Friday, May 31, 2013

Epic Review

A part of me really hopes I get a ton of views on this blog post just because of the title. People will read that and think that this review is going to be really epic for some reason and will have to look. That is the point where they will learn or be reminded that there is an animated movie with the title "Epic" and this post is me reviewing that movie. Epic was part of an epic Memorial Day weekend that broke the record for highest grossing Memorial Day weekend at the box office thanks to a very strong opening from Fast and Furious 6 mainly, but Hangover Part III, Epic, and the May holdovers certainly helped. The success of Epic was mainly due to a dearth of animated movies this year rather than being an epic movie. It did come from Blue Sky, though, and they do have a decent track record with their movies as all of them, even their non Ice Age movies, have grossed above $100M domestically. Epic is on track to continue that trend, although it will be on the lower end.

Onto the actual movie now. The first order of business is what all of you are wondering if you haven't seen this movie. Is this movie epic? There are a lot of movies that are epic and a lot of movies that try to be epic, but few have decided to make that the title of their movie. The short answer to the question is no. It's not epic. Honestly, I don't even know why they called it that. The movie is based on the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce and was originally titled Leaf Men before they switched to Epic. In my opinion they should've kept that original title because it made a lot more sense. The movie is an action animated movie that is centered around a war between the Leafmen, the protectors of the forest, and the Boggan, the evil creatures trying to destroy the forest. The Leafmen and the Boggan are small civilizations that humans will have a hard time seeing and hearing. The main character is a teenage girl named MK who is returning to live with her father, a somewhat eccentric man who is more focused on his work of discovering this small civilization than his family and thus his family has fallen apart. MK tries to fix that, but is having a hard time and is about to give up when she shrinks to the size of the Leafmen and Boggan and gets caught up in this war of theirs. If this is sounding familiar it is because it is a completely unoriginal idea in Hollywood and that is a big part of the reason why this movie isn't epic. Normal people becoming little is something that has been done several times before. Specifically it is awfully similar to the movie FernGully, mixed with Thumbelina, Avatar, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Thus made the movie rather predictable. Once you got 20 minutes or so into the movie, you knew exactly how it was going to play out

Despite this, though, I didn't find this movie to be a bad movie. Despite it being unoriginal and predictable it was a fun movie to watch. Most animated movies are either comedies or dramas, or a combination of the two, but this one was an action movie and that's not something you see too often and thus I had a lot of fun with it. Also, I was in the theater with several younger kids and they all seemed to love it. There are a lot of lines, especially by the slug and the snail, that are aimed at entertaining the young crowd and it definitely worked. Yes, there are a couple scenes that I thought might be a bit scary for little children, but they weren't nearly bad enough for me to recommend skipping the movie. The voice actors were great, which did surprise me a bit because they dove into the music business quite a bit with the voices as we had Pitbull, Beyonce, and Steven Tyler all playing main roles. The other main roles included the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Blake Anderson, and Aziz Ansari, so it was quite the loaded cast of voice actors and like I said, they all did a good job. The music was done Danny Elfman and I rarely see him do a bad job with the music in a movie and this certainly wasn't an exception as he once again did a great job. I personally wasn't completely in love with the animation, especially with the humans, but it wasn't bad by any means. Also, they played on the daughter/father relationship as a main theme and I wasn't completely inspired or touched by how it turned out like I was in The Croods, but I wouldn't consider it a fail.

Overall, if you are a parent with younger kids and are eager to take those kids out to a movie and you don't want to wait for Monster's University or Despicable Me 2, Epic is an excellent choice as your kids should love it and I believe you will enjoy it as well. No, it's not epic and I don't imagine it will even get a nomination for best animated movie in next year's Oscars, but it's a fun movie. I have no idea what Blue Sky is thinking in terms of a sequel, but it is actually the type of movie where a sequel would make a lot of sense, and you don't see me saying that too often. I will give Epic a decent 7 out of 10.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fast and Furious 6 Review

Fast and Furious 6? Really? Does this franchise need to stop throwing out sequels? Uhhhh... heck no! If you were caught asking these questions or complaining in a similar way just because you saw the words "Fast and Furious" followed by the number 6, then you know nothing about this franchise and are prematurely judging it. Yes, I am usually one of the first to complain about franchises milking the cash cow by making pointless sequels, but occasionally there are franchises that do it right. The Fast and Furious franchise is one that actually been on both sides of the coin, but recently they've done it very right. The first one was a decent movie. Not good, but not bad. The second one was pretty bad as the only returning character from the first that was included was Paul Walker. The third one got even worse by getting a totally new cast. After the third one is where they started to turn things around. Number four wasn't great, but that is where they started to have a plan in mind as they brought back Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and Paul Walker. Then there was Fast Five. Now the first four, while they weren't great movies, they were guilty pleasures for me. Fast Five on the other hand was actually a fantastic movie. It  had the main cast still there again, but added the popular characters from the second and third as well as bringing in Dwayne Johnson. Not only did they do that, but they switched it from a street racing movie into a Heist movie, adding a new depth to the movie that the previous four didn't have. The ending of Fast Five had the best police chase scene that I have ever seen in movie history and it also wrapped the series up quite nicely. Until the end credits happened. A crazy twist was included that left the movie on a huge cliff hanger and had audiences begging for the sixth movie. Now that sixth movie is finally here and it is time to forgo the history of the franchise and discuss this movie.

The biggest problem with the first four movies was the fact that it was purely focused on watching cool cars race and looking at pretty girls. The story line was an afterthought. The thing that made Fast Five so brilliant is that in addition to having it showcase awesome cars is that it added an awesome story line to it. The beauty of the sixth one that is that it builds on that and actually makes it so the intriguing story line is actually the strength and focus of the movie, while one-upping even Fast Five by adding awesome car scenes that included sweet indie-racing style cars, tanks, and airplanes. Now if you haven't seen the fourth and fifth movies and don't want them spoiled, I'd suggest you turn away. I won't feel too bad for giving those spoilers because just about every commercial and trailer for Fast and Furious 6 already has. 

Anywho, in the fourth movie Dominic Toretto's (Vin Diesel) girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) randomly dies in the beginning. It felt a little out of place, but it turns out they had a plan up their sleeve. We learn in the end of the fifth one that she is still alive and this is where the sixth one picks up. Dwayne Johnson is back as Hobbs and he is tracking a crazy team of mercenary drivers, led by a man named Shaw, across several countries and determines that the only way to catch them is with the help of Dom's team, who he spent all of the previous movie trying to stop. The leverage he uses is showing Dom that Letty is still alive. Dom reunites his crew and the deal is that if Hobbs shows them to Letty and Dom's crew helps stop Shaw and his crew then they will all get full pardons. I won't dive into the plot much more than that, but things get complicated once they find Letty. How did she survive? What is she doing now and why? How can Dom win her back? Or can he? On top of that, the crew realize how insanely smart and dangerous Shaw's men are and this leads to quite the showdown throughout the movie.

I found the direction of this franchise to be really impressive. They went from mediocre street-racing movies to a heist movie to a terrorist plot where our "bad guys" are working for the police. This movie is smart, it is action-packed, it is balanced, it is very emotional at times, and overall is just a huge thrill ride that audiences should love. Most people scoff at the acting abilities of such cast members like Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Ludacris, and Dwayne Johnson, but honestly I didn't really find issue with that. Dwayne Johnson especially is one that I think has developed into a pretty decent actor, as you may know if you have read my reviews of his previous movies this year in Snitch and GI Joe: Retaliation. For being a singer/rapper Ludacris does a decent job. Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel. Either you like him or you hate him. I personally am a fan. Paul Walker is probably the weakest of the bunch, but it's not too distracting. Tyrese Gibson does a great job of providing comic relief like he has done in previous Fast and Furious movies he was in. I also was a huge fan of Michelle Rodriguez's performance in this one. I'm glad they brought her back. Finally, Luke Evans did a great job as Shaw. Also of note, the visual effects and cinematography were fantastic in this movie. There were a lot of different camera angels and shots that were implemented that were really good. And the music in the movie was fantastic.

Overall, this was a movie that I had been looking forward to ever since Fast Five ended and in a busy 2013 managed to still make it as one of my most highly anticipated movies of the year and I was not disappointed. In comparing to Fast Five, I think they are both fantastic movies, but due to the emotion, the deep story line (for a Fast and Furious movie anyways), and the best action and car chasing/racing scenes in the franchise so far, I am going to say that I actually liked Fast and Furious 6 more. I already knew there was going to be a seventh movie coming up in June of next year (it was announced a little while ago), but the end credits scene once again got me excited for the next Fast and Furious movie. I love this franchise! Fast and Furious 6 gets a 9 out 10 for me and rest assured that you will see it on my list of favorite movies of 2013 once the year ends.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bates Motel Season 1 Review

Bates Motel is a new TV series that is based on the characters from the novel "Psycho" written by Robert Bloch in 1959. And yes, that novel was adapted into the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name a year later, so Bates Motel references both at the end of each episode. In Psycho, we get the story of a woman that steals $40,000 and runs away, ending up at the Bates Motel. Norman Bates gets her a room and invites her to dinner with him, seeming like a nice guy. Later that night in the famous shower scene, the woman is stabbed by what seems like the extremely jealous mother, mad that her son has developed an attraction towards this woman. Well it turns out that (I'LL INSERT A 50+ YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT) Norman's mother has been dead for a while and Norman, we learn, is a crazy psychopath that has developed a bad split personality where he is both his mother and himself. This makes Psycho more than the typical horror movie we see all the time nowadays and into more of a psychological thriller. The TV show Bates Motel dives into the psychological aspect of the movie/book and attempts to give us a prequel that explains how Norman got to the point where he is in Psycho.

Now I say that Bates Motel is a prequel and that is mostly true. The full truth is that it is not trying to completely remake Psycho, but instead is trying to create its own unique spin on it while at the same time trying to be very true to the movie/book. The biggest difference is that the show is set in modern times and not in the first half of the 1900's like would be the case if this were a perfect prequel focusing on a 17 year old Norman. The background is also a bit different as the show starts off with the tragic death of Norman's father, which only takes place six months before the setting of the show. Six months prior to that death, Norman's mother Norma decides it's time for them to start over, so they move to a small town and purchase a motel on the outskirts of town for them to renovate and live in. This of course becomes the infamous Bates Motel. Being just 17, Norman is just a high school student and he thus tries to integrate himself into normal high school life, but finds it hard as he is a bit socially awkward. Norma of course is trying to do her best, but she is rather crazy and short-tempered. She likes having total control of every situation and seems a bit bipolar, going crazy and impatient when things don't work out her way. So it turns out we actual feel bad for Norman at first because he seems like just a socially awkward kid who can't fit in and is stuck with a crazy mother. Also it turns out the town they live in is a fairly corrupt town where a bunch of drama is going on. All this adds to the intriguing psychological aspect of the show. We know how it ends up, but the journey to that end is rather intriguing. It's also really dramatic and keeps you on edge because you really have no idea what is going to happen around each corner, thus also making for a very tense TV show.

