Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Movies: May - June

Summer movie season has been so entertaining for me. I love going to see these major franchise continue and the horror, action, and drama movies sprinkled in with a few decent comedies have made going to the theater more than worthwhile. My favorite film of these last two months blended the genre and after the shock of the first major blockbuster of the season, it was nice to see some films with lower stakes. 

Deadpool 2
The sequel to the irreverent meta-superhero film, the first to really embrace an R-rating and find box office success, has tons of fun twists and turns with a steady stream of comedy that accompanies some awesome action scenes. Deadpool is easily at the top of my favorite superhero franchises if it keeps up this hilarious and action-packed momentum into X-force and other promised sequels. I wonder what will happen if Deadpool joins the MCU.

Incredibles 2
The long-awaited Pixar sequel delivers with a cool premise and solid action. The new movie picks up immediately where the last one left off despite nearly two decades between the original release, but it quickly establishes a story of its own. Jack Jack and Dash are cute and hilarious while a bike chase scene with Elastigirl and a train is astonishing. The actual twist is predictable but I guess this is expected from a kids movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
The second Star Wars spin-off turned out to be a bit of a disappointment at the box office, but I found the film charming and fun. As soon as Chewbacca showed up, I was entranced, and the Darth Maul twist appealed directly to me. Emilia Clarke improves as an actress and Alden Ehrenreich did a decent job mimicking Harrison Ford.

American Animals
This extraordinary Kentucky story mixes documentary and brilliant acting to tell a compelling heist tale. Evan Peters is great and it was funny when he talks to his real-life counterpart while Barry Keoghan shows he's going to be an awards contender in the future. I do wish Ann Dowd had a bigger role because I've been a fan since the Leftovers. 
 
On Chesil Beach
I enjoyed this book so much in college and finally watching the film was a moving experience. The epic nature of the last few scenes captured the lifelong regret and solid performance from Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle make this a fascinating film. It reminds me of Brooklyn, another film starring Ronan that was very epic and fascinating. 

Upgrade
Violent sci-fi is a ton of fun while I enjoy Logan Marshall-Green in a lead role. The story lacks a lot of thought but there are some absurd scenes that make up for the shallow plot.
 
Hereditary
I actually like jump-scares a lot and while this horror film had plenty of dread and one really disturbing car wreck, it left me wanting to be frightened and shocked more. I was a little confused about the ending and didn't like it enough to put too much thought into what exactly happened. 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The first film is a masterpiece. This sequel has decent moments but never amounts to much. I'm all for this franchise continuing though and revisiting Taylor Sheridan's other movies was fun. I actually saw this July 1st and I'm late posting this monthly update, but there are new rules on this blog and I consider this the last June movie. 

Tag
Comedies have been really entertaining this year so I have made an effort to see more in theaters. Tag is one of those very entertaining movies and they clearly take liberties with the true story. The fact that Jeremy Renner's arms were broken is insane and I like seeing Jon Hamm in more movies. I do wish he would do more dramas, I didn't see his other film Beirut but I plan to rent it. The standout for me was Jake Johnson as his character was really funny. 
You Were Never Really Here
This movie was messed up and weird. I read somewhere that they rushed the process of editing and it feels that way a bit. Definitely something to this film but I don't know if I'll ever want to watch it again. 
Ocean's Eight
I revisited the newer Ocean's trilogy before seeing this and I don't really like any of these films. It's cool to see big stars walking around and saying lines and dressing nice, but as far as any plausible heist and clever twist, it didn't try very hard. I'd be up for another one, I just wish they would put more thought into the heist and maybe have a good villain. 

Hotel Artemis
The most disappointing movie of the last two months was such a missed opportunity. Sterling K. Brown is going to be a great leading man while Dave Bautista continues to show his comedic skill. Sofia Boutella should get her own action franchise. Jodie Foster had an interesting character but even support from Jeff Goldblum and Charlie Day couldn't make this very funny or elevate the action. I want more movies like this one, just better. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Sports: May - June

Sports has been crazy these last two months and it's unfortunate that I'm not very good at writing about it. Soccer has become a new interest that has paid off with tons of exciting games in the World Cup. Hockey and basketball both finished seasons that had surprises and predictable moments. The College Baseball World Series finished up with a new champion just as Major League Baseball barrels towards the All-Star break with tons of great games. 

Basketball: NBA Finals
A predictable and repetitive NBA finals led to a blowout and sweep by the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers. We did a pizza party each game, which was hell on my new diet, but luckily we only had four nights of pizza thanks to the Warriors' dominance. Lebron James, my current favorite player and the best I've ever seen, did his best but Steph Curry was backed up by Kevin Durant and an unstoppable crew. I enjoyed the playoffs a lot this year and liked the relief of not having to do my terrible job of blogging about them. 

Hockey: Stanley Cup Finals
This was my first full season of watching hockey and I put a considerably larger investment of time and money into it. I only see myself diving deeper into this brutal competition on ice as I'll now follow four teams. The Washington Capitals are a bit of a rival to my early favorites like the Blue Jackets and Penguins and I was pumped to purchase a Vegas Golden Knights hat, but I'm sure they'll get one eventually. The Stanly Cup playoffs make a great pairing with basketball and I look forward to both season starting again in the winter. 

Soccer: World Cup
Soccer is something that I was a bit hesitant to dive into but I have no regrets trying to keep up with this excellent global competition. While the knockout round begins the first day of July, I have no idea who will eventually triumph but I've bought in on my pick of Brazil even going so far as ordering a bright yellow shirt. There are a ton of great teams and the matches are going to be exciting from here on out.
 
College Baseball: World Series
It's not always easy to keep up with college sports, but the College Baseball World Series is an exciting series of games. The ending of this one was especially exciting as I was about to get an Arkansas hat contributing to my SEC collection when a dropped foul ball refused the Razorbacks fortune leading to a win for the Oregon State Beavers.
 
Soccer: USA Open Cup
After Atlanta United go eliminated, I haven't been paying as much attention but the action picks up next month so I'll have more to write about this Cup once it picks back up next month. I do hope to write about this tournament and the MLS in the next month. Atlanta United is doing really well in the league so I'll be following them closely until tournament time. Louisville City FC is who I'm rooting for now and I hope to attend a game in August. 

