Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canada's Pants

Yes, today was the gold medal game in men's hockey, and judging by the title of this piece, the United States will be referred to as Canada's Pants for the next four years (or whenever the joke gets old, whichever comes first). The result aside, the entire Olympic hockey session was one of most enjoyable in recent memory, rivaling some of the biggest moments in Stanley Cup finals history. Other than Norway, Belarus, and Germany, it seemed that there were no easy teams to beat, and there was even a pleasant surprise in the United States. Even though the team fell one goal short of the gold, they seemed to be the team that was most prepared the entire run. The one factor that I thought was going to be key in the United States run all along was in fact, the entire reason for it. Having said that, the gold medal game exemplified everything that was right with hockey, in that it took a team effort to win and it came down to the final shot. Both teams have a lot to be proud of, and while I did think Canada was going to win the gold, I was pulling for the U.S. to somehow get the upset.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead

Since I had a little fun writing about the last movie I wrote about A Blade in the Dark, I decided to talk about another movie. Now, to help set parameters for what will go here as far as movies go, if it isn't in my collection at the time of the writing or it is incredibly obscure, it will go here instead of Metal Psalter, unless it gets pushed by other media outlets.

Today's movie falls under the category of the obscure. Believe it or not, I didn't really get into the horror movie genre until the Summer of 2003, when the first movie I watched was Dario Argento's Suspiria. At some point during the fall, while I was still in college, I met a guy that had quite a collection of obscure horror movies. The first movie that I was made to watch is also the subject of today's piece: Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead. Made in 1993, this German movie was all about body count, and it showed from the beginning. With a pretty blatant disregard for storyline, director Olaf Ittenbach goes for the gore, and many of the results shown are as graphic as they are spectacular.

However, I suppose I should tell you the entire purpose of the movie, other than just blowing zombies up and watching people get disemboweled. The central figure of the story is a fallen angel by the name of Premutos, who gets resurrected throughout the ages. Remember that because it will be important later. Fast forward to modern times, and a man named Mathias (Ittenbach), whose stepfather is a war veteran who seems to be stuck in that mode, a dominatrix sister, and what can pass off as a normal mother. It so happens that it is the stepfather's birthday, and there is to be a party featuring an emasculated male and his snobby wife, the stepfather's old war buddy who gets wasted, and a shy woman who recently came back into the country. Mathias gets hurt in the futbol game (read: gets cleated in the groin) and has to miss the party. The stepfather gives him some reading material, which just so happens to be the book of Premutos. By opening the book, Mathias ends up turning into Premutos, and soon, a zombie horde begins to take over, eventually taking out the dominatrix sister, her boyfriend Taco (again, don't ask me why), and shortly thereafter, the horde descends onto the party, where the people have to fend them off.

If any part of the synopsis makes your head explode, then don't blame me, I didn't make the movie. If you can ignore the storylines, Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead is actually a comedy and horror movie at the same time. Among the highlights of the movie are when Hugo, the emasculated male, flicks a booger into his wife's mouth and she stops for a second, only to continue laughing for no reason, and the full frontal fantasy sex scene sequence between Hugo and Tanya, the shy woman. Don't expect intelligent dialogue either, as the English dubbing sounds like a small group of people just got around a TV and put the movie on mute to put in their own commentary. And in case you didn't get that body count was important, it does a final tally at the end of the movie.

Serious horror fans should stay away from this movie. Those who seeks lots and lots of violence will love this film, and even those who just like car wrecks will love this movie, too.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Blade in the Dark

Normally, whenever I have a movie that I want to talk about, I will generally have it as part of a review for Metal Psalter, the metal music webzine I write for. You see, Metal Psalter also does movie reviews, and I have done a couple of such reviews for them, and unlike the music that I have to review, I have no limits on how recent the movies have to be for a review.

The movie that I want to talk about A Blade in the Dark is being written here solely because I don't have the movie in my collection to watch. Otherwise, it would get the full review treatment. Having said that, on to the movie.

A Blade in the Dark was a film directed by Lamberto Bava, who is the son of famed Italian film director Mario Bava. The general premise of the movie is that Bruno moves into a house, where he is trying to put together a music score for a movie that his director friend is putting together. When a couple of murders take place within the property where he is staying, it is up to Bruno to figure out not only who is doing the killing, but also find out the secret that is hidden within the house that he is inhabiting.

Aside from the usual lapses in logic, such as when one of the women gets scared of a spider while hiding in the closet, and according to the dialogue, it wasn't a spider, yet when the camera pans to the creature, it is in fact, a spider. The killing of that woman a few minutes later is pretty weak, as it is pretty much a box cutter cutting into the stomach followed by a cutting of the throat. Besides that, the killings are pretty fantastic, with the highlight being the director getting strangled with movie film. Not gory, mind you, but irony at its best.

