Here’s a pretty funny, very well made short featuring Nick Offerman as a disembodied, omniscient voice who interrupts a standard Western showdown.

 

Well, NBA GMs are now paralyzed in fear about Joel Embiid’s stress fracture. There’s no bigger red flag in the NBA than a big with bad feet and a bad back and he went from the likely #1 pick to someone who could fall to #6 or #7. Who will roll the dice on Embiid? And who moves up now that Cavs’ pick is possibly in play once again?

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins
The draft starts off predictably enough with Andrew Wiggins arriving in Cleveland. A solid pick as Wiggins seems like a safe bet to at least be a solid starter in the NBA and he should be a strong defensive presence.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers via Milwaukee: Jabari Parker
I’m heading into this draft with two thoughts about the Cavs; 1) LeBron is not coming back and 2) Kyrie is probably going to be unhappy regardless and forcing a win now situation around him is likely to end in tears for Cavs fans.
With those thoughts in mind, the Cavs decide to shake things up and deal Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson for #2 pick and John Henson (and maybe a lotto protected 2015 pick).
For me, Kyrie and the #2 are about even for the Bucks and Cavs. While Jabari is an unknown, he’s an unknown whose rights the Cavs will control for about the next decade and the whole “Kyrie Stay!” movement can become Milwaukee’s problem. Milwaukee makes the deal because Kyrie fills their biggest needs (scoring and point guard) and he and Thompson will jump start a rebuild that was never supposed to be a rebuild. Kyrie, Knight/Mayo, The Greek Freak, Thompson, and Larry Sander/Zaza should be good enough to be a playoff team in the East IMO. Especially if they can make a deal for or sign a small forward.
The haggling over the pick will be because Thompson is better than Henson but I feel like both teams will be happy with the PF they acquired.
Cleveland starts fresh with: Wiggins, Parker, and Henson with Dion Waiters in the sixth man role he was born to play and head into the 2015 draft looking at a top pick, which is perfect since the draft is loaded with bigs. Dan Gilbert might want to win now but if he takes a step back this year, he could be opening up a much brighter future.

#3 Boston Celtics via Philadelphia: Dante Exum
Danny Ainge throws gasoline on the rumors of a Rajon Rondo to Sacramento deal by trading #6 and #17 to Philly for #3 and #39 and drafting the Australian Man of Mystery with the #3 pick. (This deal won’t be consummated until a certain someone falls to #6 but I can announce it now since I know that’ll happen.) With Kevin Love seemingly out of reach, Boston begins their complete tear down of the roster.

#4. Atlanta Hawks via Orlando: Noah Vonleh
In my last mock, I had Orlando going after Kevin Love but I think the better target is actually Al Horford. Horford’s under contract for two years, is a better fit with Nikola Vucevic, and is a Florida kid so he might be more likely to stay around than Love. The Magic trade #4, #12, Victor Oladipo and the non-guaranteed deals of Jameer Nelson and Jason Maxiell for Horford, Jeff Teague, Dennis Schroder and #15.
With Horford bolstering their viability as a team and 15 or so million in cap space, sunny Orlando is back to being a free agent destination. Even if they wait a year to make another splash, Orlando’s lineup of Vucevic, Horford, Harris, Afflalo, and Teague should be able to make some noise in the East.
Atlanta sells high on Horford before another injury or imminent free agency kills his trade value and they also move Teague who they somewhat inexplicably keep trying to get rid of. Vonleh’s rumored ability to hit the outside shot fits in with the Atlanta three-for-all offense and Paul Millsap should be a great mentor for him. Oladipo adds to Atlanta’s youth movement and lets them get younger while not necessarily getting much worse than they were last year. Orlando fans might not like adding Victor to the deal but let’s be honest, Vonleh is a complete wild card and Victor’s no sure thing to take the next step himself. You have to pay to go from a team that might someday be good to a team that will be good.

#5 Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon
Gordon’s just too good of a fit with Utah for them to pass up.

#6. Philadelphia 76ers via Boston: Joel Embiid
The Sixers move down to get another first round pick and still end up with the guy they would have settled on at #3.

#7. LA Lakers: Julius Randle
I just don’t see LeBron and Carmelo going to LA. I don’t think those two and Kobe are a great fit (especially given Kobe’s decline on defense and Carmelo’s ambivalence about it) and I can’t see those two take less money while Kobe makes 25 million. Still, the chance is out there so the Lakers aren’t going to muddy up their cap space by dealing the #7 for a veteran.
Randle seems like the best fit. He comes off as a bit of a dope but I was impressed by his play in the tournament (he even showed some signs of life on defense) and I think that it’s very likely that the Lakers end up losing Pau Gasol this offseason.

#8. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart
After years of rumors swirling around him, Rajon Rondo has finally been traded by the Boston Celtics. The C’s deal Rondo for #8, Ben McLemore and Jasons Terry & Thompson. Danny Ainge then has three choices to make: take Marcus Smart, take Doug McDermott, or trade the pick to Chicago or Phoenix for their picks. While the draftnik in me would love to get more picks to play with for the Celtics, I think Smart is the, well, smart choice. He has the highest upside and a Exum/Smart/McLemore backcourt could be something special in the future.
The Kings follow the Rondo trade by acquiring his buddy Josh Smith, which would make for a crazy but talented frontcourt of DeMarcus Cousins, Smith, and Rudy Gay as the Kings continue to make their push for the playoffs with other teams’ castaways.

