• Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft - My choices 

    Goaltenders

    Marc-André Fleury (PIT)

    Petr Mrazek (DET)

    Eddie Läck (CAR)

     

    Defenders

    Sami Vatanen (ANA)

    Colin Miller (BOS)

    Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI)

    Adam Clendening (NYR)

    Marc Methot (OTT)

    Michael Del Zotto (PHI)

    Andrey Pedan (VAN)

    Nate Schmidt (WSH)

    Jon Merrill (NJD)

    Martin Marincin (TOR)

     

    Forwards

    Benoît Pouliot (EDM) LW

    Cédric Paquette (TBL) C

    Charles Hudon (MTL) LW

    Craig Smith (NSH) RW

    Curtis McKenzie (DAL) LW

    Dustin Brown (LAK) RW

    Eric Staal (MIN) C

    Jamie McGinn (ARI) LW

    Jonathan Marchessault (FLA) C

    Kris Versteeg (CAL) RW

    Landon Ferraro (STL) C

    Marko Dano (WPG) C

    Matt Moulson (BUF) LW

    Mikhail Grigorenko (COL) C

    Mikkel Boedker (SJS) LW

    Ryan Strome (NYI) RW

    Sam Gagner (CBJ) C

     

    This would be my regular line-up for the 2017-2018 NHL season:

    Fleury / Mrazek

    Vatanen - Methot

    Del Zotto - van Riemsdyk

    Schmitt - Miller

    Moulson - Staal - Brown

    Pouliot - Gagner - Versteeg

     Boedker - Paquette - Smith

    Hudon - Grigorenko - Strome

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  • Twin Peaks, third season, seventh episode (2017)

    Seventh episode: There's a body all right / The Return, Part VII

    Content: Hawk and Frank Truman look at the pages torn from Laura's diary, which contain an entry about Annie telling Laura in a dream that the good Dale Cooper is trapped in the Black Lodge. Frank calls Harry, who is too unwell, so he speaks to Doc Hayward, who was also with Cooper after he came out of the Lodge. Lt. Knox from the Pentagon arrives in Buckhorn, and is stunned to find that the body is that of Garland Briggs, which has not aged in 25 years. Albert and Gordon convince Diane to speak to Cooper in prison—she reluctantly agrees, but leaves deeply upset over what occurred the last time she saw him. Andy investigates the hit-and-run incident, but the farmer who owns the truck Richard Horne was driving refuses to speak and arranges to meet him later, but never turns up. Cooper's doppelgänger blackmails Warden Murphy into releasing him and Ray. In Las Vegas, police visit Cooper at work to question him about Dougie's destroyed car. As Cooper leaves with Janey-E, Ike pulls a gun on them, but Cooper expertly disarms him as The Arm appears urging Cooper to "squeeze his hand off". Beverly tries to locate the source of a mysterious humming noise in Ben Horne's office, then returns home to her terminally ill husband.

    Analysis: This episode seems to announce that Dale Cooper will shortly be returning to Twin Peaks as Douglas Jones. First of all, Douglas Jones' exploded car and the vicious attack by a hitman might soon lead to the F.B.I. getting involved and discovering that this man looks incredibly similar to Special Agent Dale Cooper. Secondly, Hawk and Truman have discovered the true meaning of the three pages torn from Laura Palmer's diary and have understood that Evil Cooper is a menace while Good Cooper must be helped by any means necessary. Thirdly, Benjamin Horne understood that the hotel key that was sent by mail is related to Special Agent Dale Cooper as well. Three different parties might therefore have realized that Special Agent Dale Cooper's actions in the past, present and future are going to be very important. There are a few more elements to analyze. Why does Major Garland Briggs' body looks like it didn't age in the past twenty-five years? The reason is that he was already killed by Evil Cooper twenty-five years ago but his body had been conserved and was only released from the Black Lodge recently. Evil Cooper seems to have used this body for several evil actions. The deceased Major Garland Briggs might even have been inhabited by an evil spirit from the Black Lodge that cooperates with Evil Cooper. Maybe his body was now released and discovered because it can only stay outside the Black Lodge for twenty-five years and has therefore become useless. The appearance of the body could be a warning from Evil Cooper to the F.B.I. to not interfere with him. What about the strange appearance in the morgue? I think it's the same entity that was seen in the prison in the second episode. My guess is that it's the evil spirit that possessed Bill Hastings and forced him to commit murders for Evil Cooper. It might try to sabotage the investigations on the mysterious murders and even menace local cops as well as F.B.I. agents. Maybe this spirit is a demonic doppelgänger of Ray who seems to be Evil Cooper's most reliable associate. Up next, why was Diane so scared to meet Evil Cooper again? She refers to something that happened between her and him twenty-five years ago and she is so nervous to talk about it that she drinks, smokes and swears throughout the entire episode. It seems obvious to me that Evil Cooper did something terrible to her. Maybe he raped her or performed an evil ritual on her to get some garmonbozia. Evil Cooper obviously tried to discredit Special Agent Dale Cooper in order to make people despise or forget about him in order to take his place in the earthly world. What's going on with the humming sound in Benjamin Horne's office? Obviously, spirits from the Black Lodge are mobilising since a confrontation between the two Dale Coopers seems to be imminent. The question is whether these spirits are good or evil. Since the Giant appeared several times in this hotel and even had a human host who was working there, it's possible that he uses the hotel as a portal once again, probably to get in touch with Douglas Jones or Dale Cooper to wake him up, so he becomes who he really is again.

