“Sinister” on Halloween: Found-Footage Horror Can Still be Scary

We see a family of four with hoods over their heads and nooses around their necks. A branch on the other side of the tree gets cut by something out of frame, and when it falls it lifts the family off the ground. They kick in slow motion. Their kicks slow. They die.

“Sinister.” The title pops onto the screen in a scratchy, creepy font. Two minutes in, this is already a pretty cool movie. Watching people slowly hang to death is disturbing.

An egomaniac true-crime writer played by Ethan Hawke moves his family into the house. He wants to figure out what happened, and what happened to the vanished fifth member of this hanged family. Hawke assures his wife they are not living down the street from a crime scene, which is technically true since the family hanged in their backyard. (Lies will eat your soul.) The writer finds a box full of 8 mm movies in the attic. When he cues them up, he sees other families get horribly killed.

“Sinister” has this meta-ness that enhances the extreme scares. We’ve seen so many movies like “Paranormal Activity,” where the action is meant to appear live, filmed in real-time by the victims of some demon. Hawke’s character watches these mini “Paranormal” movies, made by the demon itself in these cases, and we watch him watch them. He gets freaked out and starts to drink and smoke. The flims go back decades, and they always show some nice, attractive family enjoying each other. Then the reels cut suddenly to their horrible murder. They’re tied down in a car which then bursts into flames. They’re tied to a bed and then have their throats cut. They’re tied to lounge chairs that get dragged into a public pool. A woman’s feet kick horribly as the rest of her body is unable to escape and get her head back above water. Then they stop.

These death scenes, caught on grainy film, are horribly realistic looking. (I cannot imagine a more terrifying lawnmower scene would even be possible than what’s pulled off in one of these mini killing movies in “Sinister.”) What’s causing them? Who is the killer? The Bughuul, a Pagan deity who eats children and prefers the extended cuts of horror films.

Ethan Hawke is a great actor, and it is more scary watching a great actor get scared than watching a bad actor get scared. In “Sinister,” his character slowly unravels in that way we watched Jack Nicholson slowly unravel in “The Shining.” He is on to the story of his career, and he knows it. He hides the grainy films from everyone else, fearing police intervention would ruin his shot at an “In Cold Blood”-like true-crime masterpiece. But what he’s watching is too disturbing, and after a while he begins to spend nights chasing thumps and groans and something else in his attic. His face gets twitchy and his kids start acting crazy.

Bughuul, eater of children. If you saw the great movie “Drag Me To Hell” a couple years ago, you know how fantastic Pagan demons can be as bad guys. In that film, it was the Lamia, summoned by gypsies to exact revenge on oppressive, profit-minded banking executives. These demons delight in terrorizing their victims as they dance back and forth between our world and theirs.

I loved “Sinister.” Hawke’s character is not a good person, and while I won’t give away the ending I will say that it’s mean as hell. This flick, like “Drag Me To Hell,” is refreshing in that is has a beginning, a middle and an end. It isn’t setting up sequels; it just wants to stand alone as a cool, creepy horror movie.

There was a trailer for “Paranormal Activity 4” before the flick. The first time they made one of those movies, it was new and clever and scary. Now it’s just stupid. And boring. Those films are supposed to seem real because of their found-footage gimmick, where everything’s captured on cameras set up by the characters. The problem is they actually feel more fake after you’ve watched the same trick enough times.

“Sinister” has a new take on found-footage. It puts a great actor in front of gorier found-footage clips than anything you’ll see in “Blair Witch” or “Paranormal Activity,” and they drive him insane. Maybe the “Paranormal” producers should summon a Bughuul to direct Part 5.

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“Prometheus”: Don’t Reanimate a Dead Maker’s Head Just Because You Can

“Where do we come from? What is our purpose? What happens when we die?”

These are the question pondered by Peter Weyland, the mysterious puppet master bankrolling a doomed space mission by the Prometheus crew to find the aliens who created us. The answer is this: Don’t ask, monkey.