#9. Phoenix Suns via Charlotte: Doug McDermott
The Hornets need shooters and a PF so they decide to get multiple picks rather than reliving the Adam Morrison nightmare. Phoenix deals #14 & #18 to moves up to #9 to grab McDermott, who should be able to open up the paint for Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Alex Len (if he pans out.)

#10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris
Nik Stauskas is the better shooter but Harris’s defense gives him the nod over Nik. Harris isn’t flashy but he could be a great complement to Michael Carter-Williams.

#11.Denver Nuggets: Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic is a foreign guy who I know next to nothing about. The “experts” seem to like Denver as a landing spot for him and, well, I don’t really care too much about the Nuggets so let’s throw him here.

#12. Atlanta Hawks via Orlando: Dario Saric
Supposedly Danny Ferry loves this kid which makes me think he won’t be very good but let’s give him to Danny and the Hawks. The Vonleh/Saric frontcourt could be the highest ceiling, biggest bust potential frontcourt (non-injury edition) in the NBA.

#13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas
The Wolves replace Kevin Martin at the 2 and replenish their whiteness by adding Stauskas.

#14. Charlotte Hornets via Phoenix: James Young
If Gerald Green can become a player in Phoenix, there’s hope that young James will be able to put it together and live up to his potential. Also, the Hornets could use some shooters and that was Young’s M.O. in high school.

#15. Orlando Magic via Atlanta: Zach LaVine
The Magic are in Win Now mode but that doesn’t mean they can’t roll the dice on LaVine.

#16. Minnesota Timberwolves via Chicago: Elfrid Payton
The Wolves bite the bullet and deal Kevin Love to the Bulls for Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, and the Bulls’ two picks. Word is that the Wolves brass isn’t wild about Ricky Rubio so they get Payton as a backup and potential heir to the starting spot.

#17. Philadelphia 76ers via Boston: Rodney Hood
The Sixers look at the small forward crop and while Hood might be a little slender for the position, his shooting ability gives him the nod over TJ Warren and KJ McDaniels.

#18. Charlotte Hornets via Phoenix: Adreian Payne
Josh McRoberts opted out which left a hole at the PF spot. The Bobcats will likely go after someone via free agency or trade but Payne fits what they need and should be a nice backup for them for years to come.

#19. Minnesota Timberwolves via Chicago: Clint Capela
The Wolves could use a defensive minded big man and that’s what the Swede does best. And getting mentored by Boozer and the Niks (Pekovic and Mirotic) should help his offensive game catch up to his defensive abilities.

#20. Toronto Raptors: Shabazz Napier
My dream is that Chris Bosh returns to Toronto but that probably won’t happen. What also probably won’t happen is Kyle Lowry heading back to the Great White North. And even if he does return, the Raptors could use a backup PG. Napier fills that role.

#21. Oklahoma City Thunder: PJ Hairston
Peej has his issues but he should be able to answer the call whenever Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant kick the ball out to him.

#22. Memphis Grizzlies: KJ McDaniels
Now that Chris Wallace is back at the helm in Memphis, I think they go with the athletic, defensive stopper in McDaniels. He’s like a rich man’s Kedrick Brown. Just how rich? We’ll find out.

#23. Utah Jazz: Kyle Anderson
I just love the combo of Aaron Gordon and Anderson. With Favors in the middle, it could be one hell of a frontcourt.

#24. Charlotte Hornets: Tyler Ennis
The Bobcats finish filling up their roster issues by adding Ennis as a backup to Kemba Walker.

#25. Houston Rockets: Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson is a jack of all trades who could serve as backups to Patrick Beverly and James Harden.

#26. Miami Heat: TJ Warren
Having someone else on the second unit who could score might make things easier for the Heat.

#28. LA Clippers: Glenn Robinson III
The Clippers could use some backup bigs but they could use a starting SF as well. Not sure if GRIII will ever fulfill his potential but at this point in the draft, it’s worth the gamble.

#29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarnell Stokes
Stokes is smart and a hard worker and seems like a good candidate to replace Nick Collison.

#30. San Antonio Spurs: Spencer Dinwiddie
If the Spurs lose Patty Mills, Dinwiddie might be able to eat some of those minutes.

31: Milwaukee Bucks: Cleanthony Early
32: Philadelphia 76ers: Nikola Jokic
33: Cleveland Cavaliers: Semaj Christon
34: NY Knicks: Mitch McGary
35: Utah Jazz: Khem Birch
36: Milwaukee Bucks: CJ Wilcox
37: Toronto Raptors: Johnny O’Bryant
38: Detroit Pistons: Bryce Cotton
39. Boston via Philly: Walter Tavares
40. Minnesota Timberwolves: Damien Inglis
41: Denver Nuggets: Jordan Adams
42: Houston Rockets: Artem Klimenko
43: Atlanta Hawks: Patric Young
44: Minnesota Timberwolves: Bogdan Bogdanovic
45: Charlotte Hornets: Dwight Powell
46: Washington Wizards: Jerami Grant
47: Philadelphia 76ers: Vasilje Micic
48: Milwaukee Bucks: Joe Harris
49: Chicago Bulls: Christiano Felicio
50: Phoenix Suns: James Michael McAdoo
51: New York Knicks: CJ Fair
52: Philadelphia 76ers: Alessandro Gentile
53: Minnesota Timberwolves: Nemanja Dangubic
54: Philadelphia 76ers: Thanasis Antetokounmpo
55: Miami Heat: Nick Johnson
56: Denver Nuggets: Russ Smith
57: Indiana Pacers: Jordan McRae
58: San Antonio Spurs: Michalis Kamperidis
59: Toronto Raptors: Josh Huestis
60: San Antonio Spurs: DeAndre Daniels

