“Buzz” kill? Offseason options for the Charlotte Hornets

Hornets

In today’s NBA, there are two places you want your team to be:  A contender in the playoffs or tanking for high draft picks.  The absolute WORST scenario for your team is to be stuck in mediocrity; just good enough to contend for the 8-seed and a first round playoff exit, and just good enough to be at the bottom of the NBA draft lottery.  Sadly, the Charlotte Hornets have been stuck in the mediocrity zone for several years now.  Bad contracts for marginal players and horrible trades for more bad contracts have handicapped this team.  When your team is spending $54 million a year on Nicholas Batum, Timofey Mozgov, and Marvin Williams, you know something is wrong.  (The contracts of Williams and Mozgov don’t come off the books until 2020.  Batum in 2021.)

The only way to escape from this mediocrity for a team like the Hornets would be to either make some big trades and begin the rebuilding process,  or strike gold in the draft.  Below are some possible scenarios I would like to see the Hornets consider:

Trade Options

Trade Option A: Hornets trade Kemba Walker, the #11 pick, and the two second-rounders from the Mozgov trade to the Cavs for Kevin Love and the #8 pick.

Unlikely to happen, but rumors have been abound that the Cavs are interested in trading for Kemba Walker.  This trade would allow the Cavs to get their star point guard while at the same time shaving $12 million off their books.  Love would fill the double-double void left by the departure of Howard, but add to the Hornets’ cap.  Still, this would allow the Hornets to have a higher pick in this year’s draft and take a chance on someone like Trae Young or Mikal Bridges.  Getting Love might mean staying in the land of mediocrity for another year, but Love combined with the #8 pick should at least move the Hornets into at least the 6-seed in what looks to be an even weaker Eastern Conference next year.

Trade Option B: Hornets trade Kemba Walker, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, and the #11 pick to the Kings for Kosta Koufos and the #2 pick.  

This is even more unlikely to happen, but given Vlade Divac’s penchant for bad trades and being an overall terrible GM, it’s plausible.  The Kings would get one of the premier point guards in the league as well as someone in MKG who can play better both offensively and defensively than Koufos.  In return, the Hornets would only have Koufos’ salary on the books for one year, and the chance to draft a franchise-changing player in this year’s draft.  With the #2 pick the Hornets could draft someone like Bagley or Doncic, or they could trade down a few spots and get someone like Bamba or Young while still adding value. This trade would also allow the Hornets to start the rebuilding process.  With Walker and MKG gone, the Hornets could also land a high pick in the 2019 draft, thus giving them back to back years with top picks, which would get the rebuilding process off on the right foot.

Draft Options (if Kemba Walker is not traded)

Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

Bridges was the undisputed leader of Villanova’s championship teams.  His intangibles are off the charts, has a high basketball IQ, and knows how to inspire those around him.  His leadership qualities remind me a lot of Kemba Walker when he was in college.  He’s also more NBA ready than most prospects in this draft.

Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

This kid plays like each game is his last.  Explosive and plays with reckless abandon.  He needs to add some weight to bring that intensity against NBA players, but his ability to be relentless is something this mediocre NBA franchise sorely needs.  Fast, athletic, and ready to make the big play.

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Mohamed Bamba would be much better, but it’s very likely he will be off the Board by the #11 pick.  Williams has great size and will be a shot-blocking and rebounding machine.  His offensive game is still raw, and he’ll need to time to adjust to the speed of the NBA game, but there is strong potential there that could lead him to being a top-3 NBA rebounder in the league.

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Predictions, Predictions, Predictions!

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One of my favorite times of year, second only to September (which has the start of football season, the MLB pennant races heating up, awesome weather, and my birthday!).  Late April always gets me excited.  NBA and NHL playoffs (really the only time I watch those two sports unless it’s a crazy good matchup earlier in the season), the MLB season has started, and the NFL Draft occurs.  This year, I’m going to try to make my picks for all of these.  (Editor’s note: The NBA and NHL predictions were made prior to the start of the first playoff games, I just never got around to actually posting them.  Lots of museum work + procrastination on the blog, you see.)

For this post, I’m not going to break down into detail each matchup or finish, just an overall summary.  Otherwise, I would need to get an ISBN number because of the length.  If you want to go directly to a certain sport, click on the logos below.

On to the predictions!

