Culture Round-Up

Culture Round-Up


NBA 2k17: What's New?

by Brian Lewis

NBA2K17, this year's edition of basketball's most popular video game, is a notably different beast than last year's. When you play your first game, the first thing you'll notice is the difference in detail.

Everything from the players and arenas to the game modes have been revamped. Now the players look almost identical to how you would see them on TV, even down to their signature celebrations and rituals. The stadiums have real noise taken from the actual fans in the arenas.

The My GM mode is more customizable and allows you to work as the owner, general manager, or coach of a team as opposed to last year, where you could only be a GM. Then you’re allowed to choose between the league starting with the original 30 teams, an expansion league with up to six additional teams from around the world, or a custom league where you can play with up to 36 teams as well as noteworthy teams from the past.

The new 2K also allows you the option of playing a single season or playoffs with your chosen team. After that, you can choose to start in the regular season or in the offseason. Then you can choose whether to have a fantasy draft for all three of the original MyGM modes.

The MyPlayer mode, traditionally the game's best feature, is pretty similar to past editions. The only real difference comes when you get into the league and get an indoor court which your player hangs out in when they aren't playing, practicing, or getting endorsement deals.

The MyCourt is customizable with themed wall murals, themed and colored backboards, and customizable courts. But like most things in life, your player will have to earn these features by working hard and playing well. That is, unless you have some extra cash you wanna throw down on video game money.


Best Team to Play With Online


Only one team out of thirty has 4 bonafide All Stars. It has three out of the top 11 three point shooters in the league. They won 73 games last year and just added Kevin Durant. But they are still not the best team to play with online in 2K.

Here’s why: inevitably you are going to get matched up with someone that may not have a strong internet connection. It's an unfortunate reality of every sports game. If you are playing with a team that is highly reliant on spreading the floor and hitting three pointers, that could put a serious hindrance on your strategy.

The shooting mechanic in 2K is all about timing and if you're playing someone with bad internet, chances are it is going to lag at the worst time, which can make all of your releases late and shots that would normally have a high probability of falling may clang off the rim.

Due to this, the best team to play with online is the San Antonio Spurs. Although the game ranks them as the number 3 team overall, I believe them to be vastly underrated.

Most teams are lucky if they have a big man that can reliably pass, shoot, rebound, and play defense. The Spurs now have two with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. Not to mention probably the deepest bench in the league.

Being able to run pick and pops with both Aldridge and Gasol is a nightmare to defend against, especially when just about everyone on the Spurs can pass the ball more reliably than most. And i haven't even mentioned Kawhi Leonard, one of the top budding superstars in the league.

The Spurs rebound, play tough defense, and can move the ball well enough to usually get open shots or layups which won’t lag and clang off the rim because they're so easy to make. That's why they're my top team for online play.


Most Overrated Players

Avery Bradley (82) - Bradley is coming off of a career year where he averaged 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. But he’s probably the highest rated guard in the game that doesn’t really create for himself. The Celtics shooting guard depends on Isaiah Thomas to create ball movement and penetration that eventually gets him open shots.

Mike Conley (85) - This summer, he signed a five-year, $153 million deal with the Grizzlies. He must have used some of that cash to get the 2K developers to raise his rating a good three-to-five points, because there’s no way it should be that high after a year which he only averaged 15 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds. He wasn’t even an All-Star. Isaiah Thomas received the same ranking while putting up 22 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds, and making the All-Star team.

Tony Parker (80) - There’s no way Tony Parker should be an 80. Ratings of 80 and up are supposed to be for game changing players that have the potential to play like All-Stars at least occasionally. Tony Parker didn't show that he was capable of doing that last season when he only averaged 12 points, 5 assists, and 2 rebounds per game. He only had one game where he scored 30 or more points but he scored nine points or less 30 times.


Most Underrated Players


1. Andrew Wiggins (82) - Andrew Wiggins has been steadily improving as a player through his first two seasons averaging about 17 and then 21 respectively AND raised his shooting percentage in the process from about 44 percent to about 46 percent. He’s still only 21 years old but he can jump out of the gym, plays solid defense, scores well, and has probably the best space creating step back in the NBA.