 

Just ten months ago, the 2014 NBA draft was the light at the end of the tunnel for many NBA franchises. It was the draft that was going to supply them with the key to the door to the playoffs. It was their reason for tanking. It was going to be the beginning of a brighter future.
And then, as the months passed, most of the heralded prospects exposed their flaws or didn’t show much of anything at all. The one prospect to break out, Joel Embiid, was then struck down by a back injury, a red flag for any big man prospect.
So now, rather than eagerly anticipating a draft for the ages, most front offices are looking towards another light. The 2014 draft is now stuck in the shadows of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh’s potential free agency and a possible Kevin Love trade. The draft that was one supposed to redefine woeful franchises is now hinging on the likelihood of a franchises getting Love, ‘Melo, Bosh, and LeBron to sign with them. But there’s still gonna be a draft in a few days, and teams have to make their picks, so we might as well mock it up.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid
There’s some talk of Cleveland shipping the #1 to Minnesota for Kevin Love but, at this point, it would be foolish for the Cavs to do so. The only way I see Love staying in Cleveland is if LeBron comes back home and it’s too early to bet on that happening. If they land Love and don’t get LeBron, they’ll be adding a potentially unhappy franchise player to a locker room that was so fractured that it had Luol Deng looking to get out of Dodge after just a few games after he was traded there.
The Cavs could try to scare Philadelphia, who is supposedly hot after Andrew Wiggins, into moving up to #1 but I don’t think Philly should really offer much to do that. I think the top three prospects (Wiggins, Embiid, and Jabari Parker) are even so I wouldn’t be too upset if I missed out on Wiggins and landed the other two.
When all is said and done, Embiid seems like the best pick for the Cavs. He plays the hardest to fill position, showed the most potential, and is likely to have the most trade value should the Cavs want to make a deal in the weeks following the draft.
And, of course, after I post this, Embiid injures his foot, throwing his draft status into further disarray. I still think he lands in the top three but the order of this might switch to 1. Wiggins, 2. Parker, 3. Embiid should Joel’s foot injury prove to be serious.

2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker
Simply put, the Bucks need offense and Jabari Parker is instant offense. I see Jabari as a poor man’s ‘Melo or a Michael Beasley with his head on straight. He’s probably best served as a #2 guy but he’s the best fit in Milwaukee alongside Sanders, Henson, and The Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins
Unless they are too afraid to call Cleveland’s bluff and trade up for Wiggins, Philly has the easiest position in the draft. All they have to do is take which of the top three prospects is remaining. It’ll be a long year of growing pains and losses for the Sixers but one more year of tanking and they should have a roster chock full of young talent.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves*: Noah Vonleh
Orlando trades #4, #12, Tobias Harris, Jameer Nelson, and Jason Maxiell for Kevin Love
If Philly has the easiest decision, Orlando might have the most difficult. Dante Exum is the consensus #4 pick but he’s a complete wildcard with more negative assessments starting to creep out as the draft nears. Maybe it’s misinformation, maybe it’s the truth finally bubbling to the surface but either way, Exum seems to be a project and I think Orlando is a team that should look to start pushing their chips in and build a winning team. Kevin Love helps them achieve the first step towards winning and makes Orlando a far more appealing destination for free agents.
The Wolves toy with the idea of trading #4 since they don’t need Exum but they ultimately decide to take Vonleh, who could be Kevin Love’s replacement (clearly not as good on offense but most likely more effective on defense.)

5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon
With the Jazz just spending last year’s lotto pick on Trey Burke and about to spend a lot of money to re-sign Gordon Hayward, Dante Exum doesn’t seem like the best pick. Instead, the Jazz select Aaron Gordon, who will fill the void at small forward and add some much needed defense and athleticism. He also has a high hoops IQ and comes across as the kind of hard working kid that the Jazz would love to build around.

6. Boston Celtics: Dante Exum
Missing out on Kevin Love destroys the hopes and dreams of many Celtics fans but, in the most meager of consolation prizes, Boston lands the Australian prodigy. With no Love on the horizon and Rajon Rondo on an expiring contract, Danny Ainge starts working the phones to see where he can send his mercurial point guard.

7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle
The Lakers strike out in their bid for Rondo and end up with Julius Randle, who will assume the PF mantle from Pau Gasol, who I can’t imagine has much interest in returning to the Kobethon.

