Well, ho-lee crap, what a weird, wild round one that was. Every single series started off the first two games with an even split, the bulk of the games were one-goal games and too-many men penalties were off-the-charts. Early signs pointed to some big upsets, and there were but only in the east.
A. Caps v. Habs - Up.set. Serious up.set. Washington looked pretty good to start, stymieing both Price and Halak until the game 5 slow-burn 2-1 victory which led to a 4-1 loss in game six and the 2-1 death knell at home in game 7. Habs shot blocking, their defensive posturing and Halak’s superhuman goaltending led to victory.
(I had predicted a 4-0 sweep by Washington.. oops)
B. Devils v. Flyers - Up.set. #2, but lesser so since Philly managed to straight outplay Jersey and win the series 4-1. (I predicted a NJ win in 6.. oops)
C. Buffalo v. Boston - At one point (before game 6 and 7 of Caps/Habs) Miller was considered to be the hottest goalie on the ice. But with Vanek injured mid-way through the series Buffalo lost their goal-scoring edge and succumbed 4-2 to a tenacious Boston, young goaltender Tukka Rask and veteran player Marc Recci. (I had predicted Buffalo in 7).
D. Pens v. Sens - Pittsburgh didn’t really dominate this series until the fourth game where they dominated the Sens 7-4. The Sens won game 5 4-3 in OT and the reverse happened in game six to give the Pens a 4-2 series win. (I actually called this one, Pittsburgh in 6)
E. Sharks v. Avs - The Avs fought valiantly and for four games and made it look like they actually had a chance of toppling the mighty Sharks (who have a history of tanking in the post-season). After a brilliant 1-0 game 3 OT win and a heartbreaking 2-1 OT loss in game 4, the Avs were routed in game 5 5-0. Game six the Avs put up a tremendous fight, but they were outclassed almost the entire way and they knew it. (I called it Sharks in 5, so, close)
F. Hawks v. Preds - The Preds looked dangerous often in the series but the Hawks often looked solid. Game 1: 4-1 Nashville, Game 2: 2-0 Chicago, Game 3: 4-1 Nashville, Game 4: 3-0 Chicago. Game 5: 5-4 in a crazy last-second Chicago comeback/OT win which took all the fight out of Nashville. (I actually called this one, Chicago in 6)
H. Canucks v. Kings - Wow… this one was crazy, scoring was happening left right and center, especially on the King’s power play which killed the Canucks often, Luongo even getting pulled one game. But the Canucks figured it out their last two games and got their scoring and goaltending in order, decisively winning the series 4-2. (I called the Kings in 7… oops)
I. Coyotes v. Wings - This one went to seven awesome games (well, game six was a frustrating ‘Yotes rout of the Wings) but the Wings showed their poise, their experience, and their ability to push it to the next level in game 7. (I said Phoenix in 7, but its tradition for me to predict the Wings losing).
ROUND 2 - EAST
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) v. Montreal Canadiens (8): so… did all that shot blocking and goaltending and stymieing of the normally high-scoring Caps take the wind out of the Habs sails? Or will they have yet another helping of the same for defending Cup winners Pittsburgh? It’ll be interesting. I say Pittsburgh in 6.
Philadelphia Flyers (6) v. Boston Bruins(7): well, nobody was expecting this quarterfinal match-up. Two very tenacious and pesky teams going head to head. Both like a touch of the ultra-violence, playing very physical games. Philly’s very well rested, Boston only slightly lesser so. But Rask gives the Bruins the edge. Boston in 5.
ROUND 2 - EAST
San Jose Sharks (1) v. Detroit Red Wings (5): The Sharks have had a few days rest, the Wings only get a day between their game 7 and the first game of this series. Will Thornton maintain his usual disappearing act? Will Jimmy Howard )and the insanely good Wings defence) be able to keep their firepower in check? Yes, Detroit in 6.