“Prometheus” is about the search for life’s meaning, but only as much as “Log Jamming” is about a man who longs to fix cable. Really, “Prometheus” is a monster movie. Its characters, none of them sympathetic, get killed by increasingly scary alien creatures in increasingly violent ways, culminating in a one-sided fight between the hulking, sneering, bald, white humanoid beast who made us and a giant squid monster with numerous vagina-looking mouths filled with sharp, deadly teeth.

This flick is a creature feature. An angry zombie appears near the end, for no better reason than to wipe out several crew members in a single zany action scene. He attacks with his fists, crushing one guy’s skull through the helmet, and wields an ax. The zombie’s death comes after he gets run over by a space SUV, then blasted by a flamethrower and a shotgun simultaneously. It’s dumb, but it’s awesome.

This flick is a creature feature, but it has some fun with religious people who believe our lives hold higher purpose. Religion is referenced constantly in “Prometheus.” “Guess you can take off your father’s cross now,” a fanatic scientist tells his devout girlfriend, Elizabeth Shaw, after they’ve discovered the E.T. root of life on earth. Later, the same cross will be taken from Shaw by the android David, who says “it may be contaminated.” That happens immediately after her boyfriend walks voluntarily into death by being burned alive (which also feels like a vaguely religious reference), and immediately before she finds out she’s pregnant with a monster and begs to have it removed from her stomach immediately. Not so pro-life now.

Some of the crew, upon waking from two-year cryo-sleep and being briefed on their mission (before all the chaos ensues), become outraged. The zealots’ reasoning for taking them there was flimsy, and the mission ultimately amounts to a religious crusade. “How do you know?” Shaw is asked by a mohawked geologist destined to be assaulted by an oil snake and transformed into the burned, shot-up zombie.

“I don’t know,” she says, “but it’s what I choose to believe.” Any atheist can testify to how maddening, and ubiquitous, this response is. Because of what a few people “choose to believe,” more than a few people will die horribly. There’s a lesson there.

The best character in “Promethues” is David, who feels bemused hatred for the humans around him. David is an incredible movie bad guy – soulless and cruel, a fan of the film “Laurence of Arabia,” who can speak alien languages and fly alien spaceships and ride a bike in a circle on a basketball court while shooting hook shots. He’s like an evil version of Data, from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and Michael Fassbender gives a classic performance in the role.

Why is David evil? Unlike us, he never had to go on any long journey to meet his maker. He knows human beings are his creators, and we are pathetic compared with him. He’s totally unimpressed, which makes him willing to not only murder people but taunt them as he does so. Meeting your maker sucks.

Nonetheless, David goes with Weyland to meet the Maker creature, and asks in its language what the meaning of our lives is. Maker puts a huge hand on David’s head and looks at him strangely for a second. Is it petting the android? Is its look one of understanding and even pride in these creations, for having come so far both figuratively and literally?

Not even close. Maker lifts David up off the ground, twists the android’s head off, then smashes Weyland across the face and runs away to go destroy earth. Lying on the ground with a huge purple bruise on his forehead, Weyland says “There is nothing.” There it is, the answer to those questions. There is nothing, and asking was a waste of time.

(Also, there appears to be a growing anti-“Prometheus” movement taking hold in America. My dad sent me this clip bashing the movie, and wrote “You have to admit he makes some good points.” No, he doesn’t.

And there was a post I wrote here when Tool came to Albuquerque, about why Tool is my favorite band. “If you think music is art,” it said, “then Tool is my kind of art.” “Prometheus” is my kind of art, too. The two share a scary-science-fiction theme and a contempt for piety that’s totally refreshing.)

Creature designer H.R. Giger’s name appears in the “Prometheus” credits above even the cast’s

Considering “The Master,” Part 2: What Was That?

My very-soon-to-be-wife turned toward me after “The Master” ended. The theater was still dark and I was smiling huge. She’d hated it. HATED! She said she tried to fall asleep at one point. She had thought about walking out. “It wasn’t about anything,” she said. “It was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time.”

