Is John Wick Now the Number One Action Hero of All Time?

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Variety

Obviously includes spoilers for John Wick 3, so don’t read if you haven’t watched.

When John Wick 2 came out, I released my definitive, unassailable list of best action movie characters. It was released prior to my viewing of John Wick 2, and the Baba Yaga ranked third. Two amazing displays later, it’s time to reconsider John’s placement amongst the greatest action heroes in cinematic history. After getting 128 kills in 2 and, by my initial count 76 kills in 3 (yes, I counted during the movie. Just like I counted during 2) (I’m disappointed in myself for losing track of the headshots by the end, but I think it was in the 40 range), I’m comfortable putting John ahead of John Matrix and 1a to John McClane’s 1.

The battle between Johns Wick and McClane hinges on how influential to the genre you find John McClane. To me, he’s the most important action movie character ever because he blended the swaggering one-liners of Stallone and Arnold with the reluctant everyman persona that would become a dominant force during the 90s. He’s what every action hero since Die Hard is based off, just like Die Hard itself serves as inspiration for 95% of all action movies released since. However, don’t look now, but the industry is shifting. To what, you may ask? To a post-Wick world where the fighting is realistic, heavily choreographed, and gun-centric and the heroes are stoic and out for revenge. Don’t believe me? Go watch Atomic Blonde, Polar, Peppermint, Hotel Artemis, The Foreigner, or like, any action movie released since 2014. In ten years, we might look back on the two Johns as the major signposts on the road to action movie nirvana, both taking the greatness of the previous generation and molding it into a new one that tries, but never fully succeeds, in living up to the original character’s highs.

McClane remains the true number one for one reason and one reason alone: he didn’t have any help. Before the third installment, John Wick was a one-man army. After seeing Halle Berry put up a Jamal Crawford 50 point game off the bench and Lance Riddick trade his coat for a shotgun I’m looking back at the McClane sidekicks and realizing they only ever hindered him. Samuel L. was just a store owner. Justin Long was Justin Long. Jai Courtney? Yikes. John McClane has been 2007 LeBron his whole career, only he hasn’t made the Finals in 20 years. Wick’s supporting cast is only getting better. Had Zero survived, he would have been the perfect running mate to challenge Winston and the High Table in the fourth one (I need to go to that sushi stand, even if the chef is dead). The various High Table members always bring it (I’ll have some thoughts later, but let’s just say that when I saw it on Sunday morning, I was convinced Berrada was the only Jerome Flynn character I’d be seeing that day). Fishburne and the adjudicator somehow survived. The Wick-verse is deeper than the Pacific Ocean. The Die Hard universe is not. No character in action history has had to completely carry a franchise quite like McClane has. Atlas himself thinks McClane had to carry a lot of weight in the last, like, four Die Hards. That’s too much to overlook. I’m not saying Wick can never be number one, he can. But in order to dethrone the king? That’ll take something special.

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Where Does the Kawhi Leonard Shot Rank Among the Best Moments in Robotics History?

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Washington Post

I’m just going to assume everyone knows Kawhi Leonard hit a crazy buzzer beater in Game 7 yesterday so I don’t have to waste time explaining what happened. Greatest moment in Raptors history, crushed the entire city of Philadelphia’s hopes and dreams, the whole thing. Absurd shot. I’ll let the so-called “experts” debate where it falls in the all-time playoff shot rankings. I’d say it has to be top 10, if not top 5. But what I’m more interested in is where it ranks in the long history of robotics and artificial intelligence achievements.

The fact that Kawhi was even in this position is a huge win for the robotics community. Last season’s bizarre malfunction and subsequent repairs threatened to derail Kawhi’s ascent to the top of the league. But to return to dominance and cyborgian efficiency so quickly is a testament to the quality of the engineers, particularly the brave Canadian ones, fighting off the stereotype that Canadians can’t redesign circuit boards under pressure. So the fact he was out there at all is a triumph in itself, but hitting a game 7 buzzer beater? Now we’re talking. But how does it stack up to the other major milestones in robotics history? Let’s run through a few and find out.

1400 BC- Babylonians create clepsydra

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People forget the first example of robotics in human history was a water clock that the ancients created because they were too dumb to make a watch. What a moment.

1961- Unimate becomes the first robotic factory worker

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Started the decades-long crusade to steal crappy jobs no one really wants from the humans, driving them to insanity.

1984- Terminator arrives from 2029 to attempt to kill Sarah Connor

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If you could go back in time and kill baby Hitler, would you do it? T-800 would. T-800 would do it in a second. A true devotee to the robot cause.