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NHL Playoffs

First round:
Preds over Avalanche
Jets over Wild
Golden Knights over Kings
Ducks over Sharks
Lighting over Devils
Bruins over Leafs
Jackets over Caps (sorry Caps fans)
Penguins over Flyers

Second Round:
Preds over Jets
Golden Knights over Ducks
Lightning over Bruins
Penguins over Jackets

Conference finals:
Preds over Golden Knights
Penguins over Lightning

FINALS:  Predators over Penguins

 

NBA Playoffs

First Round:
Rockets over Wolves
Jazz over Thunder
Pelicans over Blazers
Warriors over Spurs
Raptors over Wizards
Pacers over Cavs (yeah, I said it)
Sixers over Heat
Bucks over Celtics

Second Round:
Rockets over Jazz
Warriors over Pelicans
Raptors over Pacers
Sixers over Bucks

Conference Finals:
Rockets over Warriors
Sixers over Raptors

FINALS: Rockets over Sixers

 

MLB Season Predictions

AL East       AL Central       AL West            NL East          NL Central      NL West
Red Sox       Indians              Astros                Nationals        Cardinals         Dodgers
Yankees      *Twins               *Angels              *Mets               Brewers           *D-backs
Blue Jays     White Sox         Mariners            Phillies            Cubs                 Giants
Orioles        Tigers                 Athletics            Braves             Pirates              Rockies
Rays           Royals                Rangers             Marlins           Reds                  Padres

Wildcards:
Angels over Twins, Mets over D-backs

ALDS:
Red Sox over Angels
Astros over Indians

NLDS:
Nationals over D-backs
Dodgers over Cardinals

ALCS:
Red Sox over Astros

NLCS:
Dodgers over Nationals

WORLD SERIES: Dodgers over Red Sox

 

NFL Draft

  1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
  2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
  3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, QB, New York Jets
  4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
  5. (Trade) Buffalo Bills (from Denver): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
  6. Indianapolis Colts: Quinton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
  7. Tampa Bay Bucs: Derwin James, S, Florida State
  8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edwards, LB, Virginia Tech
  9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
  10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
  11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
  12. Arizona Cardinals (from Denver, via Buffalo): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
  13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
  14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  15. Denver Broncos (from Arizona): Coutland Sutton, WR, SMU
  16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
  18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
  19. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Moore, WR-KR, Maryland
  20. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
  21. Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
  22. Buffalo Bills: James Daniels, C, Iowa
  23. New England Patriots: Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame
  24. Carolina Panthers: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
  25. Tennessee Titans: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
  26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
  27. New Orleans Saints: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
  28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
  29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
  30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
  31. New England Patriots: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
  32. Philadelphia Eagles: Connor Williams, G, Texas

Ready Player One: A Generational Film Review

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Last year, I introduced a former neighbor of mine, Olivia, to the awesomeness that was the book Ready Player One.  I was curious to see how she, as a high schooler, would like it.  I had a feeling the style of adventurous writing would appeal to her, but wondered if she would get the vast before-her-time references that appealed so much to me.  Although she had to look up many of those 80’s pop culture references, she thoroughly enjoyed it and agreed with my assessment that there was no way this book could be made into a film and do the book justice.  Not much later, it was announced that Ready Player One was to be made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg.  I guess if anyone was going to try and turn this into a film, he would be the one to do it.  But could he?

Last week, she and I, along with my wife and her dad, went to see the movie.  My wife and Olivia’s dad seemed to enjoy it all right, but neither had read the book.  The following is a follow-up discussion Olivia and I had about the film. Warning!! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Nathan: So Olivia, you and I both recently saw Ready Player One in the theater. Firstly, what did you think of the book?

Olivia: Oh gosh the book. It was amazing! All the details and the twists and turns in it. I don’t think I’ve read anything that could top it. I loved Aech, Art3mis, Parzival, and Shoto. I loved the whole thing and all the references to 1980’s video games and music, even though some of it i didn’t understand and had to look up.

Nathan: I have to agree with you. In an earlier blog post, I listed my top ten favorite books of all time, and Ready Player One was #6 for me. I loved the way it was written, and of course loved all those 1980’s references that you didn’t get! I don’t know about you, but once I finished it, the first thought I had was “there is no way they can make this into a movie. It’s too complex.”

Olivia: That’s almost exactly what I thought after reading it. I was just sitting and reading it and i was about halfway through it and thinking about the movie, and I just thought “Dang this book can not be made into a good movie.” I just couldn’t believe it when I heard about the movie.

Nathan: Me too. But when I heard that Steven Spielberg was directing, I did have some hope. Small hope, but hope nonetheless.

Nathan: What were your expectations for the movie before seeing it?

Olivia: I was really hoping that they would have stuck with the book’s story and had all the different planets and Aech’s basement. I was also curious as to how they were going to play out Wade being captured by the IOI and the indentured servant part.

What were your thoughts on the movie having Halliday’s journal as a gallery instead of Anorak’s Almanac?

Nathan: To be honest, I liked it. I thought that was an interesting change. But then again, I work in a museum and like it when a “curator” is in a movie. haha.

Once the movie started, what was the first moment when you realized that the movie was definitely going to be different from the book?

Olivia: I think I started to tell that when they had the first gate/key as a race instead of a joust and the movie, I can’t remember the name.

Nathan: Yeah, I think that was the first moment I realized it too. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered the book mentioning a race and dodging T-rexes from Jurassic Park and King Kong jumping down from the Empire State Building! I was worried the movie was going to change some important elements of the book in advance, but I was hopeful that any change was going to add some cool stuff. The race was definitely cool. But as the movie went on, I think we both started to get frustrated with some of the changes from the book, especially with Art3mis.

