Friday, May 29, 2009

MST3K Friday: Space Mutiny

Taking a little break from shorts this week, here's a bunch of clips from one of my favorite episodes: "Space Mutiny". If you haven't seen it, Mike and the 'bots make up different action hero type names for the star of the film. This clip is a compilation of all the names they use during the episode.

One of my favorites is Big McLargeHuge.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh vs Detroit

So now we have it. This year’s Stanley Cup Final is the first rematch since 1984 when Edmonton beat the New York Islanders to end the Islanders dynasty. In 1982-83, New York swept the young Edmonton team in four games, but Edmonton won the series in 5 games in 1984. Last year, Detroit beat Pittsburgh in six. Can Pittsburgh pull off the same feat as Edmonton did?

In this year’s playoffs, Pittsburgh has the league’s top 2 scorers (Malkin and Crosby) and have scored the most goals of any team (65 for an average of 3.82 goals per game). Detroit is second in goals scored (59) and second in goals per game (3.69). Detroit has the edge in goals against, ranking second with 2.13 GAA, while Pittsburgh is 8th with a 2.76 GAA. On special teams, Detroit’s power play is ranked higher than Pittsburgh’s, but their penalty killing has been abysmal.

As far as the goalies go, Detroit’s Chris Osgood has been his usual self (solid, if unspectacular) and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury has shown a mental toughness that he didn’t have earlier in his career.

Pittsburgh’s best players have been playing their best hockey. Crosby and Malkin both have 28 points in 17 games. Bill Guerin has been solid with 7 goals and 7 assists, and while he’s not scoring, Chris Kunitz has chipped in 11 assists. Timely goals by role players (Max Talbot – 4 goals, Ruslan Fedotenko – 6) and defenseman (Mark Eaton – 4, Kris Letang – 3) have helped Pittsburgh reach the finals again.

Detroit, on the other hand, has had to go with a more balanced approach. Leader Johan Franzen has 19 points in 16 games, Henrik Zetterberg as 18, but guys like Hossa (12), Datsyuk (7), and Holmstrom (5) have to be seen as disappointments.

Recently, Detroit has been having injury troubles. Nic Lidstrom has missed the last two games, so has Pavel Datsuyk. Kopecky, Draper, Lilja, and Jonathan Ericsson all missed time in the most recent series. The only serious injury on Pittsburgh’s side is Sergei Gonchar, who is playing well (though not 100%) after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin.

I think the keys to this series will be the special teams (as I mentioned above) and Pittsburgh’s forwards vs Detroit’s defense. Pittsburgh’s fast, aggressive forecheck gave fits to all three teams they have faced so far. But none of their opponents have had as skilled a defense crew as Detroit does. With Lidstrom out of the lineup last night, Coach Mike Babcock went with pretty much four defensemen in the game - using 47-year-old Chris Chelios and second year player Derek Meech sparingly. Detroit was able to hold Chicago to only one goal, but playing that much has to take a toll on an already banged up corps.

Frankly, I like the Penguins chances. Anaheim gave Detroit more trouble than I thought they would. Chicago lost in 5 games, but three of those went to overtime. The Penguins are a year wiser and know what to expect in the Finals. Detroit is banged up, but still dangerous and still one of the top teams in the league. I’m calling an upset. Pittsburgh in 6 or 7.

PS. As a Penguins fan, I'd like to see them stick it in Hossa's face for bolting last summer. He turned down a multi-year contract to go to Detroit for one year, saying he wanted to win a Cup. You have to give him credit for going for a championship instead of just money, but it was still a slap in the face to the Penguins and their fans.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wow!

Just wow! The Penguins sweep the Carolina Hurricanes to earn a second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. I was actually a bit more nervous of the Hurricanes than my predictions led on. I never expected a sweep and I never expected scores like we saw. I figured most games would be 2-1, 3-2 affairs, not 6-2 or 7-4.

The Penguins as a team are just scary good right now. They're clicking on all cylinders and playing the aggressive up-tempo style that suits their skilled players. Their forwards outworked Carolina's defense. They got scoring from depth players (Adams, Fedotenko, Talbot) as well as their superstars (Crosby, Malkin).