The show is very well casted. Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Up in the Air) plays the crazy mother Norma Bates while Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, August Rush) plays Norman. As the supporting cast created by the show (thus leaving their fates a complete mystery) we have Norman's level-headed brother Dylan played by Max Thieriot (The House at the End of the Street, Jumper), Norman's crush at school Bradley played by Nicola Peltz  (The Last Airbender, Deck the Halls), Norman's friend Emma played by Olivia Cooke, Norman's favorite teacher Miss Watson played by Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2, 40 Days and 40 Nights), and finally our two main cops, Sheriff Alex Romero played by Nester Carbonell (Lost, The Dark Knight) and Deputy Zack Shelby played by Mike Vogel (Cloverfield, The Help). And really, I give credit to all of them because I can't pinpoint one actor that does a bad job. The cast has a great chemistry that really propels the show.

Bates Motel just finished its first season, that is only ten episodes long, and the reviews and ratings were strong enough on the show that it earned a season two. The fact that it is that short compared to other TV shows means that it won't take you long at all to catch up. Ten episodes also means that it isn't packed with a bunch of fluff as is the case with many TV shows that are 20+ episodes long. Content wise, the show isn't too bad and very much TV appropriate, but ironically it is probably worse than the movie Psycho in terms of violence, blood and gore, and sexuality, which should say something about the ridiculousness of the R-rating that Psycho is labeled. It's pretty embarrassing when a movie that should be rated PG gets an R. But anywho, my recommendation for Bates Motel is that if you love the movie Psycho or you like psychological thrillers, than Bates Motel is the TV series that you really need to check out. I really enjoyed season one and am looking forward to season two next year.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 NBA Playoff Predictions - Conference Finals

Western Conference

#2- San Antonio Spurs vs #5- Memphis Grizzlies

The sexy pick here is the Memphis Grizzlies and I can totally see them moving on to the NBA finals. They are a mean and dangerous team. What's more is that they may be one of the most complete teams. Many thought that when they traded Rudy Gay that they were just tanking and they had no chance, but they are here now because they just work great together and the Spurs should seriously be worried. But yet, even though I think that this is going to be a close series that could go either way, I am going to pick the Spurs to win this series. Yes, I hate the Spurs and would love to see them go down, but I have to be honest. Gregg Popovich I think is one of the best coaches in NBA history and certainly the best coach in the league right now. People have written this team off for several years now because they are getting too old, but Popovich just keeps them going and now there is a new, young Spurs team that is rising up that complements the big three very well. They swept the Lakers and in the end they slowed down a red-hot Warriors team and in what should be a nitty-gritty hard-fought series, I think they will come out on top and make it to the NBA finals once again.

Prediction: Spurs 4-2

Eastern Conference

#1- Miami Heat vs #3- Indiana Pacers

I made the statement towards the beginning of the playoffs that  it is my opinion that no team in the East can give much of a challenge to the Heat and I still think that is the case as the Pacers are the last team in the East to be standing besides the Heat. It's been nine years since the Pacers made it into the NBA finals and at that point, Reggie Miller was still on the team. After Miller retired following the '04-'05 season, the Pacers team tanked and for several years were buried in the basement of the NBA, but recently, they have quietly arisen back to power in the East. I say quietly because they are a team that no one talks about much but here they are. I think it would be fantastic if they knocked off the Heat, but sadly I don't think it will happen. If Dwayne Wade fails to stay healthy, the Pacers could make a series out of this, but even without Wade I think the LeBron, Bosh, and the rest of the Heat could still pull this off. I will make the prediction assuming that Wade will stay healthy and with that in mind I will say that this will actually be a fairly fast series.

Prediction: Heat 4-1

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Before I jump into this review of JJ Abram's recent Star Trek sequel, I need to tell you a little bit about my Star Trek history so that you know where I am coming from in this review. I don't consider myself a trekkie. That said, I do consider myself a big fan of Star Trek. My dad and one of my brothers were super into it and that led to me essentially growing up on it. Specifically, The Next Generation was my favorite, but I always watched quite a bit of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Although the original series was never one that I grew up watching, I do have a respect for the series that started it all and I do have a desire to one day go back and watch it in full. In 2009, JJ Abrams brought the popular series back to the big screen with his version of Star Trek, a reboot of the original series. While I didn't hate it, I also wasn't in love with it for various reasons. After watching the sequel the other night in theaters, I initially came out of the theater entertained. However, I had some immediate initial concerns and I also knew I needed to do some homework on a certain aspect of the movie before I gave my final judgement. With that now done, I will say that I have very mixed views towards this movie. Yes, I was entertained, but the inner Star Trek in me has also been offended. I will go through this review without giving any major spoilers, but I might briefly touch on a few minor spoilers, so keep that in mind as you continue reading.

First of all, I want to bring up the concerns I had as I initially walked out of the theater. The first thing is something that has bothered me for a long time. The name of the movie. I hate it. Ever since the Dark Knight came out, Hollywood has been obsessed with darkness and going along with that, JJ Abrams decided to call this movie Star Trek Into Darkness. Why? And I think it is even stupider after seeing the movie because this really isn't that dark of a movie. It's a high powered action movie where the protagonists do get threatened quite a bit, but that's the same with most action movies, so I don't get it. Secondly, and really the first one that deals with the movie itself, is Captain Kirk. It's not that I hate Chris Pine, but the way that Captain Kirk is written in this movie is a complete slap in the face to the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk is a very respectable guy who always had the goal to be the captain and worked really hard for many years in order to get the position. Not so in this reboot. He is instead portrayed as a stuck-up snob who doesn't even want to be captain at first, but gets the position because his father was heroic. Seriously? That's just really stupid and because they decided to do that, all Star Trek sequels will be slightly tainted in my mind. There is a scene where Benedict Cumberbatch's character is beating the crap out of Kirk and that actually made me really happy.

In more immediate complaints, while I did really like the new Spok in both movies, giving him the romance story line just doesn't fit him. Spok is not a romantic person and if he were to get a girlfriend, it would certainly not be Uhura. There is a scene in the movie where Spok is willing to sacrifice his life and thus delivers the line "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" and following that Uhura complains that he wasn't thinking of her when he made that decision. I wanted to slap her in the face at that point. Her and the writers of the movie for including that in there. That specifically felt like a mockery of the original. Next immediate complaint was that once again this felt more like Star Wars than Star Trek. When Spok fights Khan at the end, I half expected them to both pull out lightsabers. There is one scene where Scotty is angry and thus goes down into a bar to drink. When the camera pans into the bar and shows him sitting there drinking with this alien character, that was a scene that almost felt like it was directly copied from Star Wars. Whether it be the original series, Next Generation, or whatever, Star Trek has never been a high-powered, non-stop action series and that is exactly what Star Trek Into Darkness is. All Star Trek movies and TV shows have a certain feel to them that I have a hard time describing in words, but Into Darkness totally misses that and just doesn't feel like a Star Trek movie. Finally, before moving on to my complaints after watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there is a scene in Into Darkness where they visit the Klingon planet. I was excited to see the Klingons, but when they were finally there and a Klingon they ran into took off his mask, I was appalled. It was awful. Way too different and way too much CGI. It was a similar to the problem that The Hobbit had with the Orks.

Now all of those previously mentioned concerns where those that I had right when I walked out of the theater and thus the ceiling for how I was going to rate it would be a 7.5 or 8, but this movie featured Khan as the main villain and on walking out I realized that I didn't know very much about Khan and so I resolved to fix that before I gave a final judgement of the movie. I learned that Khan appears in one episode in the original series back in 1967 and then later was featured in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. I watched both and if you don't know Khan or his story, let me briefly explain. Khan was intercepted or found by Captain Kirk and crew on the enterprise while they were on their five year mission. Khan was subtle and cunning in his original plans and tried to take over the enterprise and almost succeeded. However, Kirk eventually defeated him and sent him into exile where 15 years of hatred and anger built up in Khan. The Wrath of Khan takes place 15 years later and is the story of Khan's revenge towards the Enterprise. Not only is the movie considered to be the greatest Star Trek movie ever, but Khan is considered as one of the best villains ever, Star Trek and non Star Trek alike. So bringing Khan in as the villain of Into Darkness is definitely a huge risk and one that if done right could work out very well. Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock is the one who got the role of Khan and he actually does a fantastic job. The big problem is how the character was written. They totally changed Khan's story in Into Darkness and that was an insult.

Also in addition to messing up Khan's story, there is an iconic moment in the end that they totally twist around. I won't give away that ending, but instead I will give a Star Wars comparison. Imagine for a second that someone remakes the original Star Wars trilogy. In doing so they have all the iconic characters, but when they bring in Darth Vader, they change his back story. That alone would upset Star Wars fans because they just messed with one of the best villains in movie history. Then on top of that, when they decide to redo the iconic moment in Empire Strikes Back, instead of having Darth Vader reveal to Luke that he is his father, instead Luke figures it out first and in the end says, "Darth Vader, I am your son!" That would then be followed by a "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" from Vader. Sure that would be cool to those who don't care about the original series, but fans of the original series would probably hate that. This is pretty much what Star Trek Into Darkness does and for me it wasn't cool.

Now if you aren't a fan of Star Trek and you also loved JJ Abrams' 2009 Star Trek, I will say that you will probably love this one as well. It's not a bad movie when you ignore everything Star Trek. It has good acting, a great villain, great action throughout, and is very emotionally in many aspects of it and for that reason I can't actually claim that it is a really bad movie. But in my opinion it spits in the face of Star Trek and that upsets me. I once was a huge JJ Abrams fan after he helmed my favorite TV show Lost, but now after he totally screwed up two Star Trek films now and also helmed a disappointing Super 8, I have practically lost all faith in him and am actually really nervous that he is going to screw up Star Wars Episode VII as well. I give Star Trek Into Darkness a 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Arrow Season 1 Review

Today is the day of the Superhero. Yes, Superheroes have always been a part of our culture, mainly with comic books, but also the Batman and Superman movies have been popular for a long while. Recently, though, because of the Avengers, Superhero movies have become insanely popular and now that is leaking out into TV as well. Is Arrow the product of this hype? Well, yes. But yet at the same time I will say not quite. Why do I say this? Because Arrow is a CW show and if you recall, the CW just recently finished 10 seasons of the major hit Smallville. Despite the superhero craze as of late, I would have to say that Arrow comes because of Smallville and not because of the Avengers, but who knows, I could be wrong. Regardless, Hollywood likes to replicate success and the CW is hoping that Arrow follows in the footsteps of Smallville by giving them similar success. Is it going to work? I am going to have to say yes. I checked out Arrow when they were about halfway into the show and I immediately got hooked, caught up to where they were, and finished the season watching it live on TV every week. It's a good show.