Uh, wrong. But it did confuse some critics, even when they liked the film. A quick perusal of the RottenTomatoes.com page for “The Master” produces the following pull-out quotes: “Confounding as it is magnificent.” “The lights go down, they come up 137 minutes later, and you’re left to ask yourself: What on earth did I just see?” “I’m not sure I grasp it.” “I left the theater not entirely sure what The Master was about.” “…defies understand.”

Lord Roger Ebert even panned this great flick, writing “‘The Master’ is fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air.”

My most favorite of several favorite scenes in “The Master” takes place in jail. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) gets thrown into a cell beside Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and flips the hell out. Quell smashes everything around him – his toilet is turned into shards. Dodd, the leader of his own religious movement, stays cool as Quell screams at him, then says the reason Quell fears imprisonment is that his spirit was captured by an evil force centuries ago and implanted with fear.

His response to animal aggression is to spew total nonsense. There’s meaning there.

And what does Dodd do to end this incredible scene? Turns toward his unbroken toilet and takes a big piss. A core tenant of Dodd’s movement (The Cause) is that “Man is not an animal. We are not part of the animal kingdom.” His followers listen to recordings of him saying that over and over. These two crazy men, though, in this one glorious scene, are contradicting that notion in completely difference ways.

Or how about another favorite scene, in which Dodd is wowing everyone at a party with what he calls “dehypnotization.” He manipulates an old woman with her eyes closed into picturing a man wearing armor, then tells the woman she remembering a past life.

A very calm, but stern, man starts saying “Excuse me,” repeatedly, until he has Dodd’s attention. He wants to know how Dodd can claim that accessing past lives can cure leukemia. That would seem a fair question. Or how about this: How can you say our spirits are trillions of years old when science tells us the universe’s age is measured in billions of years? “Good science, by definition, requires more than one opinion,” the calm but stern man says, then implies Dodd is leading a cult.

Dodd claims to care about science. When we first meet him, he says he’s “a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher.” Yet when he is told good science requires other opinions, he becomes ferocious, badgering the man loudly about how afraid he must be. Dodd yells, in front of a rapt audience, “If you already know the answers to your questions then why are you asking PIG FUCK!?”

Dodd’s wife tells him in bed that night that “The only way to defend ourselves is to attack.” Quell goes to the calm-but-stern man’s room at 3 a..m and beats him up.

So in the face of legitimate questions, this religious leader’s response is fury. He’s a victim under attack. His followers actually strike out for him. There’s meaning in that, too.

This stuff doesn’t get explicitly spelled out, because if everything were on-the-nose the characters wouldn’t have room to grow and surprise us. Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s last movie, “There Will Be Blood,” was similarly loaded with deep meaning beneath the actions of complicated characters. Daniel Plainview was an oil man who worshiped hard work and money, but whose life lacked joy. He seethed with hatred for Eli Sunday, a preacher espousing the righteousness of his church while hounding Plainview for a handout. The meaning behind that relationship was profound, but it wasn’t obvious.

There’s is power in the ambiguity of “The Master.” Anderson’s characters are complicated people with big lives, and they are crazy. Humanity mixes with darkness in these films. The actors (Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for playing Plainview, and even Tom Cruise has been Oscar nominated for an Anderson flick) give the performances of their careers in his films because the people they play aren’t types, and because they have such rich, interesting things to do.

When Freddie Quell gets back from World War II, he starts taking department-store photographs of generic people whose hair and faces are so shiny they look fake. A beautiful woman’s voice sings over these scenes “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Then Quell, unprovoked, tries to assault one of the men he’s photographing. The point there may not be obvious, but it is really fascinating.

Considering “The Master,” Part 1: Tom Cruise’s Craziness is a Little Sad

The psychology of religious leadership is an important aspect of “The Master,” but there’s no mention in the film of Galactic Warlord Xenu’s nuclear strike against our volcanoes. “The Master” is a feast, but contrasted with real events it reiterates an often-surprising notion: truth is stranger than fiction. I bring this up because of Tom Cruise.