Their defense held All-Star Eric Staal in check, but none of Carolina's other scorers were able to step up to fill the void. Cam Ward was spectacular in net, but so was Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury.

It still makes me smile when I hear commentators point out how many times in these playoffs Pittsburgh has outshot their opponent. I remember many times during the regular season under Michel Therrien when the Penguins had less than 20 shots in a game. There have been times during this run where they've had almost that many in a single period.

Now the Penguins get to rest up and wait for the Western Conference Champions. Detroit leads that series 3-1 over the Chicago Blackhawks with Game 5 tonight in Detroit.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stanley Cup: Conference Finals Edition

Once again, I only got one wrong in the previous round. Though that means my success rate was a decent 75% instead of a nice 88%. We saw three Game Sevens, three upsets, and some fantastic hockey between Pittsburgh and Washington.

I gave the Penguins the edge in the round because of their defense and goaltending. Simeon Varlamov was amazing between the pipes for Washington. I thought the rookie might cool down, but you didn't see any chinks in his armor until late game 5 or even game 6. Washington's defense made some bad reads while pinching and their forwards didn't back them up. Pittsburgh also won most of the battles along the boards; fighting their hearts out with more grit and determiniation than the Capitals did. Except for games 4 and 7, every game was a one-goal win and there were three overtime games in the series. It was certainly one for the ages.

Anaheim gave Detroit all they could handle and forced the reigning champs to a game 7. Carolina has continued their hot play and took their series in overtime of game 7 against the top seeded Boston Bruins. In the other upset I called, Chicago took their series with Vancouver in 6.

Western Conference Finals:
(2)Detroit vs (4)Chicago
- an Original Six matchup. Both teams have four lines that can score. Both teams have good puck moving defensemen. The teams are ranked 1-2 on the power play in the playoffs. I predict this one is going to be an awesome series. There is already some history there and we might see some rough stuff before too long. The veteran Red Wings took the season series over the young Blackhawks winning 4 of 6 games. I think they'll also take this series and return to the Cup finals. Detroit Red Wings in 7.

Eastern Conference Finals:
(4)Pittsburgh vs (6)Carolina
. It's hard to downplay how great Carolina has been playing these past couple months. From March 1st to the end of the season, they were 13-3-2. Cam Ward has been playing like he did during the Hurricanes's Cup run in 2006. On their side, Pittsburgh went 14-2-3 over the same stretch. It's only fitting that the two hottest teams in the league face off in the conference finals. They split the season series 2 wins each. Sidney Crosby has been on fire, taking over the scoring lead during the Capitals series. Watch for the Staal brothers (Eric and Jordan) in this one. The brothers always seem to step their game up when playing against each other. Jordan only has two goals this post season, but they both came in his last three games. Eric has 9 goals and 4 assists to lead the Hurricanes in the playoffs. If Sergei Gonchar doesn't play, that is a huge blow to Pittsburgh. But, they were able to win games 4 and 5 without his services. Jussi Jokinen has been clutch for Carolina, but I don't see them having an answer for Crosby and Malkin. Penguins in 6.

So there you have it. I'm predicting a Stanley Cup Finals rematch between Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Friday, May 15, 2009

MST3K Friday: Mr. B Natural

One of the best-loved shorts on MST3K. This one's broken up into two parts, so To Be Continued next week!

"CONN!!!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Castle (2009)

A good piece today over at Big Hollywood about "Castle". Of all the mid-season shows, this one's probably my favorite. Good chemistry between the leads. The crimes aren't really all that complex, but they do have some good twists and turns before the resolution.

If you haven't watched it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek (2009)



I took a break from hockey over the weekend to see the new Star Trek movie with some friends. We had a blast. It was a fun adventure and it was good to see the original crew on the screen again (albeit with different actors).