Chicago Blackhawks (2) v. Vancouver Canucks (3): Perhaps the series I’m most looking forward to. The Hawks are young and uber-talented but uneven, while Vancouver is on a scoring streak. It comes down to Niemi and Luongo, each rather spotty themselves. I honestly don’t know how to call it, so I’ll say Vancouver in 7.
A27 - NET - The New Pornographers: “Together” - NPR’s First Listen scores again, with yet another advance listen to a Canadian super-group. Unlike Broken Social Scene’s disparate wayfaring, lost amidst itself, the New Pornographers have a consistency that is comforting like an embrace and joyous as a reunion. There’s perhaps not a lot of growth between “Together” and their previous release “Challengers”, and the lack of surprises may either be welcome or disappointing depending on your attitude. Still there’s 12 power-pop gems here that will have as much durability as any New Pornos song of past.
A26 - COMIC - Kill Shakespeare #1 - reviewed
BOOK - A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay - Written in 1920 and available in the public domain, AVTA is a plodding, plotless piece of vintage science fiction, taking the idea of the wandering man and putting him on decidedly foreign soil and, perhaps, cope with the human condition, as so happens in wondering-man-style stories. I don’t know exactly, I got fairly bored with it about half way through. This review does a pretty good job detailing the crux of the book without having to read it which is fortunate, since I spent most of the time reading it wondering when the story would actually pick up, and it turns out it never does.
COMIC - Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #2 - Thor Frog, Yeti, alternate dimensions. This is what comics should be.
COMIC - X-Factor #204 - Oh man, tying into yet another X-crossover. Thankfully Peter David always negotiates these things well and slices off his own little corner which matters more to the characters at hand and less to the arch of the x-over. Plus that one shot of Shatterstar… way awesome.
COMIC - Captain America: Who Won’t Weild The Shield - Comics like this from DC and Marvel are essential for keeping the playful spirit of the industry up, to remind us that these fictional universes of capes and tights are rather ludicrous when you really think about it and taking them too seriously is worth mocking. As far as these things go, it may not be the funniest, but it’s very well composed and beautifully rendered.
COMIC - American Vampire #2 - liking a lot, more than True Blood… and the double-whammy of story in each issue is really well done, almost as good as Ex Machina. This looks like a hit.
A23 - NET - The National: High Times streaming at NewYorkTimes - The latest album from one of the greatest bands in modern music is not a disappointment, in the sense that it’s not at all a bad record. But at the same time, it doesn’t reach the same highs as “Alligator” or “Boxer” before it. The pep and hook seems largely replaced by steady and melodic, with “Conversation 16″ being the most infectious track. As with most of The National’s work, it’ll take time to absorb the melodies, the theme, the lyrics. After two listens (working on the third as I type) I’m already comforted by its presence, if not in love with it quite yet. Looking forward to having the album proper.
A21 - MOVIE - Robin Hood - Hey film goer, what do you know about Robin Hood? He’s an ace archer, sure. He’s got a band of merry men, true. He’s in love with Maid Marian, yes. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor, exactly. So what if I were to tell you that we made a movie wherein we rarely see him with a bow and arrow, his merry men are sort of an afterthought, Marian is a warrior, and that whole stealing from the rich/give to the poor thing, well that doesn’t happen at all. What if I were to tell you that Robin Hood actually united Britain’s disenfranchised with the royal army to repel a French invasion? What if I were to tell you that Robin Hood’s dad wrote the Magna Carta? What do you mean that doesn’t sound at all good. Aw crap, you’re right. This film is going to be an abysmal failure, and we were all set up for a sequel at the end too. Damn. (On a personal note, Ridley Scott has been added to my list of directors to never watch again, which also includes Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese).
A20 - NET - Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record streaming on NPR. Track Four (”Forced To Love”) has the hook, while Track 5 (”All To All”) is a rip-roaring Blondie pastiche from Amy Millan (at least I think that’s her), and are easily the standout (in a good way) tracks. Track 2 (”Chase Scene”) hits the synth-pop 80’s inspiration too hard and is almost comedic in its presentation (like the “Anchorman” of songs), while Track 7 (”Highway Slipper Jam”) is tedious sleepy-time dream pop. I got distracted and lost track of which track I was on, but aside from 4 and 5, I’m less than excited by this album. I’ll likely give it another listen and see if anything else sticks.