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King Kong vs. Back to the Future

Olivia: While watching the movie what was the most frustrating of the many changes?

Nathan: Oh, that’s a hard one because there’s so many I can pick. Some of the things that really frustrated me were how quickly the keys were gotten, how they never visited the planet where they went to school, Morrow’s absence through pretty much the entire movie, the COMPLETE absence of Wade being captured and hauled off to IOI…but I have to say the most frustrating thing was how they introduced Art3mis in person WAY too early. One of the magical things about the book is how it ends with Wade and Samantha meeting in person for the first time.

Olivia: That’s hard to pin point one change that frustrates me most. I’d say that a few major ones were definitely Ogden Morrow’s absence from most of the movie, Wade’s plan not happening, and them adding The Shining as the second gate when it was NEVER mentioned once in the book. After watching the movie i felt like the movie creators never even bothered to read the book as they were making the movie.

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Wade and Samantha chatting in person. One of many scenes not in the book.  A reason why the movie was almost something else entirely.

Nathan: Going in, I heard that the writers deviated from the book somewhat, but I had no idea it was this much.  As someone from Generation X, I found some of the changes kind of cool because it filled them in with pop culture references that I grew up with. My favorite change from the book was when Serenity from Firefly showed up at the end. I nearly flew out of my seat in excitement when I saw that! That being said, it had to be doubly frustrating for you as someone who did not grow up with Atari video games, Bigfoot, Back to the Future, and others. But did you think that made the movie more for people of my generation and less for people of your generation?

Olivia: I think it was made for every generation to enjoy because of the action in it and because towards the ending they had some Overwatch and Halo avatars.

What were some of your favorite 80’s references from the movie that you were really hoping to see in the movie before seeing it?

Nathan: Without a doubt, the final battle was what I wanted to see more than anything. While Mechagodzilla was REALLY awesome, it was supposed to be even better. Gigan was supposed to be there and I was hoping to see some more of Optimus Prime (my favorite Transformer, which were my favorite toys as a kid), and Bumblebee. The final battle wasn’t a complete letdown, but it could have been a LOT better.

RPOmechagodzilla
IOI says “Come get you some!”

Final thoughts: On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being horrible and 10 being better than any Harry Potter movie (I know you like some J.K. Rowling!), what would you give Ready Player One and why?

Olivia: I would have to go with probably a 5 or 6 because while I have seen better movies, like Harry Potter and any Studio Gibli films, I have also definitely seen much worse movies, like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it definitely wasn’t the worst movie ever but it also really could have been made better and stuck with the story line more.

Nathan: I think I would give it a 6, maybe a 7. It’s definitely worth seeing, but not a movie I would pay money to see again in the theater. Like you said, had they stuck with the story line from the book more, I think I would push it up closer to a 9. I understand the need for a movie to make some changes from the book for dramatic effect, but there were some scenes in the book that would have been easy to do and been far more dramatic, like Wade being captured and sent to IOI. Finally, I think revealing who the real life people were of each character came way too early and greatly reduced the dramatic effect it had in the book.

Final question: Is there a movie coming out soon that you’re most excited to see? For me, it’s Avengers: Infinity War. And it’s NOT Solo: A Star Wars Story. (Sorry, Han will always be Harrison Ford, and I have low expectations after The Last Jedi.)

Olivia: The movies that I am looking forward to coming out would probably have to be Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 even though that’s not coming out until like November, because I fell in love with the first movie and I love the Harry Potter movies and I just can’t wait to see what happens to credence in the second movie because he’s still alive and I’m excited to see where it goes. I am also a bit interested in the movie The Miracle Season.

Nathan: Thanks, Olivia!  Let’s hope that the Fantastic Beasts sequel lives up to the hype.

 

 

 

 

 

A Definitive Ranking of All the Star Trek Movies

Recently, I re-watched Star Trek Into Darkness for probably the fifth time. A small number considering how many times I’ve seen most of the other Trek movies. While certainly entertaining and fun, it was probably my least favorite of the reboot films.

This got me to thinking: As a Trekker, how would I rank all the films in the Star Trek franchise and why? Some I loved so much that I watched twice in a single day at the theater. Some I thought were such abominations that I often find myself rewriting the scripts in my head.

Here is my definitive list, from worst to first, broken into four tiers:

 

The Wesley Crusher Tier

13. Star Trek: Insurrection

STI

The three movies in this tier are pretty close in their level of feculence.  But this one lies at the bottom of the port-a-potty.  Following one of the best sci-fi films ever made, Insurrection was a massive let down.  No suspense, boring plot, and antagonists you just don’t care about. It came across as more of a made-for-tv film that’s shown on the Hallmark Channel at 2 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.  That, plus many Trek fans REALLY wanted to see Q in the next film, but instead got this dreck. Tally ho!