Overall, A Blade in the Dark has its share of campy moments, with some fairly serious moments thrown in. In some ways, it is a rather typical giallo, as it becomes a whodunit type of movie with some pretty fantastic gory scenes and some slick camera work. Some inconsistencies with the storyline make it hard to keep a straight face while watching the movie, but it knows to keep things lighthearted when they are needed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When Jersey Designs Go Wrong: "Wild Wing"

When one goes through the history of the Anaheim hockey franchise, there is a lot to cover. Okay, not really, but from the beginnings as a franchise born from a Disney movie to now, it has been a rather interesting journey. And no jersey defines the Disney days better (or worse, depending on your point of view) like the "Wild Wing" jersey. Like the Boston Bruins third jersey that was talked about in an earlier article, the "Wild Wing" jersey was introduced in 1996 in a year that saw six teams introduce such jerseys. And much like their counterparts that year, they were rather forgettable designs.

Now, take a good look at the picture above, and ask yourself if this is what you would want to be wearing if you're a professional hockey player. All that needs to be said about the jersey is the "Wild Wing" mascot that emerges from the sheet of ice. I don't think there needs to be any other words for this amateur effort.

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Since my predictions are eating it and given that I'm close to the finish of the book that I'm reading now, I decided that now would be a pretty good time to make an attempt at reviewing said book. The book in question? That would be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Yes, you read that correctly, and in case you think your eyes are deceiving you, the picture of the book cover should remove all doubt.

The book, written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, is a hilarious take on the original Pride and Prejudice novel written by Austen. With some "help" from Grahame-Smith, there are now zombies, or as they are referred to in to story, unmentionables. The basic story remains intact, as Elizabeth Bennet has to deal with the infestation and the appearance of arrogant prick Mr. Darcy, among other things. The determination to wipe out the horde displeases her mother Mrs. Bennet, who wishes for the marriage of her five daughters, including Elizabeth, instead of the training that Mr. Bennet puts them through. Conflict arises when Lady Catherine de Bourgh makes an appearance and appears to challenge the Bennets, proclaiming that their style of training from the Shaolin temples of China are inferior to her training that she received from Japan. That conflict would escalate when Elizabeth, blindfolded, manages to kill the three ninjas that de Bourgh sends during a training session. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has to deal with a friend that gets infected by the unmentionables and eventually marries Mr. Collins, for whom it was intended by Mrs. Bennet that Elizabeth should marry. The description in which Charlotte's slow transformation into an unmentionable (the reasons for which is later revealed) is pretty graphic, but leaves no details out of how others react, which is one of the highlights of book.

As for the rest of the book, I really thought Mrs. Bennet came off as the nagging mother that just simply wouldn't shut up. In fact, I felt like smacking the crap out of her for every time she talked during the book. The evolution of the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is carefully plotted out, from the hostile beginnings to what is seen as a warmer mutual feeling between the two. Even though the whole China/Japan prejudice is never really explored in the novel, it gets mentioned quite a bit. I would have liked to have known a little more about it, but it wasn't a central part of the story, as is the whole marrying the cousin concept that seems to keep coming up, so those are minor complaints to an otherwise great novel. If you've read the original Pride and Prejudice at all, you know how the story ends. If you haven't, I won't spoil it here. Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the better reads in recent memory. It has humor, romance, drama, and best of all, zombies. I definitely recommend it for all, especially for those who just simply can't get into the original story.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Medal Round

So, now that the games count for real (read: the medal round), it's time to see where I stand as far as my predictions go. So, here was the order in which I predicted the finish:

GOLD: Canada
SILVER: Sweden
BRONZE: Czech Republic
Dark Horse: United States

Now, at the beginning of the day, it looked like my gold medal team was in danger of getting knocked out. Having said that, Canada can still win gold, but they will have to win four games instead of three, and they are one fourth of the way there, as they beat Germany tonight. Sweden has a fairly easy path to a medal, provided that they can get past Slovakia (likely) and possibly the United States. The Czech Republic should have no problem with Latvia, but will have to face Finland, who is a pretty strong team. Seemingly, the pieces are in place for the United States to be more than a dark horse candidate. However, that means bringing their A+ game, meaning that goaltending has to be at its best, and that begins with Ryan Miller, who is capable of stealing a game or two by himself.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts From Last Night's Game