Major League Baseball

The Atlanta Braves are in first place in the NL East. That's all I really care about but I follow three other teams. The Cincinnati Reds have turned things around under their new coach but this season is far from salvageable. The Chicago Cubs fight for the top of their division against the Brewers. The reigning champs, the Houston Astros are holding off the Seattle Mariners. A battle in the AL East between the Boston Red Sox and Yankees should get national coverage while the Indians hold strong in the AL Central. Arizona remains at top of the NL West. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Blog Pause

I'm taking a break from writing this blog to focus on other work.

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

This review will be my last for a while and it is a great film to go out on. The third Avengers film is the culmination of a giant interconnected universe. Going to a late Friday night screening was a great experience as the packed audience was caught up in the excitement and shocking finale of this crossover event. I thought I would be tired but instead, I was enthralled from the opening scene to the post-credits teaser. This film made for one of the most exciting films I've seen in a theater in a long time and I left the film shocked by the ending and I still haven't had time to process all the characters and everything that happened. The film is pretty long but it sped by and I can't wait to see it again so that I can analyze the little details that I didn't catch on my first viewing.

The film follows close behind the third Thor film with Thanos (Josh Brolin) taking on the ship of fleeing Asgardians. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is caught and forced to bear the pain of the Power Stone as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) conceals the Space Stone, or the Tesseract. Loki reveals it and Thanos chokes him for his trouble. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) fights Thanos but Heimdall (Idris Elba) transports him away to Earth before he can be killed. It does cost Heimdall his life as the other characters from the last Thor are not even shown. The film is busy so minor characters like Thanos's henchmen The Black Order don't get much of an introduction. 

The various villains set out to find the remaining four Infinity Stones heading first to New York City where Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has the Time Stone. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) Has to leave his fiance Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to talk with Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and Hulk. They reveal the danger of Thanos and fight one of the villains. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) assists Iron Man in fighting the Black Order and they all take off into space after the Time Stone. Bruce Banner is unable to transform into the Hulk. The Guardians of the Galaxy discover Thor in the wreckage and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is jealous while Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is impressed. She warns of Thanos and they split off on various missions.

Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Quill and Gamora head to Knowhere to find the Reality Stone. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) go with Thor to a dying star to build his ax. Vision (Paul Bettany) is in hiding with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) when they are attacked by the Black Order for his Mind Stone. Captain America (Chris Evans) arrives and with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to fight the Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) until they leave. Thor encounters Eitri (Peter Dinklage) and they make the Stormbreaker and it is made from Groot's arm. The Avengers meet up with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Shuri (Letitia Wright). The final battle is epic.

I'm not going to get too deep into the finale. Maybe one day in the future I'll have a chance to analyze it and assess what happened but for now, I'll just say it was an amazing even though I felt it ended a bit abruptly. The final moments are amazing and I was so stunned at the end, I didn't know what was going to happen. I am reading the graphic novel collection of the comics and can see how they got to this point. I don't think I'll ever get tired of revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The heroes of the Marvel universe reunite for a second fight, this time against a murderous artificial intelligence created by one of their own members. The epic superhero blockbuster begins with a wild battle at a Hydra base where the scepter was hidden and used for advanced experiments. The weaponry allows the Hydra soldiers to fly and shoot lasers but they are no match for the Avengers. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) makes it inside but he is given a vision by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who has been enhanced along with her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is able to calm down the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) so he turns back into Bruce Banner. Captain America (Chris Evans) takes out Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) plans to return the scepter to Asgard, but not before a party.

Tony Stark has created a group of robots to help them fight and they are controlled by Jarvis (Paul Bettany) so he noticed a similarity in the scepter. Stark and Banner experiment with the scepter but can't figure it out before the party starts. Ultron (James Spader) wakes up and destroys Jarvis. As the Avengers party and try to lift Thor's hammers, Ultron takes control of Stark's robots. The Avengers fight the robots until Ultron flees with the scepter back to the Hydra base where he begins to build an army. The Avengers search for a clue as to Ultron's next move and learn of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and his hidden stash of Vibranium near Wakanda. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff confront Klaue who is unintimidated until Ultron shows up and cuts off his arm. The Avengers show up to fight Ultron but Scarlet Witch hypnotizes several of them including the Hulk.

Iron Man uses his Hulkbuster army to fight the enraged and out of control Hulk through the streets and buildings of an African city until he finally renders him unconscious. Defeated, the Avengers head to the home of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Thor recalls his vision and soars off to find Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) where he has a vision of the Infinity Stones. As Tony and Steve Rogers debate what to do next, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to help them come up with a plan. The Avengers figure out that Ultron hopes to build a body with Vibranium and something is stopping him from getting to the missile launch codes. Wanda and Pietro learn that Ultron plans worldwide destruction. Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow head to South Korea to stop Ultron from uploading his body. Cap fights Ultron atop a truck through the streets. Their fight is moved to a train that Ultron sets on a destructive path until Scarlet Witch manages to stop it and Quicksilver pulls people out of the way.

Hawkeye receives the cradle containing the Vibranium body but Black Widow is captured by Ultron. Stark convinces Banner to put Jarvis into the Vibranium body to create Vision. Captain American has teamed up with Wanda and Pyotr. They try to prevent Tony from doing it but then they see the result is not as dangerous. The Avengers learn of Ultron's plan and head to Sokovia to fight him and his army of robots. Ultron has put a drill into the ground and plans to lift it up into the air only to drop it back down as a meteor and destroy the Earth. The Avengers work together to protect the drill though they don't save everyone as witnessed in future installments. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a step down from the first Avengers film but still has plenty of great superhero action and benefits from a cool villain. Seeing the Avengers back together is pretty cool but this film feels like it is biding its time for something bigger. There is a lot of set up still going into this film and it kills off Quicksilver before he gets through one film, mostly I think because of rights with another superhero franchise. The film is improved by what comes after as the finale proves to be a pivotal moment in the relationship of the superheroes. I enjoyed Age of Ultron but I suspect this is when many people became bored with the franchise and wanted something else to dominate theaters. 

Movie Review: The Avengers

The heroes of the Marvel universe unit to fend off the destruction of the world. With five solo films to introduce each superhero explore their origins, the characters finally come together hinting at a larger story. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents of S.H.I.E.LD. like Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) become aware of a disturbance with a strange artifact known as the tesseract. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) was experimenting on it under the watchful eye of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) aka the Black Widow is pulled from an assignment to seek out Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who struggles to contain his alter ego, the Hulk. 