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12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

5

This film was rife with trouble from the beginning, largely because of Shatner’s zany ideas and script re-writes.  Originally, Sybok was to be played by Sean Connery and the Enterprise was supposed to meet the Devil at the center of the galaxy.  A bit far-fetched, but kind of cool.  Instead, what we got was some guy you’ve never heard of, and some weird blue entity that pretended to be God.  Horrible acting, dumb story line, and the feel that the entire cast was going through the motions just to get the paycheck.  It might have been cooler if the blue entity had quoted Ezekiel 25:17, though.

5a

11. Star Trek: Nemesis

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Romulans? Check. Bad-ass enemy ship? Check. Tom Hardy as the main antagonist? Check.  So why does this film suck?  It all starts with Director Stuart Baird, who hated Trek and refused to watch any of the Next Gen episodes to do research. He wanted to make an action movie, which did not sit well with the rest of the cast. In the end no one was happy with how it transpired, and it showed in the final product.  Had all the deleted scenes been left in (over 50 minutes of extra footage!), this could have been a MUCH better film.  Den of Geek does a good job pointing that out here.

 

The Deep Space Nine Season One “Meh” Tier

10. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

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When I was a kid, I had this movie ranked with Star Trek II as my favorite.  Granted, there were only five Star Trek films released before I was a teenager.  Why? Two things shocked me that resonated for a long time: The destruction of the Enterprise and the introduction of my all-time favorite non-Federation ship, the Klingon Bird of Prey.  But looking back on it after so many years, it just hasn’t aged well.  Touching in moments, sure, but the method of bringing Spock back was a bit of a stretch, and the Genesis story line had already gotten stale.  It was a little too depressing.

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9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Okay, this one isn’t as bad as you remember.  Think about it: Take out the loooooong, examination of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the loooooong, psychedelic trip through V’Ger’s cloud, and the loooooong trip over every inch of V’Ger’s ship (put together, I wouldn’t be surprised if that adds up to a quarter of the film’s run time), and you’ve got a pretty decent film.  It’s an interesting plot, and it did revive the franchise.  However, aside from the long 2001-esque space scenes, there were those hideous uniforms, Spock’s weird behavior, and a flat ending.  Little-known fact: the Director, Robert Wise, was also the director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

8. Star Trek Into Darkness

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I was tempted to put this in the next tier of films.  I did, after all, see it three times in the theaters (including on back to back nights).  It was fun, action-packed, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn wasn’t too bad.  But it was the emphasis on the action and things blowing up rather than what makes Trek, Trek (exploration, unity, adventure).  The producers obviously wanted a film to bring in non-Trek audiences, and they succeeded.  But how many times must we watch the Enterprise get the shit kicked out of her?  When will they actually, you know, boldly go?  Oh, and don’t get me started on the beaming device that can transport people from one entire quadrant of the galaxy to the other. Just…nope.

 

The Will Riker “Wow, I Forgot He Was Pretty Awesome” Tier

7.  Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

4

Whales! Colorful metaphors! A visit to (then) modern-day earth!  After a dreary Star Trek III, this movie came along at just the right time and with the right message.  “Save the Whales” was a big movement in 1986, and this fun-yet-campy movie brought that to the forefront.  It also paid a nice tribute to the astronauts lost in the Challenger explosion. It was pretty cheesy in parts, and Gillian Taylor could be pretty annoying, but it was still a fun movie and one that most non-Trekkies count as one of their favorites.  It’s the highest grossing Trek film in North American theaters, not counting the reboots.

4b

6. Star Trek: Generations

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There are a LOT of Trekkies and Trekkers who put this film much further down the list.  I’ve never understood why. It was clear after Star Trek VI and the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation that a torch-passing movie had to be made.  Some people hated the way Kirk went out in this film, hated the whole “Nexus” story line, and hated to see the Enterprise-D destroyed.  But I loved it. It’s fun, and it was great to see the Next Gen crew on the big screen.  I admit, I love Data and the issues he had with his emotion chip.

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5. Star Trek (2009)

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When I first heard they were rebooting the franchise with this film with a story line starting before Kirk and Spock met, I was not very pleased.  I wanted the story to continue forward, past Next Gen.  How can you EVER replace Shatner and Nimoy and Kelley?  You can’t, but Pine, Quinto, and especially Urban did an amazing job.  That opening sequence pulls you in right off the bat, and if you don’t shed a tear after the Romulans show up to Vulcan, something is seriously wrong with you.  Well done, J.J. Abrams, well done.

4. Star Trek Beyond

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My favorite of the reboot films, this was the most “Trek” of the three.  Instead of spending the majority of time on Earth as in the first two films, Beyond focused on exploration and the challenges of a five-year mission into deep space.  The dynamics between the characters were better than just about any film in the entire Trek franchise.  Despite critical success, it did not do as well at the box office.  I blame that on the horrible marketing job (did we really need it emphasized that the director of the Fast and Furious was directing this?).