So, last night was the big rivalry game between the United States and Canada in Olympic hockey. Sure, there weren't any medals on the line, or for that matter, a spot in the gold medal game, but it doesn't matter much when these two countries go head to head. The victory by the United States last night meant more than just a bye when the medal round begins, meaning that the United States can finish no worse than eighth (not likely, since I think they can make the semifinals easily). Bragging rights, for at least the next few days, belong to the United States, as well as a winless streak against Canada in the Olympic Games that went all the way back to the 1960 games was snapped. Yes, the victory was nowhere near the level of the Miracle on Ice of 1980, nor was it near the level of the 1996 World Cup, when the United States beat Canada for that title, thanks to the likes of Mike Modano, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, and Chris Chelios. The victory means no less to the United States though, as it will give them some much needed momentum going into the medal round. Is the gold medal a possibility? I think it will be answered positively if the United States can get the goaltending that Mike Richter gave them in 1996, which means Ryan Miller (or whoever should step in should Miller get hurt) will have to do his best Mike Richter impersonation and play lights out.

30 Years Ago Today...

The Miracle on Ice happened. It was in the 1980 Olympic Games that one of the biggest upsets in sports happened. The United States hockey team, which primarily consisted of college kids, defeated the Soviet Union squad that was thought to be unbeatable. If you happen to have been around when this happened, and even if you weren't born, like I was, this game stood out for a lot of reasons, including the famous call by sportscaster Al Michaels of "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" However, it should be noted that it was actually the semifinal game, so had the United States not beaten Finland in the gold medal game, this game would likely not have been remembered as fondly. By the same token, that win over the Soviet Union undoubtedly gave the United States a lot of momentum going into the gold medal game. While most of the United States team members didn't have a lot going for them in the NHL, they will always have this game for the rest of their lives. Their exploits are recaptured in the movie "Miracle," which the coach of the United States squad Herb Brooks sadly was not around to see, as he died in an automobile accident a few weeks prior to the release of the movie in 2002.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Picnic Bears

Before I begin, I would like to say that I generally don't like crapping on other hockey teams except for the Detroit Red Wings, and even then, I have to show some respect for the players on the team that exemplify class (e.g. Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, etc.). However, when it comes to jersey designs (of any sport, really), that becomes a different story. Last time, I took some time to look over one of the biggest blunders in the New York Islanders and their fisherman logo and jersey that only lasted two years, at the most. Now, if only the subject of today's piece would have only lasted as long, if not less than that.

Today, the subject is the third jersey that the Boston Bruins unveiled during the 1995-1996 season. Now, take a good look at the picture above. Does anything about the jersey intimidate you? How about instances of laughter? (pauses to allow laughter) Okay, you can stop laughing now. As to why the jersey lasted until 2006 remains a mystery. The primary color on the jersey doesn't exactly inspire fear into the opponents. Before I go on, I'd like to ask what other NHL teams have used the color yellow as a primary color on their jerseys? (Answers, in case you're too lazy to look them up: Vancouver Canucks, who have twice used that as a primary color, with one for those infamous "flying V" uniforms in the early 80's and the other being what you see here from the late 80's:

The only other teams that have used yellow as a primary color on their jerseys are the Los Angeles Kings when they started out as an NHL franchise, with yellow as their primary home jersey. Those were accented with purple, which mirrored the Lakers basketball franchise that played in the same building that the Kings hockey called home. Those went the way of the dodo when the Kings traded for Wayne Gretzky in 1988 and the team changed the color scheme to black and silver. The Pittsburgh Penguins briefly went with yellow jerseys, as well, as did the Nashville Predators, albeit, as a third jersey. Those did not go over well.)

Back to the Bruins third jersey, in addition to the not so intimidating color, the logo was a bear head, one that actually may have looked like the bear was rather pleased with himself. Often derided as the "picnic bears" jersey, I will have to give some credit where it's due, if only for the thought. That is, the jagged designs around the cuffs and the bottom of the jersey, as well as the shoulders, offers some illusion of bear fur. It often gets lost because of the other elements, but I think it was a pretty good thing to have for what was otherwise, a pretty bad idea for a jersey.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fish Sticks

Take a good look at the jersey in the picture above. Now, ask yourself where you have seen the fisherman before. If you answered on a fish sticks box, then step on up and claim your prize of absolutely nothing. Today's subject is the ill-fated New York Islanders jersey and logo that you see here. The entire design lasted all of two years (1995-1997), with the logo being scrapped after just a little more than a year. When the logo and subsequent jersey design were introduced prior to the 1995-1996 season, there weren't too many people who liked it. Compare that to the total makeover that the Washington Capitals had prior to that same season, and it's fairly easy why the Islanders' makeover experiment was a total disaster.