COMIC - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3: War Of Kings Book 2 - The conclusion to the GotG’s involvement with the war between the Shi’ar and the Kree, with Knowhere getting caught in the middle as the Inhumans and the Imperial Guard attack and fraught three-way melee ensues. Adam Warlock finds religion and it drives him nuts, and some members get lost in time as they bounce between multiple iterations of possible futures for the GotG 1000 years hence. They make it back in time to stop crazy Warlock and to see half their ranks get killed. This was a freakin’ trip. And Brad Walker, man has that guy improved tenfold since his bitterly awful work on the first Secret Six miniseries.
COMIC - Classic G.I. Joe Vol.7 - Man, Fred VII killed Cobra Commander and took his gaudy space armor and is now running Cobra Island with the Baroness in on the joke. It’s good fun but also terribly ridiculous. The late Marshall Rogers pencils the first story and it’s a shame he didn’t do more work. It looked great, though regular artist Ron Wagner nails the technicals of the vehicles and gear perfectly every time. The main problem with this collected editions is the lack of “Special Missions” which are referenced as cross-over issues, but apparently those collections are coming too.
COMIC - Batgirl #10 - I’m wondering what Babs’ role will be when Birds of Prey comes back. No reason why she can’t be in two books at once, I guess, but will she be consistent? Will Batgirl be in BoP? Nerd questions. This issue was decent but I don’t recall much about it save the big Calculator set-up.
TV - Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - Young Matt Smith’s first full episode as the eleventh Doctor and I like him quite a bit already. He’s fast-talking, full of technobabble, and has a weird sensory ability to scan his own brain for details he might not have been cognizant of. The show was actually angling for an older actor to portray the new Doctor, but Smith does exceptionally well at pulling off an out-of-touch senior vibe while also being quirky and modern. Karen Gillan plays Amelia (Amy) Pond, and is hands down the foxiest companion yet. Her origin was the focus of the episode, moreso than the new Doctor’s introduction, and it’s ranks among the best of them. If not for the allure of Gillan, I’d actually be curious to see the Doctor take young 13-year-old Amelia along with him. Has the Doctor ever had a child companion, or is that just creepy? Smith played it perfectly though as more a concerned guardian, and even upon meeting the older kiss-o-gram-Cop Amy the Doctor remained ever the asexual being. The show seems in good hands all ’round.
A15 - COMIC - The Shield #8 - Two more issues. *Sad Face*. Just when we’re starting to get some insight into the Shield’s character here, too. Sigh. The Fox back-up, not so good unfortunately. Cliche and Oeming isn’t channeling Toth nearly enough.
COMIC - Secret Six #20 - I was relieved Catman chose not to kill his teammates and instead tell them to dispense with his infant child. What does that say about me? Well it says that I’m tired of the Six beating the crap out of one another constantly in this series and so if a baby must die to create some other kind of conflict so be it. It’s fiction, not reality. I also do buy into Cheshire’s beat down, nor do I understand, at all, the relationship between Scandal and Bane. And Califiore’s art isn’t my cup of tea.
COMIC - Chew #10 - The conclusion to “International Flavor” feels somewhat out-of-step with the previous chapters in this story, but Layman does a good job of tying it into the series in a larger context… reminding me that this is, in fact, an ongoing series with a bigger scope in mind. The weakest issue of the series, so far, but entertainment factor is still high.
DVD - The MiddleMan (episodes 1&2) - The MiddleMan was yet another paranormal investigation series, lasting a single season on the ABC Family (yet curiously rated TV-14). It’s a lot better that that sentence suggests (although the effects are exactly what that sentence suggests). If it’s not already, the show is destined to be a cult hit, because it’s got incredibly well written and developed characters, exceptionally sharp dialogue, and is gleefully entertaining. There aren’t enough hour long programs that genuinely embrace a sense of fun… Doctor Who and (depending on your tastes) perhaps Glee spring to mind, but few beyond that. It’s too bad there won’t be more when I’m done with the DVD set, but I can always hunt down the comics afterwords.