 

The “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” Tier

3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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The beginning of the creme-de-la-creme of the Trek films.  This was the final film that focused on the original series cast.  After the flop that had been Star Trek V, the producers needed a good story and a good film.  So they went out and brought back Nicholas Meyer as Director; the man behind the helm of Star Trek IV and Star Trek II, the best of the films at that point.  With a story that centered around Klingon/Federation relations, this movie hit all the right notes for Trekkies and Trekkers everywhere.  From the opening explosion of Praxis to the final sendoff of the Enterprise crew, this film still stands as one of the best made films in the franchise.  I even included the phrase “Undiscovered Country” in my wedding vows! (Right after she included “boldly go” in hers!)

2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

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Ask nearly any Trekker or Trekkie what their favorite Star Trek film is, and Wrath of Kahn is nearly always mentioned as #1 or #2.  Ricardo Montalban plays the famous Trek villain, and he’s back for some serious vengeance.  There are a lot of parallels between this film and Moby Dick, with a focus on how revenge can consume someone.  It’s one of the more violent Trek films, but also packs an emotional punch.  Kahn has always been held up as the measuring stick for evil Trek villains, no matter the film or TV series.  I always shed a tear at the end, especially once Scotty starts playing the bagpipes.  It also has the best line in all of Trek film history:

2b

1. Star Trek: First Contact

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The best of the best and the only film I’ve seen twice in the theater on the same day.  I remember how extremely excited I was when Generations was announced, but First Contact got me even more excited.  Not only does the Next Gen crew have an awesome new Enterprise but they square off against the Borg, one of the most evil races in all of science fiction.  Like Wrath of Kahn, elements of Moby Dick are hinted at throughout the film.  However, it’s Captain Picard who must decide how far his thirst for revenge against the Borg will take him, and at what cost.  First Contact explores what the human race is capable of, where it’s going, and where it’s been.  Also like Wrath of Kahn, I do shed a few tears at the end, but nostalgic ones.  Throw in a quirky, booze-consuming Zefram Cochrane (the founder of Warp Drive technology), an underrated performance by Alfre Woodard, and the wonderful directorial skills of Jonathan Frakes and you’ve got the best Star Trek film ever made.

FC1

Star Trek: Discovery vs. The Orville; A Trekker’s Take.

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People have asked me over the course of the first seasons of both Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville what my thoughts were on both shows.  To be honest, I needed to see more before I could make a fair assessment.  As a lifelong fan of science fiction, and someone who basically worships at the altar of all things Trek, I felt I needed to give both shows (especially Discovery since it was a serialized story) a chance to show what they were made of.  Once I felt a connection to the characters, I began to think more critically.  I considered everything: story lines, writing, character development, set design, and even music. For Discovery, I also had to see how it compared to previous Trek TV shows and how it fit with Roddenberry’s vision of the future.  Needless to say, I am someone who has to take his time and make a full analysis of something before reaching a decision. Once I do, however, that’s the end of it. And so I have.

The Orville is so much better and it’s not even close.

Three months ago, it would have been impossible for me to even conceive of such a statement.  However, as the season went on, I found myself more excited to watch The Orville than Discovery.  My Trek-wired brain was (and still is) trying to correct what it perceives to be a ship-wide malfunction.  A Seth Macfarlane sci-fi spoof better than a Trek TV series?  Yes.  How is this possible? Let’s look at a breakdown:

Opening Credits

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What better way to start the comparison than from the opening credits?  The music for The Orville is majestic, bold, and fun.  Listening to it makes you ready for adventure. Even if you’re sitting on your couch in your favorite plaid pajama bottoms, haven’t shaved over the weekend, and scarfing down a bowl of chocolate ice cream, it makes you want to jump up and join the crew.  As you listen to the theme play, you watch the ship explore various parts of the galaxy before the quantum engines activate and send her into parts unknown.  It reminds me a lot of Star Trek: Voyager, which has always been one of my favorites TV show openings.

Discovery’s opening is a little different.  The music starts off mysteriously with the familiar Trek chords, but then it goes into a bit of a melancholy composition centered on the cello.  It feels less like you’re about to watch an adventure, and more like you are about to watch a mystery.  It’s not bad, and it is kind of catchy, but you don’t get a sense of space adventure until the last few seconds when the original Trek theme is played.  The blueprint graphics throughout the opening are a little strange.  The sketches of iconic Trek items seem more to just remind people that it’s still Trek, while the space-suited hands touching at the end is far too cliche.

Advantage: Orville

Ship Design

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I wasn’t a big fan of the initial design of the U.S.S. Discovery, but once they tweaked it for the show I got used to it real quick.  It’s sleek and very “Trek.”  I could do without the spinning disc, but overall I think it’s a damn nice looking ship.  The Orville is still growing on me.  I don’t care too much for the three quantum drive engines, and for me it looks more like a tadpole than a ship of exploration.  Basically, it just doesn’t have that sense of aesthetic you would imagine in deep-space vessels.  That, plus I really like warp nacelles.