Let's back up real quick, though. What is Arrow? The obvious answer is that it is a new TV show on the CW. The better answer is that it is a TV show based off of the DC superhero Green Arrow. Green Arrow is nowhere near as popular as other DC superheroes like Batman and Superman, but nevertheless he is a part of the Justice League, so it's not like he is unknown. He's just never really been popular enough to be given a shot at his own movie/TV show and now is his big shot. Green Arrow in the comics is a lot like a Robin Hood in that he dresses up in a green suit and uses arrows as his weapon, but different in the fact that his big trademark is his fancy arrows that do more than just shoot people. The TV show Arrow doesn't necessarily follow the comic lore perfectly, but rather is an interesting, modern take on Green Arrow that at times doesn't even feel like a superhero TV show, but rather just a regular drama. In the TV series, Oliver Queen is a rich, spoiled son of a billionaire that is living the crazy, wild life when he gets on a boat with his father that sinks, kills his father, and leaves him stranded on an island for five years. Before his father died, Oliver learns of the corruption in the city and after going through a rigorous experience on the island, he comes back a changed man and is set on righting all the wrongs in the city.

This first season spends a lot of time setting the stage and providing background before simply just jumping into it and thus at times it seems slow and unfocused, but in a TV series like this that is expected in the first season. In the first season we don't get his full back story all at once. The show decided to take the route of explaining what happened to Oliver on the island via flashback and does so bit by bit throughout the season and I really like that format. It's almost like us having two story lines to follow at once instead of us only following Oliver while he tries to set up his crime-fighting gig in the city. Speaking of that, judging by the comics it is presumed that eventually more people figure out what he is doing, but for right now they are a team of three. That three would be Oliver, Oliver's crime-fighting partner John Diggle (Diggs) that was initially his body guard when he got back, and computer genius Felicity Smoak. Meanwhile, he lives a double life as a bar owner to cover-up his reasons of being gone all the time. Towards the beginning of the series, I was a little confused because it appeared that we didn't have a main villain and instead are just focusing on a list of corrupt people that Oliver got from his Dad. Superhero series with no main villain isn't the smartest thing in my mind, but we did eventually get one and it was done in a smart way because we built up towards realizing who he was and what his main plan was. The action that happened was super awesome and I am really excited for future seasons as we slowly build up tension and develop the characters from the comics that are present in the TV series that haven't yet come to the roles they are in the comics and it is super interesting to guess what will happen based on all of that. If I have one major complaint with Arrow it is the fact that it focuses way too much on the drama, especially on the romantic drama, and not enough on the Superhero action that I want.

Wrapping this up, I would say that Arrow is a TV series that is definitely worth checking out. Like I said, the first season spends a ton of time setting the scene for the series instead of jumping right in with major superhero conflicts and that in the end could be what makes this a really good series. However, that also means that the series is still in the potential stage in my mind. There is a lot of good things for them to build off of and also a lot of things they need to work on. They need to focus slightly less on all the drama and romance while instead giving us more villains and more action. Knowing the CW, that might not happen, but I still think that this will be a good series and I am excited for the second season to get here so I can figure out where they are planning on taking this series. I also think that they need to eventually give him the nickname of Green Arrow, but that's just a side note. If you like Superhero TV shows and movies, this is a series you need to check out. Also, if you were a fan of the TV series Smallville, then Arrow is definitely your show.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Supernatural Season 8 Review

This season in Supernatural took us on quite the journey. Like I mentioned last year in my Supernatural Season 7 review, Season 8 built on Season 7 in terms of how good it was. Season 5 is still the best in my opinion. You can't beat the Apocalypse and you can't beat Lucifer as a main villain. But as they said when they were asked what they were going to do next, they just need to go in a completely different direction and that is what they have done. Season 6 I still liked, even `if it may be the weakest of the eight seasons, but season 7 was better than season 6 and season 8 was actually significantly better than season 7. While I really liked the Leviathan theme in season 7 because it showed the intelligence of Supernatural in how they dive into the mythologies of many different cultures, season 8 felt like we got taken back into classic Supernatural.

What do I mean when I say classic Supernatural? Well first of all, the strength of the first three seasons came in the individual "monster-a-week" episodes with a thin over-arching plot that they dove into significantly at the end of the season. Starting with season 4 and moving onto season 5, they got more caught up in the intelligent story line that they came up with and there were less monster-a-week episodes. There were a lot of people that got annoyed with this, but I actually really liked it. As I said, season 5 is my favorite season thus far. Not that I didn't like the format of the first three seasons, because I did, I just always enjoy a TV show that dives into the story more. Season 8, however, goes back to that format and provides a lot more monster-a-week episodes. At the same time, though, it provides the best of both worlds in having a great story to go along with it. And that story is a lot better themed with what Supernatural is all about, that being the focus on Heaven and Hell. Yes, Supernatural deals with a lot of different supernatural creatures and themes - werewolves, vampires, shape-shifters, pagan gods, etc - the main focus has always been on the demons and the angels and the corresponding drama with Heaven and Hell. While I enjoyed the Purgatory and Leviathan themes in the previous seasons, I'm glad we got back to dealing with Heaven and Hell. In general, the big story of this season is them trying to close the gates of Hell forever and while we knew that it wouldn't work out because we still had two seasons left of Supernatural, we began to see an end in mind. It seems like they had a focus in this season and whereas in the previous two seasons it seemed like they were just going without a focus because they didn't want to end things yet. This time they have a focus and while I will be saddened when Supernatural finally ends, I'm excited to continue that journey towards the end because it will be an exciting finish.

Next up I need to talk about the characters in this because that's what really made this season. At the helm we of course have Sam and Dean. With that comes the classic Supernatural debate, who is better, Sam or Dean? Honestly, I really love both of them. They are both great in their own individual way. Most girls will pick Dean because he's the hot one. Since I am a guy, I don't have to deal with that aspect of things. Dean is definitely the more comical of the two, he makes me laugh all the time, but I personally have always given the edge to Sam in this debate. Why? The acting skills of Jared Padalecki are just super boss. Jensen Ackles is also really good, but he's typically the same character in all of the seasons with limited versatility. Jared is super versatile and Sam's character that he has played has been put through a lot of different phases. We had the anti-hunter school boy Sam, the super-devoted hunter Sam, the blood-thirsty demon Sam, the Lucifer Sam, the soul-less Sam, the family-man Sam, and finally the weak and crazy Sam going through the trials. Each phase is completely different and Jared has pulled off each phase brilliantly. But yes, both Jared and Jensen are fantastic and their relationship is really what has carried this series all eight seasons. I won't say what happens in the finale, but that relationship gets taken to new heights and it is really touching.

Before I wrap up, I do need to talk about the other characters that aren't Sam and Dean. Seasons 6 and 7 you started to feel empty as far as the side characters go as one by one all the characters in Sam and Dean's lives had been taken away from them. First it was their Mom and Dad towards the beginning, then it was Joe and Ellen, and finally they recently lost Bobby. Castiel wasn't gone, but he essentially got thrown into a blender as far as his character development went and we didn't know if he was going to even stick around. Starting with Cas, he is back to normal Cas in this season, especially towards the end and that is very good. He will also be back as a regular casted member in season 9, so Misha Collins fans should rejoice. The other side characters brought in were great. The young prophet Kevin, played by Osric Chau was introduced towards the end of season 7, but played a huge role in season 8 and was fantastic. The red-headed sidekick Charlie, played by Felicia Day, was also introduced for an episode in season 7, but was brought back for two more episodes in season 8 and one can only hope that she appears more often because she was also fantastic. The angels are always mysterious, so we can't consider them protagonists, but yet we can't always call them antagonists either. But we had two more main angels introduced in season 8 and both are intriguing characters. We have Naomi, who seems to be the new boss of Heaven and we also get introduced to Metatron, the scribe of God. Finally we have our villains. Crowley is our main villain in this one, and the King of Hell is simply a fantastically awesome and terribly evil villain at the same time. Towards the end of the season we get introduced to Abbadon, a new demon villain that will be contending with Crowley for the power in Hell and the two of them are sure to cause Sam and Dean more problems in future seasons.

Overall, season 8 is a fantastic addition to the great legacy of Supernatural. The finale, which I won't talk about, is easily the best finale since season 5 and I might actually consider it my second favorite finale in all of Supernatural. We are getting more seasons of Supernatural, we knew that really early on in season 8 actually, so the fact that the finale doesn't wrap things up shouldn't be considered a spoiler at all, so let me just say that it was an ending I didn't expect at all and it sets up season 9 perfectly. I am sad that Supernatural is now over for the Summer, but I am already looking forward to the fall when season 9 will begin.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby Review

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel written by F Scott Fitzgerald back in 1925. Originally it didn't sell well and got mixed reviews by critics. When Fitzgerald died in 1940, he died thinking that The Great Gatsby was a failure. Shortly following his death, the popularity of the book skyrocketed to the point where it is viewed as one of the great American novels and is oftentimes used as required reading material in high school English classes. Personally I somehow managed to sneak through life without reading the book, so in seeing the movie I had the unique prospective in having no idea how the movie was going to turn out. With this also comes the fact that I won't be able to compare the book and the movie, but after seeing the movie I did some reading up on the story line of the book to help readers out. In converting the book into a movie, it has been an especially long wait for audiences as it was originally set to come out Christmas of last year, but instead of trying to compete with The Hobbit, Les Mis, and Django Unchained, it opted to open between Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. That was a risky move, but one that has worked out as The Great Gatsby opened up to $50M and thanks to Iron Man 3's huge success, The Great Gatsby gets the honor of having one of the biggest opening weekends ever for a movie that didn't open number one. Going into it, I actually had pretty low expectations because of the poor reviews it was receiving. Because of that, it turns out that I was pleasantly surprised because I found myself enjoying the movie.

Before I go into anything else, I want to start by saying that I felt the movie had a bit of an identity crisis. And I am not referring to the story or the acting, I'll get into that later, but I am referring to the visuals and the music. The movie is staying true to the novel and is set in the 1920's. In doing so, it is trying to be a visual masterpiece and has the 3D to go with it, but at the same time it tries to look like a 20's movie and it just clashes heavily because it can't decide which one to go with. I think it would've been much better had if it had chosen to go with the Captain America feel. Captain America was a movie set in the 40's that had an old fashioned feel like a 40's movie and that worked super well and added greatly to the awesomeness of the movie. Had it gone with the Captain America feel, I actually think this would've been a fantastic movie, but instead it was just visually confusing, which consequently was quite distracting from the overall tone of the movie.