8. Boston Celtics*: Doug McDermott
Sacramento deals #8, Ben McLemore, Jason Thompson, and Jason Terry for Rajon Rondo, the Clippers 2015 pick.
(While the exact deal might be off, I do think Rondo to Sacramento does have a shot if Ainge decides to go in the Trade Rondo route.)
In their (inexplicable) hopes to keep Rudy Gay in town, the Kings go after his buddy Rajon Rondo to run the point. At the very least, this could get Rudy to opt in to his player option so he and Rajon see how Sacramento fits them. #8 and McLemore is rich for Rondo but this is the Kings we are talking about and they are also dumping Jason Thompson’s contract onto the Celtics. The Celtics move forward with the backcourt of Exum, McLemore, and McDermott and Celtics fans start scouting the top prospects of the 2015 draft.

9. Atlanta Hawks*: Dario Saric
Charlotte trades #8 for #15 and Atlanta’s lotto protected 2015 first
Danny Ferry is supposedly hot for Dario Saric and I’d bet that he’d see next year’s pick as a small price to pay to move up to get him. Charlotte doesn’t see anyone at 9 that wows them so they gladly take a step back to land an extra pick/trade asset.

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Marcus Smart
A Carter-Williams/Smart backcourt lacks consistent shooting but they’ll be able to get to the hole and a Smart/Wiggin/Noel trio could turn the Sixers from one of the worst defenses in the NBA to one of the best (well, not right away, but eventually.)

11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris
Denver tries to deal this pick to add a veteran but all of the players available at this pick, like the players on the Nuggets’ roster, are good but not great and not someone you’d give up a top player for. To me, Harris has always seemed like a perfect fit for the Nuggets.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves*: Nik Stauskas
Stauskas adds some depth at the 2 guard spot for the Wolves and supplies Ricky Rubio with another shooter to dish to (and maybe to help teach him how to shoot.)

13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young
James Young was one of those players who, the more you saw of him, the less you knew what to think of him. He had some games in which he looked like the dumbest guy on the floor and then there were other times when you could see him possibly developing into a borderline All-Star small forward. Either way, his potential is too good for the Wolves to pass up, especially since he fills a need at the SF spot for them. While they won’t be ready next year, the trio of Vonleh, Stauskas, and Young could prove to be great complements to Rubio and Nikola Pekovic.

14. Phoenix Suns: Elfrid Payton
Goran Dragic can (and will) opt out of his contract next year so it would behoove the Suns to land a backup PG while they can. The choice comes down to Payton vs Zach LaVine. Payton is the more pure point guard, which is what the team needs more.
However, the Suns’ picks could be on the move if Phoenix decides to make a run at Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. If the Suns can land a good big man or someone like Josh Smith, then I think a Dragic, Bledsoe, Smith, Alex Len/Miles Plumlee lineup might be the best landing spot for ‘Melo.

15. Charlotte Hornets*: Adreian Payne
Josh McRoberts opted out of his contract and when Josh McRoberts opting out of his contract really shakes up your team, then you know it’s probably time to invest in drafting a power forward. Payne is a great get as he can stretch the floor with his shooting ability and has the size to take the more difficult defensive matchup, leaving Al Jefferson to handle the easier load on that end of the floor.

16. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood
This isn’t just a great fit for the team, it’s potentially a perfect one for the player’s future as well. The Bulls are looking for a shooter and Hood is one of the best in the draft. He has the size and athleticism to be a strong defender and if anyone is going to bring that out of him, it’s Bulls coach Tom Thibidou.

17. Boston Celtics: Clint Capela
Capela is another foreign wildcard but his strength is defense and any team with Doug McDermott and Kelly Olynyk on it is going to need an eraser in the paint.

18. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine
TJ Warren seems like a good fit but I think the Suns roll the dice with LaVine, whose ceiling is through the roof but could very easily be out of the league at the end of his rookie deal. But if Jeff Hornacek could help Gerald Green turn into a player, perhaps he can work similar magic on LaVine.

19. Chicago Bulls: Jusuf Nurkic
The Bulls could use a new backup to Joakim Noah or they could tell Nurkic to stay overseas for a year to help keep the salary cap space open for Carmelo Anthony.

20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis
Kyle Lowry might fly the coop and while Ennis won’t be able to fill his shoes, the Canadian kid playing for the Raptors just seems like too perfect a fit.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: PJ Hairston
The Jeremy Lamb Era hasn’t exactly panned out and Thabo Sefalosha has seen better days so the Thunder try out another player to fill the James Harden-shaped hole in their lineup. Hairston is no Harden but he could fit the Thunder’s needs.

22. Memphis Grizzlies: TJ Warren
The Grizz could use a potential Z-Bo replacement but what they need most is a small forward and TJ Warren fills that spot and could also help the Grizz’s offense be a bit more potent.

23. Utah Jazz: Kyle Anderson
Flanked by Aaron Gordon and Derrick Favors, the kid they call Slo-Mo might not be the defensive issue that people fear. A low post scorer like Jarnell Stokes might make more sense but adding Anderson to this team makes them a squad that I would try to check out on League Pass.

24.Charlotte Hornets: Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson would be a nice fit as a sixth man in Charlotte as he could both spell Kemba Walker or play alongside him.

25. Houston Rockets: KJ McDaniels
He plays defense.

26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier
It would be difficult for ‘Bazz, even as a rookie, to play worse than Mario Chalmers did in the Finals.

27. Phoenix Suns: Jarnell Stokes
Seems like he could be a workmanlike Carl Landry-type power forward, which the Suns could use off of the pine.