Advantage: Discovery

Crew

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This is an area in which the Orville has a large advantage.  One of the things I find most difficult about Discovery is that I feel I have yet to really know the characters outside of Michael Burnham and, to some extent, Captain Lorca.  So much attention is given to Burnham and the war with the Klingons that I feel very little has been done towards character development anywhere else.  That being said, Sonequa Martin-Green nails it as Burnham, a human raised on Vulcan.  Her inner conflict between emotion and logic is done very well, and her connection with Sarek is an added strength to her character.

The Orville’s crew is excellent almost across the board.  I had low expectations with Macfarlane as the Captain and Adrian Palicki as his first officer, but they have both done amazing jobs.  Their dynamic together has truly been a pleasant surprise.  Everyone else has been just as fantastic or better.  How can you not like Bortus and Alara sparring in the ring (“What is ‘Ding Ding?'”)? Or Isaac’s connection with Dr. Finn’s children?  Even the weaker characters from early in the season have started to improve, particularly Lamarr who should really shine as the new head of engineering.

Advantage: Orville

Best Character(s)

For Discovery, it’s really not close: It’s  Burnham all the way for the reasons I described earlier. However, the reason she is far and away the best on the show is because the writers have done a poor job of making me care about anyone else.

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As for Orville, you know the casting of a show is good when you can’t decide from week to week who your favorite characters are.  But for me, it gets no better than Bortus and Alara.

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Burnham is great, but Bortus and Alara are two big reasons I turn in to The Orville each week.

Advantage: Orville

Story Lines

This is where the Orville really runs away with it.  To be fair, Discovery is one big story, whereas Orville is a different story each week.  That being said, I’m already tired of Discovery’s story.  It’s war.  It’s dark. It’s depressing. It’s unnecessary and forced Klingon/human sex (a “what the hell is this shit” moment that nearly made me turn off Discovery for good). IT’S EVERYTHING TREK IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FRIGGIN’ BE!! Star Trek is supposed to be about hope, discovery, exploration, compassion, unity, understanding.  I see some characters talk about those things as if they wish for it, but Discovery doesn’t deliver it.  Instead all I see on Discovery is war, depression, fear, bullying, hate, and anger. I didn’t grow up watching Star Trek because I wanted to see fighting or shit blowing up.  I didn’t watch it because everyone on the show hated each other. I didn’t watch it because I wanted to see Worf bone Troi (okay, maybe a little, but not in the grotesque way as seen in Discovery). I didn’t watch it for the effects or because it “looked cool.”  And I certainly didn’t get into TNG and Voyager because the writers said lines like “we understand the importance of canon, but it takes away from the creative writing process.” Bullshit.  If anything it gives you TONS of avenues to work with.  A whole damn galaxy!  The big draw to Trek IS the canon.  Without it, it’s not Trek.  You lose the Trekkies and Trekkers like me, and you really don’t get new Trekkies and Trekkers.  If they wanted to not stick to canon, it should have taken place in the Kelvin universe.  At least then it would give them that “creative freedom” they so desperately want. Maybe instead of spending a fortune on set design and graphics they could have redirected those resources to some actual writing of the show that doesn’t piss off the core fanbase.

The story lines for Orville are way better and fall more in line with what Trek is supposed to be.  The episode where the crew finds a ship that had been drifting in space for over 1000 years was one of the best sci-fi episodes I’ve ever seen.  Each episode really makes you think. (Well, except for the blue man episode which was far too slapstick and not at all sci-fi).  You feel excited to be part of the adventure, and you get a little sad when you have to wait a week for the next episode. The Orville also spent only a fraction on set design as Discovery. Proof that good writing trumps good design and effects any day.

Advantage: Orville

Bottom Line

The Orville is better.  Period.  I hate that I have to wait so long for season 2, but I truly hope it continues for many seasons.  Discovery, on the other hand, well, I just hope they get some new writers. And some new Directors. Hell, just blow the whole thing up and bring in some actual Trekkies to write, produce and Direct. At the very least, make the second season take place between Star Trek VI and Next Gen and show us the ships and costumes we’re familiar with.  I won’t tune Discovery out just yet, but I’m not going to be counting down the days until the next episode like I do with Orville.  

For those who say Discovery is more Trek and a better show, I’ll leave you with this:
tenor

 

Nate’s “Take it to the Bank” 2018 NFL Playoff Predictions

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When it comes to sports, nothing really ever beats the playoffs.  This is especially true in “win or go home” formats.  Why do you think March Madness and football playoffs are so popular?  It’s not a “second season” as they like to call it in the NBA, NHL and MLB.  It doesn’t drag into a completely different season. (Seriously, part of the reason I just can’t get into hockey is because the Stanley Cup Finals are in June.  Late friggin’ June, no less.  Who gives a shit about cold weather anything when you’re sitting on the beach sipping on some Bahama Mamas and Mai Tais?)