The music wasn't as bad, but it had similar problems. The original score was credited to Craig Armstrong, who is best known for his work in Moulin Rouge, another Baz Luhrmann movie. However, I was rather impressed at the number of songs that were in this movie. When the credits rolled along and got to the songs section, it was a list that went on a lot longer than most movies. There were a lot of songs in the movie written and performed by "Shawn Carter" as the credits kept saying, or better yet, "Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter". Most of us just call him Jay-Z. Anyways, back on track, with all that plethora of music, it seemed like half of it really set the tone quite well, but yet there was a lot that was simply distracting. A good example of scenes that had both distracting visuals and distracting music in my opinion were the party scenes in Gatsby's home. There were times where I just wanted to plug my ears while facepalming. Added to that is that especially in these scenes, but also in others, the 20's feel seemed exaggerated. Instead of feeling like I was actually in the 20's, I felt like I was watching a movie where everyone, especially the background people, were trying super hard to look like 20's people and it was rather embarrassing.

That being said, most of that was in the first half of the movie. Halfway through the movie, I was wondering what I got myself into because, as one who never read the book, I was also seeing a boring movie on top of all that which was looking like nothing but a cliche romantic drama. Man and woman loved each other, but were separated for five years. During that span of time, woman gets married to an idiot and man improves his life to impress woman. After five years, man tries to win woman back. Predictable ending right? Well, no. I won't divulge what happens in case there are a few of you out there that never read the book, but the ending takes quite the wild turn and thus touches on many common social problems that were really prevalent back in Fitzgerald's time as well as our time, thus is why it is considered one of the greats in American literature.

The second half of the movie, starting when the real drama started to unfold, I thought was fantastic. This was due to an excellent story that was written well by F Scott Fitzgerald and nicely adapted into a modern movie. What carried the movie was fantastic acting. Specifically speaking, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Joel Edgerton were amazing. Carey Mulligan was the girl caught in between the two and she also did great as the snobby rich girl caught in between the two men. Then we have our narrator/main character played by Tobey Maguire who gets caught up in this whole thing. I was overly impressed by Maguire's performance, but I also didn't hate him. He did a decent job. Then as our last main character in the story, we have Tobey Maguire's love interest played by Elizabeth Debicki. Apparently as I read over the book's story line, she was an actual love interest and played a decently big role in the book. In the movie, she was just there and the love interest really didn't exist, so her character was actually quite useless. Isla Fisher and James Clark play side characters in the movie that turn out to be rather important and I loved their performances in the final scenes.

Overall, this is a movie that I think is worth checking out in the midst of a busy summer. It's not going to go down as one of my favorites of the summer, but it is a decently done adaption of a classic novel and if you can look over the messy, confusing visuals, you might find yourself like me by actually enjoying the movie and pondering over the points that F Scott Fitzgerald brought to the table when he wrote this book almost 90 years ago. I give The Great Gatsby a decent 7 out of 10.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mud Review

I'm willing to bet that a good majority of you reading this haven't yet heard of the movie Mud, so allow me to explain. Some movies get signed on with a big distributor and focus on a heavy marketing and advertising campaign in order to get people to learn about the movie. Other movies get submitted to a film festival and then if it does well it moves forward to being distributed to the general public via movie theaters across the country. It usually starts with very few theaters and slowly expands to more theaters depending on how well it does in limited release. Mud is a movie that has taken the latter route. In 2012 it was nominated for the Palm d'Or, the highest award given in the Cannes Film Festival. Two weekends on April 26th, it was given a limited release in 363 theaters. Last weekend it expanded to 576 theaters, just short of an official wide release. It's top 10 appearance in the box office combined with its 98% score on rottentomatoes was enough to catch my attention. Turns out that when I looked it up, I learned that one of those 576 theaters was the theater right next to me, so without further ado, I went to check it out. Turned out to be a great decision. With it getting an official nationwide expansion this weekend, I'd highly recommend you give it a shot as well.

Mud is a movie that stars Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, but in actuality is about a 14 year old boy named Ellis, played Tye Sheridan, whose only other previous acting role came in 2011's Tree of Life. Him and his bestfriend Neckbone are exploring in the woods and come upon a boat in a tree. They find that there is a man by the name of Mud (McConaughey) living in the boat. Turns out that Mud is a fugitive who killed a man and is being hunted by the police and bounty hunters. However, he is very nice to the two boys and enlists their help by promising them ownership of the boat in exchange for food. This causes a relationship to be developed and the boys agree to help Mud reunite with his former love Juniper (Witherspoon). This movie is not an fugitive action thriller like the movie Fugitive. It's also not a chick flick. And no, it's a combination of the two. Rather it is a coming-of-age drama focused on a 14 year old boy who is struggling to figure out how he sees love as through all this he has developed a crush of his own and his parents are going through a divorce.

This movie turns out to be a very moving movie when all is said and done, but it is very slow moving for much of the movie and doesn't really pick up until towards the end, but it's worth it because you come away with a very good feeling towards the movie. It's a very well casted movie that combines great teenage acting from movie newcomers Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, and Bonnie Sturdivant with seasoned movie vets Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, and Sam Shepard amongst others. And really the whole cast does a great job in this movie and that is what carries the movie. I was also really impressed with the score and cinematography in this movie and all of that added to a very good movie experience for me.

Wrapping things up, I think this is the type of movie that would be considered for Academy Awards rolls around again at the beginning of next year. There is a lot of competition this year as far as that goes, but I think at the very least Matthew McConaughey deserves to be considered for a best actor nomination as this probably the best I have seen him in a movie. As far as the whole movie goes, yes this is a busy time for movies and there are a lot of movies on the top your list of movies to see, but I suggest that you give this one a chance. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Iron Man 3 Review Part 2: SPOILERS

I recently saw the movie Iron Man 3 and wrote my review for it. After writing it, though, I felt that it was insufficient. This is because a lot of the reasons I liked it so much were things I couldn't talk about and so I didn't. But I can't hold it in any longer, especially because it has sparked a bit of controversy and I have a huge desire to address it. But I will warn you. This is a review meant for people who have already seen the movie. If you have not seen Iron Man 3, I highly suggest that you stop reading this right now and instead go to my spoiler free review here. If you are still reading, I'm not going to double dip on things that I already talked about in my previous review, so if you haven't read that, go check it out real quick and come back. What I will do is spend this whole time discussing the spoilers in the movie that I couldn't talk about in the other one.

First and foremost is the Mandarin. If you are unaware of the Iron Man comic lore, the Mandarin is Iron Man's biggest arch-rival. He's the equivalent to the Joker for Batman or Lex Luther for Superman. For a while now it's been advertised that the Mandarin would be the main villain in this third Iron Man movie, or so it seemed, and he would be played by Ben Kingsley. From the trailers it seemed like Ben Kingsley would be a perfect villain. The biggest problem seemed to be that Ben Kingsley isn't Asian and it seemed fitting that they would pick someone who is actually Asian to play an Asian villain. Turns out the faithfulness issues with the movie versus the comics were a lot bigger than that. The movie starts out with a flashback of Tony Stark totally shafting this guy named Aldrich Killian and the second that happens, we instantly know that Killian is going to be a villain in the movie. After that we jump back to the present and there are news reports of the Mandarin terrorizing the world. Eventually Tony gets confronted by the media and he makes the dumb move of giving his address to the media and this quickly leads to his house getting blown up, supposedly by the Mandarin. It's at that point where Tony decides to confront the Mandarin. He learns that he is in Miami, Florida heads on over there. All is well, right? It's at this point where the huge twist in the movie comes into play. Tony Stark breaks into the home of the Mandarin, goes into his room and finds two scantily clad females laying in his bed. They inform him that the Mandarin is in the bathroom at the moment. When the Mandarin comes out, he is really surprised and so is the audience watching because it is at that point where we learn that the Mandarin is not this super awesome villain like he is in the comics. Rather he is drunk loser that is just acting the part. As the movie was progressing, we officially learn that Killian is bad and it is mentioned that he is working for the Mandarin. This would've given us a Joker/Harvey Dent type of situation that would've been awesome, but instead it is the exact opposite way. Killian isn't working for the Mandarin. The Mandarin is working for Killian as an actor to pose this big time media threat. Killian and a group of people are essentially fire people with crazy abilities. Pepper Pots gets kidnapped and they attempt to turn her into a fire person as well. War Machine aka Iron Patriot gets trapped and has his suit stolen, which gets used to kidnap and attempt to assassinate the President. All this leads to easily the best ending in an Iron Man movie by far.

Let me pause, though, and talk about the huge twist. Pardon my Star Trek, but Iron Man 3 boldly goes where no movie has gone before. I don't know if I have ever seen a movie that attempts to pull off what they did. They took a famous villain, advertised that he was going to be the main villain, and then halfway through the movie, turn him into a complete joke. This is very risky and has angered many Iron Man comic fans. I think that they have a right to be angry, but personally I loved it. Almost every superhero movie uses the same formula. It's a formula that works and I enjoy, but yet it is the typically the same. Superhero arises in the city. Villain rises up to take over the city and destroy the superhero. Superhero eventually overcomes challenges and defeats the villain. Bam. There you have most Superhero movies. Iron Man 3 I think could've used the Mandarin as the main villain like he was in the comics, and it would've been awesome, but in doing what they did, they took Iron Man 3 from a generic superhero movie and turned it into a unique and special superhero movie that still uses enough elements from that formula to entertain the audience.

That in and of itself I think was brilliant. We don't see that type of twist in movies these days and certainly not ones that actually work out positively like this one did. It threw me off, but I was really impressed. Sure, it didn't follow the comic book lore at all in terms of the Mandarin, but as a movie they aren't trying to duplicate the comics. They are taking the comics and then using their creative liberties to make a good movie. If you want something that is exactly like the comics, then go read the comics and you'll get what you want. Now on top of all this, I really think the psychological aspect of the movie added even more to the brilliance. Tony Stark wasn't prepared for what happened during the events of the Avengers with aliens, gods, wormholes, etc and that adding to the fact that he was almost seriously injured in the battle caused him to have PTSD-like symptoms in Iron Man 3. Several times throughout he has anxiety attacks and he can't sleep well. This causes him to not be completely mentally or emotionally stable. You don't see this in superhero movies. All superheros seem like they are immune to such psychological breakdowns and are perfectly stable at all times and that can be seen as a bit unrealistic and so I praise Iron Man 3 for going down that road. Also, the lack of sleep led Tony to be in his workshop a ton and created a bunch of Iron Man suits. He has this great idea of using them all in battle as well as being able to jump into different suits at command if he desires. This does lead to an insanely awesome final battle, but at the same time a lot of this idea fails. Along with the comedic aspect that comes with that, it also ties into psychological aspect of the movie that most comic book movies don't touch. Iron Man makes dumb mistakes. His idea is brilliant, but a lot of times it fails. How often do we get that? The idea of the superhero of the city failing in several aspects of his plan just isn't touched because normally superheroes are seen as near perfect beings. More kudos to Iron Man 3.