Coulson recruits Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his Iron Man suit to join the Avengers. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) aka Captain America is still recovering from waking up from his frozen slumber. The villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gathers a group of soldiers using mind control with his scepter over Hawkeye and Selvig. He builds a portal with the tesseract to bring an extraterrestrial army known as the Chitauri to earth. The Avengers gather on a floating ship and search for the tesseract cube. Loki turns up at a wealthy dinner where he extracts the eye of a man in front of a crowd while Hawkeye breaks into a secure facility. Captain America arrives and confronts Loki but he's having some trouble until Iron Man shows up.

With Loki captured, Black Widow flies back to the floating fortress but Thor (Chris Hemsworth) intercepts them. The God of Thunder tries to reason with his brother but Iron Man crashes into him. They fight in the trees until Captain America breaks them up. They regroup on the Helicarrier keeping Loki in a secure glass prison. As Dr. Banner researches the tesseract, the other Avengers learned of SHIELD's true plan and disagreements grow into arguments. Hypnotized, Hawkeye storms the floating base with soldiers to free Loki. Iron Man and Captain America are forced to work together to stay afloat as Banner loses control turning into the Hulk and chasing Black Widow. Thor tries to stop him from destroying too much as Coulson tries to stop Loki from escaping at the cost of his life. Hulk falls to the ground on a jet while Thor is tricked by Loki who locks him in the glass vault and drops him to the ground. Black Widow manages to knock Hawkeye in the head and stop the mind control. 

Tony Stark realizes that Loki plans to use his Stark tower to create the portal and confronts him on the top floor. Loki throws him off the roof but his new suit saves him. The portal opens and the Chitauri fly through attacking New York City. In one of the most spectacular superhero battles in any movie, the Avengers fight the Chitauri and prevent a nuclear missile from destroying New York. Iron Man makes the sacrifice that Captain America didn't think he was capable of making. Bruce Banner shows up to reveal his secret of always being angry and the Hulk smashes the alien army. Loki is imprisoned and returned to Asgard by Thor. Nick Fury allows the heroes to head on their way to phase two.

Avengers is an extraordinary superhero film, something never before seen on film. Joss Whedon does an extraordinary job of juggling all the characters and still having a solid amount of development while also showing some amazing action sequences. The film is a bit cheesy now that I watch it again but I still can't help myself from enjoying it a lot and wanting to see more just like it. There is a reason this film was a box office smash and spawned so may more Marvel films. 

Sports: NBA Playoffs (Second Round)

Same as hockey, I just don't have space in my schedule to research and write about sports as I would like, so I'll just make some quick predictions and then spell out the rest of the playoffs. I'll probably be wrong but that's the fun of unpredictable sports, at least I hope it's not easy to predict what will happen. Having basketball playoffs on television is a lot of fun but unfortunately, I can't stay up late to watch them all. 

East
Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
The process and injuries lead me to this one.

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I'm not going against Lebron James.

West
Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz
There has already been one blowout in this series and James Harden is the MVP.

Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
Best team in basketball does it again.

I think the Rockets should upset the Warriors, it'll be a great series. I am also thinking that Lebron makes it back to the finals and falls to James Harden and Houston. 

Sports NHL (Stanley Cup Playoffs - Second Round)

I don't have a ton of time to dedicate to writing about sports so I'm just going to make my picks and then predict how the rest of the playoffs will play out. I would like to spend more time watching the sports than writing about them. I was not a very good sportswriter anyways.

Eastern Conference
Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Going with the upset here.

Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Two-time reigning champs are a safe bet.

Western Conference
Nashville Predators vs Winnipeg Jets
Last year's runner-up and my favorite team.

San Jose Sharks vs Las Vegas Golden Knights
The new team is one of the best teams.

So with these picks laid out, I think somehow Nashville takes out Vegas, though it won't be easy. I think Boston falls to Pittsburgh for a rematch but then Nashville wins. Probably won't happen but that's what I'd like. I won't be able to keep up with it as I'll write about in a later post but I will be paying close attention. 


Movie Review: Super Troopers 2

The gang of highway patrolmen returns but this time they are north of the border. The same humor is present and just as goofy nearly two decades later. The film begins with an outrageous traffic stop of an RV. The gang have quite their highway patrol jobs and moved on to become a famous band Sizzlin' Bacon. The officers are famous actors and plenty of them die as this all turns out to be a dream of the former rookie Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske). He actually works as a contractor with Mac (Steve Lemme) for Farva (Kevin Heffernan) who can't stop making inappropriate jokes. Mac plans a fishing trip with their former captain O'Hagan (Brian Cox) and picks up Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar) and Foster (Paul Soter) who has a relationship with Ursula. They travel across the border to the abandoned shack where O'Hagan had arranged for them to meet. 

It turns out, O'Hagan had made a deal with the mayor to take over as the new patrol in this small piece of land that was considered part of Canada until further information revealed it was a part of America. The patrolmen will take over for a group of Canadian Mounties including Podien (Hayes MacArthur), Bellefuille (Tyler Labine), and Archambault (Will Sasso). They are not thrilled about their new position but the mayor Guy LeFranc (Rob Lowe), a former hockey player, welcomes the change. Rabbit is dumbstruck by the PR liaison Genevieve Aubois (Emmanuelle Chriqui) but the crowd of Canadian citizens is pissed throwing hockey pucks and beer cans at the troopers. 

Without much support, the troopers start their work and begin their training under the Mounties. Just like the original, they find a large drug conspiracy but they aren't sure what the pills are for. Each member takes a pill and acts differently from the various side effects. Farva gets tranquilizers, Thorny has female hormones, Rabbit takes steroids, Mac has LSD, and Foster gets speed. All of these drugs are legal in Canada but illegal in America, hinting at a greater scheme. Farva makes a bet with Rabbit that he can have sex with Genevieve before the rookie and the bet includes chopping off his pinky toe. The Mounties take out their anger by putting a bear in the station so the team fights back by kidnapping them and putting on their uniforms.