A12 - DVD - Sherlock Holmes - Given all the obvious (to even the unread layperson) inaccuracies between Guy Ritchie’s recent blockbuster interpretation of Sherlock Holmes and the Sir AC Doyle novels, one might wonder if name recognition was the only reason this film is called “Sherlock Holmes” and not, say, “Wesley Wintergreen and his man Kent”. Yes, yes it is. Well that and if it were titled an “original” work, everyone would wonder why it just wasn’t called “Sherlock Holmes”. It’s a fun ride overall (I even like Rachel McAdams, who was a sticking point for many critics) liberally laced with humour, action and romantic undertones (both hetero and homo) all surrounding a relatively simplistic “how’d he do it” (rather than a “whodunnit”). Downey Jr. is an odd, but not unlikeable choice as Holmes, and Jude Law puts in his most appealing role in a long while as Dr. Watson. You can bet there’s a sequel coming, and I’m quite looking forward to it.
TV - Doctor Who: The End Of Time - I’m an occasional viewer of Doctor Who, so I missed a lot of the build-up into this, the final story for the Tenth Doctor, David Tennent. I generally enjoy the show, but I find, all too often, that it’s very laborious, feeling like it’s just killing running time, like the overlong sequence of the Master taking over the world and becoming so many different people, and waving (at whom? himself?) and having a good laugh. Yeah, I got it after the first 10 seconds, thanks. I didn’t think this story was the most tightly scripted and it was generally sloppily executed. Entertaining? Sure, but we all knew that the Doctor was going to die and be reborn, it was only a matter of when (the internet surely sucks some of the fun out of such revelations) and the show annoyingly toys with the audience.. and Tennent’s Doctor stating “I don’t want to go” (or whatever) felt emotionally hollow, given that it was Tennent’s decision to depart (but just as much it might be the words of writer/producer Russell T. Davies’ who also decided to step down).
A9 - COMIC - G.I. Joe/Cobra II #3 - Man, I’m so glad this series is going monthly, even at $3.99 a pop.
COMIC - Detective Comics #883 - Man, I’m so bummed that Greg Rucka is leaving DC to do his own projects. I mean, I’m happy for him and will gladly read whatever he writes, but he is the voice of Batwoman and The Question and I want more of that.
A8 - COMIC - S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 - Hey True Believers! This is it! The secret history of the Marvel Universe… or should I say, rather, another secret history in (presumably) the mighty Marvel 616. In the new series S.H.I.E.L.D., writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Dustin Weaver hint at the happenings in centuries and millenniums past, starting with Imhotep’s battle with the Brood which led to the formation of the secret society of the Shield, a self appointed protection agency of Earth, whom over the many, many years have counted amongst their ranks luminaries like Galileo, DiVinci, and certain fathers to Misters Stark and Richards. Amidst a framework of discovery set in the 1950s, past tales are teased, including DiVinci’s encounter with Galactus and an encounter with a Celestial during the Han Dynasty in China), hopefully to be explored further in subsequent issues. Hickman, as witnessed in his excellent Pax Romana series a couple years back, enjoys toying with historical concepts for a modern fantasy/sci-fi thrill, and within the confines of the Marvel Universe, he’s done a thoroughly engrossing job here. Dustin Weaver is tasked with recreating multiple eras in history and incorporating some anachronistic Marvel elements (a pink and violet planet-eater towering over a 15th century cityscape, anyone?), yet he not only makes it work but makes it awe-inspiring. Much credit should also go to Christina Strain for her lavish colors which help define each era. S.H.I.E.L.D. is a must read for Marvel fanatics and something equally enjoyable for casual fan. Hickman has crafted a unique and compelling hype-worthy story that could possibly equal the best mainstream works of Ellis, Gaiman, Moore and Morrison. Most disappointing thing: next issue isn’t out until June. Excelsior.