I will go out and defend this design, as I was in the minority and actually loved the design at the time it was introduced. Even now, I wish this design lasted for longer than it did. It was unusual and to me, was one of the better redesigns to that point. Obviously, it didn't do the team any good, as they still stunk up the joint during that period, and for that matter, stunk the year before the makeover and the few years after the experiment was over. Maybe some other team with the gall that the Islanders had in 1995 will introduce something eye-catching.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Atlanta Thrashers trade from 2/4/10

I realize that I haven't sounded off on the biggest trade of the NHL season, and seeing as there isn't a whole lot to talk about right now in terms of hockey (until the medal rounds, anyway), I think it's time to give my two cents on the trade. So, a couple of weeks ago, the Atlanta Thrashers traded their superstar player Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils along with another player for a draft pick, a couple of prospects, and a defenseman. Now, given what Atlanta got in return, I don't think it was the best deal for them, but then again, what exactly can you get for a 50 goal scorer that would be the equivalent of such? It was clear a few days prior to the trade that Atlanta wasn't going to be able to resign Kovalchuk and given that the Thrashers are not even close to being a perennial playoff team, Atlanta had to get whatever they could. The flipside of the deal is that now, who exactly are the fans in Atlanta going to pay their money to see? Without the superstar quality player, Atlanta is back to where they were when the first entered the league in 1999. There is also no guarantee that the prospects that they get in return are going to pan out (Remember the Marian Hossa trade in 2008?). So, in short, for Atlanta, it was either trade Kovalchuk now and get some bodies in return or lose him in free agency with nothing to show for it. As for the Devils, they really didn't have to give up a great deal to get him. The only real NHL ready player they gave up was Johnny Oduya, a defenseman who is likely a second pairing type, at best. The prospects given up were Niclas (sp?) Bergfors, the Devils' best prospect that didn't live up to expectations, and Patrice Cormier, who is currently serving a season-ending suspension in his junior league for some thrown elbows.

*On a side note, the Thrashers traded goalie Kari Lehtonen to the Dallas Stars, which makes sense for the Thrashers, since Lehtonen wasn't able to stay healthy, nor was he able to find consistency.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Olympic Break

Since the NHL is going on a two week break for the Olympics and seeing as I have yet to make my predictions for Olympic hockey, I will be making my predictions as to who medals and why, as well as a team or two to watch for, so without further ado, here goes:

GOLD: Canada-Every Olympics, Team Canada is favored to at least, get a medal in the Olympic games and certainly, they will have extra motivation after a disappointing showing in the 2006 Olympics in Torino. Balanced in every aspect (forwards, defense, goaltending), if Canada can put all of the pieces together, there is no reason why they shouldn't get the gold.

SILVER: Sweden-I know you're asking why I would rank Sweden this high, especially given the talent level on the Russian team. Well, after seeing how the team did in 1994 and 2006, it is hard to ignore Team Sweden, and with a big game goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden is never out of medal contention. He's carried the country to gold before (2006), so it would be foolish to doubt Sweden again, and they have their fair share of talent, too in players such as Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson.

BRONZE: Czech Republic-Yes, I know that I am going out on a limb here, but like Sweden, they have the capability to win gold, as they did in 1998, when they rode the goaltending of Dominik Hasek. This year's team doesn't have Hasek, but they still have a very good goaltender in Tomas Vokoun. Obviously, he is the key to this year's team, as there isn't much proven talent behind him.

DARK HORSE: United States-Less talented than most of their counterparts, their blue line group suffered some losses prior to the Games, with injuries hitting David Martin and Mike Komisarek. However, if the United States wishes to be even close to medal contention, they will have to ride the goaltending of Ryan Miller. One of the best goalies in the NHL right now will have to play like one in the Olympic games if the U.S. is to have a shot.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Great Debate: MDF or no MDF?

Since I'm having trouble coming up with something hockey related (without mapping out the entire idea), for the first post of this, the Pucks and Rocks blog, I will instead, write about something that I am debating about doing this Spring. So, some back story: last year, I had a chance to go to Maryland Death Fest. So, what stopped me from going last year? Well, I ended up making the decision to go to two Pagan Fest shows in Seattle and Portland, which would have, in effect, left me with little money for MDF. Those shows were the week before MDF, so theoretically, I could have still gone. However, something else got in the way, that being my niece in New Mexico was graduating high school that weekend. Now, on to this year's MDF: right now, nothing's really blocking that opportunity, aside from the urgency to save so I can eventually move. Obviously, how much I save between now and the time I make my decision will determine what I do for staying arrangements and tickets to the show. Of course, if something else comes along, then there's no telling what will happen.