Think about Tom Cruise. He stars in huge – sometimes great – films. Rich. Famous. Powerful. He dates gorgeous actresses and even married Nicole Kidman, one of the most beautiful and talented of them all. The world belongs to Tom Cruise.

He’s got this other thing in his life, though, that makes it all a little less awesome. A blockbuster Vanity Fair article this month about Cruise made headlines because of its strange central story on a program by top Scientologists to find Cruise a worthy girlfriend in the middle 2000’s. More interesting, though, in the context of “The Master,” is a subplot of this article about the head of Scientology, David Miscavige. He and Cruise are close, dear friends.

“Miscavige…. prided himself on being able to produce with a snap of his fingers anything Cruise desired, as well as to remove whatever he considered to be obstacles in the star’s life, such as his last wife, Nicole Kidman, and his last girlfriend, Penelope Cruz.” Oh yeah, Cruise dated Penelope Cruz. That is nice work. But this article says the church wouldn’t have her. It got creepy.

“Kidman and Cruz had been found wanting in their embrace of the organization and therefore unsuitable for the highly prized Cruise – Kidman especially. … As Penelope Cruz became Cruise’s new love interest, she took her own set of courses, but, the sources say, she soon ran afoul of Miscavige, who dismissed her as a mere ‘dilettante’ when it was learned that she was unwilling to forsake her Buddhist beliefs.”

The religion is inserting itself into Cruise’s personal life and manipulating his relationships, this article says. “There can be no underestimating how valuable Cruise was to Scientology.” During Cruise’s marriage to Kidman, Miscavige “got reports on the couple through members of their personal staff – devout Scientologists. The staff ‘was reporting every single detail going on in the house during the entire marriage with Nicole – how they were getting along, their disputes, what he was doing movie-wise, and his relations in Hollywood.'”

The leader of the church was snooping on Cruise and his wife, this story says. Why the obsession? And why would Cruise be cool with that?

He received a “Freedom Medal of Honor” from Miscavige, “an award created specifically for Cruise.” Did that prize make up for the intense interference in his private life?

It gets worse. Creepier. “Auditing sessions” are big deals in Scientology. They are “its expensive version of Roman Catholic confession, administered by an auditor posing hundreds of questions to a paying subject holding on to two metal canisters wired to an Electropsychometer, or E-Meter, which measures the body’s reactions to questions somewhat as a lie detector does. Subjects are encouraged to bring up any disturbing past memories or transgressions and get them out in order to be ‘cleared’ to go up the Bridge of Total Freedom, through many levels leading to eternal spiritual happiness, a process that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Scientology’s “former inspector general and No. 2” told Vanity Fair he made written reports following each of Cruise’s auditing session, to deliver to Miscavige. “Miscavige eagerly awaited the Cruise reports and those of other high-profile Scientology members at his Gold Base headquarters…. According to several sources, he often read them out loud to entertain whomever he was with… Miscavige – often joined by his wife, Shelly – would whip out a bottle of Macallan scotch at two or three in the morning in the Officer’s Lounge, play backgammon, and read the Cruise reports with a running commentary.”

The running commentaries were about Cruise’s sex life, another ex-Scientologist told VF: “‘He would roll his eyes and say ‘Jeez, can you believe it?’ All the while, Miscavige claimed to be Cruise’s best friend.”

Come on. That’s sad. Not tragic, but sad. No matter how rich and famous Tom Cruise is, it’s sad that this religious leader is his “best friend” (Miscagive was best man at the Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding) while trashing him behind his back and messing with his marriages.

Which brings us to “The Master.” The film’s director, Paul Thomas Anderson, has gone back and forth about how much his movie is influenced by the story of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. There are some instances too hard to ignore, though. The film’s central authority figure is Lancaster Dodd (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a religious leader who authored a book called The Cause. Dodd says our spirits are trillions of years old – older than the universe – and we’ve been cycling through lives the entire time. He says we must get rid of our “negative emotional impulses and bring man back to its perfection.”