    Description: The seventh episode was pretty much on the same level as the previous episode. The start was much faster and gave a lot of information about the different side stories, the middle section was very intense leading to the climax when Douglas Jones got attacked by a hitman but the conclusion to this episode felt a little bit stretched. Especially the sequence at the Bang Bang bar overstayed its welcome. The acting of Laura Dern, Kyle MacLachlan, Naomie Watts and Christophe Zajac-Denek was phenomenal. However, my favorite character of this episode was a very quirky Gordon Cole portrayed by David Lynch himself. His dialogues with Laura Dern, Albert Rosenfield and several side characters had a perfect balance between comic relief and emotional seriousness. This episode shows that David Lynch is not only a great director, musician, painter and writer but also a stunning actor. David Lynch seems to fully convince in any form of art which might make him one of the most complete artists in the world.

    Favorite scene: Once again, there were several interesting scene but the one that stood out for me was the attack on Douglas Jones. Douglas Jones was instinctively acting like Special Agent Dale Cooper as he protected his wife in the first place, then disarmed the ruthless contract killer and finally chased the hitman away. The slow and menacing build-up towards this scene, the intense climax and the aftermath with the numerous short interview sequences with several eye witnesses were perfectly acted, directed and executed. Ike "The Spike" Stadtler might become one of my favorite antagonists in the Twin Peaks universe.

    Rating: 7.5/10

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  • Twin Peaks: The return - Dramatis personae

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  • Twin Peaks: third season, sixth episode (2017)

    Sixth episode: Don't die / The Return, Part VI

    Content: Police take Cooper to Dougie's home after he is found loitering outside his workplace. Janey-E receives a photo of Dougie with Jade and chastises Cooper for Dougie's infidelity but she seems to be willing to turn the page and support her husband. Cooper draws cryptic images of ladders and staircases on Dougie's case files, guided by lights on the pages. Mike from the Black Lodge asks Cooper to wake up and to not die. Dougie's boss is angry when he sees what Cooper did with the files until he recognizes a pattern in the drawings conveying information he finds disturbing, and finally thanks Cooper. Meanwhile, Janey-E meets the two criminals demanding $52,000 from Dougie and gives them $25,000, calling it her "only offer." Duncan Todd receives a message on his laptop and pulls an envelope marked with a black spot from his safe. A man with an ice pick receives an identical envelope containing photos of Dougie and Lorraine, then enters Lorraine's office and stabs her and two of her coworkers to death. Albert finds Diane, Cooper's assistant, in a bar. In Twin Peaks, Richard Horne meets a mysterious drug supplier named Red. He speeds recklessly in his truck, running over and killing a young boy. Carl Rodd witnesses the incident and attempts to comfort the boy's mother. Hawk drops a coin in the bathroom and sees that the stall manufacturer's logo is a Nez Percé chief. Noticing two screws missing from the stall door, he finds several written pages inside.