Finally, the last battle. The scene where all the Iron Man suits come flying in to help with the fight is just fantastic. Killian is also an excellent villain that is fun to watch while he fights Iron Man, which is something the first two kinda lacked, with special emphasis on the second one on that. Then we have both the President and Pepper Potts hanging over the fire, nearly getting executed. War Machine, without his suit, heroically rescues the President, while Tony Stark goes to rescue Pepper Potts only to watch her barely fall out of his reach and into the fire. Super emotional there as he thinks he has lost her, but after a good fight, entertaining fight with Killian, we learn that the transformation of her into a fire person successfully worked as Pepper Potts emerges from the fire and beats the tar out of Killian, and that was super awesome. Finally, after everything is settled down, we get the end moral of the story. Iron Man goes to his old, blown up house and in essence says that they may destroy his personal belongings like his house and whatnot, but one thing they can't take away from him is the the fact that he is Iron Man. That is a great, touching lesson. People can hurt us and take away all of our belongings, but no one can ever change who we are and so that should cause us to move forward with our heads held high into whatever the future brings us.

So these are all my thoughts. And given the fact that you have all seen the movie because you pressed forward through me giving away nearly every secret of the movie, I would like you to give me your opinions, because I am curious. What did you think about all this, specifically what did you think about the Mandarin twist? Leave your comments below.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

2013 NBA Playoff Predictions - Conference Semi-Finals

Western Confernce Finals

#1- Oklahoma City Thunder vs #5- Memphis Grizzlies - 

Having an NBA finals match-up that featured the Thunder and the Heat again is a very realistic possibility, but a fairly common trend in pro sports is that the two top seeds very rarely face each other in the finals. With that said the Heat are definitely going to the finals. I don't think there is a team that is strong enough to beat them in the East. The West on the other hand is a different story. The Thunder looked quite vulnerable in the last half of that series against the Rockets and I have this feeling that they are not going to make it to the finals, especially now that Russell Westbrook is out. If this was a match-up against the Clippers like I originally thought it was going to be, then I think that would've been a good match-up for the Thunder, but the Grizzlies are a different story. I think this will be a close series, but I also think that the Grizzlies will be able to overpower  the Thunder with their really good defense and very potent offense.

Prediction: Grizzlies 4-3

#2- San Antonio Spurs vs #6- Golden State Warriors - 

I usually hate predicting a no upset round, but that is what I did in the first round and it turned out that I was indeed wrong. I don't count a 5 seed over a 4 seed as an upset, but the Warriors knocking off the Nuggets definitely was and I totally didn't see that coming. I also that that the Spurs would lose a game or two to the Lakers, but that didn't happen either. If Denver were to win, I think this would be a really bad match-up for the Spurs, but with Golden State winning I think they were a bit relieved because the Warriors are a much better match-up. Now it is not good at this point to completely write off the Warriors as they proved they are a dangerous team that definitely belongs in the playoffs. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the back court, they could provide the Spurs with some headaches, but I think the Spurs will wind up on top. The Warriors don't match up very well with the Spurs and they can't win in San Antonio. They have lost 29 straight games to the Spurs in San Antonio and that doesn't bode well. I think they could pull off a win, maybe two at home, but this could be a fairly fast series in favor of the Spurs.

Prediction: Spurs 4-1

Eastern Conference 

#1- Miami Heat vs #5- Chicago Bulls - 

I am staying committed to my opinion that I don't think any team in the playoffs will give a huge challenge to the Heat right now. It is of note that when the Heat were on their historical winning streak that the Bulls were the team to end that. If healthy, the Bulls are a very dangerous team that could give the Heat a lot of problems, but that is their exact problem. They can't stay healthy. If it's not one Bulls player getting injured, it's another. They managed to fight their way through the Nets, but I don't think they will be that lucky against the Heat. A banged up, tired Bulls team fresh off a long series against the Nets I think will fall and fall rather quickly. People remember that the Bulls beat the heat, but some forget that a couple weeks later the Heat all magically got back from injury and got their revenge pretty handily. The Heat will be fighting even harder in the playoffs and will probably dispose of a broken and bent up Bulls team pretty fast. I'm going to be semi bold and predict another sweep for the Heat

Prediction: Heat 4-0

#2- New York Knicks vs #3- Indiana Pacers

Out of all the first round match-ups, I think this one intrigues me the most. The Knicks at times look like the are good enough to upset the Heat in the Easter Conference, then there are the times that they just checkout like they did at times during the Celtics series. If they play like the former Knicks team they could win this series, but I am not confident that they will. The Pacers on the other hand are one of the more overlooked teams. Everyone spends their time talking about the Heat, Knicks, Nets, Bulls, and Celtics, but the Pacers just fly under the radar and are in fact the third best team in the East. With a stellar defense and an offense led by Most Improved Player winner Paul George, I think that the Pacers will win out in a close series and thus win the honor of getting trounced on by the Heat in the Conference Finals as I don't think either the Pacers or the Knicks stand a chance at beat the Heat. But maybe I shouldn't rain on their parade too soon.

Prediction: Pacers 4-3

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

 Five years ago, Iron Man took the world by storm as it was the beginning of the Avengers project that has now taken the popularity of the comic book movie to a new level. It was a risky project, but an extremely awarding one as The Avengers is now the third highest grossing movie ever. Because of this success, the Avengers movies are far from over. Avengers phase two is all planned out and phase three is being figured out. Iron Man 3 is the movie that kicks officially kicks off phase two and it is doing so with a huge bang as at the time of me typing this it is in the middle of one of the biggest opening weekends ever. Usually part three in a series isn't too popular when the second movie was poorly received, as was the case with Iron Man 2, but Iron Man 3 is bucking this trend because it is feeding off the huge success of The Avengers. I am very proud to say that I helped contribute to this success of Iron Man 3 because not only does it kick off phase two in a huge way financially, but it is also a really good movie that easily makes up for a poor Iron Man 2. In fact, I may even go as far to say that it is the best of the three.

What is happening in Iron Man world this time around? Well, it is post Avengers and Tony Stark is going through a lot mentally because of what happened in the Avengers. A combination of aliens, gods, wormholes, and really intense action has turned out to be too much for his brain to handle and he thus experiences extreme anxiety and PTSD type syndromes that leads to anxiety attacks and very little sleep. On top of that, the Mandarin is causing terror around the world and when Tony makes a pretty big mistake, the Mandarin comes and blows up his house. All this leads to a somewhat psychological movie that actually focuses a lot more on Tony Stark and all his issues he is dealing with as opposed to the usual focus of super hero fighting the super villain. Now of course we have our villain in this movie and there are plenty of action scenes where Iron Man fights him and those are really awesome, but the added depth to this movie really makes it quite fantastic.

I'm not going to give away spoilers in this, but there are several aspects to this movie that cause me to really like it and unfortunately I can't talk about them at all, so let me just put it this way. The movie is bold. Really bold. It does something that in many cases would cause fans to get angry and hate the movie. For a lot of people, especially fans of the Iron Man comics, this is actually what it has done. And to be honest, if people hate the movie for what they did, I can't blame them. But for me the boldness really worked out and the more I think about it, the more I really am impressed with how it turned out. It gave me a movie going experience that I don't have get that often. Moving on, I think even those who hated the twist should've been able to still like the movie because the final battle scene was just totally awesome. Once again, I can't say why, but you'll see when you watch it. What I can say about this movie is that Robert Downy Jr is just amazing. There is a reason why everyone loves Iron Man and he is the reason. In this movie, he definitely doesn't disappoint. A great supporting cast around him is also what makes this a successful franchise and such is the case again in this one. Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are returning vets that do great once again while newcomers Ben Kingsley, Guy Pierce, Rebecca Hall, and Ty Simpkins are great as well.

Overall, Iron Man 3 is a fantastic movie. I didn't like Iron Man 2 that much, but I loved the first one and if I were to rank the three Iron Man movies, I would give Iron Man 3 the slight edge. It has great action, great comedy, is well acted, has a good story, is very bold, and very smart. Definitely a great way to start out the summer. I give Iron Man 3 a 9 out of 10.

Click here for my SPOILERS review

Friday, May 3, 2013

Movie Preview: May 2013

April is over and once again it followed this terrible downward trend from this year. Now I have to be fair to March because that performed decently even though it still was down from 2011, but April removed any positive effect that March had on this year. The biggest movie of the month was March holdover The Croods, while baseball movie 42 took the honors of being the biggest wide release. Oblivion will pass 42 here soon, but in terms of pure April money, 42 wins after having the advantage of being out a week longer. Evil Dead did decent money for a horror movie and Jurassic Park 3D was about on par with the other two 3D re-releases in Phantom Menace and Titanic. Meanwhile, Scary Movie 5, Pain and Gain, and The Big Wedding all disappointed. To be fair, Pain and Gain did have a decent opening weekend, but with poor reviews and Iron Man 3 coming out, it will disappear quickly. 42 and Oblivion ended the month with $70M and will both sneak their way towards $100M, but both will probably fall short and leave this April without a $100M movie. With this downward spiraling trend this year, if there is a month that can stop that and reverse the fortunes of 2013, this May should do the trick as this month has a huge title every weekend. Last May had The Avengers bank in over $600M but outside that it only produced one other movie that broke $100M. The May record belongs to 2011 and that month brought in five movies that passed the $100M mark. This May has seven movies that have realistic potential of passing that mark, four of which are guaranteed while the three others have the possibility of succumbing under intense competition. So lets check all of them out and get you excited as the Summer movie season will be officially underway.

May 3rd - 5th - 

Starting Summer off with a huge bang will be none other than Iron Man 3. Oftentimes when big box office hits have somewhat lackluster sequels, as was the case with Iron Man, you might expect a drop off in the box office, but as is already shown by the huge overseas total thus far, Iron Man will buck that trend with the third installment because it will instead be playing off Avengers instead of Iron Man 2. This installment is going for the darker tone as Tony Stark is apparently having PTSD-like symptoms after dealing with the events of the Avengers. On top of that, Tony has to deal with the Mandarin, who currently is looking like the best villain of the trilogy. This movie will definitely be the highest grossing movie of the trilogy and while it won't be as big as The Avengers, look for it to earn somewhere between last year's hits The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises.