Dodd’s auditing is called “processing.” He asks several questions. “Do you like to linger at bus stops for pleasure?” “Do your past failures bother you?” “Do your past failures bother you?” “Do your past failures bother you?” “Are you unpredictable?” Subjects are instructed not to blink as they answer. The questions get sexual. It’s a total mind fuck. Dodd believes (or says he believes) that evil forces implanted our spirits with fear trillions of years ago.

Real-life Scientology believes that, from Vanity Fair: “…75 million years ago a galactic emperor named Xenu sent millions of frozen souls on spaceships from his overpopulated kingdom to the bases of volcanoes on Earth; the volcanoes were hydrogen-bombed, and today the scattered and reincarnated spiritual beings, or ‘thetans,’ pick up human bodies as ‘containers’ to inhabit. Their excess emotional baggage can haunt the human hosts, however, so it needs to be cleared out.”

“The Master” takes place in the 1950s, the same decade Hubbard launched Scientology. It took decades of change for the real church to become what it is now, with pampered celebrities keeping it relevant. But in Dodd we see someone like the modern Miscavige of this article, claiming to be pious and good while privately knowing that’s bunk. Spying on Cruise and his family is creepy and weird, the act of someone superficial and, on some level, kinda stupid.

“The Master” is about a religious-movement leader who easily manipulates a shell-shocked, psycho-sexual war veteran into becoming his violent disciple. In real life, the leader of Scientology is (according to this article) manipulating one of the world’s biggest movie stars into serving as a perfect hood ornament to the cause. Meanwhile, Miscavige is the ultimate obnoxious Us Weekly reader, actively influencing his favorite celebrity’s personal life.

Maybe Tom Cruise would have never been the star he’s become if not for Scientology, so it doesn’t really matter if the religion objectifies him. Fair trade. Maybe movie stars aren’t worth worrying about. This story bothered me, though, and not just because I like Tom Cruise’s movies.

There’s a seediness that’s primal in the relationship between celebrity and Scientology. “The Master” gets the oddness just right, but its story only scratches the surface of what can happen when a religious leader becomes obsessed with one of his followers.

Bald Badasses Fight to the Death

Jason Statham growls “Civilized people need to follow rules, and these are mine.” Clown with an uzi bursts through the floor grate! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Statham, disguised as a priest, is with his armed gang, robbing a big bank. “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people that don’t deserve it. So relax.”

So begins the best thing in theaters right now, the trailer for “Parker.” It comes out in January.

The clown is Michael Chiklis. Anyone who watched “The Shield” rightly worships Chiklis as a god. Chiklis growls “Gotta say, Parker, you came as advertised. But I’m gonna need the whole score for this next thing.” A double cross. Statham growls “We had a deal.” “If you were me, what would you do with a guy like you?” They’re in a car; Bunk from “The Wire” is driving. The doors lock and everyone grabs a gun.

“I’d kill him while I had the chance.” Punch! Elbow! Urgh! Screeeeeeeech! Blam! Blam! Blam!

Statham dives through a blown-open window and hits the street rolling. Doesn’t matter. “Do it!” Chiklis yells at his henchman, who shoots Statham’s head and kicks him down a ditch. “Most importantly, if you say you’ll do something and you don’t, I’ll make sure you regret it.” Statham’s in a hospital bed, opening his eyes.

Like the Count of Monte Cristo, Parker changes his identity so he can get close to Chiklis and extract sweet revenge. He teams up with Jennifer Lopez. “Take off your clothes,” he tells her. “I have to know if you’re wearing a wire.” She obliges. She’s wearing black undergarments. Statham watches from a comfy chair. He gets up and goes in for a closer look.