    Analysis: Let's try to go chronologically here. First of all, I think Douglas Jones told the truth about one of his colleagues being a liar. The patterns he seems to discover with some help from the Black Lodge's residents seem to show that one of his colleagues faked wrongful insurance claims to get some cash and share it with two police officers who would approve his version of the events that never ever took place. However, giving this information to his boss could put Douglas Jones in a very dangerous position because the behavior of his coworkers has grown a little bit more tense. In addition to this, Douglas Jones seems to have several skeletons in his own closet and I'm not only referring to his gambling addiction and weakness for prostitutes. In the previous episode, one co-worker made an allusion to Douglas Jones as if Dougie had done something illegal or at least secret. Douglas Jones faces the constant risk to lose his wife, job or even life because of his former life as Douglas Jones and his new life as Dale Cooper. This could soon lead to an intense showdown. The next thing to analyze is the targeting of Dougie and Lorraine. Who wants to get them killed and why? My guess is that Evil Cooper is behind all of this. He wants Lorraine to die because she knows too much about the device related to the Black Lodge in Buenos Aires as Evil Cooper wants to be the only one to possess, know and control everything. He obviously wants Douglas Jones to die because Dale Cooper is the only one who could bring Evil Cooper back to the Black Lodge or even harm him. Hiring a hitman is Evil Cooper's way to protect himself and still being active despite being in prison. The third element to analyze is rather simple. Diane's appearance means that she is the one who is going to meet Evil Cooper to see what's wrong with him. My guess is that she will realize that he isn't who he pretends to be. The fourth element to analyze is Red's appearance. Is this guy just a drug lord or is he more than just that? I believe there is more to him because his magic trick doesn't just look like a trick, it looks like a supernatural capacity. Red might as well be a demon from the Black Lodge and could be or become an associate of Evil Cooper. I know this is a bold guess but that would be my prediction. The fifth and last thing to analyze are the pages Hawk finds in the bathroom of Twin Peak's Sheriff Department. First of all, where do these pages come from? There are two possibilities in my book. One could be that these are missing pages from Laura Palmer's secret diary or personal notes made by Dale Cooper. Anyway, I believe these notes are related to the fact that Dale Cooper is still caught in the Black Lodge. This is what the Log Lady wanted Hawk to find out. The second question is: Who put these pages there? Could it have been Laura Palmer herself before she died? I don't think this is probable because she didn't get these kinds of instructions and couldn't have predicted what would happen after her death. Could it have been Dale Cooper? I don't think so either because it's not like him to hide notes in a bathroom door. He would have thought of another way to send his colleagues or friends from Twin Peaks a message. Could it have been Leland Palmer? It's probable that he tore some pages out of his daughter's diary to blur the fact that he was controlled by BOB. Maybe Leland Palmer had a short and lucid moment and wanted to hide these pages in a safe place before BOB could possess him again and destroy them. Since there is no safer place than a police station, this theory seems the most likely to me.

    Description: This episode is much better than the two previous ones and nearly reaches the level of the opening three episodes. The start of the episode is a little bit slow with Douglas Jones' struggles at home and at his workplace but the episode quickens up the pace after twenty minutes or so. Naomie Watts' character Janey-E Jones gets some more depth which is interesting, John Pirruccello's character Deputy Chad Broxford becomes more and more an interesting antagonist and we get some background information about Robert Forster's Sheriff Frank Truman and his deranged wife Doris Truman portrayed by Candy Clark. Many fans adored the short scene where Laura Dern is revealed to be Diane Evans, Special Agent Dale Cooper's former secretary. However, the most exciting moments for me are the appearances of two new creepy characters. First of all, we meet Balthazar Getty's Red, a mysterious drug lord who acts like a menacing sociopath who can shift from being casually friendly to becoming coldly menacing from one moment to the other. The magic trick he performs to confuse, dominate and menace Eamon Farren's Richard Horne, who is also a brutal psychopath, is both surreal and intense. The second new character is short-grown contract killer called Ike ''The Spike'' Stadtler, played by Christophe Zajac-Denek, who brutally slaughters one of his targets as well as two witnesses but only shows emotions when he realizes that his weapon broke. These two new villains, along with the developments of Chad Broxford and Richard Horne, are very promising for the upcoming episodes and show how strong the antagonists are in this third season. Let's just hope that a few powerful protagonists come around to support Dale Cooper.

    Favorite scene: There were many stunning scenes in this episode but my favorite is the intense hit-and-run scene. The build-up is dramatic and tense, the climax is heartbreaking and horrifying and the aftermath is shocking at first but becomes almost spiritual and comforting. These three minutes are probably the most intense so far in the series and bring back the spirit that defined Twin Peaks in the first two seasons as well as in the movie.

    Rating: 7.5/10

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  • Dead or Alive trilogy

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    The San Francisco Examiner once wrote about Takashi Miike's first Dead or Alive movie: ''Takashi Miike is the Japanese Tarantino... only much faster. If you think you've seen everything, wait until you see this!'' Sincerely, I couldn't have said it better myself.