COMIC - Batman and Robin #11 - For some reason I was thinking this was the end of the current story arc, not the middle issue. Thankfully I’m wrong. Morrison’s gone bozzo, yet again, this issue just saturated in ideas. Andy Clarke is doing a great job with everything except Damian… he just can’t get the kid right.
COMIC - Demo #3 - Either I’m in love with what Wood and Cloonan are doing or I’m annoyed. I haven’t decided which yet. I’m no hater on short stories, but Demo seems to be big on sweeping changes of character in short periods of time. Each issue is a stand-alone story, a fragment in a character’s life, and given the limitations of 22 pages, they have to move quickly, but they seem to move too quickly and I don’t know if it’s because I enjoy it so much that I’m sad it’s over too soon, or if I’m just disappointed with it. Cloonan’s work this issue was fantastic, and it’s always interesting to read her notes on illustrating the issue in the back matter. She’s a hell of an artist. Wood confesses his struggles as a writer perhaps too often and I think it might be undermining my trust in him as a storyteller.
COMIC - Doom Patrol #9 - I’m frustrated with this series. It’s bizarre because it’s supposed to be and the stories and action are suitably off-kilter, and while it’s evident when the good guys win, the finer details are lost in a muddy mess of double-speak, attempts at humourous wordplay, choppy English via alien dialects, and in general too much information. It’s difficult reading throughout, and not always the most enjoyable experience. Being obtuse doesn’t equal being clever. But hey, Ambush Bug! Wasn’t expecting him…yet.
COMIC - Nemesis: The Imposters #2 - After “Final Crisis: Escape” I was hoping for some crazy “Electric City”/”OMAC”/”Global Peace Agency” shenanegans, but the first issue seemed a little disappointing with only a slightly tangible connection to the prior series and some bizarre instance where Nemesis needed to save the Joker. This issue is pretty much a duel between Batman and Nemesis, but with the threads to the previous series getting stronger, and a bit more blurring of Tom Tresser’s understanding of reality. Half-way there, it seems there’s still a long way to go and not enough time to get there.
COMIC - Red Robin #11 - after almost a year, I’ve finally gotten over the drastic shift in Tim Drake/Wayne’s character (as Chris Yost has also lightened up on the tone of the book) and come to actually enjoy the thing somewhat. Marcus To’s clean linework has really grown on me, and even though his panels aren’t very dynamic, especially when it comes to action, his storytelling is solid.
A7 - MOVIE - Clash of the Titans - after seeing the original last month, my curiosity piqued and I wondered how would the modern-fx remake improve upon the legend of Perseus… well, the effects, costuming, sets and, generally, the technical aspects of the film were remarkable. The story, well, would you believe that it’s even thinner than the original, and the characterization even thinner. Perseus is little but a collection of cinematic cliches with no personality unique to his own. The original had only the slightest shoestring connecting it to the actual myth of Perseus, while here that shoestring is withered to a thread. Fact of the matter is, there are no Titans in this film, since it was the Titans who sired the Olympians (Zeus, Hades, etc), who in turn sired the demigods (Perseus, the Kraken). There’s an absence of clarity on how the gods interact with mortals (and vice versa) which I find difficult and the film seems to progress solely on whims. It’s a brutally structured and poorly developed story-by-committee, but it’s very prettily executed with enough pop and wow to almost forgive it. What the original was to 1981, this is to 2010.
A6 - MOVIE - Hot Tub Time Machine - This isn’t this year’s “Hangover” as it’s far more crass and not as cleverly ridiculous, but remains fairly entertaining, though it could have gone further to push the stereotypical 80’s-ski-lodge comedy conventions quite enough. There are some great moments of playing semantics which I loved, and the cameos by Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover were awesome (with “Community” going so well, Chevy’s on a comeback). I quite enjoyed all the performances, though Cusack seemed almost on autopilot and was well overshadowed by Craig Robinson and Rob Coddry.