They go around pulling people over and acting ridiculous including one really funny part saying "Happiness in the Household". The Mounties return and a standoff gets heated until the mayor decides to take away the patrolmen's badges. Rabbit is seduced by Genevieve while the others are investigating another stash. Foster finally gets to use a triangulator to find Rabbit and they uncover the plot of the mayor. A shootout ensues and the men finally take out the mayor. They are treated as heroes but it is revealed that this was all a plot by the mayor so they lose their jobs.

Super Troopers 2 is a decent return for the comedy group and their crowd-funding hints at a solid fanbase. Unfortunately, it took me a while to finally write this review so I've seen their sudden dropoff in the second weekend after a great opening weekend. Of course, there was a reason their fans saw something else but the comedy could gain some cult status later on. Chandrasekhar directs again and knows how to work the humor of his great cast. The additions of the Canadian characters have some decent humor, but it is really the main cast revisiting some of their own gags that had the greatest appeal. 

Movie Review: Super Troopers

The hilarious comedy from nearly two decades ago is still plenty amusing these many years later. I wasn't aware of this humorous film right away but picked it up as it garnered a cult following. The Broken Lizard gang has made some pretty funny movies but then vanished for over a decade from major motion pictures. This comic cop spoof was their big success for a lot of reasons including the quotable lines. The film begins with three teenagers driving down the highway towards Canda smoking weed. They are pulled over by the cops and give all their drugs to the backseat passenger who eats them. Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar) and Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) mess with the teenagers until Mac (Steve Lemme) speeds by pretending to be a perp. Rabbit is the rookie so he has to take on all sorts of challenges like drinking when they say and chugging syrup. Foster (Paul Soter) likes to fish instead of patrolling the highway. 

Their antics have them at risk of being shut down due to funding and their exasperated leader Captain O'Hagan (Brian Cox) tries to find a way for them to survive, either by writing more tickets or making a huge drug bust. The opportunity arrives when a dead body shows up in a trailer. Some of the cops notice the strange tattoo on the woman's body that is tied to an Afghan cartoon and possibly drug smuggling. Their highway patrol jokes continue, like the meow game and repeater, along with their bullying of their most annoying member Farva (Kevin Heffernan). The radio operator always takes things too far or doesn't understand the purpose of these various pranks being especially harsh on the rookie. 

Foster becomes attracted Ursula (Marisa Coughlan), the radio operator of the state police who can't get any field work. The state police impeded their investigation and are all around jerks to the highway patrol with a confrontational rivalry. Foster manages to charm Ursula and they sneak into the RV to have sex. They stumble upon a hidden compartment that contains pounds of marijuana. O'Hagan is increasingly worried about them being shut down but he believes this bust could prevent their closure. However, the state police beat them to the punch presenting the weed to the mayor and earning themselves longevity where the highway patrol is in trouble. Foster thinks Ursula betrayed him but Farva did it to earn a position with the police.

The highway patrolmen are prepared to lose their job so they go on a drunken spree challenging the chief of the state police at his house though he isn't there. They continue to drive around drunkenly until they stumble upon the state police making a deal with the drug smugglers. They create a decoy and bust the state police before earning they positions back. The movie ends with the troopers busting the kids in a sting operation as keg delivery men.

Super Troopers has earned a repeat watch as the sequel was crowdfunded enough to get a wide release. The movie is still pretty funny to watch it again and I'd be curious to see the other Broken Lizard movies. There are plenty of great jokes that can still get a laugh out of me and some of the characters are pretty memorable. I am interested to see how the sequel is received. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

Silly and goofy, this stop-motion comedy explores a strange animal prejudice while also showing off some clever storytelling. The film has understandably been attacked for some racist stereotypes and on that point, it doesn't seem very thought through. Still, the meticulous nature of the animation makes for stunning spectacle and the recognizable voice cast adds humor and makes the film entertaining. The plot doesn't seem to matter that much as it is highly predictable and something seen in plenty of cartoons and children's movies. The attention to detail, something Wes Anderson is known for, is the real appeal of this film with goofy little details like this great scene of sushi making or the various shots of cats as their diabolical owners plan to rid the city of species.

The story centers around five dogs with huge stars as the voices. Chief (Bryan Cranston) is the toughest and somewhat of a leader since he has always been a stray and is more prepared for the harsh lifestyle on trash island. Cranston is one of my favorite actors since his stellar television performances and he does a great job fleshing out the wild character who grows fond of the lost boy Atari (Koyu Rankin) despite an initial wariness of all humans. Chief is definitely the central dog with a romantic interest in Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson) and an introduction that includes him ripping off the ear of another dog. The film has a surprising amount of violence and grotesque images that come with Anderson's small detail. Chief is covered in fleas and has gruesome wounds all over his body from the rough life.

The second-in-command and dog that insists it is a democracy, though all the other dogs always agree with him, is Rex (Edward Norton). He has a more practical outlook on survival on trash island and dreams of having an owner again. He was house-trained and reluctant munches on the available leftover trash. His gang including Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), and King (Bob Balaban) put their lives on the line to help Atari find his missing dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). Duke has this recurring joke where he hears rumors about other dogs or events on the islands that I found pretty funny. The best joke comes from Jupiter (F. Murray Abraham) and his pug dog sidekick Oracle (Tilda Swinton) who can predict the future because she understands television though often gets distracted by silly shows. 

The human side is where the issues arise as a young foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) leads a pro-dog movement as the inventor of a cure to the various diseases the dogs carry Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) is murdered by the villainous Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) leaving behind Assitant-Scientist Yoko Ono (Yoko Ono). Atari serves as a symbolic leader despite a metal rod sticking out of his head. The adventure leads across the island and a coordinated revolt turns the tide as the film works out for a happy ending. 

Isle of Dogs has plenty to enjoy and continues Wes Anderson's quirky career with his regular castmates while the valid criticisms detract from the comedy of the film. I don't often see cartoons in the theater but cute dogs can usually draw me in and I was able to go back and watch Anderson's other film Fantastic Mr. Fox though, unfortunately, due to time constraints and less availability for this free blogging stuff, I wasn't able to review it. I liked his previous film more but this still has plenty to offer. I would like to see Anderson examine the criticism in the future and come up with an understandable response that acknowledges his myopic view and grows his ability as an auteur filmmaker. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Movie Review: Blockers

This hilarious comedy attempts to upend gender roles as it takes a typical teenage premise but shows how it is more complicated for young women. The film revolves around three parents who try to prevent their children from losing their virginity on prom night. The parents have different reasons for their wild attempts at cock blocking but all of it adds up to great humor. I don't often catch comedies at the theater but I was willing to check this one out due to great reviews and a solid showing at the box office. Ike Barinholtz and Leslie Mann have been comedy staples for some time while John Cena has appeared in more comedies recently adding to his roles in action films. The mixture of the adults with the teenagers make for two solid storylines that play out in a night long chase. 