For anyone not familiar with the timeline J.J. Abrams’s reboot, we start with the birth of James T. Kirk, stop in on him and Spock as children, and then jump ahead to their Starfleet Academy years. When they first started batting around the Academy idea a couple years ago, I thought it was going to be horrible. Luckily, Abrams and the screenwriters visit the Academy long enough to introduce some of our heroes (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Uhura) and then jump ahead to their first mission.

I’m not going to go too much into the plot, but they found a way to be true to the spirit of the original without having to worry about 44 years of Trek cannon. Star Trek has always been about the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. In this one, their friendship is nascent, but a lot of the classic dynamic is there.

Chris Pine does an admirable job as Kirk. He doesn’t have the machoness of 1960’s William Shatner, but the heroic nature is there as well as Kirk’s sense of humor in the face of adversity. Zachary Quinto looks the part of Spock and can capture the struggle between logic and emotion quite well. Though there were at least two scenes that made me think of Syler (his character in NBC’s Heroes). Because of that, Quinto’s Spock has a bit more menace to him than Leonard Nimoy’s.

The other actor I want to call out is Karl Urban. I would’ve liked to have seen more of him because I thought his McCoy was stellar. Urban paid great homage to the late DeForest Kelley, not necessarily doing an impression of him, but delivering a lot of his lines with the same distinct cadence that Kelley did.

My problems with the movie? Uhura was given nothing to do, Chekov is almost a completely different character, and Scotty was almost nothing more than comic relief. My long running problem with modern action movies (extreme close ups and too quick editing) cropped up in a few of the fight sequences.

Overall, Star Trek is a fun new take on an old classic. I can’t wait until the next movie.

(BTW: I love Pine's copy of the famous Kirk-in-chair pose from the original series).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Front Porch Republic

Dave pointed me to a new website the other day called Front Porch Republic. From their mission statement:

We live in a world characterized by a flattened culture and increasingly meaningless freedoms. Little regard is paid to the necessity for those overlapping local and regional groups, communities, and associations that provide a matrix for human flourishing. We’re in a bad way, and the spokesmen and spokeswomen of both our Left and our Right are, for the most part, seriously misguided in their attempts to provide diagnoses, let alone solutions.

The articles I've read so far are well-written and well thought out. David points to one about why one of the authors doesn't own a television.

I was touched by this one about our current disposable society. Some good quotes:

Convenience combined with busyness amid prosperity is a perfect recipe for thoughtlessness. We don’t often think about what we are doing, because it’s increasingly rare for us to be in the midst of what it is we are doing. We have long grown accustomed to living in a virtual reality created for us by a combination of jobs that aren’t in any fundamental way connected to the reality of our daily lives, along with electronic forms of media that involve us as a “culture” in events and occurrences that are in no way related to our places, the people we know, the neighborhoods we inhabit. [...] This virtual reality - fostered by our work and our home life - has only been increased by the electronic media that we now carry with us everywhere, keeping us constantly “connected” and ever-more rarely present the actual place where we are. So, as we stir the cream into our coffee in the morning, doubtlessly we are more likely to be thinking about the meeting we are about to attend or the text message we need to return than the source and destination of the coffee stirrer that resides in our hands for several seconds then passes into the waste receptacle whose presence we barely register.
And later:

Above all, Americans lived in conditions that tempted them to neglect their ties to generations. After all, many came to escape the past - which was also tantamount to escaping from too much concern for the future. Unlike those nations with aristocratic pasts - even those that are now democratic - there was only a much more tenuous and often fleeting cultural forms that fostered in successive generations a felt sense of gratitude to the past and a sense of oligation to the future. Americans are prone to think of themselves as mayflies, each new generation responsible for creating its own world anew. While even in America there were vestiges of an older understanding of the connection of past, present and future - in particular Tocqueville thought those connections could be found in family, townships, rule of law and religion, above all - he believed them to be in danger of loosening with the likely trajectory of democracy and especially the restlessness that it induced. Our employment of fossil fuels only accelerated that trajectory, promoting the belief and practice that each individual of each generation was responsible to itself alone. The virtual life led by modern Americans disassociates us not only from place, from the continuum of time as well.

It's definitely a blog I will be keeping my eyes on in the future.