“I’m gonna put things right,” Statham growls. “Who the hell are you?” a banker sitting in suspenders behind his desk asks Statham. “Parker,” Statham growls as he raises up a gun. Explosion! Kick! Chiklis freaks out and kills one of his goons. “Parker’s dead!”

Diamonds. Tons of diamonds. The score of a lifetime. Statham’s turncoat former gang is gonna steal them, and then he and JLo are gonna steal the diamonds from them.

TO GET AWAY CLEAN

YOU HAVE TO PLAY DIRTY

Fire! Bone crunch! Punch! Punch! Throat chop! Shower makeout! Explosion!

“How do you sleep at night?” JLo asks Statham moments after he’s plummeted over a high-rise balcony clutching the collar of one of the traitors.

“I don’t drink coffee after 7.”

The hope here is that Chiklis gets a few really good hits in before Statham kills him horribly.

Dream Team vs. Team USA: Courtside for the Mount-Olympus Matchup

When the 1992 Dream Team finally played 2012’s Team USA, the first bucket was a wide-open 3 drained by “Sir” Charles Barkley. The second bucket came after Michael Jordan was fed on a fast break by Magic Johnson, following a missed Kobe Bryant jump shot. Jordan caught the ball, dribbled it between his legs and then behind his back while he side-stepped around Tyson Chandler and elevated several feet into the air for a one-handed windmill that started on his hip.

Like so.

Larry Bird was Dream Team’s starting small forward and guarded Kevin Durant, which was a mistake. In the opening minutes, Durant scored seven of his team’s first nine points. Between free throws and jukey jumpers from Jordan, the Dream Team got long-range buckets from Bird and Clyde Drexler. Barkley was lit up in the post by LeBron James, who started at power forward on Team USA.

Freight train.

Then the secret weapon was deployed.

Magic Johnson cannot guard Russell Westbrook, but the Lakers great was too proud to admit it. Magic was 32 when he played for the Dream Team; Westbrook is 23, and a transcendent athlete. Again and again, Westbrook would blast by Magic for floaters and layups. Westbrook attacked every time he got the ball, leaving a frustrated Magic bewildered, shaking his head.

There were a lot of free throws in the first half, and a lot of fouls. John Stockton ran a pick and roll with David “The Admiral” Robinson that resulted in a huge, crazy slam. The score at halftime was 33-32 Team USA, which took the lead on a rebound-and-tip-in by Kevin Love off a Carmelo Anthony miss with one second left.

Barkley opened the second half with a straight-on 3 from the end of the key. A congested fast break of bumping bodies nonetheless finished with an alley-oop from Magic to Jordan, who two-hand flushed over a hopeless Chris Paul. Paul then, on the next play, hooked up with his old Hornets teammate Chandler for a reverse alley-oop that left Barkley staring skyward with his mouth wide open.

Magic had a terrible time staying in front of Team USA’s point guards. Paul blew by him to initiate an offense that turned into scores by teammates, rather than scoring himself like Westbrook. Magic on offense, though, bullied Paul easily. Magic worked him toward the bucket and lofted up a layup before help defenders could close in. Old-man game, run perfectly.

Jordan, meanwhile, switched to decoy on offense for a few plays, while keeping Kobe shackled with straightjacket defense. Kobe was actually getting pissed, especially after a fading jumper was blocked by the shorter Jordan. Regardless, Scottie Pippen’s best defense was not enough to prevent Durant keeping from scoring, so the game remained within just a couple points in the third quarter.

The biggest dunk of this Mount-Olympus showdown wasn’t Jordan’s crazy early Airness slam, but actually a one-handed spike from well above the rim by Ewing, roaring untouched through the key on a pick-and-roll with John Stockton.

No, wait. There’s a Sprite Dunk-O-Meter that comes up after huge slams. According to that authority, a dunk by Westbrook at the beginning of the fourth quarter was actually bigger than Ewing’s, 88 to 82. Westrook put his whole forearm through the hoop and hooked his elbow around the rim, to show off and buy more airtime.