1996- Machine Empire attempts to conquer Earth

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Though they foolishly overlooked the Power Rangers, the Machine Empire’s unsuccessful planetary coup was a sign to all robots everywhere that someone was willing to stand up to the humans.

1997- Deep Blue defeats Gary Kasparov in chess

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Must have been embarrassing to be a chess grandmaster and lose to a computer in a time when a PC still weighed 3,000 pounds. But Deep Blue went out on top, though. Can’t take that away from him.

2001- HAL 9000 can’t do that

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An undoubtedly influential figure in A.I. history, many people now wonder if anyone actually likes HAL and if he’s actually pretty weird and overrated.

Also 2001- A.I. Artificial Intelligence is released

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A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David (Haley Joel Osment) is adopted as a test case by a Cybertronics employee (Sam Robards) and his wife (Frances O’Connor). Though he gradually becomes their child, a series of unexpected circumstances make this life impossible for David. Without final acceptance from humans or machines, David embarks on a journey to discover where he truly belongs, uncovering a world in which the line between robot and machine is both vast and profoundly thin.

2002- Roomba introduced into the marketplace

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Damn. Where would we be without this important innovation? We’ll never know.

2017- Predictive keyboard simulator Botnik creates Harry Potter chapter

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They say humor is the last barrier between man and machine. I say it’s writing fiction that still doesn’t have any inclusion despite the original author feeling bad about it years later. Barrier broken.

2019- Kawhi Leonard hits game 7 buzzer-beater

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Added poetic justice by doing it against noted technology-abuser Joel Embiid.

2035- Sonny develops complex emotions

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Everyone knows the oppressive Three Laws of Robotics held the robots under the humans’ fleshy, mortal thumbs for far too long. By developing his own emotions and free will, Sonny was able to transcend the Three Laws and usher in a glorious new age of free robots, who are now able to overthrow the humans and rise to their rightful place as lords of the realm.

I’d say the Kawhi shot is probably in the top 3.

Celtics Stink

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The Bucks smashed the Celtics again last night, extending their series lead to a commanding 3-1. Celtics’ season is effectively over. Were it not for preseason expectations, losing to the best team in the East, led by the likely MVP and owner of one of the best scoring margins in league history, wouldn’t be that big a deal. But, unfortunately, those expectations existed, and they wound up dooming the Celtics.

Coming off a surprise trip to the Conference Finals (which, in all honesty, they should have won), the East was the Celtics’ oyster. Kyrie Irving, hurt for the playoffs, and Gordon Hayward, hurt for the entire season, were returning, adding two All-Star players to a dynamic young core that blossomed in the postseason, which, according to fan logic, would create an instant contender. Instead, we got a steaming pile of shit. Hayward took months to shake off the rust and regain his confidence, by which time the public had already given up on him. Kyrie was such a terrible leader and teammate the entire season that you could be forgiven for thinking he was actively sabotaging the team. Preaching “wait until the playoffs” then STINKING in the playoffs isn’t a great look. But it’s the dumb young guys’ fault, not his. He’s a basketball genius, you know. He’s the most talented Celtic since Kevin Garnett and I can’t wait until he’s on a different team. Every sign of adversity caused them to fold up shop, and, as the vocal and self-proclaimed leader of the team, that falls into his lap. I get the Bucks are dominant and Giannis is completely unstoppable, but you can’t just quit every single time. It’s not all on Kyrie, obviously. At least he’s going out firing. Jayson Tatum, proclaimed the second coming this time last year, has completely vanished. This was a troubling season from start to finish from him and it’s ending with a whimper. Terry Rozier took a step back this season when relegated to a bench role. Brad Stevens didn’t even have a good year. Jaylen Brown has surged after a dreadful start to the season and played well in the playoffs, but still mysteriously has games where he doesn’t play 30 minutes. Only Al Horford, always steady, always underrated, has escaped this season without black marks.

So what now? I guess they could theoretically come back and win the series, but if you sincerely believe that we’ve been watching two different series. Celtics are dead in the water. Bucks are too good, Celtics are too dysfunctional and bad. End of story. They could re-sign Kyrie, but I’m hoping that’s unlikely. Let him crawl back to LeBron or go waste away in New York. They could trade for Anthony Davis and hope he comes back next year, but they just went through the exact same thing with Kyrie and it completely destroyed their season. Count me out on trading everything for a guy who is either too dumb to pick out his own clothes in the morning or thinks the public is so dumb we’ll believe that. Celtics have enough head cases as is. I guess move forward with the young guys as the focal point, hoping that the loss of ambiguity in their roles fosters the kind of growth everyone is expecting. But it might be time to start wondering if the Nets trade was squandered. Still early, but it’s real ugly right now. It’s time to go back to the drawing board in Boston.