28. LA Clippers: Cleanthony Early
The Clippers main hole is at the small forward spot. Early seems to be the best fit of the remaining SFs.

29. Oklahoma City: Mitch McGary
Could be Nick Collison 2.0.

30. San Antonio Spurs: Nick Johnson
Seems like he could spell Manu next year.

 

Showtime has decided to premiere the pilot of their new show “Penny Dreadful” online for all to see and I can’t say that it was necessarily a great idea.

While the show does succeed at creating a mood, it fails to build a strong sense of purpose or gives us characters to hold onto. For me, one of the biggest issues is that the show opens with evidence that the world of the show is a world in which supernatural beings exist but then it slams into the introduction of Josh Hartnett’s character, a gunslinger who doesn’t know such supernatural beings exist. We then spend the next dozen or so minutes waiting for Hartnett to catch up to us.
Meanwhile, the talented and criminally underutilized Eva Green continues to be criminally underutilized. When the show opens, it seems like she will be the lead but then she pretty much dips to the background. Timothy Dalton’s character seems to be driving the story and we’re constantly reminded that he’s looking for his daughter but it’s the epitome of tell, don’t show. We’re told that Dalton wants to find his daughter (Mina Murray, a name that Dracula fans should know) but it would have helped to have seen some sort of connection between the two. It’s kind of like if “Taken” had opened with Liam Neeson’s famous phone call. As annoying as Maggie Grace may have been in the movie, those opening moments with her helped establish the connection as well as flesh out Neeson’s character.

The final “revelation” is more of an “Oh, yeah…” twist than a true shock. In fact, the revelation is given away in the print ads for the show. It also doesn’t give the show any sort of forward momentum. If anything, it makes you wonder once again, “Wait, who and what is this show about?”

All of that being said, the show looks good and they do a solid job creating a mood but since the season is only 8 episodes long, it seems like a perfect candidate for a show that you wait on and then binge watch later if it gets good reviews.

But if you want to judge for yourself, have at it.

 

It’s that time again!

The Summer Movie Season is almost upon us and it’s time to toss out the domestic box office predictions for who makes the top 10 and how much do they make. This year is a little easier in terms of figuring out the top 10 (I think there’s only one spot that’s really open) however how much the movies will make is completely up in the air.

Will the lackluster Transformers series finally run out of gas or will Mark Wahlberg’s star power help bring in more fans?
How much can the Amazing Spider-Man 2 build on the not so amazing first foray for Andrew Garfield and friends?
Will the inclusion of Wolverine and the old guard of X-Men help the First Class beef up their disappointing box office?

I haven’t put as much thought into my guesses as I usually do but I’m shooting low this year with not many films breaking the bank or making huge improvements from their previous outings (because, let’s be honest, most of these films are sequels.) So without further ado…

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction: 370 million
The third Transformers came up 50 million short of the second film’s box office however I have faith in Mark Wahlberg and the Dinobots that they can bounce back a bit although I don’t think the film will match the second outings’ 402 million dollar.

2. Amazing Spider-Man 2: 285 million
The Amazing Spider-Man was fine but I don’t think it was good enough to fire up the moviegoers who weren’t ready for a Spidey reboot. And there has been some negative buzz surrounding the film and many fans are already dreading that it is another case of too many villains spoil the sequel. Also, while the first weekend of the Summer Season (aka first weekend in May) is usually prime real estate, I think Spidey’s slot had some of its wind knocked out of it by Captain America. Still, I’m banking on a small uptick in box office because of Jamie Foxx as a villain we haven’t seen before and general good (but not great) will that the first film earned.

3. How to Train Your Dragon 2: 255 million
I might be very low on this one as I’ve heard nothing but good things about the first film and the movie is going to be the first animated kids feature of the summer and has some smooth sailing in the weekends following (in terms of kids fare.) It almost has a full month until the sequel to Planes lands in cinemas. Still, I’m going to be overly cautious this year and give the film a modest 40 percent bump over the first film’s 217 million dollar take.

4. Maleficent – 210 million
This might seem a little low for a live action Disney remake as “Oz, The Great and Powerful” made over 230 million and “Alice in Wonderland” made 334 million. Still, I don’t think Maleficent has the name recognition of either of those films, it looks spooky enough that it might scare away parents of younger kids, and it only has two weeks to lord over the box office before “How to Train Your Dragons 2″ arrives.

5. X-Men: Days of Futures Past – 197 million
The First Class struggled a bit at the box office, only taking in 146 million in 2011. Last year’s “Wolverine” didn’t fare much better, topping out at just over 130 million. Even at its high water mark, the X-Men franchise never was able to cross 240 million. The goodwill and great reviews of X2 helped it jump 60 million over the initial outing take and I’m going to be generous and say that Days of Futures Past will be able to come close to that kind of jump. Bryan Singer’s legal troubles are a red flag which will keep Fox from promoting this film as a return to form, as Singer was behind the two best X-Men films, but, honestly, I’m not sure how many people were really going to be swayed by Singer’s name given his mediocre films of late.