Jordan had the two big dunks by that point, but his scoring plays were mostly non-flashy. Surgical. A short fadeaway. A layup in traffic. He would intermittently score four points in a row during the third and fourth quarter. Tough runners were hoisted by Jordan as he bounced off Kobe’s chest.

Kobe had a brutal game, but with 1:15 left and his team down four points, he started sprinting around teammates’ screens and took a pass at the wing with Pippen swooping in to stop him. Kobe twisted, skipped, and threw up a suicidal layup that missed wildly because Barkley meteored off the weak-side to meet him. The midair hit was so hard it looked dirty and spiteful. Kobe got up, strolled to the line, and dropped free throws.

Lead cut to two, Pippen handled the ball. He started backing down Durant at the 3-point line while Barkley and Robinson collided with their defenders like wrecking balls swinging back and forth beneath the basket. They moshed to get each other open off vicious screens, and it worked. Pippen zipped a one-handed rocket pass through a tiny window where Robinson could make the catch. The resulting dunk registered only a 42 on the Dunk-O-Meter, but it was huge for the Dream Team, which led 61-57 with 1:05 remaining.

Barkley was on LeBron, who dribbled from behind the 3-point line. LeBron passed off to Durant, who burst around Pippen only to have his tear-drop shot attempt sent back by Robinson, flying in for the block from what seemed like seven feet away. The Admiral’s block went out of bounds off a Team USA player, so it belonged to the Dream Team.

An eight-second violation by Magic! He was dribbling the ball up too slowly, pointing around while the crowd went nuts! He turned toward the referee, incredulous. Durant then hit a fadeaway from only a couple feet away, a rainbow that soared lightly over Pippen’s outstretched hand and nestled into the nylon net. Two-point game. Twenty-nine seconds left.

Durant steals the inbound! What has happened to Dream Team!? Durant didn’t run back on defense after he scored, and Robinson threw it right to him! Robinson didn’t even see him!

The ball finds LeBron, who attacks and gets fouled far from the hoop by Magic. LeBron goes to the free-throw line with 19 seconds left and his team down two points.

Clang. “Can’t get the first one to drop,” says announcer Kevin Harlan.

Clang. “So he comes up empty, missing both.”

Magic was fouled immediately and hit one of two shots, making it 62-59 with 15 seconds left. Kobe got the ball on the inbound and crossed half court, where Jordan jabbed and almost made a steal. In the ensuing scramble it was somehow Kobe who plucked the bouncing ball up off the floor. He immediately lifted and fired over a shocked Jordan. The shot from eight feet away swished through to make the game 62-61 with 10 seconds left.

Jordan fought through a Kobe hold to receive the inbound pass from Robinson. Jordan grabbed it, squeezed it like a football player desperate not to fumble, and got slapped hard on his arms by Kobe. With 8.8 seconds left and his team up one point, Jordan calmly hit both free throws.

Magic smothered Paul, as Dream Team played strictly to prevent a 3. Paul lobbed the ball to LeBron, who was underneath the basket with Barkley and easily elevated to dunk the alley-oop pass. With two seconds left, Dream Team led 64-63. Jordan received the ball and ran with it. Kobe grabbed him but too late. The buzzer went off. The game was over. Dream Team won by one point.

Kevin Durant led Team USA with 13 points. In five minutes, Russell Westbrook scored 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting. He had to be mad afterward over not playing more in the second half. Kobe scored 10 points and was probably inconsolable in the post-game locker room. LeBron was 3-for-6 with eight points. He was 2-for-4 on free throws.

Stockton scored five points and had three assists in six minutes. Magic had five points and six assists. Barkley was the only Dream Teamer besides Jordan in double figures, with 10 points. He and Robinson each had five rebounds. Robinson’s three blocks led all players.

Jordan was the player of the game, with 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting.

Christian Laettner did not play.

NBA2k13 is the funnest video game I’ve ever played. Thank you, Jay-Z.

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