Oh, I love playoff season. LOVE. IT. Even though it’s one of the absolutely most unproductive times in my life as it seems like I stop the world to watch little else but hockey, I can’t help but love the thrill and intensity and, also, the poorly educated predictions I make every year. Some people like March Madness, I like NHL’s April - June Iceanity (ouch).
So, here we go… before the first game starts (unlike last year when some match-ups were already three games deep when I made my predictions)…
A. Washington Capitals (1) v. Montreal Canadiens(8)
Washington came out of this season with the President’s Trophy, the most goals scored, the top five +/- players in the NHL and they have in young Varlomov a pretty decent goalie. Montreal hasn’t been looking particularly stable this year, and they barely eked their way into the playoffs (again). They’re not going to put up much of a fight against the Caps. I’ll go out on a limb and say Caps in 4.
B. New Jersey Devils (2) v. Philadelphia Flyers (7)
Jersey got upset by Carolina last year and the potential is there this year, but the Devils have had an impressive year with even old man Brodeur putting in the most wins of any goalies this season. NJD play a pretty clean game, while Philly is total rough and tumble so it’ll be an interesting clash stylistically. Philly may look good early, but the Devils will solve them. NJ in 6
C. Buffalo Sabres (3) v. Boston Bruins (6)
Buffalo clinched the President’s Trophy a few years back and tanked it in the playoffs that year, and they didn’t even make it last year. But grit, plus superstar goalie Ryan Miller, landed them high in the west this year. Miller is the lynchpin here, as the Bruins are a low-scoring and injured team Miller just might land a handful of shutouts against them. Bruins can be easily underestimated and they tend to win on extremely low scoring games. It’ll be interesting to see if their rookie goalie Tukka Rask can hold up under the stretch, but they have ace goalie Tim Thomas as back-up so the Bruins could eke this one out. But I’ll say Sabres in 7
D. Pittsburgh Penguins (4) v. Ottawa Senators (5)
Game 1 is on as I type this and it’s 1-0 early in the first period for Pittsburgh. The Pens made it to the finals the past two years, so they’re veterans, while the Sens made it to the finals three years before, but they’re a wildly different team. I don’t think the Pens should have all that much trouble with them frankly. Pittsburgh in 6
E. San Jose Sharks (1) v. Colorado Avalanche (8)
The Sharks are giants, topping their conference consistently in the past few years as they did again this year, the Avs have had a decent season, but after a seriously strong start, they’ve been middle-of-the-road at best. But also, the Sharks have a bad choking problem every year in the post-season which, perhaps with the Olympics experience under their first line’s belt, they will overcome. I don’t expect the Avs to lay down and roll over but I don’t think their fight will be able to topple the great whites. San Jose in 5
F. Chicago Blackhawks (2) v. Nashville Predators (7)
Oh my. I know Chicago’s game and it’s a beauty. I have no idea what Nashville’s game is like but it appears they had a pretty solid season, so it should be an interesting competition. But the ‘Hawks are hungry, with one post-season under their young belt, they should have the advantage. Chicago in 6
G. Vancouver Canucks (3) v. Los Angeles Kings (6)
I think if there’s going to be any big upsets this year it will be the Kings over the Canucks. The Canucks have a really good team, but they’re not solid and Luongo, even with his Gold Medal-earning wins this year, is only as good as his defense. If the Kings solve that the Canucks are cooked. This one’s going to 7, and I’m going to give the young Kings the advantage, because the dream of a Canadian team hoisting the cup this year is a pipe.
H. Phoenix Coyotes (4) v. Detroit Red Wings (5)
What a year for the ‘Yotes, who in spite of their financial and ownership difficulties pulled out an absolutely incredible season (actually placed third in points, but they couldn’t catch the Sharks to top the conference). But they haven’t been in the playoffs for a long time, and a repaired Red Wings, veterans of the post-season, had a super-strong post-Olympics break and could handily teach Phoenix a thing or two. But can they stay healthy? I’m not sure if they can 7 games straight. Phoenix in 7.