6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: 190 million
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was one of the surprises 2011, bringing in 176 million. The new film is devoid of star power although, seeing how the stars of the first film were used, it might be better for it. And this film could promise much more action, which will likely bring in more summer moviegoers. Again, I might be low on this (only a 14 million dollar jump from the previous film), especially since I’m not wild about any of the June releases that come after “Rise” but I’m going to stick with the lower guess.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy: 160 million
Honestly, I wouldn’t be stunned if this was the surprise bomb of the summer. It’s the least superheroey of the Marvel releases, has zero name recognition outside of comic fans, and it’s based in space, which will likely lose more people than it gains. Not to mention that the first look at the film after Thor 2 landed with a thud with even Thor’s director distancing himself from the clip. The schedule doesn’t do it a ton of favors either with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Lucy” opening the following weekend.

8. Godzilla: 155 million
Are Americans really that interested in another Godzilla movie? They certainly didn’t seem interested in the generic brand Kaiju of Pacific Rim, which barely crept over 100 million last summer. The film also opens two weekends after Spidey and the weekend before X-Men so it doesn’t have much time to itself in the megaplexes. This is another candidate for bomb of the year but I was intrigued enough by the trailer that I’m going to put some faith in it and say it crosses the 150 million mark.

9. 22 Jump Street: 140 million
21 Jump Street was surprisingly good although, at this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise when a Phil Lord/Chris Miller film is top notch. Comedy sequels are tough and I’m not quite sure that I’m ready to invest in the Channing Tatum: Box Office Star fund yet. Also, 21 Jump Street was one of those films that I feel like most fans caught in the theater. I don’t know of many people who waited until DVD/Netflix to discover it, and the ones who did are parents who probably won’t be able to leave the house to see the movie in the theater this time either. I’m going to give it a slight bump over 21 Jump Street.

#10 is the tough spot. Every year there’s usually two spots that are up for grabs as well as one surprise film that knocks off an unexpected disappointment. (Last year, “We’re the Millers” upended the still born “The Hangover III”) This year, I only see one spot that is wide open and the contenders are many.

Melissa McCarthy opens “Tammy” on July 4th weekend, she has been red hot as of late, and this is one of the most underwhelming Julys I’ve ever seen (or I’m just getting completely out of touch.) Then again, this is a passion project that she made with her husband and she doesn’t have Sandra Bullock alongside her like last year.

The Rock has returned as “Hercules”. I know that will fire up a lot of people and could be what helps Guardians of the Galaxy (which opens the following weekend) fall flat on its face but I’m just not wild about it and I don’t have a ton of faith in Brett Ratner.

The Wachowskis are unleashing “Jupiter Ascending” which just looks odd and is one of the many meh releases of this July.

The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are making a comeback and could be a draw for kids and adults but, on the other hand, I don’t know many kids or adults who were impressed by the trailer. Adam Sandler was a Summer Top Ten staple and is back with Drew Barrymore in “Blended” which has an awful title but a winning enough trailer that it could play to Middle America. Seth MacFarlane scored with “Ted” but I think “A Million Ways to Die in the West” looks like a big swing and a miss. Could “Jersey Boys” be this year’s period surprise ala “The Great Gatsby” last summer? Could Tom Cruise break from his streak of middling returns (both in quality and domestic box office) with “The Edge of Tomorrow”?

In the end, I’m going to go with the movie that I want to see the most. A comedy that could bring in the frat boys and the suburban housewives.

10. Neighbors: 130 million
“This is the End” managed to scare up just north of 100 million but I have met a lot of people discovered it after it left theaters and enjoyed it. “Neighbors” has an even more box office friendly premise that should appeal to the whole family and it also brings in Zak Efron and Dave Franco to woo the ladies. The biggest concern with “Neighbors” is its neighbors. It’s a week after Spider-Man, a week before Godzilla, and then “Blended” and X-Men arrives to close out May, which has suddenly become the new July.

Think you can do better? Drop your predictions into the comments section and I’ll keep tabs as the summer goes on. The scoring system I used was 1 point for every dollar away from the actual box office amount and I added 25 points for every movie that you miss in your Top 10. Low score wins. You can find release dates and historical box office data over at Box Office Mojo. Again, this is just domestic box office and the summer season starts May 1st.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the epitome of a modern superhero movie, both in its strengths and its flaw. The film does the positives enough to be a good, maybe even very good, movie but the negatives are present enough to keep it from being great.
On the positive side, the film has some rousing moments of action, some laugh out loud moments of humor, and a straight-forward story that doesn’t try too hard to be much more than a standard action film template. When it comes to the action scenes, the Russo Brothers moved away from Joe Johnston’s lighter touch and there are some real moments of brutality here. In the first Captain American, people got bonked and beat up; in The Winter Solider, people get knocked the fuck out.

So where does the film go wrong? The biggest issue is that it’s what I call Brute Force Cinema. The plan of attack in most every case isn’t a game of Spy vs. Spy or some intricate plan to weave their way in, it’s pretty much a throwback to a simply storming of the castle. This isn’t a huge complaint but for a movie to reach greatness, I think you need a little more cunning and plotting.
Also, while the action scenes were mostly solid, they were very cutty and the final action scene was kind of the Cinema of Chaos in which you kind of didn’t know where most people were.
And finally, Marvel is starting to get themselves into a place where action scenes are going to start to lose much tension because we keep seeing magical devices to get people out of jams and it seems like people can take an awful lot of punishment without dying. Not that dying is even a problem, as Agent Coulson proved to us when he died in The Avengers and then popped back up in ABC’s The Agents of SHIELD.