Lisa (Mann) raised her daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) but is reluctant to let her move far away to college. Mitchell (Cena) raised Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) to enjoy sports and be more of a free thinker though he is thrown off by some of her more feminine and grownup behavior. Hunter (Barinholtz) has not been in much involved in the life of his daughter Sam (Gideon Adlon). When the girls were young, the parents agreed to be friends but they have fallen apart since then. They reunite to send their girls off to prom but Lisa has discovered her daughter has plans to leave Chicago and go to college in California. Hunter has rented a limousine for the girls to travel to prom. He is not worried about his daughter losing her virginity but when Mitchell and Lisa discover a computer showing the girls' text messages, they learn that they have all agreed to have sex tonight.

Hunter tries to stop them from ruining the night but Lisa and Mitchell overpower him and drive to the dance. The young women and their dates have already moved on from the dance just missing an embarrassing encounter. The parents follow the prom dates to a  party where Julie moves closer to losing her virginity and Sam takes drugs. In a hilarious episode from the trailer that goes well no matter how many times I saw it before, Cena's Mitchell has to butt chug beer to gain admittance to the party. While the teenagers hosting the party pretend to butt chug, Mitchell actually does but then the cops show up. The beer sprays into Hunter's face as they flee the police. The kids move onto a hotel party but the parents have to figure out where they are having lost the limousine with some crazy driving. 

Lisa calls Julie who expresses her anger at her mother for not letting her go to the college to which she applied. Lisa is depressed about the fight with her daughter but she is still determined to stop her daughter. They head to the house of the parents of Julie's boyfriend who have been staying in touch with their son. They have to sneak around an awkward sex game to get a cellphone. The parents discover the teens have gone to a hotel party where they have split off to lose their virginity. Each parent confronts their daughter where they learn more about their daughters and accept their decisions.

Blockers has plenty of hilarious moment continuing a solid run of comedies these last few months. The film has been praised for the unique view to comedies it has taken with a more female perspective to the typical teen comedy. The movie didn't include some of the hilarious parts from the commercial that I was hoping to see especially where Cena swings Barinholtz over the hotel balcony. I guess they save the outtakes for the DVD or maybe they were in the credits. The young cast shined while Cena showed his comedy chops against the veterans Mann and Barinholtz. I am willing to see a lot more comedies this year in the theaters if they are this entertaining. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

TV Show Review: The Walking Dead (Season 8)

The walkers return for a stalled out season of a show that seems to keep going despite all signs that it has lost its life. The show continues to deal out deaths to major characters but at this point, it is hard to feel much emotion for the characters. The hardest death for me this season was the CGI tiger but I don't think they could continue to produce that majestic creature with much quality on their show budget. The center of this season was the continuation of the battle between Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). After being o the receiving end of the awfulness, Rick and his group bring the fight to Negan's headquarters, the Sanctuary. The fight subsides with the priest Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) trapped in a trailer surround by walkers with Negan. As the main forces are distracted, Rick and the other groups including the hilltop led by Maggie (Lauren Cohan) attack the saviors' outposts. 

The fight continues into the third and fourth episodes as Morgan (Lennie James) struggles with his murderous past. King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his group of knights from the kingdom are ambushed causing that depressing death of the tiger along with a ton of good guys. Carol (Melissa McBride) kills the saviors in the compound and helps Ezekiel and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) escape. Daryl (Norman Reedus) has his own ideas on how to kills the saviors but he disagrees with Rick. Simon (Steven Ogg) takes control of the sanctuary though plenty of their members are starting to riot against the terrible living conditions. Negan returns with Gabriel and takes back control. Rick tries to win over Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and the scavengers but it takes a long time to convince her. Daryl moves ahead with an attack on the sanctuary.

Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has fully switched sides to cooperate with Negan and facilitate the manufacture of bullets. Dwight (Austin Amelio) continues to relay information back to Rick as he tries to maintain his cover with the saviors. Carl (Chandler Riggs) helps a doctor Siddiq (Avi Nash) but he pays a price and is bitten by a walker. In the midseason finale, the group has to escape into the sewers and Rick learns of his son's fate. Carl leaves behind letters that go to each person in his life. Other members including Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) seek out other groups to join in the fight like the Oceanside community. The battle continues as the saviors attack the hilltop and use bullets dipped in walker blood. Negan dips his bat in walker blood but isn't able to kill Rick.

Michonne (Danai Gurira) struggles with Rick's grief and her own. She tries to reach out to Negan about Carl's letter but the war continues. There are more hints of a bigger world but there isn't much time dedicated to that as the central plot of this season is the war. Negan deals with the revolt in his ranks and takes down Simon and exposes Dwight for the traitor. He sets a trap for Rick but when he is about to spring it, the bullets that Eugene made backfire and hurt all of the saviors. Rick fights Negan and slices his throat but orders Siddiq to save him. There is a growing rift between and Maggie and Rick over saving Negan.

The Walking Dead continues into a ninth season and I'm still sticking around to watch it though I don't often pay attention to the episodes using them more as background noise than entertainment. I find some parts of episodes entertaining and I usually enjoy zombies but this show has lost a lot of momentum. I always feel like I'm a bit lost as to what is actually happening on the show and so many people have died that most of the consequences don't really seem to matter. The show hit its peak a while back but looks like it will remain popular enough that it could achieve another peak in the future. I am further ahead in the comics but I'm still waiting for the next omnibus before I move ahead. I think the show will take a different route but I would like to see some of the plots come to the screen. 

Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

While terrible things were happening, absurdity reigned in the highest offices of communist Russia when the leader suddenly passes and the sycophants must take control. The scheming begins almost immediately as does the lying to cover up the death. The most nefarious member of the inner circle is the leader of the NKVD, Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beal). He orders plenty of people to be killed or imprisoned for any number of reasons and plots to install a puppet leader and Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) is his top choice. 