This year’s NFL playoffs are exciting for me not only because my Panthers are in it, but because I’m a geography nerd and the geographic locations of the teams are quite different from years past.  Of the twelve teams in the playoffs, only two are located west of the Mississippi River (Three if you want to count Minnesota).  A whopping five teams are from the southeast, or as I like to call it “SEC Country.”  Not a lot of cold weather teams made it into the playoffs, except for the top four seeds.

Time for some predictions that you can take to the bank!

WILD CARD ROUND

Titans at Chiefs (-8.5)

Who knew that the perpetual dog shit AFC South would be sending TWO teams to the playoffs?  Titans have lost three of their last four to some mediocre competition.  Which Chiefs team will show up?  The team that has won four in a row, or the team that lost four in a row before that?  It’s Arrowhead and Andy Reid.  Take the team that has scored more points than they’ve surrendered.

CHIEFS BY 10

Falcons at Rams (-6.5)

Falcons squeak in to the playoffs by looking polished against Carolina.  It’s a battle of two high-powered offenses.  This could be tricky, as the Rams are only 4-4 at home.  It will be closer than people realize.  Still, Jared Goff made me a believer, and Gurley is going to get the MVP.

RAMS BY 4

Bills at Jags (-8.5)

It’s been a looooooong time since the Bills have sniffed the playoffs.  Remember when getting to the Super Bowl was a given for the Bills?  Now, their fans celebrate making the playoffs as if they all won the lottery.  Unfortunately for them, Shady McCoy is hurt and might not play. This is bad news considering rushing offense is about the only category they aren’t near the bottom of the league in.  I want to see the Bills win, but they just don’t have the talent to hang.  It’s going to come down to which Quarterback you trust most: The QB who’s thrown for over 300 exactly once in 58 games, or the QB who the team considered shipping out at the beginning of the season? Yikes.

JAGUARS BY 12

Panthers at Saints (-7.0)

Neither the Panthers nor the Saints could pull out a win against lesser competition on the last day of the season, when both teams needed it the most. I’ve felt like the Panthers have been more of an 8-8 team all year that just got some lucky breaks.  Cam’s inability to pass is scary.  Saints’ defense is vastly improved, but they still struggle against the run.  Shula needs to let Cam haul ass and stop trying to turn him into a pocket passer for the Panthers to have any shot.  Saints have won both meetings.  Will it be three in a row?  I wish I could say no, but…

SAINTS BY 7

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Saints at Eagles

This is going to be brutal.  Never has a #1 seed looked so badly heading into the playoffs.  Foles has looked horrible the past two games.  A pity for Eagles fans, as they’ve waited a while to see a decent team on the field.  With Wentz, however, there’s always next year, and the year after, and the year after.  Just not this year.

SAINTS BY 14

Rams at Vikings

When these two teams met earlier in the season in Minnesota, the Vikings gave the Rams their only road loss of the season…in a beat down.  Minnesota just seems to have the “it” factor this year.  Rams offense is good, but as the saying goes: “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships.”  Give me that Vikings D and the QB who holds the NCAA record for most passing yards.

VIKINGS BY 8

Chiefs at Patriots

Remember the last time the Chiefs went up to Foxborough in the playoffs?  There are two things that are certain here: Andy Reid has no idea how a clock works, and Tom Brady is WAY better than Alex Smith.

PATRIOTS BY 16

Jaguars at Steelers

This is going to be a low-scoring affair as both teams play some pretty nasty D.  There are serious playmakers on both sides of the ball for each team, so it should be a fun matchup.  I can see Fournette having a career game.  But in the end, it all boils down to Bortles vs. Big Ben.  It’s a stretch to get Bortles further than this in the playoffs.

STEELERS BY 12

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

It could be that I can’t stand the Saints.  It could be that I think that Viking D is just too good.  This is the game where Brees shows his mortality.  Saints just don’t have enough weapons to get past the Purple People Eaters version 2.0.

VIKINGS BY 4

The matchup every sports pundit predicts for the AFC Championship game every year happens for the second year in a row.  The Steelers’ playoff history with the Pats is not so hot, which includes last year’s 36-17 shellacking.  Brown, Bell, and Big Ben all have the experience, and this could be the beginning of the end for Big Ben’s career.  But am I really ready to bet against Tom Brady and the Pats?  Not yet.

PATRIOTS BY 14

SUPER BOWL LII

Brady and Belichick go for Super Bowl win #6, something we will probably never see again in our lifetime.  Brady says he wants to keep playing after this season, but at 41 there’s not much time left.  Enjoy it while you can.  Meanwhile, the Vikings are looking for their first Super Bowl victory.  What better place to do it in than in your own stadium?  Vikings make history by being the first team in Super Bowl history to play the big game on their home turf, and also winning their first Super Bowl.

VIKINGS 27-20

 

 

 

Game of Thrones: Who Gets the Iron Throne in the End?

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WHAT??!! No Star Trek: Discovery review?  You’re a Trekkie!  You MUST have something to say!”

Yes, I do…when the time comes for me to do so.  For now, I will say this:  I love it so far, but I won’t comment more fully until I’ve seen it more.  I need to see more of the story line before I pass judgement.