May 10th - 12th - 

This spot right here is always a tough one for new movies and that is especially the case this year as there are two new movies that are daring enough to sandwich themselves in between Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. However, the first of those two movies, The Great Gatsby, has a good chance of doing solid business. The Great Gatsby has been a long awaited movie as it was originally scheduled for Christmas of this past year but opted to reschedule for May in a somewhat perplexing move. Yes, it did have intense competition for Django Unchained, Les Mis, and The Hobbit, but trying to compete with Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't seem like much of an upgrade. It does have it's own weekend to lure crowds, but if it turns out disappointing, it will easily get swallowed up in a busy May. Also, opening in December it had some Oscar buzz swirling around it and I don't know if that will be the case with it opening in May because for some reason when it's Oscar time, the Academy seems to forget that there were movies that opened up in the first two thirds of the year. If you don't know much about the Great Gatsby, it's a classic novel written by F Scott Fitzgerald. This movie adaption of it is written and directed by Baz Luhrmann, the director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet (1996). The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Toby McGuire, and Carey Mulligan.

Also coming out this week is Tyler Perry's Peeples. It seems like there are 500 of these movies released every year (2-4 being realistic) and they all do pretty decent business regardless of what other movies come out along with it so Tyler Perry has a pretty faithful fan base that will watch anything and everything he does regardless of quality, so look for this to be similar to his other movies.

May 17th - 19th - 

As was the case in week one of May, no one dares challenge the second guaranteed hit of the month in Star Trek Into Darkness. Now Star Trek is something that will never really die, so I don't know if revive is the right word, but JJ Abrams definitely awoke the franchise from hibernation with his 2009 Star Trek reboot. Despite being less Star Trekkie then Star Trek movies should be, the movie was a huge hit and extremely well liked and that led it to be the biggest Star Trek movie ever in terms of box office gross, even when you adjust for ticket price inflation and the fact that it was well liked means that this second one should be in for a similar haul. Some people get mad at movie franchises for doing excessive sequels, but Star Trek is a franchise that is definitely immune to that. Personally I have never been a fan of the name of this sequel and I'm nervous that I may be cheering for the villain in this because Benedict Cumberbatch is just that awesome, but hey. It still should be really fun.

May 24th - 27th - 

Just like it does every year, Memorial Day will be coming to a Monday near you on the fourth Monday this month, thus extending the fourth weekend and making for a popular movie weekend. This Memorial Day Weekend has the mixings to be either one of the biggest Memorial Day weekends ever or one of the more self-destructive Memorial Day weekends ever as it features three new movies, two of which are trying to attract similar crowds. The ultimate winner of the duel should be Fast and Furious 6. The Fast and Furious franchise has been a very unique one to say the least. First off, there are not many franchises that get a part 6 and out of the ones that do, few of them are this highly anticipated. This is because Fast Five surprised many people and was the best movie of the franchise both financially and in terms how well it was received. The ending of Fast Five also left you a pretty big cliff hanger and so fans of that movie have been looking forward to number 6 ever since the end of 5. Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster and the rest of the crew all will return in this one.

The movie competing with Fast and Furious 6 in the potentially self-destructing battle is The Hangover Part III. The Hangover Franchise is one of the most successful comedy franchises and definitely the most successful R-rated raunchy comedy franchise as the original Hangover was a huge breakout with $277M and was popular enough to propel Part II to $254M. The issue with Part II was that it was poorly received and thus Part III has very little chance to make to the level of the first two. Nevertheless it should still have no problem making it to at least $100M by the end of its run.

Unaffected by those two movies this weekend will be our third potential hit of the weekend in Epic. This is a family friendly animated movie and thus family audiences will flock to it throughout Memorial Day weekend. Epic comes from Blue Sky, which is the animation studio that made Ice Age. Despite their huge international success with the Ice Age franchise internationally, they have yet to make a movie that crosses the $200M mark domestically, but yet all seven of their animated movies have crossed the $100M mark and with the lack of animated movies thus far this year, a decent, yet not "epic" total should be expected.

May 31st - June 2nd - 

The last weekend of May is really mostly in June and only one day in May, but I am counting it as May because it starts in May. Sue me. This should a busy weekend with all the holdovers from Memorial Day, but in terms of new releases it may be the weakest. First up we have our next movie in a long string of post apocalyptic movies in After Earth. The most recent movie in this string this year was Oblivion and it did decent business in April, but ultimately will get swallowed up in May and fall short of $100M. After Earth was recently scheduled for June 7th, but it made the smart decision to avoid Man of Steel as much as possible and move back a week to this weekend so that it can have two weeks before it gets killed instead of one week. After Earth does star Will Smith and he usually always huge at the box office. Starting with the monster hit Independence Day in 1996, he has been in 17 movies and 14 of those have earned more than $100M, so history would say he follows that trend, but in a busy Summer it's hard to see that there will be enough interest to take it too far. It does have Will's son Jaden Smith in it, which should help a little more as we see the father/son relationship drama between Will and Jaden as they do play father and son in the movie. This movie could cross $100M, but if it does, it will be by the skin of its teeth.

Last but not least we have one of the more intriguing movies of the month that will also probably be the most ignored movie. That would be Now You See Me. What this movie is is a magician heist movie. The FBI is investigating an illusionist group who perform bank robberies as a part of their performances and award the audience with the money. This has quite the loaded cast as it includes Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, and Isla Fisher. The immediate movie I think of when trying to compare it is The Prestige. Is it going to be as mind blowing as that? I don't know. Probably not. But point is that The Prestige was another magician movie with a loaded cast and despite the fact that many people include it in their list of favorite movies, it actually didn't attract much in terms of box office as it topped out around $50M. At this point in May, people may be burned out with all the money they have spent on major movies and may be saving their money for the continued onslaught of big movies in June and July and skip over this one.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 NFL Draft Grades

If we are being totally honest, it is really not fair to judge a draft until several years into the future. Some players are college superstars and would at first look seem like they would convert into NFL superstars, but they just fall short when it comes NFL competition. Other players suffer injuries early in their NFL career that stint or end their pro career. Then you have the players that were only average in their college career and end up stepping up their game in the pros. Then of course you have the players that people think will be superstars and end up doing so. This is why it is hard to judge a draft right after it happens because oftentimes it is quite random. But I am going to give out grades anyways so you can know how I felt about this draft. Maybe you will come back in a year or two and laugh at my analysis, who knows - I might do the same, but so be it. I will do this alphabetically by team as opposed to best draft to worst draft or some other mode.

Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals had a solid draft all around and in my opinion had one of the best drafts.  Every single pick of theirs not only made sense, but was a good value pick that addressed a team need. Maybe they would've been happy if Lane Johnson fell to them in the first round, but Johnathan Cooper was definitely a great consolation prize as it was smart of them to go offensive line with that pick. Second round and fourth round picks Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor were projected as first round picks by some and sending the Honey Badger to team up with his old LSU teammate Patrick Peterson is probably the best situation for him. Even late round picks Earl Watford, Stephan Taylor, Ryan Swope, and Andre Ellington could've easily been second or third round picks. Beautiful job by the Cardinals.
Grade: A

Atlanta Falcons- Cornerback was definitely the biggest need for the Falcons in this draft and they did a solid job of addressing that with their first two picks. Trading up for Desmond Trufant was smart and Robert Alford in the second round was a smart pick as he was seen as a late first round or early second round by most and they snagged him in the late second round, so props to the Falcons for that. But that's about where it ends for the Falcons. You look at the rest of their picks from the fourth round down (they ended up without a third round pick) and no one stands out as someone who will make a difference for this team and most of them might not even make the team.
Grade: B-

Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens had a lot of needs this offseason after it seems everyone left their team following that Super Bowl. The 32nd pick is always a tough spot to be in, especially when the Ravens needed as much help as the did, but they did a great job of making the most of it. They ended up selecting ten times in this draft and for the most part everyone they took will at least provide good depth for this team and help ease the pain of all the losses they suffered. Their top two picks, Matt Elam and Arthur Brown, have the chance to be day one starters as they try to help fill in the gaps for departed Raven legends Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
Grade: B+

Buffalo Bills- Robert Woods was an excellent choice with their first of two second round picks as the Bills needed to add some receivers to run alongside Stevie Johnson, but outside that you look at this draft for the Bills and just wonder if they enjoy losing. It all starts with them taking EJ Manuel with the 16th overall pick. Not Geno Smith and not even Ryan Nassib like most thought. EJ Manuel could turn out to be a decent quarterback, but he was the third or fourth best quarterback in this draft and even if they Bills really liked him, they didn't have to take him in the first round. He would've been available to them in the second or maybe even third round. Thus was the story of the draft for them. There were a lot of great players that would've helped them win that available every time they selected, but they chose not to select them. And it wasn't just Manuel in round one. There were better linebackers on the board when they selected Kirk Alonso. Taking receiver Marquise Goodwin in round three was really risky. The guy blew everyone away with his speed in the senior bowl and combine, but have you looked at his stats in college? He had only a third of the yards as the other receivers in the draft. Good for a late round flyer, but not a third round pick.
Grade: D-

Carolina Panthers- The Panthers didn't have much to work with in this draft as they ended with only five picks, three of those being fourth, fifth, and sixth round picks respectively. But they solved issues they had at one position of need by taking two DT steals. Star Lotulelei fell to them at 14 which is great because before his heart condition came up he was a lock to be a top five pick, some thinking he could even go number one. His condition was cleared, but teams still got too nervous about that and I have a feeling they will regret that later. Also in the second round they got Kawann Short who also could've gone earlier. So I definitely can't talk bad about their draft, but I also can't praise it because of the lack of picks and thus lack of needs addressed.
Grade: B

Chicago Bears- The Bears really confused me when they took Kyle Long in the first round. He's one of those players that you look at and realize that he could turn out to be a decent starter for the Bears, but there was so much more they could've done with that pick and Kyle Long was a projected second round pick at best. They also got linebacker happy as three of their remaining picks after selecting Long were used on the position, which could turn out in their favor being that they need to replace Urlacher somehow, but I look at their draft and see that they could've done so much more.
Grade: C

Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals are another team that I think had a great draft. They raised eyebrows with their picks, but after thinking about it for a second, you realize that they are smart picks. Tight End wasn't the biggest need for the Bengals, but you can't argue with them adding Tyler Eifert to that already dangerous receiving corps. If Andy Dalton doesn't take the next step forward in his progression you certainly can't blame it on his receivers. Also it seems weird that they decided to pass on Eddie Lacy with their second round pick and instead elect to make Giovani Bernard the first runningback off the board, but the Bengals needed have a speedy runner that complimented Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Bernard fit that role better. The Bengals next three picks were defensive players that could turn out to be steals which is good because those were probably more pressing needs. The last half of the draft (rounds 5 -7) were full of players that will all probably miss the team, so it feels like the Bengals called it a wrap after the fourth round, but oh well.
Grade: A-