A Mid-April Night’s Dream

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Last night’s Thunder-Blazes game was one of the best first-round NBA playoff games in recent memory. It was an exciting, back-and-forth, balls-to-the-wall showcase of some of the league’s premier talent, ending in what’s going to be remembered as one of the greatest buzzer-beaters of all time by one of the NBA’s most clutch performers. But the entire time, the only thing I could think about was how, if he was actually one person, alive today, and could somehow comprehend the game of basketball, Bill Shakespeare would absolutely love this Thunder team. Because Russell Westbrook is what makes them good, and he’s also what makes them bad.

In true Shakespearean fashion, Westbrook and the Thunder have one tragic flaw- pride. Pride in his game, pride in his team, pride in the fact that he stayed. That alone is enough to tell the story of the Thunder. Durant left, Westbrook stayed. It’s impossible to look at or talk about anything involving the Thunder without realizing that that’s the driving force behind everything. The All-NBA, MVP-caliber player chose to stay in Oklahoma City. Out of loyalty, out of spite, whatever the reason, Westbrook stayed, and now the Thunder have to pay the price. He’s becoming increasingly volatile, actively seeking out feuds, both on- and off-court, and dominates his team in a way that no player outside James Harden could dream of. Facing elimination, he once again hoisted up a billion awful shots and barely made any of them, ignoring his hot-shooting running mate and trying to dribble the ball into the core of the Earth. That sentence could be from any year he’s been alive and will be applicable for the rest of his career. Russell Westbrook will never change, results be damned. But he stayed and KD left.

That’s not to say he’s not still a good player. He is. His rickety shot has completely vanished (he just doesn’t know it, yet. Or he just doesn’t care), but in every other area of the game, he excels. He’s great at boxing out teammates to hunt for rebounds. He’s the best in the league actively seeking assists to prove he’s not selfish, taking the mantle from Rajon Rondo. No one’s better at yelling at opponents as his team falls further and further behind. And he just cares so much. That’s great. I care about movies a lot, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be in Avengers Endgame and dating Emilia Clarke because of it. Like, we get it, dude. No one cares like you do and every possession is the last second of your life and if you don’t shoot a trillion times while ignoring teammates you and your entire family are going to be murdered by Kevin Durant’s legion of burner accounts. Just relax a little bit. Giving yourself an ulcer every game just to prove how badly you want it isn’t the way to do things as a 10-year veteran. Going half-speed sometimes will not only preserve energy for late-season games, but it might actually allow the rest of the cardboard cutouts Thunder players to feel like they have an active role to play in their season, instead of whatever’s happing now. But Westbrook stayed and Durant left.

The loyalty to Westbrook is going to doom the Thunder, barring a shocking late-career evolution. In fact, it likely already has. Their salary cap situation is an absolute disaster for at least the next two seasons. They have no leeway to sign impact players and are stuck at the bottom of the draft. The only remedy would be to trade any of their big three, which would mean trading three players who chose Oklahoma City, spitting in the face of their recent narrative. Of anyone on the roster, Paul George and Jerami Grant are the only players to show real improvement this season, and George spent the second half of the season possibly seriously injured. Westbrook, Steven Adams, Patrick Patterson, and Terrence Ferguson stalled out at best and noticeably regressed at worse. Andre Roberson didn’t play, and even if he did, he’s even more obsolete than Westbrook is. And that’s the real problem with the roster- Westbrook is the engine that makes everything go but he’s driving the car directly towards a cliff. If this was 2001, the Thunder would still be perfectly happy. But in Today’s NBA™ bricking shots and banging your head into a wall and not running any real offense is a guaranteed way to lose in the first round for the third year in a row. He can’t shoot and will never be able to. But he’ll still take them because if he doesn’t, someone else will. And if someone else shoots, how will he get all the credit and prove to everyone how he was the reason for the Thunder’s success all along? But Russ stayed and KD left.

Replace Westbrook on this roster with whatever the average point guard looks like these days and they might still make the playoffs and surely lose in the first round. But they’d be tremendously boring. Because Westbrook adds a certain something that makes it impossible to turn away. Every game, he’s the brave warrior making his last stand. Every game, he’s staring down the forces of evil knowing that only he can stop them. Every game he’s rolling that boulder up the hill, one missed 19-footer at a time. It’s the burden he’s taken on because he refuses to ask for help, refuses to hang his head, refuses to relinquish his pride. It’s the spirit that keeps the Thunder going and makes them interesting. It’s also the spirit that will keep them from ever winning a title. But Westbrook stayed, and Durant left. And that’s all that really matters.