So how about some Game of Thrones while we wait?

I finally caught up on all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.  Season 5 was tough to get through with so many bad things happening, but it’s worth it to get to season 6 and 7, which were the two strongest of the series in my opinion.  (Walking Dead writers, take note.  GoT knows how to make a series more interesting as it continues on).

For those who have not finished season 7 of GoT, here’s your warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

After watching the Wall come tumbling down and the army of the dead begin their march on Westeros, it got me to thinking: when it’s all said and done and the series ends, who will be sitting on the Iron Throne?  There are certainly a number of possibilities.  Let’s examine some of those, the odds of them taking the Iron Throne, and how it could happen.

Daenerys

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Odds: 4/1

Capturing the Iron Throne and ruling Westeros has been her sole mission.  She’s had some bumps on the way, but you can’t argue that the Mother of Dragons will take what she feels rightly belongs to her.

Will it happen?: Very likely, but there are some obstacles standing in her way, such as Cersei Lannister, the army of the Dead (who took out one of her dragons in one ice blade toss), and the possibility of her losing her mind like her father. And there is, of course, her vision.

Jon Snow

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Odds: 8/1

Revelations about who he really is and the true story of his parentage means he is not the bastard Stark child everyone thought he was. Once this news is out, we may see Jon develop a stronger desire to lead.  He’s already built a backing in the north and an alliance with Daenerys in the south.

Will it happen? Jon’s ascension as a leader has been growing since he joined the Night’s Watch.  He is the embodiment of the statement “great leaders do not set out to be a leader, they set out to make a difference.”  He’s already bent the knee to Daenerys, but if something happens to her, he’s ready.

Cersei Lannister

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Odds: 12/1

The current throne sitter. She’s been the real power behind the throne all this time.  Her children were mere puppets as she set out to rule how she wanted, through manipulation, bribery, and fear.

Will it happen? She has to face a united army in the north, Daenerys’ army and dragons to the south, and the incoming army of the dead.  However, she will go to any means to maintain her control, even if it means making a humiliating Walk of Atonement or blowing up the spiritual center of Kings Landing.  Never, ever bet against Cersei.  Just when you think she’s beaten, she has another ace up her sleeve to piss you off.

Daenerys/Jon Snow Joint Rule

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Odds: 9/1

Both want to unite to defeat the army of the dead.  One of fire, the other of ice.  It’s a marriage that could unite the known world and, in the event they defeat the army of the dead, could bring a unity to Westeros like it has never seen.

Will it happen? Very likely.  In fact, this scenario seems like it was born to happen.  Dany wants the throne, Jon wants to make a difference.  And they both want each other. But can they both share the crown? 

The Night King

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Odds: 5/2

Until season 7, I thought the only thing that could stop the Night King and his army were the dragons.  He showed in one stroke that even dragons won’t slow him down. And now, he has a dragon of his own.

Will it happen? He has the largest army in the known world.  He has an undead dragon.  He might not desire the throne, only conquest and destruction, but he may claim Kings Landing as his ultimate prize.  Also, in Dany’s vision we did see a lot of snow falling on a heavily damaged throne room (or was it ash?).  Winter and destruction are the Night King’s specialty.  And the writers are known for letting the bad guys win.

Sansa Stark

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Odds: 100/1

(Not so) deep down Sansa has always been tempted by power.  Littlefinger may have taught her how to embrace power, but the dreadful experiences with King Joffrey and Ramsey Bolton have hardened her.  Those experiences have made her more determined to rule instead of be ruled.

Will it happen? A LOT has to happen for this to come to pass.  Not impossible, but highly improbable.  Arya would have to kill Cersei, Jon and Dany would have to die or rescind the throne, and she would have to fend off other challengers to the Iron Throne.  I think the odds of her dying at the hands of the Night King are much higher.

Euron Greyjoy

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Odds: 750/1

Euron seemed to come out of nowhere and immediately consolidate power.  In a short time he has amassed the strongest navy in Westeros, taken the throne of the Iron Islands, captured Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand, and curried favor with Cersei Lannister.  What’s next?

Will it happen? He has his eyes on the Iron Throne, but his one weakness is his overconfidence.  It’s more likely Cersei will have him removed from the equation once she’s done with him.  But not before he’s wreaked some serious havoc.

NO ONE

Odds: 50/1

Massive destruction and death are on the horizon for season 8.  It’s Lannisters vs. Dragons vs. the dead vs. the Greyjoys.  If Ellaria Sand gets out, you can throw Dorne into the mix as well.  When the dust has settled, there might not be much of a Westeros left to rule.

Will it happen? Stranger things have happened.  It could be that the seven kingdoms have no choice but to stand on their own.  Kings Landing could be obliterated, armies crushed, and cities raided.  Faith in the crown has to be weakening with such a quick succession of rulers and, once the battle with the army of the dead is over, it’s possible the seven (or however many are left) kingdoms will each just fend for themselves in a post-war apocalypse.