Still, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was fun and entertaining enough to make me forgive any of the issues I had with it and I’d definitely recommend that fans of superhero films or action movies give it a look. There’s nothing about it that transcends the genre so if superheroes aren’t your thing, this won’t win you over.

Oh, and as for the After Credit Scenes, you’ll probably want to stay for the mid-credit scene but the after credit scene is pretty forgettable and not really worth the wait IMO.

 

With the first weekend of the NCAA tournament behind us and many of the big names already bounced from the Madness, I thought it was as good a time as any to toss out my first mock draft of 2014. While I do believe that this draft class has been overhyped, I think the rumblings of a wild offseason are going to be 100% true and we’ll see a lot of player movement around the draft. So let’s see how the lotto picks might shake out.

1. Milwaukee – Jabari Parker
I think the Bucks need his offense and his Alpha Dog attitude and they have the defensive minded bigs who’ll be able to make up for Parker’s deficiencies on that end of the court.

2. Philadelphia - Andrew Wiggins
Worst case scenario, I think Wiggins settles into being a defensive stopper on the wing, which is something Philly desperately needs. Like Carter-Williams this year, I think Wiggins will be better in the pros than he was in college.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers via Orlando – Joel Embiid
Cleveland prematurely ends the Kyrie Irving Era by dealing the point guard and #9 pick for #3 pick and Victor Oladipo. Orlando adds a name player/All-Star to help recruit free agents while Cleveland gets their dignity back by ending the “Stay Kyrie” movement that makes them seem like a desperate girlfriend, pleading to keep their boyfriend who’s already checked out of the relationship. It made sense to act like this with LeBron but with a good-not-great injury prone kid who plays the most loaded position in the NBA? It’s time to move on.

4. Somebody, Anybody via LA Lakers: Dante Exum
Do you really think Kobe’s hanging the hopes of the twilight of his career on a rookie? I’m not sure who the Lakers can get since they have no other assets and Kobe’s big deal is clogging the cap, making it hard to add two stars (or even one if they re-sign Gasol.) Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony have been rumored to want to head to LA but do either of them really want to spend their peak years with an aging, banged up Kobe and Gasol? I think the Buss family will make a deal on draft night; I just don’t think it’s going to net them a star the caliber of which Laker Nation has in mind.

5. Utah – Marcus Smart
Utah could use his defense and fiery attitude. A Trey Burke, Smart, Gordon Hayward trio complements one another well and could become an effective unit. Odds are that, ultimately, it will be a kind of mediocre group but there’s upside there.

6. Minnesota via Boston – Julius Randle
Boston trades #6, #17, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk for Kevin Love and #15. Minnesota fans are probably hoping for more but Love’s impending free agency destroys his market value. I think Danny Ainge’s desire to make a splash this offseason will be strong enough that he rolls the dice on dealing for Love and hoping he can re-sign him and Rondo next year.

7. Sacramento – Aaron Gordon
Gordon seems like the perfect complement to DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay (if he doesn’t opt out.) He’s a defensive minded forward with a nice hoops IQ and knows his role. I don’t think he’ll blossom into a star but he should be everything the Kings are looking for.

8. Detroit – Doug McDermott
Doug can shoot, Detroit can’t. Doug can’t defend, Detroit can. What’s not to like? (Well, besides the Adam Morrison comparisons.)

9. Atlanta via Orlando via Cleveland – Gary Harris
Atlanta closes the door on their former playoff squad by dealing Al Horford for something along the lines of: Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and the #9 pick. Harris is a perfect fit for the more workmanlike Atlanta squad. Some Orlando fans might see Kyrie and Al’s injury reports and have T-Mac/Grant Hill flashbacks but adding these two is worth the risk, especially since it might be enough to recruit Carmelo Anthony down to Orlando.

10. Phoenix via Denver: Noah Vonleh
When Gary Harris comes off the board, Denver starts fielding offers for their pick. I think Phoenix makes the most sense as they have assets and picks to deal and, well, they’ve been starting Channing Frye at PF so Vonleh seems like a no brainer, especially since he could be a solid complement to last year’s #1 Alex Len.

11. Philadelphia: Kyle Anderson
When your nickname is Slo Mo, you better have amazing skills to have any chance at making it in the NBA. Well, Anderson’s skills are pretty damn silly and he’s arguably the best passer in the draft, besting any of the point guards. His lack of athleticism is a concern but if he’s flanked by Nerlens Noel and Andrew Wiggins, he might just have a chance at making it.

12. Orlando Magic: Willie Cauley-Stein
Newly acquired Al Horford has always wanted to play PF instead of C so the Magic land a defensive minded big to allow Horford to get minutes at his preferred position. Also, if the Magic are looking to land ‘Melo, adding a rim protector is a must.

13. Atlanta – Clint Capella
Danny Ferry loves him some Euros so I think that he’ll take one here, be it Capella, Dario Saric, etc. Capella is the latest Next Ibaka and sounds like he might be a perfect complement to the newly acquired Vucevic so I’ll slate him here.

14. Chicago – Elfrid Payton
NBADraft.net moved this guy into the lottery in their latest mock, which is a reach but looking over his scouting report, he seems like a guy who Thibs would love so I’m going to put him here.