Cleveland Browns- The Browns really did themselves no favors in this draft. They only had five picks in the draft - two seventh round picks, a sixth round pick, a third round pick, and the sixth overall pick in the first round. But yet we look at those highest two picks and they really did nothing with them. They had several options at sixth overall that would've been great, the smartest of which would've been Dee Milliner, but they chose to take Barkevious Mingo, a player who was a reach at that point. They did address cornerback with the third round pick by taking Leon McFadden, but once again there were much better picks available to them. This probably means we can look forward to another top ten appearance by the Browns in next year's draft.
Grade: C-

Dallas Cowboys- I'm not quite sure what the Cowboys were thinking with this draft. They had big needs at safety and defensive line and both of those needs could've been solved where they were originally at in the first round. Instead they decided to trade down to the end of the first round, where there was also several players that could've helped them, but instead they decide to pick a center from Wisconsin. Sure, they did need an offensive lineman, but they could've grabbed this guy in the third round. Their next two picks they used on giving weapons for Tony Romo with tight end Gavin Escobar and receiver Terrance Williams. Sure, those guys will help the Cowboy offense, but they still didn't do anything to help their defense. They waited till the middle of the third round with their fourth pick to finally address their main concern at safety. They didn't even touch defensive line in the draft. Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and RGIII have to be happy that they won't have much problems burning that Cowboys defense once again.
Grade: C-

Denver Broncos- No Broncos fan can really complain about this offseason as they have made several moves that made this team go from good to even better. However there was one huge mishap in letting Elvis Dumervil go and you would've thought that the Broncos would've tried to replace him with their first round pick, but instead they left the spot open and instead went for interior defensive line. They did, however, decide to take runningback Monte Ball in the second round and that is actually a very smart pick as runningback was a big need for them. No one else in their draft stands out, so it was a slightly disappointing draft, but it still should be a great season in Denver so no huge concern.
Grade: C

Detroit Lions- This was a smart draft for the Lions. They had needs at defensive end, cornerback, and offensive line and without trying to be fancy or clever with their picks like they've done in the past, they went out and drafted what they needed. Yes there is concerns with each of those picks. Ziggy at number five is a raw player who hasn't hardly played much football. Darius Slay at corner has some concerns with his knees. Finally Larry Warford is a guard and the Lions really needed a left tackle, but overall there is a great chance this these risks could turn out to be great rewards instead and bring the Lions back to the playoffs.
Grade: B

Green Bay Packers- Not a bad draft for the Packers, but at the same time safety was their biggest concern and they completely avoided the position in the draft which is weird because they had 11 picks in this draft. They did need a bit of fine tuning with the defensive line and linebacker corps and so Datone Jones with their first round pick was a good selection. Also, I have no idea why Eddie Lacy fell as far as he did. He should've been the first running back selected, but fell to the Packers in the end of the second, which they should be very happy about because there was a good chance that he would've been gone by the time the picked in the first round. The rest of their nine picks came in the fourth round or later, so there really is nothing to brag about outside a little bit of depth at tackle with their fourth round picks, but the Packer fans shouldn't fret because as long as Aaron Rodgers is at the helm, this should be a great team.
Grade: B-

Houston Texans- Good draft for the Texans. I am a huge fan of DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson. Some thought Corderelle Patterson or Justin Hunter should've been the second receiver drafted, but I thought Hopkins was a much better prospect and apparently the Texans agreed. Now they have Andre and DeAndre as their receivers and since Andre is getting older, DeAndre will soon take over, but in the meantime, they will make a scary duo. In the rest of the draft, they did a good job adding depth on that defense by taking a safety, linebacker, and defensive end. And of course a tackle. Now I don't know why they thought four sixth round picks was a good idea, but hey.
Grade: B+

Indianapolis Colts- Linemen are possibly the most important part of a football team, both offensive and defensive and that is what the Colts spent this draft reloading, grabbing a couple big men each side, so I can't really fault them. Specifically picking a defensive end with their first round pick was a good move as they no longer have Dwight Freeney. That first round pick being Bjoern Werner was all over the place on draft boards, so the Colts could have a steal with that pick. Also speaking of steals, they grabbed Utah State runningback Kerwynn Williams in the seventh round and he is a player that could've gone in round three or four and he'll be a nice compliment to that running game. Now I would've liked to see them get a defensive back or two earlier than they did, but overall a decent draft.
Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jaguars did a good job of sticking to picking the best player available and for a team that had a big need in just about every area on the field, that was really smart of them because I really like Luke Joeckel and Jonathan Cyprien. My problem with the Jaguars' draft is that they did not take a quarterback the entire draft. They are putting way too much faith in Blaine Gabbert and I think that's going to cause them to be right back in the top five. I'm fine with them not wanting to invest a first round pick on a quarterback, but they should've taken a third or fourth round flyer on a guy like Barkley or Nassib at least as an insurance. If Gabbert ends up having a breakout year, then great. They didn't invest too much and then they would thus have good trading bait. But they didn't do that and I think that is foolish. Also of note is the pick of Denard Robinson. The man could play about any position on offense except for offensive line, so it'll be interesting to see what they do with him.

Grade: C+

Kansas City Chiefs- You can never complain about the number one overall pick in the draft right after the draft ends. Even Jamarcus Russell was the obvious choice at the time. Thus is the case with Eric Fisher right now. Unfortunately for the Chiefs it was bad timing on their end because this draft had no sexy, obvious choice (no RGIII or Andrew Luck type of player), but they can't complain too much about being able to pick up a solid offensive lineman with the first pick. I would've taken Joeckel if it were me, but both should be great pros. The Chiefs gave away their second round pick in the Alex Smith trade, which I think was smart, so the next time they were up was in the third round. And honestly, the rest of their draft was pretty bad. Sure they got some depth at certain positions, but tight end, running back, and inside linebacker weren't the positions they need, but that is what they took with their 3rd and 4th round picks.
Grade: B-

Miami Dolphins- The first huge shocker came right at number three when the Dolphins traded up and picked Dion Jordan. Everyone thought that it was Lane Johnson that they were going to grab because that's who the Dolphins really needed after losing Jake Long to the Rams. Now Dion Jordan was a great pick as he'll be a solid defensive player for them, but they still need a starting left tackle as I don't know if third round pick Dallas Thomas fills that gap. Maybe they are still hoping that the Brandon Albert trade will work out for them, but if it doesn't they are in trouble. I do like the second round pick Jamar Taylor as they did have a huge need at cornerback and they got him in the second round when he could've easily gone in the first round. Outside their top two picks, the rest of the Dolphins picks were spent on players that could've gone a round or two later than when the Dolphins took them. So the Dolphins had a bunch of picks in this draft and I think they wasted most of them.
Grade: C

Minnesota Vikings- The Vikings probably had the luckiest draft this year. They already had two first round picks and they used both picks on players that filled huge needs for them that should've gone a lot higher than they did. Sharrif Floyd was seen by most as a top five pick and the Vikings grabbed him with pick 23. Xavier Rhodes was seen by many as the second best corner in the draft that would go between 10 and 15. The Vikings got him at 25. Then in addition to those first two picks, the Vikings traded back into the first round at 29 and got wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson who most thought would be taken somewhere in the teens. Because of that trade back up to the first round, they ended up with no middle round picks, but I thought the price was alright. They took advantage of all the other teams' dumb mistakes and I commend that.
Grade: A

New England Patriots- The Draft put together an awesome tribute to the city of Boston when the Patriots were up in the first round, and you gotta think that after watching it, the Patriots had to have felt a little bad that they traded the pick. There was an awesome jersey that going to be presented to the selected Patriot, but Joe Andruzzi instead had to awkwardly walk back to the podium and announce that there was no one to give it to because the pick was traded. Oops. I guess you can't fault the Patriots too much for wanting more mid round picks, but I think that they should've stayed there and picked one of the receivers or corners that were still on the board. They did end up with a bunch of decent players that will provide good depth at positions they needed, but I still think they could've done better.
Grade: C+

New Orleans Saints- Last season the Saints had a historically bad defense and so that was what the Saints. I think I may have preferred that they take Jarvis Jones with that pick, but I can't argue too much. They had no second round pick this season because it was taken away from them and in fact they only had five picks total, so they didn't have much to work with and they didn't get much with their picks as they took a really raw offensive tackle and a decent defensive tackle. So I don't know how much this draft will help them, but at least they solved one of their many problems on defense and I guess that is a step forward.
Grade: B-

New York Giants- This was another team that confused me. They had so many needs on defense and there were so many options available to them, but instead they decided on Justin Pugh. Looking at it, it's not an awful pick. The Giants needed help on offensive line and he is a really versatile lineman, but he was typically viewed as a second round pick. The Giants did get some good value in the second and third round with defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and Demontre Moore, so overall it was a good, but not great draft. They did leave a bunch of other holes wide open on defense, which is why I thought picking Ryan Nassib in the fourth round was a bad idea. Sure they needed a backup quarterback, but unless Eli Manning gets hurt, they man is never going to start a game for the Giants and so the Giants should've gone defensive back with that pick.
Grade: B-

New York Jets- The Jets had a ton of needs come draft day and looking back, I feel like they came away filling very few of those needs. I think that the pick of Dee Milliner was a fantastic pick given that they just traded Darrelle Revis, but at the same time I think it is a wasted pick because they should've never traded Revis in the first place and thus should've never had the need to draft another cornerback. I guess they didn't want to pay Revis as much money as he demanded, but that is stupid because he is the best corner in the NFL and deserves to be payed. Moving to their second first round pick, the one that they got for trading Revis, they slipped up big time I think. Now Sheldon Richardson was a great pick and deserved to go between 10 and 15, but the thing is that he was the third best DT on the board and both Star Lotulelei AND Sharrif Floyd were still on the board when the Jets were up. Why they passed on both of them for Richardson is beyond. Next up is the pick of Geno. I actually really like that pick for them. Going into the regular season with their current quarterback crew was definitely going to get Rex Ryan fired and Geno as a second round steal is pretty good. Then they spent the rest of the draft drafting offensive lineman, which is great because they had a big need there. But what about wide receiver? What about running back? What about a tight end? Whether it is Sanchez, Garrard, Smith, or McElroy at QB, neither of them are going to do well if they don't have an offense to help them. Also what are they going to do with the rest of that defense? They needed a pass rusher and more help in the secondary than just replacing Revis. But nada. I think this team really wants to fail. Tebow should be grateful that the Jets have now cut him.
Grade: D+