    After I have recently been reviewing Takashi Miike's stunning Black Society trilogy, I was able to purchase another boxed set dedicated to one of the most unique directors in the whole world published by Arrow Video. This one includes Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive trilogy. And no, this doesn't have anything to do with the video game series. What we get here are three unique movies starring V-cinema cult actors Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi. Even though this is a trilogy, the three movies aren't related aside of involving the same director and two lead actors.

    The first instalment is a high-speed gangster movie, the second part a nostalgic drama with a lot of depth and the last film is an epic dystopian science-fiction movie. Takashi Miike varies more in these three movies than other directors in their entire careers and he still manages to convince in all of them.

    Please check out my detailed reviews of Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive trilogy. I hope you enjoy them and maybe I can make discover something experimental, fresh and unique to open-minded adults.

    Sincerely yours,

    Sebastian Kluth

    Dead or Alive (1999)

    Dead or Alive (1999)

    Dead or Alive is another classic gangster movie from Takashi Miike's early years which includes the following ingredients:

    1. a brave cop as lonesome protagonist who has to take enormous risks in order to face three different groups of pitiless gangsters

    2. a vicious criminal as main antagonist and his gang that are seen as outcasts and are desperately looking for attention and respect through their ambitious and violent actions

    3. the topics of belonging, identity, family, friendship and loyalty that define both the protagonist and the antagonist as well as their immediate surroundings

    4. numerous violent outbursts in the intense action scenes

    5. nostalgic elements that portray where the antagonist and protagonist come from and how and why they have become who they are

    6. several sexually explicit scenes involving prostitutes as well as the adult movie industry that portray a Japanese society that has extremely progressed from a very conservative into an overtly experimental society within a few years

    As you can see, Takashi Miike's best gangster movies have an almost perfect balance between profound character and society studies on one side and explosive action, gore and sex sequences on the other side. That's why both open-minded intellectuals and adrenaline junkies will like his movies. The best audience for this type of movies would obviously be open-minded and intellectual adrenaline junkies.

    There are still several elements that make the first instalment in the Dead or Alive trilogy stand out. First of all, there is the fast- paced and visually explicit opening sequence that portrays the wild life in Tokyo's special ward Shinjuku City. Takashi Miike manages to get to the point and filter the essence of this place in about five minutes and accomplishes something most documentaries that are ten or twenty times longer fail to achieve. 

    The second thing that stands out to me is the meeting between the protagonist and cop on one side and an adult movie producer on the other side. While they are almost casually discussing the possible identity of the antagonist who wants to control the underground by any means necessary, we can see one of the director's assistants who is masturbating a male dog before he attempts to force the animal to have sexual intercourse with a naked woman who is patiently waiting on her knees. The almost casual and neutral way Takashi Miike shows us this deviance silently portrays or maybe even criticizes the extreme evolution of Japan's society without trying to be moralizing or pretentious. 

    The third legendary scene is the unpredictable ending of the movie that leads to the inevitable clash between the protagonist and the antagonist. Takashi Miike is the kind of director who only writes seventy percent of his script and then gives himself and his assistants and actors the occasion to improvise on set. This is precisely what has happened in this case since Miike made up a completely new ending in a few hours and surprised everyone with this unusual conclusion to an intense yet profound movie. Some people will adore this courageous ending while others will feel that it might not fit but one has to admit that it's unique and underlines why Takashi Miike has become one of the most distinctive and respected directors in the world. 

    Takashi Miike's gangster movie are authentic, breathtaking, creative, entertaining, profound, shocking and unique all at once. This kind of movies was made from the mid-nineties to the early years of the new millennium. It was an essential part of the Japanese V-cinema culture. Dead or Alive and its two sequels as well Takashi Miike's Black Triad trilogy are authentic documents of this unique period of Japanese film-making. Both trilogies were recently released with new bonus material by Arrow Media and I highly recommend purchasing these boxed sets.

    8,5/10

    Dead or Alive 2 (2000)

    Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000)

    Just like Rainy Dog, the second instalment in Takashi Miike's Black Society trilogy, the second part of Dead or Alive is the most introspective part of the trilogy. It's essentially a drama carried by two superb lead actors with Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi who develop great chemistry on screen, elaborates on the characters' identities in a harmonious and nostalgic vibe and features exotic natural landscapes on a remote island that contrast the big city life and define the smooth atmosphere of this movie. The movie is surprisingly relaxing for a Takashi Miike film without getting completely rid of the filmmaker's quirky trademark scenes. The brief moments of violence and sexual innuendo are probably even more efficient because they are quite short and concise this time.