What seemingly caused Stalin's death was a note from a piano player Maria Veniaminovna Yudina (Olga Kurylenko) that blamed him for ruining the country. Laventiy hides the note away for a later date. Also scheming is Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) who doesn't even have time to change out of his pajamas before rushing to the body because he knows if he's late then he'll be usurped and possibly executed.  Stalin is still alive but has had a stroke so the committee seeks out any remaining doctors int he city. Due to the purge of individuals with certain ideas, they have a hard time finding anyone who can actually cure him. They do find doctors but they lie about the condition of the leader. 

Stalin's daughter Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) arrives and each of the members tries to woo her.  Stalin's son Vasily (Rupert Friend) is a drunken screw up who believes he is in trouble when they bring him into to see his dead father. He claims there are conspiracies afoot so the members seek to silence him. Malenkov takes on the leadership role and cooperates with Beria who makes most of the decisions. They put Khrushchev in charge of Stalin's funeral as a way to demote him and ridicule him. The funeral consists of several episodes of absurdity as each member disagrees on the direction of the country. Field Marshal Zhukov (Jason Isaacs) arrives wanting to know why his army has been pushed aside by the NKVD. 

Khrushchev puts together a plan to have everyone turn on Beria but he knows if he does not pull it off at the exact right moment, then everything will fall apart. He makes sure to get Zhukov on his side so that the military can take out the NKVD. He treats Stalin's family with disrespect even having jets fly over during Vasily's silly speech. Convincing Malenkov proves the hardest as the other committee members agree Beria is the problem. They summon all the members and Khrushchev works on convincing Malenkov all the way up until the last minute and even then Malenkov is reluctant to go through with the murder. Khrushchev takes control and steadily rises to power until the postscript lets us know he was betrayed too.

The Death of Stalin is a hilarious look a horrific part of history in a country that does not acknowledge the absurdity of the government. I was totally unfamiliar with the events surrounding the ruthless dictator so I found this story informative while also hilarious and disturbing. Not many films have this strange and potent mixture of history, humor, and horror. I enjoyed the performances by Steve Buscemi and Simon Russell Beal as they jockey for power in this corrupt country. I am glad this film made it out to where I live as these more independent films don't always show in theaters.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

Movie Review: Rampage

The Rock returns to films about massive destruction with one of the more entertaining video games adaptions. Dwayne Johnson has become a big box office draw with recent films that combine his acting with a significant concept but this latest blockbuster may fall short. While the movie had a lot of enjoyable craziness, the plot does not always follow logic and the special effects were hit-or-miss. As most video game adaptations are pretty terrible, this monster movie did not have a high bar to clear to be considered one of the better ones. The film begins with a deteriorating space station and the sole surviving crew members being pursued by a giant rat. The station explodes but not before three samples are shot back down into the atmosphere to land in various parts of the country.

Davis Okoye (Johnson) works with gorillas as he gained experience during his time in the special forces fighting poachers. He raised George, an albino gorilla rendered through motion capture. When one of the samples hits down in George's cage, the gorilla begins to grow at an exponential rate. Okoye is sure what to do but Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) arrives to explain all the science in one of Harris's weaker performances. Behind this science experiment is the evil corporation run by Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacy). They send out a task force to hunt down a wolf that has been affected led by Burke (Joe Manganiello). The wolf makes short work of the soldiers.

Meanwhile, George grows more agitated in his enclosure and Dr. Caldwell explains the increased aggression. George breaks out but the government comes in and shoots him with tranquilizers. Leading the secret organization, Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tries to transport George on a plane. The Wyden siblings send out a signal that drives the giant animals crazy and directs them towards Chicago. Davis, Kate, and Harvey survive the plane crash along with George who takes off in the direction of the signal and soon joins up with the wolf. The military tries to stop the giant beasts but nothing works. Davis and Kate escape and with the help of Harvey, they fly a helicopter to Chicago where the chaos is about to begin. A crocodile was also infected and is steadily swimming towards the city. 

In the part most similar to the actual gameplay, the gorilla, wolf and eventually crocodile smash their way through the city. They have mutated so that the wolf has spindly tale barbs that he can fling at helicopters and the croc chomps on tanks and planes. Kate and Davis fly into the city and watch the carnage from above as the military prepares to launch a missile and wipe out the city. Dr. Caldwell and Okoye break into Wyden's skyscraper and confront the siblings just as the monsters climb up the top. Okoye is shot in the side by Claire but someone he manages to brush off the injury. He runs around with George who is given a cure by Dr. Caldwell so that the two of them can fight. The crocodile kills the wolf and Davis distracts it until George can finally take it out. The city is saved but I don't think they'll come up with a sequel.

Rampage has what I cam to the theater to see, giant animals smashing buildings and fighting each other. Dwayne Johnson does a good job with the action and he brings enough humor for the other parts while Naomie Harris should be in better movies that use her talents. Jeffrey Dean Morgan appears to have taken his iconic television show character that I'll write about in an upcoming post and put it into the character of a government agent. While there are some flaws, there is enough in Rampage to make it an overall enjoyable experience if this kind of movie is what you're looking for. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

Early spring horror with surprising success at the box office could become a recurring thing and I'm all for it. This latest horror from John Krasinski starring his wife Emily Blunt has a unique concept that elevates the terror but I found the fast and easy resolution and lack of many hints at a bigger world a little underwhelming even though I was pretty entertained throughout the movie. The film goes for a more straightforward kind of story and the exemplary box office success is amplified by the low production budget. There are no other major characters beyond the family of five that is shrunken in the first horrific scene of the film. The apocalypse has arrived, shown through an abandoned town where the Abbott family searches a store for medicine for their son Marcus Abbott (Noah Jupe).

Their youngest son has an idea of a taking a rocket away from this horror and the thought makes him desire a rocket ship toy that the parents Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) take the batteries out of, but their daughter, the eldest child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) gives him back the toy. A monster kills their son away and the film flashes forward hundreds of days. The Abbott family has settled into a farmhouse with habits that keep their movements quiet. Through a conspiracy wall, the information shows that the monsters are armored and they have not figured out what their weaknesses are. One reason that the family has been so effectively silent is that Regan is deaf and the family knows how to communicate with sign language. 