Oakland Raiders- I was about ready to full out praise the Raiders for what they did on draft day. Everyone had they selected Sharrif Floyd with the third pick in the draft, but instead they decided to trade down and thus get a second round draft pick back as well. Turns out the player they really needed at three was somehow available at 12, thus making the Raiders look like geniuses. Then they passed on him. For DJ Hayden. Huh? Is the ghost of Al Davis still running this team? DJ Hayden has possibly the best story in the draft with his near death experience followed by a miraculous recovery, but I didn't think he was the second best corner available. In fact I thought he was the fourth or fifth best, but apparently the Raiders actually thought he was the best in the draft because rumor has it they were ready to take him with the third pick. Wow. However, I actually think they helped their cause in the later rounds. They still avoided the defensive line until the sixth round for some reason, but they managed to get great value with Menelik Watson at tackle. Another risky pick because he has only played football for a short period of time, but many had him going in round one, so I think it was a steal. Also linebacker Sio Moore was a great value as a third round linebacker and Tyler Wilson in round four provides good insurance in case Matt Flynn doesn't work out. He will be competing with Terrell Pryor and Matt Leinart for backup duties, but he has a good shot at beating one of those two out to make the team.
Grade: B

Philadelphia Eagles- It's Chip Kelly's first shot at an NFL draft and I think him and the rest of the Eagles' crew did a great job with this draft. First off, they probably had a heart attack when Miami traded up in front of them because they probably thought along with everyone else that they were going to take their guy, but they didn't and so the Eagles had Lane Johnson fall right to them and it was an obvious choice. In the second round I don't know if tight end was their biggest need, but Brent Celek isn't the most consistent player, so Zak Ertz will be a great addition. Then in round three they get their defensive tackle in Bennie Logan, and he was a great value at the at point that filled a big need. Moving on to the fourth round, they were able to pick up some more pressing needs in the first three rounds and still select a quarterback in Matt Barkley at one point of time was projected as a number one pick and even after a poor senior season still should've been an early second or late first round pick. He's not going to start early on and may not even see any time at all his rookie season, but if he's patient and he works hard to improve his game, in two or three years he could easily be the franchise quarterback of this Eagles team. The Eagles draft praise doesn't end here, though. In round 5 they select a safety that could challenge for a starting job soon and even in round seven they selected two guys, Joe Kruger from Utah and Jordan Poyer from Oregon St who should be able to make the team and provide good depth for the Eagles. Excellent draft. It's also interesting to note that four of their eight players they took were from the Pac-12. It's almost like Chip Kelly coached for one of those teams recently.
Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers are always a good team and one of the main reasons for that is that they do a great job of reloading through the draft. They lost James Harrison and Mike Wallace this offseason, so linebacker and receiver were needs. Runningback was also a need as their running game was a mess last year. These three positions are exactly what they selected with their first three picks. They first took linebacker Jarvis Jones, which I think was a total steal. He was one of the funnest linebackers to watch in college and would've been much higher but several teams were scared away by his poor 40 time and I think they will be regretting that in a few years. Their second round pick was La'Veon Bell and that actually confused me. Not because it was a reach, a non-need, or a bad fit. All three of those are false. It confused me because Eddie Lacy was actually still on the board and is a better runningback than Bell. Their third pick was receiver Markus Wheaton and, although the Steelers will eventually need to find another number one receiver as Wheaton isn't the answer there, Wheaton still will be a good target for Big Ben that will help ease the pain of the loss of Wallace. The Steelers also did a good job in getting a better backup quarterback in Landry Jones and added some depth to their secondary, so it was a decent draft for the Steelers.
Grade: A-

San Diego Chargers- Here's another team that got pretty lucky in the draft. They ended up with only six picks, but three of those were first round caliber players and yet the Chargers only had one first round pick. They didn't get their optimal prize with the 11th pick in the draft as they would've preferred to have one of the five top lineman to fall to them, but that didn't happen and so they reached a tiny bit with DJ Fluker, but they desperately needed a tackle and he was a viable option and not a huge reach. I also love the pick of Manti Te'o in the second round. I think there are too many people that are still bothered by the fake girlfriend scandal and although that's a pretty messed up story, it shouldn't effect what he did on the football field. I am only worried that he disappeared in the national championship game and he had a sub-par combine, but as a second round pick that is a real steal. Finally in the third round the Chargers grabbed a receiver in Keenan Allen. Allen has a few quirks here and there that caused him to fall, but he is a first round talent that was at least deserving of being a second round pick. Now the last three picks by the Chargers were nothing to write home about, but the fact that they good decent to great value with their top three picks makes this a good draft for them.
Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers- At the end of the day, the 49ers ended up picking 11 times and as team that didn't have a ton of needs, they made some interesting moves. I highly doubt their final four or five picks will make the team, but that's fine. Everyone knew that the Niners were going to move up in the first round because they did have so many picks they didn't need, but when they jumped up to 18, they confused me a bit by taking Eric Reid. Yes, they needed a safety after Dashon Goldson left and yes, Reid is a great fit, but I actually think they could've stayed put and still got him, but maybe they were nervous that the Bengals would take him. Their second round pick was Tank Carradine and I don't know why teams like the Giants or Broncos decided to pass on the guy, but he was a big steal at the top of round two. Another great steal for them came in the fourth round with Marcus Lattimore. Yes, with his injury history (add to that his current injury) it made perfect sense as to why he fell, but the Niners with their depth at runningback could afford to take him and let him heal because in a year or two when he is healthy, he will make a dangerous weapon for the Niners. They also took Quinton Patton right before Lattimore and that is a great choice for receiver at that point. He was super productive in college and is a really polished player, but teams were probably nervous because he played for a WAC team in Louisiana Tech, so it could be a good steal for the Niners. They also did a good job of replacing Delanie Walker by picking Vance McDonald late in round two.
Grade: B+

Seattle Seahawks- There was not a whole ton of needs for the Seahawks and so it was fine for them to not have a ton of good draft picks. I use that wording because the Seahawks had eight picks from the fifth round and later. Three in round five, one and round six, and four in round seven. I don't know why they had that many low picks and now they gave a bunch of players some false hope by drafting them because most of those eight will probably miss the team because. The Seahawks spent their first round pick this year in trading for Percy Harvin and that was a fantastic decision because Harvin is definitely better than any player they would've gotten at 25. Now being that the Seahawks didn't have ton of needs, they were smart in using two of their three real picks by giving Russell Wilson even more weapons. They selected troubled runningback Christine Michael at the end of the second round and if he keeps himself in line, he's talented enough to eventually be the starter for the Seahawks in a few years and receiver Chris Harper is a big receiver that gives more depth to that position. They also got a rotational defensive tackle in the third and so that's nothing to complain about.
Grade: B

St. Louis Rams- This is my team right here, so this analysis will be more personal. The Rams have been really good at drafting linemen in the first round, whether it be offensive and defensive and although people keep praising them for doing so because the line has been a big need, I have been a little frustrated because a majority of them have not worked out and I have really, really wanted them to draft a receiver in the first round because none of their second or third round receivers they keep drafting ever work out. If they did the same thing and avoided a receiver in round one again, I was going to be one angry Rams fan, especially because we lost Danny Amendola. A lot of people thought Tavon Austin was going to fall to us at 16, but I had serious doubts as teams like the Bills, Jets, and Chargers could all use a receiver. Looking into backup options, I was actually really liking DeAndre Hopkins and if we didn't come away with Austin, that's who I wanted. When it was announced that the Rams were trading up to the number eight spot, I knew exactly who we were going to take and I was super happy. Austin is a short and skinny receiver, but he should be a great one to help Sam Bradford step up. Bradford is due $13M this season and $17M in 2014, so it's good that the Rams have decided to give him some weapons. This pick alone will make me give the Rams a high grade, but we did do other things. We got Alec Ogletree in the late first round. That is a big steal because he is a top ten talent who fell due to character issues. No second round pick was the sacrifice of moving up, but we did drop back again to the late first round and that gave us an additional third round pick. We used those two picks on a safety and another receiver. Safety was a huge need as we dumped both our starters from last season and we got good value with TJ McDonald. The second receiver was an interesting choice because it is Tavon Austin's parter in crime at West Virginia. My biggest complaint this draft for the Rams is that they didn't grab a runningback early on. I like Alec Ogletree but I was hoping for Eddie Lacy right there and when that happened I was hoping we would spend one of our two third round picks on a runner, but it didn't happen. Fifth round selection Zak Stacy will do nothing more than compete for a roster spot and so the Rams are putting too much faith in Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead to replace Steven Jackson and that could come back and bite them. But we finally got a number one receiver, so I am happy.
Grade: A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs scored big in this draft due to the stupidity of the New York Jets. I don't know why the Jets thought it was a good idea to trade the best corner in the league, but they did and all the Bucs had to give away was the 13th overall pick. There wasn't going to be a player there that was better than Revis, so that was an amazing choice in essentially using the 13th overall pick to take Darrelle Revis. Then in addition to that, the Bucs went and grabbed another corner with their second round pick in Johnathan Banks, so that weakness there is now a huge strength. But outside that, the Bucs were a bit confusing. Josh Freeman needed weapons. A starting tight end and depth at receiver, but instead of getting some weapons, he got some huge competition to push him as the Bucs took quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round. Then the Bucs spent the rest of their draft taking more defensive linemen, which is great if they had no other pressing needs, but they kinda did. And just ignored them. Hmmmm....
Grade: B-

Tennessee Titans- The Titans had a very smart draft. They are a team that has a lot of good players, but not too many great players, so the best choice for them in this draft was to just take the best player available and that is exactly what they did. It turned out quite well for them has they got three players with their first three picks that were first round talent. With their first round pick, they selected guard Chance Warmack and now after having signed free agent guard Andy Levitre, that guard position is looking really good. The traded up a bit to the beginning of the second round to take receiver Justin Hunter. And although I don't know if receiver was their biggest need, Hunter was a first round talent and now that Titans receiving corps is really strong, which should help Jake Locker progress forward. Their third round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson was their third pick that some people thought could be a first round pick. Their other later picks were good value as well, so it was a good draft for the Titans.
Grade: B+

Washington Redskins- The first round draft pick for the Redskins this season belonged to the St. Louis Rams as a part of the deal last year to trade up and pick RGIII, so the Redskins didn't have much to work with. You look at the picks they did make and there really is no pick that jumps out at you as one that was really fantastic, but they went out there are grabbed some depth at various positions like cornerback, tight end, and safety. So nothing to write home about in this draft for the Redskins. Instead their huge focus is on worrying about when RGIII comes back from his injury and when he does trying to knock some sense into the QB's head by telling him to not be so daring so that he can stay healthy.
Grade: C