    Dead or Alive 2: Birds opens and closes with Takashi Miike's excessive action sequences but the main part of this film focuses on the character development of two contract killers who realize they have grown up together and been childhood friends and who decide to work as a team for a good cause in order to rid the world of pitiless criminals and donate their money to buy vaccines for children in developing countries. Aside of the facts that both movies focus on Japanese crime syndicates and its associates and that both movies feature the same main actors, this film is completely different from the first movie in terms of atmosphere, characters and story. Aside of a few experiments with flashbacks and some minor religious symbolism, this is also one of Takashi Miike's most realistic movies. 

    It's possible to dismiss the quirky first part and adore the more mature second part but it wouldn't be surprising to dislike the first movie for its exaggeration and the second one for its realism. Personally, I appreciate both movies for what they are but have a preference for the first part because I thought it was addicting from start to finish while the second instalment had a few minor length in the middle section. Takashi Miike fans should watch and purchase all three parts of the excellent Dead or Alive trilogy anyway.

    7,5/10

     

    Dead or Alive 3: Final (2002)

    Dead or Alive 3: Final (2002)

    Dead or Alive: Final is the third and last instalment in Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive trilogy. The only point this film has in common with its predecessors are the facts that all films are directed by Takashi Miike and feature Japanese V-cinema cult actors Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi in the lead roles. Dead or Alive: Final isn't even a classic gangster movie but rather a dystopian science-fiction movie. It's not as quirky, explicit and brutal as the first instalment of the trilogy but more vivid, surprising and experimental than the second movie. Considering the long list of characters and balanced mixture between the first two instalments, it makes me think of Takashi Miike's third part of the Black Society trilogy where Ley Lines had a very similar approach if compared to its predecessors Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog.

    The story line is quite unusual, even by Takashi Miike's experimental standards. The movie is set in the year 2346 in Yokohama where people of several cultures coexist. The movie's dialogues are in Cantonese, English and Japanese but different people seem to understand one another effortlessly despite speaking different languages which proves that society has become very educated, multicultural and polyglot. However, after numerous violent wars in the past, Yokohama's mayor has established radical birth control to prevent further conflicts. It has actually become illegal to give birth to children and homosexuality is praised as a political and social ideology. People are forced to take pills to suppress their desire to have sexual intercourse and give birth to children. Those who disobey are hunted down. Riki Takeuchi plays a cop that is hunting down social outcast living in hiding to have families. Show Aikawa plays a human-like robot who gets in touch with one of these communities by pure coincidence after saving a young kid that gets attacked in front of him in a restaurant. The two characters end up fighting each other but soon realize that they have more things in common than they would have thought.

    Among the movie's strengths, one has to note a quite quirky and surprising story line that ends in a very surprising way such as the first part of the trilogy. The acting performances by Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi are outstanding and they have great chemistry on screen. The supporting actors are also doing a great job. Richard Chung convinces particularly as manipulative gay mayor and Josie Ho shines as female rebel that has to find a sense of life after most members of her clan got betrayed and assassinated. The settings of the film are often abandoned, broken and dirty which is typical for Takashi Miike's movies and give this film a slightly gloomy atmosphere. The sky is mostly yellow-brownish which adds an interesting tone as well. The movie is obviously inspired by several dystopian science-fiction stories. The pills that suppress the will to reproduce could make you think of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 while the presence of robots is closely inspired by Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Movies such as Blade Runner and The Matrix seem to have influenced parts of the script as well. On the other side, Takashi Miike's movie isn't a cheap copy of these well-known stories and he manages to add his own touch to it thanks to the great acting performances, quirky story line and quite vivid action sequences filmed by local Hong Kong choreographers.

    The most negative element of the film is that it rarely looks futuristic. You can still see old cars, cell phones from the early millennium and simplistic weapons that seem out of place in the twenty-fourth century. While the action sequences look great, the special effects are very artificial and look as if they were taken from an old manga. The movie would be more convincing if it took place in the near future than in the twenty-fourth century. 

    In the end, each of the three instalments of Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive trilogy complements one another perfectly and shows the diversified skills of its director and main actors. It's a matter of taste whether you prefer a fast-paced and brutal gangster thriller, a thoughtful drama or a vivid science-fiction movie. I liked all these movies but I would probably prefer the first for its intensity, put this third film in second place for its quirky creativity and might put the second movie last because of its minor lengths in the middle section. Still, fans of Japanese cinema should be familiar with the entire trilogy and purchase the excellent boxed set by Arrow Video and also try to buy Arrow Video's boxed set of Takashi Kiike's Black Society trilogy.

    8/10

    Dead or Alive trilogy

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