely dominating the Bills, the Ravens put forth a truly sad effort in front of a national audience. Andy Dalton, who arguably has the worst track record in primetime games of any veteran starting QB in the league right now, dominated this group for 60 minutes (265 YDS, 4 TD, 0 sacks or giveaways) in route to a 34-23 win last Thursday night. This talented group will look to prove this performance was a fluke when they take on a Broncos offense that has struggled with turning the ball over in the early going (Case Keenum has already tossed 4 INT's, which is tied for most in the league) this Sunday afternoon. 
Dishonorable Mentions: Texans, Broncos, Vikings 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Movie Review: A Simple Favor

Paul Feig's A Simple Favor serves as a highly effective argument for why plot twists need to be used in moderation. Prior to the final 30-35 minutes where it goes full goes full Shyamalan, this is a pretty great mystery thriller/dark comedy hybrid. Feig-who rose to prominence directing more traditional comedies such as Bridesmaids and Spy-seamlessly adapts to a genre that he didn't have any prior experience with, Jessica Sharzer's script deftly tackles dark subject matter without impeding on the breezy tone that drives this over-the-top disappearance story and both leads (Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively) turn in the most commanding, well-rounded performances of their careers to-date. Then the dreaded onslaught of reveals arrives in the last third of the film to take some of the air out of this stylish, compelling party. The out-of-left-field turns pile up so quickly that it almost becomes disorienting. I honestly had to spend a few minutes in my seat once the credits started rolling  recounting exactly how it arrived at its underwhelming albeit tonally-consistent conclusion. I'd be a bullshit-spewing clown to say that this orgy of twists leading up to the finale were enough to completely kill my enjoyment of A Simple Favor. However, I just can't help but think of how much better it could've been if it dialed them back just a bit.      

Grade: B

Friday, September 14, 2018

As We Proceed Episode #24

On this particularly off-the rails episode of As We Proceed, Feliciano and I yell at each other about Cardi B and Nicki Minaj's altercation at New York Fashion Week, Drake and Meek Mill's public beef squashing and Eminem's Kamikaze. There's also a civil conversation at the beginning about the tragic passing of Mac Miller that ended up being the only decent segment of the entire hour. It's a stereotypical, people-talking-over each other podcast episode that I'm really not happy with, but will hopefully end up being a valuable learning experience. Listen to this trainwreck at your own risk below:



Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Best and Worst of Olivia Munn

“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 “The Predator” star Olivia Munn.

Films Starring Olivia Munn that I've seen:
The Slammin' Salmon 
Date Night
Iron Man 2
Magic Mike
Deliver Us from Evil
Ride Along 2
X-Men: Apocalypse
Office Christmas Party
The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Best Performance: Office Christmas Party (2016)
I had been waiting for Munn to showcase the goofy charisma that defined her tenure on G4's Attack of the Show on the big screen for years and it finally happened in this breezy ensemble holiday comedy. As the chief researcher and developer at a struggling Chicago technology company whose murky future is further complicated by the titular party, Munn is funny, charming and has a natural chemistry with on-screen love interest Jason Bateman.

Worst Performance: Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
Strong acting was a pretty big part of why Deliver Us from Evil resonated with me more than most of the exorcism thrillers I've seen. The only person who didn't rise to occasion in this ensemble was Munn. Her embarrassing attempt at a hardcore New York accent helped turned a below average performance that was a bit too reliant on overacting into a distractingly bad one that somewhat dragged down the film.

Best Film: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
I will go to bat for X-Men: Apocalypse whenever prompted. In fact, I'm willing to say that this underrated gem is locked in a virtual tie with First Class for the title of my 2nd favorite X-Men film behind Days of Future Past. The ensemble cast is terrific, every action sequence pops and unlike pretty much every MCU film before Infinity War, the heroes face real danger throughout the film.

Worst Film: Ride Along 2 (2016)
The convincing "bitter hardass teams up with bumbling goofball" dynamic between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart was enough to make Ride Along a decent time-waster. The spark of this well-matched duo wasn't enough to save the sequel. Every member of the cast besides Cube and Hart pretty much just goes through the motions while this lighthearted crime saga plays out, which subsequently took the air out of at least 75% of the jokes and ultimately resulted in the film being banished to mediocre buddy comedy purgatory.

Thank you for reading this week's edition of “The Best and Worst of”. The next victim of my praise and ire will be “Life Itself” star Olivia Wilde.