2. Brook Lopez (81) - A lot of people forget how good Brook Lopez is. He averaged nearly 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. That's good enough to put him second in scoring for centers behind DeMarcus Cousins. He’s also one of few centers capable of spreading the floor with a mid-range jumper. He should be in for a year about as good as last year considering the Nets have no other premier players.

3. D’Angelo Russell (79) - Russell’s rookie numbers were impressive despite playing on a team with an extremely ball dominant guard in Kobe Bryant. However, now that Kobe is gone D’Angelo should be handed the keys to the Lakers offense. That means more opportunities to get points and assets as well as boost his 2k rating. When I saw D’Angelo play in Las Vegas summer league he easily looked like the best player on the court and demonstrated the ability to hit clutch shots too.


Storks, A New Take On The Old Myth

by Sam Green

"Storks," the new animated movie from director Nicholas Stoller, opens on Andy Samberg’s character Junior, narrating how storks used to deliver babies but now deliver packages since one stork went "rogue" and stole a baby. We then see him make chit-chat with some co-workers in the locker room of Stork Mountain and, in typical Samberg-style, play macho man while no one really pays much attention. He is called to his boss’ office where he is told he’s going to be promoted, if and only if he fires Tulip, the stolen baby and now the only human in Stork Mountain.

And this is where the movie really actually starts, following the archetype of the macho man who thinks he knows better than everyone else, and can’t bring himself to fire her. Instead he reassigns her to the mail room, which turns out to also house the baby making machine. Yes; baby making machine. Someone writes a letter, presumably the parents, and sends it off to the storks who then place it in the machine and a few minutes later, BAM! You’ve got a baby ready for delivery.

Of course nothing is ever as simple as it seems, because a young child writes a letter to the storks and instead of putting it in the mail sorter, Tulip puts it in the baby making machine, producing a brand new baby. Junior freaks out, but figures if he can deliver it before Monday, the day of StorkCon, he can still get promoted without firing Tulip, whose help he needs to deliver the baby.


"Storks are instructed to never open the pod because baby cuteness can drive you insane, just like the stork that tried to keep Tulip."

The Stork story we all know from growing up is pretty simple. They come with the baby wrapped in a blanket, and not unlike Santa Claus, deliver through the chimney. In "Storks," they carry metal pods that look like an egg. Inside the pods are the babies that are being delivered to the family that requested a child via a letter, also not unlike the santa claus myth. Storks are instructed to never open the pod because baby cuteness can drive you insane, just like the stork that tried to keep Tulip.

I was not that impressed with this film, in that I didn't find it all that funny or amusing. The jokes were there but sometimes felt forced and the story was pretty thin. With that being said, one thing that I look for in films is character development and this film had an adequate amount of that.

Throughout their adventure, Junior and Tulip run into many obstacles, wolves who basically have wonder twin powers (arguably the funniest part in the entire film), a pigeon that is hell bent on taking Junior down and becoming the next “boooooooss,” and of course arguments that lead to the minimal character development.

Our heroes bicker and fight like you would expect in any film, so nothing really unique there. Honestly, this entire film is just a rehash of common children’s film archetypes; nothing new here. The film goes down a pretty generic path, a few major events bond our heroes and then suddenly they’re inseparable best friends.

I’d honestly love to see a movie that breaks the mold, but the odds of that seem unlikely as Hollywood tends to play it safe. With an animated film, you can’t really judge the acting. Even though voice acting is tough, it’s easier to clean up bad voice acting versus bad acting on camera. That being said however, Andy Samberg, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Jennifer Aniston and the rest of the cast did a great job.

All in all, Storks is a great film for the younger generation: your little brother, son or daughter, niece or nephew, or the kid that you babysit. But be prepared for about two hours of humour aimed at young children with little for the adults.


The Magnificent 7: Is it as Magnificent as the Original?

by Andrew Aono

The question on our minds: Is the new movie as magnificent as the original?

Spoiler Alert: No.

The original “Magnificent Seven” movie came out in 1960 and was directed by John Sturges (“The Great Escape”) with a script by William Roberts (“The Donna Reed Show”).  The western starred Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, and Steve McQueen.

The new 2016 “Magnificent Seven” movie, directed by Antoine Fuqua (of “Training Day” fame) with a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto, writer of “True Detective,” is just as star-studded as the 1960 version. With a cast including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke, and others,  the new movie draws heavily upon the original for inspiration. It fails to live up to or surpass the movie it attempts to update.