And that leaves us at the Celtics (via Minnesota). Tyler Ennis? James Young? Rodney Hood? KJ McDaniels? There are a lot of interesting options available but none that I’m completely sold on. Hell, another good tournament game and Andrew Harrison might be in the discussion as a third guard who could play alongside Rondo or Avery Bradley.

 

The “Veronica Mars” movie faced a near impossible task. It’s hard to make a great movie that is both welcoming to newbies while also throwing in enough references to the show that built such a legion of fans that they were able to raise the Kickstarter money for this movie to even happen. The film is able to walk that line but, in doing so, delivers a couple of cases that are very generic and would have made for a forgettable episode had it appeared during the initial run of the show. Perhaps the worst part about it is that it kind of is exactly what the people who didn’t watch the show expected; a fairly typical female driven crime show. The lover she can’t quit, the “wrong” choices that feel so right, the quirky if not entirely crafty solutions to problems – these all played better as a high schooler than they do as an adult.
“Veronica Mars” isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a generic one, and one that (along with the uneven third season) kind of solidifies the fact that the show was better off getting canceled before it could limp to an even weaker finish.

 

Liam Neeson’s latest actioner “Non-Stop” is an enjoyable yet stupid flick which is probably best enjoyed while sitting amongst friends and having some drinks. It’s a rental that flashes some very clever moments, most of which are soon followed by something silly that is either: a head-scratcher, a head-shaker, or a throw your head back in laughter-er. But if you have a drink in hand, it’ll make it all the better so here are the rules to the Non-Stop drinking game.

Take a Shot for Every Sideways Glance or Knowing Look
This will get you nice and sauced early on. If you’re a light drinker or, hell, even a social drinker, you might want to switch this to half or a third of a shot because the first fifteen minutes of this film is one suspicious look after another. Liam Neeson sideeyes every single person in the airport and once we get onto the plane, it’s like everybody is hiding something and letting us know that they are hiding something by giving an awkward stare to someone else. You might actually want to prepare a couple dozen shots before the movie starts so you can keep up with all the glances in the first act.
Once the plane takes off and the plot gets going, you’ll probably have had enough to drink that you should slow down and switch to beer.

Drink Every Time Liam Neeson Uses Poor Communication Skills
One of my pet peeves in thrillers is when people get in trouble because they lie about something they really don’t need to lie about (or tell a lie that is ridiculously easy to expose) or they just are so terrible a communicating that their comments just make things worse. This movie had enough going on that I wasn’t THAT upset but, good lord, Liam Neeson’s character’s communication skills are borderline comical. For instance, in the beginning of the movie, he finds out that he has to stay in London for three days after his flight. He doesn’t want to. He wants to fly back home right away. He ends his phone call by barking, “Well, I’m going to have to do what I have to do!” Why would you say that? What does that even mean? And do people really think that what goes down afterwards is because Liam Neeson couldn’t get a round trip ticket?
Regardless, Neeson’s choice of words doesn’t get much better as the film goes on and there were a few times when I just wanted to yell at the screen because he was pretty much saying the most ominous things possible. Neeson’s character is the kind of guy who, after seeing a woman drop her purse, would pick it up and call after her, “Miss!” and when the lady turns around he’d say, “I have something you need”, “I’m not going to hurt you.” “Don’t run.” “Don’t make me chase you!” all while just trying to hand her back the purse. If this movie was more popular, there’s an easy Saturday Night Live sketch to be written about this character. (As it is, Awkwardly Ominous-Sounding Nice Guy played by Liam Neeson could still be a pretty funny sketch.)
However, as I said, it didn’t bother me THAT much in this film because it had enough going on to keep me from fixating on it. Which leads to…

Drink Every Time Liam Neeson’s Character Accuses Someone
And to be fair…
Drink Every Time You Think You Know Who Did It
The strength of this film is the twists and turns of the second act. While some of the twists don’t make complete sense, the film, after a slow beginning, picks up the pace a bit and has you questioning everyone. Honestly, you really don’t need to drink much in the second act since it’s quality but you’ll want to maintain and/or build that buzz for the doozy of a final act.

BATHROOM BREAK: Whenever Someone Starts Explaining Their Motives
Ironically, the one time you’ll want to ignore this is the time early in the movie that happens in an actual bathroom. And it’s not like the person has much time to explain himself in that scene. However, after that, you’ll pretty much want to ignore any moment in which someone starts talking about why they did what they did because it’s mostly groan-worthy and the movie would almost be better without it.

And finally, don’t drink during the last fifteen minutes or so of the movie. Once you start to realize that the antagonist is being revealed, put down the drink (or pound it if you’re still sober) and enjoy the ride because this film gets into Fast and Furious-levels of ridiculousness in the final act. You won’t want to be drinking, not because you’ll want to pay attention, but because odds are that any second you could do a spit take because the silliness is, dare I say it…

NON-STOP!

 

I often make jokes about CBS Films since they churn out one clunker after another (and most of them seem like lousy films from the jump) but they might have picked up a winner with “Afflicted”. Yes, it’s found footage which can be annoying. Yes, it’s reminiscent of “Chronicle”. But the trailer looks great and the travelog device seems like it could work well in a film. Color me intrigued.

 
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