Lee builds hearing aids for Regan but they never seem to work. Evelyn is pregnant and worries about the upcoming birth that will definitely not be silent. Lee and Marcus had out on an expedition where they can fish and speak amongst a waterfall without attracting the monsters. However, they run into an old man who just lost his wife and screams attracting a monster. Evelyn steps on a nail and falls down the stairs bringing several monsters. Her water broke so she must sneak up into a bathtub which serves as one of the major promo images. The monsters come after her but Marcus sets off a fireworks display that distracts them so that Lee can make it to her after she has the child. The parents hide in the basement while Regan and Marcus run to the grain silo. Regan's hearing aid affects the monsters somehow, making them run away but she doesn't realize it. 

Lee goes out after the other two children as Evelyn stays behind in the basement that has begun to flood. The kids fall into the grain and nearly drown. The noise brings a monster but Regan's hearing aid scares it off. Evelyn quiets her baby with an oxygen mask and a loud noise distracts it. Lee sends the kids away to hide and screams to attract the monster to him as Regan and Marcus watch. The kids use a truck to roll away and hide with their mother but the monsters encroach. Regan finally realizes that her hearing aid hurts the monsters and she amplifies it through a microphone and speaker. Evelyn uses a shotgun to kill one and is prepared to fight more as the movie ends.

A Quiet Place appears to be a huge success and I hope this means plenty more horror as that seems to be the growing genre these days. For a low price, films can be made that dominate the box office when superheroes aren't flying high. Krasinski excels at directing with this unique concept that demands the focus of a theater and the excellent use of sound. Emily Blunt is the veteran actress but stellar performances from the young cast of Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds really make the film enjoyable. I hope there are plenty more films just like this one. 

Movie Review: Ready Player One

Steven Spielberg adapts the nostalgia-filled novel of Ernest Cline about the future of virtual reality. I read the book a few years ago when I first heard about the movie and liked the plot of it enough to be curious as to how they would adapt. There are a lot of changes made during the transition to the screen but the film is still a fast-paced ride, though it backs off the action until the finale. The references were numerous in the book too and I wasn't always able to understand who they were. Some of these references are updated in the movie and some are still brought over. The obsession with the 80s time period is not as prominent and the film seems to incorporate more modern video game characters. I'll have to watch it again see all of the crazy things they packed into this movie.

The story follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) whose parents died when he was young leaving him with the superhero alter ego name. He lives with his aunt in the stacks of a trailer park but escapes into a hideout amid trashed cars. There he can strap on a headset and suit to enter into a virtual world known as the Oasis. The creator of the Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) left behind a secret game when he died and players have to seek out three keys to find an Easter egg. Wade works with Aech (Lena Waithe) to solve the first challenge, a wild car chase that includes King Kong and a T-rex. A big corporation IOI also tries to find the Easter egg so that they can control the Oasis led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Wade meets Art3meis (Olivia Cooke) who is willing to risk everything to find the key and he becomes attracted to her.

Wade solves the first mystery by going backward and finds the first key. He spreads the word to his friends but eventually the corporation figures it out too. Sorrento tries to convince Wade to help him but Wade refuses so Sorrento sends F'Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen) after him in reality and I-R0k (T.J. Miller) after him in the Oasis. Wade escapes but then he is brought to a hideout where Samantha, Art3meis real identity, is leading the resistance against IOI. Together they find out about the second challenge in The Shining hotel after they search the archives with the help of a butler. Wade delves into the history of Halliday and his co-creator Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg) and Halliday's failed attempt at a relationship.

After they find the second key by surviving the horrors of the Shining hotel, their base is raided and Samantha is capture. Wade escapes and uses some special technology created by Aech to trick Sorrento to make him think he is in reality when he is still in Aech's warehouse in the Oasis. Wade frees Samantha who is in the slave labor area of the IOI headquarters. The final key is in a castle on the gamer shooter planet and the task is to beat an old game. Wade knows what he needs to do but Samantha has to destroy the shield the IOI but around the castle first. A giant battle with all the characters ensues but Sorrento blows everyone up. Wade survives with an extra life and finds the secret before gaining control and living happily ever after.

In between this movie and Spielberg's other release, I tried to watch all of the master director's other films but I came up short. So does this movie in several ways but as I managed to watch quite a few, this movie does not fail to be really entertaining and fun. The concept of new technology was really intriguing and the world is so vivid thanks to all the character cameos. The acting and dialogue weren't great but the spectacle made up for it. I was glad that so many properties were willing to share their ideas and look forward to seeing this technology become available in the future. 

Sports: NBA Playoffs (First Round)


The NBA returns for what has been a predictable tournament for the last few years. There are plenty of exciting games, excellent players, and only the best teams make it far but the dominance of the last few years by certain teams has made this somewhat routine. The last three years have had the same teams in the Finals and that doesn't look to change this year. I've been running into several people who believe the NBA is either boring, rigged, or completely fake. I find this observation unbelievable and usually espoused by casual viewers or people who pay little to no attention to the NBA. There have been a lot of changes in this league and I think this year is the start of tons of new stories that will play out over the next decade. 

Eastern Conference
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards
I wasn't able to really follow the Toronto Raptors much this year but they have pushed themselves to the top of the NBA East. Drake's favorite team won't have it easy in the first round as the Washington Wizards have their best player John Wall returning from the disabled list. Still, the Raptors have a winning formula and they should be able to get out of this round but they might run out of luck soon after. The Raptors took the first game 114-106.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers
The Cleveland Cavaliers look to head their third NBA Finals in a row and Lebron James looks to go to the eighth NBA Finals in a row. The reigning runner-up tried to rebuild their team, losing some unhappy players and adding some supposed new talent but disagreements and upsetting losses caused a midseason rebuild. This year may be different for Cleveland and their first opponent can be sneakily tough. The Indiana Pacers have had a mediocre season but they have rebuilt after losing their star so they have young players looking to prove something. 

Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
The process of the Philadelphia 76ers has finally started to pay off. Their top draft picks from years of tanking has made them a solid 4-seed but moving any further will take true talent. The Miami Heat have had a long recovery after losing two all-stars. One returned but age has caught up with him. I'm leaning towards the Sixers but there could be an upset. The Sixers took the first game with a resounding win 130-103. The Heat managed to pull off an upset with a ten-point win 113-103 in game two. Philadelphia returns to dominance with a 128-108 in Miami. The Sixers had a bit of a challenge in game four but moved closer to eliminating the Heat with a third win 106-102

Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks

At the start of the season, I thought the Boston Celtics would be the team to upset the status quo and with their giant legacy, it looked like that could happen but an opening day game injury and a late-season injury have taken out two of their best players. The Milwaukee Bucks have been rebuilding to get here but their young players still might not have enough to get past Boston. 

Western Conference
Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves
The best team in the NBA has a lot to prove in these playoffs. The Houston Rockets may have the best record in the league but without a title, it means very little. Plenty of teams let the regular season slide when they can dominate in the playoffs but we've yet to see if the Rockets, who made some big additions, will be able to make regular season magic into playoff magic. James Harden seems like a solid MVP candidate and dispatching the scrappy Minnesota Timberwolves with their final game entry into the playoffs shouldn't be too hard. 

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Utah Jazz
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had two years to recover from losing their best player but they worked to build a new superteam this year. That did not pay off as much as they would have liked and they are taking on a new refreshed team in the Utah Jazz. I don't get to watch these West Coast teams but I think the Thunder are a safe bet.

Portland Trailblazers vs New Orleans Pelicans
A surprising pair of teams that have built their teams into solid performers which have put them in this position. I am leaning towards the Portland Trailblazers but the New Orleans Pelicans could definitely pull off the upset with plenty of star players that have just not gotten it together. The Pelicans took the first game 97-95. New Orleans continued to roll through Portland 111-102. Back in New Orleans, the Pelicans beat the Trail Blazers 119-102. Finishing off the sweep and proving me totally wrong, the Pelicans won game four 131-123.
Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
The Golden State Warriors have appeared seemingly unstoppable for the last three years and the addition of Kevin Durant to Steph Curry's shooting sealed the deal last year. This year, the Warriors still seem awesome but not as strong as last year and injuries have sidelined Curry for the first round. The once great San Antonio Spurs have fallen and almost didn't make it into the playoffs as the competitive West fought for positions. This series looks to be lopsided as the Warriors crushed San Antonio 113-92

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sports: NHL (Stanley Cup Playoffs - First Round)


Last year was the first year that I followed hockey somewhat closely but I had always kept my eye on the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year I watched hockey off and on throughout the season following three teams as they all made it into the playoffs. I'm excited to see how the series plays out as it has already gotten underway. The reigning champs are back in it but the runner-up from last year's finals is a top seed this year. I'll make a few predictions but I really have no idea how these games will play out. 

Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils

The Lightning come into this series as a top seed in the East. They were around the top all season long but only made it to the top spot by one point. They will face the wild card New Jersey Devils who I don't imagine will put up much of a fight, having also just made it into the playoffs by one point. I've got Tampa taking this series and moving only to the next round before elimination. They already took the first game 5-2. The Lightning took the second game at home 5-3 but the Devils defended their home 5-2 in game three. Tampa took the next game 3-1 to go up 3-1 in the series.  The Tampa Bay Lightning take the final game and the series with a 3-1 win.
 
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The Bruins nearly had the top seed but came up short by one point. I think that they will be able to capitalize on their impressive performance and make it to the conference championship but they didn't have a great record in April. The Toronto Maple Leafs shouldn't give them too much trouble in this series and may only take one game or two. The Bruins already took the first game 5-1

Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets
The only upset I'm predicting is because I'm a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets and have followed their decent season since the start of it. The Washington Capitals were one of my picks for last year so I'm used to seeing their inability to move forward in the playoffs. Surprisingly, the Blue Jackets took the first game with an exciting overtime goal to win 4-3.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers
The Pittsburgh Penguins are returning for their third shot at the title in three years. The reigning champions had a pretty decent and have grown better near the end of the year to have one of the best records going into the series. They face their interstate rivals the Philadelphia Flyers who have struggled somewhat this season. The Penguins had a resounding win in the first with a shutout score of 7-0. The Flyers bounced back in the second game to win 5-1.


Western Conference
Nashville Predators vs Colorado Avalanche
The Nashville Predators are one of my favorite teams and my pick to win it all. Starting out as a much lower seed last year, the Predators made a run to the finals. This year they have snagged the top seed so their path to the finals should be easier. It won't be but their chances are returning are high. The Colorado Avalanche won't just roll over for the Predators and have something to prove as the underdog. The Predators took down the Avalanche 5-2 in the first game and 5-4 in the second. Back Colorado, the Avalanche rallied back with a 5-3 win but the Predators moved one win away with an away victory 3-2. Colorado survived in Nashville with two goals in the third to win 2-1. Nashville finished off the series with a solid 5-0 win. 

Winnipeg Jets vs Minnesota Wild
The Winnipeg Jets used to be the Atlanta Thrashers long ago so that's my biggest motivation for picking them, plus they're favored. The Minnesota Wild have been pretty good but missed some games so I don't think they'll be pushing on to the next round. The Jets beat the Wild 3-2 and then 4-1 in game two. The Wild took a game 6-2  but the Jets bounced back with two more shutout wins 2-0 and 5-0. Minnesota loses its coach while Winnipeg heads to the next round against Nashville.

Las Vegas Golden Knights vs Los Angeles Kings
The newest team to the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have had a charmed season. They've risen to the top of their division and have the players to take them far into the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings find themselves the rivals of this new team and the underdog in their first series. The Golden Knights should be challenging the Predators for the Western Conference championship. The Golden Knights shutout the Kings and won 1-0 and then took an overtime win 2-1. Vegas took the next two games 3-2 and 1-0 to sweep the series.  

Anaheim Ducks vs San Jose Sharks
I don't get a lot of chances to watch these teams during the season because of the time difference but I've picked up some solid play in the West. I think the Anaheim Ducks should win but I probably won't get to watch many of their matches. The San Jose Sharks used to be my go-to pick but I'm not sure they'll make it out of this series. The Sharks shutout the Ducks 3-0 in the first game. San Jose continued their win streak with a 3-2 victory. Heading to home territory proved helpful as the Sharks crushed the Ducks 8-1. The Sharks swept the series and proved me wrong with a final 2-1 game four win.