The original movie pits desperate bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach) against a desperate farming village, who hires seven gunmen, led by Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) to protect them and their crops from the bandit.  In the new “Magnificent Seven” strong female Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) takes revenge for her husband and frees her town from corrupt businessman Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who wants to take the land of the mining town by hiring a band of seven gunmen, led by Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), to fend off Bogue and his men.

Both movies feel like products of their times. The old “Seven” was shot in Panavision, a widescreen film format.  The color palette is dull and mostly various shades of brown.  The men are all dirty and the faces all sweaty.  The most important non-white character, Calvera, is played by a white man.  The selfless white men are saving the sometimes ungrateful Mexican village.  In contrast, the new version, circa 2016, really feels modern.

There is a strong Asian female character who uses the words “white man’s prejudices,”  and is played by Asian actor, Byung-Hun Lee. The same can be said for other characters of non-white ethnicities.

The colors of the 2016 version of the film are saturated.  I might say overly so.  The green of the grass and the blue of the sky pop out at you in an almost surreal way — emphasizing the explosions.  And like all good movies made in the last few years, it stars Chris Pratt.  

The original movie makes good use of the widescreen format.  The composition of shots are well executed.  Like many other good westerns of the 1960s, it is a joy to simply look at.   I wouldn’t say that it is as pleasing to the eye as “Once Upon a Time in the West,” but I definitely enjoyed looking at the way shots were arranged.

The new movie, on the other hand, is not really as visually pleasing.  It is like a person who is attractive but has no actual substance. It is certainly dynamic, with dramatic shots and cuts. The camera moves fast between viewpoints, capturing motion and movement, especially the sense of the speed of horse riding, very well.  But these are things most new action movies do.  It is not especially unique from any other.

"If my bias for old western movies is not apparent, it should be."

The casting is generally good in both movies, although the way Fuqua treats the characters leaves something to be desired.  The villain is all bad and no good.  Bogue talks too much and some of his lines are borderline corny.  It seems like he is trying to be as badass as possible.  This means that you love to hate him, which is a good feeling, but he ends up being one-note.  The Mexican bandit Calvera, on the other hand, is much more down to earth. He is poor, starving, and desperate for food.  He even shows the seven gunmen some compassion, which ends up coming back to bite him in the ass. 

The titular Magnificent Seven are also treated differently in the new film.  In the old film, the men are all given little quirks.  In one scene, Vin Tanner loses money gambling.  In another scene, Britt kills somebody by throwing a knife.  In the new movie, however, they are all given roles, stated explicitly in the trailer for the film.  These include “Bounty Hunter,” “Sharpshooter,” “Gambler,” “Assassin,” “Tracker,” “Warrior,” and “Outlaw.”  This differentiates them from each other, but it makes them feel like they lack depth because too much effort is put into these surface differences and how they look.  And these titles they have are either blown out of proportion, or not actually part of the movie in any significant way.

The new film is trying hard to be progressive by including at least one person of every race and placing them in prominent roles.  But it ruins this by turning them into stereotypes.  The Asian guy prefers throwing knives over guns?  I guess ninja stars would have been a little too blatant.  The Native American prefers bow and arrow?  This begs the question of what is worse:  A white actor playing a Mexican character, as in the original movie, or an Asian actor playing an Asian character but then being stereotyped into a ninja-cowboy?  Sans the all black, of course.

Throughout the movie you can really feel Fuqua’s appreciation for old westerns.  Often he takes lines directly from the old movie, and brings it into the present day by slapping them on a more racially diverse cast.

If my bias for old western movies is not apparent, it should be.  There is a mythos that surrounds the west.  The wild west.  Lone gunmen.  A bittersweet victory.  Riding off under the sweltering sun.  Old western movies capture this mythos, as if you were hearing a tall tale from a centenarian remembering his previous life.  Some new movies do this as well, like the 2010 remake of “True Grit.”  But “The Magnificent Seven” fails to do so.  It is a new movie which tries hard to be a modern update of an outdated classic and ends up losing much of that which made the original worth seeing.  Some things should be left in the past.  “The Magnificent Seven” is one of them.